Book Tasting

One of my favorite language arts activities to do in the first few weeks of school is what I call a “Book Tasting.” After a few mini-lessons based on Daily 5 concepts – discussing how they pick a book, what a “just right” book is, I then introduce my students to our classroom library by doing this activity.

In the past what I would do is put piles of books on student desks – they would fall into 3 separate categories. The first “appetizers” were picture books – books that were a quick, easy read, fun and just enough to wet the appetite when you wanted something to fill in a short amount of time. Next were the “main course” which were the chapter books or books that had a little more to them. These books were ones that would take some time, had more to them to enjoy. They would have the interesting characters that would take the reader on an adventure. Lastly would be the “dessert” books – those fun books like graphic novels, humor books. Books that are again a quick fun read.

My students would get a “Book Tasting Sheet” to fill out and I would explain how they were to go to one of the desks that had one of the piles in these categories. They would pick one of the books to preview and decide whether this was a book that looked “tasty” to them, whether they thought it might be worth looking at more or not. They would do this for each of the categories.

The sheet below is an example of what I would give my students to complete.

Once the students finished, we would all get back together. They would first compare their choices with their desk groups and then as a class as a whole.

With Covid, things definitely had to be tweaked a little. So now instead of book piles – I have a “Virtual Book Browse”. They have far less choices, but it still has them work through thinking about the books they choose, why they choose the books they do and discussing books. All these skills are ones that will come into play time and again in our classroom.

So, for those, looking for an interesting and creative way to introduce books in your classroom, I highly suggest this activity. I’ve been doing this activity in my class for the last 4 years and it has been one that has engaged my students and definitely given me a glimpse of who they are as a reader.

If you look at Pinterest, there are many ways others have done this same activity. But the end result is the same, it gets your kids thinking and talking about books and isn’t that the goal?

First Day Read Alouds II

One of my favorite things to do the first day of school is introduce my love of books to my students. It also sets the tone for what reading looks like in my classroom. I have written before about books that would be a great read aloud option and activities that could be done. (https://catherined2014.wordpress.com/2020/08/04/first-day-of-school-read-alouds/)

This year I have a new set of books I am excited to share with my upcoming class. Yet again, it will come down to the wire as to which book I eventually decide to use. Here are this year’s options.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi – this beautiful picture shares the story of a girl excited and nervous about the first day of school. She is going to a new school where she is worried that the students will not accept her because her name is “different.” This is something that many students can relate and connect to. The story has a great message that I love and can again help set the tone of accepting all in our classroom.
The connecting activity I would do is have my students make locker tags of their name – whether they want to use their full name or a nickname that they have. I would connect it to an art activity where they would do something with line and color to make their name locker tag stand out.

Be You by Peter Reynolds – this book is by one of my favorite picture book authors. He has so many amazing books that can be shared in the classroom and this is one of his newest. Again I love the message it shares – about making the choice of embracing who you are – your uniqueness, the individual things that make you who you are. The words are quite simple but the beautiful illustrations are ones that again students can understand and connect with.

For a response activity I would get the students to make a poster on what they want to “be” this year. I would explain that the great thing about a new school year is that to me, they are a brand new person, a new student I want to find out more about. I don’t want to know about last year – the good, the bad or the challenges. I want to know who they want to “be” this year as they walk in the door to our classroom. What goal to they have – do they want to be creative, a good friend, curious, helpful, resilient? The options are open and can lead to a good discussion on characteristics students can bring into a classroom.

It’s a Book by Lane Smith – this picture book is another favorite of mine. It’s message really makes the point in this new digital society. In the story the main character is just trying to read his book, while his friend Rabbit keeps asking him what a book is. Being that the world is changing so much so fast, quite often things that we take for granted are new and unknown things to our students. It is honestly a really funny story and my students in the past have always gotten a kick out of it.

For the response activity I first show the students things that were everyday items when I was their age – cassette tapes, sony walkman, discs, flip phones (yes I am aging myself here) Then I get them to think of something that 20-30 years from now may be considered obsolete or outdated and make their own “It’s a……” poster. I would get them to think of everyday items they use in school that may change in the future. Will students still use pencils or will they write with their finger or maybe a personal stylus? Will they still use backpacks or will it be compacted down to the size of a small box they can put in their pockets and then push a button to enlarge. It has been interesting to see the creative things my students have come up with.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex – this is another book I have shared in the past with my students. It is a great book that looks at how school “feels” on its first day. Students can connect to their first day of school jitters that many may feel along with the excitement of a new year.

