Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Texts on Tuesdays: CGI Math!

As I have been feverishly working to finish my CGI subtraction resource this week, I had some discussions with teachers about CGI and realized that not everyone is familiar with "Cognitively Guided Instruction"!  I attended the University of Wisconsin during the development of CGI, so I "grew up" teaching with it!

For today's "Texts on Tuesdays", I thought I would share some resources that you might be interested in if you ARE wanting to learn more about how children learn to solve problems.

What is CGI?

Cognitively Guided Instruction is an approach to teaching math developed at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1980's and early 1990's (yes, this is when I was there!).  It is based on using students' own thinking as the foundation for instruction...in other words, teachers base what THEY do off what the students already know.  The researchers (Carpenter, Fennema, and more) base their work on the assumption that students come to school with a certain amount of informal understanding about numbers and math.  The teacher's job is to learn what students know already, build upon it, and help students make connections between real-world math "stories"/experiences and--eventually--the abstract symbols we use to represent math (like +, =, etc).

This is VERY different than how math is traditional taught where we start very early by teaching the abstract symbol ("+) and then try to attach meaning to it.  In other words...we need to teach math IN a REAL WORLD CONTEXT well before we introduce those abstract symbols!  By immersing students in story problems from the day they enter our schools, we can better help them understand math and help them to be better problem solvers with better number sense.  The implications for us as teachers is that we need to become experts in "reading" our students, learning what they know (see why mathematical discourse will be so important?!?), and then making smart educational decisions for them.

As teachers we must also learn about the different processes and strategies that are typically used by children to solve these problems, and the various stages that students go through as they develop their math knowledge.
Ok...I know this was wordy and I STILL didn't convey the essence of CGI...if you are intrigued, I am including links to a few articles that you may find interesting!  I seriously wish I could convey it better...but if you are intrigued, I hope you might find some of these resources interesting.

Interesting Article about how CGI is making a difference in an at-risk school

CGI article explaining more about what it really is!

I love this book...if you really want to learn more about CGI, I think this is the book to get.  It's a little pricy, but on Amazon I did see used ones for about $10!  I put the link below so you can check it out.

So...CGI is really critical in the early years...but for ME, as a fourth grade teacher, I feel I need to backtrack with some of my strugglers to give them some of these experiences.  I worked to organize my thoughts and created some problems to create an "intervention" group of sorts...and as I kept going, it grew and grew.  I wanted sets of word problems that were "real world"...I wanted students to be able to select "just right" numbers to use--so different levels could use the same problems...I wanted BIG sized problems to use for teaching.  THIS was born!

Here are a few snapshots!
Blank pages to glue problems to use as assessments...the rest of the problems got glued into math journals
Students pick the numbers that are the right size for them...
Full sized problems to use as teaching tools
Love watching how students solve the problems...and then use as a part of our mathematical discourse

So...I had great success with helping my students recognize the six different types of addition problems when I worked with them in small groups, so I have gone ahead and made the same resource with subtraction AND have bundled the two together for anyone who is interested.  The individual resources are on sale today...and the bundle is always discounted by quite a bit.

Anyhoo..thought I'd share!  I really hope you take the time to read up about CGI...there are tons of articles and sources out there...especially if you teach primary grades or struggling mathematicians!  Keep on learning, everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Made It! Notice and Note Mobiles?

It's already Monday and it's time to link up with Tara at...

So the first "made it" isn't really even a "made it" technically....
GRASS!  I have been watering our new grass (because of our massive landscaping project...that's another post!) and I "made it" grow!  I can't wait for the mud and straw to be gone!

Now for my "main" made it...I read and LOVED "Notice and Note" this summer and wanted to find a way to really keep those strategies visible in my room as I teach them.  In fact, I wanted them hanging from my ceiling so we could all see them. I plan to hang them one at a time as I teach these lessons.  Here's what I did!
I found these cute paper circle fans online in my classroom colors...
After that, I used some bright cardstock to print off some coordinating circles with the lesson "titles" on one side and the essential questions on the other.  

