Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Final Reflection

So I'm playing a bit of catch up...but here is my final post!

Over the course of this PDU our math team has had a lot of conversations about what writing in math within second grade.  I really believe that discourse is the key to students being able to then express their ideas through writing, so I have focused a lot of my learning on what discourse supports student understanding.  I am also taking graduate classes and we had to pick an action research project for next year.  I decided to center my research around this topic. What role does student discourse play in the understanding of math concepts?  Do students who have more time to discuss math concepts with their peers have a greater understanding of more complex math tasks?  What differences are there in the understanding of math concepts when students utilize peer to peer conversations or can this lead to confusion of topics?  The purpose of my action research is to see if there is a correlation between the amount of time students spend in dialogic discourse conversations and the understanding of math concepts.  Are peer to peer conversations or teacher to student conversations more supportive or does this vary by complexity of the math skill or concept?

In our classroom we utilize the thinking strategies when tackling complex math problems.  My plan is to use a variety of math word problems in each of our units.  Within each unit I will give them a word problem that we have not discussed to get a baseline.  Next, we will have lessons on the conceptual understanding and then try another word problem that is similar, but not exactly the same. We will then have a few class sessions where students are able to discuss math concepts through guided discussions with their peers and then we’ll try another similar word problem.  I will also be creating a rubric so that I have a consistent grading method when looking at and analyzing student answers.  The next unit my plan is to do similar, but change when I provide the lessons surrounding the concept and when students participate in peer to peer discourse (allowing students to discuss their observations and use of thinking strategies first). The purpose of switching the order is so that I can see if it is the amount of time on a concept, the discourse itself changing the outcomes, or if there is not a change in understanding.   

My hope is to discover if there is a connection between student discourse and understanding.  If there is, I also hope that I will be able to learn if it is more effective providing students with an understanding of concepts and then allowing them to discuss their understandings and misunderstandings of those concepts, or if it is better to allow students to discuss and discover and then to teach the concept to affirm or clarify their understandings.

Final Reflection:
Through my work in this PDU with Michelle and reflecting with coworkers I have learned a lot about how to incorporate writing into math and science.  I have also worked really hard to allow my students more flexibility in their learning and to be advocates for what they need.  I no longer take charge of seating charts or learning partners-this took A LOT of prep work and open conversations for our classes to get to this point. Granted we've only been in the 'release' process for two weeks now, but I have seen many of them 'step up to the plate' and take on these responsibilities and hold each other accountable. I like the opportunity to learn along side my students and I feel as though this year we have been able to do that (through the good and the ugly!). 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Opinion Writing in Math

In March, we focused on monitoring for meaning and continued with our determining importance study.  We also looked at opinion writing through our equal groups unit (multiplication and division).    

We added a few pieces to determining importance before moving on, one being that after they highlighted words, they would use a black sharpie to cross out the parts they didn’t highlight and then give it to a partner to solve.  If their partner could still solve the problem, they knew they had determined the important parts-if they couldn’t they must have left something out.  It was a very fun activity and I felt like the kids learned a lot! 
When we moved to monitoring for meaning, we focused in the beginning on solving problems more than one way in order to check your work and make sure answer made sense.  Then we looked closer at word problems as we were reading to make sure we were understanding what the problems were asking.  We talked a lot about if the picture in our minds (mental images) were clear and related to the questions being asked. 
Our opinion writing came into play when we had finished working through all the multiplication strategies (we worked on nine).  They then had to write a piece about which strategies they liked using the best and why.  Also, for my more advanced writers I had them add in a piece about which they thought was more efficient. 


My challenge for the next month is to continue pushing the kids to use the thinking strategy language.  I feel like they are now at the point where they can name them when asked, but I’d like it to become less directed and more independent as we finish up the year.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Writing Constructed Responses

A large part of March was spent refining the art of writing an amazing constructed response.  Through exit slips and other avenues I found that many of my students were not correctly determining what they are being asked to answer.  Many of the responses I was receiving from the students did not answer the question.  I found that I needed to back up and focus on what was being asked in order to have them create the amazing responses.  In some cases the students were asked to write an expression and they wrote an answer.  In other examples students were asked to show work and explain, but all they put was an answer.  In one problem students were asked to write an explanation that included three bullet points that were listed above the explanation space.  Many students only included one or maybe two of the bulleted points in their explanations.   After guided instruction and modeling, here are some of the newly refined and perfected responses.