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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Study: Minds on Math - Ch. 9 & 10

Note: If you are not a teacher, or are not interested in reading about ways to teach math, this probably isn't a post that you are going to be interested in! :)
This past month I have been doing a book study with a few people in the blog world. So I am linking up with Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules as she is the one that started this book study! The book is called Minds on Mathematics - Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer.
If this is your first time reading, please be sure to check out my notes from Chapters 1 & 2 , Chapters 3 & 4 , Chapters 5 & 6, and Chapters 7 & 8. Also check out Sherrie's blog - Middle School Math Rules and see all the wonderful comments that have been left by many people doing this book study and the fantastic and thought provoking blog posts that have been written in regards to this book!

This will be my final book study onto Chapters 9 & 10:

Chapter 9:Conferring
Problem of the Day: How can you get to know your students individually as math learners, promote their confidence and growth?
Postulate: While students are working independently or in small groups, teachers can assess and promote thinking and communication skills by engaging in individual conversations about mathematical understanding.

Reading this chapter made me excited to start the new year. Our language arts teachers at our school have been doing the workshop model for the last few years and there were times last year when I thought I really knew some of the students; then I would talk to a language arts teacher and because of all the conferring that they do in their room, I realized I knew little. I wanted to start conferring more in my classroom, but I really struggled with what questions to ask and just the how. This chapter seemed to help. "To confer us to intentionally create opportunities to honor learners' ideas by listening and learning alongside them."

I know that teachers get bogged down with paperwork and emails, but we must remember that learning is what matters the most. Save the other stuff for later.

I liked the dialog that they provided with each step and the chart on page 143 that shows the difference between a typical classroom and intentional conferring.

I teach the ELL students at my school and I see from the box on page 144 how beneficial this can be for them. Meeting individually or in groups both have a time and place.

Conferring consists of 3 steps: research (find out what their doing and their thinking this far), Coach (nudge them forward), and Reflect (make sure learner understand and record information). I think what I will struggle with the most is coaching, because I need to work on being a facilitator/coach, rather than giving the answers or making it too obvious. I loved the conferring questions on page 147- I need to print this and keep it with me.

I see the benefits of explaining why you are conferring and setting expectations for that time. That will really help with interruptions.

Chapter 10: Sharing and Reflection
Problem of the Day: How can we ensure that students end class understanding and retaining their learning?
Postulate: To remember and reapply what they learn, students need opportunities to share their thinking, respond to the thinking of others, and consider how their ideas have changed and grown.

This is definitely an area where I was lacking. Occasionally I would have a really good reflection time, but they were few and far between. "Unless we punctuate our lesson with some opportunity for metacognition, much learning is lost."

I didn't really think about it before, but I also see the benefits for the teacher, it can help guide your lesson the following day based in misconceptions or successes.

My question is: on page 157 is talks about celebrating multiple approaches. But what if one of the approaches is incorrect and doesn't work. I know the teacher isn't supposed to correct the mistake, so how do you handle this?

Hoffer talks about using a document camera often, I don't have one of these in my classroom...any suggestions on what else I can use?

I think it's important to model what we expect when students go to the board: they need to explain their thinking, not just show the class.

I like all the questioning on page 160-163. That's another thing I need to print off and have in my back pocket.   In their reflection, I like acknowledging who the audience is and saying, pretend like you're talking to me and write that down.

 In the box on page 164, one of the bullets says dedicate sufficient class time to writing so that it is not rushed or blown off...what are you thoughts on having this as homework? I have been thinking about how I want to do homework next year and I have heard that having them write more of a reflection rather than practice problems is more beneficial.

