- Do math first. "I do better in math when we have it first thing in the morning." This statement was echoed over and over by my kiddos after I did some schedule swapping one week. I suspected this, but wanted to hear it straight from the horses' mouths before I made the permanent change in our schedule. Our original schedule called for math in the afternoon, but we much prefer to have a read aloud and time to read to self at the end of the day. It's a better ending to a rigorous school day.
- Focus on the Essential Question: I sort of skipped over this until I was part of a demonstration lesson in which the trainer focused on the essential question. I realized that the question helps focus students' minds on what they are supposed to be learning. Now, I always begin by reading it and explaining what they will be able to do by the end of the lesson. "Today, we will be exploring how to use a model to find factors of a given number..." We revisit the question during the lesson, "Are we using models to find factors of numbers? How?" and at the end of the lesson as a review, "How did we use models to find factors of a number?" Sometimes they answer orally and sometimes in their journals.
- Anticipate issues with manipulatives: Upper grades have never had sets of manipulatives to use with their students until this year, so our students simply weren't used to using them. Many of my students had never even touched a base ten block before this year! As a result, I had to let them build houses with the base ten blocks, make patterns with tiles, and build towers with counters before they could be really utilized. Because it was all so new, sometimes the manipulatives were more of a hindrance than a help. For example, when using counters to model division with remainders, many of my kiddos didn't count out the correct number---multiple times! I've learned to think carefully about how to anticipate issues and solve problems before they can happen.
Overall, I'm really excited to be teaching the new Common Core standards, and I love learning new ways to solve problems and new strategies to teach my kiddos.