2011/01/31

January 31 - Fractions, free-play and 3 part lessons

I was sitting around enjoying some playtime with my son over the weekend, when he picked up his Melissa and Doug cutting foods and started playing.  I knew I was starting a unit on Fractions the next day, so I packed them up and stole them.  I know, I am a terrible father.

I got some apple juice and some wooden knives and we had a tea party.  I tried not to give any instructions, just to let them have free play with the toys (even though it was quite comical to us all that a bunch of grade 5's were playing with a little baby toy).

As the tea party started, several problems arose.  First, they was obviously not enough food for everybody to have a piece of everything.  This led to arguments over who got what (mostly the watermelon and the baguette were the popular items).  So, once a fair consensuses was reached (paper rock scissors) they started cutting and sharing.  They poured themselves REAL apple juice, and pretended to eat their wooden food.

Once everybody was full up, I asked them to reflect in their math journals on a couple of simple questions.

How much of the baguette did you eat?

How much watermelon did you get?

How many pieces of food did you and the person to your right eat in total?

How many pieces of food were on the table?

Some of them reflected in fractions, while some of them just used whole number strategy.  After the reflection time was finished, asked them to try and express the answers to the questions using fractions.  I used this as my diagnostic assessment for the unit.

Tomorrow we will start our first lesson of the unit.  I am going to try and stick to a three part lesson strategy for the entirety of this unit.

1) Developing the Context - This is where the teacher sets the stage for the problem.  A good problem is a situation - realistic or fictional - that students can imagine and visualize.  This is done as a whole class.  I like to use oral stories that I make up off the top of my head, but that is just my style.  Picture books, poems, images and other art is useful here as well.  This is also a good place to review what we have studied in past lessons, and how it may help us in today's problem.

2) The Investigation - After the context is set up and a problem has been introduced - and hopefully the children are excited about the problem - we break off into small groups and try and figure it out.  The role of the teacher here is just circulate, perhaps ask some pointed questions or encourage students to explain their thinking to you.  It is important here to keep everything based on the context of the problem, and to let them make their own mistakes. Usually this step finishes with the children preparing some kind of poster explaining their work.  Give them time to discuss how they will present it to the class.

3) Math Congress - This is where we meet as a class and discuss out strategies.  Using math talk to is essential here.  A math word wall is a great resource.  The children can explain their thinking and see the thinking of others.  The key point here is to ask them to reflect on their methods, and to notice if there is a more efficient way of doing it.  The teachers job is to use the childrens work, and try to present it in a way that introduces the main concepts or big ideas and lets everybody reflect on the process of mathematical thinking.

2011/01/30

January 30 - Inquiry Teaching Strategies

Here is a graphic organizer I made of some teaching strategies to guide me through our Units of Inquiry.  Certainly not an exhaustive list, and maybe a bit cryptic, but it makes sense to me.  These are all strategies I have picked up over the years and logged in my journal, though a great deal of them I got at Tokyo International School at a seminar this past November with Kath Murdoch.  The Inquiry model is the Kath Murdoch Model, but I imagine that all Inquiry models have roughly the same elements.  Use it if you would like to:

PDF Inquiry Strategies

Inquiry Strategies

2011/01/28

January 28 - The best ever read-aloud book

The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant)





This book is so wonderful; full of adventure, compassion, inquiry, questioning skills, philosophy, humor, paradoxes, etc. etc.  If you have a group of children in front of you, I heartily recommend reading them this book.  I have used in grades 1, 3, 5, and 6.  I have also read it to my 14 year old cousin, and everybody loves it!  I won't say anything more, enjoy it for yourself on your own level, and make it apply to your life.  Enjoy!

2011/01/26

January 26 - Unicorn Math

Here is a great problem with did for division and patterning.  This problem is a bit of an inside joke within my classroom (we love unicorns and have created our own world), however the problem is great and requires big thinking and problem solving.

Unicorn Math

January 26 - Earth Math

We learned today that the Earth's plates move at a rate of about 3-4 cm per year (or the rate of fingernails growth.  Therefore, it would be easy to calculate how much the plates have moved in your life.  Age x 4cm (if you choose 4 as your default).

OV-40cm

TW-36cm

Next you can make a timeline and show it visibly, with the whole class on it (and yourself, if you want to).

