Archive for the ‘curriculum’ Category

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: 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

reflections and highlights from 2016-2017

Posted on: June 29th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

To say this has been an interesting year in our district is an understatement. We began the year with a new email system, a new “portal”, a new eportfolio platform, a huge changeover in our district curriculum department all while under the umbrella of the full launch of BC’s K-9 curriculum framework across all subject areas. New layers were added as information about communicating student learning and core competencies self-assessment were added to the mix. We began the year with uncertainty about school closures and ended it with concerns about whether we would have our jobs and where money would come from to fund teaching jobs in our district.

In all of these twists and turns, there were some downs but also many ups.

There were many opportunities for educators in our district to come together and figure everything out (an ongoing process for sure). Professional development days, our Curriculum Implementation Day, professional learning events and series and the power of twitter to share ideas and collaborate.

In thinking back on this year, I will remember all the times I was surrounded by inspiring colleagues and in classrooms thinking alongside students about big ideas – this is what fills me up and sustains me.

Some professional highlights for me include:

  • the Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series – this large group of K-7 teachers continues to come together to engage in provocations and think about playful inquiry across the curriculum, this year looking at broad themes of community, identity and place
  • visiting the Susan Point exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery twice with colleagues and how that inspired connections in our classrooms – place, ecosystems, environmental sustainability, stories and math
  • having the opportunities to share our thinking from #sd38learn in other places –  Coquitlam, Kamloops, Sooke, Niagara Falls, Seattle, Burnaby, Vernon, Vancouver, Victoria and Cranbrook
  • being part of the BC Numeracy Network – this team of enthusiastic educators from across BC have collaborated to create a website that will support K-12 educators as they think about balanced numeracy through the lens of BC’s curriculum
  • being on the program committee for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (an international organization) for their annual conference in San Antonio in April
  • hosting teams of educators as they visit our district (from across BC, Manitoba and Sweden) – it is always interesting to hear about what they are noticing and what is resonating for them
  • working in collaboration with the Musqueam Language and Culture department to develop our first project together
  • being a part of the BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics collaborative professional inquiry project – this project continues to grow and we are working on publishing a book this summer with contributions from ten districts

But when I think about the biggest highlight of the year for me and what I believe has affected both students and educators on many levels, I think about the creation of The Studio at Grauer. My heart is so full when I think how Marie Thom and I transformed an old classroom being used for storage into a studio space to investigate mathematics through a variety of materials.

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And my summer reading “stack” – yes, there will be novels, travel books and magazines as well!

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I hope to share some of my thoughts on these books on the blog over the summer.

Wishing you a summer full of adventure and time to refresh!

~Janice

thinking about fractions

Posted on: June 21st, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

One of the foundational concepts in grades 3-5 is an understanding of fractions – some of the questions we investigate with students are:

What is a fraction? What makes a fraction a fraction?

How can we order and compare fractions?

When do we use fractions in our daily life?

What different ways can we represent fractions?

What are equivalent fractions?

In our BC mathematics curriculum, the big idea for grade 3 that we guide students to understand by the end of the school year is that “fractions are a type of number that can represent quantities” – this is a significant concept. I often have discussions with older students who have the conception that fractions have something to do with shapes/geometry, possibly because of the models used in school to represent fractional numbers (think circles/pies/pizzas or rectangles/chocolate bars). An intentional focus is to provide opportunities for students to see and represent fractional amounts using different models – area/region, set and linear. In grade 4, students learn about the relationship between fractional and decimal numbers and in grade 5, consolidate their understanding of fractions by working with equivalent fractions. During these investigations, students may begin to see relationships and connections to whole number operations when working with fractions and decimals. We want students to be able to think flexibly with fractions and decimals, just as they do with whole numbers and think about composing and decomposing, benchmark numbers, etc as they consider addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

This term I have been thinking a lot about fractions with students and teachers. I visited two classes at Homma and a class at Wowk and hosted classes at The Studio at Grauer to investigate fractions including a grade 4 class from Woodward, the grades 3&4 class from Grauer and the Richmond School Program students from Blundell.

The following are some images sharing our investigations. As you scroll through the images, consider:

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

What instructional routines and structures have we used to support students in their understanding of fractions?

What different materials have been provided to create opportunities to think about fractions?

What conceptions do students reveal in their representations of fractions? What might you ask students? How does this information guide where we go next?

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~Janice

playful storytelling celebration

Posted on: June 13th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

We held our year end celebration for our Playful Storytelling through the First Peoples Principles of Learning project on June 1 at Grauer. Teachers and school teams came together to share what they had been working on during this school year. It is always interesting to hear how each school makes the project its own.

An overview of our session at the beginning of the year is HERE

After an acknowledgement of territory and a welcome to some visiting educators from Manitoba, in circle each teacher introduced themselves and shared the principle that they have most connected to this school year.

