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.
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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.

Using pasta for a butterfly art project

 Thought I would share this really cool art activity.  After having a pretty cool talk about our butterflies and their life cycle, my students had to do an art activity with dried pasta.  I never thought that pasta would apply here but it certainly does.  All you need is the butterfly pasta, the small rice looking pasta, macaroni and curly pasta (apologize for butchering the names).  Each of these pastas represent a stage in the caterpillar/butterfly’s life cycle.   We used small paper plates and the kids broke them into four sections and decorated these areas anyway they wanted.  Here are some samples:  

SAMR

I was recently at a peel tech conference #tldwpeel, it was a truly amazing experience. We have so many talented people working in peel and the amazing ideas for 1:1, is st truly remarkable.  One of the guest speakers Dr. Ruben Puentedura http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/, came up with a model for teaching and planning tech called the SAMR model.  Basically, each letter stands for stage in a proverbial ladder of planning.


S: substitution. This is when the teacher basically is substituting a paper task for a written task.  Unfortunately, I do believe that many teachers are at this stage and see tech as just a way do something different.

A:augmentation.  This is when teachers use it augment the program. At this stage it is often use for engagement, or hooking students.  You might play a YouTube video, have them use a website, or video tape.

M: modification. This is when a teacher is using tech to modify, so that the task is redefined.

R: redefinition. This is when the task can branch out and become something totally new.  Connecting to other classrooms, reflecting on a task, teaching the next year or the previous.

We were challenged to make our practise more on the modification and the redefinition components. So I am challenging you the reader to do the same.  Also if you have any great tech ideas please let me know or fill it in the comment section.

Making conjectures and proving them

In grade two we have been exploring the concept of doubles and what is a double. It’s an interesting concept because we probably assume that by grade two students should know what a double is and why it is called a double, but that was not so. Oh of course, all of the kids could count by twos, but when asked what makes a double all I got was blank stares.  With this in mind we went through some problems exploring whAt a double is.  We started with the story of Madeline, see previous post, and then moved to a discussion about where we have seen a double before.

Today, the class looked at pairs of shoes.  The problem was if each person in your house had one pair of shoes in the front hallway, how many pairs would you have and how many individual shoes would you have?

Most of the students drew out the people and then the shoes, they then counted by ones or twos to get the individual shoes. This alone is a good math problem but I decided to take it a step forward. I asked them to look at their results and make theory, so that I could figure out how many shoes I would have for any number of people?  Once they made a theory they had to test t out to make sure it was true.

I was amazed at how many of the students looked puzzled. It was almost like I asked them to fly to the moon. I am amazed every year at how students struggle with thinking. We often say that’s we are teaching 21st century skills but are we really?

As I look at what my students eventually did I think how they are starting to become real mathematicians. Sure I could have told them the rule was the amount of people doubled would give you the individual shoes because each person has two shoes or mode the rule with pictures, t-charts and then follow up with a question like, “what pattern do you see?” or i could count the shoes with the kids, but then would my students have learned?

By doing this, this way, I have allowed my students to make their own theories and thentestthem out and prove them to the mathematical community. They have thought about the process, they have looked at the numbers in relation to the context and the math became real.

So I ask you, what are you doing to make your students think?

Madeline

Madeline Math Problem

This was a really cool problem.  The kids read the story of Madeline and we discussed all of the math problems in it.  After closely looking at the story the kids saw that the girls always walked in two rows.  We had a discussion about how many kids that was and how they knew.  I then had them go back to their seats and work on this problem:

1) Suppose that there was 7 kids in a row, how many would their be altogether?

2) What if there was 8 kids in a row, how many would their be altogether?

3) What is there was 23 kids in a row, how many would their be althogether?

Here is what the kids said:

Dot Plates

It has been an amazing experience working with Dot Plates.  Such a simple exercise but what rich discussion we had.  In this simple exercise my students learned about subitizing, counting on and one to one tagging.  They also learned that numbers are made up of other numbers and that there are parts to numbers.  This is the foundation for addition and subtraction.  If you want to create your own dot plates all you need are simple 35 paper plates and bingo dabbers.  The patterns are simple here is a youtube video to follow:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POSgVl07Go0.   Our next move is to play a game called part-whole Bingo. I’ll fill you in on how that goes in my next blog.