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creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about the hundred languages – April 2018

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

For our final session of this year’s Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series, we focused on the Hundred Languages – a grounding element of the educational approach from the childcare centres in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Hundred Languages concept is based on a poem by Loris Malaguzzi who suggests that all children have a hundred languages (or more) in which to express themselves and that are role as educators (and school systems) is to nurture these languages, not suppress them.

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As Richmond educators entered the room, they were invited to they were asked to reflect on how the hundred languages are living in their classrooms.

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The Richmond educators who visited Opal School in Portland over spring break shared their reflections on the experience through documentation panels.

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Carrie Bourne,  Jen Yager and Julie Curran shared what they learned at Opal and how they have taken some of these ideas up in their own teaching contexts.

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Marie Thom and I shared some of our experiences from our Canadian Study Tour of Reggio Emilia in March. I shared some ideas I saw about intersecting digital and analog languages through digital landscapes and Marie shared the power of the language of food and the metaphor of the table to bring people together.

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After dinner together (enacting the table metaphor) our interest groups met with playful inquiry mentors to share ideas and go deeper with their understanding about playful inquiry.

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We collected feedback from educators who have attended this three part series as we reflect on our learning from this year and think ahead to next year.

“Love the opportunity to collaborate with others and hear others share about their thinking/learning and what they are trying in their classrooms. It is thought-provoking and inspiring.”

“Playful inquiry and teaching is a learning process, always growing and changing and best in collaboration with others teachers and peers.”

“This series has kept me inspired when I’ve felt uninspired or simply tired.”

“This series completely changed the lens through which I see my role as the teacher and the roles of the students.”

There was considerable interest in creating opportunities for teachers to visit others’ classrooms to see playful inquiry in action and to be able to collaborate with colleagues from across the district.

 

Regardless of how how things unfold for professional learning opportunities in our district for next year, we know we have a strong and growing community of educators committed to teaching and learning through playful inquiry. Thanks to all of the educators involved in this series for their contributions and participation!

~Janice on behalf of the Playful Inquiry Mentors

2017-18 big mathematical ideas for grades 3-5

Posted on: May 13th, 2018 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

In its fourth year, a group of grades 3-5 teachers came together three times after school to think about the big mathematical ideas for this grade range, considering the pedagogical content knowledge needed to teach and assess student learning. Our first session of the year on October 18 focused on the number concepts big ideas in our curriculum which at gates 3-5 focus on a deep understanding of fractions.

We began with an image from fractiontalks.com – a website curated by Canadian math educator Nat Banting. We considered what students needed to understand about fractions to engage with this task and anticipated how are students might respond to the challenge of figuring out what fractional part of the large square is the shaded blue triangle.

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We considered how different materials provided different affordances for thinking about fractions, particularly thinking about different ways to represent fractions – set, area and linear. Some of the text slides from the session and a handout follow.

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Unfortunately, I had to cancel our January session due to illness.

We came together again on April 11 and based on feedback from the group, discussed computational fluency and the role of inquiry in learning mathematics. We revisited instructional routines such as Which One Doesn’t Belong? (wodb.ca) and considered how these routines incorporate questioning, wondering and nurture the curricular competencies in mathematics.

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~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 5

Posted on: May 13th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On April 12, our study group met on the dyke of the middle arm of the Fraser River. We were joined by “Indigenous Plant Diva” and current storyteller in residence for the Vancouver Public Library, Cease Wyss. A short video about Cease can be found HERE.

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As we walked along the river, Cease pointed out different plants to us and shared knowledge and stories about the plants. Paying attention to a plant’s colour, shapes and texture can indicate part of the body or ailment it can provide medicine for. For example, red berries often support blood, muscles and organs.

Cease explained the importance of cattails to cleanse the water along the river as well as providing food and nesting materials for birds. We learned how some plants like dead nettle and chickweed can be used as salves to treat skin ailments and how other plants such as stinging nettle or salmonberry leaves can be infused in hot water to create teas to address different ailments.

We learned to identify plantain (frog’s leaf), dead nettle, chickweed, Nootka rose, sheep sorrel and horsetail, the oldest plant on the planet.

