The Little (Big) Things

The Little (Big) Things

As a teacher, the end of the year can often be a stressful time. You’re trying to be there for the students, but also get ready for next year. There’s always last minute decisions that need to be made, paper work to finish, and in my case this year, room changes and grade changes as well. It’s easy to get caught up in everything that needs to get done, and forget that the year isn’t over yet.

This year, I’ve made a real effort to be here now for my students until the very last day of school. I’m very excited about my grade change for next year, but I’m also going to miss my time down in Grades 1 and 2. I have an incredible class of students and parents, and saying “goodbye” to them this week is going to be a very hard thing to do. So I’m going to enjoy my time with my fantastic group until the very last day of school. 

I’m going to remember to take the time to really stop, watch, and enjoy the little things in life that make me love teaching. Last week, I had great reminders of these “little things”:

1) There was watching this video that two of my students recorded when I had some visiting teachers from the Halton Catholic District School Board. I love seeing just how much my students have grown as thinkers and learners. It’s great to hear them explain what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. It’s wonderful how they’re independently solving problems as they arise, and helping each other throughout the process. My goal as a teacher is to have independent, self-sufficient learners, and these students are definitely that!

2) There’s seeing my students cheering when they’re going to guided reading, or having literacy centres, or working together during math centres. They are happy and excited to learn together, even though there’s only four days left of school. The fact that they get this thrilled about school also makes me thrilled! Students should want to learn, and these students do!

3) There’s watching one of my students with autism walk up on the stage on her own during the Primary Choir Performance, and sing and dance along with her friends. With no preparation for this, she went and did what the other students did, and she sang every word and performed every action. Wow! I couldn’t have been prouder. I only wish that I had a camera with me at the time to record this remarkable moment!

For the teachers out there, what are the little things in life that make you love teaching? For the parents out there, what are the little things in life that make your children love school? I think that we all need to take a minute to appreciate these little (big) things!

Aviva

Giving Permission To Make Mistakes

Giving Permission To Make Mistakes

As the school year comes to an end, I’m finding lots of opportunities to review what the students have learned in math throughout the year. At the end of May, I tried this fraction pizza problem with my students. I was amazed by what they shared and how eager they were to work through a difficult problem.

This week, I decided to try a similar problem with the class, but with fewer obvious solutions. On Thursday, I gave my students this problem:

I put the Grade 1’s and 2’s in groups to solve the problem. Just like before, I explained that the students could use any tools in the classroom that they wanted to help them solve the problem. I also told the class that this was a difficult problem, and that it was okay to try something, see if it worked, and if needed, try again.

As the students were working, I went around with my flip cam and recorded the discussions. It was interesting to hear what they shared.

I love how the students were willing to make mistakes and try again. It was even interesting to see how some students took an answer that others might consider incorrect, and explained how it could work as well.

Watching the students work together in the classroom shows me that they are always thinking, they are always problem solving, and they are always learning. In the past, I was only concerned with students getting the right answer. As a result, I never gave enough time to listen to students as they worked through problems or encourage students to solve problems in multiple ways, showing them that there isn’t just one approach that works.

I need to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, who helped me change my approach to teaching math. My students have learned more as a result. Now I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned this year as I teach math to my Grade 6 students next year. Regardless of the grade that I’m teaching, I know that I will always give permission for my students to make mistakes and support them as they continue to learn and grow as mathematicians.

For the teachers out there, what changes have you made to your math program this year? What were the results? For the parents out there. how has this different approach to teaching math impacted on your child’s skill development and attitude towards math? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Aviva

We Need To Ask Why

We Need To Ask Why

The other day in class, I had an experience that reminded me about the importance of asking students, “why?” We’re currently finishing up our unit on fractions, and during class, the children were trying to solve a problem that I asked them.

I told the students that I wanted to make pizza for the class on the last day of school. I wanted to give the students the biggest slice possible. Should I cut each pizza into halves, thirds, or quarters? Why? Students needed to explain their thinking using pictures, numbers, and words.

We’ve worked on comparing fractions, and as I circulated around the classroom, I noticed that most students figured out that they needed to cut each pizza in half. One student response surprised me though. This student is one of my strongest math students, and yet, he wrote down that I should cut each pizza into thirds.

I could have marked him down as incorrect. In the past, I would have done just this, but my change in my approach to teaching math this year has also changed my approach to talking with students about math. Instead of saying that he was wrong, I went up and asked him, why did you choose thirds?

The student looked at me and said, “Halves would give you the biggest pieces, but if you cut each pizza in half, everybody would get about 4 slices of pizza. That’s way too much pizza, Miss Dunsiger! We would all be sick. The biggest slice possible for each of us to eat and not get sick is if you cut each pizza into thirds. Then we would all get about 2 or 3 slices. That’s a good number.” Unbelievable!

If I never asked, I would have assumed that this student did not understand fractions, but in fact, he understands them incredibly well. Just having the opportunity to discuss his thinking allowed him to show me just how much he does know. My only regret is that I didn’t have a video camera or Livescribe Pen going at the time. Imagine the learning that I would have captured then.

Thanks to this wonderful student that reminded me about the importance of asking, “why?” You never know what your students are going to share. Have you had any similar teaching experiences before? I’d love to hear about them!

Aviva

Our Olympic Mascots

Our Olympic Mascots

This digital storybook tells our journey in exploring the summer Olympics. These activities met reading, writing, media literacy, and visual arts expectations, and they were a lot of fun as well. A special thank you to Angie Harrison (@techieang) for inspiring us in the first place.

