Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Global Cardboard Challenge 2015: Are you In?

Colleagues at our system's STEAM Institute reignited my excitement for the Global Cardboard Challenge. If you plan to take part, it's best to start thinking about the event ahead so you can collect boxes and other supplies as well as fit a date into your schedule for classroom, organization, or whole school participation.

The presentation below introduces you to the project:

What's Missing from Ineffective Learning Design?

What's missing from ineffective learning design?

What can't you find in resources, text books, online games, and learning experiences that don't work.

The answer is simple.

The students are missing.

Ineffective design forgets about the people the design is supposed to embrace, engage, empower, and educate.

That's why, for many, old time text books, learning tools, and experiences were dull, and that's why some lessons and study doesn't work today.

The key ingredient is the student which begs the question, what is the best way to design learning with and for children that's effective?

Many answers have been proposed and many are effectively used today. The key is to find the answer that fits best for the children you teach and the context in which you teach.

Begin this process by illustrating what success means to you and your learning team: students, families, educators, leaders, and community members. Then plan the path toward effective learning design.

Collegial Share Makes a Difference

I didn't attend our system-wide STEAM institute due to a number of reasons. Fortunately, my colleagues have been sending me notes from the event. I'm able to check the notes and quickly integrate the links and concepts to my website curriculum.

For example, they shared a list of roles shared by Dr. Roni Ellington (@DrRoniEllington) that students may play during a STEAM experience. I really liked the way the presenter described the roles so I made the chart below to lead next year's STEAM experiences, reflection, and discussion.

We can't be in all places or do all roles in a school system, but good share enables anyone with an interest to take part as well as to embed the important information into their teaching/learning practice.

Thanks for leading the way, colleagues! I appreciate.

Who Do You Create For?

Google Draw illustration to demonstrate meaning of
the power of 2. 
As I used Google Draw to illustrate a couple of math concepts recently, I was reminded of whom I create for and that's children.

No matter what I do with regard to education, my main audience and most formidable pull is the children I teach. As I write, create, craft, and reflect, I'm thinking of the way they think, create, collaborate, and learn. I'm always wondering, what will help them to make sense of the information in ways that are meaningful and life enriching.

This is probably why my voice, and the voices of my colleagues, may not be entertained as widely or as enthusiastically as the voices of others. When children are your main audience, your voice may not be as appealing or accessible to adults who don't work with children with as much time-on-task as the typical classroom or subject area teacher.

And when I'm writing, it's not so much the words or images, that I'm concerned with. Instead I am most focused on the plan--the way the words will enliven a classroom discussion, learning experience, and follow-up efforts.

I deem the writing successful if the words leads me and my colleagues to dynamic learning experiences with and for children. This is probably how recipe authors deem success. If the recipe leads to a heightened experience of food and entertaining, then it's a success.

When you write, who is your audience and what is your purpose? When do you deem a blog post successful? How do your posts lead your work and the work of colleagues near and far?

SRSD Math Problem Solving: POW/TIDE

To teach math problem solving well, educators have to spend the time analyzing and solving problems themselves.

Utilizing the SRSD approach with math problem solving will make that process more successful for educators and students alike.

As I continue to work with Leslie Laud from thinkSRSD, I am recognizing the many ways that students may employ the structures of the SRSD acronyms TIDE and POW as well as mathematical structures, vocabulary, and process to solve multi-step math problems with success.

Repeated problem solving using good strategy helps students develop the critical and creative mathematical thinking mind paths that in apt problem solving in every discipline. And, as much as possible, we want to bring relevance and meaning to this work. So when we can, we should use relevant numbers, problems, and experiences to help students make meaningful connections in ways that are engaging and empowering. That means that your math problem solving will not only include random problems from test prep and math books, but that you'll couple this learning with relevant, meaningful data that relates well to your learning context and students' interests.

I suggest that you create websites to host your student-friendly, context rich efforts and then share that website with the teaching/learning team as a valuable resource. As I work with Leslie, state/system-wide standards, PARCC expectations, and the SRSD approach, I am filling the work on this SRSD: Math Problem Solving website.

While I practice and create, I am reminded of the strength of mind the SRSD approach brings to learning across disciplines. In a sense, and as I always say, it's a "coach yourself" learning approach that will empower you and your students as you continue to learn with success.

Landmark Numbers: Focus 2

When you think of the number two, what do you think of; what do you know?

Students and I will discuss the question above as we continue to examine numbers 0-12 at the start of the year.

We're studying landmark whole numbers and fractions at the start of the year as one way to review the essential vocabulary, properties, models, and math tools that lay the foundation for the fifth grade math year.

As students share their knowledge of two we'll list words that define two, properties, number line location, and the way that two "behaves." Then students will complete this home study page to review the learning on their own at home.

Where does 2 sit on a number line.


What words define two?
  • Two is an even number because 1 + 1 = 2. It has parity which means it can be split into two equivalent whole parts or numbers.  
  • Two is the only even prime number because it's the only even number that has one and only one factor pair: 1 X 2 = 2
  • Two is a one-digit number because it is made from only one digit: 2.
  • Two is a rational number because it can be written as a fraction: 2/1, 4/2
  • Two is a whole number because it names the quantity of two and has no fractional parts.
  • Two is a natural number because it is a positive whole number greater than 0.
  • Two is an integer because it is a whole number with fractional parts.
What words do not define two?
  • Two is not a negative number because it is greater than 0.
  • Two is not an odd number because it can be split into two even whole number parts.
  • Two is not a composite number because it has only one factor pair. 
  • Two is not an irrational number because it can be written as a fraction. 
  • Two is not a fraction because it is written as a whole number, but it can be written as a fraction.
How does 2 "behave."
  • When you add 2 to a number it becomes 2 more or "jumps" two whole numbers on the number line.
  • When you subtract two, you "jump" to the left on the number line and reduce the value of the number by 2.
  • The additive inverse of 2 is -2, and the absolute value of 2 and -2 is 2.
  • When you multiply by two, you double the number.
  • When you divide by two, you split a number in half.
  • All the multiples of 2 are even numbers.
  • All multiples of 2 end in 0,2,4,6,8.
  • Two and three are the only consecutive prime numbers.
  • Two is the base of the simplest numeral system: binary system used in computers 
  • The square root of two is the first known irrational number.
  • When you raise a number to the power of 2, you square that number or multiply the number by itself. When you draw an array of a squared number, the array is a square.

More questions about 2:

  • What does 2 look like in a tally?
  • What is the history of the glyph (picture) 2?

Monday, June 29, 2015

SRSD: Math Problem Solving

A number of years ago, our school system contracted Leslie Laud to come and lead us using SRSD, self regulation strategy development, with regard to the teaching of writing.

I was very encouraged by the sense of pride and performance students demonstrated after using this approach. Now I am working with Leslie to grow my work with regard to math problem solving.

Recently, I dove into a few PARCC Practice problems and applied the strategy. This page demonstrates the application of the strategy to a computation area/perimeter multi-step problem.

I like the way SRSD empowers students critical thinking skills across the curriculum. I also like the way that this approach lends itself to a math workshop/educator-as-coach model of teaching and learning.

Do you use SRSD as an approach to math problem solving? If so, do you exemplars look like the one I shared above? I plan to continue to investigate this approach with Leslie and on my own this summer. You may be interested in contacting Leslie if you'd like to bring this approach to the learners in your school or district.

Numbers 0-12: Focus on One

After studying the properties of one, students will complete this page for home study.

What do we know about one?

