Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guided Math In Action Book Study - Chapters 1 and 2

Hi Everyone! I'm posting this in the evening, so I'm a little late. I'm teaching summer school this year and I've been crazy busy! 

I'm so excited to share my thoughts about Chapters 1 and 2 in  Dr. Nicki Newton's Guided Math in Action.  I'm linking up with Courtney and Sarah at Adventures in Guided Math for this book study. Check my previous post for all the details.

First, let me tell you why I was interested in taking part in this book study.  A few years ago, I started teaching a multi-age first and second grade class.  I loved the multi-age philosophy and was thrilled at the idea of keeping my kids for two whole years!  The one thing that scared me about it - teaching math!  I didn't want to focus solely on first grade curriculum with first graders and second grade curriculum with second graders.  Instead, I wanted to make sure we were truly a learning community, with every child working together on tasks that were appropriate for their learning needs, while still meeting district curriculum requirements.  So... how could I do that?  Well, after a lot of study, planning, and searching for activities, I implemented a math workshop approach. I really loved it, and the different needs of my students forced me to adapt my instruction across multiple grade levels.  I had students who had difficulty with counting at the same time as students who were ready to solve complex story problems involving multiplication and division. Crazy, huh?  Well, I muddled through during my four years in multi-age with the help of colleagues and some really helpful resources, including Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics Grades K-3 by John A. Van de Walle and LouAnn H. Loven. I pursued every bit of professional development I could find to improve my math instruction. Even after I moved to teaching second, then moved to a new school in first grade, I continued to implement the math workshop approach. By now, I had discovered guided math, which seemed to fit so well with what I was already doing.  So you would think I was an expert, right?

No way!

I'm still struggling to fit everything in, to "cover" the curriculum within this framework, to meet with enough groups in the given time, and to keep the other kids engaged in a way that will help them grow as mathematicians, as well. In short, I needed some in-depth discussion of the practicalities with colleagues who were having the same issues.  Unfortunately, my colleagues at both schools were much more comfortable with whole group instruction and thought I was crazy to even attempt this. So, I'm thrilled to be studying and talking about a resource that will help me become a more effective teacher with like-minded teachers.

Now, on to the Book Study discussion Questions for the first two chapters.

Chapter One: Guided Math: An Introduction


In this chapter, Dr. Newton Introduced Guided Math instruction and shared an example lesson. She discussed the rationale for using Guided Math, why it works, how it benefits students, and the beliefs about teaching and learning that guide the framework.  I loved how Dr. Nicki explained all of this.  What I was forced to do as a Multi-age teacher, to differentiate instruction based on student needs, is really the best way to teach all children.  Just as we strive to find the "Zone of Proximal Development" in our guided reading, we need to make the same assessment-driven choices in our teaching of math.  Guided Math truly benefits all students and helps them to develop the mathematical and critical thinking skills that they will need to help them succeed.

My thoughts? Since I'm not new to Guided Math, I've already begun the work of "stretching my pedagogy."  I consider myself a reflective teacher. A reflective teacher always considers the effect of his/her practice on students and makes changes to become more effective.  I try to keep the things that work and to be open to different ideas and methods that may better help my students to learn.

How do you promote perseverance in your classroom? This is an excellent question and one I've struggled with in my journey. How many times have I had kids come up to me and ask, "Is this right?"  It would be easy to say yes, it is or no, it's not.  I confess that I have done that when it was more expedient or I had too many other students who needed my attention.  It's harder to ask, "What do you think?" and then listen to the answer. To say, "What strategy did you use?" takes more time than yes or no.  To lead a child to find their own errors and then guide that child to use an alternate strategy is harder, takes longer, requires more thought, yes.  But, by asking those kinds of questions and valuing their hard work, I try to empower my students.  I encourage them to value the process, rather than the product.  As mathematicians in my classroom, we all make mistakes and we understand that it is up to us to fix them.  I still have students who are easily frustrated and want to give up. However, by emphasizing process and by giving the students a sense of their own power as mathematicians, I think I encourage their ability to persist through difficulty.

