Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Math fun!

Engagement makes my life easier. It makes students' lives easier too. Today I introduced a new math app to my grade ones. It's called Hungry Fish and they get to feed their fish a specific number and he's very fussy. They usually need to combine two numbers to make the desired number. The cool part was that they were so highly engaged by this game, as I was too when I first tried it, that you could hear a pin drop in the room for over 20 minutes. Circulating the room, ALL of them were on task and choosing an appropriate level for themselves. 

I always try to teach them how to select a level that fits them but I don't mind if they like to play with the less challenging levels. Eventually they will get bored and want that challenge. Ultimately, they end up in the right place for them. This is what real differentiation feels like to me: helping students to identify their sweet spot in their learning and understand what real learning feels like. Through this discovery process, they come to know more about themselves as a learner. The next step is going to be helping them to verbalize their learning needs. Easier said than done, I'm thinking.

The neatest thing about today's activity was that the kids discovered something in the game (within about 5 minutes) that I have never known about! They realized that, with enough points, they can change the colour of their fish and design where its fins go. I played this game a fair bit and I did not make this discovery. I'm feeling very humbled in front of these 21st century learners!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's time I blogged

So I've been meaning to get to this post since...oh about September. To say I'm "actively" engaged in my first year of teaching would be an understatement. Things are busy. Very busy. I'm not going to lie, at times I feel just plain overwhelmed and seriously question if I'm cut out for this job of teaching. There were days (most of them in September) where I needed to cry it out, just like the Ferber babies, for no apparent reason. Then there were other days, admittedly less of them, where I thought, 'hey, I got this, no problem!'

With all of these ups and downs going on, I've missed out on some excellent blogging opportunity. So I need to start now. I'm going to begin with a very summarized list of what's worked and what hasn't. (I realize that there is an argument here for focusing on the positives, but, frankly, this is for me to be able to remember everything!)

-songs with actions for teaching...well, almost anything.
-pre-assessments -so helpful and often they know more than I thought.
-reading strategies -I semi-use Daily 5 and direct teach these in whole group and on an individual basis with modeling. They model them for each other as well. I love how it brings learning to read to their consciousness.
-planning via Intelligence Online (IO) -I love this resource and consider it my saving grace
-tweaking other amazing teachers' unit plans for myself -I still do my own unit plans, but for every one I do, I borrow someone else's
-5 why's -learned this from a great teacher and it really helps with getting deeper into an issue without leading students
-reading picture books the whole way through without stopping to teach something -I reread it to them later if I want a lesson out of it but the first time is always for enjoyment of the story
-bringing people in from OUTSIDE -yes! We are not in a prison and people from the outside world can actually come and talk with your students and teach them something! They LOVE it and it leaves us with so many take-off points for continued learning
-dancing -we dance, everyday, and they love it. And, guess what, they prefer to do their own dance moves rather than follow the teacher. Strange creatures, those children. I use the dance "lessons" to promote creativity and bonding in our classroom community.

Not working:
-paper -I type faster than I write and it is so frustrating when that piece of paper you need got left somewhere else! I use dropbox and evernote so I can access important documents (including assessments) from anywhere.
-calendar -yes, it is the beloved calendar that we have all come to accept as mandatory. I don't know if it's more boring for them or me. True, my students may want to see when things are going to happen (a field trip, pizza day, birthdays, etc), but I don't think that justifies spending 15 minutes per day of boredom, especially when (GASP!) it's not even in grade one curriculum! I stop at the "Days of the Week" song (see first point in "working" above)
-home reading -if I get my own classroom next year I will use symbols (eg. Stars, birds, elephants, etc.) rather than letters to categorize reading levels. I am wondering, too, about the possibility of scrapping the leveled readers and letting students take home books they're actually interested in and enjoy reading -what a concept-. Perhaps parents might actually enjoy them too and read more with their kids! (okay, I'm patronizing the system now)
-daily 5 book exchange -I allow this weekly and they take 10 books. They can keep ones they want and switch ones they are done with. The problem is that it's too chaotic (books everywhere) and it takes up my teaching time. I have yet to find a way to do this more successfully. Suggestions gladly welcomed!
-homework -I tried this and hated it. Once a week students were taking home a duo tang with a word family and coming up with as many words as they could. For some reason I felt I had to do this because I see it almost everywhere, but I cannot see the value so I stopped it. None of the parents have complained :)

Well, that's what I have for right now. I'm going to repost things as I think of them. The bottom line here is that, when I actually get a moment to reflect, I LOVE this job. Yes, it's busy. Yes, I'm exhausted. Yes, I'm engaged!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blogging Together

I'm blogging with my grade one students today! We can blog about anything we want to; it has to be something interesting because we know that a lot of other people read our blogs.

I read my cousin's blog this morning. She's 20 weeks pregnant with her first baby and she uploaded a photo of her growing belly. I think this is very exciting!