Math Investigations Part II

So today was Day 2 of my math investigations. As soon as we got into class, the kids ask, “When are we doing math?” They get so excited over working together and creating a poster to show their work.

Day 2
Teaching Point: Mathematicians will do a gallery walk to observe other students investigations and then make revisions to their own investigation.
Time: 75 minutes

Now it is time for the students to have their gallery walk. We put the posters on desks and the students get to walk around the room to look at the math posters. I try to put the same amount of posters on each table so that students can just switch tables once or twice. I have tired the gallery walk other ways but, it can get very chaotic. (You can put the posters where ever you want. If you have the wall space, hanging the posters up works really well.)

The students walk around the classroom with their partner, a pencil and post-its. I give the students as many post-its as posters they will view. So today my kids viewed 4 math posters so they were given 4 post-its.

Now comes the hard part. This takes a lot of practice! They discuss what they noticed, what they liked or what they didn’t understand. My students discuss the math on the poster and talk about glows (what they did well) and grows (what they need to work on.) The partnership has to come to an agreement on what they will write on the post-it. Each partnership can only place one post-it with comments on each math poster they discuss. Are the comments all great? No. But it’s a work in progress.
I have really noticed a difference in my kids math talk. They are using words like strategy!

Here is one of the comments that a partnership wrote:

As the kids are discussing the posters, I try to coach them on the type of comments and questions the students write on the post it.

Next the students go back to their investigation and read the comments left by their classmates. Kids will run up to you with comments they feel are wrong, but you have to do mini lessons on how to write comments and give good feedback.

After reading the comments, the students use a different color to revise their work. This will be MESSY!! But you can see a lot of learning going on.
Here are some of the revised math investigations
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Day 3 will be on Monday. This part is called the math congress and it is basically a big share. You choose about 3 posters that show something you want to highlight to the class. It could be a strategy used, organization, or how the poster was labeled. You highlight something that you want the rest of the class to pay attention to. Often times, I will choose a poster with a wrong answer and highlight the organization or the math vocabulary that was used. This way the students know that even though it’s important to get the right answer, other parts of problem solving are also important. This also gives the struggling students the chance to be highlighted.
The students come up and explain the part you thought was great.

If you want to see the rubric I use or the conference sheet I use, look back at Part I.

Have you done this in your class? Is this something you might like to try? Leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,

Your Curriculum is Just A Tool!!!

Hi everyone. Are you tired of hearing your admin say, “The reading curriculum is just a tool. Use the material anyway you want.”? Really, REALLY!!

How many of you have heard this phrase? Is it true? I’m not sure. We all change the lessons to meet the needs of our children. But what happens when you have to rewrite the whole damn curriculum? I’m sure many of you have done just that. The schools pay all of this money for a curriculum and we have to spend all of our time to create lessons that actually work.

You might be wondering which reading curriculum I am using. Well, I don’t know if you have heard of the awesome Pearson company (I almost feel like they are the Evil Empire!) In NYC, Pearson seems to be in charge of almost all of the curriculum, assessments, and State Exams.

So we are told to use ReadyGen as a tool. So everyday I rewrite the curriculum and teach the skills or lessons how I want to and in the style that will most benefit my kiddos.

I started to teach each lesson focusing on a 15 minute mini-lesson and then small group work (which is definitely not in the program. :() I incorporate the science or social studies text books or articles on the topics. I added in A LOT of writing because there only seems to be response to literature in ReadyGen’s writing component.

How else can I make this curriculum just a tool? I started to make interactive notebooks for the books that we have to use in our lessons. The only part of ReadyGen that is ok are SOME of the trade books used.

Last week we read A Chair for My Mother. I absolutely love this book, but if you follow the curriculum it is boring and basically kills any enjoyment of this wonderful book. So I introduced the interactive notebook for A Chair For My Mother and my kids loved it.

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Then I had my kids design their own comfortable chair. Just take a look at some of the chairs that my kiddos created! 🙂







Besides designing and building a comfortable chair to go along with the story, “A Chair for My Mother” students also had to write about how they created their chair and why they decided to create that chair.



My students had so much fun with the interactive notebook, designing their comfortable chairs and their writing assignment.

My students loved using the interactive notebooks so much that I started to create them for the different trade books that we use as part of the 2nd grade ReadyGen curriculum. You can check them out by clicking here.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading my rant. 🙂
How do you use your curriculum as just a tool?


Common Core Standards

Since I have been reading so much about the Common Core Standards, I thought I’d repost my feelings on the CC.

Has your state implemented the Common Core Standards? I know many states have. How do you feel about the new standards?
Let me start out by saying that I feel, as do many others that many of the standards are definitely inappropriate for some of our kids. I wish we could sit down and rewrite standards that are realistic for our kiddos.

