Monday, April 14, 2014

into this: Basecamp + Brooklyn Nine-Nine

So, um, Ace of Base? Yes.

Debut EP here.

Also, while we're on spring break (and had to cancel travel plans while I was on bed rest to keep baby growing strong) we've been watching this totally goofy but damn funny show:
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013) Poster
Every episode gets us laughing!

Friday, April 4, 2014

off the bookshelf: R.J. Palacio's Wonder

A little late to the show on this one, as I tend to shy away from too much critical acclaim (see here), but this is one I'm glad I finally picked up.

Wonder was a quick read, and one I really enjoyed. I picked it up from our school library to read to my class after just finishing Hachiko Waits. This is a read-aloud I really want to end the year off with! It's such a great statement about kindness, friendship,acceptance, and individuality.

It is the story of August Pullman, a boy with a serious facial deformity, who is entering mainstream schooling for the first time as a fifth grader. He wants nothing more than to be considered normal, as normal is how he considers himself, but knows he's up for a challenge. He makes some strong friends but faces his share of difficulty as he navigates the new social waters. The story is told from various perspectives - his sister, friends, and classmates - and I really like the freshness their viewpoints add to the book. (Plus, great practical teaching point!)

Looking forward to introducing this in the classroom as it's sure to generate some deep conversation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

inspiring inquiry classrooms

Every Wednesday morning we have a late start at school - the kids come in at 8:30 instead of 7:45 and our ES faculty meets together for some PD. It's pretty great and keeps everyone involved in the learning process. A few weeks ago, one part of our PD was to take a walk around the school and note examples of inquiry in other classrooms. 

How often do you think to just walk through another teacher's classroom? Just to see what's up, what's been happening? Do you feel comfortable doing so? With seven grade three classrooms, I'm lucky because I get to see quite a lot just bouncing around in the grade level. It was such a great experience to open up all the doors so we could browse around all classes from Pre-K to grade 4. Walk-throughs are something that our elementary school is trying to implement as an open form of communication, investigation, and professional inquiry, and I LOVE it! Here are just a few of the inspiring ideas I saw around:

This display uses cover images of picture books the class used to explore Measurement, with a list of student-written measurement tools below.

A simple but inquiry-focused graphic organizer - for anything! Nothing says inquiry like question starts.

One of our Transdisciplinary Skills displayed with the ActivBoard web from class discussion. You can't really see it, but the kids all added an index-card reflecting on a time when they successfully used Connection and Collaboration in their own lives.

Totally want to make this for my room. Reflection is such a difficult skill, but is so important, and this is a great way to help students frame their thinking.

Mathematical Practices posted with student-generated definitions/understanding below.

Project to show personal inquiry into How-To/Sequence writing. This is a great way for students to really separate the steps of the process visually.

Love the idea of taking big questions the kids have asked ("When did you start to think?" "What is the difference between the truth and a lie?" "What is imagination?") that maybe don't fit in nicely with any of your curriculum content and making them meaningful.

Students address one of this unit's Essential Questions.

Using a See Think Wonder routine to help students inquire into a graph they find personally interesting.

Again - great reflection tool. I'm thinking I should make goal-setting/reflection my professional goal for next school year!

Wondering Wall

Grand finale - one more tool for reflection!

Friday, March 14, 2014

technology + visible thinking

Today we got to see some of the amazing work completed by our High School Robotics classes. There were so many cool things to see - from a hover craft to a fire-throwing robot! Our school has amazing educational opportunities and nurtures some true talent.

Before we headed down, I asked the class to work on a Thinking Routine to inquire more deeply into the topic of Robots. This time we used a digital Think Puzzle Explore routine. The first part, Think, is just that - students thought about what they already know about robots and typed it into a Google Drawing I had shared. In the Puzzle section, they wrote down any puzzles or questions they had about robots. After they got a few questions typed up, I emailed them the link to visit the school's Robolucion blog (full of videos, pictures, and write-ups about the various robotic inventions we would see). From there, they formulated more puzzles - questions they could ask the inventors directly! We then went to the exhibit, Explored, and the class typed up what they found interesting about the display. The whole process led to some great discussion.
Here's just a quick look at some work they shared back with me:
As an "exit slip," they had to write one of their reflections on the board to really make this routine visible in the classroom:

This is a really simple but powerfully thought-provoking routine that can work with any "topic" you choose. The kids were totally engaged... and I was not expecting that on this Friday morning after our long week! And at that, Happy Friday, all! Well-deserved, I'm sure.