The response activity I have done is asking students to think about something they have that may have feelings about them going back to school. What is something they have spent a lot of time with these last few weeks – their bike, their family pet, their bed? How may these things feel about them being gone for school? Will they be excited? Sad? Happy because they have been overused? This also gives you an insight to what they are like at home – are they active? Are they on tech a lot? I have gotten some interesting glimpses of my students through discussions around this activity.

These are just a few of this year’s choices that I am excited to share with my new class this year. Picture books are a great way to connect with your class those first few days of school and set the tone for what reading may look like in the weeks to come. What books are you excited to share?

Global Read aloud ….. My Old Friend

It has been quite a few years since I was part of the Global Read aloud event. I had done it for many years and had some amazing experiences – I made some unbelievable connections with classes around Canada and the world. I shared some of my thoughts in an older post (https://wordpress.com/post/catherined2014.wordpress.com/276)

For those that do not know what Global Read aloud is – it is the brainchild of this amazing educator Pernille Ripp. Her goal was to use the power of books to connect students to the world. You can learn more about it here: https://theglobalreadaloud.com/ The amazing thing is that it is geared to students across the grades – there is a picture book category, a short chapter book for the earlier grades and other book choices as you go up the grades. You are able to join the group and then make your connections as you choose – you can make them as easy or as complicated as you like. Speaking from experience, it is very easy to fall down the rabbit hole and take on too much. That was my problem, was getting too excited, taking on too much and making it more about the connections than the book experience itself. I got myself to the point where I had to take a step back and take a break from it all. It was a huge shock to find out that Pernille was feeling the same and decided to completely shut the Global Read aloud project down completely. This made me sad to think of all the students and teachers who would not have the experiences many of us had.

Fast forward to a few months ago – I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Global read aloud was going to be resurrected, on a different scale per say, but still would be an event that was again going to happen. This, to me, felt like a sign that maybe I needed to try Global Read aloud again. Then I found out the book choice for the middle grades, which is what I teach, was going to be “The Barren Grounds” by David A. Robertson, an indigenous author from right here in Winnipeg, Canada. This was the deciding factor for me. My goal this year was to introduce my students to more diverse voices in literature, so this seems to be the perfect time to introduce my students to my old friend, Global Read aloud.

Where this adventure will take me and my students this upcoming school year I do not know. I do know one thing – I have that feeling of excitement I had before when I went on this journey with Global read aloud and I am happy it is back, I missed it.

To those reading this post who have never participated in the Global read aloud event, I highly recommend it. You might find yourself on an adventure of your own with your students and what could be better than this.

GETCA 2021 Musings….

These last two days I had the chance to slow down, catch my breath and enjoy sessions during our Teacher’s Convention (GETCA2021) I won’t lie, I was very unsure I would enjoy doing my convention in a virtual way. One of the things I have always enjoyed about GETCA is the chance to connect with friends that I have not had the chance to see because of how crazy and chaotic our lives are these days. However, the GETCA convention people definitely rose to the challenge and presented a series of sessions that challenged my thinking, reinforced my beliefs in certain things I do in my classroom and gave me more than a few new ideas on small little things I can add to make my classroom and teaching even better. It was neat to see the multitude on teachers coming onto the zoom platforms, sharing on social media the things they were enjoying and learning.

The thing is right now, at this moment, has been one of the most challenging times for me as a teacher as it has been for many others. I have been at this for close to 20 years and have had many experiences during this time – I’ve seen teaching fads that came and went, the rise of technology in teaching and so much more. We teachers have been asked multiple times to step up, adapt and keep things going for our kids and we have done this, every time. At the heart of this, we love our kids and will do our best to be that sanctuary for them, that port in this COVID storm we are all trying to weather. Right now many of us are exhausted, burning out and just trying to get through the day the best we can. But yet, here we are at GETCA, going to virtual sessions, sharing ideas, trying to bring back things to our classrooms to help our kids.

