Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Second Grade Math Parent Night

Each year, we host a Math Parent Night in Second Grade. The gathering is primarily to introduce parents to our conceptual teaching pedagogy rather than a procedural math learning approach, and to share with them the common addition and subtraction strategies their children will learn in Math Workshop this year. The proactive evening always elicits many thanks from the parents and pays dividends throughout the year as they better understand the work they will see from their child. During this evening we reiterate that the traditional algorithm will come but not until after the conceptual foundation has been carefully crafted. What is most important is number sense. "Number sense is an awareness and understanding about what numbers are, their relationships, their magnitude, the relative effect of operating on numbers, including the use of mental math and estimation."  

In preparing for the Parent Night, we've been introduced to a great new resource,  Number Talks by Sherry Parrish. Though we've been teaching like this for over ten years, this book nicely reminds us of the most common addition and subtraction strategies and provides teaching clips via DVD with sample number talks from many elementary grade levels. Using this resource, we've revised our math night to include the language of this text. An added bonus is that we will also get more unified and vertical language in all of our math classrooms in 2nd - 5th grade because we've shared the new strategy sheets through our Math Council. 

To kick off Math Night, there is a clip on YouTube that we use as an icebreaker.  A boy calls the 911 operator to get help with his "take away" math homework. The clip dissolves any math anxiety that might be lingering in the room.   The, we launch with the purpose of the evening. We explain that what most of us grew up doing was skill based procedural mathematics and we have shifted to conceptual based learning that focuses on problem solving. Our intent is to build number sense with our young mathematicians. We embed skills and work to develop fluency and authomaticity, but our emphasis remains on building critical thinkers.  Students who conceptually understand mathematics will preform at much higher levels as they move into more advanced mathematics. The research behind our explanation can be found in TIMSS, Trends in International Math and Science Study.  We often show this triangle turned upside down as a visual while we explain. 

In a matter of minutes, we've set the purpose and can share with parents the 2nd Grade Common Core Standards that relate to addition and subtraction. We explain that the standards drive our instruction. Our classroom assessments align with the learning set forth in the CCSS. Next, we are ready to move into the addition and subtraction strategies. 

We give parents an addition and subtraction problem to solve. We ask them to solve the problem in two different ways. Most have the sum and difference in a matter of seconds, however some struggle as they try to come up with a second strategy. 

The problems we ask them to solve are:

A)  Bob and Sally were counting the students on the playground. Bob counted 36 students on the soccer field and Sally counted 45 students on the equipment. How many students did they count altogether?

B)  Sally wanted to use red and blue construction paper for her art project. She took 57 sheets of paper. If 28 of the sheets were red and the rest were blue, how many sheets of blue paper did she take?

Delving deeply into our strategy work, we then provide a note taking sheet that lists the common strategies that students will discuss, share, and make connections between in Closing Session of Math Workshop. 

We show a 2 minute clip from the Number Talks DVD on addition, and later show a 4 minute clip of subtraction. We want them to actually see what this looks like in a classroom.  Then, we walk them through each strategy with the sample problem. 

The strategies we share in addition include adding on, making a landmark number, compensation, decomposing by place value, and decomposing one addend. In subtraction, we share adding up, removal or counting back, place value with negative numbers, keeping a constant difference, and adjusting one number to create an easier problem. Integrated in our teaching of the strategies, we use math models and tools like the open number line, hundreds chart, and part/whole box.

Parents leave with a brochure that we've created using the sample problem and explaining each strategy. The brochure was created from the language found on pages 59-66 and 175-180 in Number Talks. 

The evening concludes with a question and answer session and parents taking a look at their child's math journal and student sheets. We find that this proactive approach leaves parents less anxious when they see their children solving problems in ways that are unfamiliar to them. Our next feat will be to put together a multiplication and division evening for 3rd and 4th grade parents. 

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome Back to Creek Life!

Our teacher's first day back to the new 2013-2014 school year was A Walk on the Wild Side!  

They began their adventure with a game in the front lobby and then were welcomed into the dining room where breakfast and a lunchbox of theme related goodies awaited. 

The teams, as tradition holds, introduced themselves through funny skits and then Principal Phillips outlined our data and year's goals and expectations. A personality survey was taken to identify teachers as doves, peacocks, owls, or eagles, and then buses awaited to whisk us away to the zoo. 

Teachers loaded the buses by their personality survey results and spent the bus ride discussing their personality characteristics. It won't surprise you, if you've ever taken this survey, that the peacocks created their own song and that the doves were so kind, they needed everyone's opinion to fill out each survey question. We are certain that the eagles finished the task first!  

Upon arriving at the zoo, each team was given a menu item of activities which had assigned points. The teams, through their scavenger hunt, could chose their activities, and were charged to send pictures to the principal using their iPhones as they fulfilled their task. Principal Phillips had a spreadsheet set up on her iPad so as the teams text their pictures, she could input their points. The Resource Team ended up winning the day's challenge, however most importantly, the day was primarily designed to build relationships with your team of colleagues. A poor zoo keeper or two were probably not as thrilled with a few of our tasks! 

The teachers enjoyed their zoo walk and then returned to the front entrance for lunch. The day didn't conclude without our new hire "hazing." The newbies can throw together a mean rap, and Mrs. Phillips reading our August/September Book of the Month. 

We recognize that this isn't a traditional teacher's first day of school, but we also know that the time spend in fellowship will pay off dividends all year long and defines the sense of culture that will infiltrate every aspect of our school life this year. Stay tuned to hear more about our Walk on the Wild Side...

Creek Life...A Walk on the Wild Side!

