playful storytelling opening session

Posted on: November 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

Marie Thom and I hosted our opening session for our Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning series. We are in the fourth year of this project in our district, involving ten elementary schools over the years.

img_8912

Many of the storytelling experiences we have engaged in so far have involved local plants and animals, the use of natural materials to create local settings, retelling of stories by indigenous authors and illustrators and the use of animal characters, story stones, puppets and “peg doll” characters for the students to create their own stories. We have attended professional learning opportunities at the Musqueam Cultural Centre to consider how culture, language and place could inspire our project.

After an acknowledgement of territory, a welcome, introductions, and an overview of the history of this project, as we sat in a circle, we asked each teacher to consider and then share what First Peoples Principle of Learning they identified with and why and to share what they were curious about in terms of this project for this school year.

img_8938

Kathleen Paiger and Ellen Reid, who taught together at Steves Elementary last year and are going into their third year of the project (Ellen is teaching at Blair this year), shared their story of their experience and their students’ experience in this project.

img_8939 img_8940 img_8942 img_8943 img_8944

Leanne McColl, one of our district’s teacher consultants shared the draft goals of our new Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement with the Musqueam community and we considered how this continues to inspire and give meaning to our project.

img_8945

Leanne also shared information about the new Musqueam teaching resource and kit that was co-created with UBC’s Museum of Anthropology and the Musqueam Nation. The link to the online resources to support the Musqueam teaching kit developed by the Museum of Anthrop0logy and the Musqueam community is HERE.

To extend the story experiences we have been engaging in so far, we focused on the idea of creating story landscapes by weaving in more sensory experiences to our storytelling experiences- sounds, movement, textures and scents. I shared a video I had taken at Garry Point as an idea to use video of as a background or backdrop for storytelling experiences, inspired by the “forest room” created by the educators at Hilltop School in Seattle. The video can be viewed HERE.

Marie presented several storytelling provocations to inspire new layers and dimensions we could add to our storytelling experiences with students.

img_8911 img_8910 img_8909

img_8914

img_8906

img_8946To honour the importance of the learning through the oral tradition, at the beginning of our time together, we asked Michelle Hikida, who has been a part of this project since the first year, to listen during the session and to synthesize and summarize the key learnings at the end of the session. Michelle chose to use pictorial symbols to help her remember the four learnings she wanted to share with the group.

 

In their reflections at the end of the session, many teachers commented that they wanted to try more storytelling experiences outdoors as well as adding more sensory layers. We are looking forward to lots of inspiring and creative stories created by our students this year!

~Janice

introducing clothesline to the kindergarten students at General Currie

Posted on: November 29th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

Last Tuesday, I made another visit to the kindergarten classrooms at General Currie Elementary. During each visit I introduce a new mathematical “routine” to the students and teachers and then extend the routine with some related learning experiences.

I introduced the “clothesline” introduced to me via Twitter by Andrew Stadel last year. There is a website dedicated to sharing information about clothesline math HERE. Most of the work I have seen done with the clothesline is at the middle school level and I can see great uses for it in exploring equivalent fractions, decimal fractions and percentages with our intermediate students. In looking at the kindergarten mathematics curriculum  for BC, sequencing and representing numbers from 0-10 is an important learning standard and connects to the use of the clothesline, a form of interactive numberline.

We began with just the numeral cards and the students came up on a a time (in random order) to place their cards on the clothesline. They were asked to state their reasoning for why they put their cards where they did.

img_8979

After the 0-10 cards were in place, we took them off and then I shuffled them with the ten frame and tally cards and handed one card out to each student. Again, the students came up one or two or three at a time and placed their cards, explaining their reasoning. When there was an equivalent representation already in place, they just placed the card on top of the other.

img_8980

img_8963

The tent cards I created can be downloaded here:

0-10-tent-cards

When I asked the first class of kindergarten students one way of showing “seven”, one little guy held up seven fingers. I hope to take some photos of the students finger combinations next week when I visit to include these on a set of cards.

I can also see great potential for the clothesline to look at multiple representations of numbers in grades 2-5 to help students think about place value.

