Friday, July 6, 2018

Becoming the Math Teacher Book Study, Part 2

Welcome to chapters 4 & 5 of Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had by Tracy Zager. If you missed out on chapters 1-3, you can read about them HERE. This book is so meaty; I’ve been taking notes like crazy! 
Mathematicians Make Mistakes
During writer’s workshop, my students are only allowed to write with pen while collecting and drafting because I want them to initially focus on their ideas, rather than the mechanics of writing. However, I still always had them use pencil during math. You know the kids who are obsessed with not making mistakes, erasing their paper until it rips? My new rule starting in August will be to only use pens during math also. (I’m already bracing myself for the howls of protest. . .) I want my students to feel comfortable with making mistakes, crossing out, and moving on. Zager emphasizes, “…how we respond to those mistakes is often what separates a negative math classroom from a positive one.” (p. 56) Although it is essential that we teach students how to avoid, check for, and correct computation errors and that we expect students to be precise, there is a big difference between a small computation error and a teachable, interesting, juicy mistake. (p. 57)
Class discussions are not focused on correct answers, but rather, framed around reasoning and mathematical arguments. Rather than ask for an answer, 5th grade teacher, Julie Clark asks students, “What are you reasoning through? I want to hear some thoughts.” In her class, finishing the problem and finding the answer is not the end of thinking. I love this! Too many times, our students feel math is a race to find THE answer. Clark has students share methods and strategies, continuing to collect ideas until students have enough evidence to make connections and draw conclusions. She also does not jump in too quickly to rescue students from mistakes. By continuing the mathematical discussions, students internalize important concepts about math:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Becoming the Math Teacher Book Study, Part 1

Happy summer! Although there are plenty of beach days, pool days & family vacations,  I love summer for having the time to delve into all the professional and pleasure reading books that have been on my "to be read" list! One that's been high on my list is Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms by Tracy Johnston Zager.
I was one of those typical math-phobic students who was petrified of word problems and I just did not understand when and why to use mathematical formulas. All the numbers and rules made my head spin, so when I decided to become a teacher, I was determined to learn HOW to teach math and to make my students love it. 31 years of teaching and MANY math workshops, professional developments, conferences, and books later, I'm finally becoming the math teacher I wish I'd had! So you can understand why I was SO excited to discover my friend, Tammy at Tarheelstate Teacher and Brittany from Mix and Math were leading a summer book study on THIS book! Whoo hoo! This series of blog posts is not a replacement of their study, but will be a documentation of my own thoughts and ideas for how I will implement in the upcoming school year. (Keeps me accountable!)

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Click on the image (book cover) below to order your own copy to join in this book study!
Chapters 1-2 cover our background and school experiences with math. "Excepting the occasional bright spot, a typical North American math class involved memorizing a litany or rules. Our days were filled with pages of calculations, times tests, procedures that worked according to incomprehensible codes. . . real-world problems that didn't have anything to do with our real worlds, and, above all else, a singular right method to follow or else we were marked down." (p. 4) This definitely struck a chord with me. I have vivid memories of asking my father for help in math (he had taught college math courses). However, when he would try to show me how to solve the problem, it was not THE way my teacher had said to "do it" and there would be yelling (by me) and tears (by me) and I still did not understand the problem!

However, when author, Tracy Zager, asked mathematicians to describe mathematics, they used words such as: absorbing, curiosity, invent, passion, explore, joy. . .  My goodness, those were certainly NOT words I would have used in relation to math!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Riddling for Geometry

When you think of high school geometry class, do you shudder? I remember hating proofs. Although most students think of geometry as shapes, it's so much more!
For an unforgettable and truly awesome introductory geometry lesson, teach your class Magic Circle. Read about it HERE.  By fourth grade, students need to not only be able to identify basic polygons, but they also need to describe its properties. Geometry riddles are the perfect opportunity to promote thinking and reasoning! Often times we ask our kids to define a shape or angle. However, geometry riddles give students clues to geometric properties and attributes, then they come up with the answer.
Once we've practiced enough riddles, students automatically want to create their own! They created their own riddle books, then gave them to each other to solve.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Blooming for Poetry

You know how there are some lessons that are just magical? Well. . . Poppies and Pantoum Poetry by my friend, Tracy, at Wild Child Designs is one of those lessons! 
We started by reading a bio on Georgia O'Keeffe (provided in the product). My kids were fascinated by her life and her perseverance, overcoming physical hardships. We also read My Name is Georgia and  Georgia O'Keeffe: Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists.
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After studying her style of zooming into a flower, we closely examined our own photos of flowers. Starting at the center of the image, students decided which shapes and types of lines made up the flower. The hardest part (but most fun) was encouraging them to draw LARGE, right off the edges of the paper! Oil pastels really made the colors pop!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Finally Understanding Fractions

You'd think after 30+ years of teaching, I'd have my strategies for teaching math "down". Well, just like any learner, I'm always in search of aligning my philosophy of how children learn with best practices, simultaneously walking that tightrope of district mandated curriculum. "Back in the day," I used to teach primary grades using Box it or Bag it Mathematics, then Opening Eyes to Mathematics in upper grades. Both programs were hands-on, inquiry-based, and highly engaging. As my district kept adopting new math textbooks supposedly Common Core-aligned, I became more and more disjointed from how I knew I should be teaching.
If you've been following me for a while, you  know I've been searching for a better way to teach math. You may have joined in our Mathematical Mindsets book study. If you're unfamiliar with that incredible book, check out the study HERE.  

