Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Ponderings on Guided Math- Numeracy Environments

.Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction

Yes.  I write long posts.  Perhaps that is a blogging no-no, but it's how I roll.  Personally, I always feel a little let down with clicking a topic I'm interested in and only finding one paragraph. Maybe that's the English major in me.  But please, please, please, feel free to stop reading at any point you get bored.  I'll never know. And therefore my fragile psyche will remain intact...

In addition to a million other things that cropped up during this last year of teaching, I realized relatively quickly that whole group math wasn't working for me. Yes, I covered the material quickly, but I was painfully aware that I was not reaching a good third of my students.  Small group work was more fulfilling, I could see kids "getting it", but I was falling behind in the curriculum pacing.  It's a conundrum.  Or a catch 22.  Or just a crapfest either way...but stamp the word FRUSTRATED on my brow and stick a fork in me eye, yeah?  

I have never had the problem of KNOWING that I needed help.  That isn't part of my personal pride problems, I never just stumble blindly forward thinking I'm doing awesome. (Because I KNOW I'm awesome, ha! I kid, I kid...) But I don't always know HOW TO ASK for help, or WHO to ask, and often I have this feeling like I SHOULDN'T ask for help as it will be taken as a horrendous sign of weakness and I shall be fed in pieces to a pack of starved wolves. So my general go-to plan is to look for a book.  Books save lives. Luckily, I came across Guided Math by Laney Sammons.  

Primary InspiredThis summer a great number of bloggers have had a book study on this book.  The best link I could find for everybody was from Brenda at Primary Inspired.  She has a very organized page for the book study, who else hosted chapter reviews, and then all of the reviews at a click.  I believe other sites held a similar study, but I was unable to find them through my Google search attempts. If you held a study, just comment and I'll add your link.  I will not go into a blow by blow of the book, since so many others did such a fantastic job of that already- but I will offer my take and moments of inspiration.

First off- it's a nine chapter easy read.  Do not shy away from this book if you have even a teensy glimmer of a thought of wanting to make your math block more small group oriented!  It's a FRAMEWORK, which means it's easily bent into what can work for you, and what you already have to work with. One of the things I found so freeing while I was reading this book, was her sample set-up for a week of math lessons, and you still have whole group, math workshop, small groups, and conferencing going on in one week but not everyday.  I think that's the hard part at first, thinking you have to get to everybody everyday and only teach one way.  Her system is completely doable.  What was also freeing, was her sample set-up for a math warm up every day with very brief, simple activities, some of which were already part of my math curriculum.  I'm just not there yet on whether I should really START my day with that, since literacy is my first block.

And speaking of literacy, her beginning principle is creating this classroom environment of numeracy.  And she is right, we spend a lot of time working on this environment of literacy, but kinda put up a sad show for numeracy.  But the more I think about this- don't we give science and social studies the shaft too then? So really and truly, in the long run, we should be showcasing all of these components.  But I guess I'll work on that issue later.

I feel pretty good about beefing up my numeracy environment, because many of the necessary components are already getting done if you've set up your room for small group instruction during your literacy block.  Especially if you're doing Daily 5, then you're already working on that classroom community, you've got a gathering space, you've got places for kids to work, and you've got your small group meeting area.  I already have lots of manipulatives available to me, since we teach Investigations, and that program is heavy on the manipulative use. I already have a pretty good collection of math related literature- but I admit to not using it much as a read-aloud, and I really need to do that purposefully this year.  Investigations also goes through the creating of charts in their lessons, and Pinterest has added oodles of possibilities to this anchor chart arena as well, so I feel confident about planning these moments in during the year without losing my mind.  And adding in writing math related picture books can work in perfectly with our already established writer's workshop routines.  I just have to make a point to teach the genre.

Every Day Counts® Calendar MathThe place where I will have to do the most work will be Calendar time, which I did not do at all last year- and also providing the students their own calendar to follow along with.  Something I had never really considered, but she is right- it adds an engagement piece to Calendar time that is not otherwise there for everyone at once.  At first I was just going to do a simple canned calendar math routine as I have done in the past.  Every Day Counts by Great Source is a program I've used before with much success.  I found it easy and adaptable, you can pick and choose your pieces, and everything comes in a tidy box.  I loved it when I had it at my old school, and even eventually transferred the pieces over to the smartboard without any problem.   

But then I saw this post by Sally on Fairy Dust Teaching about her calendar math and have become enraptured. Her kids made up the cards for each day. She even did an alphabet frieze this way.  So now I am rethinking the entire thing.  Isn't this much more actively engaging?  The children are keeping a daily timeline of their learning.  They OWN calendar time because it is they who design the calendar.  This is really speaking to me.

