Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Service Learning Project - American Cancer Society

Grow your understanding of communities, connect with professionals and community members you can learn from, have opportunities to act on your values, and gaining hands-on experience are all benefits of service learning projects. We are fortunate in the sixth grade to have completed our second service learning project just before winter break. During this service learning project we partnered with the American Cancer Society.

Jenna, a community development manager for the north central region was able to come to Goodrich and present to the sixth grade class. During this presentation, Jenna talked about the American Cancer Society and what they do for cancer patients, caregivers, and ways to volunteer within this organization or others throughout the community. The students were then able to brainstorm with their classmates other ways they can volunteer within the school and community. The students came up with great ideas and we are hopeful we can do a third service learning project using the ideas they created.

Once we shared all of the ideas we brainstormed, we took part in our own service learning project to help the American Cancer Society. Every year they have hundreds of volunteers who help at different events such as races or fundraisers. It is important to also thank these volunteers so they continue to contribute their time. We created cards for them and expressed out thanks and gratitude for what they do. The students had a wonderful time making the cards and really put great amount of thought and decoration into each one. I truly love that we can have these hands-on learning experiences with the students because they get so much out of them!


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Becoming Mathematicians

Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.
~William Paul Thurston

So often in mathematics students experience the same learning routine where skills are modeled and practiced, while being guided by the teacher as needed. While there is nothing wrong with having students learn math this way, I have found, when I implement this approach solely, many of my students rely too much on me when the assessment comes around. They can solve the problems using the given equation or the computation that was taught, but they don't truly understand why it needs to be solved a certain way or when to solve it a certain way.  One could compare the situation to a robot; the robot performs the task you tell it to complete, but it doesn't understand the reason behind the task.

My goal is to have students leave my class thinking as true mathematicians. Long term learning sticks when students are able to struggle and work through their experiences to gather knowledge versus knowledge being bestowed upon them. I have been working closely with our district math specialist, Mrs. Manjarres, to create an atmosphere for my students where they have the opportunity to explore new skills and concepts on their own and at their own pace. By no means did this mean we were not teaching, or doing any work, rather we creatively and effectively crafted situations for the students to explore these concepts and actually learn the skills. We chose to use a unit on rational numbers because it focused more on the understanding of vocabulary rather than procedural problem solving. We thought this unit would be a good place to dip our feet in, before jumping in head first!

The students worked through several activities that were posted on Google classroom. In addition, we checked in on the students understanding and learning in one-on-one meetings and small group discussions.  We had some terrific thinking happening in the classroom, and great questions being asked throughout the unit. We enjoyed being able to appropriately challenge each student independently by asking them deeper and deeper questions about the skills within the unit. The greatest thing was when students started finding cool videos and/or websites and began sharing with their classmates what they found. At the end of our hour and fifteen minute class, we would hear: No! I don't want math to end yet!

When the assessment rolled around, the students really thought like mathematicians! I saw a great change in the confidence level going into this test compared to the ones they took in the past. The students took the time to think more about the questions being asked rather than just solving the problem to get the right answer.

Mathematicians solve problems that have no “right” answers; the students worked through the unit as problem solvers, A.K.A. mathematicians.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Goals for 2018

In kindergarten, we often discuss and plan our individual goals in order to make progress in all areas of school.  Today, we connected the new year to our goal writing!  We discussed what resolutions were and that many people make new year's resolutions.  Many students have heard their parents setting their goals for the new year, but they did not realize that they could make their own.  

As a class, we brainstormed four different areas of school in which we could set goals.  The students decided that we should create goals for reading, math, writing, and a personal goal.  After we decided on each area, the students shared ideas that we could use as goals.  For reading, many students mentioned using letter sounds to read or learning all of the kindergarten sight words.  We continued to share ideas such as counting to 100, learning how to add and subtract, writing stories about animals, and writing neater.  My favorite was hearing the ideas for personal goals.  "Keep my room clean." "Learn how to ride a bike."  "Learn how to tie my shoes by myself." "Be able to get my own cereal for breakfast."  We love being able to do things independently!!!

Now that we had created a list of ideas, it was time for our buddies to come help us record and choose our individual goals.  Our 6th grade buddies had prepared the 2018 flip book which is a fun way for us to record our goals for the year.  Our buddies helped us to record our four goals under each of the numbers of 2018.  We couldn't have done it all without the help of our wonderful learning buddies!  They made it so much more fun, and helped to ensure that we set a goal that was 'just right' for us!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Reading in Math?

