It's kind of a relief, actually, the thought of having just a few students at a time to work with... I remember the last time I was in a classroom; it was only Grade 3, and yet already, the gaps were enormous! I had students who were constantly ready for the next math challenge while others struggled to add two single-digit whole numbers together. And forget debriefing a problem in a whole class setting; while two or three students looked and listened, others daydreamed, rolled around on the carpet, or picked at the shirt tag of the kid in front of them... no matter how engaging I tried to make my real life, three-part, problem-based lessons!!! So offering choice to the masses while I work with the few on a regular basis to teach in a targeted way that meets their needs is rather appealing.
Well, since this will be the first time I attempt this, I'm not entirely sure. But having read and successfully implemented my own version of the Daily Five and Literacy Cafe over the past several years, I can tell you that I can see the benefits to an independent, choice-based program, and I'm looking forward to working with individual and small groups of students on what they, specifically, need, based on my observations of their work.
Balanced Math, with a centres approach, has also been the subject of some TLLPs in recent years, and I myself was inspired after attending a 3-day math workshop this July as part of ETFO's Summer Academy in Maple, Ontario. So a number of people are beginning to play with this concept.
Here's what I'm envisioning for my own classroom next year:
- Students work independently, either alone, or with a partner or small group of peers, on assorted learning activities linked to a particular concept we're addressing in class
- activities may include word work/vocabulary study, CLIPs online activities, parallel task problem solving, math in Art, real life math inquiry, exploring virtual or real manips, gap-closing e-practice online, etc.
- while students work independently, I meet with individuals or small groups to "check in", provide descriptive feedback, and guide the learning... these check-ins will also allow me to plan future whole-class or small group instruction, based on observed strengths, interests and gaps
- I provide individual, precision instruction as needed
- students self assess, perform peer assessment and provide feedback to one another as they work; I provide feedback and collect assessment data in math as well as learning skills
But in general, as with my literacy program, gone are the daily whole-class math lessons that speak to a handful of kids and alienate the rest.
We shall see how it goes. For now, I am cautiously optimistic! :D