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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feeling a little better

After my temper tantrum last night I am feeling better today. I had the chance to speak with a few of my co-workers and found out that many of them are feeling the same things I am feeling better knowing I am not alone in my feelings. Like I said, after my temper tantrum I pulled myself together and did what I do best, I made a plan that fits my teaching style and what I know about teaching, not what I know about teaching a particular grade level but just plain old good teaching. I started thinking that when I first started teaching things weren't easy, and I didn't know how to do a lot of things but I figured them out. I told my husband that even though it was Valentine's Day, I needed to have just a little alone time to work through things. So I got in my car and drove to the nearest Barnes and Noble. I got  myself a Tall Java Chip Frappachinno Lite  from the Starbucks inside the Barnes and Noble (only 4 points on Weight Watchers - oh wait that's my other blog LOL). Then I went over the the teacher section with my drink and started looking for answers. On the drive to Barnes and Noble I started thinking about what I could do to help my students get it. I started thinking to myself, why do I teach math the way I do? The answer was because that's how everyone else does it. So I started thinking, we don't teach reading in a whole group setting because the kids are all at different levels, isn't the same thing true for math? Aren't they all at different levels? So then why do I do reading rotations and have reading centers, and computer work, and teacher table for reading, and not for math? Of course I thought the exact same thing I did when I first started teaching and realized that to be an effective reading teacher I would have to teach it in small groups, the same thing we have all gone through "What are the other kids going to be doing while I am working with a small group?" So I started thinking about my reading rotation, I have 4 groups, 4 rotations - Teacher Table, Seat Work (required by the district I hate it), Computers, and Read to Self. So what would I need to do to make a math rotation. Again I could do 4 groups, 4 rotations - Teacher Table, Computers, ?? and ?? this is where I was stuck. So, when I got to Barnes and Noble my mission (beyond getting my Java Chip fix) was to find things I could use for math centers. I was looking and looking and could not find anything I liked or if I liked it then it didn't mesh with our benchmarks and I started thinking that maybe this was a stupid idea, who teaches math in small groups with math centers on a daily basis. I was thumbing through a shelf of books and tucked in between 2 copies of Fountas and Pinnell's Guided reading was this little book (compared to Guided Reading War and Peace would be a little book LOL) and I couldn't see the title very clearly but I saw the word MATH so I pulled it out and the book title was "Guided Math." I thought "No way, this can't be what I think it is." so I flipped it over to read the back and sure enough it's a book about doing exactly what I was thinking about doing!


I was so excited to find this book. Even though it doesn't have center activities, which is what I was looking for, it totally validated my train of thought. The best part for me was the author, in the preface starts off by saying that she started her career teaching kindergarten and that is where she learned her best practices for teaching. She refers to the old poem "Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten" but she changes it to "Everything I ever needed to know about teaching, I learned in Kindergarten" which, again validated my thoughts that the way I did things when I taught Kindergarten were not just good strategies for kindergarten students but for ALL students. I bought the book and came home with it feeling much better just knowing I was onto something that had been tried out and found to be successful, enough so that a book was written and published about it so I couldn't be that far off in my thinking. I began to plan exactly what I would do and how I would do it. I was still stuck for those 2 center ideas and then it dawned on me, my math program has an entire math center component that I have ignored up until now, because I could never figure out how to incorporate those centers into the whole group direct instruction rut I was stuck in. I told my students today that we would be changing how we spend our math time, that we would be doing math rotations, just like we do reading rotations and they were pumped. They were so excited about it, and a couple even asked me why we had to wait until tomorrow to do it LOL. Hopefully I will begin to see some improvements. I know that it takes time so I am not going to get down on myself if it doesn't work right away, it took me a few years to get my reading rotations to be effective, I can't expect math to be any different, except I have all those years of reading rotation experience to draw from. I'm actually looking forward to try thing out with them tomorrow and Friday. I am also looking forward to a nice 3 day weekend (no school on Monday)

12 comments:

  1. I wanted to tell you a couple of things.

    1) I'm glad you are feeling better! I just read your previous post. I think it's SO important to do what works for YOU instead of what everyone else thinks you should be doing.

