Saturday, July 28, 2012

The CAFE Book, Chapter 7: Strategy Groups

Last chapter!!!  I'm proud of myself for reading this book, reading Guided Math, and taking 9 hours of grad school this summer.  I'm even fitting in some time to go on a mini-vacay in a few weeks before getting back to work!!!  :-) 


I loved what they said about whole-group instruction being the "spray and pray" method.  Ha, ha!!!  I think it is very forward-thinking of them to acknowledge that while students in a guided reading group are on the same reading level, they all have different needs.  The rationale for strategy groups seems pretty sound.  

Key Thoughts:
  • Strategy groups are flexible.  Students can be moved in and out of them as needs change.
  • Strategy groups do not come into effect until all DRAs are administered and the teacher has conferred individually with each student.  Along with implementing the Daily 5, these activities take between 4 and 6 weeks.
  • The first strategy group pulled is the highest-need group.
  • The first group meeting always begins with teacher modeling. 
  • The structure of a strategy group meeting is similar to that of conferences.
  • Strategy group forms are MESSY (in a good way).  Students names are added and crossed out as necessary. 
  • The length of a group meeting is based upon the students' ages.  7 year old students meet for 7 minutes. 
  • The strategy group meeting ends with the teacher giving the students a job to do.  The teacher can do a few conferences while the Daily 5 round finishes. 
Well, as they say, "that's all folks!"  :-)  I'm excited to try this in my classroom this year.  Do any of you that have experience with this have any practical advice?  What do you wish you had known when you first began using CAFE in your classroom? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The CAFE Book, Chapters 5 and 6 (Conference Examples and Whole-Class Instruction)

Back to my own personal book study with The CAFE Book.  :-)  Chapter 5 is pretty short, mostly containing example conferences, so I'm combining it with Chapter 6 in this post.  


(VERY) Brief notes about chapter 5:
  • Teach students to ask themselves "who" and "what" to Check for Understanding.
  • Have students keep personal word collectors (can be used with Work Work for Daily 5), and keep a class word collector, also.
I TOLD you that would be short!  :-)  Moving on...

Notes about chapter 6:
  • I LOVE how they point out that we never "finish" teaching reading strategies-what a great philosophy!!!
  • The CAFE menu is built basically in order of instruction. 
  • I don't know that I can fit in 3 strategy lessons a day-how do those of you that do The Daily 5 and CAFE do it?
  • Students practice strategies in whole group by turning and talking to a partner. 
Whole-Class lesson elements include:
  1. We identify what is to be taught, and share the "secret to success" with the strategy.
  2. We teach the strategy.
  3. Students practice with partners.
  4. We select a student to write and illustrate the CAFE Menu strategy card (the first time it is taught).
  5. We review the strategy.
  6. We encourage practice during independent reading times.
  7. We post the strategy after independent practice (the first time it is taught).
  8. We continually connect new strategies to strategies already on the CAFE Menu board.
Other notes:
  • A very important lesson to be taught early is the lesson on good-fit books
  • The CAFE Menu Board is "simply a visual organizational tool that can help you link assessment data and goal setting into purposeful, intentional instruction" (p. 104).  WOW!  Visual and organizational!!!  This book is TOTALLY speaking my language!!!  :-)   
Chapter 7 will focus on strategy groups.  I'm excited about this chapter, because I think this will be where I "tweak" guided reading groups.  Do you use strategy groups?  How do they fit into/complement your existing guided reading groups?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Conferring with Children: Principles and Examples (The CAFE Book Chapter 4)

First things first: I have set up my CAFE Notebook.  :-)  I went to Target yesterday (I'll share the rest of my goodies in another post) and went a little crazy-blame going to my last "in person" class of the summer.  Unfortunately, the binder I chose is WAY too small.  Don't worry, I have my eye on a few other cute (and larger) ones, and I'm planning to re-purpose this one for Math Workshop.  :-)
Please forgive the "carpet shot," but isn't it PRETTY?!
Extra copies in the pocket.  I followed the set-up recommended by the book, but have highlighted the primary grades strategies recommended by Boushey and Moser and placed that CAFE menu up front.

A pocket tab for each student, behind which is a CAFE menu, and reading and writing conference note pages

Moving on to The CAFE Book Chapter 4.  This chapter focused on conferring, which, as I mentioned during the Guided Math book study, is pretty new to me.  

Here are some of my big take-aways from this chapter:
  1. 1) Conferring is a SHORT process (5 minutes or less).  I love the structure that they provide, and while I won't sit there with the timer on my iPhone running, I think having the outline handy will be good.  The elements of successful conferences are:
    1. Check the Calendar for Appointments-I am so happy that they shared the guideline of conducting 2-3 conferences per day.
    2. Prepare for the Conference-look behind the student's tab in your notebook and review notes from the last conference.
    3. Observe the child and listen to reading-listen to the student read for about a minute to see if they are using the strategy they are working on.  Document the book they are reading as wel as some observations about their progress toward their goal. 
    4. Reinforce and Teach-Choose what to teach the student that day (continue with goal/strategy or adjust it).  Tell them what you noticed about them as readers.  Explain and model the strategy.
    5. Practice the Strategy- Observe the student practicing to check for his or her understanding of what was taught. 
    6. Plan-Ah-ha!  Now I know what a touch point is.  We are looking for 4-5 pieces of evidence or instances where the student has successfully used the strategy.  Once this occurs, the strategy is highlighted on his or her CAFE Menu and we move on.  We decide when to meet next with the student.
    7. Encourage-this one is self-explanatory.  Make sure the encouragement is specific and related to the student's goal and his or her text. 
  2. Conferences occur in the student's current workspace (not at the small group table).
  3. Don't forget to have the student post a new strategy goal on the CAFE board if necessary. :-) 
        

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Calling all Elementary Science Enthusiasts/Experts!!!

Tonight, I have a story for all of you:

While I was in school, I loved reading.  I loved social studies.  I even loved math.  Science and I did not get along until 9th grade biology, when I was finally able to survive based on my knowledge of vocabulary.  We were at odds again after that brief year.  The only thing I really liked about science, was this guy:

Picture from Google Images
  I loved how funny Bill Nye The Science Guy was, and I loved his demonstrations as well as the experiments you could do at home.  When I became a teacher, I became determined to work hardest at science (since it was my least favorite-interesting logic, I know).  I really wanted to make it fun for my students, so that they wouldn't feel the way I did about science when I was a kid.  This was especially important last year.  I taught a classroom of truly wonderful bilingual students.  A campus requirement was that we teach science in English.  This made them even less excited about science, so we worked even harder to make them less afraid of it.  First, I bought one of these for myself:

Again, from Google Images (and not the exact one I bought)
Next, I also bought 2 student labcoats, worn by the Scientists of the Week.  The kids loved this, and it really motivated them to participate in science class. 

