Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guided Math - A Plan of Action

Thanks for stopping by.  We have made it to chapter 6 in our book study on guided math.  As we move along, I am getting more and more excited about my journey this year.  It will be a big change for me, but it is a much needed change.  So let's get started.
Within each of these components there are various options.  

When we last me, we discussed grouping and assessment.  That logically leads into our lesson.  We cannot create our lesson if we don't have the other two in place.  We first need to know who needs what.  Once we have that, we start designing the lesson.  

Today's topic is the framework for the guided math lesson - in other words - we can't go in blind, we have to have a plan in mind.  When thinking about that plan, we need to keep a consistent framework in mind.  The suggested framework has three parts, and is as follows:
  • Presenting the mini-lesson
  • Student practice
  • Share time

Within each of these components is where teachers can differentiate by need.

Question One:  Because I have not taught a guided math lesson yet, I am pretty open right now.  I have looked at many different templates for lesson plans, but have not selected one yet.  I think I am going to have to take some components from various ones and create my own.

Question Two:  Well, I have taught lessons at each of the different levels depending on my students' needs.  With each one I first try to draw on any prior knowledge or help build some.  Students need to make some type of connection to the lesson or concept.

With concrete lessons it is vital to have some sort of manipulative that students can put their hands on.  This summer I ran across a wonderful product on TPT from Ashleigh's Education Journey.  She has created some hands-on math units for third grade - just what I need!!!  They are connected to the Common Core too.She has them broken down by unit, or you can get them in a big bundle.  Well, guess which one I bought???

These are amazing.  She uses them as centers / stations, which is how I think I will be using them.  If you want to take a peek, she has a couple of them as freebies:  

The pictorial stage is just a little above the concrete.  Students are working with pictures to represent the problems - just like it sounds.  Many times I have used task cards or even Smartboard activities to do this.  both activities give students the opportunity to see a visual representation of the problems, as well as the opportunity to move if you have set it up that way.  Anchor charts are also a fabulous way to provide a pictorial representation for students.  

Finally, the abstract lessons.  These are mostly the traditional lessons.  They could include basic worksheets, verbal problems, anything that does not include a visual representation.  I think it is important to include these because that is ultimately how students will have to face them on standardized tests, and they also let us know if the students know the concept at a more in depth level.    Wow!  This type of lesson sounded so boring!!  I assure you, it is more in how I described them more-so than how they have to be.  You can be just as engaging at this stage as you can be with the others - and it is important to do so.

Here are some task cards that I created that are more abstract to practice or review the skill of rounding.  

There it is in a nutshell.  Be sure to stop by the other blogs to see their thoughts on guided math lessons.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

HUGE Giveaway- Back to School Rally to Begin this Friday!!!!!!

It's almost here!  Our Back-to-School Rally will begin this Friday, August 1st.  The giveaway includes an enormous amount of TPT sellers with under 500 followers as well as several other TPT and etsy sellers who jumped aboard.  There are 7 prize packs to sign up for - each one with some fabulous products.  

Here's your sneak peak:

Prize Pack 1:
-18 products from TPT sellers
-handmade banner for your classroom from MPaper Designs
-personalized teacher cup from Sugar Stitches Designs

Prize Pack 2:
-19 products from TPT Sellers
-teacher planner from The Nifty Planner
-personalize teacher sign from Blended Creations Inc.

Prize Pack 3:
-17 products from TPT Sellers
-handmade classroom garland from MPaper Designs
-pencil door sign from Details in the Design

Prize Pack 4:
-18 products from TPT Sellers
-handmade classroom garland from MPaper Designs
-personalized pencil door sign from Bows and Bells Hangers

Prize Pack 5:
-15 products from TPT Sellers
-personalized sign from MACInspired Crafts
-personalized teacher block sign from Blended Creations Inc.

Prize Pack 6:
-products from 16 TPT Sellers
-personalized door sign from Cara's Southern Designs
-personalized teacher cup from Mommy's Latte Fund

Prize Pack 7:
-16 products from TPT Sellers
-teacher planner of your choice from Little Drop Designs
-personalized door sign from MACInspired Creations
-personalized teacher cup from Mommy's Latte Fund

How exciting is this?????

Are you going to be one of the 7 winners?  

Make sure to come back Friday and register for all of the prize packs!

