"Ethnic diversity adds richness to a society." Gary Locke
I had the pleasure of seeing a buddy activity between a Kindergarten class and a 5th grade class today at one of the schools I support. The buddies collaboratively worked on drawing the flags of countries around the world, especially the ones of their ancestor's origins. On the other side of the maps, the fifth graders were creating puzzle piece drawings of the US map. In just that short time of seeing the pieces on the floor of the 5th grade classroom, I saw the powerful symbolism in that project. The United States is truly a diverse country with numerous cultures and ethniticities. What an incredible powerful activity from five, six, ten, and eleven year old students!
What a timely topic for last night's #TOSAchat for this school year. It seems like there's always so much to do no matter what time of the year it is, however the topic of Organization for last night's #TOSAchat was quite amazing. Kelly Martin, one of the creators of #TOSAchat, came up with fantastic questions for the chat that really sparked great conversation, tips, reminders, and resources for how to stay organized. Some of the takeaways from the chat are creating lists in order to manage the number of tasks on our plates, Kyle Anderson's method of organizing his Google Drive, Kelly Nunes' use of Boomerang for scheduling emails through Gmail, the send & archive button in Gmail, Tom Covington's method of only dedicating email time to two times a day, and Shea Smith's 5D method to evaluate time-sucks. I definitely want to create a graphic for his 5D method.
Here is the link to the Participate Learning transcript of last night's #TOSAchat. There are so many wonderful gems in there, including the following two tweets.
Sandy Otto's tweet: "A3: I want to be better at not thinking I can multi-task. More often, I need to focus just on the task at hand & see it through."
Bethany Thompson's tweet: "A4: Also, try to do just one thing. If you need to concentrate to finish something lock everyone out and get it done."
Fortuitously, today I had a conversation with colleagues at Fairmeadow Elementary School about to do lists and how to attack our lists. Liz Pounders, the school's PE teacher shared the following quote with us. She mentioned she had shared the quote with a group of other teachers in a professional development class and that it applies to the conversation we had over lunch. The quote was definitely something that inspired me to make the following graphic for her.
Recently two teachers who I've had the pleasure of working with for many years told me they've been asked to submit proposals for sessions at a professional development conference in the summer. They asked me what topics I thought they could write for their session proposals. Having had the pleasure and opportunities of working with them as colleagues, supporting them in my role as an instructional coach, and knowing them as friends, I felt honored they asked me for my opinion/suggestion/idea. It was definitely easy for me to point out the amazing things they've been doing in their classrooms that I am confident others would love to hear and learn from their experience and expertise. We were able to identify lessons, units, projects, and philosophies like coding and robotics, fostering a culture of student voice and student choice - giving students digital options to showcase their learning, MysterySkype and MysteryHangout, BreakoutEDU, and integrated units. An example of the amazing integrated units they've designed for their students was creating a life size teepee during their study of Native Americans in their Social Studies block, measurement and data in their Math Workshop, and nonfiction study in their Readers and Writers Workshops.
During our conversation and brainstorm session of what topics they could write for their session proposals, I got the sense they both felt a lack of confidence in the ideas. "Is this something (the topic) others will like?" "Will other teachers actually get anything out of this?" Those were exactly some of the things I thought myself when I submitted my session proposals. After offering affirmations and sharing my confidence that their session ideas are definitely topics that others WILL benefit from, I offered a different perspective.
1 Comfort and 1 Push
In my experience of brainstorming topics for PD conferences, I often second guess my ideas because I feel comfortable with those topics as a result of having done those lessons/units/projects/had those philosophies for a long time that I feel they are "old news." "Why would anyone go to that session? Hasn't everyone done that already?" And I always find the reality is the topics are worthwhile, are beneficial, are new to others, even though I've been practicing them for some time. Knowing their ideas would be beneficial to others AND knowing how they may be feeling, I suggested to submit 1 Comfort and 1 Push. Submit a session topic that you're comfortable with, confident in, and KNOW it will be helpful to others no matter how you may feel about it. And submit 1 topic that's a Push for you. A topic that you've been wanting to explore, to learn, and to implement - the Push. We all have those Push ideas and sometimes we don't push ourselves to try them because of the tasks on our plates, a lack of time, and many other reasons. Suggesting they identify a Push idea for them to submit creates that importance of time and investment into learning the topic so they can present it at the conference. A goal with a due date is set. Learning that Push idea becomes a priority.
