Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Padlet and iPads and Spiders...Oh My!

I can't tell you how excited I am about using the iPads as tools to support our learning.  Yesterday we used Padlet to share our schema as we kicked off our Spider Week.  If you are not familiar with Padlet, here is a short video from their website.

 I have used Padlet before but never with the iPads.  So yesterday at 5 o'clock in the morning I had a brainstorm- I think I do some of my best thinking during the wee hours of the morning!- and created a wall for my kids to share what they know about spiders. I was worried about them typing in the URL, but luckily Padlet generates a QR code to use for sharing the wall so I just made copies of that.
I loved watching my little friends' excitement as the QR code "magically" took them to Padlet and as they shared their knowledge about spiders.  Typing is still difficult for many of them, but they perservered and we have our schema wall!

On another exciting note, our Donor Choose goodies have started to arrive!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

iPad Love!

I could start this post by offering excuses for why I haven't blogged in 3 months, but rather than getting into discussing the "challenges" presented by my class or changes that are keeping me at school later than ever, I'm just going to go on and discuss what's good about this year so far!

Thanks to the generosity of our PTA and a grant that I received, I now have 6 iPad minis in my classroom.  This has allowed me to have a couple of iPads available for independent activities during Daily 5 and math workshop while the others can be utilized by my small groups.  I really want to see my students doing more than playing games on the devices, so my goal this year is to show them how the iPads can be used to share their learning with others.  I've started slow and introduced 3 tools so far.

First I introduced using the camera and PicCollage. We have used PicCollage to show combinations of numbers and for story retellings so far.

Next we used Popplet Lite. Popplet is a great tool for organizing information.  We used it to share the steps for making applesauce during our apple unit.

I introduced Educreations this week.  One of my math groups used it along with Make a Scene: Farmyard to model subtraction stories.  I love using these 2 apps for demonstrating math concepts or documenting students' work in math!

Friday was an especially productive day!  Because some of my students attend a GT class on Fridays (and unfortunately I had a couple students home sick)  I was able to pair up my students and, by using my own personal iPad, each partner group had an iPad to use.  We had time for each group to freely explore some of these apps, and I was able to observe and guide as necessary.  It was incredible to watch as they encouraged each other and solved problems together!

Then my day got even better when I received an email informing me that Chevron had donated to my Donors Choose project, and it was now fully funded!  So in a few weeks I will have the materials to set up a STEM station in my classroom complete with building materials and another iPad.  Now I have to get busy planning exactly how the station is going to look and what I want my little scientists and engineers to accomplish!

I'll be back soon to talk about our next big iPad experience- learning to code!
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Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Blogging Bonus!

I started blogging a couple of years ago after I realized I was spending so much time reading other people's blogs I might as well try it myself!

Writing has always been a way for me to express myself.  As a dramatic preteen/young teenager, I would write angst filled letters when I was upset about life.  I imagined my parents finding these letters after I ran away to become a famous actress (or married Donny Osmond!) and being sorry they mistreated me so by making me be home by 10 or not letting me go to the movies- all those terrible injustices we parents inflict upon our children! (I still write letters or compose emails-rarely sent- to those who have upset me.) I loved writing reports for school projects and terrible poetry and even enjoyed the dreaded essay test.  In college I discovered that I studied better if I took written notes as I read.  I seemed to be able to process information more completely if I outlined and summarized key points from lectures and text.

Blogging has given me an outlet to express my thoughts about teaching and share what is happening in my classroom.  Through blog activities such as book studies I've been able to strengthen my understanding of educational practices and theories. Hopefully I'm occasionally able to share something of value with my readers.  And, since blogging is also a social platform, I've also been able to reach out and connect with other teachers.

