Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Archive for the category “Fun”

Teaching Place Value and Kidwatching

Yetta Goodman, way back in 1978, coined the term, kidwatching.  Kidwatching is an observational assessment of children’s performance and responses to instruction throughout the school day. Anecdotal records or more structured teacher checklists often document kidwatching. It’s truly one of the most effective ways of learning about children and how they think…and today, in my 4th grade math class, I saw some really cool behaviors and learned some new things about many of my kids.

I began 2 weeks ago teaching a group of 4th graders (and one 3rd grader who joins that group) about binary numbers. One of our goals for teaching place value is to help kids understand that the PLACE of a digit tells the VALUE of that digit. Kids typically don’t get that, either verbally or intuitively–but they have memorized the decimal place value chart by 4th grade, so the strategy many kids use is to read the whole number, then look back at the question to find which digit they need to name, then try to remember what they said as they read the number, or make a place value chart so they can translate that one digit from what they they just said. Sound confusing?  It is–and there are many, many kids who make silly mistakes on tests, simply because they don’t understand the bold italicized sentence above. They think the digits cannot stand alone in that place, without the whole number.

So I decided to try to teach that sentence to understanding with these kids who come to me for extension in math two days a week.

Here’s what I did:

The first day, I began with a quick preassessment where I asked them to copy into their journal this sentence “There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary numbers, and those who don’t.”

I asked them to write a brief comment on what they thought it might mean. Most just repeated or reworded the sentence a bit, not seeing anything wrong with saying ten when they saw the 1 and 0.

Then, we used a website, Math Is Fun,  and scrolled down on that page to the section labeled decimal vs. binary. Next, we discussed what place value meant, then we talked about the word part “bi” and thought of other words that have bi- in them and then I gave a quick intro to how binary numbers worked. I talked about computers, showed them the periods of the binary system and they immediately made connections between the sizes of their iPads and computers, and they brought up the game 2048, recognizing the binary numbers from playing that game in 3rd grade.

I deliberately used the terms decimal number system and binary number system instead of base 10 and base 2, because I wanted them to relate to the word system and look for the system of the numbers we were going to compare. That was the end of that day’s lesson.

For the next several days they first made the binary chart from 1-20, then worked on a couple of worksheets converting binary numbers to their decimal equivalents and decimal numbers to their binary equivalents. They also had some addition and subtraction problems regrouping binary numbers.

This week, in their homerooms, they began a multiplication unit. I had planned this week to have them work in other bases to make sure they understood how the number systems worked, so I decided to continue that. At the beginning of today’s class, one kid raised her hand and asked me what bases had to do with multiplication and why weren’t we working on multiplication. I responded that I had decided to go ahead and finish out the work on bases I had planned, knowing that after today’s work, she would understand.

Today’s work was varied, depending on the kid–some were simply working through all bases 3-9 to write the numbers 1-20. Others were counting in bases at a random decade (from 70-90 in base 8, for example.) Yet others were taking random numbers (49, 76, 114, 162, etc.) to convert them to several different bases. Most were making up their own challenges for themselves, sometimes depending on their interest, and sometimes depending on the partner they had chosen. They were all totally engaged, and working hard the whole hour they were in my room.

So, at the end of class, two boys came up to ask me to check their work on converting a number in the decimal system (that was in the thousands) to their base 4. They were absolutely correct, and I asked them how they had figured it out without a periods chart. They then turned the paper over and showed me their chart of 4 to the 5th power-1, 4, 16, 64, 256, 1024. The number they were trying to convert was 1,028. They said when they saw 256, they had doubled it, and when they saw 512, they remembered from 2048 (the game) that 512 doubled to 1024, so they knew the conversion then- 1 set of 1024, 0 sets of 256, 64, or 16 + 1 set of 4, and no sets of 1s or, in base 4, 100010.

I asked them if they had used multiplication and they said yes–so I then asked the class if they had used multiplication while working in different bases, and they resoundingly answered yes!  They also said they had had fun and they were looking forward to tomorrow’s class to keep going. The girl who had asked what bases had to do with multiplication at the beginning of the lesson asked me at the end if she could work on her charts during lunch–I asked her how much she had used multiplication in the last hour and she said “about a billion times.”

