## looking for math outdoors

Posted on: January 4th, 2017 by jnovakowski

During my last visit of the year to the Kindergarten classes at General Currie Elementary, it was a snowy and icy day so we decided to venture outdoors with some iPads to capture images of things that inspired our mathematical thinking. We had a quick talk with the students about how to look for math outdoors – looking up, looking down, looking all around. We talked about what math might look like outdoors – the counting of items, the shape of things, patterns in the environment, as well as sources of inspiration for thinking about math.

As with the case of all our school sites…there is a story that lives there. General Currie was one of the first one room school houses on what was originally called Lulu Island. We stopped briefly at the historic building that is still on the new school’s site and talked about the time elapsed – what school might have been like, what the neighbourhood might have looked like, etc.

We ventured on to the field and took photos as we walking along noticing nests in trees, tracks in the snow, all sorts of ice and frozen leaves.

The ice was a source of fascination and many questions for the students. They were also very interested in some footprints they found and wondered about the size of different footprints or tracks.

We came back into the classroom and the students used the app Skitch with one of the photographs they took. They labelled, circled or used arrows to show where they noticed math or what inspired a mathematical problem or question.

Classroom teacher Kelly Shuto then showed some of the students “skitches” to the class to inspire further questions.

The following week Kelly tweeted out about the class photo book they had created, based on the idea “What math lives here?”

In this crisp wintery weather, what will your students notice outdoors? What math lives in the frozen puddles and tracks through the snow? How far do animals need to travel to find food? What might your students wonder about?

~Janice

## thinking about measurement in kindergarten

Posted on: May 24th, 2016 by jnovakowski

I was invited into Denise Tong Vargas’ kindergarten class at Dixon Elementary to look at ways to present mathematical provocations to students at this age level as well as how to integrate technology use as a way to document learning.

For our first time together, I asked the students to share what they knew about measuring. I then did a little demonstration with matryoshka dolls which the students were fascinate with. We compared their height and ordered them from tallest to shortest. We talked about the importance of using specific mathematical language like long, tall, short instead of a general term like “big”. We talked about how when we are comparing two objects directly that we need to “line them up” or use a baseline for accurate comparison. The students were then challenged to find something in the classroom and compare and measure it in different ways.

As we came together at the end of their investigation time, as a way to share the students’  experiences and consolidate students’ thinking, we co-created two pic-collages using photographs I had taken using iPad technology, focusing on the concepts of baseline and units.

On my second visit to the class, Denise and the students settled in with their regular morning routine and then I talked to the students for a short time about the big idea that we were going to focus on – comparing and ordering objects and how we might use mathematical ideas and measuring tools to help us investigate this. I had set up three provocations on tables, adding to the one that Denise and her students had been investigating already.

And I added another onto the carpet area involving containers and cylinders to  provoke students’ thinking about measuring curved surfaces and measuring capacity/volume.

There was high engagement amongst the students and many of the children stuck with one set of materials or provocations while others moved around. It was interesting listening to them play with the language – second tallest, “mediumest”, third shortest, etc., play with the materials and play with mathematical ideas.

I must say that there is something to be said for unique and “fresh” materials that engages students and helps bridge school and the world outside of the classroom. By using toys and materials (like ribbons and pinecones) that they might find outside or at home, the students can see that they can be measuring wherever they are – not only if they have a ruler or Unifix cubes!

Some new pic collages were created to help consolidate the students’ learning and to focus on the big ideas involved with measuring.

I am looking forward to checking in on Mrs. TV’s classroom blog to see what other measuring experiences the students have.

~Janice

## Richmond’s first IGNITE event – #sd38ignite 2016

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by jnovakowski

The Richmond School District hosted its first IGNITE event on Monday, May 9th at the Big River Brew Pub. The first IGNITE took place in Seattle in 2006 and is now a movement that is international in scope. An IGNITE talk is a five minute presentation consisting of 20 slides, auto-advancing after 15 seconds whether the speaker is ready or not. The IGNITE tagline is….”Enlighten us, but make it quick!”  More information about the IGNITE movement can be found here.

