Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chapter 9- Guided Math- Putting It Into Practice

We made it!
I am so happy about the learning and re-learning I've done over the course of this book study and want to thank all of you for joining me on this journey.

It's not over yet... of, course we all need to go back to school and like the chapter says "put it into practice". 

I'm looking forward to many posts to come, here on my blog and on yours to see how people adapt and modify the Guided Math framework to fit their teaching style and the learning styles of their students.

Some things that stood out for me during this chapter were:

* the list of "look fors" on page 246 that describe students who are learning mathematics. 

I'd like to make this into a lesson or anchor chart...or something!

* the questions on page 247 for teachers of mathematics to consider

This is a great place to start your planning for sure!

Well, isn't that a loaded question!

Since I technically started implementing the Guided Math framework in my class two years ago this isn't really the beginning for me, but it is a new start.

So what are my goals?

Background papers from:

So it looks like I've got some work to do!

And I'll be back to post my progress on these goals and to update you on my Math Workshop series.

Thanks for joining in on this great book study.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chapter 8- Assessment in Guided Math

Another chapter that I didn't post on the first time around! Fun!

I am amazed at how comfortable I have become with assessment in the last few years. I'm not sure if it has to do with the principal I was working for a few years ago or the fact that I now have about ten years of teaching under my belt but I know that I feel confident using anecdotals and observations for assessment where I didn't in the past. 

I love the analogy that Laney Sammons makes on page 227 to the inuksuit in the tundra...assessment as a guide post!

She states "without this guidance [of assessment], the effectiveness of instruction is lost."

Some other quotes that stood out for me are:

"When this evidence of student learning [meaning the gathering of data done my teachers- formally or informally] is used to develop teaching practices and enhance learning, assessment is being performed." (page 228)

"Teachers plan, teach, assess learning, and then adjust their instruction. Eventually teachers may even be able to assess and adjust as they teach." (page 229)

This is where I feel I am... sometimes!
And when it happens isn't it a great feeling?

"Students improve their performances and increase their learning when they know precisely what they have done well and exactly what they need to do to improve, and then are given opportunities to do so." (page 229)

I have totally seen this in my own class as there as been such a big push for using success criteria is every subject over the past few years. Co-creating the success criteria, keeping it posted and having students self assess has changed the way students view their own grades.

Something I want to improve is my descriptive feedback and my use of checklists to inform parents of their child's progress on a more regular basis.

On page 234, Sammons writes about using checklists for assessment, something I have grown to really like. She states that "[a]fter the checklist has been completed for a piece of student work, the student is then given an opportunity to revise his or her work so that it meets the criteria."


I LOVE the criteria for problem solving rubric that is shared on pages 236-237 and will definitely be using that in my class this year!

A goal for me this coming year is to involve my students as much as possible in the assessment process and have them self-assess and set goals. This isn't something I've been very good at in the past and I really want to improve in this area.

I try to use lots of different kinds of assessment in my class and in the past years I have found myself using formative assessment quite a lot (yeah me!) as well as anecdotal observations and conferences/interviews.

Here are some posts I've done in the past on assessment:

Talking Pictures- love this for formative/diagnostic assessment
Glow and Grow- a strategy I learned at a workshop and then was expanded on by the amazing Jen from Runde's Room!

(it is actually only one post! LOL...looks like I need to finish that up! OOPS)

Well, it looks like we are almost done our time together for this book more chapter to go.
But don't forget about the Guided Math Conferences Book Study that has started.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Winner Confusion...And Many Apologies!

Oh dear.....

If you subscribe to my blog via email updates then you received an email that contained PART of my last post. 

This was email to inform you that I had a new post on the blog... not to tell you that you won the contest. 
I'm so sorry for the confusion.

The actual post showed the Rafflecopter with the widget to indicate the winner's name.

I sincerely apologize for the confusion and to anyone that emailed me thinking they were the winner.

Amanda C. congrats to you.
Could you please email me?
Thanks to everyone for entering and once again, I am so sorry for the confusion caused by the wording in my post as it came through for those of you who subscribe via email.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


We have a winner!!!

Please email me at thinkingofteaching(at)gmail(dot)com
so we can get everything organized!!

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Friday, July 11, 2014

It's My Summer....

And I'll read if I want to!

I'm back with my promised post about books I'm reading this summer.

