The Math Lab (v2.I Lost Count)

This year’s iteration of the math lab includes: personal practice, math journaling, and problem solving.

Students know they are working on “je peux” statements and are responsible to themselves and to me. I usually ask for a parent volunteer to help during this time.

 

1. Personal practice

Personal practice pages include work that students are able to self correct.  Interactive math journal pages that we have completed and that they can practice again or self-correcting flash cards. I see this as the place where students are building fluency with numbers. Sometimes even self-correcting drill-and-practice math apps make an appearance here. Is it the most rich math activity I can find? No. But there is value in becoming fluent with math facts and I see that as the purpose of personal practice in the math lab. Strategies for calculating are taught through the week and then reinforced through practice during math lab time.

2. Math journaling

Math journals are a work in progress…

I have always had a “math board” where I stuck up the unit’s vocabulary… but the problem was that this was teacher generated and teacher owned. My work this year has been making space for student agency where the math board is student-generated.

Each week we add to a math PWIM board on a moveable trifold. The board includes a math-based image and vocabulary, phrases and problems students are able to shake out of the image. This board is moved to the library where students work with parent support. I have decided this year to use parent volunteers in support of math more than literacy as I typically have in the past. I say this is a work in progress because I find that I almost need to provide parents with a mini-lesson to support students here. Ideally, I’d like to include a QR or AR code that parents and students can use to trigger a video related to the concept.

Students journal about the week’s work, including math language to explain the problem or number talk image on the PWIM board.

3. Open-ended problem solving 

So about those word problems… In the past I have used leveled problems where students could choose their level of challenge. Lately, though, I am working on using more open-ended or open-middle math problems that have an entry point for every student. When students are allowed to make their own sense of a problem they can choose how they express their understanding. This is the centre where I like to work for the duration of math lab so that I can provide feedback to students while they work. Because this is new students will often turn to me and ask, “is this right?” For the time being, I am turning the question back to them, “why do you think your answer is right?” I hope they will get out of the habit of seeking one right answer with time.

I’ve been thinking about the role of vocabulary in math; Immersion teachers are always saying that students are capable of doing the math but that problem solving is a problem because students can’t read in math and make sense of word problems. So we taught them to read for numbers and question words.

But that’s not enough.

We need to provide students with the opportunity to engage in meaningful mathematical discourse and for immersion students that means we need to give students time to talk about ideas using subject specific vocabulary before we let them loose on problems (more on word problems later).

I am interested in where math meets story and how we can get our language learners talking in the math classroom. I’d love to hear how other teachers are supporting our second-language students in math.

 

April is poetry month

How to Eat a Poem by Eve Merriam:


Poetry matters. Jason Reynolds talks here about how poetry can be a gateway for non-readers, those who don’t get lost in the pages, and I finally connected to why teaching poetry might be important.

Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down is a wonderful read for middle-years students. It’s a quick read with a powerful message. I won’t share it with my Grade Threes but it was a good read for me and I think the author has an important point: the text in the book is not dense and I can see how it would be a “gateway book” for reading.

On to the books I will be using this year:

The breathtaking book, This is a Poem that Heals Fish, is about a little boy seeking the definition of a poem who finds that poetry is everywhere if we only bother to look for it.

The final pages caught me by surprise in their simple beauty. Finally, I found a poem I LOVE! And it’s available in its original French, which is a HUGE plus for immersion teachers who work so hard for students to experience original texts in the author’s first language.

While writing, I’m planning to have students focus on colour through mentor texts. The following books are beautiful, poetic inspiration.

The Black Book of Colors is full of descriptive language that invites students to explore colours with all of their senses. Each page has a black-on-black illustration that invites children to explore through senses other than seeing.

Green spends an entire book exploring every shade of green and I’ll invite students to choose a colour using a paint swatch and to turn it into a colour poem. The author, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, has also recently published Blue, which I’m excited to add to my collection.


An experiential exploration that makes the quotidian magical: What Color is the Wind?

Blue isn’t typically a happy colour. But I feel happy when I wear it. So my blue is happy, too. What colour is happy for you?

Poetry is small marvels; The Heart and the Bottle is a breathtaking book about a girl who protects her heart from hurt by bottling it up. Students might use the story to write about the small and large marvels in the world that touch their hearts.

The Important Book seeks what is essential:

Sometimes when students are stuck on finding their own words, it helps to have words in front of them that can be pushed around and rearranged without a lot of effort. I’m going to try magnetic poetry. I purchased a couple of sheets of magnet that can run through a printer and found some words here.