Front sides...
Back sides...

So I am super excited to display these in my room and to use them as a real teaching tool!
Finally, I didn't finish the project I was hoping to finish this week, but I did update my resource that is geared toward helping teachers launch reader's workshop.  I added in some bulletin board letters and a great way for students to review books and display those reviews. If you already own this resource, make sure you go download it again to get the new features!  If you don't own it and want to take a peek, here is the link!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Make sure to check out all the other great posts at 4th Grade Frolics!  Just click the button above or RIGHT HERE to see more!

NOTE:  I've had a few inquiries about where I got the fans...I got them from Amazon. Here is the link.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bright Ideas! Line orders and Lockers

This month I am again joining up with our fearless "Bright Ideas" link up crew to bring you a simple yet useful back to school tip or two!

First of all, one thing I started a few years ago was "line order".  By having a set order, there is no pushing, racing, or shoving to get in line.  We practice doing it quickly and silently for the first days of school, and the expectations is that they do this for all line ups--with the exception of emergencies!  The first person in line holds the first door we come to and then goes to the end of the line, and so on.  We keep our line order all week and then our leader moves to the back and the next person in line leads for the next week so we never have the same door holder all the time.  It's a quick way to know if someone is missing from line and a way to "keep calm" and move around the school!  I try to alternate boy/girl as much as possible to avoid "herds" and "clumps"--if you know what I mean!

The second "tip" involves assigning lockers/cubbies.  If you are lucky enough to have a few extra lockers, try skipping a locker every 5-6.  I use these empties to store tissues, wet wipes, and so on--and the MAIN reason I do it is so that if I get a new student on day 3 or day 15 or day 47, I can use one of these lockers for the new student.  So often, the new student gets plunked wayyyyy at the end and misses some of the interactions that happen "in the pack".  I also try to put any students who I feel I might need to check in on as close to the door as possible...I really work to great each and every student as they come in, but by having them closer to me, I can watch for sad faces and listen a little more easily.
Here are the signs I made for this year...I changed the names for display purposes.  How CUTE is that clip art by Scrappin' Doodles?
Each year I hang our locker order RIGHT by our door so it is clear as can be...and our locker assignments hang right next to our lockers.  In grades K-3, the students have a name tag right on their lockers, but in 4th we transition them a bit for intermediate school by having them recognize their locker by number.
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Like this "Bright Idea" and want to see a bunch more?  Check out the dozens of amazing ideas by some amazing teacher/bloggers in the links below.  Thanks for stopping by! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Texts on Tuesdays: How do we make time for professional reading?

Greetings!  Today rather than focusing on a specific text, I have a question for you.  As we move back into even busier lives once school begins, how do we find the time to keep up with all the professional reading?  I LITERALLY have 5 cupboards full of amazing professional books!  I admit that I have a bit of a problem...but there is SO MUCH TO LEARN!

My most recent conquest!  Check OUT those post it flags!

So...with professional books being released faster than ever...and with professional journal (Ed Leadership, Teaching Children Mathematics, etc) articles being at the cutting edge...and now with Twitter feeds of resources--HOW can we prioritize our own professional reading?  We could read 24/7 and still never keep caught up, yet we know we need to do our best to tune into the research and best practices.  

I have REALLY started to use Twitter to keep up on current trends.  I follow my favorite authors plus a few other key sources like Edutopia, ASCD, and The Teaching Channel.

I am going to try to set a goal of 15-20 minutes of professional reading per day this fall...whether it be checking articles on Twitter or reading from my stash of books.  What are your thoughts?  What are your professional reading habits and goals?

Not on Twitter yet? Give it a try!  I try to retweet interesting articles and infographics when I find them so feel free to follow me to catch some of what I find.  Twitter chats are another GREAT way to learn new information.  So...let's hear it!  Talk about your professional learning goals for 2014-2015!  Share titles, websites, people to follow on Twitter--or anything that could help all of us continue to learn and grow!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Made It! Cookin' and Craftin'!

