Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Guided Math in Action: Chapter 7

Conceptual Understanding
  • Students have a conceptual understanding of what they are doing. 
  • Teachers use manipulatives, scaffolds, and tools. 
  • Students work together, with a partner, or alone to solve problems. 
  • New Common Core standards ask that students be able to explain and illustrate their understanding of concepts
Procedural Fluency
  • Understanding how to do mathematical procedures
  • Students use their conceptual understanding to compute flexibly using different methods.
  • Written procedures, mental math, use of calculators, computers, or manipulatives
Strategic Competence
  • Students being able to solve problems & represent their thinking
  • Students represent their thinking numerically, symbolically, verbally, or graphically
  • Students look for a "pathway" to find the solution
Adaptive Reasoning
  • Students can think logically about math
  • Students can explain and justify what they are doing
  • Teachers create a talk-friendly environment
  • Students need to know what they say is important & they will not be mocked or belittled
  • Students should be able to explain their thinking aloud to a group of people, make connections with their thoughts
Mathematical Disposition
  • Teachers should boost students' confidence by giving scaffolded "just-right" problems that they can solve successfully. 
  • Teachers foster flexibility by talking about more than one way to do something 
  • Encourage perseverance by allowing students time to "wrestle with the problem"
  • Students should always be given the chance to reflect about the math they are learning

I'm heading off for vacation on Friday, so unfortunately I won't be able to participate in the last few chapters of this book study. I've really enjoyed reading Dr. Nicki's book, and I will finish it on my own.

Thank you Sarah & Courtney for hosting this book study! It's definitely expanded my math horizons!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday

Hello again! I'm back with another Tech Tip Tuesday! I'm hoping you found the last one informative. Please make sure you link up if you have your own tips, or comment and let me know if any of my tips end up being helpful to you. I'd love to know!

For today's Tech Tip Tuesday I'm introducing you to an awesome website, if you're unfamiliar with it. Kahoot! is an interactive quiz, discussion & survey site. All you need is a couple of minutes to create your Kahoot and devices for your students. They can use anything with a wireless connection to participate.

Creating your Kahoot is fast and simple. Choose from the 3 choices: quiz, discussion, or survey.

Give your Kahoot a name and then you're ready to put it together!

You can decide how many questions to ask, and how many possible answers are available for each. In the picture above, I created a survey for the 1st week of school to better get to know my students. You can have anywhere from 2-4 answers to choose from. You can also include a corresponding image. Since I created a survey, there is no correct answer, however if you are creating a quiz, you would also select the correct answer. Once your Kahoot is created, you are ready for your students to take it!

Kahoot works by allowing any student with a device to join your game by typing in the game's code. The players type in their name and they're in! 

The questions are only displayed on the front board as you project it. The students only see the answer choices to select on their devices. You can also choose how many seconds your students have to select their answer.

After each question, you'll see how many people selected each answer. Since this was a survey, you'll see it in bar graph form, as there is no right answer. When making a quiz, you will see how many students' selected the correct answer, and students get points for choosing the correct answer quickly. 

Kahoot is completely free and is guaranteed to make test prep & study guides more fun for your students!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study: Chapter 6

I love how well planned out the guided math lessons are in this book. A great structure to help teachers get a grasp on how this may look in your classroom. I'm a teacher that really focuses on my daily schedule, so I love being able to break down this idea of guided math lessons to better fit into my daily class practice.

  • Teacher hooks the students on the new lesson. 
  • Make connections to past lessons and explain the focus on today's lesson.
  • Model or demonstrate the student activity

Student Practice (active engagement)
  • Students practice the new skill acquired in the mini-lesson through games, use of manipulatives, etc.
  • Scaffold instruction & conversation
  • Ask specific questions
  • Provide interventions
  • Monitor student work
Share Time
  • Ask probing questions
  • Ask specific students to summarize the lesson's focus
  • Review teaching points
  • Discuss any questions & clear up confusion

Since I haven't used guided math lessons before, I haven't created any templates, but I will definitely be using them this year! I'm very visual and like to know my steps in a lesson, so I know this will be a great help in getting me going.  I love that there are so many great resources within this chapter on structural and procedural ideas.

