Stay Put and I’ll be Right There

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a fellow colleague was a surprising one.

It happened while I was student teaching, and while I was walking around conferring with students.  It looked like I had an actual tail made of third graders.  I was like a giant third grader magnet.  These little tiny children were up out of their seats, following me all over the room.

Now I am not a “sit at your desk and don’t move a muscle” type of teacher, I get that kids have to move, but this was impossible to manage.  My cooperating teacher sat me down after school and said, “Tell them to stay put, and you’ll be right there.” I have to admit that in my head at the time I was thinking, but they need help! They need my help! I must have done a terrible job teaching the lesson and I must deserve this never ending trail of questions and interruptions!

She explained that the moment they get up and follow you, they’ve stopped working and thinking.  If they stay at their desk they may actually be able to work through some of the problem. Then, they know that they can catch you as you walk by. Her words also made me realize that this system is more fair to those students who would never in a million years get up and ask you for help.  It evens out the teacher time as you confer and work and think with your students.

So new teachers, the next time you’ve got a trail of students swarming you, tell them to stay put and you’ll be right there!

Top 10 Tips for Teachers of Elementary Math

I saw this awesome pin today on pinterest, and haven’t been able to get this post out of my head, so I thought I’d author it and link back to the original author, Love, Laughter and Learning in prep (click below to see her page!):

Top 10 Math Tips for New Teachers

So here are my top 10 tips (basically the top 10 things I wish I had known as a first year teacher) for teachers of elementary math:

1.  Stop being scared of math! I spent a good two years being terrified of math because I was terrible at math my entire life.  If you can embrace the fear right now, you can also do tips #2-10.

2.  Make a lot of mistakes. In fact, make a TON of mistakes in front of your students.  They will love you for it, and it helps them see things they wouldn’t see if you always did math perfectly.

3.  Allow your students to make many mistakes.  Don’t grade everything they work on, give them time to practice.  If they make mistakes it should be without worry of a grade so that they can analyze them.

4.  Make your students analyze their OWN work.  If you correct their work, hand it back with a note that has all the right answers, they are done learning.  You are the only one that did any of the learning unless they can analyze what they did wrong.

5.  Get in their space. Walk around a lot and get down next to students, work with them and talk to them about their thinking. Keep them accountable with group shares and math talk.

6.  Let them share.  You aren’t the only one with great tricks and strategies, let the students share their thinking so that they can inspire their peers.

7.  Give immediate feedback on their performance.  Allow them to take home work occasionally, but encourage most of it in class where you can correct misconceptions right away.

8.  Practice doesn’t have to mean a worksheet. I use worksheets from time to time, but that isn’t the only way to practice skills. Pull out the manipulatives, dry erase boards or other tools.  Let them draw their thinking all over the easel paper and chalkboards. Let math be messy, and let it take on the beauty that it really is.

9. No matter what, ALWAYS connect math concepts to their world. Math does not have meaning unless they care about it, and can use it in a setting that is motivating to them.

10.  Use data to drive your instruction. Using exit slips for every lesson is a very powerful way to form groups, and to figure out who needs what immediately.

Good luck to all of those who are beginning a new semester or a new school year.  I wish you lots of math love!