March 31, 2017

A different kind of Math lesson

We've recently begun the last leg of our Measurement Unit. It's all about money. This week, we did something called a "Math Scoot" where students scooted from one task card to another practicing their money counting skills. I'm encouraging students to continue to practice this skill at home as part of their nightly homework routine. 

From there, we're moving on to solving problems involving money.  One great type of problem I like to teach kids to solve is called a "bake shop" problem (see photo below). Bake shop problems are great because they are multi-step and use a variety of the skills students have learned so far this year.   

And then on Thursday, our lesson went in a different direction. We talked about the role that money plays in our lives. We talked about how some people have more of it and others have less. We explored reasons why this is the case and my students' answers were honest and compassionate. Many students mentioned what we would categorize as the mental health implications of struggling to make ends meet. 

This conversation was the perfect lead in to our read-aloud. It's story called Tight Times, about a boy whose father loses his job.  

The grade three Focus on Faith theme is "community and the common good" and this was an excellent opportunity to talk about why we do the things we do as a school community to help one another. I reminded students of our Fall food drive, the Tree of Light at Christmas and the upcoming Soap For Hope campaign. These are all ways that we as a school community help support vulnerable community members.   

I tell my students that our most important job as citizens is to build each other up. We talk about how we should go out of our way to be mindful about how we speak and treat others, to the point where we ask ourselves, "Did they walk away from me feeling better than before our conversation started? Did I lift them up?"  

This "money" lesson was a great way to connect our Focus on Faith theme with real-life examples of ways we can use our earnings to make a difference in the lives of others, and to appreciate the impact of how losing a source of income can have on community members. 

So while it's not really part of the Math curriculum to talk about money in this manner and I've never tied these two themes together before, it certainly proved to be well worth it. I think all of my students walked away with a new appreciation for this vital concept.  

March 27, 2017

Water-color Masterpieces!

Fun Friday was extra fun last week! The boys and girls revisited the miracles of Jesus and then learned how to draw a fish! From there, they learned how to use water-color paints and enjoyed an afternoon of painting.  

As you can see, their work is beautiful. The boys and girls learned all kinds of important problem solving skills through this activity and in the end, they were so proud of their paintings.  

Through this activity, students not only learned new skills (how to draw a fish, manage paints and choose the right brush for a specific job) but they also learned about the importance of keeping their pictures fairly simple to accommodate the unique characteristics of water-color paints, thinking critically about what we want the end product to look like before we even start a task, following (and listening to) instructions closely, along with persevering with a challenge. 

One child even commented that they enjoyed our afternoon because everyone was so positive! Now that really warmed my teacher heart!  

March 23, 2017

Using photos to spark discussions

Each morning, we have what we call "Morning Message". It's like our morning news program where we review our learning goals for the days, along with all kinds of other skills that don't quite "fit", so to speak, anywhere else in our day. As a teacher that likes to keep things neat, tidy and organized, it can be hard to figure out how to fit in all the items that need to be covered. 
For this reason, I created Morning Message.  

I love using photos as part of our message to get my students talking and thinking critically.  Developing our "accountable conversation" skills is more important than ever. After all, in a world that increasingly relies on digital communication, we can forget that what came naturally to us as kids (chatting, debating and respectfully disagreeing) may need to be explicitly taught to today's students.  

Photos are a great way to get students thinking and talking. We've looked at the pioneer school house, and the day or two I planned on talking about that, turned into TWO WEEKS because the kids had so many questions and loved debating whether or not they'd like to be a pioneer student. Their questions and conversations with one another were so impressive! 

This week, we've started looking at photos like the ones pictured below. Students are asked to make observations based on what they see (e.g. "Two of the four items are toys" or "Three of the four items are animals") The kids love to come up with really thoughtful, really critical observations about the photos. It's almost as though their attitude is, "I'm gonna come up with the most obscure, most creative idea!".  
I'm loving the conversations we're having about our little fractions photos.  It's so funny because even though there's 21 of us in the room, it feels more like we're a small group, all sitting around a kitchen table chatting. It's such a sweet part of our day and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to spend that time together. 


On Thursday, I showed the kids the four Easter cakes below. I asked my students to consider which cake they are most curious about. Not so much which one they want to eat, but "Which cake do you have the most questions about?" . I gave the kids a few minutes to think about this question and from there, I invited them to share their "I wonder" questions about the cakes.  As you can see, the cakes are quite beautiful and complex in their design.  

The boys and girls had all kinds of questions about things like: 
  • What flavour is the layer cake with the bunny on top?
  • How did those eggies get into the cake? 
  • How is the bird's nest cake an Easter cake? This was a great question and students were invited to share why this cake was appropriate to include. 
  • How did the baker make those layers so colourful?  
These kinds of conversations are such a great way to start the day because everyone can participate.  There is literally zero excuse for why kids don't have something to share. So for those kids who still feel a bit groggy or aren't feeling particularly great about participating during the Math lesson, they at least know that during Morning Message, they can share all their ideas and develop their essential oral communication and critical thinking skills.

In just a few short minutes each morning, students are building skills that, little do they know, can be applied to all the various tasks they'll complete throughout the rest of the day. 

March 04, 2017

Solving "scale" problems

As part of our Math warm-up last week, we looked a strategies that help us solve what I call "scale problems" (pictured below). These problems come up in a variety of situations in our math program and EQAO.

To solve simple problems such as the one pictured above, students can select from a variety of strategies. They can use mental math, count back from 20 to 12, or subtract 20-12. The last strategy we explored was this one. The idea of solving first 8+4=12 and then carrying that 12 over to the other side of the scale and using it to solve for the mystery number.  

The totally unscripted, no-prep-whatsoever video below shows the tale end of a lesson from 2016. My hope is that students will watch it at home and solve the problem at the end.  Parents, you too can create scale problems for your children at home. They're a great way to build number-sense! 



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