5th grade's math concepts can be hard for some students to grasp the first time. I like to use a lot of interactive tools, flip books, foldables, etc. to give my students a chance to interact with the concept more. We don't use as many manipulatives in 5th grade, but the students love using them when they get a chance! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Club: Chapter 5

I'm struck by how simple most of Dr. Nicki's suggestions are, and yet I never thought to do them for math. This book has really opened me up to show what a rut I've been in for math. I enjoy teaching math, but often do the same thing ... it can be repetitive.  But I loved the very simple idea of having a pre-assessment conversation before introducing a new topic. What a great barometer to garner right away!

What types of pre-assessments, ongoing assessments, and summative assessments do you use?
In the past, I've used pre-topic quizzes to help gauge where my students were with a particular topic, giving myself a better understanding of the areas I needed to hit harder than others, and the students who were stronger in a given topic than others. Like I've said in previous posts, my school is historically a high-achieving math school, so it's often that there is a wide gap between my high and low students in that topic. 

I've also used a variety summative assessments, most frequently the end of topic test. I like to make sure my topic tests have a variety of skills and testing styles: free response, word problems, and I always include higher level thinking word problems that I call "mathematical reasoning" problems. The students have to not only solve the problem, but also write about how they solved it. I'm looking for their thinking process. That's the most important. 

One of the things I also do when I pass out the topic tests is I attach an Error Analysis sheet. I adapted this from another teacher at my school, and I have to say, I love using it! Any student who scored 79% or lower (which at my school is equivalent to a "2" or "1") automatically has to complete an Error Analysis. Students who earned 80% or more can do it, but it's completely optional.

Each problem they get wrong requires them to do 3 things to change it. If they can do that, I award 1/2 point back towards their test score.

  1. They have to redo the original test problem they got wrong. They can do this with a partner, with their parents, with me... the point is that they get a chance to figure out their mistakes.
  2. Then they have to explain what they did wrong originally.
  3. The last step is for the students to create a sample problem, complete with answer, that is similar to the original test problem. 

I shared my Error Analysis sheet, for anyone who would like to use it.

What new ideas have you gathered from this chapter?
Like I said above, I will definitely be adding in the initial conversation piece and pre-quiz each time. I love the idea of surveying the students when introducing a new topic, as well as the student test reflection. Having the kids become more a part of the journey and self-reflective on their own learning process. I think these will be great additions to my math journals! I can't wait to try it out and see how the students do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday

I'm hosting my first ever link up! I've been inspired by the 3 day GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit I was able to attend this past weekend. If you haven't had a chance to go to any of Google's education summits, I highly recommend them. There is a variety of sessions you can choose from based on your ability level and interests. They have summits all over the world. Check them out!

I wanted to share one (of many!) tips and tricks I learned this weekend.

Who's heard of Maps Engine Lite?

Google has created a more interactive way to use maps in your classroom. Geography can now be an interactive experience for your students. They can work solo, in partnerships, or groups to create layered maps, depending on what your project is.

Here's a project my students did this past year as a culminating activity. In 5th grade we study U.S. History so I have my students complete a road trip, going through 20 states and seeing at least 20 monuments, state parks, historical sites, etc. I had each group create a map and plot their routes, adding in points of interest, pictures, and a brief synopsis at each stop. They absolutely loved it!

But, wait... there's more!

On Friday, I was able to attend a workshop completely focused on Google's Geo Tools, and I got to hang out at Google's headquarters in Palo Alto, Ca. It was amazing! I may have nerded out a bit! So, while I had used Maps Engine before, I learned a new trick. You can import data into maps to create live real time information for your students. Studying earth science and want to see where earthquakes have occurred over the last 20 years? No problem!