My district's curriculum has some really good elements.  We frequently use the video clips and virtual labs (these are really fun for the class!) from Discovery Education, and they really boost student comprehension.  Some of the experiments in our curriculum are very engaging, also. 

http://www.discoveryeducation.com/

Irony of ironies, guess which subject I'll be planning this year?!  I'm excited about the opportunity.  :-)  I have recently been introduced to Steve Spangler (I'd love for my class to be as fun as I'm sure his science classes are!).  For those of you that aren't familiar with him, here is a YouTube clip of one of his appearances on The Ellen Degeneres Show:


Don't you think his science classes would be a BLAST?!?!  I know I do!!! 
Do any of you have any really fun things you do in science?  Tell me about it in the comments.  If you are really passionate about science, please consider writing a guest post for my blog (again, leave a comment expressing your interest, or e-mail me here)-I'd love to learn from you, and I bet everyone else would, too!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

CAFE Step-by-Step: The First Days of School (Chapter 3)

Hello again!

Here we go with Chapter 3!  We are getting into the good stuff (the stuff we teachers really want to know).  :-)  I can't wait to set up my CAFE board for the beginning of school!  Putting the bulletin board up marks the very first step of implementing the CAFE in the classroom.  I need to remember to put it somewhere at 2nd grade height, leave it empty except for headings, and possibly that the Sisters recommend a 5ft.x5ft. bulletin board (referring to "the Sisters" is kind of weird.  It reminds me of nuns!).  :-)  

I think when I set up my binder, I'm going to make sure to have the highlighted/bolded copy of the CAFE menu as the first thing in my binder as a guide for which strategies are introduced in the primary grades. 

This is the CAFE Board featured on the 2 Sisters' website, thedailycafe.com

When setting up the CAFE board, I need to include each letter/word with it's definition:
  • Comprehension: "I understand what I read"
  • Accuracy: "I can read the words"
  • Fluency: "I can read accurately, with expression, and understand what I read"
  • Expand Vocabulary: "I know, find, and use interesting words"  
Under each heading is a space where students can put their sticky notes with their names on them, declaring their current literacy goals.  Below that is space where we will add reading strategies all year long.  

Implementation:

The first few strategies that Boushey and Moser suggest teaching are:
  1. Check for Understanding (Comprehension)
  2.  Cross Checking (Accuracy)
  3. Tune In to Interesting Words (Expand Vocabulary)
  4. Back Up and Reread (Comprehension)
From Whole-Class Lessons to Individual Conferences: Assessment to Instruction:

According to The Sisters, this involves seven steps:
  1. Assess Individual Students-in my classroom, this will occur as I complete DRA testing on each student.  The idea is to determine each student's reading strengths and areas of need.
  2. Discuss Findings with Student-Ask students to tell you about themselves as a reader, then share what you, the teacher, noticed about their reading.  With the student observing, record their strength on their reading conference sheet.
  3. Set Goal and Identify Strategies with Student-Together, the teacher and the student, look at the CAFE menu strategies and set a goal, making sure to only focus on one or two strategies at a time.  I like that they assure you that if you "make a mistake" you can adjust the strategy the next time you meet with that student. 
  4. Student Declares Goal on Menu-The student writes his or her name on a sticky note and places it under the correct heading on the CAFE board. 
  5. Teacher Fills Out Individual Reading Conference Form-On the student's Reading Conference form, the teacher writes the child's name, strengths, and goals.  This is done (alone with #6) while the student is declaring his goal on the CAFE board. 
  6. Teacher Fills Out Strategy Groups Form-Next we fill out this form, creating a new one if the student does not fit into an existing strategy group (other students may be added later as they are found to need work on the strategy).  If the strategy group already exists, the student's name can simply be added.  To end this, we ask students to restate their goal for us, helping them if they need it. 
  7. Instruction-Once assessment has been completed, instruction, based upon student needs, may begin. 
I'm looking foward to Chapter 4.  I'm excited to discover the principles of conferring with children and see some examples.  SO glad I picked up this book and started reading!!! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The CAFE Book Chapter 2: The CAFE Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms

Hi everyone,



I love that Gail Boushey and Joan Moser love office supplies as much as I do (see p. 14).  :-)  I'm excited to read about what they suggest.  As I mentioned during the Guided Math book study, I thought I might use a clipboard with labels, attaching the labels to each student's page for record-keeping.  I particularly like this picture that I found on Google Images, because this teacher has labels, divided by subject-all of the record-keeping in one place:


I think a binder is a logical place to hold all anecdotal records, divided by student.  I love their advice to buy a pretty notebook so that it is easily located, and I'm sure we'll all be better off if we listen to them and buy two (since it is doomed to fall apart halfway through the year). 

The Sisters suggest having 2 sections for your notebook (perfect since I just had to turn in a portfolio for one of my classes-I've got more stick-on tabs than I know what to do with!).  Section One contains teacher notes, and Section Two contains dividers/tabs for each child. 

Section 1: 

This section is where we organize and plan whole group instruction.  A calendar to schedule and document conferring with individual students and small groups is kept here also.  The calendar is used to schedule "appointments" with students to review their progress with their CAFE goals.  The calendar also serves to keep the teacher focused.  

The Keeping Track Form is roll sheet where the teacher can record the dates that she has met with each child.  The benefit to this is that the teacher can make sure she doesn't forget to give each child the attention he or she needs (some children will meet with the teacher more often than others).  

The final form type that they suggest you keep in this section is the Strategy Groups Forms.  These forms allow the teacher to keep track of who she meets with and what they work on (reading strategies within the CAFE framework).  The Sisters state that once students or entire groups have mastered a strategy and need a new goal, their name(s) is(are) crossed off of the sheet.  As they say, "[i]t's messy at times, but effective" (p. 22).  That sounds good to me!  

Section 2:

In each child's section of The Notebook (I love how they capitalize those words in such reverence!) is:
  • a CAFE Menu
  • Reading Conference form(s)
  • Writing Conference form(s)     
I like how there is a spot at the top of each form to record the student's current strategy and goal as well as that student's particular strengths.  This system seems pretty easy to maintain and like it will keep me, the teacher, SUPER organized.  On this form you can record instructional interventions and observations.  There is another spot where the teacher can record what the student needs to do next to continue making progress (these seem like they would make good goals for future student conferences).  Also, these forms are simple and user-friendly-just what a teacher needs!

So far, the only thing I have yet to understand is the touch points.  Do you all know about these?  I saw them on some of the sample forms in this chapter.  I'm so glad I'm taking the time to finally read this book (and beating myself for not doing it years ago), and I'm looking forward to reading Chapter 3: CAFE Step-by-Step: The First Days of School.  If it's half as good as the 25-day Daily 5 implementation plan, I know that this will be a FANTASTIC chapter.     

Saturday, July 21, 2012

O...M...G!!!!

Herding Kats in Kindergarten is having a Donor's Choose giftcard giveaway.  I almost hate to blog about it, because I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to win!!!  :-)  I figure that by sheer odds, I'm bound to win one of these contests I enter eventually, right? 



