Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Problem with Problems

This has been a week of problem solving - at school and in my life in general. My computer had a seizure, I forgot my bank passwords and locked myself out of everything, spent ages dealing with government red tape... problems, problems!

At 8.45 today, after 13 out of 16 children handed in their Problem of the Day with identically incorrect answers I decided we had a problem with problems!

Pencils down. Everybody freeze. Look at me. Listen to me.

READ THE QUESTION before you start circling numbers and highlighting key phrases.

Blah, blah, blah - I could see their eyes glazing over and it wasn't even 9.00 yet.

After a brief - and fruitless - lecture, I decided we had to go right back to the beginning so I re-arranged my planned centers and made one of them a problem-solving workshop.

We took it slowly, step by step, asking lots of questions:

What are you trying to find out?
What are the facts you know?
How do these facts connect?
What key words can you find to help you?
Draw a picture.
What number sentences will you write?
Why did you choose that particular operation?
Explain your thinking.

That last one was the tricky part :)

I have to say that by the end of the lesson I was in DESPAIR!!

I know that this is developmental and some children take time to learn problem solving skills but when one of my high flyers sat there with 24 sparkly gems in front of her and COULDN'T write a number sentence to show 24 - 16 = 8 I seriously began to question my ability to teach!!

When she told me that she thought 24 divided by 16 was 8,  I almost cried.
She got the answer eventually but it was hard going.

So, more problem solving tomorrow but... it's fairy tale time :) Open-ended project coming up!

In my kitchen right now are sausage rolls for the Big Bad Wolf, honey graham crackers for the Three Bears and apple tarts for Snow White - just to name a few items :)

Problem solving CAN be fun!! :) Check back later to see some photos :)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sunday Sale

I just finished bundling 4 word problem sets - 128 different word problems altogether and 4 open-ended   Math projects - and am putting them on sale today only at 20% off.  :) Totally shameless promotion I know and I promise I won't do it again for ages!!

Here's the link if you're at all interested.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend :)

Friday, 26 April 2013

If you could take only one book on a one-way trip to another planet...

...what would you take?

That's one of the questions we asked ourselves this week as we started reading "The Green Book" by Jill Paton Walsh.

I love this book although I'm aware that it gets mixed reviews from other people and my co-teachers aren't terribly fond of it :(

It's a science fiction story about a family that leaves a dying Earth and travels on a one-way journey to the planet Shine.
It begins with Father saying that the family can't take very much with them - each traveler is allowed  a few basic necessities, one small luxury personal item and ONE book.

I always ask my kiddies what luxury item they would take and every year I get answers like a computer, an iPad, a phone... When I  point out that there won't be any power on the new planet, that batteries don't last forever and that there's no return to Earth I generally get blank stares and then they start coming up with creative ways to GET power for their devices. Usually they refuse to accept that their choice isn't very practical.

This year was slightly unusual in that almost my entire class wanted to take a stuffed toy (I have a very young group - they're all October to December birthdays) but they reverted to form when we got to the book...

...the ONE book that you can take on a one-way trip through space; that you will have to read for four years on a space ship and then for the rest of your life on a new planet with no power.

"I'll take my Kindle," said one child immediately.
"What will you do when the battery runs out?" (me)
"Recharge it," she replied (looking at me like I had two heads)

We went over the facts again: No Earth, old spaceship, one-way trip to new planet, no power.

"Well, I'm sure I'd find a way to charge it and it has tons of books on it."

We moved on.

Today we got to the point in the story where the crops are failing, the wheat is turning to glass, the rabbits have died and fear is growing as quickly as the wheat, which is the colonists' last chance for survival.

To combat their worry and boredom the colonists have started to share their books - and are realizing that they have made poor choices. There are several copies of Robinson Crusoe, one battered and torn Grimm Fairytales, an Iliad and a few pony books.
Father begins to read the Grimm aloud at nights and the adults try to remember the stories they used to know on Earth, recognizing that they didn't appreciate what they had until now, when it's too late to do anything about it.

I asked the girls if they would change their book choice now that they knew what Shine was like and how important stories would be.

My Kindle child, bless her, immediately said, "I'd take the complete set of Shakespeare."


The next child changed her choice from Dork Diaries to Junie B Jones.


Off they all went to their Lifeskills lesson and came back with library books (the teacher did a combo lesson) and...

