Sunday, June 26, 2011

My First Win!

So now that I've officially started blogging, I've also been entering contests on other blogs.  I usually just do the entry where I follow the blogs that they recommend and leave my comment saying that's what I did, but I REALLY wanted to win the prize in Primary Graffiti's MWS Chapter 5 giveaway.  I even linked my blog to hers so that I could get a second entry!  When she posted about her winner, I put a stop at the local teacher supply store on my agenda for the week so I could see if they had it in their stock.  I subscribed to the Learning Resources email updates as a part of the contest and placed a BIG order earlier in the week for new pocket charts, so I didn't want to place another order with their high shipping cost to Hawaii.  When I sat down to read my blog feed yesterday, I was excited because my comment was the preview picture!  Know what that means?  I won!!!

I was so excited that only 30 minutes after it had been posted, I had commented and emailed to claim my prize!  I have already started to plan how I'll use my Minute Math Electronic Flash Card in my classroom.  It'll most likely be one of the activities at a Math Work Station and something the students can choose to do in the afternoon during our short free choice, reflection journal, catch up time that I have planned.  Thank you!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 5

 How do you support math vocabulary (math talk) at Addition and Subtraction Work stations?
I think that my support for math vocabulary for addition and subtraction is better than in other areas.  Since I've been teaching kindergarten, these stations required a lot more modeling for discussions.  We made lists of different ways to say add and subtract.  Again it is definitely where I am going to focus this school year.  I've been trying out sentence frames and math talk cards with my summer school group.  It has really helped them in just a few days to explain what they are doing.  They were able to do the computations and give the answers, but they could not explain what they were doing or why.  With just a few opportunities to practice, I was sold!  I use sentence frames for other settings because of the ELL students I work with at my regular school, so why not use them in all areas?  I've been saving math talk cards that other teachers are posting on their blogs and will definitely be using those or making my own before this all gets put into place.

How do you build addition and subtraction fluency?
I'm a firm believer that fluency comes with practice, so that's just what I do, give the students lots of opportunities to practice.  I also give them many different manipulatives to help them.  Some students work best with connecting cubes, others with chips, and others by looking at pictures.  I made these Ten Frame Cards *NEW LINK* for the visual students.  We have a set of 0-10 number cards that we make from our math program, but I like the way the book suggested using ten frames.  It is a faster way to visualize the amount.  I quickly put these cards together with word so that I can print them and put them onto card stock.

What type of story problems have you been working on?
I tried to incorporate at least one addition or subtraction story problem into our closing time at the end of math block as the students got ready for lunch.  With this past class it often got left out though because of having to deal with other issues.  I am definitely going to make it a part of our daily routine in second grade and will probably have a math work station just for story problems.  I am going to have the students solve story problems and write their own for other students to solve.  I think that writing their own will be the most meaningful learning experience for them.

What is your student's favorite addition and subtraction work station/activity?
My students have loved the domino addition and subtraction activity and rolling the dice to make number sentences.  They like being able to instantly recognize the pips on the domino (and I try to get them to learn that vocabulary word) and having control of what numbers they are computing.  A station that I just introduced to my summer school class is using lacing numbers to create addition and subtraction problems.  They pull two lacing numbers and lay them on a number sentence frame.  After they've completed the computation, they search for the bead to represent the answer.  I was wondering how I could use my letter and number lacing beads in a second grade classroom, but I think this will be a great station for addition and subtraction or I can use them for a place value game.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Great Product!

I just ordered two of these Class Tracker Pocket Charts from Learning Resources.

I'm going to use them for my Math Work Stations management board and replace the lunch and milk cards with station numbers for the day! I bought two because they were so cheap! I bought a bunch of other pocket charts too.

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 4

Now it all makes sense!  :)  Okay, maybe not everything, but this chapter was amazingly helpful for helping me to understand the WHY behind the number sense activities that are built into many programs.  It also helped me to see how I can extend what I already do as a kindergarten teacher to help my second grade students become stronger mathematicians.  I've already started using some of these activities with my summer school group, but alas, that's for another blog.

The host for the blog party for this chapter, Fran at Kindergarten Crayons, has posted amazing resources that you can download.  The first thing I did when I finished unpacking and cleaning up from camp was to download EVERYTHING she offered.  It also gave me some great ideas for summer school projects.

