Posts Tagged ‘Math’

Math Geeks Unite! Professional Organizations for Math Teachers

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Author: Susan Hemphill, Education Specialist, Secondary Mathematics

Several teachers from Region 13 participated in our Edmodo book study of Letters to a Young Math Teacher by Gerald Rising this August.   This book contains several “letters” on different aspects of teaching and classroom management for the Math teacher.  It is a worthwhile read for the new as well as seasoned teacher.  In Letter Twenty-One the focus is Professional Activities and as we begin our new year it is a good time to set some goals to improve and hone your professional skills as a Math educator.

“I continue to counsel you to focus first and foremost on your classroom teaching. Consider that role first, second, third, right down the line. But there are other aspects of your life and your longer-range career that you should begin to think about even during your first year on the job.  They can involve you more deeply in your profession.” G.Rising 2014

In Mathematics we are fortunate to have several professional organizations to choose from with a variety of tools and resources. The table below will share some basic details of several groups and allow you to consider which if any professional group will help with your long-range career goals or even your short-term goals for school year 2014-2015.

Group Mission fees More information
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics(NCTM) The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is the public voice of mathematics education, supporting teachers to ensure equitable mathematics learning of the highest quality for all students through vision, leadership, professional development, and research. Membership fees vary depending on the journals you select to receive.  Campuses memberships are also available. http://www.nctm.org/
Mathematical Association of America(MMA) The Mathematical Association of America is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level. Membership fees vary http://www.maa.org/
Association for Women in Mathematics(AWM) The purpose of the Association for Women in Mathematics is to encourage women and girls to study and to have active careers in the mathematical sciences, and to promote equal opportunity and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences. Membership fees vary https://sites.google.com/site/awmmath/home
Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics(TCTM) The Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics (TCTM) is a professional organization that encourages an active interest in mathematics. $13 http://tctmonline.org/
Austin Area Council of Teachers of Mathematics(AACTM) The Austin Area Council of Teachers of Mathematics is a professional educators organization serving the Austin area mathematics teachers and leaders $40 includes registration for Fall Meeting 10/25/14, early bird rates available http://aactm.org/
Texas Association of Supervisors of Mathematics (TASM) To promote effectiveness in supervision, coordination, and teaching of mathematics. $30

http://www.tasmonline.net/
Mathematics Teachers’ Circle of Austin(MTC) MTC is a professional learning community that brings together middle and high school teachers and professional mathematicians so that they may work together and learn from each other. Free monthly meetings at UT. https://sites.google.com/site/mtcaustin/home 

Early Childhood Math

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Authors:  Region 13 School Ready Team

What does quality math instruction look like in a Pre-K classroom?

Is doing math during “calendar time” enough to teach all the Pre-K Guidelines?

What type of math lessons should principals expect to see in Pre-K lesson plans?

Though most educators agree that literacy should receive prime focus in Pre-K, not all agree on the importance of also focusing heavily on math.  Yet, research shows that a child’s math skills can predict her reading success.* One study found that math skills in kindergarten were the primary predictor of later academic success (Duncan, Greg. “Achievement, Attention, and Behavior Across Middle Childhood.” School of Education – University of California, Irvine).

So, what does quality math instruction for 3-5 year olds look like? After a rigorous review of the research (What Works Clearinghouse and the Department of Education, November 2013), the Institute for Education Sciences found that when the following items were thoroughly in place, children’s math skills improved:

Math should be taught following a developmental progression.
While this may seem obvious, many teachers are not aware of the sequence of math learning and/or do not follow it. For example, some Pre-K teachers introduce operations—which is not a Pre-K Guideline—before teaching children how to compare quantities.

Regular progress monitoring should provide checks for understanding as well as information the teacher can use to differentiate instruction.

Children should be taught to use language and recordings to articulate their mathematical understanding.

Math should be taught throughout the day and across the curriculum.
Math instruction can be integrated into read alouds, centers, transitions, and daily routines.

