Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guided Math Book Study Chapter 5

Growing up, needs based grouping was different than what it is now.....Thank goodness  times are changing.  Years ago, or at least it seems like years, needs based grouping had a bad stigma attached to it.  Once you were in a group you stayed in that group and everyone knew who was in the “low” group.  Although that stigma is sometimes still seen, I don’t think most people would know that is what’s occurring if it is done correctly.  The book this week made a good point that just because some students excel in some areas of math, they may also struggle in others.  I found that in my own classroom this year, students who struggled with multiplication, division, and just overall number sense, seemed to do better with geometry and vice-versa. Personally, I like grouping my students as I teach, because I am able to focus on the students who really need the extra attention.  Some people may argue that the rest of the students are not getting direct instruction and that isn’t fair.  However, although they are not getting direct instruction during this particular skill or task, odds are, they will need extra attention at another skill and I will be able to spend that time with them when it is needed.  Now, I will say that by grouping students there is more planning and preparation that is required by the teacher to ensure that every student in whatever group they may be in are receiving adequate tasks to work on that do not become busy work. 

Data, data, data…… Ugh! Sometimes I get so tired of looking at data. Does anyone else feel like all you get done is looking at and analyzing data???  I DO!   However, I do think it has value.  I use “official” data, ISTEP scores, Accelerated Math results, and benchmark tests, mainly to get a “feel” for where my students may be.  I use more informal data, exit slips, conversations, practice problems, etc,  in my day to day teaching in order to assess how the students are doing on the specific skill we are working on to quickly note how I need to change my teaching minute by minute.  Although there is not one form of data that I use to group my students, I do feel like I use all of the ones I have mentioned at one point or another, and sometimes together, to help make my teaching, grouping, and assessing as beneficial and productive as possible for my kiddos. 

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Guided Math Book Study Chapter 4

As I am lying in my bed and thinking back to my previous lesson in my classroom, I am reminded of how diverse my kids were.  About 1/4 of my students were/are labeled as SPED, one was labeled as HA( High Ability), and I had more students with behavior problems than I can count. What a year!! I am not going to lie and say it was easy doing fun interactive activities that all of my students were actively involved and worked well together because that is definitely not how it went.  It was hard to fit in a lot of “Fun” activities into the core teaching due to the high volume of behavior issues.  However, I feel like I was still able to change up my teaching enough to keep students engaged and on track, as well as keeping the pestering to a minimum….well as much as I could. 

Whole group lessons are an essential part of my teaching.  I do not teach whole group every day, but I would be remiss to be under an illusion that I never use this teaching strategy.  Typically, the way I use whole group lesson is to briefly introduce a new topic.  If I am starting a new unit on multiplication I would use the whole group lesson first to introduce what multiplication is and how it is applied in our lives.  We would then continue to do a few examples together to understand the steps and why problems are solved that way.   That would be the extent of the whole group lesson.  20 minutes is all I like to spend teaching to the whole class.  At this point there are going to be those students who “get it” and those who don’t.  I would rather let those who get it move on to solving problems so that I am able to focus on those students who were able to make the connection of the skill as quickly.  

In addition to using whole group lessons to introduce a topic, I also use it to review.  As I am teaching in small groups and going around and informally assessing my students, sometimes I will come across many students who misunderstood the skill or the task that they are supposed to complete.  In this instance, I will bring the students back together to re-teach the parts that were not understood.  
I also like to come back together at the end of a skill just to talk and understand the students’ perspective of the skill.  By listening to the students tell me about the skill, task, or lesson; I am able to use that conversation as feedback from the students.  They may think we are chit-chatting, but I am trying to understand who understands the skill and to what level it is understood.  

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Stock Up

Who doesn't love the words "stock up"?!?!  I feel so accomplished when I am able to come home and tell my husband, "Hey honey, I was able to stock up at the store!"  Of course all he sees are dollar signs, but at least I feel good about it!  I am so excited to join the teacher Summer Stock Up because it seems that I constantly have thoughts and ideas in my head about next year.  So, here we go!!

I created this activity with my 4th graders in mind....Now, the actual read-a-loud may not seem 4th grade material but the skill is.  Sequencing is a skill that seems to be hit a lot in 4th grade.  Our reading series goes over it as review often. Therefore, I created this simple/engaging activity for my students to introduce sequencing. 

This activity takes your students through a read-a-loud  with activities of the story Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann.
Thankfully, I am currently on summer vacation from school, but that also put a damper on actually trying this product out on my 4th graders.  So what's the next best thing???  My younger sister, Jaynee.  She is going to be a fourth grader in August, and she just happened to be staying with me the rest of this week while our parents are out of town.  Perfect timing!!!  I am sure she was thrilled to help me with this activity on her summer break, (sarcasm), but she humored me and did it anyway.  Here's how it went:


We first began by talking about what sequencing means and that SOMETIMES there are clue words, for example, first, next,then last, etc... to help you put events in order. We then went on to read the story.  We read this together since it was just the two of us.  However, in my classroom I would read it aloud to my students. After the story came the first of two activities that are part of this product. 