Having presented a few ignite talks and experiencing the inspiration and fun that goes along with these social events, I really wanted to be able to bring this professional learning format to our district and my colleagues Rosalind Poon and Lorraine Minosky were on board and we ran with it. Chris Loat created our logo for us…

And both Chris and Lisa Schwartz agreed to be our technical support for the event.  We found a site and had a meeting at the Big River Brew Pub to see where attendees would sit and how the technology and food service would play out.

We invited Richmond educators representative of primary, intermediate and secondary as well as a balance of teachers and administrators to share a story about something they are passionate about. We also invited two out of district colleagues to add to our Richmond stories.

Two weeks before the event, we hosted a rehearsal especially for educators who were new to the ignite format. It gave them a chance to meet other igniters and to practice their presentation in front of an audience. By seeing and discussing what we appreciate about others’ presentations, I think it also gave presenters some ideas for their own ignites. And its always great to have sushi…and pens.

As we were setting up on May 9th, we were all so excited to see everything fall into place. The venue was great and it was a beautiful day so the patio was open, the technology was cooperating and the tables were set with programs and sweet treats from Sinfully the Best for our guests.The burger bar was a hit and the company was great. Unfortunately two of our igniters (Neil Stephenson and Sarah Garr) had to pull out due to personal reasons.

Some of the guests…

And then the talks began! I was live streaming the talks using the Periscope app and people that weren’t able to attend the event could still watch the talks live. Between each “set” there was a 15-minute break for guests to chat about the talks, etc.

Twitter was alive with #sd38ignite…we were trending!

It was such a positive, passionate event and such a great way to build community amongst colleagues. All our igniters shared their own personal narratives within their professional narratives and these stories are what connect us and make us better together.

We will be releasing the IGNITE talks on youtube soon…watch twitter for announcements!

A HUGE thank you to our igniters…you are what made the event the success it was!

~Janice

## using iPad technology to support all students in mathematics

Posted on: April 7th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Last week I was invited to do a presentation with Richmond’s Learning Resource Teachers, sharing ways that teachers can use iPad technology to support all of their students in mathematics.

The use of technology can support students in different ways –  through the use of audio narration (ie. screencasting) of explaining mathematical thinking or strategy use and for many students, using their fingers to navigate or “print” using iPad technology is more accessible than using a pencil/pen. The visual (and often audio and kinaesthetic or gesturing) support is also particularly supportive and this is an area the math apps I have recommended attend to. The Math Tappers apps (developed by University of Victoria math education professors) all provide different types of visual supports and tools for students and provide different “levels” of entry points.

The TouchCounts app (developed by SFU math education researchers) involves moving visual support, audio support in multiple languages (students can choose) as well as the use of physical gesturing which all contribute to many different ways that students can access an understanding of composing and decomposing quantities/number.

The apps from The Math Learning Center is Oregon all provide virtual manipulative that students can access for both mathematical thinking and solving as well as representing. Students and teachers often use these apps to “app-smash” with, where they take a screenshot of what they created with the virtual manipulatives and then use that image in a annotation app like Skitch or PicCollage or a screencasting app like ShowMe or Doceri. This app-smashing creates a way for students to document and share their learning.

~Janice

## provincial numeracy project in Richmond: session three

Posted on: March 23rd, 2016 by jnovakowski

As previously shared HERE, Richmond is participating in BC’s Provincial Numeracy Project this year. The school teams involved came together before spring break to share what routines they had tried in classrooms (counting collections, choral counting, counting around the circle, numberlines) and how their students responded to these routines.

We looked at different ways to use an abacus, particularly focusing on decomposing and composing numbers, counting by 10s and 1s as well as addition and subtraction strategies.

