Hi everybody and happy pre-Thanksgiving break,
I know you are all excited for the week off (we only get Thursday and Friday at DMC) and then the upcoming holiday season, but we need to post on another topic and I thought you might like to knock it out before or during the break.
This month I want to talk about two topics.
Topic One: The book study
There are now less than 30 days remaining for you to complete the Teach Like Your Hair IS On Fire book study on moolde. Here are the statistics to date:
only 2 MTMs have completed the entire book study
2 more MTMs are more than halfway complete
10 MTMs total have completed at least one of the 25 questions
18 MTMs have not even logged into the moodle course once
Please understand, the course ends and access is stoppped on December 15...so by that date all 25 questions or homework assignments must be completed.
The grant is planning to run another book study in the spring - so the first discussion question is: Is there anything we should modify before the spring to make the book study a better, more enjoyable, or smoother running process?
Topic Two: Student Preparation
One of the biggest gripes I hear from colleagues is that students are performing poorly due to a lack of preparation from previous teachers or instructors. I think this can be a valid issue, but many times I think it is more of a case of lack of student retention rather than a complete lack of preparation. Furthermore, it is often an issue of hindsight being 20/20. Students don't often realize the value of the material w are teaching them at the time because they do not see how much it is used or applied in later semesters or years. As such, they "master" the current material so that they can do well on the test and please the teacher (ok book study folks...which level of thinking was that?), but fail to truly internalize the techniques and make them their own. Consequentially, when they are forced to use said techniques in the future, they have to "reteach" themselves, which has the positive effect of gaining a more thorough understanding, but the negative effect of leaving them feeling like they weren't fully prepared.
If you could have a few moments to speak with the teachers of your students prior grades, what topics would you wish to impress upon them as extremely important and worth of just a little more practice? Please be specific in your answers to identify your grade level and how you feel the prior grades extra emphasis would ease the mathematical lives of your grade's students.
Another note folks, this question is just like a Christmas wish list. We aren't laying blame or trying to get nasty here. This is just a discussion to help promote vertical understanding.
About the book study, I think that its great and have enjoyed reading the book.
When it comes to the students not "being prepared" for the current grade they are in, I honestly feel that it is not the teachers from years before. I have noticed that over the years, every new group of kids that I get are more needier than ever. They seem to not be able to think for themselves. I want to know how to get the students to THINK!!!!!!!!!!! They perform so well while I am guiding them, however, when they are left to do the work on their own, they want me to do it for them. I don't believe that it is prior teachers, I believe that it starts at home. I have talked with several of our third grade teachers. They are amazing, hard working, teachers and do everything to make what the students are learning real world and at their level. They are saying the same thing. Not too sure that its what we practice but more than that. Its the way things are going, it seems and we have to find a way to get them to CARE and THINK!
Well stated Chelsea!
With a touch of quick backpedaling...Folks, please remember that this question is not for laying blame. Just for identifying topics essential for your current grade that incoming students always seem weak in. As Chelsea stated, I am sure all of our students previous teachers are good, hard working people. Presonally, I can tell you I have been on both sides of these discussions.
Please remember the intent of the question is only to open a forum for discussion.
I agree with your train of thought. We had so many students this year that didn't care about their work/grades. They were happy with the 50 or 0. When we attempted to make parent contact, numbers were disconnected, doors weren't opened when home visites were made. So, how do you reach these students? How do you provide/give them the motivation to care?
I am enjoying reading the book and while I have completed some of the book study, I hope to do more now that I have a break from school...its been especially busy lately...
I understand where you are coming from with your question regarding student preparation...we tend to want to lay blame on someone else when the kids are not successful. I know I am frustrated by how much I am having to review skills that should have been mastered previously, and that causes a domino effect...next year's teachers will wonder why my kids haven't mastered this year's skills! We have actually discussed your question at our vertical meetings and we as 4th grade teachers mentioned that the kids absolutely need to be able to add and subtract with regrouping and know (at least most of) their multiplication facts. We also wish we would all use a similar problem solving model so that there is consistancy through-out the grades. Unfortunately, everyone has their favorite (UPSE, QTIPS, T charts, so on...) and most of the models are similar...we as teachers can see that, but the kids get confused.
These are the skills I can think of off hand...I'm sure there are more, but problem solving is so important so mastering the operations is a biggie!!!
