Monday, February 23, 2015

let the text inspire you

In class we've been talking about what we can do as readers - what ideas we're making.
One girl decided to make her own book (in Google Docs) after one from her Raz-Kids bookshelf  about immigration really resonated with her.
Two others are in their own "book club" - they borrowed the same book from the library and get together to read and discuss, sometimes even at recess.
I shared these simple projects with the class in the hopes that others will find inspiration and act on that.

This is a quote shared by Kathy Collins during our week of PD. Click to download from TpT.

Friday, February 20, 2015

why we broke up: part 2

I can't wait to understand why they broke up. I'm about halfway through and it's all sort of... theoretical? Although she ends each part (pretty much) with "and that's why we broke up," there's nothing tangible. I can't figure it out; I don't get it yet.

There has to be something that happens, is done, but there's no reference yet. I read a review that says page 335 was heart-wrenching. I'll have to wait for it?

I love young adult literature. Everything is so weighty and important and I find that hilarious and real at the same time. In a "we've all been there" sort of way. Plus, it's hard to help someone else make sense of all our thoughts, so maybe that's a big part (?) of my confusion about it all.

The art is really cool.

yokohama, japan

Along with some great PD with some like-minded schools (Collaboration for Growth), I was able to do some sightseeing in and around Yokohama - in to Tokyo and out to Kamakura. It was more than chilly, but I love Japan. The order, the cleanliness, the culture. Jeff and I are even thinking of going back again in our next October break! We've been together just one other time, a short time, also, and there's just so much to see in this tiny country.

so many flowers in frigid february

yokohama chinatown: the largest one outside of china

pre-dinner dumplings

lunar new year decorations

shinto shrine near kamakura


mt. fuji

all the sashimi!!!

residential yokohama

Thursday, February 19, 2015

close reading: why we broke up

Today in a PD session with Kathy Collins (I don't know how to link her, really? Her Twitter feed sort of ends in August last year... I know that doesn't sound great, but I've been inspired the whole time she's been at our school.), we were asked to do a little "close reading" of Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up.
Kathy shared with us the first chapter:

She said something like, "Talk about it. What do you notice?" 
So a colleague and I did that - we analyzed, we made inferences, we drew conclusions... based only on those few paragraphs. It was getting intense - we were digging. We were on fire.

But really, none of what we had said had any significance at all, anymore, when another colleague who had left the room in the meantime, came back without a clue and sat down to read it over in thirty seconds, turned to us to say, "She committed suicide. Couldn't the 'thunk' be her having jumped from the roof?" Conversation went cold. Shivers. It got the attention of others at the table. We were all convinced, because it made perfect sense, in the most chilling way - a way we hadn't considered.

And so I had to read it; running out to the bookstore after the PD to buy it. I haven't had this desire, really, to read a book for fun in a long time. I need to know: what is the thunk?! 

More to come.

Monday, February 16, 2015

are non-fiction texts still important?

Early last week, I posed the question to the class, “What is a story?” This led to some really interesting discussion and wonderings. After some whole-class talk, one of my girls stopped everyone when she asked, “Are non-fiction books still important since we have the Internet now?” The room was abuzz as they all started talking at once about their opinions, which set up a lovely inquiry for the remainder of the lesson.
Students chose a side and started completing a persuasive writing graphic organizer to get their arguments and reasoning in order. (This had been introduced the week prior, so it was fresh in their minds.)
photo 2 (15)      photo 3 (13)
The next day, students were introduced to the persuasive essay format, complete with well-written paragraphs and transition words. Pairs then used their graphic organizer to inform their essays, and these are beautifully written pieces!
photo 5 (4)         photo 1 (18)
Our next step will for students to present their arguments to the class or in small groups - we haven't figured that one out yet.
This was such a great way for my kids to practice communicating, reasoning with logic, writing supporting details, and focusing on persuasion. I never mind when my "plans" get derailed by a student comment or question - that's the beauty of inquiry to me!

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Fury. Woah.

I'm loving this song. Yes, it's from Boyhood, and no, I still haven't seen it.

This has got to be my favourite restaurant in Manila. We went for lunch on the weekend and it was just as busy as it usually is in the evening.

Hoping to make these for the next set of snacks for the week.

And this for a dessert sometime, but I can't figure out when avocados are in season here?

Daddy and Mara are napping the afternoon away so I've had some me-time with a cup of tea. Did you know Twinings makes hand-sewn tea bags? Isn't that crazy? That's a tea-fanatic sort of thing, is it?

I've been shopping up a storm during sale time here (the only time there's any value in shopping), and even though it isn't on sale, I'm thinking this might be going in the cart. I just found that my swimsuit cover has a bunch of tiny holes in it, so it's justified, too, right?

And some cute rugs for Mara's eventual room. I have a bag made by this local company, too, and I love the eco-ethicalness. They almost always sell out their collections.

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!