Of course I am not suggesting this to be the way to push yourself to learn something new, to take on your Push ideas. It's just a suggestion I shared with those two teachers in our conversation that, given the circumstances, may help them to identify those Push topics they've been wanting to try.
However, the notion is still there (which is why I'm writing this blog post). What are your Push topics? What are the things you've been wanting to learn that you may not have had the time for? Identify those Push ideas and set a goal to learn them - maybe to share that idea at a conference like in the conversation I had with my colleagues. Identify those Push ideas.
I have long been talking about the amazing benefits of BreakoutEDU games. It is wonderful for students, teachers, professional development, and more.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've had the pleasure of playing and facilitating games with so many wonderful teachers and coaches.
The most recent game I completed started with a tweet by Kristi Van over winter break asking if there was an existing BreakoutEDU game focused on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for third graders. Over winter break, Kristi, Valerie, and I collaboratively wrote the MLK BreakoutEDU game. With the experience of writing my previous games, I was able to write clues that were appropriate for third graders to solve. It was definitely a collaborative approach with Valerie's idea, as I always find it most difficult to write clues for the directional lock.
This week I had the pleasure of facilitating the game to four third grade classes in PAUSD - Kristi Van's, John Brubaker's, Helena Holmes', and Penelope Sanders-Jones' classes. It was wonderful to see the third graders work together, use their research skills, collaborate, and exercise a lot of persistence to open the box! After each game I asked for feedback from the kids and got some creative and thoughtful suggestions to improve the game and also for future games. In all four classes, the students shared how much they enjoyed the game and thanked me for sharing it with them. To me, I was the lucky one - to have four colleagues that are open to me trying a BreakoutEDU game with their students.
This most recent BreakoutEDU game I wrote focused on MLK is linked here. Please share your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions so I can continue to make it and my future games better. Please do keep in mind that this game is geared for third graders (with one labeled clue that is adapted for advanced players).
Today, the last workday of 2016, was a day full of closing up projects, celebrations, and preparing for 2017. Even though it was a half day of work, it sure felt like a full day's work. Of the projects I brought to a close or at least a stopping point before winter break, they included preparing print shop orders of student booklets for round two of PAUSD's Elementary Math Adoption Pilot process and preparing participant packets for February's PD Day focused on the Next Generation Science Standards. I also spent some time continuing my work designing the 2017 Elementary Summer School program and working on a special STEAM project with PAUSD's AAR program.
In the midst of all the work closing out the year of 2016, I had the pleasure of experiencing a coding party and a BreakoutEDU game. Kristi Van's third graders had a special time building obstacle courses and coding Sphero robots to go through the courses (or more like destroying the courses).
In the afternoon I had the pleasure of watching Valerie Sabbag's fifth grade class beta test my BreakoutEDU game. It was the one I wrote about a month ago and just posted on the previous blog post. What a wonderful experience because the students really worked hard at solving the puzzles and also showed me ways I can improve my game. There was one "color it on the hundreds chart" puzzle for the direction lock that I left the answers on the sheet. As the game started and a student pointed that out I quickly took the paper and cut the answers off so the group of students could still work on solving the puzzles. I felt embarrassed that I missed that mistake but the class was super understanding and encouraging as they said it was fun to be the beta testers of my game. Needless to say, it was such an amazing way to end the last workday of 2016.
"Curriculums come and go. Standards are here to stay."