I think the biggest problem with The Common Core State Standards is the way the standards have been implemented. There has been a lack of training for both teachers and parents. The materials being created are horrible and many times are just thrown at the teachers, sometimes during the school year like ReadyGen. Read my opinion about ReadyGen here

Here is a video that was put out by Common Core for parents.

I have to tell you, I really have mixed feelings about the standards. Do I love them? No. Do I hate them? No. I am somewhere in the middle. Let’s say I am in limbo. I don’t really like them but I also don’t hate them.

I do think that there should be some type of common standards. Don’t throw anything at me please!! 🙂
I work in NYC and see many kids come in and out of the classroom from all over the country. The differences in what I see is astounding. I know that all kids are different and are at different levels. But, sometimes there is such a drastic difference in what they know. I am in no way blaming any teachers!!

I think there is a lot of misconceptions about The Common Core Standards. We have taught many of these strategies or skills before the Common Core was introduced. I think they have just been bumped up to unrealistic standards for our kids.

As I look through Facebook posts and see the posts about solving math, I cringe. People complain about the solving of the math problem as “Look at the Common Core Standards!” I look at the problem and think, “That’s not the Common Core Standards. That’s a strategy or a way to solve the problem.” Many of the complaints I see is that the common core makes solving problems more complicated. Do we teach complicated methods sometimes? Yes. But remember some of the kids do need the visuals to understand concepts. For years we have used manipulatives to teach regrouping. Now, we draw out the cubes in place value charts and show how to regroup. What’s the big deal? Do all of my kids like it? No! If the kids know how to regroup and can explain how and why to regroup, then I let them do the work any way they want.

I read a blog post today from Common Core and So Much More where a math journal from 1993 was compared to a math journal from this year. The teacher found out that there really was not much of a difference. You can read about it here I totally agree with the author of Common Core and So Much More!! I used that same math journal to teach my third graders for years and many of the strategies are the same ones we use today. I would get letters from parents back then stating they were confused on the math strategies.

As teachers, it is our job to teach different strategies or methods to our students so that each student can find the strategy that works best for them.
Are some of the strategies confusing? Yes, they are. Do I like them all? No, but I still teach them.
You may ask, “If you don’t agree with the strategy or the way something is taught, then why teach it?” I teach the “confusing” strategy because even if just one kid who struggling with the concept before can compute with accuracy, then it was well worth it!

As a parent of a fourth grader and a second grade teacher, it is amazing how the kids like to use different strategies. My son Alex, uses math strategies that sometimes I have a hard time understanding. I have to have him show or explain it to me a few times before I know what he is talking about. He is one of those kids who likes to use the unpopular strategies of decomposing numbers.

Like I said, I don’t necessarily agree with all of The Common Core Standards but I do what I have to do to reach every student (even teach the unpopular and “confusing” strategies.) 😉

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below.


It Feels So Good to Be Bad

Sometimes it feels so good to be bad.
I must confess…lately I feel like my class is so boring. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are always laughing (usually at me, which might or might not be a good thing!)

It’s so hard to find the time to do fun things in the classroom anymore. Everything needs to be “rigorous” and graded with a rubric. What happened to having art in the class? What happened to reading for enjoyment? Since the introduction of the Common Core, it seems like people have gone off the deep end.

Why can’t I hang art work up without student writing? Why do I have to have a rubric with a grade on every single piece of work? Why do I need to include a self reflection and a peer reflection on EVERYTHiNG?

I have to confess, I have a whole stack of papers that I would love to hang up in the room but I do not have all of the necessary paperwork to go with it!

So this week, I had my kids do portraits of a character. We read A Chair for My Mother (part of ReadyGen reading program) and Something Special for Me by Vera B. Williams. I had the students whip out their crayons and markers and draw a portrait of Rosa. It was so nice to see the kids excited.

The first question my kiddos asked, “Do we have to write a paragraph on Rosa?” I had to think for a minute about keeping it fun. Of course my kids love poetry, who doesn’t? I had them write any type of poem they wanted as long as they described Rosa. They were thrilled. Hey, it’s still Common Core right??? (RL.2.7)

After the kids left for the day, I hung up their portraits of Rosa. NO RUBRIC, NO SELF REFLECTIONS, NO PEER REFLECTIONS, NO GLOWS AND GROWS, NO COMMENTS!!
You know what? It felt good. No, it felt great! My kids came in the next day and saw all of their work (the good, the bad, and the ugly.)
You know what I mean 🙂

I felt like a rebel. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone. Take a look at some of their portraits of Rosa.

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I love how she spelled intelligent (antelegent)

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What have you done in your class lately that has made you feel like a rebel?