Saturday, August 9, 2014

You Oughta Know About: A Blog Hop ~ Back to School Time

It's August. Back to school time. Linking up with Buzzing with Mrs. McClain for a blog hop filled with ideas. Please join along.

How can students get to know you, their teacher, while providing them with a task to keep them engaged when they first arrive? Try this activity at the beginning of the year. Welcome students to your classroom by having a word search about their teacher on their desk! Immediately a connection is made and students can settle into the classroom with a familiar activity.

Simply write a short paragraph about yourself and/or about the coming year, type it up, underline some key words, and then create a word search using Discovery Education's free Puzzlemaker. Have you used this website? Click here to watch a quick video on how to create a word search.

Once the word search is created, copy and paste it into a document and type the paragraph underneath. Or print it off and attach it to the paragraph.
This activity can easily be adapted for younger students by varying the length of the paragraph, the complexity of the words used, and the number of words used in the word search. When making the word search you can set the size of the of word search to have fewer letters overall. You also can choose whether or not the words will share letters.

One activity to consider is to have students create their own paragraphs about themselves or their summer and have them create their own word search. The completed word searches make a great classroom display for the beginning of the year! Another idea is to have students place their word searches into plastic sleeves and switch with a partner. Using a dry erase marker students can learn about their classmates while completing a word search!

Have you ever used Two Truths and a Fib? This can be used as an icebreaker/get to know you activity for the beginning of the year. To help students get to know some things about their teacher write two statements that are true and one statement that is a fib. Picking the not so obvious truths about yourself make for an interesting introduction. Share with your students. Have students guess which is a fib.  Then have students create one about themselves to share with their classmates. This activity then can be used later in the year during a novel study or content area study. Click on the image below to grab the freebie.

Wishing you all a great start to the new school year.  Don't forget to visit some other blogs for some great ideas!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Guided Math ~ Chapter 9: Setting the Stage

Well, we are at the final chapter, and this book study is coming to an end. Thanks to Sarah and Courtney from Adventures in Guided Math for hosting the book study this summer!

For me, there were two key takeaways mentioned in the beginning of this chapter.
  • Time. Persistence. Consistency. When getting started with math workshop it is important to keep these in mind. 
  • Dr. Newton mentions, "Make it comfortable for yourself!"
To get teachers started with math workshop, Dr. Newton outlines a 20 day framework.

Getting Started ~ Week 1
It is important to set the foundation! The structure of math workshop is discussed so students can explain it in their own words. Time is spent exploring what math workshop will look like, sound like, and feel like. During this time, students explore what it means to be a good mathematician. Students will begin to understand their role as mathematicians. Students will see that they are expected to share their thinking through discussions and writing. They also will review their role as respectful listeners.

Week 2
At this time routines, procedures, and expectations are discussed. The parts of math workshop also are discussed. Students are introduced to what their role will be during routines, mini-lessons,  and math centers. Modeling is important here. If things go awry, it is important to revisit the routines, procedures, and expectations!

Week 3
During this week additional time is given to practicing procedures and understanding the structure of math workshop so students can work independently of teacher support while guided groups are pulled. Once all the components of math workshop are put together, it is important to debrief with students how everything worked and what goals need to be set to ensure a successful math workshop. Time is given for students to practice transitioning, gathering materials for center work, and working with others during center time.

Week 4
Debrief. What does this mean to students? How has math workshop been going? What improvements need to be made? What needs to be clarified? It is important for students to reflect and summarize what they have learned. It is a time for math discourse and engagement of all students. Practice runs of math workshop occur this week to iron out any kinks and redirect students when/where necessary. Consistency in maintaining the structure of math workshop is essential!

Some things to think about and do to begin the journey...
  • start slow and build with consistency
  • create a lesson plan structure that is informative yet manageable
  • "hot topic" centers/resources to help recycle/review skills
  •  continue to create preassessments that measure what students may already know to create groups of "best fit"

Things I will continue...
  • meet students where they are so I can take them where they need to go (pg 9)
  • make things work for my students with the time we have
  • help my students view themselves as mathematicians
  • foster questioning by students and have students work to discover their answers (Questioning Pencils - Click to view one of the questioning tools my students use.)
Thanks for visiting Pam's Place throughout this book study. Wishing you all good luck on your math workshop journey. Best wishes for a fantastic school year!

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Guided Math ~ Chapter 8: What Are the Other Kids Doing?

"Math centers allow students to concretize their knowledge and intensively practice their math skills (pg 99)." As Dr. Newton goes on to explain, "The goal is for all students to be doing work that improves their skills and allows them to practice and self-check their work (pg 100)."

In this chapter, you will find the nuts and bolts about math centers.

Variety is the spice of life here! Students should have opportunities to work independently, with partners, and in groups. Depending on the target, students can be heterogeneously or homogeneously grouped.

Regardless of the type of grouping used, it is important to focus on the students' zone of proximal development. Not too easy; not too tough. It's important to target activities that are "just right" to meet students where they are so you can take them where they need to go (pg 9).

Individual Work:
During individual work, students can sit together as a group in a designated location while working independently. Dr. Newton references this as parallel work.

Partner Work or Group Work:
Games. Tasks. Problem Solving. Let the learning begin!! During partner or group work, the focus can be collaborative or competitive. For some students, they enjoy the competition; for others not so much. It is important to mix it up. I really like the suggestion to have students play games in rounds of five turns. This eliminates the focus on winning a game and refocuses the goal to the task at hand (100). Regardless of the task, the focus needs to be on gaining and reinforcing content and skill knowledge.

Math Center Logistics

Using Standards-Based Task Cards:
It is important that tasks are connected to standards. Math centers are not about "fluff and stuff."

Using Scaffolded Activity Sheets:
Scaffolded activity sheets can help students know what to do. It is important that students are able to work without teacher assistance during math center time. Spending a little extra time up front providing visual cues and scaffolding sheets to meet the needs of learners can SAVE time in the long run and MAXIMIZE learning.

Using Leveled Centers:
Dr. Newton highlighted the following as must-have centers: Basic Facts Center, Hot Topics Review Center, Geometry Center, Word Problem Center, Math Poem Center, Math Journal Center, and Math Vocabulary Center.

I really like to use poems in math. You can read the poem "Smart" by Shel Silverstein here. Great to add to a poem center during a unit on money.

It is suggested to keep centers current based on students needs. The belief is that centers are about practicing for proficiency (pg 108). It is important to differentiate the centers by student readiness levels. Think BIG IDEAS!

Student Accountability:
Feedback and reflection are important. Having conversations with students, reflecting in math journals, or using exit tickets are ways to hold students accountable and monitor student engagement and progress.

Whoa, that is a lot to think about and consider when setting up math centers. Ultimately, I have learned that I have to do what is right for my students and what I know will work with the structure of time I have.

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