October 2013 | Teaching in the Tongass

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

gavin and hobbes

This is just a quick post for today...I know from reading all of my favorite blogs that I am not alone in the craziness that is October (conferences, holidays, testing, etc.), so I know you don't have a ton of time to be reading blogs. Short and quick here just for you!

Happy Halloween! Cheeks is Calvin {from Calvin & Hobbes} this year...and I couldn't resist after taking this photo when he tried on his shirt (Mr.Tongass had to draw those stripes on himself!):
Also, in case you missed this on my Facebook page, I made these in my class this year. First, I painted my guinea pig student's foot (my foot would have been too big for the sample one I planned on showing). After I painted her foot and stamped it onto the paper, I quickly realized there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I was going to be able to wash/wipe 23 other feet. So, I used the handy-dandy leprechaun footprint trick! Worked like a charm, right?
 Click below to download this freebie! RECENTLY UPDATED with the current year!

I hope you have a great and not too stressful Halloween! Just remember, only 1 more day until the weekend...think positive thoughts with me!

Monday, October 14, 2013

math workshop part 4

This is my 4th post about Math Workshop, but you can read the first one here, second one here, and third one here.
Tips and ideas for organizing your math workshop
Phew! I feel like that's a lot, but the funny thing is...I am leaving a lot of things out! I keep reminding myself this is a blog, not a novel. So, let's begin!

Teacher Instruction:
We begin each Chapter Lesson with a minilesson, but sometimes that minilesson is more of a major lesson (as in 20 minutes). Sometimes students have their textbooks out and are following along with me as I introduce a concept using my handy dandy teacher guide, but when following the chapter example problems isn't enough (they aren't getting it), I use "number strings" (an idea I first learned about during the Saturday PD class).  You can buy the Number Talks book that explains more about number strings (and even has sets for you to use before you become skilled at making your own sets) here.  The basic concept of number strings is that they are purposeful sets of problems/equations that build upon one another and increase in difficulty/level of understanding. Once you get used to the idea, you can easily write your own number strings "on the fly" and adjust them while you are instructing based on how your students are responding. For example, if I was teaching double-digit addition and wanted students to learn another addition strategy, I might start off by writing 23+56 on the whiteboard.  If my students can solve this equation, the next one might be 23+58. After listening to students explain their thinking (the importance of Math Talk cannot be stressed enough), you would know who was able to use which strategy and whether or not they are using an efficient strategy.  Are they noticing the pattern (2 more) from the equation we just did? Is anyone able to use the strategy "share some to make it friendly (take 2 from 23, making the equation 22+60)?" I would then decide if I should do a few more similar problems that students could try the concept I was trying to teach.   I have anchor charts for each strategy that I keep up all year for students to refer to.  I need to make individual sized ones (or just print these photos) for their binders, making a mental note to do that now. Here's one we are focusing on now.
 On a little side note, Math in Focus comes with these fantastic, foam base 10 pieces, but the ones pieces don't stay put (even with magnets), so I needed something that I wouldn't be fumbling around with that was big enough to model what I was teaching.
Guided Practice:
The basic idea behind guided practice is that students are working through the problems with you. I like my students to use spiral notebooks to work out the equations in the textbook. The best way I have found to manage this is to have students share a textbook between them.  If I can't do that, I have showed them how to put their notebook on one side of the textbook so they can fit everything on their desk. Life skills, check.
 I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year making sure they write the title/date, write on the lines in a smaller size than most are used to, use the pink lines to guide starting and stopping points on the left and right, number their problems, box their answers...all that management stuff that I *hope* those intermediate teachers will appreciate later on. Working through a problem at a time, I slowly let go and check to see if students are able to do the problems with a partner or independently yet. This is where your teacher judgement comes in handy! Not getting it? More guided practice. Got it? Move to independent practice time.

Independent Practice:
There are 2 methods I use for Independent Practice.  Before MIF, I would make up my own "sets" (A, B, and C) of equations for students at varying levels of ability. Students work independently to solve these problems and check their work with a partner when they are finished. Now, I can still use my own equations, but I often use the ones straight from the text or workbook. If partners get different answers, they are supposed to solve the equation together or prove why they think their answer is correct until they can agree on the answer.  This is where having a good foundation of Math Talk is critical.  Click below to download the FREEBIE! Your students can have it out when they are checking each other's work, while playing a math game, or you can use it as a poster for whole group time (I made it in 2 different skin tones, as well as black and white).
I have them initial the top of the page of their partner's journal/workbook to show they have checked it with a peer.
 When they are finished, they work independently again to write a word problem using one of the equations they just solved (turning the "naked numbers" into problems with a context). I model this a lot and show students why I choose the names Bob and Sam (because they are easy to write).  In the beginning of the year, I guide them toward using balls or toys (again, because they are easy to write and kids can think of those things in larger quantities) in their word problems. When they have written a word problem, I have them check their answers with a calculator. This also requires some preteaching about how to use a calculator, and then how to use a calculator appropriately.
While Independent Practice is happening, I am able to meet with a small group (think: Guided Reading).  Most of the time, I can figure out who I will need to meet with during the Guided Practice time. The only real time I can predetermine who I am meeting with is right after a test. But, because MIF has pre/post test for chapters and I want to meet with students prior to those and more frequently, I make a mental list when checking for understanding during Guided Practice.

