04 February 2017

Back to the drawing board...

Sometimes you think that everything is going SO WELL, and then you look at your recent data and realize that it's NOT. You realize that whatever it is you're doing is not working for these kids, and so you go back to the drawing board.

My big issue has been in math. We're in our first year of a new math program (enVision 2.0), and it's so much harder than what we were using before (Saxon). It's a whole new math language, and a TON of reading. Think multi-step problems on almost every problem. I just gave a benchmark assessment, and I counted TWELVE steps to ONE problem. Yes, you read that correctly. It really requires a lot of critical thinking, and I don't think I've done a good enough job of getting my students to that point.

So, it's back to the drawing board for me. On my last assessment, I decided to try something new. I sent home a reteach study guide a week in advance, and also emailed it to the parents. I asked my kids to do one problem in each section per night. It wasn't a graded assignment, but I hoped that it would help them on the test. Two days before the test, we used that study guide to play review games. I put up envelopes with secret prizes in them, and every time a group won the 'race', they got to either choose an envelope or pick from the House Points jar.

The envelopes went FAST! I told the kids that maybe there weren't all positive rewards in them, and that they'd have to take a risk. There was only one risk among the envelopes, and the group who got it ended up getting something even better that canceled out the risk. The kids were all totally engaged and worked together to succeed. I had them use white boards for their answers and work, and each person in the group took a turn being the writer. Everyone had to participate for the answer to count. They LOVED it, and keep asking me when we're going to do it again. I let them know that we'll do it every time we have a test, and now they're asking me when they can have their next test. Hah!

The next day, which was the day before the test, I scaffolded a review test. I went through and underlined, circled, wrote in reminders, drew models, gave examples, and tried to show them what good work looked like. Everyone got a copy, and we worked the problems together. They were all feeling pretty good about it. On the test itself, I allowed them to use the scaffolded test as a tool. The test questions were different, but they followed the same patterns as the guide. Not everyone aced the test, but almost everyone passed it. The mistakes I saw were math fact mistakes, and a few 'didn't follow directions' mistakes. Most everyone was able to take what we'd done and apply it to their work. I was so pleased!

Now that I've restructured my tests, it's time to restructure my math lessons. Instead of trying to do whole-group/small-group lessons where everyone is working on the same thing at the same time, I'm going to try centers. I've divided my kids into four groups based on their needs, and have set up a rotation schedule. We'll have a 20-minute lesson for everyone, and then we'll break into groups. Each group gets a teacher table rotation, where I'll reteach for the groups who need more instruction, and scaffold understand for those who are starting to catch on. Everyone also gets a homework center, where they'll work on the day's assignment (some days, I'll allow them to work with a buddy); a games center, where they'll play math games related to the day's work; and a technology center, where they'll use MobyMax and/or Reflex Math to build their fact fluency.

I've started an after-school tutoring group as well. One of my kids decided that we need to call it "The Wonderful Miss S's Math Camp," so there's that. So cute! I have about 5-6 kids who stay on a regular basis for math camp, and it's making a difference. We study math models, fact fluency, different ways to say it, breaking apart word problems to see what's actually being asked, and a lot more. We try to work hard for 20 minutes, and then play a math game for 10 minutes. It's been successful so far; every kid who's come consistently improved their math test scores significantly.

I'm really hoping to see a big difference in how my kids view math, as well as how they perform on their daily work and assessments. I want them to have a paradigm shift, where they see that math isn't just work. Math can be fun and they can still learn things.

I spent the morning today making center cards to show the kids where they go for each rotation. I'm pretty excited to start this on Monday!


  1. You're amazing! I love hearing about what you're doing in your classroom. Makes me very anxious to get back to teaching one day.


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