Tuesday, October 30, 2012

IWB & Morning Messages

I thought I would follow up and share my first adventure with my new IWB (Interactive Whiteboard) since I had shared my reflections on the book Literacy Smarts.  This is not my own idea and I owe a big thank you to Katie at Catching Readers for sharing this idea when I wanted to know how she was using an IWB in kindergarten.

Each morning my students arrive and begin their morning routine and move to explore choices.  To help them know about our day ahead I post a morning message on the IWB.  At first, I was handwriting the message and soon we discovered if we needed to erase something it got tricky because we sometimes erased the initial message.  Soon, I discovered we could type it using a text box and then our pen markings could be erased and the text would stay in it's original form.  I love typing the text because I can easily insert additional spaces needed to exaggerate spacing between words.

The students and I have come up with some markings we use daily.  We circle lowercase letters we might be searching for.  We underline uppercase letters we might be searching for to identify the different forms we know for letters.  We decided vertical lines to show spaces was easier to see than a horizontal line between words that looked like we were stringing them together.

As you would do with any morning message I tweak words as I compose the text to increase more things we are searching for.  The opportunities to compare confusing letters have been great discussions in our room; for example comparing t and f.  I keep our searching to a focus for two things.

As Katie suggested she prints her morning message in it's original message and then a copy of the marked up message.  I have been doing this too and then sending it home daily to be placed in a two pocket folder I sent home.  One family sent an email letting me know their kindergarten student was playing school with their younger daughter and the morning message folder.  I love how printing and sending these home makes our learning and work visible.  I want to mention to parents this week during conferences their child should be sharing why we marked the things we did and hopefully school conversations are being fostered.

Printing types I discovered.
1.  Click Print
2.  Click Full Page
3.  I deleted the automatic generated header and just let the date print.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Math Talk - A Resources for discussing Math

Math Talk - Teaching Concepts and Skills Through Illustrations and Stories by Char Forsten and Torri Richards is one of those resources I've had for a bit of time and have been wanting to explore more.  My district recently adopted a new resource to help teach math and one of the components frequently used throughout this text is a visual picture for discussing math concepts in a language-based setting.  I have a huge problem with the quality of pictures this resource has selected to use and remembered I had a book at home with a similar idea.  

Without saying much I feel like you need to try and help you, my reader visualize the first picture K teachers are asked to discuss.  There are pairs of rainbow colored - humanized vegetables.  It's hard to see the math or numbers when green beans look like stripped knee high socks.  Also, the teaching guide discussion points are weak mathematically with no differentiation.

Thank goodness Math Talk was home waiting for me.  Math Talk uses pictures that are based on nursery rhymes and various themes.  The pictures are realistic settings and use real people or animals in a setting that is appropriate and natural.  There are 20 pages and opportunities to get you started with suggestions to take it farther with pictures from High Five magazine from Highlights, photographs, picture books and student illustrative work.  

The process of talking about mathematics based on an illustration begins with looking at the illustration and discussing what you see.  It might activate background knowledge and comprehension.  The next step begins with exploring the mathematics.  Math Talk provides a journey of questions to guide students thinking for deeper learning and thinking.  Beginning questions helps students count and model one to one correspondence.  The Intermediate questions helps children think about number groups.  Advanced questions help students subitize and begin seeing number stories as addition or subtraction.  Challenging questions use counting on and counting down strategies while require students to understand cardinality.  New characters or objects might be discussed within the illustration.  Differentiation and various thinking can be modeled within our classrooms for our various learners. 

This type of activity would make a great opening for math workshop.  It could lead into looking at photographs of math in our lives.  Char Forsten has spent time in Singapore learning about their approach for teaching mathematics and brought this idea back with her and implemented it in American schools to help develop number sense and concepts beyond.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NCTE @ OCTM, Fabulous!

