Genius hour reflection #2

So we have been doing genius hour for the past tho months now and though I had reservations about it, it truly has been an amazing experience for me and my students.  For this that do not know what genius hour is, it is basically a moment in our week where students can explore their passions. We do it every day 4, right after technology. My students have been in love with it. In fact many of them have been finishing projects at home.

Now when we first started it, it was a little tough for some of my lover students, they just didn’t know where to go or even how to start. Many of them haven’t even been encouraged to think or explore their own passions (which is unfortunate). It was also a struggle because many of my students didn’t have the research skills to get started.  This being said, with open learning goals, constructive feedback and ongoing discussion I would say all of my students have been working hard, learning and having fun.
Some things that I have learned implementing genius hour in the primary grades:
1) it is a slow process and may not look perfect 1 try, or two or three. Patients it eventually comes together
2) make your students reflect on what they learned and how it went. This was a big aha moment for me. Since making them reflect the students have begun to understand that it is about the learning and the journey not so much the final outcome.
3) genius hour helps with so many other strands and skills.  Part of our curriculum is do learn about celebrations around the world. This can be hard when the majority of the school is from one culture and not very wise about other cultures.  It is hard to be interested in other cultures or have inquiry when you don’t know where to start.  Because of genius hour, I have been able to introduce how to question, how to wonder and the RAN model for reading non fiction. It has help with this project and I think many more
4) Introduce a Wonder wall. This has been a. New learning for me but when kids can post wonders even if they aren’t answered by them they can see what else to explore and help others in the classroom. Many of my students have started other peoples wonders.
5) have technology ready for students to use.  In my classroom we have a set of net books and iPads. Students collaborate, talk and work together to get it done.
Anyways these are just some thoughts on implementing genius hour. If you want more help or just someone to talk to about it just email me or tweet.
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Unusual Animals

Thought I would share a great science project that we just completed. In grade two the students learn all about life cycles of animals and differnent animal groups. As a team we decided to give the classes a culminating task where they had to make their own animal.  Students had to first decide on an animal name, the describe what group the animal was from using the characteristics that we had been working on, then tell us it’s habitat, and physical and behavioural adaptations.  Students then recorded their presentation using educreations and shared them with the world.  The kids were really engaged in this lesson and loved creating their own animal.  Here are some samples of the students work:

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/gurshan-s-unusual-animal/13186427/?s=UuyUv8&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/gureet-s-unusual-animal/13183547/?s=fu7qdt&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/pranav-s-unusual-animal/13177965/?s=4l4Z7u&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/krish-s-unusual-animal/13176490/?s=VhbCaT&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/navjot-s-unusual-animal/13127743/?s=VRUeF2&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/manjot-s-unusual-animal/13113473/?s=VyE5ed&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/avreet-s-unusual-animal/13113328/?s=vymFlX&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/manveen/12972145/?s=7OYsVM&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/sumaima-s-unusual-animal/13185979/?s=zeZrTs&ref=link

 

http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/prabhnoor-s-unusual-animal/13180992/?s=zmdYtW&ref=link

Accountable Talk in the Classroom: Practical Advice for the Classroom

I have recently finished one great book and one great article on Accountable Talk and Classroom Discussions. 

Stein, M. K., Engle, R., Smith, M. & Hughes, E,  Orchestrating productive mathematical discussion: Five practices for  helping teachers move beyond show and tell. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 10313-340. 

Chapin, Suzanne, O’Connor, Catherine, & Anderson, Nancy. Classroom Discussions: Using         math talk to help students learn. California: Scholastics. 2009.


Accountable talk is one of my passions as I have spent the last four year studying the impact it has on my classroom.  I highly reccomend these two readings for anyone interested in learning more about accountable talk.  However, I also know that in teaching we really don’t have time to sit down and read.  For this reason I thought I would summarize them for you and include them in my blog (I appologize in advance as this will create a rather long post).  These ideas come from the two resources above and my own thesis work.  I hope they are practical advice for anyone in their teaching practice.

