RM Winter 2016 FLIP

their math journal: I remember (Can you use your prior knowledge to connect this book or concept to another one?); I notice (Did the story offer a new way of thinking about the concept we are learning about?); I wonder (Did this book make you think of a question, or are you more curious about a concept than before?). After spending a few minutes writing, the students either shared their entries with a partner or sometimes they shared with the entire class. Murphy (1999) suggested that picture books not only engage children and help them make mathematical connections, but they also provide visualization of mathematical concepts in the illustrations. Rogers, Cooper, Nesmith, and Purdum-Cassidy (2015) add that including children’s literature provides a natural context for the sharing of mathematics. When students wrote in their journals after they listened to a poem or picture book, they actively communicated their understanding or lack thereof. Thus this served as an authentic way for me to assess whether the students were able to grasp the concept, or not, as I observed and noted their responses to the story. After each mathematical literacy experience, I wrote detailed field notes regarding how I felt about the lesson, how the students responded, whether students seemed to benefit from the shared reading, and any thoughts I had about what I could do differently next time. Daily reflections helped me to continuously evaluate the students’ learning needs and revise my instruction to support the students’ understanding. Data analysis in this teacher research study occurred in three phases. In Phase I, I identified examples from student work and field notes that related to my research question, coded data for themes, and organized the data electronically in a matrix to make searches, sorting, and retrieval easier. In Phase II, I charted my codes, specific examples, and the student associated with the code, recognizing that certain events or statements might be coded several ways. In Phase III, I used cross case analysis to compare students and better understand the larger phenomenon of incorporating children’s literature into a content area class. First Grade Findings In this section I share four students’ stories: Jack, Kate, Ben and Ellie (all pseudonyms). First, I introduce each student and share his or her understanding of math concepts as well as their dispositions towards the subject. Next, I describe their individual reactions to the incorporation of children’s literature into the math class and one salient theme that resonated across all of the data collected from that particular student. Finally, I share some of my notes about the student as the year progressed. My hope is that by reading about their experiences and my own reflections on their progress, educators will see how skills can transfer across content areas, consider new ways to differentiate and recognize the importance of incorporating children’s literature into math time. Jack: avid reader and unconfident mathematician In the baseline survey, Jack responded that he could not get good grades in math, however, his responses on the thumbs up

slips regarding children’s literature were very positive, showing the books helped him understand the mathematical concepts. Jack preferred reading and writing to math, so when math time incorporated literacy skills he enjoyed it more. After we read Pigs will be Pigs: Fun with Math and Money (Axelrod, 1997), he wrote in his journal: I remember when I found a nickel and penny just like the pigs did in the hot air duct. Jack used the reading strategy of making connections to try to relate math to his own life. Research shows that increased access to a variety of texts can better motivate students who have a strong interest in the topics addressed in such texts (Jobe & Dayton-Sakari, 2002). For Jack, incorporating children’s literature into mathematics joined an activity he thought of as favorable (reading) with one he did not feel as successful in (math). Jack’s overall reading ability and his self-confidence grew to the point where his negative feelings towards math lessened. In one of his last journal entries of the year he wrote: Math is not bad. Looking over my field notes, I recognized that many of the students were like Jack and their responses were mostly positive towards the incorporation of children’s literature during math throughout the year. In my research journal, I wrote about enjoying the days I used picture books more than days I did not. In one entry I describe the students’ reaction to The Greedy Triangle (Burns, 1994). The Greedy Triangle was a big hit. Not only did they enjoy the book, but I also really think it helped their understanding. Jack, who always looks so disinterested during math, was on the edge of his seat waiting to say the name of the next shape. Kate, strong reader and mathematician Kate believed that she could do math, get good grades in math and gave all thumbs up on her slips, showing she had a high confidence level in mathematics. Kate enjoyed the math books, and may have benefited from them, but she probably would have had the same positive reaction towards math with or without the books. After we read the poem“Smart” (Silverstein, 1974), she wrote in her math journal: In (the poem) Smart, I noticed that he did not add right. He just wanted more coins. Kate was able to understand the money concepts presented in “Smart” and express the greed of the child in the poem. Incorporating poetry into math class encouraged Kate to join math concepts and logical reasoning. When children’s literature is used as way of introducing a manipulative, students may see the manipulative as a tool for exploring the math concept as opposed to a device for obtaining an answer (Van de Walle, Karp, & Bay-Williams, 2010). For example, when I taught the money unit, I used texts such as Money (Crib, 1990), If you Made a Million (Schwartz, 1989) and A Chair for My Mother (Williams, 1982). By sharing these texts with my class and using the coins as manipulatives, I provided an opportunity for the students to further understand the concept of authentic purpose for listening – to obtain information that they needed to know. The books also reminded the students about the real world applications of this concept. At the same time, students enjoyed being read children’s literature outside of the literacy block.

Reading Matters Research Matters

Reading Matters | Volume 16 • Winter 2016 | scira.org | 13 |


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