Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Minds on Math Book Study-Chapter 8 "Work Time"

Minds on Mathematics Book Study

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This chapter was full of practical ideas and advice for how to best structure student work time during workshop.  One thing that really spoke to me was being really explicit in letting students know the what, why, and how of a task.  When I have students collaborate in groups I will assign them certain problems.  I always give examples of what I am looking for and we typically solve a similar problem as a whole class before they work in groups.  I like the idea of taking the time to make sure that students really understand what is expected of them while completing the task.

I need to work on structuring myself during this time to be conferring with students and gathering data. I loved the questions posted on page 134 for when students become "stuck".  I need to not jump in and give them the answer, but help guide them to discover it themselves.  I think it would be great to have these questions on a clipboard as I walk around the room during work time.

The section on planning for groups was interesting and something I really struggle with.  I will obsess for way too long trying to figure out the "perfect" group design.  I need to be more flexible in using different methods for creating groups.  Last year my students either worked in partners or table groups.  Table groups would be 4-5 students.  I really need to spend some time reflecting on the size of groups and how often I change them up.  I am curious to know how often people change around their groups.  From a seating chart stand point I usually change groups once a quarter.

When we did MATHia (which is our personalized computer component) I would group students by what unit and section they were on so they were working with other students at the same pace as themselves.  These groups could change daily as the students would progress though the software.  I do have to say that my students loved being in these groups and also that they were always being changed up.  It was easy enough for me to do these groups by running a report and then just highlighting groups to sit together.  Students still worked independently, but had the option of helping each other troubleshoot of they needed it.

I definitely need to spend some time looking through the tasks given in the Carnegie collaborative classroom text and doing some differentiation based on content, product, or process.  I also find it interesting that Ward Hoffer has made mention several times that you need to have additional responsibilities for students to attend to if they complete the assigned math workshop task.  She gives examples of possible tasks:  additional practice, supporting others, reading about math, or practicing basic skills games.  I have previously used learning stations in my classroom with great success.  I plan on incorporating these as some additional tasks for when students finish their workshop tasks.

I am trying to figure out where Ward Hoffer sees working on homework fitting into this workshop model.  You could obviously have students start working on a homework assignment once the work time task is done, but she has not alluded to homework, other than talking about not spending too much of your opening time correcting homework.  I will really need to see where homework figures into this model.  Hopefully some of you will have thoughts to share on this.

Thanks everyone for commenting or linking up below.  This book study have been so great and I have loved reading everyone's comments and blog posts that have been shared.


  1. Hi Sherrie! How do you make your cute boxes with the chapter summaries? I love them! Actually your whole blog is so cute, I love all of your graphics :)
    I am thinking about making my homework the very basic problems from the textbook, you know the 5-10 lower level pure computation problems. Along with watching a video of the procedure. I'm not sure if I am going to give them the video the night before the lesson or after we have had the lesson.

  2. I was questioning the homework piece too. I like our DIGITS program because the homework is online, and gives a lot of help and examples, and I don't have to go over all the problems. Usually when I check scores, I pull kids from studyhall if they bombed something. I'd like to do more conferences in class time.
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  3. It is a shift moving to 50% of the time being spent on "Work Time". Much of the Workshop Model requires strong classroom management skills. We need to make sure we take the time in the beginning of the year to lay out our expectations so that we can structure independent work from our students. They must be taught how to work together and what is and is not acceptable. We need to grow their stamina as independent workers. It also requires that we be organized. I like the idea of making a bunch of materials available to the students. This also is teaching the practice standard 5 on using appropriate tools. I'm thinking of having a basket at each table with several tools: ruler, protractor, number line, calculator, post it notes, etc. and the students could use the tools as needed. I see that my role is going to much more of a facilitator for learning than the information source. This is going to be an adjustment that I have to work hard at to allow the students the opportunity to get frustrated, build stamina, persevere, and ultimately achieve the learning by me guiding them vs. providing them with the steps. There is a lot of group work in this model, but they did mention that we still need to provide some time to work alone. Not all kids prefer working together.
    A question I'm struggling with is: If I have the students work in groups through a couple richer problems and once they're done, allow them to begin their homework, I think the students will rush through the rich problems just so that they can get to their homework and get a head start on finishing it. I also think the brighter kids who catch on quicker won't be as patient with the students who need more time, because they will be holding them back from getting their homework. Maybe I don't hand out the homework until the very end of class so that there is no benefit to working quickly through the class work. Maybe less problems are assigned to those groups who had rich conversations and worked well all period. I don't know. I'm just thinking and typing at the same time. Still need to work out all the details. Maybe what we're doing in class would be what was typically homework and the homework should be problems that are more computation based and easier so that all students can complete on their own.