Names for One
  • Digit: One is one of the ten digits that make up all numbers in the base ten system.
  • Whole Number: Whole numbers are "quantity numbers." They tell how many you have. Whole numbers are positive integers. 1 is a whole number. 
  • Integer: Integers are whole numbers, and their additive inverse (negative numbers). Integers are not fractions. Both 1 and -1 are integers.
  • Number: an arithmetical value, expressed by a word, symbol, or figure representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations and for showing order in a series or for identification.  1 is a number.
  • Real Number: Numbers that can be found on a number line, 0 can be found on a number line. 1 can be found on a number line.
  • Rational Number: Any number that can be written as a fraction is a rational number, since  1/1 = 1, 1 is a rational number. 
  • Odd: 1 is an odd number. It cannot be split into two same whole numbers. 
  • Counting Numbers/Natural Numbers: When we count objects, we start with 1.
  • Positive Integers: Positive whole numbers greater than 0.
Number Names that Don't Describe One
  • Fraction: 1 is not a fraction, but a fraction can equal one when the the numerator and denominator are equal (unless it is 0): a/a = 1 when a is not qual to 0.
  • Negative Integers: The opposite of positive integers, all the additive inverse or negative numbers less than 0.
  • Irrational Number: 0 is not an irrational number because it is a rational number. 
  • Even Number: 1 is not an even number because it cannot be split into two equal whole numbers.
Properties of One (A property is a trait, characteristic, attribute)
  • Multiplication Property: Multiplying any number by one does not change its value. Example: 5 X 1 = 5 (the multiplicative identity property)
  • Division Property: Dividing any number by one does not change its value. Example: 6 divided by 1 = 6. 
The "Behavior" of One  ("Behavior" is the way one acts in an equation or expression)
  • Powers of One: The number one raised to any power always equals one. Example: one raised to the power of 10 is still equal to one. 
  • Any number raised to the power of one remains unchanged. Example: 4 to the power of one is equal to 4. 
  • Any nonzero number divided by itself is equal to one. a/a = 1 when a is not equal to 0.
  • First nonzero number in the natural numbers and first odd number in the natural numbers.
  • One is considered a unit. One is neither composite or prime. 
  • One is the only positive integer divided by exactly one positive integer.
  • One is the probability that an event will occur. 
  • When the denominator is equal to one, the value of the fraction will be equal to the numerator (except when the numerator is 0) Example a/1=1 when a is not equal to 0

Related Posts

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Study: A Little Each Day

If you employ daily study, the work adds up to significant change and impact.

The key is to keep a list of questions handy.

Then, when you embark on daily study, choose the question that calls you.

Study for the time determined, then move on to other tasks.

This is a good way to tackle depth and development. Onward.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

MTEL Math Reflections

I took the MTEL Math test, and I was wondering if I would pass or not.

My score reflected my thoughts about math study well.

The area I did the best in, numbers and operations/data and statistics, is an area I spent lots and lots of time delving deep into in the past years as I taught my fourth and fifth graders. This was the area I applied coding to learn math in and multiple models. I was happy to see that this work resulted in depth of understanding as I want to continue to promote this kind of study with students.

Then the areas that I studied a lot using Khan Academy were quite good too. I continue to find Khan Academy an excellent resource for math study and understanding if you use it well. Next year I want to continue to use Khan with students, but I want to even deepen the regularity of use and the way I teach students how to use Khan Academy well for learning. My students who used Khan well this year developed greater depth of math knowledge and application. If you use Khan with your students over the summer, I suggest that you sit down with your child as he/she uses the program. Have a notebook at your side and spend some time talking about best strategy and ways to use the platform for learning depth and success.

The area where I didn't do as well was the open response problem solving. I must say that I was very tired by the end of the test so I didn't give that section a fresh attitude and energy as I should have. I also took the test in the afternoon which isn't as potent a test taking time for me. Further, I didn't apply the strategies that I teach with regard to math open response problem solving which are to use a mental model (graphic organizer) and self regulation strategy development (SRSD) to remember all the steps and answer the question completely. I also had not studied the algebra section of Khan as much or the model exemplars which would have helped. Finally, the question was based on an area of algebra that I don't teach often at the elementary school. Yet this was in my grasp if I had given it deeper thought, study, and preparation, I would have done better.

In the end, the good news is that I passed the test and learned a lot about teaching, test taking, and math study from the process. Now I know what my young colleagues have had to encounter with regard to math as they earn their teaching license. I also have a better idea as to how to help my young students prepare for standardized tests, deep learning, and application.

Passing the test has spurred me forward with enthusiasm for math teaching and learning. I'm looking forward to the study ahead as I prepare for next year's program.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Examine Numbers 0-12: Focus on Zero

Early in the math year we'll watch a good film about the history of math. We'll also explore the numbers 0-13. For homework students will complete a related journal page and enrichment if they choose.

I may update the zero page in the days to come, but this sets the stage for our study to come.

Related Links
History of Zero

Properties of Zero
  • Addition Property: A number does not change when adding or subtracting 0 from that number. Example: 6 + 0 = 6, 125 - 0 = 125
  • Additive Inverse Property: When you add two numbers and the sum is zero, those numbers are additive inverse or opposites of each other. Example: -2 + 2 =0
  • Multiplication Property: Zero times any number is equal to zero. Example: 7 X 0 = 0
  • A number to the 0 power is equal to one. 
Number Names for Zero
  • Digit: Zero is one of the ten digits that make up all numbers in the base ten system.
  • Whole Number: Whole numbers are "quantity numbers." They tell how many you have. Whole numbers are positive integers.
  • Integer: Integers are whole numbers, and their additive inverse (negative numbers). Integers are not fractions.
  • Number: an arithmetical value, expressed by a word, symbol, or figure representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations and for showing order in a series or for identification. 
  • Real Number: Numbers that can be found on a number line, 0 can be found on a number line.
  • Rational Number: Any number that can be written as a fraction is a rational number, since 0 can be written as 0/n, then it is a rational number. .75 is also a rational number since it can be written as 3/4, but .3333(repeating) cannot be written as a fraction so it is not a rational number, but an irrational number. 
  • Even: 0 is an even number because it is a multiple of 2: 0 X 2 = 0. (0 is considered a multiple of all numbers except 0 itself)
Number Names That Do Not Name 0
  • Counting Numbers/Natural Numbers: When we count objects, we don't count 0 (or nothing), instead we start with 1.
  • Fraction: 0 is not a fraction, but a fraction can be equal to 0 when 0 is in the numerator or when both numerator and denominator are equal to 0 A fraction is in the form a/b, where a and b are real numbers, usually integers.
  • Positive Integers: Positive whole numbers greater than 0.
  • Negative Integers: The opposite of positive integers, all the additive inverse or negative numbers less than 0.
  • Irrational Number: 0 is not an irrational number because it is a rational number. 
  • Odd Number: 0 is even so it is not odd. 
The "Behavior" of Zero   
  • By itself, it may mean NOTHING, zero quantity.*
  • In a place value setting, it means that there is no amount in that specific place.*
  • Behind whole numbers, it increases the whole number quantity by one place value for each zero.*
  • In the number line and in graphs, it means the POINT OF ORIGIN. All numbers measure the distance from the point of origin, the bigger the number, the farther the distance from zero.*
  • "Zeroing In" means to get to the source, to target, to get to the point. What point? The point of origin from where all numbers depart.*
  • In a binary system, where zero and one are the only two elements, zero is "false" where one is "true." Binary systems make up our computer language.*
  • In a fraction, when 0 is in the numeartor, then the fraction is equal to 0. Example: 0/7 = 0 divided by 7 = 0.
  • 0/0=0, but mathematicians do not assign a value to this and consider it NaN (not a number)
I plan to analyze this article, Imagery: Key to Understanding Math to further this study.

