Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Morning Confusion

OK, it's not really confusion, but I've been jumping back and forth from one project to another this morning and I'm starting to get a little bit overwhelmed! When I realized it was Saturday- I'm never quite sure what day it is in the summer!- this old song popped into my head. (Not the original artist but I loved these old variety shows and specials!)

My husband spent the first couple weeks of his summer repainting and installing flooring in our son's old bedroom so I can have a new sewing room.  I've started to move my things in and just love it so far!

However I have created quite a mess in my old room as I've moved things out!
I always seem to create more of a mess while cleaning than what I had to start with!

Today I must get everything out of that room so we can clean the carpets and start transforming it into an office/man cave for my hubby.
But instead of just starting in one place and sticking to it, I've been bouncing back and forth between the two rooms AND working on some school things.
Here are some gameboards I made this morning.  I plan on using them in my math stations during the first 2 weeks of school.  They are modeled after some plus one games that Yolanda shared on her blog Oceans of First Grade Fun a couple of years ago.
Click here to download the 4 gameboards.
Back to cleaning up my mess- if all goes well I will actually be sewing tomorrow!

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Big Rocks

My school is going through what our administrators have dubbed "The Extreme Makeover."  We are looking at our schedules, vertical alignment, classroom organization and content delivery.  Yesterday was the first of 5 summer sessions designed to help us revamp our instruction, and the topic was scheduling.
We were asked to come with a list of everything we try to fit in every day, including instructional activities of course, but also looking at things like transititions and restroom breaks.  It is amazing how much we try to cram into a single day!
We started off by watching this video clip:

Then we were given 7 sticky notes and asked to identify the things we felt were essential to our teaching each day.  It was interesting to see that most of us identified these 3 activities in some form- reading workshop/Daily 5, writer's workshop and guided math- but we also  chose activities like read aloud time and community building. Our instructional coach then encouraged us to look at these "big rocks" first when planning out our schedules and try to eliminate or condense some of the little rocks. (Fitting in grammar instruction was a huge topic of discussion!)
In addition to reading, writing and math workshops, my other 3 "big rocks" were:

  • read aloud
  • discovery time
  • discussion, sharing and reflection time
To make sure all of my rocks are in the jar, at the end of each day/week I want to reflect on these questions:
  1. Did I read a book just for the joy of reading?  Not because I am using it to teach inferring or summarizing or not because it goes with a topic we are discussing, but just because it's a great story and I want to share it.
  2. Did my students have a chance to explore or discover things for themselves?  Did they have an opportunity to learn about a self-selected topic?  Did they build or create?  I really want to explore the idea of a genius hour/wonder time!
  3. Did I remember to allow them time to share their writing or reading or problem solving?  Did I give them time to talk about their new pet or weekend camping trip?  At the end of the day, did we stop and think about everything we learned?
What are your "big rocks" and how do you fit it all in?

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Chapter 1

Note from 6-26-14:  This book study will be starting on July 6.  Brenda (Primary Inspired) decided to delay the start to allow some of the people participating time to get their books and complete another book study that was going on. Good thing since I'm behind in my reading!

Connections to literacy instruction is probably what drew me in to Laney Sammon's first 2 books, Guided Math and Building Mathematical Comprehensions.  As a long time first grade teacher, reading interventionist and literacy coach, my teaching world revolved around literacy.  I was well versed in the works of Lucy Calkins, Fountas and Pinnell, Debbie Miller and others, but my only real professional development in math came from a Math Their Way training when I started teaching 1st grade in 1987 and a Kim Sutton workshop about 10 years later.
So when I stumbled across Laney's Math Stretches book and then Guided Math while preparing to return to the first grade classroom (and math!) 4 summers ago, and read how she had modeled Guided Math and Math Workshop on what was being practiced in language arts, I was immediately hooked!
In Chapter 1 of Guided Math Conferences, Laney again emphasizes the connection between math conferences and the conferring we do as part of our reading and writing workshops. Here are what I consider to be key points from this chapter:

