Do I create my own assessment test or do I use the one that comes with my textbooks? Before I answer that question I have to provide some background on the inspiration for writing this article. Well into my fourth year as a fourth grade teacher, the one lesson that I keep learning over and over again is that there is no one, single right way to teach. I think both new teachers and old constantly put ourselves in this box of doing what we presume teachers do and in the way we are supposed to do it. Well, I can’t stress enough how many times that I have had to remind myself that it is okay to step outside of that box and try new things, especially when we run into situations where something isn’t working. Some of the most effective learning improvement I’ve seen in my classrooms occurs after I recognize my old way of doing things were not working like I hoped. My answer to that opening question is that we should create our own assessment test when the situation calls for it, but you don’t have to entirely abandon those pre-canned assessments either.
Math fact games provide a challenging and fun way to motivate a fourth grade class at becoming highly proficient with their multiplication and division tables. I think most fourth grade teachers would agree that it is frustrating to watch kids fall behind in math because they do not have their multiplication tables memorized. Learning math concepts is confusing enough on its own for some kids. Learning long division becomes a monumental task for those students who have to count and use fingers to multiply sets of numbers that they should have memorized. After a while, most teachers can easily recognize which kids are struggling because they do not have their math fact tables memorized. There is simply no way to teach math facts; it is pure memorization. There are routines, however, that we teachers can put in place to make kids practice and even have fun. The key to a math fact program is consistent practice.
One of the most rewarding experiences of my job as a first-year teacher was encouraging kids to write. One of my professors gave us an assignment called, Daily Warm-Ups. I chose to turn this into a math/literacy assignment which I will refer to as, Everyday Math. The idea of daily warm-ups is to engage students with short activities that require reading and writing at the beginning of every lesson, each day of the week. These daily warm-ups can be based on any subject. I chose math as my subject because it coordinated with my alternative licensing unit plan for my Colorado Work Sample and Portfolio requirements. This also happened to tie-in very nicely with my Math Literacy assignment which I wrote about earlier this week.