Wordle Can be used to create word clouds, a beautiful representation of descriptive language or try a collaborative word cloud with the whole class using Mentimeter

Finally, Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day is at the end of the month. I look forward to sharing beautiful language with students and inviting them into a world of reading and writing through expressive language.

I would love to hear your ideas. How will you celebrate poetry with your learners and use it to invite them in to reading and writing?

Word of the week: Lendemain

Forgive me, here. I’m trying something new… I have long suggested that explicit vocabulary instruction is essential for students in learning how to read. In her book, Proust and the Squid, Wolfe discusses the importance of developing oral language in support of developing literacy, especially for second-language learners. She was speaking specifically about English Language Learners and I am applying her ideas to my context: French Immersion. My students, most of whom French is a second language, but some of whom are acquiring it as a third or fourth language, participate in a weekly PWIM exercise in which we use an image to shake loose as much vocabulary as possible and then use the vocabulary in context.

I recently had the opportunity to work with a teaching partner to team teach a PWIM lesson that lead into a beautiful math discussion, so I HIGHLY encourage the use of PWIM in support of learning. Mathematical discourse.

I have played with the idea of how to help the discussions from our PWIM work continue to live on so that students can access it later.

As a learner myself, I used CBC’s C’est la Vie podcast to learn French vocabulary. I liked that it provided a single word each week and provided multiple ways of using it. Information presented in English with word use in French. I’m going to try that context here and see what happens with not promises that I won’t adapt it at a later time…

So with that, the first of a (weekly) podcast series for my personal use with my students. If it’s useful to you in your context then I’m more than happy to share.

 

Show Notes:

Bonjour! Welcome to The Value of Wonder! The podcast where we look at new French vocabulary for the Primary French Immersion classroom!

Today we’ll be looking at the word “lendemain”. Lendemain is a word that is used to mean “the next day”, so imagine telling a story in the past… “En vacances, je suis allée faire du ski. Le lendemain, c’était plus relaxe! J’ai pris in café avec ma mère, puis nous avons magasiné au centre d’achats.”

It might also be used in the sense: the day after. For example, if I were talking about a ringette tournament I might say, “le lendemain du tournoi de ringette j’étais fatiguée!”

If I were thinking in bigger terms I might want to use “Pensons au lendemain”, which means, “Let’s think about the future.” In this case, I’m not talking about a day in particular but a general sense of “the days that come after this one”. “Pensons au lendemain” might be used if I were trying to make a big decision… “Je pense à acheter une voiture très dispendieux… un Lambourghini… Mais je dois penser au lendemain… si j’achète un Lamborghini je n’aurais pas les fond pour acheter du café.”

The phrase “les lendemains” might be used to mean consequences. “Les lendemains de ses actions aujourd’hui seront grave.” As in “Les lendemains d’acheter un Lambourghini aujourd’hui seront grave! J’ai besoin de mon café!

The most commonly used way students in primary school will use it is the first meaning, “the next day”. We read the book together, “un dragon sur l’eau” where a little girl goes swimming with her class. She didn’t want to go because the water was cold, but “le lendemain elle est allée à la piscine avec ses amis.”

If you can use “le lendemain” in a sentence to mean the next day, then you will already be a master of its basic meaning. Donc, à la prochaine, les amis! Je vais rendre visite à mon amie vendrendi et le lendemain, j’ai invité ma mère chez moi!

Au revoir et à la prochaine!

Resources: Thoughtco

Developing Creativity: Give Them Agency

What if a classroom looked more like an artist’s studio?

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about student agency related to creativity in the classroom. Too often art supplies get shut away in a cupboard, or worse yet, rolled down to the storage room, only to be dragged out for art lessons.

This year, I’m trying something new to me: I moved art supplies out of the cupboard and onto the counter where they are accessible to kids as they need them. In our classroom set up we talked in depth about how to use materials responsibly and, in turn, they are given freedom to use them as they see fit. This means not only are they encouraged to create during art period, but they are also encouraged to use art to express understanding in other curricular areas.

