Summer School Takeover:  Summer Math Camp Day 1

Six months ago, I had this crazy thought.   

What if I could take over a summer school program and put really powerful math instruction in front of the academically neediest students in the school?  What if I could also leverage this time to help support teachers in making their math instruction even more powerful?

From this wondering, Summer Math Camp was born.  It felt like Exteme Makeover: Summer School Edition!  The format is this:

  1. Identify and pretest exiting 4th and 5th graders in the domain of fractions (often noted as the domain most challenging for teachers to teach and students to learn in this grade span).
  2. Use the pretest data (focused both on content and mindset) to determine the fractional areas of focus during our week of instruction.
  3. Invite teachers to watch the lessons during the morning and apply the learning from their observations in the afternoon to their own fraction lessons for the upcoming year.
  4. Hire a film crew to capture video of much of the learning for future use with teachers.
  5. Spend one full week teaching hands-on engaging lessons that support both the mindset and the learning of the students and the teachers.

No big deal, right?  I’ve had some crazy ideas in my time, but this is a real doozy!  Luckily, I have my math partner in crime, Chrissy Newell (@mrsnewell22) working along side me to plan, organize, implement, and revise as we make sense of this work.

As I type, it is the end of day 1 and I can tell you that the work was far from perfect.  However, I had two walk-aways from the learning today that really have me thinking that we are on to something with this project.  First, the students and I spent the first part of our day establishing rules and norms for math class.  Initially, the students thought that rules and norms were the same thing.  But when I explained that rules keep us safe and norms keep us learning, students were ready to start drafting a list.  Here is what we decided as a class:



The best part about the norms were that once students had a better definition of what it meant to be a “good” math student, they were more capable in engaging in those desired behaviors.  On more than one occasion today, I found myself praising a student for engaging in the lesson by using one of the norms we had set.  As the day progressed, more and more student opened up and began seeing that perhaps they could be “good” at math.  My plan for tomorrow is to revisit the norms with the class before we engage in our next math task to determine if we need to add or delete anything from the list.  

My second reflection of the day was that in the beginning of the day, students really didn’t speak with each other when I asked them to pair-share.  Many stared blankly at each other and waited for me to say something. This is when I decided to give sentence frames to support the discussion. Here’s what we started with:


When students had a frame for how to share ideas, it became easier for them to share the math mathematical ideas that were forming in their minds.  It also provided accountability for each partner in the conversation.  By the end of the day, students were really sharing ideas and listening to one another.   My intention for tomorrow is add another sentence frame that supports the idea of adding on to other people thinking.

When it came time to reflect and plan with the teachers in the afternoon, many noted that the students who often didn’t share during the school year were engaging more in this setting.  My hope is that we can build on this momentum and help these students build not only confidence in themselves, but a stronger foundation in fractions as well.

The jury still out on whether we will have a successful summer math camp program. But if today’s success is any indication of the overall success, I think we’re on the right track. Stay tuned…

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Published by: jgarner05

I am a math consultant with the Stanislaus County Office of Education and a preservice math content instructor at California State University, Stanislaus. It is my passion to work with teachers to improve math content understanding and instruction.

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