There's tons of ways to further customize your map, but it can be a fun, interactive process with your students!

What about you? What tech tips and tricks do you have that work well for you? How are you using technology in your classroom? I'd love to have you link up and share your knowledge with everyone else! I'm hoping to make this a weekly link up. I'd love your help in making it a success!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Club: Chapter 3 & 4

I know I'm late hooking up to the Book Club, and I promise I had good reason... more on that in another exciting post! I've had a ton of awesome learning experiences this weekend. Can't wait to share them all with you!

Chapter 3

Let's just say I gave my highlighter a healthy workout in this chapter! I loved the entire thing. Setting up procedures to make the workshop model and guided math groups is such a crucial part of making this work in a classroom.

  • Procedures should be clear, explicit, and simple to follow. There should be 3-5 procedures that the students and they need to be accountable. Signing their names to the procedures, gives them ownership.
  • Consequences should be fair and consistent. If you see a group off-task, it should be addressed right away so that you can create more on-task students.
  • Rewards should be earned, but never given away.
I really liked that Dr. Nicki highlighted that the first 4 weeks should be focused on setting up the procedures and routines. This is such an important step for teachers to see, and knowing that it will take time for your students to fully grasp the routine of math workshop. 
  • Use role playing activities to establish workshop norms and behaviors.
  • Students should know their role in every aspect of the workshop, where they go, how they act, what's expected of them while they are in that station.
  • Students should learn their norms for when they are working alone, with a partner, or in a group.
  • Never give the students a center that they haven't already seen.
Create anchor charts to highlight the important questions:
  • What do good mathematicians do?
  • How can students prove their thinking?
  • What can students say when they are talking about math?

Do I have a teacher toolkit? If so, what's in it?
My tool kit is a "half-full" situation. I have a lot of my resources there, but I definitely need to add manipulatives to give myself easier access. I usually pull things when I know it's critical to the lesson, but I don't necessarily keep them around all the time.  My work area has all of my pencils, pens, scissors, post-its, glue, crayon, colored pencils, journals... 

Do my students have toolkits? If so, what's in them?
My students do have toolkits which include all their school supplies, math journals, foldables, vocabulary... They have plastic tubs to house their tools as well as cubbies.

How do I establish routines/expectations?
I always start the beginning of the year by setting up class procedures and expectations. I generate these procedures with my class, so they have a hand in what they know makes a classroom work well. I also put in a place the "ask 3, then me" procedure so my students learn to use each other as resources rather than waiting around to ask me. I really liked Dr. Nicki's suggestion that during workshop the team leader knows not to approach the teacher until rotation time, unless it's a huge emergency. What a relief that will be!

Chapter 4

Forming Groups:
  • Groups should be flexible.
  • Groups are based on a variety of assessments... surveys, quizzes, interview, math running records, and anecdotal observations.
  • When a student achieves particular knowledge and skills, they can be moved to a new group.
  • 4 groups are recommended- (1) novice learners, (2) apprentice learners, (3) practitioners, and (4) expert learners
Guided Math Schedule
  • Teachers need to decide how many groups they will see each day..
  • This is a factor based on time allotment and personal schedule.
  • Remember, guided math sessions should be 15 minutes
As chapter 4 came to a close, I was struck by this quote, "You have to create a system that you will use. You have to commit to using it. You need to know who's on first, and how they are going to get to second, and how on earth everyone will make it to home base (grade level) by the end of the year." (Dr. Nicki Newton, pg. 45). As a teacher, you need to decide the schedule that works best for you and your classroom based on your time constraints. 

Do I meet with students in small math groups?
I do not regularly meet with students in small groups. Usually after I've introduced a topic or skill I work with individuals who need additional help or to see it in another way. I check in on those who are moving smoothly through their classwork. 

