Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reflecting before a Holiday Break

Sunday Storytime.  I received the ornament pictured from my friend Maddy last year.  She is one of my oldest daughter's best friends and we have spent a lot of time together over the years.  When she gave me this gift a year ago, I honestly burst into tears.  Maddy was a senior in high school.  I was feeling a little down about teaching kindergarten because I just felt like I wasn't making a difference with two classes and their limited attendance.  This photo is of Maddy and I when she was in kindergarten.  I did/do make a difference and my heart knew that from this thoughtful gift.  I couldn't bring myself to placing the ornament on the tree this year where it might get lost or blend in with everything else.  Instead it sits on my windowsill and reminds me throughout my day, the work we do matters and is remembered.  We have to hold on to these small moments and nuggets in our lives.  It's the kids that count and bring us joy.  We need to slow down to look and feel that joy in the communities we have created.  That's my plan for this pre-winter break holiday week.  

I want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday season.  I have so many ideas swirling in my head about blogging, four more days of school, and report cards that I find myself excited and truly enjoying second grade.  I also have so many ideas about the holidays, projects at home, my own reading, my own writing, and getting crafty that I find myself bursting at the seams to just be home.  I also can't wait to pick up my oldest tomorrow night and have all three of my girls here for a month!  I know readers this sounds like a lot but I'm positive you all have things you are excited about right now and bursting at the seams to have time to do.  We all have busy lives in one way or another.  In an attempt to find balance and find the time to just be; my blogging break is going to start tonight.

Happy Holidays, Safe Travels, and Enjoy!  I'll see you in 2015!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Trying Haiku {Poetry Friday}

oh my, fleece lined tights
thicker, heavier, warmer
delightful winter!

I'd like to thank my friend Mary Lee for inspiring me to try some Haiku poetry writing.  You might want to get your own inspiration while she is writing 
Haiku - a - day at Poetrepository.

Thank you to Paul at These 4 Corners for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Familiar Authors Different Story - The Chicken Squad

I've been excited to find authors I know from a series or just a single book and discover they have other titles and stories to share with readers.  The Chicken Squad is by Doreen Cronin who I know as a picture book author.  Doreen Cronin makes me laugh.  She makes my students laugh and this laughter makes all of us enjoy reading.  The Chicken Squad brought many smiles and much laughter as I read it aloud to my seconders this past month.  

I love how the four chicken characters are introduced!  Each character has their own self portrait and information on a page.  The reader learns their nickname, reads a short physical description of each and then learns their real name.  Each character has speciality which is important within the story.  This support was wonderful in helping my readers keep track of several characters. 

The quick version of this story is squirrel has been scared by something in the yard and the four chickens are great at figuring out mysteries.  I love the sequence of questions they use to gather information.  I enjoyed how precise they are in describing colors.  I enjoyed math vocabulary was used in figuring out what was scaring squirrel in the yard.  

Here are three lines I love from this story and hope you find, if you pick this book up.

"Big is not a shape," sighed Sugar.

"Brave squirrels are not afraid of diamonds!"

"Don't get your feathers in a bunch, Poppy," said Sugar.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Slice of Life - It's dead, but wait...!

It's dead.  It sat in the corner for months, dead.  It probably died about the time school started and I just let it sit there.  I love the container it's in so I would celebrate the container and ignore the dead.  Lucky for me, the dead didn't stink.  It just turned brown and brittle.  I did slightly morn the brown and brittle dead only because when I received the beautiful green plant with orange blossoms it was unique and special.  It was an end of the year gift from a student.  However, I know if you neglect a plant and it doesn't get it's basic necessities it will die.  

I've been decorating the house for the holidays and yes both sets of parents are coming so perking things up becomes fun and a priority.  Perking things up really means get rid of the dead plant.  I decided I wanted to save the container I love.  To save the container I began to remove the brown and brittle plant.  I couldn't believe what I saw, there was green shoots just peeping through the soil?  They looked like daffodils or tulips in the spring.  

I reread the information tag and the plant is a perennial which means it will return year after year but it's a house plant so I didn't expect it to completely die.  I really think the plant has a bulb structure which means it would die off completely and return.  I like having plants and truth be told my classroom plants seem to do better than my home plants.  My students help water them and having plant support might be what keeps things alive or bring them back from a wilt-y state.

