Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Minds on Math Book Study-Chapter 4 "Community"

Minds on Mathematics Book Study

If this is your first time joining our book study please click on the button above and it will link to all previous posts.  Feel free to go back and add a link to any previous chapters.  You can link up your post on Chapter 4 at the bottom of this post.  Please visit the other bloggers who have linked up below and leave them comments.  Lots of great ideas are being posted on other blogs!
I really enjoyed this chapter.  There were so many ideas that I really connected with.  I love the idea and completely agree that a learning community to be authentic is a culture you create in your classroom not a structure.  If we want students to behave like mathematicians then we need to establish a classroom culture where we treat them as such.  This was my big ah hah in this chapter.

This chapter has really given me a lot to think about as I plan to implement the workshop model in my classroom this fall.  I really agree with the author that you need to take some time the first few days of having students to create the culture of your classroom.  

My students worked in collaborative groups last year.  I was impressed with how well things went, but there is definitely lots of room for improvement.  One of the "yeah, buts" in this chapter was about about special needs students.  I saw some very impressive results in my special ed inclusion hours.  Students that would never raise their hands to answer questions would be able to discuss their answers as part of their small groups.  I really felt some students that I would normally never hear from if I taught to the large group, would give feedback in their small groups.  It was something to see.

I want to challenge you all to not underestimate what your students are capable of doing as far as collaboration goes.  I started out with my accelerated class because I knew they would do great and they did.  It took me a whole extra quarter before I finally jumped in with my regular classes (two of which are special ed inclusion hours).  I kept thinking it would not work in those other classes.  What I found was it worked great (maybe not as easily as with the accel, but great nonetheless).

This goes back to a previous chapter where Wendy Ward Hoffer spoke about all students being capable of brilliance.  We need to give them the tools to show us their brilliance and by building a strong sense of community in our classrooms we are doing just that.

Thanks for linking up everyone!  


  1. As I go through this chapter, here are the things that stood out to me:
    1. I found it interesting on p. 49 that the number one reason that people lost their jobs was not lack of computation, writing or computer skills, but because they were unable to get along with colleagues. Reminding students that they are rehearsing these life skills, is really important.
    2. Although challenging at times and with certain students, I'm going to work hard to see nothing but brilliant potential when my students enter the room. No matter their level, all are capable of great growth.
    3. I liked the personal responsibility listed in the norms on p. 53. Students job is to learn, my job is to model the thinking that the work requires.
    4. Nice examples of praising students.
    5. Building individual relationships is very important. I've learned, with my tough students, to get to know what they enjoy and learn enough about it to start conversations. Ex. My son wrestled and two of my struggling students wrestled. I went to their matches and talked about their moves as they entered class. I won both over and they started working harder for me in class.
    6. Love the last paragraph on p. 59. I think I will use this with my classes.
    7. Warm calling allows all students an opportunity to be successful and be recognized for brilliance.
    8. Going over what worked well in group work and what didn't is something we often don't have time to do. I do think it enhances the expectations. I recently read about an activity called "Secret Student". I'm going to try this. You select a student, without anyone knowing, and observe their interactions and behaviors in class. If at the end of the period, they met your standard for success, you announce their name and state why they are being rewarded. (reward can be whatever you decide). If they didn't meet the expectation, you don't mention their name, but give some examples of what you saw and/or heard that held them from being recognized. Several may wonder if they were the "Secret Student", but they won't know for certain.

    1. I did the warm calling all the time last year when discussing with groups. It made a huge difference for all students to realize they were accountable to be able to explain and justify the group's answer to me.

      I love your secret student idea. The kids would totally get into that.

