Category: Math

10 Reasons Why I Can’t Wait to Teach 1st Grade Next Year

10 Reasons Why I Can’t Wait to Teach 1st Grade Next Year

My school year is winding down–4 more weeks left of school! (but not that I’m counting) And instead of thinking about all the great adventures we will have this summer, all I can think about is how much fun I am going to have to teach 1st grade next year. Teacher Nerd ALERT!next year After bobbing back and forth between the Early Years and 4th grade for the last couple years, I will be happy to settle in 1st grade for a while, where you get the best of the Early Years mindset (unfettered creativity and imagination) and yet starting to gain confidence and competence in Literacy and Numeracy skills, making it possible to go deep with developing their knowledge and thinking skills. Plus their minds aren’t as sullied with “can’ts” as the older grades are, making them so wonderfully teachable. Oh, the joy of learning!-for both me and them.

Here are the 10 things that are keeping me up at night that I am so dang excited to do with 1st graders:

  1. Meditation: Cultivating calm in one’s mind should be a skill taught early in life. If I was being honest, I have been a bit chicken to really make it a part of my classroom routine in a serious way. But I really intend to push myself and introduce mindfulness and meditation in a more intentional way. I think 6-7 years old can manage a brief moment of calm.   
  2. Book Snaps: Although I am not sure about introducing SnapChat to little ones, how I do love this idea by Tara Martin, in which kids take a “snap” of the book they are reading and post the questions, ideas, and quotes from the book as annotations. I think the excitement of posting these “book snaps” are a unique way to cultivate an interest in close reading when you share them in a public forum. Love of close reading–oh yeah, let’s do that!
  3. Podcasting: I dabbled with podcasting before but for the last couple months, I have taken a serious interest in it and have been working on my a personal podcast for a while. Audio content is a whole other art form so this project has really made me think a lot about creativity, word choice, and voice (literally). Which is preciously why I want to do with little kids, and I was inspired by an idea that the music teacher shared with me about read alouds. So I’m hoping to do read alouds of books and their writing and publish it to an authentic audience, all the while nailing fluency in the process.
  4. Blogging: The online world is where most of my digital natives will be probably making their greatest impact as they grow into adults. I’ve always admired the philosophy of the Writer’s Workshop as it develops the mindset of a writer. What could be more authentic and meaningful as a blog, as they articulate their ideas online?
  5. SeeSaw: I have been dying to seriously mess around with digital portfolios. Currently, we use Class Dojo, which is focused more on classroom management, but SeeSaw has oh so much more going on and has a lot more opportunity for engagement and interaction.
  6. Math Workshop: Did I mention that I like the workshop model? Ah, yes, and it works for math too! Workshop + Talk Moves + Math Tools = a deeper exploration of number concepts.
  7. Math as Art: Okay, I’m a math geek, but through a series of serendipitous events, I’ve come to see art as an integral way to show the “beauty” of math. I don’t consider myself arty, at all, but I’m super interested in how we can represent math (and science) in artistic ways.
  8. Number Talks: This is probably one of my favorite things, ever, in developing mathematical mindsets, in which students get to explore a myriad of perspectives as they look at solving a problem.  So, it creates a bank of strategies for mental math and develops mathematical fluency.  If you don’t know about it, check out the video below.

9. Design Thinking: Have you ever found that you thought you knew something but then as you start really working through it and researching it, you realize how absolutely ignorant you are. Well, design thinking has done that to me, and I want to use it more often in my classroom, not as a one-off in a STEM-like unit, but I think it can be superimposed into so many aspects of learning, even writing. I want to launch it early in my class and use it often, whether we are going through the design process or doing design sprints.

10. Writer’s Workshop: Although I am not a die-hard Lucy Calkins fan, I so do love this approach to writing because it creates “authors” with writing that is worth sharing and publishing. They get to study good writing, practice these devices, go through the writing process and get peer feedback. I think it cultivates a practice of deep reading of a text and cultivates a positive mindset about writing, dare I say a buzz about their writing. I want to remix this model a bit, with the use of technology and design-based learning through. So I reckon that this experiment will be the fodder for blogs later.

If you are a 1st-grade teacher, I’m wondering what you really love challenging your students with. What am I missing? What have you done that you think is the bee’s knees? I’d love some insight!!

Nevertheless, it is fun to sit upon the precipice of something and feel the exhilaration of possibility.

