## Guided Math: Where to start

I’m going to write tonight about September.  In part because my brain is already thinking about how I will do this whole teaching thing better next year (I think that every year.) and in part because I don’t want to share too many more things that will alert everyone to the fact that I kind of got hung up on a few concepts earlier this term, leaving us scrambling to finish a few things at the end of May. *sigh* (This happens every year, and every year I think, “I will not let that happen again!” but then we get waist deep into learning something that I think is really important for us to learn really well and I keep saying, “I’m just going to do this for one more week.” and then at the end of May I am covering something like probability by teaching math all day every day for a while and…well…you’ve probably done it too.) (But, honestly, when we spend a whole day on a certain concept, the learning can be pretty magical too.  And something like probability is fun to do that with.)

But…back to where I wanted to start.

Guided Math.

After doing this for one week in my class, you may recall that I thought I’d try it for another.  However, as I sat down to plan out that week, I realized there were way too many things that I needed to put into place to make it successful.  See, I will be teaching many of my grade 2s as grade 3s next year.  I felt/feel that if I go about it all haphazardly I might be setting us all up for some trouble in the new year.

I had a table set up where the students were to take a survey and create a graph.  We have done this so many times over the course of the year, I assumed they could do it independently over the course of a few days.  I gave them the topic: favourite holiday.  I gave them the paper and graph templates they would need.  I asked for their completed graphs on Friday.  Now, I feel I should say that I was monitoring what was happening at that table.  I really was!  So I know some surveys were taken and some graphs were made.  Here’s an estimation question for you:  Approximately how many students do you think actually had a graph to hand in to me on Friday morning?  If your answer is near 2, or roughly 10% of my class, then you are correct.  They had parts and they had papers and they had apologies and excuses.

Every student already has a 2-pocket folder for their writing.  I laminated them last June in preparation for this school year, and they have lasted the school year.  (Hooray!)  ON the back, every child has a personal word wall.  I have labeled the pockets “drafts and ideas” and “work in progress”.  It’s a good system, if I do say so myself.  This June when I am making my red writing folders (because I love how it sounds close to “Red Riding” haha) I am also going to make some math folders.  I think that I will keep the word wall, and use it exclusively for math words.  Actually, it is highly likely I will do that.  (see…probability…it’s everywhere!)

1 system, used 2 different ways will = success!  I am sure of it.  I think a way to keep track of their papers from day to day will really help them start and finish something, and give them something they can turn in at the end of the week (accountability).

I am going to borrow another writing-related idea.  I think that at the end of each week I’d like my students to write a reflection about their learning.  I am going to give them a math journal….let me just stop there.  I have seriously tried this before and hated it. But I am thinking that I have evolved a bit.  I think the written reflections will be useful in helping them consolidate their thinking.  I also like a written record they can refer to and see growth.  AND it will give me some interesting anecdotal comments when it comes to report card time.

In the book “Making Thinking Visible” by by Morrison, Church and Richart, there is a thinking routine called “connect, extend, challenge”.  I used it a lot in math last year with my grade 3/4 class, and have used it somewhat with my grade 2/3 class this year.  I discovered that having students find the connections between math ideas, and within math ideas, was really valuable.  So, if I teach them this routine early on and have them use it to write in a journal, I think we’ll get some interesting stuff.  Basically, they need to thinking about how the learning they have done connects to other things they have learned, then try to extend that learning, and finally talk about what is still challenging them.  Here’s how it might look. Pretend I am 7 and we have been making graphs all week.

Connect:  This is like when we took surveys about things people like last year in my other class.

Extend:  I could use it to find out what people want to play at my birthday party.

Challenge: I want to know how to organize my work better.

The challenge part is a big challenge for the little people, so we might not add that in until after Christmas.

And that will be easy to do because I am going to be completely on track and following my long range plans perfectly.

That’s where I am now with Guided Math.  I have other thoughts too, but I am not ready to write them down yet.  I need to keep exploring this idea.