When I saw the keynote speaker for Friday at OCTM was the vice-president of NCTE, I began wondering why?  I wonder no more.  Ernest Morrell is a dynamic speaker.  Ernest Morrell thinks about education and crosses boundaries between disciplines that should be crossed.  Ernest Morrell thinks about students as people and looks for changes to be made.  Ernest Morrell is the director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College.  My notes can not compare to his actual presentation and I urge you to see him speak if the chance comes your way.  

Three questions, Ernest Morrell shared to jump start our thinking;
1.  How do I get kids excited about learning?  How can they apply math?
2.  How do I get kids to feel good about themselves?
3.  How is can do different than will do?

Our time with Ernest Morrell was spent thinking about learning communities.  He shared this equation, 

value + expectancy = motivation

Students need to have goals they value and a belief they can make it.  Confidence is created by expecting success for motivation.  The first step in reaching these goals and community spirit is by engaging students with a context they can be successful in.  Students need relevance for learning.  

When creating a social awareness, which fosters learning, the attachment theory needs to be in place.  The attachment theory involves being attached to the academic world, to the world of numbers, to others in the classroom, and to see the larger social world outside the world of their own.  Secure attachments in the school world are essential for fostering success and learning.

We have to think about how we think and teach but more importantly how do kids learn and they don't learn through a lecture!  Ernest Morrell shared his work and the different scenarios he has been in leading to the Powerful Teaching Principals.  Our students and our classroom climate need these factors.  
-Voice - we need to help our students say their thoughts
-Affirmation - confidence and humor
-Achievement - push beyond expectations
-Purpose - create work products.
-Love - make a difference

We also need to look at how our students are using popular culture.   He shared several examples of mathematics through things we do in life normally and referenced the show Sport Science on ESPN.  We need to look at how pop culture has influenced our students consumption.  What do they  read, watch, and listen.  We need to show them possibilities about mathematics.  Student's can't become excited about mathematics or reading until they see the possibilities.  Create projects where they are reaseachers, find out what they would change, connect it to their learning.  Children are natural born scientist.  Use the power of numbers to persuade.  Create learning communities that work together, question, connect, share with others and strive for excellence.  

He closed with a few reflective thoughts that were uplifting and motivating.  "Teaching makes you internal and it's an absolute honor to  create HOPE.

Monday, October 22, 2012

OCTM Day Two

This past Friday was my second day at the OCTM annual math conference and I chose to spend more time with the ladies from the Developmental Math Group.  The focus for their session this time was place value.  If you are teaching kindergarten and if you have switched to the Common Core then you know place value is something new in kindergarten for numbers through 20.  Not only did they discuss place value but they shared  nuggets of math goodness.

-acting out the math helps students see the process.
-asking the question, what do you know is crucial
-start with understanding
-symbols are abstract
-talking is powerful for students
-kids will listen to kids
-Kindergarten is good at showing, expressing is hard
-by modeling everyday situations math is put into context

Here are some highlights about place value relevant to our emerging mathematicians.  Numbers have a place and a value.  When kindergarten children come, they think of 23 as 23 ones not 2 tens and 3 ones.  It's our job to move them to the base ten language system.  Popsicle sticks bundled as tens are a great tool for working with place value in the beginning.  The popsicle stick is the same shape and size.  By using grouping types of all the same shape and size place and value become more concrete than if you were using different units.  My new second favorite math word is unitizing - thinking of a numbers as a group.  In kindergarten, we need to be thinking of place value as a group of ten ones and some more.  They spent a great deal of time talking about the structure of the hundreds board and how important it is for the students to interact with the board to learn the structure.  They also suggested it's easier for emerging mathematicians to work with a board 1-99 at first.  They spent some time sharing great ideas for a place value mat and their own decimal mats they developed as visual models to increase understanding.  If I taught older students they would be a must to have in my classroom.  They shared a personal bug a boo - don't call place value blocks units, longs and flats.  Here's their justification, "We don't develop meaningful mathematics if we don't use mathematical language."  We ended our session with this quote that really brings home how important beginning mathematics is.