A question I was asking myself as I was reading this is how am I going to read all of their reflections? Then, I saw that it was slightly answered at the end of the chapter. I still don't fully know how I'm going to read all of them and respond in a timely manner, but that is something I will have to try. Any suggestions?
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I'm excited to try and implement workshop model in my classroom. The more I try and nail down some plans, the more I get a little more stressed about it, but I'm going to try and take it day by day and see what I can do.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Study: Minds on Math - Ch. 7 & 8

Note: If you are not a teacher, or are not interested in reading about ways to teach math, this probably isn't a post that you are going to be interested in! :)
This past month I have been doing a book study with a few people in the blog world. So I am linking up with Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules as she is the one that started this book study! The book is called Minds on Mathematics - Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer.
If this is your first time reading, please be sure to check out my notes from Chapters 1 & 2 , Chapters 3 & 4 , and Chapters 5 & 6. Also check out Sherrie's blog - Middle School Math Rules and see all the wonderful comments that have been left by many people doing this book study and the fantastic and thought provoking blog posts that have been written in regards to this book!

Now onto Chapters 7 & 8:

Chapter 7: Minilessons
Problem of the Day: How do you set students up for success as independent thinkers and problem solvers?
Postulate: We apprentice learners as mathematicians by explicitly teaching students how mathematicians use thinking strategies, make sense of and apply concepts to help them solve problems.

The one thing that stood out to me in this chapter is I need to step away from showing them "how" to do the math and start showing them how to "think" as a mathematician. I loved the line "typical instruction is all about giving a child a fish, while mini lessons are about teaching children how to fish." I really need to start thinking aloud in front of the students asking myself what do I already know and what do I need to find out? I also like the idea of discussing pitfalls. This will give you insight on a child's fears as they approach a complex problem. Last year a teacher at my school started doing something she called FAME (facts, art, math, explain). Each time the students came to a word problem, I had them use this approach. I realized then that it was a good strategy but it wasn't as good as I was hoping and that is because I did a poor job of modeling what I expected. This seemed to coincide with what Hoffer describes a teacher should be modeling during the mini lesson.

 I liked the idea of at the end of the mini lesson asking "does anyone have any questions?" instead if "does everyone understand?" There is a big difference. Then letting the students answer!

I liked the chart on page 113, but it did seem very time consuming. I know we don't want to rush through the curriculum just to finish, but we are accountable for those pieces that we missed if we don't cover everything. Especially since there is a lot of pressure on testing, is it more important for your students to really understand just a few things or to have seen everything? It's going to be challenging to find the right balance.
I should have included this next diagram in the previous blog, but if this circle was the class period, here is how much time you would spend on a minilesson (the opening is the one just to the left of that):
So keep your minilesson short and sweet. This is also where I have questions about interactive notebooks-they look like they take a long time since they are so colorful/bright/interactive, so can you make interactive notebook work with the workshop model classroom? Does anyone have any success stories with interactive notebooks?

Chapter 8: Work Time
Question of the day: How can we facilitate thoughtful and productive work time for math learners?
Postulate: Students learn most when they spend math work time thinking, talking, and making meaning of mathematics for themselves.
The bulk of your time should be spent on Work Time

This chapter gave me quite a few ideas: choosing groups, review games, project ideas & differentiation strategies. But it also left me with a few questions and most of them had to deal with time!
A dream work time would be self-direction, independence, and purpose as learners delve into rigorous content. But how do we get there?
  • On page 118 Hoffer described an old review game and then how she revamped it. I can really see the difference and I can also tell you that I am guilty of planning the same type of reviews as her first game. I love that when she revamped it, she had students staying behind and explaining to the other students how to do something.

  • I really liked the grouping ideas on page 124 (appointment clock, card partners, and random). I need to do a better job of mixing up groups. And I also like her response to students who think they can't work with another student. "Yah, it can be really tough to collaborate. And it is one of the most important things you can learn in life. So, what are you going to do to work this out?" This is a problem solving skill and as mentioned before, problem solving goes way beyond math.

  • I liked this mapping activity:

  • I also need to do a better job of showing the students exactly what I expect as far as their work being neat and organized, putting units at the of the their answer, explaining the answer if it's a word problem... Good ideas are listed on page 127.

  • Here is also a chart I liked of different ways to differentiate.

