Catching My Breath

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How is it that we’re 6 weeks into the school year and this is my first time blogging?! It could be the fact we were out three days last week due to Hurricane Irma and the following two days were a whirlwind. Or the start of a personalized learning format has been taxing. I feel as though I haven’t been able to catch my breath.

My First Two Weeks

I wanted my Math Enrichment classes to be a place students wanted to come and learn math. I wanted it to be a place where they knew they had a voice and flexibility with a balance of structure. So we spent the first two weeks establishing our routines and procedures.

We had flexible seating in our classroom. Seats were assigned using playing cards. Students would enter the classroom, place their book bags near the door, find their seats and read the Daily Message. It worked well for us. Students never fought over who would sit where and they would have all materials needed for class before I was done greeting the last student.

Because students would work independent of my instruction, we needed clear expectations. What better way than for students to set the expectation for themselves. So each class participated in their own affinity map activity.

Each class had their own unique set of expectations in which they were held to during self guided work time. Of course I had to remind some that they in fact set the expectation they we currently not meeting. Ownership goes a long way.

The Work Began Week Three

We didn’t begin jumping into content until the 3rd week of school. The personalized learning curriculum developed for my course has 4 levels for each unit. I had all students begin at level 1.

Each day we were to complete self guided assignments, students would complete our goal setting form before diving into the assignments. At the end of the work session, students would complete a reflection form.

I was in a groove, and 5 weeks into the year, I was informed I was moving to 7th grade…

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It Isn’t For Everyone

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Small group rotation that is. It can be uncomfortable and cumbersome for some teachers to setup and implement. And as I learned from one student’s letter, the students have a difficult time adjusting.

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I love that my students feel comfortable enough to express their emotions and thoughts about the classroom instruction and environment with me. So I like to compromise when they, 7th graders trying to find their voice, come out of their comfort zone to share with me.

My Compromise
Alternating weeks we engage in small group instruction so those students who feel similar to my student above can get the feeling of “familiarity” in my class. On the weeks we do not have small group rotations, we will work on tasks, play games, and do other practice activities in what feels like a whole group setting. Students will still work in a small table group, discuss the mathematics, challenge each other’s thinking and problem solve.

What I will not compromise is having a stand and deliver classroom. If I own all the information and disseminate it when I’m ready, no one wins.

7th Graders Interpretation of the SMPs

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I had my students interpret the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  What they came up with is better than some I’ve seen teachers produce in PLs I’ve conducted in the past.  Now the SMPs are something I can reference and know my students will understand to what I am referring.

After discussing standards 1-4, I had my students engage in Comparing Temperatures from Illustrative Mathematics.  Students had to determine which of the 4 standards were evident while they were completing the task.  So not only were they aware of the SMPs but also they now knew what those standards looked like in action.

In my blog post, SMPs According to 7th Graders, I share a few examples of their interpretations. Next steps will be, posting the SMPs in the language developed by the students on an anchor chart and using their language to develop a rubric in which we use the SMPs to score math tasks.

Aspirations for Number Talks

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If you haven’t heard of number talks by now, it may be safe to say you have been a bit disconnected from the math world. Five to fifteen minutes is all it takes to encourage math discussions among students, get an idea of the strategies your students possess, capture student thinking for everyone to see and/or reinforce ideas which may not fit into your current unit of study.

At the elementary level, I’ve seen the tremendous effect number talks can have on students’ thinking, math language and strategy use. Just listen to these second graders discuss how they would make 24 from the given numbers 2nd graders making 24. This language and thinking was developed during daily number talks. Because I am an elementary teacher at heart I never thought about number talks in middle school.

That was until I accepted a position as a 7th grade math teacher for the 2014-2015 school year. As I dreamed about all of the things I would implement next year, number talks was high on my list. Thinking of how crazy it may seem having my students ponder about numbers, putting thumbs to chests and sharing strategies would be in a 7th grade classroom, those thoughts were silenced by a document shared by @ddmeyer on Twitter. Oakland Instructional Toolkit for Mathematics

From this document came my aspirations for number talks. Here’s what I envision; review many 6th grade concepts through number talks. This Summer I’ll review the 6th grade units as aligned by the GaDOE. Using each units concepts and standards, I’ll create number strings in which I will use on the days I don’t use Estimation 180. To capture student thinking, my goal is to snap a picture of the recordings and upload them into an Evernote notebook dedicated to Number talks. This will allow for the information to be accessed from wherever Internet is available.

Goal number 1: Implement Number Talks