It is hard to believe, but another week has gone by and it it's time to link up with Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics!

So the first "made it" isn't very exciting to the average human but...
...for someone who lived without her oven for a month, this is big!  I finally got my new oven so I can actually cook and bake again!  Check OUT this bad boy!

My first "made its" from the new oven?
Hot beef for sandwiches on pretzel rolls.  MMMMMM!!!
Berry muffins!
One thing I have done in my class every year for AT LEAST 15 years is my "Unique of the Week".  Some people call it "Star of the Week" or "Student of the Week"...you know the drill.  What I do is send home a bag each week for the "Unique of the Week" to fill with photos, objects, special memories, and so on--about 10 minutes of sharing time.  During the week, this student gets a special chair to sit in and a few other perks as well!  They fill out a simple form that I have tucked in the bag before sending it home; they share the information on that form before sharing their goodies. We love getting to know each person a little better this way.  I tell the students that they can bring the bag back ANY time during their week.  This helps with students who have crazy weekends or might move from house to house.  After the Unique of the Week shares, I ask the other students the same question every week.

"How many of you have something in common with ____?"

And guess what?  They ALWAYS do!

So what did I do this week?  I made the bag that will be the Unique of the Week bag!
OK...this picture is a fail.  The fabric pain I used on the handle has glitter in it.  I just smoosh it around over the handles and the top margin of the bag to make it sparkle....
I trace the lines lightly in pencil then trace with the fabric paint.
Side one is complete!

The back just has the year and dots...each student after being "Unique of the Week" signs their name by a dot with Sharpie.
Want to grab the freebie with the student form I use?  Click the image below and it's yours!

Finally, I did make one addition to my store over the past week, and I have to say--I'm pretty excited about it!  I have been frustrated in the past with graphing activities that have seemed too "lower level" and fill-in-the-blank-y for my taste.  I thought and thought and finally came up with a set of activities that I think will push students' thinking and deepen understanding about graphs.  Hope you like it!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Make sure to check out all the other great posts at 4th Grade Frolics!  Just click the button above or RIGHT HERE to see more!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's July's LOVED That Lesson Linky!

This month's "Loved That Lesson" link up has a little different feel!  Because MOST of us aren't teaching yet, I thought it would be fun to share some lessons we are EXCITED to teach when school starts up again!
My "I Can't Wait To Love This Lesson" revolves around a new picture book I found this summer by Ashley Spires.

This book about "a regular girl", takes her through the process of attempting to create "the most magnificent thing", the result of a BRILLIANT idea she had.  Things don't go according to plan, however, and this "regular girl" (never named in the book) has to work herself through frustration, anger, and even considers giving up on her idea.  She decides to take a little walk to cool herself down--and on her walk a solution comes to her.  The book has absolutely adorable illustrations and wonderful repetitive language--especially some delicious action words!

I'm in the process of deciding how I really want to take this book and make it an "anchor" for the year...because I know I want my students to really get good at persevering through challenges, being risk takers, and handling frustration well.
Here are my thoughts...so far!

First, this book is going to be a GREAT way to practice having those great discussions that sometimes are hard at the beginning of the year when students don't know each other.  I can already think of a number of discussion prompts that I think will be really engaging for students...questions like:

1.  Talk about a time when you were SO frustrated that you wanted to quit.

2. Think about a time when you didn't handle a situation very well.  In the book it said, "It is not her finest moment."  What is a time where you did not have YOUR finest moment?

3. What did the "regular girl" do to calm down?  What are some other things we can do to calm ourselves down when we are frustrated?

4.  What are the big ideas or lessons from this text?  Why do you think Ashley Spires wrote this book--and what does she want you to remember?

