Saturday, January 24, 2015


This is going to be a great movie: While We're Young.

And this is going to be a really great movie: Inside Out. Plus, it looks a great link with our Physical Well-being unit, which is a super bonus AND it's Pixar.

Have you seen this one? It was one I watched on a plane and it's pretty cute.

Also, In A World is hilarious! Best 99 cents we've ever spent on iTunes.

I'm happy to report that Boyhood has a big ole 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. After I got psyched about it and showed the trailer to a friend of mine in the summer, he literally said, "maybe i under-appreciated it, but your 'boyhood' idea is that it is a movie filmed slowly over a long period of time so the same actors can play the same characters during different ages.  Is there more to it than that?  cause if that is it (and maybe its not) then I think fantastic might be a bit of an overstatement." And yes, I searched way back in my email for that - an actual quote. I think I win this one. (Maybe I should watch it first before I really cast judgement?)

Moving on...

This is a great post and a perspective I need to adopt - all the rosehip seed oil in the world isn't going to fill my smile lines!

In a couple weeks I'm heading to Japan with some colleagues for a PD weekend with Yokohama International School. This is extra exciting because I've only been to Japan one other time, on a quick three-day weekend. Had to buy yet another winter jacket as it's going to be a major temperature drop from Manila's 25+! and get out the leather boots...

On footwear: my most recent can-wear-to-work sandal purchase here. Seriously, Renegade Folk has the absolute b.e.s.t. customer service policy - a virtually nonexistent concept in Manila. I also have this pair.

Our baby is skipping crawling and moving on to walking! Nine months is a pretty crazy time of change... Wish us luck!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

tuning in to r.j. palacio's wonder

For our new read aloud, the students were already excited about Wonder.

As a tuning in activity, we linked our knowledge of making inferences and identifying character traits. I scanned the first thirty pages or so of the book, and picked out a few strong examples of voice from August Pullman's narrative. I typed these up and the kids started reading, discussing character traits based on the excerpt, and justifying their inferences.

(Big problems uploading photos of student learning, so these are a few of the speech bubbles they read.)

This took about 20 minutes to prepare, and the kids were really excited to read more about August! This was even before I read the dust-cover teaser, too. We've probably read those first thirty pages together now, and my third graders are completely hooked.

Friday, December 5, 2014

one is a snail ten is a crab

This book was a source of inspiration last week to practice multiplication skills:

Before I even opened the book, I explained to the kids that this is a book that many teachers use... with their kindergarten students.
This was hilarious to them! Half of them were sort of saweeeet and the other half was sort of laaaaame.

I asked them to think of how this book might be used in younger grades as we read.
They came up with the expected: learning to count, learning the names of new animals, counting to ten, adding to ten, etc.
Then I asked them to think of how we might use it in a way that's more appropriate to grade three, considering our current learning.
They decided that we could practice our 10s facts.
Which they then quickly decided was a bit useless because everyone knows those - yawn.
Then we thought about how we could combine our prior knowledge in addition with our strategies to solve other multiplication facts, and this is what we got:

They chose a two-digit number and figured out which animals could be added and multiplied together to show it, and illustrated this using the book as inspiration.
This is one I'll definitely be saving for next year, too!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

inquiring into probability

Today was an introduction to probability.
On the board, I had typed this sentence, "We are about to start talking about probability."
From there, some interesting conversation that started with the whole class asking "What's probability?" down to "I think it's about making predictions" and "It's talking about what the chances are that something will happen," which is pretty good!
All from one student noticing that probability has the same beginning as probably.

Without really going any further, we went through some examples and I jotted down their responses.

After a few, we stopped to define probability as a class. They were getting it!

The next step is where it got interesting. 
Each kid wrote down one a "What are the chances..." question in their notebooks.
As they finished, they stood up, locking eyes with another person that's also standing, becoming instant partners. (This was Great!)
Partners shared their question and wrote down the responses found, free to find a new partner afterward.

The interesting part (you can't really see it well as I just used the class iPads to snap photos during the math block) is that although we had so many different responses as a class to the question I posed about snow in Manila, when they responded to one another, they ALL used percentages!

So we sat down as a class. I asked some people to share two of the responses they got from their classmates. Just responses.
Then I asked simply, "What did you notice about the response?"
They said things like, lots of people said 100%, 4000% is not a real amount, etc. 
It started dawning on them that all the responses were number based...
So in partners, they were challenged to figure out the "language of probability" using a number line.