 The information above makes it clear that teaching math primarily through “calendar time” is insufficient. Teachers need to offer explicit math instruction at least 3-5 times weekly (3 times for half day Pre-K, 5 times for full day Pre-K) followed by opportunities for children to apply their new math knowledge. This may take the form of a whole group math lesson followed by math stations. In math stations, children work in 4-6 groups on teacher-assigned math games and activities.

 

 

For more math station examples, see our Pinterest board.

Most importantly, children must be given structured, hands-on opportunities to practice new concepts. A teacher’s lesson plan should indicate plans for both explicit instruction AND opportunities for independent practice through math stations, small groups, and/or other meaningful formats.

The School Ready website provides a helpful Pre-K math lesson observation form aligned to the PDAS domains.

 

Questions to Consider:

A New Math STAAR

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Author: Fredric Noriega

Texas is set to implement the revised math standards during the 2014-2015 school year for grades kindergarten through 8. High school math teachers will implement new math standards in their courses for the following year, 2015-16. Along with the implementation of the new math standards we are going to see a very different Math STAAR than we had originally anticipated. Depending on the grade level, some of these changes are either a blessing or a curse. Here are the changes we can expect:

All new TEKS are fair game

TEA originally made the decision to only assess the “overlapping” TEKS during the first year of implementation. In other words, only those concepts and skills that could be found in both the current and revised TEKS would be assessed. This was a relief for many math teachers, especially those grade levels that are seeing a lot of new material in their standards. Many teachers, campuses and districts decided that it would be in the best interest of the students to teach material that was new  ̶  the non-overlapping standards  ̶  after the STAAR test next spring. This way students could focus on the “overlap” or assessed material and be well-prepared for the STAAR test. TEA recently announced (during the week of Feb. 17, 2014) that the STAAR exam during the first year of new TEKS implementation will focus solely on the revised standards, regardless of whether or not the content is new to the grade level. This decision was based on the fact that in certain grades there is not enough overlap between the current and new standards to use for creating an assessment. Those teachers that had planned to focus on teaching the new content after STAAR will now have to adjust their plan since students will see assessment questions based on those standards. Consider the revised math standard 5.3K: add and subtract positive rational numbers fluently. A current 4th grade student is learning how to add and subtract whole numbers. In 5th grade they will need to learn how to add/subtract fractions with common and uncommon denominators. This is a very big leap in content for students, and possibly even for the teacher.

New Testing Format

Since all new standards will be eligible on the STAAR assessment we also have new resources. TEA has made the following available:

  • Assessed Curriculum Documents. These documents identify the new Reporting Categories. New Supporting and Readiness standards are identified as well as which standards are eligible for testing.
  • Blueprints. These documents give an at-a-glance look at the reporting categories including supporting and readiness standards.  They also act as a guide in determining how many STAAR questions can be expected from each reporting category.
  • Reference Materials. These documents include formulas and conversion tables that students will be able to use on the STAAR exam.

All of these documents can be found by visiting the TEA webpage at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/math/.

Calculators are required on the 8th grade STAAR

The new 8th grade standards place a strong emphasis on developing algebraic skills and, because of this, TEA has decided that students will require the use of a calculator. Many middle school campuses may only have one set of graphing calculators per math teacher, but that may not be enough to offer 1:1 calculators during testing. Some schools are planning to borrow calculators from the local high school, while other schools and districts are trying to find money in their budgets to purchase more calculators.  Another option currently under pilot for 8th grade math students for the 2014-2015 school year is to use a graphing calculator app on a tablet or non-smart phone mobile device.

Algebra 2 EOC is back

The Algebra 2 STAAR EOC assessment is going to return during the 2014-2015 school year; however, TEA is making the assessment optional; the results are only going to be used to determine college academic readiness and will not be used for accountability purposes. Note: TEA has made the assessment optional for students taking Algebra 2; however, a district could make the decision to require Algebra 2 students to take the exam.

