Monday, April 30, 2018

Listening In and Number Lines

We were near the ending of our math workshop.  Last week we looked at using a number line to help us show different ways to make a total money amount.  We named our work, Ways to make 35 cents.  This wasn't my own idea.  I'm in love with the resource Math in Practice A Guide for Teachers and was using an activity and paper from this resource.  

We took time to notice the number line.  It started with 0 and ended at 100.  There are lines in-between but not 100 lines.  I heard students trying to count lines using skip counting by 10.  I then heard some students trying to count lines using skip counting by 5.  I modeled how to show one way to use the number line to show ways to make 35 cents.  Together we used the number line to model two different/more ways to make 35 cents.  

I wanted to show how to use number bonds to show different ways to make 35 cents and starting to shift our work.  I mentioned the number line is one tool we could use to show ways to make coin collections and a student who needs extra support sometimes asked, "Can we put this in the math area?"  I was confused at first.  I wondered why she would want to put the paper she worked on in the math area of our room.  Then I thought a bit deeper and asked her if she would like papers like she used today in the math area.  She said yes, blank ones.  I confirmed blank papers on the shelf with our graph paper and ended my thinking with some inflection indicating I was changing this phrase to a question.  

She was so excited to say, "YES!"  I stopped right there.  What a great idea and was puzzled why I hadn't thought about this before.  It's a great math tool - a graphic organizer that can be tricky to draw for some students.  I had previously taught them how to use open number lines as a tool to show skip counting, adding and subtracting and now I'm thinking the structure of the lines on this graphic organizer and having them show increments of five might really help support some mathematicians.  Maybe an open number line is overwhelming for some students.  I'm so excited this student spoke up.  It's made me stop and think about different math organizers I could put in our math area to support them for different units of study.  It's made me stop and think about scaffolding number lines.  It's made me stop and realize it's important to have these  graphic organizers accessible for when the students want and find a need to use them.

Our days can get very busy this time of year and filled with to do list and agendas.  These few minutes reminded me to stop both the to do list and the agenda and listen.  Listen to the sweet wisdom of a seven year old.  It could be a game changer.

Friday, April 27, 2018

With My Hands - Poems About Making Things {Poetry Friday}

I love preordering books and having them surprise me in my mailbox weeks or a few months later.  Before I click pre-order I often wonder if I should preview the book physically to guarantee I will love it and need to buy it.  I don't have to preview books written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.  I love her books and need them.

With My Hands - Poems About Making Things took me back in time.  Many of the things Amy writes about are things I did as a child and I might dabble now in as an adult.  Leaf Pictures took me back to my grandmother's kitchen; making leaf wax paper placemats.  Fort took me to a card table set up on a rainy day with a blanket draped over it.  Drawing reminded me I use to draw with pencil and often of my future house.  The curtains would be pulled in at the middle creating a swooping draping effect at the top of each window.  I have those swooping curtains in my very own house now.

I think each of these poems are worthy of being a mentor for my own students and myself as writers and makers.  As I kept reading, I started paying attention to poetry elements my students could grab on to and aspire to use; repetition, imagery, and the five senses to name a few.  I love how the focus of this book is poetry about concrete actions and experiences.  I sometimes think people are turned off from poetry because they think it has to be grand and abstract.  Amy's book makes poetry concrete and obtainable for readers and writers.

Thank you Irene at Live Your Poem for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Bee Book {Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge}

The Bee Book by Charlotte Milner is a book filled with 22 topics/questions about bees and each topic/question has a two page spread.  The illustrations are done in warm hues and the paper is flat; not glossy and shiny which I think adds to the mood of this earthy topic.  I love all the nonfiction text features that are being used; maps, bold print, labels, cut aways, diagrams, numbers, charts, and drawn illustrations.  There's a lot of math sharing data and comparing numbers.  

While learning all about bees in general this book is also urging the reader to understand why we need to help the bees and what makes them an important creature for our environment.  One of my favorite pages illustrates this in a progression; bees are needed for crops, which bring us food, pollination helps our flowers which in turn helps our mammals, insects, and birds.  Bees are much more than creatures that make honey and sting you.  My heart tugged a bit as I read about the decline in bee population due to humans.  I think this two page spread will tug at my readers hearts.  Overall, I hope this book brings comfort to some readers that fear bees and their stingers.

Shopping for second grade nonfiction readers can be a bit tricky.  You need more information than an emergent reader and not too much that the reader becomes overwhelmed.  At first I was a bit worried there was a lot of information and then decided the text is organized with enough white space and line breaks we could easily find what we needed.  I think The Bee Book is just right for my second grade readers; especially in spring.  

