Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thinking deeply about the math program

At this juncture in the road, it's time to deepen and forward the math program for the fifth graders I teach. It's been a good start to the year, and now it's time to reach for a bit more with regard to learning engagement, depth, and result.

What will we do?

Learning Behaviors and Attitudes
I introduced a new unit design this year. It is a design similar to one our middle school uses that includes a proficiency packet. The packet is essentially a short booklet that includes the main standards-based models, concepts, computation, and problems. The booklet guides the essential learning. If students used this booklet well to guide their learning, they generally learn the material well. In term two, I want to focus on how to use these packets with greater success.

Early Morning Help
Extra help is offered many mornings for students this year. This extra help has given students a chance to complete their homework in a relaxed atmosphere. It has also given me some time to zero in on specific learning needs with individuals and small groups. I want to give this time greater fidelity and focus so that I'm able to support the eager learners that utilize this support.

Problem Solving
Beginning with this leg of the RTI year, I want to focus the activities more on the important language and process of problem solving. We'll begin with an activity related to the Winter Olympics to do this.

Computation Skill and Practice
Like the lanes that swimmers swim day after day to perfect their stroke and skill at the sport, I will continue to give students multiple computation skill practice sets. Although the research points to the need for greater depth with math project/problem based learning, I continue to see that those students who are facile with facts and computation learn math with greater ease. What's important here is to make sure that the skill sets are not too difficult, but instead a good level and number to build greater proficiency in this area.

Tech Integration
Now that we've covered a good amount of the curriculum, the students are ready to use our tech learning programs with greater depth, programs like Symphony Math, TenMarks, and Code.Org will be used to deepen students' learning.

With big classes, it's important that we allow students to help one another. To teach is to learn, so for our students who are good teachers, we deepen their learning by asking them to teach, and for students who struggle to learn some math concepts, they often learn better when helped by a peer. I will include this kind of teaching and learning more in term two.

Standard-by-Standard with Multimodal Teaching/Learning
We'll move through the remaining standards with multiple lesson types including games, hands-on explorations, projects, direct teaching, group work and more. What's important in this regard is to stick to the schedule and miss as few classes and teaching opportunities as possible.

There are some good time-on-task supports for the program including talented, dedicated teaching assistants, special educators, and a student teacher. The time-on-task help with students that these educators provide is invaluable when it comes to a successful program. Fortunately we have a couple of planning times a week to organize how we'll work together to support the students so we can do a good job.

There's a lot to teach and learn in the days ahead, and fidelity to the program and the program elements above will help all of us to achieve what we desire. Onward.