# Bathroom Signs

THIS! How awesome is this?

A few weeks ago I was at #cuerockstar #rOxnard and this sign caught my attention. The event was held at a middle school and I couldn’t help but think that all schools should have these. I’m also happy that gender fluidity and acceptance of the LGBTQ community is more commonplace than it was just a few years ago. Let’s hope that more schools and communities embrace differences.

# Mathematical Mindsets

So a few of us have started the book and are making our notes/comments in the provided document; my principal created a shared doc in Google. I appreciate this way as I can read what others have written and get a general sense of what’s to come. The most recent chapter, Chapter 3, really caught my attention. In it, the author talks about how students view math vs. mathematicians view math. Students tend to view it as procedures, rules, and/or calculations. However, mathematicians tend to see it as creative, beautiful, and full of patterns. It was the sentiment that math is a study of patterns that made me take notice.

I have, for years, told my students that math was about patterns. That it was like a puzzle one needed to solve. I have always viewed math as a series of patterns and puzzles. I remember when I was in Kindergarten, a friend and I were talking. She was bragging how she could count to 100 while I could only count to 20. This irritated me. I wanted to count to 100 too. I remember going home and working this problem out in my room. Why I didn’t ask my mother is beyond me. But I was a stubborn kid (and for those of you who know me now, I’m still pretty stubborn). I remember looking at the numbers and ‘analyzing’ them. I thought, “If I can count to 20, then I can figure out how to count to 100.” And as I looked at the numbers, I saw a pattern. The numbers repeated. I began to realize that once the numbers in the one’s place (although I didn’t know place value at the time) were done, they started over again. And the numbers in the ten’s place began at 1, then went to 2 when all the numbers in the one’s place had been used. I had figured out the problem and went to school the next day bragging that I too, could count to 100.

Part of my success with math has come from A) a reading disability, so I gravitated towards math, and B) the fact that I was able to play and manipulate numbers on my own, okay and C) just being a plain old stubborn kid! We need to help students view math as patterns. We need to get over our own fear of math. We need to explore and allow conversations to happen in math. This is where the learning happens and a love of math will develop.

This is such a great book! Full of inspiration. I’m so glad we are reading it as a staff.

One final note: From grades 2 – 6 I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a mathematician. While that’s not my occupation, I’d say that I am one! We all are!

Don’t make copies, print workbooks.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed, this image caught my attention. Yes, you read that right, “Don’t make copies, make workbooks. Get your curriculum professionally printed for less” This made me sad, depressed, and horrified.

Disclaimer: This is a local business and they do great, quality work. This is NOT against the printing company. They are doing what businesses do. They are not ‘in the business’ of education; that’s you and me.

So what’s wrong with this? Well for starters, a worksheet is a worksheet whether in a booklet form or not. Secondly, worksheets are boring and nicknames ‘shut up sheets’ for a reason. And since this whole thing called education is up to you and me, let’s make it better! Do you enjoy filling out paperwork? Yeah, me neither! So imagine how students feel. I know, your thinking, “But they need practice!” And I agree. But how about making it more engaging and interesting. For example, in 5th Grade, students need to find equivalent fractions. Now, I can either have them do DOK level 1 work via a worksheet – 3/6 = ?/2 OR have them manipulate fraction tiles to discover, and record, all the fractions that equal 1/2. Which would you rather do? Okay, so you might not have fraction tiles, right? But what if instead of printing worksheets, your district took that money and bought manipulatives? It’s all about where the district chooses to spend its money.

So while if I want something printed, I prefer going locally and will use this company. However, I implore schools to think differently. Let’s get away from worksheets and workbooks!

My dad will soon be celebrating his 66th birthday. He is a life-long learner. Within the past year, he ditched his flip phone for a ‘smartphone’. It was bad! He hated it at first then got to know it and like it. I hated that phone! He couldn’t send or receive photos with his plan, but he had voice typing. It was awful. So his texts became a decoding game I had to play. He enjoyed that aspect.

Then, came the most recent ‘smartphone’. Sooooo much better! His plan allowed him to voice text more accurately, send and receive photos, and best of all, it was Google based! Since purchasing the phone and 5 Gigs of data (monthly), he has downloaded countless apps, initiated a Google Hangout (although he has no idea how he did it), viewed a shared photo album (Google Photos) of Ireland I sent him, signed up for Uber (even though he won’t use it “I don’t get drunk at bars, what do I need it for?”), and countless other things I have no idea about, yet.