  2. The things that stood out to me where taking the time to develop a culture and community as well. It's always nice to hear a source say take your time to do something.
    1. I agree with Charla's 6, I highlighted it too.
    2. I like how she refers to math as an apprenticeship. I used to refer to it as a sport and that you had to practice, but that is not a math workshop mindset. I plan on using the apprenticeship analogy because it means when you work you learn. You can still apply it to sports as well, but make sure they understand that practice is like the work they do to learn.
    3. Also, thanks to Charla for the Secret Student idea. Coming from an elementary school some teacher used secret walkers for reinforcement for hallway behavior, but I never thought of it in the classroom.
    4. About reaching the lower students like she addresses at the end of the chapter, I found it very helpful when I started last year off with a demonstration about 'fair'. I had a class of 12 low students, 6 of those had IEPs and got calculators for anything. Usually there is an uproar when someone gets to use a calculator and the others can't. So I got the idea from Pinterest on having each student create a fake injury. (broken arm, head broke open, scratch, etc.) I started with one student giving him an imaginary Band-Aid (they are 6th graders, I wasn't wasting real ones :) ) on his injury. I then proceeded to ask each student where their injury was, but only gave them a Band-Aid in the same place as student one. By the end they all had a 'band-aid' on their upper arm. I asked if that was fair. We had a discussion and to summarize I pointed to a sign I have that says, "Fair is not everyone getting the same thing, Fair is everybody getting what they need in order to succeed." I did not have a single fuss over calculators all year!

    1. I do love the apprenticeship analogy too. We really need to think of ourselves as training our students to be mathematicians.

      Cute idea with the band-aids! Thanks for sharing Kristina.

  3. This chapter was very interesting to me. It gave a lot of useful information and I highlighted many things because they are ideas I want to use next year!
    1. To manage students behavior, we need to give up some control.
    2. Twenty-first century skills that we need to foster in the classroom are communication and collaboration. These are practical tools that we need to start teaching and using in our classrooms to help our students become successful.
    3. A learning community is a culture, not a structure. (It must include intention, interdependence, and homeostasis). This is why we must spend time creating this culture. It's not something you can expect without modeling and taking time to nurture and tweak throughout the year.
    4. "Students adjust their attitudes and efforts in order to fit into the culture." This was very enlightening to me and it makes so much sense when you think about it. You must make it the cool thing to care. If a peer celebrates success, it's cool to care about your studies and it is our goal to make it a train that every student wants to jump aboard.
    5. I also liked the paragraph in page 52 about how the students are apprentices and the teachers job is to model. I plan on using that speech the first day!
    6. I plan on making a poster or something that encompasses all the information from the chart on page 53. This is so motivating to me and I hope the students see that as well. These "Norms" are not only applicable in my math class, but they should walk into every situation with that type of attitude!
    7. I really like that it mentioned instead of just saying "good job" it talks about really conveying what they are doing good at. "Great job at explaining your thinking, you really nailed it..." It shows that you are paying attention to that individual and complementing their specific effort. It's so much more meaningful than just "good job".
    8. I liked the question on page 56, when a learner chooses not to do what asked, ask them "what is it that you need in order to engage as a learner today?"
    9. Page 57 really maps out what a day should look like in your class. I'm going to copy that page and put it at the front of my lesson plan book as a good reminder what a day should look like in my room and how I can set myself apart from just being a typical teacher.
    10. "My definition of a good teacher has since changed from 'one who explains things so well that students understand' to 'one who gets students to explain things so well that they can be understood.'" This is going to be challenging for me, but I really see the benefits. When you have the ability to explain something, you really understand it. That is a wonderful goal for all students.
    11. I loved the idea about brainstorming all the problems that you can encounter with group work and discussing ways to overcome. I plan on using that in my classroom as well.
    12. I really liked all the ideas on how to self-monitor. It makes each student take ownership for what they contributed in a day.

    There were a few other things I highlighted, but these were the ones that really caught my eye. This has been the most beneficial chapter to me so far. It really highlighted day to day things that you can add to your class to make it more successful.


  4. I love that you mentioned that you have had success in your inclusion classes. I have taught inclusion before and will be teaching a block of inclusion this year. I think it's so easy for us to assume the capabilities of students based on various labels used by the education system. Thanks for the reminder that students are not defined by those labels and are capable of greatness. I think the next chapter also offers some great scaffolding ideas!


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