But this weekend I discovered an unexpected bonus to blogging.  I received an email this morning from a good friend from high school.  We attended different colleges and both moved out of state to pursue our teaching careers, so I lost contact with her over 30 years ago.  Her email said that she had read my blog and while reading, discovered some pictures and decided that I must be the same Carol she knew from high school!  I am so excited about reconnecting via email, and even better, we will both be visiting our hometown in the next few weeks and will be able to get together.
So in addition to all the other benefits of blogging, it's brought me back to an old friend. What a bonus!
After our graduation ceremony 1977

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Guided Math Conferences: Chapter 2

In this chapter, "The Value of Guided Math Conferences," Laney discuss the why of math conferences. Common Core Standards and the revised TEKS here in Texas are increasing the depth and rigor of math instruction.  Our students need to become critical thinkers, and math conferences can lead the students to dig deeper. Teachers can model how to communicate mathematical ideas and how to make connections and encourage students to explain their thinking.

Laney also talks about the importance of metacognition in math.  This has been a huge focus in reading instruction for quite awhile, but the "ability to monitor our own mathematical thinking, including the degree of our understanding, our ability to connect mathematical ideas, and our capacity to think logically about mathematical patterns and relationships" is critical for mathematical proficiency. We can use conferences to help learners develop thoughtful numeracy by encouraging them to describe and justify their reasoning, reflect on their understandings and provide feedback on their work. (On pages 48-51 Laney identifies characteristics of effective feedback.)

To me the most important use of math conferences is for formative assessment. Laney outlines five strategies for effective conferences for assessment.

  1. Help students develop a clear understanding of their learning goals and how they will know when they meet those goals.
  2. Guide the conversation with questions to elicit evidence of student learning, both content and process, and/or misconceptions and gaps in foundational knowledge and skills.
  3. Encourage students to reflect on their mathematical understanding so that they assume ownership of their learning.
  4. Provide specific feedback to let students know both what they are doing well and what will move them forward in their mathematical learning.
  5. Use the information gathered during the conference to identify a teaching point to move student learning forward.
Before assessing student progress and offering feedback, teachers need to make sure that learning goals are clear.  Learning goals differ from what I would call a lesson objective.  The lesson objective is the actual task the student does during instruction but the learning goal is what a student will know or be able to do following instruction. For example, a learning goal for geometry might be to understand the characteristics and properties of 3D shapes and a learning activity might be "The learner will sort a collection of 3D shapes by a common attribute."  During conferences teachers can clarify these goals and use the information gathered to set new goals.

Math conferences are also used to encourage mathematical communication.  Teachers can model "math talk" and students can learn to communicate their mathematical thinking effectively.  I find this particularly important in first grade. Students at this age are like little sponges; they soak up everything they hear.  Last year during a discussion of a problem we were trying to solve, I briefly mentioned using an open number line and quickly demonstrated.  Over the next few weeks, open number lines started appearing all over the place in our classroom!  If we use the correct math terms and talk like "mathematicians," our students will too.

While participating in these conferences we are also building relationships with our students.  I love the quote below from Carl Anderson.
A few words, a smile, a nod of understanding. That's all it takes to show students we care about them. That's all it takes to inspire some students to stretch themselves as writers. That's all it takes to change some students' writing lives.
By substituting the words mathematicians and mathematical for writers and writing, this perfectly describes why I think math conferences are so important and why I will try my best to find time to conference with students each and every day!

Head over to Second Grade Is Out of This World  to read more about this chapter!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Made It! July 7

I finally have something to share for Tara's Monday Made It!
Ten frames are such an important math tool for first grade.  According to John Van de Walle (Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics) students must be able to relate a given number to other numbers especially the anchor numbers of 5 and 10. He says that ten frames are "the most common and perhaps most important model for this relationship."  In addition to ten frame mats and counters, I like to give my students the opportunity to explore 10 using a variety of materials.  Last fall I used these ice cube trays and eye balls from the dollar store, and the kids loved them! (Unfortunately I ended up in the hospital the week before Halloween so I don't have any pictures of my class using them.  This picture is from Cara at The First Grade Parade via Pinterest.)
I love Pinterest!
OK, back to my "Made It!" On one of my many trips to the dollar store, I picked up some little plastic shot glasses. I didn't really have a plan for them, but when I saw this pin, I knew what I had to make!
Here's how mine turned out!  (I want to make more but I ran out of the zebra duct tape.  I guess I'll have to make a Target run!) I made mine a little larger than the original source- about 4 by 10.  One sheet of black foam board should make 20.
I'll probably use pom-poms or mini-erasers as manipulatives, but anything would work.

