Solving Current Events: A Follow Up

Last week I wrote about a lesson I had developed from a video I saw about a volunteer in Lesbos using the materials of life jackets for bags. This is a reflection on how the lesson went with my class.

First of all, it was motivating, inspiring, open, and students had to persevere.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 6.40.46 PMThe day after I wrote the lesson we were not going to have math since we were going on a field trip, but I had 15 minutes before we left on the trip and I was able to engage students in some wondering. We went through the first slides and noticed and wondered, not thinking about math at all. Though, my students are now mathematizing the world, so a few mathematical wonderings came through.


Then that evening they read this article and were able to answer some of their wonderings.

The math extravaganza began. We took on a math lens and thought like mathematicians. Noticing, wondering and determining what information we needed.IMG_7390 (1)

I am always so amazed with the mathematical questions students are developing now. Determining what they needed was a lot harder than in other lessons we have done. Why? It was a big scale problem with multiple questions to solve. But, through conversation they came up with some good ideas.  I then gave the students the information they asked for and they were off!


It was fascinating to watch how students approached the problem. Some just started tracing complex shapes, others grabbed rulers and drew precise lines, others drew free hand lines, but then as they saw their classmates using rulers, changed their minds. IMG_7387IMG_7380

They helped each other and after awhile all students were looking for shapes that they knew how to find the area of. I had a few students that really struggled with this and I wanted them to get to finding the area, so I provided them with my shapes.  Then they were off. It was a great way for some students to get additional reasoning with finding the area of shapes and it was through this problem that some really saw the relationships of different shapes to one another.

“I know how to find the area of triangles, so I decided to turn all these into triangles. There are triangles in every shape. ”

And then they solved….IMG_7386IMG_7388

Thinking, connecting, and then we needed a discussion. Can we find the actual area if we use the ratio 1 mm: 2 4/5m?IMG_7400We discussed how the ratio we were given was a linear ratio and we could use that for finding length, but to find area, we needed to create a new ratio of square millimeters to square meters.  And then we had some solutions…IMG_7402

We shared different strategies: converting all the lengths in millimeters to meters and then finding the area compared to finding the area in square millimeters and then converting to different units. We then found the median and mean of our results.

Then came the question: How many lifejackets are there in 40,000 square meters?

It was great to be able to review the use of ratio tables and to see the different ways students approached the problem, connecting the three different strategies. We engaged in the “Compare and Connect”  math discussion that is introduced in Intentional Talk by Elham Kazemi and Allison Hintz

And then there were the students who extended the problem…

I clearly am a terrible photographer… But did you know that 40,000 square meters is equivalent to 7 1/2 football fields, 91 1/2 NBA regulation basketball courts and about 1/2 of Buckingham palace?


And if you were to lay pencils down in 40,000 square meters, you can fit 3,007,518 pencils. hahaha

Finally came…Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.22.19 PM

Hahaha, this is when I was reminded I work with 11 and 12 year olds. What would they do? “I would make a pile and build a huge slide on it.”

“I would jump in the lifejackets.”

“I would take them back to Turkey and resell them.”

“I would make a boat out of them and sell the boat.”

Clearly, we have fun seekers and entrepreneurs.  Next time, I would change the question to… What would you MAKE with 450,000 life jackets?

I then shared with them the video about how they are making bags out of the lifejackets and left students with the question. What extraneous materials do we have lying around and what useful object could we make out of it?

It was a two day lesson, but a lot of learning: using a ruler, calculating area, solving proportions, developing a plan, comparing and connecting, and persevering.




Thinking and Engaging…A Week of Math!

What would school be like if every so often (or always) we didn’t race in the Daily Academic Decathlon: teaching  reading, writing, math, social studies science, art, engineering, music (oops….), PE, and technology?

dan-obrien-and-dave-johnson-before-the-1992-olympic-gamesI grew up watching Dan and Dave, but I bet they didn’t train for every event all day every day.  I bet they focused and went deeper in their training.

