Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Building Mathematical Comprehension Chapter 2

Mathematical Vocabulary, that's the focus of Chapter 2 of Building Mathematical Comprehension.

There are several ideas on graphic organizers and some bulletin board ideas offered in this chapter.  To be honest, I didn't do as well with vocabulary this last year as I had in the past.  As I reflected on the year, vocabulary building and instruction was an area I let slip.  I know how important it is to teach proper vocabulary to students, especially in mathematics.

One thing that I think was very helpful to me was a professional development where we collaborated vertically with the grade level teams below and above us specifically in the area of vocabulary.  We discussed the vocabulary that was currently being used and then suggested vocabulary we'd love for the grade level below us to begin implementing and using.  This was very eye-opening to my team as we spoke with the 6th grade team.  We learned that there were some key vocabulary terms that if we used in 5th grade, would be tremendously helpful to students in 6th grade as they deepen their level of mathematical knowledge.

I would strongly encourage you to get with the grade level teams ahead of, and behind your own and have a vocabulary conversation.  It can be informal and take just a few minutes.  You might be surprised at what you discover either about your own instruction or the instruction that might be happening before your students arrive in your classroom.

I think it's extra important for primary grade teachers to use correct vocabulary.  As a first grade teacher, I was certainly guilty of using "simple" names for math terms because I thought the true vocabulary words would be too difficult.  I soon realized that if taught correctly and used over and over, young students can understand the vocabulary just fine and it sets them up to be more successful in the future.

One of my summer tasks is to create a template/master of a student interactive math notebook to guide me through next year.  Vocabulary will be a strong part of that notebook.

How do you make sure your students get explicit math vocabulary instruction?  Be sure to check out the other posts on Chapter 2 linked up below.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Building Mathematical Comprehension Chapter 1

Now that summer is here, I feel like I can blog again!  Whew, the school year can be busy.  I'm keeping busy through the summer though working on extending my knowledge to be a better teacher for next year.  I love participating in summer professional book clubs.  I plan to join Angela at The Cornerstone for Teachers for her facebook book club of her books beginning in July.  I'll be posting about some of the other books I'm reading as well throughout the summer.

This post, however, is all about the first chapter of Building Mathematical Comprehension.  Abbey at A Teacher Mom is hosting this study.  Be sure to check out the link up to see all the posts from participating bloggers.

A Teacher Mom

To be honest, I've had this book a few years and have skimmed it here and there.  I tweek the structure of my math instruction each year and I'm still looking for a model that will work well for my students and for me.  I'm excited to read the entire book and hope that it will help me get closer to that perfect model this coming year. 

Chapter 1 focuses on comprehension strategies for Mathematics.  Not surprisingly, reading and math comprehension strategies are very closely linked! The biggest take away for me from this chapter is that we need to use a very similar gradual release model that we use in reading with math as well.  

We need to be very explicit in our gradual release: 

1. Explain WHAT the strategy is. 
2. Explain WHY the strategy is important. 
3. Explain WHEN to use the strategy. 
4. Model HOW to use the strategy. 
5. GUIDE STUDENTS how to use the strategy. 
6. Students INDEPENDENTLY use the strategy.  

Think about the "Think Aloud" lessons you often do in reading.  We need to do "Think Aloud" lessons during our math instruction as well.  This model will be great for introducing students to using comprehension strategies in deciphering their math problems. The remainder of the book goes more deeply into each of the comprehension strategies of:

  • Making Connections
  • Asking Questions
  • Visualizing
  • Making Inferences and Predictions
  • Determining Importance
  • Synthesizing
  • Monitoring

I'm really trying to move to a more conceptual/exploratory math model to introduce math concepts.  So I wondered if this explanation model would fit into also sharing mathematical solution strategies.  I think that this can certainly happen during the discussion and wrap up phase of those activities.  I also think that we can teach students to model and explain their conclusions using this pattern.  Students can explain to their peers WHAT the strategy is they have determined, WHY it would be helpful or important, WHEN the strategy is useful or if there are circumstances when it fails and model HOW they used the strategy.  From there, they can guide their small group or class to use the strategy and time can be given for students to give the strategy a try.  

This model of students leading the way would need to be carefully constructed and I think the teacher would need to carefully select students who give a full presentation and limit it to 2-3 strategies, depending on the concept. 

How do you facilitate comprehension in your classroom?  Do you consciously use a think aloud method for teaching comprehension or solution strategies to your students?  

I'm excited to learn more explicitly about using each of these comprehension strategies in teaching mathematics. Come back each Tuesday for the next 2 months for ideas on the rest of the book.  Join in the conversation by leaving comments on the posts. 


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