Implementing Classroom Discussions
Establishing and Maintaining a Respectful, Supportive Environment:
·         LAY DOWN THE LAW (in a collaborative manner):
o   that every student is listening to what others say
o   that every student can hear what others say
o   that every student may participate by speaking out at some point
o   all have an obligation to listen
·         neither student or teacher will participate in bad environment.  Everyone needs to feel comfortable.
·         Emphasize the positive and forestall the negative
·         Establish classroom norms around talk, partner work, and discussions (what does it look like, sound like and what should we be doing)
·         everyone has the right to participate and an obligation to listen
Focusing Talk on the Mathematics:
·         During the discussion time you need to focus the talk on math:
o   plan your questions carefully
o   Have good formative assessment happening at all times
o   Make a plan as to what big ideas you want to cover
o   Anticipate problems and possible solutions
Providing for Equitable Participation in the Classroom Talk:
·         Here are some strategies that will assist you in making it all equitable:
o   Think-pair-share
o   Wait time
o   Group Talk
o   Partner Talk
o   Debates
o   Random  Choice on who Talks

 

Types of Talk Moves:
Talk Moves That Help Students Clarify and Share Their Own Thoughts
·         Say More:
o   Here you literally ask the student to explain more.  “Can you tell me more?”, “Tell us more about your thinking.  Can you expand on that?”; or “Can you give us an example?”
o   This sends the message that the teacher wants to understand the students’ thinking.
·         Revoicing:
o   It is sometimes hard for students to clearly articulate what they are trying to say by revoicing or having a student do this it allows the original student to check and make sure what they said is true or to hear it in a new way
o   It is not just repeating but more of paraphrasing the students ideas
·         Model students thinking:
o   This is not so much a talk move as it is a way to help talk
o   As students talk record what they are saying without comment.  When they are done ask them , is this what you meant?
o   This allows students to reflect and think about what they said in comparison to what was written
·         Wait Time:
o   Wait time is so important.  I cannot stress this enough.  The longer you wait the better responses you will get.  It allows students to process what you or another student asked and be able to formulate their thinking
Talk Moves That Help Students Orient to Others’ Thinking
·         Who can Repeat?
o   I would classify this under the first category but it also helps students with understanding what their peers are saying
Talk Moves that Help Students Deepen Their Reasoning
·         Press for reasoning
o   Here you are basically asking students to think about why they did this.  This can be done by asking:
§  Why do you think that?
§  What convinced you that was the answer?
§  Why did you think that strategy would work?
§  Where in the text is their support for that claim?
§  What is your evidence?
§  What makes you think that?
§  How did you get that answer?
§  Can you prove that to us?
o   Not only are these excellent talk moves but excellent questions that push students beyond their thinking and make excellent mathematical connections.
Talk Moves That Help Students Engage with Others’ Thinking
·         These are excellent questions that help students build upon their own thinking and the thinking of the community
·         Do you agree or disagree…and why?
o   This really brings students into direct contact with the reasoning of their peers
o   You can do this by:
§  Thumbs up or thumbs down
§  Why do you agree or disagree?
·         Who can add on?
o   When you ask this question make sure that you wait for answers as this may need time to develop connections.
1: Anticipation (P.322)
The first thing is for the teacher to look and see how students might mathematically solve these types of problems.  In addition, teachers should also solve them for themselves.  Anticipating students’ work involves not only what students may do, but what they may not do.  Teachers must be prepared for incorrect responses as well.
2: Monitoring students’ work (P. 326)
While the students are working, it is the responsibility of the teacher to pay close attention to the mathematical thinking that is happening in the classroom.  The goal of monitoring is to identify the mathematical potential of particular strategies and figure out what big ideas are happening in the classroom.  As the teacher is monitoring the students work, they are also selecting who is to present based on the observations that are unfolding in the classroom.
3: Selecting student work (P.327-328)
            Having monitored the students, it is now the role of the teacher to pick strategies that will benefit the class as a whole.  This process is not any different than what most teachers do; however, the emphasis is not on the sharing, but on what the mathematics is that is happening in the strategies that were chosen. 
4: Purposefully sequencing them in discussion (P. 329)
With  the students chosen, it is now up to the teacher to pick the sequence in which the students will present.  What big ideas are unfolding, and how can you sequence them for all to understand?  This sequencing can happen in a couple of ways: 1) most common strategy, 2) stage 1 of a big idea towards a more complex version or 3) contrasting ideas and strategies.
5: Helping students make mathematical sense (P.330-331)
As the students share their strategies, it is the role of the teacher to question and help  them draw connections between the mathematical processes and ideas that are reflected in those strategies.  Stein et. al. suggest that teachers can help students make judgments about the consequences of different approaches. They can also help students see how the strategies are the same even if they are represented differently.  Overall, it is the role of the teacher to bridge the gap between presentations so that students do not see them as separate strategies, but rather as working towards a common understanding or goal of the teacher.

