Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Lull

Wow its been a while since I wrote...or reflected.

The truth is I feel a bit of a lull and I am indulging in it.  School is not stressful right now.  It feel good and fine and under control.  But it's not like I am not what am I working on?

1) The Panda Problem

We have been studying various problem solving strategies, working on algebraic reasoning, and writing word problems.  The next phase of our year long problem solving curriculum is the Exemplars.   Before Thanksgiving I introduced the Panda Problem which has us thinking deeply and mathematically about panda reproduction.  It also supports our social studies unit on endangered animals and our writing unit on research reports.  It went really well with all students feeling like they could access and understand the problem, as well as find a path to a reasonable solution.  This particular problem does not have an exact answer.  I figured out that the range of answers is 36-124 and I will be satisfied with any justifiable answer in that ranger.   The nice thing about exemplars is that the point in the justification.  In justifying their answer properly students tend to self correct.

I broke this rollout into three parts:  Finding the Solution, Explaining the Solution, and Evaluating the Solution.  Monday I will model building a solid explanation with the hope that student will be able to replicate the building blocks we go over in future problems.  The Exemplars come with rubrics and so we will spend the following Monday evaluating our solutions and making any final corrections.  Then I have a geometry problem I will send home with them to be completed over the break.

2) Geometry Unit

Last year we found through assessment that student were not remembering geometry vocabulary or the difference between area and perimeter.  This year I need to take a slower approach to geometry and not make any assumptions about the difficulty of the material.  I have been trying to break down the concepts I want to go over and match them up with a variety of hands on activities.  I am still searching for some sort of culminating geometry activity that will allow us to use learned vocabulary and concepts in a meaningful way, like pattern making or model building.  I am not sure yet what to work on.  It needs to be artistic too.  I should probably go on pinterest.  In the meantime I have some good activities lined up to support the understanding goals I have identified.  I hope that by going slower we will increase retention and understanding.

3) Blogging

Blogging is going okay for some of my students and terribly for others.  There is a project management piece that some of them just can't handle independently and some are not buoyed enough by the concept of blogging to work these issues out.  Others are blogging day and night and at home and love it.  These seem to be kids who are technologically proficient and who enjoy writing.  If they are hesitant in either of those areas, it seems to slow them down.  Also some of them are not strong typists in general, and others are not sure how to transfer confident keyboard typing skills to the iPad.

With my "mandatory" blog posts, I seem to be creating some stress.  I have removed that word from the categories as it did not seem to generate interest or motivation in actually completing them.  It was just stressing them out.  I am going to keep working on how to give them more time to complete these tasks. I totally see the value in doing the blogs, but we have a wide range of ability in this area.   Since it's our first year, I think I will pay close attention to the true successes and the abject failures.  If there is a middle group that can mostly get it done independently - great.  The successes can show me what is truly interesting, inspirational, and possible with this platform.  The failures can show me what is truly challenging and in need of support so I know what lessons to build in.  I am going to have to cut some of them slack with this particular experiment.  But I need to remember that this is an experiment.

4) Supporting Animals.

I am teaching some writing/research lessons while E leads for her first time.  This is my third year with this unit and we have been pushing the idea of being an advanced researcher and really tackling some of the concrete skills that some children infer, but that all students can do if taught.  Our students run the risk of being too surface and resting on ability that is really "fine" for fourth grade.  However if we can push them to think more deeply we should.  Two lessons that are rocking their world in terms of animal research are the idea of general topic research and working with numbers.

I taught both of these lessons for the first time this year and have been amazed that they really do need them!  The general research lesson was about not becoming too focused on just their animal - that there was value in learning about that animals genus and family too.  Students often skip over resources because they don't mention their specific animal.  But all genus and family information applies and thus they are missing key info.  The research numbers lessons encouraged them  to really investigate what different measurements and time periods given mean by making comparisons,  to do math problems around given numbers so they can write information in their own, interesting ways, and to make charts with information that is other wise confusing.  They grasped these ideas right way and were having many wow moments over their numerical information once they really got down to thinking about it.

The best part of team teaching is that you don't have to do all of the work.  Right now my partner is taking on a lot of the work while running the reading and writing program.  I am okay with that because it is giving me time to think about my passion projects (above) more deeply.  My attention is not being dragged in too many directions and I really have time to think.   I also have time at home to relax which has been really nice.  I am enjoying this little lull as a luxury!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Foursville: Place Value Fun

This was a great math week. I gave out worksheets and taught traditional algorithms.  But it was a great math week.