January 26 - Maps and Perception

We have been studying the Tectonic plates of Earth in our UOI.  I came across a great video that shows how the Earth transformed from Pangaea to the present and what it will look like in 250 million years from now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYbTNFN3NBo&feature=related

This led to many discussions, including what the pros and cons would be of living on an Earth that was essentially one Island.  It was at this point in the discussion that we took a look at Buckminster Fullers Dymaxion Map.

If we look at this map of the world (which is actually more accurate), doesn't it appear that we already live in one island?  How does your perception of Earth, and of your country change when you look at this map?

We reflected on this in our journals.

2011/01/25

January 25 - Making Inference with Metaphor

Today we played a fun game.  We went outside and looked for an object to describe.  Once we had a found an object that was acceptable (not to obvious, not to obscure; this was a great way to add some new words to our word wall!) we went back inside and tried to explain our object using Metaphor.  For this we used the five senses and wrote one metaphor about our object for each sense:

Sight: Like a helicopter in motion


Sound: As silent as the night


Smell: Like a summers breeze


Taste: Like sticking your head out of a fast moving car


Feel: More dangerous that a million knives

Once we had our metaphors sheets completed; we exchanged them and tried to make inferences about what the object was.  Then, we exchanged again and again, until we had seen all items in the classroom.  Once we had viewed all of them, one-by-one we stood up and shared our work with the class, and listened to constructive criticism and feedback from our peers.

The metaphor above was written by TW.  Can you guess what it is?

2011/01/24

January 24 - Thinking Big with Michael Faraday

This was a response I asked my students to formulate in their writers notebook.  We have been practicing structure in our writing and making personal connections.  This activity led to a very interesting discussion about the history of electricity, the scientific method, and metaphors.  Try it out!

Faraday Response

November 24 - The Ask Me About book and a window into the classroom

I have been reading The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn, and it has been an interesting read for the most part.  I do not give homework, never have, and it has been good to see my reasoning behind this decision backed up in such a logical and rational way.  Many of the myths associated with homework have been true in my experience in Elementary schools; it leads to greater independence, it helps to reinforce the learning done at school, it teaches organizational skills, etc. etc. etc.  I have not seen any of this happen because of homework, nor have I seen any of these attributes even supported by homework.  In fact, I feel it fosters the opposite of these skills.  For those reasons, I made a vow to never give homework.   It makes me think hard about what it is I am doing with the time we have together, and forces me to plan accordingly.

It also made me take stock and think about how are some other ways that I can give parents a window into my classroom.  If they are not standing over little Yuki's shoulder helping (doing) her with her homework, then how can I keep them involved in what we are doing in class?  For this, I have two solutions, and as always, I would love to hear more if anybody has them!

Ask Me About Book

This is simply a notebook that each child is given at the beginning of the year.  On the cover it says Ask Me About.  Inside, we write the date, and Ask me about something that we did today.  For example, yesterday we wrote Ask me about the difference between boots and snowshoes.  This is because we did some experiments outside judging the speed and depth of our boot prints in snow with and without snowshoes. Each child takes the book home everyday, gets it signed and gives it to me to check.

My hope is that this book creates a dialogue at home between parent and child regarding what they do in school.  Several parents have approached me and said that they use the book as a dinner table piece.  Great!  It also allows me to do some assessment.  If the child explains a concept we studied in class, but doesn't quite understand it, the parent usually writes this in the margin beside it.  It gives me ongoing formative data for my file.  It also forces me come up with at least one great idea, big thought, or interesting concept each day.  I try and make each item I send home in the book to be about a 5 to 10 minute conversation.

Class Wiki

I have used several different platforms for this in the past; PBworks and Wikispaces being the best.  This is basically an online resource for parents, students, and myself.  It is a secure place where each kid has a username and password, and so does each parent.  They can log on from the comfort of their own homes, or on their smartphones on the commute to work.  I use it for several different aspects of communication with parents.

  • I post a daily recap of what we have done in class

  • I put up pictures I have taken from various trips and activities

  • I put up links and resources that I use in class, or ones that I think parents and children would enjoy doing together

  • I share student work

  • I put up book lists

  • It is an archive of what we have studied in the past, and a place to go review past material

  • The kids use it to reflect or share big insights they have had

  • I put up lesson plans, rubrics, and assignment details

  • There is a forum where parents can communicate with me; and children can communicate with each other

  • Class schedules and upcoming events

  • etc.


