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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Using Social Media to Differentiate

I've been feeling guilty - all of my favourite teacher bloggers have been taking advantage of their time off and have been updating their blogs.  I've had a hard time getting off the couch!  On Christmas Eve I came down with a strep throat and am just starting to feel like myself today.  Since I've had nothing to do but lie around, I have been enjoying all of those blog posts!

One such post was by Royan Lee "The Power of Introverts~ Spicy Links."  Royan shared on his blog Susan Cain's TED talk "The Power of Introverts" along with links to his interview with her on her website.  Susan also has her new book out now - "Quiet: The Power of Introverts".

As we all know, one of the hallmarks of 21st Century Learning is collaboration.  Cooperative learning is everywhere.  Students collaborate on projects, discuss texts they've read to hash out meaning, co-write text, peer-edit, etc.  Susan Cain reminds us that it is not always the loudest or most vocal, however, that has the best ideas.  Most teachers realize this, and we often torture (and I don't think "torture" is an exaggeration) our introverted students begging them to share their ideas, because we know the rest of the class would benefit from their insight.  (Then we give them a level 2 for Oral Communication- which if we really were evaluating based on the Curriculum expectations we'd realize that Oral Communication is so much more than being able to speak publicly- but I digress.)

Royan's answer to this issue is Social Media. (I've been following his blog since I saw Lisa Donahue at Reading for the Love of It last February, and she mentioned him- one of the best things I ever did for my teaching practice!)

I found out how right Royan is when I began using Blended Learning this year.  Blended Learning incorporates a combination of face-to-face with on-line instruction.  We use the Ministry's Learning Management System the Desire 2 Learn (D2L).  Using the D2L has allowed me to use "Office Hours"- time when my students can contact me via the D2L outside of the regular school day.  Most of my students have taken advantage of this feature, but I find it is my shy students who use this feature most regularly.  One student explained that she has "so many questions" but is uncomfortable asking them out loud in class.  The D2L makes it easy for her to ask questions.

We have also been using the Discussion tool.  This tool has given those quiet thoughtful students an equal opportunity to have their voices heard.  Introverted students often like to think before they speak.  The fast pace of a group discussion doesn't allow for that.  They also aren't pushy enough to interrupt those extroverted students who know exactly how to have their voices heard.  Using the Discussion tool solves both of these issues - they can take as much time as they need to think before they "speak" and everyone has to "hear" them.

Social Media allows us to use cooperative learning while still considering the individual needs of our students. For some of my students, having to "write" their ideas into a Discussion Forum is painful; writing ANYTHING is painful.  The Discussion Forum on the D2L also allows students to compose their messages as an audio file.  Now that is differentiation!

I'm going to order my copy of Susan Cain's book today!

Monday, 10 December 2012

To Re-read or Not to Re-Read, THAT is the Question!

We recently completed our first set of Literature Circles.  Actually, I don't really like the term "Literature Circles" because it is so closely linked with those "roles" that teachers love to squeeze children into.  You know what I mean:  Word Solver, Vocablulary Enricher, Illustrator, Summarizer, Questioner, etc.  I first ran into these roles while I was still a Primary teacher.  My son was in the Sixth Grade, and he was in a Literature Circle.  He was sitting in front of the computer with his novel on his lap.  He was getting pretty upset, just staring at the screen.  I asked him what the problem was and he said, "I'm the Vocabulary Enricher for this chapter, so I have to find a word in here that I don't know, look it up, and explain it to my group.  But I know all of the words already, so I don't know what to do!"  I suggested that he find an interesting word to share, and not worry about whether or not he already knew what the word meant.  But he was of the belief that this particular chapter had nary an interesting word in the entire text!  Then he said "Next week will be even worse! I will be the Illustrator, and I HATE drawing!". 

At that point my daughter, who was in Grade Twelve at the time, came down the stairs and said, "You know Jordan, teachers kill everything good about reading".  I made a vow then and there that I would never make students do something with a text that I wouldn't want to do myself.

Now that said, I had dinner with my friend Terri the other night, and she told me how she explains to her students that when we read for pleasure we don't study the text, but when we are reading in school, we are learning, so we need to study the text.  So there are some things we do in school that we would not do when reading during our free time.  I think she has a point, but I also think that sometimes what we make students do with their novels just becomes busy work. 

That is why I like the Reciprocal Teaching so much.  It just has four simple objectives to focus on, and the goal is for all of the students in the group to do all of the tasks.  So I thought that I was being pretty reasonable with my own students when two different conversations enlightened me.  First, I have a group that is reading "Who is Frances Rain ?" by Margaret Buffie.  This is a group of strong readers, all girls, who are loving their novel and their reading group (I tend to call them "Book Club Groups" because I am in a Book Club and I love my Book Club).  I gave them their template for the Reciprocal Teaching, and they GROANED out loud.  I asked what the problem was, and they said they hate filling in the sheet, that they just want to talk about the book.  I explained that the sheet helps them to stay on topic and not go off on tangents.  They agreed that it did help them stay on topic and go deeper into the book.  BUT, they said, they don't need to write anything down, they just need the anchor chart that is up on the wall.  So, I agreed, they didn't have to have a written product. 

I spoke to our Literacy Coach, Teresa, about this afterward because this compromise made me feel like perhaps we weren't doing it "right".  But she assured me that this was in fact a good thing, ultimately, the goal of Reciprocal Teaching is to promote rich and meaningful conversation and reflection. But in the back of my mind I was still wondering- how do we keep them accountable?

The next day, I asked the students to describe one of the main characters in their novels, and I was floored by the depth of the responses I got from this particular group, so I guess she was right. 

But then I met with a second Book Club group.  This group was reading "Frindle" by Andrew Clements.  This group seemed to be doing a great job with their Reciprocal Teaching, and they were now finished the book.  I pulled the group over for some guided instruction.  I decided to ask them some discussion questions about the book.  It just so happened that the student who had been recording their responses onto their Reciprocal Teaching form each time they met was absent on this particular day.  I asked my first question:  "Why does Nick call the pen a 'frindle'?"  Not one student could give me a reasonable answer.  I quickly realized that the only person who had understood the story at all was the student who had diligently filled in the sheets! 

I decided that I was going to have the students re-read Frindle because it is such a great story and I felt they need to "get it".  I told them that we would re-read it together in a guided reading format.  They looked at me askance.  They were horrified.  Read the same book TWICE!?!

I asked some of my friends what their opinions were.  It seemed 50% felt we should re-read it, and 50% thought I should cut my losses and move on.  But I decided in the end to let the children decide.  They felt they had read the book and they did not want to go back.  (For them, it was an accomplishment to have finished it, and suggesting they re-read it was a slight). 