ACTIVITY 1: This whole group activity requires your students to use the provided sentences cards, as shown, and put them in sequential order following the teachers' guidance to complete this activity.  As Jaynee and I completed this task, I noticed that it was a little more challenging than what I originally thought.  The events are not completely obvious as to when they occurred during the story.  I will also have the story there to use as a reference for putting the events in order.  Doing so, I am able to stress the importance of going back and finding your answers.  There are also an abundance of sentence cards to use. Depending on time allowance, I may not use all of the cards at one time. Prior to the lesson, I will go through and pick out which cards I want to use.  This way, if I only want to use 5 sequencing sentences or 15, I can. 
One thing that I would like to try in my own classroom, depending on  my students of course, is to model how this is done by using the first few sentence cards but then allow the students to work in two groups to finish the activity.  I would still consider this a whole group activity because we would still do the read-a-loud, I would model some of the sequencing sentences, and at the end we would discuss/review what we had learned.  I would only break up in to two groups for a few minutes to see how much the students are able to work together to figure out the order of the events.  It would also work more efficiently if I had an extra copy of Pinkalicious as well.   Again this is just an idea. I haven't tried it yet but I would like to see if it works...eventually.

In addition to the read-a-loud and sentence cards is a 10 station activity using 10 different sequence scenarios and 4 events in each scenario that need to be placed in the correct order.  I normally do task cards but I wanted to change it up a little and see how this activity worked.  Each Station will only take a couple minutes.  It is not meant to be hard and confusing for students. Its purpose is to make sure that students understand how sequencing works and how to look for possible key words.Jaynee was able to take each sequence station and put the events in the correct order.  We were able to have a conversation about each scenario and why she put the events in the order that she chose.  We would talk about and point out different clue words and how those were helpful when available. 

    I enjoyed using this product.  I feel that it provides information that is easy to understand but yet challenging enough so that boredom does not set in.  I would use this for my 4th graders but I also think that this activity is beneficial for any grade where sequencing is a part of the curriculum. 
 Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my blog and product. You have a chance to get the full product for FREE!!!! See below to enter!


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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guided Math Book Study Chapter 3

Was Chapter 3 speaking directly to anyone else other than me?? I feel like this chapter saw me coming from a mile away!   It's funny because the last week of school, as my students and I were wrapping up the loose ends of the the year, I began thinking about next year and the things that I want to keep the same and things that I would like to change.  My morning work has been something that I have been thinking about since then. My students begin arriving in the classroom at 7:50 AM and continue to arrive until 8:20 AM.  Our reading block begins at 8:30.  So my dilemma is, how do I give my students constructive work to during this time so that the students who arrive at 7:50 are engaged until reading and at the same time not give so much work to do that those students who don't arrive until 8:20 are not overloaded with work from the get go? If you have suggestions feel free to comment, because I truly do not know!  However, having said that, I feel that chapter 3 has given me some insight of how to change/ improve my mornings.

To answer this question honestly I would have to say no, our morning does not consist of much more than a worksheet.  We normally do two, a Math Minute and a Grammar Minute. By the time that breakfast is complete, bags are unpacked, lunch choice is made, and just overall settling in for the day, there isn't much time for anything else.  The only math connection that I feel is made, other than the worksheet, is the student who counts up the lunch choices. Is this ok? Maybe to some people, but personally, I don't like it.  I don't think the students are getting anything out of their morning work. Even though the worksheets do consist of important skills that are either review of something that we have done, or a preview of what we will do, I don't think it is quality work.  That is nothing against the worksheets themselves, they are great resources. However in the mornings the students are rushing to get them done to receive their "check" saying they have completed it and then  they go about their social business until 8:30.  Chapter 3 has really given me some ideas of how to incorporate quality math into a short amount of time.  I love the ideas of having a problem of the day, mathematical current events, how families use math in the evenings, data collection, patterns, and a number of the day.  Now let's see how I can fit this in to a 20 minute time slot!!! I look forward to the challenge. 

As an adult you "just know" that math is all around you.  You "just know" that you use it everyday.  I wonder though, if we would be surprised if we asked the adults around us to give 5 examples of how they use math everyday, if they could name them quickly or would they have to think about it to come up with an answer?  We all know math is used everyday, all around us, until we are asked to give examples and then it becomes a little harder to realize how math is actually around us.  Even as a teacher, I don't think I really realized it until recently my 3 year old showed me through his own experiences and problem solving. 

