As a math coach, I meet with groups of teachers in PLCs (professional learning group). Each group is made of 4 – 5 teachers. I just finished a round of PLC meetings with my grade 4 teachers. I was very excited with these meetings. We focused on their upcoming unit of geometry, where we looked at the assessment and what standards need to be taught in this unit. After that I shared some resources that as a math teacher I love. The first was Estimation180 . I had the teachers pretend to be students and make estimates on the different scenarios. We did about 5 or 6 activities, and most of teachers had a blast with it, got very serious about it, and a little competitive with it. We talked about ways to make estimating part of their daily routines. I next shared the site Same But Different. We talked about how this is a great way to build reasoning and discourse with students and how it can review topics (fractions, multiplication, etc) already covered. Teachers again seem to be excited. The last thing I shared was a Pinterest page Mrs. Muir Pinterest Page I have created specifically for school. What I did was start a page where I have pinned anchor charts that I have created or that I have found to be helpful with out curriculum. I also made a folder of math ideas. One of the things I pinned was making angles with door frame. One of my teacher took this idea and ran and actually made one. See picture below!
I know problem solving is always something that I feel is an area in which I can improve. As a coach I am always trying to help teachers to build their capacity for students to become strong problem solvers.
Some things I have been working on with teacher or strategies we have been using:
* WAIT TIME – I think this is one of the hardest things for me. Really giving students the time to work through a problem, and even experience some productive struggle. When we feel the crunched for time feeling during our day, it’s easy to just give information or sometimes even the answer. When it comes to problem solving, the focus should really be on the process, not just the product.
* Notice/Wonder – this is something I have been really encouraging teachers to do. Putting up a problem and asking student to jot down or share something they notice about the problem and something they wonder about the problem. Such a simple concept – but such a powerful window into what students are thinking and how they are making sense of a problem.
* Gallery walks – having students work in groups or pairs, and putting their work up on sticky notes or charts around the room. Asking students to look at others work and compare it to their own thinking – so many benefits to this. Allowing students to see a variety of ways or representations that could be used to solve a problem, helps build their personal tool box of strategies.
* Purposeful Planning – before you do a problem with the students – DO IT YOURSELF! It is so helpful to anticipate students thinking and how to respond to it. Makes your aware of the problem and the strategies they could use to solve them. This list could go on and on.
* Working in pairs and groups – allows students to share their thinking in a smaller setting can be so much less intimidating than the whole class setting, allowing for more discourse to be happening.
* Revising and correcting their work – one thing we have been doing some work on is after a student completes a task, looking at an anchor set of work from the problem and analyzing it against a given rubric. Then having them go back and revise their work based on the discussion – we use sticky notes to add to or correct our work. Helping students to develop that critical eye to analyze their own work has been very powerful.
* Focusing on one area to improve at a time – I know when we look at student work we want to correct or offer feedback on everything we see. For a student that can be overwhelming, but if we focus on one area at a time or during a given period of time, we will see better traction in that area, and in turn over time all areas will improve.
I know most of this (if not all) is not new, or even revolutionary, just some random thoughts and observations from this math coach!
As a math coach, I work with teachers to help them be the best math teachers they can be. Recently there were 2 things I did or suggested while working with some of my teachers that seemed to go really well so I
thought I would write about them.
First was an activity called sum it up! I created sets of 4 cards. The teacher put students in groups of 4 to have them solve the problems on the cards. The students then had to take all 4 answers and add them up. The only thing the teacher checked was the total. It was a great like start of the class task while teacher checks homework or takes attendance. Really promoted great student discourse and opportunities to put math practice 3 into action.
The other was the creation of a life sized multiplication chart built with arrays. The teacher used 1 inch graph paper for students to create all the arrays for 0 – 10 multiplication problems. This really helped students to see conceptually how multiplication works and make sense of the different problems visually. Students are excited to see their hard work on display and often refer to it when doing problems with multiplication.
Well it is official, I am joining the world of blogging. We are about a month into school and I have definitely changed some of the ways I have been coaching. My goals for myself this year are to focus on the importance of pre-conferences with teachers before doing demos in classrooms, targeted individualized professional learning opportunities for teachers, and collaboration in general. Wish me luck with this blogging thing, I will try to blog as often as possible!