Psst… I didn’t forget I promise! This post is coming this week!
Within the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) new standards have arisen to promote the communication of math skills. Common Core Math Practice Standard 3 states, “Students should construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others,” while the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Math Practice Standard 1d states, “The student is expected to communicate mathematical ideas, reasoning, and their implications using multiple representations, including symbols, diagrams, graphs, and language as appropriate,” and Standard 1f states, “The student is expected to analyze mathematical relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas.”
Why is there so much focus on communicating mathematical ideas when focusin g on problem solving? Communication increases students’ self reliance and belief that they themselves can find answers on their own. We as teachers see it every day where a student will just want you to spoon feed them the information they are supposed to know so they can get to the next step. This is not teaching them to problem solve, this is teaching them to rely on others and not think for themselves. We have to change this mindset in the classroom.
Communciation is more than just talking about individual problems but is also about connecting topics from day to day. In my classroom I did great with allowing my students to talk about what they were currently learning and creating relationships with their peers on what they were learning. What I struggled with is making my students think to what they had already learned and make connections. So when I am teaching about ratios and proportions, have students connect their learning to what they know about percentages and fractions. How do they relate together? How are they similar? How does your knowlege of fractions help you develop your understanding of proportions and being able to solve them correctly? See how easy it is and can spark creative thinking with your students?
Learning to ask questions is a communication habit. Don’t get upset with the kid who CONSTANTLY asks questions, they are learning! I know it is hard when Trevor (totally made up student) is asking questions every 5 minutes and you just want to get through your lesson. Accommodate his need for asking questions by giving him some post it notes and allowing him to write them down when he has a question and stick them on his desk. You may end up sparking some really good conversations in your classroom with these questions. You may want to even create a Parking Lot for questions in your classroom and allow any of your students to do the same with questions they may have about what is being taught. This will limit the interruptions in your lesson especially when the questions may not completely align with the topic at hand. Build in time in your weekly lessons for classroom discussion/debate about some of these questions to help students develop their communication skills with each other.
“I know it but I don’t know how I know it.” How many times have you had this answer given in class? Many students struggle with the notion of being able to talk about their thinking and although they may know an answer but aren’t sure how they got there. This shows an inability to put math ideas into words on their own. Buidling in the time for classroom discussions/debates will allow students to start inputting ideas over time as they are comfortable. Challenge your students to contribue one mathematical idea daily in class whether it be on classroom brain dump done via Post It Note or outloud in class.
Ever student enters our classroom at a different stage on the communication scale (shown above). As teachers we are often overzealous in wanting to hear every student’s ideas that we don’t tend to think about what stage of mathematical communcation each of them may be coming to us at. We can’t expect a beginning problem solver to explain in detail their thinking and what they are doing. We have to allow them to communicate at their ability level and then foster that level to continue and travel down the path to the next level of communication. Our students all come into our classroom with a wide variety of skills, abilities and preferences when it comes to communicating and we must seek out new ideas to recognize that thinking and promote their growth.
Communication should ALWAYS have a purpose. As a learner we always prefer authentic tasks and communcation tasks that are motivated behind the lesson at hand. NO ONE wants to do busy work! Communcation comes in many forms from discussing problems within a group, writing out their solutions, oral explanations, etc. If a student struggles with one area of communication find what they excel in and focus on that! Just like the Post-It Note Parking Lot example earlier being great for written expression, allow students to communicate through technology. Submit questions via email, a Facebook group or Twitter. Heck, what about taking a picture and posting it on Instagram and tagging the classroom Instagram page. Students can them collaborate together and discuss the thinking that comes behind the problem.
In our classrooms we must create a culture of communication. Creating a classroom culture is more than just setting guidelines, it is also building up students to know how to talk about mathematical ides, know what it means to be respectful of others ideas and having tasks that require them to write for real communication. These three steps are easy to facilitate but also very crucial. Setting guidelines as a class not only allows students to take ownership but also helps to develop the family aspect. Once these guidelines are set, don’t just post them and be done but take time to model them regularly.
Later this week I plan to come back and discuss more about communication and give direct ideas on fostering communciation in your math classroom today beyond those given already. If you have any questions or ideas feel free to submit them in the comments so that we can all develop our mathematical communication together!