*I copied these excellent points from fifth grade teacher, Ms. Franca Van Allen, on Mathforum.org

Albemarle County Public Schools Lead the Way to Lifelong Learning.

Pam Moran, Ira Socol, and the entire Albemarle County Public Schools System have served as mentors to me with regard to lifting the quality of teaching I employ with and for children.

Recently Ira generously shared the image and language to the right from the Albemarle County Public Schools website. I am wondering how I will embed the powerful words from this chart into my own craft in the year to come.

Below I reflect on the words and how they relate to the context of my practice as an educator.

1. Plan and Conduct Research
For starters, science and social studies mini projects and the biography "Changemakers" project will meet this competency.

2. Gather, Organize, Analyze, Evaluate Data
To start, we'll do this with our "Numbers that Define You" introductory math unit. We'll also do this with our local ecosystem study. Hopefully we can employ this effort often into STEAM and math class.

3. Think Analytically, Critically, and Creatively to Pursue New Ideas, Acquire New Knowledge, and Make Decisions
This will be a focus of our STEAM Lab, Service Learning, Class Leadership Activities, and Problem Solving.

4. Understand and Apply Principles of Logic and Reasoning; Develop, Evaluate, and Defend Arguments.
We'll employ and practice these skills daily during math with use of math problems, concept/skill/knowledge application, and journals writing/presentation.

5. Seek, Recognize, and Understand Systems, Patterns, Themes, and Interactions. 
We'll develop an initial understanding of systems as we create and implement systems that make our classroom community strong and successful. We'll also study this competency beginning with our ecosystem exploration and throughout our math study.

6. Acquire and Use Precise Language to Clearly Communicate Ideas, Knowledge, and Processes.
We'll give students lots of opportunities to develop precise language and presentation in every subject area using journals, presentations, technology, drama, and more. We'll spend time developing students ability to understand and use vocabulary related to specific disciplines and study areas.

7. Explore and Express Ideas and Opinions Using Multiple Media, the Arts, and Technology
Weekly attention to current events, class open circle meetings, and service learning are mediums we can use to initiate this competency. Also making time regularly for student-centered discussion, effort, and response will launch efforts related to this competency.

8. Participate Fully in Civic Life, and Act on Democratic Ideals Within the Context of Community and Global Interdependence. 
We can look for opportunities to develop this competency locally and globally through service learning, our ecosystem study, student council, and our work with our kindergarten and first grade buddies. A Middle School teacher has asked us to engage in a meaningful global service project which will help us to build in greater effort with regard to global interdependence.

9. Understand and Follow a Physically Active Lifestyle that Promotes Good Health and Wellness.
We provide students with multiple opportunities for active learning, playful physical activity, and opportunities to discuss and develop overall wellness. As a teacher it's important that I get in there and model these behaviors as well in the classroom and at recess. Also, it's important that we continue to embed a lot of healthy physical activity into our field studies and special events. Following our healthy food guidelines also supports this goal.

10. Apply Habits of Mind and Metacognitive Strategies to Plan, Monitor and Evaluate One's Own Work
In this regard, I want to slow down the work we do to allow for thoughtful time to reflect throughout a unit and especially at the end of the unit. I want to model metacognitive strategies and habits of mind as well as give students the chance to try out multiple strategies to develop habits of mind and life-long learning. We will also employ the use of a showcase portfolio to host these efforts and serve family-student-teacher share and meetings well.

11. Demonstrate ethical behavior and respect for diversity through daily actions and decision making. 
One way to meet this competency is to make a commitment to stop the class and address the situation whenever there is a comment or action that serves to promote prejudice, inequity, injustice, or discrimination. When words are used that promote disrespect, it's important to teach the students why those words are dehumanizing and not acceptable by telling the related history, current related issues, and inviting comments and questions. It's also important to discuss what ethical behavior is and to create ethical behavior protocols for the classroom. Whenever possibly decisions should be inclusive of all members of the learning/teaching community including students.

12. Apply and adapt a variety of appropriate strategies to solve new and increasingly complex problems.
It's important to give students the opportunity to work together to solve open ended problems in all curriculum areas. It is equally important to give students a chance to share their solutions with their classmates. We will offer this kind of work in open circle social competency sessions, STEAM lab, math work, and classroom issues as they arise.

I believe this language helps us to teach the whole child well. I know that Albemarle focuses on student-centered study that responds to individual's interests and passions. I'll continue to move toward that goal in days to come.

Ira also sent me Albemarle's Pathways to Lifelong Learning which I'll consider with depth soon.

Servant Leadership Revisited

For a number of years I've subscribed to the servant leadership model of education.

As a servant leader I consider myself a servant to my students and families.

In the past year, I've learned that's not enough. To truly be a servant leader you also have to be a servant to your colleagues, leaders, and community members--you have to serve the whole team.

To serve well, I've often put aside my own opinion and thoughts, and simply responded to the learning team with trust by saying yes and following through with student, family, or collegial requests. However, if a request is in direct opposition to my work and intent, I share my thoughts and sometimes have to say no. This is a rare occurrence.

As I grow this work, I want to reach out more to serve better with an open, positive, helpful attitude with students, families, colleagues, leaders, and community members because servant leadership truly builds team, and with team the work we do increases with depth and effect ten-fold.

Servant leadership is a powerful teaching model. One that I explain with detail in this interview. If you subscribe to this model, I'd be interested in reading your related posts, stories, and links. Thanks in advance for the share.

Making Positive Change: Dealing with Error

There's a temptation to meet error with blame, but when error is real, it's best to meet it with positive change.

Dissect the error, acknowledge the misstep, apologize, and create a better path.

None of us are without error, but when we work together we can help each other to reroute the path of good work and contribution when error occurs.

Also if we're too afraid of error, we'll never leap forward with new work and effort that makes a difference.

Stay away from error that's irreversible (the do not go there list), and don't be afraid to err and learn from that error when the path is directed with your best intent and work.

Accurate Records

Thinking carefully about the records you will keep during the school year ahead of time can help you to collect, analyze, and report data accurately.

What kinds of data do you collect on a regular basis?

This is a daily record. At the end of the year, the students created a good laminated check-in system chart that students signed each morning with their lunch choice. It was easy to look at the large chart and fill in the attendance form. Yet, some mornings I forgot to pick up the attendance form so I have to make that part of my routine--passing the office, checking the mail, then starting the day. We'll have an attendance helper.

Lunch Count
The lunch slips were always missing. We need a big colorful container for the lunch slips so we know where they are every day. It's important to have a good organization table and board that includes the attendance chart, lunch count slips, and other important information. We'll have a designated lunch count helper.

I ordered a neat mail box with a slot for each child. This will make it easier to pass out forms and papers which in turn will make it easier to collect the forms and papers. I'll assign a couple of mail helpers at the start of the year to help out.

Permissions Slips, Checks, and Other Forms
We need to have folders, student check-off lists, reporting forms, and extra copies with regard to the many types of forms students bring back and forth to school every day. This paperwork needs a secure and easy-to-access place in the teacher's coaching corner/desk or at the organization table. It's best to share online copies of these forms with families as part of the weekly newsletter.

Weekly Newsletter
It's best to publish this online and also have some hard copies for families that can't access information online. Setting up a newsletter website provides a good resource for families, students, and educators as they navigate the school year.

Student Information Lists
It's important to have student name lists of all kinds. Lists with family names and contact information are important to have handy wherever you do your student-related work. It's also important to have plenty of check-off lists too. Many teachers match each student name with a number to make sorting and filing easier. Again, having copies of these lists available online is helpful. Further, at our school, the administrative staff print us multiple copies of student name stickers which come in handy too.

