Monday, December 21, 2015

Intro to the Bar Model

I taught my best math lesson of the year last week. This was quite unexpected for three reasons. 1) Math has been my nemesis this year, (I'll refrain from explaining all the reasons why. It's complicated.) 2) I've never taught this lesson before. 3) Beyond a few pointers, I've never had the training to teach it. 

For several years I've heard heard bits and pieces about the bar model - how it teaches our youngest mathematicians to visualize problems and transitions them into the number line. I never felt like I had enough information to introduce the concept though. This Fall I got a few pointers which helped me develop this lesson, and it really did work. Phew.

I developed the above Google slide presentation which took my kids through the lesson. (Click on the graphic if you'd like to see it.) 

Other than the presentation, it was a simple lesson to plan for. My kids had access to red and blue cubes as well as blank paper. This is what one mathematician's final product looked like, although it probably won't mean much unless you check out the slides above.

I had the opportunity to share this lesson with a math guru from BSU a few days ago. He was very pleased with the components of the lesson and how I took my kids through the process of discovering the bar model. The only recommendation he made concerned the first row of cubes seen on the child's paper. Instead of labeling the individual cubes from 1 to 5, he suggested they be labeled each as 1s since they are units of 1, and I totally agreed. (I edited the slide presentation accordingly.)

Maybe this information will be helpful for someone out there who has been wanting to introduce the bar model to their little mathematicians as well. I'm also in the process of developing further lessons. I'd be happy to share those in the near future as well. Happy bar modeling!

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thief of Joy

This has been the kind of year where nothing in my classroom feels typical. It seems like my 26 kids and I are in an alternate universe where skills and behavior don't fit the pattern my head and heart have come to expect after doing this job for 22 years. 

Of course, every year is different with ever-changing variables. I'm accustomed to this change each August when I'm dealt a new hand. In fact, I expect it. Yet I can still count on some tried and true typical skill-sets and behaviors...until this year. 

I've turned my schedule upside down and rearranged my whole day. 
I've searched out better practices.
I've read too many professional books. (Yes, I think there's such a thing.)
I've put a hold on some major pieces of my curriculum, because this crew is just not ready. (This kills me.)
I've spent countless hours racking my brain how to meet their needs better.
I've cried out for help.
I've blamed myself.
I've wept.

It's a difficult thing when typical meets reality, and they don't see eye to eye. It has a way of turning one's little world upside down. At least that's how it's felt for me. Yet I'm continually reminded of these words:

comparison is the thief of joy

I'll be the first to admit, and it's probably fairly obvious after reading the above 214 words, that though I put on a big smile for my kids, joy has been elusive this year. I know it's because I'm holding tightly to what should be, instead of what is. Though this is still a huge struggle, I'm feeling the beginnings of a shift. I believe some of my little people and their skills are preparing to take off soon, and everything in me cries out to leave typical behind and run like the wind with them. Towards joy.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Candles

This year I found myself a new Christmas gift for parents. It was very easy, not too awfully expensive (thanks to the Dollar Tree), and turned out so well. I think parents will love them for many years to come. 

I found the idea here.

Click on the graphic to find directions.

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