As I uncovered my fresh new green sprouts, I reflected on a few things.  If you look below the surface, you can find and/or see growth.  Plants are forgiving and students are too.   Green sprouts bring hope and looking for the small signs in my classroom can and will bring hope for each student and what they need.  I just need to look below the surface and notice closely to discover green sprouts to nurture.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for fostering and encouraging this writing community.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New to Me - Celebrate! by Jan Reynolds

My second grade-reading journey is very exciting because I am continuously discovering new books to me. Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures by Jan Reynolds is the perfect book to begin a discussion or unit of study about celebrations and cultures.  The book focuses on the components of a celebration; gathering together, food and drinks, decorating ourselves, music, dance, and the use of fire.  

This photographic essay is beautiful and rich with information about each component in different cultures.  I especially enjoyed the pattern of learning about four or five cultures and having each section end with an example from the United States.  A few of the cultures shared in this book were familiar to me but most of them were not familiar to me.  

The book ends with a summary around the notion there are many ways to celebrate the human spirit.  It helped me think about many things and the reasons cultures celebrate.  We celebrate to show we are thankful, to celebrate changes in our lives, celebrate people and important events.  After reading the book left to right and top to bottom I realized I wish I had read it differently.  I wish I had read the headings for each section first to discover components of celebrations and let my students ponder these thoughts.  Then reread the book with the text descriptions for the different cultures shared.  This would allow us to focus the idea of different cultures and different celebrations exist in our world. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - I Am Amelia Earhart

I am in love with my new discovery, I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer.  I remember reading biographies and reading about Amelia Bedelia when I was a child and the biographies I read didn't look  like this.  I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer is filled with warm illustrations that are interesting, insightful, and supportive to the text.  The book starts with Amelia Earhart as a child and right away the reader learns about her strong will to be different and wish to do things differently.  She didn't like the idea of wearing dresses, playing with dolls, and wanted to have adventures.  The reader learns about Amelia's childhood.  She built a roller coaster in her back yard with ramps and was able to get airborne for a bit.  I think having kids connect to moments in a person from history is brilliant.  Their accomplishments are important but having kids realize successful people from the past were just like them is creating connections that will drive the reader to find out more.  As the story continues, the illustrated young Amelia continues and tells the story of the Amelia as she grows up.  I love that the point of view is from the first person.  The reader also learns Amelia had to work very hard, she had stamina and perserverence.  Qualities we talk about needing in our own learning and classroom community.  What a role model for students of all ages.

Thank you Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for organizing and fostering nonfiction reading in our classrooms and homes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Slice of Life - rethinking a family tradition

An unexpected response came my way when I asked my youngest, "Do you want to do our holiday book a day tradition?"  She replied with certainty, "Yes!"  I was a bit caught off guard because I remember last year her interest seemed to diminish a bit as the twenty four days were passing.  I wanted to be realistic and realize my girls are growing up, things change, and it's okay if we have one less thing to do.  She is the youngest of three girls.  She is in middle school now as a sixth grader.  She warmed my heart she wanted to be my reading partner each night for twenty four days.

We've been doing a holiday book as an advent calendar since she was born.  When her oldest sister was little I didn't want an advent calendar with chocolate.  Candy was very limited in our house.  I didn't want an advent calendar with trinket toys resembling a fast food drive in kids meal treat.  Those types of meals never happened in our house.   Then one day I read about wrapping twenty four holiday books and opening one a night, perfect!

I didn't question her answer but began thinking about how could I keep her interest from diminishing this year.  I had to assess our current collection.  Our collection of holiday books is far more than just twenty four.  Our holiday book collection has fun stories and stories that retell the Christmas story.  We have simple rhyming stories and some stories that more involved picture book stories.  We have heard these stories many times over the years.  As I reflected about keeping her interest, I thought about my classroom library.  I concluded I wanted to include some favorites.  I wanted to get some new titles.  I wanted to include various genres; poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, and biography-ish titles.  I also wanted to include titles with bigger messages and explanations for different traditions.  I'm really excited to have a reading partner for the next twenty two days.  