...someone signed out Hamlet!! Because it was mentioned in the story and she wanted to know what it was about!

Woot!! Success!! We are connecting :)

Next week we make predictions.

Why is it such a good thing that the colonists left out trays of tree candy? WHAT is going to happen next? :)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Sports Day :)

Great fun but wow, am I tired!!

These are our house flags - although I notice as I type this
that I cut my own flag out of the picture! I was in the blue
house when I was a student at this school :)

For the last 10 years it has, without fail, rained on Sports Day. Sometimes we've soldiered on through drizzle and spitting; sometimes we've made mad dashes into the gym during heavy downpours; a couple of times we've had to postpone... but today...

...today the sun shone for practically the whole day! And most of us, being totally unprepared for good weather (in fact I had a raincoat, umbrella AND a change of clothes in anticipation) got burned. I had to  borrow a hat and borrow sunscreen. No sunglasses - thanks to the weather forecast of overcast skies, rain and thunder (none of which materialized) - so by the afternoon I was squinting and head-achey.

However it was a great day. Sadly my house came last :( but one of my own students won the best performer cup and since she's a child who struggles sometimes in the academic arena it was wonderful to see her excelling!

I don't know what tomorrow will be like - I may have a grumpy little group - but since it'll be Friday it doesn't really matter too much :)

Enjoy the weekend all!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Earth Day Math

 And what, you may be wondering, does this little fellow have to do with Math?

Luckily I like holding toads!!

He is an example of natural symmetry :) He's a male Cane Toad, also known as a Marine Toad or a Giant Toad - Bufo marinus if you want his scientific name. We found him swimming in the school pond when we were out searching for examples of natural symmetry as a joint Math review/ Earth Day lesson.

Joey Udovich of Create, Teach and Share made a fabulous pack that I snapped up last week (you can find it HERE - it would be a fun activity for any time of the year!) and we used it today.

My girls had a great time. Look at their mathematical explorations in the school garden.

Posing for the artist. Toads have no rib cage so this is
the most comfortable way for them to be held. It also
prevents them from hopping away :)

Drawing our national flower - the Bermudiana

Angel wing begonia flower

Using a mirror to check the symmetry on
this African iris

This child was determined to check the symmetry
of the Mexican poppy below


Checking the pond for symmetrical fish and tadpoles.
Tomorrow we will be collecting some tadpoles for
the classroom :)

Happy Earth Day

No words needed.

From Apollo 17, 1972

Apollo 8 - Earthrise

Friday, 19 April 2013

Holiday Fridays...

... are the best :) Specially when it's a sunny day!

I can stay in my pajamas as long as I want, sit outside with a cup of tea and talk to the dogs, plan lots of things to do in the house - and then not do them because it's a holiday! :)

The one big problem is that we live right beside - well, on actually - my husband's job site. He manages a golf course and we live on the 14th tee :) Why is this a problem? Well... he pops home for lunch and sees me in my pajamas, having cups of tea, talking to the dogs and doing nothing in the house :)

When he's on holiday he still works - he finds things to do even if they don't really need doing; when I'm on holiday that does not happen! Opposites attract, right? I tell him that's why we're still happy together after 25 years :)

Having said that I have been roaming around on the internet (in between sunny cups of tea) and have discovered new blogs and fun ideas and great new resources plus some nice inspirational posters.

Have a happy weekend everyone :)

I left this big so you could read it properly. I love it! I'm going to put it up in my classroom next week!
And venspired.com is a wonderful blog! Definitely go check it out!!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Mathematical Earth Day Project

We've been in school only 3 days this week due to a PD day on Monday and a holiday tomorrow (yay) for our Annual Exhibition (sort of like a State Fair for any US readers :) ) Plus today was Alumni Day - with a traditional ceremony in the morning and Spirit Day all afternoon - so very little formal teaching was done this week.

Instead my class embarked on an open-ended Math project with an Earth Day-ish theme. I am so proud of my kiddies - they are becoming experts at cooperative group work and are able to take a project, read the directions and get going with very little help from me now. I just wander around taking photos and listening to their discussions.

Since we live on an island, with the most northern coral reefs in the Atlantic, I decided to discuss the threats to the coral reefs. We looked at pollution, the warming of the ocean, coral bleaching and discussed ways that we could protect the reefs. We agreed that we could practice reef-friendly behaviors when snorkeling and diving, pick up trash etc. and then we looked at artificial reefs.