In both the books Number Talks and Number Sense Routines, rekenreks are used as tools to develop number sense and computational fluency. The Rekenrek is a special kind of abacus, originating in the Netherlands. More  information and instructional ideas can be found HERE and HERE. As part of our session, teachers created rekenreks for student use, using paint stir sticks, beads and pipe cleaners.

We watched a video of a teacher using rekenreks with her kindergarten class as part of a number talk (view it HERE) and discussed different ways we could use this tool with our students, with a focus on using them during small group instruction/guided math.

We also looked at various apps to support the development of number sense, including the Math Learning Center app that uses rekenreks – available as a web version HERE or in iOS or Android formats.

Other recommended apps include Touchcounts (uses finger gesturing to compose and decompose quantities), FindSums (uses five, ten and hundred frames to support understanding of addition) and the Number Frames app.

“Homework” for the teachers was to try the rekenreks with their students…

and to try an assessment tool with their focus students, chosen from the Provincial Numeracy Project blog. The tools that we are curating on the blog have all been created by BC educators to use with BC students. At our final session in April, we will compare what the different assessment tools have to offer our students.

In April, teachers will also complete a final case study form about their student as well as write a short professional narrative about their experience in this  project. The provincial team is meeting in Victoria in June to share what has been happening in districts across the province and to make plans for next year. Richmond is looking forward to continuing to ride the numeracy wave!

~Janice

## inclusive learning communities: grade 8 math at Boyd, year two

Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Several schools in our district are participating in Inclusive Learning Communities projects, with a school team working alongside Learning Services staff to consider inclusive principles and practices. Hugh Boyd Secondary is continuing with a its second year in the project, investigating the question: How can we meet the diverse needs of our students in our grade 8 math classes?

A summary of last year’s project can be found HERE.

This year, the school team met with Shelley Moore and myself to look at class profiles, develop performance tasks for the beginning of a unit of study, consider and plan for inclusive practices within lessons and discuss ways of assessing students. This year, the teachers chose to focus on algebra (solving equations) and linear relations (graphing). We looked at the prescribed learning outcomes, considering what students needed to know to be successful at the grade 8 level – language, concepts, processes, skills. I introduced the team to the number balance as a way to think about balancing equations and emphasizing the concept of equivalence.

New this year was a collaboration with SetBC – the school was provided with a half-class set of iPad tablets loaded with apps suitable for communicating learning in mathematics. SetBC facilitators provided support to the Boyd teachers in learning how to use screencasting apps such as doceri.

One of the lessons we developed together was having the students use the number balances to represent algebraic equations and then use the app ShadowPuppet to capture their process and understanding.

A short video of this lesson can be viewed HERE. The teachers noticed the high engagement of the students and how some students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the mathematics in ways that played to their strengths.

The teachers followed up with lessons, continuing with the students creating screencasts using iPad technology.  The students were provided with choices of algebraic equations to create a table of values for and then graph using the doceri app (it has various graph paper backgrounds to choose from).

During our debrief session before spring break, the teachers identified the new practices that helped to meet the needs of their students and that they felt would endure for them: using a performance task before the unit of study to assess where students are in their understanding, using manipulatives/models, using open-ended learning experiences, presenting three or more different entry points for students (different complexity of questions or problems) and using iPad technology.

~Janice

## intermediate storytelling at Blair

Posted on: February 22nd, 2016 by jnovakowski

Karen Choo, grades 4&5 teacher at Blair Elementary is part of our district’s Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry series. In January, she shared her journey with a group of 50 educators – how she has been using morning provocations to uncover big ideas and big thinking in her classroom. She has a collection of loose parts in her classroom and along with art materials, provides opportunities for all her students to build and create ideas together.

Karen and her students have been learning about Chinese Immigration to Canada, reading novels, information books and having rich discussions, many students making connections to their own families’ immigration stories. Although Karen’s students were familiar with using materials to represent and idea, they had not used them to create stories. We presented a table of materials along with the loose parts already available in the classroom.