Since I wrapped the titles before writing this post I hope you will follow our reading journey via twitter @mandyrobek and consider joining me using the hashtag #holidaybookaday.  I specifically chose this hashtag so anyone, celebrating any holiday could share their reading lives.  This could be a neat way to expand our reading lives and global thinking.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Math Monday - How do you use math?

Welcome and thank you for stopping by Math Monday, I hope you will consider joining the conversation.

I recently attended the NCTE conference where the same message kept creeping into my sessions.  If you are going to teach reading, you need to be a reader.  If you are going to teach writing, you need to be writing yourself.  If you are going to teach poetry, you need to read poetry.  I bet you can see where I am going with this.  If you are going to teach math, you have to use math.  So, how do you use math?  Are you a math mentor for your students and share how you use math in your life?  When we know there is a purpose and reason for learning, engagement and motivation for learning is higher.

I recently realized I use math a lot when I am running.  When I'm running outside, I start my Runkeeper App and listen to numbers being rattled off to me every five minutes.  I like to know the distance I have ran, my pace, and how long I have been running.  I can then process the distance or time I have ran and figure out how much further I have to go to meet my goal for the day.  I've also found numbers can drive my running.  By listening to my five minute update, I can figure out if my pace is slowing down and try to speed it up a bit if I want a certain goal to happen for the day.  I also celebrate those moments when I've got a bit further than expected.

When I run inside, I find myself processing fractions.  For some reason while running on a treadmill, I break up my 30 minutes into thirds but then I can switch that to halves at 15 minutes and then two thirds is a much happier fraction to think about!  When I want to think about success and what is behind me the fraction of five sixths lets me know the end is in sight.  I also use decimals when I set my pace for the day and know that even a tenth of a number can make a little difference and reduce my time at the end of a run.

This is just a small slice of my life and how I use numbers.  When and how do you use numbers to help you with something in life?  If you are going to teach math, remember to be a math mentor!

Leave your link within a comment and 
don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Slice of Life - Inflight Thoughts

Inflight Thoughts

Solid lights
Twinkling lights

Sprinkle the ground

Celebrating days of 

Solid lights
twinkling lights

Sprinkle the ground

Celebrating home

I heard a message over and over at NCTE.  If you teach ______ then you need to be a ______.  If you teach reading, you need to be a reader.  If you teach writing, you need to be a writer.  If you teach poetry, you need to be a poetry reader.  I've been trying to write personally using digital tools on the go but what I'm discovering is bigger pieces are great on my laptop or my iPad.  It's the little nuggets during my day and little day to day snippets I'm not good at capturing digitally.  When I was packing for NCTE I decided to take a notebook and start writing things, anything that came to mind.  It worked a bit.  I filled 6 pages, the beginning of a writer's notebook.  This was a piece I captured while flying home and revised a smidge tonight.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering a writing community.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Math Monday - Assessing Mathematical Practices #1

Welcome and thank you for stopping by Math Monday, I hope you will consider joining the conversation.

I saw a tweet last week that peaked my interest and sent me over to Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had by Tracy Zayger; particularly her post on Making Sense, please take a moment to read it to understand my work below.  After reading this post and watching the short video I wanted to try the same assessment to see if my students were actually making sense of problems they could try and solve.  I've been working on helping my students understand the first mathematical practice recently and thought the work Tracy described in her post would be an interesting interview to conduct.  

I used the problem her friend modified and below are my student's responses.
There are 25 kids and 5 dogs ini the classroom.  How old is the painter?

Student - Wait, rereads.  I don't really know anything about the painter.  I would need to know something about the painter.

Student - What painter?  it didn't say there was a painter!

Student - Why is the painter involved?

Student - What do you mean by painter?  It doesn't say painter in the problem.

Student - What do you mean, how old is the painter?  How would I know how old the painter is?  It doesn't say anything else about the painter.

Student - Painter?  I don't know what that means.  I've heard of painter before (an ESL student)

Student - 25 kids plus 5 dogs, I don't get the problem.

Student - I don't get it, it doesn't take that much sense.

Student - I can't - it says nothing about the painter.

Conclusion - 9 students made sense with their response from above and 11 students did not.  