I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!!
I have read about 3/4 of our book Teach Like Your Hair Is On Fire; however, I have not yet completed any of the assignments. To be blunt, I have not even accessed the assignments. I have tried 4 times to do so - I guess there is something I am messing up on. For this reason, I am sitting next to Mimi's desk at ESC2 so that when Christine or someone comes by they will have pity on me and help me figure out what I am doing wrong.
Discussion for Third Six Weeks: Topic Two: Student Preparation
This topic requires looking at various items for each student
1 - attendance - students that are absent 25% or more of the time will not be prepared - I try to get my students to come in on Saturday or Sunday for 3 or 4 hours to make up work/time - they can accomplish more in an extended period of time than in many short periods
2 - parent support - our students do not drive, they are dependent on parents to get them where they need to go in regards to tutoring, I think parents would rather drop off and pick up their children once a week
3 - home life - some students don't get to rest at home in the evening, they are taking care of younger children or elderly relatives or working - when they come to school they want to sleep in a warm place
4 - chunking - we need to look at the whole picture and organize in the most effective and efficient manner
This year, I am fortunate to be teaching an Algebra I Lab - I have a lot more leeway than the traditional teacher.
I am looking forward to coming back in January all recharged and ready to try some new techniques.
Hopefully, everyone will come back ready to work.
1-Book Study-I read the book, Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire, in September. I enjoyed reading it. There were many good ideas. I logged on to the course, but time factor for me was an issue. I will try to do better in the Spring. Summer reading might be a thought--or time allowed in the summer workshop to discuss book questions.
2. All teachers work extremely hard and do the best they can. (Issues from behavior, attendance, parent support factor in to learning.) I teach 2nd grade and feel that the lower grades are foundation years and that the basics of reading and math need to be taught. Extremely important for students coming in to second grade would be an understanding of number. I find students still have trouble when adding 8+3. Many still begin with 1,2,3.... to add. Something important to practice would be ---to count on from the larger number. Just more experiences with numbers, addition, and subtraction would help. We spend extra time on graphs, geometry, etc... and maybe keeping the other going as part of daily math would increase their ability. Some students need many repetitions to master a concept.
1. I have completed reading the book; I am also the member of the grant who "we will not discuss further". I am working on the book study tonight. Will be glad to discuss this with you in person or via the phone.
2. The foundation of math is critical. I feel that it is important for teachers of all grade levels to instill understanding in students so that they are not afraid of math. Things that need to be taught, foundational things, are not always listed in our TEKS - therefore they do not get taught. I would like to see a vertical plan that incorporated other foundations other than what is listed in TEKS so that kids that are sitting in class wondering "why does it work that way?" don't have to wonder because the understanding is built into the lesson.
I have also seen teachers at the middle school level teach tricks and short-cuts to students when introducing or teaching a concept. This is very detrimental to students, particularly those who are not "math mature" in their abstract thinking process. When the time comes for them to enter into an Algebra class, the foundational reasoning is missing, and their successes become struggles at that point.
Teaching critical foundational concepts is the most important aspect of fundamental math reasoning.
I'm glad you finished the book and are working on the book study. Please understand you are not the only person who is starting the book study late. The messages about the deadlines for the online course were meant merely as reminders for rapidly approaching deadlines...not as personal jabs. I understand that we are all busy...as a matter of fact we are administering and grading final exams at Del Mar right now...I just meant to keep everyone informed and reminded as life seems to get very, very busy this time of year. Furthermore, comments about the progress of the participants were never personal, they were just meant to bring a tad bit of humor to the situation.
I apologize if you felt singled out or treated unjustly. This was never my intention.
Good luck with the book study.
p.s. I agree with your opinion on foundations being more important than quick tricks and techniques that "get you through the test" Trust me, however, that practice is not limited only to middle school teachers. I have seen high school and college teachers guilty of teaching tricks before foundations also.
Hello everyone ! It has been a while. I would love to have the next book study in "chunks". Where we could read a few chapters and then have an interactive discussion. We have so many wonderful people with so many great ideas. It would be great to bounce ideas and thoughts back and forth. With STAAR right around the corner and everyone focused on their classrooms, it might be easier to handle and stick to smaller deadlines.
