common core · DC · first grade · math

Brand Spankin’ New!

I remember the very first teacher blog I read.  It was this lovely gem, right here, that I still read faithfully.

I actually found about this whole idea of teacher blogging from my mom.  She had mentioned to someone at her fitness classes that I was about to start teaching first grade, and they gave the website to my mom to pass along to me.  If we’re being honest, I was skeptical at first.  I had never taught anyone as young as first grade before.  I was up to my eyeballs in preparation, and you wanted me to find time to read someone’s blog?!  Which explains why I did not read said blog until mid-way of my first year of teaching first grade.  What an epic mistake.  It unlocked an unveritable treasure trove of ideas, resources, and headache easers.  I’m pretty sure I spent the next few hours bouncing from Fabulous in First to the brilliant ladies teaching first grade that you can find herehere, and here.  I truly believe that the blogs I first started following (and others that I’ve added along the way) have made me a better, and more creative, teacher.

Fast forward to now, and I’m getting ready to teach first grade for the third year in a row.  If you had asked me when I graduated from grad school what grade I thought I would be teaching it totally wouldn’t have been first, but I have to say that I love those little firsties.  They’re so darn adorable!  Which is why I have spent so much of my summer preparing for the school year, and why I am starting this blog.  I think that teachers sharing ideas with other teachers makes everyone better.  And that’s the goal here–to share ideas, and to become better teachers all the time.

One thing that I’ve spent a lot of time learning about throughout the past 2 years, and this summer is this flip-flopped model of math (that goes by a thousand different names–inverted workshop, discovery math, and constructivist math are some of the ones I hear most often) where kids are working on solving really complex tasks and the onus of constructing meaning out of the work is on them.  It really changes the role of the teacher, in my opinion.  This model, which I tend to call either reverse or inverted workshop (because the learning comes at the end, rather than the beginning) really challenges students and teachers, and works in extremely well with the Common Core standards.

The basic idea is that you have a short launch with the kids (about 5 minutes), make sure everyone understands the task, and then you send them off to work.  And they work for a really long time–like 15-25 minutes (with one brief mid-workshop stop in the middle-ish)!  If you had told me I would get my kids working for 25 minutes on a math task before I started this model I would have told you you were living in a fantasy land!  But I won’t tell you that anymore because I’ve done it with my kids, and that really is how long they work. =)  Then, you bring them to the carpet at the end and you share/debrief with them and THIS is where you’re really teaching them rules/patterns/properties, etc. about math.  I’ve been using this model in a variety of capacities for about 2 years now, and I still think it’s totally wild.  I really like it, but I also definitely think it has some limitations.  The biggest one, for me, is that some kids really don’t (ostensibly) seem to make their own meaning, despite repeated exposure to the same idea or concept.  The biggest advantage to me, conversely, is that everyone can start the task in a place that’s appropriate to their current understanding/level of learning.  So my questions are this:  have you ever tried a model like this?  Do you use it daily?  Would you try something like this?  

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