I was surprised by today’s class for several reasons…the ability they had, as a group, to manipulate numbers in their heads was so different from a 5th grade class I worked with another day, their remembering the numbers from the 2048 game and their use of them in the bases, a kid saying he needed to really understand bases so he could do better programming since he was going to be a computer programmer when he grows up, the engagement of all 17 kids, even a few who were new to the class today, and the total immersion in setting up challenges for themselves as they worked to understand the patterns and ways each base worked.

The fact that most of them were totally working independently, working with a partner, (so there were checks and balances) and having fun was great. But the conversations and explanations I heard clearly said they understand the systems better now that when we began last week. The fact they were looking for combinations of factors of a number showed their deep understanding of decomposing numbers. And, the way they were manipulating digits in various places to both show that factoring and the total number said they have grasped some major understandings of place value–my original goal. Today was a day for kidwatching. Now to help them verbalize those understandings and consciously recognize what they know and have learned…that’s tomorrow’s work.

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#pb10for10

Today is the 5th annual picture book event:  #pb10for10. Here’s how you participate!

 

And, here are my 10 favorite picture books for looking at the world differently:

The Napping House Not only does this book show varying perspectives of the room on each page, but I have an incredible story to go with it.  I had just read this book (numerous times) in my kindergarten class right before one Halloween weekend.  Over that weekend, one of my students was in an accident and went into a coma. My Teaching Assistant and I went to see her Monday after school and when we talked to/at her, her brain pressure dropped, so I kept going back, and took books to read to her as I sat with her. Whenever I read The Napping House, she became visibly calmer and seemed to be hearing and recognizing it.  I left the tape that went with it, and the nurses would play if for her. When she came out of the coma, she asked me to read it to her…over and over…so I know reading a favorite book made a difference for this child.

Piggie Pie NO group of kids I have ever shared this book with has  not enjoyed it tremendously!

Zoom such a great book for predicting and seeing things differently; especially great for working with “bird’s eye view.”

It Looked Like Spilt Milk  This book teaches that with a little imagination, something ordinary could become something extraordinary. (Amazon’s words)

The Potato Man (and The Great Pumpkin Switch), but these go together to show storytelling and the importance of seeing the world through another perspective. Kids want to know where # 3 is–and some of my 4th graders even wrote their own “Lucky Penny” stories.

If  You Give A Mouse  A Cookie (I use it to teach Algebraic thinking with the “if…, then…”)

Tomorrow’s Alphabet -Explore a wonderful world of possibility with an imaginative alphabet puzzle that encouraged young readers to look beyond the obvious. (Amazon’s words!)

Bedhead and Baghead (two books, but they go together) Having  a bad hair day? These two kids handle it differently, but help us understand the commonality of worrying about how we look to others.

Counting On Frank–this one shows how a mathematical thinker looks at and thinks about the world

Picture This-a book full of visual surprises, sharing new perspectives on what came before and what is yet-to-come

 

I could do another 10 like this….but am going to go read other’s lists and gather a whole new bunch of ideas for books to use in a new school year!

5th Graders Recommending Books

My 5th grade literacy group on Wednesday participated in a Today’s Meet and discussed books for well over 30 minutes.  I had asked them to share about the “Letter books” they read with a sub last week while I was away. (A “letter book” is where the story is told through letters or a letter (or more) serves as a major prop in the story.)

Here’s the transcript:

https://todaysmeet.com/readingletters/transcript

Enjoy!

Priorities–we all have to make them.

So, in late August, I committed to some folks over Twitter (through Shawn White,  @swpax) to writing a blog post every day–or trying to–for the month of September. I had ups and downs, but I did it, and a few days I even wrote two posts.

BUT, it wasn’t the most fun I ever had writing.  I thought about what was I going to write about when I wasn’t ready to write.  I worried about it, even.

When I knew I had a post due and I had no inspiration, I found myself thinking, “What can I do to get’r done?”

I hated those days.

