Listen Then Respond

pexels-photo-604897.jpegStop and listen to one another. This is something we have been taught since we were children. Yet, in this age of instant communication, I have noticed that we talk more and listen less. Listening, to me, means to take a moment to process what the other person has said or written. We seem to wait politely until there is a break so that we can have our say. We’re doing it wrong.

This has become more and more apparent in a social media context. Recently, I wrote a blog post and shared it on different social media. I admit that I did put a ‘catchy’ question in the headline as my ‘hook’. This is where I noticed things took a turn in the comments. What I quickly noticed was that several didn’t read what I wrote, rather formed an opinion based on the hook. This then lead others to read the comments and form their own opinions and comment. Let me be clear; all the opinions were valid and welcome. My fear is that this is happening quite a lot on various posts and articles; not just on what I write, but on political posts, social issue posts, etc.

We teach our students to read for facts; form opinions based on research. We want our students to think critically and consider all sides of an issue. However, in our daily lives, we aren’t practicing this. I get it; there is so much information being thrown at us from various directions it’s easy to forget to STOP AND LISTEN. Maybe we should be a bit more selective in what we respond to; what we ‘listen’ to. From now on I plan to STOP, LISTEN/READ, and take a moment to understand the information or viewpoint. And, I don’t always have to respond.

How Was Your Break?

pexels-photo-551590.jpegThis is one question I try not to ask. This and “Did you have a good break?” When dealing with many students from differing backgrounds, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has a ‘good break’. It’s a natural question for many of us to ask. We come back not really ready to be back. I mean, we all love to sleep in and get things done around the house or hang with family/friends or go on trips. But for many students coming back to school is a welcome break from their home lives.  And for that reason, I no longer ask students these questions.

I write this because I was reminded over my break that not all our students have ideal home lives. Some are dealing with the threat of a parent being deported or being evicted from their homes. Others are visiting a parent in jail over the holidays. Some don’t have money for presents. And yet others have had to deal with trauma and situations we can’t imagine. For these students, school IS their safe place; school is a welcome break from their everyday lives.

So what do I do? What do I say to my students when they come back? I’ve found that questions and statements such as: “I’m so happy to see you,” or “Are you glad to be back?” work well. “Are you glad to be back?” allows students to tell me about their trips to Mexico, all the toys they received, or the family they spent time with.  While allowing those in less than ideal situations to feel safe to say, “Yes, I’m happy to be back.” Many times they follow that statement with, “It was so boring.” Knowing their lives, I know this isn’t really the case, but rather they are happy to feel safe for 7 hours out of their day.

And it’s not just our students who don’t always have ‘good breaks’. Some of our colleagues have had to deal with situations that were less than an ideal Holiday. Remember: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” – Ian Maclaren.

Facebook Notifications

Many of us use a variety of social media outlets to collaborate, collect information and new ideas, and learn. One that I am using more and more is Facebook. There are several great groups to be a part of there. However, one thing that drives me batty is the ‘follow’ or ‘.’ in a thread. I understand why it’s done – to get the information when someone posts – but am still driven crazy by it.

Facebook allows you to ‘turn on notifications’ on a post without all the ‘follow’ in a thread. By turning on the notifications, you will receive all the comments without cluttering the thread with ‘follow’ or ‘.’. And it’s easy to do!

In a post, click on the three dots that appear in the right corner of the post. One of the options will be ‘turn on notifications’. That’s it!

FB Notification

Mathematical Mindsets

Mathematical Mindsets book by Jo BoalerThis year, as a parting gift, my principal handed out this book to all returning and new staff members. We were invited to participate in a Summer Book Club. One in which we read, post thoughts, videos, questions, and ideas. This made me so happy! I had thought about buying the book earlier this year when my principal told me to hold off and that he was buying one for all of us. So for the last 2 weeks of school, I hounded him to let me take my copy. He wouldn’t give it to me until I signed out of my room. Tricky man! (NOTE: I NEVER ask to read a book. I have some reading disabilities that make ‘heavier’ readings difficult for me)

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!

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.

IMG_5343We 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 aIMG_5346 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!

Coordinates Breakout

This year I have done a few Breakouts with my class. To say that they love them would be an understatement. So this week when we started coordinates in math, the wheels in our brains started turning. Seriously, there are so many things a person can do!

As we were walking to lunch one student suggested that we do a Breakout based on coordinates. I thought this was a GREAT idea and told him that I would search to see if there were any already made. However, by the end of the 45-minute lunch break, I had decided that making our own would be more fun!

I have been wanting to create my own Breakout for over a year. I have had a few ideas. One was an entire Breakout based in Google Maps. Another was based on directions and graphing. Unfortunately, I could never really get clues and ideas that I felt were good enough. Today was a different story. With the help of 28 other brains, we began creating an exciting Breakout – if I do say so myself.

IMG_5342I posed the idea to the class and they went for it. We decided which locks and accessories to use, created codes, and clue outlines. They even designed a distractor that should be used. They had some great ideas! We’re not done yet, but we will definitely share when we are done. I will have them create the clues and the story. I’m pretty excited for what they will come up with.
They know that I introduced this concept – BreakoutEDU – to the staff last week. They want to run their Breakout with the staff. I don’t think there’s time for that, but hopefully, we can run it with the other 5th-grade class.

Google Classroom – Personal Accounts

So I received this today in my inbox!

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 5.49.59 PM A few days ago I wrote about Google Classroom and Personal Accounts. I applied for early access and was granted it today! The nerd in me is super geeked.

This is a game changer for me. First of all, I enjoy sharing my knowledge of Google Classroom with the masses. Secondly, a friend and I thought about created classes that people could take to become more proficient in technology use in the classroom. THIS is the perfect tool to get that going.

I can’t wait to see what uses others come up with.