Now for the second question. I know we are all working as hard as we can! I can only emphasize problem solving, problem solving, problem solving! I have so many students unwilling to even try to solve a question they have never seen before. I find myself trying to be the "Miss Frizzle" of the math class. "Take chances, get messy!" You never know until you try! I don't know why kids are afraid to make mistakes...but it seems to be a growing problem every year. I hope that by encouraging kids to explore the math, they will become more comfortable. Problem solving extends to all subjects and facets of life. Not fearing the challenge will help kids learn to tackle unknowns. I know we are all burdened with getting every thing taught before the test, but I feel that if we give kids more time to explore more than one solution and make mistakes, we will make them better problem solvers.
Allow me to speak for myself. I like the way it is. The problem I underwent was my own doing. I was a procrastinator, thinking that because I am a fast reader, I can finish the book fast. I did not buy the book ASAP, did not even go into the website to check on the questions( found out that one REALLY has to read the book to have a good quality answer to share with colleagues). Had I foreseen all these, I could have finished earlier than I did.
Re: If you were to speak to your students' prior teachers, what topics do you wish to impress upon them as extremely
important or worth of more practice?
I teach 5th and 6th grade levels and I am always faced with same problem every 1st Six Weeks of the new school year, and that is the 4 Basic Facts in Math: Addition Facts, Subtaction Facts, Multiplication Facts, and Division Facts. I don't teach 4th, so that's always my biggest problem in the 5th. Not so much in the 6th because I made sure that they are fluent on these facts before they leave the 5th level. I put great emphasis on these facts. I know, after teaching for so long, that students feel more comfortable doing Math problems and they enjoy learning this subject if they know their facts. Then are left only with just a simple problem: Does this problem I'm faced with call for addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division? Whatever their choice is, if they are fluent with their 4 Basic Facts,(with accuracy), then solving the problem will be welcomed with ease. In other words, one of the biggest obstacles in Math Solving is already solved:Math Fluency in the 4 Basic Facts! NO MORE FINGER COUNTING(I Call that "piano playing"), NO MORE STICK DRAWINGS, NO MORE SPENDING
"hours" recalling their Math facts!
Student retention is a biggie and now with STAAR and the critical thinking that will be required more I am hoping that the students will find they retain more of the information for one year to the next. I struggle getting the students to retain multiplication facts and still stay on my timeline of objectives. I am trying everything from songs to flash cards to understanding patterns but this year I am faced with 10 special ed-13 in the whole 4th grade and I am pushing them also but number sense does start at the younger grades and we are pushing for that so we can actually teach 4th grade skills. Its stairs-building blocks, and everyone has to try their hardest to have their students on grade level.
I loved the book Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire. The book study began so long after I completed the book, that I had to reread the book in some chapters to affectively answer the questions.
Lack of retention of information in students is difficult. It has been going on for years. I feel that it is getting worse and in no way caused by previous teachers. Some of the problems we have had are caused by students who don't master the basics. We have students who really struggle with multiplication facts and it is difficult to reduce fractions without knowledge of multiplication. I have had a year a crazy changes because our district went to a schedule of students switching between two teachers, to students switching between three teachers. Because of this change, I have been switched to teaching Science only instead of Science/Math this year. I have been doing a lot of Math problem solving within my Science curriculum. Helping students learn to think and do problem solving is a major help in retaining information. When it can be done in all subjects, it really helps.
#1 I enjoyed the Book Study for Teach like your Hair is on Fire by Rafe Esquith. I find myself going through the book for inspiration. I read the book once then skimmed through it once more to answer the questions. I also saw the documentary on Rafe's Class.
#2 I am finding it difficult to teach the skills my students need to master because they don't know basic math. Several of my students stay for after school tutorials to help with mastery but it doesn't close the gap. If more parents took an interest in their child's learning that would help tremendously. I teach problem solving skills and startegies to answer math questions but when students don't know multiplication facts it hinders their retention of information.
I know students are taught their multiplication facts, subtraction, addition, and yes division prior to the fifth grade. However, summer hits and a wave of fourth grade never happened hits. So many of my lovelys plead to me that they never learned one if not more of those essential skills. I know that they were taught these skills, however I don't know why they do not retain them. My theory is to start teaching theses skills in younger grades. Obviously students need more time to really grasp theses concepts.
This is Amanda Short. I had to create a new account, so I'm late responding to these discussions.
