My POV: Applying Learning

Before everyone heads off for Winter Break a quick reflection on kids: their learning and how they transfer the didactic to the practical. A whirlwind of subbing has my mind ablaze with thoughts, ideas and questions. So I continue with My POV meanders.

We sit with our students during whole groups, small groups, peer groups and one on one instruction in the hope that what we discuss, present and teach is understood and integrated into their background information (kid’s schema) of what they know.

We see in social emotional development that transference from one situation to the next is often based on age, experience and the many opportunities to consolidate authentic experiences before children are successful. This is also true in all venues of play from block building to construction manipulatives to navigating the outdoor climbing structures, to riding bikes, swimming and sports. If you’ve seen a youngster trying to traverse those monkey bars at the park, you know what I mean. From resilience to success takes time.

In similar ways numeracy skills learned with hands on materials to “math talks” to application takes time.

In similar ways literacy skills learned with letter sound skills and sight words using various modalities then applied to reading and writing takes time.

As I reflect on what I call the “transference of learning to application,” I wonder how this works for our diverse learners? Is drill and practice an option? How do the programs you have, work with your students? How do we adapt our lessons to meet their needs? We know one size doesn’t fit all, but where is the “give” that’s okay?

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The collage of rock climbers are my grandkids. The others are from my kinders a few years ago and a 2nd grade class that I subbed in.

 

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My POV: Math Lessons: Group Configurations – What Works

I’ve had a few opportunities to sub in kindergarten and observe math lessons taking place. I do have to admit as a substitute teacher I am not involved in the math lessons and concepts developed from the beginning to the conclusion of a math unit. But as an experienced kinder teacher I feel I can add my POV.  My main take away in this unit (and others) is that language plays a great factor in children’s understanding of the math concepts. When my kinders were not able to explain their thinking in words, show me what you mean was my go to option. One of the kinder math units focused on Ordering by Size, Length or Weight. There have been teacher directed lessons as well as many hands on opportunities to explore.  We have been using Singapore Math in our curriculum for a few years (when I taught kinders as well), and now the school has formally adopted the Math In Focus Program throughout all the grades.

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I knew I wanted to write about math and a post I saw from Aviva Dunsiger @avivaloca on Twitter, had me thinking! So from observing kinders exploring math concepts to looking at what class configuration works best, I get to this post.

I saw concepts introduced during morning meetings whole group lessons and then explored in math rotations during the Daily 5. Questions were asked, some eager kinders called out to demonstrate what they understood and some wanted more clarification to understand the concept. I observed lessons presented in half groups with the teacher encouraging the kinders to share their thinking as they problem solved as they used  rekenreks or when they compared lengths. I listened as they worked with partners or solo depending on their needs and strengths. I saw excitement in their learning as they ran over to show me what they discovered.

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Kinders start the day with play as they build with a myriad of manipulatives, connectors and blocks. They figure out how to make things work; the language, collaboration and discovery is amazing. How this fits into math can’t be diminished in value.

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For young children distractions are inevitable (whether internal or environmental) and given the opportunity to learn in whole groups, half groups, small groups or one on one does makes a difference and impact the learning. We often talk about “strategies” in reference to literacy, but I see instilling math strategies of equal importance. Scaffolding learning, differentiation not only in tasks but in differing group configurations and as they work in their ZPD can ease students into accessing information to meet their needs. I feel that understanding how kinders, and all students, think and process information is key to this process. Metacognition is important in understanding how one gets from here to there.

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What have been your successful ways of engaging your students in math learning? What take-a-ways do you have either from this post or the one from @avivaloca?

 

 

 

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My POV: A Writer’s And Reader’s Workshop Lesson

I had an interesting three days of subbing, right after the Thanksgiving holidays. On Wednesday I subbed for a second grade teacher at the Temple school where I have been teaching since February 2016. Then I subbed for the music teacher and a kindergarten teacher at my old school. The experiences so different, but the throughline similar, as I  relied on the students, the co-teachers and in truth, me, to work together and be each others “right hand man.” More then anything I wanted the joy to permeate what I was teaching and what the students were learning. For the most part mission accomplished!