1.  How do you support math vocabulary (math talk) at Beginning Number Concepts stations?
When I read this chapter, I couldn't help but wonder if I've failed my students in the past by not supporting math vocabulary enough.  I've always introduced, explained, modeled, revisited, and encouraged the use of math vocabulary, but since so many of my students are ELL, I wonder if I did enough.  I will definitely be using sentence frames and math talk cards at the stations, even now that I am teaching second grade.  It's never too late to introduce the vocabulary and encourage its use.  I'm also going to make sure that math vocabulary words go up on our word wall as well as being displayed on a special math wall in the classroom.

2.  How do your students read, write, order, represent, or compare numbers?  What activities support that?
This is where I think our adopted math program, Investigations, is great.  Most of the kindergarten program is spent developing number sense and working with numbers.  They love games that let them compare and order numbers.  I have them represent numbers with tally marks, shapes, objects, and words.  Part of our daily calendar routine was to make groups of 10s and 1s with straws to represent the number of days we'd been in school.  Our bell work when they came in from recess before math instruction was to represent a number in their Counting Jar folder (4 clip art jars from DJ Inkers per page with a line for the date) in different ways.  At first they simply wrote the number.  Then they wrote the number and drew shapes.  Then they added writing in the number word.  Finally we worked on circling groups of 10 within the shapes.  I am definitely going to continue similar activities in second grade.

3.  What is your student's favorite number concepts work station/activity?
My students love "Racing Bears."  In this game the students have 4 bears on a game board.  Each is on a race track to get to chips at the ten.  They roll the dice and have to decide which bear to move to get to 10 the fastest.  After the students have collected all of the chips, they compare to see who has the most.  It's from the Investigations program and once they learn how to play it with a 1-3 dot cube, they love to keep playing it and we add more dots to the cube as they develop.  I'm excited to see what activities my students enjoy next year!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Math Work Stations - Chapter 3

I finally got my book in the mail!  Then I took it with me to a family camping trip at the beach this weekend (BEAUTIFUL!), but got sick earlier in the week and didn't have the energy to blog about it.  I'm so excited!  I was very upset earlier in the school year when I was told that I'd be moved from kindergarten to second grade, but researching new things like Math Work Stations, Daily 5, and technology in the hands of students are helping me to embrace the transition.

So, on to Chapter 3...  I'm going to break my post into sections similar to Mrs. Parker's.
Learning with Mrs. Parker

1. Model! Model! Model!
I love to model examples and non-examples in my kindergarten class, so I think that it will be one of the strengths that I take with me to second grade.  Modeling shows the students exactly what to do and keeps misbehavior and off task behaviors to a minimum.  I also think of modeling in terms of modeling my thinking.  When I model how to do an activity, I think aloud so that the students are able to hear how to use the vocabulary.  This coming school year, I will be more consistent with using my timer and having the students clean up the station before switching.  In my kindergarten classroom, once it was tidy, the groups lined up on a school bus taped to the floor (the custodian shook her head) and waited for the signal to move to the next station.  This helped as 4 groups of 5-6 students were moving to 4 stations in 1 math block.  It also was helpful when I handed my classroom over to student teachers because this management strategy was easy for all of us to use.

2.  Go Slow...
This was a great reminder that even though I'm used to spending a lot of time in kindergarten teaching the routines, I'll still need to do it in second grade.  I teach at a Title I school that is in restructuring, so we're under a lot of pressure to start working on the content right away, but I know that getting the routines in place is best.  I'm planning on using the time we've scheduled to teach routines to expose the students to the math manipulatives and teach them how to participate in work stations and introduce some of the activities.  Spending time in the beginning of the year teaching the routines and expectations will help the students to focus on learning later on.  Our school is also big on small groups and RTI, although we haven't had much training on it, so establishing these routines will allow me to have more time to do small groups and RTI.

3.  Make Time
I am used to having "Math Workshop" time built into my math block almost daily with the kindergarten version of Investigations.  From what I have seen from glancing through the grade 2 manual, it is not a daily routine.  I have 70-80 minutes for math instruction each day.  I plan on setting aside at least 30 minutes for stations and 5 minutes for sharing time each day after whole group instruction and time for the day's activity.  This will only allow for 2 stations per day, but I think this will work better since I plan on using set stations that are differentiated for abilities rather than rotating the thematic stations for that "Investigation."  My daily math block would look like this:
5 minutes:  Bell Work and Calendar
20 minutes:  Whole Group Lesson
10 minutes:  Activity
5 minutes:  Work Stations Mini Lesson
30 minutes:  Math Work Stations
5 minutes:  Sharing

4.  Management Boards
Most of my teaching things (especially pocket charts) are packed in my new classroom right now waiting for the current teacher to finishing moving to her new room, so I am trying to remember what types of pocket charts I have.  In the past I simply had the students stay in their heterogeneous table groups for math and rotate through the activities that way, but I would like to put them in groups of 2 or 3 based on abilities/needs so that I can pull a couple groups/pairs for small group instruction and cater the small group lessons to their needs.  I am going to differentiate the activities in the stations to meet the needs of the different groups of learners in my classroom and prevent the students who give up from being frustrated or play because they are bored.  A pocket chart for MWS will definitely be necessary because students will be grouped differently for desk work, reading small groups, and math small groups.  I've downloaded resources from other bloggers and am thinking about how I can personalize them to go with my woodsie theme in the classroom for next year.

