Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thanks to the suggestion from a colleague who was leading an Archdiocesan professional development, I started following blogs of teachers who had what I wanted. One of those was Ashley's Educational Journey, where I learned first about math stations, and the book Math Work Stations: Independent Learning You can Count On, K-2 by Debbie Diller.

I know I said I was teaching 4th grade, but so does Ashley (and a lot of other people who follow Ashley and that Ashley follows on Bloglovin), and they all love this book. So, I figured, I needed to check it out.

So, I'm going to read it and go through the reflection questions myself a series of blog posts, since I don't have anyone else to do it with me (altogether now: awwwww), and any book study on it has long since past - apparently, I'm late to this party.

Chapter 1 - What is a Math Work Station?

"1) Share your new ideas about math work stations with a colleague (this blog post will do). Discuss the definition of math work stations provided in this chapter (on page 7)."
I didn't know there was a real difference between stations and centers, but I like that Debbie Diller made a distinct difference between the two. Centers being more of a "when you're finished" place to go, and extra, fun, filler activity, where stations are expected places of work, where every student is assigned to go and work and finish in the week. I was surprised that stations weren't changed more than they are. But, if groups go to a stations once a day, and they're for practice, they'd need to go to them several times for that practice to be of any benefit. I also didn't realize that it wasn't a place for new items. I've heard so much about having students discover learning that I may have gone too far in that direction, sometimes putting brand-new activities out for students to muddle through on their own. I know that's what true problem solving is (relying on knowledge you have to be able to solve a truly novel problem). However, they're not quite ready for that, and they need to work up to it. That's where the idea of building up stamina from The Daily 5 (see earlier post) would come in handy.

"2. If you are already using literacy work stations..."
Wasn't using any, so there aren't any parallels I can draw between them and math work stations. Next question.

"3. Think about your students and their level of engagement during math. What specific things engaged them most recently? What ideas did you get from this chapter that you will try in order to increase student engagement?"
Oh, I wish I'd had this question a little closer to May. OK, my students usual level of engagement, from 1-10, was usually a 5--and that's probably generous. When we were doing geometry, they were most engaged, and that was because we were most hands-on, with protractors (very novel) and angle-legs. My fifth graders really liked when we were doing a fraction activity where we were dividing up wholes that were less than the number of people involved (i.e. 2 pies among 5 people - how many pieces would each person get?). There was modeling, which involved a lot of math talk. The ideas from this chapter that I will try in order to increase student engagement on a more consistent basis is have daily stations with student choices & a variety of activities that provide practice from all the strands so that spiral review is happening on an on-going basis. Also, coming back together as a class to discuss what students did, how problems were solved, is another way to keep students engaged. Oh, but I'm so worried about HOW TO KEEP THIS ALL STRAIGHT IN MY HEAD AND TO STAY ACCOUNTABLE!!!!!!!

"4. How will what you teach in whole group impact the work students do at math stations? Share some examples of what you might move from whole-group math instruction to math stations." 
 According to the reading, you don't move anything to math stations until it has been taught to the whole group at least several times, so they've had a chance to practice it successfully with teacher modeling. Certainly, computation practice games like Contig, Factoring, etc., but also the fraction activity I described above. Word problems could be placed their, as well as directions that students write their own word problem in a certain style. Algebra scales (evaluating a variable) would be a way to practice computation.

"5. Determine how & where you'll set up your math work stations. Use the pictures on page 9 for ideas and inspiration."
I still have far too many manipulatives in my room - I need to weed, but I don't know if I'll get to do that before school starts. I think I'll have my small group space at the SMARTBoard near the front of the room, at the blue table - students would need to bring their chairs (I'll have to check to see if the height will work for that - if not, I'll swap it for the long, brown table from the back). Students can work at their desks or certain spots on the floor. I'll have a station that will be IXL math, since we will be doing that in 4th grade this year for everyone, so that will be for 2-3 students. I'll have to buy containers to set up the centers actually in - I'll make sure they are sized to fit file folders as well, so some of my existing materials can be used.
"6. Discuss how math work stations can support differentiated math instruction."
In going around to observe students during their stations, finding out where they are in the topic would be where you'd know how to tailor the small group lesson. The small group lesson can target the students needs. I'll students on their computation pre-assessment based on the skills needed for the Terra Nova test. That will help me determine what unit of study to begin first. Once students have been instructed on how to use math stations using the 10 steps to Independence from The Daily 5 (see previous post), I can pre-assess students on that first topic, plan my mini-lessons & observe from there. Done well, this system is set up quite perfectly for differentiated. However, again, I'm SO worried about getting overwhelmed & losing my way, as I've done in the past. I don't want negativity and FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) to keep me from trying this. I need to grow as a teacher, and I truly believe this is the way to do it. I just wish I felt like I had more support. <sigh> shake it off, shake it off

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