A few weeks ago, our IRT told us in a meeting that kids need to see things 5-7 times before they actually retain the information. While I know repetition is so important, this number has stuck with me since then.
Enter my most recent "AHA" moment in teaching.
The problem: The majority of my students could not figure out, from a word problem, how to divide. For example, I would give them this word problem: Maria has 36 pieces of candy. She wants to give them to 9 friends. If she gives each friend the same amount, how many pieces of candy will each friend receive?
They had a lot of trouble figuring out the operation, and then writing the division number sentence correctly. Mostly, they would just quit when they saw a word problem.
The solution: For 5 straight days, I gave my whole class a division word problem for morning work. They couldn't go on to the next assignment until they had correctly solved the word problem. That means that I had a conference with each individual kid every single day on their problem solving skills. Morning work has been taking forever!
The pay-off: All but TWO of my kids passed the multiplication/division test last week!
Bonus: This was a two-day week, so it was not worth anything to begin a new math objective. Therefore, we gave our classes 4 pretty difficult word problems that reviewed all of the math objectives we've been learning this quarter (not just division). They were all Thanksgiving themed, so it wasn't all boring :) I had an intervention teacher in my room on Monday during math, and at the end, she commented how my students were really attacking the word problems. NONE of my kids got visibly frustrated, even when they had to spend the whole period on one problem.
The lesson: Morning work should be taking about 30 minutes, and up until this point, I've been pretty strict about this schedule. But since I decided to spend as much time as it took until they "got it", my kids were able to apply problem solving strategies to really difficult word problems, which is something they weren't willing to do before.