It doesn't take me long each day to update it, maybe 15-20 minutes when the school day ends.  I find that it is a great tool for giving parents an idea of what we do in the class, and I find as a teacher it keeps me motivated to do interesting and engaging lessons in class.

2011/01/21

January 21 - Rethinking Division in Elementary School

We have been whizzing through our division unit.  The students are excited to use new strategies that they have invented on their own, and have been learning from their classmates.  They particularly liked the fact that division is actually the inverse of multiplication.

Here is the thought process that one of my students shared with the class during our math congress (almost verbatim):

Me: Okay, today we are going to solve the problem 342/6.  Anybody have any ideas where to start?


Student; So, 342/6 is the same as 6 times something equals 342.  Well, I know that 6x50=300, that's easy. And I also know that 7 times 6 equals 42, so if I add the 50 and the 7, the answer should be 57 with no remainder.

Even if the question does have a remainder, it is still a simple process to figure it out mentally.  Of course, once you start getting into bigger and bigger units, 2 and 3 digit divisors, then this gets more complicated.  Then again, so does the traditional algorithm.

Speaking of the traditional algorithm, we looked at it and tried to break it down.  I have no problem with students using this as one of their strategies to solve division problems.  The more methods the better.  What I am concerned with, and this is something that we have been doing a lot of this unit, is how you think about the question while you do it and the language you use to describe your thought process. Here is what I mean:

Lets look at the problem of 387/7.

If we use the traditional way of doing long division, this is how we would say it.

7 can't go into 3, so we put a 0 up top and move onto the next digit.  7 can go into 38, 5 times, so we put the 5 up top and subtract write 35 below the 38, and then do 38 - 35 and we get 3.  Next, we bring down the 7 and we get 37.  7 can go into 37, 5 times, so we put the 5 up top and write 35 under the 37, then subtract, which will give us a remainder of 2.  So the answer is 55 with a remainder of 2.

This works.  However, I do not believe that the student is understanding the numbers as they are using them.  Rather, they are just following a rote set of instructions designed to get them through the task at hand.  I introduced the following idea to help my students to talk their way through math problems.  I have a policy in my math classes that you are encouraged to talk out loud to yourself as you do problems.  Math talk is the one element of math that I stress the most in elementary grades.  Math class should be noisy, not filled with quite kids sitting at desks and working on problems alone in their own personal math bubble.  Anyway, rant over.  Back to my point.

Introduce this way of thinking about numbers; preferably at the beginning of year when you cover place value.  I use the metaphor of a shipping company.

  • Hundreds are boxes; inside each box is one hundred units

  • Tens are cartons; inside each carton is ten units

  • Ones are unpacked units; loose, individual


Lets start with 387.  These numbers represent a package of something that is being shipped to a destination (candy, cans of juice, baseball cards, whatever).  There are 3 boxes and each box has 100 cans in it (hundreds).  We also have cartons, and each carton has 10 in it, so therefore we have 80 units in our 8 cartons.  There are also 7 individual items in the shipment that are not wrapped.  If you want to get into thousands you can introduce the term palette, and for ten thousands, we could use shipping container (and so on, continue the metaphor).  I would recommend letting children come up with their own metaphor for numbers, something that makes sense to them.  When students think of the number in this way, they are conceptualizing the number, and not just plugging it into a rote formula to be memorized.  Lets go back to our original problem and see how the answer sounds this time in Math Talk.

We need to share this shipment among seven people.  There are 3 boxes, so nobody gets a full box because 7 people cannot share 3 whole things, so lets open up those boxes and share the cartons.  Once we open up the boxes, we have 38 cartons, because each box has 10 cartons.  If we have 38 cartons, each person will get 5, and we have 3 cartons left over.  Now, we open up the cartons and get 30 individual items, plus the 7 other items makes 37.  Each person will get 5 each, with 2 left over.  Therefore each person gets 5 cartons and 5 individual items, which equals 55 total.  There are 2 items left that nobody gets.