Karen noticed the high engagement with her students and also commented on the richness of the language and the role-playing that emerged in the stories. Karen commented that the concepts came alive for the students through the storytelling. It was interesting to note how the students wove in metaphors and symbols in their stories – such as the Chinese and Canadian flags and “gold mountain”.

part of this story included how the head tax kept increasing

Many of the stories involved travels across the ocean and the students created settings or symbols of the two worlds – China and Canada, separated by a journey.

The students used the iPad camera to take photos of their stories and then use the 30Hands app to narrate their stories – often going outside to find a quiet place to record. As I listened to the students’ stories, I heard many connections to the students’ own personal experiences and their strong beliefs about social justice coming through.

Not only does storytelling create an opportunity for Social Studies and Science concepts to come alive for students, it also provides an opening for students to tell their stories, to share a bit of themselves.

~Janice

## intermediate storytelling at Homma

Posted on: February 20th, 2016 by jnovakowski

I visited two classes at Homma Elementary in February to introduce oral storytelling using materials to inspire stories that consider the First Peoples Principles of Learning.

Carrie Bourne and her grades 4&5 French Immersion students have been using loose parts to represent ideas. We combined their collection of loose parts with a table full of natural materials and fabrics to create story settings, paying attention to the big ideas of self, place and the power of story. We first came together in a circle and the students shared some of their thinking about stories. We discussed big ideas around immigration (a focus of what they were studying in Social Studies) and made connections to books they have been reading about Indian Residential Schools, like Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell (which is available en francais). Students shared their ideas about coming, going, leaving, arriving, connecting and dis-connecting with a focus on place. Students could choose to work by themselves or with a partner, as they created stories, inspired by the materials.

After about an hour of the class circle and creating their stories, we asked the students to share their stories with another classmate or partnership. As students orally “rehearse” their stories, they are playing with ideas and language, synthesizing the theme or message their story. The students then captured their story using iPad technology by taking still photographs and using the app 30Hands to orally narrate their stories.

Here are two video clips students practicing their stories:

Shi-shi-etko

And here are some of the students’ stories that the captured using 30Hands and then posted to their Fresh Grade portfolios:

Grade 4&5 EFI Homma – place

Grade 4&5 EFI Homma – transition

*****

In Peter Ritchie’s grades 6&7 classroom, we began by watching a short video of Dr. Jo-Ann Archibald telling the story of Lady Louse (can be found HERE). We asked the students to pay attention to her storytelling technique and the students shared their observations about how she used her hands, varied the use of her voice and how she repeated the theme or message of the story in different ways throughout the story. They also noted how the story didn’t have a typical resolution in stories like they are familiar with, but left you thinking.

Peter had collected various plants and mosses from his brother’s property in Squamish and the students used these along with various other materials to create settings for their stories. We discussed the importance of creating an authentic environment and if they were using animals in their stories, to consider the place of the animal within the ecosystem.

Many of the students were aware of animals portraying values or metaphors in stories from different cultures and we referred to the book Sharing Our World, for students to consider animals they might want to include in their stories. Possibly inspired by the materials presented them,  many of the students’ stories involved environmental themes. I noticed the students at this age (and also very fluent with using iPad technology) were  focused on creating detailed settings and used different camera angles and backgrounds to make sure there weren’t distracting items or people in their photos. As with Carrie’s class, they used the 30Hands app to load their photos and narrate their stories.

The following are some of the students stories:

The Story of the Fox

Appreciate What You Have

Listen to Elders – The Hike

On the February 19th professional development day, the staff led a morning of looking at teaching and learning through the First Peoples Principles of Learning, and storytelling with materials was something that the staff engaged in themselves.

I’m looking forward to hearing many more stories from Homma Elementary!

