Number talks, if you haven't heard of them, you should. This is a chance for students to explore strategies of mental math. We share all of the different ways that we can understand operations of numbers. The goal is to see numbers as something that you can break apart and put back together. Does 24.9x4 sound really difficult. Well, 4x0.1 is easy and so is 25x4, then just subtract! Maybe you have a different strategy, that's awesome, let's hear it!
I try hard to avoid falling into the "Woe is me" teacher mentality. I love what I do. I think that image is funny, and rings somewhat true, but it really isn't that bad (I know teachers everywhere don't want this secret out).* That all being said, it is draining. I am trying to be a good teacher, husband, friend, musician, athlete, pop culture consumer, and gamer, but those are a lot of plates to keep spinning, and it is not easily done. So that means certain things slide. The daily blog that you have been doing all year; pumping some iron to make sure you don't become the Pillsbury dough boy; saying no to another chocolate bar from the Halloween left overs all: these things all become herculean efforts because you have spent every ounce of your energy pouring into students. After all that, somehow you are still behind. It can become easy to be a bad teacher because no matter what effort you put in, you still have catching up to do. Somehow, when you get into the room, you get them in an activity, and you hear something brilliant said from a twelve year old, it just becomes all worth it.
Perseverance is a tough thing to learn. I think because it is something you simply have to practice, and be aware that you are practicing. My colleague introduced me to something called the Daily Five . It is a program that gets kids to practice academic perseverance. It is based on reading and writing, but there is a mathematical version of it. What I love about having students participate in this, is that the goal isn't necessarily to be quiet for a long time, but to actually stay focused. I tell them that when I was a student I used to plead and beg with my mom to watch TV while I did homework. When I didn't get it done she would quarantine me to the dining room, close the door from the TV, and low and behold, I got stuff done. I am still learning the how to persevere in my own work (even after being out of my parents house for over a decade). I tell students that we need to be honest with ourselves. For me I need to be honest that I cannot get any meaningful amount of assessment done if I do not set a timer, and say, "I am going to focus on this for an extended amount of time." When I do that I get herculean results of perseverance. So in class we talk about strategies for this. We track our efforts to see if we are improving. They love trying to beat themselves, but we talk about how the graph, even though it shows ups and downs, it is a general growth occurring. This is what growth mindset is all about, seeing the improvement, setting strategies for growth, and celebrating the climb.
There are so many notice and wonders you can do with these two images, but I only showed them the population density image. We have been looking at early human migration out of Africa and talking about all the causes that move people to and from places. Then we looked at the population density graph. We made estimates of what caused this graph, and students came up with temperature. We compared it with a graph of temperature and could see some striking patterns except for that weird "triangle" in the prairies. Why would people live there? Lots of students came up with the idea of resources. YES, YES STUDENT YOU UNDERSTAND! It is cool when they get the chance to apply what they are learning in class to think about what is happening even, today. What else do you think we could look at to bring about these discussions?
anyqs, I haven't used that term in awhile. Today in Science we worked on asking questions and talked about the difference between an open ended question, and a closed question. We talked about the benefits and drawbacks of each type, and why it is important to focus on both types of questions. I introduced this with a picture of some cluster of stars and writing "The entire universe is made of matter." There job was to generate as many questions as they could in a group and withhold judgement of the questions. They will then work on translating them from open to closed and closed to open. They will use some of these questions toward research that they are going to be doing on matter. I cannot wait to see what this brings out for the students.
Well every year my grade sevens get the chance to write FSAs. I think I heard one student call them Fully Stupid Assessments. Clever, I know, but I have always been wondering what we can use these for. Our province has really been trying to improve these so that they show thought, creativity, and student choice. It has been very interesting to see students reactions to some of these changes. We just recently did the math problem solving portion, and boy tell you it stumped a lot of kiddos. There wasn't one clear answer. In fact one question gave an empty graph and students had to create their own question for the survey, and then fill in the graph based on THEIR QUESTION, and then ask follow up questions. I thought it was brilliant, but man did it stop some kids in their tracks. Then there were the questions that had them create their own hiking path, based on some numbers they developed, and there were just very few constraints. I loved it; they hated it. My favourite part about it is that now I know where I can focus more in our problem solving. They can do these tasks, but they need more experience with it. That is what assessment is for right?
Yup, it has been awhile. So, I am trying to do the fly by of things that have happened.
Train the Trainer
I got to learn some basics of coding and teaching coding. It was a great time to see what our province is trying to do to encourage design thinking and problem solving. I am caught hook, line, and sinker in this especially as it can relate to math and give students a context for why they would learn this stuff.
As a way of getting students to partake in a lot of the new ways of learning that the new curriculum offers the flag project (and sewing component) were a great intro to the curricular competencies that we are engaging students in. It will be great to see what their self assessment looks like on the process, but the outcomes of their presentations were incredible!
With that in mind, we were working hard on self assessing so introducing students to the idea of core competencies was great. I love etymology and we discussed the term core coming from the Latin for heart. These are the HEART competencies, the centre of a person (in the medieval sense) the hinge upon all that we do as teacher. It was a fruitful discussion and students were able to partake in a great moment of self reflection that is now hanging on our wall.
There's more but...
I need to get back in my daily routine of writing these. So this is my catch up. Remember I am always "embracing the drawing board." Nothing is perfect and I need to live that out so "BACK OFF!"
If you have never seen nor heard of my broken calculator you can see and hear about it here. Every year I come to this lesson I think, "This is the last year I will do it," and then somehow it becomes the time in my class that gets the most excited about math and problem solving. I tell the story of the calculator, and we jump into using it. Kids get excited by seeing possible patterns, testing their results out, and then I lead them into organization, and predicting. It is essentially an introduction to the scientific method, that leads to some discoveries on the nature of place value. It was one of the lessons that I am most proud of as a teacher, and I do not think it will be leaving my repertoire anytime soon.
This year the palpable response of students to correctly predicting some of the outcomes has been incredible. Literally cheers when they get it right, and boos when I tell them that it is time to stop math class for the day. This is the stuff that makes teaching worth coming back to time and time again.
This year I am really working on accountability in assessment. This is not in order to police students and make sure that they get things done (though that is a nice side effect of the process), but I want them to see more and more how to break a project into bits and pieces. I divided the jobs out this time, but I do want to chip away at the process. This project I gave them roles and a check list for each role. I want to slowly take away that framework so that students are presenting their own framework, and turning a large project into actionable tasks. This is why we are working on SMART goals; hopefully they really learn to take this on.
Getting kids to get out of the habit of using boring words is excruciating. Even in this example here their concept of an interesting word is less stellar, but they really got the concept. When I checked in on some of these words we developed a pretty decent framework for choosing words.
Yeah I skipped a day, so what are you perfect?
If you have never heard of a 180 blog, let me fill you in. #teach180 is all about sharing your daily life in teaching. It is a way of small form blogging, reflecting on what you are doing, and sharing with the world. Check out these...