Yes, yes, yes…I don’t believe those are all isolated subjects and most aren’t subjects, but we do this in school all the time. I have completely gotten pulled into this and because of trying to do it all, at times we are accomplishing nothing (ok, that’s not true, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem feasible to do it all and then we are always a dollar too short.)

What would happen if we took a week and focused on becoming a scientist, an author, an engineer, a mathematician? What would happen if we just dove into a content area, topic, current event and engaged our entire being in it? What if we became mathematicians for the week? What if we, “play(ed) the whole game”  as stated by David Perkins  in Making Learning Whole? What if students came to expect that, “a large part of their learning in the subject area involved acquiring the thinking abilities and processes of the discipline, not just learning about it for the test.” as stated by Ron Ritchart in Creating Cultures of Thinking? What if parents would focus on the learning and not just the test grade or the completion of the HW assignment?


Well, we went for it. We spent the last week as Mathematicians investigating math. Where did this idea stem from?

  1. I always feel crunched for time. I have 1 hour (ok…1 hour 15 mins…I never finish in the hour) that we must get our math in.  What would it be like if we could work on a problem until we were done instead of waiting to finish it the next day? What would school be like with no time limits? What if we took a break when we needed a break instead of when the bell rang? Who lives their life on a preplanned schedule?It is a little bizarre to be honest.
  2. I had just had a lot of conferences and was reflecting on the need for parents to experience the math that we do. I kept hearing, “I’m not good at math. My husband is the math person.” Ughhhhh….Makes me want to throw up.  Everything was about the answer.  I wanted them to stop and see that math is anything but boring and their children are completely engaged. So I thought, let’s open up the class for the week. Come in and do math with us any time you can.

So what did we do? We emerged ourselves in math. We played. We modeled mathematics. We looked for patterns. We read about Mathematicians. We explored the mathematics of ancient civilizations.

As Jo Boaler wrote in Chapter 4 of Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative teaching,

When students see math as a broad landscape of unexplored puzzles in which they can wander around, asking questions and thinking about relationships, they understand that their role is thinking, sense making, and growing. When students see mathematics as a set of ideas and relationships and their role as one of thinking about the ideas, and making sense of them, they have a mathematical mindset.


And I think that this “mathematical mindset” is really a thinking mindset.  No matter what we are doing, the fun comes when we think, question, and reflect.

As always, there were things that I loved and things I wish I had done better.

What I loved….

Each day we had a Big Idea and Details to help us focus


Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.07.41 AMBig Idea:  Mathematicians create viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.


  1. Use examples to prove a claim is true and non examples to prove a claim is false.
  2. Explain with words and evidence why a claim is true or untrue.
  3. Question others to find holes in their arguments or to better understand their argument.
  4. Use drawings, tools, and representations to support a claim.

Another day we focused on…

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.07.41 AMBig Idea: Mathematicians look for patterns and relationships to make generalizations they can use.


  1. Look for things that are repeated, things that are the same, things that are related.
  2. Question…How is what I am working on similar to….?
  3. Does what I am working on remind me of something else I have done? What is the relationship?
  4. Look for smaller parts that compose the larger problem. Are there patterns or relationships in the smaller parts?

We truly engaged in the Standards for Mathematical Practices and made time to think. As I look at this list from Ron Ritchart, I do think we have a classroom culture of thinking.  The biggest gift that this week brought us was the gift of time.Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 9.46.22 AM.png


My other love was having parents join us.

father-son By the way, why is it that I could not find a single positive clip art of a parent and child doing math together. Reading? It’s all over the place. Math? It is always an image of frustration. Ughhh…

“Wow, I am having fun. I wish math was like this when I was a child.” Pretty much, what this mom was saying, was that she wished she was allowed to think and make sense of math.

After doing Andrew Stadel’s Post-It Three Act Task–act-1, a parent responded,”That was great. I went first to thinking I need to find the number of post-its and what is the easiest way for me to do this. Then I looked over at my son who was finding the entire surface area and then dividing by the post-its surface area. At first I thought, that is so inefficient. We had a great conversation at our table. Then I realized. Actually, he would have a better model. If the size of the post-it changed, he would easily be able to adapt for that. I on the other hand would have to recalculate everything.”