~Janice

## intermediate storytelling at Cook

Posted on: February 14th, 2016 by jnovakowski

As a follow-up to an after school Leanne McColl and I held for grade 5 teachers (see post HERE) on Indian Residential Schools, I visited two of the grades 5&6 teachers at Cook Elementary to further explore the power of story with their students, making connections to self and place as part of their study of Indian Residential Schools, part of the redesigned Social Studies Curriculum. The teachers have been reading both picture books such as Shi-shi-etko and the novel Fatty Legs as part of this study, emphasizing the power of stories – stories that need to be told. Both Christy Rollo and Jo Fournier are also part of the Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry series in our district and their students have been using loose parts to represent ideas and concepts.

We gathered in a circle and discussed the power and purposes of stories, along with some questions to provoke and inspire their thinking. In both classes, the students were asked to consider a story they were familiar with or to think of their own story, something that was personal to them. For both contexts, the students were asked to pay particular attention to the setting or place. I read a few pages from the book Sharing Our World, which shares the significance and meaning animals portray in Aboriginal stories. Animal figures were provided as one of the choices for the students to use in their stories. The students were presented with a “buffet” of materials to choose from, to create their stories.

The students had many choices to make – to work alone or with a partner or triad, what materials to choose, what type of story to create and tell. Some students sat with their choices and needed some time to think while others jumped to the materials and let the materials help to inspire their choices.

The following are some photographs from Christy’s class where we had a variety of stories – personal narratives, retellings of Aboriginal stories, retellings of the class novel, retellings of childhood favourites and stories created specifically around one of the northwest animals.

The students had a chance to practice telling their stories and then tell their stories to another group. The students took photographs of their story settings using the iPad camera, then importing the photos into the app 30Hands, where the students could then orally narrate their stories.

The following week in Jo’s class, we narrowed the story choices to the focus of the Social Studies topic they were studying.

The students were highly engaged with the materials, spending time developing an idea and setting for their stories. Where they needed the “nudging” was in the telling of their stories – thinking about ways to convey their message or theme. Many students drew upon familiar stories and how there was repetition of an idea throughout the story and they tried to weave this element into their own stories. Other students focused on characters’ actions and what they did and what happened to them. Some students embraced the ideas of self and place and created an interplay of these ideas in their stories.

In a few cases, students worked together to create their stories in their first language, often with much animation and expression. With support, they then practiced the main points of their story in English and recorded using the 30Hands app.

I also noticed that students at this age in general seemed more hesitant when sharing their stories with others compared to the excitement younger children show when asked to share their stories with each other. I wonder if using the iPad technology created an opportunity for students to record their stories in a such a way that seemed less “on display”? This is something I would like to ask the students about as we continue to learn about the importance of storytelling in the classroom. Christy and Jo both have the students engage in sharing circles and class discussions and have discourse structures in place to create a safe, connected community in their classrooms. I’m curious to hear how storytelling contributes to these communities and also how the existing communities provide the necessary environment for storytelling to flourish.

~Janice

## elementary math focus afternoon: January 18 2016

Posted on: January 26th, 2016 by jnovakowski

On the afternoon of January 18, we hosted staffs from eleven elementary schools at Byng Elementary for our second Elementary Math Focus Afternoon of the year. About 160 educators attended an opening presentation followed by a choice of several concurrent sessions, over two time slots.

Schools were also asked to bring something to share by putting it out on display in the gym – something new we were trying and received positive feedback from schools staffs about.

Sessions available to teachers included kindergarten programming, supporting all learners in mathematics, screencasting using iPad technology, high yield routines, mental mathematics, inquiry and geometric thinking.

During the second time slot, we also tried an “EdChat” format where teachers came together around an area of interest (primary, French Immersion, etc) with a facilitator and were asked to bring something to share that they have tried since our last focus afternoon or a question that they had. This collaborative type of participatory professional learning is new to some teachers in our district and we will continue to think of ways to nurture this structure in future events.

As always, we ended the afternoon with teachers discussing with each other what they were going to try in their classrooms, connected to the redesigned curriculum and of course, there were draw prizes!

~Janice