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Math + Art = 1 Nervous Art Teacher

April 7, 2017

My recent posts here on Tenspire have shared my love for arts integration and the challenges it brings.  Incorporating content standards into my art room has been very successful in all grade levels and that’s what keeps me motivated to try new things.

Let’s talk about one academic area I may not be as confident with!

Has there ever been one thing you were terrified of trying in your classroom? One thing you knew you could never be comfortable teaching no matter how much you’ve studied and prepared? As a new teacher, I am still learning and I am still afraid to try new techniques and procedures with the students every day! But my one thing I am afraid of incorporating in my room is MATH! Yes, math. My nemesis in my past life as a student. Math was always my weakest subject because it just didn’t make sense to me. Looking at all of the word problems, numbers, fractions, decimals, equations with letters, and graphs before trying to solve the problem automatically made me feel defeated. Once I finished my last math class in college, I thought I would never be faced with mathematical challenges again except for the math we all do on a daily basis. Once I became a teacher and saw the strong push for academics into the special area classrooms my stomach dropped when thinking about possibly looking at a math lesson. I know there are students in my school who feel the exact same ways I felt as a student and even now as an adult.

At my school, we are assigned teaching partners, a teacher that we must observe during the school year. We are assigned this partner based off of strengths and weaknesses we have in the classroom and with our teaching. The day I observed my teaching partner, she was teaching…just wait for it… MATH. That was the moment I realized it is time to venture into the math world to see what I could do. I truly felt more confident after her amazing observation than I ever did sitting at my computer and failing when creating a math/art lesson. I knew I would have to build up my confidence and begin learning fun ways to incorporate math in my art room for students and for myself.

What topics do you feel uncomfortable teaching? What have you done to make your weakness a strength?

Math Uncategorized

Concept or Fluency for the Win?

March 15, 2017

This year my students have been having a blast learning their multiplication facts. They compete against themselves on mad minute tests, graph their progress, and celebrate moving from one set of facts to the next. They work through a binder full of challenging multiplication puzzles and games. They’re having fun NOW, but before they could do that, we worked for weeks on developing conceptual understanding of multiplication. This class has me wondering: when it comes to basic math facts, which is more important: conceptual understanding or fluency?

Concept for the Win

One thing I know for sure this year: my students have a solid understanding of multiplication. They can solve multiplication word problems, draw pictures to show their understanding, use different problem-solving strategies, and have great discussions with their peers about multiplication concepts. I am proud of them for the work they have done, and I love listening to them explain their thinking. I am especially happy that they seem to like math when they’re working on multiplication! Since I know their understanding on state testing will be measured through word problems and not basic algorithms, I am a happy teacher. This is why concept wins over fluency.

Fluency for the Win

But we are teachers, not testers. As much as we want them to do well on that state test, our students need to memorize their multiplication facts, and the only way to do that is with practice. Outside the classroom, their math skills will not be put to the test through complex word problems. They can’t draw a picture to solve every real-world mathematical dilemma. Their employers will not wait for them to decompose bigger numbers in order to make it easier to solve problems. This goes for basic addition and subtraction as well. When I see students using their fingers to count and solve 7 + 8, I cry a little inside. Real world application: this is why fluency wins over concept.

And The Winner Is…

Conceptual understanding and basic fact fluency are equally important! Even taking standardized testing out of the equation, students need to have an understanding of multiplication. It’s important for them to know that 5 x 7 represents five groups of seven items. I also believe that, once they understand the concept, it makes them even more motivated to memorize the fact tables. They can connect the facts to prior learning and real-world application. Fluency and understanding have to lean on each other to create the strongest knowledge base for our students.

Classroom Community Classroom Management Uncategorized

Mid-Year Management Woes

March 10, 2017

The second half of the school year is already well under way and if you’re anything like me, it’s time to think about the three R’s.  Reflecting, revamping, and reining in all that could use a little attention in your classroom.

The middle of the year is the perfect time to think about what has worked so far and what has not. With some planning and preparation, you can make the remaining months of the school year successful. Here are three kid-tested, teacher-approved classroom management tips to get you by.

