Friday, May 08, 2009

To Go or Not to Go

I met with Mrs. M. the 5th grade ALL teacher at Cherry Hill. In fact, I got to the school early and so I met briefly with Mrs. S. the 3rd grade ALL teacher for next year. I really like her and I feel great about Anson going into the program. After the bell rang, I crossed the hall into Mrs. M's classroom.

We had a wonderful chat that ended on a high note as I showed her my upper grade reading program. She loved it! She was so impressed with it and she wanted to keep the info I had brought to show her. I have meeting next Thursday with the principal to see if she likes it and is willing to fund it.

I was disappointed to learn that she teaches 100% Investigations (the 6/7 grade version is called "Connected Math"). In fact, it's not so much the teaching as it is the lack of reinforcement in the homework. She showed me that they do have a text book with some drills, but that she rarely uses it.

Let me explain what this means. She showed me a worksheet with 3 problems on it. Each problem was about a different subject. The first problem went like this:

59 divided by 5
a. What is 5 X 10?
b. What is 5 X 11?
c. What is 5 X 12?
d.If you have 59 students who all need a pen and the pens come in boxes of 5 how many boxes do you need?

I love that this problem shows what strategies you need to learn to divide. I love that it has a real life problem address the "what do you do with remainders?" issues. But I hate that it never actually asks you for the answer to the problem. And I also hate it is the only problem of it's kind.

Now if there were a whole sheet of division with this, I'd be a happy camper. It is my belief that students fundamentally need practice to learn new math skills.

Here is the email I sent the teacher. (Tip: Keep in mind that when you speak based on your child, no one can argue with you. As a parent, only you will know what's best for your child.)

Thank you so much for meeting with me yesterday. I have an appointment to meet with Alisa Hart next Thursday and talk about setting up the upper grade reading club. I'm really hoping that we can do it and I was flattered by how much you like the program.

I have to admit that as I've reflected on our conversation I'm still just a bit concerned that there aren't enough practice sheets in math for Emma. When you explain something to her, so often she appears to understand it, but when she practices repetitively it is easier to determine whether or not she gets it. (If she's missing one or two--she gets it; 6-7 missed and there's a fundamental misunderstanding.) For her, repetition really solidifies the principle and helps math become second nature.

I'm actually really excited about the way you teach math. And I'm excited for Emma to learn to think mathematically and explain the whys and hows behind the numbers. But for her, it's also a matter of practice. Would you be willing to send her home with a worksheet that reinforces the topic each day? Or perhaps you could send home a note (or email!) with the corresponding unit in the Scott Foresman textbook? I would even be willing to come to the school once a week and help you with photocopying and/or grading if you'd like the reinforcement worksheets for your whole class.

I really want the ALL program to work well for Emma and I'd like to help you in any way I can.

If I can pull this off, I will have fundamentally changed the way math is done in the ALL program at this school. That difference is THE difference maker in doing or not doing this program.

I have one more week to decide. I'm leaning toward going, but don't talk to me tomorrow because I might be against it by then.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Good luck with your decision--I suppose since I'm late to getting around to read blogs that you've already made it.

I was in ALL in 5th/6th grades at Barratt...one year was great, the other was horrible. The difference for me was teacher-student match I believe more than curriculum.