We decided to keep moving forward.  They were each given a copy of "Mieko and the Fifth Treasure".   This time, I am meeting daily with this group, (if I can swing it, we even meet twice on some days), they don't read this novel independently at all because I want to make sure that they are using all of the reading strategies and understanding the text thoroughly - nuances and all.  I am using guided instruction with the Reciprocal Teaching format. They are doing a great job with it and are really enjoying the story.  I guess you could say they just need more scaffolding than some of the other groups. 

At first I was really upset by this apparent failure.  I actually had trouble sleeping last week, waking up at three-thirty in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep, trying to figure out how I can help these kids.  I really have to get better at looking failure in the face, accepting it, and then getting back on the horse and trying again.  After all, it's what I want my students to do.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bump It UP!

This year, in our school, we are all using "Bump It Up Walls".  I confess, at first I was skeptical, but our principal was convinced it would make a difference, so I thought I would give it a try. 

If you've read my "Math Journal" post, you will know that I've been using "Interactive Math Journals" this year for the first time.  I got the idea from Runde's Room.  Well, I was finding a rather large range of quality from one student's work to another.  I decided that I would try my first "Bump It Up Wall" with samples from our Math Journals. 

I chose five samples of student work to photocopy, and I made five copies of each selection.  The students worked in groups of four or five with each group having all five selections.  As a group, they had to determine what made the sample good, and what the student could do to improve his/her work.  (The students whose work was selected remained anonymous).  Then as a class, we went through each sample with the groups sharing what they felt the students did well, and what they could do next time to improve their work. 

We posted these samples on our "Bump It Up Wall" with large sticky notes that stated what was done well, and what the student could do to bump up their work.  After we completed this activity, we re-wrote our Success Criteria for our Math Journals (we realized that we had increased our standards from our previous criteria). 

Note that the Success Criteria are written in student-friendly language. 

I liked this activity because it was the students who decided what made a quality journal entry.  They decided what should be included and how a journal entry should look. 

After we had completed our Success Criteria, the students each went back to their most recent journal entry, and they gave themselves feedback on what they needed to do in their next entry to make it even better than their last. 

For our next entry, I asked the students to do a procedural text on how to use a protractor.  They were also asked to explain why it is an important skill to know how to measure angles.  How could they use this skill in the "real-world"?  I could not believe the overall improvement in their work.  I think the Bump It Up Wall, or at least the activity that led to its creation, made a huge impact on the quality of their work. 

Here is a sample:

I will definitely do this activity again.  Our next "Bump It Up Wall" will be used for Reading Response activities, stay tuned...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Artistic Symmetry

My favourite teacher-blogger, Jen Runde, said in her most recent post that she is feeling over-whelmed these days.  So I think it is okay for me to confess- I feel so very OVER-WHELMED!  There is so much I want to do with these children and so little time!  My friend Helena, also a Grade Six teacher, said to me once that she feels she needs two years to teach Grade Six.  That is so very true!  She also wisely said to me once that teaching is like being in a really good restaurant.  There are so many great selections on the menu, but unfortunately, you can't choose them all. 

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I loved Rafe Esquith's book, "Teach Like Your Hair is On Fire".   It feels exactly like that is what I am doing.  I'm trying so hard to meet the needs of everyone, and they each need something so different!  I'm trying to close gaps and ensure that each child is reaching their potential.  It's not easy, and time is my enemy.

But we have been having lots of fun along the way.  In Science we have been building series and parallel circuits.  Every time a light bulb burns brighter or starts to dim, I hear those wonderful "oohs" and "aahs" that suggest learning is taking place.  In our Board, we have a wonderful software program called "Edison" on our student desktops.  Using the software, students can "build" circuits.  I put the students into groups and then I create different work stations; some work with the Edison software, some work with our Desire 2 Learn learning management platform from the Ministry's Blended Learning program (which is really awesome), some use the Electronic Brain Box kit that I booked out of our Board's Resource Centre, while others are working with a kit I put together with mini-light bulbs, battery holders, switches, and wires with alligator clips.  I think teaching Science is my favourite thing to do. (If you work in the same Board as I do, and you want to know more about these resources for your Electricty Unit, please don't hesitate to contact me!)

Although they are loving Science, my students are still adamant that their favourite subject is Art. It is when we are doing Art that they shine most of all- they are such a creative group of children.  My student-teacher found an activity on Pinterest that she wanted to do with them.  It went well with our Geometry Unit at the time because the students used their name to create symmetrical designs.  Here are some samples:

What I love best of all about this Art activity is that while each individual piece is beautiful and unique on its own, they are most beautiful when you put them all together- each one a very necessary part of the whole- just like my students!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Reciprocal Teaching

When I was in Teacher's College we learned about a teaching strategy called Reciprocal Teaching.  Last year, when we were analysing our EQAO scores, we read the EQAO support document Summary of Results and Strategies for Teachers which suggested the use of Reciprocal Teaching to help students deepen their understanding when reading. 

This was interesting because last Spring, I went to see John Hattie speak at OISIE (thank you Regan for the invite!)  Hattie presented on the information in his book Visible Learning.  Basically, Hattie conducted a meta-analysis of over 800 of the different teaching strategies, initiatives, and factors we typically believe impact student achievement and ranked them according to their effect size on student achievement.  The results were pretty surprising.  Much of what we do in teaching has little or no impact whatsoever.  However, Reciprocal Teaching was ranked 9th in its effect size.  (To see the slides from his presentation click here; it is pretty powerful stuff!)

I spent the month of September getting to know my students as readers.  Most of October was spent frontloading our Reading Goal - being metacognative readers and matching students with appopriate texts.  Finally, in November, I was ready to create our Literature Cirlces. 

As you know if you've been reading my previous posts, I've been reading Iqbal to my students.  We tried using Today's Meet several times to have some of the students post what they were thinking as we read. This was very valuable because it showed other students what thinking goes on in a person's head while they are listening to and attempting to make sense of an oral text.  But we only did it a few times because my students found it difficult to read the text on the screen and follow along with the story.  We then switched to using an On-line Discussion Forum after the Read Aloud.  This was much more successful.  It allowed the students to see what a person is thinking after hearing the text.  But they still need to know what people are thinking DURING reading, (or in this case listening).

I then introduced my students to the new teaching strategy "Reciprocal Teaching".  I explained why we were doing it, and I also admitted that I had never used this strategy before, that it was an "experiment" and would be new learning for all of us.  I think it is important to include students in why you are doing what you are doing and let them know that their input and feedback is important and necessary.  We practised using the strategy while I read Iqbal aloud.