Chapter Two: Guided Math in a Numerate Environment


Now we are getting into the nuts and bolts of how we teach math.  The activities we include in our math block create the environment to turn students into mathematicians.  Building a sense of number and the ability to "think flexibly" about numbers, encouraging students to share their thinking and giving them the language with which to do so, allowing students to reflect on their own learning and make decisions about the math activities they do -- all of these reflect a math community in which students develop into confident and capable mathematicians. The math workshop structure, with a variety of differentiated activities engaging multiple intelligences, allows students to engage with math in meaningful ways. In this chapter, we get a sense of the structure behind these experiences.  Dr. Newton explains the elements of the math workshop and provides examples of activities as well as a sample schedule for the math block. This chapter really got me thinking!  One of my struggles has always been scheduling and pacing the math workshop time.  This helps me see how I can balance my whole group time with my small group and independent time.

I love it when I'm reading a professional book and it affirms what I am already doing in the classroom.  It's even better when I also get some new ideas that I know will make my students excited about learning.

Here are some numeracy activities that I already have in place:
  • Calendar Activities - During calendar, we work on number sense, counting in a variety of ways from any number, place value using straws and ten frames, and addition and subtraction focused on "How many days have we been in school?"
  • Number of the Day - Students record the number in their math journals and record multiple ways to show or make that number.  Sometimes we share these as a group, and sometimes we'll play a game with the number of the day, such as Give one, Get one (explained below).
  • Math Talk - My whole group instruction often revolves around a story problem, which students solve in their journals. We then share strategies and discuss how we got our answers.
Here are some wonderful new ideas that I'm eager to try:

  • Strategy Charts and Math Thinking Prompts - I use anchor charts all the time for reading and writing, but I don't use them often for math. Duh! Why am I not doing this?  The strategy charts would be especially helpful for student reference.  I'm always asking, "What strategy did you try?" Why not list them for the students who have difficulty naming their strategies?
  • Tell Me All You Can: The Number Is ____. -  I like the way this activity names different aspects of the number (It is the sum of ____, double ___, half of ___). So easy, but great for building math vocabulary and concepts.
  • I'm Thinking of a Number - I would have to rename this one.  I already do an activity with the same name that uses a number line to narrow down the number I'm thinking of. I like the idea of having another game that requires the students to ask a variety of questions to narrow it down.  I could call it Math Detective and teach the students to ask only yes or no questions.  I know they would love it!
  • Math Word Wall - Another idea that's not really new.  I have tried to use a math word wall in the past, but I've let it go in recent years due to wall space, lack of time, etc. I really need to revive it.  Students need access to the words that I want them to be able to use.
  • Writing about Math - This is a great addition to my math journals.  Talk about writing across the curriculum! Writing about the activities and the "most important thing" about the activity would really get kids to reflect on their own learning.
Finally, I'm really looking forward to using Dr. Newton's Workshop Time Frame to help me plan my math block this year.  I appreciate the way she used a percentage of time to draft her schedule.  I wish I had 90 minutes for math every day.  Usually, I only have about 70 minutes. Having the guideline of 60% devoted to small group guided math instruction and workstations will help me to plan my block more effectively.  

Here's the Give One, Get One game:

  1. Students write 3 - 5 ways to show or make (using addition/subtraction) Today's Number.
  2. Students stand, push in their chairs, and hug their journals and pencils.
  3. I turn on the music (a fun kid's song) and students walk (and usually dance a little) around the room.  (I really have to teach and model the walking safely through the room at the beginning.  The students will want to run or race walk which could result in an injury. You really have to set the expectation for safe behavior.)
  4. I pause the music. Students stop moving and partner up with the student they are closest to.  (You have to teach this, too.  Otherwise, they always try to partner with their friend.)
  5. Both students Give one (a way to show or make the number) and Get one. They copy the partner's model into their math journal. When they are done, they hug their journals to let me know they are ready. 
  6. I start the music and students begin to move around the room again.
  7. We repeat steps 4 and 5 two more times. (All students should have 3 new ways to show or make the number.  
  8. We gather as a group. Two or three volunteers share a new idea they learned from someone else.  
I love this activity because the kids find it fun and because they learn so much from each other!  I'll never forget the time a child shared that one of my struggling students had given her 2+2+2+2+2+2=12.  He beamed when she shared his idea. 

Well, that's it for today. I hope you will add your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.  I'm looking forward to discussing chapters 3 and 4 on Sunday.  Have a wonderful week!

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