Teach It! Then You’ll Know If You Know It!

Our class was invited to teach the three second grade classrooms in our building about word sums!  With great enthusiasm and excitement, we accepted.   We chose the word <star> because we knew they were studying the solar system.  Next, the fifth grade students brainstormed a list of words with <star> as a base.  Once we had that list, we sorted out the compound words from the “base plus suffix” words.  Someone volunteered to create the matrix based on our brainstormed list, and we were ready to practice.

For three days, the students practiced explaining what they knew to a partner.  We talked about naming bases and suffixes.  We talked about adding vowel suffixes to <star>.  We talked about spelling out loud while writing the word sum.  We talked about the “is rewritten as” arrow.  We talked about having in mind a logical order in which to share all this. We talked about compound words.

I was fascinated by our first visit.  The second graders were eager to please.  A few of the  fifth graders weren’t as secure in their own understanding as I thought.  I heard the “is rewritten as” arrow referred to as “equal” and “combines”.  There weren’t enough second graders spelling out loud.  But there were also these lovely moments when the joy of teaching and the joy of learning lit up each pair of students.



After that first experience, my students were looking forward to visiting the second and third classrooms and doing it again, only better!  We talked more about the importance of repeating the spellings out loud and of having slight pauses between two bases (compound) or between a base and a suffix.  I also stressed the importance of teaching that the arrow be referred to as “is rewritten as”.

With experience grows confidence.  The fifth graders thoroughly enjoyed being the teachers.  I enjoyed seeing them cement the cracks in their own understanding.  One second grade boy was paired up with his fifth grade sister.  He asked if she would teach him more when they got home!  Another second grader asked why there wasn’t another matrix on the back side of the paper!  Both groups decided this was fun!


4 thoughts on “Teach It! Then You’ll Know If You Know It!

  1. I think it is a great thing that we get to teach other kids this kind of method. We first knew about this orthography stuff when this guy named Old Grouch taught us how to do it. I think this a very good method to use.

  2. This is a beautiful idea, Mary Beth, and clearly your students thought so too! Kudos for being wise and brave enough to have a second go. I have been trying for so long to teach other teachers and administrators this stuff–it makes complete sense to have my students do it. I wonder if my Grade Ones would be as successful at teaching the Grade Fives…

  3. So great to hear students teach others. It’s so informative on so many levels- for you about the “teacher’s” knowledge of the concepts taught and the way it is handled. I loved hearing about the student explain that every syllable has a vowel and loved the comment “It’s what we call suffixes” like an old hand! Well done fifth graders. I bet they felt proud and I ‘m sure the 2nd graders would have loved this. How great to pair up like this. Look how far these fifth graders have come in such a short time!

  4. This is a superb example to all scholars. There is no better way of verifying one’s own understanding than sharing it with others.

    Have you seen the episode from the autumn term on Dan’s blog when his students introduced their kindergarten buddies to real script – and especially their highly perceptive comments afterwards?

    In the far off days before I shook the dust of schooling off my feet, whenever we worked with an orthographic concept in class, I always used to invite students to teach “those at home” (I made no assumptions about who exactly they were or might be) what they had learned. They universally loved it – especially when it was older siblings that they enlightened.

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