Why? Because I deeply believe students in the fourth grade should know how the traditional algorithms for addition and subtraction work. But more importantly they should know why they work. And for that I have a secret weapon: Foursville.

I learned about chip trading at Dana Hall math camp. If you've never been, run, don't walk to sign up this summer.  I didn't fully appreciate the beauty of our base 10 number system until Dana Hall but ever since then I have been in love. 

We start Foursville as a game. For fourth graders trading chips is hard work. They really have to think and work together. 

It sounds easy enough. 1 on the die means one yellow chip. 4 yellow chips = 1 blue chip.  4 blues = a green. 4 greens = a red. One red and you win.  In the subtraction game you start with a red and see if you have anything left after passing through a few tolls.  It's all the same idea as "carrying" and "borrowing" in our base 10 system but it blows their minds. 

Early ah hah moments are when they roll a 4 and just take a blue. Or figure out 1 red is worth 64. The advanced students just do the subtraction in their heads translating the amount needed into Foursville chips.  Meanwhile we are reviewing the algorithms learned in 3rd grade but now we can write them in expanded notation and see what all of that crossing out and regrouping really means. We ask ourselves questions and try to make connections. 

Soon students are realizing we could play Fives or Sevensville because there is pattern. Boom! Base systems of numbers. 

I feel good when students see why our society thinks the algorithms are a good way to do some math problems. They also know lots of efficient ways to do these problems mentally. The important thing is that they can make choices and are learning how to decide when to whip out pencil and paper and when it isn't necessary. 

We finished Foursville by noticing the place value patterns of all base systems. In Foursville the green is 4x4x4.  In Tensville it is 10x10x10.  In Fivesville it is 5x5x5. 

We'll see if they can think it through on Monday.  I might still find time to show them Mayan math in base 20, but even if not, man it was a good week. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What It Is To Be Human

I ride the bus mostly now.  My husband's new job is in Virginia so he takes the car everyday.  On the bus you are exposed to all kinds of people.  There is the young man whose mom brings him every morning.  He is differently abled and apparently deaf since they use sign language.  I often wonder where he is going all by himself.  There is another gentleman who comments on my pretty brown eyes, He is surprised by my quiet thank you which is a recognition of his personhood, a reaction I choose instead of a rebuff to his unwelcome flirtation.

I often look out the window at sights that are not that interesting.  But today my eye caught a man with a dog keeling over.  Another man ran towards him and I knew it was an emergency so I called 911.

In a previous emergency I found I was a person with a cool head who could think of who to call and get others out of the way.  As I jumped off of the bus and ran towards the scene I had witnessed I felt good about my decision to become involved.  Really there was no other choice.

When I got there several men were with the fallen gentleman.  They were rolling him over.  He was turning blue.  I felt in that moment my limitation.  I could make the call, but I stood away and apart unconfident in my years ago CPR training, not wanting to touch his darkening, dying skin or the blood that poured from a cut where he had hit his head.

I stayed on the phone never having called 911 before.  I was trying to describe what I was seeing and convey the urgency of the situation to the operator. He was telling me to stop talking and listen.  He wanted to know about the CPR training of the men who were checking his airway and listening to his chest.  He wanted to know if they needed instructions but they didn't because despite the blood coming from a cut on the man's head and his increasingly blue face, they were doing it.  Sweeping the mouth, opening the shirt, hand over hand pressing on his chest.  A man standing above declared the CPR giver "pretty good".  I repeated the directions so the operator wouldn't get mad at me but they didn't match their actions and it was confusing and I was afraid to make it worse.  Meanwhile,  his face was still blue.  He was still dying.

A woman named Maggie was holding his dog.  He had been out walking his dog, a quick walk before work.  He was dressed for work.  A button up shirt.  A jacket.  The dog was named Diva, a doe-eyed golden retriever who just sat quietly as if she knew she needed to be a non-issue.  She had a red bone tag with two numbers.  Numbers we needed to call.  And say what?

The ambulances arrived.  I thought they were slow to get out, the firefighters.  But maybe that is how you approach a life or death situation when you see them everyday.  With slowness, with calmness, with intent to deliver the right care.