How awesome for students to learn with their parents?

After doing a visual pattern (from Mathematical Mindset), a Physicist (parent) said, “Wow, this is what I do all day long. We look for patterns and make generalizations.” Ahhh…thinking. Then he continued, “I need more time to wrap my head around this one though.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.26.04 AM

Another love…allowing our next learning be driven by student inquiry. 

During the first week of school, we worked on the Four Fours: Use four 4s to make the numbers 1-20.  They loved this, but were having trouble finding expressions equivalent to some numbers so I introduced to them factorials. Minds blown!

A couple of weeks ago, we were working on a visual pattern Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.06.26 PM from (amazing amazing blog of patterns that Fawn Nguyen has compiled) and one student said,

“I wonder if we could use a factorial. I see 3, 2, 1 and then 1, 2, 3 with the 1 used twice.”

Another student responded, “No, it is 3+2+1 not 3 x 2 x 1 so that won’t work.”

“Oh, right”

“Ms. S, is there something like a factorial but for adding numbers in a row?”

Oh boy, I thought. “Yes, there is. We will definitely explore that. But, we need to do that another time.”

Well, our other time came during the week of math.  And, NRich came to the rescue with two great tasks to explore (Mystic Circles and Picturing Triangle Numbers ) and then an article the read.

We noticed and wondered for Mystic Circles, noticing the adding of sequential numbers. Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.28.12 AM.pngand then we looked for relationships in Picturing Triangle Numbers

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.34.25 AM

After, we went back to look at the two strategies for solving the Mystic Rose Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 10.47.53 AM

and students developed arguments for each strategy.

What I wish I had done better at….

Preparing students for having their parents in the class.

While we as a class have developed a classroom culture where mistakes are important and our goal is to learn and not just perform, that does not mean they have that culture with their parents. I had one child breakdown due to wanting to “perform” for his parent. He has never broken down in class, but I see this desire to “perform” and the pressure (self imposed?) really got to him.  This was a good wake up for me, as while we might be on the way to creating this culture, it is going to take a lot more work to bring it into every home.

I also wish more parents could have joined us. I know there was some fear, as one parent shared, “6th grade math is intimidating”. I just wish more could have come to see how open it really is. I need to figure out how to share this with more parents.

Connections, Connections, Connections…

We didn’t do a bad job on this. The connections we made throughout the week were incredible. We were connecting ratios to graphical representations and then questioning/wondering and analyzing if the visual patterns we have been working on are proportional. Do all graphs of equal ratios create a line through the origin?  We were connecting our work with visual patterns, to the work we did with triangle numbers.  We were connecting and comparing the many different strategies students used when solving Sugar Packets (which I adapted and probably made a bit too hard. Though, the students persevered and definitely engaged in some productive struggle.) and the Leaky Faucet. We were connecting the representations to equations to words. We connected and compared our base ten system and place value system to the Babylonian’s base 60 system and the Egyptians base ten, but lack of place value.We were extending ideas and connecting to the math practices.  We were deepening our learning by creating arguments for a claim being Sometimes, Always or Never.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.01.58 AM

But, it was mostly oral.  I wish I had recorded the connections so that they were more explicit, and had the children record the connections they were making. I wonder if when we come back to class, we can look back on the various problems and explorations we did and make those connections explicit. They were explicit in my mind when I chose each problem, but I wonder how explicit they are in every students’ mind. I think this will make the week even more powerful than it was.


 How can I create this type of week in my class every week?  Can I extend math on some days to allow for more processing/thinking time? Can I extend our time to write, so we aren’t constantly starting over? Can I really help focus our learning more on one topic, so we can go deeper and allow connections to be made? What do I need to add to make all the connections and thinking even more visible so that students can transfer to other parts of their lives?

It sure is a good thing I have 2 weeks to process this and develop a plan. Time to reflect is good. I will  make it happen.