After each class worked with the clothesline, the students could choose from several related learning experiences, all that focused on sequencing numbers or representing quantities to 10.

img_8958 img_8959 img_8960 img_8962

img_8964

img_8968

img_8972

img_8986

The students were highly engaged with the materials and were able to share their thinking about why it was important to know how to order numbers –  ”to count, to be organized”. In one of the kindergarten classes we looked around the classroom for ways that numbers in order or sequence were used. The students found the 100-chart, the calendar and the clock.

Next week, we are going to do some number talks with dot cards and ten frame  cards and investigate the idea of parts-whole relationships in numbers by decomposing and composing quantities.

~Janice

what does it mean to be a “low” math student?

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

So typically on this blog I share stories of what is happening in Richmond classrooms and about professional learning experiences for Richmond educators. This post takes a different tone…one that I hope will provoke thinking and discussions about the intersection of language and students and math.

Here goes…

I am often engaged in conversations about mathematics teaching and learning where I hear from teachers, “I have so many low students,” and it makes me wonder what is meant by “low”. I am sure I have used the term myself in the past but I have been increasingly more aware of the impact of labels and language on not just the professional conversations we have but also on how this impacts our relationships with our students. I have begun to challenge teachers on their use of this term and stop them as they say it…”What exactly do you mean when you say ‘low’?” I don’t mean to put teachers on the spot or to to make them feel uncomfortable in our conversations but I think the language we use in conversations about students is really important and we need to be mindful about this.

My prickliness about how we talk about children was amplified when I had my own children, both of whom have their own personal strengths and stretches. I can’t imagine how I would feel, or how my sons would feel, if they were ever described as “low”. What impact does this language of  ”low” have on our students as learners and on ourselves in our role of teacher? How does this thinking affect our mindset about learning?

So what does it mean to be a “low” math student…

Does it mean that the student does not have an understanding of foundational concepts in mathematics? Did the student not have access to teaching at his or her just right level? Was the student absent from school or ill for extended periods of time? Was the student not assessed thoroughly to inform instruction? How can the student be supported to gain foundational concepts and confidence in mathematics? What structures are in place in your class and in your school to support core foundational understanding in mathematics?

Does it mean that the student has difficulty learning math because of memory, health, attention, behaviour or learning difficulties? When in class, does the student have difficulty paying attention, focusing, sitting? Does the student seem unable to retain information the way it is being provided? Does the student have behaviours that are affecting his or her learning and engagement? What practices, materials and structures are in place in your classroom or school that provide choices and adaptations in time/pacing, materials, place/learning environment, quantity of work output expected and depth of content knowledge?

Does it mean that the student has a different story than his or her classmates? Has the student had breakfast? slept? Is the student living in a safe home environment? Does the student have to care for siblings or parents? Does the student need to work to add to the family income? Does the student have regular absences? Why is that?  What might be affecting his or her image of self as a learner and as community member in your classroom? As teachers, are we acknowledging and checking our place of privilege and power and how this might be affecting our students? What is the student’s story and how might this be affecting his or her learning of mathematics? What supports does this student in your classroom and school need to be successful?

Does it mean that the student does not have access to resources to support learning and success at school? Does the student have the tools and resources (human and physical) he or she needs at home to support learning? Are assignments and studying accessible and equitable for all students regardless of their home or financial situations? What supports can the teacher and school provide so all students have equitable access to the resources needed to support their learning? Afterschool homework clubs or peer tutoring? Choices in assignment and homework formats?

Does it mean that the student’s written work, homework and quiz and test scores do not indicate achievement of learning standards? Is written work or practice not completed during class time? Are homework assignments not turned in or completed, or attempted? Does the student seem to understand the mathematics during performance tasks and class discussions but is not successful on quizzes and tests? What different opportunities are students provided to communicate their thinking and learning? (It does not have to be written down to “count”!)

In all of the above scenarios, it may seem that I suggest that it is the teachers’ and schools’ responsibility to ensure student success in mathematics. Well, it mostly is – that is our job. Of course we need to have students and parents as part of this story, but when they may not seem to be, we, as a system, need to think about how to bring them alongside instead of using fixed terms such as “low” as an excuse, and explanation or a dismissal of responsibility.

How can we re-frame how we talk about our students and how we talk about learning mathematics?  There is a strong movement in mathematics education coming from various voices including Dr. Jo Boaler of Stanford University. This movement is based on the belief and conviction that ALL children can learn mathematics. Dr. Boaler’s work around mathematical mindsets is shifting how educators, parents and students think about the learning of mathematics. More information can be found here.

