So I decided my first in depth blog post will be on math, specifically, teaching the Common Core standards with the Go Math series. I’ll be upfront: I am not a fan of the Go Math curriculum and I don’t think I’ll ever be. That said, I still have to use it in one way or another. My district has provided professional development in math with inservice days on Direct Instruction (think steps) and in Lesson Study (think teachers collaborating about how to teach math). I believe that both have valuable insights for thinking about teaching the common core standards in math. So these initial blog posts will be a record of my experimenting with new ideas, paradigm shifts and the very frustrating Go Math series.
About 8 weeks in the new school year, my class is now on Chapter 3 of the Go Math (Multiplication Concepts). The first several weeks were a struggle to use Go Math with addition and subtraction. Then we went on to Data and Graphing. A little better, but still a struggle. So that is when I decided that I needed to change the way I’m teaching math. The Go Math series is no help. Direct Instruction helps some, but it can not get students to think critically and EXPLAIN their thinking. So I fell back on what I learned in Lesson Study. For those unfamiliar with lesson study, it is a professional development model in which a group of teachers collaborate to design a lesson. Then one from the group teaches the lesson while the others watch and collect data on the students (not the teacher). Then there is a debrief with the group and a discussion of the data collected. Now, this is not useless data that we have to collect to share with district administrators. This is data gathered by observing student responses to the lesson: recording conversations, noting strategies used, examining student written responses, etc. The insights gained from the data help teachers reflect on why students responded how they did and what needs to change for the next lesson.
The Lesson Study Approach comes to us from the Japanese (Here’s an excellent in depth explanation: http://www.rbs.org/SiteData/docs/yoshidaoverview/aeafddf638d3bd67526570d5b4889ae0/yoshidaoverview.pdf). The most interesting aspect of Lesson Study I learned was that the Japanese use an approach to teaching which is the complete opposite of most American classrooms. Instead of a gradual release of responsibility model that most of us are accustomed to using (I do, we do, you do) they use the following approach: You do, You all do, We do. What? You say! Yes, they make the students figure out a problem on their own FIRST, then work with a partner and then the teacher does it together. With that in mind, I am completely teaching the Multiplication Concepts unit from the Go Math this way. I may not be doing it exactly as the Japanese model, but I have seen dramatic increases in student motivation, involvement, persistence, and more critical thinking. Stay tuned for Part 2 as I show you the first lesson I tried with this approach.