Most recently I received a text telling me that he ‘enrolled’ in Instagram. Yes, he did this without knowing what it was, how it worked, or why he would even need/want it. Then, 24 hours later he decided that he didn’t have the ‘brain of a teenager’ and Instagram wasn’t for him. Ironically 72 hours after signing up, he was back to looking at my photos and liking a few.

All this got me thinking. How is it that a retired man just jumps into technology and yet so many teachers are still afraid or claim it’s not for them? Really, it’s not for my dad either, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Clearly, my father has a growth mindset. And if I said as much to him, he’d look at me like I was crazy. But, he’s not afraid to try and fail. He’s not afraid to ask questions. He’s okay with playing around to see what happens – thus the Google Hangout that one day.

So my point to all this is; if a retired, soon to be 66-year-old, is unafraid of new technology, we can all try something new. And don’t worry, I’m headed back home this summer to teach him a bit more about his phone and set him straight on his email, which is Gmail.

Finally, because my dad inspires and amuses me, I started a Facebook Page, Texts From My Father. If you’d like to ‘follow’ him on Instagram he can be found @garynowakowski. We’re still working on his selfie taking skills. We can no longer see both arms holding the phone! So that’s progress!

Go forth and experiment, be unafraid, and play!

# Social Media & Genius Hour

Each Friday our 5th-Graders participate in Genius Hour. This year, there is a large group of students that either create slime – in order to sell – or draw. They hop on either Google Images or YouTube to hone their skills. I have encouraged them to create a website to showcase their work. Silly me, no one wants to do that. BUT, showcasing their work on their Instagram accounts, that’s another story.

Yes, I am aware that Instagram is for 13-year-olds and older. Each time a student tells me they have an account I remind them of this and ask if their parents are aware of their account and do they have the password. If their parents are okay with it the best I can do is teach them how to be responsible: no locations, birthdates, first or last names, etc.

When we were cleaning up on Friday, I watched one student pull out his phone, snap a pic, tag people, and post to one of his Instagram accounts. I thought this was a brilliant way to document and share his work! Now I need to work with the district’s IT department to unblock Instagram so my class can have an account and document our work.

# State Test & Slime: Perfect Pairing

Slime. A craze that is still going strong in my classroom. While many teachers find it the bane of their existence; I do not. Okay, fidget spinners might be the new bane of our existence. I don’t ban the slime, or fidget spinners, mainly because my students seem to understand that each has a time and place. My students, for the most part, have found a balance between work and slime.

This past week, my students began taking the state test. Again, I didn’t ban slime, nor did I encourage it. It’s just a ‘thing’ that exists in the classroom. As I was monitoring the students, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: while taking the test they were playing with slime. Let me be clear. It’s not all students, in fact, it’s about 5 or so and they were completely focused on their tasks.

One student kept the slime in her container, read, and simply played with it by dipping her finger in and out of the slime. She gets a bit nervous because she wants to do well. I believe it helped relieve some anxiety. I took a quick picture and texted it to her mom (our school’s secretary). We just giggled.

Meanwhile, a few other students had it on their tables, off to the side. They poked at it, rolled it, and kneaded it all while focusing on the test.

So if you’ve banned slime in your classroom, you may want to rethink it. Of course, there have been times where I had to confiscate slime because someone was focused on playing with it rather than working. However, if it helps calm students, why not let them play?

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# Coordinates Breakout Continued

Yesterday, my class began creating a Coordinates Breakout. They figured out which locks to use and what the codes would be. Today, I tasked them with creating the clues and a story to accompany the Breakout.

We had a bit of trouble coming up with a story so I had them creating some of the clues to the locks. They were RockStars creating the clues! They really thought out how to make the clues meaningful, with a bit of depth. One clue deals with the compass rose. We are still debating if we should have different ones on one page or split them up onto different pages and have them placed around the room. I think we will have to run the game with another class to work out some of the kinks.

Another clue, or three, deals with coordinate planes – first quadrant. Each group took a different approach in creating the coordinateplane. One group created a visually pleasing one with gradient coloring and took the time to draw each line. Meanwhile, another group struggled to create one; they needed four or five. The struggling group asked if the gradient colored group would mind sharing so they could copy their coordinate plane. And of course, the group was kind enough to share!

Then, while in the middle of creating, a student came up to me with a back story for our game. We bounced ideas off of each other and made it better. Tomorrow, I think I am going to have the students work together to make the story even better.

So far, this experience has been challenging, yet rewarding. It is our plan to submit the game to the Breakout EDU website. I think before that happens, I will share it out to make sure it’s in tip-top shape!