As I began reading this chapter I kept thinking of the past 2 weeks at LaSIP. LaSIP, Louisiana Systemic Initiatives Program, is a year-long, grant-funded workshop at the University of New Orleans. I attend 2 weeks during the summer, a few days during the fall and spring, and participate in observations. These past two weeks I have been intensely involved in learning about mathematics through Launch, Explore, and Summarize (LES). I find that the LES model is very similar to the 5 E's in Science. The students are presented with a problem in which they are instructed to prove or disprove. For example, 1/4 + 1/2 = 2/6. Isn't that what the students initially believe is the answer? Then using what they already know about fractions, the students explore with manipulates to prove or disprove the problem.
So, why was I thinking of this as I began to read? Before the author discussed conferring with students she addressed the importance of ensuring that the students are self-sufficient. If they are not then the value in conferencing diminishes. Teachers, and I know I am guilty of it, see a student struggling and immediately want to help. As a result, students exhibit a "learned helplessness" and become easily frustrated if we don't allow them to struggle during problem solving. It is OK to let them struggle; this creates problem solvers. The LES model creates problem solvers.
Usually my centers are 5 days a week. This year I will devote one day to this model. I am hoping this will ease students' fears of math and make them aware that it is alright to make mistakes.
Keep checking back for posts about the LES model once the school year starts. I need to turn my focus back to the book :)
Math conferences include:
- Research student understanding - Find out what the student is doing with the assigned task and what is his or her understanding. This phase is when the teacher is really listening to the student and possibly restating the students' ideas using math vocabulary.
- Decide what is needed - This phase is almost happening at the same time as the research phase. First, praise what the student is doing well. Don't we always start off on a positive note during parent conferences? It should be the same with student conferences. Then, we must decide what needs to be taught to move them forward.
- Teach to student needs - Once we have decided what to teach and how, we must choose a method for delivery. Methods often chosen by teachers are guided practice, demonstration, and explaining and showing an example. Which one to choose?
- Guided practice - Students are working on task while the teacher is coaching.
- Demonstration - The teacher models strategies or practices as they think aloud. This modeling is broken down into steps and the reasoning behind each step is explained. My eyes have recently been open to the importance of explaining the why. I know it is sad to say, but I think most of us get in the rut of saying this is how you solve the problem so just do it. With so many skills that need to be crammed in before testing time is an issue. I do see a light at the end of the tunnel with my state's implementation of the CCSS. I'm thrilled that our standards will be almost cut in half; therefore, allowing me more time to make learning meaningful.
- Explaining and showing an example - I like this one because it discusses the use of anchor charts. Last year, my co-teacher and I created anchor charts for almost every skill. Having them posted around the classroom allowed the students to easily refer back to the strategy.
- Link to the future - Restate what you hope that they have learned and remind them to use these strategies with future mathematical tasks. Sammons also suggest letting the student restate what was learned and how it might be used in their future work.
What we learn during these conferences is just as valuable what the students learn. It is important to keep records of these conferences. Finding what works for you is the key. You can carry a clipboard with observation forms, sticky notes, or a notebook.
Thank you for reading.
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