Monday, May 19, 2014

Same shift, Different day

Another of the Common Core memes has found its way across the internet.    In this incarnation, a basic algorithm is show at the top and described as the "old fashion" (sic) way.

At the bottom of the page, you will find a seemingly convoluted way to reach the very same answer and it is described as the "New" way.

I steer clear of these memes as they are obviously loaded and created by people that aren't truly researching the new Common Core State Standards but instead by people that have clearly have an agenda decidedly against CCSS.

Successfully I stayed clear, until I was called out on my Facebook page by a member of my own family.  She posted the picture and asked me to explain to her and her friends the reasoning behind this type of math.

As I am sure that I will need to access this reply again, my response follows:
Let me begin by saying, that paper shown in that picture is obviously written by a parent, perhaps frustrated, maybe even with an agenda against Common Core, who is trying to make a point.

I do not know a teacher that teaches that second way as "the new way."  There are, however, teachers that would accept that answer as a correct response...I would be one of them.  Stay with me for a second before you form your opinion...

The top algorithm is the ultimate goal, but that algorithm is devoid of meaning unless students have built a good number concept.  Introducing the algorithm too early is one of the reasons that adults today struggle with math.  They didn't understand the concept, they were just taught the shortcut.  In the long run, their mathematical prowess would be damaged, although it may not become evident until higher level mathematics.

To build that good number concept, we teach kindergarteners and first graders (especially) to work from landmark numbers (5s and 10s) which it looks like this student was using.  If I saw a third grader doing that, I'd be worried.  I'd worry that his/her number concept was weak.  However, think of how much more information I would get from the second problem than the first.  If a student wrote 32-12=22...would you be able to adequately analyze the incorrect student response in order to design a lesson for remediation?  It would be hit of miss.  I prefer not to teach like that.

Now, if I saw a Kinder or first-grader completing that second problem, I would be blown away at their mathematical critical thinking.  The fact that they could deconstruct the problem in order to get to an answer would lead me to believe that this students has a firm grasp on concepts needed to move toward the algorithm.

The Common Core mathematical movement is really a move deeper instead of a movement to a "new way."  We want students that think critically about math so that they can apply that critical thinking to other facets of the practice.  

If we only teach them the shortcut and they don't understand the concept behind it, we are doing a disservice to our students and the future leaders of our nation.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Notice and Note

During my school district's implementation of #CCSS, I have been fortunate enough to serve on the District Language Arts Workgroup.  In these meetings, we have had spirited debate and discussion regarding not only Common Core State Standards and its implementation, but also the strategic instruction required and the research to support that instruction.  

While discussing the need for students to actively participate in close reading of texts, I noticed that one of the excerpts of research that we were reading referenced a new book by Kylene Beers and Robert A. Probst titled Notice and Note:  Strategies for Close Reading.  I ordered the book and tore through it.  

I easily tout this book as the most easily applicable professional reading that I have ever read.  

I won't give you a book review, as you can find those on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and through Heinemann press.  Instead I'll give you a quick layout of the book, tell you why it appealed to me, and how I implemented the strategies in my fifth grade classroom.  

The book is organized into three main parts:  "Part I-The Questions We Pondered" is a discussion of critical topics that affect readers and reading instruction, "Part II-The Signposts We Found" explains the signposts that are the meat of the close reading strategies, as well as the questions that correlate with each signpost, and "Part III-The Lessons We Teach" provides model lessons to use in your classroom.

Quick, but relevant, bird walk here...
Chapter 2 of Part I really struck a chord with me directly.  The title of the chapter is "And What is the Role of Fiction?"  The "aha moment" (to borrow a signpost) for me was the idea that students can learn sympathy, even empathy, through fiction.  In essence, we learn to be human through the humanities.  It made me reflect on my reading instruction for the current year.  Since my grade level is departmentalizing, I am teaching Reading and Science.  It stands to reason that a large amount of my reading instruction has occurred while integrating non-fiction Science texts into my reading instruction.  I resolved to increase my fictional reading instruction and this professional text was exactly what I needed.  

I began implementing the strategies using the model lessons found in Part III.  The "teacher talk" that they suggested was helpful, but I found that I need to modify it to make it relevant and interesting to my groups.  The texts (excerpts of novels and short stories) that were provided...oh wait, did I fail to mention that?  Yes!  The appendix of the book has a reproducible excerpt of text for teaching, as well as one for reteaching, if necessary, each signpost.  Although these texts are provided, my classroom is pretty close to paperless and I was not excited about duplicating these for my students to mark-up.  After a quick internet search, I found that Heinemann provided most of these in pdf form.  Yay! (Click the tab titled "Companion Resources")

I taught one signpost a week until all 6 were mastered by the students.  As I taught a signpost, I would post the signpost, as well as the corresponding question for easy student access.

 I also created a page in my LMS with the anchor posters.  The anchor posters are also clickable links to pdf versions of the text excerpts.  

After all of the signposts were solidly holstered in their metaphorical tool belts, I knew it was time to put their skills to work on a novel.  I chose Number the Stars.  We read the novel aloud and discussed the signposts as they came along.  At times, we recorded our thoughts in writing but more often than not, the questions inspired partner talk and classroom discussion.  One thing that I shared with the students is that there was no "wrong" answer for a signpost as long as they could make the case for why they felt it fit. It was so empowering and triggered so much powerful dialogue.

As we came across signposts, I recorded them on a class mind map.  

Students recorded them in an app on their iPads and they were as individual as the students themselves.  Here are a few examples:

Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have.  I would also love any feedback that you may be able to provide.  Thanks for looking!

Moving forward...

I am starting fresh on this blog.  I am hoping to use this as a place to file things that I use and possibly as a resource to other teachers, if they see fit.  

I am in my second year of 1:1 iPad implementation. 

My instructional prowess has grown exponentially and my focus has sharpened significantly during that time.  I look forward to sharing some of the things that I have implemented in my own class, as well as networking with my PLN to continue to learn more.

Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet.  I can't wait to see the places we'll go together.