Friday, September 25, 2015

Running the Math Block ~ Part 1: Needed Changes

Hi! I've made some major changes to the way I run my Math block, so I thought I'd do a little mini-series showing how it evolved and what I do now. I hope you enjoy it!

When I first started teaching in my current district, I did Math Workshop-and loved it! I felt like I was reaching the needs of all my kids, and they were able to learn and practice at their level.

But since our math program was so old (they didn't even make it anymore), and with the new Common Core standards, we looked into purchasing a new program.

So my next year at the school, I was piloting Go Math! (which I didn't hate-but I didn't love it either).

Well, as things go, our district decided to go with Math in Focus (the choice came down to that or Envision-Go Math, was 'disqualified' due to test scores).

Now, all through the Math Committee meetings, I had been opposed to Math in Focus, as I've found that it often goes above and beyond the Common Core, and if we're going to teach the Common Core, I think that we need to teach it well before trying to build upon and extend it (and ironically enough,  I told my old principal this, and he was all like 'No, it's totally Common Core' at the meetings, but when I had my end of year meeting with him last year, he was all like 'Where's the Common Core?' Can I just say-I told you so!).

We did have some trainings toward the end of our pilot year (when we knew what we were going to pick), and at the beginning of the school year that made me feel a little more comfortable with Math in Focus.

Last year was our first year with it-and towards the end, I hated the way that my math block was running.

I wound up doing a lot more notebook entries to teach the kids, as everything had taken so long (what with snow days and delays), and I needed to at least expose the kids to things.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted my math block to look like last year, and with a little bit of inspiration from The Primary Gal, I came up with an idea.

First, I wanted to have entrance and exit slips for each lesson, so I could easily pull groups based on need and skill.

Second, I also wanted a quicker way to assess-as the tests sometimes took 2-3 math periods.

Third, I wanted to make better use of time and workbooks, and meeting the kids needs better.

And last, but certainly not least!, I wanted math to be more fun for the kids, as well as a little more interactive.

Since Math in Focus didn't come with any of the things I needed/wanted, I came up with the idea to make it myself!

So I put together a PD project to make what I needed.

Note: I have not yet made the videos-I wasn't sure if I was going to get the tech I needed (not yet), and I wanted to get the main part done first. If and when I get iPad and/or Chromebooks, I'll start on the videos. 

After a couple of months, and almost a 100 hours, I finished!
Inside, I have quick checks (1 page assessments) with two types of data recording sheets.

Entrance Slips

and Exit Slips

Each chapter is divided by a Chapter sheet, and even the back cover is pretty!

As I don't have a TPT shop, this will not be for sale.

What's all this have to do with how I run my math block?

Well, let's get into {some of} the good stuff!

I start off each chapter with a quick check-which I then grade and keep them on my desk until we're done the chapter and the last quick check.

This way, parents (and kids!) don't freak out because of the low scores, and I send them home with the second quick check so they can see the growth they've made. We also graph our results in our Data Notebooks.

The quick check allows me to see who knows what, so I can get an idea of what we may need to spend more time on, and what we may need to spend less time on.

I also record their scores in a Google Spreadsheet, so I can keep track of their score changes (and use it for my evaluative purpose-using assessment to drive instruction-yada yada, blah blah blah ;)
Even the kids who started out high made some growth! The numbers in parenthesis represents the number of points the check was.

I got that idea from the SLO my team did last year-I was fascinated by giving the same test twice and seeing a huge difference in scores from beginning to end-which I think is much more helpful than the pretest from Math in Focus, which has little to do with the end of chapter test.

So, I have my newly made and beautiful products-and what do I do with them?

Stay tuned for part two!

Smiles and Sunshine,

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