Sunday, October 20, 2019

Bullying. It has become such a buzz word that is often casually thrown around. October is National Bullying Prevention Month and picture books are the perfect way to elicit conversations.
To teach important themes and concepts, my go-to is always a picture book! And as I'm sure many of you know, one of my favorite authors is Patricia Polacco! Always drawing from her own life experiences, Polacco captures the essence of being a child and the struggles they face. In her book, Bully,  the main character, Lyla, moves and starts at a new school. She quickly becomes friends with Jamie; they have so much in common, even though he is a boy. But when Lyla makes the cheerleading squad and the popular (mean) girls invite her to join them, Jamie is left behind. Although initially loving the attention and status, Lyla knows bullying when she sees it and when she sees her new friends tormenting classmates and writing horrible and derogatory comments on Facebook, she realizes that she doesn't want to be friends with such people. She is smart enough to get out and leave the clique. But no one dumps these girls, and now they're out for revenge. This book doesn't have a typical children's book happy ending, all tied up nice and neatly. It ends with a question to the readers: "What would you do?"
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The book, Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart is a MUST-HAVE! It is packed full of strategies to elicit critical thinking.  To read more, click HERE to catch up on a book study of Making Thinking Visible.  One of the strategies is called Connect-Extend-Challenge. "The routine helps students make connections between new ideas and prior knowledge. It also encourages them to take stock of ongoing questions, puzzles and difficulties as they reflect on what they are learning" (Visible, Connect, 2011)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ghostly STEM Fun!

“All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas and 
playing around with things.” — Stephanie Kwolek, chemist who invented Kevlar

There's no better way to play around with things and develop a growth mindset than with STEM challenges! STEM helps to encourage problem solving skills, teamwork, and builds perseverance. October is the perfect time to incorporate some ghostly fun!
Students were told that although ghosts usually fly on their own, our ghosts needed a little extra help. Their task was to design a carrier to transport their ghost safely down a zipline. They first worked independently to plan, sketch, label, then build their carrier.  We used whatever happened to be in our STEAM box and recycling bin: straws, cardboard, pipe cleaners, masking tape, cups, used posterboard, and coins (used as weights). Each student received one marshmallow (think S'mores size). They drew on it with a Sharpie to personalize their "ghost".

Sunday, September 15, 2019

3 Tried & True Games to Teach Place Value & Rounding

Beginning of the year. . . I used to be so tempted to skip teaching place value because it seemed too simplistic, assuming kids knew how to read larger numbers. Plus I wanted to get on with the "real math": multiplication and long division. WRONG! Developing number sense and place value are critical to understanding ALL math! To read more about developing number sense, click HERE.  
Games and hands-on activities make teaching place value less of a drudge and more fun, as well as reinforcing those numbers sense and rounding skills.
With a partner, students pick a "secret" 3-digit number. Each time someone guesses, the other person tells how many digits in the guess are correct and how many of those digits are in the right place. (But they do NOT tell which digits are correct.) This becomes a process of elimination, using previous clues. It is crucial to MODEL your thinking aloud, especially so students understand the concept that they are not just guessing willy nilly, but logically choosing their digits. Kids will LOVE playing against the teacher!
The best part was eavesdropping in on their conversations. (I always encourage kids to think aloud!)  I overheard snippets like, "Well, I'm going to try the 3 again, since one of the digits was correct and in the right place." After guessing 239, he was excited because two of his numbers were correct and in the right place." On the next guess, he kept the 39, but tried 439. "Oh no, now I only have one digit in the right place again so it must be the 3 in the tens' place." And so on. . . (Now of course this is not to say that other students were not just wildly guessing any combinations of numbers! LOL)
Grab your copy of Digit Mind directions HERE

