Thursday, September 25, 2014

Guided Math: Let's Talk...

For the last three years, I've been one of the few cursed lucky middle school teachers to teach both ELA and math. Let's just say that when standardized testing time rolls around, there isn't enough chocolate in the world to soothe my frazzled nerves!

Admittedly, ELA has my heart. When I've got my kids all wrapped up in a heated debate sparked by the novel we are reading, or I witness the moment when a student steps out of the role of "kid who writes" and into the role of  "writer," I feel a sense of purpose radiate through me. Aside from motherhood, nothing else I've ever done compares.

Math is, well, math. It's not that I don't enjoy it... I love teaching, so really I don't mind teaching anything! But, I find it often plays second fiddle to all my ELA planning.

This year, though, I spent a good chunk of my summer revamping my math block. I am piloting a new program (Digits), so I saw it as an opportunity to mix it up, changing everything that I don't love about the structure of my block. After speaking to some of my brilliant colleagues, I got some great ideas. Then, I streamlined some stuff, cut out some stuff, and added some stuff. What I'm left with is a dynamic math workshop that keeps me on my toes and really seems to fit the needs of all my learners.

The 90-minute breakdown:

I'm scheduled for 90-minutes, but my block is right after specials, so my kids are almost always late... and then they need a drink... and then they need the bathroom... and then they forgot their books in homeroom... so basically, I only plan for 80-minutes.

During the first part of the block, I have an intervention teacher come in to support, so we start our day with small group instruction. The independent work the students do at this time supports the lesson from the day prior. As you can see from the plan, struggling learners spent most of their time with the intervention teacher for small group instruction. Everyone else completes their independent work, but I am there to troubleshoot or answer any questions they might have, so the kids who need the most help are not interrupted. Additionally, some of my strong learners get to do some enrichment/challenge work at this time and I can support them as needed.

In the past, I have done small group instruction without another teacher in the room. I set the rule that I was not to be interrupted while I worked with the struggling learners. This meant that the kids who were working independently and had a question, had to rely on each other for help! With a little training, kids can really become great "peer coaches" and their helping strengthens their own skills, too.

The menu board:

(*A note... I do have 10 iPads in my classroom all day long, in addition to five desktop, student computers)

This menu board has been the biggest change that I've made this year. In years past, I've made center work that I collected and checked. By the end of the week, I was literally buried in papers! This year, I fixed that problem! This differentiated menu board is perfect for kids who finish early. I spent some time thinking about what activities would be meaningful, but required almost no paperwork. I spent a lot of time reflecting on the resources I have and how to best use them so that the kids would always be engaged in meaningful math stuff, but, other than the initial set-up, would require very little work on my part!

On this board, there are two activities that the kids must complete. These are paper and pencil activities, but we check them all together on the day of the topic test, so I don't have to collect and grade all of them. Students have the option of completing a Sudoku for a little extra credit, but these take 10 seconds to check. When kids do complete a Show Me or perform a Flocabulary song, the whole class watches, so again, no paper/pencil stuff for me to grade!

So far, the kids are way happier!! They love the activities and I think they like the idea of trying out some different math activities without the pressure of being graded. And since I am free to walk around during this time, I can keep all the students on task.

Math Journal-Problem Solving:

Word problems that have two or three steps are always difficult for kids to solve. In the past, I've put problem solving questions in a center, but I found without teacher guidance, even the highest learners can struggle with these kinds of questions. It seems they just never know how to get started. 

This year, I've carved out time in my daily routine to work on these kinds of problems. We started simple: word problems with two or three steps, but fairly simple math. For a while, I modeled how I solve these through think-alouds (a favorite technique that I use all the time in ELA). Now that we are a few weeks into our math program, I'm slowly releasing the responsibility and letting them work in pairs. So far, so good! My hope is that by PARCC time, they will be great at jumping right in to start solving these kinds of problems.

So, this is the gist of my math routine! I'm super happy with how things are going and I think this new format is best for everyone! 

How do you structure your math time? Any other helpful hints/suggestions?

Happy teaching!!

1 comment:

  1. I love your math menu!! I'm wanting to start something similar with my 6th graders (if I can carve out the time!). :)