My students who didn't solve correctly all took the numbers 25 and 5 and said they either equalled or is 30.  There was no way to predict how my students would make sense of this problem and figure out they didn't have enough information to figure out the answer to the question.  Boys and girls were successful.  I had several surprises in these responses.  Students who are quick to compute numbers didn't always figure out they didn't have information about the painter.  A few students who work a bit hard to compute problems figure out this problem wasn't making sense. What I enjoyed the most was watching those who figured out the problem didn't make sense and their verbal reposes, I hope you can infer the inflection many of my students used.

It looks like we have more work to do with mathematical practice one, focusing on making sense of our problems before solving them by thinking carefully.

Leave your link within a comment and 
don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Math Monday - PD Book Review Month-to-Month Guide

Welcome and thank you for stopping by Math Monday, I hope you will consider joining the conversation.

I just finished reading Second Grade Math  A Month-to-Month Guide by Nancy Litton.  I know I'm always need for a great read about mathematics when it's published by the Math Solutions group with the forward coming from Marilyn Burns herself.  As the title indicates, Nancy takes the reader through an entire school year with ideas and suggestions month by month.  I've been teaching for quite some time and still find nuggets of goodness to walk away with.  The first chapter actually address your classroom set up, organization, and routines before the children arrive.  It's reaffirming as an educator to find suggestions I had in place and to discover ideas with a more sophisticated twist for second graders.  I will definitely do a name sort with a Venn diagram looking at syllables and letters in the name at the same time on the first day of school next year.  I  implemented our morning routine right away to include Today's Number Routine, a book about equations.  What struck me the most as I read this book, was the amount of time needed in second grade for developing place value, addition and subtraction understandings with students.  This book was written before the Common Core Standards came to be and these three areas should of been dominating our focus back then, also.  There are several math games my students are loving and quite engaged with that I've chosen to use in class and then have them shared at home as part of our Family Math program.  Another idea from the month of April, was to do a graph with how many letters are in your name but to take it a step further; which letter is used most often in our first names.  Writing about our math process and thinking is a piece of each activity and each activity is centered around the mathematical processes which is the heart and soul of applying mathematics.  If you are looking for a book to anchor your thinking and math workshop then I would suggest any of the books in this series.

Leave your link within a comment and 
don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Slice of Life - A Rough Goodbye

I didn't know
what laid ahead

A rough goodbye?
I can handle
A rough goodbye?
I have experience
A rough goodbye?
We'll bounce back

I didn't know 
what laid ahead

A rough goodbye
Filled with screams
A rough goodbye
Filled with physical turns
A rough goodbye
Filled with unwanted embrace

I didn't know 
what laid ahead

A rough goodbye
Requires waiting
A rough goodbye
Requires love
A rough goodbye
Requires safety

I now know 
I can only hope
what works for my own child
might work for another.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering a writing community.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Math Monday - A Math Video Library to Explore.

Welcome and thanks for stopping by for Math Monday!

Today I wanted to share a resource I have just begun to explore.  Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4 is brought to us by the Annenberg Lerner organization.  An organization committed to advancing excellent teaching by producing and sharing multimedia resources.  They also provide lesson plans for the ideas they share.  They have been in existence for three decades.  This organization not only focuses on the student as learner but also the classroom teacher.  They also have resources for all content areas and provide videos for all ages.  

My friend who shared this with me did have a couple of cautions.  Her first advice when watching a video is to look at the math being taught and done.  Her second tidbit of advice is to not analyze or look at the classroom setting.  She said the videos are old and our classrooms today don't look like the ones in the videos.  However, she did say if you can look beyond the setting and focus on the instruction valuable things are to be learned and explored.  

I can't wait to use The Window Puzzle, number 13! My friend recommended this to me as one that could meet various needs within one classroom. The video is interesting to watch and confirms different approaches students may use depending on their own mathematical development.  I also love and anticipate I will find more activities where there is more than one solution possible encouraging independent thinking and multiple solutions.  Enjoy and share in the comments if you discover a problem/activity you will be trying in your classroom.

Leave your link within a comment and 
don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrate this Week - Perspective Shift

Today I am celebrating, a Perspective Shift.  I was chatting, via texting to my friend Cathy Mere and our conversation went like this

Thank you Cathy for helping me breathe, let my shoulders down, and try to enjoy a bit more where I am right now.  Our conversation started about something completely different but I think there was a plan for it to end like this.  Friends know just what you need, sometimes without knowing it.