  • I really liked her ideas for students getting stuck and how we need to answer a question with a question so our students do not rely on us to just give them the answer.
Questions I Still Have:
  • I have always been told that choice is the key to motivation and I tried to keep that in mind last year, but sometimes it is difficult. I need to remember that "students do not need to do the exact same thing to show that they understand." -this struck a chord with me, as last year we worked on common essential skills. (We have 8 sixth grade math teachers at our school and we would all kind of stay together as far as where we were in the curriculum. After we finished a unit, each of us would give a common 4 question quiz (an example would be multiplying decimals) and then we would come together and share our data and discuss misconceptions and share the success we had). One of the main thing we discussed is that it is so odd that some students would fail these little essential skills quizzes, but yet, we knew they understood the content. It is still a mystery to me and I'm not sure how to move forward in our essential skills with questions like this. Does anyone else have essential skills at their school that are common among all the content teachers in your building? What are your thoughts on this?
  • Under the Differentiation by Process (bottom of page 121), Hoffer mentions using several different tools/materials. I noticed last year that when I would present how to solve the problem in numerous ways, the students would get more confused and then they were concentrating on the how and not actually making sense of the problems. I worry that presenting so many options causes more confusion than anything; unless they had a lot of time to spend with each tool, but we just don't have the time to do that. However, a few times last year I would have 1 or 2 students who really weren't getting it, so I would get out some other type of manipulative and show them an alternative method. I did it on an as needed basis and not necessarily with the whole class. Has anyone else experienced this? What are your thoughts on having so many options?
  • There is a project mentioned on page 122 and at first I thought it would be a good idea, but then I struggle with time. Is working on one project for 5 days, only looking at a couple problems worth that much time? What are you thoughts on this?

 Please feel free to comment with any ideas, suggestions, comments, questions!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Study: Minds on Math - Ch. 5 & 6

Note: If you are not a teacher, or are not interested in reading about ways to teach math, this probably isn't a post that you are going to be interested in! :)
This past month I have been doing a book study with a few people in the blog world. So I am linking up with Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules as she is the one that started this book study! The book is called Minds on Mathematics - Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer.
If this is your first time reading be sure to check out my notes from Chapter 1 & 2 and from Chapter 3 & 4.

Next up: Chapters 5 & 6.

Chapter 5: Discourse
Problem of the Day: Why ought and how can teachers facilitate learners' engagement in purposeful and meaningful conversations about their thinking?
Postulate: Students deepen their mathematical understanding by articulating their thinking, as well as responding to the ideas of others, during intentional classroom conversations.

Discourse engages learners, promotes understanding, develops communication and collaboration skills and supports academic language development. What more could you ask for.

On page 68 it talks about QRE (question response evaluation). A typical teacher does this, I know I have. The first thing that comes to mind is integers. I'm constantly making up story problems or real life money situations for them to understand -4. I need to turn it over to them and ask them to put it in a story and see what they come up with. If they see 6-10= They need to engage in conversations with peers about why if you had 6 dollars, but you owed someone 10, why you would end up with -4. They need to take ownership and be able to think and respond to others thinking.

Students need to know that it is okay to change their mind (ch 4). In order to understand something, you need opportunities to test and defend theories and see if what you thought really is true. Discourse welcomes multiple approaches and half of the time when you get something wrong you will learn more than if you got it correct. Incorrect answers are stepping stones to understanding. (First you have to build a strong community).

"Learning is more likely to change through dialogue and reflection than through lecture and imposition." -this just proves we need to change our way of teaching. No more lecturing and more challenging questions with lots of conversations. Teachers need to talk less and listen more.

I really like all of the bullet points throughout the chapter. They all offer great descriptions on how to run your classroom and the types of questions to ask that will help reflection.

This chapter really offers good advice on how to turn your classroom around and make it more student centered. Students are describing, listening, thinking, talking, and working. But we also need to model how to have good conversations that stay on task and halt any side conversations that occur. This happens through good modeling and guiding. When a student can teach another student how to do something, they not only are understanding it better, but many times learners can explain ideas more accessible to students in the group so that student understands it more.

An ah ha moment for me was to not jump in and say things like "you are exactly right." Even if a learner is exactly right, by announcing that to the group, you have stopped all thinking because now they have the "answer".

