# A remainder of one.

The following Idea-Sparker was submitted by Julie Wisor, ACEI Director of Membership and co-oping parent, Kensington Nursery School, Kensington, Maryland.

It happens all the time. Large class--limited space. What do you do when your class is packed and you seem to have one too many students? This was my problem. I had started the year with 32 5th-graders. They were a mix of ESL, learning disabled, gifted and talented and "regular" students. While we were very crowded, we had just enough space to move around and interact with one another. I established four groups of eight students each. Then, a new student arrived and I did not have any viable group space left. I made one group into nine, but the arrangement did not work.

We were studying division at the time, so I asked myself what I had asked my students: What do you do with the remainder? With a paper-and-pencil problem you can just write R 1. In real life, however, the division problem is not over until you decide what to do with the remainder. The solution depends on what the leftover object is: a cookie, a pencil, a bus for a field trip or a person.

I decided to maintain the groups of eight by having the students take turns being "the remainder." Each week, a different student would sit by himself in the back of the room. I described the plan to the class and we discussed their concerns. Their biggest concern was whether the remainder could still join the reading or social studies groups when the time came. I answered "Yes" and explained that if the class was working on any other group projects the remainder could pick the group of his or her choice.

When I asked for volunteers I was surprised to get eight immediate takers. I then drew names to assign the rest of the class their turns as the remainder.

Each week, the remainder sat by himself or herself. During the week, the remainder wrote about how it felt to be in that position. At the end of the week, the student shared the writing with the class and then moved to the group of the next remainder. If I forgot to give something to the remainder, the class, feeling very protective of the remainder, would say, "Mrs. W., don't forget the remainder."

Only one student did not like being the remainder. The rest of the class found unique advantages to the role. What started out as a big problem turned into a learning experience for my class. They used division in real life, wrote their observations in a journal, read to the class, demonstrated empathy for people who were not in their group, and recognized how it feels to be left out--to be the remainder.

RELATED ARTICLE: Old McDonald's Farm

Do you want to teach younger students about their classroom? You can do so by modifying the words to Old McDonald Had a Farm. Julie uses this song to help her Cherub Choir (ages 2 through 5) understand what goes on in their church (Rev. Green He Had a Church) and to encourage a class of 2-year-olds (including her daughter) to take a closer look at their class (Our Teacher Debbie Had a School).

She asks each group how many of them know the Old McDonald song. Usually, everyone cheers, "ME!" She then explains that they are going to sing the same melody or music, but they are going to change the words. Start by asking one child to pick something from the classroom (such as a book) and describe what the teacher can do with it (read it). The class can then sing the following verse:

"Our teacher Debbie had a school. E-I-E-I-O!

And in her school she had a book. E-I-E-I-O!

Our teacher Debbie had a school, E-I-E-I-O!"

Once they get the hang of it, Julie then selects two children to pick something different from the classroom and describe what can be done with the new object. The class then sings a new verse, using the new object and activity. The game continues until you run out of ideas or children.
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