Archive for the ‘learning environment’ Category

March thinking together: engage in problem-solving experiences connected with place, story and cultural practices and perspectives

Posted on: March 14th, 2019 by jnovakowski No Comments

This month’s curricular competency focus is engage in problem-solving experiences that are connected to place, story, cultural practices and perspectives relevant to local First Peoples communities, the local community, and other other cultures. This curricular competency is the same across grades K-12 and courses and falls under the organizer of “Understanding and Solving” which suggest the focus of using contextual and meaningful experiences to support mathematical understanding.

Elaborations are suggestions for educators to consider as they plan for developing this curricular competency:

  • in daily activities, local and traditional practices, the environment, popular media and news events cross-curricular integration
  • have students pose and solve problems or ask questions connected to place, stories and cultural practices

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The focus and thinking behind this curricular competency are the ideas of authenticity, meaningfulness, engagement and connectedness. Not all mathematics learning needs be contextualized or connected to “real life” but for many students who may see math as something that they do at school between 9 and 10am and don’t yet see the relevance of the math they are learning, providing tasks and problems that connect to place, community and culture may support their mathematical thinking and learning and broaden their understanding and appreciation for what math is and how it can be experienced. Experiential and holistic learning are foundational to the First Peoples Principles of Learning and these are considerations for all learners. The First Peoples Principles of Learning also remind of us of the importance of connecting learning through place and story, working with others and developing a self of self, family, community and culture. This curricular competency is aligned with the Personal and Social Core Competency – positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility and social responsibility.

Some resources to consider:

Messy Maths by Juliet Robertson (elementary resource for taking math learning outdoors)

Tluuwaay ‘Waadluxan Mathematical Adventures edited by Dr. Cynthia Nicol and Joanne Yovanovich (mathematical adventures from Haida Gwaii developed by community members, elders and educators)

BC Numeracy Network – Connecting Community, Culture and Place

First Peoples Mathematics 8&9 developed by FNESC - this teacher-created resource is being revised to reflect the current BC mathematics curriculum and provide more learning experiences across grades and disciplines.

 

Blog posts from this site with related information:

Place-Based Mathematics

Place-Based Mathematical Inquiry

Primary Study Group 2018-2019 – Outdoors Math

Indigenous Content and Perspectives in Math

 

Some questions to consider as you plan for learning opportunities to develop the competency of engaging in problem-solving experiences connected to place, story and cultural practices and perspectives:

How does place/land/environment inspire mathematical thinking? What potential numeracy or problem-solving tasks emerge when we think about local land-based contexts?

What problems or issues are facing the local community? How might mathematics help us to think about and understand these problems or issues? What information or data might be collected and shared? How can we use different tools to communicate mathematical information to create an opportunity for discussion and engaging in a problem-solving process?

How does Indigenous knowledge connect, intersect and support the curricular competencies and content in our mathematics curriculum? Who is a knowledge holder in your local First Nations community that you could learn from and with? 

What are authentic resources? What stories and cultural practices are public and able to be shared? What doe it mean to use authentic resources, stories, and elements of culture in our mathematics teaching? How are resources specific to a local context? Who can we go to to find out more information and learn about local protocols?

What cultural practices in your community have mathematics embedded in them? How might we use the structure of “notice, name and nurture” to expand awareness of what mathematics is and how it can be experienced?

How can stories help us think about the passage of time, relationships, connections and mathematical structures, actions and models?

~Janice

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 4

Posted on: March 11th, 2019 by jnovakowski No Comments

Our fourth session was held at Blair Elementary, hosted by Karen and Tanyia. They shared the development of their outdoor learning space and how it and the gardens are being used by teachers and students in the school.

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We walked around the school grounds, looking for inspiration for mathematical thinking. At this time of year, you can really see the structure of the deciduous trees and it is an opportunity to notice lines, shapes and angles. With moss and lichen growing on some trees and on fences, there are lots of math-inspired questions that can be investigated around the life cycle, size and growth of these unique living things.

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We noticed many trees with some interesting growth patterns and markings (some caused by pruning according to our master gardener Megan). What stories live in these trees? What might a timeline of a tree’s life look like? Seasons, years, decades – such an interesting lens to explore concepts of time through.