I am not one to talk politics outside my house. I do talk with friends and colleagues about my frustrations, but I stop there. However, these last few months it has been so disheartening to see how our government treats us teachers, like we are the enemy. So often I have seen and read things about us from different members of our government and wonder what we’ve done. Time and again we stepped up as we were asked – go virtual on a moment’s notice – we did it and did our best to make it work in the little time we were given to prepare. Go back to school, but in a COVID safe way, even though our numbers and spaces were not conducive to that, okay we will again step up to the challenge. Teach asynchronous so that we can teach both virtual and in class so that students are given the option to learn in the way they are most comfortable. We did everything asked and more, and in return somehow we were the bad guys because we were questioning actions of our government.

I have seen many teachers say they are hanging up their hats – moving to a different province, retiring or looking at changing professions. Honestly I do not blame them, it is important to do what’s best for our mental health and the health of our families. There are those of us though that continue to do our best to navigate through these times. It is through things like GETCA where we can join together, even in a virtual way to just stop and just breath for a few moments. We can talk, learn and remember why we love this job we do. I’d like to think we will get through this, even as horribly hard as this year has been, I have had moments where I have laughed and smiled. GETCA gave me a few of those moments these last few days and I thank the convention committee for that.

To everyone reading this, please know you are amazing. You might not feel this way, but you have a group of kids that will be excited to see you come Monday. They will be thrilled with what new and exciting things you have to share, or just happy to be back together again. I know I can’t wait to share the new ideas I came across from my GETCA experiences.

And We Survived….

Finally found the time today to stop, take a breath and reflect on what these last two weeks, on this new “normal” we teachers find ourselves in. Like the rest of us, I have just been trying to get through my days the best I can. In the midst of all this chaos and insanity, much like everyone else, I have been trying to keep my feet on solid ground. Here are a few things I have come to realize.

First off, it is easy to get caught in the whirlwind if you are not careful. It is easy to get overwhelmed trying to keep kids safely apart, masks on, sanitized every 2 minutes. I honestly feel like we are losing tons of solid teaching, connecting time going “Oh okay everyone, lets sanitize, now we are going to line up make sure you are at least an arm’s length apart.” Then it is ensuring the chromebooks we used get wiped down and put away properly, it is trying to remember that our new staggered recess times are at this new time, not the time we are all used to having and needing an extra 5 min to get everyone organized so we can get outside in a COVID safe way. Everything I do now is looked at through the lens of COVID and I will not lie, sometimes it is honestly mind boggling and frustrating.

Next, I am not sure how everyone is doing, but I find myself completely exhausted by the end of the school day. I stagger home to my family and my puppy, spend time with them. By early evening I am done, I have nothing left in the tank. I have used every last bit of energy I had just getting through the day. In years past, there would be days I was tired like this but it would be on days like Demonstration of Learning, or special event days not just a normal class day. It makes me wonder how long until one of us does get sick, because we are leaving ourselves open to something due to being low. I find myself drinking way more water, taking way more vitamins and trying to get much more sleep than I ever have before.

But…. in the midst of all this are my kids. I have a class of 23 grade four students who come in every day, happy to see me, my student teacher and each other. While they are not thrilled wearing masks all day, they do it. While they get tired of lining up socially distanced, they do it. When I tell them they have to sanitize seventy -five times a day, they do it. They do not complain, they might eye roll a bit and sigh, they still do what is needed. They wrote a journal on Friday sharing how much they are enjoying gym, having their own desks, how much fun it is to play at recess with their friends. They are thankful to be in our class family, they accepted that philosophy I shared right at the start. We have a class code we all agreed on and are doing our best to follow. (if you look in prior posts, I have talked about how I try to create a positive class environment in different ways).

Yesterday afternoon, near the end of the day, I looked around and everyone was happily doing their thing. Some were finishing an art mask selfie project, some were finishing up math work, some were on Chromebooks on our class websites. Music was playing quietly in the background, I just sat there and took it all in. I realized that while this new normal may kick my in the pants on a daily basis, if I can find these small pockets of positivity to enjoy, then I might just make it through this year. I just hope the rest of you are doing what you need to do to get through this year the best you can.

