I was launching a unit on telling time and decided to use an idea from Math In Practice, Teaching Second-Grade Math by Susan O'Connell, John San Giovanni, and Allison Peet. They suggest having students build a human clock to help understand the clock is a circular number line. I followed their suggestions got twelve students started and sat down with the rest of the students to observe.
My eyes darted from conversation to conversation. I noticed the students who were leading the work and those who observed and waited to find their placement. I observed some more as their work gathered momentum and then I smirked. I found my teaching point. I found a misconception. Students had placed twelve at the top of a circle but then placed 11, 10, 9, and 8 to the right of the 12 where 1, 2, 3, and 4 should be. They completed their circle and no one looked back at an analog clock to catch this slight error.
I had the students count around the circle as I held up a Judy clock. A small panic struck our room and students started to show faces of, "that's not right." We looked at the Judy clock together and our "that's not right" faces turned to "we've got this" and instantly they were rebuilding the clock the "just right way". Everyone wanted to try this so we had a second group try and we discovered they built a human clock much faster. This led us to a discussion about learning from others and trying more than one time to do something.
When I attended our local state math conference a couple of weeks ago, @mlipinos used the words, math narrative and I was intrigued. Maybe stepping back and taking time to observe we help us all capture math narratives.