What kinds of records do I keep?
My students have journals that they use to take notes, learn vocabulary, keep tools, explain ideas... and it's a great way to keep track of their understanding. I also have them do a self evaluation during each lesson. In the top corner of their journal they color a dot. Green means the student feels confident and successful with the new topic. Yellow means the student is doing okay with the new topic, but needs more practice to be sure if they fully understand. Red means they are confused, not sure or confident in the new idea. It's a great visual, and it lets me know very quickly how they feel about their current learning.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Club: Chapters 1 & 2

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I'm excited to be a part of Adventures in Guided Math's Book Study for Dr. Nicki Newton's "Guided Math in Action."

Alright... confession time... when I teach math I seem to stick to a particular model: 15-20 minutes of direct instruction, vocabulary, modeling, and student examples, 15-20 minutes of individual classwork or partner work while I work with a small group or an individual on the particular topic of the day. It's worked fairly well and my class has historically had high math scores. Now to be fair, the student population of my school is very math-centric and parents push their kids into a lot of after school math classes and competitions. My school is known for high math scores. 

So I've been in a rut, and maybe a little nervous to change it up too much since I have had success, and my students have been strong in math. But how much of that was due to how I taught them, and how much was because of the extra math activities at least 50% of them do?

Whenever I learn a new style of teaching, especially the workshop model, I'm always wondering how it will look "time-wise." Being a 5th grade teacher, our week is consumed with a lot of "things"" 5 preps we get a week (2 PE sessions, 2 Science Lab sessions, Music), and then all the extras: Band, DARE, Junior Achievement. To fit in math, reading, writing, social studies, and science every day is often impossible. Social Studies and Science are often relegated to 2-3 times a week instead of every day. But the one constant is Math. I do that every day, 5 days a week for at least 45 minutes, sometimes 60 minutes a day depending on the concept. 

So needless to say, I was taking lots of notes in the first two chapters of the book. Here was a plan I could easily see myself implementing into my classroom! A clear cut schedule, outlined for me.

I've had a lot of training in the Reader's Workshop model, so for me, math workshop seems like the next likely step. But I always worried about how much prep I would need to put into stations or centers to give the rest of my 5th graders something to do when I'm working with a small group. No teacher wants to add extra work... but I think this would be a great place to add in flipped videos. Students could incorporate a pre-made flipped video that they access solo, with a partner, or small group. I love flipping videos for math (Explain Everything is a godsend!) and it would give some of my students who don't necessarily access videos at home, a chance to gain more help in class, without having direct access to me as I work with other kids.

But I was left with questions... How were the students grouped for their interventions? Was a pre-assessment used for a formal assessment or was it more based on observation of the student's skills?

My Thoughts?
Stretching my own pedagogy will take some getting used to. We are creatures of habit, so it's easy to fall back into those old styles of teaching, simply because it's what I've done for years. And while pushing myself outside my comfort zone could cause a little internal strife for a while, I want to make sure I'm continually changing and adapting to fit my students. No two students are alike, and I can't expect them all to understand a concept with only 1 or 2 ways of solving a problem.

How do I promote perseverance in my classroom?
One of my pet peeves is the phrase, "I don't get it." I often tell my students that by saying "I don't get it" you're not helping me figure out where the real problem is. What part is confusing? What step is causing trouble? I want to be able to help students get over the hump that is hindering their understanding but that statement doesn't give enough information. Working in a small group would give me a better opportunity to hone in on those kids and their struggles.

Probably the biggest thing I do to promote perseverance in my classroom during math time is not having my students raise their hands when they think they know the answer. We all have students who race through a problem, throw their hand in the air, wiggle around a bit, and ultimately intimidate other kids into not finishing the problem simply because they weren't the fastest. So instead, I tell my class, I'll let them know when I'm ready for the answer. Sometimes I even slowly solve the problem on my own, taking my time, so that my slower math students see that it's not about how fast you complete a problem, but rather do you understand the steps and did it lead you to the correct answer?