Our classroom art cart includes:

  • A variety of paint brushes
  • Water colour paint
  • Tempra paint
  • Glue
  • Tape (masking tape, painter’s tape, clear tape)
  • Pencil crayons
  • Water colour pencils
  • Art pencils of variable softness
  • Mark makers (including bamboo skewers, straws, pipe cleaners, used-up ballpoint pens, q-tips)
  • Markers (Sharpies, Crayolas, Mr. Sketch)
  • Pastels
  • Pre-cut artist trading cards in a variety of paper textures (water colour paper, bristol board, construction paper)
  • Print making supplies (foam blocks, ink)
  • Texture plates and stencils
  • Our “maker space” includes a variety of materials (bits of paper, cardboard, yarn, etc.)
  • Table supplies include scissors, pencils, glue and erasers

I collected supplies over the years, holding on to bits and bobs forever (teachers are the worst hoarders, aren’t we?)

In preparation for art making, we spend time analyzing art work, being clear that it’s good to critique artist, style, and piece of work. In analyzing work, we have discussed line and colour theory and students picked out shade and tint as being something they wanted to work with.

Inevitably, almost, some students don’t use supplies properly, not out of malicious intent, but because of inexperience with the supplies (there is a technique to using a paint brush…) Students have been good about giving each other constructive feedback about art work how to use and care for supplies. I have been stunned by their willingness to make multiple drafts of work and take risks with technique and colour. We watched Austin’s butterfly, a video about using feedback in building excellence in student and the Class Dojo videos about Growth Mindset. Students have been thrilled to look at the results of their drafts.

We spent a lot of time setting up students to use their visual journals as their own. I often demonstrate something and ask that they try it but then they are free to make creative decisions about their own work.

All feedback is made in pencil or on sticky notes so that students are free to move or erase as needed. I have noticed that many students want a “perfect” draft without teacher marks on it and I respect that.

The sign for me that they take ownership is the number of them that ask to take their work home to work on it or share with parents.

If it matters that there is colour then it matters that there is artistic decision making.

 

 

Author study: William Joyce

This one got buried in my drafts folder and I’m pulling it out to share since it was such a happy bit of “this never happens” that happened for my students when I stuck my neck out and made a “the worst thing that can happen is he says no” request of a writer I have long admired. 
Our author visit with William Joyce came about quite by accident. I wish I could say I planned it.

As I often do with students, I watched a wordless short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore, as a vocabulary building activity. We shook loose juicy vocabulary in a PWIM-type activity.

The following week I was at a dental appointment and had an extra minute after getting a gleaming smile but before I had to pick up the darling children, so I swung into Chapters where Ollie’s Odyssey jumped off the shelves and into my hands. I read it myself and adored it and decided to share some of it with students as a book sell.

That night I tweeted to William Joyce that I was  loving his book and would he be interested in Skyping with my class. To my enormous surprise, he said yes!

Prepping students for the meeting was a wonderful experience in pushing them to ask more open questions as we sought to ask questions that would make him talk more. “We don’t want him to just answer yes or no! That’s boring!”

Other books we read included:

The Mischevians

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore

Billy’s Booger

The Numberlys

The Guardians of Childhood

Thanks to my amazing team of teachers the Skype chat was an enormous success! Would you believe I had a tooth extracted days before the visit and my face swelled to the size of a pumpkin… so I missed it! But my students were incredibly excited to share when I got back.

This goes to show for me what a powerful experience digital tools can help create for our learners when we bust the “silos” of solo classrooms!

Story, a powerful teacher

I’m not sure what to call what I’m attempting… maybe “author study plus” where the “plus” means more authors and more subject areas? The following is a list of the books I plan to read aloud with my Grade 3s this year as we work to find our place and tell its story. It is far from exhaustive and the work of planning is in another document. It’s a bit hard to say at the beginning where exactly our work will end up because there is always an element student questioning to drive the learning, but in planning for inquiry, there is a great deal of laying ground work for student and teacher understanding. I am using the Designing Worthwhile Work template available through the Galileo Network and would be happy to share or collaborate if you leave a comment or message me.

I started planning after having read a couple of foundational books. Foundational in that they influenced my thinking around what I understand to be true. This summer, I am participating in a Twitter slow chat surrounding the calls for Truth and Reconciliation by reading “In This Together; Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation” and discussing using the #2k16reads hashtag. The book and the conversation have pushed my thinking in a new direction and there were several “aha” moments.

I don’t claim to have the answers but I am willing to demonstrate that I am a learner, too. I begin with this:

North is not always up.

  

Richard Louv‘s Last Child in the Woods introduced me to the idea of “affinity for place”, which fits with the concept of situated cognition, in which what we know is directly related to where and how we know. I’m going to come back to this idea when I discuss Bouchard’s If You’re Not From the Prairie (Si tu n’es pas de la prairie).

