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 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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