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Teaching without talking: building visual attention, focus, and working memory

Other Presenter(s): 
Samantha Lowe
Other Presenter(s): 
Kate Coleman
Other Presenter(s): 
Tracy Manousaridis
NCTM Annual Meeting
April 16, 2011

It’s riveting! When the teacher doesn't talk, children watch intently to puzzle out how to join in the activity. They listen to each other, connect ideas, construct meaning on their own. Classroom video will show it in action. You will learn many examples—in number, classification, logic, early algebra—you can use in K-5 teaching. Great for ELL!

In one example, children try to figure out a number the teacher has in mind. They ask questions; the teacher can only nod yes or no, not speaking, not even repeating the questions. They quickly learn to speak up, listen to each other, watch the teacher’s answer, remember questions and answers, and connect ideas. Goal: to give participants practical methods that break the language barrier for ELLs and that build the attention, focus, working memory, and mental manipulation that all students need.
Mentally halving 48 asks us to keep 48, 40, half of 40, 8, and half of 8 in mind, and then know which two to recombine. Math requires not just knowledge (facts, concepts) and reasoning/communicating, but also infrastructure: being able to keep several things in mind, keep track of one’s place in a problem, sustain attention. Fewer words can help.