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I Think, therefore I Math

I Think, therefore I Math

I remember the first time I fell in love with math. I was enrolled in Mr. MacFarlene’s DP Math class. He often told jokes and odd stories about mathematicians but one day he did this lesson proving Pythagoras’ theorem using origami–that changed my life! After that lesson, I began to enjoy thinking mathematically. Math suddenly became real to me and I started to see it in my everyday life.

square-numbers Recently, during a conversation about math standards with a fellow primary school teacher,  we talked about how math symbols and algorithms can be very off-putting for students when they don’t understand the conceptual basis of an idea. We had a  love rant over using inquiry-based approaches in order to conceptualize problems and build models in order to show visual representations. When done in this way, math can become suddenly interesting, even “beautiful”.

Have you ever seen this TED Talk by Jo Boaler? (If not, watch it now–seriously it’s awesome!) As someone who once struggled with math, and later “got it”, minoring in it in university, I can appreciate the research that demonstrates how mindset is everything in overcoming barriers to problem-solving.

 

Most of the math taught in schools is over 400 years old and is not actually the mathetmatics that students need. -Jo Boaler-

When I reflect on my own experience as a learner and ponder this educational research, I wholeheartedly agree that inquiry-based learning naturally cultivates a joy in the struggle as students actively engage in problems that are relevant and interesting. Boaler calls this a multi-dimensional approach to teaching math, which would include the following:

  1. Posing  stimulating questions
  2. Providing multiple approaches to problem-solving
  3. Communicating student thinking
  4. Representing ideas in a variety of ways
  5. Using reasoning in order to justify the validity of a solution.

When engaged in this way, students begin to grasp ideas extensively, making connections to other mathematical concepts and applying them in a range of different contexts. The best part is that students become fascinated by math problems and solving them can be fun.

What I love most about the comparative research of inquiry-based math and traditional approaches to teaching is that this multi-dimensional approach not only closes the achievement gap but increases achievement, especially in more diverse socioeconomic schools like this group ; in fact, in more linguistically diverse populations, this approach not only improves math scores but also reading and science. As someone whose IB school population is mostly ELLs (English Language Learners), I have witnessed how transdisciplanary learning accelerates learning in so many subject areas. It feels like a no-brainer to teach this way, yet so many schools still rely on textbooks and worksheets. It’s a shame that those students miss out on all the juicy thinking.

However, I believe with all the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, the trend towards favoring slow and deep mathematical thinking (vs. fast yet shallow problem-solving) will be inevitable. With 21st century learning, there’s a greater demand for integration of disciplines. Creating authentic situations in which real and compelling questions naturally develop, with a sublime amount of mystery lurking in it so that students can imagine and debate ideas during their problem-solving process, is becoming more universally accepted as effective math teaching, even in non-IB schools.

As a lover of math, the transition into these approaches gives me hope that my daughter might not have to wait until high school before she can relish the effort and be absorbed in a math task. I dream that one day she fumbles the words of Descartes and whispers into my ear, I think, therefore I math.

 

How to Spell Transdisciplanary Learning in the Early Years

How to Spell Transdisciplanary Learning in the Early Years

 

Seriously, how long will I have to write transdisciplanary before my spell check program acknowledges that it’s a real word. No matter how many times I ask it to “add it to the dictionary”, it still gives me the red line.  Doesn’t my computer know I am a PYP teacher. What nerve, I tell you! lol

As any Early Years teacher knows, there can be a fine line between topic and concept.

Look at my next unit:

People can help our communities by working in different ways.

  • People play different roles in a community. (responsibility)
  • How helpers impact a community. (connection)
  • How tools help people to do their jobs. (function)

What comes to your mind?–Community Helpers, right? –A bunch of lovely centers/corners. We can have police, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, construction workers, etc…..Lots of role play- Fun Early Years unit, right?

Not to me. I find this unit a challenge because now I am asking myself how can I steer this inquiry away from being a topic to developing those concepts of our roles and responsibilities in a community. I’m thinking about what approaches  I can use to embed multiple disciplines so that students can explore and create in contexts that are authentic for them. Preschool STEAM– Of course!

STEAM, in case you don’t know is an acronym that stands for:

S. cience

T. echnology

E.ngineering

A.rt

M. ath

Aha, I can hear you say how can ” doing nifty projects” make it transdisciplanary? Fair retort. Point taken. So I’ve decided to up the ante and instead of centers or corners during this unit, we will have PROBLEMS In the beginning, I will have to provide them through literature links and set up these provocations with my main teacher question: HOW COULD SOMEONE IN THE COMMUNITY HELP HIM/HER? Later, however, I expect students to generate them.

As I am in the planning stages of this unit, I will have to report back with our progress, but my head is spinning with so many ideas. I can’t wait to see what the students come up with!