Data Reports
We create and maintain a large number of student data lists including the following:
  • ELA data including Dibels, Dorf, GRADE, MCAS/PARCC.
  • Writing data including pre- and post-assessment scores for each genre
  • Reading lists including books, book groups, and other related information.
  • Math data including standardized tests, system-wide tests, fact assessments, unit assessments, and data for report card standards areas. 
  • Narrative lists that track student efforts related to RTI, after school programs, special projects, subject areas, and more. 

Supplies and Orders
A list of the materials we order and/or desire. Having this list and modifying year to year makes this work efficient and targeted. 

Report Cards
We report data on these cards twice a year, and the cards are filed both online and offline.

Curriculum Websites
The information in these websites provides valuable links, images, films, and other information that makes the learning accessible to the learning team: students, families, colleagues, leaders, and community members. 

I'll revisit this list again as I set up start-of-year files in late August. Until then, if you have any additions for this list, please let me know. 

Good Systems Matter

At the end of the year there was confusion with an in-class system. There was a missing piece of data and the people involved were not pleased.

Why did that happen?

Clearly, it happened because I put off that data entry and organization, and didn't have a regular system for updating the chart and organizing the information. When I finally organized the information, that data point was missing.

Overall, it was a small error--one piece of data out of multiple data points, however for the individual who was impacted, it was a problem which is a signal for change.

When error occurs, I analyze and then make changes to the system that led to the error. The system here at fault is the morning check-in routine. In order to collect information, forms, and notes from students and follow-up in a timely way, the morning check-in has to be quiet, focused, and accurate. Teachers need that 15-20 minutes at the start of the day to respond to multiple events that happen with 20+ students.

In the morning, children trickle in from about 8:25 to 8:45. That's typically the time that a teacher is met with a multitude of questions, notes, forms, and other information. If a good routine is in place, the teacher will have time to check-in with students, respond to questions, collect the forms, read the notes, and organize any important information in ways that keep an accurate record. This is also the time when students sign up for lunch and sign in for the attendance chart. On one morning a week, a teaching assistant starts the day since I am at a meeting. So that means that the system has to be able to run without me and with an assistant's leadership.

To have a good morning check-in, it's important to have a system in place from day one, and to practice that system with students during the first few weeks so it becomes a mainstay of the daily routine. If you deviate, you won't have the time necessary to do that important administrative and response work at the start of the day, work if not done properly can result in the kind of error I mention above.

There are many pieces to the teaching puzzle, and taking each piece seriously by creating good systems and response will enable the team to work effectively and profitably. Onward.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Long Term Vision

Which direction belongs to you? 
My posts in the past few days have all been about direction and creating the path to next year and beyond. I write often about prioritizing and choices since there are so many available avenues of study, work, contribution, and care today. Standing at the signpost can stall your effect without this kind of reflection.

I also read the advice, reflections, and study of many. I consult their work and compare it to my own to see how we're alike and different as well as how one person's or another's work and words can lead my efforts.

As I consider all of this, it's clear to me that rather than outward, my path is moving inward--a labyrinth motion as I've noted earlier. There's lots to shore up with regard to the details with my practice and craft, and to do that well it's imperative that I make lots of time for quiet study, reflection, writing, and natural activity such as walks in nature, swimming, biking, and good times with family and friends.

Thanks to Internet access, I don't have to travel or attend conferences to gain wisdom and inspiration since it's right here for me on the computer screen. Though, there will be times when I choose to travel to make an important personal connection or hear someone's voice and see their work in action.

All of us travel different paths, and what's important is that we listen to our hearts and minds to hear the call that is ours and follow that direction to do the work we're meant to do.

Challenge Yourself

As educators we challenge our students every day. We coach them forward by helping them reach tough goals and hard tasks.

Now that summer is here it is a good time to challenge ourselves. What tough goal or hard task stands before you, perhaps a goal that you've wanted to reach for a long time, but one that you haven't given apt attention or time.

Choosing a goal and charting your progress towards reaching that goal is one of the best ways to teach yourself about positive learning and coaching. Reaching out to meet that goal also allows you to understand well what your students are experiencing each and every day.

So, go for it. Choose a goal and reach. That's what I intend to do. Let's see if I can make it happen.

A Call to Action: Vilson and Lehmann Speak

Jose Vilson and Chris Lehmann are leaders in education circles.

Recently they both called for action with regard to racial injustice and prejudice with The Silence of Our Friends is Violence and Charleston and Teaching Children.

I'm thinking of their words and how I will follow their lead in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Vilson writes, ". . .it's important for educators to create safe spaces for their students to share their opinions not simply impose ours." I can follow a colleague's lead in this respect by starting the year by offering small group lunch meetings for every child to discuss how they're feeling about school, what they need, and what they believe we should be learning about. This will open the door to positive dialogue and belonging. Further I can offer similar meetings for family members and open the door to this discussion at Curriculum Night.

I will also share this post with my system's superintendent, assistant superintendent, and principals of the elementary school, middle school and high school to see if we can fine a time early in the year to have a dialogue with families about racial justice, belonging, voice, choice, and inclusivity with regard to our school community. During the summer, I'll read more and begin to follow #educolor more religiously to develop my knowledge too.

Lehmann writes, "As teachers, we have an obligation to teach our children to examine the systems of thought that perpetuate hate and prejudice so that our students can work to change them." One simple way to respond to Lehmann's words is to use Flocabulary's Week in Review current events rap each week to promote a discussion about world events. Giving students time to share what they know and how they feel about these events invites voice and follow-up study and response as well.

Lehmann also writes, "As teachers, we have an obligation to teach all of our children that equity and justice are not just the cause of those who face oppression, but the cause of all people who believe in the promise of a better world." As a teaching team we need to discuss how we will teach the concepts of equity and justice from the start of the year when we develop learning community protocols (constitution) and when we study current events and our nation's history. Also, as Lehmann suggests, we need to tie this study to the discussions we have about making a better world and also tell the stories of people who have done this in the past and are doing it now. Our Global Changemakers project at the end of the year is an excellent venue for this. Attendance at the Harriet Tubman play and possibly a tour of Boston's Black Heritage Trail will also support our study in this regard.

Further, in response to Lehmann's words, "As teachers, we have an obligation to teach all our children that it is not enough to passively hope for change, rather we must speak to the world we wish to create, work for the world we want to see," we have to teach children to speak up and advocate for what they need and what the world needs, and we have to provide avenues for students' voices in this regard. The service learning that is well established at our school is a terrific avenue for this work.

When Vilson writes, ". . .we've chosen to flip the idea that we only talk about standards, content, and iPad apps," he calls me to think deeper about the work we do in schools and the conversations we have online and offline to build better learning communities. I wonder what questions would prompt a good #edchat conversation about justice, advocacy, and contributing to a better world. Perhaps we could start with one of the following questions:
  • How do you make time in the classroom to talk about and act upon issues that matter deeply to students?
  • How do you share and discuss current events in the classroom?
  • How do you examine equity and justice in the work you do with and for students?
  • How do you make lessons culturally relevant, timely, and valuable to children?
  • How do you face prejudice and injustice in your own school, classroom, or community? 
  • How do you invite and promote student advocacy?
I invite you to add to my thoughts and give me more to think about as I let the wise words of Vilson and Lehmann root in my craft and learning in the days to come. 

Interdisciplinary Program: Theme

As we develop our team approach to teaching fifth grade next year, we may consider embedding themes that tie our work together as teachers of writing, reading, social studies, science, STEAM, and math.