1.) Revisit Your Expectations and Procedures

I can’t stress this enough and it is so easy to take this idea for granted! Sure, your students have heard your expectations and procedures since the start of the school year BUT children can often get complacent with these. Set aside the time to have a review during your morning meeting, write a friendly reminder note to your students’ parents so they can be talking about these things at home, and of course MODEL, MODEL, MODEL! When we model expectations and act out the desired behaviors, we are painting a clear picture of exactly what we want to see from our students. 

2.) Reorganize Your Classroom Seating 

If you haven’t changed your students’ seats since the beginning of the school year, then now is probably the time. The great thing to remember is that you can be flexible with this. Take time to consider if you want to group your students by ability, by gender, or maybe just by personality? What if this doesn’t work you ask? Let the changes ride the rest of the week and then start fresh again on Monday with a new arrangement. I recently did this with my Kinders and it was so neat to see new working relationships forming amongst my students.

3.) Reevaluate Your Current Management System

Mid-year is also a great time to make minor adjustments to your management system. Consider adding some new and fun incentives – sticker charts, punch cards, or even a treat box are great and fairly easy things to implement! Another thing that might need some refreshing are the consequences that you have in place for your students. If you’ve read my other posts, you already know that I am a big supporter of alternatives to classroom clip charts. With that said, I have recently gone over our five classroom expectations once again with my students and revisited the consequences that could follow if a expectation was not honored. It is and has been important to me that my students understand the idea of owning their actions.

I hope these tips have helped give you some ideas of things you might wish to implement in your own classroom and I would love to hear from you if you choose to try anything.

Until next time, keep influencing the world and stay positive!

Classroom Community Classroom Management Uncategorized

Positive Behavior Management

February 26, 2017

Effective management is one of the most vital components of your classroom. Mastering, or consistently working towards mastery, of this is an absolute must in order to ensure an optimal learning environment. As you learned in my previous post, I am an anti-clip chart teacher (no eye rolls please). Instead, my approach is much more student-centered and POSITIVE! Here are three tips, tricks, and/or tools that I use or have used in my classroom to encourage good behavior on the individual level:

1.) Punch Cards:

My students are so into these right now and their quest to earn “punches” for their cards is insane! Here’s how I got started …

I downloaded these FREE behavior punch cards from TPT and printed them onto colored paper. I then let my students choose one card and explained how a “punch” could be earned. You helped a friend without being asked? PUNCH! You were respectful to a teacher or an adult? PUNCH! You used good self-control on the carpet? PUNCH! My two biggest rules when doing this is that students cannot ask for punches for their card and once a punch was given, it could not be taken away – positive remember? Once a punch card is full, the possibilities are endless! You could reward your children with… a trip to the treat box, free time on the iPads, or my students’ personal favorite, lunch with me in the classroom!

2.) SKITTLES:

I keep a jar full of Skittles on my desk at all times and when I see a student making a responsible choice, I give them a Skittle! These little tokens of encouragement have helped me at even my most desperate moments as a teacher. A good example of this in use would be in the afternoons when my Kinders are exhausted from a busy day. During this time, I need them to hang on a little longer and get through our intervention block. Often times I’ll say, “Mrs. Pierce is looking for friends that are focused, so they can earn a participation Skittle.” I make sure not to abuse this though. Most of the time, my students will receive only 1 or 2 Skittles throughout the school day. I’m all about intrinsic motivation, but, sometimes, a little sugar goes a long way!

3.) Smiles, Hugs, and Words of Affirmation: 

This one is super easy and doesn’t require any real work on your part! Students often spend more of their time with you than they do with their own families! Why not make this time special and happy? A little wink, a gentle smile, some kinds words or even a hug just to let them know you care and are proud of them. These acts can go a long way with a child and, many times, they will work harder for you because it’s in them to want to please you!

I hope these suggestions have given you something to think about or maybe a little inspiration for your own classroom.

Until next time, keep influencing the world and stay positive!