I really liked all the sentence starters. I think those will be beneficial to have hung around the room. And I really like the 4 ways to handle students who say "I don't know" on page 79.

Overall, this really helped me in how to set up my classroom and how students need to be the driving force in the classroom. They need to be the ones opening conversations, they need to be the ones defending their answers with good support, they need to challenge one another, they need to be in charge of their own learning. The teacher is there to facilitate learning and model expectations. They need to step aside and allow the students to shine and show that they are capable of brilliance.

Chapter 6: Opening
Problem of the Day: How do you start math class?
Postulate: The launch pad for an effective math workshop is a crisp opening that welcomes learners, invites them to connect to their own background knowledge, and sets purpose for learning.

This chapter made me feel like I'm on the right track with how I open my class. I am always at my door greeting the students as they come in, smiling, and welcoming them to math!

The teacher that was in my room before me left me a lot of resources and for the most part, I use quite a bit of them. I know she was a great teacher so I took anything that was given to me, especially since this job was my first teaching job. One of the things she left me was her "board work" (warm-ups to start the day). They are interactive and the students can basically lead the lesson. The students get 3 minutes to complete 10 questions and all the questions are things that we have already covered or are about to be covered. So it activates their prior knowledge and gets their brains thinking about math. If I was in a hurry, sometimes I would answer questions that students had at the end of the 3 minutes, but I really tried to let this be all student centered. That is something I will need to continue to work on next year. I would like them to come up to the board more often and show their work along with describing their thinking (good questioning offered on page 93 and chart on 95). There are 30 or so different board works to choose from so instead of just going in order, I need to try and make them more intentional and decide which board work will go best with each lesson; that way it can lead right into the mini lesson. I structure the board work so I only collect papers every other week and it seems to work well in my class; I do also like the ideas represented on pg 96. Anyone can email me if they are interested in taking a look at these.
I like the ideas presented on pages 92 & 93 that talk about the 4 questions that get slightly more detailed and complex. This helps them show what they know instead of just solving.

As mentioned before, a man named Mark Forget has done a few seminars for our school and he focuses a lot on setting purpose. I really made a point to set purpose each day last year and I really noticed a difference. "A students purpose as a math learner in any given class ought to be more than getting through the lesson, but rather exercising a growth mindset, mastering content, and also honing her endurance as a problem solver, as well as her skills as a thinker." This line really stood out to me. They need to be able to have metacognition, which is a tough thing to grasp (they need to establish what they know, what they need to know, their confusion, what questions to ask...).

I loved the homework ideas represented on page 100. I plan on using all of these next year! (Tally check, Share and compare, Clickers, Weekly quiz). I have been thinking about homework solutions for awhile now (because I spent too much time on it last year and it was not beneficial-I was just calling out answers and if the students wanted me to go over one, I would. This would have been a great opportunity for the students to share/discuss/show alternative methods and I feel that after reading this, it gave me the ideas I need.

 After reading this chapter, overall I'm pleased with how I open my classroom, I just need to tweak the resources I have to be more student centered and intentional with the day's purpose. I also need to alter my homework purpose.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anniversary Gifts: Better Late than Never

This past June we celebrated our 2nd Anniversary (click on it to see the details) and we decided that instead of getting each other big gifts we would spend the money and get our diplomas framed and hung (finally). I really didn't like any of the standard diploma frames. Most of them were too simple and the ones that were really neat where you can put your tassel and everything in it were WAY too expensive. Plus, I wanted something that would go with our house. So I recently found some frames at Michaels (kind of rustic) and they were on the clearance shelf for only $9.99, so I went ahead and bought 3 of them. (We have quite a few diplomas-my bachelors, Trevor's bachelors, my teaching certificate, Trevor's masters, and Trevor's CPA which is HUGE!) So technically I needed 4 small ones and 1 large one. Since I only found 3 at Michaels I decided that it wasn't crucial to hang my teaching certificate, so I was happy with what we got. A few weeks later we stopped by a different Michaels to get some stuff for the cake I made for our anniversary and I ended up finding another one of the frames that I bought hidden way behind all the other clearance items (SCORE!) so of course I bought it. Now, all we had to do was find a large frame for Trevor's CPA. The frames were larger than the diplomas so we knew we would have to get mats for them (which are not cheap by the way!) So we went to hobby lobby to pick out some mats-we ended up doing a double again, not cheap. The mats costs almost double the frames! But that's okay, we knew this is what we wanted and since we got frames for cheap, we knew we could splurge a little on the mats. While in Hobby Lobby, Trevor found a huge frame that he just loved! Of course it had orange in it. So we purchased that for his CPA - again, this frame was on clearance and we ended up getting it for $17. When you see the frame, that might shock you! So we ordered all the mats and then we had to wait for Hobby Lobby to make them all. We just got them back recently and hung everything last night!...take a look!