BUT I found out some things, both about blogging and myself:

  1. I can do it–write a blog post every day. The question is, do I want to?
  2. Some days are more inspirational than others.
  3. I have had some incredible administrators in my tenure as a teacher in my county. They rock in so many ways and often gave me encouragement in September. (My former principal is an amazing friend.  She needs to tell her stories!)
  4. My colleagues in Albemarle County Public Schools are incredibly supportive and kind. (I knew that already, but I was reinforced in that belief this past month.)
  5. Many of  the people on my staff were reading my blog!  One even commented here, many over email or to my face. Thanks to all of you–your encouragement means a lot.
  6. I found myself looking at the stats and the retweets, and I found myself looking for patterns in the posts I wrote.
  7. While I started this blog to share what I was doing in my classroom and describe that (how I was working to amplify my students’ minds), those seemed to be the least read posts, looking at the stats.  They were definitely the least retweeted and commented on.
  8. While people didn’t often comment on here, the things I was saying were starting conversations face to face and other places.
  9. I received several DMs, or had conversations that people felt uncomfortable posting to the web. While I wanted conversation, I understand sometimes a reaction just isn’t appropriate to post online.
  10. I hate feeling forced to write on someone else’s schedule.  And, while I KNOW I was the one who decided to do this, there were times I wanted to blame someone else for feeling irritated I had a blog “due”–even if it was just due to myself.
  11. The days I felt like “Get ‘r done.” weren’t worth it to me. I love writing and want to continue to love writing.  I don’t want to feel like writing is a chore.
  12. The commitment kept me going and writing, even when it was hard… and that’s got me thinking about making a commitment-any commitment.

So, as I think about doing this every day of the year, for 365 days, I’m just not sure  I want to do that. I tried the photo 365 one year, where you take a picture every day for one year.  I lasted until April or May before I quit, I think… and while the project was amazing for getting me to look at the world around me differently, I began to see it as a chore. Writing a blog post a day for one month seemed really doable to me back in August.  Looking at 365 days seemed unsurmountable. I’m now pondering long term and short term goals (365 days versus 30 days, in my case.).

I guess I really want to think about what we do to kids when we set their goals for them.  That’s what the state standards do, don’t they?  The standards define their minimum learning for the entire year…and we all know kids who could–and should–go WAY beyond those bare minimum requirements. So when we begin a unit in Social studies, or science, or even math or literacy, do we tell the kids from the get-go all we’re planning to teach them?  Do we ask them what they want to learn? Do we gather their thoughts and consider them in our planning?

Part of why I’m asking these kinds of questions is because Stenhouse just publicized a book called, “Celebrating Writers” which has a preview of the entire book you can read online.  I began it last night, and read through part of the first chapter–a story about a kid named Mason. You see, Mason looked like he was doing nothing during writing workshop–but the teacher gave him space, and was able to then use his behaviors to motivate others and help them learn…

The whole book seems really worth reading, says she who has begun the first chapter.  Go check it out.

Well, I took some space this past week, after September 30,  because I was out of town, at two different summits and incredibly busy.  I had no time to write, I had no inclination to write, and I had no brainpower to write after having been in some pretty heavy conversations each day, all day.

Having taken that space, and doing the reflecting I’m doing today, I’m not even going to think about doing 365 posts. I like writing and don’t want to look at it as a chore.  I want to model good habits of writers for my students and I don’t think this is one. Writing on a regular basis, yes. Writing even daily, probably.  But writing just to post a post each day?  No.

And, here’s a funny–I was going to point you readers to the list of people who had joined the 365 blog-a-day group.  I knew Shawn had created a Twitter list, so I went to his twitter feed to find it, I went to his blog  to find it, and I found this instead.
Priorities–we all have to make them.

Some More Book Reviews

I haven’t had much time or inclination to read lately–been WAY too busy–but I don’t want to forget thee ones I have read, so am trying to keep up with sharing at least something about the books I preview for my kids.

First, You’ll Like It Here (Everybody Does)  seems like it’s the first book in what could easily turn into a series.  The characters are okay, but everything that happens is just too predictable and beyond that, a bit too to-be-expected.  It was okay, kids might like it, but if I hadn’t already spent my money to buy it, I wouldn’t.