Thank you Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy for hosting this weekly sharing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sad, Reflecting, and Joy {Slice of Life}

Today I was lucky to sit with every child one on one and conduct the DRA - Developmental Reading Assessment.  I felt joy.  I've used this tool for all twenty some years I've been teaching and today I did it with sadness.  These stories, format, and questions have been my guide and friend for getting to know readers and figure out what they need instructionally.  

Today I found myself reflecting in-between meeting with students.  

I was fortunate enough to use the DRA when it was in the "beta" stages in my very first school district.  I was fortunate enough to teach next door to some of the original writers.  I was fortunate enough to use the tool before it was tweaked and refined for mass production.  

I stared at the four titles for level 28 and found myself wondering if the new tool coming offered students book choice.  Choice is important and offers insight about our readers.  I was amazed today when not 1 out of 16 picked the story about peanuts to peanut butter.  I was excited to see what students wanted to read about service animals and picked a nonfiction text over a fictional story.  Then it was interesting to see who wanted to read about a family moving and their pet cat or a skunk who thought she was beautiful.  It was interesting to see gender didn't really play a role in one story over another.  

I love the fluency piece of this assessment.  It's a real story.  It's a reasonable amount of words and a reasonable expectation for my readers.  It eases my mind.  

All of this good thinking was thought with sadness.  My building principal has held strong to using the DRA for years.  I'm not sure why we are changing.  Other buildings in my district have already changed.  It seems a bit odd it's not consistent across the district, maybe they are doing the change for consistency. I appreciated staying with the DRA because I love it.  It's easy to love things we are born and raised on.  It always feels like going home when I pull out my crate.  Maybe this crate is more about doing what's right for students and reminds me of a place and time when things were brighter, maybe easier, and maybe more enjoyable with less stress.  As I did my DRAs today - life did seem easier, more enjoyable and less stressed.  I also decided my crate doesn't have to go anywhere.  I might still need it to double check something next year.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Monday, April 23, 2018

How Many? {Math Workshop}

It took me all of thirty minutes to settle in from being gone all day, read my newest math book, How Many? by Christopher Danielson and then open my laptop to write this blogpost.  I love to look for math in my world and this book is an invitation to do just that.  It encourages the reader to go beyond the obvious numbers you see at a glance and take time to observe with a new lens; multiple lens.  

I love how the introduction encourages the readers to make choices with what they want to count and how they want to count.  He also encourages readers to linger and says the more time you spend with a photograph/page the more you will see.  I just felt the need to slow right down there and enjoy this book.  The book begins with three pages and text guiding the reader for things they may see in a box with a pair of shoes.  Have you ever thought to count the eyelet holes for laces or the stitching lines?  The possibilities are more than two shoes.  After reading the introduction I instantly eager to see beyond the obvious on each page.  For example the egg carton has one egg but I started counting the empty egg spots first.

Counting is often thought of as a primary emerging mathematician skill.  This book reminded me counting expands across topics within mathematics.  Beyond counting objects, I found myself working with multiplication and fractions.  The images in this text are perfect examples for placing mathematics in every day context.  The end of the book lists some questions to encourage the reader to revisit the previous pages with a new focus or two.  The questions felt like an invitation to linger and then my mind started racing for images I might want to take around my house and share with the question, How Many?  I think this will make a great math workshop warm up activity.  This will also be a book I recommend to families.  It's easy for families to see how to have literacy conversations and to place literacy invitations in their homes.  We need more guidance for math invitations. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mighty Jackie - The Strike Out Queen {Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge}

How did I not know who Mighty Jackie The Strike-Out Queen was?  I have two girls who play softball.  We have a small collection about softball heroes.  We are huge fans of the movie, A League of Their Own.  I'm grateful for my teammate who brought this book to me and said, "you will love this book."  She was right!  I'm so happy Marissa Moss told the story of Jackie Mitchell.  

Jackie Mitchell was a girl who played major league baseball and in 1931 struck out Baby Ruth and Lou Gehrig; baseball legends.  Jackie loved baseball as a little girl and faced stereotypical challenges growing up; girls didn't play baseball yet alone pitch baseballs.  Jackie's story shows readers strength, going against the grain, stepping outside typical gender roles in our society, and perseverance, practice pays off, and courage.