The written record will look exactly the same as the example above, but the thinking that went into it is completely different.  In the second example, the kids are actually thinking about the number and what it means.  They are applying the concept of sharing to the concept of division, and they are creating a metaphor to understand numbers as real objects.  They are thinking conceptually, and not just memorizing a set of rules and facts.

I know the obvious dilemma here is that this is much harder to assess. True.  But who said teaching was easy?

2011/01/20

January 20 - SpicyNodes

We made our first spicynode today.  It is like an interactive graphic organizer.  It is free and easy to use, and my kids enjoyed doing it.  I gave them three questions and sent them off to do some research.  Once they gathered their data, they had to decide how to present it in graphic form.  Then they inserted it into spicynodes.  Here is the final result:

http://www.spicynodes.org/a/bccfc28f679ced458947f9ec68cf1b9a

2011/01/19

January 19 - Inferences with Facts

Start with a brainstorming session about what a fact is.  This is an interesting activity in and of itself and will lead to serious debate.  Put them into groups and have each group come up with a definition of a fact.  After that, share all the facts and have a democratic vote on which definition to use; or have them debate and defend their definitions; or even let them go back to their groups and redefine their original work.

Once you have decided on a definition, give them a table with two headings; Fact, and Inference.  Next, give each student an article or short reading (junior scholastic is great; http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/classmags.jsp?srcId=2, or if you have any other recommendations I would be thrilled to hear about them).  While reading the article silently to themselves, students write down four to six facts that fit the definition they constructed earlier.

Switch sheets.  The goal is two take a look at the facts that the other person has written and make inferences about the subject content of the article.  Make some inferences, and then students write a quick summary about what they believed the article was about.

Get back with the person who summarized your article and have a chat about the actual content of the article.  Come back as a class, and debrief on how easy, or difficult it was to make inferences with the information given.  What would have helped you make a better inference?  What kind of facts were helpful?  Which were not?  Why?  (Do this as a class congress or perhaps a journal entry, though I prefer big group discussions for my class, it fits our environment better)

2011/01/18

January 18 - Math Problem of the Day

Here is our daily math problem.  Great for introducing division, and getting them thinking about math and drawing.  I am thinking of starting a section on the blog to put all these documents up on.  Anyway, here it is!

Movie Theatre Division

January 18 - Question Web and APES

This is a way to link questioning skills with inferences (see previous posts on activities for introducing these two concepts).

Introduce the students to a question web.  A question web is just like a brainstorming cloud, expect rather than a concept in the center we have a question.  As we are reading, we are writing any evidence that we think may help us to answer the question around the web.  Once we have finished the reading, we start to look at the evidence and choose which points are the strongest, and which are weakest (highlight the strongest point in a different color perhaps).  Then we can take our evidence and begin to formulate our response.  I use the APES writing model to do this, as it gives students a framework and structure for giving solid responses backed up with evidence and personal connections.

Slide1Slide1

2011/01/17

January 17 - Creativity



Utterly brilliant. I know it is about ten years old now, but it still applies to our world. For Education and teachers, Ken Robinson paints a great portrait of what the end product of education should look like. Though he doesn't go into specific details about how to fix education (aside from the big idea theories; which I think is enough), he gives enough evidence that creativity is a vital part of human ecology to keep a creative teacher going. The idea of cross subject (trans-disciplinary learning, or integration of subjects) has been catching on in the education world for the last decade. It is now the standard for most Teacher Training Universities in the world to teach this type of pedagogy. Hopefully, the methods get better, the teachers get more informed and passionate, and everybody wins. That being said, the world isn't as simple as that, and things are constantly changing. My favorite quote, and the thing that has made my mind think the most is;

"We are educating children for a world of work into which they will enter in about 20 years, and we cannot even predict what the world will look like in 5 years."

Food for thought

January 17 - Idea of the Day; The Q-Chart

I got this from a good friend of mine in Toronto.  Great for getting kids to dig a bit deeper with their questions, or for determining the difference between types of questions and when is an appropriate time to ask a specific type of question.  Break it down with students and try and categorize each color.  Understand the differences in meaning and usage.  Use it as a prompt for a read-aloud (I am looking for some big picture good purple questions) or use to gather information (we need some basic yellow questions for background knowledge before we can proceed forward).

The ultimate goal of this chart is to eventually remove it from the class and have the students ask the right type of question in the right circumstance without prompts. Try it and see if it works.

