Feb 2, 2016

Making Math Strategies Explicit

Since the first day of school, we have been working hard to grow and strengthen number sense in our firsties.  It is not an easy task.  But I really enjoy the challenge.  My teammate, Jess, and I are constantly looking for new ways to encourage flexibility with numbers.

Because math did not make a lot of sense to me growing up, I tend to think about many of skills from a basic very basic level.  Once I have that foundation, then I build up the skills from there.

So as I was trying to think about how I could help my students understand "using a ten" to add numbers, I decided to start with a comic strip.  Engaging, explicit, and a great place to start at a basic level.

Step 1: The Explanation 

 My daughter is in first grade this year and loves (nope...is obsessed) with comic strips.  I knew this would interest her right away.  She read through the comic with me.  The dialogue plus the ten frames helped her to understand the strategy that I wanted her to try out.

Step 2: Scaffolding

After discussing the comic strip, she was ready to try it out.  We folded the sheet and she used the ten frames and "using ten" strategy to solve 5 + 8.  Then we unfolded the paper and checked her work.  It was good practice because she was able to try it out and compare it to the comic strip characters, but I was still able to support and scaffold.

Step 3: Practice

Now it is time to actually apply and practice the strategy.  Depending on the student, there are two choices for independent practice.

The first one breaks the skill down into parts. 

This sheet shows two ten frames.  The student needs to find a way to make ten.  Then they add the remaining dots.  Students write the equation to make 10 and the equation to add the remaining dots.  This sheet works specifically on the number 12 because some students need repeated practice with just one number at a time.

Making the number bond for 10 first is really helpful for students that don't know their facts of ten very well.

The second option still has the ten frames visual.  That way students still have the support to make the ten prior to solving the problem.  

Having this picture really helped my daughter to visualize that she was making a ten as she added the two numbers together.  She was just not quite ready to give up that visual, yet.

 Step 4: Independence

After these different steps and visuals, my hope is for my daughter and my students to be able to "use a ten" to add numbers without the visual.  And if they are not ready, then more practice is needed with additional sheets or more practice at the concrete stage.

 I will be using this procedure (plus hands-on materials) to teach both the "using ten" and "using doubles" strategies.


I would love to know if these types of visuals help your students.  Or have you found something else that works even better?!  

We have been trying out some new strategies in our classroom for math facts...can't wait to share those with you soon! 

Feb 1, 2016

Count Down to Leap Day

Yep.  It is a Leap Year.  That is kind of a big concept for our little ones because the concept of time is tricky.
They are very immediate creatures.  Thinking four years ago or four years in the future is hard when you are five, or six, or seven.  But we have some tricks up our sleeves this year to help our PreK-2 building understand the concept of Leap Year. 

 This count down is hanging in the hallway.  Each bag contains some object that represents or explains an aspect of time. 

Eeeeek!!  I am so excited.  Keep checking back to see the contents of these bags!

Jan 29, 2016

Chair Pocket Alternative

Organization.  I love it.  Organizing, reorganizing, then organizing again.  My teaching location has changed many times in my career; therefore, I have had lots of practice.  And I am not complaining.  Each year it gives me a chance to rethink what I keep, what I pitch, and how I make it all fit.

One important piece to my guided reading and guided math groups are chair pockets.  This is where we house our book baggies (filled with leveled readers for each kid) and our math journals that are used during guided math.

Just to clarify...Our school is departmentalized.  So these groups do occur in two different classrooms.

The chair pockets have been so helpful.  But I have found that over time, the kids are left with very little room to actually sit on the chair.  The book baggies and notebooks end up taking up so much room!  And I cannot flip the pockets around because all the items and baggies end up on the floor.

It is not the fault of the chair pockets but the fault of all our great learning (and probably the teacher that allows the books to stay in the baggies for a good many weeks).

Then I came across some baskets at IKEA and I just couldn't NOT try them out!

We used zip ties to hold the baskets onto the back of chairs.  Honestly, I was not sure how it was going to work out.  Would they be too heavy and make the chair fall all the time?  Would they be too bulky and in the way?  Would they drag the ground?


Actually, I have really liked them.  The bags fit in them so nicely.  No more bulky pockets that leave little room for the kids to actually sit.  The notebooks also fit really well and are out of the way when they are not needed.

Yep.  I think I like this alternative.  The chair pockets will still have a place in our classroom, just not in my guided reading or guided math groups.  And for now...I am loving this organization.

Jan 17, 2016

Sunday Scoop

Snow is falling.  The fingers are freezing (well...they always are) and I am wearing a cozy sweater.  Seemed like a good day for a Sunday Scoop.

