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What are ECAM Centers?
Several of the schools that I do consulting work in use the
Early Childhood Assessment in Mathematics, commonly known as ECAM, (Board of Education of the City of New
York,2001; State Education Department) to assess students' math skills
at the beginning, middle and end of each school year. Designed for students in
academic, or chronological grades K2 the assessment is conducted as a
oneonone interview, during which the child performs small mathematical
tasks, and explains his/her thinking as s/he proceeds. When they first
began using this assessment teachers found that although the assessment
provided useful information they were struggling with how to use this
information effectively given the constraints of their mandated math
curriculum. Hence, ECAM Centers were developed as a means of using this
data effectively to differentiate instruction with the primary goal
being to improve the number sense of all students. See the Counting, Numeration, Addition and Subtraction and Multiplication and Division pages for examples of activities designed to align with each ECAM stage.
Following are some of the most frequently asked questions about ECAM Centers:
How do the Centers work?
After completion of the assessment
interview the teacher interprets the findings and identifies the child's
stage of learning for each area assessed. Based on their class data
teachers then select a beginning focus area from the four areas assessed
for Number (Counting, Numeration, Addition and Subtraction,
Multiplication and Division). Students are then grouped according to the
stage they are at on the continuum for this particular area and center
activities are selected to meet each group's specific needs.
Students work on ECAM Centers matching their current stage on the
continuum for 15 minutes, 35 days a week. They usually repeat the same
center activity for 57 days, after which they switch to a different
activity from the same stage on the continuum. This repetition of the
same task plays a crucial role in the success of these centers. On the
first day a center is introduced students are often focused on the
rules, new materials, or ‘how to do’ the task. Repeating the activity
several times allows students to engage with the math skills and
concepts at a deeper level.
As students work in the centers the teacher observes individual students and takes conference notes. Particular note is taken as to the student's progress with the 'Next Steps' for the particular stage she is working on. If the teacher feels that the student has mastered a particular skill in the context of the center activity an exit slip may be given to see if the child can transfer the skill to a written context. Once the teacher feels that a student has demonstrated mastery of all 'next steps' she is moved to the next stage on the continuum.
What is a Goals Chart?
An ancient Chinese proverb notes that
no wind is favorable if one does not know to which port one is sailing.
Setting goals can have a positive impact on student selfefficacy and
achievement. Posting goals in the classroom serves as a visual reminder
and help to keep students and teacher focused on the items that were
identified as important. Goals give students a clear picture of what the
expectations are as well as something to strive for. This is important
because it helps to motivate students and also provides a sense of
accomplishment when goals are reached.
The following photographs show examples of class and individual ECAM goal charts
from K2 classrooms. On the class chart on the left students wrote
their name on a postit and placed it alongside their current goal. On
the class chart on the right each students' name was written on a
clothes peg and moved as goals were met and new ones set.
When is the best time to do these Centers?
In order for the
centers to be effective it is important that you set aside a 15 minute
block of time at least 3 times per week (use a timer to ensure that you do not go over
the allocated time). This could be first thing in the morning when
students enter the classroom, at the beginning of math workshop, or
straight after lunch. Try to stick to the same time each day. This way
ECAM Centers become part of the daily routine and you are less likely to
skip them when things get busy.
How should I introduce new Centers?
When introducing the centers for the first time begin slowly. You may
want to give the whole class the same activity for the first day or two
so that you can focus on setting up the expectations for sharing
materials, taking turns, packing up materials etc. Model new activities
and role play how to solve possible problems that may arise without
teacher assistance. After a few days introduce a second center and run
two centers simultaneously for a day or two. Gradually build up the
number of different centers that are running until all students are
working in a group that is appropriate to their stage on the continuum.
When introducing a new round of ECAM activities have groups 24 repeat
the activity from the previous day, while you introduce a new activity
to Group 1. Next, move to Group 2 and introduce a new activity. The
following day introduce a new activity to the remaining groups.
As with any new venture the first few weeks of ECAM Centers are the most difficult. By preparing materials in advance and taking the time to make students aware of expectations you will soon begin to see an improvement in the number sense of all students in your classroom.
Why do some of the centers have sentence frames?
In order to
develop students’ mathematical language sentence frames have been
developed for use with many of the center activities. These frames
provide language support for ELL students and help to develop the math
language of all students in a meaningful context.
How can I organize ECAM Centers to run smoothly?
As ECAM
Centers are only scheduled for 15 minutes a day it is crucial to have
good structures in place to make the best use of this short period of
time.
Task display stands are useful for keeping task instructions clean when you don't have time to laminate. Simply slip the task into the clear stand and place in a central spot so that all group members can read the instructions.
Printing center activities on cardstock will extend the life of center activities and allow you to reuse them from one year to the next. Reusable dry erase pockets
are another option. These are useful for protecting and extending the
life of all center activities that involve the use of a game board, but
are particularly useful for center activities in which students need to
record on a game board or sheet of paper. Simply insert a game board and
have students use a dry erase marker to write on the pocket. When the
center activity is completed, the marker is wiped off the pocket and it
ready to be used again. These pockets can save you from having to
continually make photocopies of materials.