Tag Archives: WODB

Welcome to Acosta Academy

Welcome back to a whole new school year!  I’ve spent the whole summer steadily preparing for my new assignment and it’s one that I’m embracing.  

Here is it…the night before my first day at a new school, new routines, new students, new colleagues—actually, they aren’t that new to me.  I’m supposed to be trying to rest up and review my plans for tomorrow and all I can think about is “I have to blog about this!”

To catch you all up….I used to be a middle school math teacher for 16 years.  The last 2 years, I was a elementary math coach.  Now I’m going to conquer teaching 6th grade, but at an elementary school.    I get to be with little kiddos again.  Ok…my kiddos won’t be so little, but I get to experience the joy, the smiles, the high-five moments, and the celebrations that come with learning.   

This transition was tough at first.  In the months following my decision, I had weeks where I was raring to go and then weeks when I was doubting myself.  I kept asking myself if I made the right decision by heading to an elementary school.  My 6th grade buddies at the other elementary schools were cheering me on every step of the way.  And with positive mindset, much support from the other 6th grade teachers, and lots of studying over the summer, I’m ready for my challenge.  This is going to be an awesome year.

In diving into this new experience, my inner elementary teacher started coming out.  I spent a good 2 months planning for decorating my classroom.  One of the kindergarten teachers at my site asked me back in March, “what’s your theme going to be?”  My reaction was “Theme?!?!?  Middle schools teachers never did a theme!?!?!?”  I go home and tell my husband about the conversation and he starts looking up things on Pinterest (he is totally a teacher’s husband!).  Low and behold, he holds up this picture….

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the inspiration for my classroom

My classroom is completely decked out with college stuff for my theme.  I created something from nothing.  All of what I’m about to show you is because of this single picture.    As a matter of fact, I’m calling it Acosta Academy.  I’ve had colleagues come in to see my progress and were completely floored with what I had done.  

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I also had a revelation.  I put more energy into putting together this elementary classroom than I had in all my 18 years of teaching.  I embraced the belief “Go big or go home!”  More is more in elementary.   

And in the little time that I’ve been in the elementary community, I’ve learned so much.  For instance, who knew that you could buy Walmart flat bed sheets for $5.00 and they were big enough for your bulletin boards/walls?  And I’ve discovered the joys of lamination.  It’s such a magical treat.  I can’t get enough.

And I’ve created some goals for myself for this year….

  1. Integrate 3 Acts, Which One Doesn’t Belong, Estimation,  Clotheslines, Open Middle, Numberless Word Problems, number talks and engaging math activities/stations into my math curriculum.  
  2. Learn and implement Google classroom as well as other Google tech with my students (Recently took a Google Cue Launch workshop and will be taking the first test soon)
  3. Conquer my fear of teaching English/Language Arts.  It’s a monster. 
  4. Find creative activities for partnering my kids with kindergarteners.  The kinder teacher and I have a few great math ideas/activities.
  5. Use my time in the classroom to embrace the joy, to foster curiosity, and to give my students the best for their last year at elementary school.

 

On a side note, I’m proud to announce that my kindergarten collaborator and I have been asked to speak at 2 conferences.  One of them will be at Calif. Math Council’s northern conference in Asilomar.  The other is at the Southern California Kindergarten Conference in February in Pasadena.  

I’ve also been asked the speak at my alma mater, Frostburg State University.  Sloop Institute on Leadership & Excellence has asked me to present on “Empowering Others.”  I love the topic choice and have already outlined what I’d present.  Even though the conference isn’t until March, it’s never to early to brainstorm.

There’s more exciting plans coming in the 2018-2019 year, but I’ll wait to report on that when things are more finalized.  

Until next time,

Kristen

 

 

New Routines for 6th grade

In my district, there are several 6th grade teams at three separate elementary schools. They are an anomaly in that they are invited to secondary professional developments & textbook trainings with other middle school teachers, but yet they are their own special group.  It’s not easy to have secondary expectations, all the while being at a site with kindergarteners passing by your window.  With all these new expectations, new standards, and a new curriculum guide, I saw the need for help.  Me –being a middle school teacher turned math coach–jumped right in.

Our latest venture at one site has been to start math talks.  I introduced them to Which One Doesn’t Belong, Estimation 180 and Would You Rather. They were excited by these routines because they are engaging for the students.  It’s not their usual math.  It’s different.  The teachers are now sparking conversations with the pictures and questions.  It’s been incredible for them.  I recently took their principal on a math walk into the three 6th grade classrooms so she could observe their new routines.  The principal was supremely happy.

 

One popular thought that came up during our work last year and this year was a simple question….how do you review previous units?  How do we keep information that we did at the beginning of the year fresh?  For instance, 6th grade began the year introducing rates and ratios.  Part of their “Would you rather” routine reviews rates.  For instance…would you rather buy a Starbucks Venti for $3.59 or a Starbucks Grande for $2.99.  Essentially we are asking which is a better buy. We are starting a math argument.

So how do you bring fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios to life?  How do you make that lively and different from what they see in their textbooks?   Well…let’s first look at this pic….

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Donuts from a gift bag at Target

What do you see? What do you notice?  What math questions could we ask?

What fraction of the donuts have green icing?  What’s the ratio between sprinkled donuts to stripped donuts?  What percentage of donuts have chocolate icing? What fraction of the donuts have purple icing?  Can you turn that into a decimal?  

A simple routine comprised of many pictures of donuts, cupcakes, legos, or any variety of objects.  I’ve seen many math educators use pictures like this to start a visual routine/number talk.  Pictures are an amazing way to wake the students up and look at things differently.  I might bring this routine to my kindergarten teachers as a sorting activity.  