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Teachers left with so much new knowledge about local plant species. This knowledge building is an important part of our study group and was something that was requested by teachers to enhance they work they are doing with their students around storytelling outdoors. We can find ways to share this new knowledge with our students and weave this in to our storytelling experiences.

~Janice

March thinking together: What is computational fluency?

Posted on: May 12th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

Computational fluency is defined as having efficient, flexible and accurate methods for computing.

-NCTM, 2000

Computational fluency develops from a strong sense of number.

(BC Math Curriculum, Big Idea, K-9, 2015)

 

In BC’s redesigned curriculum, computational fluency has been given a heightened emphasis. In mathematics, there are typically four strands of topics/content and in this iteration of our curriculum, a fifth strand – computational fluency –  has been added and this is reflected in the big ideas and curricular competencies and content.

The meta big idea around computational fluency in our BC K-9 Mathematics curriculum is:

Computational fluency develops from a strong sense of number.

There is a big idea for computational fluency at each grade level:

K: One-to-one correspondence and a sense of 5 and 10 are essential for fluency with numbers.
Grade 1: Addition and subtraction with numbers to 10 can be modelled concretely, pictorially, and symbolically to develop computational fluency.
Grade 2: Development of computational fluency in addition and subtraction with numbers to 100 requires an understanding of place value.
Grade 3: Development of computational fluency in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of whole numbers requires flexible decomposing and composing.
Grade 4: Development of computational fluency and multiplicative thinking requires analysis of patterns and relations in multiplication and division.
Grade 5: Computational fluency and flexibility with numbers extend to operations with larger (multi-digit) numbers.
Grade 6: Computational fluency and flexibility with numbers extend to operations with whole numbers and decimals.
Grade 7: Computational fluency and flexibility with numbers extend to operations with integers and decimals.
Grade 8: Computational fluency and flexibility extend to operations with fractions.
Grade 9: Computational fluency and flexibility with numbers extend to operations with rational numbers.

As computational fluency with whole numbers is focused on in the earlier grades, it is expected that students will apply number sense and computational fluency and flexibility to their work with decimal numbers, greater numbers, integers and fractions.

For addition and subtraction and then multiplication and division, students develop computational fluency over three years – beginning with emerging fluency, then developing through proficiency and then moving on to extending fluency with increased flexibility and ability to apply strategies across contexts and content.

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For example, with addition and subtraction:

In Grade 3, the curricular content learning standard is “addition and subtraction facts to 20 (emerging computational fluency)“.

In Grade 4, it is “addition and subtraction facts to 20 (developing computational fluency)”.

And in Grade 5, it is “addition and subtraction facts to 20 (extending computational fluency)”.

It is also important to be aware of what comes before and after these three stages of development. In grades 1 and 2, students are introduced to the concepts of addition and subtraction as well as the related symbolic notation. They begin to practice mental math computational strategies building on their understanding of five and ten and decomposing numbers to work flexibly with addition and subtraction questions. In grades 6&7, students apply computational strategies that they have developed for addition and subtraction facts with greater whole numbers, decimal numbers and integers.

There is a similar progression for multiplication and division facts.

A note about memorizing…memorizing is one form of learning but is not necessarily related to students having computational fluency. Many teachers in our district report that their students have memorized their addition or multiplication facts but need support with thinking flexibly and fluently with numbers. In our BC mathematics curriculum, the expectation is that by the end of Grade 3 for addition and the end of Grade 5 for multiplication,  that most students will be able to recall their facts. In a previous curriculum, recall was defined as being able to compute within three seconds. For some students, there may be instant memory retrieval and for other students they may bring the sum or product to mind through an efficient mental computational strategy or associative retrieval process.

Number Talks are an essential instructional routine in developing strategies, mathematical discourse and creating awareness about computational fluency. Key resources include:

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Number Talks

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So some questions to think about…

How would you define computational fluency? What does it look like? sound like?

What do your students need move towards more developed computational fluency?

What do you need to understand more about regarding a continuum of learning and specific strategies related to computational fluency?