We actually have some artificial reefs here - some purposely sunk ships have been designated as dive sites and are becoming encrusted with coral - so this was a good topic for us. We specifically looked at the materials used to make artificial reefs - reef balls, limestone boulders and concrete block - and then we started our project.

The girls worked on several Math concepts - finding area, fractions, percentage, multiplication and money - as they put together their bid for an Artificial Reef Project for the Reef Committee (aka me :) ) No limit on spending but I was looking for an attractive design, good cover of the site, cost effectiveness and an appropriate habitat for sea life.

Check out their work!

The project begins...

Lots of discussion about how many of each particular reef material to buy:

"How many Ultra reef balls should we get?" "Well, how much do they cost?" "I think we should get a Pallet reef ball!"

Onto the planning... They had to cover 1/2 to 3/4 of the dive site (which was 100 square meters) so they had to work out the area of each reef ball/material individually and then plan their design on a  grid. (I provided templates for them so they could move material around - my girls are very visual!!)

"So far we've covered 35 square meters. We need... how many more?"
"Should we layer them like this so we have highways for the fish?"

Costing it out... I loved these conversations! 

"We've spent $5000 already!"
"We still need to know how much we're spending!" (budding accountant here!)

Side View plans and Models...

Once their grid plan was completed each group drew a Side View of their reef design and then created an "artists' drawing".


Every single group opted to do the 3-D model :)

Drawing the grid
Sponge painting reef balls made
from egg cartons

Starting to place the reef balls
A finished reef - complete with giant
squid and 3 meter long fish! They couldn't
quite get the idea of scale with their
sea creatures :)

And here's a finished display - booklet bid ready for the Reef Committee, models and... an extra "Save the Reefs" poster with sea life facts! Above and beyond what was asked!! I am SO proud!

And finally this was my favorite comment overheard when we stopped for lunch yesterday:

"Ohhhh... do we have to stop? I love this project - let's eat fast so we can go back to it."

Music to my ears :)

So, in case anyone feels like tackling an artificial reef math project at some time in the future...
I've packaged all of this up with a set of word problems and have it available HERE.

Hope everyone has a great Friday :)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Making blogging connections

This has been an exciting day!! Our blog has gone international!! We have linked with a class in Morocco and a class in Wales :)

My kids were thrilled to see comments on their posts from children in other countries. We had a few glitches (to be expected when you have 3 people in 3 different countries all trying to do this via email :) but now we are up and running.

Tomorrow we will start reading and commenting on our international friends' posts - and this weekend we'll be writing a "get to know us" post.

If you're interested in doing something similar look for a post on Global Teacher Connect at the beginning of May. Krystal from Lessons from the Middle will be blogging about this :)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Ideas by Jivey Giveaway

A giveaway is enough to make anyone smile  :)

Pop over to Ideas by Jivey to enter her 300 Follower Giveaway :)

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend, everyone :)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Spring Cleaning is...

FINISHED!!! Yay, yippee, hooray!!

I have a spotlessly clean classroom and - even better - I know where everything is!

And - and this is the best of all - I can SEE my desk!! Huge big smiley face!! :)

So since everything looks so awesome I am going to show you some pictures :) Bear in mind that my desk was inherited from someone else and is ancient. It also weighs a ton but I kind of like it anyway. I never sit at it so it's usually just a piling place but... no more!

This is the new and improved desk!!

The new and improved reading corner/carpet area/meeting time place:

Those pretty learning behavior posters on the white board are from Meg at Fourth Grade Studio - I love them. You can find them here - she has different styles available so just browse her store.

And just so you can totally appreciate how much STUFF I got rid of:

Piles of ancient files from equally
ancient metal file cabinet
Cabinet gone and all files
reduced to these 2 neat little
boxes that fit under my desk :)

And finally: the awesomely clean classroom ready for children on Tuesday :) I still have one window to finish but I am pretty pleased with myself :)

Mind you, I shouldn't have started to write this blog post while my husband was home for lunch because ... he is now wondering why our house doesn't look like the classroom :) Sadly (hee hee) I have run out of cleaning time. Well, maybe I'll tidy up a little bit tomorrow...