 

The information here was shared by TEA at the Spring TASM meeting on Feb. 21, 2014.

http://www.tasmonline.net/Documents/2014.02.21_TEA_AssessmentUpdate.pdf

Foundations for Fractions in the Primary Grades

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Author: Fredric Noriega, Secondary Mathematics Specialist

Tags: Math, fractions, STAAR

One math concept that is often feared by both students and teachers is fractions. Everything about fractions seems to be difficult: how to write a fraction, reduce a fraction, compare fractions and perform operations with fractions.  These are just a few of the skills that students will need to learn and demonstrate mastery of on the STAAR assessment from Grades 3-8 and Algebra 1.

With the implementation of the revised standards in mathematics, beginning with the 2014-2015 academic year, students across Texas will begin to work with fractions earlier and at a more rigorous level than with our current standards. In order to set up students for success, instructors in the early grades need to ensure that they use concrete and visual models to teach this very abstract concept.  Teachers need to create a bridge for their students. This will help students move from concrete models of fractions to visual models, and in the later grades, students will be able to work with more abstract fraction concepts.

At times educators might be resistant to the idea of having students use manipulatives in the classroom; “They can’t use manipulatives on the test” is a common statement. This is true, but if teachers can build a foundation of fractions using concrete objects they can then transition students into visual representations of fractions. Students are able to create and draw their own visual models on assessments. To better support students, teachers can expose them to a variety of concrete and pictorial models; this way a student can select and use the model(s) that they understand.

Below are examples of linear models that can be used to model fractions. Students can begin by using Cuisenaire® Rods (concrete model); with these students can easily see that a whole is being partitioned into equal parts. Students can also use a strip diagram and a number line to model fractions.

 

Below are 3 examples of using the area model to represent fractions. The circle model is a very popular visual to use when teaching students fractions. In addition to the circle model, students should also be able to model a fraction using the grid model and paper folding.

 

 

Teachers should also expose their students to set models. Set models are different from length and area models. A set model contains a set of objects, and the whole is the total number of objects in the set. When working with students, it is important to emphasize that the set of counters is considered 1 whole and not 8, as in the example below.

 

 

By using models and visuals to create a strong foundation of mathematics, students will be more prepared to build on their knowledge of fractions and be able to compare fractions, generate equivalent fractions, and perform operations with fractions.

These diagrams were taken from “Click on TEKS: A simple approach to understanding the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills- Third Grade”. The resource can be found by visiting http://store.esc13.net/index.php/click-on-grouped-elem.html

The Genius of Genius Hour

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Author:  Leslie Barrett, Specialist:  Technology & Library Media Services

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

Genius Hour is an education trend that is getting a considerable amount of buzz lately.  It is a concept inspired by Google’s 20 percent time, a policy that affords Google engineers 20 percent of their work time (one day per week) to pursue “passion projects” related to their official job duties.  This encouragement of choice and innovation has resulted in the development of many of Google’s products, including Gmail and Google News.

Translated to a classroom setting, Genius Hour is a small chunk of time – the hour part is arbitrary – where students are allowed to investigate any topic of their choice.  While the topic does not have to be related to any specific content area, there are guidelines and checkpoints that teachers and students should adhere to in order to maximize the educational benefit of the experience.

While student choice is key, topics must be presented to and approved by the teacher.  This helps provide structure for students in crafting a topic that will result in deep exploration, and not just questions that can be answered by a quick Google search.  It also sets the tone that although this project will be fun, there are still expectations around topic acceptability and student learning.

Students are expected to present their investigation findings at the conclusion of their research.  This accountability piece communicates that Genius Hour projects are not just goof-off free time, but a project to be taken seriously.  Additionally, presentations give students experience communicating to an audience and designing a presentation with an authentic audience in mind.  It also creates a platform to inspire new ideas and thinking about future projects among classmates.