What are different ways to develop computational fluency? What instructional routines, games or tasks could we use for practice?

How can we communicate the goals of computational fluency to parents?

~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: thinking about reflection – January 2018

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On January 25, Richmond educators gathered at Grauer for our second dinner session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry professional learning series. This month our focus was on reflection and time. Educators shared their experiences engaging in playful inquiry with their students and considering the role of reflection in documentation and making both students’ and our professional learning visible.

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After dinner together, teachers participated in interest groups facilitated by our playful inquiry mentors.

A handout with curricular connections to the idea of reflection can be found here: Reflections_Provocations_Jan25_2018

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session 4

Posted on: May 10th, 2018 by jnovakowski No Comments

On March 1, the primary teachers study group met at the Richmond Nature Park. We shared resources for learning about local living things and discussed the different services the Nature Park provides to schools and the community. The Nature Park is situated on a bog which is a very unique ecosystem.

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We visited different areas of the park, watching the birds come and go from the feeders, walking along the trails and boardwalk area.

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How does looking closely at a found object help you think about its story? What is the story of this (skeleton) leaf?

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There was still snow on the ground in some of the more shaded areas of the park and we used the snow as a story context. How could we use the snow as a background for map-making? We used found natural materials to create a map of a special place to inspire memories and story.

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The Nature House has lots of interactive displays. living things (including a functioning bee hive), and lots of information about species of plants and animals living in Richmond. Brochures are available listing local plants, birds and insects as well as brochures with self-guided tours of the park. We were all keen to continue to build our own knowledge of local species to be able to weave this knowledge into the outdoor learning experiences we are creating for our students.

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The Nature Park Society’s website can be found here: Richmond Nature Park Society

The City of Richmond’s Nature Park web page can be found here: City of Richmond – Nature Park

~Janice

January thinking together: What is numeracy?

Posted on: January 31st, 2018 by jnovakowski

This year I am going to share a monthly focus as a way for educators in our district (and beyond, of course!) to think together, collaborate and share ideas around K-12 mathematics education. On the list are number sense, estimation, reasoning, spatial awareness…it is a list in progress so suggestions are welcome.

My intentions are to begin each month with a blog post highlighting the focus area in our BC mathematics curriculum and connecting it to the broader field of mathematics education. I plan to share links to websites and resources, share books that I have found helpful and provide examples of mathematical tasks from Richmond classrooms. During each month, I will also tweet out related links, ideas, blog posts and photographs from classrooms.

For January, let’s consider what is numeracy?

This January, two of our secondary schools – Steveston-London and Burnett – had students take part in the managed implementation of the Graduation Numeracy Assessment. Other secondary schools in our district are considering both pedagogical and logistical details as they approach the first regular sitting of the assessment for students in June 2018. The Graduation Numeracy Assessment is a new graduation requirement for BC students along with a Graduation Literacy Assessment. Students currently in grades 10 and 11 will begin writing the assessment and have three opportunities to write the assessment to improve their proficiency mark if they choose to. The assessment is not linked directly to a mathematics course or grade and it is thus, the responsibility of all K-12 educators to nurture and develop numerate students. Just as literacy isn’t just about literature, numeracy is not just about numbers – numeracy is being able to apply all areas of mathematics to make sense of the world around you and solve problems relevant to you or others.

For the purposes of the assessment, the Ministry is defining numeracy as:

Numeracy is the ability, willingness, and perseverance to interpret and apply mathematical understanding to solve problems in contextualized situations, and to analyze and communicate these solutions in ways relevant to the given context. 

As students engage with numeracy tasks, they work through a sequence of five numeracy processes:  interpret, apply, solve, analyze and communicate.