Thank you Ruth, for supporting us in finding the positive in our busy lives.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Google Drive in the 2nd Grade Classroom

I was inspired by Franki's post this week about Google Drive in the 3rd Grade Classroom and thought, I could write about that.  Then Mary Lee wrote a post for yesterday about Google Drive in 5th the Grade Classroom and again I thought, I could write about that.  I had to chuckle when Franki wrote her first attempt at using Google Drive was a disaster because I had visions of that myself.  Therefore, I went slow and steady as I would have in kindergarten. Students are so intuitive but in laying the foundation for a new tool, I felt guided small steps were needed for more independence later on.  I am so proud and happy about our progress over the past three weeks.

I was in a team meeting and our librarian wanted to help us with some lessons in our computer lab.  She mentioned using word to type a document of sorts.  I sat listening and then tossed out, "why not use Google Drive?"  Each of our students have an account.  We get through it via a school district portal.  Each student has a special log in and password and Google Drive will automatically save their work.  I think everyone was a little hesitant and as the thought sat for a bit we decided to try it.

Our first proactive step was to make individual account information cards.  It had their login and password information.  We talked about being safe and not sharing their login information with anyone, which they love.  They won't even let their neighbors take a peak.  Another proactive step we took since our tech work is done in a computer lab, was to assign the same laptop to work at each visit.  (Yes, we took down a PC lab to have traveling laptops which had complications in several areas so we hard wired the laptops in to a different classroom and have just computer lab now.)

Our lovely librarian Heather launched logging in to our district portal and then navigating to Google Drive.  She has great insight and patiently gives tricks and tips to help them make keyboarding, buttons, screens, keypads, and mouses all come together for younger learners.  By the time we left that first day, each student had typed a title/heading.  With their title/heading they learned about left, center, and right alignment.  As I went back to the classroom and thought about observing Heather with my students, I realized we could turn this into an About the Author page to be used during the year when we publish books.

We returned to a second lesson with Heather and I believe we worked through logging in and typing in text about ourselves.  My students were composing on the computer as they typed.  It was easy for them, nothing written ahead of time.  I think the topic of themselves helped make this first experience was an easy idea generator.  Heather guided my students in how to type capital letters and the need for a space after each punctuation.

Heather was out for our third lesson but I wasn't scared to be on my own.  We finished up typing our About the Author pages and learned about the red squiggly line under words as an editing guide.  Heather had an idea of using Pixie to create self portraits to copy and include an our About the Author writing.  Which was exciting but I did Pixie self portraits in kindergarten with these students and realized I could share their first day photo with them in a shared document to use instead.  Using a shared document is a huge feature of Google Drive and one I might find a reason to use later in the year, so I thought why not show them now how to use it.

On Tuesday this week, I showed them their shared with me folder.  I guided them in copying the photo and placing it in their About the Author page.  I guided them in resizing the photo and placing it in the center right above their title.  I was out of time so we left for the day only to return on Wednesday to print.  However, before we could print I realized students had written books in portrait and landscape layouts to share with others.  So, we learned how to make a copy of a document and rename it.  Each student has an About the Author page portrait and About the Author page landscape.  This way all they need to do is print the one they need for future books.

When I reflect on our work over the past few weeks, it seems like a lot and I'm sure sounds overwhelming to some readers.  I was the only adult for three sessions and yes there were small glitches with students on and off so here are my tips for success.

1.  Model the steps using a projector of sorts and then leave the information they need on the screen to refer back to.

2.  Do things in very small steps and wait til everyone is ready.  For example, click on the title and get the box to rename your piece, now stop and wait.

3.  When modeling and giving steps, students turn sideways and can't touch the computers until I say something like, "now it's your turn, make it happen."

4.  Don't do it for them.  Point to the area they need to click or move a cursor to.  They can do it.

5.  Patience is required.

6.  Let them feel a smidge of frustration, that will guide them towards learning and retaining.

My students are eager now to work in Google Drive from home.  Some of them shared they tried to login from home but didn't get very far.  If you have ideas for launching something small and meaningful they could work on at school and home I'd appreciate your comment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Slice of Life - Crosswalks and Upright Ants

It was a smooth drive.  I had plotted out just the right amount of time.  There was the threat of rain far off in the distance but right above there was a smidge of sun trying to burst through the gray clouds.  I got off the highway and my on time travel plans were changed.

