Monthly Archives: May 2012

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

Open House

Open House

Here’s a copy of the slideshow that I played at Open House tonight:

I hope that you can watch it with your child and discuss what your child is learning at school. What does your child enjoy the most? Why? Please leave a comment here to share your thoughts.

Aviva

Not Always About The Right Answer

Not Always About The Right Answer

In math right now, we’re working on probability. In Grades 1 and 2, a large portion of the probability unit focuses on the language of probability. Already students have been writing about situations that are likely or unlikely to happen. Today, I created a chart with 30 scenarios. Students could work by themselves or with a partner, and they had to read each scenario and sort it accordingly: as highly likely, somewhat likely, or highly unlikely to happen. Some of the scenarios were straightforward, but other ones were more complex, and it took some thinking to determine where they belonged. When students finished, they could add their own scenarios to the list.

As the students were working together, I took some video footage of them explaining their thinking.

When we were done, I had all of the students leave their completed papers on their desks. Students walked around and discussed how other students sorted the scenarios. Then for our Math Congress, we discussed the various answers and why people thought differently.

This activity was a great reminder that there isn’t always one right answer. Sometimes it’s less about the answer and more about the explanation. This activity reminded me that I need to take even more time to have students discuss their thinking and explain why they made the choices that they did. It’s through this discussion that I really did learn so much.

Have you had a similar situation before? How do you balance your quest for the right answer with your focus on a good explanation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Aviva

Getting A Chance To Improve

Getting A Chance To Improve

Our school is part of a self-assessment process this year, and as part of this process, the whole school is focusing on big ideas, learning goals, success criteria, and descriptive feedback. Last week, my class was fortunate enough to work with Jared Bennett (@mrjarbenne) on Claymation videos related to our school’s eco focus and our science curriculum. These Claymation videos also connected to our current TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathway). As part of this process, the students reflected on their work, and I reflected on the process as well.

In the past with a project of this size, the reflection piece would have been the conclusion of the work. I would have possibly used my own “next steps” if I were to do this activity again, but really at this point, we would be moving on. During our last staff meeting though, the principal and vice principal spoke about the importance of getting students to apply their suggestions and even redo some of their work. I wanted to give students this chance for improvement with this project as well.

I knew that it was unreasonable for all of the groups to redo their entire Claymation videos though, so I had each group select one scene in their video, decide what they wanted to add or change, and then take up to 10 still shots (with a digital camera, iPod Touch, or iPad) to show how they would have improved this part of their project. While planning for this activity, I started to think that it would be good for me to address my own “next steps” as well.

Here’s what I chose to do today:

1) I admitted to the students that I made some mistakes last week as well. I started with the fact that I didn’t have a Learning Goal or Success Criteria for this activity. Even though this usually happens before we do the activity, I decided to back track, and together, we recreated a Learning Goal and Success Criteria. Students even gave me the ideas for the anchor charts that we used for today’s activity as well.

Learning Goal and Success Criteria

Techniques Anchor Chart

Audience Anchor Chart

2) Before students worked in their individual groups, we brainstormed some scene changes as a class. Many of the Grade 1 students realized that it was difficult to tell what was happening in their video. Students quickly figured out that bigger, clearer pictures on the construction paper would help with this.

3) I encouraged the students to join in on the Twitter chat (#claymation2012) throughout the process. While I took some photographs and recorded some videos this morning, a few students also tweeted what they were doing and why they were doing it.



4) After the students took their photographs, I had them choose a tool and reflect on what they did today. They had to explain what they chose to change, and why they chose to make this change. Most importantly, their reason why had to relate back to the Success Criteria. This forced the students to look closely at the Success Criteria. It had them talking about what they were doing and why they were doing it. Students were also regularly referring to the anchor charts, which is something that they should be doing more often as well. And the quality of their reflections was so much better, as the students really realized the link between their assessments and the Success Criteria.

After a very busy three periods, here is a digital collection of all of the photographs that the seven groups took today:

Linked with their reflections on the class blog, it’s clear that all of the groups made important changes to their scenes: adding clarity to their work and helping the audience better understand their topic. I’m glad that the students got this chance to improve, and I know that I need to do similar activities more frequently as well.

How do you give your students the chance to improve? What are the results? I’d love to hear about your experiences as well!

Aviva