Slide1

2011/01/14

January 14 - The Art of Inference

These two activities are ones that I picked up from two great Educators.  The first was from a workshop I attended at Tokyo International School with Kath Murdoch.  The second was picked up at a workshop at the University of Toronto (OISE) from Garfield Gini-Newman.  Both great activities; highly recommended for showing teaching kids the concept of making an inference.

What's Under the Mat

Put an object under a mat (sheet, towel, etc).  Make sure the object is obscure enough that they won't get it right away, but not so difficult that they will have no idea what it is.  I took a small plastic stand that is used to hold up glue guns from the art room.  It worked wonderfully, because even after we took off the towel they still didn't know what it was, and had to make further inferences based on its color and over state of disrepair (glue burns and stains).  This can be done in small groups (though you might need a lot of items depending on the size of your class).  Here is what we did:

  • Show them the item the item under the towel, but no do let them touch it yet.  This will force them to use their other senses for their initial evidence gathering.  Have a student act as a recorder and write down all the ideas and observations that are made at this step.  Or, have each student record their own observations individually.

  • Allow them to touch the item with the palms of their hands, but not their fingers, and have a student record the thoughts and observations.  Better yet, have a recording device to capture the whole thing on an audio file.  It can later be reviewed and we can break down their logic and thinking as a group.

  • Let them feel with their finger tips, but they are not to pick up the object yet.  Again, record observations.

  • Finally, them use their complete hands to touch the item, pick it up (though we careful they don't take the towel off!) and really give it a good investigation.  Record Observations.

  • Have everybody in the group make a guess at what the object is.  Have a discussion and try and back up your idea with the evidence you have collected thought the preceding steps.

  • Reveal the item.  If it still requires more observation and thinking, allow them to do so now.  Make sure they continue to record their ideas.


This is a great activity to dissect the process of thought.  It really gets them thinking on a logical level, and it forces them to back up their ideas with evidence and observation.  For me, the recording along the way is vital.  They act as a map that shows how the original thought was expanded and built upon as new evidence was introduced.  As a class, have a discussion and start dissecting the ideas, pointing out how their thought process changed along the way.

Look at this Photo

The second activity we did today doesn't really have a name, but it is fun and is filled with ideas and great thinking.  Use this picture (or if you have another, please share it with me, as I am always looking for more great photos that are packed with information and hidden nuances):

North American Shopmen


The next step is simple; and will more than likely set off a furious avalanche of ideas, inferences and hypothesis'.




  • In what month was this photo taken?

  • On what day of the week was this photo taken?


There is enough information in here to keep them going for a while.  The only piece of information you can provide them is the only piece of information I know, the photo was taken in Glenbow, Alberta.  Other than that, the rest is up to you and your power of observation!  I like to have somebody recording the observations (or I do it myself), and then we have a de-brief at the end and look at how our ideas changed based on new observations.  The great thing about this photo is that there is no answer.  As a final activity, have the students write out their theory, debate it with each other (which would allow to teach the rules of debate as a skill-set) or have them write a newspaper article to accompany the image.

January 14 - PE class; Science and Snow Shoes

There is a lot of snow where we live.  In order to better use our environment, and to have nature as our teacher, we decided today that we would take our PE class outside and try some experimentation in the snow.  We broke it down to two basic experiments:

1.  Step in a batch of fresh snow with your boots on and measure the hole.  Then, step in another patch of fresh snow with you snowshoe on and measure the hole.  Record depth and make observations.

2. Make a course through a patch of deep snow and run it with your boots on.  Time the results and record.  Then, find another course and run it with snow shoes on.  Record the time.  Make comparisons and observations.

It was a lot of fun, though a bit chilly.  And guess what; snow shoes really do work!  Here is a snippet of our results:

Slide1

Though the difference in time does not really tell us much, we concluded that this was due to our inexperience using snowshoes.  We all concluded that, despite our inexperience, that running and walking in snowshoes was much easier in deep snow than our boots.  Next week, we will look at why.

2011/01/13

January 13 - Math Problem of the Day

I cannot even begin to describe how amazing this question was.  It was so incredibly difficult and challenging, but all the students stuck with it and gave it a go.  There are so many levels on this.  What a puzzle!  I need to make more of these.