I have had numerous parents thank me for this. And in actuality, when I started doing it, I did it mainly because I wanted to be able to hear from other students. The same 7-8 kids were constantly the first to raise their hand, and I knew it simply wasn't enough time for the majority of my class to finish the problem. I wanted those kids who just process slower to get a chance to feel successful. And you'd be amazed at how much better they work when they aren't intimidated by the number of hands already in the air.

In what ways do I create a numerate environment in my classroom?
In my class we do a lot of "Number Talks" which I absolutely love! It's amazing to see the different ways students go about solving the same problem. They think of ways that I would never even think of, and I try to highlight kids who I know go about math problems in a new way.

I also use interactive notebooks in my math time, which incorporates a lot of vocabulary, and interactive tools. Flipbooks, graphs, chart, diagrams... I want math to be interactive for the whole class. And the kids absolutely love creating these tools to use as a study resource.

And after reading Chapters 1 and 2, I definitely will be incorporating a couple of things right away: math partners and the thinking prompts from page 16. Having partners, or trios, who are constantly checking in with each other will help open up dialogue. I'm still wondering if I will create the partnerships or allow my students to choose who they work with. I think it will depend on how my class list fleshes out this upcoming year.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July Book Club with Ramona Recommends

I'm linking up for Ramona Recommends' July Book Club, hosted by Lessons Learned From the Classroom and Beyond. This month the book "Wonder" by RJ Palacio was chosen and I was absolutely thrilled! I've read this book for the last 2 years with my 5th graders and it creates such great conversation!

Questions to Wonder About:
1. What did you think of this book? Did you love it as much as I did?
This book is absolutely fantastic and perfect for 5th grade! There is so much you can teach upon, especially in terms of how we treat people who are different from us in some way. Auggie, the main character, has a craniofacial deformity and is starting school for the first time. He is aware of how different he looks for others and while his whole family is nervous, they are all affected by his school experience. My favorite part of the novel is that the story is told through multiple characters' perspectives. 

A bonus chapter has just been released by RJ Palacio. It's called the Julian Chapter and I encourage you all to read it! I've always told my students that there are 2 sides to every story. In "Wonder", Julian's character is seen as the antagonist, picking on Auggie for the way he looks. But no person is 100% good or bad, we all have different experiences that make us react and behave the way we do. Palacio does a fantastic job of showing that in the "Julian Chapter". 

2. Did it make you think about things and your actions differently?
Every time I read this novel, I come away with a different perspective. It's impossible to not be affected by this story. You become attached to Auggie, Jack, Summer... and I hope that if I was a 5th grader in Auggie's class, I would have befriended him like Jack and Summer do. But it's a way to open up a conversation with my students about how we treat others. The theme "Choose Kind" is a popular one after reading this book.

3. I have provided lesson ideas below, but how might you teach this to your students? I'm thinking that Choose Kind could really be a mantra all year long for a class. What do you think?
The first year I read "Wonder" my class was so taken with the "Choose Kind" movement that we wanted to do something for our school. They decided to start the Smile Project, having each of our 700 students at the school create a picture of a smile on a 3x3 piece of paper. My class then arranged all the smiles into large posters and displayed them around the school: in the front office, near the lunch area, in our Multi-Purpose Room. It was a huge success and the whole school could benefit from seeing our whole school's spirit in choosing to be happy! I wish I had the foresight to take a picture of the finished products, but here are my students putting together designs from the smiles we collected from the rest of the school.

The Teaching Crew
My 5th graders arranging the 3x3 squares we had handed out to the whole school.
This one they had spell out SMILE. It ended up in the MPR.
The Teaching Crew
Another poster we put together. This one went near the lunch area.
My class decided to have it spell out FRIEND.
The Teaching Crew
Our last two posters stayed in the school's office for almost
the entire school year. It was a huge success! My class
was very proud of their project.

