Place Value

These last few months we have been focusing on place value. Place value is such an important beginning for any primary student in mathematics. We have started the unit with basic counting. Now this may seem too basic and you may think, “what kid doesn’t know how to count by grade two?” This may seem an obvious skill to many but it is something that many (not some) still struggle with.

 Counting goes beyond being ale to tag each object and say its corresponding number. By grade two students should be seeing groups of objects, especially twos, fives and tens, and be able to count by them efficiently and effectively. Students are still grasping with recognizing fives and tens as they count often still counting by ones till they get to five and then putting that aside. Students should start to see 5′s as 2+3 or 4+1 or even better 10′s as 9+1. 5+5, 2+8, 4+6, 7+3, without having to count.

 To help with this we have been collecting and organizing objects in our classroom. Students have been counting bins, pencils, books, etc. in order to tell me how many is in each basic. We then moved to figure out how many bundles of tens there was in each basket and if there was any patterns we noticed in the numbers. Students soon realized that the number (or numbers) to the left became the amount of groups of tens. I told them that this was because that is called the tens column in the place value system and really it is saying 1 group of 10 or 1 x 10.

 We are now trying to see how many groups of fives and tens there are in the bins. Now again, I thought to myself this should be an easier concept. Obviously if they see the fives then they will see how many tens. I also thought that since we worked on doubling so much in patterning that they would see that there was two fives in one ten. However, I was wrong again. Like many students, we are struggling to see how one group of objects can be called a 1 group but still be 5 or 10 things. Another mistake that my students are making is assuming that the ones place value tells us how many tens we have. They assume that if the left column told us the tens then the right must tell us the ones. We are currently working on this concept by looking at numbers and asking how many tens and how many fives? The follow up questions are simple: What patterns do you notice? Why does this occur? My hope is that students will see that there are two fives for every ten and if the leftovers (after making a group of ten) is greater then five it is just one more group. Example: 76: The number 76 has 7 groups of tens because there is 7 tens in 70 (10+10+10+10+10+10+10=70). We also have 15 fives because there are two fives in one ten and we have 7 tens so you double it; however, we also have 6 leftover which can make another group of five; making the total 15 fives, with one leftover. 

 To help out at home, keep practising the subutizing plates (dot plates) or counting objects in the house and looking for patterns.

Genius hour

So we started Genius Hour! Now you might be asking what is genius hour.  Genius hour is a time set aside so that my kids can pursue their own interests in learning. It allows the students to learn, research, and develop what they what to do. Now you might be thinking, you let your kids have free rain?  Well in a way, yes I did, however, their was one criteria, it had to benefit the classroom.  

I was really hesitant of letting go control to my grade two classroom.  This was not because of letting chaos happen or student discovery but more that I didn’t know if my students need more guidance I organizing their thinking and work.  
I started the process with watching two videos on creativity and what is an idea. We then made a proposal that they had to share with their parents.  The reason chose to have them make. A proposal was that I wanted my students to have a plan in order to succeed or feel like they accomplished something.  My students then had to share this proposal with their parents.  This was an interesting concept for many of my students.  We had to have a discussion about what a proposal was and why it needed to happen.  However, it did fit nicely into our covey habits and once explained with those my students had no trouble in identifying what they wanted to do.  
The ideas have been flowing.  Some of my kids want to get better in soccer, mathematics, and art.  They have planned to research and make videos, or have an art portfolio.
I don’t know if I introduced this right but I. Am hoping that the kids will take off with it and I am really looking forward to what they have planned. We plan to do genius hour once a week. 
Anyone else doing this? Any helpful tips out there for grade two?  Love to hear what other stories.

Helping our parents feel a part of the learning

I was recently meeting with one of my student’s parents, who also happens to be fantastic teacher in our school.  She mentioned something to me and it became a big “aha” to me.  She said,”you know many of us parents, really don’t know how to help our students at home. We were never taught to think or explain.  When we went to school we learned facts and then retold those facts.  As a parent I just want to know that what I do at home is okay.” To me this meant that, “I want to be validated as a parent, that I matter!”

This really struck me because I always thought that I really tried to communicate this to my parents.  To me parents are just as much an integral part of student success and I never wanted them to feel let out.  This got me thinking even more about what else I could do in the classroom besides tell parents they are valued.
1) This year for my math homework I have tried to explain the rationale of why I chose those particular problems. The hope is that it will help parents feel more comfortable with the concepts and what I am look for in an answer. Almost sending the co-constructed materials without the rubric.
2) Interview form to the parents: at the beginning if the school year I sent home with the students a interview form asking them to tell me about their student. What do they do well, what are their next steps, what expectations do they have for me? This (at least to me) allowed my parents a voice into the classroom.
3) Open door policy: I have an open door policy. This means that at anytime my parents, other teachers, or anyone really can come into the classroom. I really try to make my classroom as transparent as possible. If I want my parents involved in my teaching and ‘buy in’ then they need to see it in action.
4) Tons of communication: I know that as teachers we lead very busy lives. We also, though some may not think it, have a life outside of the classroom but I have found that the more communication you have the happier parents are.  This year I have implemented a class site, for messages, calendar, home works and assignments, a wiki site to host videos, work samples and allow parents to comment and class blogging.  I know that there are ways to make this easier but I have found a really positive response to this.
I know that these may not be anything new or revolutionary but thought I would share them and possibly make you think about what you do to make your parents feel a part of the learning.

Hands on Learning

 We had a lot of fun this week with some great hands on learning.  Sorry no pics my hands were full of crisco…  Confused, let me tell you about it. Part of the grade two science unit is learning about how animals change in order to survive. It doesn’t go into too great of detail as in grade four but the students learn that their are adaptations that animals need in order to live.  We talk about how some of those adaptations are physical and some are behavioral. To help with this we did two experiments with the kids this week.  

The first is call MACKI Hunters: For this game the students became hunters of macaroni, which I had about hundred or so in different colours.  I threw these MACKIES onto the field and told them that in order to survive they had to get at least ten in two minutes.  Of course they all survived.  We talked about why that would be and what could possibly make it harder.  The next time, I split the groups up into the three colours (red, blue, green) and then told them to get ten.  This ended up having some of the students not surviving. The last time I did it I had three of the students become hunters of the children.  All of the students only had to get five but they couldn’t get touched and had to make it back to me in order to be safe.  This ended in only three of the students surviving.  We had some great discussions about how animals survive and what animals need in order to survive. 

 The next experiment was understanding physical adaptations.  For this experiment you need Crisco, gloves, ice and two buckets of water.  You first put the ice in the water and put the crisco in one glove.  Side Note: I do find it easier to put the Crisco in a ziplock bag and then another ziplock bag over top of this.  This way the child’s hand just goes inside of the clean bag.  However, the kids have fun getting messy.  Next the students have one hand in the ice water and one hand in the crisco bag/glove and that is in the ice water.  Students soon discover how cold one hand is versus the other.  They start to make the connection between how polar bears have blubber to keep them warm just like the Crisco does to their hands. As you can tell I couldn’t take any pictures as my hands where also covered in Crisco; however, it was a lot of fun and worth the experience.