Secondly, I think  Hound Dog True is a book about introverts. Many of the characters are people who prefer their own company or to be in a small group rather than a large one.  Mattie Breen tells the story, through her words, and her stories.  Again, the ending is pretty predictable, but the process of getting there is interesting, full of quirky characters, and roundabout enough to keep one involved. I laughed, I felt sad and I was curious and intrigued as I read it–that’s a good book in my opinion.

Thirdly,  Hope Was Here is a book about old timey towns–or an old timey town– where corruption has taken over–until teenagers, a man dying of leukemia and a transplanted lady cop take back over the town. Hope came to life for me as a character in this book, and I’d like to read more about her. I was sad when this book came to an end.

And, lastly for now, The Summer I Learned to Fly is a book about family, about growing up and about taking ownership of your behaviors and decisions. It’s about first “like” and trust and being in a household with a single parent. It’s about small towns and understanding the difference between a want and a need because you live with having to make those decisions to have your needs met. It’s a great story, that allows one to easily talk about empathy.

I’m finding my book taste runs to family stories…and especially intergenerational ones as I read. I guess recognizing that is crucial to deciding which books to read and which to share.  More books at a later date….

 

 

Minecraft? or Crafting Minds?

Several days ago, I found this (what I’d consider to be fairly old now)  YouTube video called “What Does It Mean To Teach In The 21st Century?”  While I plan to critique part of it in this blog, I like some parts of it and plan to use it with our teachers on Monday’s workday to spark conversation. Take 9 minutes to watch it, or this blog post won’t make as much sense as I intend, I don’t think.

First, let me say that my definition of engagement is based on Phil Schlechty’s work and that of our adaptations through our learning walks.  Our administrators, as they do learning walks in our classrooms, look for what we’ve defined (with John Antonetti) as the 8 engaging qualities.  These include:

personal response

clear and modeled expectations

emotional/intellectual safety

learning with others

sense of audience

choice

novelty and variety

authenticity

These are derived from Schlechty’s work by John Antonetti, who has worked extensively with our district in the past. So, as we design classroom work, or look at what we’re doing, we look for those qualities.

And, as a mathematical thinker, as a logical person, as someone who appreciates comparing and contrasting, I generally like dichotomies–but pairing entertainment and engagement doesn’t work in this video.

I don’t know about you, but the work I do–as an adult–is pretty enjoyable to me if it encompasses those traits. And, so I have to disagree with some of the dichotomies set up in that video.

First, entertainment is passive and engagement is active. What?  Some of the things I do for entertainment include reading, solving a puzzle, playing a game, playing jeopardy, hanging out with my grandkids (and that is NOT passive, believe me!), camping, storytelling and I’ve spent years waterskiing! I don’t think it’s an either/or situation.

Secondly, entertainment is enjoyment and engagement is learning???? When I’m learning I’m not entertained, and I can’t enjoy learning?  That’s simply crazy!

And look at the other dichotomies set up–

entertainment=short lived, engagement =long term

entertainment=not relevant, engagement =meaningful, applicable

entertainment=allowing escape from reality, engagement =solving problems

entertainment=using creativity of others, engagement =using your own creativity, fun, exciting

Again, it’s not an either/or situation in any of those cases in my mind…

But let’s look at some of the movements abroad in schools today…Minecraft for education, the maker movement, coding of all kinds, problem/project/passion-based learning, connected educators and kids, flipped classrooms, etc., etc., etc. Are those things either entertainment or engagement?  Doesn’t engagement entertain us? And doesn’t entertainment engage us?

And what does that have to do with Minecraft? Is school all about entertainment and engagement?  Do our kids have to be entertained to be engaged?  Do they have to always be engaged? And why am I concerned so much with these two words?

Well, my room is where kids come to play Minecraft. My room is where they explain it to one another , set up mods, visit each others’ worlds, and can chase and kill zombies (or be killed by them.)  They tell me they’re building and making, and honestly, I don’t know if they’re just feeding me a line of bull. So I wonder about their engagement. I wonder about their learning, and I wonder about their time.  I wonder about their interactions with others (both online and off) and I wonder about wasted opportunities to do other stuff.

So I think about engagement and entertainment and wonder if Minecraft is really worth my kids’ time. They used to interact with one another face to face, playing strategy games. They used to cooperatively build structures and towns and communities with our digital fabrication tools.  They used to be into exploring our 3-D printer. And, I know they’re doing all of those skills (sort of) when they get into Minecraft.  But is it what they should be spending their time doing in school while they are face to face?