Goal Setting, Thinking, and Understanding

It has been some time since I last posted, but that does not mean there has not been a shortage of things to think about. While preparing for conferences, my inner conflict about grades versus feedback was in full force. The tension was great.

rope-tensionI had to assign a numeric score to report cards, but it often felt conflicting to our classroom focus on learning. Then came conferences and instead of always just focusing on students’ thinking, learning, how they were improving, and focusing on the new goals they created, I could feel our conversation more focused on the evaluation of skills.  It is really fascinating how difficult it is to change our culture of school from performance to true learning.

One of the things that helped us stay on track though, was that each child reflected on their learning over the trimester and we then created learning contracts. We focused our goals on reading, writing, math, and Listening/Speaking and our Norms. Each student filled out a Learning Contract Template.

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.20.13 AM.png

This was definitely not easy for all students to fill out, but the process of doing it was extremely valuable.

Some examples…Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.31.20 AM.png

Student BScreen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.28.12 AM.png

Student CScreen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.27.15 AM.png

Student DScreen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.29.03 AM.png It was clear who were independent learners and had internalized how to learn and which students still need support in thinking routines that can help them to learn and understand.

I am trying to figure out how to help them understand what actions they can take to meet their goals. That was really hard for a lot of students, which is really the most important component. What can I do to understand and meet my goal? It will be interesting when we revisit them, to see if they can develop any more specific actions to help them. I think I need to really make their thinking explicit and visible as they are doing it. I need to take the time to allow them to reflect and process.

Then came Thanksgiving break, I read Jo Boaler’s new book, Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching, and it was such a great time for me to read it.


It was very similar to her previous books, her articles and website, but no matter what, the message is so important and great to keep repeating.  This quote really hit me.

“Successful math users have an approach to math, as well as mathematical understanding, that sets them apart from less successful users. They approach math with the desire to understand it and to think about it, and with the confidence that they can make sense of it. Successful math users search for patterns and relationships and think about connections”

Excerpt From: Boaler, Jo. “Mathematical Mindsets.” iBooks.

As I mentioned, during my conferences I was getting pulled into talking with parents about math as discrete skills students needed, yet my goal is really the quote above. My goal is for all students to approach math and all subjects with the “desire to understand it”.  This is not an easy task. For some, the change is happening, yet for others they have spent 6 years in school passively doing school and to change that mindset has proven to be much more difficult than I was hoping. But I am not giving up.  See the next post.

This past week, I finally made time for the students to reflect on their learning  3 days.. I ran out of time not the others. I am so bad with time!!!! My goal is to get to 5, but 3 was a good start.

Each day, they were to reflect on our Norms by posting to our class LMS: Schoology. Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.48.53 AM.png(adapted from Jo Boaler’s Math Norms…I added in what each might look like in different subjects as well since the students are in a multi-subject classroom.)


What is great, is that students are able to read each other’s reflections and their thinking is visible for all to learn from. Below are some of their reflections.

“I liked how ______ explained himself in math and that made me think a lot harder and able to figure out the problem.” -Student A

“Today I questioned my teammates work in math and I overlooked it, got into a conversation about what was right, and then figured out the right answer. I appreciate _____ for really trying hard in math and helping me and _____ find the right answer.” -Student B

“Today I thought about if it was always, sometimes, or never. On one question I said it was sometimes and it was always, so I learned from that and got the next one right. ______ made it make more sense when he proved his answer and that helped my.” -Student C

“Today during read aloud, I asked questions about words that I wasn’t familiar with in our story and learned lots of new things about Egypt.” -Student D

“I made a connection from the example paragraph to my Mesopotamia paragraph that helped me understand how to transition to different details.” -Student E

“The trait I engaged in was being perseverant. I was being perseverant because I kept going on finding a way to put a key word in my questions.”- Student F

“…But now I learned from my mistake and my brain just grew. : )” -Student G

I really think being consistent (consistency is so hard for me) with this reflection time might help some of my more dependent learners become more independent.

And then I started to read Ron Ritchart’s book, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools.

ritchhart-cultures-239x300Wow!, I have so much to process and discuss with others about this one. Where do I start?