Reciprocal Teaching is a small group reading strategy.  One student is chosen to be the "leader".  But all group members are responsible for all parts of reciprocal teaching.  It encourages dialogue as opposed to "sharing".  Students ask questions about what they have read, (we use a Q-chart to help come up with "thick" and "thin" questions), they seek clarification for words or selections of the text that they don't understand, they summarize what they have read, and they make meaningful predications.  You can find more about Reciprocal Teaching from the website Reading Rockets.

I put the students into their Literature Circle groups and introduced each group to their novel.  I used Guided Instruction to help them through their first attempt at Reciprocal Teaching.  I am very lucky in that I have an awesome student teacher.  We do a lot of co-teaching, and because I have her, we can each do Guided Instruction simultaneously.

I found a PDF worksheet on the Reading Rockets website that I have adapted for my students.  I think there has to be a written component to help keep the students on track and to make them accountable for their conversation.  I encourage them to use jot notes, the worksheet is more for them than for me.

Here are some samples from my class.  If you click on them, they will appear larger in a new window.
This is one we did together during Guided Reading.

                   This is one another group did on their own during their Literature Circle.

Click here to get a copy of this Word Document that you can edit for your students and a copy of our Q-chart or Questioning Grid.

Three-Way Conferences

It has been three weeks since I last posted a comment!  I guess you can say I've been busy.  The last three weeks of my life have been all about assessment and writing Progress Reports about my students.  It took me over 40 hours to write up those reports! 

While I was out of the classroom, working as a Literacy/Numeracy Coach, I had the opportunity to watch many of the webcasts produced by our Ministry.  These webcasts support Teachers' professional development.  Having the time to watch and learn from them was one of the best parts of my former position.  One particular webcast that I was really intrigued by was on changing the paradigm of the traditional Parent/Teacher Interview.  The webcast is all about Student-Led Conferences. 

If you are familiar with Anne Davies work on Assessment, you will know that involving your students in Assessment engages them in their learning.  It helps them to be self-directed learners and critical thinkers.  If you involve students in the Assessment process (Assessment AS Learning) you help them reflect on their own success, help them determine what works well for them, what road blocks are in their path, and how can they circumvent those blocks.

I'm not quite ready for "Student-Led Interviews"; honestly, I have not had enough time to prepare my students for that.  But my goal is to have a "Three-Way Interview".  I've started to conference with my students one by one to review their progress reports.  When I conference with them, we go over a template (adapted from Anne Davies "Together is Better") that asks them what they have done well this term, what work they feel shows their growth as a learner, and what they think they need to work on. Then we plan a goal together, and more importantly, plan strategies for achieving that goal. 

The tricky part is finding enough time in the next four days to conference with each of them.  The thing that I'm finding most difficult about being back in the classroom is having enough time to do all of the things I want to do with my students.  We have had so many Assemblies, Presentations, Masses, Liturgies and Celebrations (at least two per week), that it really eats into our time.  But hopefully I will have a chance to meet with each of them, and together we will plan what to discuss with their parents and what work to highlight.

To find samples of the tracking forms, conference forms and rubrics I use click here.

On a slightly different note - (a tangent to the above)....

This year, our school will be reviewed by our Board's School Effectiveness Team.  To plan for this review process, we have been meeting regularly with our principal to discuss our School Improvement Plan.  Our principal said he wanted all of our Learning Goals for each subject displayed in the classroom along with the success criteria students can use to determine what they need to do to achieve each goal.  I did have my Math goals and my Reading goals posted, but for the other subjects I merely put our learning goals up on the board and then erased them at the end of each lesson.  Sometimes I only told the students the goals orally.  I felt I didn't have enough wall space to display each and every goal.

I decided to check with my students to see if the goals truly need to be posted.  I asked them, "What is our learning goal in Social Studies? Why are we talking about this?" (We are learning about trade).  None of my students could answer, but their heads all swivelled to where I had posted our Math and Reading goals.   I asked them why they had looked over there, and they said because they knew that our Reading and Math goals were there, so they thought maybe our SS goal would be there too.  I asked "Do you really look at those?".  They said that not only did they look at them, but that they really helped them.  I asked if I should post ALL of our Learning Goals, and they gave a resounding affirmative.  I asked where on earth I would put them, and they told me "On the cupboard doors where we can see them all the time". 

My friend Janice had introduced me to this sticky-tack paper that turns anything into a white board.  I still had a few rolls of it at home (because we teachers collect things like that knowing that someday we might need it...).  I covered four of my cupboard doors with it, and then my students helped me write our learning goals in student-friendly language, and then they helped me write the criteria that will determine whether or not they have been successful at achieving those goals.  I actually re-wrote it a few times; it is not so easy to write learning goals and success criteria.  We are still experimenting with it.  

As you can see, they have not all been written in the same format.  The Reading Goals almost seem like Success Criteria in themselves.  I am also trying to integrate our content areas into Language as much as possible.  I am teaching most of our Social Studies unit on Canada's Links to the World through our Lanaguge.  Many of our mini-lessons in Reading have been about finding the main ideas and summarizing them into jot notes for our SS projects on a trading partner.  Then we synthesize the information to explain why Canada should continue trading with this country.  I still find it complicated trying to turn the Curriculum Expectations into discrete Learning Goals for each subject especially when I am teaching 3 or 4 things simultaneously.  I welcome your feedback and suggestions!!!!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Back Channeling During a Read Aloud???

Have you ever heard of "Backchanneling"?  Well, if you are an adult with a mobile device, I'm sure you've done it!

Backchanneling is when you are listening or viewing something, (perhaps a movie, or sitting at a meeting, or attending a workshop), and you instant message someone else to comment in real time on what you are hearing/seeing.  Do you agree?  Are you learning something new?  Are you bored?

Teachers have been using backchanneling with their students in the classroom so that students can be more actively attending to what they are hearing and viewing.

To learn more about back channeling click here.

Last week I attended the Minds on Media workshop at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario.  I met a teacher who was presenting there named Heather Durnin.  She is an Ontario teacher who shared how she is virtually co-teaching with another teacher from Winnipeg.  She has done such incredible things with her Grade 7/8 class!  I am going to try a few of them out.

