Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reading and Writing Numbers to 20

I just finished and uploaded a new product and, like many resources I create, it was born of necessity.  I'm working with six little Kinders who still can't recognize numbers to 20.

To help with number recognition, I made half-page cards with the number, number name, and a ten-frame representation.  The ten-frame representation relates quantity to the number.  These cards can serve multiple purposes.  Once the kiddos are able to recognize the numbers, we can use the cards to compare numbers.
I made practice sheets for writing the numbers and number names using a traceable dot font.  There are sheets for practicing individual numbers, and there are also sheets with number sequences.
Finally, I wanted to help students understand the connection between the single digits and the teen numbers, so I included sheets with ten-frames along withe the numbers and number names.
Grab this new product by clicking here.  I'm looking forward to seeing big improvements with my Kinder babies.  Please share any ideas you have for helping children recognize their numbers.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Using "I Can" Charts to Make Learning Visible

I have a confession to make.  I have never been the teacher who posted the objective I was teaching on the board.  I know that it's a requirement at many schools, but I have never taught in one of those schools.  But recently, with my focus on encouraging students to take more ownership of their own learning, I came to the realization all by myself how powerful the practice can be.

Tonight I want to talk about "I Can" anchor charts.  I know that "I Can" statements for standards are plentiful.  I'm sure a Google search would turn up a ton of hits.  But I think it's more powerful to develop "I Can" anchor charts together with the students, rather than posting a preprinted chart on the wall.  Here's how it looked in my classroom today.

As my 4th graders came in the Math Lab, I had the "I Can" statement shown in the picture above written on my whiteboard easel.  The red notations were not on the original statement--I added them as we discussed the statement.  Since this was the first time I had used "I Can" statements with my students, I explained to them that the purpose of the statement was to tell them exactly what they needed to be able to do master the standard.  We talked about each part of the chart, because I wanted to make sure they understood what all the parts meant.  As I taught the lesson, I continually referred back to the chart.   Since we will work on this standard all week, I wanted to transcribe the chart onto chart paper after the class, so I took a picture of what I had written on the easel. You can see that when I recreated the chart, I added some additional information.  The chart will hang on the board in my small group area throughout the week.

Here are some additional pictures of my 3rd and 5th grade before and after charts.
And here's my small group teaching area with the final charts posted so the students can refer to them throughout the week.
How do you use "I Can" statements in your classroom?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Who Owns the Learning?

We are inundated with data is today's world.  It can, at times, be overwhelming.  But used correctly, data can be an important component of student success.

In their book, Small Steps, Big Changes, authors Confer and Ramirez state that, "Part of the teacher's task is to help students become intentional learners." To support that task, they outline four steps educators should take:
  • convey the message over and over again that "Smart is not something you are; smart is something you get": "It's possible."
  • explicitly help students become personally invested in their own learning until they understand that success will have a positive effect on their choices today, next year, and throughout their lives: "I want"
  • help students set achievable goals and track their own movement toward success: "I can."
  • share examples and stories from this class that illustrate the payoff of effort: "I will." 
Today I want to share an example of how one teacher at my school is putting this in action in her 3rd grade classroom.

A lack of fact fluency can be crippling for emerging mathematicians. Students who don't understand number relationships struggle to use mathematics to solve problems, because they are using all of their mental energy on basic facts.  A strategy-based approach for learning facts leads to automaticity while at the same time it helps students understand how numbers are related.  But instruction needs to go hand-in-hand with practice to build speed and fluency.

Our district uses Scholastic's FASTT Math program to provide engaging fact practice. Students can use the program in school and at home.  Scholastic's data shows that students need to use FASTT Math three or more times per week to show the biggest gains. At our school, we have set a campus goal that each of our students in Grades 2-5 will use FASTT Math three or more times per week, and students can do two lessons per day.  The FASTT Math system provides teachers several reports to track student progress and activity.

Linda Vasquez, 3rd grade teacher at Morton Ranch Elementary in Katy, TX, has been sharing the FASTT Math data with her students in an effort to show them that practice pays off.  She came to me and asked if I could create some graphing sheets her students could use to track their data.  Working together, we designed a graph that students could use to graph both their usage and their mastery.

Each Monday, Linda projects student data from the previous seven days (students are encouraged to use the FASTT Math program on the weekend at home) for whole class viewing.  Students copy their data onto a recording sheet:

  • Time period: The prior seven day period (eg., 1/4/2015-1/10/2015)
  • Average Lessons per Week: Students can do two lessons per day, so the highest number possible is 14.  We designed the graph with a scale from 0 to 10+.
  • Fast Facts: A fact is considered a Fast Fact when the student can consistently solve it in 0.8 seconds or less. The number students record tells how many of the total facts are Fast Facts. For example, the Addition 0-9 module includes 100 possible facts.  The students records the number out of 100 that are Fast Facts.

After recording their data, students then graph the data on two different bar graphs.  For each week, the bar for Average Lessons Per Week is right above the bar for Fast Facts, with the idea being that students can see the relationship between lessons per week and fact mastery.  The students get so excited when they see their bars move! They are truly taking ownership of the data and their learning.  The FASTT Math graph is only one part of Linda's overall own-the-learning plan.  We are now working together to develop student-friendly graphs for common assessments and learning standards.

Linda says it best: "Graphing their own progress has enabled my students to internalize their growth.  They willingly want to get on FASTT Math.  They are self-driven to reach or surpass the number of lessons they had the prior week, and they are extremely excited to see the report each Monday.  They now understand that practice results in growth.  The ones who didn't see growth realize they must try harder."

If you use FASTT Math in your classroom, you can download the graphing and recording sheets here.

How do you help students own their learning?  Please join in the conversation and share in the comments!

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