He has learned how to count to 10, sometimes 13, depending on the day.  He has also been learning his ABC's. Until just recently he has been content with just saying his numbers or singing his ABC's.   Now, anytime that we are together, which is always now that I am out of school, he is constantly finding numbers and and a few letters and asking me what they are, some of which he has begun to recognize without my help. Now I am not just talking about when we are reading books or playing "school".  He notices them E-VE-RY-WHERE!! In the car, in the bath, on toys, on his baseball bat, on the TV, in the grocery store, on shoes.  You name, it he finds numbers! Now, why am I talking about my 3 year old? I believe he is the one that really has it figured out. He can see very quickly all the examples of math being used around him.  Does he know what all of it means? Of course not, he is only three.  BUT, he has re-taught me that there truly is math everywhere in the world around us.  Your eyes just have to be open to see it.  I am not saying that he has better eyesight then me but right now these numbers and letters are what he is experiencing for the very first time. Therefore, he latches on to every ounce of it that he can and absorbs it.  We were like that once too, we just need to be reminded every now and then to see things as if it for the first time and we will realize that math is just as consuming now as it was when we were 3 and experiencing it for the first time. 

It is important to show the link of math and our own lives especially to elementary students, because I feel that they are walking that fine line of still experiencing things as if it were the first time and possibly forgetting why it is important all together.  If we are able to keep the excitement of learning to that compared of a 3 year old and keep math current/relevant to students today, then I don't think students will ever get to that moment of dreading math and trying to avoid it at all cost.

Thus far in my own classroom, I try to keep the connections flowing by having students do real life math problems.  I try to get them to solve problems that they might actually encounter in their own lives at some point or another. I also try to keep math as fun as possible.  We do a lot of activities and we play games.  One thing that my students love the most is using dry erase boards.  I mainly just try to keep things fresh and fun.  I would like to make my connections stronger by incorporating math warm ups and real life connections in my teaching every single day.  I don't think I will be able to get it exactly the way I want right from the start, but I would like to set a good foundation so that I may add to it or revise it at any time.  

Thank you for reading!!!!  

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guided Math Book Study- Chapter 2

Reading chapter two has made me look at teaching math from the point of view of a student.  Although I know that I am teaching math to kids, looking at it from a teacher’s point of view is different than that of a student’s.  Being an adult, math is a part of everything I do on a daily basis. It could be helping my 3 year old count out how many grapes he gets for a snack, estimating how many days I can stretch out the amount of diapers I have left for my 18 month old before buying more, doing everyday “mom” activities, or even “helping” my husband keep track of our finances.  I use the term "helping" very loosely because he is an accountant so basically my “helping” consists of spending the money.... Hey, someone has to keep his accounting skills fresh! After reading Chapter 2, I must say I am very motivated in creating a classroom that is more mathematically enriched along with my already reading/writing enriched environment.  

I believe that all seven of The Foundational Principles of Guided Math are extremely important and would be hard to have one without the others. Having said that, I found two of them stuck out to me the most.

#1- A numeracy-rich environment promotes mathematical learning by students.

When I first read this I thought “well duh!” But, as I looked closer at my own teaching the “well duh” response came from assuming what students already know and not what they actually know.  As all of us do this at some point or another.  We assume some of the things/ ideas that we are familiar with may see like common sense and something that “everyone knows.” However, I realized that although something could be considered common sense, we still had to learn that bit of information somewhere.  I learned that I take many everyday math concepts for granted.  I do it in the classroom and at home. Chapter 2 has taught me that just because I think a student should know something doesn't mean that they do.  It is important to help them discover these ideas and concepts by provided plenty of opportunities for students to discover all different forms of math and how it relates to THEIR everyday life. These opportunities can come in the form of me teaching a lesson, posters around the room, science experiments or even encountering different conversations with classmates.  It is important for me to be the facilitator to make the learning connections occur.

#2- Ultimately students are responsible for their learning.

100% AGREE!!  Now is this to say that the pressure and expectations are no longer on me as the teacher? Absolutely not. If anything, it adds to the expectations.  If students are responsible for their own learning then someone has to be there to make it possible for them to have access to materials in order for learning to take place as well as make it interesting enough for the students to want to learn.  Not only is it crucial for the teacher to make learning happen but it is even more crucial for the teacher to create an optimal learning environment and ask the right questions for the students to become interested. Only once the students are interested and engaged in the happenings of the world around them will they take on the responsibility of their own learning. 

Not yet.  At least not in the sense that I would like it to be.  Do my students have the ability to learn in an open environment and feel comfortable to ask questions? Of course they do.  However, as the book describes a mathematical learning environment, my classroom is lacking. So how can I change this?? First of all, I want to make sure I establish “ground rules” from the get go specifically towards math.  I would also like to create a math center in my room as well.  I have a reading center so why not a math center? I am always looking for ways to incorporate more real life problem solving in my teaching so I think I would like to try it in a center.  It is still an evolving process in my head but I can’t wait to see it come to life. I love the idea of having math conversations throughout the day, and not just during math block. It seems so obvious that math is in everything that we do every day, so why shouldn't it be in every part of the school day? 

Chapter 2 has really brought teaching math in every part of the day a reality.  I know that I will not be able to do it perfectly, but I look forward to trying to incorporate more real life math throughout they school day! 

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Stay tuned next week for Chapter 3.

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