This was the phrase that prompted my work with grade level teams on examining the CCSS-Math standards. Elementary school teachers in the Palo Alto Unified School District are in the middle of a pilot year to select new math curriculum that scheduled to be implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. PAUSD has been using Everyday Math for eight years with a lot of conflicting opinions of the curriculum between the staff and parents. There are many schools that have used it with fidelity while some schools have moved onto using other math curricula to meet the needs of their students and align with the Common Core State Standards, including EngageNY. No matter what curriculum teachers use, quality pedagogy that focuses on the success of all students, aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the 8 Mathematical Practices is the key.
I share the belief (and fact) of many that there is no perfect curriculum. My view is that any curriculum acts more like a GPS navigator. Throughout the school year, teachers make professional and purposeful decisions to use supplemental materials to meet the needs of their students. As a result, the progression of lessons in any curriculum is paused or altered. These professional and purposeful decisions is the science of teaching and no curriculum can replace the science of teaching. Instead, the curriculum as a GPS navigator to guide the teacher back on a predetermined path when necessary decisions to change the path are made. Like any road trip, the driver (the teacher) can make purposeful decisions to alter the suggested path (of the curriculum guide).
The biggest part of this analogy is the focus on the destination - meeting the grade level standards. An effective curriculum is designed to bring all students to meet CCSS at the end of the school year. Focusing on the destination of CCSS is the key aspect of the standards mapping activity.
Working with grade level teams, I've lead teachers to read and better understand the CCSS Math standards for their grade levels. It's been a powerful exercise, evidenced by teachers commenting that they "didn't know that was the actual language in the standards," that they didn't have to "teach concepts they've taught before" which saves them time to focus more on the concepts that have been problematic for their students, and that they see how to address "standards at each trimester of the school year." The exercise provided teachers the chance to identify which concepts/standards was important to address at each trimester in order to build understanding that leads to practice and mastery by the end of the school year. Of course, each of the above standards cards is meant to be mastered by the end of the school year, AND having an understanding of the progression of concepts throughout the school year helps gain a bigger picture of the professional and purposeful instructional decisions.
Having a deeper understanding of the Common Core State Standards is definitely an important piece of instruction.
- to know the destination of the school year,
- to know what's important to address at each point of the year and how concepts build,
- to be able to teach to those standards no matter which math curriculum is used (or selected in PAUSD),
- to see curriculum maps as guides to meeting CCSS and professional instructional decisions are far more important,
- to be able to see how "concepts build from grade to grade."
It's definitely important to remember that We don't teach curriculum; we teach students. Be mindful of the standards - the end destination, however, remember we teach students.
Of course we all know how kids say the best things (funniest, silliest, ...). I saw the following image from a 4th grade class at Fairmeadow Elementary today. What a simple and profound piece of advice for other students and adults. No matter what you do, who you are, be a good one.
I've always enjoyed the STEAM, Designing Thinking activity of building paper bridges. I've had the pleasure of sharing this activity with many classes throughout PAUSD from Kindergarten students to teacher workshops. The experiences were always the same - excitement with the hands-on activity, frustration with the paper bridge falling, determination to keep trying, celebration with more and more pennies/nickels being set on the bridge, and requests to keep going.
This activity is quite simple. The challenge is to create a bridge with a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 piece of paper across a 10 inch gap. Paperclips are available but may not be used to attach to the boxes or containers that form the gap.
Recently, I had the chance to share it with Jenna Segall's fifth graders at Palo Verde Elementary School. It was great to see the fifth graders brainstorm ways to construct a strong paper bridge, keep working on their bridges, celebrate their success, and recognize the strength of triangles. This activity definitely helps learners of all ages understand the iterative process of design thinking. One attempt that I haven't seen to that point was tearing the piece of paper in half and trying to make it a longer piece of paper with the paperclips. Such a simple step and yet no one had tried it before when I did the activity with so many people.
Jenna will soon lead this activity with the summer school staff members as our second design thinking professional development activity.