Thank you to Teaching With Hope for hosting this and putting it all together...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Classroom Decoration Pins

I'm linking up today with Teaching (Powered by Caffeine) for Favorite Pin Friday.  
Today's Favorite pin theme is Classroom Decorations.

Isn't this a creative birthday display?  I am planning on trying this this year.

What do you think of this valance?  These are my classroom colors so it caught my eye immediately.  I just got my yarn, so I am planning on making this for my classroom windows.

I need to get a brag tag display put together.  I like how they are offset, and not necessarily lined up.  

I have been so in love with this bookshelf forever.  One day I will remember over the summer to do this.  I am not sure that I have the time now.

Love these colors and how this just POPS!!!!  I need to come up with some wall space for this!!!

Do you have some favorite classroom decoration pins?  Please make sure you share your links in my comments.  You might want to connect up and take part in the link too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Balanced Assessment

We are back again today to discuss chapter 5: Balanced Assessment.  This chapter is amazing!  It is by far my favorite chapter.  There is so much information packed into this one chapter, that I know I will be referring back to it often.  I have marked it with so many stars, underlines, question marks, etc.  that it will be the one place I have to do quite a bit of self-reflection on to get myself where I need to be.  
The whole idea of balanced assessment is constantly looking at the students in multiple ways.  It is not limited to the end of chapter / unit assessments.  There should be surveys, pre-assessments, interviews, anecdotal notes, conferences, observations, self-reflections, quizzes / tests, etc.  And it is not enough to just have the assessments, we need to do something with them.  We need to use the information to know where our students are, where they need to be grouped, what do we need to do to get them where they need to be?

Throughout the chapter, the author connected assessment to the five elements of mathematical proficiency:

  • conceptual understanding
  • procedural fluency
  • strategic competence
  • adaptive reasoning
  • mathematical disposition
Making that connection really opened the flood gates for me.  It really justified the reasons for all of the assessment, and gave them purpose.  I know I have heard teachers in my school talk about how we test students too much.  In some ways we do.  Much of the assessments that the students undergo are often state or district driven, and not often valued, so they go unused.  The assessments discussed in this chapter allow us as teachers to gain so much information, but allows us to go on with instruction and student learning.  Not only are we as teachers able to use it, but the students can as well.  I know one of my goals this year is to better use the mandated assessments we have to give, and pull the positive out of them.  

An important aspect that I got from this chapter is the fact that the ongoing / balanced assessment is crucial not only for obtaining information about the students themselves, but on how effective the groups' work.  We use the assessments to place students into effective groups and enable us to move them fluidly where they need to be, but to do this we should have a plan in place that is a continuum of instruction for the unit.  I have always had this "plan" in my mind in the past when doing the whole group instruction I have done.  This is how I was able to differentiate for those upper and lower students.  But the importance of having that plan down on paper and maybe having multiple groups at a similar level just really hit home with something I will change this year as I move into guided math.    

OK, how many of you have given those end of chapter / unit tests and then just moved on?  I know I have been guilty at times.  I do try to go through a mental error analysis as I grade them, but I don't tend to do much with my students.  I might mention an overall with the class, but that has been the gist of it.  We have done goal setting, but even when doing that I really did not delve into the assessment with the students like I should have.  It was not because I  did not know that I should have, I was always just pushed for time.  What a big red flag for me!!!!!!  Fix this!!  

I will end my thoughts on the chapter with the teacher check-in that Dr. Nicki Newton provided.  This is one of those pages that has a big flag sticking off it.
  1. Have I set up scaffolded lessons for this unit?
  2. Have I set up tiered center activities?
  3. Have I given formative assessments this week?
  4. Do I know where all my students are in the learning process?
  5. What is the evidence of where my students are?
  6. Wh os struggling and what am I doing to help them?
  7. Thoughts about this unit....
How is that for self-reflecting?  I thought is was quite amazing!!!!

  When I was in special education, I did a lot of different types of assessments with my students.  I examined the tests, quizzes, assignments, and other work given to me from my collaborative teacher. I talked to and interviewed the teacher and the student.  I took lots and lots of anecdotal notes.  I reviewed benchmarks. And on and on and on.  The assessment never ended.