Because they did. They took over and hooked him up to a AED and did what they must do many times a week.  His face was still blue when they stopped and put him on a stretcher and loaded him onto the ambulance.

The man who had given him CPR - Chris - said he would call the numbers on the tag.  He was all in. He spoke to a woman - Claudia - a wife to tell her that her husband was being taken to the hospital in critical condition and there was a dog here.  What should we do?  He didn't think she understood.  She said she would come get the dog.  Was it her English?  Was it her shock?

Soon everyone drifted away.  Most didn't say goodbye.  What had connected us was over.  We had get to work.  Maggie gave me a hug and gave Chris a hug.  I hugged him too.  He had been so brave.   I had cried the whole time.

This morning I saw a man dying.  I also saw a hero try to save his life.  I called 911 for the first time and witnessed an emergency response.  I saw people not walk by and support one another.  I saw a woman with headphones walk over a small pool of blood and not notice and not wonder what had just happened.

I suppose scenes like this happen everyday to lots of people.  Sometimes it doesn't end with a pulse and a man breathing on his own, signs of hope and possibility that it all ended well.  Today it happened to me.  And in that moment I knew what it was to be human.  To be walking the dog and have a seizure or heart attack.  To stop and make a call or use a skill learned at some other time.  To be present with strangers and care about someone else.  To see heroism and humanism and learn they are one and the same.  To be afraid and stuck and unable to turn away.  To let go and release.  Inshallah.  God willing.  To walk forward.  Towards the day.  To go to work.

UPDATE 11/20/13: I heard from either a fire or police lieutenant that the man who had the heart attack is still alive and doing okay!  We saved his life!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spooky Strategy Story Problems

We have been studying these strategies for solving word problems:

They have been working on problems like these:

Today's assignment:

First drafting:

Then creating!

This was a solid study follow-up and assessment disguised as a relaxing Halloween related activity.  Mwah-haha. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paper Blog Preview

To launch our digital portfolio blogs we are starting with paper blog posts, an idea I borrowed from  

The overarching goal of our blogs is to create a digital portfolio where students will document, curate, and reflect on their work.  Paper blogs allow us to practice the roles of blog writers, readers, and commenters offline before we go online.  

The paper blog assignment was for students to share 3 goals they have for 4th grade.  I am shocked by how vulnerable they allowed themselves to be.  We talked all about audience and who we were writing for.  Instead of inhibiting their thoughts, I see many of them reaching out to their classmates, parents, and teachers to tell us how they really feel.  It was really touching what they wanted to share with us and that they felt our classroom was a safe space.  If we can keep it that way, I sense there are many great empathetic moments ahead.  

Next I wrote a comment back to each of my writing advisees. My coteacher did the same.  Then they responded back to our comments. Next week students will read each other's blogs and offer a comment to each one they read, using the post-its. 

I am excited to apply the ladder of feedback to teaching blog commenting.  The four rungs of clarifying, valuing, offering concerns, and offering suggestions seem to capture the range of meaningful responses one can have after reading a blog post. 

I feel these lessons are especially important given how many tacky and down right offensive comments appear online. I want our kids to grow up owning their online self as a reflection of their real life self. I want them to be respectful digital citizens who can participate in intelligent dialogue over the internet. This is feeling like a good first step. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Gotta Stick in My Craw...

so I just wrote this:

The Social Studies working group recommends a school-wide transition from the terms “Western” and “Non-Western” to the terms “United States” and “Global”.  In our own discipline, this would mean cessation of language referring to “Western” and “Non-Western” history/social studies and the incorporation of “Unites States” and “Global” history/social studies in course descriptions and other curriculum materials.  At the very least we recommend a critical cross-divisional discussion to examine the problematic nature of these terms and their place in our institution.  

The terms “Western” and “Non-Western” have come under our scrutiny because they are:
  • antiquated
  • euphemisms for “white” and “non-white”
  • unrepresentative of the dichotomies presented in actual curriculum; “US” and “global” are more accurate
  • an impediment to goals for diversity and inclusiveness as they create an undesirable Eurocentric concept of “the other”
  • geographically incorrect i.e. placement of Latin American works/topics within the dichotomy

The committee understands that these terms are widely used in academia. However, as a cultivator of tomorrow’s thinkers Sidwell Friends School has an obligation to ensure our program is semantically representative of what we hope our students will contribute in the future.  We hope in the field of social studies and history our students will be thinking beyond “Western” and “Non-Western”, and as such, should name our programs accordingly.  

