Monday, October 16, 2017

Discovering Responsible Use of Technology- Make those Mistakes!

During social studies students are working on creating a timeline of an ancient culture (Mayan, Inca, or Aztec) in Google Draw. Working with 7-8 students can present a challenge, especially when they are all on the same document! I have watched these groups evolve over the course of a few social studies classes and wanted to share some of my observations of our successes and what we need to work on.

  • Many students knew what a timeline was and got to work creating it.
  • Students used the comment feature to communicate with one another when they felt they were not being heard.
  • Students grabbed images to support their words on the timeline.

Need to Work On
  • Using the comment boxes for educational purposes only. Saying, “Hey WHAZZZZZ UP!” is not an appropriate use of the comment box.
  • Talking to classmates BEFORE deleting work individuals do not agree with. Students need to learn to politely discuss things when they disagree rather just simply erase it.
  • Planning the work before jumping into Google Draw. This will help with time management.

Towards the end of today I heard a group breaking up into committees. Sharing the word and distributing it equally among group members is a wonderful solution to collaborative work. Once I announced this to the class I heard another group deciding who would do what. We talked as a class about how this one learning experience is teaching us all so much about being an individual member and contributing to a group.

They are also learning what our Responsible Use Policy truly means. I invite them to make these mistakes so we can discuss them. It are these moments students are discovering how to be a responsible user of technology.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Need to Keep on Reading

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending an event with Jack Gantos, Jeff Kinney, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jon Sciesczka, and the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene LuenYang. These talented authors spent some time talking to a group of educators and parents about how to get boys reading and keep reading. They shared that adults should be role models for this, reading with and in front of children.

Hearing how each author wrote or drew as a young child was empowering. I learned that without Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing there would be no Greg Heffley in the Wimpy Kid books. Jarrett shared a memory of having Jack come into his school to speak, and the audience felt the bromance moment as these two authors connected as a mentor and mentee. Jon told us stories of growing up, which had some influence in his writing.

I left the event feeling encouraged! Students need to read, and they can read any material. I wish I had teachers who let me choose the books I wanted to read or allowed me to read cartoons and graphic novels in elementary school. Therefore I have changed our reading homework to say READ instead of read for 20 minutes. Who am I to tell students when to read and how long to read for? This should be their choice. I hope students develop a love of reading, and choose to read a variety of books in our classroom library.

Books are food for the soul. I will never forget this evening, as I was able to laugh, live, and learn with these gentlemen. I hope boys and girls pick up books with both female and male protagonists. There is no such thing as girl or boy books. In my mind, there are just books- adventures to be shared with our young readers. Others might choose to read poetry, non-fiction, newspapers, online articles, etc. The printed word helps us grow! The message from my special evening was powerful- that we need to keep reading!

Jon, Gene, Jarrett, Jack, and Jeff are like the new Beatles for authors. 

Two literary heroes (Jarrett and Jack)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How Far Would You Walk for Water?

Two big questions drove our kick off for the Global Read Aloud literature circle work: Can a children’s book change the world? and How far would you walk for water? We spent some time hearing from Linda Sue Park, author of A Long Walk to Water. Her words captured a story of bravery, compassion, and strife beyond what many of our students hopefully will ever have to face.

Students learned about life in Sudan, being plagued by Civil Wars. Using Google Earth and Google Street View we paid a visit to Sudan. Students captured the differences in our location and Sudan using vivid words. Being able to bring the world to our classroom makes stories come alive to students.

We know there are two protagonists, Salva and Nya, whose stories are told decades apart yet connect somehow. Students discovered both characters had a long walk to get water, and once they found their drinking oasis it was not clean. They learned about why people in Sudan were fighting and had empathy for those living there.

Students were engaged from the minute we started reading. I firmly believe you hook readers with the presentation of a book. It is in the voice used for characters, background knowledge discussed, and connections made. After finishing one chapter no one wanted to stop. The groaning sound students make when told to put books away was music to my ears.