Genius Hour project timeframes can vary based on individual teachers’ schedules.  Some teachers choose to do projects with prescribed timeframes (i.e., a 6 week cycle), while other teachers find it better to allow each individual project to conclude naturally.  Even the “hour” designation of Genius Hour is just a suggestion.  Some teachers, particularly secondary teachers who are subject to finite class periods, allow one class period a week to be devoted to Genius Hour projects.  Some teachers incorporate Genius Hour time as part of daily activity options when students are finished with their assigned class work.  Other teachers, particularly at the elementary level, may choose to implement Genius Hour in lieu of Fun Friday activities that have little academic value.  The key is to mold the idea to what works in individual classrooms.

A key component of Genius Hour projects is regular teacher-student check in conferences.  This is how teachers help students stay on track, and how they can address misconceptions or guide learning.  Teachers can offer mini workshops during Genius Hour time to help groups of students who are struggling with similar issues.

Through the course of Genius Hour topic exploration, students are developing a myriad of skills in an authentic, student-directed learning environment.  The most obvious is information fluency.  Students are driven by a need to locate accurate and reliable information about a topic that is meaningful to them.  Students will need to organize and summarize the information they are locating, and it’s a perfect platform to reinforce the digital citizenship skills of avoiding plagiarism, fair use, giving attribution and citing sources.  While investigating information students are naturally applying the reading and writing skills being taught in the content areas.  As they learn more about specific topics of interest they are expanding and internalizing content knowledge in various areas.  In preparation for their final product students are synthesizing the information they have uncovered and reassembling it in a new and creative way to showcase new understanding.

With so many educational advantages, it’s easy to see why many teachers are making room for students to explore their passions through Genius Hour activities.  To learn more please access the following links:

http://www.geniushour.com/

Eight Pillars of Innovation by Susan Wojcicki, Google Think Insights

The Google Way:  Give Engineers Room by Bharat Mediratta, NY Times Job Market

Instructional Materials Selection & Adoption

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Author: Jennifer Jordan-Kaszuba, Education Specialist

 

Background

During the 2013-2014 school year districts will be selecting instructional materials for K-5 Math, K-12 Science and K-12 Technology Applications.  This selection is different than adoptions in the past in that districts will purchase materials they select using their Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA).  The State Board of Education (SBOE) is scheduled to release their list of materials in November of 2013.  To qualify for the list, materials must align to at least 50% of the TEKS for the subject/grade level/course that they represent. Materials under consideration for state level adoption may be print, electronic or a hybrid of both.

 

Implications

Gone are the days where a textbook system covering 100% of the TEKS, complete with ancillaries and more, was selected without thought to cost (as long as it qualified for the list), and books for every student showed up in August.  Instead, districts must now weigh the cost, quantity and TEKS coverage of all materials and make hard choices about which materials to purchase.   Districts will need to, if they haven’t already, form a committee to prioritize spending of the IMA.

 

Committees face the daunting task of deciding which courses and grade levels receive new materials: both to what extent as well as what internal preview processes and systems need to exist. District technology staff must also work with the committee to make sure any online materials will work with the district’s infrastructure. Math has new K-8 standards taking effect in 2014-2015. Science has new standards that were adopted in 2010 for which no long-term materials were adopted.  Technology Applications TEKS are also new and require updated materials.  More materials were submitted to the SBOE for consideration than ever before, with 50+ submissions for 8th grade science alone.  These considerations are in addition to the normal questions regarding quality, ease of use and suitability of materials for students groups with regards to differentiation.

 

Materials Preview

Districts should be actively reviewing materials as soon as possible.  ESC Region 13 hosts free ongoing preview opportunities on alternating Wednesdays during regular service center hours of operation.  District personnel may preview materials only – no vendors or publishers are present.  Pre-registration is required and space is limited for these sessions. For more information about dates and registration, click here.

