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

Finish {Poetry Friday}

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.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

OLW - foreshadow

I had a thought the other day.  I think my word change was brewing in my life before I realized it.  In the past three weeks I've done two things to be an advocate for change.  I didn't pick change to be an advocate but then there are surprises in life.  My district offered a full day K option this year as a pilot in an attempt to meet full day K requirements that have been lifted from Ohio districts.  We are not offering this option next year and I felt it was time to share some frustrations, observations, and thinking with our top administrators.  Not only do we need to think about returning these full time teachers and classes back to multiple buildings, we need to look at our K attendance schedule (which has been 5 days within two weeks), the Common Core, and how we can make young learners more of a priority.  I did get a response.  There is timeline to discuss the future of K and I should look for an email.  Yea.

Then next week our school is hosting our first Blood Drive.  Tomorrow I will share a piece of writing my mother wrote for our local newspaper 30 years ago reflecting on her own days of donating blood and then her experiences of needing donated blood with our entire school community.  Again, hoping to change people's minds and increase the number of pints being donated.  I am personally making a change and donating blood for the first time myself and I've had this on my to do list for quite some time.  

I didn't expect to be advocating for change when I chose this word.  I wonder if you have any unexpected surprises with your One Little Word.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

OLW - just right

In picking OLW - one little word, each year I've found there is a time when something happens and it confirms my word choice.  This year change felt right late one night.  My second daughter is in middle school and has begun the phase of hibernating with a book and reading for long periods of time.  I decided to "visit" her before bed time and read my own book on my Kindle Fire.  However, I wasn't really reading at times.  My mind wandered and I thought this feels right.  We were physically close and it felt good just being next to her.  I reflected to having infants and how comforting it was to just hold them.  It just seemed to bring a deep sense of being.  I also thought, if she will allow me to lay or sit near her and do my own reading then I need to accept this.    It's a change in how we usually spend time but she is going to be making many changes and I will need to change with her.  Then I have to pat myself on the back for these thoughts and confirm I am so much smarter the second time around raising a middle school daughter.  What was your just right moment in selecting your OLW?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

OLW - invitation

"A year from now, you will wish you started today."   - Karen Lamb

In my email from Ali Edwards she prompted OLW users to think of their word as an invitation and list what their word is hoping to bring forth.  I created this list;  storytelling, better health, writing, creativity, balance, joy, and worship.  All things that could get really big but remember my changes are to be on the smaller side in life.  Let me explain a bit more.

Storytelling -  I know I am missing stories each day as they happen here with three girls.  I want to be more thoughtful in capturing those.  I enjoy scrapbooking but have not made much time for it in the past and sometimes it seems way too overwhelming to begin.  However, stories don't just  happen at home.  They happen in the classroom and I think it's important for our children to tell and write their own stories.  I also think it's important to share with parents stories of their children.  

Better health  - I've said for a while now I am going to run a 5K.  I practice and increase my stamina.  I get close and then things get in the way.  But I also think better health includes being outside, gardening, and eating.  

Writing - I want to grow more as a writer this year here within my blog and also write more outside this forum.  This may be personal and professionally.  

Creativity - In my classroom and out of my classroom.  I know I am happier when I make things.  I am more happier when my students are making things and they are too.  There is excitement and enthusiasm.  We all should be doing to learn and show learning.  I have several hobbies I want to dabble more in or just make a little bit of time for more consciously.

Balance - I'm hoping with small changes my inner core will feel more balance.  I tend to work a lot, as all teachers do.  However, the poem NOW by Regie Routman is staying with me this year.

Joy - which really could be part of my blog title, Enjoy.  Life gets busy.  I just need to realize I am enjoying everything right now.  My grandmother would often comment and seem to admire how I do all that I do and would advise me this would all end quicker than I think - when things were good and when things may not be so good.

Worship - I attend church once in a while, it does seem to be the one thing I let slide working full time.  However, I do enjoy and feel better inside when I take an hour out of a week to sit and listen to the message being shared.  I just hope to go more.

I hope you might think about what your word is inviting you to do.  Invitations are exciting.  I know it's exciting to gather with others and I'm excited to gather myself around this thinking I've shared with you.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

OLW - My word means...

As my friend Cathy quickly pointed out in yesterday's comments CHANGE is a BIG word.  Yes it is and I was worried about how big change seems.  In my initial thinking I didn't want change to suggest the intention of those huge changes  life; new house, car, remodeling projects that redesign a house, baby, divorce, new career and so on.  I'm taking a class, One Little Word at Big Picture Scrapbooking where Ali Edwards guides participants with monthly emails which helps us keep our word present during the year with reflection, photography, and writing.  

This month we are spending time getting to know our word.  Change can be a noun.  As a noun it means something made different, alteration.  I inferred this could be big, small or somewhere in the middle.  I really did like these synonyms I found using a thesaurus;  adjustment, break, refinement, novelty, switch, turn, shift, transformation, revision, variety, conversion, diversification, difference and variation.  

While the definition I found for change is a noun I'm also treating it like a verb to help guide positive changes.  The words I collected from the thesaurus confirmed any of my changes can have varying levels.  I purposefully chose the word break for guidance in saying no or not doing something for a while.  Thanks for joining my journey.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year and One Little Word

Photo via Flicker & Cangaroojack

Happy New Year 2012 and I wanted to share with you my One Little Word for 2012.  Instead of creating a New Years Resolution and always wanting to have many I've chosen to participate in the One Little Word project and ideas from scrapbooker/storyteller Ali Edwards.  The past four years I have chosen enjoy, aware, nuture, and discover.  They have helped me do a lot of thinking as the year begins and as life gets back to normal I try my best to continue thinking about them.  This year as I thought about my previous choices I don't know if I really feel any constant follow through.  I'm great at creating plans and organizing things.  Little truth be known my family makes jokes all the time about my "overuse" of the alphabet system.  However, I still haven't run my 5K.  I dabble in lots of things so I went searching for a word that would maybe be more present, causing a difference in my life.

I am welcoming the word - CHANGE for 2012.  Stay tuned for more thinking this week.