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Sarah Regan and Megan Zeni were awarded this year’s June Chiba Sabbatical and used their release time to visit several outdoor/nature focused schools across southern BC. We were happy to host them and have them share some of their experiences.

IMG_8871Our next study group book is the Canadian children’s book Flow Spin Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature. It connects really well with our focus this year of finding and investigating mathematics outdoors. After sharing our focus on twitter, the author shared his website where he has curated some resources to complement the book HERE.

IMG_8882 I know my eyes will be open for all sorts of patterns – branching, spiralling, spinning – as spring emerges around us.

Have a lovely spring break!

~Janice

 

 

 

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 3

Posted on: March 11th, 2019 by jnovakowski No Comments

Our third session was hosted by Jessica, Lisa, Laura and Sasha at Anderson Elementary. A couple of the teachers are particularly knowledgable about mushrooms and shared information about the fungi in the neighbourhood.

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We walked through Garden City Park and the Anderson teachers shared how they use the space over the school year to observe and document seasonal changes. The students were also very observant of how the windstorms this fall/winter affected the park and the changes created by the storms. The City of Richmond has created an arboretum area on the west side of the park, with plaques identifying and describing the trees. There is also the opportunity to observe birds and other urban wildlife in the park.

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A focus of some of the teachers has been on the human impact on the local environment. Some questions for teachers and students to consider:

How can mathematics help us to understand this issue?

What data/information could be collected and how could it be shared?

What information could be collected?

How might different ways of sharing information have an impact on understanding of the issue?

What actions could we take?

 

Looking forward to seeing how different schools and classes make connections between mathematics and their outdoor environment.

~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry: encounters with charcoal

Posted on: December 14th, 2018 by jnovakowski

To launch the 2018-19 season of our ongoing professional learning series, Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry, we created opportunities for educators to have encounters with charcoal and make connections to teaching and learning across the BC curriculum. Inspired by our learning from Opal School in Portland to use different materials to explore ideas and emotions through an aesthetic dimension, we chose charcoal specifically as we believed it was a material that educators might need some support with, in understanding the material in new ways.

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We shared a blog post from the Opal School Blog: Thinking with Charcoal

and shared the Canadian books The Art of Land-Based Early Learning (volumes 1 and 2) that can be found HERE.

I actually experimented with making my own charcoal. I trimmed some willow branches from my backyard, tightly wrapped them in cheesecloth and then aluminum foil (to eliminate any oxygen inside) and put them in our fire pit. I didn’t have enough wood to maintain a high enough heat for long enough (researched needing about an hour) so I “finished” the packages the barbecue. They worked out quite well but next time, I will strip the bark off the twigs first.

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We curated a collection of charcoal and related materials from DeSerres and Phoenix Art Studio

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and invited educators to engage with materials, ideas and concepts.

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Our resource document about charcoal, including the questions provided to provoke educators’ thinking can be found here:

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Some educators commented that it was their very first time using charcoal themselves and they reflected on what it meant to explore a material for the first time, how that made them feel both curious and vulnerable and also sparked many connections and ideas for using charcoal with their students.

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Two of our playful inquiry mentors, Sharon and Christy, shared experiences and stories from their classrooms

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and then after dinner together, we broke off into mentor group to share ideas and think together about ways to engage with playful inquiry this school year.

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We have been growing our playful inquiry community in our district for several years now with both our own initiatives and projects as well as continuing to nurture our relationship with Opal School and it is exciting to continue to welcome teachers into our conversations. Our next district event will be an open studio at the district conference on February 15 and a playful inquiry symposium on the afternoon of the district pro-d day on May 17.

 

~Janice, on behalf of the playful inquiry mentors

 

 

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 2

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by jnovakowski

Our second session of this year’s primary teachers study group was hosted by Anna and Shannon at McNeely Elementary. Anna shared the book about mushrooms that her students researched and wrote after finding and investigating the mushrooms they found in their mini-forest near the school.

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 The class was also inspired by one of our study group books, Anywhere Artist, and went out into their mini-forest to create art with found materials.

