An example part 2

The children push all the sticks together as they each had them ordered on the tables.

Teacher Are they in order now from the longest to the shortest? The teacher frames the problem rather than allowing an argument to ensue. She models the fact that two children have opposing views but that it is possible to reach a way forward. The teacher deliberately ignores the gender reference and stays focused on the task. This is actually more effective than being diverted to point out that it does not matter who is wrong. The focus is held firmly on the cognitive task. Gender issues do sometimes need to be addressed but evidence suggests that the less the construct of gender is acknowledged over the cognitive challenge, the less gender is seen as an issue by the children. Where gender is not really the issue it is best ignored.
Barry Yes.
Rhana No.
Teacher We have two different ideas here. Barry says they are in order and Rhana says they are not in order. How are we going to solve this problem?
Rhana They’re not in order. They’re wrong. The boys are wrong.
Barry Yes they are in order ‘cos we sorted them all.
Stella Yes, but when you put them together they all went wrong.
Teacher Can you explain what you mean?
Stella Mmm. The boys got it wrong. Given opportunities, support and encouragement the children are themselves able to explain that they do not all have sticks that followed the sequence in length, so that when the whole set was put together it needed to be re-ordered. They use a mixture of actions and words to come up finally with the explanation of why their method had not worked. This leads them to another suggestion to try. The teacher is patient and understands that they need time, support from her questions and an expressed observation to help them to solve the difficulty. There is a temptation very often to step in and tell the children either where they have gone wrong or how to put it right. To help them develop their thinking, it is far more effective if the children can come up with their own way forward.
Teacher I saw all of you push the sticks together. We are doing this as a group — all together.

[Stella picks up a few sticks but is struggling to find the words to explain.]

Teacher Can somebody help Stella to explain?
Rhana When he just had some, those were in order but when he pushed them together … well …
Teacher Something happened when you pushed them together?

[Nahir takes the ones he had had and the ones Stella had, which were next to each other and tries to demonstrate that they were no longer in order.]

Nahir This … got in way … made it wrong.
Rhana Yes, I see … they are in order in groups but … pushed together and made one group … you need to start again.
Teacher You think that we all need to start again?

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