Books That Touch Our Humanity

I have been struck down with Strep throat and am currently sitting in bed with my orange juice reading an amazing book called “Teach Like a PIRATE”. (Ironic because my voice sounds just like that of a gruff pirate right now..)  It’s just the kind of book I need: something to inspire me to do great things. As I was reading through this book I started thinking about the impact that amazing literature can have in the lives of our classrooms. I want to share with you two books that I have read with my students that I truly believe have touched our humanity and made us a better community of learners.

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The first book is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. My students and I loved reading this book. It was our first novel study of the year. The story centers around Ivan who is a gorilla that lives in a mall. The story is told from his perspective as he remembers his past and fights for his freedom from the big top mall. It helped build empathy and understanding during that crucial first two months of the school year when we were carefully building our classroom community. The text is simple but the characters and story are so profound they move you in ways you cannot imagine.

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The second book is Wonder by R J Palacio. The story is about August Pullman who is entering school for the very first time after being home schooled his whole life. August is a very special boy who has a facial deformity that makes him look extraordinary when he really is ordinary just like all the other kids. The book chronicles his struggles as he navigates his way into life as a middle schooler. It brings up topics that all kids can relate to: being new, exclusion, bullying, the power of friendships and acceptance. I am in love with this book and the conversations it has brought into my classroom.

So if you are looking for two great books to read with your students, I would recommend these two books in a heart beat.

Changing Landscapes: Teachers As Knowmads Part 1

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 “Rider” photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Over spring break I happened to come across a Tweet on my Twitter stream about an interesting book to check out (Knowmad Society). Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to put this book down until I had finished it. Some of the ideas proposed in the book have profound implications on societal and educational systems. One of the most interesting concepts of the book was that of a Knowmad.

Knowmads: 

1. Are not restricted to a specific age.

2. Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.

3. Are able to contextually apply their ideas and expertise in various social and organizational configurations.

4. Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networks, navigating new organizations, cultures and societies.

5. Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.

6. Are open to sharing what they know, and invite and support open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.

7. Can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.

8. Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.

9. Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously.

10. Are not afraid of failure.

Page  24 of Knowmad Society

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Australia, Adelaide; Light on the waters photo credit: kool_skatkat via photopin cc

As I thought more and more about the concept of what a Knowmad is, I began to think about how vital it is for educators to embrace the notion of being a Knowmad. We are entering job hunting season across Canada and the U.S. There are new teachers graduating from Ed faculties and experienced teachers simply looking to make a change all on the job search. It’s a stressful time for those looking for employment in such a tight market where nothing is guaranteed.

Many of the points in the definition of a Knowmad remind me of my Twitter PLN and the fantastic educators I have connected with. We work together, share ideas and are always willing to help  each other regardless of location. The relationships and interactions afforded by our online and offline networks allow us gain new knowledge and to apply it in our classrooms the very next day. We are always learning and trying new things out. Having a supportive network has allowed me to gain the courage to try things and to not fear failure.

I am still pondering the idea of teachers as Knowmads and many of thoughts shared in Knowmad Society.  Once I have pondered some more I will write-up another blog post.

What do you think of the idea of teachers as Knowmads?

Interesting Articles to Read:

“What I am Afraid of” by Ben Grey http://bengrey.com/blog/2013/03/what-im-afraid-of/

“Stop Following Your Passions.. the Celebration of Work” by Dean Shareski

http://ideasandthoughts.org/2012/08/22/stop-following-your-passions-the-celebration-of-work/

“Don’t let your change agents become free agents” by Natalie Foley http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2013/03/29/dont-let-your-change-agents-become-free-agents/

“How managers can keep their top talet.” by Maynard Webb https://smartblogs.com/leadership/2013/02/27/how-managers-can-keep-their-top-talent/

“How to innovate like a Jedi knight” by Diego Rodriguez  http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130328222915-5935179-how-to-innovate-like-a-jedi-knight

What’s My Number? Mystery Number Call Math Warm Up

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  Emptied photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

Last week I happened to come across a Tweet in my Twitter feed that talked about ‘Mystery Number Calls’.  Having done a number of Mystery Skype calls with my students my curiosity was piqued and I began to follow the conversation thread. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was just like a mystery Skype but the classes would be guessing each others numbers. I opened a sign-up document from a Tweet and promptly forgot about it until the next day when one of my students said “Mystery number call? Cool! When are we going to try it??!”  A few others heard the comment and my class all got excited at the prospect of a new Skype game. That sealed the deal I just had to see if we could try this out!

