Executive Skills, math, Patterning & Algebra, Problem Solving


I’d normally have the first week all organized by now.  I’ve been going through my notes (mental and written down) as I try to plan out what my first week of school will be like.  There are quite a few of my old tricks that won’t work this year because of “you know, social distancing” as my son likes to say.  And, truth be told, I could still get a big assignment change so I am not putting too much effort into getting excited about exact plans. But there are certain things that can happen no matter what my assignment turns out to be and no matter who will be in my class.

Last year, I added a new calendar routine to my class and I really liked how it all unfolded.  I had the whole year on the board at once, and I loved how the students used it to count “how many days until” things would happen.  I’m not usually one for celebrating birthdays in class, so I wasn’t expecting them to do their favourite thing:  add their special day to the calendar.  We added the holidays together as the approached and talked about how some holidays are always on the same day (Feb 14 = Valentine’s Day) but others float around according to the cycles of the moon (Passover). This is a grade 2 social studies expectation and I liked how that became part of an ongoing conversation in our room.

This year I have decided to do it a bit differently.  Instead of printing a complete calendar, I found some blank calendar pages here.   I am going to fill out September (maybe only the first 2 weeks?) and then get kids to help fill out the rest.  I made a poster to post beside the calendar:

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You can have a copy

I want the students to fill in the dates on their own because there are so many patterns to the counting on calendars.  If they are filling out the dates themselves I think it will help them see the patterns. During the first week, maybe in the second week, we are going to work on this together.  I still haven’t sorted out all the details though because, “you know, social distancing!” is going to effect this for sure. Maybe the students can have their own mini version to work on at their desks.  (I keep reminding myself that some kids are going to really love working alone at their desks!)

I’m going to keep this at the front of the room because we referred to it so often!  I want it up close.  I know things will be different now because we can’t have any carpet time, but we didn’t really use it for that anyway. It was just an ongoing topic of conversation all year. Kids like to know when things will happen. This helped with that. I’ve been reading a bit of executive function skills and some of these are the ability to organize, to be able to plan things, and of course manage time. I know that I personally need a calendar or day book for this, and I really do much better if I have written it down.  My phone calendar is great for reminders, but I still need to physically use a pen and paper to write it down before a scheduled activity is in my brain. I need to know when something is due and then I need to write out a plan for how to do that slowly over the course of a week or more.  I need specific small deadlines (because one of my executive functioning strengths is that I am goal oriented) to keep my on track. The wall calendar seemed to provide support in all of these areas for the kids in my class last year, and I suspect it will help this year as well. 

So…20 minutes of each day of the first week…sorted!


Math Project

So i’m working on this math project which I don’t really want to write about just yet…but I will at some point!

At a meeting last week and another today there was some information shared about how the new Ontario math curriculum came to be. It was fascinating to me to learn about the research that went into figuring out what to put in, what to move here and there, what to eliminate.  I know a lot of people have lamented the fact that “teachers have not been consulted!”  But I’m learning just how many teachers were consulted and how many educators were deeply involved in this process.  I think some people are under the impression that the actual Minister of Education has whipped up a few documents in his basement one night and, um, well…he didn’t.  Here is a video about the process.

The research that was done before the curriculum was written involved looking at curriculum documents from around the world, analyzing their content, their organization and research about the implementation of that curriculum.  The research around how children learn math and what and when they should learn it was also considered.

I know a lot of teachers are feeling a lot of trepidation about this new curriculum.  I think the timing of it’s release and implementation is the main complaint.  I agree – it’s a weird time for us all to figure out how to do something new that could wait.  We’ll be consumed by figuring out how to do new things, like keeping our students physically distant and/or teaching online, that can’t wait. It will be tricky and stressful to also figure out a new curriculum, which does have some significant changes from the old one. It’s overwhelming to think about it all!  But I get excited about math things so I’m not feeling that, which is probably why I comfortably signed up to be part of a huge math project on top of my Master’s courses and full time teaching and full time parenting.