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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scribble Press iPad App

Scribble Press is a great iPad app that my students have been using recently to publish personal narratives.  Before we ever attempted to publish with this app my second graders freely explored the app for approximately 3 weeks.  They became experts and their expertise made our publishing workshop a breeze! Here are two of the stories students from our class published.

When I purchased the app it was free.  It now has a fee of $2.99, but Scribble Press has released a new FREE APP that is even easier to use for K-2 students.  It is called Scribble My Story. Scribble My Story has a recording feature and is easier to navigate when creating additional pages.

Try them out.  You won't be disappointed!

Math Problem Solving in Context: Part 1

I am getting ready to teach my second graders about input/output tables.  Yes, in second grade! This is a new standard for us.  A standard I have not taught before.  I have been racking my brain all weekend trying to figure out how to teach this concept in a way that relates to the lives of my second graders.  

While reading the Teaching Addition and Subtraction Using Contextual Problems section in John A. Van de Walle & LouAnn H. Lovin's book Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics Grades K-3 I had an AHA! moment.  I LOVE those!  The authors tell us that in the United States we don't tend to go deep enough with math problem solving. That we have a tendency to have students solve a lot of problems in a single class period and the focus of most lessons is to get answers right (pg. 71). They suggest however,  that if we want our students to construct a rich understanding of subtraction and addition (or any other operation/concept you might be teaching) we should focus more attention on having students solve one or two problems and then give more time to classroom discussions on the "how" and the "why" rather than simply looking to see if the answer is right. This sounds A LOT, I MEAN EXACTLY, like what the new Common Core State Standards are asking us to do.

After digesting this section of text and thinking about what we are doing in the classroom right now I realized that we had the perfect context for some contextual story problems using addition, patterning and input/output tables.

Currently my second graders are working on a biography research project and are planning to construct a wax museum of historical figures in our gym on Thursday.  We have invited our families and they have returned RSVP's with the number of guests who plan to attend.  We are also planning to serve our guests cookies and punch to celebrate afterwards.  

My plan is to give students the numbers of family guests who plan to attend. I will ask them to work with a partner to figure out how many guests will be attending using the Math Buddy Chat system developed by Laura Candler.  After students solve the problem we will look at the different strategies students used and compare our answers.

On Tuesday I will ask students to help me figure out how many cookies we will need to have if we are planning to have enough cookies for each guest to have two cookies each.  This is where the idea for the input/output table came into play for me.  I will pose the problem to students and have them come up with a plan for solving the problem with their partners.  Afterwards we will analyze the problem solving strategies students used. I will guide students towards understanding how they could put this information into a table format to help them see the information more easily.  We will then name this strategy (make a table) and the type of table that we created (which of course will be the input/output table).

As I am typing this I am thinking of how we can continue problem solving within this context throughout the week.  For example, how many packages of cookies would we need to purchase if 10 cookies came in each package?  How much would this cost if each package cost $1.50?  Etc.

I am excited to try this with my students and see how this goes as an introduction to input/output tables.  I will post the results soon!  

Biography Math Problem Solving

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's the little things...

like returning to an iPad workshop after a long lunch with colleagues (who you rarely get to chat with) and finding mini chocolate bars scattered across your group table,  meeting new teachers who willingly share their creative ideas, someone you admire professionally paying you a compliment about the work you have done.  All of those "little" things got me thinking today and have inspired me to stop neglecting this blog!  Those "little" things reminded me that writing helps me reflect, remember and understand where I have been and where I am going.   It is that "big idea" or purpose of writing (reflecting, remembering, understanding) that I try to share with the handful of second graders I am lucky enough to teach each year.

In my classroom we have a Writer's Workshop.  I have been inspired by Lucy Caulkins, Regie Routman, Katie Wood Ray and Ralph Fletcher.  Recently I picked up a copy of Ralph Fletcher's book Boy Writer's: Reclaiming their voices.  10 of my 14 students are boys and for a while now I have had this underlying feeling that they were somehow different from the girl writers I work with.  I have also felt like I have shut down my male students enthusiasm for writing at times because I wouldn't honor a topic choice they had made (to violent, included weapons, a comic book with detailed drawings where they were just yelling "Agh!" page after page).  It happened just this month actually and I felt HORRIBLE about it.  I started wondering why it was that I can't get Theo to write about anything other than Mine Craft?  Does Phillip really need to spend two days of writer's workshop drawing & labeling various swords from a library book?  And what exactly is Black Ops?  It sounds so violent.  Should I really be letting Richard write a story about how he "sniped" his buddy at recess when they were playing "Black Ops?"  Should Timmy really end his personal narrative about hiking up at the lake with "Then my dad and I hiked back to the car because I had to take a poo."  In light of the recent tragedy at Sandyhook many of us may be thinking: ABSOLUTELY NOT! NO VIOLENCE! NO WEAPONS! VULGAR LITTLE FELLA! NO! NO! NO!

Well, Ralph Fletcher makes some really valid points in his book about allowing our boys to write about these topics.  Honoring their stories about the video games they love, the rough games they play, their "boy" world (which is not always violent or uncouth) and teaching them how to take those loves and write more deeply about them.  By the way, the little one who wrote about the end of his hike is one of my most dedicated writers.  He listens closely when I am teaching, he attempts the strategies taught during the mini lessons.  That was how his story really ended. I suggested he not end it that way. "But, that is how is how it really ended." he said, staring up at me with his big, serious, blue eyes. 

In Boy Writer's Ralph Fletcher says in regard to writing, "It is a life skill, a lifeline we throw out at the darkest, as well as the most triumphant, moments of our lives."  I want the writer's in my classroom (boys and girls) to understand that writing is a tool to help them reflect, remember and understand themselves.  That it is a tool they can use in their darkest hour or most triumphant moment their entire lives.  A tool they can use when they are inspired by the "little" things in life.

So how exactly will I teach my boy writer's to understand that writing is more than just a school subject you ask?  I will study them and give them opportunities to write about their interests.  I will discuss with them whether or not the weapons, blood, vomit or poo is enhancing their message or taking away from it?  I will give them lots of opportunities to talk.  I will listen. And I will continue to write myself.