Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lovin' My bloglovin' Button

Thanks to Maggie, I was finally able to add my personalized bloglovin' button. She has a two great video tutorials that will guide you step by step. I am so happy! Check it out.

You can visit Maggie's Kinder Corner if you need help too.

Maggie's Kinder Corner

Friday, June 28, 2013

Super Fun Frames

Wendie found these super cool frames at Michaels. We are going to use them in our classroom to showcase amazing work, creativity, progress... the possibilities are endless. We still need to paint them the perfect colors and we will definitely post the finished product. Oh, the best part is that they are now on sale! From $7.99 to $1.99 each.

Teach Like a Pirate Chapters 8 & 9

Burgess gives us so many meaningful, doable, and fun ways to spice up our presentations, he truly guides us in this process. The hooks he shares are some that I am familiar with and some that I wouldn't have thought of. His questions helped me start thinking outside of my box and see that creating and embedding new hooks into my lessons is doable.

This past school year, I began to use "brain breaks." These breaks are often kinesthetic, games, acting out, etc. and just plain fun for me and the kids. My students enjoyed them and were energized and ready to learn.

Now, here is where the work begins. Now we know the power and importance of having an amazing presentation, but how do we keep consistent? I know that I can personally have a difficult time incorporating new things into my teaching life once school gets going. Thus, I have to make these new things accessible and easy to use. I decided to create index card size reference cards to put on a ring and keep near my planner when I am designing lessons. That way I can refer to them when I need some help creating hooks to enhance my lessons. I also left lined space where I can jot down any new hooks I come up with. These hooks are only for these two chapters, once I finish the book I will post cards with all hooks included.

Yo ho, Yo ho...a pirates life for me! (When else could I have sung this? :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Building Mathematical Questioning Chapter 4

Asking Questions

This chapter was so dense with information, I am not sure where to begin. Let me start by saying that I am so glad to see a renewed interest and emphasis on student generated questions. I know that this is an area that I can continue to grow in.  Having taught grades 1st though 6th, I agree with Sammons that it is concerning to see how students begin to ask fewer questions as they get older. So, what can I (we) do to improve this?
  • Teach students to ask question. 
  • Asking questions is a skill that can be developed. No one is hopeless :)
  • We don't always have to have the answers. Good, because sometimes I really don't have an answer.
  • Ask questions that have depth and purpose. This is on the part of the teacher- it requires content knowledge and planning.
  • Spend more time looking for the right question than the right answer.
I was reminded, that I must be intentional about the questions I ask and more explicit in explaining to my students the importance of asking questions. I love that more and more of my students see themselves as mathematicians. Because they are! But I want them to believe it to their core. Sammons shared specific ways how mathematicians use questioning. I already envision an amazing anchor chart :) Mathematicians ...
  • are purposeful and spontaneous in their questions. They ask questions 24/7 before, during, and after math
  • ask questions for many reasons
  • keep thinking about a question even after they have one right answer
  • understand further exploration of a question may be needed 
  • understand that collaboration inspires new thinking and learning
Wow! Isn't math awesome!! Sammons offers such relevant strategies in this chapter- I have to encourage teachers to read it and find out how fantastic this book is.

As I was reading this chapter, I though of how I want to use thinking stems more consistently this coming school year. I work with a large English Language Learner (ELL) population and having been and ELL myself I know that I often struggled with the words to get my point across or generate a question. So, I created a "Fan Tags Book" with Thinking Stems that each of my students can use as a resource for asking questions. I hope they will become part of their math journals. This past year, I made a concerted effort to use math journals in a way that it would truly serve as a resource to  to my students. I have a manila folder stapled to the front where students store their math manipulative for easy and quick access. Just click on the pic to download.

Tanny McGregor, author of Comprehension Connections has great quotes in her book that encourage the art of asking questions. Here's one:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. 
-Albert Einstein, physicist

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Teach Like A Pirate Chapter 7

This chapter is appropriately titled 'The Third Circle."
Copyright (c) 2009, Darik Gamble

  • One circle represents Content. As educators, we should have a good grasp on the content we are teaching.
  • The second circle represents Technique/Method. Here, we use all those great strategies that we have acquired through reading, trainings, conferences, etc.
  • The third circle represents... (wait for it) Presentation. Probably one of the most important elements not taught in college or anywhere.
Fortunately, Burgess gives us tons of examples (hooks) in upcoming chapters on how to maximize learning by embedding it in an engaging, well planned presentation.

Think back to a time when you had your students so engaged and enthralled in your lesson that it seemed like time stood still. You may have thought- Wow, now this is teaching. I would love to replicate that on a daily basis. I know we all would.

Since, I don't see myself as a "performer" by nature. I know I need to work on it. I need to get past feeling silly, embarrassed, or waiting until I have it all figured out.

So, here's the goal- gain student engagement and not to lose it.

Gaining and Maintaining

Monday, June 24, 2013

Building Mathematical Comprehension Chapter 3

Last summer I participated in a Guided Math Book Study by the same author. I have had a tough time keeping up, but I am caught up now and I am so thankful I didn't quit.

This chapters focuses on the importance of making connections in order to build understanding. The more students see connections the better their understanding. That makes sense. Sammons mentions the importance of having students see connections within the discipline of math, but also in other content areas and within their daily life.