I looked over the curriculum and came up with the following themes for each two month period. Each theme encompasses the work we'll do and also help students to develop the ability to synthesize the content in meaningful ways.

When the team meets in late August we may look over these themes and make some changes. We may also discuss whether we want to celebrate the theme in some way with a one-two day celebration event--an event that demonstrates and shares the learning in a significant way.

September/October: Identity: Who are we and where do we live?
We will focus our work on introductions and a focus on ecosystems near and far with map skills and environmental study.

November/December: Adaptation: People near and far, past, present, and future.
During this time we'll look back to ancient cultures and forward to life as we imagine it in space.

January/February: Details Make a Difference: Attributes, Characteristics, Properties, Traits
We'll look carefully at the elements that make up good writing, precise math, critical reading, and the physical properties of matter. We'll also study the details that make a difference in history and how those details affect the outcome of events today and in the past.

March/April: Creativity and Imagination: Dare to Dream
We'll complement the testing time of year with creative projects related to simple machines, creative writing, and wonderful stories.

May/June: Advocacy: Self-Knowledge, Expression, Choice, and Voice
Students will study how individuals' self knowledge, expression, choice, and voice made a difference in their lives and the lives of all people related to the Global Changemakers biography project. They'll also look back on the year with regard to what they've learned about themselves and where they hope to go in the future. As we focus on our local habitat study, students will think of ways that they can make a difference with regard to the environment and other areas of life.

The Culturally Relevant Math Class

A goal for next year is to build in greater cultural relevancy with regard to teaching. Since I'll be teaching mostly math and STEAM, I'm thinking about what that will look like.

Gloria Ladson-Billings describes cultural relevant teaching as "a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes."

As I develop math lessons over the summer, I'll think about and apply Ladson-Billing's definition. For starters, students will learn about and practice the use of important math vocabulary, resources, practice, and patterns related to "Numbers that Define You." Beginning with this curriculum will give students a chance to introduce themselves, their culture, and what's important to them during initial math class share and endeavor. We'll highlight this number work by posting the results in the classroom and halls as a reminder of who we are as defined by the students and their number work.

Later as we examine the numbers 0-12, we'll watch films and engage in practice that bring us on a global journey related to math history and introduce each other to the significance each of those numbers plays in our own world and the world of our families.

These are good first steps with regard to becoming a culturally relevant math class. Later, once I have a good sense of my class's collective and individual cultures, I'll begin to employ more cultural referents that relate to students' lives and experience during our study of specific math concepts, skills, and knowledge. This will make the learning stick and empower each learner's role as an active, positive, needed member of our math/STEAM communities.

Related Edutopia Article
Response that fits this post from a colleague on Twitter:

What Sticks?

I check to see which of my blog posts have been read each day.

I typically reread the posts especially if they are old posts, ones I haven't read in a while.

Today as I read about ideas and practice old and new, I was struck by the fact that some of my old posts reflect ideas and practice deeply rooted in my craft while other posts reflect efforts that didn't stick--one-time ideas/practice.

What makes a teaching/learning effort stick?

First, it seems that the simpler the idea is to implement, the more apt it will be that the idea sticks. Ideas that required too much paperwork and too much teacher attention tended to be short lived.

Next, ideas, resources, and practice that motivated students deeply also stuck. When children demonstrate a lot of enthusiasm for a resource, that resource is a keeper. For example I have films I show every year because students always react with enthusiasm and apply the learning in those films to their daily learning.

Also, practices that reap wonderful results stick. For example, I hope to fit in the cardboard challenge and marble maze projects this year because the results were terrific with regard to student learning and engagement. We'll also continue to teach the biography project for the same reason. Over the years we continue to develop these projects with lessons which makes this work become deeper and richer for student learning.

Patterns that deepen students' investment and confidence stick too. For example starting the year with growth mindset and learning-to-learn lessons served to develop a strong, confident learning team from the start so we'll continue to develop and teach those lessons.

Writing a blog helps you to look back, reflect, and assess your work as an educator. Rereading posts helps you to identify the work that sticks--good work that makes a difference. Reflective efforts like this aid an educator in developing and honing his/her craft and collaboration. It's a good process, one I will continue on my own and with my teaching team as we continue to grow the work we do to teach children well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

STEAM Analyzed

Last year I made greater effort to employ a STEAM lab for students' benefit. The effort definitely exceeded the efforts from the year before, but there's definitely still room for growth.

What was accomplished?

We created a decent maker station in the back of the room with many tools and resources including lots of great recyclables. We engaged in two mostly successful efforts including the Cardboard Challenge and Marble Maze Simple Machine Exploration. The projects profited from the use of a class Science website as well. The approach was blended using hands-on activities, technology, field studies, and expert visitors.

Next year I'll work alone and with students and colleagues to improve the effort in the following ways.
  1. We'll begin the year with a focus on the TEAM in STEAM with activities, discussion, reading, and films.
  2. I'll better organize the Maker Station.
  3. During the summer, I'll make prototypes of some projects and organize a plan for the roll-out of the STEAM center efforts. I'll leave plenty of room in the roll-out for student voice, interest, and passions as well. 
  4. I may start a STEAM club to enlist the help of a small group of interested students to help me out with this effort one day after school each week. This will depend on the teaching/learning schedule and system-wide goals set. 
  5. I'll work with students to establish protocols for positive use of the Maker Station.
  6. Every student will have about one hour a week to work in the STEAM lab. We'll try to build in additional time as the year moves forward and as we integrate our learning in other subject areas with STEAM study.
  7. I'll incorporate the system-wide ideas and efforts into the classroom work as well. Our system is spending time this summer focusing on this work. 
  8. I want to incorporate our grade-level naturalist/ecosystem work into STEAM too. Our team plans to write a grant proposal to access funds to support this. 
I'll work away at the preparations during the summer days. If you have other thoughts or ideas for my work in this endeavor, please share. 

Dissecting Error

What was right in one decade, may be wrong in the next.

We evolve and so does our notion of error.

That is why continual inclusive discussion, communication, and collaboration in any family, organization, or system is essential. To keep up with evolving rules, language, expectations, and discipline, we need to keep communication open and and forthcoming. Questions such as who are we; what is our focus, and what expectations do we align ourselves with are essential to revisit often.

When there is error, it's important to dissect that error rather than react with blame, accusations, and rash reactions. Why did the error occur? What is the story behind the error? How can we remedy the situation without losing the possible good work and investment involved?

Error happens to individuals, families, systems, and organizations.

How we deal with error is what's important. Systems, organizations, families, and individuals can own error and move forward with greater knowledge and wisdom. They can dissect the error and rework established paths to work better with greater effect.

Error does not have to serve as an untreated sore, but instead can be a formidable part of one's foundation if dissected and dealt with well with truth, compassion, understanding, and positive next steps.

Working with one another with transparency, collaboration, best intent, and good effort will help us to stay clear of error that's difficult to unwind and amend. Yet we will still err as that's part of being human, and the way we dissect that error and learn from it will strengthen who we are and what we do.

When You Don't Understand

There are some areas of school life I don't understand well.

I've tried to interact with these areas to little success, yet I want to understand the details well to better my craft.

In the year ahead, while I focus on the mainstay of my position,  I'll make the time to observe these areas from afar. I'll listen, take notes, watch, reflect, and analyze. Then in a year's time, I'll think about what I noticed and how that might affect my craft in new and improved ways.

We won't always understand every detail of the work we do. There will be areas that lead us to question, observe, and wonder, and making the time for that investigation will help us to do our work with greater depth and care. Onward.

What is Your Role: Definition

What is your role as an educator?

Who defines that for you?

How do you clearly understand your role's expectations?

