problem-based learning vs. direct instruction

Becoming a Common Core teacher.

What exactly does that mean to you?

Moving from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side.
Requiring students to solve problems via different paths.
Providing a learning environment that involves choice and differentiation.

Agree? Disagree? Qualify?

These are goals that I have been striving to achieve in the past three years. I didn't set these goals to become a Common Core teacher; however, I do believe they coincide with the characteristics necessary to be successful with the new standards. But I've decided there is an element of teaching that I haven't truly processed.

Yep. It's official. I've been stretched. My current professional development (UAEMP) has challenged me to assess my teaching methods. Conclusion: There is a time for problem-based learning and there is a time for direct instruction.

If I can develop a concept through discovery, then I should engage my students in that task and provide an opportunity for reflection and summary of findings.

If I can expand a concept through problem-based learning, then I should provide rich open-ended problems for my students to solve in a variety of ways...and again...provide an opportunity for discussion that prompts further learning.

And if a concept requires process via direct instruction, then I should provide such teaching opportunities in the most engaging and efficient way possible to allow for adequate practice and application of the concept.

However, it is important to note that I cannot successfully teach a process unless my students have the conceptual understanding to make connections and applications of the concept to said process. Far too often math teachers focus on the short-term process without a watchful eye on the long-term concept. As my district dives into Grades 5-8 Common Core standards implementation, I commit to being intentional as I select discovery and problem-based learning activities vs. direct instruction.

Have you attended professional development this summer that has stretched you as a teacher?!? Oh...please share...surely I'm not the only one with ideas swirling these days! :)

Hope your week is off to a great start...make it count!


definitely time for a "to do" list

Hello to my blogging friends! I apologize for my absence. I've hit the stretch of my summer with consecutive plans...one week at the beach...one week at the Arkansas Department of Education...two weeks at UofA.

The beach was wonderful! I quickly converted to a complete and total beach bum. Reading. Sleeping. And eating lots of hot boiled shrimp! :)


My week at the ADE was valuable professional development. I'm so thankful for the invite! Nearly 1000 algebra items were reviewed and sent to the edit stage.

Currently...I'm in my first week of STEM professional development at its finest. UAEMP. University of Arkansas Engineering and Math Partnership. The engineering professors are leading us through the changes to our curriculum that are forthcoming with the implementation of Common Core. Today's focus was changing how we teach. We're building projects that align to Understanding by Design.
Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition

Meanwhile...I have been investigating Evernote via Nicholas Provenzano @thenerdyteacher in some recent blog posts about his Epic Evernote Experiment and an IPEVO document camera. I plan to help my students organize their algebra notes and sample work in a stack of notebooks in Evernote. And I will be able to model key elements through a shared notebook in my premium Evernote account. My next investigation is Weebly for Education to create a private set of websites/blogs for my classes. Any suggestions? I would love to hear your review on Weebly websites.

I refuse to look at my calendar, but I feel my final summer days passing quickly. And that can only mean one thing...time for a serious "to do" list. So...do tell...what's at the top of your school list?!?

Have a great week...make it count!



middle school math classroom tour

As a middle school math teacher and an avid scrapbooker, I've had a blast setting up my classroom with a festive decor. I'm not sure my classroom has a theme...unless color counts! I focused on our school colors...red, black, and white...plus a splash of green. And I probably should mention that I simply adore polka dots! ;)

Having an organized and attractive classroom is yet another way to be proactive with classroom management. I recently completed a series of blog posts on my classroom setup. Take a quick photo tour via the slideshow below...

And if you would like more details see my previous blog posts outlined below...

farewell to paper journals

papers, papers, and more papers

classroom attention signal

students coaching students in the classroom

classroom bulletin board ideas

organization of classroom supplies

displaying student work

teams for cooperative learning

differentiation via small groups

There's No Place Like Home

I'm linking up with Mrs. Parker over at Learning with Mrs. Parker. Hop on over and tour some fabulous classrooms from fellow bloggers!

Happy Friday to YOU!
Make it count...


classroom management (part 1)

A Little Magic

Are you a new or veteran middle school teacher? Are you brainstorming ways to improve your classroom? Middle school can be tricky...stuck in the middle between elementary and high school. You want to train your students to be responsible learners, yet you know they have no clue where to begin on their own.

So often the structure middle school students need falls to the teacher--the classroom manager. Classroom management encompasses many areas including expectations and consequences, procedures, and routines. Join me over the next few posts as I address each area in my math classroom.

But let's start with my top 3 preventative measures. It's true. You must have a plan in place to address concerns and misbehavior. But I believe it's equally important to be proactive!

Tip #1: Greet your students at the door. Welcome them with a smile and call them by name. When possible, I make a personal comment (ex: Great hustle in the basketball game last night!).

Tip #2: Greet your class once everyone has arrived or the tardy bell has sounded. I always say, "Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning to you!" (And then I give them a 1-minute overview of what we have on deck for the class period.)

Tip #3: Set a classroom environment based on mutual respect. I expect my students to use their manners. I require my students to say "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" when responding to me or another adult in our room. However, I usually only correct a "yeah" or "huh" or "what" response. I know. I'm a Southern girly. But it's amazing the tone this sets in our classroom.

I'm linking up with Stephanie over at Teaching in Room 6. Be sure to hop over and follow the great posts on classroom management!

Stay tuned for more posts on classroom management!
Have a great weekend...make it count!