Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October OLW (Carving Time Out)

The field behind our home-thanks to all the farmers!
Secrets least favorite holiday is Halloween.  Always was even when I was little girl, continued with our own two children (thanks mom for making their costumes all those years) and even as a teacher it is the one party I truly dread. I try to be excited for my fifth graders since it is the last time they will have a Harvest Party at school.  I do however love the change of seasons especially autumn for so many reasons.  I love pumpkins, combines, changing colors in the trees, cooler temperatures, planting bulbs for next year's garden and most of all the end of October in my classroom.  

Just last week, I told Sarah that I finally am really teaching with a huge smile on my face.  I finally checked off those lists that all teachers have to start our year.  I'm not going to type the list here, but I finally completed my last round of parent teacher conferences.  Then CHECK!!  My list is complete. Smiling like a Jack-o-Lantern.

At least one pumpkin grew in our garden.
I chose my One Little Word (OLW) in January and now that October is coming to a close. I am proud of myself for sticking with writing my reflection blog on the last days of each month.  Just last week, I thought about what I wanted to reflect on for this month, and I thought of pumpkins.  Carving out time for something new this year was what I have tried to do this school year. Often I find that I always lean toward literacy PD (professional development). So this year our principal gave us a choice, so I chose math for my PD this school year.  That way I have a chance to grow in math.

My goal was to learn how to manage my new 80 minute block of time (last year I had 60 min).  I wanted to implement a math workshop and start with a "rich" problem of the day.  I knew I had the old standard activities (word problems, intro. video, vocabulary etc.) but I wanted a richer intro. for my students.  I spent time this past summer thinking about math and found some great resources through #5thchat (the BEST chat around).  Here are a few of my BEST resources that I found.  

Doing Math in Morning Math Meetings (K-5) Love this for simple easy ideas. Great for differentiation.  I have used 2nd grade ideas.

Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classics Poems  (Great poems that we do on Poetry Friday-great connections)

Wumbers which is a fun book that I purchased on my iPad so my students can project it on my Smarboard and we can discuss words + numbers = Wumbers.  They LOVE it!! 

Arithme-Tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle Rhymes  (another fun book to share on Poetry Friday)

Thanks to Mary Lee at Year of Reading for summer conversations about Number Talks.  This is a professional book that is designed around morning routines that involve conversations about building and solving different equations. 

And don't forget about Math Wonders @wonderopolis always a great way to start a math meeting with an inquiry question.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cracking Open Words - Revision Strategy

We have just completed our first revision strategy of the year.  A few years ago I read Georgia Heard's book:  The Revision Toolbox.  For so many of my students I needed to shift their thinking about revision.  For many students they thought once they finished their rough draft that the next step and final step was editing. I have found that most of my students do not have a toolbox of revision strategies.  I am tackling revision differently this year with focus on one strategy at a time:  Cracking Open Words was our first.

My students already have a strong foundation about the importance of word choice.  We started the year with conversations including:  Why did the author choose those words?  How did the author paint such a visual with those words?  Let's observe these words for similar characteristics.  At this point in the school year, almost all of my students have their own word notebook and are collecting words.  So cracking open words was a perfect transition for students into their own writing.

After the students completed their personal narrative, I asked them to circle 4-6 words that they wanted to make stronger.  They collected these words on a sticky note and then I introduced the strategy of cracking words.  We talked about how when you crack an egg it is hard but then it runs all over. That is what we want to do with our word knowledge allow our strong words to flow throughout their writing. As you can see on the photo above, on the yolk was the word they wanted to crack, around the yolk is 3-4 other word choices that a writer could use. Their toolbox has a new strategy for fifth grade.

intro to the lesson on my Smart board

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vertical Math Conversations

One of my goals this year is to focus on "rich" math  problems.  We are discussing rich problems during my math professional development (PD) and discussing different strategies to help students think about problem solving differently.  During vertical grade level conversations, I was talking Shelly, a first grade teacher.  Shelly is super smart about math because she understands elementary math because she has taught 4th grade and is now teaching first grade. I always learn some new instructional ideas that I can take away and apply to my classroom.

She recently asked if our classes could be math buddies, so yesterday we joined her class to focus on measurement.  Both sets of students traced their foot and cut it out for their pattern.  My class loved this activity and was a little surprised when that was their morning seat work.  Then I let them know that we were going to have first grade math buddies-they were super excited!  Once we were in the first grade room, the students measured their foot by using cubes known as "units."  As you can see from the picture, the students were then challenged to find a set of feet that were between 40-50 units.  This was interesting to observe all of the different strategies that the mixed groups chose.  

*Some groups added all the units for one large unit. (picture above)
*Several groups used the 100 chart to add the value of each foot.
*A few groups added them together which was a HUGE step for first graders.
*One group split the feet into pairs and then added them. 

I am super excited that our 5th graders are going to have math buddies this year-let the exploration begin. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wondering in Social Studies

Students last year in the newspaper business.
When I am getting ready to start a new Social Studies unit, I always check Wonderopolis to see which wonders can support the new unit. We are weaving our economics unit JA Biztown with our government unit.  It really is not too far of a stretch because in Biztown the students will run their city for the day and they will elect their own mayor and vote on some laws.  It is a really exciting interactive learning program that is sponsored by Junior Achievement. 

There are two ways to find supporting wonders for your content areas.  The first way is typing in your subject area in the search area. 

The second way is to click on the Wonder of the Day and scroll down to the bottom and click on the hot links.  Those links are grouped according to subject areas.

