Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Tale of Morning Work

Brace yourself, this may be a long one!

I was first introduced to the idea of morning work (though we didn't call it that) in my final practicum. We focused solely on math work and I thought it was great . . . for the most part. I thought the concept of having a little review time before the math lesson of the day was great, but my mentor teacher and I noticed some things that needed tweaking.

The first issue was the content. My mentor teacher found the most fitting book she could find at the time, and it worked . . . for the most part. Although we intended the morning work to be completed independently, we found that about half the time, the questions were covering topics the students hadn't seen or were not a part of the curriculum at all. This meant a lot of explaining on our part.

Another issue was the length. Each day was a full page with 10 questions. Here's what I found. A handful of students raced through the page. Another handful got about a third of the way through the page and the students who *really* needed the review, got overwhelmed and often only completed one or two questions.

The final thing that wasn't quite working out was that it didn't review the basics quite enough. This became apparent when, on a whim, my mentor teacher wanted to check the students' understanding of place value and number sense. So we started easy-ish. As an exit ticket, I gave the students 3 numbers in standard form, and asked them to represent them in written and expanded form. The results stopped us in our tracks. We were shocked by the results. A small handful of students could correctly answer the questions and some students were WAY off base. It definitely showed us where we needed to direct our teaching.

This was a real eye-opener for me. I've worked with a lot of students struggling in math and I've found that they are missing the basics. How can I expect them to be able to calculate the area of a rectangle, when they don't know their multiplication facts? How can I expect them to regroup, when they haven't mastered place value?

It was those questions that led me to create my Daily Math packs. I wanted something that could be used as morning work or homework, that not only covered grade levels topics, but also reviewed the basics. I felt it was important for it to spiral, starting with the previous year's curriculum before heading into the new grade level. I wanted something that was manageable for students who needed the review - I wanted them to feel successful.

So I created those . . . but that was two years ago. I felt the packs looked a bit dated, so I have finally started giving them a new look. I'm about halfway through my third grade set, and hope to move onto my fourth grade set next.

Was it the best idea to start this task at the beginning of a new school year? No, probably not, but now that I've started I am so excited can't wait to get all the packs finished!

Now I'm off to work on the Spring pack!

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