Ahhh, thinking…the culture of thinking. It really is the only way that students are going to succeed in life and I feel like it is my most important job to facilitate learning opportunities for them to engage in thinking.

More to come… reflecting on engaging students in the whole subject, thinking like a disciplinarian, and making connections.


Choral Counting: So Much More than Counting

When you hear the word “counting” your mind quickly goes to primary age students. You see the kindergarten students counting, the 1st grade students counting, but what about 6th graders?

Our school is trying to target students’ needs by having tw,o 30 minute target times (RTI), to help move students forward.  My Tier 3 group needs a lot of work with number sense and they had been asking me to work with fractions, so I decided to do some Choral Counting with them. (The next day I did choral counting with my whole class. I love things that all students learn something from.) I thought it would be a great way for them to work with fractions, while also engaging students in SMP 3.

To be fair, we have done a lot of work this year with patterns: number patterns with the 100s chart, Pascal’s triangle, the multiplication chart, visual patterns and growth, and structural patterns in equations. Actually, we look for patterns everywhere…in the books we are reading, social studies, science, and across disciplines…we are becoming pattern seekers. This was completely evident during a choral counting lesson that I did with fractions.  Patterns and relationships are so important to learning.

We started off…” We are going to count by 2/3 starting at 0.” I had planned how I would record the pattern and thought about what relationships the students might notice: patterns in a column, the denominator remains the same, the numerator is changing by 2 (I wanted to start easy, to build success and ease their working memory so that they could really focus on the relationships.) We started counting. (I was nervous that this was going to be too easy for them.) Hmmm…they were getting stuck in a few places and then I was reminded how important counting is. We are working on fractions, but at the same time we are reviewing multiplication facts, skip counting, and number sense in general. We then had 3 rows completed and I stopped. “What do you notice?”

“We are skip counting by 2.”

“Turn to your math partner. Do you agree or disagree with that statement?”

We then discussed this as a class. Many students agreed and then we got into the discussion of the numerator and denominator. Whoa! Misconceptions have surfaced!

Then a student stated, “We are not counting by 2s, we are counting by 2/3.”

“No, we are adding by 2s. See,” and a student points to the numbers in the numerator.

“If we are counting by 2s, then we should be able to add 2 to the previous number to get the next number. That doesn’t work.”

Ahhh…we have an argument going on. Great! So, I ask the students to sit with their partner and prove or disprove that we are adding by 2.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 3.20.15 PM

After some drawings and equations the students come to the realization that we were not counting by 2, but we were counting by 2/3. Though, they all agreed that the numerator is changing by 2.

Then a student said, “I noticed that if you look diagonally down toward the right, the numbers are increasing by 14/3 .” I asked “Is that true for every diagonal?” We tested it out? Yes. “But, why does that work I asked?” Again the students turned to their partners and discussed.

“Well, we are counting by 2/3 and so from 2/3 to 16/3 we keep adding 2/3. That adds up to 14/3.

I write what she said… 2/3+ 2/3 + 2/3 +2/3 + 2/3 + 2/3 + 2/3= 14/3

“Actually if you just multiplied the fraction by the number of times that is much faster,” a student shouts out. Ahhh, yes now we were connecting their previous knowledge about addition and multiplication with whole numbers to fractions.


We continue to look for patterns and notice the relationship down the column, moving diagonally from right to left. We talked about adding and multiplying fractions and then also subtracting fractions if we moved backwards.

Then I placed some boxes in some areas below the 3 rows and asked students to determine which numbers would go into those boxes? They used all the patterns we discussed earlier to determine which number fit and critiqued each other’s reasoning and pointed out more efficient ways.

What I love about choral counting is that it surfaces some misconceptions, allows us to discuss operations, vocabulary, and relationships between numbers. It is not threatening. Every child feels successful and we can really work on justifying their thinking and critiquing the reasoning of others.

Lastly, it is so important how I record students thinking. I have been thinking about this a lot and color has become my best friend. The best statement at the end of our counting session as we looked at the finished board.