They came up with so many descriptors!

Next up, experiments to test some predictions we might make using our understanding of probability. Vague, yes... Let's see what they come up with.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jimmy Fallon makes his thinking visible

Just finished a weekend workshop with Ron Ritchhart, working toward "Creating a Culture of Thinking" in the classroom.
Turns out, all the cool kids are into Visible Thinking:

Jimmy Fallon (sort of) hashtags the I Used to Think, Now I Think routine. 
(Important note: the word "But" as it's listed on the Project Zero site is actually not a useful word to include in the routine. Using the word in a sentence negates all that was said before it, which is definitely not the message we want to be sending our student thinkers!)

Tomorrow Ron and my grade 3 team will be observing some thinking in my class! My head is swimming with considerations, including the precision of language I use with my class, the modeling of thinking that's done, the opportunities for interaction and think time given... As someone who doesn't love public speaking, I'm surprisingly excited for that part of my Monday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

off the bookshelf: flora & ulysses by kate dicamillo

Our latest grade 3 read aloud is Flora & Ulysses, the 2014 Newberry winner:
We finished up No Talking before our holidays, and the kids absolutely loved it!

This time they voted between this and Wonder, and I'm glad this one was chosen because we only have 6 weeks to read it before our winter break early in December.

This story is light-hearted, funny, and a truly wonderful example of voice. In it, Flora, our heroin and "natural-born cynic," finds Ulysses the squirrel after an almost-tragedy - saving his life and proclaiming him a superhero quickly thereafter. Your class might enjoy this book if they'd like to read about a superhero squirrel and a quirky main character. Of course, your class might also enjoy this book if they have a strong dislike for romance novels!

Mine has a space to write down their thoughts collectively, and so far they're really loving it!

There are comics and illustrations throughout, so I read with the document camera ready to go so the kids can see the story as it unfolds. A very engaging read!

Friday, October 31, 2014

boracay, philippines

We've just spent a great week in Boracay. With water so turquoise and sands so white, it's no wonder this is a premier tourist destination! I definitely recommend this boutique hotel and this delicious restaurant (BEST chorizo burger).

Our beach bum had a lot of first on this trip: first plane ride, boat ride, bus ride, and swim in the ocean! 
It was also her first bug bite and tiny sun burn (despite slathering on the sun screen!)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

deconstructing/reconstructing a rubric

For our performance task in our Physical Well-being unit, I simply printed the standards and indicators being addressed on half sheets of paper, had the kids describe each in their own words, and add a picture for understanding. It was pretty cool listening in on conversations that were had as cards were finished and students began organizing them for Emerging, Developing, and Proficient learners! I highly recommend this as an end-of-unit learning experience:

Friday, October 24, 2014

visible thinking: think puzzle explore

This week in Math class I introduced a new Visible Thinking routine, the Think Puzzle Explore
It was perfect and I felt SO energized afterward!

When we first starting talking, the kids, knowing that "Math" was on the schedule and hearing that "visible thinking" was a big part of the day's plan (like that's any different from any of the learning we show in class?), asked plainly, "How are we going to do Visible Thinking in Math?!" 
To which I could only reply, "Don't we do that everyday in Math? Isn't a big part of what we do in addressing problems and tasks to explain our thinking, put the processes our brains go through on the page for others to see and understand?"
A resounding: Ah. Yes, Mrs. Phillips.

Our big topic right now is multiplication, and we're really just starting out, with kids at very different levels. 
The routine looks like this:
Think: What do you think you know about the topic/idea?
Puzzle: What are you confused about? What are your puzzles, wonderings, or questions about [multiplication]?
Explore: How can you explore this further?

The kids got cozy around the room and spent a good 30 minutes (after the settling in that comes with the week-before-a-much-needed-holiday) just thinking on the Think and writing down their prior knowledge and understandings.

We gathered then, to discuss what the kids think they know. I typed out their responses as we went to make the thinking actually visible.

Next, the kids got cozy again to address their puzzles. 
Again, gathering to discuss with documentation. 
So now, on our "math board," we have a class set of thoughts and a class set of puzzles. 