Anyway, this was just a quick note to let you know about this giveaway.  :-)  Remember, if you win, you could always support my classroom.  :-)  *Cough*checkoutmywidgetontheright*cough*.  :-)  I'll be back "same bat time, same bat channel" tomorrow.  :-) 

Reading about the Two Sisters and The CAFE System

Hey bloggers,

I don't remember where, but I had heard about The Daily 5 (I think from coworkers?).  Anyway, I read the book and gave it a try.  :-) 


Here's the truth of the matter, loyal readers: it really was as wonderful as promised by the authors as well as my colleagues.  :-)  The kids loved it, and I saw such growth from them.  I especially love their 5-week implementation guide.  The kids knew what we were doing each day.  At first, they were disappointed to only practice for 3 minutes, but it quickly grew into a competition to see how long they could sustain each activity (they were SO excited to try it for 6 minutes, 9 minutes, etc.  They actually GROANED when I called them back to whole group). 

I'm probably going to use The Daily 5 every year until a retire (a LONG way away).  :-)  This year, after I get The Daily 5 up and running (especially in light of all of the beginning of year assessments that have to be done), I want to try implementing the CAFE system.  I'm going to use the wee bit left of summer (not taken up by grad school and moving), to tackle this book.  

I have seen/heard rumblings in the blogosphere about Daily 5/CAFE book studies that are going on.  I plan to use my blog as a journal and take it one chapter at a time.  That way, when I'm ready, I'll have all of my notes about The CAFE system in one place.  Do any of you know where the CAFE book study is housed this summer?  (I love how Brenda from Primary Inspired kept everything so organized for the Guided Math book study!  Thanks!)  How do those of you that are using the CAFE system integrate it with Daily 5 and guided reading?  I'm sure that this question will be addressed in the book, also.  

So here I go with Chapter 1: 

Right away, I like the flexibility that teachers have with The Daily 5 and The CAFE system.  Kids, too, love the choices that are available to them. 

The CAFE book sets out to answer the following questions:
  • How do we organize all of our assessment data so we can make it work for us?
  • How do we keep track of each child's strengths and goals so we can maximize our time with him or her?
  • What about "flexible groups?"  Is there really a way to make them flexible?
  • How do we present strategies so that students can access them when needed and practice them until they are proficient?
Good news!  According to the 2 Sisters, the CAFE system is the answer (YAY!!!!).  I think that this system will be especially great as our classrooms become more and more diverse with students on all different levels.  The framework is simple (alway good!), and "provides a structure for conferring, a language for talking about reading development, and a system for tracking growth and fostering student independence" (p. 5). 

The CAFE System's Core Elements:
  1. The teacher keeps a notebook with a few key record-keeping forms, including a calendar, individual student conference forms, and strategy group planners. 
  2. Children meet with the teacher during literacy workshop conferences to be assessed, to received focused, explicit instruction, to set goals, and then to follow up on progress.  The student posts his goal on the class CAFE chart.  (Is this where I have seen the student's name on a post-it under one of the 4 letters of CAFE?)
  3. The teacher plans small-group instruction based on clusters of students with similar needs in one of the CAFE categories.  The groups are flexible and needs-based, rather than based upon reading levels.  The students may even be reading different books.  
  4. Whole-group instruction occurs in response to needs shared by many children, using read-alouds and other materials.   
The benefit of The CAFE system is that the teacher can spend more time on individual instruction instead of whole-class instruction.  

Wow!!!  After reading Chapter 1, I'm already SO excited to read the rest of the book (uh oh...this might just be more tempting than my homework for grad school...).  I'm looking forward to reading Chapter 2 and finding out about The CAFE Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms!         

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blog Awards and a Little Bit of Classroom Decor

Hello all!

Since I've been so busy, I've neglected to announce/thank my fellow bloggers for some awards.  I have received the following 2 awards:

Allison from Busy Teacher Love, Sailing Second Grade Seas, and
 



Where Seconds Count


have given me:


Thanks ladies!!!  :-)  You all were so sweet to think of me and my little ol' blog!  :-)  The rules of the award are:

I order to receive this award I must:


1) Copy and paste the award onto my blog.

2) Thank the giver and link back to them.

3) Nominate 5 other bloggers and let them know by commenting on their blogs.

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I ALSO received The Versatile Blog Award from Shelly at
 


 
 


Thank you, thank you, thank you!  :-)  Again, so very sweet of you to think of me. 

The rules for this award are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Include a link to their site.
3. Include the award image in your post.
4. Give 7 random facts about yourself
5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award
6. When nominating, include a link to their site.

7 Random Facts About Me
  1. I'm a fluent Spanish-speaker and former bilingual elementary teacher. 
  2. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Mexican food and could probably eat it every day (I probably almost do).
  3. If I ever had to quit my job, I'd only give it up if I could be a world traveler instead.  Dream destinations include: Costa Rica, Australia/New Zealand, Ireland, Portugal, somewhere in South America, and South Africa, among others.
  4. I'm somewhat ambidextrous, which I credit to only being provided "righty" scissors in elementary school.  I'm a proud lefty.  :-)
  5. I like baking, but I don't do it very often (grad school keeps me busy-I feel like I'm beating a dead horse with the grad school statement).
  6. I have a photographic memory-it's scary how much I remember! 
  7. I'm really not one yet, but I'd love to be a runner.  I'm working on it!  :-) 
As far as all of the other rules (re: re-gifting the awards), I have to break them.  I like giving these awards to people who have not received them, and I don't have time to search the blogs I follow to check.  Here's what I'll do: if you want the award, leave me a comment with a link, and I'll edit the post to award you one or both of the awards.  :-) 
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Now, on a completely unrelated note, I've started to experiment with PowerPoint because I read that it was the application (along with Word) that was frequently used for all of those lovely products that you all create.  :-) 

My classroom theme last year (that I'm modifying, tweaking, elaborating, and keeping), was RETRO, peace signs, denim, tie-dye, etc..  I bought these adhesives that I used as locker tags, but getting them off turned out to be a BIG disaster.  So, I created what you see below.  To protect my students, I am only showing the "new student" template that I saved in the event that I need to create an additional locker tag. 


The student's first names are there in navy blue font.  I plan to size them the way I want (2 to a page?), print them out on white cardstock, laminate them, and attach them to the lockers.  I haven't decided yet how I'm going to attach them so that they stay but the kiddos don't play with them all year...suggestions? 

Anyway, I know that this is NOWHERE near the realm of some of you fabulous TPT creators, but I'm so excited to baby step my way into this world.  There was something so satisfying about making exactly what I wanted.  Do you have any tips?  :-) 

Final Chapter of Guided Math Book Study- Putting It Into Practice

We did it!!!  :-)

I'm most excited about guided math in the classroom because it "offers teachers an alternative to the standard whole-class instructional model so frequently used for mathematics instruction" (p. 245).  I think it could be changed to say "for all instruction."  Also, I agree that the type of deep, conceptual learning that guided math encourages, as Sammons points out, is difficult to imagine within the confines of traditional (whole-class) teaching. 