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A group of us involved in this project visited the Vancouver Art Gallery in early May to see the Susan Point exhibit. We made so many connections between her work and story and came up with several questions to guide our practice when having students engage with art. We shared this with the group and also shared how some teachers had already taken up these ideas with their classes.

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School teams then shared how they have investigated playful storytelling in their schools.

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We noticed a clear move to many classes taking storytelling outdoors and this will be something we continue to investigate next year.

After a lovely dinner together prepared by Marie Thom, we moved to The Studio at Grauer to engage in some sensory experiences with materials that can be used to enhance the storytelling experience. Experiences with clay, watercolour and wet felting were provided, for teachers to consider – what stories live in these materials?

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We all left inspired by each other and full of new ideas to enact with our students. Looking forward to continue this work in our district next year!

~Janice

The Studio at Grauer

Posted on: June 11th, 2017 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

The Studio at Grauer came to be based on a need we felt existed in our district – a space to engage in professional learning experiences for teachers as well as for a learning environment for students that could be left  “set up”. My office partner, Marie Thom, and I have been talking about this for the last couple of years. The notion of a “pop-up” classroom emerged and Andrew Ferguson, the principal at Grauer, was approached to see if we could use one of the school’s unused classrooms.

December 16 2018 – Room 102

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Room 102 was being used as a storage room until we began our transformation of it in January 2017. Blending Marie’s background in learning environments and my understanding of mathematics teaching and learning, we developed a space focused on mathematics, filled with inspiring materials in a learning environment designed for learners K-Adult. Our goal was to create a flexible, responsive and inclusive learning environment.

Room 102 – January 10 2017

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January 13 2017

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The learning environment is set up to create opportunities for choice, collaboration, personalized learning and inquiry. More specifically for mathematics, our hope was to broaden understanding of what mathematics is and what the teaching and learning of mathematics can be. Often school mathematics is perceived as “arithmetic” and mathematics is a much broader discipline that this. We wanted students and teachers to see math all around them and be inspired to think about mathematics in different ways – to see mathematical ideas in the materials, in pinecones, in buildings and structures, in images of our community, in art, in stories.

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As we discussed how we were going to use the space, we decided to call it The Studio, inspired the notion of an atelier, a studio space used in the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia.

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Classes from Grauer, as well as visiting classes on “math field trips” visit The Studio to engage in mathematical inquiry. Marie and I take on the role of atelierista, working with the classroom teacher to facilitate learning experiences through different materials in the space. We have intentionally curated both mathematically structured materials like pattern blocks and Cuisenaire rods alongside materials often known as loose parts such as ribbons, gems, rocks, pinecones, etc. We also have art materials available to the students such as paint, clay, charcoal, yarn and wool so that students can express themselves and think using different languages. Students also have access to various tools to support their investigations such as measuring tapes, protractors, grids and ten frames.

The first class to visit The Studio – the grades 3&4 students from Grauer on January 18 2017

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The learning environment is intentionally flexible with choices in seating and tables available for both students and adults. Interestingly, although we have some chairs available, none of the students using The Studio have used them, preferring instead to stand or sit and lie on the carpet or use pillows. We have observed the flow of movement in the space and intentionally have large open spaces for students to move through. Shelves filled with baskets of materials are open and accessible to students. Students can choose the materials they want to use and take them to where they would like to engage.  We took doors off of some cupboards to create more open shelving. All of the furniture, except for four small Ikea open shelves, was found in school storage rooms and thrift shops.

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Provocations are set up on tables for students (and educators) to inspire mathematical thinking and inquiry. Inspired by one of the students’ interests in optical illusions, the grades 3&4 students from Grauer investigated the mathematics embedded in optical illusions. I gathered materials and tools that I hoped would provoke their thinking about optical illusions and the students also accessed and were inspired by other materials in The Studio.

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As we have more classes through The Studio, we have developed documentation to share in the space. Panels, photographs and photobooks are available for students and educators to engage with, to reflect upon and to inspire new experiences.

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One area of pedagogical intention in The Studio has been on noticing, naming and nurturing the Core Competencies and the Mathematics Curricular Competencies from our BC curriculum framework. A focus has been on both communication and creative thinking in mathematics. We intentionally create opportunities for students to engage in different types of communication and to reflect on how they are doing.

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We have had many groups of educators also visit The Studio. Our District Support Team, educators attending our Playful Inquiry professional learning series and teams from schools in our district. Many BC educators involved with our BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project have visited the space as well. We have also had visitors from Manitoba and Sweden! We often focus the visits with the questions – what do you notice? what do you wonder?

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We also have a dedicated professional learning library with the teacher resources we recommend around teaching and learning mathematics, the use of loose parts and the importance of the learning environment.

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We had hoped The Studio would inspire similar learning environments in our district but recognize that many schools do not have access to a dedicated room for a studio space – we hope that teachers will be inspired by elements of The Studio for their own classroom learning environments. What has been exciting for Marie and I is that this little project has had a huge ripple effect at Grauer, in our district, and beyond!

