Archive for July, 2017

summer professional reading: Teaching Mathematical Thinking

Posted on: July 25th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

IMG_6362Teaching Mathematical Thinking: Tasks & Questions to Strengthen Practices and Processes

by Marian Small

foreward by Linda Dacey

published by Teachers College Press, 2017

 

 

In this recently published book, well known math educator and author Marian Small highlights an important aspect of the discipline of mathematics – the thinking practices and processes that are “the doing of mathematics” when engaging in mathematical problems and learning content.

For those wanting clear examples of practices such as mathematical modeling, structure and argument are – the author clearly defines these with examples from across grade bands (K-2, 3-5 and 6-8).

For each practice/process, the author includes:

1) a definition with examples

2) where that practice/process is seen in K-8 mathematics

3) examples of problems, across grade bands, that might bring out that practice/process, often with examples of student responses

4) assessment questions for the educator to use to help notice and reflect on the students’ use of the practice/process

5) a short summary

I can’t think of another book that makes such careful nods to the Canadian mathematics education landscape. Although the focus is on the eight American Common Core standards for mathematical practice, the author connects these to our mathematical processes/competencies in Canada (with slight differences in different provinces/regions). Because our Canadian emphasis on visualization and mental math and estimation is not explicit in the American practices, the author has added a final chapter dedicated to these processes.

The problems are chosen to connect to each practice/process but should not be considered practice-specific. There are different types of problems – if you are familiar with Marian Small’s other books, you will understand the type of open-ness, differentiation and complexity built into the problems provided. For each practice/process she provides at least one problem for each grade band and then discusses how students take up the problems, with student examples.

I highly recommend this book. So so many wonderful problems for K-8 students and great information for teachers to help us think about the discipline of mathematics.

~Janice

summer professional reading: The Beach Book

Posted on: July 23rd, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

IMG_6293The Beach Book: loads to do at lakes, rivers and the seaside

by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

published by Frances Lincoln Limited, 2015

related website – www.goingwild.net

 

This little book packed with inspiration is part of a broader Going Wild series of books of which I have many (yes, I have a book problem). I also have The Stick Book, The Wild Weather Book, The Wild City Book, Nature’s Playground, Go Wild! and Make It Wild! All of these books are full of inspiring photographs of children experiencing and learning outdoors.

The Beach Book is divided into seven sections – bookended with an overview of things to think about before heading to the beach and a final section on important safety reminders. The seven sections are: beach adventures, beach wildlife, beach games, beach art, beach imagination, beach at night and beach rubbish. Some of the explorations in each section are very open while others are more structured. They all make use of the natural environment, the materials the beach offers, and what is available to see and do at a beach. There are lots of curricular connections – big ideas, core competencies, place, story, mathematics, science, visual arts and more.

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The authors define beach as “where water meets land” – and make a case for visiting beaches all year round so that we understand that these are special places worth taking care of.

spiral with driftwood at Garry Point, Steveston, BC

spiral with driftwood at Garry Point, Steveston, BC

I know this is a book that I will pull out again and again for ideas and inspiration. Am looking forward to finally digging into the other books in this series as well.

~Janice

summer professional reading: Teaching Math with Google Apps

Posted on: July 20th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

IMG_6290Teaching Math with Google Apps: 50 G Suite Activities by Alice Keeler and Diana Herrington

 

Foreward by Jo Boaler

 

Published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. 2017

 

This book opens with a foreward by Jo Boaler, with a call for educators to transform math classes. She references the Forbes list of skills needed for employment such as teamwork, problem solving, communication – all of which she argues can be enhanced through collaboration with technology. She also addresses the issue of “speed” and mathematics and how some students believe they are not “math people” because they are not fast. Boaler explains how the simple submissions of thinking and solutions on a Google form can take away the focus on speed in mathematics.

Authors Alice and Diana have both been math teachers at the high school and college levels. They emphasize the importance of digital tools in reimagining the math class with a focus on collaboration. They outline seven ways to use Google Apps to teach math:

1) Post Directions

2) Watch Students Work

3) Collaboration

4) Shift Students to Higher DOK Levels

5) Students Research

6) Shift to Facilitator

7) Conversations for Depper Understanding

The majority of the book is dedicated to overviewing 50 activities to teach math with Google Apps such as “Small Group Investigation,” “Discuss Strategies,” “Analyze Data Sets” and “Create Geometry Constructions”. The authors suggest asking yourself, “how does this activity make learning better?” Most of the activities use Google Classroom, Google Docs, Google Sheets or Google Slides and provides the advantages of using each format. Also used are Google Search, Google Forms, Google Drive, Google Chrome, Google Drawing, and Google Flights,

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Links to examples and tutorials are provided.  Some key reminders are interspersed throughout this section:

Teach like YouTube and Google exist.

The person doing the work is the person doing the learning.

We are a community of learners and we help each other get better.

The back matter shares examples from classrooms and highlights DOK levels (Depth of Knowledge), the 4 Cs (creativity, critical thinking, communicate and collaborate), mathematical practices for the CCSS and the 5E instructional cycle (engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate).

There are lots of great ideas for tech integration and student collaboration throughout this book. Be mindful that some districts have policies or concerns regarding students having gmail accounts and as Alice has clearly said on Twitter – Outlook and Google apps aren’t really compatible. If having gmail accounts for students is frowned upon, like in my district (Richmond), take some of the ideas from this book and figure out how to make them work with the platforms that you are able to use! That will be one of my goals for the coming year as I see so much opportunity in technology enabling  our secondary students to engage in in-class, cross-class and cross-school collaboration around mathematics.