PS - True fact: Manila is the selfie capital of the world. (I should be adding a selfie here, but...)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

inquiring into...cockroaches?

Yep, it’s true. After finding a cockroach in our classroom yesterday, students were having all kinds of interesting conversations (and reactions!) about our gross little friend. After some observation, the poor guy was eventually killed. I was really tuned into their conversations - comments ranged from "It's so gross!" to "Why did we have to kill such an innocent creature?" to "Ew ew ew ew ew. Ew!" (Alright, so that last one might have been me...) 
Well, thanks to Wonderopolis and their timely daily wondering (sent straight to my inbox), it turns out that if you find one in your “house,” it really is best to get rid of it! (Not that that necessarily means killing it, but no one was exactly brave enough to pick it up and carry it out…)
So today, we inquired into cockroaches. Two words: totally engaged. We started a Harvard Visible Thinking routine called“Connect-Extend-Challenge” to track our thoughts. The students first shared and then wrote about or diagrammed their connections – prior knowledge, stories, experience, feelings, and reactions to cockroaches. [For the parent blog we keep, I took videos of some kids sharing their thoughts at each stage of the Connect-Extend-Challenge, which was the perfect way to really make thinking visible!]
Afterward, we watched a video

and then used some information from Wonderopolis to learn more about the pesky little cockroach. This article was great because it also loosely connected with our inquiry into energy, as it’s titled “Could a Cockroach Survive A Nuclear War?” We read it together and students wrote some ways their thinking had been extended by the new information: What have you learned? What is really interesting to you? How has your thinking changed or been extended?
We then discussed some of the crazy info: “They’ll eat anything! Even soap…”; “They can hold their breath underwater for thirty minutes!”; “They can live for up to six weeks without a meal!” [What?! I can hardly go an hour these days!] After, students wrote down questions that were still challenging their thinking or understanding about cockroaches: What new wonderings came up? How can you learn more about cockroaches? I was quite surprised to hear students who thought cockroaches were simply disgusting in the beginning, really marveling over just how amazing these resilient little creatures are!
So there you have it – our inquiry into, that’s right, cockroaches! The class did a pretty great job making connections, extending their thinking, and then challenging their understanding of this all-too-familiar Manila staple. [They still freak me out.]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

fractions on number lines

Last week after introducing plotting fractions on number lines, I was worried.
Like, very worried.
The kids didn't seem to "get it" very well.
I literally spent two days hearing, "I don't get it" and "I'm confused."
I even showed them the "draw a square shape connected to the number line and shade it according to the fraction you want to show" trick...
A represents 3/4. {source}
But even that visual just didn't do it for some.

This morning, after our long weekend, was not a great morning in AmandaBaby Land.
The little things were adding up, you know?
So I was extra worried about the lesson I had planned to start our day.
Here's what we did:

I (pre)made 7 sets of index cards with various proper and mixed fractions on them.
Today I asked the kids to arrange themselves into groups of 3 and I handed out a set of cards to each.
Their job was to put the fractions (index cards) on a number line.
That's it.
Some groups got out white boards so they could better understand the task.
Some got really creative and were lying out rulers to show the line so that they could properly space the fractions.
Others put flip flops equally spaced and labelled them 0, 1, 2, and 3 to represent the whole numbers.
(This was the coolest one to see and I, of course, didn't get a photo!)
All of this was a great time for me to rotate and ask groups questions about what they were doing and what I was seeing.
This in turn brought out some misconceptions, and more often, helped the kids recognize these straight away.
I was so pleased because... they got it!

After the number lines were complete, the groups did a gallery walk so we could critique the work of others.
Discussion ranged from "Something I saw that was wrong was..." to "We need to be sure we respect the work of other groups. We weren't asked to fix anything..."

