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December-January:

Before starting centers, the entire class


helped develop an anchor chart for our center
time on December 1st. We talked about what
it should sound and look like during our math
center time. During our class conversation,
multiple students gave insights into what they
thought it should look like, sound like, and
what they should be doing. Each one of their
responses was displayed onto our anchor chart
and there was room left so that more could be
added as we advanced in our learning. When
we discussed math talk, we added that to our anchor chart and put a star to show the importance
of incorporating it. After we discussed the norms and expectations, we practiced the process of
going to get the specific groups centers and bringing it back to the table. Throughout each topic,
there was new center group captain that was in charge of getting the center group bucket and
bringing to the table and putting it away.
When I began to look for centers that pertained to the topic we were currently learning, I
found the research done by Kobelin extremely beneficial. I was finding it difficult to create tasks
for students that were challenging for them but in their zone of proximal development. With a
wide range of abilities in my classroom, I gained insight into how to develop tasks or centers for
both higher achieving students and lower achieving students. Koeblin discovered that an openended problem solving situation allowed both older and younger students to find an appropriate

level of challenge (p.15). I tried to create and find tasks that were open ended and required
critical thinking for each specific group. I began to create these centers for each individual group.
After looking at the data, I grouped students based on their previous topic test scores so
that they were working with like ability levels. I had five groups with 3-4 students in each group.
I had one high group, three middle achieving groups, and one low achieving group. I determined
these groups based on their test scores. Students that consistently had a test average below 80%
were placed in the focus group, ones that had an average between 80%-95% were placed in the
middle groups, and the ones that scored 95%-100% on average formed my highest group. On
December 2nd, I had centers created for the current topic we were learning and individualized
ones for each group. Since we were currently working on patterns and predicting a pattern, I
created three different centers for my three different levels. For my highest group they had task
cards that gave a word problem and asked them to create a pattern with the materials. They were
able to use unifix cubes, toy bears, coins, and dice. For my middle groups it was the same
concept but only with unifix cubes and creating the pattern based on the card they chose. On
their card was a picture of a pattern using unifix cubes and they had to complete the pattern using
the cubes they had available. For my lowest group, I would create a pattern using unifix cubes
and they would have to complete the next three cubes that would follow. Each time I worked
with this group, they were always at the carpet with me while the rest of the students were
working in their group. On this day, I spent twenty minutes working with these students at the
carpet taking notes, recording conversations, and asking critical thinking questions. Students
would record their thinking in their math notebook. They would use the notebook to record their
thinking and use to assist with answering their questions.

During this time I was working with these specific students, I wrote in my observation
notebook that the four students in the group understood the concept of a simple two-step pattern
but when it was more than two colors it was difficult. Below is one of the tasks that I gave to the
group and Davids response when asked how he figured it out.
The cubes I laid out:

Davids response:

__ __ __
Me: Howd you figure the problem out?
David: I put which three would go next.
Me: Why does the second pattern start with yellow?
David: Because that is the one it ended on so I out a yellow cube then a blue then a red to
complete the pattern.
Ivy: David thats wrong. Its backwards.
David: Oh it is? Here Ill change it.
Ivy: Yeah you need to fix it so that it looks like mine.
While listening to this conversation, I was disappointed by how instantly discouraged David was
when he found out his problem was incorrect. For the rest of the center time, he waited to see
what each of the other students in the group did before putting his cubes to complete the pattern.
This also showed me that students dont really know how to communicate about their math
understanding. Ivy did have the correct answer but did not explain her thinking to David about
why his answer was incorrect. This made me wonder what would happen if I taught them math
talk strategies about how to communicate their thinking to one another.