First Day of School Read Alouds

One of my favorite things to do on the very first day of school is to share my love of reading and picture books.  There are so many amazing books out there that can be used on the first day of school – to set the tone, to reinforce a theme or just to laugh and have some fun.  Below are a few I have used and activities I have done with them.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates – Ryan T. Higgins

Book 1

A fun story about the first day of school for Penelope Rex and how she struggles to “fit in” with the other students in her class due to the fact that she keeps wanting to eat them. However, she ends up learning her lesson by the end of the story.  This one is a favorite of both mine and the students I have shared it with.  For the response activity, I had students make up posters for the classroom of their own silly rules we need to follow.  I had things like “We don’t try to make our classmates our squishies” or “We don’t bring unicorns to school.”  We then had these up for the “Meet the Teacher night which was fun to share with parents.

Only One You – Linda Kranz

Book 2

A cute story about Adri the fish who is about to enter the big sea and his parents decide to share some words of wisdom.  It is another favorite of mine because I tie it in to how it is their first day in a new class with a new teacher and new classmates.  Just as Adri is going out into the world to explore, they too are also going to be exploring a whole new grade and what it has to offer.

For this book, the response I had the students do was to bring a rock in.  I had them paint their rock explaining that this was their fish – how would they want to look if they were like the fish in the book.  What colors would they be?  What patterns would they have?  Then I brought in a fish bowl and we made a bowl of our class family, which I then had set in the classroom for the year.  Then they would write what their own advice they think would be helpful navigating the school year.  They would write it out and insert a picture of their fish on it and I would again have it up for the first month of school.

A Tiger Tale – Mike Boldt

Book 3

For many kids the first day of school can be a bit scary, so this is a great book that fits in with this idea.  Anya wakes up to her first day of school to find out she has grown a tiger’s tail. What a way to start her school year.  The great thing about this book is that it is by a local author and illustrator – Mike Boldt lives right here in Stony Plain, which is awesome.

To respond to this book, I have the kids brainstorm what would be a crazy thing to wake up having on the first day of school.  I had kids share waking up with alligator tails, unicorn wings, kangaroo feet and much more.  I have them draw themselves with these things and share how it would be crazy, but kind of helpful and fun too.  This poster goes up for all to see for that first month of school.

You’re Finally Here – Melanie Watt

Book 4

It took awhile to find the book that spoke to me for this year’s read aloud.  But I finally found it and can’t wait to share it with my new class this year.  I thought the title summed up how we are all probably feeling. (and yes, I have Covid feelings too, but for this post I just wanted to focus on books) It is a funny story about the main character, a bunny, having to wait forever for a reader to open up and join the story.  Again, I think it will be one kids can relate to. I know I sure did.

For my response I have narrowed it down to a few possibilities.  One I have come up with though is how there is talk about how long the bunny has been waiting for someone to show up and shares all these crazy ideas of what it has been doing while it has been waiting.  So I thought I would have the students do the same – share crazy things they could have been doing all these long months waiting to come back to school.  “I have been waiting so long I knit a scarf long enough to go around the world twice.”  and so on.

These are just a few of my favorite picture books that I have used in the past on the first day of school.  Hopefully it gives a starting point for others and gives them ideas on great things they can do with their own classes.

 

The Power of Read Alouds

One of my favorite activities to do for Language Arts is read aloud books as a group. It hits quite a few curricular objectives, but moreso, it is a way for me to share my love of books and authors with my kids. The possibilities are endless, whether it is a novel or a picture book, the conversations that have come about from a book I have shared with my students has amazed even me at times.

I have talked about this in the past, but if you have a chance, check out the The Global Read Aloud.  It is the brainchild of a teacher in the U.S. that I greatly admire, Pernille Ripp.  She dreamed of connecting students across the globe with books, it is basically a global book club.  I wrote a post talking of the connections I made during the time I participated in Global Read aloud here.  I highly recommend participating, the connections you will make, the experiences you will have will amaze you.  I have multitudes of stories of connecting with students in classes across Canada, the U.S. and even across the globe.

