Monday, November 19, 2012

Finally! I'm Back!

It is so good to be back to blogging! Thanks to everyone who was so patient while I was away. I feel like there is some normalcy back in my life, finally! Today's post is about how I'm doing some math workshop scheduling in one of my classes.  At the end, there is also a link to my PDF which you can print up for your own.

But, before I get back to the school blog stuff, I have two last thoughts (and pictures) to share on Hurricane Sandy here in New Jersey.

First thought: I never thought I would routinely see this truck in my community.  We've never had a natural disaster of this magnitude here in NJ.  To have a hurricane come through and cause so much devestation that Red Cross Disaster Relief trucks take residence for a long while is still just astounding to me.
Second Thought:  Not really a thought for this one, but a picture to share.  This is the waterfront by my home.  It was completely underwater for much of the storm.  As you can see from the picture, many of the businesses and homes were just destroyed.  However, look closely at the background of the picture.  See those white buildings all the way in the back?  That's New York City.  When I took this picture, I was amazed at how sparkly white all the building were on this day.  It was a cloudy, overcast day.  You can't tell from the picture, but in the middle of all those clouds there was this big beam of sunshine just sparkling down on the city making it shine.  It was just really pretty and nice to see amidst all the damage.
 Okay, now on to our regular blogging!
In one of the classes I visit for basic skills math instruction, we've begun using a math workshop approach.  We, the classroom teacher and I, quickly realized that we needed to find a way to meet the needs of all the students in a more effective way.  It's a true heterogeneous class.  The span of abilities is tremendous.  Teaching a whole lesson to the whole class just wasn't going to work.  We needed to do more small group direct instruction and practice.  We needed to find a way to let those who needed more guidance get it and enrich and challenge those that were ready to move on.
The answer for us was a math workshop approach.  I researched a lot of different approaches and this is the one that seemed to best meet out needs.  In the interest of giving credit where credit is absolutely due, I really adapted what we are doing from Beth Newingham's post on how she runs math workshop.  Beth was a Scholastic Top Teacher.  Scholastic or not, she's definetly a top teacher!  Her post on math workshop was a tremendous help. So much of what she was doing is what we needed to be doing.  When you have a chance, click on the link and check out what she has to say. She will explain it so much better than I can below!
Here's the schedule we use.  The picture is a little dark, sorry about that!
I should probably explain that due to scheduling, groups A and B run simultaneously.  Unfortunately, I am only in the room for part of the period, so the teacher and I each meet with a group (A & B) during round 1, then I leave.  The classroom teacher then meets with one group during rounds 2 and 3.
Before I go on, here are some other points you may need to know to better understand.
  • Groups A & B are the students most in need of help.  Group C is the middle group and Group D are the high achievers.  Having said that, the groups change depending on the skills being taught.  We do our best to make sure the kids do not have a sense of which is a "high" or "low" group. 
  • "Meet with Teacher" is when students meet with the teacher in a small group to work on skills related to the main lesson.
  • "Seat Work" has students at their seats working on the lesson pages, finishing up work from "Meet with Teacher" and/or differentiated work tasks.  It is essentially the time they apply what they have learned.  In the back of the room, we have four group folders that each contain differentiated work for the week.  My friends just go back and take what they need for the day.
  • "Activity Time" is usually some math game that provides practice with the skills from the day's lesson or the chapter.
So, here' s how we do it. 
The class begins with about 10 minutes of whole group instruction that covers the "meat" of the lesson.  It's is explained and then a couple of practice problems are done.  Then, it's time to break-up into groups for three rounds of work.  The first two rounds are about 20 minutes each with the last round about 15 minutes. 
Round 1:  Meet with Teacher - This is where our two lowest groups (A & B) meet with the teacher for more explicit instruction and do the lesson work.  With two of us in the room, these groups are nice and small.  Group C begins with "Activity Time" so that they may play with the concepts before coming to meet with the teacher and then do the "Seat Work" where they will apply what they know. Group D begins with the seat work. 
At this point, my time in this class is up and the homeroom teacher completes the day's lesson as follows. And, I should mention that she is awesome at it!  I'm lucky to work with a great teacher who really strives to do what is best for her students.
Round 2:  Groups A & B now go on to Seat Work.  Group C now meets with the teacher while Group D goes to Activity Time.
Round 3:  Group C will now go on to do their Seat Work while Group D now meets with the teacher.  This allows her to go over the seat work with them and trouble shoot any problems.  As they are a high ability group, things usually go smoothly.  This allows the teacher to go on to work on higher level problems using the same skills.  Groups A
Have I lost you yet? :-)  Just refer back to the picture of our schedule!
After the three rounds, the class meets again for about 20 minutes to review homework and wrap up the lesson.  We still run into kinks now and then, but over all it's working for us.  I am sure there is a better way to do it out there somewhere, and I don't claim our way is the best way, but as I wrote this is working for us.
If you've read this long, you deserve a little something!  Below, is the link that will take you to a printable version of the Math Workshop Schedule Board.  It is a PDF and has a few extra sections so you can play around with organizing it.  You also don't have to use them for a math workshop.  Those "Meet with Teacher" would be great to put a magnet on and use on the white board.  You could just write under it who you want to meet with for things like conferencing. 
So, that's our math workshop routine.  There are three things I love about it.  First, we are seeing good results with more small group instruction.  Second, the kids love it.  Third, the period really flies by with this type of schedule!
Thanks again to all of you that hung in there while I was out.  While I do this blog mainly for me (to keep track of what I'm doing and ideas I have) it's always nice to have readers.  So, with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I can say in all honesty I am thankful for you!  And, no!  I never got around to changing my blog over.  Maybe over Christmas! :-)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I know that prior to October 30 I had been MIA for a while.  I was completely overwhelmed by my new position and needed some time to adjust.  And, adjust I did!  I wrote a few post that I had planned to post.  But then, I became MIA for a very different reason.  Hurricane Sandy. 
 The pictures below are taken of places that are no more than a 5 minute drive from my home.  I am on day 7 and counting with no power.  That means no heat, no electricity, no hot water, and obviously no Internet.  I am writing this at a hot spot I happened to find.  Despite all that, I am one of the very lucky ones.  My family is all ok.  Our homes are still standing.  That is not the case for so many in my community.

School has been cancelled for two weeks.  Even then, we are not sure if we will be going back next Monday or not.  Teachers I work with have lost their homes, most have no power, and those that still have their homes have had trees fall on them, fences down, and more.   I can't even tell you how our students fared.  Most seem to be doing ok, but then today I heard that one families house burned down last night.  The storm is over, but it doesn't seem as if it is for us yet.

Today, I spent the morning volunteering in a community two towns over that has been devastated by the hurricane.  On every corner you have the National Guard posted.  FEMA personnel are everywhere.  Several teachers and I got together to help families empty out water flooded homes and then went to help organize clothes and goods at a donation drop off center.  You can't imagine how overwhelming it is emotionally to see people putting everything they own on the curb.  So many people have lost literally everything except the clothes on their back.

If you can donate to help those so devastated by this hurricane, please do so.  They need your help so desperately.  A good place to donate it to the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund.  Money donated there is to go directly to New Jersey residents effected by the storm.

As for posting on this blog.  I have some fun things to post, but am not sure when I will be able to.  As I wrote, I have no power and no Internet service.  I'm not sure when I will have power.  However, as soon as I do I plan to get back to blogging.

Thanks for sticking around.  I promise to be back as soon as I can.