Saturday, August 29, 2015

Buzzworthy Back to School Ideas

Back to school time is quickly approaching. One more week until we have students in my building! I would guess that you are either on a similar timeline, that is, if you haven't started back already! If you have found me through the blog hop, welcome! If you are here on your own, you are in for a treat! You have stumbled upon a blog hop focused on ideas that will help to get your math instruction ready for the school year ahead.

Beginning a new year of math is always a bit mind blowing to me. The stark difference between an end of year kindergarten student and a beginning of the year kindergarten student can be SO very drastic. At the end of last year I was helping students to understand the meaning of addition and subtraction in simple word problems, decompose numbers to ten and explore teen numbers as a ten and some ones. Next week I will be helping a new crew to recognize and count to 10! Only two months ago my first graders were able to use multiple strategies to add and subtract with sums to 20  and could draw a simple part part whole to represent a word problem. My new first graders are still grasping the concept of addition.

All of this being said, there is certainly a range of understanding and ability even within a class of students at the beginning of the school year. In order to start the year off right, it is important to do some sort of basic assessment that tells you who is where they need to be at the beginning of the school year and who is lacking foundational skills needed to start the year off right.

Intervention groups can be started as early as the second week of school. Small groups with a targeted goal will help to get your whole class on track ASAP so that all students can get the most out of grade level instruction. Below, I have included three basic checklists. If any of your students can NOT complete the skills on the check list, you may consider starting some extra small group time with these students. CLICK HERE for a (free) printable version of these checklists!

Small group intervention at the beginning of the year could look different from class to class. Some ideas you might consider would be:

  • Pulling students for 5 minutes in the morning while others are unpacking and doing morning work. 
  • Pulling a small group at the very end of math to review a concept while other students are completing an independent practice activity. 
  • Providing a basket of hands on math centers to reinforce the target concept that can be done any time a student finished work early. 
  • Providing an alternate homework that focuses on the target skill or concept. 
  • Having a parent volunteer oversee students working on a pre-taught hands on center. **Parent volunteers should not be delivering intervention- the most highly qualified teachers should be working with the students with the most needs. But, after initial instruction parents could oversee independent practice. 
Good luck with your new students this year! The sooner you solidify their foundations, the sooner they will be ready to go with your new and exciting content!

Head on over to Adventures in Guided Math to continue the blog hop! 

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2nd Grade RtI Map

In preparation for the upcoming school year, I brought myself through an exercise. I started by rereading the standards at each grade level along with the Common Core progressions document and my district's pacing guide.

Once I felt like I was anchored back in, I started noting the tier 1 (grade level) focus for each quarter of the school year in very general terms. From there, I noted which standards would return in tier 1 and which standards would NOT return during tier 1 instruction. The standards that would not return or standards which would return with more complex numbers were then noted as important tier 2 skills (Working Towards). I also looked at foundational standards taught at the previous grade level and these became my tier 3 (Below Grade Level Expectations) focus for a given quarter. For tier 1, my district is using the Engage NY math curriculum, however, the big ideas are bound to be quite similar regardless of the curriculum you are using.

Click HERE or on any of the pictures below to download your copy of the documents.

In the downloadable version of the document the products pictured are linked in case you are in need of math centers, homework or other hands on resources for each of the three tiers. I added these in after creating the map so take the suggestions or leave them :)

Obviously, the real pacing of my intervention will be focused on the needs of my students, however, this guide should keep me focused on the end goals at all times and will help me to remember which standards need to be mastered during a given quarter at tier 1 or addressed in tier 2 or tier 3 as they will not be revisited by the class again.

I should have 1st grade and kindergarten RtI maps posted in the near future as well!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why Can't You Teach My Kid To Add The Normal Way!?!

Multiple times each week I find a post on Facebook condemning the Common Core because it is unfair for teachers, our students are being turned into robots, and the math strategies are ridiculous, unrealistic, useless in the "real world", ruining young minds, etc. I want to unravel what is at play here because there are many moving pieces and a number of terms that are being mixed together.

A quick primer on a number of terms that are often used interchangeably. Hopefully I will be able to clear up what Common Core is and is not.  First, "Common Core" is a set of national standards that were adopted by the majority of states. Texas, Virginia and Nebraska did not adopt these standards. Indiana, Oklahoma and North Carolina have withdrawn from the standards and Minnesota has only adopted the ELA standards. The standards tell what students need to know but do NOT dictate how the skills need to be taught. Here is a link to the MATH and ELA standards if you would like to take a look.

Delving a bit further down the rabbit hole, if we have a set of standards, we need a method of assessing whether or not students have mastered these standards. This is where high stakes testing comes into play. High stakes testing can occur at the state or national level but the distinction I want to make here is that you can be against high stakes testing but for the Common Core- or vice versa. The two, while certainly intertwined as the tests assess students understanding of the standards, are separate and need to be treated as such.

Next up comes teacher evaluation. Teacher evaluation methods are determined at the state or district level. Many teacher evaluations are linked to high stakes testing. Whether or not you agree with this method of teacher evaluation- it is separate from Common Core. You can be against teacher evaluation based on high stakes testing but still be for some form of testing across the state or nation. You can be for teacher evaluations but against the current method of assessment. You can be for "Common Core" standards but against teacher evaluation based on high stakes testing. These are three separate ideas.

Lastly, and often most confusing, is Common Core vs. curriculum. Common Core is the standards but curriculum distributed at the district level often dictates how the standards are taught. Much of what you see on social media, particularly in terms of math strategies, is frustration towards curriculum or strategies- not the standards.

Now, on to the math strategies. There is a 2nd grade standard that does require students have the ability to add numbers using strategies based on place value. You may agree or disagree with the Common Core on this standard (I tend to agree) but the way in which this standard is reached in a given curriculum is what is often seen on social media. I am sure you have seen an online article or meme touting "Why can't the kids just carry the 1 to add? This strategy is over complicated and unrealistic in real word applications!" The point about real world applications is well taken. That's why the writers of the standards state that students should be using the traditional algorithm for addition and subtraction by 4th grade. The standard algorithm is very efficient method. That being said, there are far more instances in my life that I use mental math rather than pencil and paper methods to add. 

When I add mentally, I don't picture the traditional algorithm in my mind but rather manipulate the numbers to make them easier to work with. I might add 25 + 33 by adding 20 and 30, 5 and 3 and then combining. I might add 25 +19 by adding 25 and 20 and then subtracting one. I use different strategies as they apply to the numbers I am adding. The real kicker is that in the 'real world' I would NEVER write out these mental strategies. And yet we see them written out all over social media. When teaching students, it is helpful to write these strategies out as they are learning so that they can become proficient. I will concede here that the way in which these strategies are written out in a variety of curriculums may be cumbersome and confusing. That is an issue with curriculum, not Common Core. Ultimately, when effectively taught a variety of place value based strategies students will have the proficiency to choose and mentally calculate using an efficient strategy. 

I have tried to simplify and streamline what is an incredibly complex issue so please feel free to leave respectful questions and comments and I will do my best to lend further clarity! 

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