GRA

Quite often, by Grade 4, students start to come in with preconceived notions about books.  Some will only read certain types of books – “I only like Dogman books.”  “Books without pictures are boring.”  So, it has been one of my biggest challenges and joys to change that by introducing them to books like “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate, “Wonder” by R.J. Palaccio.  I introduced to books that were classics that they probably would not have gone near because it had so many pages and hardly any pictures – “City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau, “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper and “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen. As we delved into the characters and stories of these books, the kids were hooked.  The conversations we had, the connections they made were awesome.  One of the greatest things was having parents come up to me later saying their child was coming home talking about the books and were now wanting other books in the series or by this author.  Then, there would be the kids coming up to me going “Did you know there is a NEXT book, Mrs. D – we should read it.”

This year, I did one of my favorite books – The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  The curriculum I could hit with this book was one thing, however it was the theme of this book that really is big for me.  By the end of the book, the students are in love with the little family in this book and it makes me smile everytime. Below are examples of work the students did.

Wild Robot II

Wild Robot I

So, for those wondering how to structure their Language Arts program, I hope this gives you an idea of the power and potential of read alouds. It has been an integral part of my program these last few years, a powerful one that has lead to great connections and conversations. I share this video as my last piece of evidence on the power of a great book.

 

Creating a Class Family….

I have had quite a few student teachers over the years.  I feel it is important to share what I have learned in my teaching journey with others to prepare them for the challenges of this job. The job of a teacher has changed greatly over the 20 years I have been in it. I remember when I was first starting out, classroom management was one of those things that principals would ask about in interviews.  There were many that felt either a teacher “had it” or they didn’t.  I did not know any better, so I agreed. Now, after being in the classroom for as long as I have been, I will say that I have a much different view of classroom management. There may be those that tell you that there are tricks or programs like classroom dojo or class bucks to get students to pay attention and follow the expectations. For me, what I have realized over the years is not so much tools and prizes, but more creating the environment that the students and I will be in together for the school year.

On the first day of school, one of the first things I talk about when it comes to expectations in the classroom is I talk to the kids about how we are a Grade 4/5 class family.  We will be spending the next 10 months together, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.  I explained that with this there will be times where we will get along or see eye to eye on things, but just like their family at home, we will always treat each other with kindness and respect.  This is something I mention over that first week of school multiple times and I even ask the kids “What are we?” (“We are a class family.”)  and “How will we treat each other? “(“With kindness and respect”)  I also explain that there will be times they may need to remind me of this – there may be days that I might be grumpy or lose it, but I will always treat them with kindness and respect, and if I need to be reminded of that, they should do that.

The other thing I set up that first day of school is what I call our “Class Code” – the set of expectations that we all should follow in our Grade 4/5 classroom.  I first talk about what a code is – most of them that are in the gaming world get this right away. So then I put it out to them and ask them what they feel should be part of our code.  I explain we don’t need lengthy explanations, just a simple code we all agree to follow.  As they start out, they give me a lot “rules” – do not take people’s stuff without asking.  So each time they give me something, I turn it around.  Instead of a “do not” I explain what we will “do” so I explain that instead of saying don’t take people’s stuff – we will “Be Respectful” of people’s things and space. Each time I turn it around and by the time we are done we have about 5 things we will “BE”  I then get volunteers to make a poster of our code and lastly I get all the students to sign it.  I explain that by signing this, they are agreeing this is the code they will follow in our class.  A question that has been asked by my student teachers is how I handle those that do not sign it.  I explain that what I will say to that student (who may be doing this because of wanting attention, is annoyed they didn’t get more of a say), that this was something the class agreed on as a collective whole and just like things work outside the classroom, it will still need to be followed. I might not like having to drive 30 km in a school zone, but it is something that I need to follow and do.  Plus I will give them the chance to explain what their issue is and see if there is a resolution or compromise that we can agree on.  The most important part is not to force the student to sign because that just defeats the whole purpose.

Class code

Class Code for this year.  Yes they can up with all the words except “Audacious” they wanted something bigger than awesome so we looked up in the online thesaurus and found this.

