Written vs. Verbal Communication

This year for my TRC project, I joined a research team that wanted to take a look at helping students better understand their reading through the CPM math book.  Our team has investigated several innovations including the 3 Read Strategy, journaling, learning logs, and silent reading time.

I know that a large part of reading is also writing; to facilitate this, I have my kids reply to a journal writing prompt through Google Classroom every Friday. Each student logs onto their Chromebook and writes their own personal reaction to a writing prompt that I provide. I really do like the journaling. I hope/feel like my kids are putting some thought into their entries. Here are several responses in one entry from a student who struggles in math and has a hard time advocating for herself or asking any questions:

Q: What new mathematical connections did you make this week? 
A: Figured out how to connect a product and a sum together when we’re solving for a certain answer. Figured out how to simplify the equations down a little bit so that I wasn’t so confused. 
Q: What mathematical concepts did you get a better understanding of and make progress on this week? 
A: I started doing a lot better on the probability. I got a better understanding on the area models with what I was confused about. 
Q: What mathematical concepts that were introduced this week haven’t you mastered yet?
A: I haven’t completely mastered anything that we’ve been working on this week but I know enough about it that I understand it well enough to do it. 

I  like her thoughts on question three. She didn’t seem worried that she hadn’t mastered anything yet (Mastery over time!) but is still willing to put in the work to get there. I don’t know that I would have gathered that information without having my kids journal. 

In another journal prompt, I asked my students to reflect on how they feel about math in general. Here are some of their answers (unedited):
Q: How do you feel about math in general?
A: I like it im just not good at it.
A: I really used to love math. Like it was my favorite subject in class until the sixth grade when Mr XXX was a total jerk to me. Ever since I just had that attitude that I hated math.
A: Great this year
A: Math is okay, I tend to get stressed out over it really easy. I think it’s fun to learn, just a lot of work that I tend to get overwhelmed with.
A: I feel confident , with math because i feel like im learning so much more . 
A: I used to love it but right now im not liking it so much until i get better with it will i like it

I have observed that writing things down is easier for several of my students; I don’t know that they would have voiced either the good or the bad that is in there. I wonder if they are more honest writing than they are speaking? For my Regroup kids, I think it could be especially powerful. (Regroup is an additional support class for students who have struggled with math in the past and are currently struggling.) I’ve replied to each of their comments – I want them to know that I’ve heard them! I hope that it is enough.  

I will continue with the journaling and asking my students questions that will help them reflect on their learning; I want to know their feelings toward math. The 3 Read Strategy has also brought about some really fantastic learning moments, so I plan to continue refining that as well and will report on this strategy for my next blog.   

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