Literacy Across the Curriculum: Reading in Mathematics

At our Election Day PD, we discussed promoting literacy across the curriculum.  Approximately 85% of our students are reading below grade level and so reading is a huge part of our day-to-day. Here are a few things the math department has adopted from the ELA classes so that students experience consistent strategies.

Now, whenever we ask students to read anything, we expect them to annotate the text by interacting with the text by either underlining and/or writing in the margins.  There is always a focus question or focused task since our students love the highlighter and go wild with those colored pens.

For example, I asked the students to annotate the following text in order to answer, “What are the different ways we can represent multiplication?”

Students annotate the text, then answer a focus question.
Students annotate the text, then answer a focus question.

Chunking the Text
This past week, we asked students to annotate our “Constructing an Argument Rubric”.  The focus question was, “What is the difference between a level 3 and level 4 response?” We asked students to look at each target separately and thats how it was chunked.  I was working with my predominately Spanish speakers and we had the rubric in English and Spanish.  It was important to chunk the text into even smaller sections since I wanted them to practice speaking in English as well.  I chunked the text by having them look at each box first and then explain how a student can get a 3? How a student can get a 4? My next focus for them is to write a lot more, even if it is in Spanish and then translate. This definitely was more challenging as students just restated the attributes verbatim so we had to push them to paraphrase and explain a level 3 or level 4 in their own words.

This is a part of the rubric. There are a total of four learning targets that fall under this outcome. We wanted students to focus on the 'Position and Development'.
This is a part of the rubric. There are a total of four learning targets that fall under this outcome. We wanted students to focus on the ‘Position and Development’.

Finding the gist
Other times, the purpose is not for the students to answer a question, but rather to summarize the text.  The students have been doing this is their ELA and strategic reading classes by finding the gist.  Essentially the text is broken up into sections like a paragraph or even lines and then students have to find the gist of a given section using just one sentence. Then we ask students to share their gist with their neighbor or group.

For example, I asked students to find the gist of this paragraph in order for students to understand the context.

Reading in Math

Before we adopted “find the gist”, we used to ask them to summarize the text.  For some reason, saying “find the gist” has been more powerful than asking students to summarize the text. Instead of just quoting the text, they actually will paraphrase the text in their own words in a concise way.  I guess they have been practicing it and are familiar with it because of ELA that they have become pros at it (well most of them anyways).

I know that reading and writing will continue to be a struggle for many of my students this entire year, but I hope that struggle gets easier as they improve and hone these skills in each of their classes.


A very long day: 11.21.13 #DITLife

A Very Long Commute begins at 6:45 AM and ends around 8:15 AM

I have a long commute. Yes. It. Is. So. Worth. It. Unfortunately that day my communte got a bit longer and I had to take a cab in addition to a bus and train that I already take to work.
School Day Starts 8:30 and I was able to get their on time despite the challenge in the commute that morning. Nothing major, but typical MTA delays.
Advisory: 25 Minutes
The first 25 minutes of our school day begins with an advisory period. I have 13 students in my advisory and once a week we  have “connections” where students can share anything on their mind in a judgement-free zone.  We only share in connections, but do not respond to one another. 
During advisory I also check-in with students regarding various things.  Thursday’s topic was student led conferences (which I hope to blog about at another time).  Essentially we had parent teacher conferences this week and my students were the ones who did majority of the talking. They explained their report card grades, spoke about pieces of work they were proud of, things they need to improve on, and their goals for the next marking period.  Students had a script to help them and then I facilitated their discussion. During advisory we reflected on this and I asked them suggestion for our next student-led conferences.   
One suggestion was: The students shouldn’t lead them anymore -.-
Period 1-3: Teaching
I teach three classes in the morning and they are all co-taught.  Majority of our students are ELLs so my first period class has mostly the advanced/intermediate ELLs and my third period class has beginner ELLs.  My second period class is the ICT class that has 40:60 (??don’t quote me on that ratio) ratio of students with IEPs to general Ed. 
On Thursday, my first and third period classes were working on constructing arguments for the following prompt through either a gallery walk or chalk walk.  
First period did a gallery walk critiquing previously made arguments by filling out a chart on the strong and weak elements of arguments they saw when they went to different stations. Since we had a ceremony the day before, my third period was a day behind, so they first worked on responding to the prompt.
Third period was a challenge since my co-teacher was out sick. I’ve never taught them alone. Managing really wasn’t an issue…not so much anyways. This is my beginner ELL class and I have 4 predominantly spanish speakers and a handful of beginner ELLs with little English fluency. Usually, one of us checks in with them throughout the period and that obviously did not happen.
With second period, I decided to do a review of the distributive property and the order of operations which occurred prior since many of my students in that class needed additional support.  We did these through stations and students responded to different prompts.  
Gallery “walk”
I was observed by my principal and math coach during my second and third period class.  My principal popped in for about 10-15 minutes for each class and was helping some students during my second period class.  The math team later got a shout out at the end of the day for incorporating literacy techniques the students are used to using in their English classes (more on that later….I hope).
Periods 4-6 Meetings, with lunch sprinkled in somewhere
We walk students down to lunch and the meetings begin. 
Period 4:  Tuesdays and Thursday, my math coach comes in. Thursdays mean department inquiry meetings where we look at student work/data. Thursday, we worked on creating groups using data. 
Period 5: I continue speaking to my math coach. Somewhere in between there, I ate lunch since it’s my lunch period. I went across to the corner pizzeria to get a huge slice of pizza. The thing is huge…I wish I had a picture of it. I also organized.   
Period 6: I have a common planning meeting with my math advisor.  We look over some lessons and he gives me some feedback. We plan future lessons. I also use this time to reflect on what he observed in my morning classes.  
Period 7: “Prep”
Period 7 is my prep, but I continue working with my math coach on lesson plans for a bit longer and then had a heart to heart with him with some of my recent stress inducing challenges and he offered some advice. Then, I spent the rest of my prep grading and updating my records. 
My school day officially ends at 3:30 PM and then I start to lose track of time!*
Period 8: Meeting a parent for Student Led Conference
Some of the parents were not able to come for conferences earlier in the week so I scheduled a half hour meeting on Thursday afternoon.  Other days I spend 8th period working with students or prepping for the next day.
Period 9-10: Working with Students
During period 9, I pull a few students out of the extended day program to pray. I have a group of a few Muslim students who approached me wanting to pray in school since we have set timings for praying. The timings are explained at the top here.   So now I pull them during lunch, 9th, and 10th period (if I stay after 3:30, which I do most often than not). I also pray during the day.
My students praying.
I also use this time to work with students. I worked with students on reviewing topics for the quiz the following day. Afterwards I continued grading while another student worked on Math Reflex for his math fact fluency. He started asking me about the students who were just inside the room praying. He also asked me questions about me covering my head, where I am from, and what languages I speak.  I entertained his questions and then had him return his attention to the math program and he worked until it was time for him to go home at 6 PM while I continued to grade some work. 
I went back to my room, put on Pandora organized a little bit and was about to get out around 6:30 when I passed by the library. There was a community meeting happening on the reopening of a new bridge in the Bronx, so I stayed around for 10 minutes to listen in in the update about the project and some of the community concerns.
I got home around 8:30 and had dinner. I had a virtual debrief with my co-teacher since she was out sick and then spent some time with my sister and then finally headed to bed. 
*My school is a part of NYC’s pilot program that extends the hour of the school day until 6 PM. Our students have core classes until 3:30, have snack/supper and then have two additional periods. My day ends at 3:30 (officially, of course).