The last thing I do on that first day of school is I do a Team challenge.  Over the years it has been making a spaghetti Tower, make a bridge that can hold the weight of x amount of textbooks using skewers and gumdrops. I will start off explaining the challenge, give the groups (they get to choose them) and the bag with their materials.  Then I turn on the timer and sit back to watch.  During the challenge I will not step in, I will just make observations.  Things I will notice:  who is taking charge, who is being “bossy”, who is sitting back and letting everyone do all the work, who is the team player – helping resolve issues and keep the group working cooperatively, who is the problem solver, who is the one who quits because things aren’t working.  These anecdotal moments will give me an idea of who this student is at this point in time and what their working behaviors are. It gives a good idea of those students will be able to handle the challenges they face during the year, who will need a little guidance, and of course the “fires” that I will be challenged to help in a positive way.

challenge

For those that wonder if the kids do buy in, I will share the following from letters I received from the kids and from a book we made together called “Advice for the Future 4/5 Class”

My advice for grade 4/ 5  is to follow the class code. Try to be the best kind of yourself.Do your work as best as you can.Be happy of whatever we are doing. Lastly have fun.”

“I also like that we have a class code and that we all are a class family and we all will always be one.”

“I miss seeing our class family, I also  miss learning in our classroom.”

“The last thing I really miss is all the fun memories I have had with our class family.”

So, for those stepping into your very first classroom, hopefully this will give you some ideas. If the students are happy and feel like they belong, it can honestly be a huge step in dealing with the challenges that will come up during the year. By developing a positive, welcoming class environment, the rest of managing your classroom will come together much easier.   In my experience, this has made all the difference.

 

 

So You are in a Combined Classroom….

Combined classrooms are something we are seeing occurring more and more in schools today.  It does cause great concerns for those teachers who have never tackled a combined classroom.  It is because of this I decided to share things that have worked in my own combined classroom.  I have been teaching a 4/5 combined for the last 2 years and will be teaching it again for the 2020-21 school year.  It can definitely be challenging, but it also can be a great experience if you let it.

The first question that comes up right away is how to deal with two curriculums.  The thing is for some classes like Language Arts and Math, you can teach both grades at the same time.  Language Arts builds and scaffolds so when I teach a mini lesson, I explain to the 5’s this is a review for them while it is a new concept for the 4’s.  Then when it comes to the assignment expectations – I will build on and explain I expect more from the 5’s. Assessment, of course, is scaffolded as well.  My rubrics tend to be written using Bloom’s taxonomy word vs numbers, so it will be written something  like “ideas come across clearly -specific details/examples added to support main ideas -writing is engaging, holds the reader’s interest” vs “students write 7-8 interesting detailed sentences about the topic.”

For math I wrote a post  here sharing what math looks like in my 4/5 classroom.  Again math will scaffold for the most part, you can introduce a skill like place value to 10 000 to the grade 4 class and 1 000 000 to the Grade 5’s.  Again when I introduce the concept I explain the 5’s this is a good review to remind them how this number concept works while the 4’s who need a challenge can see what the concept looks like for the 5’s.

For social, group projects were the easiest way for me to get through both curriculums at the same time.  Luckily in 4/5 the concepts are very similar for the most part, we look at things through the lens of Alberta in Grade 4 and Canada in grade 5.  An example was I had the students work in pairs to look at the regions of Alberta – researching things like climate, landforms, vegetation, occupations while the 5’s did the same assignment through the lens of Canada.  Another example was looking at the resources that can be found in the different regions in Alberta/ Canada – what resources were found specifically in that region, what were the challenges of getting that resource and what did having that resource add to the region (jobs, etc)

 

 

The biggest challenge was science, being that these are two totally different curriculums.  Most school divisions will have resources about teaching two grades together with this challenge in mind.  For me, Google classroom was what helped me greatly – that and being extremely organized.  What would happen is I would plan it that while I did a hands on or teacher led lesson with one grade, the other grade would have an assignment or task in Google classroom.  So, for example, the 5’s would be doing a science experiment or challenge in groups that I was leading and the 4’s would be in Google classroom doing an activity (google slide, drawing, doc) reinforcing a concept that they had learned last class. Then the next day, it would flip and the other group would be in google classroom while I did a hands on/teacher led lesson with the other grade.

science

There are a variety of great tech tools out there as well other than Google classroom that can be used in a combined classroom including flipgrid (kids sharing their learning in an oral format), Smart Online classroom (an online version of smart notebook for those that use this program – I LOVE this and so did the kids) and of course all the other google tools out there – Google jamboard is one I hope to look at using a little more next year.