It's been truly an incredible experience and true pleasure partnering with so many teachers throughout the Palo Alto Unified School District in math and STEAM throughout the school year. I've had the privilege and pleasure of working with Valerie Sabbag, a fifth grade teacher at Fairmeadow, throughout the year on Number Talks, the use of Spheros, and co-planning STEAM integration.
BreakoutEDU is one of those STEAM integration projects we got to work on. Throughout the year, her fifth grade students worked together to solve BreakoutEDU games and puzzles that involved math, social studies, critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving. BreakoutEDU is definitely an activity that surpasses any curricula and content area. It addresses multiple areas, and, more important, the lifeskills that are essential to educating young children. Character education is a critical part of life.
This week, Valerie's fifth grade students had the pleasure of working on their own BreakoutEDU games AND boxes. Valerie really had a wonderful vision of having students build their own boxes. This process addressed many mathematical concepts that she was going to teach and in doing it with this project, it was definitely an engaging and hands-on project. Measurement, surface area, volume. Students got the chance to use a hacksaw, hand sanders, and wood glue to construct their boxes. Students worked in small groups to plan this boxes, check and double check their measurements, and put their box together.
While one group worked on building the boxes with Valerie and a wonderful volunteer, the other groups worked collaboratively on writing their own BreakoutEDU games. This was also part of Valerie's integrated approach to teaching. In her Writer's and Reader's Workshop, her class was studying fantasy stories. This became the basis for the BreakoutEDU games. Groups of students created games centered around the themes of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and more.
The fifth grade students got to beta test their games with their third grade buddy class, Krisiti Van's class. This was an important step because it helped them observe how effective their clues were for their puzzles. The fifth grade students had opportunities to revise their games before sharing it with their parents at Fairmeadow's Learning Celebration / Open House.
Check out the pictures below of this incredible project that spanned a few weeks.
Also, check out #breakoutedu for tips and stories. A #breakoutedu Twitter chat also takes place. Be on the lookout for days and times of the chat. Here's an archive of the first chat by EdTechAri.
Families in the Fairmeadow Elementary School community enjoyed a wonderful, hands-on evening at Family Game Night on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. It was such an amazing evening with a full house of students, parents, grandparents, ... in Fairmeadow's Multipurpose Room. As a Math & STEAM Coach, I had the pleasure of sharing in that event, capturing the activities with pictures and videos, and celebrating with the entire school community in its exploration of math games.
-There were over 10 stations of various math games they students enjoyed.
- Parents had the opportunity to play with their children.
- Various math games were available, from a variety of cultures and countries.
- And, of course, this was a wonderful experience that continued to foster positive home-school connections around mathematics.
It's always such an amazing process of hearing the mathematical thinking of students during Math Talks - Number Talks and Dot Talks. As a Math & STEAM TOSA, I've had the pleasure of joining many classes throughout PAUSD and listening to the academic discourse from students from Kindergarten to Fifth grade.
On Tuesday, February 16th, I had the pleasure of hearing a second grader from Susan Hoff's class at Fairmeadow Elementary School share his mathematical thinking. I had just introduced a new Problem of the Month packet and got to listen this his strategy of solving 19 x 3. Enjoy the video I captured. You'll notice he effectively shares his mathematical thinking and math strategies. Through the Number Talks, MARS Tasks, and Problem of the Month packets Mrs. Hoff and I have used with her class it's clear they have really been exercising Math Practices 1 & 3.
It's been such a pleasure and privilege working with so many teachers throughout Palo Alto Unified School District. The teachers have inspired me, shared challenges that we work on together, and given me the honor of partnering with them on math and STEAM projects.
This week, I had the pleasure of working with Mindy Dodsworth, 4th grade teacher at Fairmeadow Elementary School, on introducing Google Docs to her students. We began our time with a discussion about digital citizenship and norms we expect for our online interactions and behaviors. It was great to hear the students generate their ideas for what they consider to be ways to stay safe and productive online. The following are a few ideas from our discussion.
