Thursday, June 18, 2015

Daily Word Problems for 3rd Grade

No one really reads my blog consistently I know, but if you did, you would know that I am a HUGE fan of word problems. A professional development from years ago, Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI), literally changed the way I feel about math. Word problems are the foundation of CGI and once I was trained in CGI, my approach to teaching math completely changed.

That was over 15 years ago, and I've grown a lot as a math teacher over those years. But my love of word problems has not changed. It is the best part of my math instruction!

Word problems are a huge part of the Engage New York Modules that we use for math, but I also try to have at least a couple days a week some word problem time that is a little different from the Engage New York.

At least twice a week, I like to present one word problem to the students. It might be a type like we're working on in class, but sometimes I throw things in there that I know will challenge them because they haven't experienced it yet. We read the problem together and then students solve it. The students solve the problem however makes sense to them. Depending on what type it is, they will draw a picture, use a standard algorithm, use manipulatives- whatever they need to do to solve it. Once they've solved the problem one way, then I ask them to solve it a second way using a different strategy. This pushes their thinking out of their comfort zone and makes them think about another possible strategy for solving the problem. After some time, I choose 2 or 3 to share. When they share, I put their work under the document camera and they come to the front of the room. Sometimes I will have the student explain their strategy. Other times I will have the other students look at the solution and walk us through what that person did. We ask questions and share what we liked about the strategy. Then another person comes and shares their strategies. When I choose students to share, I do it purposely and with specific intent. Sometimes I want to show specific strategies. Other times, I want students to think about efficiency of the strategy. Other times I just want specific students to have a chance to talk and explain.

I love the depth of conversation we have when we do this! It makes students realize that math is not always about right or wrong answers. Sometimes I put incorrect solutions up for students to share, so we can talk about common misconceptions and why those misconceptions occur. But it's not an awful thing to get it wrong because we talk about all the things that were done right too.

These three are the start of a new series for me: No Prep Word Problems for each month. I have them for Kindergarten already done, but only these three (and April) for 3rd grade so far. There are between 20-25 word problems in each and they are in two forms- a full sheet and a "label" sized one you can print and cut apart for students to glue into a notebooks. I generally begin with the full-sized sheets and over the year move to the labels to save paper.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Proficiency Scales

I think I am a little obsessed with proficiency scales.  I blame my district for switching over to a 4-point scale and expecting us to just easily switch over and completely understand what mastery means for each of the standards. I don't understand how a district can switch something as big as a grading system without giving us any guidelines or training on how to do that. We received maybe one professional development day two years ago on proficiency scales and nothing else about how to justify the grades we give. Honestly, I am surprised that more parents don't complain and question why their children are receiving the "3" or the "2" or why not the "4". There's little or no consistency between teachers about what these words- meets, approaches, falls below, and exceeds- mean. What approaches in your room might meet in mine, but that's not the way it's supposed to be.
We have three new teachers (new to our school, but not new to teaching) on our team next year. Last year was quite a mess in terms of even agreeing what the standards mean, let alone being consistent with our grading system.  Because we are a newly formed team,  we decided to take a step back and look more closely at our standards together. We decided we needed to "unwrap" them and come up with some learning targets that we could all agree upon. (I feel like this is something that our district should have done for us, but that's a whole other story.)
Once we created these learning targets, we decided upon their depth of knowledge. We used Webb's Depth of Knowledge scale. From there we created the proficiency scales. We are going to use these scales to create our Common Formative Assessments and to guide the activities we do to teach the standards. These scales give up common language to use to talk to the students about their learning. The scales allow all of us to be more consistent across the grade level with our grading. It should eliminate the discrepancies we saw last year from room to room in terms of grading.
We only did the scales for our 1st Quarter standards, so we aren't finished yet. But, since I am so excited about these scales, I decided to post them as a freebie on TpT. Get the freebie here. Hope it's something that might be valuable to you.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What Do Scientists Do?

It seems so long ago that I thought of myself as a really good science teacher. One year I even taught Jr. High science before the days of Highly Qualified requirements. I kind of miss the days when you could really spend a lot of time teaching science. Now it seems (at least in my district) to be pushed to the back burner. Or we "integrate" it into our reading. But what that really means is we read about science instead of doing science. But we take quarterly benchmark assessments on science and our 4th graders take a high stakes science test. So, we still attempt to teach it and try really hard to do more than just read about science.
Our first science unit is about what scientist do. Our first science benchmark test is HARD. They have to analyze experiment idea and see what questions should be asked. They need to know about safety rules. And they need to know about how to display the data from an experiment. And, they have to know facts about random scientists that they wouldn't know unless their teacher taught them about those scientists... how many 3rd graders know who Alfred Wegener was or even Mae Jemison?

And, of course, no curriculum from our district addresses these standards with any sort of depth at all.
So I made this to use in my classroom. It will NOT be the only thing I use to teach these standards, but it's a little bit of something (rather than the nothing that I had last year)  What Do Scientists Do?

 We begin the year teaching students to refer explicitly to the text for their answers by using a color-coding system and 5W questions. This includes three different passages about the scientific method where students can highlight the answers in the text.

Then it includes a passage about lab safety that gives the students seven basic rules when doing an experiment.
Then an interactive notebook activity where the students are given different scenarios and they have to explain what they would do using the seven rules (and some common sense).

Finally, there's a passage about organizing data that explains four different ways scientists can displays their data- a list, a t-chart, a tally chart and a table.

 Then students do another interactive notebook activity where they are given a scenario and they have to explain which tool to display data would make the most sense in the given experiment. I tried to make both interactive notebook activities a little deeper thinking because they have to analyze the scenario and make a decision based on what they learned about the topic.

This isn't all I am doing with the students when we learn about scientists. There are some great experiments and things out there to showcase the science processes and the scientific method. And, I have a few more ideas as well.  These activities definitely won't make science more hands-on, but it will reinforce the skills before we get to the hands-on AND some of it integrates into our reading standards- which is always a bonus in our limited time frame.