You have a full-time job in the summer vacation months of July and August; and you save all the money you make in an account at the bank.

You do odd jobs and gardening 4 days a week.  For each job you do, you receive $12.  It takes you an hour and a half to complete a job, and there are about 9 hours of good sunlight a day.  Your mother will not let you work more than 9 hours a day.

At the end of the summer; how much money will you have in your savings account?

Try this as a lesson in perseverance and organization.

2011/01/12

January 12 - 50's Pulp Sci-Fi

Today was the first day of our unit on natural disasters.  Our Central Idea is Understanding the Earths natural processes can help humans respond to natural disasters.  I have been excited for this unit as it will be very heavy on Earth science and Eco-literacy.  Hopefully we can build on our understanding of the Earth and start to notice some of the patterns and systems that exist in the great web of life on Earth.

We started our learning with a simple look at the central idea.  I decided that this would be mostly a talk based diagnostic assessment.  The class was broken up into smaller groups and then I asked a series of questions based on the Central Idea.  What are the Earths Processes?  What are some of the ways that Humans prepare for Natural Disasters?  Can we stop Natural Disasters?  Why are Natural Disasters important to the Earth?  During this whole process I was circulating the room and listening to the talk and taking notes.  I was also writing down any interesting questions I heard come.  I made sure that I did not get involved at all in the discussion, but rather it was a chance for them to share their knowledge on the subject; whether it be factually correct or not.

The next step was to ask questions and build our Wonderwall.  Each child was given a sticky note, and they had to write questions on it and post them on the board.  We then read the questions out-loud and tried to classify them.  I will return to these questions through-out the unit and hopefully try and answer all of them.  Here are two of my favorites:

  • Do Tsunamis move with the rotation of the Earth?

  • Are there Natural Disasters on other planets?


Once we had our Wonderwall complete, we broke into different groups.  I asked them to make a list of ten natural disasters.  Much to my surprise, most of them came up with lists that were much longer than ten!  Once they had pared their lists down to a workable ten, I then asked them, in groups using consensus decision making strategies, to rank the disasters from 1 to 10 in terms of their danger to Humans.  This was an interesting activity.  I love ranking activities, as they really get kids to think hard about their reasons, and it forces them to explain them to the group.  Once that was done, we put all the lists and had a class discussion comparing them.



We then moved onto some Art integration.  I showed them a bunch of amazing movie posters from 1950's pop sci-fi films, and we analyzed them for commonalities.  We found three main points:

  • A scary sounding title

  • A over-the-top catchphrase

  • Sensationalist Visuals


Once we had our three aspects of our criteria, we used it to get to work and make a poster advertising a movie about one of the natural disasters we brainstormed earlier.  We then put these up on the wall to start our UOI board.  Eventually, I plan to have all of our learning branching off from these posters.

January 12 - An Apology to Twitter



I have been thinking a lot about how I can improve my network of support and ideas.  This diagram from http://georgecouros.ca/blog/my-digital-footprint is a great visual of what I want to accomplish with my online PLN.  At the present moment, I work in a small school, and although we have a VERY dedicate and passionate staff, there just aren't that many of us.  I am still on that journey of figuring out how to do it, but I can say that in the last two weeks my life has really been flipped upside down with the introduction of one simple application.

Twitter.

I was always firmly in the anti-Twitter camp.  Over the last few years I have called it everything from a waste of time, to stupid, to the largest waste of human resource in the history of mankind.  I was wrong.  And thus, I am formerly apologizing to Twitter.

Ready.....

Sorry Twitter.  I am sorry about all the hurtful and destructive things I have said about in the last two years.  I am sorry I openly mocked you in public parks, pubs and private residences.  I am sorry.

The truth is that you provide me with the resource that I crave the most; the one thing that I have an insatiable appetite for.  Ideas.  Ideas are the most important tool in a teachers toolbox.  When you have ideas, anything is possible.  The more ideas you get, the better your ideas become.  Ideas spawn new ideas, which evolve into great ideas.  And great ideas are what I am after.

Over the last week on Twitter:

  • I have bookmarked so many sites and dowloaded so many apps and read so many manuscripts and pedagogical theories that my head is spinning.

  • I read A Mathematicians Lament by Paul Lockhart.

  • I have started using Diigo.