I have my master of science in School Psychology and I remember the analogy that some of our students brains are making connections like traveling down the freeway with no traffic and other students connections are like traveling down a road with lots of turns. They will both arrive to their destination - one just makes it their faster. Sammons states,
...teachers must also explicitly teach learners how to recognize connections between their new learning and their existing background knowledge (p. 86).
One of the things that I am lovin' about this book is that it gives us some real tangible ideas and examples of what we as teachers can do.

Teachers can build schema by facilitating mathematical connections using:
  • Math-to-Self (M-S) connections between own life experiences and math
  • Math-to-Math (M-M) links between past and present learning
  • Math-to-World (M-W) relationship to current events
Modeling Think -Alouds are essential:
  • They should be genuine and conversational in manner, so proper planning on the part of the teacher is important
  • Be authentic- use life stories that can be related to math. For example, "On Saturday, I baked chocolate chip cookies. The recipe was for one dozen cookies but I only wanted to make six cookies. So, if the recipe called for two cups of flour ... Is the amount of flour I use important?" (You get the idea)
  • Be precise and concise- Use a set of sentence stems
I have not used Math Stretches in my class and am eager to try them out this coming school year. I created a few organizers that you can use too. Just click on pic to download!

I think the organizers could also be modified and made into anchor charts. On to Chapter 4.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Teach Like A Pirate Chapter 6

My personality is one that tends to be on the quiet, calm side. I am definitely not one who want to be the center of attention. But, in the classroom I have enjoy the freedom of being  with students that are so open and nonjudgmental. Students (children) can bring out the best in me in many ways. 

Over the years, one way I have stayed passionate about teaching is by sharpening my teaching strategies. Mainly through professional reading and some conferences or web seminars. I don't know if I gave Enthusiasm as much importance as Burgess does. Don't get me wrong, I agree! But I think my ability to be "on" naturally evolved. Overtime, I realized my students were more engaged when I was more enthusiastic about what I was teaching. Now, I have those days where my morning starts out rough and I am less than enthusiastic. Honestly, this helps me move past me- "If I were their parent how would I want them taught today?" Parents want nothing but the best for their children, so why would I give them less?
Burgess offers two suggestions:
  1. Create a ritual that allows you to be effective- a greeting, music, chant, anything that will tell your brain that its time to be "on."
  2. Change what you focus on. Like I said, for me is knowing that that is someones pride and joy.
Be passionate! Be intentional!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

We Love Dogs

Wendie and I are both animal lovers, especially dogs. I have three very sweet pooches and Wendie has five super cute doggies. So, as I am looking at my kitchen floor and my three lovely nappers... I am wondering when did all this hair happen? I think somewhere along the way it became just part of the landscape.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Teach Like A Pirate

P- I- R- A- Transformation-E
I think that one of the greatest treasures I have is starting over. Each new school year grants me the ability to transform myself into the teacher I want to be. How amazing is that? 

Dave Burgess begins this chapter by discussing how our classrooms should be like a "purple cow."
So, here is what he believes a purple cow classroom should be like: 
  • A class should stand out. It should be a classroom that people are noticing and talking about.
I think in many ways the time and effort teachers spend "decorating" our classrooms is part of being a "purple cow." I have seen some amazing classroom transformations on many teacher  blogs during the past couple of years. They have served as my inspiration. Wendie and I are currently working on some pretty cool things to make our classroom more inviting to our students. Here is a small sneak peek (I mean very small) it is still in the beginning stages.
I will continue to post progress...stay tune... :)
  • The way we engage our students should be nothing short of extraordinary. He encourages teachers to go to any lengths of creativity to motivate and make sure the "boring stuff is invisible."
What a great achievement to transform who we are as teachers! But, how much more amazing would it be to transform our school?

Burgess poses two questions worth pondering:
  1. If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching an empty room? Ouch!
  2. Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for? Double ouch!!
Honestly, it isn't that bleak. But I have work to do! I have been teaching for almost 20 years and am still -a work in progress. Don't you love that? I think that there is so much untapped benefits to Life Changing Lessons (LCL) that I really want to hone in on how to include them in an organic way into my lessons.

Burgess includes so much valuable information, that we can all take away something new. This is what I'm taking away:
Passion, enthusiasm, powerful presentations, and creativity can turn anything into treasure.

Let the transformation begin!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Amazing Math Book Study

Like I said, we love book studies. We have been teaching for quite some time and we haven't come across a book that just seems to change the way we completely look at math. We look forward to reading, Building Mathematical Comprehension and sharing our insights and hearing from others as well.

Teach Like A Pirate

We love book studies! We are so excited to join the Teach Like A Pirate book study and to have the opportunity to dialogue and share insights together.

Chapter 1 Passion
What about teaching are we truly passionate about?
That one is easy- the kids! Our profession allows us to enjoy special milestones, new learning, and those Aha moments on a daily basis. Our favorite quote "Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things." Wow!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Together we have been teaching for nearly fifty years and we're still learning! Now we're ready to dive in to the murky, uncharted waters of the new Common Core. We are looking forward to exploring new ideas and finding valuable treasures.

Sunday, June 9, 2013