I always get a good laugh at the math word problem memes! Seriously who buys
60 watermelons and has to return 23? I laugh because I remember feeling, just like so
many students, horrified and dreaded having to solve word problems. Knowing this feeling,
I never want my students to experience the anxiety or tell themselves they can’t solve the
problems so they give up before even reading the problem. When we work on word problems
I relate it to using our reading strategy of a close reading.

Step 1: Students read the word problem for the gist or general understanding. They are not
solving or doing any math. They need to first understand what they are reading. After they
read the problem they ask themselves, “How would I summarize?” “Describe the problem in
my own words?” “ What is happening?”  They should be creating a mental picture of the
problem in their minds just like when reading a story.  

Step 2. We go back and reread the problem. This helps to deepen our understanding and we
look for specific details that help us understand how to solve or complete the problem. During
this step we use CUTS to help us remember each step.
C= Circle important information
U= Underline the question or job
T= Write a target sentence using what we underlined
S= Solve- they don’t actually do the math here, but asking themselves what operation will I
be using. They then put the sign of the operation next to the the s to help them remember.
Many times here teachers will want to teach students tricks about looking for key words that
tell them to add, subtract, multiply or divide. However, these short cuts don’t always work
causing students to get the incorrect answer. Plus it doesn’t help students to stop and think
about the problem to make sense of the situation.

Step 3. Students should be going back to actually work out the problem. They should be
rereading the problem and solving. They should be breaking up the problem by rereading
and doing the math. Especially  in more than one step problems they should read a little and
do the math, read a little and do the math until it is completed. During this time students
should be creating an equations, working/drawing out the problem and constantly referring
back to the target sentence to make sure they are answering the question being asked.

Once they have completed it is important for students to check their work. They should again
reread to make sure their answer makes sense, they answered all parts of the questions and
used labels.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Year's Resolutions

As many of us do when the new year begins, we made New Year’s resolutions in fourth grade. After a discuss about what a New Year’s resolution was, we took time brainstorming different aspects of life we wanted to improve during the year. During this time a few students brought up that fact that many adults break their New Year’s resolutions soon after the year starts. This was a great opportunity to bring students together to talk about breaking New Year’s resolutions. Our discussion focused on the fact that “breaking” a New Year’s resolution wasn’t giving up or quitting on a goal for the year, but that it was simply a mistake and mistakes happen. We discussed further that what was more important was getting back on track with your goal and continuing to pursue it.

After our discussion, students came up with two New Year’s resolutions, one academic and one personal. Students record their resolution on a party hat that will be displayed in the classroom. Students shared their resolutions with their teammates and discussed ideas of how they were going to meet their New Year’s resolution. I’ll be checking in with students as we move through the remainder of the year on how they are continuing to work towards achieving their New Year’s resolutions.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Welcome Back!

After enjoying a relaxing break and spending two weeks away from each other, it’s important to spend time reconnecting with each other and getting back into the swing of things. Each classroom spent time yesterday visiting parts of the school to practice expectations and routines. Then, in our own classroom we also spent time reviewing routines of our day. Each group chose one daily routine, worked together to decide on important reminders, and then presented the reminders through a poster or a skit.

In order to reconnect with each other we have spent time sharing about our break and our goals for the new year. Students shared “snapshots” of the different activities they did over break, created questions to ask during a Quiz-Quiz-Trade, and completed a classmate Winter Break Bingo. Students will continue participating in class building and team building activities during the week.  


Independently, students created New Year’s Resolutions to help them stay focused and finish the second half of the year strong. After creating a goal, they also created a plan on how to best achieve each goal. We have placed these reminders in our binders in order to reflect on them often.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Making Music Concepts a Game

When I first got to school today, it was very quiet in the halls as children and adults alike were beginning to wake up and shake the last two weeks of sleep and relaxation away. As the morning went on and students were reacquainted with their friends, hearing stories of adventure from winter break, the sounds became much louder. This reminded me of some of the great things students in my classroom are doing on a daily basis...

Students in kindergarten and first grade have been learning the difference between loud and soft sounds. To teach what seems like a very simple concept to these young children comes with it's very own set of challenges. In order to truly understand how it works, the students must be able to feel the difference. With that being said, the concept must become a game, to peak their interest and keep them engaged.