4. I would love to know what your precept would be - I have created an editable postcard template. Please share your precept either in a blogpost or share it with me via e-mail. I would love to compile all of them and create a teacher collection of precepts. 
If you don't know already, RJ Palacio has a new book coming out on August 28th. It's called 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts... and I've already pre-ordered mine! I can't wait to use it with my students... I plan on doing it as a daily warm up writing activity. I've done this with quotes in the past, but to be able to tie it in with the book Wonder is truly exciting! I can't wait.

My own precept is the one I have in my classroom and I bring attention to it all year long. 
"We are crew, not passengers."-Kurt Hahn

I try to make sure the students in my class know that they are a crew member in their learning, not simply a passenger who gets to ride along smoothly, without putting any work into their passage. They will get as much out of school and their education as they put in to it, not simply be a passive part of their learning. It's a powerful metaphor that I have found to be a great touchstone in my classroom. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Adventures in Guided Math

I'm joining Sarah and Courtney at Adventures in Guided Math as they host a book study of Dr. Nicki Newton's Guided Math in Action

The book study will begin on Sunday, July 13th, so I hope some of you will consider joining as well. I've been doing a lot of my own research on using math workshop and guided math with my 5th graders, so I'm excited to start this journey with fellow bloggers!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Creative Teaching Press Giveaway!

The 2014-2015 school year is my 10th year in the classroom. 10 years! I can't quite believe it. I don't feel old enough to have had 9 previous classrooms full of kids! In those previous 9 years I've taught kindergarten, second, third, and my absolute favorite... fifth!

And for my 10th year in the classroom 

I really want to overhaul my class decor.

A bit about the teaching version of me: I'm a minimalist, I like everything to have it's place, I like things to be organized... a skill I learned from my military father. He's all about having a space (most of the time properly labeled!) for things. His garage is one of the most organized places ever!

And truthfully, I'm so thankful that I grew up with that instilled in me. It's part of my personality. And it just makes teaching so much easier when I don't have to go searching for things.

So why am I talking about this now? 

I'm sure many of you have seen the awesome giveaway Creative Teaching Press is doing!  If you haven't, you should get yourself over there and ENTER...
 Inspired in Style- Designer Looks Giveaway

So in my dream world where I won one of the $200 gift cards to all their products... I'd be like a kid in a candy store with $200! Can you imagine? I'd have a giant stomach ache, after eating every candy in sight, but I'd be so happy!

And right now? I'm obsessed with their Chevron stuff. I think this is me! Chevrons are so fun, and I love their chevron name plates, the borders, everything! The blue and white is so fresh and clean. And would look great around the big windows in my classroom! Or the slate gray, which is so popular right now! New borders, new desk plates, new signs... it's time!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


I'm linking up with Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade, and I'm so excited to be sharing my Currently again! It's so amazing how many awesome people link up each month!

1. Listening- I have to admit... I'm obsessed with country music. I listen to it all the time. And to me, there are no 2 better women in country than Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. Their new duet, "Somethin' Bad" is awesome. I've listened to it countless times. And their music video... awesome doesn't even begin to describe it. Those girls are bad-ass. 

2. Loving- A few months ago I chopped off quite a bit of my hair into a shoulder length bob. And today, I shortened it a little more, and went even lighter blonde for summer. And I love it! So excited! A new haircut can totally change your day!

3. Thinking- I'm joining the children's book club hosted by Ramona Recommends and I can't wait to find out what book we're going to be reading this month! 

4. Wanting- If you haven't read the first two books in the All Souls trilogy, I highly recommend them. The first book is A Discovery of Witches and the second is Shadow of Night. They are by Deborah Harkness, and they effortlessly weave magic, science, history, romance... The final book in the series, The Book of Life comes out on July 15th. I just reread the first two books in anticipation. I'm more excited than ever to finish this trilogy.

5. Needing- I have several in progress TPT projects going... I really need to finish them up!

6. 4th of July Plans- We haven't totally solidified what we're doing... but it will be something with my family. We'll definitely be watching fireworks, since our town is bringing them back at our county fair after several years without them. It'll be nice to watch them from my parents house instead of having to drive to see them (or watching them on TV).