Next on  my list- frames for objectives/I can statements.  I've been searching Pinterest and I have quite a few ideas. Hopefully I'll have them done by next Monday!

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Reading

One of the best things about summer is that I have lots of uninterrupted reading time!  Here's my professional reading list for this summer: (Click on the book covers below to read more about the books on Amazon.)

A Place for Wonder
I actually finished this book right before school ended.  I have plans to set up a discovery center and start some sort of genius hour type project and this book has some fabulous ideas!

Guided Math Conferences

There is a book study going on right now for this newest book from Laney Sammons.  Head over to Primary Inspired for details.  Here's my first post; check back as I share my thoughts on the rest of the book.

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action

Another book to inspire me in my quest to allow more discovery time! Can't go wrong with Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels!

Reading with Meaning: 2nd Edition

Debbie Miller's book has been such an inspiration to me over the years, but I almost passed on getting the 2nd edition.  But  I started to read the preview online at Stenhouse and was intrigued by the changes.  Then a friend started to read it, and her enthusiasm was contagious so into the shopping cart it went!  I'm saving this to read on our upcoming vacation.  Long car trip + quiet time at my mom's = lots of reading!

Who Owns the Learning?

Integrating technology into the classroom is a must for our little digital natives!  Our assistant principal new principal-yeah!- recommended this book as a possibility for a school-wide book study so I thought I'd jump in this summer and get inspired!  Technology is going to be a huge focus in my classroom this year as I was awarded grant money this spring to purchase more iPads. I also preordered this little gadget just because it intrigued me!  (Click here to learn more!)

I'm thinking I may spend this beautiful summer Sunday reading by the pool!

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guided Math 2014: Chapter 6

Primary Gal's Guided Math book study is discussing Chapter 6 today.  I blogged about this chapter last summer here and here, but as my math workshop is constantly evolving, I want to talk about it again.  I created this presentation last spring to share how I organized my math workshop.  (Although I am already planning on tweaking it a bit for the upcoming year due to some schedule changes and new information from a workshop I attended last month!)
This was my first time to create a presentation using Google drive.  I liked it even though it didn't have all of the elements of Powerpoint.  Another first for me is using Slideshare.net to embed a presentation.  I love technology!

The changes I am planning for next year include adopting a rotation schedule for a 2 week period instead of weekly, identifying the tubs specifically as skill work, fluency and problem solving, and changing the rotation wheel to match the new tub titles. Look for more information on the new rotation schedule in the next few weeks!
Have a wonderful 4th of July!

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Currently

Wow, is it really July already? I have not linked up with Farley in a very long time.  So happy that I am able to this month!
Oh Boy 4th Grade

  • My husband hates commercials so if he is watching television, I can count on the channel being changed frequently!  It can be very frustrating because I often get caught up in 2 different shows and never see all of either of them.
  • We have accomplished quite a bit so far this summer, but I love that I can get up, putter around and then get started on whatever I have planned. I love it when I don't HAVE to be anywhere or do anything!
  • No matter how relaxing summer is, I can never get school completely out of my head.  But I really don't mind as I love using my time in the summer to research new ideas and prepare fresh materials.
  • Between home improvement projects and staff development, we haven't gone anywhere yet this summer and I am getting anxious to get out of town for a bit.  Our big trip to Pennsylvania to see my family and then to Colorado to help our daughter move home is in a couple of weeks, but I would like to do something before then. Maybe a day at the beach or San Antonio for a few days?
  • My husband painted and installed new flooring in our son's old bedroom so I could move my sewing room in there.  But now we are working painting the old room, cleaning up our daughter's room (which became a storage room while she was away at college) and just general decluttering.  I can't wait until everything is back where it belongs!
  • We will spend the 4th with the friends who are essentially our Texas family. Although it's just us old folks now as our kids are all grown, we still enjoy our time together.  We'll have brisket and beer, watch the fireworks and spend at least part of the time reminiscing about all the other good times we've shared!
I hope everyone is enjoying the summer!  