Don't they look AWESOME!!! I'm so excited! I love the frames and I love the double mat with the slight orange in them! I do have to give Trevor most of the credit here, I did pick out the smaller frames but everything else was all him. He chose the large frame for his CPA and he made all the decisions on the mats. My hubby has good taste!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Study: Minds on Mathematics - Ch. 3 & 4

Again: If you are not a teacher, or are not interested in reading about my teaching life, this probably isn't a post that you are going to be interested in! :)
This past month I have been doing a book study with a few people in the blog world. So I am linking up with Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules as she is the one that started this book study! I think I found her blog through Pinterest and I have loved reading her ideas for her middle school classroom. So when she posted she was doing a book study on a math book that guides you through doing workshop in your math class, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The book is called Minds on Mathematics - Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer.
If you are just now joining me, please make sure you visit my comments on Chapter 1 & 2.

Now onto Chapters 3 & 4.

Chapter 3: Tasks
Problem of the Day: How can we design math learning activities that generate student understanding?
Postulate: When we believe students' agency and efficacy as mathematicians, we prioritize time for learners to grapple with high cognitive demand tasks that catalyze their understanding of important mathematical ideas.

This chapter really reminded me of the saying: we teach a mile wide and an inch deep. We really need to move away from this and get deeper into the curriculum. As I mentioned before, a man named Mark Forget came and did a couple seminars for our school over the last couple summers and this chapter really lends itself to his teachings. He really encourages you to spend time discussing, asking questions, voting, having students explain, arguing, writing, and THINKING! All of his activities really encompass what this chapter is saying. At least once a week last year I really tried to do one of his activities in my classroom (hunt for the main idea, think pair share, etc). And (not surprisingly) those are the days I left feeling most accomplished and I felt like my students really took something away from my class. I know this needs to happen more often!

I was really excited last year because I was able to cover the majority of our curriculum, but I shouldn't have been proud of that or have even had that as a goal, we really need to be more concerned with understanding. That will be my main goal going into next year! Understanding, not covering.

After reading this chapter, I feel that I am doing everything backwards. I introduce a lesson, show them the how and then we practice practice practice and then (if time) we get into the meaty comprehension questions. I need to rethink my teaching and really pull the challenging tasks to the forefront of the lesson and start a chapter or unit with those types of questions. It might be difficult for the students, but we are asking them to THINK which should be our main focus. Page 39 sums it up by saying "We need to ask good questions, promote connections to prior knowledge, and encourage conceptual thinking rather than rescuing students from struggle by simplifying problems or offering algorithms to follow."

I need to remember that I don't have to rewrite the textbook. I just need to hunt for those good questions and then bring them to the front of the lesson (you may have to refine them a little, but the questions are there).

As I look over the Bloom's Taxonomy I realize that most days I don't ask my students to do more than apply. That means that I am depriving my students of analyzing, evaluating, and creating. I'm not saying I never do those things, but on a day to day basis my students get to apply. That was a wake up call to me to challenge myself a little more in my teaching skills.

A key point I pulled away from page 46 is, reflection time is important (which I mentioned from chapter 2)!! Sometimes we work up until the bell and I need to make it a point to stop and reflect on the day. I also need to think through my questions instead of just saying "how are we doing, do we have any last minute questions".