The difference between Sahar and Ms. K

Before I became Ms. K, I was just Sahar.  Sahar, who woke up really late all the time, was late to everything, procrastinated like a pro and was always busy running around from place to place and was involved in everything on campus and life outside of college life, but somehow she got everything done. And she got it done well.  Not finishing something and leaving it undone was never an option.  

I’m slowly learning as Ms. K, that my to-do list will never end.  I can’t procrastinate like a pro anymore and that not everything will get done.  I am slowly coming to terms with that.  Ms.K is teaching Sahar about being able to prioritize and to enjoy things in life like sleep and free time.  


Ms. K and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Week

This week has been Terrible, Horrible, and No Good on so many levels. 

Final grades were due on Tuesday, so despite having a Monday off I spent all of Monday grading the things I haven’t gotten to and so my week started out with a lack of sleep.  I’ve had students act up and then had to have many one on one conversations with students and then follow up with parents regarding those behaviors.  My lessons were epic fails on the distributive property.  Even after spending three days on that, I feel like I don’t have a sense of what my students have actually learned so it feels like a wasted three days of teaching.  We have parent teacher conferences coming up next week and they are student led conferences, so preparing students has been another layer of stress.  Chancellor, mayor, and superintendent  are coming to our school next week for a ribbon cutting so preparing our school for that has been cray-cray as well.

What I will do to counteract “The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Feelings”:

So I have already vented my feelings to people that I trust and those that give me some great advice after I have vented to them. I have also reflected on the math lesson with my co-worker and math coach and I’ll be discussing some next steps with my co-worker tomorrow.  But here’s what I am doing/will do to counteract the general terrible, horrible, no good feelings I am having.

(1) Consider my highs of the week:

    • Student hugs are pretty awesome, especially when given to you randomly.
    • During a coverage for gym, I was able to see other sides of my students and I even sat down with a few and just spoke to them.
    • After school, I had to give something to a student. I walked into the gym and it just so happened it was the dance program and some of my students were dancing. It was nice to see them in a festive mood.
    • A few of my Muslim students have asked me to pull them out during lunch and their elective periods after school so they can pray. I feel happy to see that they feel comfortable with their beliefs and who they are at such a young age.
    • I had a positive conversation with one of my student about her behavior and we’ve set some goals for her for next week.
    • One of my students who I have been having such a difficult time with has finally turned it around. The boy who was once my main annoyance and disturbance in class is now the one that is the first to be prepared and silent when asked. He is also trying really hard in math class and asking for help.
    • I had dinner with a few friends in the middle of the week. On a work night. I socialized. Outside of work. With people I don’t work with (Granted they are all teachers, but still).

(2) Netflix and TV binge

(3) Take some pictures

(4) Go through my albums and pick a few of my photographs to get them printed