Showing posts from April, 2013

So much more than four walls...

I am into the last unit of the school year.  I will be leaving this classroom at the end of the year and heading off to a new adventure in Germany.  My family and I are incredibly excited.  And busy.  Those of you who teach in international schools know what I mean.  Boxes, forms, contracts, stuff, stuff, stuff....
I will miss this classroom.  I grew immensely as a teacher and a human being.  These kids have taught me so much about learning, playing, knowing, and being in the moment.  Our classroom is so much more than just four walls.   This space has changed a lot over the course of two years.  It feels like a home.  We are all comfortable here, we can share our feelings, celebrate our victories, and reflect on our defeats.
Looking at pictures, the class seems like a mess.  Truth, it is.  It is like a tangle of branches, wrapping itself around an abandoned building.  It is not neat, it is not clean, it is not organized.  To me, it represents the best of thinking in action.  At time…

The Island of Ablai (pt. 14)


The Island of Ablai (Pt 13)


Great Read Aloud: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Wow.  My students loved this book.

The plot is simple, easy to follow, and linear.  There is a big chunk of the book that is told via a narrated story (flashback), but other than that it unfolds sequentially.  Instead, of plotting the book, we decided that we would visualize the characters and their connections to each other.  The author went to great care to explain how everybody knew everybody else.

It was also great for making inferences.  There was a lot of intrigue in this book, and things left unsaid.  What is the Plan?  What does NIMH stand for?  What will happen to Mrs Frisby's house?  Who was Jonathan, and how did he die?  Who are these rats?  Where did they come from?  The author does a wonderful job of teasing you with pieces of the puzzle, one little piece at a time.  You may or may not find the answers to all of your questions.

I love reading a class a book that I have never read before, but I recognize that it can sometimes NOT work.  I have started books that I had …

The Island of Ablai (pt.12)


The Island of Ablai (pt 11)


Fraction Flags

This is a great activity that I found in an academic article by Brent Davis.  It is very wide open, lets kids see different ways to represent and see fractions, and creates some great conversation.  The one thing I noticed, even though some groups were struggling, was how rich their mathematical language was.  The activity put them into a situation where they needed to use the language of fractions without even being aware of it.

1) Class work through
I put a flag on the board (picture the Italian flag but red on the sides and pink in the middle) to start the class and asked how much of the flag was red.  This was easy, they knew it was 2/3.  It was a visual experience that they understood simply.  I asked them if they could show me that answer mathematically.  We came up with 2 ways:

1 - 1/3 = 2/3
1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3

From this we gather that our whole (1) was the entire flag, and the pieces were the fractions.  It may seem like a small detail, but I would argue one of the major problems k…

The Roles and Principles of Creative Leadership

I have just finished Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson.  This is the third time I have read this book, but the first time I have read the second edition.  It is hard to consider this the same book as the first edition.  It was completely re-written and makes a much stronger case.

One of my favorite sections was the section in Chapter 9 on the Roles and Principles of Creative Leadership.  Though many of his ideas are directly taken from business and the corporate world, I see these principles as having great potential in schools.  They occasion a powerful environment for a culture of learning and personal growth.

Principle # 1 - Everyone has creative potential
A school should believe that every member of its community has the potential to be creative, and to contribute creative ideas to the whole.  Students, teachers, administrators  caretakers, parents, grandparents, coaches, etc.  Not only should they all feel that they have creative potential, they should …