 

Trouble Shooting Talk in the Classroom

My Students won’t Talk:

v  First ask yourself: our my students silent because they have not understood a particular question? –> sometimes they need to hear the question a few times and have time to think
§  if this is the case then give students time to think  (wait time is very important)
§  also revoice it or have another student revoice the question
v  Second they may be shy or unsure of their abilities:
§  If this is the case you may need to revisit strategies for talking
§  Think-pair-share is an excellent way to get kids comfortable to talk
§  it will also take time to get kids comfortable.  Wait time again is important as it holds students accountable.  Also making them feel comfortable and that mistakes are okay will assist with this difficulties
The same few students do all the talking:
v  Wait-Time:
§  I know that I say this a lot but it allows the other students to think and then participate while making the ones who always participate  (it will feel awkward at first but wait as long as you can)
v  Have students Revoice:
§  This is good strategy to bring validity to students answers and encourage others to talk
v  Conferencing with the ones who talk a lot:
§  You also don’t want to ignore the ones who talk  all the time.  You can talk to them and let them know that you are not ignoring them but are just trying to allow others to participate.
v  Turn-Taking/ Random presenters/ group discussions:
§  These are all roughly the same strategy.  It allows you to have certain presenters share their thinking without offending or allowing others to take over the conversation
Should I call on students who do not raise their hands?
v  there is research to suggest that students will learn by listening but you will also hinder the class progress in discussion.  To help try creating a positive space that allows all students to feel comfortable and willing to participate.
v  “right to pass”: 
§  allow students at the beginning of the year the right to pass.  You’ll notice that they may do this at first but as you build the community they do this less and less
v  Call on reluctant to students after partner talk:
§  Often when you give them a chance to share first they are more willing to share or at least have a response from their partner
My students will talk, but they won’t listen
v  Set the classroom Norms:
§  remind each students that they have the right to be heard but that this also means an obligation to listen
v  Students Revoice:
§  When students need to revoice then they have to listen
Huh?” How do I respond to incomprehensible contributions?
v  The temptation is to simply say, “Oh, I see.  How interesting….” and quickly move on to another student.
v  Try Revoicing or repeating what they have said.  After you have done this ask them is this what you meant?
v  Record their strategy on the board and ask them is this what you meant?
Brilliant, but did anyone understand?
v  Repeat what they said, then have another student repeat what they have said (if really important have many students repeat)
v  Break the explanation up into small chunks and revoice or have the students
I have students at very different levels
v  Pair students in ability groups:
§   Similar abilities with similar abilities.  This allows students to contribute at their level and to also struggle at their level.  In addition, it allows you as the teacher to differentiate as needed.  When you scaffold you can do so by group not by individuals
v  Parallel Tasks:
§  Give students similar tasks but with varying degrees of difficulty (still around the same big idea)
What should I do when students are wrong?
v  First ask yourself is there anything wrong with having the wrong answer?  Sometimes wrong answers provide rich and meaningful discussions
v  Need to establish Norms around respectful discourse and discussion with wrong answers
v  Mistakes are always an opportunity for learning to happen

