Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guided Math Chapter 6: Part 2

Mrs. Crofts' Classroom
Today I am guest blogging on Crofts' Classroom again to share my thoughts on Chapter 6 of Laney Sammons' Guided Math.  This chapter is all about math workshop, which I absolutely love!  I summarized the chapter on Tina's blog, but I also wanted to share a little bit about how workshop works in my classroom and how I hope to improve it this year.  I also wrote several posts about my work stations last summer; you can read them here, here and here.

Deb Diller's book Math Work Stations was the inspiration for how I set up my workshop. I use 10-12 stations, depending on the number of students I have, so that two or three students work at each station. (Note:  I have 12 stations, but not necessarily 12 different activities. I often have 2 tubs with the same activities and materials.) I like this because I think it keeps the noise level down and is a little more controlled. Once I have a handle on my students' abilities and needs, I create the partner pairs who will work together for several weeks.  Other teachers have had great success with other formats similar to CAFE in language arts where the students complete activities in different strands like measurement, fact fluency, using math tools, etc. (See this blog post about BUILD.)  Some teachers have their students work in groups and rotate through stations, seatwork and small group work.  All of these systems have merit; you have to choose what works best for you!

This year I want to:
  1. Create at least one tub that always has some sort of graphing/data activity to complete. My plan is to eventually turn this into an investigation station where the students are actually gathering data.
  2. Avoid getting too caught up in "themed" stations.  Just because I bought a really cute packet of math centers for Halloween does not  mean that every activity in that pack is right for my class. I need to remember to choose activities that match the curriculum and the needs of my students.
  3. Continue to develop and use stations with similar formats.  One idea that I have is to have one tub that  always has activities using number cards.  The number range will vary, and I can use Donna's wonderful themed number cards for variety! (Math Coach's Corner on TPT)  Another tub will utilize Marcy Cook's number tile task cards.
  4. Create "I Can" charts for each new station.  I was really good about doing this at the beginning of the year, but slacked off mid-year.
  5. Try for more differentiated activities within the stations.  Keep the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy in mind when planning activities. Are the students analyzing and creating?  I really want to utilize technology here!
One thing I have learned is that you have to introduce stations slowly and really practice the procedures.  For the first few days, all we do is free exploration of materials while we practice working quietly, getting our math tubs and cleaning up.  Then I add a task to each tub of manipulatives like "Take a number card and create a set using the manipulatives" or "Create a pattern."  Next I introduce a simple game, and we practice playing it with a partner.  I also like to do number tubs from Math Their Way (Chapters 7-8) during these first few weeks.  Here's a link to Math Their Way info, but basically the students work with a given number and use the manipulatives to represent their number and show combinations.  Then they draw or make a model of their work.  For example, one of the stations has toothpicks.  Students make arrangements of 5 or whatever number they are working with and then glue the toothpicks on construction paper and write a sentence to describe their work- 3 toothpicks and 2 toothpicks make 5 toothpicks.  I also include counting books at each station for early finishers.

After about 3 weeks the students are fairly independent so I can start pulling some small groups.  Again, you have to really teach the procedures and expectations of how to work when the teacher is with a group.  Have a plan for the restroom, questions, supplies, etc.  Basically, I tell my kids you don't interrupt the teacher unless there's blood or vomit!  (And I've had to explain that picking the scab off of a mosquito bite is NOT what I mean by blood!)  Some teachers wear a crown or use signs to remind their students not to interrupt when they are with a small group.  

Math workshop has become one of my favorite times during the day.  It takes a lot of work to get it going, but once it's up and running, you will love having time to work with groups and individuals!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Word Families

Last year my district created a new word study program to take the place of the phonics/spelling curriculum we had used for years.  In first grade this program focuses on word families.  My colleagues and I were thrilled, but there was definitely a learning curve involved.  Now that we know what to expect, things should go a lot smoother and our instruction should be much more effective!
I've been creating some activities to reinforce the word families we will be covering. The first activity is themed to go along with my "Popcorn Words" word wall. Each week we add words that represent the word families we are studying.  These words have a ticket on them to show that they are a ticket to reading and writing new words.
My word wall waiting for words!