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Morning Confusion

OK, it's not really confusion, but I've been jumping back and forth from one project to another this morning and I'm starting to get a little bit overwhelmed! When I realized it was Saturday- I'm never quite sure what day it is in the summer!- this old song popped into my head. (Not the original artist but I loved these old variety shows and specials!)

My husband spent the first couple weeks of his summer repainting and installing flooring in our son's old bedroom so I can have a new sewing room.  I've started to move my things in and just love it so far!

However I have created quite a mess in my old room as I've moved things out!
I always seem to create more of a mess while cleaning than what I had to start with!

Today I must get everything out of that room so we can clean the carpets and start transforming it into an office/man cave for my hubby.
But instead of just starting in one place and sticking to it, I've been bouncing back and forth between the two rooms AND working on some school things.
Here are some gameboards I made this morning.  I plan on using them in my math stations during the first 2 weeks of school.  They are modeled after some plus one games that Yolanda shared on her blog Oceans of First Grade Fun a couple of years ago.
Click here to download the 4 gameboards.
Back to cleaning up my mess- if all goes well I will actually be sewing tomorrow!

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Big Rocks

My school is going through what our administrators have dubbed "The Extreme Makeover."  We are looking at our schedules, vertical alignment, classroom organization and content delivery.  Yesterday was the first of 5 summer sessions designed to help us revamp our instruction, and the topic was scheduling.
We were asked to come with a list of everything we try to fit in every day, including instructional activities of course, but also looking at things like transititions and restroom breaks.  It is amazing how much we try to cram into a single day!
We started off by watching this video clip:

Then we were given 7 sticky notes and asked to identify the things we felt were essential to our teaching each day.  It was interesting to see that most of us identified these 3 activities in some form- reading workshop/Daily 5, writer's workshop and guided math- but we also  chose activities like read aloud time and community building. Our instructional coach then encouraged us to look at these "big rocks" first when planning out our schedules and try to eliminate or condense some of the little rocks. (Fitting in grammar instruction was a huge topic of discussion!)
In addition to reading, writing and math workshops, my other 3 "big rocks" were:

  • read aloud
  • discovery time
  • discussion, sharing and reflection time
To make sure all of my rocks are in the jar, at the end of each day/week I want to reflect on these questions:
  1. Did I read a book just for the joy of reading?  Not because I am using it to teach inferring or summarizing or not because it goes with a topic we are discussing, but just because it's a great story and I want to share it.
  2. Did my students have a chance to explore or discover things for themselves?  Did they have an opportunity to learn about a self-selected topic?  Did they build or create?  I really want to explore the idea of a genius hour/wonder time!
  3. Did I remember to allow them time to share their writing or reading or problem solving?  Did I give them time to talk about their new pet or weekend camping trip?  At the end of the day, did we stop and think about everything we learned?
What are your "big rocks" and how do you fit it all in?

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Chapter 1

Note from 6-26-14:  This book study will be starting on July 6.  Brenda (Primary Inspired) decided to delay the start to allow some of the people participating time to get their books and complete another book study that was going on. Good thing since I'm behind in my reading!

