A New Year and a New Grade

I am starting a new experience this year and I can`t wait for it to begin.  I am making the brave switch from seven years in junior to grade two.  I can`t wait to share all of the cool experiences and the learning that I am pretty sure we will both (students and more importantly me) be doing.

As I have often expressed in my other posts, change is a good thing.  Want I am really looking forward to is the excitement that primary students bring to learning.  I think this is just the coolest thing ever when their light bulbs go off and they have experienced something new and exciting.

I hope to do a better job at posting then I did last year.  You can also check out our students blog site at: http://www.kidblog.org/MrSosGradetwos.

Reflection on Classroom Practise and the types of Talk moves/ Questions I ask

I am in the process of analysing my research for my thesis.  My thesis is on the impact my questioning had on student learning of fractions.  I was quite surprised at the amount of questions I asked and the types of questions I asked.

 Have a look at the chart below:

Types of Questions
Amount of Times Asked
Talk Move
Big Idea
Doesn’t initiate any discussion
T- Building on
49 (16.9%)
T- Introduce new strategy that has not been developed
14 (4.8%)
T- direct teaching
27 (9.3%)
T- Go Beyond
75 (25.8%)
2 (.68%)
T- Initiation- response- evaluation
7 (2.4%)
T- Interrogation
73 (25.2%)
23 (31.5%)
50 (68.5%)
T- question unclear
3 (1%)
T- Scafolding
32 (11%)
T- shares strategy
8 (2.7%)
Total of Questions:
290 (49.3%)
31 (10%)
222 (74%)
37 (12.8%)
T- Air Misconceptions
T- answering with another question
T- Echo’s students words
T- Letting students just talk
T- Monitoring students
T- no confirmation/ in order to push beyond
T- relate back to context
T- relate to other problems
T- Revoicing
T- Student revoicing
T- Think, Pair, Share
T-Wait Time
T- Checking for understanding
Total of Talk Moves
298 (50.7%)
24 (8%)
40 (13%)
234 (78.5%)
Totals altogether
55 (9.4%)
262 (44.5%)
234 (39.8%)
37 (6.3%)

The chart is split into two different groups Questions (in black) and Talk moves (in red).  I tallied all of them together and in a three week unit I ask or did a total of 588 talk moves/questions.  This first of all surprised my that I ask or did so much.  Most of the time we often think of teaching as just standing there and lecturing, not getting the student involved.  however, that wasn’t the most surprising stat.  What really got me going was that even though I may have done more talk moves then asked questions the majority of these actions were related to a big idea.  I wasn’t just trying to get the kids to talk about the subject, I wanted them to articulate a big idea of point in mathematics.

So I ask you to think about your practise.  What types of questions are you asking?  What are you doing to make your students talk?  What is the majority of your time in a unit spent on?  Just some things to reflect on.

Give kids an inch and they go the mile! Inspiration is the inch!

I have had the privilege of having some amazing classes in my career as a teacher and some very challenging ones as well, but one thing that they both have in common is when given the chance to excel they always do.  One of my favourite units in grade Four is Medieval Times. It’s a great era of time that draws in all kinds of interests. Unfortunately, I cannot cover all of the cool facts and interesting things of the era. To solve this, I challenge my students to a “rise to power.”

For this challenge, they are to do a presentation about something they have researched, made, drew, or created about the medieval times. It allows the students to go off and explore topics that are not covered due to time.  The kids absolutely love it. When given the chance to learn and when that learning is appreciated kids excel and go above and beyond.  Yes there may be parent help but shouldn’t that be encouraged sometimes. All I know is that when given the chance to excel and show their learning, in an environment that students feel appreciated and engaged, they will rise to the occasion no matter the type of student we have.

Here are a few of the projects:

This is a medical shield project inspired by a students idea on coarse of arms. Students loved it so much they did a whole class project.

This I is a manor house. Not all correct in the representation but learning non-the-less.

Inquiry doesn’t promote fact growth, or does it?

I was out with a friend of mine last night when we got into a heated debate about inquiry based learning. I was fine with his opinion until he got to the part that inquiry learning does not promote facts. His argument was that teachers spend too much time letting the kids explore that they forget about the actual computation that is needed for them to do the math.

