“We Can’t Become What We Need to Be by Remaining What We Are”

Wow! What an incredible week. We re-vamped our math workshop, I survived my first set of parent teacher conferences and I was invited to meet a Senior Executive of Apple which was such an educational and enlightening experience. It was truly a special week filled with lots of positives, which is certainly something I needed after the previous week.

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Chad Reynolds Apple Senior Executive

Most importantly, I’d like to take some time to reflect on our new and improved math workshop. Although it has only been one week, I’ve already began to notice a change in the amount of engagement and understanding from my students.

I’ve began to utilize Blendspace by tes to create “lessons” and “checklists” for my students to use to introduce them to our new lessons. Blendspace is amazing because it allows you flexibility in our instruction and you can easily access a variety of tools, videos, lessons and more all in one space. It also allows for me to easily import documents and files into the Blendspace for my students to download and utilize during our lesson. Since we have such a variety of different learners in our classroom I do have to create two different Blendspace lessons so that I can reach all of the learners in our classroom.

Typically the lesson will begin with a mini lesson, then the students will login to Blendspace, watch a video introducing some of the important elements of the lesson and then turn in an exit slip so that we can see how much they are understanding. They then submit the exit slip into the folder they feel best emulates their understanding. “One” means they completely understand the concepts and don’t need to meet with a teacher, “two” means they have a few questions but can get through some of the content on their own and “three” means they don’t understand at all and need to meet with a teacher immediately. This has proven affective, and allowed for more flexible instruction with our students. I also looked into the Google program “Formative” for our exit slips, but have not had success with logging all of the students into the program. I am hoping to use this in the next few weeks.

After students submit their exit slips and wait for us to work in small groups, they continue to work on their Blendspace material. The next lesson is usually a screen cast, from me, demonstrating how to complete the lesson and re-inforcing things they were introduced to in the video they watched before the exit slip. I’m thinking about sending these videos home so that they can take notes at home, eliminating that time in the classroom.

Then the students are to complete their keynote/smart notebook file with practice problems, demonstrating their understanding of the lesson. Whatever is not completed in class goes home for homework and they are to submit it into Schoology that evening before coming back to school. Again, each of these documents is differentiated for the different types of learners in our class.

For my early finishers, which has been few and far between since we’re just getting started with this new program, students are encouraged to create a screen cast or film themselves explaining their understanding of the problems they are completing. With the push of CCSS, fluency in math is no longer being able to complete a standard algorithm, but instead being able to identify how and why you achieved the answer you did.

The students were able to complete this task on Thursday and the results, engagement and understanding was incredible. Take a look at this sample below from one of my students. This was the first time they were responsible for creating this so please keep that in mind as you watch. There is still TONS of work to do, TONS of editing, changing and learning from our mistakes together. However, it’s incredible watching their learning take place, watching them get excited about their growth in the classroom and seeing them take ownership of their own learning. You’ll also notice in the videos that we’ve began utilizing the “I can statements” that align to the CCSS, so that students are able to understand what it is that they are working on and what the ultimate end goal of the lesson is.
  
We’ve made it through the halfway point of our lesson and I created a differentiated quick check of the lessons thus far to do a small assessment of where our students understanding currently lies. This will be a good identifier of what points they have missed out on, or not fully grasped, and which parts of the lessons they clearly understand. It’s also helpful for data purposes and to note which students needed teacher assistance and which students were able to achieve successes on their own.

As a final reflection, my FAVORITE part of this new math component, is watching the students, who math comes easy for, helping students who struggle and really walking them through the problems. It makes me feel so great that these kiddos accept one another for who they are and are able to give and accept help in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable and proud of their work.

Hopefully the flow of this lesson makes sense, however it’s definitely easier to understand if you can see it in person. I’ve included some pictures from the day where the students were creating screen casts of their problems. I love these kids and know how much potential they have! With all of these new math components in place to help them succeed, there’s no telling how much they will grow.

   
    
 

I am thankful for the friendship and guidance I have found in so many new teachers both within the building and in the district. It’s so helpful to watch how they construct their lessons and to bounce ideas off of them. I am so grateful that I have the freedom, flexibility and encouragement to try, fail and try again until I find something that is successful for my students. Change is the only thing that’s constant in the world and it’s important as an educator to realize that you need to be constantly changing and growing for the betterment of your students. “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

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