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Showing What We KNOW in Math Journals

5 years ago I took a CGI (Cognitive Guided Instruction) training and loved everything about it.  I took in a lot of what I learned and it shaped the way I teach math.  CGI is an elementary level mathematics professional development at WCER in the 1980's and 1990's by education professors.

Last year I took another training and it revitalized my need for journals in the classroom and more CGI instruction.  But finding time to fit them in every day was a challenge. I think I finally have a good routine down that allows me to include journals and problem solving skills every single day.  

So here we go!
Journals are pretty simple.  Just a composition book! I do have labels on them but this picture is old!

Here is our math journal routine:  
  • We have a story problem of the day that I type up in a simple format.  Students put their heads down, close their eyes, and listen to the problem.   Here are some examples of the problems. (I print them like this so I can cut them and give each student a problem to glue in their journal)
  • Next we raise our hands and decide where we should start.  Once students know where to begin they can get started in their journals.  They glue the problem down in their journals and start by drawing a picture.  I always have blocks available on the tables so they can also use manipulatives to solve the problem too. 
  • Our expectations for math journals are simple.  #1 Draw a picture to show your strategy. #2 Write a number sentence that shows how you solved the problem. #3 Write a complete sentence to answer the question in the problem.   When they have done all 3 things they get a stamp or sticker from me and then they can move on to math tubs.
Here are a few examples: 
This kiddo had a great strategy but needed help on accuracy.  This was his first independent attempt.  We discussed going back to double check.  He saw his mistake immediately and fixed it.

This was early in our journal journey.  This kiddo gets it, but we needed to discuss how to show our strategy.  In this case I would ask, "Where did you start?", and students can usually pin point that.   He started with 13 and then counted on 6 to get to 19.  We've worked on how to show that to share with others. 

This kiddo is super sophisticated.  She showed her work with tens and ones (circles and x's) and went on to explain her thinking by naming the strategy she used in her sentence. She showed she needed to add on 12 by showing it is a 10 and 2 ones.

This kiddo is using blocks to show me his thinking....
This kiddo does amazing pictures everyday to show her thinking using different color crayons.  

The most important part of all of this are the quick 2 minute conversations I have with them as they explain their thinking to me.  Sometimes I have them explain to a neighbor and we try to share 3 or 4 journals each day in a "Writer's Workshop" style share time at the end of math.  Doing journals daily has helped us have conversations about math, name our strategies, and explain our thinking. 

Our problem of the day always has to do with something that is going on in our lives.  It's important to write your own problems so the kiddos are invested in the problem and it really makes a huge difference. I have some problems already typed up and ready to go for days I don't have time but they really enjoy being the "problem of the day" so I try to stick to that. You can see the entire set of math journal resources HERE.

When students finish they move on to math tubs.  Math tubs have all kinds of hands on materials in them.  I use these large dish pans for my math tubs so they can fit a lot of different materials! 
To see MATH JOURNALS and what I put in my tubs click HERE
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Using math journals in kindergarten and first grade is an interactive way to cover many of common core standards and mathematical practices. Students solve word problems using manipulative and showing their learning in a more abstract way. These work great for whole group instruction or in small groups. This blog post breaks down our daily routine. #mathjournals #kindergartenclassroom #firstgradeclassroom