Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Club: Chapters 1 & 2

 photo 7ef1dc99-ee49-4054-bd21-b9173230b0d1.png

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.


  1. I really like how you make the kiddos wait before asking for an answer. Genius!

    Teaching Little Miracles

    1. Thanks Crystal! I'm so glad you stopped by! It really has made a huge difference in my classroom to give some of my students who don't normally get a chance to share their ideas simply because they aren't as quick.

  2. I think the "no hands" strategy is a great one. Videos are a wonderful idea! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and your rationale for wanting to change things up...


    1. We're starting a new math program in our district, so I'm thinking I may be proactive and start to make a few videos ahead of time.

      Thanks so much for arranging this book club Sarah!

  3. I, too, always need to see how a new idea will look in my classroom and fit into my schedule. I love that you don't have your students raise their hands when they finish. I teach my kiddos (2nd graders) to blow their answers in a bubble instead of raising hands, and I see that it really helps my slower students to not get discouraged. Where in Northern California do you teach? I'm in Oakland.
    The Traveling Teacher

    1. I'm in Pleasanton, not too far from you! I grew up in Pleasanton and now I'm back there teaching.