Chapter 4: Community
Problem of the Day: How can we cultivate communities of thinkers that catalyze math learning?
Postulate: Students learn best as participants in communities of thinkers that challenge, support, and appreciate all for their contributions to the understanding of the group.

This chapter was very interesting to me. It gave a lot of useful information and I highlighted many things because they are ideas I want to use next year!
1. To manage students behavior, we need to give up some control.
2. Twenty-first century skills that we need to foster in the classroom are communication and collaboration. These are practical tools that we need to start teaching and using in our classrooms to help our students become successful.
3. A learning community is a culture, not a structure. (It must include intention, interdependence, and homeostasis). This is why we must spend time creating this culture. It's not something you can expect without modeling and taking time to nurture and tweak throughout the year.
4. "Students adjust their attitudes and efforts in order to fit into the culture." This was very enlightening to me and it makes so much sense when you think about it. You must make it the cool thing to care. If a peer celebrates success, it's cool to care about your studies and it is our goal to make it a train that every student wants to jump aboard. - my question here is how?! Some students seem to always be "too cool for school."
5. I also liked the paragraph in page 52 about how the students are apprentices and the teachers job is to model. I plan on using that speech the first day!

 6. I plan on making a poster or something that encompasses all the information from the chart on page 53. This is so motivating to me and I hope the students see that as well. These "Norms" are not only applicable in my math class, but they should walk into every situation with that type of attitude!

 7. I really like that it mentioned instead of just saying "good job" it talks about really conveying what they are doing good at. "Great job at explaining your thinking, you really nailed it..." It shows that you are paying attention to that individual and complementing their specific effort. It's so much more meaningful than just "good job".
8. I liked the question on page 56, when a learner chooses not to do what asked, ask them "what is it that you need in order to engage as a learner today?"
9. Page 57 really maps out what a day should look like in your class. I'm going to copy that page and put it at the front of my lesson plan book as a good reminder what a day should look like in my room and how I can set myself apart from just being a typical teacher.

10. "My definition of a good teacher has since changed from 'one who explains things so well that students understand' to 'one who gets students to explain things so well that they can be understood.'" This is going to be challenging for me, but I really see the benefits. When you have the ability to explain something, you really understand it. That is a wonderful goal for all students.
11. I loved the idea about brainstorming all the problems that you can encounter with group work and discussing ways to overcome. Making posters and referring to them if that problem occurs. I plan on using that in my classroom as well.
12. I really liked all the ideas on how to self-monitor. It makes each student take ownership for what they contributed in a day.

There were a few other things I highlighted, but these were the ones that really caught my eye. This has been the most beneficial chapter to me so far. It really highlighted day to day things that you can do to have better community in your classroom that adds to the success of students.
I'm excited to keep reading!! If you are a math teacher and you find any of this interesting and you want to better your classroom, I highly suggest reading this book!

Book Study: Minds on Mathematics - Ch. 1 & 2

FYI: If you are not a teacher, or are not interested in reading about my teaching life, this probably isn't a post that you are going to be interested in! :)
This past month I have been doing a book study with a few people in the blog world. So I am linking up with Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules as she is the one that started this book study! I think I found her blog through Pinterest and I have loved reading her ideas for her middle school classroom. So when she posted she was doing a book study on a math book that guides you through doing workshop in your math class, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The book is called Minds on Mathematics - Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer.
Up until now I have just been commenting on Sherrie's blog, but I realized I had quite a bit to say and there is a lot of information that I want to refer back to throughout the teaching year, so I wanted to go ahead and blog about it myself!

I plan to cover 2 chapters per post, so here goes chapter 1 and 2.

Chapter 1: Minds-on Math Workshop
This chapter was just an overview of the book. Each chapter starts with a Problem of the Day and a Postulate.
Problem of the Day: How can we use our time in math class to grow students' understanding?
Postulate: In minds-on math workshops, teachers apprentice young mathematicians by modeling thinking, immersing students in challenging tasks, and providing ample time for learners' creative work within a community of support.