I'd love to say that I'm reading poolside, on the beach, with everyone in Vegas...

But alas, I'm am home on mat leave with an 8 month old and a three-year-old so I read when I can squeeze it in!

I've actually posted about my summer reads over at A Class*y Collaboration and I'd love for you to check them out.

 Just follow the link to head on over.

Then let's hear it!
What are you reading??

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chapter 7- Conferring with Students

How awesome is it that this chapter of Guided Math happened to fall right after the start of the Guided Math Conferences Book Study?!

If you are loving Guided Math (and how could you not?) then you should click here to check out my post on Guided Math Conferences, another fabulous book by Laney Sammons.
Brenda from Primary Inspired is hosting a book study on this book and it just started! 

You totally have time to jump on board!

So I do have my original thoughts on this chapter and once again you can find them below in pink and italics. 

Chapter 7 is all about conferring with students about their math understanding. The teacher is able to learn about the students, their work, what they may be struggling with, and the next steps in learning. 

I loved when Sammon's wrote that "conferring is the heart and soul of teaching" (page 207). 

What an amazing statement, and so true. 

When we conference with our students, in any subject we sit alongside them, talk to them, listen to them and learn about them. 

How wonderful. 

Sammons also points out that conferring makes our instruction "more focused and powerful" (page 207).

Talking with my students about math is one of my absolute favourite parts of math workshop. 
I often talk with my students as I move through the classroom and they are working, which I guess is a math conference!

During a math huddle I encourage a lot of math talk which I find is a great way to learn more about their math thinking, however
many students are only familiar with being questioned about their thinking when they are wrong, not when they are right

I think it's important to ask students questions during both situations, when they are wrong to help clarify their thinking and guide them towards understanding the concept being studied and when they are right to help them expand their knowledge and their ability to communicate their thinking. 

In order to help students gain a comfort level with this it needs to be a stated expectation from the beginning of the year. 
I talk to my students about why I will be asking them questions
- no matter if they are right or wrong- 
because it helps me to understand more about their thinking, it will help them to communicate clearly to their peers, and it will help their classmates to hear math talk from someone who understands the concept we are studying. 

As the year progresses and students are questioned frequently they begin to expect it and look forward to answering in order to communicate their thinking.

Management Issues
- think and plan about how your students will be involved in independent work so you have time to confer with students (think- Math Workshop meets the Daily 5)

- you will not be able to consistently monitor the work of other students in the room during Math Workshop as you will be busy conducting conferences

- plan for what will happen 
when students need help and they can't ask you

*This is a goal for me...I really want to have a solid routine in place so students can help themselves and each other.*

- it is essential that students become independent and self-sufficient in order to avoid "learned helplessness" and build endurance for problem solving

*This is such an important all subjects!!*

- plan for students who 
1) have trouble starting a task, 
2) staying on task, 
3) always move around the room, 
4) finish quickly with no thought to the quality of their work

- take a moment to watch the room before you start your conferences, move across the room instead of student to student beside each other

- follow up on conferences frequently

The Structure of a Conference

- teachers ask questions in order to see what the students are thinking, understanding and wondering

- main structure of a conference includes:

1) research
2) decide
3) teach
4) link

 I love how Sammons writes that "the goal of a conference is to move a student from what he or she can almost independently to what he or she can do independently" (page 213). 
The research stage is crucial here so that we go into a conference prepared with the knowledge we need to help our students. 

It is important to remember that we can review our previous anecdotal observations as part of the research process as well as asking a student a general question that allows them to start explaining their thinking. 

* I am currently revamping my 
system for keeping anecdotal records. 
If anyone has a good system, I'd love to hear about it. *

Once we have done the necessary research it is time to decide what is needed to help our students. How can we support our students' growth? Sammons outlines that we, as teachers, have three responsibilities during this phase:

1) talk about what students are doing well
2) choose what we can teach to move students forward
3) focus on how to best use the time left in our conference

I really noticed how often it was mentioned that teachers should focus on talking about what students are doing right from the start in order to help them feel comfortable during the conference and to help give them the confidence needed to learn from the teach segment of the conference.

Teaching anything during a conference will be brief and teachers need to know their STUFF! 

Sammons writes that teachers usually use one of the folioing teaching strategies during this stage of a conference: guided practice, demonstration, explain and show an example.