I attended a Learning Forward dinner event at the end of April and one of the question prompts the secondary teachers from Surrey gave us to provoke discussion was:

IMG_3897

This issue of deficit language resonates with me and I think by re-framing the language we use will re-frame how we see ourselves as educators and how we see the students in our classrooms.

Inspired by Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert and the four fundamental questions of the NOII, I wonder how many of our students feel that their math teachers believe that they can learn? We know its important that teachers convey that they care for their students and that they believe they can be successful. How does our language need to be re-framed in our classrooms so our students believe this to be true?

Instead of describing our students as “low”, what different language could we use? Learning. Developing. Growing. Competent. Full of promise and potential. How does using strength-based language shift our conversations and interactions with our students and with each other as professionals?

My hope is that we can describe our students as curious and engaged mathematical thinkers and learners – what is the story that needs to unfold in our classrooms if this is our goal?

Math matters. Language matters.

~Janice

With thanks to Faye Brownlie, Shelley Moore, Jane MacMillan, Lisa Schwartz and Sarah Loat for their feedback and contributions to my thinking for this post.

uncovering thinking about addition and subtraction in grades 1&2 at McNeely

Posted on: November 3rd, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

I am doing a series of visits to the early primary classrooms at McNeely Elementary to work with the teachers around inclusive practices that support students’ mathematical thinking and understanding. Meeting the first class of grades 1 & 2, I began with a number talk to see what strategies the students were able to use and to see how the students engaged in mathematical discourse. We named strategies and introduced terms like justify and reason into the students’s math talk.

img_8188

To follow this, I had designed several provocations for students to engage with around the concepts of addition and subtraction. I connected some of the provocations to the K-2 big ideas about computational fluency – relationships between addition and subtraction and building on an understanding of five and ten. After the number talk, I adjusted some of the provocations I had planned, being responsive to what the students had demonstrated during the number talk.

img_8187 img_8185 img_8184 img_8183 img_8182 img_8181

I provided a brief overview of each provocation set out on a table, reading the question and showing the materials. I explained to the students that they would choose what ideas they wanted to investigate or questions they wanted to engage with and they could stay with one provocation the whole time or move to different tables. This was the first time the students has worked in this way during their mathematics time but for the most part, the students made good choices and stayed engaged with the ideas we were thinking about.

img_8186

The SumBlox blocks were presented on a table for students to explore. This was the first time these students had seen these blocks so I wanted to give them to time to explore and investigate the blocks without a specific question to guide their play.

While students were engaged with the materials and ideas, the classroom teacher, the learning resource teacher and I were able to spend time alongside students, listening and noticing. There were opportunities to prompt and provoke and to invite students to explain what they were thinking about or practicing.

img_8198 img_8195 img_8194

img_8213

img_8217 img_8218

We brought the students to a meeting at the end of our time together, after they had put away all the materials we had been using. The students are beginning to learn how to talk about their mathematical thinking and shared what they did, what they liked and some students were able to share what they learned. With time, the intention is that students will share their findings and questions and make connections with each other during this closing discourse or “congress” time.

At lunchtime, the teachers and I were able to meet and discuss what they had noticed, what questions they had and what assessment information was able to be collected during the practices of a number talk and provocations. A starting point for professional discussion was sharing some of the video I had captured of students explaining their thinking. Based on what we noticed, the classroom teacher and learning resource teacher set some goals as to what they were going to work on with the students before my next visit – developing strategies focused on making ten and developing the language of “decomposing by place value” when explaining their mental math strategies.

These big concepts of addition and subtraction will be explored and investigated in many different ways all year – they are foundational concepts at these grade levels.

~Janice

inclusive practices in mathematics for grades 6-9

Posted on: October 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

Building on interest from an ILC (Inclusive Learning Community) project Shelley Moore and I facilitated with grade 8 teachers at Boyd Secondary, we held an after school session in October looking at inclusive practices in mathematics for grades 6-9 teachers. These practices are particularly mindful of the personal, social, intellectual and physical needs of students in the middle school age range.