She and her virtual teaching partner used Skype to connect their two classes.  They had their student create collaborative projects using Google Docs.  That was amazing.  Each student also created a Wordpress Blog to learn more about one another.  But my favourite idea was how, using Skype, she and her teaching partner would take turns reading aloud to the students.  While one teacher read aloud, the other teacher used Today's Meet (a chat room) with a small group of students from each class, to comment on the read-aloud in real time.  The chatroom was posted on a screen. That way, if the students didn't understand something from the novel, they could post it and get clarification right away and both classes could view the conversation.  Students could immediately share their reactions to the story as it was being read aloud.

Today's Meet is free and very easy to use.  Click here to check it out.

I have started reading Iqbal to my students.  The text is a bit difficult, and it has some complicated vocabulary, but the story is excellent.  If you are not familiar with Iqbal, he is the little boy from Pakistan that was murdered for protesting child labour.  He had been an indentured servant to a carpet maker, and had escaped.  He went on to fight for the freedom of other children.  It was the story of his murder that spurred Craig Kielburger into creating the Free the Children network.

On Monday, I am going to introduce my students to the Today's Meet Room that I have created. I am going to start by having five of them on devices to "chat" while I read aloud from Iqbal. I won't have a moderator for the chatroom, so I will have to be watching it as I read, we'll see how that goes.

Too Much to Do, Too Little Time

I have so much to tell you!  Finding time to post is proving to be quite a challenge; my days are so full!  There is so much I want to do with my students and so little time to do it.  I've become a "Time Miser" counting every minute of every day.

I've decided to keep track of where we lose time in our day.  We have three recesses per day, and it takes my students, on average (I've been timing them), 11 minutes to come in from recess, settle down, and be ready for work.  Every time we transition from one subject to another, (example from French to Music), we take about 6 minutes to settle down.  I find timing my students, and telling them about how much time we are losing is helping.  They constantly want to "beat" their previous time.  It works especially well if I give my iPad to one of them, and ask them to time the class.

I have found that asking my students to calculate how much time we will lose over the course of the year if we continue to take so much time transitioning has proven to be an "authentic" problem solving task.

To "catch up" on lost time, I've been keeping students in at recess and after school.  Here in Ontario, it is extra challenging to be a Grade Six or Three teacher because in the beginning of June we have EQAO testing.  I am a staunch supporter of the test because I feel it provides invaluable insight into where we are weak and where we are strong as an educational system, but it also means that we have 10 months of curriculum to teach in 9 months; so the pressure is on, AND I CAN'T AFFORD ANY WASTED TIME!

The temptation is to skimp on the Arts or Phys Ed., the subjects that are not tested.  But in my opinion, the Arts and Phys Ed are just too important in helping to develop well-rounded cultured individuals who will be valuable contributors to our society.

I took my students to an Art Gallery earlier in the month.  They LOVED it!  They didn't waste a minute of time there!  It turns out they can listen attentively when the subject matter is of interest to them.  They hung on every word our tour guide said and proved to have plenty to say about the artwork they viewed.

I am hoping to take advantage of this keen interest in Art, I'm going to post their art on a Voicethread account where they can go online and discuss the Art that they and others have created.  As much as possible, I will link the Arts to our Language so that I can develop their Literacy skills through the things they are interested in and passionate about.

Here are two of our latest artistic creations, one focuses on the use of shape, the other on the use of line.

We had so much fun collecting leaves for these pictures!  Thank you Helena for  showing me the artwork you did with your students so that I could copy your idea!!!

Helena had shown me this art, but I felt we were too behind in our Math Curriculum to be able to do it.  But then she told me that the entire activity took one hour, collecting the leaves, creating the art piece, gluing it on the paper.  And she was right!  One hour for such lovely creations!  It was an hour very well-spent!

I got the idea for these water-colour paintings from Pinterest.  The students use  white glue to draw their lines.  We left the glue to harden over night, then traced the lines with a sharpie the next morning.  (Our librarian came in and read a story to them while they traced their lines).  Then I took six kids at a time to give them some "Guided Instruction" on how to create a wash with water-colour paints while the other students worked on a writing piece or read quietly at their desks. It's easier to teach them how to shade, mix colours, and use brush strokes when working with only six students at a time. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Speak Like a Listener, Listen Like a Speaker - UPDATED

I went over to my friend Margaret's for a glass of wine the other night.  This turned out to be a very smart thing to do!

I have been finding that my students have difficulty following instructions.  I've been trying to get down to the nitty-gritty to find out why this is.  I've established that they don't listen very well.  So I said to them, "While you are all very lovely children, you have a problem listening, you need to work on your listening skills".   Of course, telling them that had absolutely zero impact, hence the glass of wine at Margaret's.

Fortunately for me, I hang around with very smart people.  Margaret said that I need to teach my students to listen like speakers, and speak like listeners.  She made me realize that first, as a teacher, I had to unpack what good listeners do.  Then, I had to explicitly teach these skills to my students.  It dawned on me that if my students can't read, I teach them to read, ergo, if my students can't listen, I need to teach them how to listen.  Telling them they need to improve is pointless unless I tell them how to do it.

So this week, I defined the term "Active Listening" for my students.  After explaining what it meant, I asked them to brainstorm why Active Listening might be something that is beneficial for them to do.  They had no difficulty with this at all.  Turns out, they really do WANT to listen, they just don't know how.  Then we created an anchor chart of what Active Listening sounds like, looks like and feels like.

Our Learning Goals in Reading are:

I will summarize what I am reading because if I can retell it, then I know I understand it.  

When summarizing, I will list the key ideas, this will help me to remember what is important. 

We realized that being able to summarize what we listen to is as important as being able to summarize what we read.  We also realized that "hearing" is not the same as "listening".  Hearing is passive, and information may not actually go into our long term memories.  To put what we hear into our long term memories, we have to actually attend to it, or LISTEN to it actively.  

To understand Active Listening Strategies better, I found "Teaching Listening" on-line by Steven Brown from Cambridge University Press.  Next week, I am going to have my students practise Active Listening Strategies so that they can improve.  Steven Brown suggests that prior to having students listen, you tell them what you want them listening for.  Listening strategies to find key ideas are different than listening strategies to  find details. Who knew?  He also stressed the importance of having them practise listening to one another.  So next week, I'm going to put very detailed and dynamic photos up on the interactive white board.  They will have to tell a partner what they think is happening in the photo.  Their partner will then have to paraphrase what they said.  Then with a new photo, we will switch speaker and listener roles.  We will practise asking questions to clarify what we think we hear.  

Then I will have them all listen to a podcast, (haven't decided what the topic will be yet, but we are completing our Biodiversity Unit in Science, so I'm thinking it will be related to that)  *Update, found great "video-casts" on the National Geographic for Kids website.*  I will first activate their background knowledge, then I will ask them to listen for the key ideas (since in Reading we are practising finding the key ideas).  After the podcast, we will share what we thought the key ideas were.

