Tag: best practice

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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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.



Teaching Patterns

Teaching Patterns

I love teaching patterns, particularly in the beginning of the year so we can keep referencing them throughout the year. However, this year, my programme of inquiry had patterns being taught last with my homes unit (Where we are in place and time: People make their homes in different places and in different ways). Since I do a balance of integrated math and stand alone, the student really enjoyed going on pattern hunts as we looked at different homes, along with discussing and creating brick patterns. I thought I was doing a pretty good job when one of my 4 year olds turns to me and says, “You know Ms. Judy, we learned patterns last year in EY3 and we are pretty good at it. I think we should learn something else.” Krikey! Out of the mouths of babes, I was properly told off. So I reflected on what we were doing and decided to add symmetry into the mix.

After the topic was introduced, out came the mirrors and rulers, and the children began exploring how to create mirror image patterns: symmetry. They were absolutely captivated. Although I don’t have any pictures of the early explorations (I was too busy helping them hold mirrors) , I would like to share some of the later activities.

In the first set of pictures, we clamored upon the playground, drawing lines of symmetry with some chalk, and then the children worked as partners, taking turns making patterns with various manipulatives, which the other had to copy. They did a great job, and even helped to create the PicCollages that you see.  Later on, we worked with the app, Geoboard, by The Math Learning Center, to create symmetrical patterns. Again they did fantastic job, and worked very cooperatively, much to my chagrin. At last, we just got plain silly and used the app Photobooth by Apple to create symmetrical pictures using the “mirror”. Some of the kids took those images and recorded ideas and stories using the app Fotobable. It was a wonderful way for them to extend their idea of patterns, and they did such a wonderful job working together to collaborate on the images.

Using "5 Stars" for Emergent Writing

Using "5 Stars" for Emergent Writing

5starpicsAs many of us know, writing begins with pictures for little ones. Furthermore,research has shown that more elaborate drawings translate into better writing for the long-term.  The theory goes that more details in drawings will produce more details in their actual writing later on, when the students have the skills to be proficient.

So I found this rubric years ago and really loved it.  I believe that when children know of what is expected, they rise to the occasion. That is especially true of little children who are eager to show how “big” they are. Rubrics and checklists are vital for providing feedback and I strive to use them in everything, from behavior to literacy. Since children love stickers, I find that using “5 Stars” to indicate high quality work is an effective way to get them to consider their effort. However, this sheet just really wasn’t enough to stimulate quality pictures.

So I made a display with pictures that would be indicative of each level of effort. As a result of having these examples, students are often going up to the display and comparing their work, as well as providing feedback to each other at the tables. It’s great to hear their conversations, and of course to see them develop as “writers”.

IMG_1034

Of course, one of the dangers of using rubrics like this is that once they meet expectations, how to more them beyond and into real writing. The transition between getting them to start writing “words” or captions into sentences seems like such a big jump sometimes for 4-5 year olds. But it’s the next step in my quest for encouraging the development of writing.

Using “5 Stars” for Emergent Writing

Using “5 Stars” for Emergent Writing

5starpicsAs many of us know, writing begins with pictures for little ones. Furthermore,research has shown that more elaborate drawings translate into better writing for the long-term.  The theory goes that more details in drawings will produce more details in their actual writing later on, when the students have the skills to be proficient.

So I found this rubric years ago and really loved it.  I believe that when children know of what is expected, they rise to the occasion. That is especially true of little children who are eager to show how “big” they are. Rubrics and checklists are vital for providing feedback and I strive to use them in everything, from behavior to literacy. Since children love stickers, I find that using “5 Stars” to indicate high quality work is an effective way to get them to consider their effort. However, this sheet just really wasn’t enough to stimulate quality pictures.

So I made a display with pictures that would be indicative of each level of effort. As a result of having these examples, students are often going up to the display and comparing their work, as well as providing feedback to each other at the tables. It’s great to hear their conversations, and of course to see them develop as “writers”.

IMG_1034

Of course, one of the dangers of using rubrics like this is that once they meet expectations, how to more them beyond and into real writing. The transition between getting them to start writing “words” or captions into sentences seems like such a big jump sometimes for 4-5 year olds. But it’s the next step in my quest for encouraging the development of writing.

Teacher 3.0

Teacher 3.0

Teacher 3.0–keeping our practice current and relevant.

You know the difference between something alive and something dead?–Something alive is growing, while something dead is NOT!  With that in mind, it’s really important to continue to develop our understanding of how our student’s learn best and update our teaching practice. For many of us, we need to take a certain number of training courses or attend conferences in order to stay abreast of what is happening and maintain our credentials. But the good news is that nowadays we don’t have to go to bricks and mortar schools or centers in order to learn something new. There are a lot of great online professional development available right in the comfort of your home.

Here is a smattering of some high quality resources and many of them offer certificated courses. Some are for a fee, but most are completely FREE.

Teachers First

What a great resource this is!  Not only does it have frequent professional development that is FREE, if you attend a live online event, you can get a certificate for it. Lovely, isn’t it! Also, it has a ton of lesson plans and activities that are designed for 21st century learning.  Just can’t beat this one!

Intel Teach Elements

I have taken Intel’s professional development and it was easy to implement in my intermediate grade’s classroom. The topics are very much geared toward blending technology in the classroom and is a terrific resource that is absolutely FREE. (Gosh, I just love that word). The e-learning material generally take more than sitting to complete and you might want to have some of your fellow grade-level/subject team members join you–The content’s that fabulous!

Arizona State University’s Learning Forever!

I have taken very low cost courses through ASU for my teaching license, but they  constantly have FREE webinars on topics such as the Common Core and Gifted Education. It doesn’t cost you a thing to join, which makes this very economical.

Other Colleges and Universities with Free Online Courses

I can’t speak directly for these all of these courses but there is an amazing number of colleges and universities that are offering FREE e-learning courses. From MIT to Stanford, the list of reputable universities is substantial, and it covers many topics outside of just education. Many of them will even offer college credit for participating. Very cool, indeed!

SEETA

You have to register (free) in order to attend a web course, but it’s great because the guest presenters are experts and have a range of topics that are offered weekly. Even though this website is from the “South Eastern European Teachers”, the topics are relevant no matter where you teach. It’s great to get a global perspective on best practices, and you are sure to learn something.

Association for School Curriculum and Development 

If you don’t have a membership to this, then sign up today. I can’t recommend this enough. It is covers all sorts of topics about American policy and practice, and reports on the latest research. It’s an invaluable resource. As a member, you have numerous free webinars that you can enjoy, and they also offer more substantial online professional development.

Edublogger

Most educators are interested in blogging, so this link is simply for a very cool how to on using blogs for personal use and in your classroom.

Electronic Open Village

This is a yearly event offered through TESOL CALL-IS. They (TESOL) have in-person conferences in America, which focus on Teaching English as a Second Language, but the Electronic Open Village (EVO) has a “Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section, which exists to define issues and standards in the field of computer-mediated language instruction, promote research and development in the area of computer-based language learning and disseminate information about CALL to ESL/EFL educators worldwide.” What does that mean for you?–some really cool and FREE e-learning that is focused on helping our English Language Learners. Who doesn’t need more help in this area?  And the best part is that it is geared toward obtaining more technology skills as educators. Yep, check another box. It’s pretty terrific!

Please let me know if you found any of these resources useful for you. Also, feel free to add some other quality lo professional development that you know of–we are all here to learn!

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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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