We'll see what happens.

Ladder of Feedback Part Deux

So here is my write-up of what happened with the ladder of feedback homework:

4th grade students are writing geography stories: personal narratives about a specific moment in a special geographical location or a description of the location's special qualities.

Many students have finished a first draft and revised it themselves for a checklist we created. Some students have showed their work to peers informally, but today we used the ladder of feedback to step up towards providing each other with a deeper level of feedback during the revising process.  This is a skill we practice over and over again with many different types of writing and different partners.  Students are still getting to know and trust one another as a writing community, and a formal feedback structure at this point can be helpful.

Students with complete first drafts met in pairs after hearing briefly about the 4 stages: clarify, value, concerns, suggestions. I was interested in how this age group would interpret these words.  They were familiar with the types of comments that might go in each category.

Students then reported back on the feedback they gave and received.  In these early days students said they find it hard to critique each other's work.  Many are afraid of offending one another and found the "concerns" section the hardest to offer.  However they felt the ladder overall made giving feedback easier.   Their conversations felt more directed (knowing what to say) and less awkward.  One student said he would not have thought to say what he liked, which helped him formulate ideas about and communicate what he did not like.

This framework worked well in our initial steps to organize critical peer conversations. We can continue modeling the types of conversations that might take place at each rung, deepening student understanding of how they look at and respond to each other's work and how they can offer meaningful advice for revising and editing.

Here is what I would do differently with more thought and better preparation:
  • Create a ladder of feedback visual 
  • Possibly change the language of the categories (clarify, value, concerns, suggestions worked)
  • Put the categories into the form of questions
  • Actually have them write down their feedback.  (The sharing could actually be done simultaneously if the stories and handwriting are in better shape. At this point it still made sense for them to read it aloud to each other since that is how they are catching their own mistakes and revisions)
  • Model a conversation (I definitely should have done this - it was a clear missing piece)
I actually think the ladder of feedback is a good tool and I would like to incorporate it more formally.  It reminds me of the compliment sandwich, but feels like a step up.  I am always game for a step up.

P.S. I just had a brainflash.  We are creating paper blogs and will begin the process of learning how to become good blog readers and commenters.  I have been wondering how to discuss the different types of comments a blog reader can make and now realize that the Ladder of Feedback is perfect for structuring the way they read and respond to each other on their blogs!  Yay! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homework - Argh!

I am taking an online class called Teaching For Understanding 1: Focus on Student Understanding offered by Harvard Graduate School of Education through their WIDE program (still wondering what WIDE stands for; can't find it):

WIDE courses are developed using the Teaching for Understanding (TfU) Framework. The TfU Framework was developed by researchers and educators at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (1989-1996) as a tool to design, revise, and review curriculum and instruction that helps students develop understanding. 

The content is really interesting, but the format is driving me nuts.  Moreover, I don't really have time to process the information they are offering.  I am totally winging it.

Luckily I am on a team and we are saving each other.  But I have homework.  Due tomorrow.

Assignment: Apply the Ladder of Feedback in a NEW way. You have already used the Ladder of Feedback to provide feedback to each other here online. Now, we want you to use the Ladder of Feedback right in your own classroom or work setting or with a colleague. Teach the rungs of the ladder to your students--young children may only use the clarify and value rungs 
  1. Select an important assignment your students will do, one for which you or you and learners can develop a list of criteria. The criteria should describe "high quality" work on that assignment. 
  2. Teach the Ladder of Feedback to your students.  Help your students or colleague to see the Ladder of Feedback as a tool for offering support and constructive, supportive feedback to others so that the feedback can be used to improve a major assignment or work project. 
  3. Ask your students to work in pairs (using the Ladder of Feedback and the criteria you developed for "high quality" work to help improve the assignment/work project before it is to be formally assessed by the teacher or a supervisor.
Need a visual of the ladder?


This must be how my students feel some of the time.  When their parents' describe evenings where they did whatever they could to "just get it done". 

I forgive them as I am going to forgive myself.

