Archive for November, 2016

playful storytelling opening session

Posted on: November 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 1 Comment

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.

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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.

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The tent cards I created can be downloaded here:

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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.

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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 2 Comments

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:

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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