Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Reflecting and Planning Tools for Math Workshop

Days after the 4th of July and I am starting to think school.  I know, it seems early but I hate to be overwhelmed come August.  So, I've been thinking about the tools that are most helpful for math workshop. Today I am taking inventory of what I have ready for math workshop as I reflect and  research a bit about how I can introduce and talk through these tools more effectively.

Number Line
My kids learned so much playing with dry erase number lines last year.  I used the game Guess My Number to talk with my students about numbers and ordering them on a line.  After we played together as a group they were off to play with partners.  We used this game throughout the year while trying larger numbers (through 120), using specific math vocabulary like more, less, greater,  and less than.

Ten Frames
Another tool that my students relied on was the 10 (5 frame first then 10 and we used 20)  frames. Having a set of 25 laminated of each made it easy for kids to grab when they were solving a problem or for me to grab and place with other supplies to create  a game.  Grow and Shrink (video below) from Mininlessons for Math Practice  was the best for helping my kids not only practicing images for numbers but also taught them what addition and subtraction meant as they learned Grow and Shrink.


100 charts
The 100 chart was also a go to tool for may students and much of the work we did building the 100 chart, helped them to begin to understand how numbers are organized, how to notice patterns in those numbers, add more/less and later to think more about using it as a tool for adding 10 more and subtracting 10 less.  They enjoyed lots of openers "being" the numbers in our larger 100 chart we have in our room.

I have a great class set of rekenreks and have tried introducing them in different ways and allowing kids to explore them but my kids don't come back to them as often.  I have been researching some  ideas for how to introduce and incorporate them. I've learned a few things I'll try after reading through activities in the previous link. Some of the language and prompts I like are:
What do you notice about the rekenrek?
Think first about how you will move 6 beads in one move, 2 moves,etc.  Can you share that thinking?
How would you draw your rekenrek to prove your thinking?
How is the rekenrek like the 5 frame, 10 frame, 20 frame? How is it different?
Objects for Counting 
Annie counting cotton balls
Kids need lots of different trinkets and manipulatives for counting. Owning beads, buttons, stones, unifix cubes, tiny animals and any small inviting toy that they can count (they love counting legos too) helps them build practice counting, skip counting and building numbers and measuring with these non-standard items.

Number Balance: This year I bought a number balance when introducing the game: Equal Values from Well Played K-2. It was a great buy and started so many conversations and discoveries about the meaning of the equal sign.  I need to remember to pull it out as one of the tools we explore in the first few weeks of school and not just when we play the game later this upcoming year.

The geometry standard for first grade includes composing 2D shapes and noticing their attributes as well as partitioning rectangles and shapes in 2 and 4 equal parts. Geoboards allow kids to do this so easily. Kids love to use the rubber bands and make pictures thinking about shapes too!

Our students are learning what shapes are, how to build a shape from smaller shapes and are thinking about how shapes are the same and different.  They also can be creative and build lots of their own ideas from geoblocks. These are a versatile tool for kids creating and thinking during math.

Tens and Ones
Place value can be one of the harder concepts for my kids to grasp when we pull out the tens and the ones.  Each year it takes lots of time talking, experimenting, talking and thinking about place value for our kids to grasp it.    In first grade, students are building on their understanding of the connection between numerals, words, and quantities. They also move to a deeper understanding, where two digit numbers are composed of bundles of tens and leftovers.

Other tools that come in handy.... 
Dice, number cards, spinners, plastic containers, and zipper bags are all good to have on hand when you are ready to throw a game together.

Thinking back on all these tools has helped me plan and learn from last years kids.  (Thanks for your was a little long)! What tools do your students use that have been successful?  Are there digital math tools or apps that your kids come back to when learning or solving problems?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Celebrating Their Whispers

On a cool morning in late April, my students and I sat crisscrossed on the carpet looking up to our whiteboard at the first few pages of The Empty Lot by JimArnosky.  We took time noticing and thinking about the book online using the amazon preview page. Here we could zoom in and out of the printed text. I read through the first few pages because we were expecting a visitor (from our county’s soil and water conservation) who would be walking us through an interactive retelling of this story about caring for the earth.  As we previewed this book, I clicked page by page.  When the very first page of text only was projected on the board, I felt a little tug and whisper in my ear from Jin.  “Where pictures Mrs. DiCesare?” he said.  I assured him right away that the next page would have pictures and I knew the other side of the two page spread was a click away.  I hadn’t considered that reading this preview online would not be as supportive for Jin and possibly many of the other students in my room.  My first grade students use illustrations or photographs with text to support their understanding when being read to.  They rely on visuals to help support conversations we have when talking and thinking together.  Many of my students are practicing not only to think about stories but also learning a new language at the same time.   I started to thinking about how Jin’s quiet whisper and tug reminds me to pay attention. How many times do my students ask a question or do something that has me wondering what I might do to help clarify or simplify my teaching? My mind returned to other moments and whispers that my students gifted me this year. For me they are moments to celebrate what I can learn as I listen to them. These are a few I'm thinking about a few this summer to help me set some goals for next fall.

1. Creating Space for Collaborative Inquiry, Creating and Play
When Tomoyasu and many of the boys began eating the paper pizzas they created when playing with fractions, I knew I had to find a space in my classroom where we will work collaboratively to create, inquire and play. Darla Myers blogs at Inquiring Minds and I've been learning so much from her posts this year. Her Dinosaur Museum Project helped me see how using students and their questions can be powerful learning in the classroom. Her post about how she implements inquiry based learning was also very helpful. These posts as well as Purposeful Play by Mraz, Porcelli and Tyler is also helping me gather ideas for next year.
2. More Digital Mentorship
I realized, after my first grade student, Catelyn wrote a song about the book Beekle during wonder workshop, that I wanted place more emphasis on my kids identifying, knowing and and studying authors who create digitally.  The work of Emily Arrow (a children’s song writer, picture book lover and performer) has inspired her this year. She’s followed her on you tube and accessed her videos almost daily on our webpage.  Knowing this is challenging me to think about authors who create digitally- and I'm asking myself...  who to connect with, what do they make how do they make it. 

