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.

4 Brilliant Teaching Thoughts:

Carol said...

I've been looking forward to this book study! I agree that while I do talk to my students a lot about their math work and thinking, I need to provide a teaching point. I'm also hoping to get ideas for documenting what I learn during conferences to help with planning and RTI.
Still Teaching After All These Years

Sherrie Nackel said...

I'm really excited about this book study. I do math workshop in my 7th grade class and conferring was a weakness of mine. Looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with. Is there going to be a linky for all our posts? Thanks for hosting this chapter.

Second Grade is Out of This World! said...

Hi Beth! I am participating in this book study as well. I too was struck by the Tale of Four Students part. Standardized tests definitely miss the mark on having students explain how they got their answers. This chapter also made me realize that I don't always ask for clarification when students give correct answers. That is something that I really plan to work on this year! Thank you for your wonderful post!
Second Grade is Out of This World!

Exploring Elementary said...

I love this book so much and I REALLY LOVED Laney Sammon's first book on "Guided Math" I am excited to figure out how to making conferencing apart of the culture of my math classroom! Looking forward to learning lots more from you each week!

Carmen Zeisler

Exploring Elementary
Fourth Grade

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