Calendar time does become a space thing as well, though.  I had planned out all of my walls this summer and now I don't know where I can make this work.  I wonder too, at how much time to actually spend with Calendar, and how I have had a tendency in the past to make Calendar time so jam-packed that I could spend an hour on it.  And that really isn't its purpose.  I need some calendar training I think...

Three other parts to the numeracy rich environment that I don't do and have NEVER done are math journals, problem of the day/week, and word wall vocabulary displays. There are plenty of resources available to have some good problems of the week and make it part of the rotation routine during math workshop.  I am not overly worried about that. Plus I've seen a lot of postings about making these problems about the students, and about things that are happening in the world around them at that time- so I think you can take a basic frame work of a problem in your said math curriculm and change up the names and topic and you're good to go. I just have to be sure to provide time to talk about the problem in the suggested math congress.  And I am planning to be diligent about having a word wall this year, so I don't see why I can't make a point to add in math words to it.  I suppose it would make sense to add a word wall word whenever we created a chart or graphic organizer.  

And then that leaves the math journal.  Ok, and here's the thing that is really the root of why I don't like journaling in any form- I feel bothered by blank pages at the end of the year.  I always have this feeling that they are going to take these notebooks home and their parents are going to be "Why aren't these notebooks filled?  Why did we pay money for an unused notebook? Did this teacher just give up or what?"  And I just realized in that little fantasy moment there that I always picture the parents with either a mustache or a beehive hairdo.  No idea...but anyway, does anybody else have blank-page phobia?  And how do you combat that besides just getting over it?  Too often though I have started something, realized it wasn't working, and then quit it- but the kids remember and always end up asking "Why aren't we doing that anymore?" Troubling...

I suppose that's why you should begin with baby steps- but it is way too easy to get over excited and just dive into the deep end. And reading this book has made me excited, just like reading the Daily 5. I noticed though, in my writing, several places where I needed to make a point to do something or be purposeful.  So that's why I underlined those parts.  This really speaks to me on the importance of planning.  And I have been a very fly by the seat of my pants sort of planner- even from my first year teaching.  And it has never done me any favors.  Definitely a goal that I need to work towards this year- very purposeful planning.  And baby steps.  

Maybe it'll be best to slowly allow the numeracy environment to emerge.  To gently slip into this Guided Math stream as so not to be taken away too quickly by the current and drown.  In that vein, I suppose I will start first with Calendar.  I will commit myself to having a short five minute calendar routine everyday, that merely focuses on calendar language.  I will reevaluate at the end of the first quarter to determine if I am ready to add in another component, which I think would be the math warm-up activity.  I'll know by then when the best time of day to put it will be.  Reevaluate at the end of the second quarter, and if we're all in tip-top shape, I can look at really making sure I'm showcasing those math-related picture books, and writing about math in workshop.  Reevaluate at end of third quarter and this will be when I attempt math journaling.  Because I always put off to the end the thing that scares me most.  But hey- if I notice it's going swimmingly, and I have got a groove going on, I can always reevaluate at six week markers, and that gives me two other occasions to slip in a focus on the word wall and also the charts/organizers.

I guess I'm just going to have to accept that I can't be super overnight.  I'll have to sit in the vat of nuclear waste for awhile to reach my maximum potential. *sigh* Patience has never been one of my virtues...


  1. I love this post. Seriously. I'm bookmarking it because developing my math workshop is on next week's agenda.

    P.S. You totally won the Discovery print!

  2. I loved reading your post too! You articulated exactly the way I feel...I get SO EXCITED about implementing something new and attempt to go full force but then I get SO OVERWHELMED. I'll be sitting in that vat of nuclear waste with you. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing! I love the idea of posting about PD books and sharing thoughts and comments. Also, I love what Fairy Dust has done - I love that the kids created the calendar area and alphabet signs - it creates a sense of ownership and pride and they are probably more likely to be engaged and use it.

    Thinking about your thoughts on journaling - I had a tough time with that in K as well. I used it for our alphabet poems. Some would jump ahead and color all the pages. I realized it would have been better used in a small group so I could really differentiate what each child needed. I should have made it one of our literacy centers. Maybe you could incorporate math journaling into a center?

    Playful Learning Brooklyn

  4. Love Love Love this post!!

    I nominated your blog for a Liebster Award! Check out my blog to see what I'm talking about! It's fun!