Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Radar Awareness

If my numbers are right, I've read six books about math this summer. One repeated theme throughout much of my reading is the need for math to become part of our student's worlds instead of an isolated skill set that seems unrelated to daily life. Fosnot repeatedly uses the word "mathematize." With purpose and intentionality, we math teachers can ramp up the authenticity factor for our students and invite them to mathematize their worlds. Many of them will not independently make this leap though. We are the linchpin, which brings me to the thought above by Sammons. I desire this radar awareness that she speaks of. 

In order to purposefully teach my kids how to mathematize their worlds, they obviously need to be given the opportunities to tackle math in ways that are personally relevant. I also think Sammons might be encouraging me to teach with eyes wide open, seeking out the teachable mathematical moments throughout the day that I previously might normally have overlooked. I imagine that with a radar awareness, they would abound. 

Is there math in that read-aloud? What about a class dilemma? Maybe a problem-solving situation arises out of a typical classroom routine. Obviously there's not time in the day to stop at every math situation that presents itself, but I wonder if a few might be worth tackling in order to help kids see, feel, and hear how math is personal and real lifelong tool. 

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Math and Literature

A few years ago I knew I needed to improve the way I incorporate literature into my math curriculum. I wanted to go beyond simply reading picture books about math. I wanted to take a further step and find a way for the book to become my math lesson. Honestly I didn't have a clear vision for how this was supposed to look. That's why two years later I've yet to make this happen, which makes me feel like a big loser. Yet this might be my year. 

I just finished reading Math and Literature Grades K-1 by Marilyn Burns and Stephanie Sheffield. The book is a compilation of several math lessons based on picture books. I love how the math tasks are open-ended, allowing young mathematicians access to the problem no matter their knowledge base. Multiple strategies are encouraged, accepted, and celebrated. The tasks are easy to extend for those who need it too. I also love the authenticity of the tasks. They thoroughly support the idea that kids can and should mathematize their world.

Whether I track down the particular picture books mentioned is immaterial. The lessons in this book were perfect exemplars which have given me confidence to know how to develop similar tasks regardless of the picture book at hand.

This is a very helpful read for K-1 teachers looking to use literature in a more inspiring, authentic, and mathematical way.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday Sayings: The Why and the How

This thought from Serravallo has saved me from a bit of guilt, since there's a lack of writing about reading in my room. I've struggled with the practice, partly because I've never felt like my methods were adequate. I couldn't find a way to make the task feel authentic. I wanted it to mirror a real life process, and yet instead it felt like a school task which left me feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing. 

Then there's the problem that Serravallo is referring to. Young blooming readers need to read, and they require a lot of it. As the author states, the actual task of writing is often a slow one for our youngest writers. To tag writing assignments on to reading can definitely result in less reading. Also, if not done correctly, the writing can feel like an assignment, and I worry that too much of that, especially for those who struggle, can result in negative feelings towards both reading and writing. 

This is all simply food for thought for K-1 teachers. I'm not saying the practice is a bad one. In fact, Serravallo goes on to say that by the end of first grade it can be appropriate to occasionally engage the majority of students in the act of writing about their reading. In her opinion, it's not for every reader/writer though, and it's important to consider the frequency of use. Moderation is highly encouraged. I understand not everyone will agree with Serravallo or me on this issue. I'm only asking that we early elementary teachers continually reflect on the why and the how. It's hard to go wrong when those two words lead the way.

P.S. I do believe Kindergarten and first-grade students are writers. They can and must be writing every day for a sustained period of time. 

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Instruction

I've been on a math kick this summer. Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Instruction by Christine Moynihan has been on of my favorite reads. It's a great foundational book about quality math instruction. It validated many of the strategies I've been learning for the past five years, challenged me to take them to a new level, and reminded me of some that I haven't incorporated as well as I would have hoped.

