Showing posts from February, 2012

Leap Year Math

It is always better to teach a concept when it is in a meaningful time and place.  There is a lot of Math around leap years, and this is one question that I gave to my kids today and let them struggle with it.  It took the entire group pooling thier knowledge together to figure it out.

The next chance you get to teach this in a meaningful context will be 2016!

Leap Year Math Problem

Name the Graph

Two quick resources I made last night for graphing and data management.  These relate to identifying the purpose of a graph, and understanding how a title can be a hint to what shape the data will take.  A good assessment piece to see if they get graphs.  There are two copies:

1) I have put titles at the bottom and the students have to match the title to the graph.  There may be more than one possible solution.  Great critical thinking skills required!

Name the Graph

2) the same copy as above, but with the titles taken out.  Now, the students have to think of their own original title for the graph that makes sense based on the data.

Name the Graph Blank

Try them out and share them.

Abstract Poetry

We had an elementary school poetry carousel this morning.  I was planning to do something based on sounds and rhyming fake words (like Dr. Seuss), but last night I changed the whole thing.  I was reading a book about creativity and I came across an interesting anecdote that made me grab my computer and change the whole plan.  It was a story about William S. Burroughs, and how he used to cut words out of the newspaper and arrange them into interesting sounding sentences (David Bowie later copied this strategy).  He would do this when he was out of ideas or suffering from writers block.  It was like abstract art with words.  He would focus not on the meaning of the sentences, but rather he would build words that form an interesting shape, sound, or feeling.  After he was done creating, then he would analyze the words.

I needed to try this.  I had different ages from Kinder up to Grade 6.  Each class had slightly different constraints put on them.  I asked them to look through a pile of o…

Math Drama

Here is an activity that I have just finished over the last couple of days.  Feel free to download the PDF and share it.  You may not use the exact details, but I found the overall progression of the lessons to be well balanced and thought-provoking.

ABC International School Math Debate (PDF Version, if you would like the Pages version, or PPT, email me and I can send it along)

Slide 1 - Welcome to ABC International School

This slide is there to set up the story and give the students some perspective.  We spent a bit of time analyzing the message from the Head of School, and visualizing what the school looks like inside, how it smells, what it sounds like, and what it feels like to be inside.

Slide 2 - Choosing your role

Here we are trying to give the numbers and the math a frame, or a perspective.  Instead of analyzing the data, I want them to be thinking about how it affects their life (or the life of their alter-ego).  Once we worked out the groups and chose the roles in the fairest pos…

How do you visualize inquiry and learning?

I am trying to hash out a couple of ideas in my head right now, so bear with me.

The book I am reading has me in a contemplative mood.  My question is; how do you visualize inquiry?  When you think of inquiry, what image comes to mind?  What is the organization of that image?  What are the implications of that image on teaching, learning, and knowing?  Here are three possible images (among a sea of endless ones):

Image #1 - The linear graph

This image brings to mind an input/output system.  The teacher inputs the information into the student and the student outputs it back in the form of knowing.  We then increase along the line, building knowledge in a straight linear fashion.  It assumes that the previous knowledge has been acquired, and it therefore is known.  Think of how prevalent this is in school; linear curriculum, direct instruction, and top-down management (not to mention schedule blocks, standing in line, desks in rows; if you really wanted to tease apart all of the linear met…

Math Game

This is a fun little math activity I tried today, recommended by a colleague.

Flip the questions upside down and see if they can figure out the pattern.  It helps to tell them how many numbers are in the data set.  For example, the question above has 5 single digit numbers.  Can you figure them out?

We worked through a couple as a group, made a list of helpful strategies, and then we made our own and tried to trick our friends.  Great to see them so engaged and thinking about math for a full two hours.

Geogebra in an Elementary Classroom

Today I was fortunate to have a guest in my class; Sergio from Yokohama International School.  He is a high school math teacher and came to the school to work with our high school teachers on incorporating tecnhology into the math class.  As an Elementary teacher, there was no way I was going to let an opportunity like this slip by, so I made sure he stopped into Grade 5.6 to show us a thing or two.  I have always believed that there is a strong crossover and correlation between the strategies that go on in a dynamic high school classroom and the strategies that are used in an elementary classroom.  If there is a divide in how schools operate on these two levels, it is completely artificial.  We have more in common than you think.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic again.  Back to Sergio and Geogebra.

I know what Geogebra is, mostly through twitter and blogs that I follow, but to be honest with you, programming is something I am afraid of.  I don't know anything about it, and I have …

Ski Day


Repetitive Drills (with context)

I must admit, had my students doing some drills today.  They were combing through data finding the mean, mode, median, and range of different data-sets.  It was boring, tedious work.  However, they were engaged with the process.  Some background is necessary.