As a teacher of ELLs, I cannot agree more with Sammons that math is closely linked to both thinking and language.  Thinking is especially important, because I think at times teachers take for granted that their students are prepared and understand how to think mathematically.  This goes right in hand with teaching students and modeling the use of mathematical language.  The use of this language needs to be both oral and in written forms. 

The value of the guided math framework for the 21st century teacher (although I'm sure that there are many advantages to this model) lies in Routman's (2003) assertion that "teaching within an effective instructional framework, with a clear focus, and an intimate knowledge of the students' learning needs, a teacher can actually do more instruction, more effectively, in less time" (p. 249).  As we move forward, more and more demands are placed on teachers and students and the time they have together.  The opportunity to provide better instruction in less time should not and cannot be ignored. 

Sammons closes the chapter and the book in a most inspirational way.  She first stresses the value of establishing positive learning relationships with your students (an integral part of my teaching philosophy), suggesting that these relationships will encourage students to take academic risks.  Finally, she states that the guided math framework only comes to its true fruition when implemented in individual teachers' classrooms, each implementation a bit different from the rest, in a way that is best for that teacher and her students.  I can't wait to discover what the guided math framework will look like in my classroom (especially with that new, mysterious Investigations curriculum)!!!

Thanks so much to all of you that joined me in this awesome book study!  :-) 



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Quick Note/Celebration

Hey everybody!

I just noticed something, and I felt it couldn't go without recognition.  I have 50 followers!  


Thanks to all of you who have taken a chance, supported me in my new blog adventure, and followed my blog.  If I had any skill yet with Google Docs, PowerPoint (beyond creating presentations for grad school) and creating my own stuff (I'm just starting out), I'd commemorate the occasion with a giveaway...maybe by the time I get to 100 followers I'll have a clue.  :-)  If you know of any good online tutorials or you have any advice (you all make BEAUTIFUL things for use in the classroom), I'd love to hear it.  Time to get back to my grad school midterm. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rolling out the Red Carpet/Asking for Help

Hey everyone,

Appearances can be deceiving.  I'm posting pretty much everyday, but the truth is this: I'm REALLY busy with grad school (and will be for the next two weeks at least), so I write a few posts all at once, then schedule them to be posted at varying intervals.  As a side note, there's still time to to link up in my First Day of School Linky that you can find here.  Now, on to the real reason for this post.

I'm always trying to spread my fledgling bloggy wings.  I'm also very busy for the next two weeks or so with grad school.  So, I'm rolling out the red carpet. 



What in the world am I talking about, you ask?  I would like to host my first guest bloggers.  Topic is completely open.  (In fact, I encourage the blogging of new topics.  My blog has mostly focused on book studies and technology.  I know that the scope of my blog will widen when the school year starts, but I think that hosting guest bloggers might just be the perfect way to get this started.)  You can comment on this post, making sure to leave your e-mail, or e-mail me here if you are interested.  You and I can work out the details including the topic you will discuss and when you can have the post ready.  Thank you for helping me to widen my blogging horizons.  :-)      

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DonorsChoose Word-spreading :-)

Hello bloggy-world!  :-)

In the effort to publicize my DonorsChoose project (and after reading what Swimming Into Second had to say about publicizing your projects), I have created a Giving Page for bloggers.  It can be found here.  Unfortunately, I did not do this until after I had already donated to my project, so I don't appear as a member/donator on my own page...darn!!!  I'm also thinking of asking for DonorsChoose giftcards from family and friends for my birthday next month (I don't think its cheating...:-) ).  I'm asking for a subscription to TIME for Kids for my class.  It really enhances our integrated language arts, reading, and social studies curriculum, and I have also seen math and science related stories featured in their weekly issues.  I have just added the Donors Choose widget to my blog like the one Swimming Into Second has on her blog. 

picture from Google Images

I have joined DonorsChoose as a way to further enhance my students' educational experience.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, you should head on over and sign up here.  To give those of you a little bit of backgroumd, the site operates on a points system.  It costs (a) point(s) to post a project (points vary depending on the scope of the project).  When it gets funded, you have the opportunity to earn more points.  While you can create projects using the inventory from many, many vendors, once you get 6 points, you can request materials from outside vendors.  I hope to get to this point.  In the past, I was awarded technology grants from my district, but those grants have understandably become a thing of the past. Technology's important role in the classroom is increasing, so I hope to earn the points to apply for classroom technology through DonorsChoose.   

Do you use DonorsChoose?  How do you publicize your projects on DonorsChoose? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ah-ha (!!!) and Campus Book Study

Goodness gracious!  Considering that this summer I am taking 9 hours of graduate school credit (3 classes), I can't seem to get away from book studies.  I have participated in the Guided Math blog book study which has been fantastic.  I have even had the opportunity to e-mail back and forth with Laney Sammons and get her help with some things.



For my campus, I have just finished reading Teach With Your Strengths.  It was a quick read with a lot of valuable information.  For those of you that are familiar and were wondering, my five signature themes are:
  1. Includer
  2. Focus
  3. Responsibility
  4. Harmony, and
  5. Developer
The second theme, Focus, was particularly funny for me to read about this week.  Thursday, I attended a training on my district's new elementary math curriculum, Investigations.  I came home completely frustrated because so many questions remained and I just couldn't "see" how this would look in the classroom.  The explanation of the Focus theme says "you need a clear destination.  Lacking one, your life and your work can quickly become frustrating."  BINGO!!!!  Needless to say, this theme of mine inspired me to go home and head to the computer to learn as much as I can about Investigations.  I found their website that features some video clips showing Investigations in action.  Laney Sammons has suggested that I do all of my direct instruction in small groups, and I must admit, I'm intrigued.  I can't believe I'm saying this (nerd alert!), but I'm actually looking forward to staff development in August because I hope to get more answers about Investigations math and how it will look in our 75 minute math block.  (We are actually split by lunch and recess so it is 30 minutes, followed by 45 minutes.)  Do any of you use Investigations?  How does guided math fit with that? 

What's next?  In addition to reading for my classes, I'd really like to get through The CAFE Book.  I've read The Daily 5 book and implemented it most successfully.  I'm curious to see how the CAFE system can enhance my small group reading instruction. 


It's amazing how we teachers keep ourselves so very busy during the summers.  How are you staying busy (or relaxing) this summer? 




Sunday, July 15, 2012

DonorsChoose

***UPDATE: I have personalized my DonorsChoose page, and the new link is here.***

Hello everybody!

Sorry about the 2 posts in one day, but in my defense, I scheduled the book study post a few days ago.  Speaking of the book study, does anyone know where we are supposed to link up today?  I have LOVED connecting with teachers the last couple of months, so to keep doing so, I have joined TBA and added the 2nd grade button to my blog.  You all have such terrific ideas, and I love reading them. 

