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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Designing a Math Workshop for a New Unit of Study

Last week we began a new math unit: Problem Solving Using Addition and Subtraction.
Whenever I begin a new unit of study, I spend a lot of time preparing for several weeks of work. There are always 3 big considerations:
  • What exactly needs to be taught/learned?
  • How will I structure the Math Workshop time?
  • How will I differentiate to meet the needs of students?
What needs to be taught?
In unit 4 the big ideas are:
  • adding and subtracting to solve word problems and recording an equation to represent the problem
  • composing and decomposing quantities to 10
  • creating a story problem to represent an equation
This part comes directly from our curriculum so the decision making isn't about what to teach, but how to sequence it, teach it and assess it.

How will I structure the Math Workshop time?
Structuring Math Workshop varies depending on the unit. This particular unit calls for lots of sharing of problem-solving strategies, time to work on building and recording equations, and modeling/practicing +/- strategies that will begin to build early fluency in number facts to 10. Also, important to keep in mind, reteaching and practicing skills from previous units that have yet to be mastered by any students.

After much consideration, I decided to structure the next few weeks as follows:

Math Workshop = 50 minutes
  • First 10-12 minutes problem-solving warm-up:  Each day a new problem will be presented to the class as a whole. Initially, I model solving a story problem using tools, pictures and recording an equation. Then, I release the responsibility to the students to share their thinking with the group then I have students use a whiteboard app to show their thinking then share that thinking with a partner. If I notice 'smart moves' or efficient problem solving, I bring it to the attention of the group. and over time, the problems will include:
    • Addition
      • result unknown (3 + 2 = __)
      • change unknown (3 + __ = 5)
      • start unknown (__ + 2 = 5)
    • Subtraction
      • result unknown (5 - 2 = __)
      • change unknown (5 - __ = 3)
      • start unknown (__ - 2 = 3)
  • 20-30 minutes of math workstations: For this unit, workstations include:
    • IXL app: IXL is my favorite math app. It allows me to assign specific skill and concept work to students. All the big skills for this unit are available. I can assign practice on skills not mastered in previous units, practice on skills and concepts that are part of the current unit and skills and concepts that are a bit more challenging for students that have shown mastery of current skills and concepts. I can move students beyond their current grade level. This app provides me with diagnostic information on how students are performing so I can adjust their assignments.
    • Education Galaxy: I like EG but the kids LOVE EG! It has rockets, aliens and cards to collect...oh, my! It also has math:) Students take a diagnostic test to determine their proficiency in a variety of skill strands. Most of the big skills for this unit are available. I get reports on my end and students can either work on outstanding skills/concepts or, I can push out specific lessons to them. Students can choose to straight-up learn a skill or they can choose to learn through a game format. If a question is missed, a video tutorial pops up and further practice is provided. Two things I don't love about EG: the technology is sometimes a little 'glitchy' and 1st graders are not typically patient with this;) Also, as far as I can tell, I cannot move a student to skills beyond 1st-grade level.
    • Partner Games: In this station, students work with a partner on games that reinforce fact accuracy and fluency. They use tools, pictures and paper and pencil to record equations. While this station lacks the differentiation that the others provide, it does give students an opportunity to practice working collaboratively. I have noticed that this year's class needs work on taking turns, playing fairly and attending to the game even when it's not their turn. 
    • Problem Solving apps: 
      • Math Word Problems: I like this app because it has a very predictable structure and it reads the story problems aloud. 
      • Bedtime Math: I like this app because the problems are really interesting and engaging and there are 4 differentiated levels of questions. The drawback is that it does not read the problems aloud so it is too much of a reading challenge for a lot of kids.

    • Teacher Station: While students work independently in the other workstations, I can pull small groups to work with me. There is a lot going on here and it's super flexible. I can reteach, model and provide practice on unit skills, provide challenging problem solving for students who are ready and formatively assess skills and concepts in real time. 
      • Three great resources I use here are:
        • Math in Practice, Heinemann
        • Hands-On Standards, ETA Hands to Mind
        • Problem of the Month, Insite Mathematics,

  • Last 10-12 Minutes: equation work: We play a game called 'Can you make it?' I found this on one of those midnight internet searches;) 

  • I use lower numbers, 4-10. Students volunteer their thinking and I act as the scribe. There is also a large rekenrek just above the chart for quick, real object modeling. Students have begun investigating communitive property (2 + 3 = 5 / 3 + 2 = 5), identity property (2 + 0 = 2, 0 + 7 = 7) and adding using 3 addends. I purposely leave out a number from a pair so the kids have to think... "Wow, I wish I had a ___. If only I had a __ I could ... " I plan to use this time to teach balanced equations and flexibility in recording equations (2 + 3 = 5 / 5 = 2 + 3) I've been able to use this time to introduce and reinforce math vocabulary (sum, difference, equal, plus, minus, equation, compose, decompose).

So, I have to say, I LOVE the planning part of teaching! In my mind, this plan worked perfectly:) I stayed on schedule, all the kids followed directions and worked either independently or collaboratively, everyone stayed on task and there were no tech issues (there never are in my teaching fantasies yet there ALWAYS are in reality!). Last week, on day one of this new workshop model, the only way to describe math workshop would have been HOT MESS! Students could not remember directions and procedures, passwords were...well, passwords with 6-year-olds, our internet was sketchy and partner games required a chat about not hurting our friends. I was totally distracted and I'm pretty sure my Teacher Station group learned nothing and I'm really not so sure about the other stations! I took some deep breaths, reminded myself that these kids are 6 and called a class meeting. We discussed what went well and what needed improvement. We came up with some strategies to ensure that the next math workstations would go better. And they did! And, better still the next time:)  We are not quite at what I would describe as 'clockwork' but we're getting there.

Things for me to think about:
  1. I don't think I'll get all this content in in 3 weeks so how will I make adjustments for this?
  2. As I write this post, I recognize that I did not integrate engineering into this unit. Cannon is a STEM school and as such, my math workshop should look different from math workshops in other 1st grade classrooms. Two ideas I have:
    • create a station that includes an integrated math/engineering challenge
    • plan breaks from the math stations every few days and do a whole class integrated math/engineering challenge aligned with the skills for this unit


Debbie Lewis said...

Wow! You never cease to amaze me:)

male extra said...

Very educating story