 

 

Trandisciplanary Learning

Trandisciplanary Learning

Transdiciplanary -that sure is a mouthful to say and I think it might take me a lifetime to master but I love the process. I think of it as trying to link as many subject perspectives into a single learning context. A bottle neck of connections. In this case, it was the Central Idea: Humans have values and belief systems that can impact their actions.

As we embarked upon this inquiry, I wanted the students to ponder:

  • How do we know what people believe in? (key concept: form)
  • How do we know if the opinions we have about things are truly accurate (key concept: perspective)

So we began with our literacy link, investigating facts vs. opinions in the books that we had pulled from the library for this unit.  I asked them to do some close reading (and yes, I used the magnifying glasses to illustrate this point), thinking of themselves as “data detectives”digging for clues. Students had to record this information in their journals. Later on we discussed what kind of data was commonly found, and if this was fact or opinion–how can we tell the difference in books, which they recognized as numbers, figures and dates.

After tuning in, I posed them how we might find out what our school community believes in.So now enters the math link, looking at the data management strand of our standards.The students agreed on a survey, in which we spent a couple of lessons developing their understanding of the mathematical principles of collecting and organizing data. We talked about 3 important elements to accuracy in our survey results:

  1. Good survey questions yield accurate data.
  2. We can’t assume answers, we must ask for clarification if we are unsure of their answers.
  3. The larger the survey sample, the more reliable our results.

The students then designed simple, yes/no/maybe questions about various beliefs, which mostly focused on supernatural elements like Do you believe in God?  Do you believe in ghosts?

Students all agreed on a sample size of 30 respondents for their surveys, and started roving the corridors to ask their questions. Afterwards, we analyzed our data, and the students reflected on their results, which then circled back to literacy, in which they had to write these reflections. The students had no idea that they were doing “math” or “literacy” of course. They just knew it was “unit” time, and I think this is the key to what it means to this crazy word that I can hardly spell: TRANSDISCIPLANARY.

 

So now we segue way to how we can communicate our findings to our school community. Many ideas were suggested but we decided to use graphs. I toyed with teaching them the Excel program, but I determined that they really needed to focus more concretely on the math vs the technology–at least for now. So then began a couple serious math lessons on creating pie charts, in which we reviewed fractions and angles before we even began making the pie charts. When we made the pie charts, discussion arose about whether or not we should color them, and if we should use the same colors or different colors. Also, whether certain colors represented certain ideas; for example Yes should be green or yellow.  At the end, the students agreed to let students represent their findings individually, and be open-minded to displaying their results in the way they wanted. I thought this was an interesting discussion, and it was a natural link to what they not only knew about each other socially and culturally but their beliefs about artistry. img_0397

What I loved about this project, which grew out of a couple of questions, was that the students were highly engaged and involved–not in math, not in literacy, not in art–but in LEARNING!  And although this unit is still underway, the thinking hasn’t ended because the project did; it continues on.

Coding in the Early Years

Coding in the Early Years

Well I am back in the Early Years until one of our teachers returns from maternity leave. It’s been an interesting shift back since this is a mixed classroom, with 3-5 year olds. I decided to incorporate coding as a part of our math language development, with a focus on positional words.

I’ve had to do a lot of songs and games to get my ELLs familiar with all of this language. They really loved this video from Scratch Garden: Left and Right Song.  Then we started talking about how we might do programming in the real world with giving directions to one of our “robot” friends. In our introductory activity, a friend had to get to the telephone, so students would take turns to “program”them with the directions they needed.

 

Emily counts her steps to the telephone.

 

Anuja thinks about how he might “program” Emily.

There was a lot of discussion about how to walk to the telephone- you can walk “this way, then that way”. As a result of eliminating confusion and focusing on the positional language ( in this case, right/left/backwards/forwards), we took away some of the foam mats so the path looked more obvious ( and it mimicked more for using the BeeBot- which is where we were heading).  Something great about using the mats was that the kids could really see the one-to-one correspondence that they needed to grasp  for programming. However, this activity did have some limitations because they couldn’t understand how a code might need to be cancelled if something changed in the program.


However, this was their first step and had more success in this way as the students began to get the concepts. This paved the way with using the BeeBot. We only have one in our class, so I used it as a center/station activity. We practiced looking at the symbols on the BeeBot and how we could use them and explored using it before setting up obstacles or using it in play scenarios.

Elena decides to link up a train to the Beebot




As their understanding progressed, we worked on the BeeBot and Foos apps on the iPads. Our tech integrator came in to assist during our school’s celebration of the Hour of Code. He was happy to see how some of the kids were progressing and helped me to assess where students were at in their learning journeys.

Anuja smashes it through Foos and gets to a game level.



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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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