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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How Grading Math Saves My Sanity

I have a serious love-hate relationship with math.

I have tried about 9 million different set-ups for math workshop, and so many things haven't worked for a variety of reasons. But a couple of things have really worked for me. Hence, the love-hate relationship. One thing I LOVE is having my students grade their class work. It saves my sanity.

To give you an idea of my math workshop and how this works I will explain quickly (HAHAHAH… I never explain anything quickly).

Anyway, my students and I do my Morning Math from 8:30-8:40 and then our math instruction from 8:40-9:00. Students then go to specials from 9:00-10:00.

When they come back from specials, they start on their math packets right away. This my second favorite thing ever. I had to split my math block up last year, a few weeks into the school year, because I was going crazy about my reading and writing schedule… I didn't want to, but it ended up being the best thing ever. This year I intentionally planned my math block to be broken up this way.

My students come in from specials and get started right away. I don't have to say anything. They just know what to do.

Anyway, the math packet is where the grading comes in. My students work on a math packet every week. Usually two pages per day (mostly review with some current concepts mixed in). This set-up helps me, because (most of the time) students don't have to ask me 9,384,293,751 questions.

The cover of the packets looks like this every week:

My students work on their packets while I am working with groups, helping other students, or trying to pull that same first group (just keeping it real here). I needed a way to hold them accountable while I was pulling groups. 

While I work with groups, I also have students play math games, play games on the computer, or do enrichment work. If they ever get done with something or are done with groups they go back to the math packets. It's kind of the home-base. 

That is great in theory, but I noticed many of my students who I had play games first or who met with me would often say… "I didn't finish because I met with you…" or "I played math games first." 

I knew sometimes this was the case and I planned accordingly, but some fifth graders were getting "too smart" for me and I needed an a way to track all this. I actually used this idea when I was student teaching when Kelly Anne from Appleslices suggested I try it.  I liked it then, and realized I needed to go back to it. 

We grade every single problem and they give themselves a 0-4 on every problem. I can tell who would be and is dishonest and I just watch accordingly, but it really is a non-issue because I keep the packets mostly review, they know the expectations, and my students are motivated to get all 4's so they can get a check plus. 


After we grade, they have to count up all their points, write their score in points, and then write whether they got a check plus, check, or check minus on the covers of their packets. 

We figure their points by the amount of problems. For example, if there were 20 problems, it is out of 80. I just gage how hard the packet was, who was able to do a good job, and if most students missed a problem. For a normal day I would write something like the following on the board: 

70-80 = check +
60-69 = check
0-59 = check -

If students get a check minus, they have to come see me and then we discuss what we need to do for them to get at least a check. 

The packets come to me at the end of the week and I do a quick check.

Easy peezy (is that how you spell that?)

Happy Teaching,

Martina 




Friday, November 7, 2014

How I stopped teaching from the "magical teaching carpet" and why I don't feel guilty about it...

Have you ever read book after book and heard teacher after teacher talk about a strategy that is "the best," and think, "Hey, I should be doing that?"

And 9 times out of 10 those strategies work, because all these really smart researching people and all these really smart teachers have done all this research and all this teaching. They know what they're talking about, you try (tweak it here and there) and then love how it works for you too.

Phew…. thank God I figured that out before it was too late.

Have you ever done this and it just doesn't work? And then think (over and over again) what am I doing wrong? What else can I do?

This is me and teaching from the magical teaching carpet.
I literally #canteven

I have tried and quit, then shortened my lessons to keep their attention on the carpet…. and quit again. Then tried shortening my lessons even more (we're in the 7-10 minute range here people) and then quit again. Then kept my lessons short and tried a seating chart… and then quit again…. Then danced like a crazy person to keep their attention and stamina during the 7 minute lesson next to a person who they would never even think of talking to in any other situation…. and then quit FOR GOOD. I am done with the carpet.

I used to feel guilty about it, but I don't anymore… it just doesn't work for me… and I think I gave it a pretty good chance (no offense carpet… we just aren't meant to be).

I have circle tables, that hold four students into perfect groups, where they can teach each other (pretty sure today's average fifth grader is smarter than me anyway).

I have to constantly remind myself to walk around the room, but I'm better at that than maneuvering around 24 medium sized human being booby traps on the carpet to get to the two students who always lay down on the carpet while you are teaching (I don't know how you people do it… also, how are they so flexible?)

I also have to be very intentional in how I allow my students to move so their bodies get a break from the chairs (and don't lay down on the floor next to their chairs anyway).

I have to make my lessons engaging…. like all good teachers do…  (also why I stopped teaching from the carpet). My lessons require notebooks, and scissors, and glue, and markers, and writing, and whiteboards, and talking in small groups… and everything else I love, that 10 years olds and I just can't seem to figure out  how to transport to the carpet in one piece without someone losing an eyeball or top of a gluestick (not necessarily in order of importance).

So there you have it. I don't teach from the carpet. I don't feel guilty about it. And I don't think I (or you) should feel guilty about anything that works for you and your learners.

Happy Friday!

Martina