Friday, June 14, 2013

Problem Solving: Don't Solve the Problem

Are you frustrated with trying to teach problem solving? Here is a novel idea: Try not solving it. 

Materials you will need: word problems (look in your math T.E.'s, math centers, math journal topics, etc.), Math Action Posters - I have 1 addition poster that says Join, and 3 subtraction poster - compare, find the missing part, and separate.

Procedure: Tell kids that today we are not going to solve math problems. Nope! They are not to solve the problem. Instead they need to tell you what math action is happening in the problem.  So read the first problem: Mary Jane has 3 cookies. Juanita gives her 2 more. How many cookies does Mary Jane have?  Have them decide ( now here is the key): WHAT IS HAPPENING? Is something joining? Are the cookies separating? Are we looking for missing cookies? Are we comparing Mary Jane and Juanita's cookies? Once they understand you are NOT solving the problem, just thinking about what is happening problem solving gets easier.  This is the step we skip over too often and this is the step that kids don't get most often.  So once they understand ACTIONS, then they can understand the OPERATION that the action tells them to do.  So if they recognize the cookies are joining together, then they will know to add. The math action then tells them what operation to do. 

Such a simple activity, but so very hard for kids to get.  This is really good for all the different kinds of subtraction that there are. Try It!

No More Whole Group Phonics For Me

How many of you out there are like me? I hated teaching phonics whole group because I knew half the class didn't need it because the skill I was teaching was so far below their needs, the rest either needed it and couldn't attend whole group or weren't ready for it yet.
Well, this year I decided to take my guided reading and differentation to a new level. I decided to teach phonics in small group only during guided reading. No more whole group phonics lessons, which meant more time for guided reading. Who doesn't need more time for guided reading?
To do this, it meant that I was going to have to change how I used my assessments. In my district, we use TPRI (Texas Primary Reading Inventory - similar to DIBELS I gather) along with the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Kit. I used what I learned about children's phonics skills and used them to decide on the starting point for phonics instruction for their group, not just what level they read at.
So some groups started the year with short vowels, some with alphabet knowledge,  and some I started with a quick review of short vowels and moved right on into long vowels.
Naturally, I wanted to share what I had done. Behold! My newest creation. I have been working on this baby all year. I have been using the lesson plans and materials this year with my own kiddos and have seen some tremendous growth as a result. 

This is my guided reading lesson plan and material pack vol. 1 for short vowels (vol. 2 for long vowels, and vol. 3 for vowel digraphs and dipthongs will follow later this summer). It contains 11 weeks of short vowel guided reading lessons.  This pack provides all you need except for the books and poems, which I used from the basal series - it is good for some things. You can use the resources here for groups at any level. In some cases, I was teaching one phonics skill but using leveled readers at different levels to ensure everyone was getting what they needed.  With these materials, you can differentiate by better matching what students need to be learning.   

Interested? Click on the picture below to check out this pack at my TPT store.