Archive for March, 2011

And the Survey Says…

One objective of our math curriculum deals with Probability, Graphs and Statistics…uff-da! (a little Minnesotan for ya 🙂 Probability concepts are super tricky for 4th graders! So what is a nerdy teacher to do? When it comes to difficult math topics, hands-on is usually a good approach. Instead of just showing my kids graphs and having them interpret and answer questions, we made our own!

First of all, the kids chose a survey question. Popular ones included: Favorite color, animal, soda, and TV show. They took their surveys to recess, home to their families and I scheduled to visit 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms to gather data. They were so cute and professional with their clipboards:

After we gathered our data, I taught the kiddos how to make a graph in Excel.  Since this was our first adventure with Excel, I decided to make a template that the kids would use to enter their data. (Download template here:  Survey Results) This was my survey about Ice Cream Flavors:

Survey Results

Ok, so we have learned about surveys, and my kiddos understand that data and graphs aren’t just “made up”, but  they actually mean something. Next up, we have to analyze our data! I know, analyzing sounds really boring…but there are ways of making it fun! Here is what we did:

I used my graph to model and explain the different types of questions that are asked when analyzing data:

Informational Questions–Which one got the most/least votes?

Comparing Questions–How many more people liked vanilla than cookies and cream?

Inference Questions–If we asked 100 more people, how many people would most likely choose vanilla?

Then my kids wrote three questions based on the information in their graphs. Having kids write their own math questions is always interesting and requires them to think really critically about the math concept. They also had to solve their own questions so they could make an answer key.

Now the fun begins continues! I put on some upbeat music and a timer for 10 minutes and all the kids used whiteboards to go around and solve the problems (kind of like Writer’s Roundtable). They used the answer key on the back to check their answers. Of course someone asked, “What if we get them wrong?” We added an element of accountability and each kid kept track of how many they got right on their board.

And the survey says: Probability, Statistics and graphs? EASY and FUN!

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Share it Forward: Week in Rap

Oh my goodness, this week was crazy! I felt like every day I went from dawn til dark without stopping…and then, when I crawled into bed I just didn’t have the energy in my tired fingers to type a blog post! (Insert big sigh and whiny voice here 🙂  But this weekend has cured my sleepiness, and here I am on Sunday morning with a big mug o’ coffee and nimble, rested fingers ready for typing 🙂

Up first: SHARE IT FORWARD! Yes, my little Sunday tradition where I share something I have read, found, or used during the week. This week it is resources for Current Events.

Social Studies is often sorely overlooked in 4th grade because of all the other TAKS tested subject areas… so recently my team and I have decided to insert a little “Current Event” block into our schedule to keep our kids up-to-date about what’s going on in the world.

Through out the week we use http://www.dogonews.com/ to talk about current events and watch current event videos. Then on Friday we will use Flocabulary’s Week in Rap to look at things that happened around the world here is the Week in Rap from this week:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=21473886&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

The Week in Rap – March 25 from Flocabulary on Vimeo.

We watched the Week in Rap for the first time on Friday  and my kids LOVED it. We had to watch it a twice and then we talked about all the events that were mentioned. It was only 10 minutes before lunch, but it sparked tons of good conversation. The Week in Rap is published each Friday and once you start showing it in your classroom your kids will beg you to watch it each week.

Note: Flocabulary also publishes other videos and they are all fantastic! Take a look at this rap about the 5 elements of a short story: Plot, characters, conflict, theme, setting –yes these are the 5 things that you’re gonna be needing when you’re reading or writing a short story that mad exciting! (trust me you will have this rap in your head!)
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=19004452&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

Flocabulary – Five Things (Elements of a Short Story) from Flocabulary on Vimeo.

Some Other Awesme Flocabulary Videos:

MLK: Let Freedom Ring (Black History)

Year in Rap

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Wardrobe FAIL!

Yesterday we were back to school after Spring Break, and I certainly started the week off on the wrong foot! As I got out of the car, I spilled  coffee ALL down my shirt…FAIL! (Quick commercial for Tide To-Go Pen…worked a miracle!) Then about half way through morning I noticed there was a general “tittering” around the room. I finally stopped the lesson and demanded what was going on. One of my sweetest little girls raised her hand and said, “Miss, you’re wearing two different shoes.”

“Why yes, yes I am!” Second FAIL! Now, in my defense, I get dressed at about 5:45am, and this was the first day back after spring break so I was rather sleepy. Also, I had on long trouser pants, so when I looked down my feet looked like this:

You can hardly tell, right?

Ei, yi, yi! My kids got such a big kick out of this and I had a good laugh too. We decided that Friday would be mismatch shoe day in Miss O’s class.