We learned it is the readers who change the world not the story. The words can inspire us to act. Students also discussed how they did not want to walk far for water. They are lucky they can walk to the fountain in our classroom or a sink in their home or get a bottle of water from a store or fill a glass from their refrigerator. How long would you be willing to walk for water?

Watch this UNICEF video to decide the answer to that question! 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Imagine You Are the Only One in the World To Do Something: Our Maiden Blogging Voyage

Students started learning about their blogging voyage during our writing block. They helped me craft the blog post below, editing and revising the writing. They discovered they could choose a topic of interest and write! Several learned about how to use word count to keep their blog succinct and insert hyperlinks into their blogs to enhance their piece. I modeled how to create a blog post based off some of our class discussions about my cousin Eric.

Imagine you are the only one in the world to do something. My cousin, Eric Freedman, knows what this feels like. He is a rare gem. He won the coveted Shipley Award, given to one gemologist in the world each year, in 1992. His work, including being past President of the American Gem Society which when founded were the elite members of Gemological Institute of AmericaThis led him on an exciting journey.

            Eric was a jeweler in New York that was lucky enough to be the one person in the world to appraise the hope diamond. The diamond weighs 45.52 carats and is currently housed in the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Though he will never tell his secrets of how much the diamond was worth, he was the man who put a price tag on the most famous diamond in the world.

            Eric was also known to go with Diane Sawyer of Primetime Live, doing segments about gems. They worked together, sometimes in disguise, to figure out if jewelers were selling synthetic gems versus genuine gems. They used a microscope and a special solution. View another video here! What you might find will shock you! Sometimes the gem’s color would disappear right before their eyes!

            Cousin Eric also worked with pearls. I learned from the video you could put the pearl in your mouth. Then you rub it against your tooth! You want to see if it feels gritty. If it is gritty this is good! Some of you might be running to your jewelry box now to check the quality of your gems. He also evaluated the entire worldwide inventory of Tiffany and appraised the 128.54 ct. Tiffany diamond. 

            I am proud of my cousin and his work. I have learned a lot about gemology from him. I do often wonder if he realizes the scope of being the only person in the world to do something. He even set a world’s record for the distance traveled in a water filled cave (no air pockets), diving 15,680 feet in 11 hours underwater with friend of his. He is a shining example of what happens when you follow your passions.

Hope Diamondf.jpg

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Building My Own Math Mindset

This year I decided to go on an odyssey in math and so far the journey has been rewarding. Going from whole class lessons and students working in partners to a guided math model has been much smoother than expected. Students start the math lesson reviewing the concept from the day before and then either does a number talk, notice and wonder, or my favorite no (a tip I picked up when trying to make students’ thinking visible) all together. This introduces the concept before we break into three groups.

Students have been working on building their mind mindset, creating math memes and discussing what it means to grow as a math thinker. At the next station students play a math game (either online or face to face) or solve a word problem. Sometimes they work with whiteboard practicing problems, creating their own problem, or delve into the world of mathematicians. With me we are diving into the common core standards, practicing math concepts in a small group setting.

 I have been truly enjoying these math conversations I am having with students. I am able to better get to know individuals as math thinkers. I can see where their strengths and struggles lay and build on individual skills to guide them towards mastery. Breaking down lessons into two days to really deepen understanding has proven to be beneficial too. Student confidence is starting to increase. They are more likely to share their thoughts, take a risk, make mistakes, and talk math with seven students versus 22. 

One thing noticeably missing are those speed drills and homework with a whole lot of practice problems. I felt it more important to have students process through their math, reflect on their math thinking, build strategies that work for them, and see math for all its beauty. After all, math is everywhere we look!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What do Scientists Look Like?