Shelley began the session by sharing Richmond’s history with inclusive education and sharing some frameworks she has developed for thinking about inclusion (bowling pins, Fisher-Price stacker toy, planning pyramid, etc). She refers to inclusions lenses – personal, social and intellectual as well as places – different classrooms and places in the school as well as out of the school.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-45-51-pm

In using the planning pyramid, Shelley considers goals, tasks and questions for all students, some students and a few students, starting where ALL students can access the unit or lesson. And here’s Shelley doing the tree pose – using the analogy that everyone/all could start this yoga pose by using the wall for support!

img_7797

Shelley shared the two year project with the grade 8 teachers and students at Boyd, with the first year addressing the Shape and Space curriculum and the second year examining the linear equations part of the curriculum. One example of a planning framework for an initial lesson on geometry looks like this:

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-46-14-pm

We shared photographs and video from the Boyd ILC project to share how the project unfolded with the students. Blog posts about the project and be found HERE and HERE.

I shared some of the practices and structures that we considered during the ILC project at Boyd and that can be used as a guide for planning mathematics lessons and units with inclusion in mind.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-51-28-pm

Some of the choices that students were provided were what types of materials they might use. For example, during our lesson together about the volume of prisms, some students built prisms with cubes, some students used centimetre graph paper to create nets for their prisms and other drew 3D drawings that represented the measurements they were working with. Another choice was the range within the concept being addressed – for example, in the geometry lessons, identification of basic 2D shapes (faces) was an access point for all while some students investigated a range of 3D prisms. In the study of linear equations, choices of equations to investigate and represent with balances and other materials were provided, increasing in complexity or number of operations. Students were also provided with choices in how they processed or representing their thinking, for example, iPad technology was available and students could use the camera to take video or photos and then use a choice of screencasting apps to provide evidence of their understanding of the concept. Non-permanent vertical surfaces (NPVS) aka whiteboards or windows provide another choice for students who may not want to sit and work at a desk or table or use paper and pencil. The research-based practice of using NPVS has been shown to increase engagement and mathematical discourse, particularly at the middle-school age range.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-11-11-07-pm

I shared the idea of mathematical routines such as number talks as inclusive practices with starting points for all and a way to build an inclusive mathematical community in the classroom. These routines also focus on the nurturing and development of the curricular competencies which are the same for grades 6-9. One of the routines shared was WODB (Which One Doesn’t Belong?). This routine has become very popular in Richmond classrooms as it provides an opportunity for the clear connection between curricular competencies and content. Four items are presented and they all belong to a set/group of some sort – integers, polygons, etc but each item is unique is some way. The goal of the routine is for the students to analyze and use reasoning to justify or defend which one they think doesn’t belong in the set and why. WODBs for geometry, number, graphs, etc are available at WODB.CA  - a site curated by an Ontario secondary math teacher.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-11-12-10-pm screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-11-12-25-pm screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-11-12-46-pm

Shelley has posted a pdf version of our slides from the session on her blog. They can be found HERE.

Because of interest, we will be facilitating a repeat of this session on December 6 from 3:30-5:00pm at IDC – register on our district’s event page with further follow-up sessions planned in the new year.

~Janice

introducing WODB in Kindergarten

Posted on: October 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

I was back visiting the kindergarten classes at General Currie last week. After being introduced to Counting Collections, the students and teachers were interested in being introduced to a new math routine. Because I had noticed they had been exploring gourds the week before when I visited, I used gourds to introduce the idea and thinking behind a WODB (which one doesn’t belong?). As is the case with most young students, the students stayed quite focused on one of the objects being “the” right one and we needed some prompting to look at  various attributes – colour/s, shape, size, “bumpiness” – to think about why each gourd was unique within this set of gourds (how they are alike…all gourds, all have some orange). The students began to use language layering attributes together to describe uniqueness – “this one is the bumpiest and mostly all orange”.

img_8231

After looking at the gourds together and talking through “justifying” their choices, I showed them a WODB from the website wodb.ca - one I often use when introducing WODBs to primary class. I asked the students to notice how the dice were the same and then how they were different and then to turn and talk to a math partner.

img_8232

The students then moved on to some table time, choosing from more WODB experiences or working with counting collections. I just used masking tape to add a WODB frame to a table top and added a basket of  fall leaves. The things the students noticed and their theories  - “this one doesn’t belong because it has holes, it has holes because an animal was hungry and munched it” were interesting to listen in on. Lots of opportunities for sharing thinking and reasoning along with oral language development.