  • Math conferences are 1-to-1 conversations with students about their work as mathematicians.
  • Math conferences help to promote thoughtful numeracy by helping students to engage in mathematical thinking, problem solving and to clearly share their mathematical thinking.
  • Math conferences are different from math interviews and small group lessons
  • Math conferences are structured; Laney outlines a structure based on Lucy Calkins writing conferences: Research student understanding of skills, decide what is needed, teach to student needs and link to the future.
The challenge for me will be finding time for these 1-to-1 conversations.  I need to take another look at the schedule I've created for math workshop and make sure I have allowed myself time to visit and talk with my students as they do their work as mathematicians.

Head over to Primary Inspired to read what other bloggers have to say about Chapter 1 and follow along with the rest of the book!

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Book Study

I was so excited this morning to discover that Brenda at Primary Inspired is hosting a book study of Laney Sammons newest book Guided Math Conferences.  My goal this year is to strengthen the assessment part of my math instruction and conferring with students should be a huge part of that.  I have learned so much over the past couple of summers by reading and following the book studies of Laney's other books!
If you would like to follow along, here is a link to Brenda's post.
Primary Inspired

The book is currently unavailable on Amazon, but can be purchased on TPT (so you can earn credits for your purchase!)
Teachers Pay Teachers
I'd better go get some housework done so I can spend the day reading-hopefully poolside with a nice cool summer beverage!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Math Stretches and Warm-Ups: Thoughts on Guided Math Chapter 3

I love doing math stretches, warm-ups, number talks and number sense routines with my first graders!  Hearing them talk like mathematicians (and I tell them that's what they are all the time!) and listening to how their ability to explain and justify their thinking grows as the year progresses fills me with pride.
We really have 2 math warm-up times in my classroom.  We start the day with our calendar which is filled with opportunities for math talk, but our math block is in the afternoon so I start our time with another chance to warm-up or stretch our math thinking. This past year I kind of had "Math Warm-Up ADHD!"  I kept finding new ideas to try but never really found a routine or rhythm that worked for us.  For awhile we had a daily stretch from Laney's Math Stretches book.  We completed a Daily Math sheet after lunch while students took a restroom break.  Then I started adding journal prompts. I used dot cards, ten frames and hundreds chart activities. By the end of the year I had added Think Math.  For awhile it seemed liked our warm-up activities were taking over the math block and aside from the Daily Math sheet, the kids really didn't know what to expect each day. (Not a good plan!)  Even our calendar time was getting bogged down with too many types of activities.
So now my goal is to choose the experiences I want my class to have each week and devise a schedule.  So far I know that I want to include:

  1. Think Math- I love how this activity helps the kids really think about math problems! (Read how I got started here.)
  2. Data Collection and Analysis
  3. Number Talks using dot cards or ten frames to help develop number sense and fact fluency. Here are some cards I created for the beginning of the year to remind me of the different activities we could do:
    Warm-Up Cards
  4. 100 Chart activities.  I won't start these right away but I do eventually want this to be a weekly activity.
  5. Math Stretches from Laney like "What's Next?", "How Did My Family Use Math Last Night?" and "___ Makes Me Think of..."
    Math Stretch Cards
  6. Number of the Day
  7. Journals: Last spring I revamped my math workshop and added journal activities as a rotation along with math workstations instead of using them as a warm-up.  I love how it worked out!
Now I just need to sit down and come up with a plan.  I'm headed to a Guided Math workshop today so maybe I'll get some ideas there on how to fit all of this in!