 

We will also be hosting three days of Instructional Materials Preview where vendors will be present to exhibit their materials and answer questions.  These free sessions will be done in an exhibit hall format and you are welcome to come and go throughout the day.  Pre-registration is not required but on-site sign-in is requested. (Register now.)

 

January 7, 2014         K-5 Math and Science (SP1425307)

January 8, 2014         6-8 Math and 6-12 Science (SP1428091)

February 21, 2014    K-12 Technology Applications (SP1428092)

 

Information about Proclamation 2014 and the SBOE process is available online from TEA. http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147505402

 

Information about the Instructional Materials Allotment is available online from TEA. http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147501653

Personal Financial Literacy Resources

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Authors: Region 13 Math Team

Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, the revised math standards will be introduced along with a new strand to grades K-8, Personal Financial Literacy. Students are already learning about Personal Financial Literacy through Social Studies and in high school Economics. Now they will see how it ties to math as well. The PFL strand is going to require teachers to not only learn about a new topic, but learn how-to-teach this new topic. This has the potential to be difficult for teachers. Some student expectations can be organically integrated into the curriculum; for example in 8th grade students will be expected to…

8.12D calculate and compare simple interest and compound interest earnings.

 

Most 8th grade math teachers will be able to easily infuse this standard into their curriculum when they are working with rational numbers. Certain PFL standards could require more time and preparation. Consider the following 3rd grade standard:

3.9B describe the relationship between the availability or scarcity of resources and how that impacts cost.

 

Teaching this standard to 3th graders will more than likely require a learning experience that could take several days. But what support will teachers have in developing these activities for students? Because these standards are new, and yet to be implemented, we thought you might like to know about some resources available to teachers. Below is a compilation of resources that are available to teachers.

 

Site

Grades

Description

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

http://goo.gl/uYU3k7

3-5

This site contains a printable journal with activities that students can use throughout the school year. The site also has other activities that support PFL, along with student pintables and support for the teacher.

Council for Economic Education

http://goo.gl/mN6Q3k

K-8

This site has dozens of activities that can be searched by topic, grade, author, and interactive resource. The activities include objectives, materials list, teacher support, and evaluation.

Money Math

http://goo.gl/kQi91

6-8

Money Math offers downloadable activities that use real-life situations to lean about PFL. One activity allows students to examine the tax rate based on income, standard 7.13A.

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy

http://goo.gl/NeucD

4-8

This site does not contain any activities for students; instead, it contains lots of valuable information to help teachers build their content knowledge of PFL. In addition, it has several calculator tools that students could use, such as a “Rent vs. Buy” calculator that allows students to compare which is more beneficial, buying a house or renting.

State of Oklahoma

http://goo.gl/QqNdv

K-8

This site contains several activities designed to support PFL. It also offers presentations to go along with the activities. The layout of the resources is user friendly and makes finding the perfect activity easy.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

http://goo.gl/Hv1RqG

K-8

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas offers lots of resources for educators. One feature that sets it apart from the other resources listed here is that it also has videos and interactive whiteboard lessons that can be downloaded.

 

In addition to these resources, Region 13 is hosting trainings provided by the Texas Council on Economic Education. These face-to-face workshops will provide teachers with resources that are correlated to the new Personal Financial Literacy standards. The trainings will be offered in grade clusters on the following dates: November 7 (K-2), February 10 (3-5), and February 26 (6-8). Find more information here.

Ring Out the Old, and Ring in the New

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author: Fredric Noriega, Secondary Mathematics Specialist

On April 20, 2012 the State Board of Education approved revisions to the Mathematics TEKS; in other words, Math is getting new TEKS! The new Math TEKS apply to grades K-8, and most high school math courses. A complete list of the new TEKS can be found at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147499971. New TEKS for grades K-8 are scheduled to be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year, while new TEKS for high school are scheduled to be implemented in the following academic school year of 2015-2016. How will this affect the STAAR testing? According to TEA, during the year of implementation they plan to assess students on the “overlapping” student expectations for each grade level. For example, consider the current 7th grade STAAR bank of test questions; during implementation year they will only include those questions that assess a current student expectation and simultaneously a student expectation from the new TEKS. Students can still expect to see field test questions on the STAAR assessments.