img_8234

I also had copied some WODB grids for students to use with materials from the classroom. One of the kindergarten classes used a basket of blocks to create WODBs for each other. Some students began by making three items similar and one that was significantly different and then, as they played with the idea of  a WODB a bit more, the students were able to explain a reason for each of the blocks not belonging in some way.

img_8247 img_8248 img_8249 img_8254

The routine of WODB emphasizes many of the curricular competencies in K-9 mathematics:

  • use reasoning to explore and make connections,
  • develop, demonstrate, and apply mathematical understanding through play, inquiry, and problem solving,
  • communicate mathematical thinking in many ways,
  • use mathematical vocabulary and language to contribute to mathematical discussions,
  • explain and justify mathematical ideas and decisions.

Using WODBs as part of your math program provide opportunities to develop curricular competencies connected to curricular content.

wodb-student-book-coverBuilding on the exploration the students were doing with shapes, I left a copy of Christopher Danielson’s book Which One Doesn’t Belong? with the classes so they can continue thinking about shapes and WODBs!

I will be back to visit these classes in a few weeks and am looking forward to seeing and hearing how their mathematical reasoning and communication has developed!

 

~Janice

BCAMT Fall Conference 2016

Posted on: October 21st, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

On Friday, October 21, our Provincial PSA day, I had the honour of sharing the work we have been doing in the Richmond School District as we have been enacting BC’s redesigned curriculum. This year’s BCAMT conference had over 900 attendees and speakers. Fawn Nguyen shared an amazing keynote address with us, reminding us that we are a gift to our students and to honour their time with us.

img_8101

 

img_8106

 

img_8144

“that’s me in the front row!”

In the morning I was part of Curriculum Focus Session with a three-member panel – Ray Appel, Marc Garneau and myself. We shared aspects of the redesigned curriculum and then broke off into primary, intermediate and grades 8&9 focused breakout sessions.

img_8158 img_8159

During the primary session, I shared snapshots and stories from Richmond classrooms. The handout from this primary breakout session can be dowloaded > bcamt-overview-primary-focus-oct-2016

One of the particular areas I shared was looking at the connections between the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics. My begin thinking around this can be downloaded > k-5-math-connections-between-core-and-curricular-competencies

I also shared the link between the heightened focus on computational fluency in the curriculum and the importance of regular number talks in classrooms.

Some info on Number Talks can be downloaded >

number-talks

number-talks-panel

I also shared some of the BC Curriculum summary pages that reflect the work in the Richmond School District. They can be downloaded >

kindergarten-circles-and-patterns-math-provocation

primary-walrus-math-investigation

place-based-mathematics

***

The next primary-focused session I presented was on Mathematical Routines such as counting collections, number talks and WODB.

img_8156

The handout from this Mathematical Routines session can be downloaded > bcamt-2016-mathematical-routines

There are many blogs posts about Mathematical Routines available on this blog – use the search tool to search for number talks, counting collections, WODB etc.

img_8155

 

img_8154

Apparently, Counting Collections are taking over BC!

***

During my last session called Playful Mathematical Inquiry for grades K-5 teachers, I shared the thinking I have been doing with teachers in our district around frameworks to think about inquiry in mathematics and how playful inquiry encompasses the curricular competencies in mathematics.

img_8157

The handout from this Playful Mathematical Inquiry session can be downloaded > playful-mathematical-inquiry-bcamt-2016

***

img_8133

As always, it is great to re-connect with colleagues and a special thank you to the teachers who participated in my sessions! Thanks to Rick Hikida for this photo from the back of a very crowded room and for his tech support!