Thursday, September 12, 2019

3 Tried and True Tips for Developing Number Sense

Have you ever paid the bill at a store or restaurant, then realized at the last minute you have change? But when you try to be helpful and give the cashier the change, which would help to not get so many coins back, they either give you a blank look or just state, "But I already punched in $20." Then when you try to tell them how much to give back to you,  they become confused or anxious because it's not what the register says. . . Those scenarios are just as disturbing to a teacher, as when you ask your class to estimate how many objects are in a jar and they blurt out, "1,000!" or some other nonsense number (when there are clearly less than 50 in the jar). Number sense. How to help our students develop number sense?
Number Sense is the ability to appreciate the size and scale of numbers in the context of the question at hand. The three major elements that fall under number sense are counting, wholes and parts, and proportional thinking.
 Warm ups and number talks build number intuition and fluency, while giving you (the teacher) insight into how your students think. They support the idea that math makes sense, and you can explain what you see to help it make sense to other students. Engage students with expressions and equations as a means to:
  • develop relational thinking
  • look for patterns in number
  • develop place value understanding and/or
  • build number fluency
The difference is that the students aren’t just looking for the answer: they’re trying to find as many different ways to solve the problem as they can. The key elements to number talks are less emphasis on speed and right answers and and more of an emphasis on their thinking process and communication.
Choral counting is a warm up that teachers can use to help students identify patterns, strengthen number sense, develop concepts of place value, and increase number fluency. Ask: How are you deciding what number comes next? What patterns do you see? It's often quite surprising what students notice (that was unintentional on the teacher's part!)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Books to Teach Perseverance

"This is too hard!" "I don't get it!" What makes certain people easily give up when encountering a challenge, while others persevere, determined to solve problem and succeed? Years ago, the buzzword in education was GRIT.
So what is grit? Grit means having the dedication and courage; strength of character to work hard toward a goal, no matter what challenges are encountered on the way. And as always, picture books provide the perfect model for this trait.

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Most people have heard of Louis Braille, but many do not not realize that he was not born blind. Six Dots by Jen Bryant is a beautiful picture book about the story of young Louis Braille.
Louis was just five years old when he lost his sight in an accident with an awl. However, he was determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read. Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. So Louis invented his own alphabet—a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. It is a system so ingenious yet practical that it is still used by the blind community today.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

5 Meaningful No-Prep Activities for the First Week of School

Bookmark this page! If you're frantically planning for your first day or week of school, here are five tried & true activities (not busy work!) to keep your students engaged while you get to observe and learn more about them. And be sure to download all the FREEBIES!
Although many of your students may know one another, you may have new students or those who are shy. Friend BINGO is a great way for kids to get up and moving and interacting with each other! They may not just shove the paper in another person's face and say, "Sign!" They need to ask specific questions from the BINGO board. Students may also ask me to sign their BINGO and I'm happy to share about myself (and to be seen as a member of our classroom community). After a set amount of time, we gather on the rug and share what we learned about each other. This often elicits even more conversations (and it's a great time to take notes on what you are learning about children's extracurricular interests and activities.)
Click on the BINGO above or grab a copy of Friend Bingo HERE.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Instilling a Sense of Belonging

Oh, how I love picture books! They are not just for little kids, but they are filled with so many life lessons for big kids, too! The start of a new school year is a time of excitement and anticipation (for children and teachers alike!) But it may also be a time for fear and hesitation for some (children and teachers alike!) Instilling a sense of belonging from Day One is critical to the rest of the school year!
Everyone wants to feel like they belong; that they are not an outsider, especially within a group of peers. Morning meeting and read aloud are two perfect opportunities to raise awareness and foster conversations about misconceptions and what it means to belong.  Do you know Big Al? Andrew Clements is one of my favorite middle grade authors! My fourth graders love his Jake Drake series, as well as all of his realistic fiction novels. So I was very excited to discover his picture book, Big Al!

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Poor Big Al just wants to make friends. But because Big Al is large and scary-looking, the little fish are afraid to get to know him; just like our students who may judge others who look or act differently than what they are comfortable with. The illustrations are darling and your kids will giggle and gasp as you read. Big Al tries everything he can think of: from disguising himself with seaweed to burrowing under the ocean floor to try and look smaller. But something always goes wrong, and lonely Big Al wonders if he'll ever have a single friend. However, when a fishing net captures the other fish, Big Al gets the chance to prove what a wonderful friend he can be! This book will have your kids cheering!