In the spirit of linking up, please join the first day of school activities linky party that you can find here.  I have read all of the submissions so far, but I have yet to comment on any (grad school has kept me BUSY).  :-)  I hope to get caught up with comments within the next few days. 



Okay, now to get to the title of my post.  I, like all of you, try every day to provide a better and better learning experience for my students.  I have heard wonderful things about DonorsChoose, and I have decided to upload a project that will enhance my social studies curriculum and incorporate the use of Thinking Maps that my district will be adopting this year.  You can find my project here.  I have decided to start small as I start out with this new resource and just see how it goes.  I'm sure that it will be another fun adventure!  :-)

That's all for now.       

Guided Math Book Study Chapter 8-Assessment in Guided Math

I'm getting so excited as we near the end of this book study.  (Okay, that came out wrong.  I mean, as we learn more and more about the guided math framework, I get even more excited to implement it in my classroom.) 

It is so important to use assessment to guide instruction.  Without it, instruction is significantly less effective.  I gained further understanding as Sammons explains the difference between assessment and evaluation.  The way she always explains it, assessment is performed when "evidence of student learning is used to develop teaching practices and enhance student learning" (p. 228).  Evaluation, in contrast, is "judging or placing a value on student achievement" (p. 228).  Planning lessons, delivering instruction, and performing assessment are all intertwined as instruction is altered in response to assessment.

It is important for teachers to present assessment and evaluation criteria to students at the beginning, making sure to provide the students with plenty of information concerning what each degree of mastery looks like (student examples, explanations, etc.).  This will also make student self-assessment easier.  Davies suggests that teachers do the following to explain expectations to students:
  • Describe what students need to learn in a language that students and parents will understand.
  • Share the description with students and explain how it relates to success in life outside of school.
  • Use the description to guide instruction, assessment, and evaluation. 
Sammons suggests using checklists and/or rubrics for assessment.

from Google Images :-)

Checklists-Sammons acknowledges that checklists are often easier to create than rubrics, but cautions that they can be less effective due to their general nature.  Not only do they lack specificity, but they fail to make a distinction between various levels of mastery in an all or nothing approach.  After a student's work is assessed using a checklist, he should have the opportunity to improve his work.
 
Rubrics- The advantage to rubrics instead of checklists is that rubrics "set forth precise levels of quality for each criterion" (p. 235).  Developing them with student input increases their effectiveness.  Teachers should show students how rubrics will be used to assess student work by thinking aloud while evaluating a sample. 

Sammons also uses the assessment chapter to discuss feedback.  I think this is the perfect place for it, because feedback is at the heart of the true value of assessment.  Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) say the following about feedback:
  • Feedback should be "corrective" in nature.
  • Feedback should be timely
  • Feedback should be specific to criterion.
  • Students can effectively provide some of their own feedback. 
I love that Sammons says that "formative assessment and teaching are complementary processes" (p. 241).  Somehow, it makes the value of formative assessment even larger and the process of engaging in constant formative assessment less intimidating.  The rationale for continued formative assessment within the guided math framework is to ensure that students are in the appropriate group so that their needs are addressed in the best way possible. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Don't Forget, XtraNormal, and My Spinning Head :-)

Hello!

Don't forget to visit my post from last week (you can find it here) and link up with ideas for the first day of school.  I've read some GREAT ones so far!  :-) 

In that same post, I mentioned xtranormal.com



Last year, I only used it once (it was a HECTIC year) to show my students a video I had made concerning classroom rules and procedures.  They really enjoyed it and asked to see it again and again.  It ended up on my classroom website for their repeated viewing and so that those of them that had computers could share it with their parents.  The site runs on a points system, but here's where it becomes AWESOME (again, xtranormal.com has not encouraged me to brag about them at all, and I'm receiving nothing extra for doing so).  The site is so teacher friendly.  If you e-mail them and let them know that you are a teacher, they give you FREE points!!!  When you run out...E-MAIL THEM AGAIN!!!  :-)  Amazing, right?! 

Here's a picture of a character I'm using in a movie I have started to make using their Celebz collection:


Once I tell my students that he brought them the iPad, how excited will they be?!
He of course belongs to xtranormal.com-no stealing!!!  :-)
It is very easy to create these movies.  You choose the collection you want, set your background, and choose your characters.  You can add dialogue (spoken in robotic voices), sounds, and character movements (high fives, etc.).  
Anyway, xtranormal.com is a great resource and so easy to use.  How will you use it in your classroom?

On to my spinning head.  :-)  Yesterday, I attended district training on our new math curriculum Investigations (in Number, Data, and Space). 


After using Envision for a few years, this is a HUGE change. The rationale behind using this program cannot be argued with: we are creating students who are skilled problem-solvers.  After attending the training, I'm more convinced than ever that the learning curve will be steep, but it will be well worth it.  I still have so many questions, many of which I cannot yet articulate.  Do you use Investigations?  How does it work in your classroom?   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guided Math Book Study Chapter 7-Conferring with Students During Guided Math

Hello everyone,

First of all, I want to warn you all that this is the first time that I am attempting to schedule a blog post.  Hopefully it is posting right on time on July 10th.  :-)  Now, let's get down to business.

I must admit that I have used conferencing (both peer and with me) in writing, but I've never used it in math.  As with everything else, I'm curious how this element of Guided Math will fit in with our district's new elementary math curriculum.

Sammons asserts that "conferring is a fundamental piece of Math Workshop" (p. 207).  According to her, the purpose of conferring is to learn about students' work, what they understand or are struggling with, and to decide what the next learning step should be for the student and/or the whole class.  The result of conferring with students is that it provides a sharper focus for our math instruction.  Teachers are also able to provide prompt assessment and feedback to students when they engage in math conferences. 

Some helpful management tips/cautions are provided in the chapter.  Procedures must be taught to students concerning what to do if students finish their independent work early, what to do if they get stuck on their work, and finally that they are not allowed to interrupt the teacher.  I like how Sammons makes sure to address the situation of students who struggle with their independent work during conferences by suggesting that the teacher conference with that student later that day or the next, where she will be able to provide the student with better attention than if she allowed him or her to interrupt her conferences with other students.  Additionally Sammons suggests waiting a few minutes before starting conferences to make sure that students engage in their work following the teacher's instructions.  Additionally, to help with classroom management, Sammons suggests organizing her conferences in a criss-cross position across the classroom.

The structure that Sammons suggests for a math conference includes:
  • Research Student Understandings
  • Decide What is Needed
  • Teach to Student Needs
  • Link to the Future
1) Research Student Understandings- "The goal of a conference is to move a student from what he or she can almost do independently to what he or she can do independently" (p. 213).  I like that Sammons ponts out that students chosen for the conference are not always those that are struggling, but they can also be students who are ready to move on.  Too often, these students are neglected when it comes to the teacher's one-on-one attention. 