"A child who has number sense has common sense for mathematics."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Words for the Week

"Success means having the courage, 
the determination, and the will
to become
the person you believe you were meant to be."

George Sheehan on running

I ran tonight and came home thinking how good it felt.  I found this quote to think about this week as I try to run with more consistency.  May you have courage, determination, and will this week in all you do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

OCTM Presentation

Thank you for joining me today at OCTM, if you were able to.  I enjoyed talking about problem solving and using a Math Workshop format to have math exchanges with small groups of students.  Remember, math exchanges are the giving and taking the talking and listening while looking at rich math problems.  You can find my presentation via Google Docs.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

OCTM Day One

Today and tomorrow I'm spending time at  the annual Ohio Council  Teachers of Mathematics state wide conference.  This year it is right here in Columbus, Ohio.  If you are looking for local professional development for grades K-12 this is a great find and something you might want to attend next year

Today I spent time thinking about geometry with Linda Hallenbeck discussing the spatial reasoning and the important role it plays in mathematical thinking.  When we look at shapes we could have children sort rounded shapes from each other.  We could have children sort polygons from each other.  If we look at polygon attributes for sorting we are only looking at sides and angle-arity.  When we talk about shapes in kindergarten we are reasoning at the beginning stages.  Another important aspect of spatial reasoning is the orientation of shapes which creates flexible thinking.  Linda also shared we shouldn't reference pattern blocks by color when working with students.  It implies color is an attribute associated with the a specific shape.  Also, working with different shapes all the same color helps children focus more on the geometric attributes.

We talked about the difficulty children can have understanding a square is a special rectangle.  Linda shared this analogy she uses.  There are five people in my family.  We are all Hallenbecks.  I am a special Hallenbeck, I'm Linda Hallenbeck.  I transferred this idea to the confusion with an oval and an ellipse.  One resource Linda shared worth investigating as we all move to the Common Core is a flip book from Kansas.

Another great session I attended today was with Debra Rucker and Karen Boreman the developers from the Developmental Math Group.  I know these ladies from my previous school district and it was nice to hear their wise wisdom about mathematics.  Their focus in mathematics is with visual models.  They shared several tools they have developed to make mathematics visual for children.  Here are some tidbits I picked up during their session.

-Visual models are needed to connect words, symbols, and quantity
-Visual models change how you look at numbers
-Number sense is being flexible
-By definition teens are a ten and some more
-To fluently add and subtract students must show the commutative property
-A child won't count on until they see a number as a unit
-Putting things in a row makes counting easier, provide tools

Looking forward to a good day of learning tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Questions, Questions {Poetry Friday}

I picked up Marcus Pfister's Questions, Questions as a mentor text for wondering and inquiry.  I loved how his questions are about every day things my students might be able to observe.  I sometimes think so much is taken for granted and we don't take the time to stop and think about what we see.  Topics Marcus Pfister questions include; seeds, colors of flowers, the sun, birds, shells, leaves, and much more.  As I read the blurb and spent time with this book it's so much more.  It's poetry.  Each question is written as a couplet.  A couplet is a pair lines in poetry that usually rhyme.  Now, it's phonemic awareness.  I'm reminded if we look carefully and work smarter not harder we can find mentor text for multiple purposes and entry points.  Here's a small sample perfect for this time of the year in the Midwest.

"What turns the leaves from green to brown 
and sends them floating gently down?"

I discovered another entry point for this book with the illustrations.  They are simply set against a white background with vibrant colors and texture.  The texture is something all readers should spend time pondering and wondering about.  I love books that describe how the illustrations were done.  Marcus Pfister shares he used thick cardboard to cut out his pieces.  Then painted each cardboard piece with acrylic paint to stamp on aquarelle paper.  The results how movement and texture that is very appealing to the reader. Marcus Pfister even encourages the reader to give this technique a try.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I love my IPEVO camera!

