I’m always fascinated by math in the early grades. In kindergarten especially, it can be so challenging for teachers when students come into school with varying exposures to both language and mathematics, yet all of their ideas are incredibly intuitive, informal, complex, and foundational to the math they will encounter in later grades.
After reading a great deal of work by Doug Clements and this research study by Greg Duncan — indicating that early math skills are one of the best predictors of later success in both math and literacy — I really began to wonder… what is it about early math that makes it such a powerful predictor?
One of the most powerful things about routines in the math classroom is the structure of the activity stays the same while the content can change each time. Since the teachers in my building use these routines in all of the K-5 classrooms, it creates a structural coherence that is beneficial for both teachers and students.
I couldn’t be more excited about the launch of this Teaching Channel project — it’s so near and dear to my heart. Over the past five years, much of my work in the classroom and with teachers has centered around math routines that generate student discourse and help us learn more about our students’ understandings. All of this work has been inspired by books I’ve read, conversations with colleagues in person and on Twitter, and the amazing student mathematical discussions I’ve heard, sparked by these routines. With this project, I have the opportunity to share all of the hard work of my colleagues, showcase the safe culture they have established in their classrooms, and highlight all of the wonderful mathematical ideas of their students.
This entry is the second post in the series Getting Better Together: A Lesson Study
In my first Lesson Study post, I discussed choosing a mathematical goal and task. In ending the post, I invited you to take some individual think time to work out the four questions posed. This was your time to think about how you would plan the lesson for your class, what sequence you would use, and what questions you would ask. You were also tasked with choosing a warmup to engage your class and a formative assessment strategy. Now it’s time to think about the math and the lesson plan.
This entry is the first post in the series Getting Better Together: A Lesson Study
Don’t you just love those days when a math lesson goes really well? A lesson where, at any given moment, you could look around and see students engaging in a task, persevering through problems, talking with one another about the mathematics, making connections, and in the end, be able to demonstrate understanding of the mathematical goal for the day? While it’s an amazing experience we probably wish we could have every day, there’s also much to be learned when a lesson doesn’t go quite as well.
In math class, we often see students pull numbers out of math problems and operate on them without thinking about the context. Many students arrive at an answer, but don’t realize their answer doesn’t make sense within the context of the problem.
When this happens, we’re left wondering many things that are extremely important in our future planning:
- Are they struggling with the math?
- Are they struggling with comprehension of the text?
- Are they making sense of the problem as mentioned in SMP1?
After reading Brian Bushart’s blog post, I’ve found that taking the numbers and questions out of the problem itself engages students in making sense of contexts. Students are then able to notice and wonder about the context without the worry of having to solve for something.
Making change can be challenging. It requires us to take a step back, assess our current practices in schools and classrooms, and talk honestly about whether things are working for students. This often puts us in an uncomfortable place, because the safe feeling that comes with what we know, is often more appealing than fear of all the unknowns that accompany change. So even though we may know change is necessary, it’s still difficult and filled with many growing pains. Last year, my colleagues and I embraced the challenge of changing our school’s PLC structure to a more collaborative learning space called Learning Labs. I feel so fortunate to have had the support of my administration, teachers, and the Tch community to learn so much from the experience and document the journey.
This year, I’m excited to continue learning with everyone and working through another important change in the current state and district structure — RTI. For those who are not familiar with RTI, it stands for Response to Intervention, and I discussed it a bit at the end of my reflection post from last year. For RTI, we place students in tiers based on various measures, and pull the intensive students out of class for 50 minutes of extra support each day. While I love the idea of giving students the extra support they need, I can’t get past the labeling, grouping, and removing of students from their K-5 classrooms to get that support.
I love how my desks, tables, calendar, and plan book look at the beginning of the school year. They’re clean, organized, and every year I try to convince myself that I’m going to keep them that way all year long. That fantasy probably lasts all of about two weeks, when the crazy rush of the school year kicks in full throttle. While I wouldn’t trade that crazy busy whirlwind for anything, I still long for continued organization in my life throughout the school year. Even searching for resources feels like a never-ending scavenger hunt that sends me in so many directions.
Finding teaching resources online can often feel like a scavenger hunt. Even when searching one particular area of teaching, there are videos here, blogs there, and various conversations floating around social media. With such a variety of resources, it can take a great deal of time to learn in a progression that makes sense.
Teaching Channel just made this searching and learning so much easier with their new Deep Dives! On one page, dedicated to one idea, you can read background information, watch related videos, read blog posts, and ask and answer questions. It’s a one-stop shop for learning individually or as a team, as well as planning professional development for your school or district.
As teachers, we all know the cycle. It seems just as our heads stop spinning from the end-of-year craziness and we have some downtime, we just can’t seem to help ourselves from reflecting, reading, learning, and planning for the upcoming school year. Not to say this reading, learning and planning isn’t mixed with a healthy dose of beach, pool and golf outings, but no matter how hard we try to relax, we just can’t seem to shake the teacher in us. Now that my head has finally stopped spinning and I have some relative downtime, I wanted to reflect on what has been such an incredible learning year for me.