I've also done centers/math game rotations in the past, and I loved this format of Guided Math. I gave each student an accountability sheet with the week's centers, and they checked off which ones they completed after each day. Then, at the end of the week, they would write a small reflection. This would give them a chance to voice any concerns or problems I didn't notice while I was working with my groups.
I used a pocket chart and just rotated students through it.

Basically, any skill we were working on, I turned it into a center. I printed mine and glued them onto black cardstock, and laminated them for durability.
And, on a different note....here is a photo dump of some old anchor charts (I'll be making new ones this year and NOT laminating them) in case you're anchor chart hunting:

So, that pretty much sums up my math block! For now anyway...

Some background knowledge about this post....My district currently uses HMH Math in Focus (basically the American version of Singapore Math). We are in our second year of implementation.  In the last 5 years, I have gone through a sort of whirlwind of programs. My first year, I used Trailblazers, but I had absolutely no training. Halfway through the year, I got training to use a new program from the University of Alaska Fairbanks that incorporated some cultural aspects using a curriculum called Math in the Cultural Context. Then, in my second year, our school bought Investigations. I had no training, but a box of new curriculum. Finally, my district worked out a professional development opportunity for teachers on Saturdays (I think it was twice a month?). There was no program to go with the training, but we focused on the "elements of balanced math."  That PD turned into training for 2/3 teachers the following year, but fell apart by the end of the year when the district went with adopting a curriculum (Math in Focus). Five very different ways of instructing math in the first 5 years of teaching. Obviously, I'm leaving out a bunch of politics and emotions, but you can imagine the feelings and frustrations and I'm sure many of you have very similar experiences. Education changes frequently, but make the best with what we are given!

Craving more blog posts about math? Click below!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Addition Anchor Chart

I've had a very rough week, so I'm going to make this short and sweet.

We are working on addition in our Math in Focus textbooks right now...and I am happy to report it's going very well this year! Don't you love when this happens?!
Addition Anchor Chart
The manager of Walmart came to a staff meeting this week. He raffled off nine $50 gift cards to teachers! Then, as if that wasn't enough, he asked us if we needed anything at all. I spoke up and asked for pumpkins. I've never done pumpkin math with my class, but I've always wanted to! The most exciting part about this, is that the very next morning we had 20 pumpkins delivered to our office for us to choose from! Seriously?! This makes up for all of those Walmart trips I felt like crying after I left (tax exempt purchases on a brand new cashier, grumbling customers behind you when you have 200 notebooks, etc... you know what I'm talking about, right?). Yay for Walmart! Now, someone point me in the right direction with pumpkin activities, will you?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

a sticky situation

What time is it? Tool Time! Nope. Flashback though, right? Where did JTT go anyway? Wasn't I going to marry him? I thought that's what MASH (that weird game we always played with paper and pen where you "predict" your future...) said would happen?!

1. Candy Corn. Gross. But, I didn't have to eat it, so I'll deal. This activity is a hit every year, and the best part is seeing them get so excited over a tiny piece of candy. You would think I give them 100 dollar bills with the way they acted about it. Nerds. Click to download.
I give each of them some candy corn, and then they brainstorm words for each category. I "outlaw" boring words like good, nice, etc. and shoot for "big" words (delicious, superb, etc.).  This is one of my favorite non-Halloween activities that I do every year, and I love that I get to refer to this lesson in Writing Workshop all year long when I am reminding them about adjectives and describing details.  

2.  Our district made name badges for us to wear (although I swear other schools in our district already were doing this?), and the first thing I thought of when I heard we were getting them was, "I get to do that Pinterest thing I saw a year ago!" I typed up my class list, printed, cut and threw it in the back of the badge (it's not even taped!). Bring it on, fire drills. Bring it on.
3.  We have a little problem in our house. About 4-5 days a week, Cheeks soaks through his diaper and clothes. As in, we are constantly washing his sheets and dealing with a screaming, wet and sticky baby at 3 a.m. This started happening about a month ago. We recently bought some night time diapers, but his size (6) were sold out (and don't appear to be restocked EVER), so we went with the smaller ones. They sometimes work, but most of the time, not. So, he's been getting lots of baths in our old vintage pink tub lately. Which, as you can see, is not a problem for him. Insert excuse to show you this photo from last night.
So, my question is, do you have any tips to help save me from getting up at 3 a.m. and dealing with this? Yogurt instead of a bottle before bed helps, but he doesn't always want food, so we just resort to a bottle if he won't eat. Help?!

4. Check out this sweet, Star Wars (Mr. Tongass is a huge nerd, I'm a mild nerd) inspired shirt we got at a tourist shop this summer. He rocks it, no?

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