After reading all that needs to take place in a successful math workshop, I do worry about time. I only have 46 minutes each class period and I seem to always be pressed for time.

An ah ha moment for me was I tend to rescue my students too quickly and not let them struggle. I think in today's society when a student "struggles" they give up very easily because they are used to things being handed to them. So I think you must start this the first day so they get used to struggling a bit, but also having the confidence to continue until they have a logical answer. I also think that students are so in the habit of using a formula and just solving that when you ask if their answer is logical, they really might not know. I think that modeling plays an important key to success with the workshop model and that will help deciding if something is logical.

My question is, Hoffer refers to having other mathematical responsibilities for the students who finish early. What does she mean exactly by this? Is it problems that relate to what they are currently learning? Or is it maybe a review of what they previously learned? Are they word problems/everyday life problems or are they just practical problems? I like to have these types of things available, but I'm never really sure what works best.
This workshop puts a lot more focus on the students and takes the attention off the teacher. The teacher is the facilitator and the students are the driving force. The workshop is broken into 4 sections: Opening, Minilesson, Work time, and Sharing and Reflection. Those each have their own chapter, but here is a brief overview of the teacher/student responsibilities in a Minds-on Math Workshop.

Chapter 2: Tools
Problem of the Day: How do you teach students to understand information and solve problems for themselves?
Postulate: The purpose of minds-on math workshops is twofold: to support students in understanding math concepts and simultaneously to develop student's mastery of transferable skills and strategies that will help them to succeed across content areas, throughout the stages of their lives.

This chapter seemed to hit the nail on the head for me. I think the most important line is: "we need to teach our students how to think not what to know". I'm so guilty if saying, you need to know this, it's going to be on the test. I'm just asking them to memorize something, not LEARN it. So many times my students get stuck, raise their hand, and ask for my help. And what do I do? I look over their work and then tell them where they went wrong and to go back from that point and move forward again. Instead, I should model that for them, and that is a great moment to introduce that strategy. It might be a good idea to ask them to walk me through their steps and maybe they will see their error instead of me TELLING them.

When you are asking the class to share their mistakes and whether they were able to fix them or not, that takes really good community in your classroom. Anytime you are asking someone to admit when they made a mistake, it's going to take trust, but I believe it's the key to success.

The chart on page 27 is filled with thinking strategies and I do believe that all are important 1 really stuck out to me: monitoring for meaning. So many times students say "I don't get it". I always tell them that I can't help them if they don't ask the right question. We really want students to hone in on where they are confused or what they aren't understanding so there is a pinpoint of where their is a gap.

We really need to work toward understanding, not coverage! And we need to model for our students that we all get stuck, but how are we going to get unstuck? We need to show them the appropriate tools for working through such problems -This is where talking about mistakes comes in handy! Have students compare their work one day and when they come to a problem where they did differently, have them write it on the board (both problems) and talk about it as a class. I think this would be so beneficial, because I bet more than just that one student had the same misconception when they solved it. After reading this chapter, I realized that Reflection is one of the most important tools we can use. I'm guilty of running out of time some days and not doing any reflection. I need to make time for this no matter what. It could be the most important part of the day!

 Overall, I really enjoyed reading this chapter. Have you heard of Mark Forget? He has come to our district twice now for 2-4 day seminars and I have learned so much from him. He really focuses on getting students to THINK and he has simple activities that really help teachers. Most of these activities can be pulled out of a hat, so there really isn't a lot of planning necessary. I used many activities last year and was in awe of how well the students enjoyed them, but also how much better their comprehension and understanding was than years past.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Theatre Kids

As I begin this post, I really have to stretch back and give you a little history. Some of you know, but most of you probably don't know that I used to sing in a group in elementary through high school. The group consisted of 4 girls and we traveled around Oklahoma and the surrounding states and performed every weekend we performed in 7 different cities in 2 days doing 1-2 hour shows at each place! Needless to say, I was a performer growing up and it CONSUMED my life! (Maybe I'll blog about all that one day with photos! haha!) At one point we had a personal choreographer that choreographed all of our songs. Her name is Kathy Grufik and we have somewhat stayed in touch through the years. Her husband is head of the entertainment at Mayfest, so I always talk to them around that time when I perform there. I was so excited when they were able to make it to mine and Trevor's wedding. And most recently, back in March, Kathy asked me to teach a vocal music/musical theater class at the camp that she has been in charge of for years. So for the past 2 weeks, that's what I've been up to!