About two weeks ago we spent an entire day with Hot Wheels tracks, taking measurements about how the weight of a car affects the time it takes to go down the track.  We had three cars, and tested each car with four different weights.  Each car did ten trials (for those of you counting, that is 120 trips down the Hot Wheels track).  It was fun for the first hour, setting up the track, controlling our variables and then watching the car race down.  Then, it got dull.  We transformed into robotic bodies, meticulously dropping toy cars down a toy track.  However, at the end of the day, we had a ton of data to work with and, as a colleague of mine told my students, science isn't all ham and plaques, you know.  Even after the drudge…

Fostering Emerging Ideas

Background:  We are studying forces and motion in our recent science, math, language unit.  As part of a summative assessment, I told the kids on the first day of the unit that they would be throwing an egg of the second floor of the school and trying to create a device (using their knowledge of forces and motion) to make their egg survive the fall.  I wanted them to keep this in the back of their mind as we studied different forces during the unit.  We are keeping track of our learning and reflections on a class wiki.

Emergence:  The other day I forgot to write our nightly ten minute writing exercise in their agenda.  Off the top of my head I said, “Go onto your personal page on the wiki and write about your egg.  Give it a name and tell me something about its history.”  The next day, they came back to school and one of them had drawn a picture and posted it on the wiki, another had written a short story, and another had done a biography.  During morning Tea, they were discussing thei…

googledocs and the collective mind

This is an activity that I have done several times this year with my students, and I recently tried it with a group of adults (my cohort at the University of Calgary, and here is the PDF (EducationalShiftsinThinking) of the document we created as a group).  Every time I try, it is a fascinating experience and some interesting learning and observations come out of it.  I will describe the activity and then reflect on some of the more interesting aspects of it.

Choose a question of concept that you wish to brainstorm and gather information on
Make a googledoc and set it to public, anyone can edit
Put your question up
Have all the participants access the doc at the same time and start editing at the same time (the more the better; I have done it with as low as 4, and as high as 23)
Ask that they edit in silence and from their own ideas and experiences
Discuss the content of the document when finished  (maybe a synthesizing activity)
Reflect on what the activity felt like, and how the group cont…

A Year is Not Enough

Why do students only stay with us for one year (sometimes two)?  Why can't we be responsible for them for 4,5, or 6 years?  Would be the benefits of this?  What would be the disadvantages?

Planning for emergence

I have been slowly moving to a teaching style where I hardly plan any learning experiences or engagements (sometimes I get ideas that are just so good I have to try it!).  My lessons usually start with a basic idea, a brainstorming session or a gathering of information, and then I wait and see what happens to it.  The ultimate learning experience is up to the students, or is shaped by the environment around us.  The activity emerges out of the information and the group.

Example: Today, we were making a list of sequencing words (after, then, before, next, etc) and then a looking up synonyms of common words used in procedural writing (take, make, get, put).  We put them all up on the class whiteboard.  I had no idea what we were going to do with this, but I was confident that something would come up.  About half-way through the gathering of data, a colleague wandered into my room while we were writing synonyms for take.  She helped us with a few more, and then said, "have you ever w…

Thank you but no thank you

A great post over at the website "Letters of Note", which is a fantastic website for those who don't know it.  This letter was from Nick Cave to MTV, respectfully asking them to take his name of the ballot for Best Male Artist.  He says:

"I feel that it's necessary for me to request that my nomination for best male artist be withdrawn and furthermore any awards or nominations for such awards that may arise in later years be presented to those who feel more comfortable with the competitive nature of these award ceremonies. I myself, do not. I have always been of the opinion that my music is unique and individual and exists beyond the realms inhabited by those who would reduce things to mere measuring. I am in competition with no-one."

I love this.  Let's see what it looks like when we change a couple of the words.

I feel that it's necessary for me to request that my nomination for the student achievement award be withdrawn and furthermore any awards or …

Teaching Roles

I am trying something new.  Today in class I explained an activity that I wanted my class to do.  After the activity, one of the students asked me what I would be doing during the activity.  I responded with, "observing, and then giving advice at the end".  This got me thinking of the explicit role of the teacher in the lesson.  Of course, we float between different roles at different times under different circumstances.  As teaching is a complex phenomenon, we are playing roles at the same time while balancing many different ways of thinking.  My kids are used to me playing many different roles, though we don't articulate what I am doing in regards to the learning environment.  The reflection and meta-skills tend to be focused on what they are doing, rightly so.  Yet, at the same time, I am a part of the system (collective), and maybe that explicit understanding could be used to make new insights.

What if the teachers role was determined before the lesson began?  What if…