As an educator, my broad role is to serve students well and to work as part of the teaching/learning team.

My more specific role can be defined in many ways depending on the lens you use.

For students, they want me to lead and support them with warmth, new ideas, enjoyable efforts, lots of learning, and a friendly, caring class community.

Leaders want me to contribute to the goals outlined and their lead with regard to decisions, timelines, and focus.

Families want be to be responsive, caring, knowledgeable, kind, and effective in all that I do.

Colleagues want me to listen, respond, contribute, and collaborate with respect, kindness, and time.

My own family wants me to balance all of this with their needs and interests too.

Personally, I want to effectively teach by incorporating new research, ideas, and resources with tried-and-true traditional ideas and craft to teach each child in engaging and empowering ways as outlined in this Albemarle School District chart shared by Ira Socol.

Math Enrichment: Coding

SCRATCH is a favorite coding site. 
I had a large number of students who coded regularly. They created amazing games and improved those games regularly using code. When you looked behind the game at the coding, it was complex and amazing. They hungered to share their games and codes with each other in school and after school, and talked of their in-person and online share regularly.

These young mathematicians were meeting all the standards and more.

Next year I want to present these students with more time for coding and coding share--their effort and enthusiasm will be contagious to others who may be new to coding or just starting to code on a regular basis. I want to make more time for coding talk and play. It's possible that we'll be able to do this starting with RTI enrichment groups, during free time, and for specific projects for all. Also, I know that the computer lab teachers engage students in this work.

How do you employ coding in your elementary school? Who drives this effort and where and when do you make time for it? This is one area of learning, I'll think and learn more about in the weeks to come.

Teaching/Learning Rhythms

Throughout your teaching/learning life you'll employ different rhythms in order to teach well and attend to your personal life and family.

Yesterday a teacher who is also a dad shared that one of his at-school prep times is 5am on Sunday mornings. That's a routine that allows him to get his work done and still care for family. When I was a young mom, my husband came home early once a week so I could work late to prepare the week's work, clean up the classroom, and sometimes participate in a course or extra learning event. Teachers, who typically have a myriad of at-home and school schedules, get the work done with all kinds of routines, and this works well if you're cognizant of the need to create a good rhythm, one that serves you, your family, and work well.

It's also advantageous if the system you work for employs a rhythm too--an expected schedule that's presented at the end of the past year or start of the next that creates a framework for the year. The schedule might include professional learning days, school vacations, testing dates, special events, report dates, and if possible, the dates of important decisions such as teacher placement, summer work, and changes in school system practice or expectation.

Summer, a teacher's "think tank" time, is a good time to think about the best rhythm for your work in the school year to come. When will you learn? When will you respond to students' efforts? When will you contribute to the grade-level team, school team, and system-wide team? Will you participate in extra learning events, presentations, or conferences? You won't be able to plan for all and a flexible attitude towards new events is good, but if you can create a good rhythm for your own work you'll be off to a good start.

As for me, I overextended a bit this year so next year I'll try to strike a better balance with the work and learning schedule.

In general, I like my early morning think, read, write time. That serves my work well and I plan to keep that in place for most days.

I also enjoy contributing to the school by serving on a committee or possibly two. I'll work with my grade-level team in this regard so that one of us serves on each of the designated committees which include tech committee, child study, and faculty senate.

I want to leave plenty of time for our new team model which will include two PLCs--one for curriculum/data review and one for attention to specific learners and special education-general education collaboration. I also want to leave time for student response which will include a daily check-in of students' home study, follow up for students who are unable to study at home, and regular assessment review.

With school time left over, I'll work on special events for the grade level including field studies, big projects, and model review and revision.

It will be a year of leaning in to the grade level/school focus with a rhythm that supports good, positive energy and effort.

What will your teaching/learning rhythm look like next year? Where will your emphasis lie? Where do you want to build and develop your craft, and how do you want to contribute to the grade-level, school, and system? For those of us who have limitless jobs, these are good questions to consider during summer days.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On the Other Side of New Initiatives

A couple years ago I wrote a post that outlined the tremendous number of new initiatives on the teaching table, initiatives that included CCSS, a new teacher evaluation system, RETELL, tech reforms, a reconfiguration, and more.

It was a terribly busy time of change with plenty of disruption. It seems like we're on the other side of that change now and I must say that it feels good.

The changes have rooted in our systemwide service to children in ways that are successful and meet educator/student needs. It's not perfect, but we're definitely a long way from the upsetting start of so many initiatives at once.

What does this mean for the work we do?

It means that now it's time to deepen our efforts to serve children well and streamline the systems in place so that they serve the work we do well without overwhelming staff and students alike. It's a time of strengthening our sense of team with families, colleagues, students, leaders, and community members.

I'm sure next year will be filled with surprises, but I believe it will also be filled with work well done for the children we aim to serve every day. It feels good to be on the other side of so many initiatives.

Engage in Play with Students

A very playful colleague has been transferred to another school in our system. Teachers and students will miss this colleague. He's leaving big shoes, actually big sneakers, to fill. This colleague not only teaches the content very well, but he also teaches on the field as he engages students in terrific playground sports games daily.

Students look forward to his playful, leadership on the field every day at recess and they learn from his mentoring as well. 

What can we do to fill his shoes?

First, when thinking of school clothes, we'll have to wear more playful, sports clothes so we can engage in this healthy, recess activity.

Next, I'll have to get in shape this summer in order to keep up with our agile young students.

After that, I'll have to make a commitment to get in there and play the games at least once or twice a week. Perhaps as a team of teachers and assistants, we can each commit to a day or two of game play. The younger teachers on my team benefited from sports during their high school and college years so they can tutor me on all the rules related to these games.

Our teaching doesn't just happen on the classroom, it happens on the playground too. The more willing we are to get in there and lead by playing outdoor games with students, the more they'll learn from our leadership and our behavior on the field. 

Real World Learning: Field Studies and Expert Events

Over the past many years, I've delved deeper into the area of field studies and expert events. I want field studies to be deeper, more meaningful, and a regular part of a child's learning experience.

Real life learning is learning in the field and with experts, and giving students that skill allows them to experience learning in deeper and more meaningful ways.

When done well, field studies have a lasting, deep effect on a child's learning life.

The students in our school generally enjoy a large number of field studies and expert events each year. Our Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) sponsor culture events throughout the year. Those events typically include cultural presentations by experts in the arts.  Our local foundation, The Wayland Public School Foundation  (WPSF), and our PTO also sponsor visits by expert scientists, choreographers, lyricist, living history artists, and more. We work with the experts to create programs that match our students' learning goals, and we work with students to prepare them for the expert learning experiences.

Field studies, like expert visits, generally match the classroom learning goals. For example, we visit the Harvard Peabody Museum in Cambridge to learn about rocks and minerals and Maya/Inca history. We also visit Boston to learn about our nation's history, and local zoos and nature preserves to learn about ecosystems past and present as well as endangered species.

Field Studies require extra attention in order to do the work well. In this post, I present the structures that prepare students for positive field studies and expert events.

Make the time as an educator to know the field study location/information or expert well. Do the reading, visit the location ahead of time, or watch a related video. Then work with individuals who represent the field study location or expert visitor to craft a positive experience that matches your students' learning needs and interests.

Once you've done the preparation, work on accessing funds through local or broader resources such as PTO's, local foundations, national organizations, or via a student fee.

Make sure you have enough support. More chaperones are better than less as that way you have help if a problem such as an ill child or an emergency occurs. It's also best to train the chaperones in some way prior to the event so that they are well aware of the event's focus and connection to the students' learning goals and interests.