In response to Topic One - I thought the first book study was great. I wouldn't make any changes to it. Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire was a great read. I'm finishing Eat That Frog and plan to start the book study this week.
In response to Topic Two - I agree with everything Chelsea said also. There are many factors besides the ability of the teacher that affect how successful a child is in school (as Susan wrote). Even though some of my students will go onto fourth grade "below level" I see how much they've progressed since they arrived in third grade.
A year or so back, I spoke with some middle school teachers and asked them what they would want elementary teachers to focus on. They want students to be more comfortable with basic math. A lot of their students arrive in middle school unable to compute simple math problems quickly. I see that also in third grade. I would ask teachers of K-2 to spend more time on making ten and addition/subtraction. Also continue to review beyond the given timeframe. Make connections between what you are teaching now with what you taught last six weeks. Give them examples of how it's important in life outside of the classroom and beyond the test.
As I responded in the 2nd Six Weeks Discussion, a good number of my students try to get through a specific lesson such as division, fractions, measurement, etc. with the hope that if they "lie low enough for long enough" they will not need to worry about discussed topic past the time that it was taught/learned or discussed. One of the struggles we have encountered in the fourth grade with regard to the subject of Math is that our students are not coming prepared or well-versed with their multiplication. If the opportunity presented itself to be able to discuss my student's progress or level of understanding of multiplication fact families, it might be easier to pull these identified students for small group teaching, one-on-one instruction and attention so that these students can learn the "lacking" facts and hopefully catch up to the majority of the class.
Topic 1-The book; Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire was an excellent choice and very motivating.
Topic 2- One of the main problems I see with students being prepared for the next grade
depends not only on the teacher and students but the parents. Too many of the students
come to the classroom with the ability to learn, practice, drill, and retain information but
the problem lies with the parents not having the time or making the time to help their child
at home by reinforcing all the skills that are assigned for homework. Also,some students are
raised by grandparents who do not have the ability to help their grandchildren and if they
do they don't insist that they do their school work.
Topic 2 - I have to agree that knowing and being comfortable with the basic math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) is essential to being good problem solvers. Multiplication really comes into play in 5th grade math with fractions. It is very hard to find equivalent fractions or simplify fractions, convert larger units of measurement to smaller units or vice versa without a sound knowledge of the facts. The students do not realize the importance of this until those skills are needed in other concepts besides a basic multiplication or division problem. Knowledge of basic facts is extremely important.
Topic 2- Students are children for the most part. I don't like to point fingers at their previous teachers, because I know they do the best they can. Being in public education there are no picking and choosing which students we want in a classroom. Most students only learn enough to get them through a test to make a good grade. Most of the time they don't internalize what they are doing until later on in the upper grades. Not sure why this happens I'm sure it will be a mystery for all eternity:)
Question 2- I did go talked to a teacher in 3rd grade since I know her. She was very kind. I asked her if she would tell the other teachers to work more on multiplication fact. She said she would practice more with her students this year. I don't like to blame anyone because the grade above us could blame us too. All we can do is go talk to them and ask if they could help us in certain areas. I always go and ask 5th grade how can 4th grade them.
In response to topic 2:
I am a third grade teacher... I hear every year from nearly every parent, this so much harder than last year. While I believe the second grade teachers are teaching all the foundations for third grade math, I feel as if they could focus a little more on basic computation. If students can find the relationship numbers have with each other then they can see them working together. I want to see third graders that know every single number pair that makes 10. (1 + 9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5) they don't have to memorize them. They need to understand them. Number sense is the only recommendation I have for second grade teachers. Check out Greg tang, he has some really great ideas on basic computation for kids, things they will understand.
I teach 3rd grade at Flour Bluff and we always get together with 2nd grade teachers to show them what 3rd graders are expected to do at the beginning of the year as well as end of the year. We share our pre-test for 3rd grade and release tests online. I think they are doing a great job of making sure they do certain things we have asked. For example: using certain vocabulary, not giving oral test at end of year, making their tests throughout the year more word problems, etc. We also do trainings together like Singapore Math, so hopefully in another year they will come with that experience. Yes, every year I would love to have those kids all know how to add or subtract so we can move on, but that never happens and seems to be worse each year. I also hear that in the upper grades that they can't regroup, so I do not think I would blame the previous teachers because then those other teachers could blame me too and I know we all teach those things... I am just not sure where the learning goes...