The best part? 
After this activity, I actually heard kids saying things like "Fractions on number lines is fun!" and "I like doing this - it makes fractions seem so easy!"
Overall, the lesson was a huge success and was pretty much riddled with the Mathematical Practices!
I totally recommend this one and you can easily make up the fraction cards in a few minutes.

Friday, February 21, 2014

into this... horses heaven

From a couple of lovebirds comes the so-lovely, must-hum-along-but-don't-want-to-sing-along-for-fear-of-ruining-the-beauty, Vermont
Listen for more; you'll not be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

visible thinking: see-think-wonder

I've just started Harvard's Making Thinking Visible course online as part of our Professional Development program here at ISM. I'm really excited about learning some new strategies. We've actually used several visible thinking strategies in the classroom already, as I've had the book checked out from our library all year (because I'm a book hog...shhh): 
Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners

Today I thought we'd do another See-Think-Wonder with the goal of having students recognize some connections between their prior and acquired knowledge with our inquiry into energy. I added a Connect box to the activity to help students get there, so it didn't seem so superficial. I made up 7 posters with images related to energy in the center
Displaying photo.JPG
and sections around the image labelled "I see... I think... I wonder... I connect..." (not so easy to see as I just used a class iPad to get photos this morning).

We revisited the See-Think-Wonder format on the Activ Board by discussing synonyms and sentence starters for each term so I could (hopefully) help students get to some deeper thinking when they set off and give my ELL friends some vocabulary to use:

(let me tell you, some of this was like pulling teeth...)

and then we did an example together:
Clearly, we have some work to do ("I see colours" ???). 

Then the kids roamed around for fifteen-twenty minutes to add their thoughts/comments/questions to each poster.

As I circulated to hear the students talking about the images (and various other things, like cats, recess, Pixel Gun, dance parties, "songs that are awesome".... that's a regular morning, right? So much for accountable talk!) and read some of their comments, it was amazing to recognize the different levels within my room. It was something like this:

"I saw a rainbow once." (Okaaay, I guess it is a connection...)
"This looks like coal, which is a fossil fuel and that's bad :(" (Now we're talking!)
"What if the picture is upside down?" (Um... hmm. Relevant?)
"I noticed that this is hydro energy and that's connected to our energy inquiry!" (Hurray!)
"My connection is that [the electrical wires] looks like a cat because you can sort of see ears." (I know, deep.)

Afterward we shared as a whole group, which is when the discussion started to get so much better and the beauty of See-Think-Wonder began to come alive. It's pretty great when a comment like, "I see a white car" can turn into discussion about the type of fuel the car uses and whether the owner could use a biomass source, like corn, if it's available. True story - that conversation happened!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

renewable vs. non-renewable energy: community snapshot

As our inquiry into energy unfolds, the kids have jumped deep into learning about various renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Today, I shared with them this book, which is a great mentor-text based on a true story:

It's all about the Danish island of Samso and their pursuit of energy independence: from a big idea to the persuasion of the population to the implementation of major energy-reduction technologies. The author does a great job of bringing these big ideas down to the kid's level to explain how the island now uses solar, wind, and biomass energy to power their communities - producing more energy than they are consuming! They've changed their ways, abandoning the use of fossil fuels, when the rest of the world seems to think this is only a dream. It just goes to show: big changes could happen!

Afterward we watched these videos and the class was Amazed to realize Samso really is an actual place in the world! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

chia pudding

This is my new favourite healthy snack: Chia Pudding.
This one with mango and dark chocolate, but it's delicious naked, too!

1/3 cup chia seeds
1.5 cups milk
2 tbsp coconut syrup (because brown rice syrup is so far impossible to find here and because we unknowingly let our maple syrup go moldy - fyi you can boil the mold right off... who'da thought? But no. Any liquid sweetener will work.)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Shake it all up in a container and put in the fridge. I shook it a few times after that and then let it sit overnight. Yes, it's so great for breakfast!

Our little one is getting big, just like my appetite!