For my economics unit/government unit I found the following wonders.  

Wonder #401 What is Suffrage?
Wonder #194 Why Do You Have to Pay Taxes?
Wonder #174 How Many Judges Are on the Supreme Court?
Wonder #158  How is a $1 Dollar Bill Made?
Wonder #444  When is a Sale a Bargain?
Wonder #382 What is Compound Interest?

As you can see, it is extremely easy to find wonders that support all areas of curriculum. It is as easy as type, click and search.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Warning...True Thoughts about Value Added

Most of the time as I write posts I am excited to share a new technology idea or literacy idea,  or I have have learned something new professionally.  Not often have I written a post that I would consider negative or questioning education?  However, I am posting about value added and what does it mean to me, so feel free to switch to another blog or not continue to read.

I had an experience this past week that really disturbed me and after I came home and cried my eyes out, I wondered if I am too old to keep teaching? Have we lost the value of each individual child as a learner and accepting where they are in their learning curve?  Several years ago when education started shifting toward state tests to judge students in the areas of reading, math, and science,  I wasn't sure about state testing like most teachers.  But I am realistic, and I know that I am not going to be able to change politics and/or state tests.  I wasn't happy, but I have to admit I played the game of testing and until two years ago that worked for me professionally.

However, now that state testing is attached to value added, and I am being judged on the basis of a 2 1/2 hour test in reading, math and science.  Testing has become more personal, and I am here to admit I do take it personally.  I believe I have to because the scores are attached to my name and possibly 50% of my salary if the laws continue to stay true in our state.

I am sitting on the side of the fence where my students made value added this past year;  however the reason I came home and cried was because my students this year are becoming an NCE number from their 4th grade testing. Someone at the state department has calculated what a year's growth should be for my students in this year's class. This is another blog post within itself, but my biggest question is when did a calculation of numbers become more important that the child themselves? These scores are suppose to tell me how well they will do this year on their 5th grade OAA tests.  These numbers are suppose to tell me who I should "push" because they can do it and which ones need remediation.  In my past 23 years of teaching. I thought that was one aspect of being a professional educator.  I never needed an NCE number to tell me who needed help and who needed enriched. 

My students are 10 and11, and they are readers, writers, word smiths, mathematicians, scientists and historians,  They are soccer players, ballet dancers, piano players, only children and the youngest of 6.  One student has only lived in the United States for 8 months, and another their grandpa died last week.  For another student their mom travels all week because she has to support their family and another student is in our latch key program from 7AM to 7 PM.  These are the children in my class this year, and I am their teacher who wants to know them for these qualities and not by a predetermined NCE score.

On a side note, I sat on this blog post for 24 hours.  My mom always told me to stop and think before I speak or in this case push the publish button. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Way is North?

 My teammate, Sarah and I start our Social Studies unit the first week of  school for two reasons: one because we miss each other when the wall is closed and second because the students are just as excited to open the wall and see their friends. Both of these reasons are social and isn't that why they call it "Social" Studies?

This year we started differently although our goals were the same. We wanted to get to know our students better and learn about their families and traditions. We asked the students to choose 3-5 photos that are important to them and glue then on the inside cover of their SS spiral and write about them.  Answering these 3 questions:

a.  Why is that photo important to you?
b.  Where is that photo taken?
c.  How does that photo connect to your family?

This conversation then launched us into our Geography Unit focusing on North America. Locating all 50 states, geographical features, regions, and reading/understanding maps including latitude and longitude.

It's always fun to see the students excitement as we pull out the geography tub filled with games, puzzles, books, poems, songs and maps to practice their skills.  One of my favorite books:  How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. This is a great book about the process of making a pie all the way from how to make the bowl, to making the crust, picking the cherries and finally having a delicious cherry pie. The story travels all around the country to 14 different states, so we give the students a blank map and ask them to track the journey. Once the students become familiar with the states they then have time to explore our geography box of interactive puzzles, games and some students play Stack the States on their iPods.

Practicing for the states test- check out the $1 aisle at Target. 
In additon, we will share the following Wonders of the day @Wonderopolis.

Wonder #55 How are Maps Made?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Poetry Friday is Integration!

I am sad to say last week we did not celebrate Poetry Friday!  I had to make a choice because of giving diagnostics which was not a choice.  So I chose not to do Poetry Friday, and I am pleased to announce that three students voiced their concern during our class meeting Friday afternoon.

"If we have to give up something, please do not choose Poetry Friday."

"I finally like poetry and so let's not give it up now."

"I was ready to sing today in Poetry Friday.  Can we sing now?" Of course the answer was YES!!

So I learned a few valuable lessons. First I already have my class hooked on Poetry Friday and most of them are anxious to celebrate it.  Second,  their comments reinforced how much students want and need routine in our class.  Finally and most exciting--- they missed it!

I am happy to report when the students returned to school - we celebrated Poetry Monday!  How could I not after listening to their comments Friday afternoon in class meeting.  After math class, I passed out the above poems, and I encouraged the students to write around the poems.  This is still a challenge at this time of year but already they are making progress.  As you can see from my notes, we rolled word study (the sound of long o & verb tenses) poetry (stanza, rhyme scheme notice the rectangles, triangles, circles in the first poem) vocabulary (synonyms strange/weird, exact/precise), connections (guidance lesson), set up (font change) and just had fun.  We were all exhuasted but in a good kind of way.  Are you celebrating Poetry Friday?   You should be--- you can hit every standard in one poem!

Thanks Laura for hosting today's Poetry roundup at Writing the World for Kids