The camp is located at Henthorne Performing Arts Center (It's what used to be Clark Theater and Heller Theater, but they are now combined). I had SO much fun being able to teach in a more creative way (math isn't always exciting and not all my students are like these crazy theater kids!) Speaking of theater kids...they haven't changed a bit since I was in school. I definitely would not consider myself a theater kid-I didn't exactly hang out with that group in school but I was always friends with them. And I definitely was not as outgoing as the majority of them! (For the most part I did so much performing outside of school that the last thing I wanted to do in school was sing, but my senior year I decided I wanted to be in show choir, so I became well acquainted with all the "theatre kids" that year!)
Here are a few ways to describe theater kids: they sing everywhere they go-loudly, they all LOVE to be the center of attention (duh! spotlight/stage), they are dramatic over any situation, they are usually wearing shirts to advertise their next production, they have an abnormal amount of inside jokes with other theatre kids, they spell theater-theatre, they are obsessed with a LOT of musicals, they are at school at odd times-late at night, early in the morning, weekends, they have no sense of awkward boundaries around other theatre kids, and they just LOVE to you know any or are you one yourself??? Anyway, they are so much fun to work with and I'm going to miss each and every one! Luckily, a couple of them will be joining me at Union 6th next year and I'm hoping they are on my team! :)
A student made me this, so I hung it in my room for the week!
So, onto the last couple weeks. There are 40 kids total at the camp and they are divided into two groups of 20 by age. So technically there is a younger group and an older group. We don't like to call them that during the week, so we let them come up with group names. The younger group decided on Tie-die Snowballs and the older group decided on The Sparkling Pigeons (don't ask about the weird names-it's a theatre kid thing, remember?) The kids go to classes during the day and then at the end of the two weeks they put on 3 performances for parents to come and watch. The students go to an acting class, a dance class, and a musical theater class. (I was in charge of musical theater). Each group goes to each class 2 times a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I started brainstorming awhile ago what I wanted to do with each group and I decided on an Annie Medley for the younger group and a Motown Medley for the older group. They were both great choices because the students LOVED them!
Here are a couple photos of lunch time...

During the second week, the students tie-die shirts for the performances. Each group decides on 2 colors they want to use for tie-dying and they perform in those shirts. The older group decided on purple and navy and the younger group wanted purple and red.
getting their shirts ready

soaking in the first color

The Sparkling Pigeons' shirts

The Tie-Die Snowballs' shirts
Starting on Wednesday, we start piecing together the show, choose an order for the singing/dancing/acting to go in and then we run the show over and over!

Awe, they are just too cute!! I can't get enough! Well, I did record one of their run-throughs, but I couldn't get it to upload on will have to check back later if I can get it uploaded!
I had so much fun choreographing the songs, working with the students, teaching singing and breathing technics, watching your hard work turn out looking great on was really neat! As the students went on stage I was getting little butterflies for them! :) My mom, dad, aunt and grandma got to come to the show on Thursday night. I loved that they came to support even though it wasn't me on stage this time.
After the show we went and got dinner together at Ricardo's (my fav restaurant!)

On Friday the students did an afternoon show and an evening show. The afternoon show was probably the best and the evening show got a little hectic. One little girl ran off stage during the first number because her stomach started hurting, so she went home before the 2nd number. Also during the first number a girl fell and her hands were stepped on, so there were lots if tears! But the show must go on...
Here is a group picture with all the campers and me:

And here is a picture of the session 3 teachers:

I also got this awesome shirt...
As I said earlier...this was life as a child!

Such an awesome 2 weeks! Hopefully I will be able to do it again next summer!!
My first time teaching music was a success...I can't wait to see what's next.