Friday, June 15, 2012

Math Workshop: The Beginning

My first year teaching, I taught 5th Grade at a Title 1 school. I can still remember touring the school during my interview. The excitement, the nervousness, the 'am I ready for this?' thoughts in the back of my mind. I had worked so hard in college to graduate with a 4.0, had spent so much time and effort during student teaching in 5th grade to create 'engaging and hands on' lessons- how could I NOT be ready? I mean, I had already been in a 5th grade classroom for most of my senior year in college- I had learned how to teach from college professors and veteran teachers! Looking back, it's amazing to me how little I actually knew about guided groups.

Math was 50 minutes every day. Most of the time I would plan my math lesson during lunch (which was right before math). It took me about 10 minutes to copy down vocabulary and important notes onto overhead sheets. I would use bright colors in hopes of jazzing it up. I didn't need to use outside resources- everyone else at my school followed the text book. During student teaching, and interning in other classrooms- that's what the teachers there did too! They followed the book lesson by lesson. Everything was already laid out for you. And afterall, the authors of these textbooks were experts weren't they? Isn't that why we spent all this money to buy their math program? Because these authors KNOW how to teach students math and the progression in which they should learn it? Thinking the answer to these questions was a big YES! here's what a typical day looked like for math in my first years of teaching:

1. Homework check at the door. I would collect it and hand it back randomly to different students to grade it. They would walk into the classroom and begin grading the paper they had. The answers were posted up on the overhead. I would then call out each problem number, and students would raise their hand if their person had missed the problem. When a lot of hands were up, I would write that problem on the board so we could go over it. Once papers were traded back, we would solve the problem as a class while student's fixed the problem if they had missed it.
2. Students would then get out their Saxon math books and turn to the lesson we were on. I would go in order, so it was no surprise which lesson we were on. Notebooks would come out, and students would begin taking notes and copying what I wrote down on the overhead. Notebook checks would happen, so I expected them to be following along.
3. We would go over vocabulary, and then I would model a problem for them based on the lesson. Students would copy it down. Then they would get out their whiteboards and try solving 1-2 on their own. They would raise up the board when I asked for it, and then they would write down the answer and correct process into their notes. I would usually end the lesson with a 'hired or fired' where I would solve a problem, and students would hire me if I did it right, or fire me if I had done it wrong.
4. Students would then do the practice set  from the lesson (10 problems) and check their answers which I placed up on the wall in the classroom. When they finished, they would bring it to me so I could check the work, and once accepted they could begin their homework for the day.
5. For tests coming up, we would do a review (which was EXACTLY like the test, just different numbers). They had the whole class period to do the 20 problem test. The next day we would check it (if there was time), and would begin a new lesson/unit that same day.

This was a 50 minute class period.

As the year went on, I began to notice that whole group wasn't working for ALL my students. Study sessions after school were also NOT enough. These students who needed extra support, weren't getting it. And the students who WERE understanding the lesson quickly, were bored during class.  I decided something had to be done. During the last 15 minutes or so of class, I began taking a small group of students down to the floor to work on the practice set together. Those that did understand the lesson, would continue to work at their desk independently. I began to see the value in working with small groups, and how just a little extra help, really went a long way for these students. And although I had no idea what guided math was at the time, it somehow found its way into my teaching.

After reading up on guided math and math workstations, I have finally come up with a plan that fits me. Since I haven't been able to get into my current classroom because of construction and cannot take photos, I have been working on creating graphics to show what resources I've used during math. As I finish those up tonight, I'll be posting an overview of a typical day in math compared to the one I have described above. What did math look like for you when you first began teaching?


Lisa R. said...

Thanks for sharing your math workshop with us! I am looking for ideas on how to organize my math block so I can meet with those struggling students in a small group setting. :)

Learning Is Something to Treasure

Rachel Lamb said...

It's amazing how much you don't know and how much you learn year after year. I still work on adapting things each year. It will never be perfect but that's ok. Every group needs the routine tweaked anyhow!