Minds on Mathematics Chapters 7 and 8

Phew!  With crazy four day weekends of softball, I have seriously been neglecting the book study that I agreed to participate in with Sherrie over at Middle School Math Rules. <Sorry girl!>

So today I am taking a look at two chapters in the book, that really create the bulk of your time within the classroom framework:  Mini Lessons {Chapter 7} and Work Time {Chapter 8}

Problem of the Day;  How do you set students up for success as independent thinkers and problem solvers?
In this chapter, Hoffer comes back again and again to the idea of using the launch and the mini lesson to model your thinking. And again (and again and again)  I had to go DUH!  You use these strategies ALL the time in your ELA classes, why are you not incorporating them into math!.
Modeling these thinking strategies in the mini-lesson really helps students use the vocabulary and language within the work time context.  Explaining how and why a strategy works makes learners self-sufficient AND makes them think for themselves.  I am not going to be there to take the state assessment, I need my students to have reasoning skills.
A few areas within this chapter that I liked were the idea of using real-life examples, anchor charts, and think alouds.  Our math program {DIGITS} did a pretty good job of incorporating the real world pieces into our program.  They used many word problems, just like the Common Core is expecting, and related them to things my smarties are in to.. video games, ipods, cell phones etc.  I think continuing to draw on things they see will be helpful.  I also like the idea of anchor charts.  I use them all the time in my ELA class, but I'm going to try and incorporate them more into Math.  With my interactive notebook, I think having students place a copy of the anchor chart into their own notebooks will be a helpful addition when we are not using a foldable, since honestly, most of my foldables, ARE the anchor charts I am looking at.  But creating something to tie the pieces together may be helpful for students where I need to differentiate instruction.
Something else that I like was the idea that the mini lesson should be no more than 10 minutes.  WHew!  THAT is fast!  I've read the data on attention spans for new materials, I get it, I really do, but 10 minutes is quick.  It will definitely be an area where I will have to work this year.

Chapter 8:  Work Time
PoD:  How can we facilitate thoughtful and productive work time for math learners?

'Work time is the lifeblood of the workshop'  BAM.. powerful statement.
It allows the time you need for differentiated instruction, and conferences.   I really enjoyed this chapter because it gave me the nudge I needed, again the DUH factor of 'hey Buddy.. you know this stuff.'

I think one thing that happened with me is implementation of the Common Core Standards.  I'm not against them, in fact, I like that they are rigorous, and I do think my students work towards the high standards, but I had to relearn them.  Math topics that were normally in place in 8th grade, I'm now teaching my sixth graders... it was a  daunting task!  A lot of how I taught math fell by the wayside because I was learning new material right along with my smarties.  It's not that I couldn't do the problems, it was finding a way to make an 11 or 12 year old understand the concept.  Plus, with the implementation of a new state assessment AND evaluation system.. mind blown!
I'm glad this chapter had reminders in  it... hello.. I used to teach with differentiation!
It got me thinking more about those tasks of grouping, and not having students complete EVERY Got it question as an entire group, but selecting the questions I believe would be the most valuable to students, and have them work on those tasks.

I am still required to use the math program our district has purchased, and honestly I'm not ready to abandon it completely,  there is good stuff in there! 

One thought that I'm still lingering on is homework.  Although I do not give a ton of problems, I also do not have a text book because our program is digital. That is why I created an Interactive Notebook with my class.  The IMN becomes the text book my students may need to reference. 

So a few questions I'm still working out:
How do you create groups and use the work time available, while allowing students the examples they need to practice the math concept?  How do your interactive notebooks fit into this mix?  I'd love to hear from you if you have any thoughts about this.

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