Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Setting up for CGI instruction

For CGI to run smoothly in my classroom I have to have a few things in place.  Those things are: a way to present the problem, materials for students to use in problem solving, and a place for students to do their problem solving.  In this post, I will share how I accomplish these things in my classroom.  Most of the ideas I use came from my inclusion coteacher.  They worked so well for us that I have continued them into my own first grade classroom. I will show you the way I accomplish these things, and you can take those ideas and adapt them as needed.
Presenting the problem is probably the easiest part of the prep work, as most likely you will use things you have handy in your classroom.   
I typically present a problem orally and in one of two visual ways.  I show students the problem on either the SMART board or on chart paper.  I am lucky enough to have a SMART board, but you might substitute for a white board, paper and a document camera, etc.  
When deciding how I want to present the problem, I have a few things in mind for each display.
-Have my students ever worked a problem like what I am about to present? 
-How do I want to incorporate visual information into share time?  
-How successful do I think my students will be with this particular problem? 
I like to use chart paper if I anticipate I might have some really great strategies to record on the chart paper during share time.  So, if it is the first time I present a join result unknown problem, (JRU) which is a less difficult problem type, and I think my students will do a really great job with it, I might use the chart paper.  This way, I can save the chart paper and hang it or refer to it in the future.  Students will have a visual reference for the problem type we did that day, as well as a reference for some of their classmates' strategies as I record them on the chart below the problem.
Now, if I already have a few JRU charts in my classroom with great strategies, I might not want to make another one.  In this case, I would display the problem on the SMART board and students would visually share their strategies right there on the SMART board below the problem.  I might save this but more than likely I was presenting that problem type as a refresher and will not save it in my files.  
Chart paper can also be great in comparing problem types and strategies.  For instance if I presented an adding (join) problem on Monday and a separate (subtraction) problem on Tuesday, I might show each chart with the two different problem types.  I could essentially have a whole math lesson just by comparing the problem types and strategies on those two chart papers.  
Sometimes, if I am presenting a join change unknown (JCU) problem and it is the first time my students will see this type of problem, I might just present on the SMART board.  This problem type is one of the most difficult for students to solve.  It might take several attempts for the class to be successful, and I may anticipate that I will not have many effective strategies that I will want to record on a chart for future reference that particular day.
In addition to this big visual of the problem, I give students a small copy of the problem to take with them to their seats and glue into their math notebooks.  (More about this below)  This way students will be able to refer to all problems in their notebooks and check out their own strategy when needed.  There are so many scenarios here, just chose which method for presenting the problem you think might work best for your class.  As a rule of thumb, if I anticipate I might want to refer back to the problem or strategies I chart it, if not I "go green" and use a less permanent presentation.
 Once the problem is presented, students are going to need to get some materials to work with.  If you have manipulatives in your classroom that is awesome!  Manipulatives can be anything students might use to help them create a concrete representation of the given problem.   Here are some that come to my mind- counters, base ten blocks, linker cubes, hundred's charts, number lines, measuring tape, plastic or paper money, and much more.  Now, if you don't have these things, there are some pretty cheap options out there for you.  Any small object can be used as counters, beans, pasta, beads, etc.  If you need hundreds charts, those are easily printed off from a computer.  Then you can laminate or put inside page protectors for many uses with dry erase markers.  I store these materials in a small shoe box sized plastic container with a lid.  I like to put the smallest objects in zip lock baggies and containers.  This is not my original idea.  My coteacher always stored her materials in this manner, I thought it worked really well, so I just continued it when I moved into my own first grade classroom.  I make enough "CGI" tubs for about 4 students per tub to share.  I do this over the summer and keep them hand on a bookshelf year round in my classroom.
I designate one person per table as my materials manager and they retrieve the tub for their group.
Some students may choose to solve with mental math, fingers, drawings and other "non manipulative" ways.  These strategies are great too and can definitely be used in any classroom instead of manipulatives.  If you the teacher choose to stay away from manipulatives for problem solving, you can still incorporate CGI into your classroom very successfully.

Okay!  Here we are to my last point of this post.  The students have their problem and their materials, now where are they going to do their work?  I usually instruct my students to problem solve independently at their desk and record their thinking in their math notebook.  Math notebooks in my class are full sized composition notebooks.  I use those because I also use some interactive notebook cut outs in other lessons.  In the past when my coteacher and I only used notebooks for my CGI problems, we would cut the notebooks in half and only use half a notebook for math and the other half for something else.  Most office stores can cut the notebooks in half for a small price.  I wish I could take credit for this great idea, but another teacher in my grade level turned my coteacher and I onto it a few years ago.
Okay, so now students are at their seat,  they should glue their copy of the problem in their notebook and then choose their strategy for solving.  If they are drawing they might solve their problem right there in their notebook.  Or maybe they use their fingers, choose a manipulative, or use mental math to solve.  Then, I have students attempt to draw out whatever they did to solve in their notebooks. Students draw their counters, fingers, brains, hundreds charts, whatever they used right there on their pages.   This can take some time to become efficient at.  During share time we do a lot of modeling on how to record strategies.  I also encourage students to record and equation to match their problem if it is within their ability to do so.

Well there you have it!  Those are all the materials you will need to set up your own CGI system in your classroom.  Be sure to adapt any bit of it to meet your own classroom's needs.  Email me with any questions or comments you might have!
I will be back next week to discuss problem types and planning for CGI instruction.


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