What does a scientist look like? We kicked off our science lesson drawing sketches that answered this question. Students had diverse responses ranging from a male with crazy hair, a lab coat, and goggles to themselves.  Students mentioned tools like beakers, test tubes, and chemicals. Words like experiments and predictions were also discussed. Many of our students’ pictures of what a scientist looked like were similar. One student shared her relatives were scientists and they look like us. Another student told us she was a scientist.

We watched a short Ted Talk about our exact conversation, discovering more about scientists and their work. Then I asked students to write down what a scientist is. The conversation shifted to a person who is curious, makes discoveries, tests things, takes risks, and could be like us. Reshaping the question changed the dynamic of the discussion.

On Friday our class will be Skyping with scientist! His name is Filipe, and he works for the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland. Filipe studies "Biodiversity conservation." He currently creates small virtual ecosystems to aid him in predicting which species might fall into extinction in the near future, so that we know (as a global society) with more certainty how to invest our money into conservation. He is an adept of organisms that are often under-represented in science and conservation, and that often includes insects, mites, and springtails.

Students had time to write down questions and many wanted to know what a springtail was! I look forward to removing stereotypes, bringing science to life and showing how we are all scientists every day!

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Internet Minute: Stats Over the Years

 The Older version of the Internet Minute

I remember when this original image came out, and I was stunned at some of the figures of what happens in an Internet minute; however, when the 2016 image was released I laughed. I was not surprised to see Google search has grown by 4 million as this is part of our life. This is why I teach like Google exists. Think about what we would do if Google did not exist?  If a student asks me a question that Google can answer, that is where I sent them. Our young minds need to learn to use this tool in an effective and efficient way. 

Twitter continued to jump as well, and I can say when the original image came out I was not a Twitter believer and now I cannot imagine my life without it. It is used to reach out to colleagues to get ideas, some who I have never even met! It connects my classroom community to experts. It validates student work. Twitter has also become a tool for my students to share what they are doing, have discussions about books, and seek answers to questions Google and their teacher cannot answer. 

Social media apps had huge growth. Check out the Snapchat facts! 104 thousand to 1.8 million! Snapchat is how we reach people these days- the jump in snaps created is proof of that. Filters on snapchat are the new form of advertisement. 

Go and ask students today if they are on Facebook or Instagram and many will tell you Instagram. I have been told Facebook is for people in their 40s by students. It is also a great tool to form groups where whole towns can ask questions in an easy format whereas Instagram is where the students build their community. I am still not sure what is so amazing about a picture of breakfast or the duck face over and over again, but our younger generation loves these photos so we need to be appreciative of that. I also am aware some students use Instagram to learn more about photography and show off their unique style. I do hope these students are learning how to use these tools in positive ways to spread messages. 

In an Internet minute a lot of powerful things can happen. Things are also changing. Netflix was added to the circle. Streaming movies is making way for new technologies as we said goodbye to the VHS player this year. Soon our students will not know what a VHS tape is. Show them a floppy disk and see what they think it is! Tinder swipes continue to increase too, showing the power of people connecting and meeting. Of course You Tube use has doubled! This shows how much has changed in a few years. Imagine what will be in 2018? Maybe one of your students will create something we can do on the Internet in a minute. I would swipe right to that!  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

There is No Such Thing as a Math Person

I have been teaching math for as long as I can remember. When I student taught my mentor teacher, Mrs. Jenkins from the CP Smith School in Burlington, handed me her MathLand teacher guide on day 2 and said I was ready. Nerves filled me to my inner core. I never took a how to teach elementary math class at UVM because I placed out of it since I took Calculus my freshman year. Mrs. Jenkins believed in me, so I believed in myself. I worked hard to find ways to reach all students, whether it was drawing race cars with headlights to teach multiplication, acting out a Valentine’s Day Problem, or creating a math geometry book.

When I graduated I felt confident enough to share my love of math with students. I have seen students disheartened because they were not math people.  They were slower than their peers and problems were frustrating.  I have heard parents tell me they did like math or did not get it growing up either so they are no help to their child. I am here to tell you there is no such thing as a math person.