In our room this was the perfect way to get kids interested in a personal math inquiry - particularly in a topic with which they are beginning to feel comfortable (thank you, grade 2 teachers!), but are still scared to delve totally in to (I need to know all the facts fluently up to 10?!).
We are exploring everything from the different strategies we can use to solve multiplication equations to the invention of multiplication to the various ways to practice personal facts fluency.
After our October break (off to Boracay with baby and in-laws!) we'll do some exploring and sharing of our new learning.

Friday, October 10, 2014

visible thinking: zoom in

Today we started a new Visible Thinking routine, Zoom In, that I'm hoping to keep up with in the class.
[Side note, I'm attending a weekend workshop with Ron Ritchhart in November at our school and I'm really looking forward to it!]

I've started with this image of a Story Rollercoaster, which is just another way of representing the plot structure. As you can see, only one small part is revealed:

We started discussing the piece a class, focusing on the first two parts below. As more parts are revealed, we'll move onto the other two parts.

This kids had some really interesting ideas! Everything from it looks like kids are in bathtubs to I see one person of each gender so maybe it's about being fair [one of our dispositions] to I think there are people from all over the world. Of course there were a lot of connections to personal experiences, too.

The best part was the way the kids started building on the ideas they were hearing, which they quickly told me is called piggybacking. Love that they know this term! Also, going from obvious observations to more thoughtful conclusions was eye-opening for a lot of them.

Next week I'll reveal more and we'll continue, but the level of engagement involved with this was so so great! It's the perfect way to start tuning into narrative writing.


My niece, above, started Kindergarten in September and she was so resistant... but she's loving it! The teacher in me is so happy for her.

This is such an interesting read about the power of daydreaming for our learning. Pretty sure we'll be taking daydream breaks every now and again moving forward.

I love throw pillows but how do you keep them fluffed? Ours always look so sad.

Is it weird that I'm a thirty-year-old woman (a mother no less) and still, when Mean Girls (do I really need to link that?) is on tv, I definitely watch it and make my husband watch it with me?

We watched the first season of Silicon Valley in like three or four days. So then we watched Kumail Nanjiani's stand-up, Beta Male. The part about the mongoose is really funny. And then the part about the hobo in the attic is really funny. I may have had a glass of wine while watching, though, and a glass of wine after a pregnancy and five months of breastfeeding, well, ends up being sort of a lot of wine!

And in case you're wondering, here is the correct response to the question "Which of the seven dwarfs best describes your wife in bed?"

Friday, October 3, 2014

girl problems

We be havin' 'em.
Plenty of 'em, too.
Aside from enlisting the help of our guidance counselor, Information Literacy teacher, specialist teachers, and our principal, we've been working really hard in class on learning to understand one another.

As frustrating as it has all been, now that we're knee-deep in our social learning, it's been pretty interesting!

We started with this essential question, a part of our year-long Learning to Learn unit:
How can I contribute to a learning community?

The kids did some personal reflection, and we shared what it should look like, sound like, and feel like in our grade 3 classroom.

Of course, they gave all the traditional answers, all the ones that we, as teachers, want to hear.
These are now our "Guidelines to Happiness" and are posted in the room.
Naturally, that wasn't enough.

We followed up with this:

The kids got themselves together in small groups and brainstormed problems that they have. (The pictures of their work beside are to make their responses visible). 
This was great, because there was a range of them!
So we discussed.

Next, groups chose one problem to dramatize (but with no solution).
As a class, we discussed potential solutions, and kept a running list:

During those discussions, the kids kept talking about how they would feel if it happened to them, or similar experiences they've had, which lead to a mini-inquiry into the word empathy.
They paired up to figure out what it means, thought up some examples, and presented their findings informally with other pairs.
It was a tangent, but a good one, and we'll revisit it next week with some scenarios.
(Isn't that what inquiry learning is about?)

Then, more personal reflection...
Kids wrote in their notebooks to complete this sentence frame: 
I can help others solve their problems because I

Now this was awesome because they were really able to dig a bit deeper, having spent so much time focused on potential problems.
We put on to set the tone in the room.

Students shared if they were feeling brave.
Then, we made a list together of the skills and qualities that problem-solvers have as they came up during sharing. 
I printed them quickly and the kids signed up as experts in those areas:

Now, if someone is having a problem in our class, they now go to the expert sign-up list and see who might be able to help them.
They actually do this, yes. It's brilliant.

So far this has been a focus in our classroom for the last month.
With the support of my so-fantastic colleagues, girl problems are definitely less!