An example of my "ticket" words.  The district high frequency words have a popcorn picture in corner.

The activity I created will help me highlight other words from the families and keep all of the word families visible.  This packet consists of the 37 common rimes from Wylie and Durrell as well as some additional families used in my district.  The cards can be used for display and can also be used with the workmat and recording sheet at a literacy/word work station.  Head over to Teachers Pay Teachers to check it out!
I also created a" Bang"! type Freebie game to practice the short a families.

Teacher Created Resources is going to be giving away an Ipad!  Click here to enter.  If you win by following my link, I win an Ipad mini!  You can enter every day!
iPad Giveaway

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday Made It! July 8

I'm finally able to link up with Tara for Monday Made It!  To be fair, my husband did most of the work, but as the little girl in the Shake and Bake commercial used to say in her cute little Southern accent, "And I helped!"  (You have to be pretty old to get that reference!)

Two years ago I made these Rekenreks for my class.  The kids absolutely love them (and love saying "Rekenrek!")  There is an Ipad app and an online version (link) for demonstration purposes, but when I saw this demonstration model on Pinterest, I knew I had to have one.  My husband cut the PVC pieces for me awhile ago, but I didn't pick up the pool noodles until yesterday.  He cut them today, and since they were a little snug, I made the holes a little bigger by sanding them with a sheet of rolled up sandpaper.

I can't wait to use this next year! I somewhat followed the directions given  here.

Just for fun, here's a YouTube video of one of the Shake and Bake commercials I remember!

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Building Mathematical Comprehension Chapter 4

Before I get into sharing my thoughts on Chapter 4 (very late!), I have to share a couple of my Dollar Tree finds.

 I have been looking for these divided containers for base-ten blocks for months, ever since I saw them on Pinterest.  I saw another blogger, Megan from Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade,  use cutouts similar to these for some simple literacy centers. (The cookies and milk would be great for something related to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie!)  I also got some big foam dice and some coupon holders for flash cards.  Oh, and some pool noodles for a project I hope to have finished so I can share it tomorrow!  I love Dollar Tree!

Now on to Chapter 4!  I had a lot of training early in my teaching career on asking questions at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.  It stuck, and now asking questions at higher thinking levels just is just something I do.  But it is important that I am not the only one asking questions.  Students need to learn to ask questions that can help them monitor their own learning and thinking.  We need to build on the natural curiosity of children.
On page 122 there was a sample anchor chart titled "Why Mathematicians Ask Questions?"  I can't wait to make a similar chart with my students this year!  We discuss thick and thin questions in reading all the time so it just makes sense to use these same terms in math. I love Laney's suggestion of introducing the comprehension strategy of asking questions in a small group.

Some of the activities mentioned for helping students develop their questioning skills are ones that I have used before, but not really in math.  I have used Wonder Walls and Question Webs in language arts, science and social studies; now it's time to add them to math lessons as well.  I pinned this on Pinterest the other day- perfect for this chapter!

Please head over to Curls and a Smile and link up to share your thoughts about this chapter.
Curls and a Smile 

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Happy 4th of July!  Today I am linking up with Cara from The First Grade Parade, one of the very first blogs I started following when I returned to the first grade classroom, for her Throwback Thursday linky. I've only been blogging about a year so I don't have a lot of old posts, but this is one of my favorites.  I'm drawn to it because it represents a big moment in my math teaching last year.  This anchor chart became one of the most used and powerful tools in my classroom.  I would still see students studying it while solving problems in May, looking for another way they could show their work and solve the problem.

