This was a good week!

We began a new unit on Monday: Time and Events. I’ve been really happy with our work.

Monday we began with some reading from the old unit, then congratulated ourselves on finishing the family unit and moved on to the time unit. We reviewed clock-reading basics and made sure we were all talking about the same thing: hour hand, minute hand, etc. Everyone already knew (at least roughly) how to read clocks, so that really helped the vocabulary stick! We also moved into our more complicated English time phrases: some people say 5:15… and others say quarter after 5. We began filling out times on worksheets for a jigsaw activity (in which Group A has answers 1-5 and Group B has answers 6-10, so the groups can communicate the answers to each other), but ran out of time.

Tuesday we got about as far as basic time review before Standardized Test Day kicked in.

Wednesday we resumed and completed the jigsaw. It was really fun to watch students try the complicated time phrases, see their partner’s interpretation of what they said, and the negotiation of meaning until it was correct. Those kinds of interactions are what help the language stick – when a phrase has real and distinct meaning.

We also happened upon a surprisingly rich conversation topic: “What time to you get up in the morning? Why?” People’s schedules and breakfasts had a lot of very interesting variety!

Today I filled in a learning gap that I didn’t realize was there until I watched yesterday’s jigsaw activity: students didn’t really get what a “quarter” meant – many people said “quarter after 5” was 5:25, I think because the coin is worth $.25. We did a little math lesson on “half” and “quarter.” The concepts weren’t new to anyone, but for some it was good review and I think for all it was an important vocabulary clarifier.

For *half*, I told a story about two students (including our resident Subway enthusiast) splitting a five-dollar foot-long. I projected a picture of one onto the white board so we all knew what we were talking about. The students told me how much each would pay ($2.50), and we established that it was half. Then I went to cut the sandwich by drawing a dry-erase line through it. I drew it way off to one side and asked if that was half. They knew it was not, that the sides had to be the same. I wrote this information on the board: half = 2 parts the same size.

For *quarter*, I told a story about four students (the four closest to the front) splitting a pizza for $12.00. I drew a circle on the board and made an arrow pointing to it that said “pizza.” So much for art. 🙂 After a slightly hilarious interlude from a student who works at Sbarro telling us with pride that their pizzas are only $9.99, the class split the pizza bill into *quarters*, or $3 each. At that point, I busted out four quarter-dollar-coins and a dollar bill to clear up the idea that a quarter only meant $.25. No, it means four equal parts. We then divided the pizza into quarters in the standard way, one vertical half and one horizontal half.

Then… I said, “Oh wow, that pizza looks like a clock!” I changed the label from “pizza” to “clock.” I filled in the clock numbers. I pointed to the upper right quadrant and asked, How many minutes are in this quarter? They got the answer right: 15.

I was pretty sure they understood but I wanted them to show me. I separated them into four groups (we had 13 students, so I couldn’t do quarters!) and gave each group a different number of different objects. Group 1 had tea bags, Group 2 had chocolates, Group 3 had square buttons, and Group 4 had stars. I had each group answer 3 questions: how many things, what number is half of your things, and what number is a quarter of your things. I wish I’d done a better job of having them share their information with each other, but we were pressed for time. Still, they showed me the right answers, so I could see some evidence of understanding.

It was a good week! Looking forward to next week’s review of it and to our Thanksgiving lesson!