5.  Labels
I LOVE labels!  I label everything!  I've bought a variety of sizes from Office Max so that I can reorganize my classroom library and all of the "new" things that I'll have in this new classroom.  I think that no matter what age you're working with, having a graphic and words is an efficient way to label.  Plus having matching labels for the bags, bins, pocket chart, and place on the shelf will make cleaning up effortless!

Now to work on my Chapter 4 post!


I didn't look closely at the Math Work Stations schedule bookmark to see the questions, so I'll add to my post!

What should your math work stations look like, sound like, and feel like?
It looks like organized chaos.  Students are working on different activities in different areas of the room, but everyone is working.  All of the students are actively engaged in their activity and are talking to their partner about the activity.  There is a low hum of meaningful discussion, but it is quiet enough that students can hear my signals for attention and the small group students can hear my instruction.  It feels meaningful to the students and empowers them to take what they know further.

What does your management board look like?
*I discuss this one above.

How do you support math vocabulary (math talk cards) in your stations?
As I read Chapter 4, I realized that I do not do this enough.  In the past I have made mini posters for the unit's vocabulary and taken it down when the unit is done.  I have also posted the vocabulary words on cards on a bulletin board.  In the future, I am going to include math words on our word wall and have a specific math focus wall where I can display words, definitions, and examples.  I am also going to create math talk cards with the students for each of the activities so that their discussions are meaningful.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Current Reads

Here's what I'm reading while I wait for my copy of Math Work Stations to arrive. Really focusing in Spaces and Places for now and using the Harcourt Trophies manual to update the grade level curriculum map to incorporate all of the Common Core State Standards that we're adopting in the fall. I'm reading up on the 2nd grade version of Investigations so I can relate it to what I read in Math Work Stations. So many great ideas are flowing through my head!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Math Work Stations Blog Party Chapter 1 and 2

I don't have my copy of Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations yet, but I figured that these five questions would be an easy way to start.  I cannot start working in my classroom until July because the previous occupant still needs to get her things packed and moved upstairs.  I'm in no rush to get in though, between working on curriculum maps, organizing teaching things I brought home, and teaching summer school, I'll be plenty busy!  This online reading group will help me gather my thoughts and have a good game plan before I go into the classroom to start setting up.

I'm answering these questions based on what I did in kindergarten and what I plan on doing in second grade...

1.  Materials used by the teacher first, then placed in the station:  Yes!  When I've used Investigations in the past, I've done a 15 minute whole group lesson and it is usually to introduce a new activity or explain how we are changing it.
2.  Materials do not change weekly, but rather changed to reflect the students learning objectives:  I usually change the materials based on when the program suggests, but will change it early if the students master the objective or revisit an activity if they did not get it in the first round.
3.  All students go to stations daily:  Yes!  A few students would miss a station or two twice a week because they met with the ELL teacher at that time and occasionally students would miss a station for tutoring with the part-time teacher.  We always did 4 stations per day and I changed the order so that they did not miss the same station every time.
4.  Materials are differentiated:  Not always...  I often differentiated the instructions with this last group of students, but I will be more conscious about differentiating the materials when I plan for next year.
5.  The teacher observes or meets with differentiated math groups:  One of the stations in my daily rotation is usually to work with the teacher.  If I am not meeting with a group that day, then I am observing the stations.

So many things to think about!  I'm excited to get my book in the mail, but in the mean time I'll keep reading the blogs and start looking at the Investigations program for second grade to see how I need to organize my math stations.

A New Project!

My blog title explains it all, I am The Very Busy Teacher!  I don't feel satisfied unless I am doing too many things at once.  My goal for the upcoming school year, as I change positions, is to take things off of my proverbial plate at work, but how will I fill the void?  This blog!  I'll share teaching ideas, professional development resources, and my random thoughts here.  I've been inspired by all of the blogs I am now following on my iPad's Flipboard.  In fact, the reason I started this blog was to participate in a book study this summer.  Enjoy!