After doing some research, I realized that it would be beneficial to introduce math talk
strategies to my entire class to better help deepen their understanding and thinking. I first decided
to reach out to other teachers in my building to see if any of them had implemented math talk
strategies in their classroom. On January 6, I met with a third grade teacher in our building that
had implemented math talk strategies at the beginning of the year and the basics of how to
implement it. She described math talk as a way for students to have meaningful conversations
about their thinking in math. As we were talking, she said the best way to introduce it was to
model it multiple times at the beginning of the lesson over the course of a week. I began by
teaching students the meaning of open-ended questions and how asking them helped us better
understand classmates thinking. I made an anchor chart
that listed the different ways to better ask what their
group member means by their answer. As a whole class,
we listed ways that we ask people to better explain their
thinking and I added in some additional prompts for
students to use if they are working with their classmate
and are curious as to how they arrived at that answer or
conclusion. Over the first week, I would model what it
looked like to use math talk prompts and asking students
to explain how they arrived at an answer. After that week,
students would come up and model asking questions to
better understand their classmates thinking by solving a problem on the board. In the third week,
they worked in partnerships at the carpet to solve a problem and ask students how they arrived at
an answer. On January 21st, I asked paired students up to individually solve a problem and then

use our math talk strategies we have been learning to better understand how their partner solved
the problem. I made sure to ask a question with multiple solution possibilities to ensure math talk
strategies would be implemented throughout their conversations. I asked students to show me on
their white board the answer to this problem: You have 54 pieces of gum in a bag. If you were
to dump them all out, how could you organize them for someone to count? At this current time,
we were learning about tens and ones and deepening our comprehension about how to count by
tens and ones. While walking around, I focused in on my two focus students conversation.
Sophia: I put my 54 pieces of gum into 5 groups of tens and 4 ones.
Ivy: Why did you choose to solve it that way?
Sophia: I thought about how it would take forever to count 54 one after another so if its split
into tens and ones then its easier.
Ivy: What do you mean by easier?
Sophia: You could just say ok this line is of ten pieces and there are five lines of them with
four left over. Those five lines you can count by tens so 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and then you have
four left over so you go 51, 52, 53, and 54.
Ivy: I agree with you because it is a lot easier to count by tens than by just ones. That would
take a long time. I organized mines by ones
Sophia: Well thats also right too!
Ivy: Yeah but my way would take longer I think. Its right and I could count it by ones, it
would just be quicker if I separated it into tens and ones like you.
After listening to their conversation, I noticed that Ivy initially did not think to use tens and ones
but asked Sophia to better explain why she used tens and ones which helped her see why that
would be an acceptable answer as well. I noticed that Ivy used some of the math talk strategies

that we had discussed and asked Sophia more questions when she did not understand her
thinking quite yet. In my inquiry notebook for that day, January 21st, I wrote:
They did so well today! When I was walking around during our time to work on partnership
math work, they were using all the math talk strategies we talked about. All of my focus
students were sharing their thinking so clearly with their partners. Everyone at the carpet
was sharing with one another and having such meaningful conversations. Allowing for a
variety of answers helped them see that there was more than one way to solve a problem.
After this day, I was interested to see if they had implemented these math talk strategies during
their center time. They had about three weeks of practice at this point and I made sure each time
we practiced math talk strategies, students knew that it was encouraged to ask their group mates
these questions during their center time. The following day on January 22nd, I asked my mentor
to come in an observe if/how students were sharing their thinking with one another during their
center time. She noted:
Walking around, student conversation is about the problems theyre working on. It appears
that the higher group is working more independently. The three middle groups are stopping
and asking about how to solve showing tens and ones. They are rolling two dice and showing
one of the numbers using tens and the other dice as ones. Most are drawing ten sticks and
ones then the number like ___ tens and ___ ones. Some students are only drawing ten sticks
and not the number. I heard a student say to another I agree you made 53 because I can see
the ten sticks and ones but its 5 tens plus 3 ones. Is there a reason you showed it saying 5
tens plus 3 ones and not 50 plus 3? It appears they are using their math strategies in their
center time as well.

After my mentor observed, she noticed that the math talk strategies were carrying over into
students center work together. It showed me that students were showing their thinking in various
ways and not just one concrete way. When she heard those two students sharing, they had a
conversation about why they didnt show it as fifty plus 3. Seeing the whole class beginning to
use their math talk strategies, I made sure to constantly incorporate them throughout the day in
all subjects so that they became even more familiar with them.