It’s an “and,” not an “or”–but kids have to find the balance for themselves. The “and” begs for balance–I play a handheld Othello game each morning…and play Qwirkle with my friends in the evening.  Those entertain me–as does the soap opera I have watched since I was in middle school.  But those things are important to my refreshing who I am–they engage me, in various ways, but they also invigorate me, as they allow me to reflect, rejuvenate myself and energize myself through down time. Finding the balance for myself between the down time I need and the time I use for growing and learning is MY choice–it’s MY decision to spend time online interacting with new acquaintances and friends (some of whom have become real f2f friends) or with my nearby friends that I live around every day.

So how do we, as teachers, help our students find their personal balance?  How do we encourage them to explore online avenues of growth, but also realize the importance of face to face interactions?  How do we allow them to make their own choices, and not judge them as they make different choices from what we might make?  This is their youth–and while it is different from ours, the values I value are still the values I can teach–and I believe, values that matter.  While technology enhances and enables our students of today to learn in ways I never imagined as a youth, the choices I make as a teacher need to enhance and enable them to make good decisions as they become adults–because they are MY future as well.  We need to help students, as always, learn balance between being responsible and having fun; we need to help them learn from life experiences while demonstrating good sense; and we, as teachers need to help themselves craft their minds.  We need to make sure, as they use the technologies available to them, that they are not simply using games like Minecraft and other online diversions to avoid growing and learning, but instead learning through them and with them and finding the balance they need to become the best they can be.

Kids Champion Each Other

You know there are always kids in a school every other child knows–you know, the leaders, the clowns, the misbehavers, the in crowd, the whatevers…but darn near every kid knows their name and recognizes them where ever they are.

And, new kids often don’t know those kids or at least, they may not know initially which are the clowns, or the misbehavers. So it’s nice when someone can give them the inside scoop.

I’m often in a unique position to talk to kids because of being a resource teacher. I sometimes am testing a kid so get some private time, and sometimes do small groups, so kids are more likely to bring things up, and I let kids have lunch in my room–which means I sometimes overhear casual conversations that allow me to get into something we teachers may not otherwise know about.

But one of the funniest times I championed a kid was when one of our kids tried to pull a prank on the new kid. The new kid was in my room, and left to go to the bathroom, fairly close to my room. He came back a few minutes later, with a somewhat uneasy look on his face , saying “John was hiding behind the bathroom door when I went in.” I said “What?” and he repeated what he said.  I couldn’t help it–I was absolutely fighting to hide my chuckling.  I then asked, ‘You mean John was hiding behind the door to scare the next kid who came in?”  New Kid:  “I guess so.”  I burst out laughing at that point, and said something to the effect of “Oh, my gosh, I wonder how long he was in the bathroom waiting for someone.”  At that point, the new kid laughed (as did other kids who were listening) and we all began wondering how long one would have to stand in the bathroom before someone else came in. The new kid’s fear was diffused, he recognized that the “hider” had no ill intent other than to be funny, and it became no big deal.

In fact, a week or so later, the new kid was in my room, and the hider walked in to say something to me. (He was avoiding going to where he was supposed to be, so I reminded him he needed to be in Science.)  As he left, the new kid laughingly said, “And, don’t go hiding in the bathroom, either!” The “hider” turned around, made eye contact with the new kid, smiled, and immediately headed to the bathroom.  We all laughed.

Within a few minutes, the new kid asked if he could go to the bathroom.  I asked what he had planned and he said he was going to let the other one scare him so he wouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom long.  I knew then that I didn’t need to champion the “hider” anymore with the new kid–he had the “hider” figured out–and was trying to help him!

Ya gotta love how kids figure out how to support and champion each other.  And, yeah, I know this isn;t an academic thing, but the social often outweighs the learning if it’s not good.

The Need For Time

All teachers need a 3 day weekend (so we can have 2 with our family and one to work) and a bit of time during the day throughout the day. Our bodies weren’t made to wait all day before going to the bathroom, or needing a few moments to refresh or reflect on an incident that happened that day. But, it’s part of the job we all know.