Luckily our students are in the middle of writing geography stories.  And some of them are "done".  But I love telling them they are never really "done" because even our good writing can get better.   This ladder of feedback will be a nice step back, another opportunity to review their work with peers as we more thoughtfully set up a classroom culture that is safe for critical peer feedback.  

My question is should I do this exercise with a small of focus group of students who are in pretty good shape or subject students who really need more time to just write to all of my shenanigans?  Because lets be honest.  I just learned about this ladder of feedback and I am just using it to complete my homework. 

I should probably leave those kids out of it for now.  I can always share this model with them when they have more of their story written.  I only need a few kids to produce a write-up.  This course is trying to prove to us that this format works, and I will go ahead and just believe them.  

Phew okay.  I have a plan.  Thanks. Reflection on how it went and whether or not I finished my homework on time to come.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cooling It Down

My students would like me to:

For eight weeks we have been having a grand time exploring ancient civilizations, E.B. White, Geography, paragraph writing, sensory details, Chinese language and characters, factors, multiples, variables, and equations.  Specials classes in science, Spanish, art, PE, music, and chorus have been incredibly exciting and wonderful. We just had conferences and many parents talked about how their students are feeling engaged, challenged and resilient.

Which is exactly where we want them.   

But now that they are there, we need to slow down a bit.  

There are a few signs indicating this.  The first is an unfinished project that several children need more time on to finish.  Many children were finished two weeks ago, but a few want to do their most careful and thoughtful work, and we have not had time for them to be as deliberate as they would like.  School should have time for careful work.  

Another sign is a geography writing project that now needs a consistent amount of time allowing for individual conferences and writing instruction.   The part where we teach them all together is ending and the most important part, where students receive assistance and feedback designed just for them, is beginning.  School should have time for differentiation and individual instruction and feedback.  

School should have time and sometimes it feel like there just isn't time.  But we teachers sometimes make the beds we lie in.  When the signs start appearing, it is time to pull back, stop planning for the "next" thing, and support the thing that is happening right now.  It's too easy to get caught up in all that is to come, all that we have to do before the end of the year or the start of the break or the date of the test.  The children would like to live in the moment a little to enjoy and remember their work.  It will be nice for us to do that too.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Throwback Thursday: iBlog about iPads

Here are a few posts I wrote for our school iPad Blog at  It's kind of fun to see them collected here.  There are both more and less than I thought.  Our school blog is an amazing professional development opportunity that has allowed me to become more reflective, more responsive, and more creative in my practice.  It also led me to start this blog.  It's kind of like the Bible: AND BLOG BEGAT BLOG BEGAT BLOG BEGAT BLOG.

The iPrep for iPads series about starting a new year of our 1:1 program focusing on:
On digital balance in the classroom:
On math problem solving projects like screencasts:
On Goal setting:
And my first public blog post on launching a 1:1 iPad program:

Monday, October 21, 2013

New Books and Old Friends in NYC

Yesterday I traveled to New York City for the day to surprise someone very special: my dear friend Monica Edinger.  She was reading and signing her new book, Africa Is My Home, a historical fiction story about Sarah Margru Kinson who was a child on the Amistad.

I taught with Monica for five years at The Dalton School, during the time she was writing this book.  We actually used preview versions to teach forced immigration as part of a larger immigration curriculum.  Monica mentored and supported me in the early years of my teaching career, and I owe a lot of what I know to her!  

The publishing of this book is a great accomplishment that took years of research, writing, and waiting.  It is a wonderful story with beautiful illustrations.  If you teach about forced immigration or the Atlantic slave trade, this text is essential.  Perfect for upper elementary students it brings to life the horror and the hope of the Amistad captives' experience, while emphasizing the resilient strength of the human spirit. 

Yay Monica! I am so proud of you!  And I am making everyone buy a copy.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Proactively Teaching Digital Citizenship

The children are connected and online.   And now they are connected not just at home, but in school too.  With powerful tools, students are ever more able to find out what they want to know, to share that knowledge with people around the world, and to actualize their own ideas.   How does the role of the teacher evolve in the connected classroom?  Teaching with iPads has challenged me in ways I wasn't expecting and keeps me on my toes because while it's reasonable to expect a 10 year old to teach themselves to use a camera or an app, it is our job to teach them how to do what they are capable of well and responsibly.