What feedback can you give us on our mascots? We’d love to hear your thoughts on them!
Miss Dunsiger’s Class

Exploring Mass

Exploring Mass

Our last math unit for the year is on mass and capacity. Today, the students explored mass in class by measuring and comparing the weights of different objects. Students could work in partners or on their own, and they were encouraged to dialogue throughout the activity. The class actually split into two groups, with one group of students exploring these two measurement websites (website 1 and website 2) and one group of students using the scales, and then they switched. Here are some videos of the students sharing their thinking throughout these activities.

When we were finished exploring mass, students shared what they learned using a variety of different forms. A group of students wanted to tweet about what they learned, and one of my Grade 2 students decided on the hashtag, #measuring2012, to help sort the tweets. Students even figured out how to use Twitlonger to allow them to write beyond 140 characters. Here’s a Storify story of some of what the students learned today.

What have you learned before about mass and measuring weight? Please add a comment here and let us know. Thanks for your help with this!

Miss Dunsiger’s Class

End of the Year Survey

End of the Year Survey

When I came home today, I saw a tweet from Pernille Ripp, a fifth grade teacher in Wisconsin. Her tweet was a link to her blog post about a year-end survey that she encourages parents to answer each year. Her post really got me thinking, and made me realize that this would be a great thing for me to do as well. So here’s a copy of my survey:

I hope that you’ll complete it and help me grow as a teacher. Thanks for your help with this!
Aviva

So Long Butterfly!

So Long Butterfly!

Yesterday we were worried about the one butterfly that wouldn’t fly away. We brought it back inside, gave it some more sugar water, and had a plan on what to do when we released it today. The butterfly had a different plan for us though. See the video of his release today:

Yeah! Success! Our five butterflies survived, and will hopefully enjoy their lives outside. Have you helped care for butterflies in your class before? What were the results? Please share your stories with us!

Miss Dunsiger’s Class

Butterfly Release

Butterfly Release

Today we released our last three butterflies. There was a problem though. One would not fly away. The battery died on my flipcam during the filming, but the butterfly eventually made it back into the cage. We gave it more sugar water and another orange.

What else would you suggest? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Miss Dunsiger’s Class

Let Them Pursue Their Interests

Let Them Pursue Their Interests

Today I was reminded that it’s important to let students pursue their interests, regardless of what those interests may be. After first nutrition break, two students came in and they were very concerned. They were itching for most of the recess, and they thought that they might have poison ivy. Then they decided that they had heat rash. How serious was this though? Should they be concerned?

I could have told them not to worry, but instead, I let them find out for themselves. During literacy centres, the students decided to do some research together. They read an article, they discussed what they learned, and they tried to make sense of the information. One of our success criteria for our current TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathway) is “gathering information,” and the students definitely did this. When literacy centres were over, these two shared what they found out. Next week, we have our school self-assessment visit, and students will be asked specific questions about their learning. You can hear some of these questions in my conversation with these two students today. It’s interesting to hear what they have to say. Please forgive the somewhat shaky video camera, as this was recorded by a Grade 2 student. Please also forgive me the couple of times that I suppressed a giggle or two. I just wasn’t expecting the answers that I received. Kids say the most amazing things!

I especially enjoyed when the two students reflected after showing the class the website they went to. While they realized that the next time they could go back and write what they learned in their own words, they also realized why copying the information as they found it was important in this case. It’s great that they could discuss their reasons for making the choices that they did, and understand that the same decision may not be the best in every circumstance. Wow!

These students also learned about something today that was meaningful to them, and they realized the value in reading, and reading comprehension, as they researched heat rashes. I could have told the students what to read today, but I don’t think that they would have been as engaged with the material if I did.

What do you think? What do you notice when you let students pursue their interests? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Aviva

Teaching Just To A Small Group

Teaching Just To A Small Group

This week I did something that I’ve never done before. I introduced a new math concept to my Grade 2’s without working with the full group of students. Instead, I taught the lesson three times in small groups of 3-4 students.

My Grade 2’s are just starting multiplication, and this is something that I do not teach to Grade 1’s. Usually when beginning a new math unit like this one, I would get all of my Grade 2 student together and do an introductory lesson as a large group. I may even speak to one of my Grade 1 teaching partners, and see if my Grade 1 students can join their class for a period or two, so that I can just work with my Grade 2’s.

Over the past couple of weeks though, I noticed that my Grade 2 students already had a beginning understanding of multiplication. When working on balanced equations, some students even used multiplication for some different examples (e.g., 5+5 = 5X2). I thought then that I would try something different. During math centres, I worked with a small group of my Grade 2 students. I showed them a multiplication question (e.g., 5X2), and we spoke about what this question means. Students told me that it either means five groups of two or 5, two times. Then students used various tools (e.g., manipulatives or number lines or rulers) to solve this problem, explaining to me what they did and why.

Some students recorded their thinking using a video camera. Others wrote out how they solved the problem. I was less concerned with the answer than I was with the process. Working with such a small group though allowed me to support the students that needed it, question others on why they solved the problem the way that they did, and even encourage others to solve the same problem in a different way.

By the end of the week, all of my Grade 2 students worked with me on multiplication, and all of them have a great foundation for more multiplication activities and word problems. This week made me realize that we don’t always have to teach lessons to a full class. Structuring our time in such a way as to allow for lots of small group learning opportunities, allows us to support our learners even more and meet their individual learning needs.

What do you think of this? Have you ever introduced a new unit to a small group of students instead of the full class? What were the results? I’d love to hear your stories as well!

Aviva