So many donuts…..so many possibilities.

Until next time,

Kristen

Share your thinking!!!

I love it when my teachers take an idea and run with it.  Not only did a teacher run with it, but added even more to a suggestion.   And that’s what I saw today.

One 4th grade teacher that I’ve been coaching (Mrs. P) had asked me to work with her on number talks.  She had wanted me to demonstrate a few on division and fractions before she tried one herself.  And that’s exactly what happened.  A few weeks back, I did one on division (one that I’d seen on the Teaching Channel) and I did another one on fractions.   I whole heartedly admit that they didn’t go as well as I had wanted, but we live and learn.

This week, we continued our work on number talks especially with fractions.  We went back to the basics.  We watched a video online (Dr. Jo Boaler) and went over the purpose of the talks.  Instead of over-complicating matters, we agreed to simplify the process.   Let’s use number talks to gauge where the students were in regards to their background knowledge of fractions.  Perfect.

We started off with a visual from Which One Doesn’t Belong.IMG_6186

I sat back and listened intently to what the students were saying.  One student says “It’s not about which ones don’t belong, it’s about which ones DO belong.”  Mrs. P asked him, “How so?”  Some of the students noticed that the top two fractions were equal.  Some students noticed that the bottom two were improper fractions.  They also noticed that the bottom two weren’t equal but similar (being improper fractions).  The students loved to agree and disagree with each other as long as they voiced their reasoning.

Mrs. P and I debriefed really quickly at the end of that session.  She had the biggest smile on her face as did I.  It was a success.

But then the awesomeness kept going!

She asked the students to create a thinking map with another WODB on fractions.IMG_6188

She turned the whole idea of numbers talk with WODB into a full class activity.  Each student had to first pick a fraction (that they thought didn’t belong) and then write down their reasoning.  The students were interviewing each other.  There was tallying going on.  There was “writing in math” happening!

This was incredible!

Some examples –

 

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The check marks represent how many agreed with that statement.
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The students even interviewed me.

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Here’s why I think it worked –

  • With number talks, you may not hear from every student.  By doing this, the teacher got to see/read about their knowledge of fractions and get every students’ participation.
  • Teachers have difficulty figuring out how to incorporate writing into math.  This was one example of how to overcome that.
  • Students are using math vocabulary to explain their reasoning.
  • In this class, the students don’t always collaborate well.  This gave them time to work together.

Mrs. P and I have been on this math journey together.  She’s the type of teacher who wants to push her practice and just do better with “mathy” stuff (her words).   I appreciate that we can have real conversations without worry of judgement or pressure.   It’s exciting on my end to see her grow as a teacher.  She’s one of the reasons I love being a coach.

Kristen

 

 

 

Kindergarten Rocks!

Today I spent some time in a kindergarten classroom.  Those tiny humans are inquisitive, direct, and full of spunk.  What I love about them is that there’s a whole world of wonder waiting for them and they’re ready to soak it in.

And let me tell you something about the kindergarten teachers.  They are ROCK STARS!  Especially the one I worked with today, Mrs. Z.  We spent sometime last week planning for a lesson.  She had given me a list of topics they were covering and she wanted my help to plan something.  During our planning time, I introduced her to Graham Fletcher’s 3 Act Lesson and Which One Doesn’t Belong.  We also read Joe Schwartz’s blog on the same 3 Act lesson pertaining to Shark Bait.  She was totally thrilled, but wanted to  plan her own 3 Act lesson.  Now it was my turn to be totally thrilled!

Here’s how the lesson went.

As a warm up,  Mrs. Z started the class with Which One Doesn’t Belong….except she did it Kinder Style!  What’s Kinder Style?  Kinders work on sorting by attributes.  So she posed the question “how would you sort these?”

These smart little people came up with 5 different ways to sort these dice.  There categories would be color, size, shapes (Numbers versus dots or circles), corners (big and small), and the number 5.  They were absolutely engrossed.

Next she started the 3 Act lesson that we designed.  Act 1 – She introduced Alex the Alligator (alligator – K). We needed to find out how long Alex was.   She took some guesses (which varied from 8 cubes to a million!) And then the students got to work.IMG_6029

Act 2 – We handed out the clues.  We made sure to keep grouping the colored cubes in 5’s so that they could practice their counting and cardinality.

The students vigorously got to work.  The hunt was on to find the correct number of cubes and the correct color.  As Joe Schwartz noted, it was important to print out colored context clues for those students who couldn’t read yet.

Once the students were finished, we compared cubes on the carpet.  Mrs. Z reviewed their estimations and revealed the answer on the Powerpoint.  She also went over which estimations were the smallest and the largest.

Act  3 Once the estimations were finished, she asked the students to draw their own Alex the Alligator and show how the alligator was 18 cubes long.

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Nathan drew blocks around the number 18.

 

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William drew 18 blocks on the bottom.
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Those are some ferocious teeth.  18 dots represent the cubes.

Final thoughts….

Mrs. Z and I did debrief (my favorite part) at the end of the day.  We both agreed that kinders need a story to go with the 3 act lesson.  They need context to wrap their heads around why they are finding the length, height, etc.    She also wants to create 3 act lessons that have 10 solid colored cubes plus a few more so that she could start addition problems with the kinder.

My favorite part of our debrief (and I’m paraphrasing)–

Mrs. ZI’m so glad you are helping me.  I don’t want to be that teacher that just hands out a worksheet.  I want to be better than that.  I want to keep learning.  

Well put, Mrs. Z.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Kristen