Here's the post from October, 2012:

My district provides Exemplars for math problem solving, and my school has made using them a priority this year. I am the first grade representative on our campus math committee, so I will be partially responsible for guiding my team through the implementation of Exemplars.  Fortunately, I was already familiar with the program from my time in another district, but I have never used them with a whole class before.  So I decided this week to try out some Exemplar-type work with my class so I could share with my team before we actually do our first real Exemplar problem for our portfolios.

On Wednesday, our daily journal prompt was:
I have 8 apples.  Some are green and some are red.  How many of each can I have?

Many children just wrote the equation 4+4=8 and then drew a picture.  There wasn't a lot of evidence of their thinking although I was pleased that several of the students were able to verbalize that since 8 was an even number they knew they could make 2 equal groups!  So on Thursday I decided to change things up just a little and incorporate some of the routines that our math committee has established for Exemplars.  I wanted to emphasize that:
1.  Mathematicians show their work in different ways.
2.  You need to circle your answer.
3.  Use math vocabulary to explain your thinking and then highlight those words (an Exemplar strategy).

We started by discussing Wednesday's problem, and then I started a chart of ways mathematicians show their work.  I saw a similar chart on Donna's blog, The Math Coach's Corner.  (I learn so much every time I visit her blog!) Here is the chart we created- minus "table" as we added it later.

Then I posed this problem:

After we read the problem together,  I had the students tell me what they were trying to find.  I made sure that the word combinations was mentioned.  We discussed possible strategies, and then I let them go to work, reminding them to circle their answer and tell how they found the answer.  I gave each student a sheet of manila paper to work on.  Some students immediately started to write equations.  Others started to draw baskets.  Interestingly, a couple of students started to draw 8 boxes on their paper.  When I asked why, they weren't sure.  I think it is because we use this paper often for what I call 8-square activities; for example, I will write 8 short a words and the students will copy one in each box and draw a picture.  I noticed also that some students were spending most of their time drawing and coloring baskets so I stopped the class and did a quick reteach on math drawings and reminded them that these were quick sketches, not art class drawings!

When I noticed that most students seemed to finished or close to finishing we stopped and discussed some of the strategies they used and shared how many combinations they found.  About half the class found that there were 6 combinations.  We then used our highlighters to show any math words we used in our explanations.  Most students had one math word such as "I wrote number sentences" or "I used counters."  I then explained that mathematicians like to make sure of their answers by showing their work in a different ways and use more math language to explain what they have done.

The next day I used this same problem to introduce a new way to show work.  I used one student's work to show how she had the same combination twice, and I talked about how many students kept asking me if they were finished because they didn't know if they had found all of the ways.  I told them that sometimes we need a way to organize our data.  Using seven 2 color counters, I showed them how I would start with one red and then count how many were yellow.  I wrote this information on the Smart board in table form.  Then we made 2 red, counted the yellow and wrote it on the table.  Then I just wrote a 3 in the red column and asked  "How many yellow?"  We completed the table together, checking with our counters, and I explained that a table was one way to organize your thinking when working with combinations.  Then we added it to our chart.

This week we will do a similar problem: "There are 8 animals in the barn.  Some are cows and some are horses.  How many different combinations of animals could be in the barn."  I can't wait to see how they approach the problem now!

Cute freebie from MelonHeadz!

Enjoy your Independence Day festivities!

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Guided Math Book Study Chapter 2

Please head over to Tina's blog Mrs. Crofts' Classroom to catch my post on Chapter 2 of Guided Math. I was so excited to hear that Tina was hosting a book study of Guided Math this summer so I volunteered to blog about a couple of chapters.  I read this book last summer and tried to implement guided math in my classroom this year.  This summer I am revisiting this book as well as reading Laney's other book Building Mathematical Comprehension. I'm looking forward to another great year of math!

I highly recommend all of Laney Sammons books!

I've been so focused on the math book studies so far this summer that I've neglected my other goal, improving writing instruction.  We use Lucy Calkins Units of Study, but I feel like I need more.  If you have any writing ideas or books to recommend, please share!  You can link up here.

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