Lastly, end the conference with a link to the future. Remind students about what they are doing well, what they have learned during the conference and to try to use their new knowledge next time they are solving a similar problem. 

As mentioned before, Sammons talks about keeping records for the conferences at the 
end of the chapter and the importance of this practice. 

So my question do you keep records during your math conferences/workshop/lessons etc?

Check out some more great posts about this chapter.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

It's the Summer and I'll Read If I Want To... Linky party!

I've been doing so much professional reading this summer that it's time to celebrate some personal reading.
I know many teachers only read for pleasure during the summer because they struggle to fit it in during the school year.
Not me.

I read ALL the time. It's like a compulsion. I'm addicted.
But I can still celebrate summer time reading with you all.

And I have a very simple question...

What are you reading? Is it awesome? Do you recommend it?

Let's have a just for fun linky and share our personal reads. 
Grab the button and start linking up with the books you are reading by the pool, on the beach, while travelling, anything!!

Let's have some fun.

I'll be back soon to let you know what I've been reading... in between all these professional books!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Guided Math Conferences

So it turns out this is the summer of the book study for me!
Definitely a bonus to being on maternity actual teaching to do so there is lots of time for professional reading.

Two years ago I first participated in the book study for Guided Math with Brenda from Primary Inspired and it changed my teaching...of math and all subjects. 

So when Brenda decided to do Laney Sammons' most recent book- Guided Math Conferences I knew I had to be a part of it!

Like all of Sammons' books this is an easy read that speaks to me as a teacher. So much of it makes sense and makes me go "YES!" as I read. 
It really does make professional learning fun
 (as corny as that sounds). 

On page 11 I found myself circling and making stars on the following quote- "The intimate nature of small classes allows astute teachers to establish close relationships with their students in which they acquire something of a true measure of their students' learning strengths and needs through observation and discussions."

Wow, if that's not the ultimate goal of teaching then I don't know what is.

By far the best part of the chapter for me was the
Tale of Four Students
So true to life. 
So real.
So sad.

It really made me think about the standardized tests we have here in my province... where the students answer mainly multiple choice math questions with a few opportunities for true problem solving and showing what they know.


On page 14 Sammons writes about Marilyn Burns and how she recognized that she often failed to probe deeper when her students gave a correct answer to her questions. 
I am proud to say that I do often probe deeper with my students but it's a slow road- you need to really make sure that your students understand why they are being questioned and to help them understand that being questioned is not a bad thing.
It really is a culture that needs to be set up and nurtured with in your class. 

I'm hoping that by reading Guided Math Conferences I'll be able to extend my abilities in this area.

So What Are Guided Math Conferences?

On page 16 Sammons writes, "One-on-one math conferences are valuable for accurate assessment of student strengths and needs, and for targeting individual needs through timely feedback and brief specific instruction."

Conferences have these characteristics:

* a purpose

* a predictable structure

* lines of thinking are pursued with students

* each participant has a conversational role

* students know that teachers care about them (p16)

The thing that stuck out for me the most was the idea that conferences require students to focus on representing their work using both their voice and writing (diagrams, models, symbols). This is such a big area of need for so many students.

On pages 18- 20 Sammons compares a math interview with a math conference with small-group instruction. I found this section to be very interesting and informative, especially the chart that is on page 21. 

I had never really thought about a math interview before and was intrigued by the idea of what this could be, especially the idea that it is mainly for assessment and no feedback is given to students. I think I would find it very awkward and difficult not to provide feedback if I was having a conversation with a student. 

In my class I think math conferences happen all the time. I am constantly rotating through the students and talking about their work. We have a short conversation and I often take an anecdotal assessment and provide feedback. 

What I want/need to get better at is providing an instructional teaching point to my students as we talk.

Hence, the reason for reading this book!

One of my goals is to make math conferences a daily part of my math program and I think reading this book will really help me with that.

I hope you are joining us for this great book study.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chapter 6- Guided Math

For some reason I didn't do a post on Chapter 6 during the original Guided Math book study 2 years ago....hmmm.

So for this post there will be just my current thoughts.

That's kinda fun too, right??

Since this post contains my thoughts about the book and how I will be implementing what I've learned in my Math Workshop I've decided to include it in my Math Workshop series.

You can check out the other posts here.