“We all know what we were doing, but if someone walked in right now, they would have no idea what all those circles and lines were. But, it looks so cool.”

It looks cool to me too because it reminds me of the rich discussion we just had.

Making connections and looking for patterns. It is so much more than fractions and counting. It is learning how to make sense of the concepts we are exploring.

Students Who Want to Learn…Building Academic Mindsets


I HATE all the “bribing” happening in schools. You read and you get a party. You do your homework and you get a party. You complete all your work and you get a party.

How about you GET to read, you WANT to learn by practicing at home, you WANT to complete all your work because you are interested and see value in learning.

Let’s not underestimate kids. Let’s get to know them, help them see the purpose of schooling, the love of learning, the enjoyment in books, and the creativity in math. I know it is hard, but if we always just use tricks and bribes, will we ever get the intrinsic desire to learn that we all need? I know there are some kids that need that extrinsic motivation at first, but I just think it is becoming too much the norm. It is becoming a crutch instead of a scaffold and I think we need to stop. Let’s create thinkers who love learning!

I am determined to break this cycle and help my students develop strong academic mindsets that will help them to have long term success in school and in life. One of the things that we did at the start of the year was to learn about the Global Campaign for Education. We graphed how long it took us to get to school, and then watched the documentary On the Way to School. Later, we compared our time and distances to the 4 stories.

This was a true eye opening experience for my students. We discussed why the children would travel such far distances just to go to school. We also completed all the lessons from Lesson for All Curriculum. It was powerful for my students to learn about the barriers to education and then to think about what people are doing to the lessen those barriers.


I now have students working to figure out how they can support and reduce the barriers for students around the world. Through this work my students were the ones that brought up the topic of attitude and students were saying it is not just about going to school, but it is what you do while you are there. Yes! They said, “Distance is a barrier to get to school, but attitude is a barrier to achieving in school.” Awesome!

They said it and I’m using it. Do you have the right attitude? Are you mentally here and engaged? If not, what can you do to change your attitude?

In addition, we started the year with Jo Boaler’s Week of Inspirational Math. Brilliant! We learned about growth mindset, the notion of brain crossing, growing dendrites and how mistakes can cause synapses to fire. (This is also linked to our study of cells and neurons) Students saw that through effort, they can learn and challenges are important. And….they are just loving math!

The Four 4s!

They are seeing the fun and creative side to the subject, engaging in argument, and becoming pattern seekers. Yesterday, while I was reading a book in which the author states that her least favorite subject was math, the class looked at me appalled and in shock. Yes! They are all starting to love math.

Lastly, after reading Zaretta Hammond’s book, Cultural Responsive Teaching and the Brain,

I was determined to do a better job of being more culturally proficient and helping all my students develop strong academic Mindsets and being the “Warm Demander”.

This is from her website and I am on the road to #1, #3 and #5.

I wanted to start the year by building strong relationships with my students. So, I decided to share part of my culture with them and I set up a Fika or a walk (some people talk more when they walk) with each student.

We talked about how they felt about different subjects, what their afternoon schedule is like, and their interests. We then created a special handshake. Yes, I now have 26 handshakes that I have to remember as they all enter the room each morning. I admit it, I don’t always remember them. But, I will get there.

We we are off to a good start.. I see a few kids changing already. It will be hard, but we will do it or die trying. 🙂 Next comes goal setting this week based off of some of the assessments they have taken and creating our learning pacts

I want them to leave my class as learners: inquisitive about the world and motivated to find out the answers to their questions.

The Ps: Painting, unPacking, Prepping, Planning

It is easy to forget all the many Detailsthat one must think of when getting ready for a new school year. I started working in my head in June and then began the work in my classroom in August. In June, I… Thus, I decided to take July off, but I was fearful of losing my ideas so I placed all my many thoughts into a Google Doc (click on the link to check it out) and shared it with my new team and some other colleagues. Now coined my “thesis” thanks to a teammate, it is a working document that we keep adding to.