3. Celebrating and Highlighting Student Mentors
Lisa Cleveland's new book: More About the Authors has been what I needed after feeling a little stale about how writing workshop went this past year. She asks us to think more about mentorship in every study we engage in stating every study is about finding authors and illustrators. She also has an entire chapter written about student mentors and says 5-6 year olds are the best mentors you can have in a Kindergarten writing workshop. I kept nodding my head in agreement as I read her book. I thought back to the many moments my students shared their pieces this year. Their energy and learning created our community of writers. I also thought back the many writers I have taught over the years and came across two writers that I'm going to use alongside the adult writers we study in our classroom. The first is Akari (who will be in second grade this school year) and wasn't afraid to take time crafting her writing. She has a number of paper books (titled May and All About Me) that I'll be sharing after introducing her. She also has a blogpost called Sisters and a digital book, Turtles that will allow us to notice much about her writing. The next is JJ who is entering 5th grade next year. JJ created using his favorite topic (Skylanders) across genres when he was in first grade. He enjoyed creating and illustrating digitally. After introducing JJ, I'll be showing my kids his toy review for Skylanders, a brief blogpost about Skylanders where we can see how questions help writers think and write more, and his How to Draw Stump Smash (a Skylander). 

Each year, my students give me and our classroom little moments that are worth celebrating. Sometimes kids share and we celebrate at any moment during the day.  And other moments I take in and think about how I can learn from their questions and creations. There's no doubt that these tugs and whispers are what keep me thinking and listening to them and that is my most important work with my students.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Holding On To Little Things

I've forgotten how rewarding yet hard the first few weeks of school can be.  I forget every year. Maybe because the learning and growth of the previous class is still on my mind.  Maybe we as teachers are programmed to forget so that we keep our expectations high.  Whatever the reason, the beginning of the year always rocks me physically and mentally as we set up routines.  I've been trying to hold on to little things as the weekend approaches so I leave with some feeling that what I am doing and what my kids are doing matters.

This weekend I held onto two little things.

The first was reading alongside a student who is learning to become aware of her strengths as a reader.  We met about a text I had pulled for her to support her. She has been finding a number of books that she enjoys and reads some of the ideas and soaks up pictures. She is unaware yet of how to self correct herself and solve problems when reading, so I was ready to supplement with text that she could practice everything including reading fluently and understanding. As I introduced it to her, I asked her to think about the the story (and pictures of course) whenever she encountered a problem.  I watched her read this and self correct herself for the first time in the 12 days we have know each other.  It was a small piece of joy when she used meaning to fix up things on her own.  Afterwards I asked her about what felt good about the reading and she said, "I figured words out."  It gave us both some happiness and hope for the year.

The second little thing I came across today as I was in my classroom skimming book bins.  I noticed the book bin of a little girl who had been sick for a few days this week.  I noticed her reading log and some post its on the front...
It gave me a little smile to think this little third grader was taking her reading in her own hands. She was taking the invitation to independence seriously.  

I've decided to not only to hold onto the little things as the week ends but to try to hold on to one each day this week. Our kids and our work matters.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Equal Shmequal

I'm learning with third graders this year and beginning to get used to what makes them think, laugh and learn.  It has been interesting experimenting with picture books and learning from my teammates which books may work for read aloud.

Today I encouraged my students to think about what equal means.  The book, Equal Shmequal, is one of my favorites for helping kids begin to think deeper about the word...equal.  What I also realized as I read it aloud  that it made my kids laugh and think. They were turning and talking to each other on their own as I read it.  It was nice to see kids engaging after being together for 12 days.

To help build understanding, we jotted our thoughts about the word equal before reading the book and after reading it. The conversation we had will be one that we can refer   back to throughout the year.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not For Franki Celebration!!

What better way to celebrate this Easter Sunday than taking time to reflect on being thankful for such a good friend! Happy Birthday Franki! What would we do without you?!

 I feel like I could write forever about all the reasons this amazing friend has influenced my life as a mom, teacher and friend. It has been hard to keep it to just a few. Here goes...

If not for Franki (and Mary Lee)…I wouldn't be here on this blog!!  Their blog inspired me to find a place for my voice years ago when my children were young and at home! Now I am living in the car and focusing on a book so the posting isn't as consistent as years ago.  Blogging along with many, many conversations with her about life and teaching have constantly help me refine my own understanding of the world. She always plays devil's advocate and forces me to see the other side of any issue but she also listens when I am a mess…doesn't she?! I mean that really is what is so great about her.

If not for Franki…I wouldn't know half the people I know! She has this insane knack for bringing us all together, making sure all feel welcome and worrying about us if we don't. Thanks Franki!

If not for Franki…I wouldn't have a new found love of gambling. Who knew?! Yes, I will say I enjoy the poker slot machines and if not for her enthusiam for the casino, I would not have realized this about myself!! She is so good about bringing the fun to everything she does.

If not for Franki…I wouldn't have had the opportunity to work with Brenda at Choice Literacy and see myself as an author who could be possibly finishing a book this year (a shout out to Ruth too because I haven't been able to do it without you too)! Thank you for reading my texts when writing is hard and anwering my random questions. I think the world of you and appreciate your support:)

Franki, thank you for being you!  Looking forward to learning and laughing (and yes, we will be laughing) with you next next year in 3rd!!
 Enjoy your day:)