Life sure does teach this nerdy teacher not to take herself too seriously!

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You can Haiku too!

Spring has sprung, and every spring we write poetry in 4th grade! We always start out small with Haikus. I love the simplicity or Hiaku poems, with other types of poetry sometimes I feel like I don’t quite “get it”, but with Haikus I always fee like I can be a poet!

We start out our unit with a little reading unit using Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak. Grass Sandals is a lovely story about the Japanese poet, Basho and the kids love it. There are Japanese characters and a Haiku on each page and the illustrations are just perfect.

Next we tried our hand at Spring Haikus with very good results! Check out our Spring Haikus:

Go ahead:

write a spring haiku
playing with words and  senses
you know you want to

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Just another video about changing education…

This may seem strange in light of my post yesterday,  but my friend Emily sent me the link to this video, and I really like the visual way that it outlined the history of education in America and highlighted some of the changes that need to occur. So without further adieu… just another video about changing education:

One of my friends on Facebook also linked this article about teachers from the NY Times titled US is Urged to Raise Teachers’ Status…hmmm does anyone else agree?

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What I see.

Confession: I subscribe to dozens of educational blogs…and sometimes I get tired of the “education today is bad…” mantra.

I know as a progressive educator I should be passionately raising my fist in agreement that we have a broken system and fighting to change it. But sometimes oftentimes I get frustrated. So many blogs rag on teachers, “Bad teachers do this…”, “Teachers won’t change…” and I understand where they are coming from. Yes, there is a lot about education and teachers that needs to change, but what those blogs, videos and articles don’t show is that most teachers love their students and their profession and do not intentionally use outdated practices. I experienced this last year when I worked as our campus’ Technology Specialist. I started out the year frustrated with teachers for not wanting to change, but as the year went on, I realized that every single teacher wanted the best for his/her students and desperately wanted to integrate the technology and ideas that I was offering. The problem was they literally didn’t have the time in the day to learn how to teach differently. Some might paint these teachers as unwilling and stuck in their ways, but I saw a different side. I know how the world sees teachers, but I see something different.

This is what I see:

I see committed teachers who arrive at school early, tutor struggling students for an hour after school (with no compensation), then stay until 6 o’clock planning and preparing for another day.

I see concerned teachers who use their personal resources to make sure their students have all of their physical needs met at school (buying food, clothing and toiletries)–then worrying about them every night.

I see caring teachers who give up their lunch breaks, evenings and weekends to eat with students, go to their basketball games and get to know their families.

I see compassionate teachers who cry at the end of the day because they feel like they still weren’t able to do enough.

I see relentless teachers spend countless hours trying to figure out how to reach a single students and will not give up.

I see  teachers who are putting their blood, sweat and tears into their students and practice, and still fighting an upstream battle.

I will keep on reading all those blogs and articles on education reform, and I still believe that education has a long way to go. I will continue to provide opportunities for teachers in my building to integrate technology and learn how to make their practice more relevant. But I will not talk down on those teachers, because  I know what I see.

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Spring Breaking

So Spring Break is here, and I have no plans! At least no plans in the way that people mean when they ask, “What are your plans for spring break?” I’m not going on vacation or visiting family or friends! Here is my to do list:

-Sit outside and read.

-Buy cowboy boots.

-Get a car wash.

-Finish crocheting blanket.

-Go for a walk/run everyday.

-Get a pedicure.

Yep, I’ve got plans 🙂 I just felt like I needed a big giant sigh and a nap! So I’m spending my days reading and my evenings with friends, and it is wonderful!

I didn’t make it to the library on Saturday to pick up books for my week of relaxation, so on Sunday afternoon I picked up my favorite book of all time, Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery to read while I sat outside on the patio.

Confession: I have read the Anne series countless times. (Like way more than 10xs, all 8 books) I used to reread them every summer from about 5th grade through high school. Now I just pick them up whenever the spirit moves. I love Anne. I love her imagination and passion for life. I love that she is always making mistakes and getting into “scrapes”. I think she is one of the greatest characters ever written…and that is a bold statement! The series follows Anne’s entire life from age 11 (about the age that I first read the series!) through motherhood, and as I’ve grown up I have been able to identify with her in different ways. I feel like she has been a friend and companion to me…so here is to Spring Break with my good friend Anne 🙂

Ps. My plan was to buy a Kindle over sprint break, but after this discussion on Facebook yesterday I’ve decided to wait and save for an iPad, which seems much more appropriate for a Nerdy Teacher 🙂

Picture 3

**Is there a book that you reread over and over again?

**Do you have an opinion on eReader options?

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