~Janice

summer professional reading: Redesigning Learning Spaces

Posted on: July 17th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

IMG_6202Redesigning Learning Spaces by Robert Dillon, Ben Gilpin, A.J. Juliani and Erin Klein, published in 2016 by Corwin.

 

This volume is part of the Corwin Connected Educators Series.

 

 

This short book has five chapters:

Leading Change Through Classroom Learning-Space Design

This chapter focused on listening to students about what works for them. It also cites the much referenced research study looking at how environmental print and stimulus in the classroom affects student learning. I appreciated the emphasis on creating “truly beautiful places to learn” and how we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the aesthetic element. The authors discuss the intentional design of learning spaces to focus on exploration and student centred experiences and how this type of design gives the message to students that “I respect you as learners.”

Learning-Space Change as a Lever to Shift School Culture

The overall message of this book is emphasized in this chapter: Learning spaces matter and they impact the entire teaching and learning community. The authors cite a 2012 study that indicates that classroom environment can affect a child’s academic achievement by up to 25%.

Shaping Learning-Space Change for the Community

“Redesigning spaces to maximize learning is primarily a shift in culture and mindset.” The authors share examples of how small changes in schools can have impacts on systems and whole school design can shift the school culture and that of the greater community.

Learning Space as a Lever for Systemic Change

This chapter looks more broadly at systemic change but begins with the metaphor for the classroom of  ”habitat” and how a supportive habitat helps students’ learning power to be magnified. The importance of technology and “connected classrooms” as part of a learning ecosystem is emphasized, but acknowledges that the learning environment or habitat of the classroom, seems to be supportive of this.

Systemic change can begin with: 1) new options for lighting, seating, work spaces, ideation spaces, 2) looking for innovative partnerships outside of the school with industry and in community, 3) a “laser” focus on meaningful learning as opposed to what the authors call Pinterest-based learning and 4) with seeing all spaces as potential places for learning such as hallways as ideation spaces. These changes in classrooms spread in schools and then in districts.

Models of Excellence and a Place to Start

The final chapter shares some specific examples and challenges educators to be agents of change.

I appreciated this book as a short and succinct read that I will draw upon when advocating for changes to learning environments in our classrooms and schools. The authors have curated educational and design research that supports shifts in classroom and school learning spaces.

~Janice

summer professional reading: Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms

Posted on: July 11th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

Sharing some of my summer reading here on the blog.

First professional read of the summer -

IMG_6149Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy by Eric Brunsell and Michelle A. Fleming. Published in 2014 by the ASCD.

This book is a follow-up to Engaging Minds in the Classroom: The Surprising Power of Joy by Michael F. Opitz and Michael P. Ford. These two original authors edited this volume. They define joyful learning as “acquiring knowledge or skills in ways that cause pleasure or happiness.” They surmise that when students are engaged learners, joy emanates from the learning process. Their joyful learning framework is the foundation for this follow-up book.

This book has four short chapters -

1) Understanding Joyful Learning in Science and Math

Drawing upon current research, the authors outline the joyful learning framework and answer the question Why joyful learning? with:

  • it capitalizes on what we know and how to best motivate students.
  • it enables us to build upon what we currently know about engagement
  • it enables us to focus on the whole child
  • it acknowledges that the learner is influenced by the contexts in which learning takes place

2) Evaluating and Assessing Joyful Learning

This chapter outlines frameworks to evaluate learners, ourselves as teachers, texts and materials, assessments and school-wide configurations. The frameworks for evaluating learners parallels the one for evaluating teachers and both provide some thoughtful questions for consideration.

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3) Implementing Joyful Learning in Science and Math

Strategies, structures and examples of ways to implement joyful learning are provide for several contexts: school community, classroom environment, whole-group instruction, small-group instruction and individual instruction.

4) Using Joyful Learning to Support Education Initiatives

The final chapters makes connections to standards, accountability and assessment, RTI, achievement gaps and professional development, drawing upon research studies to support the importance of engagement and interest in learning to standardized test results.

The book ends with a reminder to teachers to assess their own joyful learning and to look for joy in unexpected places and a quote from author Henri Nouwen:

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

The ideas of identity, student self-efficacy, challenge, choice, creativity and goal orientation resonate throughout the book. This speaks to me about students’ understanding of what it means to be a learner and what their role in that is – not as a passive, compliant recipient, but as a fully engaged, curious learner.

One issue that the authors return through out the book is that for students to be engaged in joyful learning, they need to focus themselves on “mastery” goals (learning that focuses on learning content) versus performance goals (learning for the purpose of getting a grade or being compared to others). After hearing Megan Franke’s keynote presentation at the CGI Conference in Seattle this year, I bristle at the term “mastery” and would rather consider these goals as just learning goals.

Another area of interest that reading this book re-ignited for me was the concept of engagement. I have thought about this a lot over the years and read quite a bit in this area during my doctoral studies. The authors look at the relationship between motivation and engagement but don’t tease apart what they mean by engagement very thoroughly even though they come back to and use this term throughout the book. They describe engagement as “being attentive, committed, persistent, and seeking meaning.” There are many types of engagement – physical, emotional, cognitive etc and sometimes I think compliance can actually be perceived as engagement which is a concern.

As I zipped through this quick read, I made many connections to both of the books Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler and Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to Their Classrooms Each Day by Dean Shareski. I highly recommend both of these books!

~Janice