Student Behavior
Teach children how to behave in the specific venue. Help them to understand that different venues invite different kinds of behavior. For example if it's fun day at the High School fields they should bring lots of enthusiasm, excitement, and a readiness to move, yell, and play with vigor, but if you're attending a Symphony then there will be a different behavioral expectation with regard to the clothes they wear, the volume of their voices, and the way they show their appreciation to the artists. The more explicit your preparation work is for student behavior, the greater success you'll have on the trip.

Make sure that the event's agenda is clearly outlined and reviewed for students, chaperones, and educators involved.

Student Lists and Safety
Bring a complete list of student names and preferably their family phone numbers. Also bring a phone so that you can contact the school, authorities, or parents if necessary. Make sure that important numbers are quickly available on your phone. Bring students' medicines and a safety kit as well in a safety packet.

Lunches, Snacks, and Water
Think ahead about the kinds of food and water your students will need. Alert the cafeteria if you have students who receive lunch each day there so that cafeteria employees can make bag lunches for those students.

Generally it's best if students bring their own backpacks with needed supplies such as their lunches, water, snacks, and related learning materials. Make sure that every child has a backpack to use.

Learning Packets
Provide students with learning packets ahead of time. Keep the packets simple including a map, study protocol, biographies of important presenters, and learning focus questions or fill-in-the-blank sentences.

Post Trip Thank You Notes and Reflection
Make time for post trip reflections and thank you notes. Sending thank you notes will ensure a good welcome the next time your students experience a specific visitor or visit a special location. The reflections will help to solidify the learning for students and also help you as the educator to revise the trip or visit for even greater success the next time.

As we move to deeper learning experiences for our students, it's integral that we think deeply about all the elements that make up a terrific learning event. As I look over this list, I realize that we include most of these elements, but often the way I include them is rushed so with the year ahead in mind, I want to slow it down and deepen the wonderful experiences we sponsor for our students. Deepening the planning, execution, and follow-up reflections and thank-you notes will help students to truly appreciate and learn from these incredible, life enriching events.

"Learning Compounds"

I can usually count on Seth Godin to inspire me every morning. Today's Godin post made me think about the words "learning compounds."

A compound is made up of several parts or elements, and as a veteran teacher, I think of my professional work as a compound of years of classroom experience, courses, collegial mentoring, learning from students, reading good books, online share, and so on. With each year, the compound grows and I know more than before.

Since educators typically have so many different areas if knowledge and work in their "learning compounds," it's important to think about how you manage that knowledge to teach well. What do you do so that your work moves in a spiral rather than a repeating loop--how can you use all that knowledge to better your craft?

Grow Your Programs
Continue to develop your good work with reflection, study, and refinement. Keeping your work on a transparent website allows you to readily update as you learn and also invites the voices of others who see and use your work. That process of growing your work results in better service to children. For example, I continue to develop the Magnificent Math website to better serve my math students. This summer I'll read over many math lessons and efforts and continue to refine that site to serve my students and colleagues well.

Chart Your Questions
Be cognizant of your questions and take the time to write about and think about those questions. Sharing your quests welcomes response, and that response helps you to answer those questions by inviting responses, leading to experts, and providing a network for professional growth.

An open attitude and daily routine of learning also helps you to compound your learning in effective ways. Identify learning options that work well for you and access those options often. There are limitless online and offline ways to learn today. I suggest that you try out different learning venues and then commit to some that serve you well. Change up your learning course often as well so that you continue to challenge yourself with new voices and avenues of knowledge too.

Learn from Mistakes and Deficiencies
We will err as educators, and it is important to learn from those mistakes. The more you can dissect error and learn from your missteps, the more resilient and meaningful your work will be for yourself and others.

Compounding our learning is essential to teach and serve children well, and good process ensures that the compounding empowers our work and leads us in the right direction.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Everybody Gets a Turn

In classrooms with many students how do you make sure that everyone gets a turn? What strategies do you use?

There are many ways to fulfill this goal as an educator, and the first step is to be cognizant of the need for everyone to have time to voice their opinions, questions, and ideas.

Start the year with a conversation with the students that poses the question, "How can we make sure that everyone has a chance to speak up and be heard in this class?" Use the open circle format for the discussion and chart the responses.

Then come up with classroom protocols with the students.

Try out the protocols and refine as you go along.

Keep a list handy and chart who has a chance to speak and when. Make sure that everyone is heard on a regular basis when working with the whole group and in small groups.

Also make time for individual's voices during conferences, lunch meetings, and impromptu meetings.

When everyone gets a turn with regard to voice, choice, and response, you'll create a happy, inclusive classroom. This is a good focus for getting the new school year off to a good start.

Practice Collaboration and Community Skills

As I think ahead to next year, I want to solidify those student collaboration and community skills at the start of the year and then revisit regularly throughout the year.  Following Ruth Charney's advice in Teach Children to Care I will spend lots of time upfront practicing the skills that are necessary for a large number of students to learn together harmoniously each day.

This year's class got along great and worked with depth--their performance overall was incredible. The one area I want to finesse is the area of excitement and talking out--I definitely gave them voice, but perhaps could have worked a bit more on listening skills so that everyone's voice was heard especially at important moments.

Teaching is never a perfect science and there's always room for growth and betterment. By listing this goal upfront, I'll be sure to strengthen this area of my craft. Onward.

Students' Last Day

Time for a break!
Today was the last day for students.

It was a well planned day that included fun at the high school fields, a pizza picnic, a clap-out, and then a parents' sponsored party for the students.

The whole year, overall, was well planned and well executed.

There are a few areas I'd like to shore up and improve upon in the year ahead, but for now it's time to do the final cleaning and take a few weeks off to rest up and take care of family. Onward!

Math Year 2015-2016

7/7/15 Note: An updated version of this post can be found via this link.

This summer, I'll spend a significant amount of time organizing the math year ahead. I'll create a list of new and old math lessons that I'll employ to teach the CCSS and system-wide math curriculum.

To understand my approach, it's important for you to realize that I think of learning as a shared conversation between teachers and students--it's a give-and-take process where we present, discuss, try-out, review, revise, assess, and move forward.

I want the study to be meaningful and relevant as well as differentiated with plenty of student choice and voice as we journey the blended curriculum approach.

The teaching year actually already started during the clean-up and move-up day efforts:
And attention to early year routines and lessons:
The first set of lessons will introduce students to many math tools as we share the numbers that define us. After that we'll study the history of math and delve into important math vocabulary, properties, and process as we study numbers 0-13

The charts we collectively make during this introductory period will serve us well as we begin the scope and sequence with a focus on place value and computation with whole numbers.

In the meantime, math skills lab practice will help students solidify math model/concept knowledge with Symphony Math, fact skills with Xtra Math, and review of CCSS concepts learned with TenMarks and Khan Academy. These online resources in addition to Khan Coding and SCRATCH also offer plenty of enrichment for those students who are ready to progress in this way.

Also, our STEAM lab activities will begin with opportunities for students to deepen math knowledge through hands-on activities related to measurement and geometry.

I will update this post as the preparation continues. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any ideas to add. 

Starting the Year with Your Numbers: Journal #3

Photo Credit
I've been thinking about the ways that I'll invite students into the math curriculum next year. I want students to enjoy the number work we'll do, and I know that if I start by connecting numbers to students' lives that will bring our math learning relevance and meaning.

So after the initial lesson about routines and the worth of your name, we'll move on to learning about each math tool in the class with numbers related to students' lives.