~Janice

introducing counting collections in Kindergarten

Posted on: October 18th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

In the past week I have introduced the routine of Counting Collections to four kindergarten classes at two Richmond schools. Teachers who have tried the routine later in the school year have wondered how to introduce the routine so early in the school year to kindergarten students. Counting Collections is a routine in which students work in partners to count a collection of items. Seems straightforward but this routine has proven to be highly engaging and provides students with lots of time doing and talking about math and also provides teachers with important information about their students’ understanding of number.

img_8006

In our BC curriculum, the curricular content “learning standard” for kindergarten around counting focuses on fluency with counting and number concepts involving numbers up to and including 10. It may seem like most children are able to count to 10 at this age but we are looking for fluency and understanding beyond reciting a counting chant. We are looking for one-to-one correspondence, sequencing, cardinality when counting, subtilizing and more – counting is complex! Early in the year, it is important to provide collections of smaller quantities (5-10) so students can practice counting successfully and teachers can listen in and notice how students are counting and how they are showing what they understand about numbers. Of course, just because our Kindergarten curriculum focuses on number understanding to 10, this doesn’t mean we don’t provide opportunities for students to practice counting collections of more than 10. In the collections I used with the K classes this past week, I had collections ranging from 5-30ish.

My first visit was to two kindergarten classes at Ferris Elementary. Teachers Lynda Young and Wendy Black invited me into their classrooms after having attended professional learning events where they had heard about counting collections. I was able to introduce the routine to both of their classes and the teachers are collaborating to creating bags of items for their students to count.

I began by modelling how to choose a bag and work with a partner (one of the students) to count all of the collection – not sort it by colours first etc, just start counting all of it, hence the hashtag on twitter #countall. We talked about what to do if there seemed to be “too many to count” in the bag and invited students to just take out a “just right” amount (some of the bags had up to 40 items).

img_7898

We talked about strategies for counting and keeping track of what we had counted – the students suggested putting the items in a line and my partner and I modelled touching and moving the items as we counted them. These were the most common strategy we observed in the student’s counting.

img_7874

img_7880

And off they went…the teachers selected the partnerships for this first go and the students chose their bags and where they were going to count. As most of the students counted by 1s the need for the cups and plates for grouping were not really utilized. Some of the students realized they were helpful tools though to keep track of which items they had counted – moving them from one container to another.

img_7879

We noticed that some of the students didn’t actually collaborate – they engaged in parallel counting of items side by side. One of the teachers commented that this was the first partner task they had done and it was interesting to watch how different partnerships worked together.

The routine of Counting Collections is always meant to be done in partners – it is developed based on a social-constructivist framework, knowing that learning is a social endeavour. When students co-construct understanding together, it is more likely to become part of the classroom community and discourse as well as is more likely to “stick” with individual children.

We noticed most of the students demonstrated one-to-one correspondence and fluent counting to 10 and some counted fluently well beyond 20. Some students are developing their understanding of the teen numbers (fifteen – why isn’t it five-teen?) and bridging over decades (we overhead one student counting 28, 29 20-10, 20-11…and repeating those, likely knowing they didn’t sound quite right but trying to make sense of what she was doing). Lots of information to inform instruction – to help plan mini-lessons or guided math experiences.

Today, I spent the morning in the two kindergarten classes at General Currie Elementary. Teachers Astra Foisy and Kelly Shuto had used the routine of counting collections later in the year with their kindergarten students and were curious how to begin the routine early in the kindergarten year.

We began the same way as I did with the Ferris classes but also added some wooden numerals for students to “record their count” with if they chose and also had number charts available to support students if they needed to know what number came next.

img_8008

As in the other kindergarten classrooms, the students practiced counting by 1s and were learning to work collaboratively with a partner, often taking turns in the roles. One student said, “I put, she counts” to describe their process.

img_8019 img_8014 img_8013 img_8011

It’s always interesting to watch how students use the grouping containers, especially when they are counting by 1s. When Counting Collections are introduced, part of the experience is exploring the materials – the items in the collections as well as the tools.

img_8031

Upon reflection with the teachers, I think the hundred charts and other number guides actually inhibited the students from counting (those that chose them) as they spent their time placing items in each box instead of counting – great for one-to-one correspondence but not getting to the fluency we want and not focusing on “counting all”.

img_8030

So what next for these students? Teachers are creating their own collections and thinking about an appropriate number range for this time of year, students need to continue to develop ways to count with a partner and ways to problem-solve when they don’t know what number comes next. Students can also begin to find ways to record their counts – on a class chart or whiteboard, with the wooden numerals and taking a photo, drawing and labeling in a math journal or on a  piece of paper on a clipboard. Students need to just keep practicing counting – finding ways to build their own stamina (What could I do next? How could I count these in a different way?) and engagement with counting.