They were everywhere!  Crosswalks.  Crosswalks filled like a swarm of bees.  No, they weren't bees because they weren't buzzing or moving very fast.  Crosswalks filled with upright ants.  Yes, tall upright ants were filling the crosswalks.  I felt like I was in the middle of an ant farm or an ant colony that was relocating.  I would drive my van a small distance only to come to another crosswalk.  I began envisioning these upright ants carrying mounds of crumbs and scraps on their backs.  Then I realized I was falling a little bit behind in my journey and started to get frustrated.  These ants then became pillars in a pinball arcade game but that didn't really matter to them.  A few times I got lucky and made them wait for me.  It was at this point I heard that little arcade bell go off in my head.  Yea, Mandy - one for you! and more cheers for traffic lights.  The upright ants actually pay attention to traffic light signals, I could finally breathe for a moment.  I found my destination and was grateful I was off the road and could rest for a bit.  Then my college freshman daughter got in the van and I realized we had to leave campus.  Lucky for me, I knew a different path out of campus and realized there were less crosswalks which meant less upright ants to dodge and driving was a bit easier.  I've already plotted a better road path into campus and learned a few things today about navigating campus during the week.  There are lessons to learn everywhere we go.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting and supporting our writing community.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Math Monday - Understanding Mathematical Practice #1

Welcome and thanks for stopping by for Math Monday!  I'm so glad I didn't get a post up last night or this morning before I went in to school because today's math learning is far better than my other ideas.

In taking a step back and rethinking my math workshop and instruction, I realized I had my students engaged in problem solving but they didn't have ownership or understand the 8 Mathematical Practices.  The 8 Mathematical Practices are truly the things mathematicians do to live a mathematical life.  Readers read books.  Scientist observe.  Writers write. Mathematicians work with numbers and problems.  

Using the book Putting the Practices into Action reviewed in an earlier Math Monday post, I launched some work today to understand the first mathematical practice; Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them.  Susan O'Connell and John San Giovanni give great ideas for explaining and showing children how to understand each mathematical practice.  What I really like about their primary suggestion for this mathematical practice is to work with the same data/information each day with a different problem to solve.  We did a lot of thinking and I asked a bunch of guiding questions thanks to Susan and John which led my class to discover we are doing a lot of thinking before we can even answer the problem.  

To summarize our learning, we created an anchor chart with our ideas.  I hope this might help you.  The actual chart building is based on the work from Marjorie and Kristi @chartchums on twitter and their blog is Chartchums.

Leave your link within a comment and 
don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Landform Books

I sometimes wonder if I change grade levels just to explore new books.  It's a simple equation!  New grade level + new content standards = reasons to find new books.  I decided I needed to save money and get back to borrowing books from the library.  I did that, only to discover these books were worth owning and paperback copies were ordered.

We just finished working with maps and learning about different landforms.  Capstone Press has a great series with pieces I could use for providing focused and concise information about three landforms or bodies of water; rivers, mountains, and islands.  Each book has information on the left page of a two page spread with a full page photograph on the right side of the spread.  The text on each page is about four to six lines.  Each book informs the reader how the landform is formed, famous land formations, and how people interact or use the landform.  Each book has nonfiction features to help early readers navigate; a table of contents, a glossary, other book suggestions for the topic and internet resources.  One feature I really enjoy about the the books by Capstone Press under the Pebble Plus subtitle is the amount of white space on between the lines of text.  It really helps early readers navigate reading much easier.

The books I found and just had to order were - 

Islands by Kimberly M Hutmacher

Mountains by Kimberly M Hutmacher

Rivers by Alyse Sweeney

Thank you Alyson for hosting Nonfiction Wednesday, it's nice to visit again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Slice of Life - Help Needed

On Tuesday afternoon (of last week) at dismissal, a little boy was telling me he was confused with a part he was reading in his book.  I mentioned we could meet tomorrow and talk about it.  We could have a reading meeting.  I had been wanting to conference with this little boy about his book selection for about a week but was torn because his reading behaviors had improved with this book.  He had stamina, focus, and was leading a readerly life by taking the book back and forth from home and school for reading.  He told me his dad had forgotten about him and he just kept on reading because he was in the reading zone not just one night but two nights in a row.  Wednesday came and at the end of the day he reminded me about the reading meeting and I apologized for forgetting and we could do it tomorrow.  Thursday came and I had to fit in a bunch of content so our reading time turned into a small research project and our reading meeting was postponed again.  We didn't have school on Friday.

