Time.. I agree with Andrew Stadel from Estimation180.com. It’s definitely a dirty/hot topic at school. Teachers, are constantly running out of time, and we are consistently trying to maximize our instruction minutes. The 80/20 design principle makes sense and I also would like to and need to redesign my classroom clock.. but how?
Yes, we are always looking to maximize learning and improve the art of teaching. Most of the time, however, it is a very difficult task to fit it all in a limited period of time. Below are the ideal and the current clocks for my math block and you will notice that my issue with time starts at 7:45 am!
Math that early in the morning is a new system in our kindergarten schedule. It is a positive thing, because I feel students are most motivated early in the morning. My class has been enjoying math and working productively. But, to have all the 70 minutes required for math, it has to start right at 7:45!
Moving on to the actual math block, Kinder is no place for long talks (so the issue other classes have with long lectures is non existent, already). The challenge here is to keep students engaged long enough for a good practice. In kinder we have “Mini Lessons”, we have to add movement, music, brainbreaks, and many times, we even have to add a whole different lesson to keep students motivated in learning their numbers.
Even though starting with math at 7:45 squeezes my morning routine, I believe, it is always possible to improve and maximize our instruction time. It is all about organization and it is a challenging endeavor.. Time is, after all, a four letter word filled with timeless challenges!
I heard Brian Bushart’s talk “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and Tracy Zager’s “Braking the Cycle” and other talks from the 2016 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition. The talks reminded me of my own children’s memories in elementary and middle schools (my son is in tenth grade and my daughter in 8th). Both have very fond memories of few of their teachers. Over the years, I have wanted to find out what made my children talk more fondly of certain teachers. Why do they keep few school memories alive?
Today I introduced my class to Number Talks. To be honest, I haven’t done this properly in the past. This year, I wanted to start off as it should be, so I took extra time to plan and prepare (I was at this for last two weeks!). First, I did some research at the ARRC and the resources listed under Number Talks. I read the TEKS over and over for Unit 1 “Introducing Number Concepts to 5” and marked this one:
Focus TEKS K.2D recognize instantly the quantity of a small group of objects [up to 5 in this unit] in organized and random arrangements.
I prepared several dot cards in random arrangements representing 4. Students were very excited and attentive (it helps that math is first in our schedule). The first arrangement was 4 dots in a row. The first student said he counted the dots, another one shared that he just knew there were four dots. The second arrangement was 4 dots arranged as in a dice, and their eager responses were similar to the first, except for one. This student said she saw 2 and 2 dots and she knew 2 plus 2 is four (I tried to remain very calm and neutral but I wanted to shout, YAY!!!) That paved the way for the next. The arrangement was 3 dots in a row with one on top and students responses got more descriptive, “I saw 3 pls 1”, “I see 2 in the middle and 2 on the sides”. As simple as that, the first Number Talks started in my class; and it’s only the beginning.
When school started last week, my children came home very excited about their new teachers. I noticed that their conversations have motivation in common. I think I found my answer; it’s inspiration. My kiddos memories are about the inspirational moments they got from these teachers. So, I agree with Brian’s talk. If we only repeat our lessons, like in a known pattern, or a scripted dialogue, we will not cause a change in our audience. When we MAKE our own music, we’ll motivate and inspire our students, enough to last throughout their school years and beyond. This is the mantra that will guide my lesson planning this year!