This discussion is not going anywhere or Students’ answers are so superficial!
v  This may be happening because you are asking to many students to share or revoice the ideas that are happening in the classroom or in the case of superficial classroom  norms have not been established or the types of questions have been simple and direct
v  Use the working on phase as an opportunity to direct your bigger discussion:
§  As you are walking around and looking at work, look for the progression your students are taking.  This will lead you to a group discussions.  What questions are the students asking themselves?  What problems are occurring?  What big ideas are they trying to work out, have worked out or are struggling with?
v  Look at the type of questions that you are asking:
§  As teachers we are comfortable asking questions but do our questions already have responses?  Are we leading the kids to OUR thinking or our we allowing the students talk to LEADthe thinking.  Yes you are very much in control of the discuss and have to lead but it is not YOUR thinking but THEIRS that should be articulated.
§  Higher order questions build-upon or go beyond the thinking that is being presented.  As a teacher we need to help with the connections in mathematics.  Compare student work?  Compare strategies, Pros and Cons, naming and identifying.  We need to go beyond just show and tell



Another day in patternville

It’s been awhile since I last blogged but we have been on our two week fall break.  It is quite nice to be apart of a balanced calendar.  The kids have been great getting right back into the swing of things Today in math class we are talking about patterns. From my previous blog post students were doing identifying non patterns and patterns. Now they are creating their own patterns for another group to solve. Take a look at the patterns below Once the groups finished they had to tell if it was a pattern, then tell the rule of the pattern and finally extend the pattern by three terms. Here are some of their work: 

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This had some very interesting results. I had some students unable to make patterns, and some students who only made repeating patterns.  The interesting part is when it came to explaining all students recognized if it was a pattern or not but some struggled to make them.  I found this interest because of they can recognize patterns they should be able to make them.  However, that is not the case, I wonder why? More work might be needed in explaining patterns and identifying key attributes of patterns.  Overall, this was a great exercise to help the students solidify their understanding with patterns.  Our next big problem is looking at how two patterns are a like and not alike (e.g. 2,4,6,8,10,… And 3,5,7,8,11,…..).  Stay tuned for more on patterns

Patterning in grade two

Today was our first formal lesson in patterning.  What I mean by that is we have been discussing patterns but more in the context of number sense, where we have been learning to count by twos, fives and tens, as well as, doubling numbers. This type of talk has been focused on the magnitude of numbers and associated with place value not so much on growing and shrinking of patterns.

So today we started with a problem that was asking the students to sort eight sets of (patterns and none-patterns) into two categories, a yes it is a pattern and a no it is not a pattern. I have attached the patterns down below.
It was very interesting conversation around this. At first the students put only the repeating patterns in the yes category stating that for it tone a pattern then it had to repeat. I had to remind them about the book we read called patterns big and small. In this book they had a set of nesting dolls, I’m asked the kids did that pattern repeat? After that discussion the kids where better off explaining their reasons for their groupings.
I really liked this question because it made the students really think about what a pattern is and what attributes are needed to make a pattern. They obviously had worked with patterns in grade one but mainly with repeating patterns, which is why they at first they only made piles with repeating numbers.  The non-patterns are also helpful because they can assist us with thinking about what attributes a pattern doesn’t have and therefore in the end has.
Today we are going to be working on the justifying of their answers and then coming up with a definition of what a pattern is and is not.  If your grade two or any grade for that matter I highly recommend this type of problem for your class.

For the patterns we used click on this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/okxkmomlckfu758/Is%20this%20a%20pattern.docx

 

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.