I tapped into my PLN and @tegesdal agreed to do a mystery number call with us! We decided our classes each would pick 3 numbers between 0 – 99 and take turns asking questions to guess each number one at a time. I am very lucky to have a great coworker (@jennmarieco) who is always willing to try things out with me and agreed to have her third grade class join us in new our math game. After we explained the premise of the game and chose our numbers we eagerly awaited the start of our mystery number call. We had 2 students who were in front of the camera while the rest of the students listened and suggested what questions to ask. Oh what fun it was!

Some great things that I saw happen during the call:

– Having done a number of Mystery Skype calls this year our students all knew the expectations and exactly how to behave. Life is good when things work smoothly!

– Hearing the other classes questions helped our students become more strategic in what questions they asked.                                                                                      Is it even or odd? Is there a 9 in the tens place? Is it a multiple of 5? So many great ways to narrow down what the number is!

– It forces students to draw on their wide mathematical knowledge.

– Being asked about their number forced our students to think critically about the characteristics of our chosen numbers. It also forced them to keep track of what questions we asked and what the others class’s number could be.

– It takes team work to narrow down the number.

– Everyone was successful and we were able to guess all the numbers in the game!

– The game only took 20 mins and is a great warm up for a math class!

Some changes for next time: 

– I would have students pick numbers between 0 and 10 000. (fits with the grade 4 curriculum)

– I would play the ‘low tech’ version of guess my number a few more times to practice our question asking strategies.

– I would give each student either a number line or a number chart of sorts.

– I would do small groups or pair rotations to allow everyone to get more involved.

Our experience with the mystery number call was very positive and I can’t wait to try it agin! If you are interested in connecting with us just let me know!

Math on a Budget: Cheap 10 Frames for Manipulatives

So this idea isn’t originally mine but I thought it would definitely be worth sharing with new teachers who may not be in the know and teachers on a budget!

Using manipulatives in math is all the rage in early years as a way to help kids connect concrete concepts with the abstract ideas introduced in math. I love teaching with manipulatives because let’s face it math is much more fun when you can play with something! One of the tools early years teachers use is the 10 frame. The idea behind ten frames is to help students gain a clear understanding of place value by becoming familiar with units, 5s and 10s in a very concrete manner. Each small rectangle represents a unit and each row have 5 units in them, and finally the two rows put together give you 10 units. They are also great for helping students with their basic math facts, make 10 especially!

An Example Ten Frame with 6 Units in it

I have seen some teachers use laminated rectangles of 10 frames and have students put counters in each place. The problem with laminated 10 frames is that when the students try to move the paper or as young children do bump them with hands and elbows, the counters slide off and students have to start again. *Frustration*

In comes a rather elegant  and  cheap solution: The 10 Frame Egg Carton.

Below you can see: one manipulative per space = 1 unit. So we have 4 units below.

Next comes some magic: Once a 10 frame is filled, the student closes the egg carton and keeps the semi-filled one open. Visually this tells them they have 10 and need to count on the remaining units. Closing the egg cartons as they fill up will also help some students resist the urge to keep adding to already full cartons.

10 and 4 units = 14

A few reasons why I love this idea:

  • The great thing about using egg cartons for 10 frames is that students can pick their favourite manipulative and use it in math. (What I would have given to use those little plastic teddy bears in these pics!). I can just imagine a little boy with a jar full of cars using them in the 10 frames for math.
  • The cartons are pretty sturdy so they can withstand the little bumps that happen with our young students.
  • They are cheap and easily replaceable!

If you would like to try it… you need to do just like the egg producers in Canada say: “Get Cracking!”.

Thanks to  Taryn Deroche (@Taderoche) for her help with editing todays post!

All images are C.C. Mary Bertram