Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Math Inquiry

So, I've been trying something new in my math block lately. Used to, I'd start off with introducing the Essential Question (How do you multiply fractions? for example) then get right in to modeling the strategies and procedures, followed by guided practice and independent work based on what I showed them. Sounds like a typical math lesson, right?

When I visited Lori Conrad's 5th grade in Denver, CO I saw her using inquiry strategies within her content areas, specifically social studies. I thought, 'Oh wow, I can totally do that!'. It seemed to just make sense.

I've been starting out with posing the Essential Question still, and providing an example problem. My kiddos then have to brainstorm using their schema on ways they think we may be able to solve the problem. For example, last week we learned strategies for multiplying and dividing with fractions. They turned and talked to a partner about strategies they could try. Many of them suggested repeated addition and arrays, strategies we had learned for multiplying and dividing whole numbers.

We put their plans into action and tested out each idea. We discussed how we should set up the numberline, and what benchmarks to include. They decided to use 25s as our benchmarks, because it's like counting quarters. They knew that 25s were also fourths because there are 4 quarters in a dollar, so we labeled them as fourths since we were working with fractions.  We then used repeated addition on the numberlines to solve multiplying fractions, or repeated subtraction to solve dividing with fractions. We also looked closely at how to set up an array for multiplying fractions, which surprisingly went pretty well! We took what we know about how to draw fractions in rods, and simply "squished" them together! For example, drawing 3/5 as a row of 5 blocks with 3 colored in, then repeating that however many times you're multiplying. (See anchor chart pic if this isn't making sense lol).

The best Ah-Ha! moment was during lunch last week. We were eating outside since the weather was so nice, and I overheard some girls from another table talking about our math lesson. "I love the way Ms. McDonald is teaching math-it just makes so much sense! She doesn't just tell us how to figure it out like the other teachers did, she lets us try it together and we get to work out a bunch of ways to get the answer!" Best. Moment. Ever.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Clubs & Inquiry Circles

So let me preface this by saying this is my first time at the rodeo! I'm trying my hand at book clubs with my kiddos, and I cannot be happier with how things are turning out! If only I'd done this earlier in the year, it's so much fun and they're learning SO much!
Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Summer's right around the corner for most of us in teacher land. Dreaming of far away places, warm sand, and no students! But...if you're anything like me, it also means you're thinking back about this year with your kiddos and reflecting on what went well, and what you can improve for next year. Like many (or probably all) of you, I have a Professional Development Plan, or PDP, that I've been focusing on this year in regards to my personal goals as a teacher. My most essential goal was to add rigor to my 90-minute reading block by focusing on Thinking Strategies, aka "The Big 7". You've heard me talk a lot about these in previous posts. Coming from a Reading First background, I didn't know much about The Big 7. We focused on the 5 reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) within basal texts and scripted programs. I had never heard of schema, or inferring...