Now to my current 3rd grade placement.  Shame on me!!  I stopped doing many of these - at least on paper.  And - I don't have a good reason for not continuing them.  I have been doing some pre-assessments for chapters, but not constantly.  I am always making observations, but not putting enough on paper to document.  As Dr. Nicki mentioned in the chapter, we tend to do what we should in reading instruction, but not necessarily for math.  I am guilty of this.  And the sad thing about it,  I think to do it in math would be easier.

This chapter really hit me in the face - and I needed it.  I need to get back to what I know and apply it to my current setting.  I know the biggest thing I will carry from this chapter is to do more self-reflection, because when I do, I tend to move in the right direction.

I am really curious to read the other posts this week.  I'll probably even be taking notes.  I think assessment is really where my heart is going to be with this change from whole group to guided math workshop.  Make sure you stop by and visit the other bloggers who are participating.  And, be sure to come back and visit again on Sunday for chapter 6.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Back to School Linky Party

 photo 90198fcc-6ece-4d52-a93b-743a1c6f011b.jpg

Third in Hollywood is hosting a Back-to-School link party.  What a wonderful idea - to be able to find all sorts of Back-to-School materials all in one place!!!  What more could we need??

Here is my contribution to back-to-school.  Click on the picture or here to check it out.
Back to school multiplication game
It is a game to practice multiplication facts.  It includes five game boards.  Students ideally would use  10-sided dice, or they can use a spinner, multiply the two numbers together and mark the answer they get on the board.  It can be played individually or with a partner.  If playing with a partner, each student can have their own board, or to make it more challenging, they could use one board to see who covers the most answers.  So many options for play.  

My class last year loved these games.  I have created a few more seasonal ones as well.  I used them as part of my center activities, but some students would pull them out during indoor recess as well.

Be sure to go visit Third in Hollywood to check out all of the other great back-to-school items.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Managing Math Workshop

Welcome - and thanks for joining us with the Guided Math in Action Book study.  Today we will be discussing chapters 3 and 4.  If you missed my previous post, you can go there by following this link:

To visit our hosts for this book study - Adventures in Guided Math, simply click on the image above to visit their blog.
 Chapters 3 & 4 are all about getting started.  Not unlike everything else we do in our classroom, we need to establish our procedures and routines with our guided math and math workshop.  Students need to know what it is supposed to look like, sound like, feel like, etc.  It is imperative that we spend our initial lessons developing and practicing what we expect.  Remember - If you want it - teach it!!!

We want our students to be able to be independent.  There will be days when we aren't going to be there, and everything should run as smoothly as if we were.  So that means practice, practice, practice.

Some of the things we need to consider include:

  • schedules - Are you using a workshop approach?  What about rotations?  Will you have various stations / centers? How many groups do you meet with each day?
  • locations - Where is everything taking place?  Do you have a table where you are holding the guided lessons?  Are you meeting students in their groups / desks?  Where are the centers / stations located?  Will they work on them in a specific area or at their seats?  Will you have an area for whole group instruction, or do students just return to their seats for this?  There is a lot to consider...
  • teacher toolkit - This is everything you need for your guided math lessons. How do you have yours organized?  What kind of tools do you have included in yours?
  • flexible grouping - What kind of data are you going to gather?  How often do you examine your groups?
  • record keeping - Do you have a system that works for you?  What data do you keep?  What kind of planning sheets do you use?

 Question one:  I do have a toolkit, but it is not as organized as I would like it.  It never fails, part way through the year it is a complete disaster.  I am in the process of reexamining how I will keep things this year.  This sounds like a future blog post!!!!

Question two:  My students do not have individual toolkits.  I have kept things centrally located.  When I have tried to have each student keep individually, often things get lost or broken.  I have found that by having things in one are for students to get, they take better care of the tools and we have them when needed.

Question three:  Routines / expectations are established starting on day one and are continually practiced throughout the year.  Those first few weeks are important.  The more time spent at the beginning of the year means less time is wasted later.
 Question one & two:  Prior to this coming year, I have taught primarily whole group.  I have pulled those students back who have really need the extra help or students who have specifically requested to work with me, and yes, those have been fluid - based on the specific task we were working on.  I am excited to be doing small group work this year.

Question three:  When I was in special education my records were much more in depth than what they have been the past couple of years.  Since becoming a third grade teacher my records have been very basic.  Each year they have improved and are looking much more like the detail I used to put into them when in special ed.  The Common Core has also forced me to keep better records.