The research Sammons refers to is finding out what the student is doing for a task and what he or she understands about the task and its related concepts.  According to Sammons, this phase of the conference can be the most difficult for teachers.  The teacher is hoping to discover proof of what the student understands related to the mathematical concept and how he can apply it.  Sammons suggests referencing previously-taken anecdotal records during the research phase.  The research can also include additional student observation.  The teacher should question the student as part of the research, also, helping the student to use correct math vocabulary as he responds to her questions. 

Problems that a teacher may face in this phase include taking too much time to research within the allotted conference time and neglecting to use the research to determine the next learning steps.  While the second problem may occur from time to time, frequent occurrences of the problem suggests that the teacher is failing to understand the purposes of math conferences. 

2) Decide What is Needed- This phase of the conference should practically occur at the same time as the research phase.  The teacher's responsibilities are:
  • They identify things students are doing well so that they can give them genuine and specific compliments.
  • They decide what they can teach students to move them forward.
  • They focus on how to best use the few minutes left of the conference to teach those points to the students, so that students' learning will be retained by them and then used in their mathematics work in the future.   
I SO agree about the value of beginning conference discussions with students using compliments.  Compliments are so powerful for both students and adults.  The next point that Sammons mentions is one that I know I will struggle with this year.  In order to most effectively conduct conferences, the teachers must know the curriculum and its component parts.  Since my district will be adopting Investigations as the elementary math curriculum this year, I expect the learning curve to be pretty steep, but I am up for the challenge.  This phase of the conference ends with the teacher selecting a method for teaching the next step during the rest of the conference. 
   
3) Teach to Student Needs- The three most common teaching methods used in reading conferences (and suggested for math conferences) are guided practice, demonstration, and explaining and showing an example.  With guided practice, the student has the major responsibility for trying out the teaching point/strategy, but the teacher is right there watching and coaching.  The student's experience is scaffolded, and the teacher can correct any mistakes the student makes/make sure he or she does the work correctly.  Demonstrations require a teacher to model a math strategy or process while thinking aloud.  The tasks should be broken down into achievable pieces and the reason for doing each piece should be explained to the student.  Demonstrations help a student when he later tries to replicate the strategy or process independently.  To complete the demonstration, the teacher should once again stress what is most important for the student to remember from the demonstration when he is later working independently.  The third method is explaining and showing an example.  The guided math classroom has a wealth of examples displayed that include anchor charts, work of other students, problems in math-related literature, problems from the textbook, and problems of the day and week.  In this method, the teacher explains a math strategy or procedure, and then directs the student's attention to one of these example problems whose solutions are displayed in the classroom.     

4) Link to the Future- Linking to the future occurs as teachers summarize the conference with students and remind them how they may use the learning/apply it to future math situations.  This helps students generalize their learning from the conference to other, future math tasks. 

While I like Sammons's conference forms (I like that she acknowledges that some teachers choose their own method of recording math conferences that does not include any of her forms.), I think I would add a monthly calendar so I would have a visual of which students I had held conferences with.  Maybe something like this (with a better picture, of course) that I quickly created in Microsoft Publisher.

 


I would use this calendar to record the names of students on days that I had a math conference with them.  I would pair this with a system that allowed for more specific note-taking regarding individual student math progress.  Sammons mentions dividing a spiral into sections for each student.  I would either do this (making sure to use tabs for easy access) or set up a 3-ring binder with dividers and paper.  I would also use the clipboard and label note-taking method that I mentioned in my post about Chapter 5.  I would then stick the labels on each student's page in chronological order.  I think that the most important thing is that conference notes are organized in a way that is useful to the teacher.  Sammons refers to some noted researchers of reading conferences, Calkins, Hartman, and White (2005), who suggest that the notes can help teachers to:
  •   plan for future conferences
  • recognize the strengths of their students
  • discover future teaching options
  • broaden the scope of conferences, and
  • follow-up on conference teaching points
We are getting close to the finish line with our book study.  With only Assessment and Putting It Into Practice left, I feel like I am gaining a realistic picture of how guided math looks in the classroom and what I need to do to successfully implement it.  2 chapters to go!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Trying So Many New Things-A First Day of School Linky

Hi,

I have really tried to stretch my blog knowledge in the last few weeks.  You all have been so sweet and supportive as I leap into the unknown.  I'm totally unsure if this will work, but I want to try hosting my own linky. 

The topic I am choosing is first day of school activities that we do with our students (as I move to a new grade level, from third to second, I know that I will really benefit from reading all of your ideas.).  One thing that I did last year (that I will definitely continue) is I allowed my students to decorate their writing journals (we use the composition books).  I brought in a supply of scrapbook paper, stickers, and sticker letters and let the kids go for it.  They were having so much fun that they didn't want to stop to go to lunch.  :-)  Having a personalized writing journal motivated them to write all year long. 


 
Of course, my first day of school with students, like all of yours, is filled with teaching all kinds of procedures including lining up, going to lunch, restroom breaks, packing up to go home, and much more.  I presented classroom rules through a video I had made using xtranormal.com, which the kids thought was hilarious!  (I will be sure to post about this fun resource later for those of you who are not familiar with it.) 





Do any of you have a favorite read-aloud that you read on the first day of school year after year?  What does your first day of school look like?  For those of you that are participating in the Guided Math book study, what math-related procedures and activities will you introduce right away?  Anyway, these questions were just some ideas/wonderings I had for your posts.  However, I welcome any and all ideas-the sky is the limit!  I can't wait to read about your first day of school.   







Saturday, July 7, 2012

Classroom Management and Technology

Great news!  :-)

I just found ANOTHER really cool Web 2.0 tool.  I'm so excited about it, I'm definitely using it next year, and I just have to share.  It's called Class Dojo.  As always, I'm getting nothing but my own satisfaction by mentioning this resource. 



It's not the best picture, but please look beyond that (I got it from Google Images) and check out this resource.  Of course, like all truly fantastic teacher tools, this is a FREE resource.  It is very easy to use.  You simply create an account, create a class, and add your students.  You can give each of them a cute little monster avatar, or you can upload your own.  I think it would work great with student pictures (with appropriate permission, of course).  You can create your own positive and negative behaviors (or choose from theirs).  After you have done all of that, you are ready to go!  You can leave this up on your interactive whiteboard and award and deduct points very easily all day long.  I know that I will use this resource next year (because, let's face it, it's SO FUN for both teachers and students).  Of course, I think for it to work, it needs to be tied to something tangible.  I plan to revamp my incentives this year (especially now that I know about Class Dojo!!!  I also really like the name of this resource, by the way.), so right now I'm thinking of giving a student a job of distributing tickets that correspond with student points at the end of each day.  The students can then redeem their tickets each Friday for small prizes or other rewards (sit by a friend at lunch, eat with the teacher, etc.). 

