Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New students + symbols + words = Community

51SUNv6t4KL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp%2CTopRight%2C12%2C-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_.jpg One way I am going to help my students learn about their new community of learners is through the exploration of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's book, This Plus That.  In this picture book, mathematical symbols are used in combination with words to make powerful statements about one's self.  Some of my favorites include..."book + chair = cozy" or "somersault + somersault + somersault = dizzy".  I am going to ask the class to brainstorm all of the mathematical symbols that they are familiar with such as the greater than symbol, less than symbol, %, x, =, etc...Then students are going to write a word equation for each symbol that we discuss to introduce themselves to the class.

For example, some of mine could be...
Chipotle is greater than Burger King. (couldn't find the greater than symbol on the computer :)
whole family + rollercoaster rides + not paying attention to how late it is = best vacation day ever
pepperoni + mushroom - olives = my side of the pizza

I think this will be a great way to assess the students' knowledge of mathematical symbols and at the same time learn a lot about each other!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And then there is the classroom library...

As I begin to go into my classroom to set up for this year, I find myself doing what I always do...I move around the classroom moving one pile to another pile, creating new piles, distracted by small projects, feeling like I can not move on till I make a small trip to the store, and avoiding the big projects.  As I roamed around yesterday, I found myself avoiding the classroom library section.

Every year at this time I have an internal conversation about how to set up my classroom library.  Do I release complete control to the students?  Do I organize it for them?  Is there a method to do this somewhere in the middle?  I want the students to see all of the books available to them.  I want the students to have ownership.  I want the library to represent this year's class of readers.  As I tried to visualize the flow of students and books...I kept coming back to one thought.  When a student completes an independent reading book and celebrates it with the class, I hope it will immediately go into the hands of another student.  I know that is not always the case.   I want to make sure that a book has a "middle land" to go to before going back to the book bins in the library.

So...I came up with an idea called..."What's in your next stack?"  I created a bulletin board with plastic, clear envelopes hanging from hooks.  When a student finishes a book and would recommend it, they will put a post-it with their name on top of the book (so we know who we can talk to about the book), put the book in the envelope, and hang it on the bulletin board.  That way, not only is the book displayed, it is right at your finger tips with the name of the last reader on it and not lost in a bin.  I have the bulletin board in a high traffic area of the room in hopes that by passing it often a student might become interested eventually or be reminded about that book because they are finally ready to start a new book.  I also displayed the covers to many other books to intrigue the students.

I am excited about this "middle land" for books.  I am still deciding exactly how I want to roll out the classroom library when the students arrive in just two weeks!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A wonder block!

I have spent a lot of time this summer pondering how to immerse non-fiction reading into my student’s daily reading life.  My wish for my students is that they will read with wonder.  They will read, listen, and discuss all of the facts, photographs, and videos that they encounter in their reading.  I want the students to feel the surprise of wonder when they encounter something that is unexpected, mysterious, unfamiliar, or maybe just beautiful.  But beyond that feeling of wonder, I want to provide students with the opportunity to act on this feeling in the form of curiosity.  I need to find a way to provide my students with the opportunity to turn that wonder into curiosity and act on it…to take that strong desire and go!

Through several virtual conversations with Maria at the Teaching in the 21st Century blog (see blogs I follow), I have come up with a way to immerse my students in wonder all week long and provide opportunities to act on their curiosity…a wonder block!  I have decided to use Wonderopolis’ Wonder of the Day as the opening to my day.  Monday through Wednesday students will come into the classroom with the wonder of the day posted.  They will free-write what they think the answer is, have conversations, and stimulate background knowledge in their wonder notebooks.  We will watch the video and share-read the information as a class.  We will also write any lingering questions in our wonder notebooks before our “wondering block” concludes (Although I hope it doesn’t!  I hope it continues into reading workshop!).  On Thursdays, I am going to “dig deep” into the reading portion of a wonder that connects to our content.  At the end of this time, I am going to provide the students with a basket of text for future reading. On Fridays, our “wonder block” will be sharing any new information gained from acting on our curiosity.

I think the opportunities to informally wonder and to wonder about content will be just what the students need to build their stamina with writing and to read with “eyes wide open.”  By providing the students with immediate resources and a share time of further investigations, the students will be given time and conversations to act on their curiosity and share their strong desire to learn something new.  My hope is that by the second half of the year the students are independently going through the wonder of the days, independently finding resources, and shifting to more open inquiry and curriculum inquiry opportunities.