# Where to Start Instruction

I have been struggling with where to begin math instruction with my First Graders this year.  I gave them all a number sense screener and have a neat little spreadsheet about what they do and don’t know, but I still couldn’t decide where to start.  I decided my dilemma was due to the fact that I was struggling yet again between my teaching philosophy and teaching my grade-level standards.

This weekend, I picked up my copy of Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler and continued reading.  The chapter on Creating Mathematical Mindsets reinforced my philosophy and encouraged me to go with my gut.  That meant that I would begin and end with structuring numbers and building number sense from the ground up.  What I want my students to know is how to reason with numbers and use them creatively: the relationship between numbers.  I want them to know how numbers are connected, not just to each other and other operations, but to their world.

In our classroom, my partner teacher and I have forty students in one learning lab.  We departmentalize and I teach math, she teaches reading.  We collaborate on every aspect of our day and teach with an inquiry model.  Each day, I do a whole group Number Talk, a grade-level flipped lesson, and an intervention group with each student.  Some days we do a 3 Act Math Task instead of the number talk.  My small group lessons are where I am struggling.  I have always bought into the intervention model and how we need to meet each child “where they are.”  I still believe this to be true, but my opinion has changed a little as to the context of teaching in this way.  I’m not sure that I still think that isolated skills are the answer here.  We always talk about “connecting it back to <insert whatever>,” but should we ever sever that connection in the first place?  Why should we “connect it back” instead of keeping it in context the entire time?  I know the answer is that planning in such a way is hard work.  It is time consuming work.  It is deep cognitive work.  And the truth is, there is not enough time to do it.

I spend between 50-70 hours a week teaching or planning.  It’s funny to hear people say “go home and enjoy your family” but they are also saying, “teach like a champion.”  Well, in my opinion, for most of us, you can’t do both.  At least, not in balance.  I have begun looking at my job as my hobby as well.  I guess that is the upside to choosing a career you are passionate about!

# What if We Re-imagined Assessment?

What if instead of having a yearly assessment that is split up into content areas, we decided to have a yearly challenge?

What if we let individuals work on challenges that our school or community was facing, and offer up some concrete solutions.

What if once, they formulated their own response, they were able to go back and collaborate with their peers to see different angles and viewpoints and revise their solutions once the team came together on a consensus?

Not only are assessments sucking the joy out of learning, they are sucking the joy out of teaching!  It is really frustrating as an educator to know that you cannot spend time diving deep into subject matter, into conflict and debate, into things that really matter…because you have so much content to cover.  Despite educators viewpoints on teaching pedagogy, it all comes down to how their administrator, their district, and their state view assessment.  In many cases, educators feels powerless in their own classrooms because once spring rolls around, they know they have to start “preparing for the state assessment.”

I’ve worked for several different administrators and they all view assessment differently.  And even though my philosophy has matched up quite directly will a couple of them, they are still held “accountable” for their test scores on the standardized state test.  So how do we change that?

# Problem Solving Through Mistakes

Jo Boaler published a paper on her website, http://www.youcubed.com, that states current brain research indicates that “Mistakes Grow Your Brain.”  We thought this was very important for our students to know, but also to be able to practice in our classroom.  We first introduced the idea through a video on Growth Mindset in Class Dojo and expanded on it with our first 3 Act Math lesson of the year.  Since then, our students have embraced the idea and have begun to enter into conversations about how we can critique each others work and learn from our mistakes.  We think this is the best possible way to problem solve.

Many times, I would comment, “I feel my brain growing.”  Students responded with “me too” and have started using similar phrases during lessons.

One of the students I was worried might not take so well to the idea of critiquing mistakes actually chose to come back to the group and have another math lesson instead of going to his “may do” options.  Upon his second lesson, he commented “at least I didn’t put an equal sign instead of a plus this time!”

I am so excited about the attitude toward mistakes and problem solving in our class! I can’t wait to grow our brain tomorrow!

# 3 Act: The Very Hungry Caterpillars

I was picking tomatoes in my garden one day for a 3 Act task on doubles when I almost picked up a caterpillar by mistake!  I started exploring my plants and found MANY caterpillars roaming around.  In fact, they were everywhere!  I wasn’t sure why I was taking pictures, but I felt the need to.

I decided this afternoon that it would be a great lesson on counting on, subtraction or finding the missing addend.  And so, The Very Hungry Caterpillars was born!  This task addresses standard 1.NBT.C.4 in 1st grade.

I wasn’t sure how to set up Act 1, but after some thought,  I think it works!  As always, I would love feedback.

Here is the link to the Nearpod Version.

## Act 1

How many caterpillars were black?

# 3 Act: More Muffins!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we have been working on our wellness unit in first grade and this week is on Healthy Eating!  We will be making muffins with our students and I thought this was the perfect time to use the muffin video footage I took over the summer that I was saving for just the right 3 Act Lesson!  I am excited to try it with our kiddos!  Here is a link to the Nearpod Version.

This lesson best fits 1.OA.B.4 for 1st grade and 2.OA.A.1 for 2nd grade.

Check out my previous post for repeated addition using exactly the same footage in a different scenario:)

## Act 1

Q: Estimate how many more more muffins to fill up the pan.  Write a too high and a too low estimate.

## Act 2

Q: What information do you know?  What information do you need?

## Act 3

I’ll post student responses and a reflection following our lesson.  Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions for improvement!

# 3 Act – The Muffin woMAN

We have been working on our wellness unit in first grade and this week is on Healthy Eating!  We will be making muffins with our students and I thought this was the perfect time to use the muffin video footage I took over the summer that I was saving for just the right 3 Act Lesson!  I am excited to try it with our kiddos!  Here is a link to the Nearpod Version.

This lesson best fits 1.NBT.C.4 for 1st grade,  2.OA.C.4 for 2nd grade and 3.OA.A.3 for 3rd grade.

Check out my next post for a subtraction lesson using exactly the same footage in a different scenario:)

## Act 3

I’ll post student responses and a reflection following our lesson.  Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions for improvement!