The slow chat question asked was: In what ways do the TRC’s Calls to Action provide a roadmap for teaching and learning? How will you bring the discussion of #2k16reads into the classroom?

It took a really long time to come up with an answer. For me, the first step is creating empathy, which often starts in books. Bibliotherapy is a powerful tool in helping students to understand the perspective of others. I have deliberately chosen books written by First Nations and Métis authors because I want the perspective to be honest and authentic and I think the reading of these books will take the whole year. I deliberately chose bilingual titles because I want student thinking to happen in both languages. Many of the books I chose are also written in a First Nations Language.

What is the role of language in shaping our identity?

What does language have to do with “quality of life”?

I discovered David Bouchard by accident. Wandering through the library, the book Long Powwow Nights was on the top of a shelf and, knowing the question I was working on, I picked it up to read later. Later, it took my breath away. Literally. Which lead me to explore Bouchard’s other work. This reminded me of the importance of letting a question sit, sometimes for an uncomfortably long time. Answers come sometimes by accident.

An author study of David Bouchard plus others will lead into the work we will do for the year related to Canada’s 150th. Students will find their connection to these stories and my hope is that it will give them an entry point for telling their story and the story of their connection to this land and all of its people.

The first book, Voices From the Wild might be the most accessible of the ones I chose in that the subject matter, animals, is familiar to primary students, so I think this is where the work will begin. Inquiry, art and writing in French and English, and I see it continuing culminating in a year-end project that will include an interactive book and art project.

The Secret of Your Name begins with a message that it should be read without interruption an preferably in a natural place. Students will explore the power of a name.

 

Our author study will be a bilingual exploration of literature related to place. The beauty of these books is in the way they evoke emotion related to place. Visual journaling and the use of all of our senses to experience place will be a tool in our exploration.

The following books still need some planning on my part:

How do you create identity? What is the role of recreation in quality of life? How is this story the same as/ different from Carrier’s Le chandail de hockey?
  
  

What is the purpose of school? Who are teachers?
  

Where did your place get its name?

  
Long Powwow Nights by David Bouchard and Pam Aleekuk will provoke students to make connections (text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world). Because it’s written as a poem, the meaning of it is not necessarily accessible on first reading and it will take a couple of reads with lots of patience to make inferences and connections. In addition, “See, Think, Wonder” would be a powerful inquiry approach to this book as the art and story are beautiful and complex. For me, Long Powwow Nights was the most beautiful of the books I read and one that literally took my breath away, but it might be one of the most difficult books at the same time because I think it requires a deep understanding of what it means to inhabit one’s culture.

 

The books by Tomson Highway contain beautiful art and tell the story of a family caring for one another and living their lives connected to their environment. I hope they will lead to a discussion about how environment contributes to our quality of life.


Shin-shi’s Canoe and Shi-shi-etko by Kim LaFave explore residential schools in a way that’s accessible for young learners without being too frightening or overwhelming. I think they will lend themselves well to a conversation about home and education and what contributes to a good quality of life when paired with the documentary film Sur le chemin de l’école.




  

Tant que couleront les rivières (As Long as the Rivers Flow) by Larry Loyie is a touching true story about a young boy in the forties sent to residential school.

   

 Wilfred Burton, an educator I met while working in Regina, Saskatchewan, wrote these stories that explore the Métis perspective and introduce the importance of dance and music as a part of identity.

A beautiful picture book that explores the what and how of peace, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, will hopefully inspire a conversation about how we are better together.

How will we integrate technology?

I think that digital tools need to follow the learning. As I start to plan, I see the following being useful with lots of leeway for additions and subtractions. We will use:

  1. Digital portfolios
  2. Podcasting
  3. Augmented reality
  4. QR codes
  5. Books, ebooks, audio books

I don’t know if I’ve done justice to my thought process here and there is still so much planning to do. This is just an overview as I start to plan and far from being a complete unit plan but it’s a starting point for me. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this work; my intention is not to provoke a political conversation but to evoke empathy for myself and my students. There is enormous power in experiencing the story of others and in finding your connection to those stories.