This year, I finally feel back to being a "good" math teacher! Are you familiar with Cognitively Guided Instruction in math, otherwise known as CGI? (For those of you already trained and implementing CGI. . . I know I'm late to the game! Sigh. . .) Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) is based on an integrated program of research focused on (a) the development of students’ mathematical thinking; (b) instruction that influences that development; (c) teachers’ knowledge and beliefs that influence their instructional practices; and (d) the way that teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and practices are influenced by their understanding of students’ mathematical thinking. I've been observing CGI teachers, reading the CGI book, and went to training. It makes sense! I'll be blogging about my CGI journey throughout the year.

Teaching fractions has traditionally been an area of struggle for many students. (Even my husband complains that he STILL does not understand fractions!) Using the CGI book, Extending Children's Mathematics: Fractions and Decimals, my students are solving fraction problems in a manner that is intuitive and natural for them!
Rather than an entire worksheet filled with fraction problems, each day we focus on one problem. Yep, that's it: 1 problem! I was skeptical about whether this would be the best use of instructional time, but the amount of language, sharing of strategies, and understanding of concepts is incredible!! 
My students eagerly ask what the new problem is each day :) (I've never had kids excited about a word problem before!)
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You need this fractions and decimal companion book to CGI! Because students have such a better understanding of fractions, they are now able to identify and understand the connections between common denominators, equal shares, and multiple groups. They are applying familiar strategies to new problems, even traditional-looking equations from the math book.

If you want your students to play a fun & fast-paced fraction review game, check out Spring Fraction Review Scoot!
Be sure to visit all the other great Teacher Talk posts below!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Building Understanding, One Brick at a Time

It's always the hands-on activities that we remember about school. For me, I remember climbing to the top of a ladder in second grade, then dropping my reading astronaut with a parachute to land in a wading pool of water, after all our astronauts had been traveling through space on lines above our classroom, the distance marking how many books we had read. (This was only a couple years after Apollo 11 landed the first man on the moon.) I also remember building a gold mining cradle in fourth grade.
I want my students to have the same fond memories and understanding of important curriculum. Getting their hands dirty while mixing and building adobe bricks is the perfect way to understand how adobe was used in building the missions and California rancho houses. Although the original ingredients include cow manure, I reassure my students we are not using manure (some kids are always disappointed. . .)
Students worked in groups to tear straw into small bits, then mix with dirt and sand or clay. After gradually adding water to make a thick mixture, scoop out adobe mud and place in wooden frames. (My awesome hubby built these mini frames for us!)
Press the mud firmly with another wood piece to compact the dirt and to release the extra water.
After carefully lifting the frame off the mud, voila! An adobe brick. We left ours to dry for a few days, reminding the class that "real adobe" bricks had to dry for 1 year before being whitewashed!
Another teacher suggested that students make lots of adobe bricks then use them to build a structure as a STEAM activity. Maybe next year! What hands-on activities do you do with your students? I'd love to hear about them!

You may also be interested in a differentiated unit on California Missions. Find out more by clicking on the photo below.

Be sure to click on the buttons below for more great teaching ideas!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year! The new year is always a great time to reflect back, set goals, and start fresh. I don’t like calling these goals “new year’s resolutions” because that always makes me think of a too-broad, well-meaning statement (I truly DO want to exercise more or cut out sugar!) that I forget about by February. Goals, on the other hand, are concrete and are set with a plan for success.
The new year is also the perfect time to focus on health. Students usually think solely of physical health and getting fit. However, health consists of three components: mental/emotional health, social/family health, and physical health. To develop a well-rounded person, we need to focus on each area. Have students develop a goal with a plan for each type of health. Social and emotional health is crucial to our children’s well-being!
There are 2 variations of the goal setting sheet: one is focused on health goals, the other is geared toward “school-based” goals. Feel free to use either. The goal sheet may be printed out & glue a student photo in the frame or click on the link in resource below to have students fill out digitally in Google sheets (I assign a copy to each student in Google Classroom).

Click HERE or on the cover below to download your FREE copy!
Want more on goal setting? Read about student portfolios HERE and taking goal setting to the next level with student-led conferences HERE.
Visit the blogs below for more great teaching ideas to start off the new year!