~Janice

primary teachers study group: intro to environmental inquiry

Posted on: October 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

Last week, Richmond’s primary teachers study group began its fourteenth year of coming together as a group of teachers to investigate an area of interest through sharing, discussion and collaborative inquiry. After a year of looking at inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning in three specific curricular areas last year, the group voted to look at a more interdisciplinary approach to inquiry this year, choosing environmental inquiry. Teachers also wanted to examine different ways to document and make student learning visible during inquiry.

For our first session of the year, we met in Anna Nachbar’s and Deanna Mayotte’s classroom spaces at McNeely. Anna and Deanna have been teaching grades 2&3 together for several years but this year have been able to move to a shared space of two rooms and a co-teaching model. Anna shared their thinking and process and how they have focused on the learning environment and noticing how students are responding to is and making adjustments. They have a variety of choices for flexible seating and spaces for students to collaborate. The students and teachers have also been spending a lot of time outside, gathering from their school garden and spending time in their wooded area at the school. The class has been spending time looking closely and using different art materials as they do observational drawing.

img_7806

Several different professional resources and children’s books were displayed for teachers to look at and then we came together in a circle to discuss the format of the study group for some of our new members and for teachers to share some of the things they have been trying regarding outdoor learning.

img_7807 img_7808 img_7812

The Outdoor Learning book list can be downloaded here: ptsg-outdoor-learning-resources-book-list

The group of us then walked outside and through the school’s wooded area, stopping and looking closely, considering and sharing different ways to engage students in observing aspects of the outdoors. A first step to engaging in environmental inquiry is nurturing a connectedness to the natural world. Students need to feel connected in order to care about the environment and take action to protect it.

img_7814 img_7813 img_7816 img_7817

We noticed such a variety of trees, plants and fungi growing in this small area as well as traces of human activity – cleared paths, clearing of some areas, garbage. What might our students notice? What might they wonder about?

Teachers left with ideas for different ways for their students to interact and connect to the environment and thoughts about ways to find natural spaces and living things in their school area for their students to begin to see as learning spaces. When we meet again in November, we will share what we have been trying and ways we are beginning to document our learning experiences outside.

~Janice

introducing WODBs to grades 4&5 at Westwind

Posted on: October 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

I was invited into a grades 4&5 classroom at Westward to introduce the mathematical routine, Which One Doesn’t Belong? Teacher Carlos Victoria has emailed me to let me know the students had been learning about place value and different ways to represent numbers.

I began with a geometry WODB (found at wodb.ca ) and began the conversation about how these shapes are all the same, how they belong to a set or group. The students used the term shapes, then 2D shapes and with some guidance got to the term polygons. Then we looked at ways each shape was different than the others…unique. The students then turned and talked about if they had to choose just one shape, which one did they think didn’t belong? and WHY! We talked about how justification is a big part of being a mathematician.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-08-05-pm

We then moved on to the following WODB – one I often start with regardless of grade level because there are so many ways to analyze and compare the numbers. Same questions as before – how are they the same (numbers, numbers under 100, numbers between o-50, etc) and then how are they different. So many creative responses! As students described and defended their choices, I highlighted the mathematical language students were using such as “digits” and modelled new language for them such as the term “square numbers”.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-08-18-pm

After our two introductory WODBs, I shared our learning intentions for our time together:

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-17-08-pm

And then we moved on to two WODBs that focused on the mathematical content the class was learning about. The students were given a quiet minute to examine the WODB on their own and then were asked to turn and talk to their table group about which one doesn’t belong? Some students focused on form (a visual entry point) while other focused on the numbers.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-18-05-pm screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-18-13-pm

 

img_7787 img_7789

The students were then invited to work together to create their own WODBs. This is not as easy as it seems! I provided some guiding questions for the students to go back to as they were working through the process. As students completed their WODBs, the moved to a part of the classroom together to discuss and try and solve each others’.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-17-55-pm

img_7792

img_7793

And as I said goodbye to the students, I know their teacher will continue the WODB routine with his class, as he just received our district’s WODB kit from the DRC – full of WODBs from the website as well as Christopher Danielson’s new WODB books  (picture book and teacher guide).

I am looking forward to hearing about more of their WODB experiences!

~Janice