... or... maybe not :)


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Clip up or clip down?

Class management is not my forte I'm sorry to say. :(

I have a very laid back attitude in the classroom and like it best when my class is inquiring and creative... but sometimes I find that this leads to controlled chaos in the room - well, let's be honest: sometimes it's less-than-controlled chaos :)

I have been feeling very blue and inadequate about this lately so in an effort to improve my management of 8 year olds I will be trying a new system next week. My co-teacher swears by this (it used to be used in her old school) so I am cautiously optimistic.

The chart looks like this:

I've seen it all over the internet so am guessing lots of people use it. The idea is you get the kids to "clip up" or "clip down" depending on behavior. (I think our charts have reversed the colors - we have red at the bottom) Every day the chart re-sets to green.

 I really only have a small core group (about 4 children) who will probably ever "clip down" but boy, they can liven up the whole class in 30 seconds flat. In fact, they are the reason for the change!! Apparently after a few times of clipping down, so everyone says, everyone stays on green or goes up. This would be wonderful!!

So...I have to think about what Teacher's Choice consequences there will be (I hope that no-one ever gets to the Parent Contact section. Highly unlikely - I have some rambunctious kids but they're good-hearted). Staying in at recess or lunch is not an option because my class love to do that - they ASK to do that!! Demerits don't work and having noise offenders leave the class to work in a quiet place doesn't work either (I've tried all of these). I need some new ideas! Help please?

Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever tried this method and did it work?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Classroom Cleanup...

... is totally EXHAUSTING!!

I have now spent 2 (practically) entire days in school taking everything off shelves and out of cupboards, sorting through a mass of stuff that appears to have been there since the 1960s and generally getting tired, dusty and sore. I have used muscles I didn't even know I had!! I've staggered into the house each evening intent only on eating junk food and collapsing on the sofa :)

Yesterday I cleaned the shelves behind my desk - which hitherto have been shrouded in a sheet of black fabric so that no-one could see how disgraceful they were. Now, clean and streamlined-looking, they have been allowed out into public, looking very trim with Math center activities in little boxes (will label them later) and all resource books grouped by subject. No longer will I panic because I can't find the Language Assessment book or the binder that has the entire term's Project work master copies!!


And here's my newly tidied Math shelf - see the little boxes of counting gems? :) And I have 2 empty shelves - will have to find something to put there :)

Today's project was to empty a 5-drawer filing cabinet (that has stuff in it from the teacher before me - years and years and YEARS of STUFF!) I am pretty sure that practically everything in it is obsolete but naturally I can't just assume that and toss the whole lot so... tomorrow I will be sitting surrounded by piles and piles of papers trying to decide what to keep and what to toss.

I haven't been able to find any 2-drawer legal-sized file cabinets on the island so tomorrow I will buy (assuming I can find them) 2 of those nice solid heavy plastic file containers as a temporary measure - and stuff them under a table once I've transferred the essential papers to them. Not ideal but it'll have to do :)

What else did I do? 
  • I gutted the class library. We have a brilliant Primary Library and my kids hardly ever look at the books in the classroom so I kept a small selection for rainy days and packed the others up for the Spring Fair book stall.
  • I got my husband to come and collect the tortoise habitat. I know this will not be a popular move on my part but it is going to take up too much room once we start building the Aztec civilization. (I may reassess the whole class pet situation next year anyway - it's a bit stressful always worrying about the tortoise!!)
  • I cleared every bulletin board :)
  • I shrouded all the windows (except one) with lengths of blue fabric and then rolled it up halfway (sort of like roman shades) so that we can actually use our Smartboard this term. (There's so much light at this time of the year that the mini-blinds just don't make the room dark enough to see the board.)
  • I cleaned out the art supply cupboard - disturbed a lot of daddylonglegs and 2 cockroaches - this is another area that hasn't been touched in years!!
  • I carried countless bags of rubbish down to the dumpster area - down three flights of steps and across the courtyard! At least 6 trips in total. A great workout - hence the reason I'm allowed to indulge myself with french fries tonight :)
Well! Having just re-read all this I feel extremely self-satisfied :) A very productive 2 days (although I should have taken pictures of it all!) Hopefully I'll finish everything tomorrow and then can relax on Thursday and Friday, secure in the knowledge that I will be ready for the kiddies next Tuesday :)