  4. I'm still loving the planning and modeling. I like the box on pg. 122 about projects. It can really help students focus better when they are doing group projects. I also like the ways to differentiate on pg. 119, "We can differentiate content, product, or process based on student affect, readiness, and interest."
    I really don't think I will plan on giving homework next year. I think I will focus on practice problems in class (as individuals) then coming together to collaborate (as a group).

  5. It's ironic you mention homework, because when I got my book, that was the first thing I looked for (even went to the index!). While I liked our homework "process" last year, the one thing I'm always looking for is how others handle homework. As a parent, I get frustrated with homework, but I also know that I want my kids to be prepared for what lies ahead. The demands on our high schoolers are intense and I think part of my purpose for homework is to help instill good work habits. My daughter will be a junior this year and is taking 5 AP classes (her choice, not mine!), runs cross-country/track so practice every day after school (and she misses most Fridays through October for meets), has a mandatory lab one day a week after school, and dances 2 days a week...and homework on top of all of this! She had a really good middle school experience, yet, in some ways she was still unprepared for the demands of high school.

    I know that there's a school of thought that homework is worthless because it widens the gap. Some students have parents who will sit down and help them with homework (a good thing, in my opinion) and other students who have no one at home, or who have other responsibilities (taking care of younger siblings, etc) and have a difficult time getting to homework. Still others struggle with the content and bad habits are created by continuously doing something wrong. I get all of this, and that's why I always struggle with homework.

  6. This chapter gave me quite a few ideas: choosing groups, review games, project ideas & differentiation strategies. But it also left me with a few questions and most of them had to deal with time!
    A dream work time would be self-direction, independence, and purpose as learners delve into rigorous content. But how do we get there?

    On page 118 Hoffer described an old review game and then how she revamped it. I can really see the difference and I can also tell you that I am guilty of planning the same type of reviews as her first game. I love that when she revamped it, she had students staying behind and explaining to the other students how to do something.

    I really liked the grouping ideas on page 124 (appointment clock, card partners, and random). I need to do a better job of mixing up groups. And I also like her response to students who think they can't work with another student. "Yah, it can be really tough to collaborate. And it is one of the most important things you can learn in life. So, what are you going to do to work this out?" This is a problem solving skill and as mentioned before, problem solving goes way beyond math.

    I also need to do a better job of showing the students exactly what I expect as far as their work being neat and organized, putting units at the of the their answer, explaining the answer if it's a word problem... Good ideas are listed on page 127.

    I really liked her ideas for students getting stuck and how we need to answer a question with a question so our students do not rely on us to just give them the answer.

    Questions I Still Have:
    I have always been told that choice is the key to motivation and I tried to keep that in mind last year, but sometimes it is difficult. I need to remember that "students do not need to do the exact same thing to show that they understand." -this struck a chord with me, as last year we worked on common essential skills. (We have 8 sixth grade math teachers at our school and we would all kind of stay together as far as where we were in the curriculum. After we finished a unit, each of us would give a common 4 question quiz (an example would be multiplying decimals) and then we would come together and share our data and discuss misconceptions and share the success we had). One of the main thing we discussed is that it is so odd that some students would fail these little essential skills quizzes, but yet, we knew they understood the content. It is still a mystery to me and I'm not sure how to move forward in our essential skills with questions like this. Does anyone else have essential skills at their school that are common among all the content teachers in your building? What are your thoughts on this?

    Under the Differentiation by Process (bottom of page 121), Hoffer mentions using several different tools/materials. I noticed last year that when I would present how to solve the problem in numerous ways, the students would get more confused and then they were concentrating on the how and not actually making sense of the problems. I worry that presenting so many options causes more confusion than anything; unless they had a lot of time to spend with each tool, but we just don't have the time to do that. However, a few times last year I would have 1 or 2 students who really weren't getting it, so I would get out some other type of manipulative and show them an alternative method. I did it on an as needed basis and not necessarily with the whole class. Has anyone else experienced this? What are your thoughts on having so many options?

    There is a project mentioned on page 122 and at first I thought it would be a good idea, but then I struggle with time. Is working on one project for 5 days, only looking at a couple problems worth that much time? What are you thoughts on this?

    Sorry this was so long. There seemed to be a lot of information here.


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