Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grade 3 Snapshot

I took a stroll through Grade 3 today. The grade level consists of 4 co-teach classrooms and 2 departmentalized teams--eight classrooms in all.

Math Workshop Work Period was in full swing in three of the rooms, and it was evident that the Grade 3 team is on the same page when it comes to math instruction. They were all working in the MI unit, Landmarks in the Hundreds, and were all teaching about factors of a number. One classroom was working on a student sheet solving factors of 36, and another classroom was solving for factors of 24. In the classroom where students were solving for factors of 24, the teacher had a small guided math group pulled to a corner of the room working with them to solve their factors. The rituals and routines were well established because the students remaining at the tables continued to work diligently although the teacher was working with a small group.

As I entered the third math classroom, soft music was playing, and there was a slight hum of students at work. They were diligently working on using 100 beads or macaroni to decide how to break 100 up into equal groups. The guiding questions/statements glued to the bottom of their sheet were:

  • How to break 100 up into equal groups.

  • What are the factors of 100?

  • Write an equation to represent this picture of 100.

The teacher had also provided them with a very helpful tool, a Self-Assessment Rubric, to ensure that each student had the elements the teacher expected in the assignment.

In the fourth room, students were gathered on the floor participating in EDC, Every Day Counts Calendar Math. The students were working with the teacher to build coordinates on a graph.

Not only did I focus on instruction, but I also looked for evidence of current teaching charts, word walls, and portfolios. These specific artifacts are important evidence of math learning and extremely helpful for student reference. In some of the classrooms the artifacts were in place, and in others my hope is that the teachers are moving toward this goal.

Below you will find a slide show of the photographs I captured while in these math classrooms. You will notice that some of the teaching charts are an excellent reference for students.

Two classrooms were in Readers' Workshop. In the first room, Opening Session of Readers' Workshop included a read aloud from our October Book of the Month, Grace for President. The students were gathered on the floor, their Reader's Notebooks in hand, feverishly taking two column notes comparing the characters of Grace and Thomas, when the teacher paused in her reading. During the read aloud the teacher also stopped appropriately to question students on unknown vocabulary and to ask questions that offered students a chance to infer. It appeared that this was not the students' first introduction to this text.

In the other classroom, the students were taking a Reading Comprehension Assessment, and soft music played in the background. This cold assessment was a non-fiction article on Native Americas. Both teachers in this classroom were working with a small group of students. The mood in this room was calm and relaxed, and students each worked at their own pace to complete the assessment. Teachers use these cold assessments to assess student's progress with all reading standards, and to prescribe whole group and small groups instruction.

The other ELA classroom was in Writers' Workshop Work Period. I sat down next to one student and asked her to explain to me what she was doing. She eagerly pulled her Author Study folder from underneath her Writers' Sourcebook and explained that all her material was keep together in this folder. She explained, "First, the teacher did a read aloud of two Allen Say books, Music for Alice and Kamishibai Man." "Then, I completed a venn diagram comparing and contrasting the two books." "Now, I have to write a Response to Literature." She explained that her Response to Literature Rubric helped her to make sure she included all the standards in her writing. She told me that she would write some of her paper, reread it, and then check her rubric to make sure it was "all there", as she described it, before she moved on. The rubric included the elements of the RtL standards, an I think... column, and a My peer thinks... column. I can't wait to return after she finishes so I can read her Response--I am confident that it will meet the standard with the tools the teacher has given her! As I conferred with the student, the teacher continued conferring with students throughout the room about their writing.

In the ELA rooms I also looked for specific artifacts including reading and writing portfolios, word walls, and current teaching charts. Again, some of the teachers showed ample evidence in their classrooms, while others were working toward this goal.

Unlike the math instruction, the alignment between ELA instruction in each classroom was not clear to me. I'll have to check the pacing guide tomorrow to try and get a clear picture of the genre study currently occurring. Having teachers within the same genre of study, though their lessons may vary, is important to compare work across the grade level, and offer consistent instruction between classrooms.

In the eighth room I visited, I caught the tail end of a Science Workshop lesson on condensation. The teacher was holding a jar, previously dry, over a hot plate with a boiling pot of water. As the steam rose from the boiling water, it collected in the jar, and began slowly raining back into the pan. This demonstration had students predicting why the jar had previously gone from dry to wet, and why the water then began to drip back into the pan. The co-teacher and I spoke briefly and she said I should have come in a few minutes before--I would have walked into the middle of an ice tossing contest. Why? Because the teacher was showing that a solid form of water could become a liquid quickly. I'm sure students appreciated this demonstration much more than simply reading it from a science textbook. :) The slideshow below shows this lesson. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting our classroom! You are correct that we were revisiting the book of the month Grace for President. However, we were actually in Writers' Workshop. We are currently working on Response to Literature and we were using a t-chart to organize details of the two main characters: Grace Campbell and Thomas Cobb. We will then use our complete charts to compare and contrast these two characters (connecting the writing to our reading). We are trying to think deeply about text by moving beyond retelling and summarizing and toward making critical judgments about meaning. Come back next week and read some of our published responses!

Suzanne said...

My mistake. :) Sometimes, you really have to look beyond the mini-lesson to see what students are creating in work period. If I could have stuck around, I'm sure I would have more clearly recognized the difference.

I would love to come back and read your Response to Literatures. I've seen some great work from our Grade 3 writers this year!

Suzanne :)