Context – That Makes Sense

Please turn to page 134 in your Mathematics text and complete questions 1 -5. Students comply with smiling faces, complete the work, take up the solutions and then move on. Next day when you revisit a topic, it almost seems like they had forgotten everything that had been done the previous day. This is not a rare occurrence in classrooms of all ages. Research clearly points out how important the role of emotion is in learning. One of the most critical tools for a  teacher is the strategy of context. I always ask myself prior to developing a unit of study what would this concept or skill look like in the everyday life of my students. That helps me frame the context for the learning task.

When I am able to make connections to the everyday lives of my students and the focus of instruction in the classroom I find that the learning is more likely to be consolidated and accessed by the student in future related tasks. Here is an example of how I used context in February. I took my class to camp for 3 days. Prior to going to camp we had to look at what the total costs would be per person as well as for the group. The level of engagement was extremely high as they explored a real life task that required them to access prior mathematical knowledge. While at camp they took photographs and filmed a specific activity they took part in. When we returned to school we did a recount of our experience that was to be shared with their families. It was some of the best writing they had done all year and it allowed me to see a transfer of the skills we had been working on since September. There was no reluctance, no hesitation as the task was real for them.

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The Author

Mike Beetham

I am currently entering my 32nd year of teaching and work with the Waterloo Region District School Board in an area behaviour class. I am actively involved with ETFO at both the local and provincial level. My passions are my family, teaching, the outdoors and personal fitness.

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