One of the problems I faced when I first started implementing guided math and math workshop is that I went too fast. I tried to set up everything at once, get it all rolling and then it was just too much to keep up with...and ultimately it got dropped from my program.

Sad, but true.

This year I have a plan (am working on a plan....) and will go much more slowly with implementing each of the components of my math workshop program. 

I originally posted about my plan for Math Workshop here but after re-reading through Guided Math I have made a few tweaks.
Instead of the acronym that you see in the post I am going to use 

M- Must Do
A- Activate Thinking
T- Teacher Time
H- Helping Others

So really just the A has changed but here's why... To me both the A and the H sounded the same.
 "All Together" and "Helping Others"- too similar. 

"Activate Thinking" covers a much broader range of topics/concepts/activities for math workshop.

In Chapter 6 Sammons provides an outline of the possible activities that can be done during Math Workshop (see chart on page 188-189) while the teacher is working with a small guided group. As I read through the activities I sorted them into the areas of my math workshop where I thought they would work the best.

Background papers from:

As you can see some components are in more than one area but will look a little different in each. For example, math facts- in Helping Others this may be a game or flash cards, in Activate Thinking it may be a worksheet or an assessment so I can evaluate where the student's own mastery lies.

Some other thoughts I want to think more about and get a handle on:

* Problem of the Week 
-where will this fit? how will I ensure students have time to work on it? will it be assessed? good place to use practice questions from EQAO (standardized test)?

* Materials
- how will things be organized in my class? what does my new school provide? what do I need to create/purchase?

* Investigations
- one per month? optional/mandatory? tied to math stretch "How My Family Used Math? inquiry based?

* Math Journals
- have a separate section for reflections and writing? rubric? checklist? letter writing to each other to offer support?

* Self- Management
- use the bulleted list on page 201 to create an anchor chart/ contract for our math workshop time?

So many questions still to think about!!

Do you have any suggestions or ideas for how these things work in your class?

Check out the other hosts for their thoughts on this chapter and don't forget to enter the giveaway.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

100 Minutes Celebration Giveaway

We did it!!!

Woooo hoooo.

I am so happy that I chose this book for this summer's book study. I have learned so much from reading it and all the posts by the co-hosts and participants.

Thank you all so much. 

Lisa has generously answered quite a number of the questions that we sent to her, and here's what she has to say!

Question: How does Lisa suggest managing the editing and revising piece of the writing block?

Lisa: As students work on the various stages of their writing, they can use the independent writing time to draft, revise, edit and publish their work.  I use the Writing Conference time, to regularly check in with students to see where they are with their writing, and how I might be able to help. I try to differentiate for the student's various learning and writing styles.  When I know that students are working on a piece that they will take right though the writing process, then I suggest that they choose whether to begin by writing it by hand, or working on a computer. If they choose to use a computer, then it's easier for them to make revisions without having to spend time re-copying their work.  My students spend more time 'learning' about a given form or element of writing by writing many different pieces, rather than working on one piece through all five stages of the writing process.  Not everything I have written has been published... and the same goes for them.  They need time to play with text forms and elements of writing before they are ready to share their writing with a larger audience. 

Question: How do you balance assigned writing with free or choice writing?
Lisa: I help students learn how to prioritize their writing.  There are some "must-do" and there are some free-choice.  Even within the parameters of a "must-do", I try to include as much choice as possible.  For example, I might give students a number of writing prompts and ask them to select one that inspires them to write.  While we may be working on a particular form of writing, I try to allow as much choice as possible within the task.  Also, I try to give students as much choice as possible as to the way they would like to write (pencil and paper, computer, blog, etc).  There are times, within AWARD Time, when students are able to work on whatever writing they choose.  Often, during the Writing Instruction time students start pieces, or generate ideas that they would like to pursue.  By giving them a 'write whatever you want' time, students are able to revisit work that they have started, or would like to build on.

Question: During your students independent reading time do you have them track their reading using a reading log? Genre challenge? 
Lisa: To be honest, I don't. There are some teachers who do, but for me, I feel that independent reading should truly be about the student's free choice to explore different texts and foster their love for reading.  There have been times when I would suggest different books to students, or encourage them to select a book in a different form (e.g., something other than a graphic novel), but for the most part, if they are reading, and thinking about their reading, then I am happy.  I use our Guided Reading time as a way to focus their attention on different types of texts, text features, and ways to critically think, analyze and apply their learning. 