Don’t forget to check out Week 1’s post on Why Practical Problem Solving is Important. Next week will be all about Analyzing Relationships which you won’t want to miss!
What a whirlwind of a weekend around here. Friday morning I left for Phoenix bright and early (seriously before the sun even thought of rising) and when I got there I had the whole day ahead of me, what was I to do? My room at the hotel wasn’t ready yet so I decided that breakfast was on the menu. Off to Yelp! to find what to eat that might be interesting to try. Well, I found this AMAZING little restaurant called NCounter and oh my heck was it FABULOUS! Not only was my Chorizo and Eggs flavorful but so was the Passion Fruit Tea! Definitely recommend this place and will be back when in the area!
After I got a little nap at my hotel I had to do some driving around to grab some last minute supplies for my booth (candy of course). After a trip to 3 different Walmarts to get what I needed I was set for the next day. But before any of that could occur I got to meet up with my amazing teacher buddy Marie Cote (or as some of you may know her Sweet Tea and Squats… hehe). Marie is an awesome mom of 2 kiddos and a teacher at a charter school in
the area. We grabbed dinner (and drinks) at Pita Jungle and had a grand old gab session. Too bad we live so far apart! A great night was had by all!
The next morning was the morning of the Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics Conference and boy was I ready! I presented and exhibited at this conference last year and knew it would be great to come back once again. Bright and early (again… seriously was up at 5:30am) I awoke to head to Arizona State University (via Starbucks of course) to get my day started. Got the booth set up just fine although I forgot a tablecloth and I totally forgot to take any pictures.. DOH!
My session was during the first breakout and I got to talk to a ROOM FULL (we had to bring in extra chairs) of teachers about how to get students to go beyond just “notes” in their interactive notebooks. I told every teacher in there, “If we do not get students to communicate their thinking based on the lesson provided then we as a teacher can not be sure they have mastered the skill at hand.” I know this sunk in wtih many of them because I was seeing many of them write this down as well as getting questions about how to encourage students to communicate their thinking. This has honestly become my favorite workshop to teach despite it being something that the teachers have a lot of reflecting themselves to do afterwards and it takes extra planning, it is what makes Interactive Notebooks WORK!
And this conference wasn’t complete without a FANTASTIC conference put on by Mr. Que and Mr. D of Music Notes Online. Seriously I was on my chair dancing along with the I Did My Homework Song and if you aren’t already using this in your classroom then what’s up with that? Grab the Motivation CD today and you need to get to using it!
I personally used this in my classroom on Friday’s when my students turned in their homework and if they had at least attempted the homework for the week they got to stand on their chair and dance along to the song. The one rule was that both feet had to stay on the chair at all times! That means they could do the Stanky Leg but couldn’t do the Superman.
Whew! Such a great day overall and I loved every minute of it! Glad to be back home and getting ready for my next conference coming up in Oklahoma City in October.
Each school year we start with a new group of students and with that new crew we start fresh with working on problem solving in our math classes. I don’t know about you but over the summer it seems as if most of my students always forgot what they had learned about solving problems from the prior years so it was like starting with a clean slate.
The importance of teaching problem solving to our students stems from the fact that to truly learn mathematics we must teach more than how to memorize facts and algorithms. We as a teacher have to teach our students to think mathematically. Beyond the mathematical thinking students are able to develop mathematical reasoning and then apply that reasoning to computation and concepts to solve math problems. Taking time to make our students proficient in problem solving will allow them to stick with it when the problems seem hard.
With the new Mathematical Practice Standards in the TEKS and Common Core we are specifically given skills to make sure our students understand. These skills should be integrated daily into our math lessons and that is where I want to take time to help you. Over the next few weeks I will go through each of the standards and help you break them down for your classroom.
When it comes down to it, our students become problem solvers by solving problems. How are you implementing problem solving every day in your classroom? How are you providing feedback to your students? My goal is to help provide you tips and trick to implement problem solving in different ways as well as helping you give immediate feedback to your students to provide an effective learning environment for you problem solvers.
