What I love about this book is how Dr. Nicki maps out a practical way to assess students for the benefit of the students. In guided math groups, you should want your students to move in and out of groups because their levels are changing daily. To accomplish this you need to be able to quickly assess where that student is in the process. Do they need to practice the concept more by slowing down and working with another group? Or are they grasping every concept with ease and showing signs of needing more challenging tasks. We need to work toward addressing every child’s needs by having a system in place that makes it easy for both student and teacher to show learning.
How do we find out what kids know? This huge thing that cannot be overemphasized in these chapters enough is the necessity of having conversations with students…meaningful conversations where you really hear what is happening as they work through a problem. What is being skipped? What do they have prior knowledge of that could be addressed quickly so they can move on? AND how do we find time to have those confersations to assess what kids can do?
As I stated in a previous post, I work with students in groups daily, so I try to document quickly with my color-coding system, who is/is not able to complete a task EVERY time that child comes to group. This gives me an informal “broad” vision of what is happening in my class. As I see a particular student struggle during his/her group’s lesson, looking back at the week , the view is narrowed, and shows me the student needs reassessing with ESGI or other methods that show real data (although ESGI is my favorite because of how fast it is!). Once I see how the student is performing on the assessment, I determine what to do. If I determine after doing a benchmark at the beginning, the student is understanding most of the time, a formal assessment mid-way, then at the end are on target.
Using manipulatives allows students to show math in a concrete way. They can touch it, count it, make a pattern, and have more fun! It is many times the hook that gets them interested in learning math. It may be that a child would not show the math with bug erasers, but give him or her some car erasers and they are there! Manipulatives provide a source of variety and choice. And we all know kids love choice! It also allows us to select choices we are happy with.
The more we allow students to experience math in a variety of cognitive levels, the more the math will stick! Young children gain so much from hands-on objects. This first step provides a bridge to expressing the math in a drawing, painting, stickers…the materials are endless. Having enough experiences with hands on and pictorial math will lead to understanding how two different problems are similar.
Drawing comparisons when shown two different problems is very complex for young children, so lots of practice will give them the prior knowledge needed to think through the math.
I believe showing students how, then in turn letting them show you how to do something is the most important thing you can do. Making the student become the teacher as you guide them in finding the words to tell what is happening is very powerful. Continuing the lesson to allow for independent practice, then asking students to help outline or list what was accomplished for the day is also powerful. The more they DO, the more it will stick. Teachers are too often the “lecturer”, and not the listener/facilitator. I hope to see that continue to change.
Do we play games??? Yes! A big, huge resounding YES!!! Students will remember a concept when it is played as a game. I love playing Bingo with the kids being the markers on a big bingo board. We have cards they stand on when a math concept is called out. When we get all of the squares covered, we dance and chant all of the bingo board concepts for the day! It’s chaotic, but it’s fun! FUN!!!
What do you do in your classroom to ensure students have fun, are engaged, and have a variety of ways to practice math skills?