The students at the Temple school recognize me and greet me when I am on campus, especially the first graders who were last year’s kinders and remember me from my time spent with them. A few children go out of their way to say hello and make sure I say hello back. So important for us, as teachers, to show we care and acknowledge them. And equally important for me, I might add. (I will leave my time in the music room and kindergarten for another post.)

It was an interesting morning in second grade. A morning meeting and message expanded into an incredible brainstorming session as the students focused on a picture and learned about “perspective.” An unexpected mini lesson that engaged the students in understanding the importance of acknowledging deferring points of view “POV.”  The students were choosing topics for their 2nd Grade Newlsetter.  They discussed what topic they wanted for their article, if they wanted to work with a classmate or venture out on their own. The mini-lesson helped them look at key words to extend their thinking: the Who, How, When, What and Why of their topic, that could enhance their writing and give a more well round understanding of the topic. This was the first time they were applying this paradigm to their Newsletter. As an observer/participant in this lesson I saw a high level of engagment, dialogue, questions and interest in applying these ideas to their writing. I saw this as an application of Writer’s Workshop; authentic writing with a purpose, beyond a lesson to develop a writing skill. I felt that the collaboration between us (the teachers) as we shared our ideas and different ways to approach the lesson, as a partnership in learning.

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In their Reader’s Workshop these Grade 2 students chose a non-fiction book from their book bags and were assigned to look for a “shocker” (information that was new to them) they could discuss with the class. Some of the students wanted to read the text and needed encouragement to summarize “in their own words” the shocker. Books varied as did the shockers they shared which ranged from Rosa Parks and not sitting in the back of the bus (delved into that); Caterpillars to butterflies: caterpillar to chrysalis takes awhile; Insects: some have a waterproof skeleton on the outside of their body; Presidents come in different sizes from Lincoln the tallest to Madison the smallest. Although this was new terminology for me, the students were familiar with this assignment and spent their time reading their books before sharing their “schocker.”  As with many lessons in a given day some needed more teacher guidance and help staying within the parameters; some students were eager to show what they found out, some were unsure but all had an opportunity to participate.

As I reflect on my experiences with these 2nd graders, I marvel at what they can do, their independence and for the most part, their willingness to try and challenge themselves. I watched how the teacher redirected their questions and when seeking assistance from us (here my role was really as the co-teacher/assistant) guided them to try strategies they could use to work on their own or work with their partner (if they were writing with a partner).

And I have questions which I frame as my “wonders”: The extra time for the brainstorming  definitely added to the students’ interests in writing their article for the Newsletter. I also think that the discussion about why we read papers contributed to their motivation to create a newsworthy Newsletter! It made a difference that there was time to extend the pre-writing activity to absorb the information they discussed. I wonder if a rough draft addressing key words on their topic would add to a more detailed article? I wonder if the students knew they had more time they would not rush to finish. And then I wonder if for second graders in the beginning of December, this was just right!

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Am I That Teacher?

I am a retired kindergarten/early childhood educator. A tough decision to retire but it was necessary and in hindsight a good one. I haven’t left the profession, but have transitioned to a new position, that of a substitute teacher. I sub at two different schools in classes preschool to second grade. I continue to learn and share with colleagues on Twitter, Facebook and at the school campuses.

It has been a busy few weeks and as I made the commitment to sub I knew the transition in the different grade levels could be overwhelming. But to my relief, I saw what I always believed take place in the classrooms. The students rose to the occasion when I was uncertain or confused by the curriculum or schedule. True I was usually in a team teaching classroom, but when I was alone in a class of second graders the learning and teaching, mine and theirs, was palpable. When given the chance to demonstrate what they know, students want to shine. I saw it with first graders when they had a Geniushour session and with four-year-olds when they demonstrated their cutting skills as I hovered close by watching for safety issues.  I saw it with Toddlers taking my hand to help a child who was hurt and with the three year olds settling down so I could read them a story. And at times children test subs and that’s been true in my situation as well. I see the testing and the challenging my directions and decisions as their uncertainty about me. How will I respond? Will I be that teacher that “lays down the law”? Will I be that teacher that asks them to explain what they want and need? Will I be that teacher that appreciates their ideas and respects their suggestions? Will I be that teacher that listens and gives them the opportunity to try out their “hypothesis”? Will I be that teacher who has time for them? Will I be that teacher that appreciates their quirkiness and uniqueness? I hope I can be that teacher. I hope it’s been more times then not.