 

Preparation for the new TEKS should begin during the 2013-2014 school year, one year prior to the implementation year for K-8. Teachers and campus leaders should conduct a side-by-side analysis comparing the content and cognitive changes between the current and new TEKS. In addition, teachers need to determine if the new TEKS will cause any gaps in student knowledge and, if so, begin discussing what can be done to ensure those gaps are filled. This will need to be a collaborative effort amongst multiple grade level instructors. For example,  a 6th grade teacher will need to work with both the 7th and 5th grade teachers to ensure that students do not miss any content when moving to the next grade. The final step will be for instructors to make sure they are prepared to teach any content that is new to them. If the Student Expectation came from a different grade level, it would be a good idea to find which grade it came from and seek out that teacher to share both content knowledge and effective instructional strategies for the new content.

 

In an effort to support the implementation of the new TEKS, TEA will offer online professional development modules beginning in the Spring of 2013. These courses will be offered via Project Share. Below are the descriptors for each course offering.

 

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons, K-2

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

New Content, New Opportunities to Learn, K-2

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Building on Fluency to Build Proficiency, K-2

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Mathematical Process Standards and Project Share Gateway Resources,

K-2

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons

Gap Analysis

Fluency and Proficiency

Mathematical Process Standards

Examine the focal points within the newly revised mathematics TEKS and compare the new TEKS to the current TEKS to improve overall mathematics instruction. Explore models of vertical alignment that strengthen participants’ knowledge of mathematics concepts and processes, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Find out what standards are new to each grade level. Explore a gap analysis for the transition from the current TEKS to implementation and assessment of the new mathematics TEKS so you can be prepared for success in 2014-2015. Examine the learning progressions within the newly revised mathematics TEKS that develop fluency and proficiency. Engage in activities designed to support and enhance fluency, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness.Study the mathematical process standards in the newly revised mathematics TEKS. Explore online activities that support student learning through integration of the mathematical process standards and grade-level content.

 

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons, 3-5

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

New Content, New Opportunities to Learn, 3-5

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Building on Fluency to Build Proficiency, 3-5

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Mathematical Process Standards and Project Share Gateway Resources,

3-5

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons

Gap Analysis

Fluency and Proficiency

Mathematical Process Standards

Examine the focal points within the newly revised mathematics TEKS and compare the new TEKS to the current TEKS to improve overall mathematics instruction. Explore models of vertical alignment that strengthen participants’ knowledge of mathematics concepts and processes, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Find out what standards are new to each grade level. Explore a gap analysis for the transition from the current TEKS to implementation and assessment of the new mathematics TEKS so you can be prepared for success in 2014-2015. Examine the learning progressions within the newly revised mathematics TEKS that develop fluency and proficiency. Engage in activities designed to support and enhance fluency, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Study the mathematical process standards in the newly revised mathematics TEKS. Explore online activities that support student learning through integration of the mathematical process standards and grade-level content.

 

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons, 6-8

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

New Content, New Opportunities to Learn, 6-8

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Building on Fluency to Build Proficiency, 6-8

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Mathematical Process Standards and Project Share Gateway Resources,

6-8

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons

Gap Analysis

Fluency and Proficiency

Mathematical Process Standards

Examine the focal points within the newly revised mathematics TEKS and compare the new TEKS to the current TEKS to improve overall mathematics instruction. Explore models of vertical alignment that strengthen participants’ knowledge of mathematics concepts and processes, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Find out what standards are new to each grade level. Explore a gap analysis for the transition from the current TEKS to implementation and assessment of the new mathematics TEKS so you can be prepared for success in 2014-2015. Examine the learning progressions within the newly revised mathematics TEKS that develop fluency and proficiency. Engage in activities designed to support and enhance fluency, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Study the mathematical process standards in the newly revised mathematics TEKS. Explore online activities that support student learning through integration of the mathematical process standards and grade-level content.

