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)