This will also work in conjunction with the rules that all of my teammates use.  We create a behavior calendar and as we observe any second grader not following one of the four rules, we simply note the number and write our initials to record which teacher noticed the infraction.  For those of you that are wondering, our rules are: 

  1. Follow directions.
  2. Respect all people and their property
  3. Use self-control
  4. Use time wisely.
As I notice one of my students (or if another teacher does) not following a rule, I will deduct one point from Class Dojo.  I anticipate this being highly motivating for my students. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this cool Web 2.0 tool as much as I know I will!  :-)  Will you try out this resource next year?  What does your classroom management currently look like?   

Friday, July 6, 2012

Great Postcard Exchange 2012-2013

Hey blog buddies!  :-)

Mechele over at Barrow's Hodgepodge has organized an AWESOME postcard exchange for the coming school year.  I jumped at the chance to participate, and I'm so excited that my students and I will have this opportunity to communicate with classrooms from the other 49 states. 


She created the cute little graphic (and rhyme, I assume) above.  ***Correction: Mechele did not create the graphic, but updated the graphic from last year's postcard exchange.***  If you visit her blog, she has a page with more info about the rules for participation in the postcard exchange.  Mechele has also compiled a list of the states we are still missing to complete arrangements from our exchange.  If you are a blogger from one of the states below, head on over to her website and sign up.  You won't be sorry!!! 


I can't wait to exchange postcards with all of these classrooms, can you?  :-)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 6- Supporting Guided Math with Math Workshop

It feels so great to catch up with this blog book study!  Hopefully I can keep up when I start 2 more grad school classes on Monday (Yikes!  What have I gotten myself into?).  :-)  Anyway, here we go with Chapter 6!

Introductory thoughts:
  • Math Workshop shifts much of the responsibility for learning to the students. 
  • While teachers work independently in Math Workshop, the teacher can work with small groups of students.  
  • Math Workshop has its origins in the 1970s.  I'm not sure if this last thought is comforting or horrifying (this instructional approach has been around for THAT long?!).
Advantages of Math Workshop:
1) It's flexible (grouping, activities, etc.)
2) Allows for student choice
3) Builds on student strengths and needs
4) Math Workshop activities encourage development of conceptual understanding and develops 21st century work skills that will lead to future success.
5) Students learn to work together with a shared purpose.
6) Teachers can work with small groups while the rest of the class is engaged in meaningful math experiences.

Challenges of Math Workshop:
1) Procedures and expectations must be carefully considered and taught (learners must realize that work will be completed independently).
2) Teachers must effectively plan Math Workshop and carefully choose which options to start with.
3) Time required to plan Math Workshop will in all likelihood be longer than planning typical math lessons (especially in the first year of using Math Workshop).
4) Student work cannot be monitored closely because teachers will be busy working with small groups.

Effective Uses for Math Workshop:
1) Review previously mastered concepts- I think that the most important point from this section is that while teachers can help students to review concepts with a worksheet, there are many more engaging ways to accomplish this task.
2) Math Fact Automaticity- Some of my favorite ideas for doing this come from this book (I know that many of you are fans, also).  :-)


She's got some great ideas that promote fact fluency and also review previously-learned math concepts.  After you show your students how to complete each work station, they can definitely complete them independently in pairs.  Even better, her ideas are FUN and often connected to literature.  I implemented them in part last year (I started in Janaury), and my students were always BEGGING to go to math stations (asking me how many more minutes until stations, etc.).  I have BIG plans for this year, and I can't wait to start right away.  I hope that it will work well with Investigations, which I finally get trained in this week (thank GOODNESS, this complete in-the-darkness feeling is driving me CRAZY).  

  

3) Math Games- I like to stick to the games suggested by Diller in Math Work Stations.  However, I think the guidelines that Sammons offers are useful: they should be aligned to the curriculum, they shouldn't be too complex or detailed, and students should be taught to play the games in whole-class or small-group situations with practice time given.
4) Problem-Solving Practice- Problems of the Day/Week can be included as morning work, calendar, or math workshop (where would you put it?).  Burns suggests that for a problem to be high quality:

  • There is a perplexing situation that the student understands.
  • The student is interested in finding a solution.
  • The student is unable to proceed directly toward a solution.
  • The solution requires the use of mathematical ideas.  
5) Investigations- Is this a peek into what awaits me with our new math curriculum of Investigations this year (see above)?  According to Sammons, Investigations is "similar to a problem-solving task, but it is usually more extensive and requires gathering data" (p. 195).  Also student reflection and revision are built into the investigations model, encouraging mathematical thought and communication.  
6) Math Journals- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that Sammons believes that math journals should include teacher response.  I also like the question examples she provides from Whitin and Whitin (p. 197).

7) Computer Use- The major way my students will (and do) use the computers during math is to complete Fastt Math, a program our elementary students use district-wide that helps students to develop fact fluency.  Just as Sammons asserts, students LOVE completing lessons on the computer with Fastt Math.



8) Math Related to Other Subject Areas- This is an intriguing idea, but I feel like my district curriculum, while moving in this direction, has a long way to go before this is a reality.
9) Math Work from  Small-Group Instruction- The obvious benefit is that as students master concepts and are dismissed from the group to work independently, the teacher can devote more attention to the students that really need it.  Based on the sample schedule presented here, and the implication that students working independently in Math Workshop on this day are working on the same task that the teacher is working with in small groups, I have to wonder what the struggling group of students is doing during math workshop time as they wait to be the last group seen by the teacher.

Managing Math Workshop: In order to effectively implement Math Workshop, guidelines and rules should reflect Fountas and Pinnell's principles of a learning community:

  • All members are trusted with rights and responsibilities.
  • All members take responsibility for their own learning and for helping others to learn.
  • All members take responsibility for managing their time and activities productively.
  • All members learn self-management as part of the curriculum delivered by the teachers.
  • All members understand that keeping materials in order helps everyone learn.  
I love the idea (and have used it many times for many classroom routines/procedures) of having students collaborate with the teacher in order to establish positive and negative behaviors for Math Workshop.  Anticipating problems and observing your classroom are great ideas.  I have often observed my students instead of working with a group, but my observations always centered on understanding of content and use of academic language (I am the champion of ELL students, after all!).  I have never taken the time to observe how my routines were working.  I will definitely try this out.  

Planning with Co-Teachers and Teaching Assistants:
I have been lucky enough in the past to have an excellent inclusion teacher spend time in my classroom as well as a Title I math specialist.  I think the obvious difficulty lies in finding the time to get together to plan.  The obvious and HUGE benefit is reaching more students in smaller groups.  

While this chapter was much shorter than Chapter 5, it was dense and seemed jam-packed with an equal amount of information.  I enjoyed reading it, and I'm looking forward to reading about the individual instruction that comes through conferring with students.  


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 5

"In spite of time constraints, which often lead teachers to emphasize procedural fluency over conceptual understanding and to use worksheets rather than problem-solving activities, we want more for our children" (p. 133).  As a teacher of English Language Learners, I think the above statement has so, so many ramifications.  We all want to be the teacher that seeks to instill conceptual understanding in our students.  While I do think they have their time and place, I am really, REALLY not a fan of worksheets.  Instead, I LOVE journals and blank paper.  With this, students are able to communicate what they know, in their language, which is so powerful for our students that have not achieved academic English fluency.