Oral Communication is not just about Speaking, it is about Listening too.  And in Ontario, we have to report on our students' ability to listen.  Before we evaluate their Listening skills, we should at first teach them some, shouldn't we?  

I'm hoping this explicit instruction in listening will help my students with the third overall expectation in Oral Communication in our Language Curriculum: 

  • reflect on and identify their strengths as listeners and speakers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in oral communication situations.

Keeping my fingers crossed!


These lessons went so well!  I put together a slide show of photographs showing children at play throughout the last century and around the world.  I described the first photo to the students, and gave them a brief discription.  Then I showed them the photo, they were surprised that it didn't look anything like what they had imagined.  They realized that my description hadn't given them enough information.  We repeated the activity with a new photo, this time they asked me questions for clarification.  Then we repeated the process with one group facing the screen, and one with their back to the screen. They worked with a partner with one partner describing the photo and the other listening "actively" by asking questions and checking for understanding.  This worked so well and they loved the activity.  At the end, I asked them what the theme was, or the message of the power point, and they said "children will play and have fun no matter where they are".   Here is the anchor chart we created together after the activity:

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Math Talk!

My class is a noisy one, not all of the time of course, but most of the time.  I have very chatty students who love to socialise, and I am endeavouring to use this to my advantage.  Learning is often a social pursuit, and as my students told me on Thursday, "Math is easier and more fun when you are working with a partner.

To this end, I have been explicitly teaching how we speak to one another about Math, how we question and comment to promote one anothers' learning.  We created a "Math Talk" Anchor chart, (which really comes from one of our Ministry's Inspire Monographs).

I've been teaching Math through problem-solving, hoping that for the most part, the students will be constructing their own learning.  I admit, this has been challenging, but we are making progress!  The first issue was that the students really didn't have much "stamina" for solving problems.  I got a lot of "I don't get it"s and "I need help"s.  I decided to do something that one of our Secondary Math coaches, Aldona, suggested.  I decided to teach the 4-part Problem Solving Model explicitly in parts.  First we just focused on the first part - Understanding the Problem.  I realised that this was mostly a reading comprehension issue.  So we talked about our Reading Strategies, and we realised that "Visualisation" can really help when trying to understand the problem.

Then we started to focus on choosing a strategy to solve the problem.  We are creating a class anchor chart for problem-solving strategies.  So far on our chart we have:
  • Guess and Check
  • Use smaller numbers
  • draw a picture or diagram
  • make a chart or table
  • use an equation
I decided to deal with the "stamina" issue by using "Parallel Tasks" (see Marian Small's Good Questions on my Favourite Resources page).  Parallel Tasks are essentially different problems that each focus on the same Math concept (or Big Idea), but they range in difficulty.  Those students with little stamina could do the simpler problem.  I also decided to use "Open Questions" (also from Marian Small).  Open questions are questions that have more than one solution, so students have multiple entry points into the problem and can work at the problem at their own level. 

This really helped.  The students are starting to improve on their ability to stick with a problem.  So then I wanted to work on their ability to have a "Math Conversation".  This turned out to be something I had to explicitly teach as well! We tried posting all of our work and using a "Gallery Walk".  You can read all about the Gallery Walk and other ways to promote communication in Math in the Capacity Building Series Monograph:

I armed the students with sticky notes and asked them to write comments on one another's work.  Their comments were mostly "Neat work" or "Great job!" or "You need to include words".  Not what I was looking for at all!  I realised I had to model how to write comments as well.  

Slowly but surely we are getting there.  Scroll down to see where we are at now. 
 I've been experimenting with how to add text to my photos.  I did these using "Paint".  However, I kept getting this white dotted line, some sort of glitch I think, and even when you click on the photos, they are too small to see my captions. Anyhow, if you know of another program or application I can use to add text to my photos, please leave a comment and let me know!  I can use all of the help I can get.

Here is an example of Parallel Tasks and an Open Question.  

After the Gallery Walk, we had a class discussion about the different solutions.  Students are beginning to see the connections between addition and multiplication, between t-charts and skip counting, and how the multiplication and division are simply inverse operations.

During the Gallery Walk, students could see that there were different strategies to solve the same problem.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Now Hiring!

My friend Lisa, a Grade Seven teacher, shared a terrific idea with me.  She posted a list of classroom jobs that her students could apply for.  A few years ago, I saw Rafe Esquith ("Teach Like Your Hair is On Fire") speak at Reading for the Love of It.  He does the same thing, he hires his students, pays them, and then charges them rent for their seats!  Talk about making learning authentic.  I decided that no money will exchange hands, that just sounds too complicated, even if you are using fake money.  But as soon as Lisa told me what she was doing, I knew that I had to do this with my class too.  So last week, I posted the Job Listings.  The students were so excited!  Here are some of the jobs that I listed (thank you Lisa for sharing!):
  • Office Assistant
  • Zoo Keeper
  • Technology Supervisor
  • Hospitality Committee
  • Gopher
  • Distributor
  • Library Technician
  • Desk/Chair Monitor
  • Sweeper
  • Green Team
Each job included a description of the job along with a list of necessary qualifications such as "Experience with technology, ability to trouble shoot and problem solve a must; willing to miss a few recesses, responsible and able to learn new tasks quickly".  

The students had to complete an application form, and one student suggested that I interview potential candidates, so I did.  Some students even handed in resum├ęs and reference letters!  They really wanted these jobs!  Each job is for a three month period, and then each candidate will be reviewed. 

I think these jobs will help the students focus on some of the Learning Skills.  And now I'm not working nearly as hard.  This is one of the best things I've ever done in my class. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Herman? Sandy? What's in a Name?

I love the Grade Six Ontario Science Curriclum.  The first unit we are studying is Biodiversity.  The kids are really loving this unit.  It helps that I ordered 20 preserved specimens in jars from our Board's Resource Centre!  There is nothing like a preserved snake or fetal pig in a jar to spike a child's interest in Science!

But I wanted the students to study some living creatures as well.  So we got a couple of pets - Hermit Crabs!  Hermit crabs make great pets because they are so inexpensive and easy to take care of.  They will eat anything, (kids can even feed them bits of their lunches - but I haven't told my students that!)
They are actually social animals, so it is better to purchase more than one, (so they don't get lonely).   They can get quite active, and the children really enjoy watching them.

The fun thing about hermit crabs is that they will "move into" a different shell when they grow or when the mood strikes them.  The children can actually decorate shells, leave them in the tank, and wait to see if the crab will choose their shell.

