Shifts in Classroom Practice
For the bulk of the interview I wanted to use planning tool 2.3 which is shifts in classroom practice planning questions. By asking these questions I was able to learn a lot about incorporating the shifts in everyday math instruction. In addition, I was able to hear about positive things happening in another math classroom even though we work in a school that is struggling with mathematics.
Shift 1: How do you differentiate instruction?
Mrs. Brey--My two 5th grade classes are sorted in to a high and low group. We cover the same content but I am able to challenge my high students and focus more on achieving the specific skills with my low students. I also use centers quite a bit based on how students are understanding the work.
Shift 2: What are important aspects of a community of learners and how do you achieve that?
Mrs Brey--In a community of learners, students should value and respect the ideas and opinions of others. I think the best way to get students to open up is to have a positive and welcoming atmosphere from the first day of school. I do a lot of "get to know you" activities at the beginning of the year so that students feel comfortable sharing in class.
Shift 3: What kind of support do students need in order to determine the correctness of their thinking?
Mrs. Brey--In order to provide support I allow students to use an elbow partner to discuss with so that if they aren’t confident they can discuss the answer and possibly gain confidence before sharing in front of the whole class.
Shift 4: How do you provide structure for a task without giving away exactly how to do it?
Mrs. Brey--I often give the students the task and tell them they have to figure out the best way to solve the work with a partner. If they ask me questions I say I do not know the correct answer….just so I can see the different types of ways they figure out how to solve the problem. As students are working with a partner and I walk around, I will give them guidance by telling them they are on the right track or I tell them to keep up that type of work.
Shift 5: What are ways you make connections between mathematical content?
Mrs. Brey--Before teaching a particular unit, I look ahead and see what concepts my students will be working with and see if what we are doing now directly relates to that concept. If things in our text do not directly relate to the next concept, I will often leave that part out. Our current text actually does a great job in the front of each unit by telling how concepts relate to each other. It lets me know how specific lessons relate to specific lessons in the next unit or topic. Also, the units do not go in typical sequential order, they often skip around. For example, I may cover Topic 1 at the start of the year but the next unit may be Topic 3 as the concepts relate more closely that Topic 1 and Topic 2.
Shift 6: What support do students need in order to learn how to explain their thinking to others?
Mrs. Brey--Well, our kids need LOTS of support. It's not easy teaching math when so many of our students are so far behind where they should be. I have found that my kids lack any confidence in their answers even though they are often right, they do not like to share in front of the class. So, to help overcome this fear, I will have students work a problem by themselves. Then, they share with an elbow partner to compare answers that way they can gain that confidence so they will be bold enough to share out to the class. Finally, I will have students share with their table group their answers so everyone at least gets some sort of knowledge of the correct answer even if they are not the strongest math student. This simple method allows many of my lower math students to become comfortable sharing in class.
Shift 7: What might be benefits of allowing students to struggle?
Mrs. Brey--For my high group of students, it is easier to let them struggle but with my lower students I do not let them struggle as often. With my lower group they have a hard enough time understanding the material so by letting them struggle they get frustrated that much easier. I have to judge the types of things I let them struggle with. But, by letting them struggle, I let them experience the material and see it in a way that if I straight told them the algorithm they may just learn the procedure instead of actually knowing why something works. Allowing them to struggle helps them see why their method is or is not correct which lets them better understand the content.