I knew I needed a document camera after playing around with one last spring in my room.  I wrote a grant but it didn't get funded.  I tried to snag the building one this year without anyone noticing.  It got noticed.  I believe in sharing but in this situation I knew I wanted a document camera at my finger tips all day long.  A district technology friend suggested the IPEVO when I wrote the grant but I couldn't imagine this much less costing document camera ($69.99) doing the same as other big name document cameras.  I was wrong and learned I should listen to my friends.  

In the photo, you will notice my IPEVO Point 2 View to the right of my classroom computer.  Look at how slender and sleek this document camera is.  The IPEVO is a USB document camera.   It is easy to travel with.  It is compact and folds up into a nice little box.  I am able to set it for continuous focus or single shot focus.  I am able to capture photos of student work and share them on my website and then eventually add those to an Evernote binder (when I figure this out more)or in a cloud format for creating student portfolios.  I can turn the angle of the lens and use it as a webcam or detach it and set it on top of my computer.  I can adjust the exposure, zoom, and the direction the image is presented.  

My students love seeing my modeling enlarged on the SMARTboard.   It is so nice when everyone can see.  They also like having their own work enlarged for reflection and sharing during our day.  I have one class that is content to stand by the IPEVO and share their thinking.  My other class likes to walk over to the SMARTboard and talk about their work as it is projected.  I am fortunate enough to have a ceiling mounted projector in my room for the SMARTboard which then projects any computer image.  You will notice in the photo mine is attached to an extension stand.  I found the height made projecting books and student work easier.  I will be exploring these videos to learn more about fantastic tool and read these user stories. The cost of this little gem is worth every penny and more.  Thank you for joining my technology journey this year.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Launching Math Journals

I launched math journals last week with my kindergarten classes thanks to k-5 math teaching resources and their kindergarten math journal e-book.  Math journals have been an on and off thing since returning to kindergarten and just watching my students last week reminded me why math journals are so important.

1.  Math journals are a spot for students to record their answers and show their thinking.
2.  Math journals are a tool that help students articulate their learning.
3.  Math journals are a tool to front load oral language and math explanations.
4.  Math journals help students organize their thoughts.
5.  Math journals help students show growth over time.

Already after two days of problem solving I can observe and see individual differences in my mathematicians.    Math journals are a window into a child's thinking and reasoning.  During our reflection time I am seeing confidence emerge as students share their thinking.  Our reflections are also causing a few students to realize they are missing a piece in their own work and rushing to get a pencil.  We are just beginning and seeing how you can revise your own work to make it  more complete is an advanced skill, that I am happy to see.

By the way - I think any teacher will want to review e-book resources from this website.  My initial thinking about this website was shared on July 16th.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


courage does not always roar.
sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day saying,
"i will try again tomorrow."

(mary anne radmacher)

A friend gave me this quote on a magnet this summer.  I found it tonight organizing my personal space in our playroom and knew the words were calling to me right now.  Maybe these words are something you need to hear also as we embrace a new week of living, teaching, and caring.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Last week I was thinking about my classes and feeling good about how they were adjusting to school life and navigating our day.   However, I'm a bit worried about how they are navigating friendships and treating each other.  I tweeted a few friends for titles of books they might use to build community, really looking for books that would help children think about others.  This can be and often is challenging for everyone but I know the success we will have this year together depends on how we treat each other.  It also depends on thinking before we act or speak.  It also depends on helping others while learning and playing.

One book my friend Cathy suggested was TOGETHER by George Ella Lyon.  This book is new to me and that brings me back to why I set up this blog.  I started blogging to share titles that are new to everyone but titles that are old but new to me.  I couldn't find this book easily online for a reasonable price to purchase.  My first library system didn't have it but my second choice did.  I picked it up yesterday and while reading it I thought my kindergarten students will enjoy this book.  However, if I were teaching older students third on up we would have a lot of fun using this book as a mentor text for writing and guiding community building.