I have a small portable case that I use on holidays when one student gets to take them home to "pet-sit".  In June, one child is the lucky winner and gets to take them home to keep.

The only issue we have now is that we don't know what to name them!  And it doesn't help that we can't tell which is male and which is female, but it sure is a more interesting arthropod than your old fasioned garden spider!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

New Books!

I just finished putting in my first Scholastic Order of the year.  After 2 years of working as a Literacy/Numeracy Coach, this truly is a momentus occasion.  Once of my most favourite things to do is order new books for the classroom!

My colleague, Amy, shared a great idea with me.  She suggested that I start a "Scholastic Wishlist".  The kids thought this was a great idea, so they listed all of the books that they would like to get from Scholastic, but couldn't afford.  Using my coupons, (over the years I've managed quite a collection), I was able to order more than half of the books on their list.  I can't wait to see their faces when their orders come in!  I love ordering from Scholastic because their selection is so good, their books are affordable, they are so easy to deal with, and their "Free Picks" and Coupons are awesome!  They really help you to build up your classroom library quickly!

I love placing my orders through their Clubs Online.  It is so easy and convenient.  And no, I don't work for Scholastic, but I do love their website.  They have great teaching resources on there as well.

Book CoverSeveral of my boys claimed that they are not readers and don't like reading.  In June, in anticipation of my move back into the classroom, I ordered a series of books called Orca Currents.  These novels are high-interest low-vocab books.  I find that they really appeal to boys.  They are short, so kids who have not yet developed reading stamina can get through them quickly, and although they are written at a lower reading level (Grade 2, 3 and 4  levels) they deal with contemporary issues that would interest 11, 12, and 13 year olds.  They are also written by well-known and well-loved authors like Eric Walters.  Not only that, but the covers are great.  We made a list of how we choose books, and we decided that YES, WE DO JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS!  My boys are LOVING them!

As you may have guessed, my classroom library is now fully operational.  The students organized it all themselves, as planned, so they know where any book can be found. 

Today I started conferencing with individual students about their reading.  I started with the students who had low scores on our benchmark reading assessment.  Even though we have had several lessons on how to choose an appropriate book I find that at least half of my students don't seem to realize when a book is just way too difficult for them.  It's no wonder they don't like reading!  I mean, would you like skating if every pair of skates you ever wore were too big! 

For our Reading Conference, I always ask the students to "Bring me a book you read well".  Then I ask them to say why they chose the book, what it is about, and whether it is easy, hard, or just right for them.  Then I do an "over-the-shoulder miscue analysis" as they read a page aloud.  Then we usually have a discussion about their strenghts, and set some goals for what they need to work on. With my low readers, I usually then take them to the class library to help them select a new book.  They really need to be explicitly taught how to find a book that they can read and enjoy!  They are always amazed to find out that wow, they really can enjoy reading if the book is a good fit!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Can You Spell "Prestidigitation"?

Day 7, and I'm still loving my class.  Today we started watching  Akeelah and the Bee.  The kids are LOVING it!  If you are not familiar with it, it is an excellent movie for Grade Six, Seven and Eight students. Akeelah lives in a poor neighbourhood in California, and her principal forces her to take part in a Spelling Bee to help their school get some positive press.  Akeelah ends up learning all about Latin and Greek roots for words, prefixes, suffixes, and how you can spell any word if you just know it's origin and meaning.  But she also learns that there are different types of poor and to appreciate her own unique gifts.  It is a really moving story.

I like to show this movie to my students, and then I introduce them to the "Vocabulary Game".  During the week, they have to jot down any word that they think I won't know the definition of that they come across in their reading.  Every child is responsible to bring in one word, and share it with their table group.  I write each word on chart paper. Each group selects a word that they think will stump me (five groups = five words).  They tell me the word, and the sentence in which they found it.  I write the word and the sentence on chart paper, and I proceed to model how using context clues, the root, and affixes, I can determine the meaning of the word.  If they stump me with a word, the class gets five points.  If any child forgets to bring in a word I cheer that they forgot their homework because I then get one point (I can only get points if they don't bring in their word!).  Once there is a DIFFERENCE of 100 points between my score and theirs (usually that takes until April), they earn something (I usually grant them a Yahtzee Tournament).  

When we have finished the game, I circle the words that I think they can use to "enhance" their writing.  (This year I'm going to call them "Razzle Dazzle Words" -thanks Terri!)

I believe that an enriched vocabulary empowers us.  The children love this activity because all of the words come from them.  They are words they are interested in.  

Two picture books that tie in well with this activity are "The Boy Who Loved Words" and "Miss Allanius Vocabulary Disaster".  Check them out on my Bookshelf.  

So, on another note, while I am still loving my class, I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by the paper work.  I forgot how much paper work there is in September!  I find it especially difficult being in a new school, because a lot of the paper work was given to the teachers in June, and everyone keeps referring to these "packages" that I don't have.  I don't even know what all of these packages are!  We have a three page checklist to hand in to our principal by the 30th; I've still got quite a few things on that list to check off and it is making me nervous!  This weekend I will be marking Diagnostic Assessments, writing up Emergency Supply Teacher Plans, and contacting the parents of my students - all on the checklist!  I wish the Public knew how much of the weekend teachers need to devote to their work.  

Monday, 10 September 2012

My Feet Hurt!

Well, the first week went smoothly and according to plan!  Yay!   I feel very lucky; my kids are adorable and very keen.

I gave them each a whiteboard and they are loving those.  (My friend and virtual teaching partner, Terri, gave me the idea of buying a sheet of whiteboard at Home Depot and cutting into into small individual boards.  The price was just over a dollar board!)  I am using them for formative assessment (as suggested in Dylan William's Embedded Formative Assessment,which Terri suggested I read) all day, but especially during Math.  I will frequently ask them a quick question that they have to solve on their boards, then hold up.  They will look at what others have put, sometimes change their minds, sometimes start defending their answers.  It has led to some great classroom discussions, but also quickly tells me who knows what.  I find that it has helped give the quiet ones a "voice".

I'm also using a "random name generator".  It is a free app called "Stick Pick".  I pass the IPad onto a student, and they click on "Stick Pick" which randomly names one of the students in the class.  I'm using this during class discussions.  The students are only putting up their hands to ask questions, not to answer them.  This way we get to hear from everyone.  We are only four days in and I think every single one of them is now comfortable saying "Well, I don't really know, but if I had to guess...."  The first few times I got a lot of "I don't know"s, but I used Debbie Diller's line "I know you don't know, but if you did know, what would it be?"  It's like magic.  I've also increased my wait time, (that is the hardest part), AND waiting AFTER the child has responded.  If I don't say anything after they comment or answer, they start feeling the need to elaborate.  Another of Dylan William's ideas that I am finding works wonders.

