Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Illustrative Mathematics Project

I'm muddling.  I'm mixing, stirring, mentally confused at times, and jumbled.  Then I realize I am muddling through - to achieve a certain degree of success but without much skill, polish, experience or direction.  Thanks dictionary.com for helping me really think through how I feel about adopting the entire Common Core this year and the Ohio Model Curriculum for science and social studies.  I haven't said much here about this huge curriculum change in my life and those of my students because I was muddling but I think it's important for people to know muddling is part of change and change takes time.

The Illustrative Mathematics Project is a recent resource I found this week on the web I think very worthy of any classroom teacher's time.  The Illustrative Mathematics Project is going to be consulting with the creators of materials, test and curriculum developers.  The Illustrative Mathematics Project is also going to be a place to submit ideas to share with others and reflect on the tasks on a more global scale.  I'm not sure I'm excited about any of those things, right now.  Maybe later.

However, what I absolutely love about this website is the organization and the ideas shared to help classroom teachers implement content standards.  Here's the path I took to find a great activity which I used for a Morning Meeting activity.  On the left sidebar click K-8 content standards and illustrations.  Illustrations is the word used to show you an example activity/lesson you can do it directly target the standard you are trying to work on.  Then I clicked on Counting and Cardinality and just kindergarten came up because it's only in our Common Core.  Then I clicked on Kindergarten, to find Know number names and count sequences, Count to 100 by 1s and 10s, and then I found an illustrative lesson for counting circles.  My students LOVED counting circles and I didn't know how engaging it would be for them.

I recognize a couple of developers and consultants names for this project but as a group I feel like they understand math, learning, and kids.  I like how you can follow the content standards and find an activity or idea that directly relates to the teaching we are doing.  I can't wait to see the additions each week to help me organize and muddle through.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Am an Artist

We often talk with children how they chose books and how they get book recommendations.  It wasn't until I thought about writing this post I realized I find new titles all the time through my professional reading.  I don't know if I've ever explicitly shared that with a group of learners.  I will have to tuck this thought away for a conversation on my reading life with students.

I Am an Artist by Pat Lowery Collins is a book suggested in one of my current reads, The Power of Pictures:  Creating Pathways to Literacy through Art, Grades K-6 by Beth Oshlansky. Beth suggests using this lesson to begin the process of thinking like an artist.  The entire book is set on the premise of noticing natural things around you.  For example, "I am an artist when I find a face in a cloud or watch the light change the shape of a hill."  It also offers suggestions for being an artist with different actions one might do.  For example, "I am an artist when I shoot water loops in the air with the hose or discover pictures in drops of rain."  All of the artist examples are things children and maybe adults might do naturally based on curiosity.  Never does it mention using traditional artist tools or mediums.  I also feel the book has a peaceful tone.  I think it's the combination of the soothing illustrations done by Robin Brickman and the need I have to read it slowly and calmly.  This is not a book to read in a hurry with varying inflection.

I wish this ending line could reach all children and adults.  "I am an artist whenever I look closely at the world around me.  And whenever you listen and search and see, you are an artist too."

PS - This might make my PB10for10 this coming August.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poetry Friday - Finish

Photo JulineB @ Flickr

“Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities 
no doubt have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely 
and with too high a spirit 
to be cumbered with 
your old nonsense.”

This day is all that is
good and fair.
It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterdays.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This poem was shared with me this week via Twelve a class at Big Picture Scrapbooking and all I could think about was school. In the midst of progress reports, starting the third quarter and the half way mark of kindergarten. My students have been with me 44 and 45 days each. The first lines of this poem tug at my heart right now. I think it's very hard to finish each day and be done with it but I find encouragement in knowing I've done what I could. So today, writing workshop is going to be a reflection mini-lesson for today's class. We need to remind ourselves what great pieces of writing look like and previous mini-lessons in hopes of raising the quality of writing.

This week Poetry Friday is being held by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader, thank you for hosting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learning about a Student's Reading Engagement

I often tell people I was born and raised on the DRA - Developmental Reading Assessment.  I am very fortunate to have started my career in the district that created the DRA.  I was using it way before Pearson Education took it to the global scale it is today.  I've used the primary and intermediate versions.  I love the writing component which is now part of the intermediate version, even though it takes much more time to score.

I never expected this scenario to happen last week while conducting the DRA with one of my kindergarteners.  I asked him to tell me about his favorite book.  This is tricky for young children.  The last two years I did the DRA in September and they just shrug their shoulders as a response, for the most part.  I just learned last year our district said K had from August to January.  So, I just did them.  In January my students could all give me the title of their favorite book and that was that.

Except for one.  This little boy told me about Ben Ten which is on his Dad's Ipad.  I thought this was going to be his response but there was more.  He told me, "It can read by itself and flip the pages by itself.  You can flip the pages and you can read it.  You flip the pages and it reads it for you."  I really know nothing about the actual story, Ben Ten from talking to this student but I do know my student could tell me some specific details about how he reads this text and it was very obvious how excited he is being a reader on the Ipad.  Excitement is motivation and that's all we need to get started with guided reading.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Chris Raschka has been around for ten years and just this week a colleague had never seen it.  I love this book for two reasons; the torn paper collage is one of my favorite mediums and the visual explanation with the written text brings depth and understanding to a big document that represents our country.   The reader will come across many definitions.  The reader will find out why our flag isn't green or pink.  The reader will get guidance on how to act while reciting the pledge and some facts/history.  Depending on your grade level you can pick and choose all the addtional information you would want to share with your students or read different bits with each reread.

I usually wait to add the Pledge of Allegiance as a routine to our day.  We have so much to figure out when school starts and I want to discuss the meaning with thought and time on our side.  Our new social studies standards in Ohio state, "Nations are represented by symbols and practices.  Symbols and practices of the United States include the American Flag, Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem."  As I read this, I didn't feel confident enough to know what is expected.  I went to the Model Curriculum for further understanding under content elaborations.  I discovered the American Flag is a symbol and the practice is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem.  Then I looked at the Instructional Strategies only to be disappointed.  They suggest playing an identification or matching game with the symbols.  Am I suppose to teach more symbols than the American Flag?  How about understanding the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance?  If something is worth reciting daily isn't it worthy of our time to investigate and understand?  I'm not big on reciting anything without understanding.  I know my students are young but I think we can begin understanding some really big thinking.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I was introduced today to Ira Glass today via an online class, Twelve that I am taking at Big Picture Scrapbooking.   When I got done watching the video clip I knew I had to share it with my teaching friends right away.  Ira talks about storytelling whether it be via writing or video storytelling.

These are the highlights I walked away with; there are two powerful building blocks.  The anecdote which is the story in the purest form using a sequence of actions.  The anecdote needs a bait and it needs to raise a question. Then each story needs a moment of reflection explaining why did we just spent the time reading the story.  He also encourages the viewer to look for interesting stories and this takes time.  Not every story is worth telling and sometimes we can overdo the boring parts.  He is so soft spoken when he reminds us failure is part of success.  He encourages all storytellers to do a huge volume of work and to expect errors.  I think these highlights are important for us to remember as writers and great advice for our students to hear.  Enjoy this clip and I'm off to learn more about This American Life which Ira Glass is the host of.