  • I found about a plethora of virtual storytelling sites.

  • I have been introduced to countless passionate and inspiring blogs.

  • I found out that Apple has a Distinguished Educator award (I am an Apple nut and have a MacBook per kid in my class).

  • And most importantly, I have been started to build a network of other teachers who are as passionate about this job as I am.


And these have all come from Twitter.  I don't even have to try!  I just open it and click on the first couple links I see and all of a sudden I have a list of the Ten Best Teacher Apps for an iPad.  I download them, then use them in class.  If they are good, I keep them.  If not, I ditch them and try something new.  That is what love about what Twitter is providing me;  Ideas that encourage risk-taking and experimentation.  Without this, we get stuck in a rut and do the same thing over and over again.  When we stop learning, so do our kids.

Twitter is a great tool for educators and one that I will highly recommend to all other teachers that I come across.

In conclusion, I am sorry Twitter.

And Thank You Twitter.

2011/01/11

January 11 - I finally caved...

It feels good to be back in my classroom, even though there is no running water, the heaters are blowing cold air, and there is a metre of snow outside.  I feel strangely, comfortable.

I finally caved and gave into my students demands.  They had been bugging me to set up a class reward system based on money since the beginning of the year.  I have resisted because I would rather the motivation to learn come from exciting and challenging projects, rather than a reward system.  As a teacher, I have never used such a system and thought I never would.  Until now.

One of my boys gave a passionate speech and assured me the this would be a valuable learning opportunity.  He told me that it would not be a reward system, but rather a way of building responsibility and practicing math skills.  As a class we brainstormed some ideas and came up with the following rules and regulations:

What is the purpose?
-        Related to real life; getting used to handling and spending money
-        Helps our math
-        Budget and Saving; planning
-        Responsibility
How do you get money?
-        Reading Log; daily
-        Weekly reading total is ? (Goal Setting)
-        Friday is payday; shop is open once a week
-        Ask me About Book; daily
-        School Job Board; other teachers can post odd jobs to be done
-        Tidy Desk and Boxes; daily before home time
What do you do with the money?
-        Buy Computer Time
-        Stuffed Animals and Decorations for your desk
-        Snacks
-        Upgrade Chairs
-        Shelf next to your desk
-        Land
-        Manga from Mr. D's collection

We came up with prices for all of these, and how much we will get paid for each task. We also designed our own money (Ninja Duckies, or Ducks, for short) on PowerPoint, and then we all went to the art room to make our own wallets out of cloth and hot-glue.

Slide1

Today was only a half day, so this took up our entire time together!  I had other things planned but we will get to them tomorrow.  For now, I am hopeful that this new system with actually show some merit.  That being said, today was a day full of great learning and organization skills, and we had a great math problem arise from our money design.

We have four types of Duckie bills; 500, 1500, 3000, 8000

I have four bills in my pocket and the total is 8000.  What four bills do I have in my pocket?

2011/01/10

January 10 - Online!

New blog is finally online.  Just have to play around with the widgets and customize it.  Though that can wait, as today is my last day of winter holiday, and I intend to enjoy some time with my son and my books.  Tomorrow, it is back to reality!

2011/01/08

January 8 - Buckminster Fuller

I just finished Buckminster Fullers Universe: His Life and Work.   Here is my brief review from Goodreads.




A stunning portrait of on of the most incredible human minds of all time.  Buckminster Fuller is a fascinating thinker, and the author of this book does a great job of breaking down his difficult to following thinking out loud style of communication.  For Educators, it will inspire you to create a challenging atmosphere that brings out the best of your childrens creative mind.  Many of Buckys ideas are easily translated to great classroom activities.

A must read for anybody interested in the power of human potential and the future of our small planet.

2011/01/07

January 6 - Almost there

Most of the content has been moved over from Wordpress, I just need to fiddle and play about with the look and theme.  For now, I am off to bed, secure in my thoughts that a new year of tech upheaval is well underway.  Oyasumi nasai.

2011/01/06

January 6 - Fresh Start

After my frustrations with Wordpress, I have decided to join the Edublogs community.  I am looking forward to a new and exciting year.  There seems to be a lot more options for teachers and the networking is wonderful.  It also appears to be better suited for hosting videos and audio files.

Only five more days and then back to work!