Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Second Grade Math Parent Night

Each year, we host a Math Parent Night in Second Grade. The gathering is primarily to introduce parents to our conceptual teaching pedagogy rather than a procedural math learning approach, and to share with them the common addition and subtraction strategies their children will learn in Math Workshop this year. The proactive evening always elicits many thanks from the parents and pays dividends throughout the year as they better understand the work they will see from their child. During this evening we reiterate that the traditional algorithm will come but not until after the conceptual foundation has been carefully crafted. What is most important is number sense. "Number sense is an awareness and understanding about what numbers are, their relationships, their magnitude, the relative effect of operating on numbers, including the use of mental math and estimation."  

In preparing for the Parent Night, we've been introduced to a great new resource,  Number Talks by Sherry Parrish. Though we've been teaching like this for over ten years, this book nicely reminds us of the most common addition and subtraction strategies and provides teaching clips via DVD with sample number talks from many elementary grade levels. Using this resource, we've revised our math night to include the language of this text. An added bonus is that we will also get more unified and vertical language in all of our math classrooms in 2nd - 5th grade because we've shared the new strategy sheets through our Math Council. 

To kick off Math Night, there is a clip on YouTube that we use as an icebreaker.  A boy calls the 911 operator to get help with his "take away" math homework. The clip dissolves any math anxiety that might be lingering in the room.   The, we launch with the purpose of the evening. We explain that what most of us grew up doing was skill based procedural mathematics and we have shifted to conceptual based learning that focuses on problem solving. Our intent is to build number sense with our young mathematicians. We embed skills and work to develop fluency and authomaticity, but our emphasis remains on building critical thinkers.  Students who conceptually understand mathematics will preform at much higher levels as they move into more advanced mathematics. The research behind our explanation can be found in TIMSS, Trends in International Math and Science Study.  We often show this triangle turned upside down as a visual while we explain. 

In a matter of minutes, we've set the purpose and can share with parents the 2nd Grade Common Core Standards that relate to addition and subtraction. We explain that the standards drive our instruction. Our classroom assessments align with the learning set forth in the CCSS. Next, we are ready to move into the addition and subtraction strategies. 

We give parents an addition and subtraction problem to solve. We ask them to solve the problem in two different ways. Most have the sum and difference in a matter of seconds, however some struggle as they try to come up with a second strategy. 

The problems we ask them to solve are:

A)  Bob and Sally were counting the students on the playground. Bob counted 36 students on the soccer field and Sally counted 45 students on the equipment. How many students did they count altogether?

B)  Sally wanted to use red and blue construction paper for her art project. She took 57 sheets of paper. If 28 of the sheets were red and the rest were blue, how many sheets of blue paper did she take?

Delving deeply into our strategy work, we then provide a note taking sheet that lists the common strategies that students will discuss, share, and make connections between in Closing Session of Math Workshop. 

We show a 2 minute clip from the Number Talks DVD on addition, and later show a 4 minute clip of subtraction. We want them to actually see what this looks like in a classroom.  Then, we walk them through each strategy with the sample problem. 

The strategies we share in addition include adding on, making a landmark number, compensation, decomposing by place value, and decomposing one addend. In subtraction, we share adding up, removal or counting back, place value with negative numbers, keeping a constant difference, and adjusting one number to create an easier problem. Integrated in our teaching of the strategies, we use math models and tools like the open number line, hundreds chart, and part/whole box.

Parents leave with a brochure that we've created using the sample problem and explaining each strategy. The brochure was created from the language found on pages 59-66 and 175-180 in Number Talks. 

The evening concludes with a question and answer session and parents taking a look at their child's math journal and student sheets. We find that this proactive approach leaves parents less anxious when they see their children solving problems in ways that are unfamiliar to them. Our next feat will be to put together a multiplication and division evening for 3rd and 4th grade parents. 

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome Back to Creek Life!

Our teacher's first day back to the new 2013-2014 school year was A Walk on the Wild Side!  

They began their adventure with a game in the front lobby and then were welcomed into the dining room where breakfast and a lunchbox of theme related goodies awaited. 

The teams, as tradition holds, introduced themselves through funny skits and then Principal Phillips outlined our data and year's goals and expectations. A personality survey was taken to identify teachers as doves, peacocks, owls, or eagles, and then buses awaited to whisk us away to the zoo. 

Teachers loaded the buses by their personality survey results and spent the bus ride discussing their personality characteristics. It won't surprise you, if you've ever taken this survey, that the peacocks created their own song and that the doves were so kind, they needed everyone's opinion to fill out each survey question. We are certain that the eagles finished the task first!  

Upon arriving at the zoo, each team was given a menu item of activities which had assigned points. The teams, through their scavenger hunt, could chose their activities, and were charged to send pictures to the principal using their iPhones as they fulfilled their task. Principal Phillips had a spreadsheet set up on her iPad so as the teams text their pictures, she could input their points. The Resource Team ended up winning the day's challenge, however most importantly, the day was primarily designed to build relationships with your team of colleagues. A poor zoo keeper or two were probably not as thrilled with a few of our tasks! 

The teachers enjoyed their zoo walk and then returned to the front entrance for lunch. The day didn't conclude without our new hire "hazing." The newbies can throw together a mean rap, and Mrs. Phillips reading our August/September Book of the Month. 

We recognize that this isn't a traditional teacher's first day of school, but we also know that the time spend in fellowship will pay off dividends all year long and defines the sense of culture that will infiltrate every aspect of our school life this year. Stay tuned to hear more about our Walk on the Wild Side...

Creek Life...A Walk on the Wild Side!

Each year a theme folds us in its embrace and carries us through the year. The theme is chosen to spotlight our journey as a learning community at a given point in time and to engage students. Our past themes are displayed on birthday candles in our front lobby and in totality tell our school story.  The year's theme is embedded in every aspect of our school's work that year. This year's theme, Creek Life... A Walk on the Wild Side, is sure to complete that mission and may prove to be an all time favorite!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Welcome to CCE Summer Workshop for New Hires

Back in the day, we had large numbers of colleagues added to our faculty each year as our learning community grew from 600 to 1,400 students. Each summer, we would offer a three day Welcome to CCE Workshop to acquaint new teachers. The first day always focused on building relationships, and learning about our vision, mission, learner expectations, and school's history. The second and third days would focus on our Communication and Core Workshops. We always felt like the three days gave the new hires a head start and made them less anxious about joining our large staff. 

In the last five years, our student population has remained stable and our staff has been less mobile, therefore the Welcome to CCE Workshops have disappeared. This year, that's changed, again, with the district's support of more resources and a few faculty relocations and babies. We have, for the first time in years, added 11 new faculty colleagues, and have turned again to our Welcome to CCE. 

The difference now is that the new hires don't need a three day session. Two of them are home grown meaning they did their internships with us and then stayed connected as they taught in other schools for a while. A few others have Chets Creek colleague roots and have collaborated with our staff as they've served in other schools as mentors, lead teachers, and coaches. Others, that are new to teaching, have been added as co-teachers in experienced teacher's classrooms. Therefore, our Welcome to CCE this year was a one day workshop that focused on building relationships, sharing our vision, mission, learner expectations, history, and taking a scavenger hunt through our building. Each teacher was gifted our foundational book, Building a Community of Learners and Leaders, and was treated to lunch. We think that by giving new hires a preview, their school year will start off on a great foot and they'll feel comfortable asking questions. Stay tuned as their journey on the wild side begins...