My classroom library still isn't opened yet, but it's almost ready.  I've been introducing about 100 books a day.   I am down to my last bin (out of 8).  The kids are practically salivating over the books, "Can I just keep this one in my desk", "Can I place a hold on this one", "Can I borrow a book to show my mother".   It is hilarious!  They even went to the librarian at recess and asked her if she would let them take some books out because they NEED to READ!  The funniest part is that I surveyed them on the first day of school and all but 5 said they don't like to read!

So all is going splendidly well.  On Wednesday I will start my formal diagnostic assessments.  In our Board we do a Reading Comprehension assessment and a Writing assessment.  I also like to use the PRIME Math Assessment Tool for Number Sense. 

Once the class library is officially opened, and each of the students has selected an appropriate text, I will begin building their independent reading stamina.  I use the Two Sisters' methods (from Daily 5).  Each day we will read for longer and longer periods of time.  Then, once they can read independently for 20 minutes, I will begin my Reading Conferences, meeting with 3 to 4 students per day to assess their reading and help them set reading goals. 

Yes, it is wonderful to be back! But man, do my feet hurt!!!!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Teaching Math Through Problem Solving

My teaching partner and I have been talking about the first day of school.  This year, we're both going to be teaching Math through Problem Solving using the 3-part lesson.  So we've decided we are going to jump right in on the first day of school; what better way to establish our classroom climate?

We've chosen an open-ended problem so that we can see what our students know about Number Sense and Numeration.  But we will also be assessing what they know about working in groups and Problem Solving. 

We will begin building our :
  • "Strategies" chart
  • "How to Work in Groups" chart
  • "Problem Solving Framework" chart 
Those bulletin boards won't be bare for very long!

Here is a link to great problem solving activities for grades 5-8 from the University of Waterloo:

Here is a link to an excellent monograph on using the 3-part lesson in Math:

Make sure to check back in next week, I'll post samples of my students' work, our anchor charts, and let you know what I've learned about my students!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Classroom Reveal

I've been into the school every day this week, getting ready for "opening day".  I haven't been alone, my colleagues have also been busy bees getting their rooms ready for their students.  I love this time of year, when all of the adults are in the school, in their casual clothes, getting things ready for the kids.  There is such a sense of excitement in the air!  The custodians are running around patiently moving furniture for teachers who are trying out new floor plans.  The secretary is busy welcoming new families who have come in to register.  It is kind of like Christmas Eve when parents are wrapping presents and putting them under the tree for their children.  What a wonderful time of year!  It is so great to be back!

My classroom looks and feels great.  It is bright and cheerful.  I'm really happy with how it turned out.  You might be surprised or disappointed to see that my bulletin boards are bare.  I don't like to put anything up on the bulletin boards that hasn't been taught.  I know lots of teachers put up beautiful posters of Reading Comprehension Strategies, or Traits of Writing.  But I won't put up anything like that until it has been taught.  Once I teach a strategy, I provide the students with a visual poster, I explain the poster, and I post it.  Otherwise, all of those great posters and anchor charts just become wallpaper.  I like to gradually turn our bulletin boards into "Learning Walls" - reminders and evidence of all of the great learning we have done throughout the year! 

 I have a rather large Mentor Text collection, you can find some of my favourite titles on the book shelf.  If you hover your cursor over a book you can read how I use it in my teaching.

You can see that all of the books for my classroom library are still sitting in bins.  I like the kids to sort the books into genres and organise them onto the shelves.  I want them to take ownership of the classroom library.

I  like the blue and green colour combination.  We have beautiful green cedars right outside of the window.  I chose sky blue for the walls and the kelly green for the bulletin boards in an attempt to "bring the outside in".   The research suggests that people score higher on cognitive tests when they are looking at nature!

I would greatly welcome your feedback and suggestions.  Please consider leaving a comment.  Click on the comment (or "no comments) section, leave a message, and then when you have to "comment as" you can select "name/URL" (scroll down for that option) and just leave your name if you don't have a blog of your own.  I'd love to hear about your preparations for the new school year!

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Digital Tools

Today at Pearson's Celebrating Literacy Conference the keynote Speaker was Heidi Hayes Jacob.  She shared a fantastic repository of links to hundreds of exciting digital tools.  I can't wait to get into the classroom and start using so many of these tools!  Some of my favourites include:

Newspapermap - allows you to read newspapers from anywhere in the world in English!
Google Art Project - allows you to take your students through many famous world museums and study the art within
zooburst - lets you create your own digital pop-up books
gapminder - unbelievable graphing tool!

Curriculum21 — Clearinghouse

Monday, 20 August 2012

Friendly Conversation vs Professional Dialogue

Have you ever considered how important "talk" is to learning?  Today I went to the Pearson Celebrating Literacy Conference and heard two excellent speakers, Lucy West and Pauline Gibbons.  Both speakers shared the importance of talk in the classroom to promote student learning AND to promote teacher learning!

Lucy West discussed the importance of "Dialogic Teaching", or teaching through dialogue.  But we can't assume that children know how to dialogue.  In fact, in my experience, children don't really know how to converse with one another, they seem to talk more AT one another than WITH one another, working hard to get their point across, not realising that they need to listen to one another as well.

We have to teach children explicitly HOW to converse with one another, how to share ideas, how to questions one another, how to seek meaning in conversation.  One way to do that is to model "academic discourse" for them.  I'm talking about discourse between yourself and a colleague.  Do your students hear you discussing teaching practices and strategies? Do they hear you questioning one another and asking for opinions, clarifications and advice? 

Lucy West suggests that we are too "nice" to one another in schools, that we have far too many "friendly" conversations with our colleagues.  Schools are very nice places.  We don't like to hurt anyone's feelings.  How many times has a colleague shared a worksheet that they are having their students do, a worksheet that is clearly busy work, that has no redeeming academic value whatsoever, and you've said "wow cool", instead of "What do you hope to have them achieve by doing that?"

I once had a teacher tell me that her students had greatly improved in their ability to copy off the board.  I said "That's great", instead of "Why do you want them to copy off of the board?" It was a perfect opportunity for a professional conversation, and I wasted it!