On or around day three, we'll focus on birthdays. For most of us, especially children, birth dates are special numbers. As we focus on birthdays, we'll focus on the following math tools and structures:
  • proper use of calculators
  • line plots
  • bar graphs
  • number patterns and charts
First, we'll make a line plot as a class which identifies the month of each individual's birthday. Then we'll analyze the plot. After that we'll convert the line plot to a bar graph and stem and leaf plot. We'll hang those graphs up in the classroom for future reference.

After that we'll review calculator use and each child will have the chance to calculate their age in days, minutes, and possibly even seconds. Students will record those numbers in their journals for future use.

For homework students will review the lesson with this journal page. The next day some students will start by sharing their journal pages while others decorate cakes for our class birthday pictograph. We'll then move onto other relative data and new math tools. 

Beginning the year with meaningful data helps students to get to know one another while also reviewing essential math concepts, skills, and tools. This will set the stage for our second main study which will be an in-depth review of the numbers 0-12 and related math vocabulary. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Credit Others

In this fast pace world of information share, it may be that one doesn't remember where he or she originally got a good idea. Yet, as much as possible, it's a professional courtesy and responsibility to credit others for their good ideas.

I was reminded of this recently when I noticed someone share an idea as if it were their own when I knew the history of the idea and the individual whose perseverance and good research led to the idea in the first place. It would not have taken much for the one who shared the idea to credit the individual who introduced the good resource and effort in the first place

Moving Beyond a Painful Professional Event

As you know, if you read my blog, last year I encountered a very painful event.

After significant frustration in an area of professional work, I raised my voice and offered my opinions in a conversation with a colleague. I was challenged for raising my voice and offering my opinions with a significant, harsh response. Also my professional emails were scrutinized which is the right of leaders in most organizations. Thankfully, when I write, I always write with the notion that my emails could at any time be front page news. I later apologized in writing for raising my voice and my lawyer noted that I was allowed to share my opinion.

I also used the event as an opportunity to study and develop my communication and collaboration skills which I've done and continue to do so. I must say that the event was so surprising and challenging that I wake up many a day still thinking about what occurred and trying to piece all the elements together into a complete story.

What I do know is that I raised my voice and shared opinion, and what I've learned is don't raise your voice (unless it is an emergency and a raised voice is essential) and when you share your opinion, share it in a way that is understandable to others. The debate that occurred had to do with the process and use of technology with regard to teaching children.

I hesitate to continue to share this blemish, but the more transparent I am, the better I am able to move beyond the event which is now a bit more than one year past. Also, with regard to the people involved in the event, many have moved forward with me to more promising and positive collaboration and effort. This has been good and has served to illustrate that when we learn from our errors, we become better at what we do and who we are.

In our professional lives we will face great challenge at times, and we will also be there when our colleagues face great challenges. We will do well if we are compassionate with ourselves and our colleagues at these times moving in the direction of supporting one another, learning from error, becoming better at what we do, and focusing in on the children and families we serve. Those who were compassionate and caring towards me have helped me to move forward, and I am grateful for their care. In the future, I hope that I can do the same for others. Onward.

Team Talk

When leaders address the staff as part of the team, investment grows.

But when leaders address the staff as followers, investment wanes.

The same is true for educators. When we address families, students, colleagues, and community members as part of the team, contribution and collaboration abound.

Team talk is inclusive, transparent, consistent, and welcoming. Team talk knows that no one has all the answers and no one is without important insight and ideas.

I will think more about this as I help to develop and contribute to teams online and off.

Opportunity Missed

I stepped down from a teaching/learning opportunity recently.

I was very excited about taking part in this effort, but when my work was backlogged to such a great degree due to a snag in the teaching/learning path, I simply didn't have the time to follow-through with the creativity and attention I believe in. When I contribute, I like to contribute with care and depth.

This is not the first time I've stepped down from this particular event. I had to step down one time due to family matters and another time due to a similar issue as this year.

As professionals we can only push ourselves so far. We have to continually make decisions about how we invest our time and effort into our profession as the work is limitless.

Yet, when I commit, I like to follow through.

In hindsight, what could make a difference in this regard?

First, it's important for those we work with to be cognizant of educators' need for lead time with regard to professional responsibilities and tasks. Teachers like me who balance family needs with professional needs profit from lead time so that we can do our best job by our children at home and our children at school. When decisions and response are late in coming, we are compromised with regard to doing our best work.

Next, if our work is regarded well, it would help to have voice with regard to professional events and preparation. For example, if I was given time on task to do the work to prepare for the professional event, I would have been able to do it, but unfortunately, I needed all the left over time I had in school and on my own time to complete end-of-year tasks that are important to my students this year and my students next year leaving little to no time to do the extra work needed.

I will miss out on the information shared, but I've done a lot of reading and research in those areas so I feel that I will not be missing out on too much. Plus I can access some of that information via the Internet.

I do like to be part of the teaching/learning team. I like to contribute and I like to learn with my colleagues. I'm sorry to miss this learning/teaching opportunity, but as noted before, we can't be superhuman or do all things, and sometimes it's in the best interests of our teaching/learning team and ourselves to step down from one opportunity to attend to another. Onward.

Building Team: Move Up Day Response

I checked the math accounts we set up prior to move-up day to notice that one child has already signed on for summer study.

This is exactly why we provide study suggestions and links in the move-up letter. We want to give those students who desire greater learning and study a path to those learning opportunities.

I've already received one email from next year's parents--an email with an important note about a minor change to the child's file information. I can easily make that change right away which will help to set the stage for that child's positive transition to fifth grade next fall.

Keeping families, colleagues, and students in the loop of information, plans, and opportunities before, during, and right after the teaching year allows the teaching/learning team to grow with strength and process.

The little bit of extra work upfront pays off in dividends with regard to the happiness, success, and progress possible.

Math Homework Expectations: Journal Page One

Students in fifth grade at our school are expected to complete approximately 60 minutes of homework each night. That includes 30 minutes of math and 30 minutes of reading and writing.

A recent assessment of student progress demonstrated that students who struggled had difficulty completing homework since the homework last year was difficult to complete on their own and there wasn't a good structure for homework support or check-in that met those students' needs. To remedy that, I'm creating a much more accessible homework pattern with check-ins.

As noted previously, students will follow a similar starting and ending routine for each math lesson, and homework will take on a similar journal page model. Today I created the Day One Homework Page. I'm sure I'll review and revise the pages as I get to know my students well.

Further, when students come in the next day some will share their journal page while others make a number name card. We'll hang the name cards up in numerical order from the card with the lowest value to the card with the highest value as one way to begin our place value study. After that students will have the chance to work together to identify words worth 100. In the end, we'll talk about the strategies used to solve that problem. Students will complete and create number patterns for their home study practice.

Math Journal Home Study
Learning Focus: Computation/Fact Practice
Time: 30 minutes total expected
Assignment: Complete the assignment on the front of this page and spend ten minutes practicing skills with one of the following options. Check which options you used to practice.

Xtra Math 🔽
Khan Academy  🔽 What level did you practice? _______________________________
Math Games 🔽 What game did you play?____________________________________
Practice facts in fact practice booklet. 🔽
Enrichment (on back of page): Using the alphabet/number chart, how many words can you make that are equal to 100.

Complete the Alphabet/Number Chart below.



















Write each letter of your first name in the boxes below. Then write the value of each letter from the alphabet/number chart above. After that add up the value of your first name.

First Name Value: _____________

Enrichment (Optional)

What is the value of your last name?

Last Name Value: _____________

What is the value of your homeroom teacher’s last name?

Homeroom teacher’s last name value: _____________

How many words can you think of that are equal to exactly 100 or close to 100.

Value: _____________

Value: _____________

Explain how you found words equal to or close to 100?

Did you spend extra time practicing skills online? Yes _____ No ____