Demonstrations – The Powerhouse

Kindergarten Demonstration Click here to watch the video.

Last week I was demonstrating a math lesson using pattern blocks to build spatial understanding in a kindergarten classroom. I was asked to do this particular lesson by the teacher because the students were struggling with showing an understanding of the concept and she wanted to know how to support her students’ success.

As I planned the lesson, I kept thinking of one of Cambourne’s Conditions for Learning, Demonstration. When I explain demonstrations to people I explain it as a conversation with myself. Everyone does this. They ask themselves questions and answer them all the time in their head. It is the same thing when a teacher uses this strategy, only there is an objective and her students hear the conversation. Based on my conversation with the teacher, I found that there were two previous lessons where the information was introduced and taught. This lesson was the third and presented the most rigorous of patterns students would encounter. I decided to incorporate a number of short, precise demonstrations throughout the lesson allowing students time and opportunity to see what exactly I expected them to accomplish giving them small snippets of information at a time in order to build and apply their learning.

The video is the introductory segment of the lesson. I wanted students to make connections to the real world and begin using their background knowledge to make sense of why shapes are so very important. By taking the part/part/whole approach, I demonstrated how a triangle and hexagon created an ice cream cone. When students were released to work on this portion by themselves, rocket ships, cats, ice cream cones were just some of the examples. However, one in particular was quite interesting. The little girl looked like she was just putting shapes together without purpose. Here was the conversation…

Jill: Tell me what you are making.
Abigail: A hill
Jill: A hill? That looks like a really big hill! Tell me more about the hill. What made you make a hill?
Abigail: I went sledding in Thermopolis this weekend. It was so much fun.

Abigail had a purpose in what she was doing. She made the connection that shapes created objects in the real world. She knew that by arranging shapes in certain ways would give her the sledding hill where so much fun took place the previous weekend. So often, students miss the connection to the real world and why we ask them to do what they are doing. My objective was met in such short time, four minutes, because of the demonstration I utilized. This particular demonstration allowed the students to think beyond just individual shapes. What I found out later was that the teacher had demonstrated a rocket ship the first time she introduced the lesson.

Demonstrations are powerhouses that give students the expectation of what you want from them. There are NO hidden agendas for students to figure out. NO wondering what does this look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? What am I really suppose to be doing?

So I leave you with a question. How can you use demonstrations no matter what type of age of the learner you work with?

Demonstrations are powerhouses.

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