Question: Does the writing lesson always have to go last or could you mix and match?
Lisa: 100 MINUTES is a flexible framework.  It was written as an idea of what a Literacy Block might look like.  Even I do not stick to the "rules" of 100 MINUTES.  Teachers should feel free to adapt and alter the various elements in ways that would work best for their learners.  Moving the Writing Lesson to the beginning of the literacy block, makes complete sense. 

Question: Do your writing lessons focus on a genre or the traits of writing?
My writing lessons focus on everything!  From the form of writing to the elements of writing.  We focus on conventions, grammar, voice, and parts of speech.  This is the time when I can weave in the various aspects of writing, play with voice and explore the 'rules' of writing.  

Question: This is about have the writing lesson at the end of the block-  do the students remember what was taught in the lesson, do they carry it over to the next day?
Lisa: Because AWARD Time is an ongoing cycle, the kids are really good at remembering where they are and where they are going next (even when I forget). As far as the application of the writing skills, I always take a few minutes to review what each group will be doing during AWARD Time and remind them to check their individual goals.

Question: When doing guided reading, how many lessons do you spend on one text? Should students (in higher levels especially) have the chance to read the text before coming to the lesson?
Lisa: I know that there are many different opinions on this.  I personally only use a guided reading text once with students.  For me, engagement is the key and I prefer to keep the texts that students are reading with me new every time.  

Question: Is all the reading during a guided reading lesson reading aloud?
Lisa: I think this would depend on the age of your learners.  With younger students, I would want to make sure that they are actually able to read the words and make sense of it.  With older students, my concern is more about being able to understand and apply the things that they are reading.  Usually, I would start a text by introducing a 'big idea' or something to think about (like a HOT question). They I would ask students to read the first part on their own (in their head).  As a group, I would ask if anyone would be willing to read what they have just read aloud to the group, so we could discuss it.  After I know that students are into the text, and comfortable with it, I might ask them to read the next section and find something that would support their thinking in response to the big idea or HOT question.  This way, the students are reading for a purpose.  I know that they are able to understand the text, because of the conversations we have about it and the evidence they select to justify their thinking.  I don't really need to listen to them read every word aloud to know whether or not they are understanding the text.  When we are having a conversation, and kids are pointing to the page and saying things like "Yeah, but it says that....", and "I disagree because over here I read that...", or "I still don't understand how ....", I know that they are reading and thinking.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who would like to write a professional book?
Do it!  Do lots of research in your class and the classrooms of others.  Do lots of professional reading and co-learning.  Once you know that your practice is grounded in solid pedagogy and you think your experiences can benefit others, then actively seek out a publisher.  

Different publishers have different requirements when submitting a proposal.  For the most part, you will need to create a proposal that describes the purpose and audience of the book, a draft of the Table of Contents, and probably the first few chapters.

Be persistent and don't give up.  If you feel that you have something worth sharing, then share it!  Maybe formal publishing might not be for you, but there are so many other vehicles through which you can share your ideas.  Start a blog, share on Twitter, create a Website, network through conferences and professional learning opportunities, but keep sharing and learning.

Finally, don't quit your job to pursue your dream of writing professionally.  While it is a fun hobby on the side, it won't pay the bills.  :)

Teaching is much more about learning than knowing.  
Thanks for being a part of my learning network 
by doing this book study.  
I have learned so much from you all by following along.  
Best wishes in your classrooms, please feel free to let me know how 100 MINUTES is working for you and your students next year.

To celebrate all our learning and growing, the co-hosts and I are holding a giveaway.

Checkout these amazing prizes.

Kelly Anne from Appleslices has donated her


Look at all this amazingness. 

Kelly from An Apple for the Teacher is also in on the fun...

An Apple for the Teacher

She is donating an item from her TPT store- 

My amazing new BFF, Erin from A Piece of the Apple has generously donated at $20 gift card to Starbucks.


Hmmmm, coffee!!

Jen from Teaching, Life and Everything In Between has kindly offered a copy of her Differentiated Literacy Activities- The Little Match Girl

Emily from Emmy Mac's Class as offered winner's choice of product from her TPT store, Emmy Mac Shop
(Up to $15)


As for me, I am giving away a copy of my Reading Genre Cards

Good luck to everyone!

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