Monday came and the conversation was a faint memory in my mind until at the end of reading workshop this cute little boy came over and said, "Mrs. Robek you forgot about my reading meeting."  I gushed with apologies and promised tomorrow.  He replied, "I will write you a note."  I soon received a little yellow post it note and in black sharpie which we use to make this brighter and stronger it said - Meeting with Nathan.  I placed it right by my rocking chair in hopes it would help me uphold my end of the teacher - student bargain.  It did!  As I was doing status of the class, when it was Nathan's turn to share what he was reading and where he was, I waved the little post it note to him and he just beamed that I had remembered.  

I am grateful Nathan saw I needed help.  I'm not proud I forgot for a few days or let the schedule of school prevent me from stopping the first time he asked to chat about his book.  However, he persevered and with persistence made a plan to help me remember.  We had a delightful conversation about capital letters within dialogue and how to keep track of who is talking.  I am thinking more about ways readers can request a conference based on their needs, when they feel the need for a conference.  Reader's have needs to be addressed when they arise, not when I have time in my schedule.  It looks like I have more to balance.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering a writing community each Tuesday.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Math Monday - Making Changes

Welcome and thanks for stopping by for Math Monday!

I've been grounding my math thinking and teaching of mathematics this week by reading Second Grade Math, A Month to Month Guide by Nancy Litton.  This book is from the Math Solutions/Marilyn Burns group, which never steers me wrong.  I've read and used the kindergarten and third grade books in this series and have found both filled with useful ideas to implement and make part of my current teaching assignment.

My class has been starting each morning with a good questions/rich math problem and one of the changes that lays ahead for us is to bring problem solving to the forefront of our daily work via the mini lesson and independent work time.  Therefore, I wanted to change our beginning work for the day as students stagger in and begin thinking for the day.

When I read about Today's Number: A Daily Routine I knew this had potential for us to grow and think more about mathematics.  This is an idea I've used randomly in the past and not as a daily routine.  The target number for the day is either the number for how many days you've been in school or the calendar date.  The students use a journal/notebook to make "A Book of Equations".  The target number for the day guides equations the students will generate and record.  Students will work independently.  They will share ideas at the end of morning meeting and transition into math workshop by learning from the equations friends are sharing.  

These are some key questions I read that I will be using with this new routine that will help us apply and be engaged with the eight mathematical practices.
      Does this equation work?
      Can you convince yourself that it does?
      I see a problem with that equation.  See if you can figure out what I mean.
      Can you prove your equation is true?
      What make you think that?
      Did someone else think about it in a different way?

One new idea for me with a routine like this is to help expand a student's thinking by sometimes offering guidelines to reinforce concepts taught in class.  Each month the reader will find suggestions to expand the students' thinking about equations.  Some ideas shared from the September chapter are - "use only addition, use combinations of ten, use doubles, use only subtraction, and use both addition and subtraction."  

I've tried this a few times this year within our good questions/rich problems and found my students needed encouragement to tell me several ideas about a number.  I found many students would find equations by using an easy pattern, for example - minus one.  I found my students didn't vary the operation used or use more than two parts to make the target number.  I found this a bit disappointing.      I want to see varying operations, a range of numbers, and a range of strategies.  I think working with equations each day can help with this.  I also think and know by conferring with students during this time, I can differentiate to help student's work with numbers that will extend their own thinking.

Here are some more thoughts grounding me with this new routine.   

"...look for opportunities to help students see new ways to decompose numbers, notice number relationships, and use mathematical operations meaningfully."  

Also, students will be recording lots of thinking within their equations and they are bound to record mistakes.  "...remind yourself that such mistakes are OK and that you don't have have time to correct each child's book every day."

"...this routine is a playful way for the children to develop number understandings."