As a new year starts I am asked over and over how I keep things organized in my classroom while starting up interactive notebooks. I will tell you that creating my process took years to create and is still always a constant work in progress to remind the students of the necessary responsibilities they have to help calm the chaos that could take over.
A few years back I read a journal article that stated the magic number to put in table groups was four and NO MORE! The reason behind it was that with only four students you are more than likely to have different types of learners that feed off of each other rather than antagonize each other. You will have a natural leader, a natural people pleaser, etc. You want each of these roles to be filled and not to have them where a table is overwhelming with too many of the same time of personalities or conflicting personalities (especially in middle school).
Knowing that I was going to have my students in tables of four, I set out to create table jobs for my students. Each table had their own set-up and as my students came in they chose their seat at their assigned table for the day. Yes, you read that right, I didn’t make them sit in a specific seat but rather a specific table. You can read more about that in a past blog post here.
Keeping my student’s aware of the responsibilities of each job made it where I didn’t have to tell them their role in the classroom each day. I simply did this by creating a basic poster for the classroom that outlined their duties. Over the course of about the first 3-4 weeks of school they understood what their roles were and were easily able to contribute to our classroom community. This poster also helped for when we had new students join the classes as the members at the table could help them understand their roles for the day and since they had already done them they were able to guide them.
Giving responsibility back to our students is a crucial life skill that we all need to instill in our classroom. Teaching them how to perform a job with certain duties will not only prepare them for their future but also allow them to take pride in what they are doing in the classroom. Feel free to grab my FREE printable of table jobs that I used in my classroom to mark what each desk did.
How do you use table jobs in your classroom? Do they help you control the chaos?
Have you ever REALLY wanted to go to a workshop but with the commitments at school, especially as a new year starts, and the dreadful time it takes to write a plan for a substitute it’s just not in the cards?
I get emails on a regular basis asking when I am going to be in various areas of the states for workshops and as much I would love to be all over my schedule doesn’t always allow it either. What my schedule does allow is private or small group Skype Workshops! You heard it right! You can get your VERY OWN professional development workshop from the comfort of your own home and pajamas! No judgment here!
My workshops page is filled with the types of workshops I offer (interactive notebooks, differentiation, problem solving, etc.) as well as creating a custom workshop just for you! I offer them in TWO HOUR time increments and those two hours can be split into two sessions. Nights and weekends are available at the same rate that fits right with a teacher’s budget!
Want an even sweeter deal? Purchase and sign up by October 8th for a workshop (doesn’t have to be scheduled yet) and you can save 20% off the regular price of $75 and snatch it up for only $60!
If you have a small group of teachers (less than 20) that are interested in doing a Skype Workshop of up to four hours that can be arranged as well! Small Group Workshops start at $250 for a 2 hour workshop and for a full four hour workshop they are $450. But again, you can save 20% off the regular price of that through October 8th and get a two hour workshop for $200 and a four hour workshop for $350!
And if that wasn’t enough, if you have ALREADY purchased the digital Interactive Notebook for a full year (ANY GRADE LEVEL) you can get an EXTRA savings of $10 off the purchase price of a Skype Workshop! Simply email me ahead of time and I will send the coupon code your way!
And now, because I’m going crazy, if you purchase any workshop you will receive a coupon code to my blog store for $10 off any product! This is a perfect time to snatch up a Spiral Bound Copy of the Interactive Notebook or Flippable Template Pack so you can have it in your hands at all times!
Ready to sign up? Click on over to blog store and grab a workshop today!
As we start back to school and are getting our ducks in a row, it is important to prepare our students for success when they are using their Interactive Notebooks. Last year I created an editable Expectation Guide for you to use in your classroom to help get things started. You can grab it for FREE to use in your classroom!
I’ve had several teacher email me recently asking on what I put under each section so I thought I should probably blog about it to share that information with you. Remember that YOUR NOTEBOOK MAY VARY and therefore your expectations in your classroom may vary so please don’t take my word as the be-all-end-all as we all have our own ways of doing things.
As you can see this puts the basic expectations out there for students (and parents) and keeps them abreast of what to expect throughout the school year. When it is already presented to them in this format they know what to expect and what will be expected.
Enjoy your school year and happy notebooking!