I could write about Daily Five here. Easily. But that would mean that since I was first asked this question that I haven’t tried to rival my best thing with improvements to a new thing. So with all of this thing-logic in mind, Daily Five is not what I’m going to write about.
The reason is this: ...Last year, I would have also said that math was my weakest thing. It wasn’t good at all. As in, embarrassingly not good.
This year, I set out to make it my best thing, or as close to the best thing as I could get. I have changed and am still changing so much of my math instruction. This is all thanks to some helpful workshops and discussions with my district’s numeracy instructional support, Deanna Lightbody, and from reading Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction.
Now, in full disclosure, I am far, far, FAR from the goal of making this my best thing. But I feel that, just like Daily Five, I found a place where kids are self-regulating between choice stations to immerse themselves in learning about numeracy.
1) Opening up questions for ultimate accessibility
Math as adults know it often operates around the concept of question = answer, and usually only one possible answer. Deanna encouraged me to think of questions with multiple answers which in turn made it so students of wider ability levels could access the question in a challenging way.
My students each have their own personalized bins with manipulatives or tools that they may require for specific whole group or small group activities, games, or stations. They access them whenever they want to and are not restricted to using the same materials as their neighbour.
3) Opening Up the “Help Desk”
While stations are going on and are running smoothly, I always open up the “Help Desk”... my fancy way of saying “come to the back table where I’m hanging out so we can work through some examples together”. This allows me to see the kids who want to see me to review or extend lessons, but also is a place to call small groups who require extra support.
4) Teaching Whole-Group Lessons in 15 Minutes OR LESS… and Getting Out of the Way!
Ah, the mini lesson. This took some getting used to considering most of my math instruction last year was entirely whole-group (cringe). I now spend maximally 5-7 minutes modelling with manipulatives while the kids follow along. I follow up by getting the kids up front to share their strategies and solutions to open-ended problems. I see tons of kids strengthening their understandings through these small sessions because they’re: a) bite-sized; b) driven by peer strategies; and c) hands-on. I also do a lot of quick formative assessment at this time; when the kids are in the front, I can tour around, observe, take some quick mental notes on who needs to see me at the Help Desk the next day.
While Daily Five is still likely my "best thing", I am very excited that the Guided Math program I’ve been building up will soon be fit to rival it. And I’m also excited that I no longer dread teaching math in any way.
Until next time,