Leave your link within a comment and 

don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Celebrate This Week - Understanding

Today I am celebrating, taking the time to understand. 

Last weekend, I confirmed the resource I was using for my math instruction was falling short.  My Slice of Life this week shared when I confirmed what my gut was starting to feel.  I left that post indicating I needed to shop around but before you shop around you really should understand what you need and what you have.  I've had nine weeks to get to know my students, I know what I have.    I know I have a plethora of resources that promote problem solving, application of math knowledge, and promote mathematical practices.  What I didn't understand completely was/is the Common Core Mathematical Standards.  Today I had a 3.5 hour lunch with a wise friend who is retired, consulting and understands mathematics.  She not only understands mathematics, she understands how the teaching of mathematics to achieve rigor and center mathematics in the mathematical practices with it being student centered.  Taking the time to understand requires time and hard thinking.  Taking the time to understand is going to change my instruction, my students daily work and create mathematicians.  I'm so excited about taking the time to understand, I can't wait for Monday!

Thank you Ruth, for supporting us in finding the positive in our busy lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Slice of Life - It Doesn't Fit!

Stretching and pulling, this doesn't feel right.  It doesn't seem to be fitting but let me try again with another fluff.  It still doesn't fit and I check the tag on my brand new flannel sheets, it's a queen size and I asked for king size set.  I reflected on my first shopping trip to the new Target store around the corner and realized I asked the kind Target worker if they had a set in a king size but never confirmed the size when they got a package for me from the back.  I had already washed the sheet set.  I had already thrown away the packaging but these were not going to fit my needs.  I tried to pack up the sheets the best I could with the receipt and the wrapper.  I needed to return what wasn't working and get what I needed.  That's why they make different size sheets, one size doesn't fit all bed sizes.

I've been wrestling with my math instruction lately and I realized it's like that first set of sheets.  It's falling short.  It doesn't fit my students needs all the time.  I've been using a resource my district purchased because I've changed grade levels and needed help getting my feet wet in second grade.  I needed to see my queen size set of sheets falling short and not fitting my bed to confirm what I've always known about prepackaged teaching resources.  They fall short and one has to shop around to find the right size.  I think flannel sheet shopping was easier, the king set was right on the shelf the next day when I made my return.  Easy isn't always best and I'm ready to shop around for what's a good fit mathematically. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting and fostering a writing community.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Math Monday - Numbers Inform

Welcome and thanks for stopping by for Math Monday!

I've had this idea for quite some time to discuss and share math more within my own blog and within our blogging community.  I shared my idea with the post - Launching Math Monday!  It was summer-ish still and everyone has lots of energy when it's summer-ish.  I enjoyed launching and sharing several Math Monday posts.  There was a little excitement on twitter over the idea.  Two friends have joined and posted along with me on Mondays.  I enjoy sharing math thinking but school life is busy for everyone, myself included.  I wasn't sure if this was a great idea or worth the time and energy right now.

I was with friends this past weekend and I over heard someone tell their blog partner, "we've never blogged to gain followers or readers."  I've been thinking about this comment.  Another blogging friend shared a comment she received or heard during a presentation she was doing, "blogging is for bragging."  Teaching is a hard profession.  Teaching can be a lonely profession.  Blogging for many is about sharing ideas.  Blogging for many is making connections with like minded people and for meeting people who stretch your thinking.  Blogging is risky for the writer.  We all have different comfort levels and things we are willing to blog about.  Blogging can be a platform to live a writerly life, as we guide our students in doing.  

To be honest, I haven't done a Math Monday post in a few weeks.  I think math is hard for many to share, think, and write about.  With just a few friends joining I wondered if it was a valid idea to continue to pursue.  I struggled with this the past few weeks and realized I needed to look at my data.  Readers may not be joining, quite yet or leaving comments but they are stopping by.  My data shows the Math Monday posts have had 86, 65, 79, 119, 180, and 185 visits.  I never expected the numbers to be this high!  Maybe these posts are helpful to others.  It makes me think of the movie, A Field of Dreams.  "If you build it, they will come."

Math Monday will be back in it's original format next week. Please consider joining and sharing anything related to mathematics.

Leave your link within a comment and 

don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are thinking mathematically!

To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
it would be nice for you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Math Monday post, don't forget to use #MathMon!