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.
Monday night and I just realized I never posted a reflection for last week! It was sort of normal, not very exciting week. I’m headed into a week of guided math in which I’ll be working with small groups to do sone learning about money (not very exciting) and everyone will be at other centres solidifying their math facts by playing math games.
It’ll be fine.
But last week I did notice how often our calendar is being accessed by kids. I saw a blog post this summer (I’ll try to find the link!) and decided I would display the whole calendar on our wall this year. I put up the 10 school months and then started the year, intending to find time to make it fancy.
One week in somebody added his birthday. Then we had to add everyone’s birthday. We added assemblies a field trips. During the first week of October somebody asked how many days until Halloween, so we added all of our major holidays, which lead to a lot of other holidays being added. There is a steady stream of people at the calendar counting how many days until this or that. The calendar has lead to many one-to-one conversations about time, counting forward and back, and important days for our classmates. (News flash: not everyone celebrates Christmas! This was news for many of my students.)
I’ve also been creating PicCollages of class photos to create a visual timeline. I need to get October printed! (Ugh!) it’s fun to look back at those memories too.
I haven’t done a class calendar in years. I thought it took too much time and space. But this very casual calendar, with no forced routine for its use, has been such a great addition to our class!
This week we took a slight detour on to some measuring. We spent the week talking about making sure the measuring tool goes from end to end when measuring length. We talked about the difference between length and width. We talked about why we need to use standardized measurement tools. (Most of my class are in grade 3, and that is the year students move from non-standard to standard measurements.)
One of the activities we did comes from the Effective Guide to Instruction (Page 99 of this document). Last week I wrote about how I wanted my students to make more intentional decisions about which tools they choose for their math. The day before we measured the paper snakes, we had measured our shoes. As always, the two most popular tools were the connecting cubes and the “special stones”. Before starting with the snakes, we had a talk about why they like these, and which one is actually better for measuring. I was excited at the end when most of them were talking about using the connecting cubes because you can take them apart and put them back together in different shapes. One student told us they can be used to go around the perimeter of things. Several of them talked about how the special stones, the colour tiles and the pattern blocks slip and move around, but the connecting cubes stay put which makes them easier.
On to the activity:
Two children also tried to use rulers and measuring tape. Discussing their experience was a great way to wrap up the lesson because even though these are specifically measuring tools they weren’t the best tools for this job.
We had a really good conversation about which method was actually going to give us the real length of the snakes. Everyone agreed by the end that we have to measure every part of the snake’s length, and many of them wanted them put the cubes into connected towers. I was sorry that none of them thought to do groups of 5 to help make the counting more efficient. That’s something we clearly need to work more on. We recorded everything on a chart and that’s where we started on Friday. We talked about why everyone had different answers, and why it was important to have the same answers which we get when we agree on the units. I told them about the king’s foot and how this wasn’t even that standard, and that even though a lot of grown-ups still talk about inches for certain measurements, we are going to focus on the metric system and I think they’ll agree that it’s a lot more efficient. I had them wander around finding things that were the same size as a 1cm cube. Then we used the rulers and the measuring tapes to find things that are 10 cm.
I think it’s so important for them to have these many points of reference. It helps them to estimate measurements. They all now know that their fingernail is about 1cm and they will always have that fingernail to help them measure. We even talked about how for me it’s only my pinkie finger because I have grown over time.
Next week it’s on to addition and subtraction. But we’ll be coming back to measuring on a regular basis. This is actually the second week we’ve spent measuring this year, so now I feel confident that everyone has a pretty good idea of how to do it, and we can focus on practicing. We are also going to do a fair bit of our measuring during art and science, especially when we move on to capacity and weight.
It was a weird week for math. I spent some counting routine time counting backwards. They’re pretty good at it. I thought they could be independent as a small group while I worked with some people on something else. I was mistaken. We’ve still got some social collaboration and problem solving things to sort out. That’s the thing I’m reflecting on most as I move forward into next week. I know where I’m going lesson wise, but am still sorting through some of the mathematical process teaching I need to do.
Because of the work I’m doing to spiral in math this year I am feeling like I don’t have a lot of things to use for comments on progress reports. I’ve decided to focus my commenting on some of the mathematical process skills.
This week I’m realizing that so far I’m doing a lot of the selecting when it comes to the tools we use. I put a lot of work into making sure everyone knows how to use the tools properly. Now it’s time for me to talk about how the tools have specific purposes for which they are best suited. We can’t always choose the colour tiles because we like how they stack! It’s time to move along and choose based on what each tool helps us understand. I’m doing some guided math rotations this week, and want to come up with some opportunities for kids to articulate why they chose a certain tool.
That is going to lead us to some communication work. We’re doing okay with this when I am poking and prodding. Now it’s time for the students to think about being really clear with their communication. I’m going to jump in and set up a FlipGrid they can use to explain something they’ve done. They’ll have to think about how to make me understand their thinking when I watch the video at home (cause you know I’ll never find time or a quiet spot where I can view these at school!)
Finally…actually, I’m going to stop there. Don’t need to set too many goals at once, right? I’m also diving into “The T-shirt Factory” Context for Learning unit with my grade 3s and we’ll need to be focused on that math at the same time. Not totally sure what my grade 2s will do next week, but I’m sure I’ll get it sorted out.
It’s important to have a focus on teaching and doing math. But the seven processes are an important part of that we can’t neglect. In a problem solving based classroom students need to be able to do more than accurately find answers.
I’ve been interested lately in the whole idea of spiralling curriculum. I attended the first of two workshops about this today and it was great!
Spiralling in elementary, I think, will look quite different to secondary. I feel like I have naturally been looping back to topics we’ve covered. I will say I’ve been pretty haphazard about it, and that is one of the things that I recognize as a problem that I want to solve.
In the workshop the presenter (Jennifer Thiessen) showed us how she had cut apart all the math expectations and then sorted them herself into common themes. This was how she created her units so she was integrating strands. I am going to do this! She found Rich Math Tasks from a variety of sources, then used a matrix to plot which areas of the entire math curriculum were covered with the task. She found those that could be taught during other parts of the day and moved them there so she could spend more time on Number Sense. For example, I don’t teach my class about temperature during math. Instead, all winter long, we check the Weather Channel website to see if we are going to be able to go outside or not and that short (mostly daily) conversation covers all the expectations in the document. But again, I have been more “Oh look! A connection!” about the whole thing and I want to have it more planned.
She also showed us how she went through with different colour highlighters and picked out expectations that were brand new material and would require a fair bit of teaching time and those that were building on knowledge that kid already had and could maybe be taught in a Number Routine or Number Talk setting. For example I don’t need to do lesson in grade 2 about counting, but we had to practice counting a lot – especially skip counting – so I can practice that 150 different ways during 4-5 minute counting routines at the end of a lesson. But I will have to spend a fair bit of time doing actual lessons about adding double-digit numbers because that is going to be challenging new learning for most of the class.
I’m really excited about this, which I know is a bit weird, but I’m looking forward to spending some time analyzing the curriculum and sorting through tasks.