 

We at Region 13 are also offering and planning multiple opportunities to act as support during this time of transition to the new TEKS. We look forward to making sure all instructional staff have a deep understanding of the new standards and that all students have the opportunity to be successful.

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 4

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author:  Lori Reemts, Education Specialist: Elementary Generalist

 

As this series on exploring integration winds down, it is a great time to recap three major areas as well as add a few closing remarks addressing the question “So now what?”  Thinking back to the first installment , we began by creating a common working definition of integration and what that can and cannot mean in terms of classroom instruction. We all want it; we all feel we need it if for no other reason than to address time constraints, but we aren’t all in agreement of what “it” even is.  When considering the three areas of curriculum (written, taught and assessed) the greatest opportunity for true integration can be found within the taught curriculum. What happens in the classroom is key.  Even with the most beautifully written curriculum, connections and true integration simply cannot take place until what is written comes to life through purposeful instruction.  Instructional integration provides the points of intersection, the rich discussion and the multiple opportunities to use knowledge and skill throughout the entire learning day.

 

The second installment then shifted our focus to defining some of the opportunities found within the standards.  Direct (explicit) Support and taking advantage of Purposeful Awareness during instruction provides students more than one discrete opportunity to experience something and often provides multiple contexts in which to do so.  Examples of direct support, such as concepts found within the Social Studies Geography strands and the Science Earth Science strands, can be found throughout all of our standards.  Keeping vocabulary and concepts alive through various contexts is a major benefit of using Purposeful Awareness.  This can be seen, for example, with the term “consumer.” Though the foundational concept is the same, the application within a science lesson on organisms and environments is slightly different than that of a social studies economics lesson.  Knowing and referring to the standards as the starting point of any lesson design is the best way to take full advantage of these two techniques.

 

The third installment highlighted transferrable skills.  Our standards are full of skills that we hope each of our students develop and utilize to be successful in whatever path they take. In essence, these “transferrable skills” comprise the core of we are told to highlight on our professional resumes and the like.  However, it seems they can become lost in all of the standards and even more so when the learning day is segmented.  By identifying these skills across content areas we can better teach them, practice them and help students become aware that they are indeed using them.  The skills themselves are important as they are where that added layer of rigor and application come from, but they also serve as vehicles to obtain the very content knowledge we need students to comprehend within each discipline.

 

Finally, the question “So now what?” comes to mind.  We are now set to take the first steps in the journey to transform and integrate our instruction through these points of intersection but…just what do we do when armed with this information now?  Over time this type of thinking and approach can become quite second nature, but it takes quite a bit of purpose at first. If we do not plan for the connection, the question, the link, the use of vocabulary in another context and the relationship between the standards, they simple do not occur. The frantic pace of the day, the fire drill, the lack of sleep or the unexpected question or result can derail the best of intentions.  Once a point, or multiple points of intersection, has occurred there are decisions that must be made.  Is this the best place to start at this time? Do I have a resource to do this? What do I need to gather?  Is there someone, such as our librarian, who can assist me?  Take the thinking and begin linking it to the tangibles that exist and can exist within a classroom lesson, discussion, and experience.  Be purposeful. Start realistically for yourself.  Manageable pieces lead to a much more satisfying and organic end result.  Begin with just two content areas or one or two skill areas.  Perhaps even begin with one content area finding points of intersection WITHIN that given content. How does this unit connect to the unit we did 6 weeks ago?  Engage in this thinking with your students and don’t be afraid to think out loud or let them do so before it is time to “answer.”  Knowing that there is more time spent up front, it is important to keep the end in mind and realize that the time will be made up two or three times over in the long run, not to mention it is what is best for learning.

 

Interested in a more detailed discussion or information?  Contact Lori Reemts, Elementary Generalist.