Hopefully this gives those that looking at combined classrooms with fear and trepidation a few ideas on how it can be done.  I do not proclaim myself to be the expert in the room, but these are things that have helped me out in my own journey in teaching in a combined classroom.  Just keep an open mind, be organized and do not be afraid to look to others for ideas and resources and trust me, it will be a great learning experience.  It has been for me.

 

Using Guided Math in my Classroom

This question has come up multiple times in my travels as a teacher… what does Guided math groups look like in my Grade 4/5 classroom. So I thought instead of a multitude of Facebooks posts and twitter posts, I would just explain how the process looks like my classroom.

Schedule:  I start day one with the teaching of the concept or strategy. For example, I will walk the kids through place value – the different ways you can write a number or a strategy – how to multiply a bigger number.  All the students have a math journal so we walk through the concept as a guided lesson, I have my smartboard lesson and the students copy in their math journal.  Quite often I have an interactive aspect, so they are doing a journal where they have coloring, cutting and pasting things. Then we practice the concept/strategy by doing 3-4 questions together as a group.  This usually takes 30-40 min depending on what we are looking at.

Days two and three are where the stations come in – I will explain those in a bit.  For this I put the kids in groups of 5-6 depending on class size.  The groups are usually heterogeneous – where I have a variety of levels working together.  This way I have a strong leader to help the group keep on track. I have had people ask why I do not group students according to ability levels.  For me, it is a personal preference, it is something I have not wanted to do or found that worked.  The students are usually able to work through 2 stations a day (30 min. each)  The first 5 min I usually review expectations, 20 min work time and then 5 min to clean up/bring everyone back to the group to go over any questions or concerns.

I usually had one day where I did not do math because our school schedule was shorter one day a week  – this was the day where I focused on other subjects.  On Day 5, the last day is where I would do an exit ticket activity – a group whiteboard activity where I would ask 4-5 questions and they would hold up their whiteboards for a quick check, a google form activity, a group kahoot activity or just a quick exit slip.

Stations:  Here are the stations I set up and used.

Math with Mrs. D. – this would be where I would take a small group and work through the concept with them.  I had a whiteboard table we all worked on together, but getting them to bring their individual whiteboards would work too. This way I could see their math thinking, redirect if needed and challenge others if needed.

Math Work – this would be the actual math practice. I would give a worksheet or textbook questions that they would work on.  They would have the option to work with a partner or on their own. If they finished early, they would get their whiteboards and ask each other questions.

Math Tech – For this I made sure I had 5-6 chromebooks from our grade level cart during this time.  The students would log in and I had different websites they would use to work on practicing the concept.  My go – to’s are Prodigy (free site), IXL (paid, but highly recommend) and other sites like multiplication.com and so on. I would usually say to the kids, do 20-25 questions practicing the concept, then they can go practice math facts on other sites. So, for example, they would do 25 assigned questions on IXL, then go do fun math on Prodigy.

Math Games – This station had a variety of games that practiced the concept. I also had cards and dice so they could practice their basic facts with games like Math war and so on.  Again they had the option to play in partners or in one big group.

And this is how Guided Math looked in my classroom.  Hopefully it helps others looking at using it.  I honestly cannot emphasize how well it worked in the classroom. The students also very much loved it as well.  Do not get me wrong, you will spend the first month getting them used to the routine and there will be days where you will have to stop and redirect.  However, for me, by around October it was a well established routine and worked really well.

Gauge your kids though and set it up in a way that works for you – you may need extra stations (Math Fact Practice Station or Smartboard Station) for bigger groups or groups that you just know need to be smaller for various reasons.  You may do shorter time slots and do a group math activity. If the class was a little “energetic” I would shut things down a little early and do “Beat Mrs. D” on the smartboard – it would be a smartboard dice activity where we could do place value, basic facts and so on

For those wondering whether to take the plunge, I highly recommend.  It is a great way to get to know your students as math learners.  Good luck!