Topic One - I thoroughly enjoyed the book study. Although the questions were insightful and thought provoking, I felt a little overwhelmed at times because there were so many questions. Maybe for the next study, less questions so not as time consuming, especially at the end of the school year when things are crazy already!
Topic Two - I teach fourth grade. To third grade teachers, I would stress the need for the students to memorize their multiplication facts. It seems like every year, more students do not know their multiplication facts. This makes it so difficult for kiddos to learn fractions and division when they are still counting on their fingers or doing repeated addition or drawing 132 circles for 12 x11! And I know 3rd grade teachers teach this, it just seems like there is not enough time in the curriculum to spend on this important skill. We have the same problem when teaching division. We teach it the best we can, but then you have to move on because there is so much to cover in so little time!
Topic 1: The book study "Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire" was a great book to read. The only thing that should be modify should be the questions. There should be less questions . The chapters were enjoyable. To visualize a classroom run so well and show success, Wow! To have the opportunity to read and discuss the book with professional educators is an awesome feeling. Even though we may feel overwhelmed with all our school work, overall the book and questions ran smoothly.
Topic 2: I taught 4th grade last year and was sent to the 3rd grade this year. More or less I wish to impress upon the 2nd grade teachers the need to teach more math. I feel it is happening this year because the 2nd grade teachers are team teaching and math is being taught by a math teacher. When teachers are self-contained math is push to the back burner and reading is being push to the front. If the students are having trouble reading, then they will have trouble in math. This is true, but students still need to understand numbers and the concept for everyday life. I will just tell my 2nd grade math teachers to keep doing a great job and we will see great results in the years to come.
From the secondary level, we usually have what is called the "in's and out's". What this means is that, for example, the 8th grade teacher and algebra I teacher would get together and discuss what the 8th grade teacher would expect of her students to exit with, and the algebra I teacher would express what pre-skills students would be expected to know upon entering the algebra I class. A level of understanding of what is needed and what skillls would be accomplish on entering/exiting could be communicated.
As a Geometry teacher, I would love to impress upon the Algebra teachers the importance of students being able to manipulate equations of all kinds. They need to be able to solve for things other than x and y. It freaks my students out when I say solve the equation for V(volume). They do not seem to understand that the process does not change with different letters. If they caould come to me knowing how to do this, it would be wonderful. Another thing is fractions. Fractions seem to scare students. I don't understand because I love fractions.
First of all, the book study was so easy to respond to. If I had known it was going to be that easy, I would have started earlier!
Second, I would talk to teachers about students knowing multiplication and division facts well. I teach 8th grade. Too many times we get into a problem, and then have to stop to multiply or divide and then totally lose the whole concept of the problem.
I do want to say however that I certainly don't "blame" the teacher. There are just too many other factors involved. I taught 7th grade last year and was able to move up this year to 8th grade. There were times that I knew we had gone over concepts last year and the students knew how to do them. This year, they were clueless!
I am confident that the teachers at lower grade levels are teaching the TEKS for their grade level. I feel that the students are putting the information in short term memory and not internalizing it. Many of my students have no number sense. They get to high school and have no idea that multiplying by 1/2 is the same as dividing by 2. I teach Geometry at the high school. We do communicate within our department on skills that need to be improved and emphasized to help our students be successful at the next level. The Algebra I teachers have spent a lot of time the last couple of years working with their students on solving linear equations. I have seen significant improvements when I get these students in Geometry. The Algebra II teachers expressed that it would help if we had the Geometry students round their answers to the nearest thousandths. We are lucky at our school because we have a Math Coach at the junior high and the high school. We also have a Math Curriculum Specialist for the district. All three of these people do a good job at helping to improve our vertical alignment.
Re: 3rd Six weeks required discussion
I agree with you. Yes, I think most teachers do a great job in teaching the grade level curriculum. We are in the process of aligning math curriculum, writing year-long plans and unit topic plans and I do see some "holes". In speaking with the Montessori 5th grade teacher, I found that she was teaching what I needed for the students to be prepared for, but using completely different terminology. Hopefully, we can collaborate more this year. I also see that my 6th graders come in with the idea that math is learned in compartments with very little connections between the skills learned in one set lessons and how they are closely connected to skills in a different topic. It's gratifying when I see when they can make the connections. I also know that many of the students study to get through the test and see no reason why they need to retain it.