    2) Our school also has a data room where our test scores are shown on the wall for everyone to see. We only have two teachers per grade level and ours are pretty similar, but they aren't always good or something to be proud of.

    3) I love that you keep it real on your blog and post the not-so-fun parts of teaching in addition to all the wonderful things. I just posted tonight about the importance of "keeping it real". We ALL have those days/weeks where we want to throw in the towel. Believe me, I thought about it Monday afternoon and have felt like I am sinking all week! It will get better though! :)

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    1. Lana, thank you so much for your post! I worry about posting my temper tantrum and melt-downs. I worry that the people who follow my blog will get tired of reading my whining blog posts but its how I work things out. Thanks for your post, and I hope things get better for you too!

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  2. You need to check out the clutter free classroom blog...she has a math rotation of 4 things. One of them was basic math facts... I am trying to remember but it is eluding me now.

    Misty @
    Think, Wonder, & Teach

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    1. Thanks I will certainly check out her blog!

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  3. I teach fourth grade also, and I have used math rotations for a couple of years. Students love them, and they get to stand up and move every 20 minutes or so. We get a lot of math done every day. It's much easier to differentiate and to see how each student is doing. My rotations are 1) Lesson of the day (like your teacher table- introduction of new skills.) 2) Review and 3) Hands-on- where the students play games with manipulatives and other materials.

    Please email me if you'd like to learn more. Good luck!

    Margaret
    Margaret83@aol,com

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    1. Margaret, thank you so much for your ideas! I have 4 rotations because I wanted them to use our computer program as well. I just started this today and I had 2 hands on centers. I am thinking I need to have a "seat work" type center. So I may change it to Teacher Table, Seatwork (which would be the coordinating page in their math workbook), computer, and hands on center. I think I will have them do the hands on centers again tomorrow and then maybe change it on Tuesday to try it with the 1 hands on center and the workbook page. What do you have your students do for the review center?

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  4. I did the Katy perry lesson today and the kids absolutely loved it. I began the lesson with listening to the song, and then told them that we were going to identify, label and explain the figurative language within the song. We analyzed one verse at a time and they did great identifying and explaining them all. They will definitely listen to her song in a different way now.

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    1. I got the Katy Perry idea from your blog and we are going to do it tomorrow. I told them about it today and they were so excited about doing it tomorrow! I need to find more fun activities like that for them. We did a similar activity with The Grinch song at Christmas time and they loved finding all the metaphors and similes. They are so excited about finding all sorts of figurative language tomorrow. I shared the activity with my team and they loved it too.

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  5. I have sort of half-arse coveted that book from afar for awhile, not sure if it was really worthwhile. I did some math rotations last year and found it super hard with management with that group. I teach some pretty needy kids and they need SO.MUCH.REINFORCEMENT. It has me leery of trying it again.

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  6. Cindy, I'm glad you have bounced back so well - it's not always easy. I too am very glad that you "keep it real" - often blogs only cover the ups of teaching. Teachers should be honest about the difficulties in their jobs. It does us all a disservice to pretend it's a walk in the park, and makes others feel like they are failing because they don't seem to be as good at, or as happy with teaching as others.
    We all work in a learning environment - and that's learning for the teachers as well as the children. We can learn so much from each other - better ways to teach, better ways to learn, better ways to cope.
    I hope your new maths idea works out well for you and that you keep us posted!

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  7. I'm glad you are feeling better. I tried to respond earlier this week, but my computer blew up...yikes! Just like Mrs. Poland above, I was going to suggest you head over to Clutter Free Classroom to check out that Math Station packet that you can purchase.

    I've blogged a little about it, too. You are NOT alone.

    I'm looking into your book suggestion!

    Elizabeth
    Fun in Room 4B

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