Here's a link to Laney's Math Stretches book. She also has them for other grade levels.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guided Math Chapter 2 2014

I'm linking up with Primary Gal for her book study on Laney Sammons Guided Math book.
Note: This is a post from last summer with a few updates.  Today was my last day with kids and I am exhausted so I'm recycling! When I was preparing to switch from 4th grade to 1st grade many years ago, the importance of a print-rich classroom was drilled into my brain.  Each year as I set up my classroom I considered how to create an environment that focused on literacy.  But other than the required Every Day Counts calendar, no one ever seemed to think about making the classroom math friendly.
But in this chapter, Laney explains the importance of also creating a classroom environment of numeracy and gives us the foundational principles of Guided Math.
One of the biggest ideas in this chapter is the importance of communication in math.  The NCTM Communication Standard states that programs should enable students to:
  • organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking trhough communciation
  • communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers and others
  • analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of others
  • use the language of mathematics to express mathematical ideas
Our Texas TEKS state that the student is expected to:
  •  communicate mathematical ideas, reasoning, and their implications using multiple representations, including symbols, diagrams, graphs, and language as appropriate;
  •  create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas;
  •  analyze mathematical relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas; and
  • display, explain, and justify mathematical ideas and arguments using precise mathematical language in written or oral communication.
Here are two books that I have found helpful this year for encouraging math talk:

Edited to add:  I really love these dot cards by Donna Boucher at The Math Coach's Corner!  We used them a lot for warm ups and to talk about addition strategies.

The rest of the chapter explains how to set up a classroom that will promote literacy. Just like literacy instruction, math requires a large group area, a small group area and an area for students to work independently or with a group or partner.  I arranged my large group area this year so that we could  use the Smart Board for whole group lessons as well as an easel.  My guided reading table also served as the meeting place for small groups in math.  I kept two sets of storage drawers behind my table; one for guided reading matherials and the other for math manipulatives and other supplies for guided math.  Student desks were grouped in clusters, and there was plenty of floor space for students to work with a partner at math stations or problem solving.

Organization is crucial!  Students need easy access to manipulatives during math activities.  I keep all of mine in labeled plastic storage containers on a counter in my classroom.  Students also have a math toolkit in their desks with counters, number lines and other frequently used materials.  (An idea from Kim Sutton!)
Math anchor charts are displayed throughout the room.  This year I hope to add a word wall dedicated to math vocabulary.  I didn't get a whole word wall set up, but I did add vocabulary to my math focus wall.  Math stretches or problems of the day/week can also be displayed so that students can work on them throughout the day.  This year I added Think Math- the kids loved it! Journals provided a place for students to solve problems and explain their thinking using words, pictures, diagrams, etc.
My manipulatives and math tubs.  The pocket chart is used for  math station rotations.

A chart we created early in the year.
This chapter was so full of information, and I feel like I've just skimmed the surface!

Questions to think about:
1.  How do visitors to your classroom know that math is valued?
2. What ideas to you have or use for encouraging communication in math?
3.  Do you have any organizational tips for math manipulatives or guided math?

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 Guided Math Book Study

Guided math is one of my favorite things to discuss, so I was thrilled to see that Primary Gal was hosting a book study for Laney Sammons book Guided Math.  This will be the 3rd summer that I have participated in a study of this book, but I learn something new each time!
Here is a link to my post from last summer:
Guided Math Revisited

I'll be back next week when school is out to write a new post for the next chapter but in the meantime,
Laney has posed these questions on Amanda's blog.
1. What aspects of your current math instruction are successful?
2. What aspects of your current math instruction trouble you?

1.  Workstations!  My workstation set up was inspired by Deb Diller's book Math Work Stations.  I love that my kids work with a partner and have clearly defined tasks to complete at each station.  This year I was able to incorporate more technology by using our iPad and creating Symbaloos to use on the computers. Although it took several attempts, I finally have a rotation system that worked for me and allowed me to meet with each small group for guided math lessons at least twice during the week.
2.  Assessment still troubles me.  I would like to do more pre-assessing before beginning new units to help differentiate.  I also feel like I am still too dependent on worksheets.  Laney has a new book that I can't wait to dive into this summer, Guided Math Conferences, that should be helpful for using observation data and anecdotal records to help assess my students' progress.

If you have not read Guided Math yet, I highly recommend getting a copy NOW!

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