I'm so glad that Sammons explains the purpose of small group instruction as providing students with a toolbox of strategies.  This idea will really help me to focus my small group instruction (reading AND math) next year.

Advantages of Small-Group Instruction:
1) Tailored instruction to meet ALL learners' needs
2) Instruction is differentiated.
3) All students have the opportunity to engage in mathematical communication
4) Teacher monitoring of student behavior and math understanding of all students (formative assessment)

Challenges of Small-Group Instruction:
1) Planning may seem overwhelming.
2) On-going assessment.
3) Each student receives less direct-instruction time.
4) Planning independent work for students not meeting with the teacher.
5) Implementing procedures and setting expectations for math workshop.

Effective Uses of Small-Group Instruction:
1) differentiating instruction- I love that Sammons quotes Carol Ann Tomlinson (I LOVE her) as describing differentiated instruction as a teaching philosophy rather than something that we incorporate into our instruction when we have the time.  I think that it is so important that we focus on all of our students needs, not just the struggling ones.  Again, Tomlinson ROCKS when she explains (through the interpretation offered by Sammons) that what students learn is the same, but the way in which they learn it is different.
 
2) teaching mathematical "hot spots"- I love the use of this term to describe those concepts that give students a hard time year after year (such as subtraction with regrouping). 

3) teaching with manipulatives- I think that the way these tools are used makes or breaks their effectiveness.  I like that Sammons explains that using manipulatives with mathematical communication is the formula for conceptual understanding and long-term learning. 

4) assessing student learning informally- Teachers complement summative, end-of-unit tests with daily work, homework, quizzes, and projects.  Time to introduce another of my favorite technology tools and my favorite way to assess informally and continuously.  Meet, the CPS "clickers" by eInstruction:



These are such neat little tools.  They come with a receiver, and you can use them for a variety of assessments.  My favorite is "verbal mode."  In this mode, I can show a typed page of questions, allow the students to enter their answers, then grade as we go when I enter in the correct answer.  We are able to get through many questions and go over answers, offering any explanations necessary in a very efficient manner.  I check these out from my campus technology, but again, would LOVE to have some of my very own.  Of course, eInstruction does not know that I am writing about their AWESOME tool, and I have not been paid nor given anything to do so.  

I had another "Ah-ha!" when I realized (with the help of Sammons) that students can play a role in goal-setting and the formative assessment process itself.  Hello?!  How did it take me this long to figure that out? 

5) supporting mathematics process standards- It was not surprising to me that process standards get neglected in favor of content-related standards.  Again, it was unsurprising to me that many teachers are unsure how to teach process standards.  This seems like a great topic for professional development.  At the elementary level, since we are in charge of multiple disciplines, I feel like professional development tends to be more general or alternatively focused on reading. 

Forming Small Groups for Learning:
This is an area that is a bit scary for me going into next year as we switch from Envision to Investigations in math.  With Envision, I often employed pre-tests using the paper and online materials.  I think the idea of using a combination of measures will be somewhat freeing: pre-tests, evidence of learning from previous sequential concepts, formative tests, observations, conversations, and benchmark data.  I think that the most important point from this section was how important recording anecdotal notes and observations is.  I know that it is not new, but I think that I might try the labels on a clipboard, combined with a student data binder method of note-taking this year, like the example shown below (this is the year that I get SUPER organized).  :-)


I like how post-its were added to this example to allow for documentation in multiple subject areas, all kept in the same place. 


Organizing for Small-Group Instruction:
1) Identify the Big Ideas: These ideas make up the foundation for mathematical growth.
2) Establish Criteria for Success: I like the emphasis on collaboration when establishing criteria for success.
3) Use Data to Form Groups: Some things I will take from this section are her scheduling tips as well as the caution to not neglect the higher-achieving students.  I like the idea of a weekly schedule, with groups that can change each day as some students "get" concepts and need to be moved to a higher group.
4) Determine Teaching Points: Instruction is determined in response to how groups are formed by common needs.  The curriculum standards and assessment are both used to determine teaching points.
5) Prepare Differentiated Lessons: Sammons really thoroughly addressed differentiation through length and frequency of small-group lessons, content to be covered, as well as student learning styles.
6) Gather Materials: Sammons really stresses the importance of planning ahead and anticipating any materials that you might need, especially if the students struggle with the planned learning.  

Teaching a Guided Math Lesson with a Small Group:


Not my class or my classroom.  :-)
1) Introduce the Lesson- A variety of activities can be used to introduce the lesson.  Some that I hadn't thought of include: reflecting on previously-learned mathematical concepts, focusing on math vocabulary, demonstrating how to use manipulatives, emphasizing the importance of students monitoring their own work, and encouraging the use of multiple representations of mathematical ideas. 
2) Present the Activity or Task- Students should be provided rubrics, checklists, or examples of other student work for similar activities with the intention of helping them to self-monitor and produce higher-quality work that reflects deeper mathematical understanding. 
3) Encourage the Use of Multiple Strategies-I think that such a great way to do this (as suggested by Sammons) is allowing students to choose which problem-solving strategy to use.  The benefit of doing so is that student mathematical understanding will move from concrete to abstract. 
4) Scaffold Learning- Scaffolding is one of those currently hot education "buzz words."  I appreciate that it is defined here as including the following elements:
  • occurs with assistance and is a social process
  • involves inter-subjectivity (seeking a common view)
  • is provided with warmth and a responsiveness toward students' needs
  • is focused
  • avoids failure
  • is temporary
5) Promote Mathematical Discourse- Math communication (both oral and written) promote student understanding.  It also helps students to retain their learning longer.   

6) Promote Learning by Giving Feedback- According to Anne Davies, descriptive feedback:
  • comes both during and after the learning
  • is easily understood
  • relates directly to the learning
  • is specific, so performance can improve
  • involves choice on the part of the learner as to the type of feedback and how to receive it
  • is part of an ongoing conversation about the learning
  • is in comparison to models, exemplars, samples, or descriptions
  • is about the performance or the work-not the person
I especially am intrigued by Sammons's idea to instruct students in what exactly effective feedback is so that they may evaluate themselves and/or their peers. 

AFTER the lesson, the TEACHER should:
  • keep records of informal assessments
  • select the next steps for instruction
  • identify students who are falling behind
  • and, at times, change the composition of the groups
Wow, this chapter (and therefore, this post) was HUGE!!!  Having read only this far, I have a feeling that it will be the best chapter in the book (most applicable).  I came away from it with lots of real-world knowledge of what guided math small groups look like when implemented in the classroom.  This is SO nerdy (but I know I'm not the only one who feels this way), but I can't wait to get back to school and try it all out!!!  :-) 

I'm off to go read chapter 6, so I can get back on track with the book study.  I'll be back soon!
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