The Irish Four

This week  I was excited to find a story that I wrote about one of my lovely students in a published document.

We were invited to submit stories of inquiry-based learning happening in our classroom.

This was such a fun little inquiry early on in the school year.

The Irish Four


My school tried a different approach to learning this year by offering a Mandarin and English bilingual class in addition to our English stream. I was thrilled when I found out that I would be the English teacher in one of the bilingual classes. I have always been grateful that my parents enrolled me in a French and English bilingual school. As a result, I am a passionate advocate of multilingual education.


I was unsure of what to expect when I started the year with my Mandarin co-teacher. Thankfully we enjoy every moment of our day while trying to figure out what will work best with these wonderful children.


All of our students speak varying degrees of English and the majority has very limited Mandarin. It has been tremendously fun for me to watch the children’s reactions to the Mandarin teacher speaking strictly Mandarin to them. She is unbelievably dedicated to speak only Mandarin with the class, including me. I am certain it is difficult for my co-teacher to communicate with our class but it seems that we are well on our way to a rewarding journey.


My faith in this new program was solidified today when a little boy came to me and said, “Shannon, what does four look like in English?” We looked at the math area in our classroom and worked together to figure out what four looked like in English. He went away busily trying to make a four for the book he decided to write. Shortly after attempting a few approximations of the numeral four, he came back and asked, “What does four look like in Chinese?” We went back to our math area of the classroom and worked together to find the number four, which looks very different in Chinese characters. Amazingly, he went back to his book and wrote the Chinese character better than I could. Next, he came to find me and asked, “How do you make a four in Australian?” I told him that I wasn’t sure but we could do some research.


We thought about how we could research an Australian four and he decided he wanted to look at the computer. I typed his question into the search engine and when the four appeared on the computer screen he was astonished, “It’s the same!” he exclaimed. He asked to print the four off and went back to his book and wrote some letters in his version of Australian and a four. Then came the next question, “How do you do a four in Irish?” Clearly he had started thinking about his family. When I asked if he knew anyone that was Irish he said, “Yes me and my Mom.” His Mom happened to be in the school, so he decided he would ask an expert to answer his question. When his Mom wrote the four, the expression on his face was incredible. “SHANNON! It is the same as English!” This continued with different numbers and different languages. He was so proud of his discoveries that he carried his little book, the many printed cutouts and the numbers his Mom had written in ‘Irish’ around for the rest of the afternoon. When someone would ask what he had in his hand. He would sit down and place every number carefully on the floor and explain each and every number.


I may not have gotten through as many baseline number assessments as I had planned to, but the time he spent inquiring with me was worth more than any assessment I could have completed.

2 thoughts on “The Irish Four

  1. Congrats on getting a piece of writing published! 🙂 And that story is adorable! That’s why we do what we do. Inquiry teaching is so much better than telling. Thanks for sharing!

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