I must say that these two chapters have really made my mind start spinning.  Tomorrow I am going to be able to start going in and organizing my classroom.  I have some ideas I need to test out for the arrangement.  The information from chapters 3 & 4 will help me start off on the right foot.

Don't forget to stop back by on Wednesday for Chapter 5.  Please be sure to visit all the other bloggers and read their posts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study - Chapters 1 & 2

Today is the day we dig in deep with our book study of Guided Math in Action by Dr. Nicki Newton. I am looking forward to reading the other posts and readers' comments.  Because I am planning to implement guided math this year, this is probably going to be one of the most informative interactions that I will have this summer.
 Chapter One:

The book begins with a quote I have heard a lot in teaching career - especially when dealing with differentiated instruction.

"If kids don't learn the way you teach, then teach the way they learn."

This quote makes so much sense, but it is not always followed.  Many times, students are expected to learn they way we teach content.  So sad!  I whole-heartedly believe that through guided math, that I will better be able to fulfill the truth in this quote.

This chapter takes us through a guided math lesson with Mrs. Johnson covering subtraction with regrouping!!!  Wow!!  This seems to be such a nemesis for many of our students.  I had students who could fluently learn their multiplication facts, but when we went back to subtraction with grouping - OUCH!!!

Mrs. Johnson introduces the concept with a mini-lesson that activates students' prior knowledge.  She begins where the students are and proceeds in a concrete manner.  Something I really appreciate about the lesson is the fact that appropriate content vocabulary is used.  Too many times I have seen a watered down version when approaching lower level groups.  If we don't start with the correct vocabulary, it just makes it harder on these students later.

After the mini-lesson, Mrs. Johnson provides students with a couple of problems to complete during the student work period.  During this time, she is making notes, asking questions, and guiding students where needed.  This then leads into a share period where students must explain their solutions.  This is such a vital step in the process.  This allows the teacher to see if the student truly understands or if there is any misconceptions that need addressed.  This also allows students to have a voice.

Before Mrs. Johnson dismisses the group, she explains any follow-up centers they will visit along with the homework they will have to have further practice on the given concept.  I like the idea of differentiated homework (and the centers).  This makes the homework more meaningful, and there is a better chance that the students will complete it.

Mrs. Johnson now circulates the classroom observing the centers, taking anecdotal notes. and intervening where needed.  She then gives a signal for wrap-up.

All of this is based on on-going assessments.  Groups are based on prior quizzes or tests, the teacher is constantly taking notes, making observations, students are working through various assignments that are differentiated to meet their needs, and then follow-up assessments may be given.  Based on all of this assessment, students may fluidly move into another group based on need.

I find myself thinking how engaging all of this is for the students (and the teacher).  Students are given meaningful/respectful activities.  They feel like someone is listening to them and helping them. Different approaches are accepted and appreciated.  Students are building self-confidence in math.
That last statement gives me all the more reason to continue with my goal of implementing guided math this year.

Question One:  I feel that my background in special education makes stretching my pedagogy easy.  I have been trained and trained in differentiating.  Trying different approaches, and looking at individual student needs comes second nature to me even now that I am in a third grade classroom.  My youngest daughter struggles so much in math, and I often try to look at what I am teaching through her eyes.  

Question Two:  Spending the a lot of time at the beginning of the year establishing a safe classroom is the beginning of encouraging perseverance.  Students need to be willing to take challenges and make mistakes before they will be willing to push through difficulties.  I also share the struggles my daughter has had in school.  They need to know that they are not alone.  Then there are individual conferences.  I try to touch base with all of my students at least once a week during conferencing.

Chapter Two

This chapter is all about the components of a Math Workshop.  Guided math can take place in other contexts, but the author is very enthusiastic about math workshop.  I must say that math workshop is what I have envisioned in my implementation of guided math.  I think this format will just fit the structure of my classroom better.

Building on chapter one, the author reemphasizes the idea of a safe environment where students are able to share, and that they are comfortable in reasoning through the math out loud, that they are comfortable, and not intimidated when you ask them to "prove it".  

I must say that when I first started reading this chapter and the discussion was on asking students to prove it, my thoughts went to those students who are less confident or shy about sharing.  However, as I read through the whole chapter, things all came together.  I cannot emphasize enough the need of creating that community at the beginning of the year.  But it is not enough to just address it at the beginning of the year, it has to be reinforced throughout.  Using anchor charts (the author calls them "prove it posters" in one of the captions), as well as thinking prompts help students find some confidence in responding.  