Once we have spent some time talking about the text, I want to have my students write about it!  I figure this will be an easy way to get my students to write about something to give me a snapshot of their writing "basics"...at the beginning of the year so many students shut down because they can't think of a topic...this topic will "prime the pump" for them so they have something to write about.  (Want to do this too?  I've made a little freebie using some of those questions above as writing prompts--feel free to CLICK HERE to grab it if you want!)

Finally, I think I want to tie this to some of those beginning of the year 'building classroom culture" lessons as well and am going to ask the students to help me create an anchor chart to help us remember how to help others when they DO get frustrated.  This is one way we can talk about this book throughout the year--because I plan on students having to face frustration this year.  We have LOTS of challenging work ahead of us!
Want to get a better look at the book?  Here's a link to it on Amazon.

Don't forget that you have a WEEK to link up your blog post if you have a great lesson planned for fall!  Also, make sure to stop by the other linked up posts and let the authors know what you think!  Stop back on the second Sunday of August for our NEXT "Loved That Lesson" linky!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Notice and Note Book Study!

I know it isn't a Tuesday, but it IS my turn to do a post on section 12 of the amazing book "Notice and Note"!  If you have been following along...we are wrapping things up--and I hope you have really gotten some food for thought.  If you have NOT been reading along, I think you might find some of the discussion questions from this section worth pondering!

This section of text refers to two key lessons..."Again and Again" and "Memory Moment".  If you are new the book, a little background might help!  The text is geared toward teaching 6 "signposts" that are in depth lesson concepts that we can share with our students.  By sharing them, we can help "unlock" some traits of literature and can make deeper comprehension more accessible.  It's as if we can help our students "speak literature"...and the lessons are beyond powerful.

So...what is "Again and Again"?  This "signpost" asks readers to tune into repeated words or phrases...and to consider that the author has used them VERY deliberately to help clue us in to important ideas!  Whether they lead to a deeper understanding of theme, plant a seed for something that might be coming, or help us understand a character or event more completely--a deliberate use of repetition in a text can help students focus on something that may be very important!  What WONDERFUL discussions can come from "noticing" repetition--and letting students discuss whether or not they feel that repetition is, indeed, important.  

As always, we need to remind our students to be on the lookout for IMPORTANT and relevant repetition (of course we will see character names repeated throughout a book...but does it deepen our understanding?).  

QUESTION:  Can you off the top of your head think of any texts that use repetition to really show importance--whether they be picture books or novels?  Share them below...let's build a list!

So...the next signpost in the text is "Memory Moment".  This is really one of my favorite signposts because students can so easily recognize them!  In a nutshell, a "Memory Moment" is a time in a text when a character thinks back to an earlier time--an important time--that is so important to the story that the author needs to clue us in to it!  Some of these memories are obvious and the character might even say, "I remember when...", but at times they are more subtle and hidden.

Again--what is key to comprehension is not simply to IDENTIFY these moments in a text, but to reflect on why the author chose to share them...how do they help us deepen our understanding of the plot, the characters, or the theme?  

QUESTION:  Can you think of any texts where you have seen these "memories" planted into the text to really help the reader get a well rounded vision of the story line?  Please share your ideas in the comments to help us all with our own book selection and planning!

Want an example?  In the first pages of Cynthia Lord's wonderful book, "Rules", Catherine reflects back on her memories of summers past--and her last sleepover with her good friend, Melissa.  Catherine's brother, David, who has autism races around Melissa's house and Catherine is mortified. Why is this memory important?  It helps the author paint the picture of how David's autism impacts Catherine and her friendships--and it is really one of our first clues as to how Catherine feels about having a brother with special needs.

So--chime in!  Let's see if we can get some novels and picture books that we could use (either entirely or excerpts) to help model with our students so they, too, can begin to notice these signposts.  And what better way to do this than to practice it ourselves!  As you read this summer, see if you can clue into those two signposts!

Let's hear it!  And if YOU blog about these topics, link up below!  Thanks for stopping by.  Need a copy of the book or want to read more about it?  Click below.