~Janice

 

 

TWOKAM Day 2017

Posted on: May 30th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

This year, the Richmond School District held several events to promote Talk With Our Kids About Money Day on April 19. TWOKAM is an initiative coordinated by the Canadian Federation for Economic Education and is endorsed by the Richmond School District’s Board of Trustees.

More information about TWOKAM can be found on the CFEE website HERE

On March 28 we hosted an evening event for parents from across Richmond Schools at Cook Elementary. This event was facilitated by Tracy Weeks, the BC regional coordinator for CFEE and Jonathan Ho, a Richmond School Board Trustee. The event was well-attended and parents received some resources to support them in talking to their children about financial literacy. They engaged in some financial literacy tasks themselves!

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On March 30, we hosted an after school session for intermediate and secondary teachers. I shared the BC Mathematical K-9 curricular components regarding financial literacy. Rebeca Rubio shared some of the new financial literacy resources available through the DRC and then Tracy Weeks shared the CFEE TWOKAM resources with teachers.

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On April 1st, Tracy Weeks continued to share information about financial literacy with parents at our district’s Learning and The Brain conference.

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On TWOKAM day, we hosted an evening event for students and their parents at Hugh Boyd Secondary. Speakers Tung Chan and Paul Lermitte inspired important conversations about financial literacy and the role parents play in supporting their children’s understanding of this important concept.

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We are looking forward to continuing to increase awareness of TWOKAM day in our district and create opportunities for our students to engage in developing financial literacy in our schools.

~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: April 2017

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

For our third session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series, Richmond educators came together at Grauer Elementary to share and learn together. This year at our sessions we have focused on broad themes or big ideas that cut across curriculum areas and grade levels, beginning with community, then identity and for our third time together this year, we chose to focus on place. Those that attended our Lower Mainland study tour to  the Opal School in Portland created panels reflecting on their experience. Many of our playful inquiry mentors set up either pedagogical provocations or shared provocations they developed to engage their students.

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Four teachers shared their experiences visiting Opal for the first or second time – what had an impact on them and how it is affecting their practice. Thank you to April, Louesa, Laurie and Karen for your thoughtful and passionate presentations!

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Based on feedback from the mentor groups during our January session, Michelle Hikida and I did a short professional learning presentation on playful mathematical inquiry and how we plan around a big idea, use provocations and projects based on students’ interests and curiosities and how we extend and sustain a math inquiry.

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After dinner together, we spent time in our mentor groups, zooming in on an area of interest and sharing and learning from each other.

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We are looking forward to continuing working together next year to support professional learning and building a playful inquiry community across our district.

~Janice

primary teachers study group: sixth session

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

For our sixth and final session of the year, the primary teachers study group met at Blair Elementary. Thank you to Karen, Robyn and Tanyia for hosting us!

We broke into small groups and worked on our environmental inquiry visual – still a work in progress! Lots of great feedback from the group.

We then toured the outdoor learning spaces at Blair. I was the teacher-librarian at Blair for three years when I introduced Spuds in Tubs to the school – since then the school has embraced school gardens and many of the teachers have made outdoor learning and integral part of their programs. April and Karen shared how they use some of the typical suburban school spaces around the school for outdoor learning and also shared how they involved the district Works Yard employees in creating an outdoor classroom space and storage.

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There was much talk about school gardening as a way to get students outdoors and feeling connected. We left thinking about ways to continue our work around environmental inquiry and creating opportunities for students to take action and take care of the outdoor spaces at their schools.

Next year, our primary teachers study group will be entering its fifteenth year as a professional learning structure in our school district!

~Janice

primary teachers study group: fifth session

Posted on: May 27th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

For our after spring break session, we met at Steves Elementary, hosted by Kathleen Paiger. After sharing some of the outdoor learning experiences we were engaging in, we began to co-construct a visual of sorts to show the process of environmental inquiry that we have been working towards together this school year. For many teachers in the group – the first stages have been the focus: getting outside, noticing and naming local plants and animals, being curious and connecting. Drawing upon the work of David Suzuki, Ann Pelo and many others, we know these initial stages are essential if children are to care about the environment.

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What we discussed, and connecting to last year’s Natural Curiosity seminar that some of us attended, was that getting outdoors and gardening, although important, is not the overall goal of environmental inquiry. We want to find opportunities for students to take action, to take up a concern or issue that emerges or that they are noticing in their environment.

Kathleen regularly takes her kindergarten students for walks in their neighbourhood which includes the west dyke. We ventured out together and learned about some of the story of this place – the farmland, the coyotes and the birds that frequent the wetland areas.

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And as the weather eventually warms up, we know there will be lots of opportunities for our classes to get outside, to notice and wonder. We are using these three picture books this spring to inspire us.

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~Janice