Showing posts from December, 2011

Winter break

Have a happy holidays and a much needed break from work!

Why Circles - Student Created Routine

We started discussing emotions and where feelings come from in our UOI.  Earlier in the year we had a brain expert come to the school and build playdoh models of brains.  The kids already knew that the "Red Room" where our anger comes from is generated by the Amygdala; but I wanted to take it to a meta-level of understanding, and I wanted them to draw some connections between the physical process, the mental, and the emotional.  I had no idea how, but I have trust in my students to show me the way.

The lesson started with a simple premise and a simple question (as all things complex do).  I showed them a video of a kid who was not in the best of moods.  He was, for wont of a better word, flipping out.  He was playing some kind of video game, and it obviously was not going well, judging from his reactions.  The best thing about this video is that is was in a language that my children could not speak, so they couldn't connect with him and get into his shoes.  Their observat…

Orders of Magnitude Art

We made some posters for the HS students math classroom.  Talking with the HS math teacher we both agreed that kids have a hard time understanding the orders of magnitude.  I took on the project in my class to give my kids a better understand of the individual units of measurement, and they made a visual poster to share with the older kids.  They did some great work, and I think it helped them understand the idea of why there are different orders of magnitude, and the need to measure different things with different units.  One student commented that measuring the length of an ant and the distance between Pluto and the Earth with the same unit would be, in her words, a waste of time.

Very true.

Self Reflection and Blogging

This blog started as a cumulative project for my B.Ed just two years ago.  It was a repository of information, an online portfolio if you will, for which I received a grade (I forget what it was because I never cared!).  It was a place for me to hash out everything that I had learned over the course of my year at U of Toronto.

Over the last two years, it has turned into so much more.  It is a place to meet people, share ideas, post resources, and to reflect on my own practice.  It has been the reflection that has been the most valuable.  I don't care if anybody reads it.  I do it for myself.  Self reflection is the greatest resource a teacher could ever share.

With that in mind, I have a new look for a new year.  Most of the old resources have been archived on the resource page.  If you need anything specific, do not hesitate to ask.  I will continue to post ideas, lessons, and units; however, I want to focus more of asking questions and reflecting on why I (we) do what I (we) do, r…

A Question About Technology in the Classroom

Trying to hash out some ideas and would like some feedback.

I have this activity I like to use in the class (many teachers do this, it is not my own idea, but I am not sure where I got it from).  We write down a central thought, or theme, and we start exploring it through words, objects, and ideas.  Here are the basic steps we follow in this routine:

Students write their ideas on sticky notes stick them to the board (anything that comes to mind)
We go through the notes and take out the ones that are repetitive, or have the same meaning (which itself causes a lot of argument and critical thinking!)
We categorize the notes into different columns (tables), diagrams (Venn, etc) or patterns (spirals, trees, boxes).

In the last part of the activity I usually let the students decide how to organize the notes.  It is interesting to see what types of thinking emerge from the discussions and often gives the inquiry a new and exciting direction.  I try not to plan the learning engagements past this p…

Worlds Coalescing

I had a great time on Friday.  My son came into my classroom for a guest visit.  Grade 5.6 has been studying human growth over the last couple of weeks, and my two year old was the perfect subject to see how far they have grown in only the last 9 years.  They prepared a bunch of experiements and tests for him, got together their data recording devices, and practiced making ancedotal observatoins.

The real hi-light of the day was how mature, responsible, and grown up they acted in front of a small child.  They were heart-warmingly gentle with him, helpful in every way, and made him feel comfortable.  I was very proud of them.  Small children should come into classrooms more often.

Informal Units of Measurement

A former colleague of mine once commented that it is a waste of time to have students develop their own units of measurement with older kids (grades 5-8ish).  I disagreed then, and I disagree now.  Informal units of measurement (especially in the upper Elementary grades) have a number of practical benefits:

They make it easier to focus directly in the attribute being measured, and in turn, what is means to measure
They give a historical content for mathematics that helps them see how and why mathematical concepts have developed as they have
It gives a rational for the importance of standard units, rather than the teacher just telling them they are important, they get to see for themselves why
It is fun, and more importantly, when developing your own informal unit, you have to think outside of the box and focus on the concept and big idea of the attribute you are measuring (creative problem solving)
We use them everyday in our lives (a pinch of salt, a splash of hot sauce, a handful of coun…