Two friends, both girls share all the things they can do together.  The text per page is just one sentence.  The language and organization of the sentence clearly lets the reader know these two friends work together;  teamwork is important for happiness.  Happiness isn't evident in text but through the illustrations by Vera Rosenberry.  

Here are a few examples from the text to help you envision how this book could help you in your classroom.
-"You cut the timber and I'll build the house."
-"You salt the ice and I'll crank the cream."
-"I'll drive the truck if you'll fight the fire."

Every few pages this phrase is repeated; "Let's put our heads together and dream the same dream."  This book could also lead a great discussion about dreams and goals as a class and individually.  I hope your year is off to a great start.  I'm thinking, You get the bread, I'll spread the peanut butter.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Research and Development Grant - I'm Participating.

I am so excited to share I am able to participate in a research and development project just being started in our school district.  This was sent out in a district email earlier this school year.

"TRECA, Apple, Houghton Mifflin, and Battelle for Kids are offering a research and development opportunity for one teacher in every building in our district to create an innovative learning environment.

The purpose of the TRECA Research and Development Program is to fund action research projects focused on effective integration of technology to support instructional behaviors designed to personalize student learning. You may use the attached application to identify your plan to implement an innovative learning environment and to identify your approach to action research in your classroom."

My interest was peaked and I tried to talk myself out of taking on one more thing.  I then did some asking around and from what I could tell, no one else applied.  Then I was talking myself into applying because this has great potential for my students, my own learning and I didn't want our building to miss out.  I was notified this week, I am participating.  Hip, Hip, Hooray!

I am a planner and right now there are a lot of unknowns, I'm not even sure what this will involve.  I think this project is being developed step by step from what I can tell or from what is being released.  I do know there is some travel involved and I had to supply my travel information so a flight could be booked.  We are going to innovative schools to observe and begin our research, nothing close to the Midwest.  My choices for elementary schools are CA, AZ, or GA.  I find out this week where I am going and when.

My own next step is to explore this collection of videos which is going to lead to some innovative thinking, I can already tell with just a brief skim.  You might find something of interest too.  The grant I wrote may not be my final project.  I've heard our visits and working with an Apple Representative will help create a framework for my grant and action research.  I hope I find great things to share with you.  Stay Tuned.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Back to Books, Local PD

I just got in from a busy day ending on an enjoyable note.  I am fortunate to belong to The Literacy Connection, a hometown grass roots effort for growing professionally.  This group started with five teachers in 1982 and continues providing a supportive learning environment for local educators.   This year our work, conversations and guest speaker are centered around the theme, Back to Books!  Keeping Children's Literature at the Heart of the Curriculum.  With the shift in curriculum, I find this title enjoyable and much needed.  A breath of fresh air as people become reactive creating, publishing, and purchasing new teaching resources.  I think this will help us slow down, look at what we already have to use and not lose sight of using children's literature.  

Tonight we were fortunate to spend a couple of hours at Cover to Cover an independent local bookstore with the brilliant book owner, Sally Oddi.  Sally knows books.  Sally knows readers.  Sally knows how to talk about books, leaving you with the feeling you need each one.  Even if they aren't just right for your grade level or students you can find someone who needs that book she just talked about.

Tonight Sally had some wise nuggets of information for us all.

-quoting Donalyn Miller, "Get your kids reading real books."
-"Nonfiction is getting its time."
-"Questioning exercises should take them back to the book.  Use the book."
-"Our constant goal is to stretch the ability to read with information."

Notice the key word with information not for information.  I think the word with indicates the process of reading and not just reading for answers.  Thank you Sally for always welcoming and sharing new books with us.

I look forward to sharing more of this journey with you this year.  We will be thinking about ELL students in the reading workshop, documenting children's work, choosing books for minilessons, poetry, children's literature and the Common Core, and then we end our workshop series by spending a day with Donalyn Miller learning and reflecting after reading her text, The Book Whisperer.