The main elements of math workshop include:
  • calendar (the author feels it is very important at all grade levels)
  • number/problem of the day (you should incorporate some vocabulary each day)
  • whole class mini-lesson
  • guided math groups/math centers/conferencing (this is where most of the time is spent)
  • number talks / math energizers (only about 5 - 10 minutes)
  • Share (sharing should never be left out - very crucial part of the workshop)
When beginning math workshop, it is very important to teach what you want at each part.  This should be done as part of the beginning of the school year routine building.  If you leave this out, you are setting everyone up for failure.

The author has provided so many ideas in this chapter, I will be referring back to it, I am sure.  One such idea is the Mathematician's Chair as an option during share time.  It is compared to the Author's Chair - used in Writing Workshop.  I really like this idea, and I know I will be including this idea.  

I really had to think about this question, but realized I am doing quite a bit of things to encourage a numerate environment.  
  • number talks - I started this last year, and my students loved them.
  • math mentor texts - I use picture books to teach everything!!!
  • group discussions - We really worked on how to hold discussions last year, and I look forward to continuing this in the coming year.
  • exit slips - I was amazed at the information that I gained from the exit slips, and in such a short period of time.  
Wow!  This is a huge post!!!!!  It was worth it though.  I am really enjoying the text.  I am learning so much.  By taking part in this book study, I am "forced" to think deeper than I usually would have.  I find I need that extra pressure sometimes - especially in a busy time like the summer.

It is not too late to join in.  If you have not yet purchased the book, I recommend you look at Amazon.  They have both the actual book and the kindle version.  

Don't forget to visit all the other blogs taking part in this book study.  It is always nice to see the various points of view.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study Getting Read to Kick Off!!!!!

I am joining Sarah and Courtney at Adventures in Guided Math for the Guided Math in Action book study.  I am so excited to be part of this book study!!  I am going to implement guided math this year.  I have been thinking about it for some time, and now it's about time I get it into action!!!  I have my curriculum map, and the beginning stages of planning.  I really need to get my pre-/post- tests and my work stations/centers figured out for each skill.  So much to do, so little time - only a month to go and I'm back to school.

Today we are kicking things off - getting the information out there.  If you don't have your book yet, you can get one from amazon - either a kindle version or the book itself.  

We will be discussing chapters 1 & 2 on July 16th.  Below is our schedule for the remaining chapters.  

Be sure to visit the other blogs participating in the Guided Math in Action Book Study.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Big Time Blogging Challenge & Teachers Write!

Just what I needed - a big swift kick in the rear!!!!

I have been such a slacker of a blogger, and this challenge is just what I needed to get me doing what I should have been doing all along.  Michelle at Big Time Literacy is hosting a blogging challenge to post daily during the month of July.  She does have topics, but you don't have to use those - the big idea is just to make sure you write.

In addition to this challenge, there is another writing event going on - Teachers Write.  This is  a virtual summer camp for teachers / librarians to encourage them to write - with the assistance of published authors.  They will have a weekly structure with writing prompts and even provide feedback.  It will be quite interactive.

So, why am I so interested in both of these opportunities?  Writing has always been somewhat of a "challenge" for me.  Not that I can't do it,  but I have never really enjoyed it.  I tend to blame the way it was taught - or should I say - not taught - to me as a student.  We were more or less just told to write, and never given any real instruction.  We were given these random grades - some good, some bad, but with no real feedback.  It felt more like a lottery.  I never could understand the scoring.  I was an overall A student, but when I wrote, my grades were very inconsistent.

In recognizing this about my own learning of writing, and knowing it has been one of my least favorite subjects to teach,  I have been working on trying to make it better for my students.  I want to hit this challenge right on and provide my students with the instruction and feedback they need.

This year I am moving more to a "Writers Workshop" model.  I am reading as much as I can about it. I am actually really excited to get it up and running.  I am sure I will have more posts on it later.

Today's Big Time Challenge prompt is about favorite books.  I love, love, love books, so it is hard to make a list, so I will give you one.

My all time favorite book (or should I say series) is the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I loved the TV series as a kid, and then my third grade teacher read us several of the books.  I later had my parents buy the series for me and devoured them quickly.  They will always hold a special place in my heart.