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For a more detailed analysis of the concept of numeracy, Dr. Peter Liljedahl and Minnie Liu, share their ideas in an article in Vector, the BCAMT journal: Vector Summer 2013 – Numeracy, pages 34 -39

The following information about the Graduation Numeracy Assessment is available online on the Ministry’s curriculum website:

Graduation Numeracy Assessment Design Specifications 2017

Link to online Graduation Numeracy Assessment sample assessment

Graduation Numeracy Assessment – information for parents

GNA student-choice questions scoring guide and exemplars

Pre-assessment collaborative learning videos

I highly recommend that all BC educators try the sample assessment available online (linked above) to get a sense of the types of questions we can all be using with our students, regardless of grade or course. Last Friday, on a professional development day, the whole Richmond Secondary School staff worked in groups to collaborate on some of the sample assessment questions and to consider how to embed opportunities for numeracy in their courses.

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Looking forward to continuing the conversation around numeracy and what it means to be numerate.

~Janice

 

October thinking together: What is balanced numeracy?

Posted on: October 31st, 2017 by jnovakowski

This year I am going to share a monthly focus as a way for educators in our district (and beyond, of course!) to think together, collaborate and share ideas around K-12 mathematics education. On the list are number sense, estimation, reasoning, spatial awareness…it is a list in progress so suggestions are welcome.

My intentions are to begin each month with a blog post highlighting the focus area in our BC mathematics curriculum and connecting it to the broader field of mathematics education. I plan to share links to websites and resources, share books that I have found helpful and provide examples of mathematical tasks from Richmond classrooms. During each month, I will also tweet out related links, ideas, blog posts and photographs from classrooms.

For October, let’s consider what is balanced numeracy?

I have been fortunate to be a part of a Ministry initiated project drawing together educators from across BC to form the BC Numeracy Network. Our first project together was to consider balanced numeracy within the redesigned mathematics curriculum.

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The BC Numeracy Network has created a website full of linked resources to support teachers’ professional learning: https://sites.google.com/view/bcnumeracynetwork/home

 

(more…)

summer professional reading: Spatial Reasoning in the Early Years

Posted on: August 2nd, 2017 by jnovakowski

IMG_6498Spatial Reasoning in the Early Years: Principles, Assertions, and Speculations

by Brent Davis and the Spatial Reasoning Study Group

published by Taylor & Francis, Routledge, 2015

 

 

 

 

This book isn’t really a typical professional resource for teachers – it is much more of an academic read. The Canadian authors are all affiliated with universities and their areas of research intersect around spatial reasoning, particularly in the early years. Their work draws about mathematics, education, neuroscience, psychology, art and more.

I have had this book for awhile as this is a particular area of interest for me and is inspiring our work for our BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project. I attended some presentations affiliated with this group’s work at the PME conference in Vancouver in 2014 and I think it is important work for classroom teachers to consider as we try to broaden our thinking about what mathematics is, what different entry points there are for children seeing themselves as mathematicians and for using instructional tasks in classrooms that are research supported.

The authors begin with a working definition of spatial reasoning and a list of dynamic process in verb form such as locating, balancing and visualizing. The book concludes with a refined definition/framework for spatial reasoning. The chapters in-between zoom in on aspects of spatial reasoning written by small groups of contributing authors. For example, there is a chapter dedicated to the research that supports that spatial reasoning is not a fixed trait and is something that can be developed. Much research on embodied knowing and embodiment is shared as well as interactions between two and three dimensions. Throughout the book, as an imperative for re-imaging what we think of in terms of school mathematics and “geometry,” the authors refer to the research studies (such as Duncan et al 2007) that claim that spatial reasoning in four and five year olds is a strong indicator in overall school success as well as more specifically, literacy and numeracy.

IMG_6499There are a few helpful tables/graphics to help understand key concepts and that I will share in my work with teachers. This one to the left is a typology of different types of spatial reasoning which I think is important to consider in instructional planning and assessment.

 

 

 

IMG_6065One of the reasons I chose to read this book this summer is that some of the contributing authors in this book worked together on the Math for Young Children (M4YC) research project in Ontario which is the foundation for the wonderful book Taking Shape: Activities to Develop Geometric and Spatial Thinking K-2 – a book that is well worth the investment to have in elementary school professional libraries. This book is an excellent example of how a professional resource for teachers can show the theory to practice flow and intersection.

~Janice

reflections and highlights from 2016-2017

Posted on: June 29th, 2017 by jnovakowski

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