I began this post a couple of days ago because it had been one of those days where I had no time to take a breath–I was busy ALL day! Then today I saw an article in EdWeek about some systems going to 4 day school weeks.  The article spoke to a system in Iowa that is using Fridays for professional development, enrichment and some remediation.  Every other Monday, all teachers are available to  support students, either with enrichment or remediation.  I think that would be an awesome set up. Some Mondays you have time to learn, plan with your team, develop materials around new curricula and explore and be exposed to new ideas and some Mondays you actually have time, without a slew of other students in there, to work with individuals and small groups to increase understanding and retention of knowledge. I wish our school could pilot that! (she says, as she sits at her desk yawning!)

So what are the pros and cons of making a four day week? This system in Iowa did it by adding on an hour each day , T-F.  Some will see that as a pro, others a con…The need for a babysitter an additional day a week…again, both a pro and con, depending on the viewpoint.  I suspect you could make any argument into both a pro and con.

Obviously a 3 day weekend would be kind of cool, for anyone–but there are other ways of giving teachers time. This Iowa system figured out how to provide extra time for both kids and adults for learning. You can always add days to the beginning or end of the school year, but that’s not when we need the time. We need it on a regular basis, every week. Our system has gotten creative with scheduling, using specials (P.E., Music, Art, etc.)  to provide planning time for elementary teachers during the school day, and our secondary teachers don’t need something like that–their breaks are scheduled into the day, since they don’t need coverage for their homeroom kids.   So, beginning of the year, end of the year, breaks built into the schedule and calendar…. how else could more time be found for teachers to learn together, to extend kids’ learning and to plan and work together?

Places and Spaces

Good teachers have always had comfy areas in their rooms, complete with a variety of seating, pillows, beanbags, etc. This big deal about redesigning learning spaces, though, IS a big deal–cause at least in our county , it comes with money to do some of those things that, in the past, have come out of teachers’ pockets. Teachers are decorating their rooms with seating choices, we’ve gotten new tables and chairs in many classes, and our library and our “Wonder Lounge” have some funky new furniture. One whole wall of our Wonder Lounge is idea paint, and our principal has already taken a bunch of pictures of different classes using it.

In fact, she tweets out pics all the time of our school activities and classrooms.  To get a feel for our school, follow @gcrummie on Twitter, and check out all the pictures she tweets.  We also populate both our kid account, @Crozetkids and our school account, @CrozetElem, as well as a Facebook page, a website and several of us here at Crozet are  bloggers, and even more of us participate on Pinterest and Facebook.  I would say many of our teachers are pretty connected, overall. But I have to give credit to Ms. Crummie for being the most faithful about blogging about school–she really uses hers to keep the community informed (http://crozetelem.edublogs.org).  Check here for some great pictures of our new-to-our-school-community spaces and places!

Wonder Some More

Last year I was doing some demonstration lessons in my 2nd grade classrooms and we decided one of our first ones would be based around Dot Day. This is a day many, many educators celebrate creativity, courage and collaboration.  It’s based on Peter H. Reynolds’ The Dot, a book about a young girl whose teacher encourages her to “make her mark.”smDot

Since Dot Day is a Sunday this year, my school is celebrating it tomorrow.

I’ll be heading into second grade again to do a great lesson using the thinking routine, See-Think-Wonder.

We based a series of  lessons around dots–and our first lesson was one of perspective and looking closely at artistic endeavors using dots. I found some great dot art for the kids to wonder about and explore and I created this page of pictures.

We would show one picture, such as this:

die-4-600x399

and ask the kids, “What do you see?”  In this routine, this part is for them to be very literal, describing what is in the picture.

Then we ask, “What do you think?”  Here, they can become fanciful, predictive, thoughtful, whatever, but here is where they often make connections to their prior experiences.

Then we ask the kids, “What do you wonder?”  Sometimes we ask that BEFORE clicking on the picture and sometimes after–because if you click on each of the pictures, you go to another version of what they have been exploring and wondering about.

The ooohs and ahhhs are awesome to hear!

Want to have some fun wondering today?  Go check them out!

Remember,

see,

think,

wonder,

click on the picture,

then wonder some more!

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