The actual account of April 2, 1931 makes this the perfect read aloud to be a baseball sports announcer.  I could see my students inch closer with inflection and urgency to find out what Jackie would do.  Unfortunately, after this big game Jackie was banded from playing major and minor league baseball.  She continued playing with minor leagues that were so small the commissioner didn't pay attention to them.  The illustrations by C. F. Payne matched the text and created empathy for each of my students.  They were shocked an event like this could happen in history.  They felt passion for women's rights and wanted Mighty Jackie to continue playing major league baseball.  

Thank you Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy for hosting this weekly sharing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Game Words Offer Power {Slice of Life}

I walk up to the field with our dinner packed, a blanket, and our new seven month old black lab puppy.  The sun is out for a bit and I'm surprised the softball game is going to actually happen.  Several games were cancelled the first week and this is going to be our second game.  I start surveying the field looking for my girl and wondering if she's playing or not.  She's not on the field.  The teams flip who's at bat and I see her with a helmet on.  This will be her first up to bat for the season.  

It goes like this; ball, strike, strike, ball, foul ball, ball, strike.  She "battled" to the end and showed she was thoughtful.  I wish she had gotten on base and hope for another up to bat for her.  It comes again.  I always tune in a little bit more and listen in to the words of encouragement from the team and coaches when my girls have been up to bat.  Today is no exception and I'm thankful I didn't miss these words.  "I believe in you Bridgette."

The whole game stopped in that moment for me.  Those five words have a big message and were simple to say.  I wonder what those five words will bring for her this game?  I wonder if she heard those five words from her coach on the third baseline.  I hope she heard those lines.  We all need to hear those words.  She hit a single, a single, and double that could have been a triple.  Batting takes power.  Maybe those words inspired her power.

As I kept watching the game, I wondered what impact could those words have with the students in my classroom?  I think I need to say those words more often and maybe they will help foster power in my students.  We all need some daily power.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.

Monday, April 16, 2018

which one doesn't belong? {Math Workshop}

One morning each week my students are greeted with an image for a math activity created by Christopher Danielson, which one doesn't belong?  I've been gathering my weekly post from a simple Google search.  I knew Christopher had published a book, which one doesn't belong? back in 2016 and didn't really know if I needed it.  I was preordering his next book, How Many? and decided I should probably have the first one too and I'm so glad I ordered it.

I love the opening page.  How many times are we told every answer can be correct?  This is also why I love this activity.  Each student's thinking is correct as long as they justify their reasoning.  I'm often caught off guard with reasoning I haven't thought of. 

This is a great book for introducing the activity, Which one doesn't belong?  The first six pages guides the reader through looking at the same picture and giving reasons why each shape may not belong.  There are 9 images that follow for further class discussion.  I wish I had used this book to introduce the activity earlier in the year.  We will definitely be looking at it this week for our weekly thinking and I think it could be a helpful tool for launching student's creating their own; Which one doesn't belong?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Stitch Fix and Matching Readers to Books {Slice of Life}

Today I received my second Stitch Fix box.  I've heard successful stories from friends and finally decided this winter it might be fun while I waited for spring to arrive to give it a try.  Today I received five items.  I didn't like the dress.  The first top was okay.  The second top I did like very much.  The jeans were so soft but I had similar ones.  The denim jacket was soft and a bit trendy.  

I'm intrigued by the whole process.  I filled out a survey to help my stylist.  We've never met or talked in person and I wonder can they really get all five pieces right for me if we haven't talked in person.  I wonder if they can really get all five pieces right if they've never seen me in person.  There's a descent discount if you purchase all five items.  Both months I've just purchased one because I didn't love it all.  I signed up not knowing if I'd do a second month.  Earlier tonight I thought it would be my last.  After trying on different combinations I realized this might be a bit of a game.  I think I'd name it - Can my stylist get it right?

Then I realized it's a bit like matching readers to books.  I try to get to know my readers and luckily for me I do meet my students in person.  I do a reading survey.  I observe my students.  I confer with my students.  I think I select great books for them individually and in a guided reading group.  However, it doesn't always match up.  What I think is just right for them might not be what they feel is just right.  This is a little bit like my Stitch Fix selections so far.

I find this time of year so intriguing as a reading teacher in second grade.  The students are truly transitional readers.  They are not just reading the words in books. They surprise me constantly with a series or characters they fall in love with.  They surprise me when a genre becomes a focus. They have stronger reader identities which is helping them make independent reading selections that are just right for them.   That just right isn't always what I think is just right and maybe my Stitch Fix shopper is up against some of the same things.  Maybe I can only pick what's just right for me. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this writing community.