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The land art of UK artist James Brunt (on twitter at @RFJamesUK) also inspired us to take on the #100LeavesChallenge.

Anna and Shannon toured us through McNeely’s new outdoor learning space and through their mini-forest, adjacent to the school.

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Together we shared ideas for how different plants, trees and animals could inspire mathematical thinking or questions to investigate.

Thank you to Anna and Shannon for hosting us!

~Janice

2018-19 primary teachers study group: session 1

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by jnovakowski

Beginning our sixteenth year, the Richmond Primary Teachers Study Group met for the first time this school year on October 11 at Diefenbaker Elementary. As agreed upon by study group participants, this year’s focus is on the teaching and learning of mathematics in places and spaces outdoors, considering both how to take mathematics outdoors but also how the outdoors can inspire mathematical thinking.

Our three study groups books that we are going to draw inspiration from this year are:

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Messy Maths by Juliet Robertson

50 Fantastic Ideas for Maths Outdoors by Kristine Beeley

Anywhere Artist by Nikki Slade Robinson

 

There are so many books and resources available to support our professional inquiry together this year.

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We spent some time exploring the Diefenbaker garden, playground and new outdoor learning area and considering what math we could find in these spaces.

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IMG_3270One of the tasks we did was using materials or referents to estimate and create the length of one metre. We followed this up by each making our own “Sammy the Snake” – a one metre length of rope (idea from the Messy Maths book). This length of rope can be part of a “go bag” to take outside for measuring lengths, perimeter, circumference of trees and to think about fractions (by folding the length of rope). It is a flexible tool to support students’ developing understanding of comparing, ordering and constructing concepts of measurement and number.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks to the Diefenbaker team for hosting us!

~Janice

 

number glass gems

Posted on: September 18th, 2018 by jnovakowski

One of the elements of The Studio at Grauer that teachers often notice is the collection of numerals we have in baskets and trays on our shelves. I have collected these over the years and find them in craft and scrapbooking stores, thrift stores, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and Urban Source on Main Street in Vancouver. I am always on the lookout for numerals. Students use them in their play and investigations, ordering them, using them to label/represent their collections or sets of materials or to use as purposeful numbers in their creations (addresses, phone numbers, parts of a story, etc).

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Just to clarify some terms…

Digit - A digit is a single symbol used to make numerals. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the ten digits we use in our number system to make numerals.

Numeral - A numeral is a symbol that stands for a number.

Number - A number is a count or measurement that represents an idea in our mind about a quantity.    Numerals are often used to represent a number.

It is how these materials are used that leads to them becoming called numbers – they are used to connect meaning to the symbols by matching the symbol to a set or quantity or are put in order/sequence which gives meaning to the symbols. They can also be used to represent the number in an expression or equation.

I chose to make my most recent set of glass gems using the digits 0-9. This way students can put them together to create different numerals/numbers to label their representations/sets/quantities.

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Materials needed: large glass gems (found at Michael’s and some dollar stores), foam paintbrush, Mod Podge and number stickers or cutouts

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Instructions: Using the flat side of the glass gem, apply a light coat of Mod Podge and lay a numeral upside down, centred on the back of the gem. Press down and smooth surface so that the numeral adheres and there are not air bubbles between the surfaces. Let dry for a couple of minutes and then apply a coat of Mod Lodge to the entire surface of the flat side of the glass gem. Let dry for 20-30 minutes and then apply a second coat. Let dry and then they are ready to be used.

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We have also created materials similar to this by adhering stickers to tree cookies/slices or to smooth stones. It’s just handy to have a collection of these and students find all sorts of ways to use them.

~Janice

summer professional learning and reading 2018

Posted on: June 29th, 2018 by jnovakowski

Although summer is a “break” from the schedules and routines of teaching, it has always also been a time of learning for me. Whether it be taking course work or having the time to read deeply or attend professional learning events, I find the summer a great time to learn new things and both reflect on and rejuvenate my teaching practice. Of course, in order to really refresh, I do take some time away from professional thinking by reading novels, memoirs, travel guides and cookbooks! I try and learn new things and am currently enjoying learning about different types of weaving, dyeing using natural materials, using new art techniques and focusing on developing my knowledge around local plants All of these personal interests do tend to find their way into my professional work though as well!