Connections to literacy instruction is probably what drew me in to Laney Sammon's first 2 books, Guided Math and Building Mathematical Comprehensions.  As a long time first grade teacher, reading interventionist and literacy coach, my teaching world revolved around literacy.  I was well versed in the works of Lucy Calkins, Fountas and Pinnell, Debbie Miller and others, but my only real professional development in math came from a Math Their Way training when I started teaching 1st grade in 1987 and a Kim Sutton workshop about 10 years later.
So when I stumbled across Laney's Math Stretches book and then Guided Math while preparing to return to the first grade classroom (and math!) 4 summers ago, and read how she had modeled Guided Math and Math Workshop on what was being practiced in language arts, I was immediately hooked!
In Chapter 1 of Guided Math Conferences, Laney again emphasizes the connection between math conferences and the conferring we do as part of our reading and writing workshops. Here are what I consider to be key points from this chapter:

  • Math conferences are 1-to-1 conversations with students about their work as mathematicians.
  • Math conferences help to promote thoughtful numeracy by helping students to engage in mathematical thinking, problem solving and to clearly share their mathematical thinking.
  • Math conferences are different from math interviews and small group lessons
  • Math conferences are structured; Laney outlines a structure based on Lucy Calkins writing conferences: Research student understanding of skills, decide what is needed, teach to student needs and link to the future.
The challenge for me will be finding time for these 1-to-1 conversations.  I need to take another look at the schedule I've created for math workshop and make sure I have allowed myself time to visit and talk with my students as they do their work as mathematicians.

Head over to Primary Inspired to read what other bloggers have to say about Chapter 1 and follow along with the rest of the book!

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Book Study

I was so excited this morning to discover that Brenda at Primary Inspired is hosting a book study of Laney Sammons newest book Guided Math Conferences.  My goal this year is to strengthen the assessment part of my math instruction and conferring with students should be a huge part of that.  I have learned so much over the past couple of summers by reading and following the book studies of Laney's other books!
If you would like to follow along, here is a link to Brenda's post.
Primary Inspired

The book is currently unavailable on Amazon, but can be purchased on TPT (so you can earn credits for your purchase!)
Teachers Pay Teachers
I'd better go get some housework done so I can spend the day reading-hopefully poolside with a nice cool summer beverage!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Math Stretches and Warm-Ups: Thoughts on Guided Math Chapter 3

I love doing math stretches, warm-ups, number talks and number sense routines with my first graders!  Hearing them talk like mathematicians (and I tell them that's what they are all the time!) and listening to how their ability to explain and justify their thinking grows as the year progresses fills me with pride.
We really have 2 math warm-up times in my classroom.  We start the day with our calendar which is filled with opportunities for math talk, but our math block is in the afternoon so I start our time with another chance to warm-up or stretch our math thinking. This past year I kind of had "Math Warm-Up ADHD!"  I kept finding new ideas to try but never really found a routine or rhythm that worked for us.  For awhile we had a daily stretch from Laney's Math Stretches book.  We completed a Daily Math sheet after lunch while students took a restroom break.  Then I started adding journal prompts. I used dot cards, ten frames and hundreds chart activities. By the end of the year I had added Think Math.  For awhile it seemed liked our warm-up activities were taking over the math block and aside from the Daily Math sheet, the kids really didn't know what to expect each day. (Not a good plan!)  Even our calendar time was getting bogged down with too many types of activities.
So now my goal is to choose the experiences I want my class to have each week and devise a schedule.  So far I know that I want to include:

  1. Think Math- I love how this activity helps the kids really think about math problems! (Read how I got started here.)
  2. Data Collection and Analysis
  3. Number Talks using dot cards or ten frames to help develop number sense and fact fluency. Here are some cards I created for the beginning of the year to remind me of the different activities we could do:
    Warm-Up Cards
  4. 100 Chart activities.  I won't start these right away but I do eventually want this to be a weekly activity.
  5. Math Stretches from Laney like "What's Next?", "How Did My Family Use Math Last Night?" and "___ Makes Me Think of..."
    Math Stretch Cards
  6. Number of the Day
  7. Journals: Last spring I revamped my math workshop and added journal activities as a rotation along with math workstations instead of using them as a warm-up.  I love how it worked out!
Now I just need to sit down and come up with a plan.  I'm headed to a Guided Math workshop today so maybe I'll get some ideas there on how to fit all of this in!

Here's a link to Laney's Math Stretches book. She also has them for other grade levels.

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