I feel this responsibility most when we are discussing digital citizenship.  In the fourth grade we want our kids to be online in ways that are meaningful, but "Safety" and "Privacy" are illusions.  We can't promise to protect our students from all of the possible troubles being online brings, as much as we would like to.  We can teach students to proactively use technology in a wise and kind way.  We can teach them to decide what kind of mark they want to leave before saving, sending, or posting.  We can teach them to be good digital citizen.

Our fourth grade curriculum has a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, digital citizenship program that is co-taught by classroom teachers, our technology coordinator, and our librarian.  Good digital citizenship is not just an individual aspiration, it is a community necessity.   Ideas and norms are reinforced by all of the other adults and students in the building as we all work with the same lessons and language. Consistency is important in a connected school.  The expectations have to be the same for everyone whether they are 4 or 40.

 iPad Rollout Training Sessions and "Just In Time" Lessons

Our first sessions with the iPad are designed to introduce the technology (without assuming every child has had the same level of experience with the device) and its power.  After exploring the buttons and icons, we talk about what our tech coordinator calls "the most powerful app", the camera.  We spend time role playing different scenarios where a photo of someone might need to be taken and how to gain permission from others to take those photos.  Children are given the power and language to say no: they don't want to be photographed or they don't approve of an image or they aren't comfortable with how the photographer intends to use it.  Our class came up with norms and an agreement that we have posted and will refer to throughout the year.

This exercise made the teachers rethink how we document what is happening in the class (often taking pictures of kids in action without asking their permission).  We also developed a contract and those children who don't mind us taking their pictures for our Haiku page or this blog have signed it.  Those who are not comfortable did not and we do not feature them in any photos or video.

We are now preparing for training in Google Drive and our school Email system.  We will spend some time explaining how to use these accounts for our work flows, but we will also touch on the idea that these are their "professional" accounts to be used for school business.  We will review the major points of our school's responsible use policy, and we will practice email etiquette.

Our classroom generally suggests that students not email other students with their Sidwell Friends account unless it is school and work related.  We don't have the capacity to truly restrict their access so we do it on an honor system, and last year it worked fairly well.  This recommendation is always a debate, but it exists out of respect for different policies about email access among our families and to discourage writing and answering personal emails during the school day.  Fourth graders are also still learning to manage offline relationships and need to practice asking for playdates, joking, and apologizing in person.

Our technology coordinator is also developing a series of "just in time" lessons that will be touchstones throughout the year.  The topics include integrity, balance, and digital sharing.  With this model in place we are prepared to address any new situations that arise.  We hope that starting this dialogue in elementary school will impact our students' choices later on and that common language and experiences will enable them to navigate future opportunities with compassion and respect.

Project Redwood Literacy Connection

For the past two years, we have developed an interdisciplinary literature unit using a book called Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French, a SFS alum.

We have also used Nim's Island.  These books are taught as pieces of literature and we explore the characters, settings, plots, and themes. Sustainability and stewardship connections are made, and students do research about the plight of the California Redwoods.  The characters also engage in questionable digital activities, which gives our students a chance to collectively discuss and evaluate such behavior in a meaningful way.  With lessons co-developed and taught by our librarian, technology coordinator, and the classroom teachers, students are fully supported as they grow their sense of citizenship in our digital world.

Using Terrain Models to Teach Geography

One of the best things I took away from Bank Street College of Education was a plasticine terrain model I made in Sam Brian's class about teaching social studies. This unit and activity challenges me to make the mundane interactive and interesting. Through this work children can better understand the land and water around them.

I remember being not that small and imagining that the Hawaiian islands my family vacationed on were anchored by chains to keep them from floating away. I had no idea they were attached to the ocean floor. 

Last year I watched one of my students come to the same realization and was reminded of the importance of giving students a chance to understand even those most basic things we adults take for granted. 

Working together we examine mountain, river, and coastline phenomena, developing language to describe what we are looking at.  There were many debates and students worked hard to explain their reasoning, making connections and drawing on personal experiences and knowledge about real places in the world.  

We had a handy picture dictionary to help. 

My student's favorite part is to place little block houses on the model just before we flood it. They love seeing who gets washed away and who stays put against the tide. 

We are going to flood it again Monday. They are planning to bring in little trees and people to enhance it. They want to try a different colored water to make it brackish.  I am just thrilled they are seeing our little fake island as their own.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Art of Squares

First we made an array museum:

The we talked about squares:

Then we made them into art: