Sunday, December 14, 2014

Choice in Math...a Work in Progress.



Math is a place I look at every year in my classroom.  

I started to write about the whole journey.  My original blog post read more like a novel than a blog post. The whole journey could be a book.  Here are the notes:  (You're welcome)  :)  
  • I've been really reflecting on math instruction for 6 or 7 years now.
  • I've taken inspiration from my super colleagues, many resources, coaches, staff development, great resources.  (Think Debbie Diller, Kassia Wedekind, The Sisters, etc.)  
  • I've tried and it's failed a lot of times.
  • #nErDcampMI was a turning point for me in offering choice in math.  I was in a session on math, sitting next to super colleague Annie, when Katie Muhtaris asked this question, "What is the pinnacle of choice in math?"  I immediately scribbled that down!  Yes!   This is what I'm wanting to achieve!  
  • Annie and I talked about that most of the way back to Iowa.  
When school started in the fall, I sat down with more super colleagues and began to hash out what choice could look like in the math workshop.  Here's where I've landed so far:


It's a choice board for our current unit.  Students are allowed to choose their math work in between mini lessons.  The board is "designed" based on kids and concepts needing to be explored from the unit we are in.  I know it's not pretty.  The visuals are meaningful for the kids, we designed them together.  

The choice is wrapped around mini lessons based on what is needing to be covered based on district pacing expectations.  

For example, the measuring up in the right hand corner?  Instead of teaching this as a whole class with everyone moving at the same pace, I taught the proper way to use the tools and the children practiced this in a mini lesson block.  On days they are interested in it, they can work through any of these choices involving measurement. So I've seen the proper technique of measuring tools from students, I have a structure to help those who need it, and the students who were truly interested in it, spent several days trying it out.  

They are allowed to work on one choice the whole time.  We have worked to understand that "Mathematicians keep working."  If I think a student is stalling out in a choice, I simply say, "Tell me about the math you are working on."  And then we talk.  :)  If I can introduce a concept to reengage them, I do.  If I think it's behavior, I redirect and we move on. 

Any assigned work that is considered a "have to" is allowed to be done at their own pace.  I've been taking more of a careful look at what can be done independently, and where can I let go of everyone working together at the same pace.  

So a math block usually looks like this:  (I set a timer for now to help me learn my pacing in a workshop setting that is new for me)

Mental Math/Warm Up  (5-10 minutes-ish)  
Choice time.  (15 minutes-ish)  *I pull groups based on academic need at this time.*
A mini lesson whole class (15 minutes ish maximum)
Choice time.  (15 minutes-ish)
A mini lesson whole class (15 minutes-ish maximum)
Choice time. (15 minutes-ish)

To know what groups to pull I used a pre-test that teachers in our district designed, our post test, and some daily data that I take.  

An example of how choice makes a difference:


This picture is an example of some work that was being explored.  I know the girls were counting bags of collections.  (Tiny animals, etc.)  They are trying to add these large numbers together.  I know from their data, they are ready to see how to add 3 digit numbers together and I have a note to see them next week and work with them on place value, base ten blocks, and adding 3 digit numbers.  They developed this work. They had ownership in it, and the conversations were more powerful than if I had stood up and tried to teach 3 digit addition to the whole class.  

This is new work for me too!  So far the information I have is kids are learning.  They are counting, they are engaged in the math process.  

I'm not sure I've reached the pinnacle yet!  But we are getting closer...
I'm thankful for an instructional coach that I can process this with along the way.  

Do you offer choice in math?  What does that look like in your classroom?  

Joy!
Kendra 














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