One learning goal I have for myself is to become more familiar and fluent with using desmos. Desmos is an online graphing application (and available as an app as well) but has so many possibilities for supporting mathematical thinking for elementary and secondary students. The desmos website is full of examples and ideas for student projects as well as resources for teachers. I feel I just have a beginning understanding of what desmos has to offer so am looking forward to digging in and playing with it over the summer.

Professional Reading

My first summer professional reading stack of the summer!

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Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning K-8 by Ellin Oliver Keene

Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play by Mitchel Resnick and Ken Robinson

Play Matters by Miguel Sicart

Arithmetic by Paul Lockhart

Give Me Five!: Five Coach-Teacher-Principal Collaborations that Promote Mathematical Success by Janice Bradley

Essential Assessment:  Six Tenets for Bringing Hope, Efficacy, and Achievement to the Classroom (Deepen Teachers’ Understanding of Assessment to Meet Standards and Generate a Culture of Learning) by Cassandra Erkens and Tom Schimmer

Softening the Edges: Assessment Practices that Honor K-12 Teachers and Learners by Katie White

I have also ordered these two need mathematics book through the NCTM and the ATM.

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An area of focus in our district will continue to be assessment. Continuous assessment that leads to responsive, intentional instructional choices is a practice that is woven throughout series I do around mathematics professional learning. Two books that I am going to revisit this summer as I begin to plan professional learning experiences for next year include:

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Rethinking Letter Grades is a book by Canadian authors with local examples and I appreciate the “triangle” from this book that shares that in order to have authentic evidence of learning you need three types of assessment data – observations, conversations/interviews and products (which includes projects, creations, writing, drawing, diagrams, quizzes, tests).  The Formative Five is a mathematics specific book focusing on five formative assessment practices.

 

 

New assessment reads for this summer include the following:

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Katie White, author of Softening the Edges, will be a featured speaker at our Curriculum Implementation Day in Richmond next year. Essential Assessment was a book recommended by Angie Calleberg of the BC Ministry of Education as she said the Ministry used this book to inform assessment projects in the province. And although I do have some concerns about Hattie’s use of statistics and his meta analysis of meta analysis studies, I know his new book will come up in professional conversations around assessment so want to have a quick read through it.

 

Professional Learning Opportunities

For Richmond educators, professional learning opportunities are listed within the portal. Go to Learn 38 then to the Professional Learning tile to find both internal and external events.

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For this year’s BCTF PSA Day in October, consider attending the Northwest Mathematics Conference in Whistler. Information about speakers, accommodation and registration is now available here:

Northwest Mathematics Conference website 

Also in October, the Vancouver Reggio Association is hosting Tiziana Filippini, a pedagogista from Reggio Emilia, Italy. More information available here:

Vancouver Reggio Association – Tiziana Filippini – October 2018 

A free professional learning event about coding for teachers is being hosted in Vancouver this summer, sponsored by the Government of Canada:

Teachers Learning Code – Vancouver – July 24-26 2018

Lots of districts in BC offer professional learning events at the end of the summer so check Twitter, Facebook, the BCTF site and district websites for more information.

For those of you interested in building your own knowledge of Indigenous perspective, culture and content, Talasay Tours offers some grant opportunities:

Talasay Tours – Authentic Cultural and Eco Experiences

And the Museum of Anthropology at UBC currently has an exhibit highlighting six cultures from across BC;

MOA – Culture at the Centre

 

Have a lovely summer – a time for adventures, rejuvenating and learning new things!

~Janice

April thinking together: How do the core competencies connect with mathematics?

Posted on: June 7th, 2018 by jnovakowski

The Core Competencies are at the centre of BC’s redesigned curriculum and underpin the curricular competencies in each discipline, such as math. An overview video about the Core Competencies can be viewed HERE. Drawing from global education research and through provincial consultation with stakeholder groups, three Core Competencies were identified – Thinking (creative and critical), Communication and Personal & Social (positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility, and social responsibility).