Maybe we have to stop being quite so nice with one another.  We need to start challenging one another's practice, (we can still do it in a "nice" way).  It is only when we challenge one another, questioning what we hope to achieve, that we can begin to nudge one another forward in our professional practice.  We have to move from friendly conversations to Collegial Discourse. Like medicine, engineering, technology, (and so many other professions), teaching is not static, we need to grow and change just like the students in front of us do.  And we can't do that alone.  We need our peers to help us reflect, question, analyse and study what we do so that we can learn to do it even better!

I'm very lucky because this year I will be working with a group of other Grade Six teachers from all across our board.  We range in ages from 25-50 with very different skills and teaching experiences.  We've already met twice this summer.  This group inspires me to be the best that I can be.  We're proof that you don't need to be working in the same building to be part of a Professional Learning Community that challenges you to learn and grow!

If you are interested on learning more about dialogic teaching, check out Lucy West on her website!

Lucy West

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Classroom Makeover

I can't tell you how excited I am to be going to a new classroom in a new school.  If ever I wondered if this was the right career move for me, I doubt no more, because I am just itching to get in there and make it my own.

I'm moving into an older school, which means the classroom is huge, but also extremely cluttered.  There were textbooks on the shelves from the 70's!  The first step in getting the room ready was cleaning and decluttering.  If you are moving into an older room where teachers have retired from, do yourself a favour and get rid of everything!  It can be so overwhelming to have someone else's materials in your room.  If you are like most teachers, you may be reluctant to get rid of it, but trust me, if it is more than five years old, it is out-of-date!  Start fresh!

Here's what the classroom looked like in June.  Not so fond of the colour combination.

Decluttering begins!

A little bit of paint can work miracles!

The next step will be the most exciting one- putting the borders on the bulletin boards, planning the layout, setting up the desks....   I was able to score a horse-shoe table for Guided Instruction.    Stay tuned to see what the final product will look like!

The Birth of the Classroom Library

I have over 1500 books for my classroom library.  It is one of my most prized possessions!  I've been spending the last few weeks on Pinterest looking at pictures of so many beautifully organized classroom libraries, I am just itching to put all of my books into their baskets and onto their shelves.  But I am not going to.

A few years ago, I read Frank Serafini's Lessons in Comprehension, and he suggests "birthing" the classroom library with the students.  So during the first week of school, I will gradually introduce the students to the collection of books that I have as I "invite" them into the "World of Reading and Literature".  Each day, I will place a collection of about 30 books onto each group of desks.  Students will have five minutes to peruse the book collection at their group.  Then I will ring a bell, and they will rotate to the next collection of books.  That way, the children will see about 150 books a day.  Together as a class, we will then determine labels for the various genres that they noticed, and we will begin to sort the books into those categories.

Meanwhile, we will also create anchor charts for Reading by exploring why we read, how we take care of books, strategies for choosing an appropriate book, when to abandon a book, and what good readers do.  I like to read a page from my husband's electrical engineering textbook.  I read it fluently and expressively, demonstrating how well I can decode all of the words.  Afterwards, I explicitly state that I can decode all of the words, and that for the most part, I even know what each of the individual words mean, but as a whole, while I can read it beautifully, I have no understanding of what I just read.  I explain that in order to understand a text, I have to have some background knowledge on the subject matter.  If not, I have to read a much simpler text on the topic.  We talk about the fact that reading is about making meaning, it is about understanding, and that the goal for this year, is to understand deeply what we read.

For the first week of school, we continue to view the books in the library, but the library is not yet "open".  Once we've viewed most of the books, and we've categorized the books, the children are responsible for organizing the library.  I then announce that the library is "open"- by now they are usually thrilled because they've been salivating over the books all week and not allowed to read them (a little reverse psychology).  They each select a book, and then I tell them that they have a seven page book report due the next day.  (I love to see their chin drops!)  I then explain that they have to read the first seven pages of the book they have chosen, and write me a paragraph explaining why they chose the book and if they think they will like it. 

You might wonder where all of my books came from.  Many are free picks from Scholastic, many are books my own three children have outgrown, many are from garage sales, but most are from donations.  Parents are more than willing to donate books that their children are finished with, you just have to let them know that you welcome their donations.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Snowball Fight on the First Day of School?

Is it too early to start thinking about the First Day of School? 

I wanted to share one of my favourite activities that has gone well every time I have used it.  Every year, on the first day of school, I like to have a "snowball fight" with my students.

Here's how it works:
  1. Give each student a blank sheet of paper.
  2. Have each student share information about themselves on the sheet of paper; make sure they don't put their name on it. Write one up for yourself as well, e.g. I am female; I have one brother and one sister.  I love to read; one of my favourite authors is Chris Van Allsburg.  I have two dogs and a cat.  I love to swim and dance.  My favourite colour is purple.
  3. Once all students have completed their sheet, ask them to crumple their sheet into a ball.  (I love the looks on their faces when I tell them that).  Then tell them that you are going to have a snowball fight.
  4. The rules for the snowball fight:
    • everyone stands up and pushes in their chair
    • when the whistle blows, freeze in place
    • when the snowball fight starts, they throw their "ball" at someone else. They can then pick up a stray "ball" to throw again.  Continue throwing the "snowballs" around the room until the whistle blows.  Make sure that you participate.
    • Tell the students that the game will continue until someone starts to yell or run.  I find 3 min. is about as long as they can last.
  5. Once the whistle is blown, everyone picks up one "snowball" to take to their seat. 
  6. Ask one student to open up their "snowball" and read what it says out loud.  They then have to guess who wrote it.  If they can't guess, open it up to the class, if no one can figure it out, ask the person to name themselves.  That person then opens up their "snowball", reads it aloud, and tries to guess who wrote it.  Continue until all of the papers have been read.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Math Camppp

Math Camppp was awesome, I am so glad we went.  We stayed at the Kempenfelt Conference Center in Innisfil.   The food was amazing, and it was entirely free to any teacher in Ontario, paid for by our Ministry!

The focus for the entire week was on fractions- teaching strategies for teaching fractions, how to represent them, how to assess student understanding and misconceptions, how to support students with learning disabilities to understand them, questioning strategies-; and the guest speakers were excellent - Marian Small, Cathy Bruce, Shelley Yearly...

Here are a few photos from the week.

Practising our "Descriptive Feedback".

Representing Fractions as an "Action"- Operator or Quotient

"Relationship" models for fractions:  Linear, part-to-whole both continuous and non-continuous,

Why do we seem to always teach using only the part-to-whole representations of fractions????

Here is a link to the Math Camppp Wicki with all of the presentations and handouts.

Lastly, here is a link to Trent University's Math Education Research Collaborative which is full of excellent tips for Math teachers.