I continue to be a familiar face at both school sites. The children greet me and ask if I’m in their classroom today. And maybe that’s the loud and clear message to me, for the most part, I’m that teacher.

Although now I’m in a unique situation as a substitute teacher, I know a classroom teacher (not long ago being in that position) has so much asked of them.  I continue to observe incredible teaching, as I partner up in the various classrooms, and feel proud that I get to say when asked what I do, “I teach. I am a teacher!”

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Teaching Also A Craft

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve put pencil to paper to share my thinking. Not that I haven’t been “thinking” and reflecting but time rushes by as I visit my grandkids and continue to sub, having an opportunity to hone in my craft. For in many ways teaching is craft. Hopefully we look, listen and  try and continue to look, listen and try. In the past few months I have spent time in the Toddler program, with EC1 (the 3/4 year olds), kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade.

I marvel at the fearless climbers, the zooming drivers easily circumventing peers and pillars on the yard. I watch the builders learning that a friend has a good idea and the friend also kisses a boo-boo. I look at the ease of children approaching the sub to share an observation, ask for help and sit down side by side listening to the teacher read a cherished book. I sit with the student who lets me know when she wants to work on her math independently. I canvas the room, watch the students, ready with eye contact for the reserved child who isn’t sure if I’m the right one to guide her during writing workshop. I am overjoyed that I get to share my passion for Genius Hour with the 1st graders. Their eyes wide open waiting to collaborate or work independently, knowing they are empowered to “chase” and engage in their interests.

I listen for sounds of joy, wanting to share in the revelries, for sounds of distress, waiting to see if I am needed and I listen to my inner voice saying, “I’m not ready to give this up yet.”

Wherever you are in the continuum of your teaching, I hope the learning is always part of it. Often times it may become overly stressful. However that village is right there waiting for you to reach out. In those situations who and what are your go to places and people?

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GeniusHour in a 1st grade classroom. Students share their results with the class.

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That’s Not Fair, It’s My Turn

“It’s not fair,” she shouted. “It’s not fair,” he retorted. All around me a daily recurrence of this theme. Teachers, parents and those whose lives interface with kids are not surprised. It’s part of the language of children, deafening and intolerant at times. What to do is the quandary adults face; when to intervene, when to let it go, hoping it gets worked out by the warring parties. But when it doesn’t then we (teacher, parent, adult) get to referee and sometimes we’re just so on our game and other times we flounder, wishing we had taken another course of action. I reflect, wondering, (now that I also am substitute teacher in the Early Childhood classrooms), (and spending time with my grandkids), how to approach this concophony of noise; because inevitably it occurs when a group of children, determined, self-reliant and self-assured in the  righteousness of their cause work through their journey of taking turns, waiting and sharing. “The toy was mine. I was using that first. It’s not fair because it’s my turn.” “I had that shovel first. You had that pail for such a long time. That’s not fair it’s my turn.” “You used the iPad for a long time. You’re taking too long. That’s not fair, it’s my turn.” “I’ve waited to check out that book. You can’t have it again. That’s not fair it’s my turn.” And on and on. You fill in the blanks. Sometimes pushing and shoving evolves. At times there are tears of frustration before any chance of negotiations. And as the year progresses and guidelines have been established, the hope is that independent conflict resolution prevails. That’s where we come in. We the adult charged with the mission of creating harmony in the classroom, supporting and respecting each child’s needs and concerns. I have learned to lean into the successes, to rely on them when mistakes keep popping up. I have learned that each child has his/her own version of what happened and with young children, they fiercely hang on to their truth. They have taught me not to take sides, but to help them determine what would be a fair outcome. They have taught me that I will always need to learn more because “fairness” is so important to them. Over the years, because of them, I have learnt not to discount their feelings or concerns. That “fairness” that can seemingly grate over minor issues, helps develop children who become passionate and compassionate young people.

As I continue to reflect, fortunate to continue having time in a classroom, I get to practice what I am learning, with children sharing who they are with me.

img_1992In my last few years as a classroom teacher I discovered the incredible value of blogging. I see it as a powerful tool to reflect on my teaching practices and learning. Even now, from this vantage point, I continue to reflect and share my thoughts, musings and ideas.

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