10 Ways to Get Reluctant Writers Writing

 I suspect every writer has had the urge to create something (or an assignment to create something) without really knowing what to create. Part of what we do as classroom teachers is establish safe spaces for students to create and take risks in writing. Here is some of what I tried this year:

Give them an audience

I think students write work of higher quality when they know the final product is not for the teacher’s eyes alone. It’s important to allow students to publish and when and how is an important conversation to have together. In my experience, publishing fewer pieces but working them until they are of higher quality results in work that students are proud of and are most reflective of their ability. Publish on a blog like WordPress or kidblog. For more privacy there is always Googlesites and D2L blogs.

Allow them to work without an audience

As exciting as it can be to publish, I think it’s important to have work that exists for the students alone or for students to share with the teacher alone. In my room this year, we had a system: any piece that was not to be shared got a small note in the corner so I knew it was not for public consumption.

Give choice

It has been a powerful tool to allow students freedom to choose what to write and how to publish. Because I know and students know we are constantly working towards personal goals and “Je peux” statements, there must be a framework for writing before beginning. I used one standard rubric this year to measure all writing so students always knew what the finish line looked like. Some choices, like write a poem, write a travel brochure, write a journal entry from the perspective of the book’s main character were sprinkled with “if you have another idea, please check in with me” and some did propose writing a play to be performed with puppets. I think it was important to point out to students that they hold some creative power in writing and not everyone took me up on the offer of creating their own assignment but enough did to tell me that it’s worth offering to students.

Give a starting point: prompts and model texts

Too much freedom can be overwhelming. Respect student desire to create something but the frustration at not knowing what to create. Provide prompts, sentence frames, model books. Use the class website to provide links like this.

Write every day

Writers write. Simple enough. I used the Daily 5 strategies to help my students become better writers and students were expected to build their writing endurance, starting from only a few minutes of uninterrupted writing and working up to 12-15 minutes of uninterrupted writing time, which is pretty impressive to watch when a group of eight and nine year olds fall into such engaged writing that they don’t want to be stopped. The expectation in my room is clear though… Once we have had time to brainstorm and to talk through ideas, writing time is just that; writers write they don’t visit.

Model writing behaviour: be a writer

Students are inspired by teachers and writers. Be a writer with them! Occasionally, use student writing time to also engage in writing! You won’t likely get that great American novel written but it’s a good excersise use to put ourselves in their shoes; oh, yeah… Where do ideas come from?

Blog? Let kids know! Tweet as a class. Share old notebooks…

Invite an author into the classroom

Share books and ask questions. What are the writer’s habits? Brainstorm a list: what jobs involve writing? Invite some of them to share. While most of us write a fair bit in our work lives most of it does not look like writing narrative fiction. A Skype author visit is an awesome, low-cost way to flatten the classroom. This year I was tremendously lucky to connect with some writers over Twitter who were generous with their time and spoke with my students.

A new notebook

I know teachers who buy hard cover journals for students to give that writing a sense of being special. I know teachers who staple a few sheets of paper together and call in a journal. The book Make Writing has been inspiring for me these days. Sometimes just changing the tools is enough to spark writing.

Conversation before writing is a powerful tool especially in immersion! You might also try online collaboration tools like Padlet or google apps for education.

An old notebook

Sometimes stacks of old notebooks can inspire. I have a habit of keeping old notebooks that get messy as I fill them, sometimes with fiction, sometimes with research and notes for a paper or presentation… Sometimes it takes many notebooks and binders filled to get a single piece to publishable quality. Students need to know that good writing doesn’t happen in the first draft. Or the second or the third sometimes… Good writing takes time and effort.

Plan it/ don’t plan it

Concept maps and story boards can be powerful tools for students to produce organized drafts. Also be willing to let go of planning and write just because it’s fun. Free writing, journals, lists are all ways to throw off the shackles of carefully planned writing.

Paper planners are great. I also like comic life and Inspiration for planning webs. Google draw also does well as a collaborative planning tool.

Generally, when we start a writing project in my classroom there is a rubric. I like to know what I’m expecting from students before they start and I think it’s useful for them to have a target before beginning. That being said, I think there are times when we should let go of the evaluation part of the writing and write to express an idea or an emotion. Sometimes I think the most creative work happens that way.

And a bonus: use technology when it makes sense

Be prepared to allow students who struggle with fine motor skills or non-standard spelling to voice type a first draft and then to heavily edit the second draft. Typing can also be an awesome tool but takes time to build up the fine motor skills to do it proficiently so I think there needs to be some type of typing “homework”.

Tell stories in other ways… Oral story telling is a a fine art, put on a puppet show, make a short film!

Whatever it takes to inspire students to put pencil on paper! I would love to hear your ideas for inspiring writers.