In our game, "Snowball's Everywhere," students get to feel the difference between loud and soft while also experiencing the beat of the tune. As we sing, the students toss the snowball, (bean bag), back and forth, in their hands, on the beat very gently when the music is soft. At the end of the piece we shout the word "snow!" and the children have to try and toss their snowball into the snowball eater, (basket), in the middle of the room. This allows them to feel and experience loud and soft and the steady beat. It is a great activity to start off the new year, especially with all the real snow on the ground!

Friday, December 22, 2017


Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher is the story of a large family and the challenges they face throughout a year. The sixth graders I work with in a small group initially were not too interested in the story.  As we continued to read,the group became excited about the characters and how the story would finish.  Five brothers and a sister can be difficult according to Cliff the oldest boy in the story.  The girls in our group discussed point of view.  The girls realized  Cliff telling the story was best because being the oldest he could give his opinion and knew the most about all of his siblings.     The girls  also realized without much prompting, how each character affected the family.  All of the girls made connections to their own family life throughout the story.  Some talked about how our own sisters can be annoying sometimes, but  we all appreciated having our family especially at Christmas.   Making connections to a story  is just one of the important skill needed for comprehension.   We discussed traditions that the family in the story had and discussed our own family traditions.

Image result for christmas picturesImage result for christmas pictures

We also worked on using inferences  to  figure out difficult vocabulary words.  We discussed words like traumatized, devastated and regret.    All of these words related to the story.

We practiced visualizing by talking  about, asking each other questions   and drawing pictures of each character.   Each of us had a different picture in our heads of the story but we were all able to make a movie in our minds of the story.    As the story continued, the family faced some happy times as well as heartbreak.  Ultimately, all of us agreed that the message in the story was the importance of family and spending time together and appreciate each other.    All of the girls enjoyed the book and would recommend it.    So take this break from school and enjoy traditions, appreciate the time and remember how important family is to you.  Happy Holidays! Keep Reading!

What Do You Do With a Problem?

Many of the students that I work with struggle with the understanding that failure can be a good thing.  In fact, many adults and kids I do not work with also struggle with this idea.  We try to teach the kids at Goodrich to have a Growth Mindset and that mistakes lead to more opportunities to learn.  However, when kids are contently seeing papers and tests that have all incorrect answers, it can be hard to believe what we are teaching them.

  I recently discovered a great book that I have started to use to teach some of my students (of all ages) more about problems.  It is called “What Do You Do with a Problem” by Kobi Yamada.  The main idea of the book is that the character has a problem and throughout the book it gets bigger, and darker, and scarier.  That is until he realized that the problem is something beautiful and something that he can face.  He realizes that the problem is something beautiful and it is an opportunity. 

After we read the book, the kids are given the opportunity to talk about problems they have had that got bigger because they were scared to face them.  We also talk about what could be different if they could have faced it with courage.  We talk about future problems they might have and different way we can make the problem bigger or small just by using our brains.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Who Let the Dogs Out?.....

Well, first grade would like to let all the dogs out at the Naperville Area Humane Society after a presentation by Kristen Funk, a representative from the organization.

We decided at the beginning of the school year to have a service project that would benefit a local shelter.  We got in touch with Ms. Funk and arranged to have her give a presentation to both first grade classes.

The students learned so much about how the animals get into the shelter, how they are taken care of, how they need volunteers and donations to care for the animals.

She also showed some very cute videos of the animals playing with toys that were made from things that people have around the house--cats playing in a shopping bag, and a dog tearing apart a cereal box that had treats hidden inside.

Which was perfect, because we were able to present to her our dog toy gifts that we made for our service project.

A few weeks ago, we had parents donate long white socks, and fabric markers.  We had the students save their water bottles and with those items and throw in  in a whole lot of fun and we had our idea: The noisy recycled water bottle sock!
First, we started making designs on the socks because what dog wants a plain white sock to play with?

Then we had to stuff the water bottle in the sock (which was a bit of a challenge) and tie the opening of the sock in a knot. The dogs can then chew on the water bottle and it makes a crazy crunching sound.  With the knot on the end, the dogs can swing it around--we just hope they don't knock anything over...

Ms. Funk was so happy to have these gifts for the animals.  She promised to send us a picture of the dogs playing with them!
Since we couldn't adopt all of the animals at the shelter, we felt good about giving them a little love to make their days at the shelter a little happier until they find their forever home.