August came and I entered my classroom…

I started by ridding my classroom of the desks.

photo 1-26 I want a classroom full of discussion, collaboration, and sharing. The first place that starts is with the design of the space. I am lucky that I have a principal who is supportive about redesigning classroom spaces to encourage innovation and collaboration. He let me take the old tables from the art room and gave me permission to paint them with whiteboard paint! 3 coats of primer, 5 coats of Rust Oleum White Board Paint, 2 helpers (thank you to Madi and my mom) and 2 days later I had beautiful white tables.

photo 3-19

Picture from the front of the room. The white paper in the back is my brainstorm of all the topics my students need to learn. My team and I worked from that to look for connections in order to start organizing our year. I’ll write more about that in another post.

photo 1-27

Picture taken from the back of the room.

Already, after 3 days with my students they have changed the way I am teaching and students are interacting. Do it! It is worth it! (Read all the reviews on Amazon and follow the directions exactly though.)

Here are some pictures of the rest of the room.

photo 4-7

We are starting the year by talking about the power of viewing the world from different perspectives and a not just a “Single Story”.

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Classroom library organized by genres. Our goal is to read 1080 books this year, 40 books each!

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Scholarly Traits: We can’t learn without strong academic mindsets. We add students’ names to different categories to recognize each other.

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Writing Process Board to keep track of which stage of the writing process all the students are in.

photo 3-20

This is where the math and science practice posters will be. We are learning about them inductively, and then we will make posters of each practice with the students as the models.

photo 2-28

My “Maker Space”. I’m so excited for students to start using this space and for our I-Cubed Hour (Inspiration, Imagination, Innovation).

My next post will include more of the planning for the beginning of the year and what we are doing the first couple of weeks: Depth and Complexity, Universal Theme of Power, A Week of Inspirational Math, Learning about Children’s Rights and Education around the World, Learning About the Brain, and Building a Community with Strong Relationships.

…and so it begins

I’ve been told that I should journal more times than I care to admit.

Yes, I’m always thinking.

Yes, I have a need to sort through all the thoughts.

Yes, I tend to share my thoughts with the people I work with.

Might they not want to receive my plethora of emails with my ideas or my “thesis” as one colleague put it? Hmmm… I can understand how the answer to that might be a yes.

But…journaling? It just seems so wasteful to write all my ideas down for only me, myself and I.  So, in enters blogging. At least there is a chance someone out there might read it, comment about it, engage in a conversation about my thoughts.

Why a nomadic teacher?

1. I can’t seem to last more than a few years in any one position, school, or city.

2. I am not just interested in one subject or one component of teaching…I drift.

3. When I grow up I want to be a nomad and just travel from one place to the next.

What will this blog entail? Not quite sure. But, I will guarantee that it will be nomadic, drifting from one idea to the next and connecting it all together: learning and the brain, math, global competency, writing, science, ridding the world of bad homework and summative grades that are not conducive to student learning, cultural proficiency, technology, engineering, and maybe even a little reading.

I have been completely inspired recently by Zaretta Hammond and her Book: Cultural Proficiency and the Brain, every single component of Cognitively Guided Instruction (How can you teach without understanding how a student thinks and knowing what they know? Read all 3 books if you have not! ), CCSS in Math- the battles, the challenges, the increased understanding that teachers have to have in order to teach it, Lesson Study (One day I am going to go to Japan and see this in action) David Perkin’s FutureWise: Educating our Children for a Changing World,  a More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger, Sandra Kaplan’s work about Depth and Complexity and Universal Themes (thanks Joanna!), and Global Competency (bring in the Asia Society), NGSS and this notion of starting with Phenomena and creating models, and finally the entire Maker Movement. Let’s create!

My goal as I enter my 16th year of teaching (man, I sound old) and back into the classroom after a 2 year hiatus as a TOSA is to create a program in which students are engaged in “life-worthy” learning,  questioning, using (not just obtaining) knowledge, making and creating, understanding multiple perspectives, collaborating and problem solving, developing a sense of self and developing an understanding of our greater world. I want to engage my students and myself in learning that is deep, relevant, and long lasting.

So here goes…back to the classroom, back to 6th grade. Let’s do this!