There is a very fine line when working with a student or group of students between prompting them to move their learning forward or stealing the learning from them by giving to much info away or doing it for them. I tell teachers I work with that it is an art form and takes a lot of practice. I am by no means a master of doing this or even close to where I want to be in my ability to move students learning forward when prompting. Still I do feel I am getting better at it and am in a position to help people learn to do it better. One of my principals I work with is moving along the journey too, and she would be the first to tell you she use to shut the learning down or steal it from students when she sat and worked with them. She is so proud of herself now when she sits with a group and is able to push thinking forward with timely prompts. She often takes notes and has questions for me when I return to her school about interactions she has has with students. We discuss the moves and prompts she gave and how it could be improved or not. More teachers in my buildings are doing this too which has been awesome.
Here are few points I think are super important for providing prompts to students to push thinking forward and not to steal the learning from them. 1) Know your content well, not just well super well! If you don’t know your math content its hard to give timely feedback. 2) Use the Five Practices to plan your lessons. The anticipation part has you do the math first in as many ways as you can. Plus it has you think of any questions they may have or hints that you could provide to move them forward on the task. 3) Ask questions don’t provide answers. 4) Create hint cards before the task that you could provide students with before they access you for feedback 5) Take the time to sit and listen to groups or individual students while they work. Observe and have conversations. If you don’t do this you will never be able to give timely feedback to push their thinking. I know there are more that could be on that list but its a start.
I have uploaded a video below with a quick example of how easy it can be with a simple prompt to push students thinking to other levels.
In the video I all asked these two students were, “Is there another way to arrange your groups of two in way that is easier to see and count?” I didn’t tell them or show them how to put them into lines of ten or eventually into an array like they did when they had finished. I asked a question and then watched as they did the thinking and came up with the idea to arrange them in lines. They didn’t know they were creating an array, they said lines but still they thought about it and came to see that its easier to see and count them when they form them into lines of ten. My prompt was about organizing the counting piles to make it more efficient to count but in doing so it moved them from using equal group piles of 2 to forming an array but also to realize its more efficient to count my tens not two’s! Here is the video of the final count.