Over the summer I read Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler, and that book opened my mind to a new way of teaching math. We have started our math program by diving into the world of understanding our brains, how they grow, and the power of having a mathematical mindset instead of jumping into Envisions.

I started our lesson today asking students to think about math class and write down what comes to mind. Using a padlet wall I was able to capture their thinking of those students who wanted to share their ideas. Students love math, found it boring, and were frustrated by the way it has been presented to them.

I shared a true story about my seventh grade math experience. I was placed in math 2 (remember tracking?) and on the first day of school was given a pre test. I BOMBED it. I could not understand who gives a math test the first day of school. That one test scarred my math career in Sharon for life. My teacher decided to move me to math 4 because without talking to me she assumed I did not belong in math 2. I was always a year in math class behind my classmates. When I got to high school I wanted to take honors classes and had to advocate taking them since they were not with my peers. Needless to say I was granted my wish and as a junior took honors algebra 2 with freshman. This was humbling but something I carry with me every year. I truly understood the power of a mathematical mindset then, but did not know at the time.

We watched a video to better understand our minds when it comes to math and ways to think about approaching math.

Students discussed things they learned about the brain. They did not know mistakes cause their brain to grow. They discovered we have synapses and every time you learn something you get a new one. We even heard about a person whose brain grew back! Their minds were opened to a whole new way of thinking. I then asked them to think about the comment below.

Who said you have to be a GENIUS to learn math? Let me break the news to you. YOU DO NOT need to be a genius to learn math. TRUST ME! Now that is a genius idea.

We read a story about a Chinese migrant worker who, with no professional math training, solved a complex math problem that amazed mathematicians around the world! (We did discuss how CNN was a great source to use as it is important to always check the source.) Tomorrow we will be creating math memes about how students want to feel about math this year and how they can accomplish this. Students are going to work on building their mindset around math over the course of the next few days. I look forward to growing and learning with your math student. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Breaking Out: Getting The Ticket to Learning

Asking students what they can break out of hooked them into our math lesson today. We discussed skills one would need to break out of something and why people break out of places too. This kicked off our first Breakout EDU activity.

Thanks to Patti Harju for creating our class Breakout activity, Oh The Places You’ll Go. Students were told the following:

We have an awesome year ahead of us, and I am so excited to get started! I have our Ticket to Learning for this year all ready to go, however I locked it in the box for safe keeping and I forgot the combinations to the locks. I did leave clues to the combinations in the room, and I know you can help me figure them out. However if we do not figure it out and unlock the box in 45 minutes, we will need to use last Year's Ticket to Learning instead, and well, that wouldn't be anything new.  So do your best thinking, work together, communicate and open the boxes so we can get our Ticket and Go Places this year!

They were given several clues to use to help figure out the lock combinations. Using maps, longitude and latitude lines, an alphabet code, plane tickets, and a flashlight they worked as a class to figure out how to get their ticket to learning. Our class successfully broke out in under the allotted 45 minutes. Squeals of joy were heard when the last lock was opened.

We reflected on the process as a class. Students shared their communication skills were great. They also told me they were able to read things and figure out codes. Our class decided we needed to work on team work and sharing ideas with a group.
Students learned such valuable life skills today in our activity. They are already looking forward to the next one!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Day of Firsts

Even though this is my 18th year of teaching it often feels like my first year, as I try new things to create an exciting learning environment for our students. This morning I introduced a new part of our morning routine, asking students to respond to a reflection question. Students wrote down what qualities he or she expected in a teacher. Discussing these qualities students shared with each individual child was a great way to connect and work on building our relationship. Many wanted teachers who were nice, funny, helpful, and had patience. Others wanted someone who was brave. I told each student if I did not live up to his or her expectation to please let me know. This is what makes me a better teacher!