My argument, was that though I can’t speak for ever teacher who teaches inquiry, only myself and those that I have seen, it does. Not to be frank with my argument but it does. As a teacher it is my job to make sure that my kids are learning mathematics. This means that they aren’t just figuring out amazing ways of solving the problem but are actually talking about the mathematics.  Facts are amazing but without a context they are just facts, meaningless and useless facts.   In an inquiry based learning environment students do learn their facts, maybe not as quickly as if I used flash cards and mad minutes but they don’t forget them once they have learned them.  In addition, my students also learn them in engaging ways, through games and contextual problems.

But this is only my opinion, would love to hear what you all think?

Celebrating Mistakes

I would be the first to admit that I am not the greatest writer.  In fact, I detest writing.  It was and still is something that I struggle with; however, that is okay.  Knowing this and making mistakes makes me human and students need to see this.

Often we as educators think that we are suppose to be perfect, know all person.  We are the ones that students turn too as models and we must be perfect.  This is wrong; at least in my opinion!  Our students need to see us struggle.  They need to see us problem solve and work through our own problems.  Our students need to understand that mistakes are okay, that they are places for learning; if we don’t make mistakes then how do we show them this.  If we truly believe that the process is better than the final outcome then by making mistakes and owning them, we honour that process.  So make a mistake and see what learning happens.

Creating Accountable Talk in the Classroom

Accountable Talk is a big passion of mine.  Seeing the results of the students talking is truly amazing.  Here are just some small tid-bits that I compiled to help create accountable talk in the classroom.
Accountable talk just doesn’t happen, no matter what age group you are teaching, you have to create conditions for it.       

1) Students have to feel like they are welcomed (which I know we all do as educators)

2) All voices are heard à this is the hardest part.  We sometimes only chose certain kids to talk

3) At the beginning of the year like many teachers I spend a lot of time on training my students to work in partners, what talk looks like, and sounds like.  We go over rules for partner talking and what my expectations areThis is rough at the beginning of the year.  I often do this through games, not only is this great in primary but it works well in junior.  As you are playing games you are also teaching many of the math concepts and having small conferencing moments with the students. You get great diagnostic assessment and provide formative assessment right on the spot.  For junior I tend not to spend as much time and introduce games every Friday because of how short on time I am and how dense the curriculum is in junior (spend a week if not two though).

There are also talk moves that you can be constantly do:

1)      Wait time: à when students have enough wait time they will participate (this takes time)
§  At the beginning of the year this wait time feels like hours but if you don’t give it then they won’t talk later
§  When you wait the accountability is on them
§  Kids need time to process
§  Add in think pair share here: à great teaching tool to promote talk
2)      Revoice: 
          When you revoice what the students have said then they feel accountable to the work.  It validates their opinion but at the same time makes them think about what they are talking about
          You can also have the other students revoice: à this holds other students accountable to contribute to the community and that they have to listen
3)      Just don’t talk:
          I think that sometimes as teachers (me included) we talk too much
          I sometimes don’t say anything and then a student jumps in (let it)
Finally talk will not happen if you don’t plan for it to happen.  You must think about what big ideas you are going to be discussing.  They sometimes don’t happen but if you have things planned out you can create questions to lead students back to these ideas or be prepared to discuss what the students are talking about or ready for. 

Will you be the Change? A reflection on the autrocities in this world

I am writing this blog for two reasons: one is to record a piece of terrible history and reflect on the way it has impacted me and to hopefully inspire my students (or anyone reading this) to continue doing what they are doing (which is amazing things).

A couple of days ago there was a bombing in Boston; an act of Terror.  It was a sad and senseless act, one that whoever did it should be ashamed of themselves.  My heart and my prayers are with the families of those who are injured and those who have lost someone because of this event.  I am saddened by the fact that humanity can be so cruel and senseless.  This world would be a far better place if we can all just make peace with each other and check our egos and pride at the door.

 When I hear news like this and see the awful atrocities in our world I worry about the next generation who will occupy this place.  What type of world our we bringing our children, and students into.  This world can often be a scary place for our students.  It’s filled with hate, crime, war and senseless violence. 
In my classroom, these discussion are never turned away.  I try to teach through a social justice lens and often will have discussions about many of these devastating events and topics.  It is because of these discussions that I am constantly reassured (every year) that we (human kind) will be okay.   I am reassured and amazed by my students tenacity, love for humanity and open hearts.  If we could all have the compassion that grade four and fives can show than we would be a better place.

 So to end this reflection, I ask you “will you be the change you want to see in this world?”