Each year a theme folds us in its embrace and carries us through the year. The theme is chosen to spotlight our journey as a learning community at a given point in time and to engage students. Our past themes are displayed on birthday candles in our front lobby and in totality tell our school story.  The year's theme is embedded in every aspect of our school's work that year. This year's theme, Creek Life... A Walk on the Wild Side, is sure to complete that mission and may prove to be an all time favorite!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Welcome to CCE Summer Workshop for New Hires

Back in the day, we had large numbers of colleagues added to our faculty each year as our learning community grew from 600 to 1,400 students. Each summer, we would offer a three day Welcome to CCE Workshop to acquaint new teachers. The first day always focused on building relationships, and learning about our vision, mission, learner expectations, and school's history. The second and third days would focus on our Communication and Core Workshops. We always felt like the three days gave the new hires a head start and made them less anxious about joining our large staff. 

In the last five years, our student population has remained stable and our staff has been less mobile, therefore the Welcome to CCE Workshops have disappeared. This year, that's changed, again, with the district's support of more resources and a few faculty relocations and babies. We have, for the first time in years, added 11 new faculty colleagues, and have turned again to our Welcome to CCE. 

The difference now is that the new hires don't need a three day session. Two of them are home grown meaning they did their internships with us and then stayed connected as they taught in other schools for a while. A few others have Chets Creek colleague roots and have collaborated with our staff as they've served in other schools as mentors, lead teachers, and coaches. Others, that are new to teaching, have been added as co-teachers in experienced teacher's classrooms. Therefore, our Welcome to CCE this year was a one day workshop that focused on building relationships, sharing our vision, mission, learner expectations, history, and taking a scavenger hunt through our building. Each teacher was gifted our foundational book, Building a Community of Learners and Leaders, and was treated to lunch. We think that by giving new hires a preview, their school year will start off on a great foot and they'll feel comfortable asking questions. Stay tuned as their journey on the wild side begins...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Density Gizmo

 This week, with a Density Gizmo in Science, our students continued to deepening their understanding of matter, mass, and volume, and explored density. They first brainstormed objects that they think would sink in water and then those that would float, and formed a hypothesis for why the objects sink or float.

After that, they did a Gizmo warm-up which familiarized them with the virtual exploration by measuring the mass of objects on a scale, and measuring the volume of objects using water displacement in a graduated cylinder.    

The essential question then focused their activity, How do mass and volume affect sinking and floating?  

During the Gizmo, students filled in a chart with each object's mass and volume, and then whether the object would sink or float when placed in the beaker.  This is a sample of their chart.

(sink or float?)
(sink or float?)
Ping pong ball
3.0 g
36.0 mL
Golf ball
45.0 g
36.0 mL
33.0 g
44.0 mL
Chess piece
40.0 g
80.0 mL
3.0 g
0.4 mL
200.0 g
50.0 mL

They analyzed their results and concluded that you could not predict whether an object would sink or float using the mass alone, because the mass of a ping pong ball and penny were both 3 grams and one floated while the other sank. Based on the volume alone, they concluded that you could not predict whether an object would float or sink, because the volume of a ping pong ball and golf ball were both 36 mL and one floated while the other sank.

However, mass and volume, when considered together could predict whether an object would sink or float. When an object's mass was less than the object's volume, the object floated.  When an object's mass was more than an objects volume, then the object would sink. Density refers to the mass found in a given volume of a substance. 

These are third graders that I teach and they are taking it in like sponges! They even clapped when we said, "Today, we will be doing a Density Gizmo!" It doesn't get any better than that!

Decomposing Arrays and Multiples of Ten

Our students' knowledge of multiplication has come so far in so little time. We worked on finding the total number of squares (or area) in an array. An array is a multiplication model used to work toward independence and mental math strategies. 

Students discovered that by decomposing the array into smaller arrays, they could more easily find the product. We also encouraged them to record using correct algebraic notation. You'll notice in this piece of student work that 4 x 3, said, "four groups of three," can be decomposed into (2 x 3) + (2x3) = 12.

More recently, we've been exploring larger numbers, too, and recognizing relationships. The chart below was created by my co-teach partner, Ashley, during a lesson to emphasis why students have been seeing the pattern of a 0 in the ones place. Zeros aren't merely added to the ones place, rather they are in the ones place because they are a multiple of 10. Multiples of 10 have a 0 in the ones place. A student could see that 5 x 60 = 5 x 6 x 10. This helps them see why the pattern occurs.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How is the Mass and Volume of Matter Measured?

Today our young scientists participated in a science lab to answer the essential question, How can mass and volume be measured? 

To get started,  students had to make a hypothesis about which has more mass a crayon or a pencil. Then, using a pan balance with gram weights, they had to measure the mass of each. 

After that, they made a hypothesis on whether a marble or a seashell had more mass, and then measured the mass of each. (When the groups analyze their data, they will realize that the mass of all the marbles in the class are the same, however the mass of the seashell changes. The smaller the seashell the less the mass, the bigger the seashell, the larger the mass.)

Furthermore, students made a prediction about the volume of two cups of liquid, and then used a graduated cylinder to measure each volume.  (The red liquid was in a tall narrow glass and the blue liquid was in a small wide glass. Each contained 150 mL of colored water.)

Students were surprised to discover that they could also find the volume of a solid. An object's volume is the amount of space the object takes up. To find the volume of a solid, like the marble and the seashell, students used water displacement. They put 100 mL of water in a graduated cylinder, then gently dropped the solid in the water. The volume is recorded by the number of mL of water that was displaced, or moved. 

Tomorrow, we will have Closing Session where students will have to compare and then explain their results. By the end of Science Workshop tomorrow, students will be able to tell how the mass of matter is measured, and how the volume of a solid and liquid is measured.