We began our learning about our reading block today, discussing sustained silent reading (SSR). Our class discussed why people read, watching a great video of all different students sharing their story.

We also heard about Malcolm Mitchell’s experience with a book club.

After watching these videos and discussing why people read, students got to choose a book they wanted to read. I told them about the 5 Finger Rule of how to tell if a book is easy, just right, or challenging. Students took the 5 Finger Rule test and many were surprised to find the books they were reading were easy or just right for them. Students can read easy books or just right books. However when they choose books that are too challenging or always choosing books that are too easy, they are not growing as readers. I hope to explore all kinds of books with our students this year.

If you are on our class social media accounts you might have seen our first #postivesignthursday photos that were taken of students who had parent permission to be posted. This is one of the things I love most about Thursday! This simple photo is so powerful. We work to spread positive messages to our followers! 
Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing

We also spent some time discussing the district’s Responsible Use Policy. Using the K-7 Guidelines students began to understand what it means to be a responsible user of our technology. When your child comes home with this document I highly encourage you to discuss it with him or her. One of the most important things we talked about was T.H.I.N.K. before you post!

Opening student’s minds to how we use technology and what it means when we communicate with others using these tools is a vital lesson. Tomorrow our class will be doing our first Breakout EDU. I am excited to see how this learning experience encourages students to work together to solve a problem!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Running Back to School Tomorrow

The big question for today was how I create an atmosphere where students want to come back tomorrow. At the end of today I asked who would be returning and all students said yes. Our first day was not one where students sat at desks and listened to rules and routines all day. Students can choose where they want to sit in our classroom. Some students were standing at tables; others chose to sit at tables. Several were on the floor using small stools.

Students discovered they can have snack at their own choosing (except when near a hard cover book, tech tools, or someone is giving directions), gum chewing is allowed as long as it is not a distraction and does not end up on furniture, and they can go to the bathroom before and after lunch without asking.

Many marveled at all the choices and others were overwhelmed with having the freedom to make those choices. We work diligently the first few weeks of school building relationships and community.

Students received their agent numbers today, and these numbers chose them. Think about Harry Potter and his sorting hat if you have read the movies or seen the book. Each child comes up to the agent sorting mug and chose a stick. Some were anxiously waiting for the number that popped out. We read over our classroom creed, which was a powerful experience. I love discussing each item with students as they begin to ponder where they fit into our classroom and the universe.

Students got a tour of our classroom, discovering our room jobs and reading corner. We also saw we have a bothering box and smile o gram box. The bothering box is for students to write down problems they are having (they can email me too), and the smile o gram box is a place for compliment writing when we catch classmates doing something nice. We reviewed classroom guidelines and consequences. Click here to see what we discussed.

We came together following lunch for our first read aloud - Everyone Poops and The Gas We Pass. We then had a serious conversation about bathroom etiquette, as well as what to do when you have to pass gas in school. The words excuse me are great and the rest of us continue with whatever we are working on. There is no need to laugh or wonder where it came from.  Students can also use the bathroom in the nurse should they have to go and want to be in a more private space. Tomorrow students will hear The Holes in Your Nose. 

Students created shelf markers for our library. They are allowed to take out two books to leave in their book boxes and also have a classroom library card to take 1 book home. Please make sure your child returns the book when he or she is finished. If you ever need book suggestions please do not hesitate to ask. Students received a whole lot of materials too! Everything your child should need was provided to him or her.  

We had to activities today to create our hallway bulletin boards. The first asked students to create a visible selfie. You might be wondering what that means. Click here to learn more! We did some goal setting and discussed what it means to be successful in school. We created paper tweets of our goals, learning about how many characters Twitter actually allows. They learned about their agent hashtags and began to see social media as a tool to connect with others and enrich their lives.  I hope they all reach their goals by June! Thank you for sharing your most precious gift with me and welcoming me into your lives. I look forward to seeing all our agents tomorrow. 

Photo taken from Creative Commons