Jan 12, 2016

What Blogging Did To Me

My blogging life started about 2 1/2 years ago.  Reading blogs did not start much before that.  As soon as I discovered this world, I loved the idea of sharing ideas, giving ideas, receiving ideas, and learning from fellow teachers around the country and world.  I feel like a late bloomer when it comes to blogging...I was 10 years into my career before I realized that it existed.

But I am here now.

When I agreed to join Maria on this blog adventure, I was not sure what I would get out of it.  The idea of sharing what we do was exciting.  Learning from other bloggers was also something I hoped for.  And meeting some people along the writing path would be nice too.

Those things totally happened!  I have shared (and reflected, referenced, and grown) through my writing.  I have learned (oh my goodness...have I Learned)!!  And friends...the friends I have made through blogging are true.  They listen, gently push, encourage, and inspire me.

But blogging did something else to me.  Something I did not see coming.

I have always been an avid learner.  My thirst for learning more teaching techniques is never quite quenched.  Luckily, I am in a district that supports my desire to attend conferences and workshops (at least what they can).  But in all honesty, the conferences I knew about were the ones that sent me a flyer to school.  And the professional books that I read were typically ones the school gave me or something I received during grad courses.

Being a part of this larger teaching community has opened my eyes to all that IS really out there when it comes to professional development and growing as educators.  Online book study posts and professional book recommendations...ummm...please and thank you!  My professional library has grown tremendously and having posts to come back to extend my thinking is really helpful.

Then there are the professional conferences that I have learned about, craved to go to, and attended.  They are not necessarily hidden conferences.  But I did not know or think to seek them out previously.  But when I hear reviews from other bloggers, I feel inspired and empowered to go. 

Blogging continues to push me in ways that I did not see coming.  I am thankful for this push because I will continue to strive to the best educator I can until my time to educator expires.
So please continue to inspire, encourage, and push each other.
I am listening.

Jan 4, 2016

Maria's OLW

Last year I chose the word:  Author.  I wanted to be the Author of all things that happened in my life.  I wanted to choose, be in control.  As you read, I chose the word, but this year was a little different.   This year as I was reading on the Two Writing Teachers blog, my word chose me.  Deb said this in her post, "This inner fire for education connects me to blogs, twitter, and books seeking new perspectives, ideas, and clarity."  And there it is was.... my one.little.word.  It just jumped out of those words and bit me in the mind and heart.  It's my word now.  I own it. I'm hoping it'll transform me again, as I need it.  I kind of lost this the last few years and I want to find it again.  I need to find it again.  It's something I need to find in more than one area of my life. 

Have I kept you  waiting long enough????????  Here's my word..... 

 I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this song.  have you ever heard it?  Listen to it with open ears, minds, and hearts.

Maybe your word jumped out and bit you while reading this post.  Maybe your word found you or maybe you're still searching for the perfect one.  It's ok, there's still time.  Don't rush it, just promise when you find it, you'll let me know what it is. :) 

Dec 28, 2015

Believing in Our Students

My building decided to end our 2015 year with a celebration of the learning that has taken place.  But I think this would also be a great way to start the 2016 year!
We call it:
Believe Week.

Each day has a theme:
I believe in my dreams
I believe I'm a reader
I believe I'm a mathematician
I believe I'm a writer

Our ultimate goal for the week is for students to participate in activities that help them really SEE the learners that they have become throughout the year thus far.  There is so much to celebrate.

We kicked off the week with "I believe in my dreams."  And the book Someday by Eileen Spinelli was a perfect way to start the day.

What better way to celebrate than to bring in professionals to talk about potential careers for our young learners!

With an escort, each student followed one of the 20 paths that I created.  They got to visit with three different professionals.  There was such electricity in the building!  Kindergartens, first graders, and second graders all mixed up learning together about jobs that interest them.  It was so amazing to see all of our students so engaged, asking questions, and excited about the possibilities.

The event was wrapped up by the students writing down what they would like to "reach" for as their career.

The rest of the week focused on our students as readers, writers, and mathematicians.  We encouraged Spirit Wear for each of those days (and of course we dressed up too!)

The books that we dressed up as were added to the Readbox for students to check out!  Each book has a note from the teacher inside that dedicates the book.  The kids were beyond excited!!  Books were being requested :)

These outfits caused quite a bit of excitement for all K-2 students.  It caused a bit of confusion for some adults when I showed up at an impromptu meeting at our administration building.  Oops :)

After our first graders told Jess what characteristics I possess, she wrote them on my shirt.  Then each student got their own brown bag vest.  Students wrote characteristics on the vests.

Letting our students know that we believe in them as learners is valuable and important.  Taking time to celebrate the accomplishments made and the dreams to reach for is meaningful to our little ones but also to the adults that work with them.