As we develop awareness about the Core Competencies during the school year, we consider the ideas of “notice, name and nurture” – looking for evidence of core competency development or application in our classrooms and schools.

In our district, we have created Core Competency posters in both English and French, overviewing all the core competencies as well as posters specific to one core competency (all available through the district portal). These posters are up in classrooms and schools to create awareness and develop common language around the core competencies.

In The Studio at Grauer, much of the work we do in mathematics has elements of the core competencies involved. In the mathematics curriculum, each of the curricular competencies is linked to one or more of the core competencies. The COMMUNICATION chart in the photograph below is an example of how I make this focus clear to myself, teachers and the students when we work together in The Studio. I often identify a specific curricular competency in our initial gathering meeting, that we are going to focus on together as we work with a mathematical idea. For example, I might say to the students,
“Today as you are thinking about comparing and ordering fractions with materials, practice explaining and justifying your decisions to a partner – that will be our focus when we come back as a whole group at the end of our time together today.” 

Other times, I will ask the students to reflect on their last experience in The Studio and consider what they need to work on around communication, either personally or as a class.

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The following are documents that show the links between the Core Competencies and the Curricular Competencies in Mathematics:

SD38 K-5 Math Connections between Core and Curricular Competencies

SD38 6-9 Math Connections between Core and Curricular Competencies

SD38 K-5 Math Communication

We have woven self-assessment and reflection about the core competencies into our projects and learning together throughout the year. During the last school year, there was a requirement for students to do a “formal” self-assessment to be included in the June report card. For students to authentically self-assess and reflect, they need to be familiar with the language of the core competencies and be able to connect to learning experiences they have had throughout the school year. During the third term last year, the grades 3&4 class from Grauer visiting The Studio weekly to engage in a mathematics project around the work of Coast Salish artist Susan Point. At the end of each session together, we had the students share their learning – what did you learn? how did it go/what did you do? what’s next for your learning/what are you wondering about? Sometimes students turned and talked to someone near them, other times, students shared their learning and thinking to the whole class.

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Every few weeks, we had the students do a written/drawn self-assessment and reflection. We have found that using question prompts to support reflection and considering evidence of learning has been the most authentic and personalized way to have students think about and connect to the core competencies. We developed some recording formats to capture students’ thinking, with the clear intent that students are not expected to “answer” all the questions – that they are they to prompt and provoke reflection and self-assessment. A team of Grauer educators were working together on an Innovation Grant project around creative thinking and growth mindset and we wove these ideas in to some of the self-assessments.

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Here is one example of a recording form:

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As we are coming to the end of another school year and are thinking about the student self-assessment of the core competencies component for year-end communication of student learning, we might consider the following questions:

  • What opportunities have students had to experience and develop the core competencies in their mathematics learning?
  • What opportunities over the school year have students had to name and reflect on the core and curricular competencies in mathematics?
  • How have we made the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics visible in our classrooms and schools?
  • How have the core and curricular competencies language and ideas been embedded in the mathematical community and discourse in our classrooms and schools?
  • What different ways have students been able to share, reflect on and self-assess their mathematical thinking and learning?

~Janice

2017-18 primary teachers study group: session six

Posted on: June 6th, 2018 by jnovakowski

For our sixth and final primary teachers study group session of this school year, Megan Zeni hosted us at the outdoor classroom at Homma. Megan shared the story of the space and how it has developed over time as well as shared the logistics of her “prep teaching” position in the outdoor classroom.

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We explored the different spaces in Homma’s outdoor classroom to consider opportunities for storytelling and play.

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We had lots of great conversation about risky play and the gross motor and social-emotional learning that happens when students engage with large materials, building and play in outdoor spaces.

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As we left the Homma school grounds and walked towards the south arm of the Fraser River, we considered the story of this place. The boardwalk and buildings along the river help to uncover the story of the people of this place and how the river has been used over time.

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It has been a great year of primary teachers coming together in different places and spaces to think about how outdoor learning experiences can inspire different types of stories and curricular connections.

Looking forward to another year of learning together.

~Janice