Here are just a few of the topics the author believes are important to the look, sound, and feel of a mathematics classroom. She addresses each one.

differentiating instruction
checking for understanding
identifying student misconceptions
setting and sharing lesson goals or objectives
actively engaging
actively listening
making connections
taking risks
supporting discourse
using mathematical vocabulary
justifying and clarifying thinking
analyzing the thinking of others
and so many more

I would definitely recommend this book for any K-5 math teacher.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Take Credit and Pleasure

I once heard of a young teacher who had yet to learn the skill of reflective teaching. The teacher was overcome with pure frustration when a lesson did not go as planned. When asked reflective questions afterwards, they couldn't express what could have been better or even what went well. It was rather difficult to find ways to improve when they couldn't identify the source of the problem let alone name the strategies worth repeating.  

I've had plenty of experiences with errors. In fact, I've had twenty-one years of them. Some have been easier to handle than others. Thankfully none have been catastrophic, but a few still bother me or even haunt me for that matter. Regardless, they've instigated growth and continue to do so. 

Although some of the best changes in my practice have resulted from an innocent desire for betterment, others are a product of errors that I refused to repeat. I recognized and analyzed a mistake and searched out a better way. Errors are simply unavoidable and part of the process of becoming a better teacher, so as Routman advises, we'd best take credit and pleasure in them. Our students will be better off if we do.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Capture

Faced with 23 little faces on the first day of school is both exciting and overwhelming. I'm charged with the crucial task of transforming these kindergartners into first graders academically, behaviorally, and socially in just nine short months. That is no small feat, and it inspires me to use every minute as efficiently as I can. Yet I resist the urge to throw myself into the heat of the fire too quickly. Academics can wait. What can't wait is the need for connection - connection to me and connection to our newly-formed family. That important piece will surely make the transition into academics a smoother one.

Last year I felt inspired to add something new to the million things I say and do to connect with my kids on the first day of school, because I hoped it would help me capture their hearts. Early in the day before I had even learned all their names I said these words. "I loved you before you even showed up today" and I meant it. After a day or two of school and repeatedly relaying this message, a mom sent me an email to let me know that her son had proudly told her, "Miss McMorrow loves us." I don't have data proving the impact of my words on every student, but I'm going to assume that I captured enough hearts to warrant repeating those words on the first days of school for the remainder of my career. 

I loved you before you even showed up today.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Fun

Mom: Are you going to do anything fun this summer?
Me: Yep. I'm gonna read.

I've read 17 books so far this summer and still managed to mow the lawn, clean the house, and take daily naps. There is one downfall to all this reading though. It's tough on my back. :)

Here are my reads for the month of June.

I've been a Lucy Calkins fan for several years. I now have her new Units of Study for first grade. I read A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop that comes with the units. Of course, it was great.

I've become a fan of WWII historical fiction set in Europe. This one did not disappoint.

I enjoyed this book. It does a nice job of explaining the look, sound, and feel of good math instruction.

This book helped me get a glimpse of guided math. I'm not reading another guided math book to see if I can get an even clearer idea in my head.

This one was just okay.

Every K-5 math teacher needs this book.

This is a great resource for using the hundreds chart more effectively.

I have loved Elizabeth Wein books, especially Code Name Verity. (Read that one if you haven't.) This one was just so-so for me.

This is a bit dense and not my favorite math book of the summer, but I gathered some good information from it.

I enjoyed this one. It didn't blow me away, but it was good.

This book was okay for me. 

I haven't read much YA fantasy, but this one grabbed my attention. It was a fast and enjoyable read.

I think this one is classified at juvenile fiction. It would make a great read-aloud, and I appreciate how inspiring it could be for young writers.

I didn't really care for this YA book. I wasn't in the mood for the subject matter.

This is the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty which I mentioned above. I enjoyed it too.

First read The Rosie Project. Then read this sequel. They're fun reads.

Here's the sequel to Rebel Angels above. It was pretty good but long. 

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