It’s sinking in

I had intended to spend the whole week measuring. But guess what? They’re really pretty good at it! It’s the second time this year we’ve visited measuring and I’m pleased to see the spiralling is paying off. I had an activity planned that involved us measuring which of my many mini cars could go furthest after one push, but decided that is better suited to a science investigation we’ll do later. I

t was pre-Halloween week and I wasn’t sure we could handle that much excitement.

Instead we worked on an unplugged coding activity. (Find it here) It went so well! I’m feeling hopeful that we have rounded a corner. I finished gathering all the math assessment data so I feel better able to meet the range of needs (because I know what the needs are!) This week we’re tackling addition. I’ve done a few addition number talks but this will be our first real jump into the fire. Then in two weeks we’ll circle back to coding.

math

Teaching is Hard!

This past week was a challenging one. We’re struggling with the return to school – struggle I thought would be long past by now. It’s been hard to move forward in math (and everything else) but move forward we must! So how, I wonder, can I meet everybody’s social-emotional needs, physical needs, and academic needs?

We’ve worked for two weeks on making patterns with math manipulatives. I don’t remember ever needing to teach this before. Usually everyone arrives with this basic math skill. This year they are even struggling with chanting the skip counting patterns. We aren’t anywhere near being able to talk deeply about number patterns.

So I gave everyone an academic break on Friday and we made beaded bracelets. This type of activity is fun, and it really motivates everyone to do some social emotional work. They had to make a pattern, politely ask a neighbour (or me) for certain beads, string them all on the elastic cord (which can be tricky & requires perseverance), and deal with the frustration of dropping beads. It was fun, and taught them a lot. Communication and resilience are two really important math skills.

This week I’m moving forward. We’ll do some counting routines every day for Number Talks, but our focus is going to shift to measuring. We really need to start moving toward understanding number lines, so I want them all using rulers and measuring tape this week.

Making Progress!

We had some interesting conversations about shapes last week.  I was still working on getting my math interviews done so I needed everyone to be independently busy while also learning.  You might think that by the time someone is 7 or 8 years old they know what they need to know about shapes and using blocks, but it’s just not so.  I think wooden blocks aren’t as popular as they once were, so kids don’t necessarily have them to use at home (where they have spent a lot of time in the last 2 year) and I also think it’s because when kids are playing for fun, they don’t have metacognitive conversations with themselves about what they are learning – they just have fun. After they had all rotated through the different types of blocks, I started asking questions and they didn’t have much to say.  But after I asked questions, let them play again and then asked the questions again, there was a lot to be said – two chart paper pages full in fact!

One child pointed out that we can build castles and other stuff by stacking.  At first everyone thought that spheres and pyramids can’t stack, but after some consideration they realized that pyramids can be on the top of a stack, just not the bottom and spheres can go on top of things, but they need other things to keep them in place, like a cube to lean on. Some students noticed tat some shapes were not represented in the box. They then figured out they could make the missing shapes: two squares make a rectangle, two triangles make a rhombus, etc.

We also talked about the difference between 2D and 3D shapes. We need do some more work here. This week we’ll be talking in casual conversation about how 3D shapes are made of 2D shapes. We’re also going to try to get back on track with the curriculum map I made for myself. I need to get some patterning done so we’ll continue to use the shapes and now start to use them as pattern blocks, along with the colour tiles and lots of other manipulatives from my classroom. We need some community building too, so we are going to make our own bracelets using pony beads and elastic string. I have a collection of beads that’s been hanging around far too long so I want to use them up. AND I need to get going on all the Number Talks that will help us review basic addition/subtraction strategies for numbers up to 20. I completely skipped the fun unplugged coding activities I wanted to do in September, so I will be doing those during our gym time.  I’m excited about trying this out in the big space which we were not allowed to use last year.

Whew!  I’m tired thinking about it. But also energized. My math interviews are complete and sitting on my desk waiting to be brought home, so I’ll sort through them this week (instead of today like I originally planned!) and find the trends and strengths/needs in number sense. I’m so glad they are done for many reasons, not the least of which is that I can be part of the explorations this week and can MAYBE start taking some anecdotal notes so I can make some informed decisions about what to write on progress reports.

Repeat

All that stuff I planned for last week went differently than expected. I thought I could interview 4 students per day and finish the whole class. Instead I missed a day because my son was sick and another day because of our Terry Fox walk. Also, I could only interview two students each day because that’s all the time the rest of the class could stay busy.

Despite not reaching my goal I do feel good about the work we did. I’m repeating the plan for the week, just switching out the colour tiles for 3D shapes. Everyone will have a chance to play with those, the pattern blocks, iPads and my new giant “pop it” game board where they practice addition facts. After I interview two friends each day we’ll be talking about attributes of 2D and 3D shapes.

Reflecting on my week really is helpful. I feel like I’m climbing up hill all week and seeing little progress because I can’t meet any of my goals. Taking the time to reflect helps me see that we really are doing good things. Returning to school has been challenging. But not everyone is asking me when they can go home every ten minutes like they were two weeks ago, so I’m taking that as a sign that we’re settling in.