-Stay focused on the work.
-Take a break
-Stay calm (reload the page).
-Be respectful to others (don't hack others' accounts).
-Keep private information private (don't share passwords).
It was great to hear the students share the point of taking a break. We had a discussion about the importance of that, screen time, the effects on our eyes from staring at a screen for an extended period of time, and ideas for taking a break.
As we continued, we talked about the importance of keeping our Google Drive organized. We discussed how similar to any place used for storage, like cubbies in the early elementary years, lockers in middle and high schools, and the bedrooms, keeping their files and folders organized in Google Drive is important for peace of mind and workflow. [Of course there's the search field within Drive, but personalizing a structure of organization is important.]
As our lesson continued, I showed the students how to share their "4th grade" folder with their teacher so Mrs. Dodsworth can comment on their Google Doc. We talked about how this helps in the editing and revision process of their work. It was great to immediately demonstrate this as Mrs. Dodsworth and I commented as they wrote about their current study of the California Missions. It was great to support these fourth graders use EdTech while keeping digital citizenship in mind. It was great to support a colleague implement the use of Google Doc into her classroom.
Connected to this was a conversation I had with a teacher at another school I support that really filled my bucket. Teri Wilde, 4th grade teacher at Escondido Elementary School, told me the impact of our partnership in her work with her students and EdTech integration. "The best thing was getting you in (my classroom) early because the things you introduced then is helping throughout the year. If you hadn't shared those things I probably wouldn't be doing them." It is such a pleasure of me to partner with so many amazing professionals who inspire me, help me grow, and push me to be a better educator and colleague.
I have had such a pleasure partnering with so many professionals through the Palo Alto Unified School District and districts all around the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. In this first year as a Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA (teacher on special assignment, it's been extra special because I have the opportunity to go into many more teachers' classrooms, partner with them, collaborate on lessons and projects, and learn and grow together. Two educators I've had the incredible pleasure of partnering with are Kristi Van and Valerie Sabbag, both from Fairmeadow Elementary School in the Palo Alto Unified School District.
This week, the first week back from winter break, has been an incredible experience with STEAM and robotics. On Tuesday, January 5th, I had the pleasure of partnering with Kristi Van, a third grade teacher at Fairmeadow Elementary School as her students had a free exploration of Spheros. The students had a wonderful time with the Spheros and they quickly caught onto the user interface of the iPad app to control their Spheros. Blog post about this experience.
The fun with the Spheros continued it the afternoon with Valerie Sabbag's fifth grade class. I had the chance to touch base with Valerie during lunch about her plans for her students with the Spheros. She told me they've explored maneuvering the Spheros the day before and she developed a few courses for her students to take their Spheros on. These 4 to 5 courses became the students' "Driver's Ed" class as well. An example of one of the courses was to drive the Sphero down a straight line of blue tape, stop on an "x," and then drive it back to where it started. Another course involved maneuvering the Sphero around the classroom and under stools without hitting the legs of the stools (if you did, you had to start over). One other course was to circle around the three round picnic tables outside the classroom without bumping into the legs.
It was super fun to see the students' excitement after they passed their "driving test" and I asked them for their names to print on their Sphero Driver's License. As I printed the students' licenses on card stock and cut each one out, Valerie Sabbag gave her students the opportunity to design obstacle courses with any material in the classroom. The students definitely showed a lot of creativity as they used math manipulatives, pencil boxes, white boards, stools and benches, and supplies from their science explorations to construct their obstacle courses. Not only was this activity fun, hands-on, and creative, the students exercised a lot of academic skills and lifeskills. Valerie and I were able to hear the students talk about the angle their Sphero had to rotate to make a particular turn. Students calculated the distances of their obstacle courses. Students worked collaboratively, communicated their ideas, and showed flexibility as they revised their obstacle courses after some test runs.
Here are two more videos of some of the creative obstacle courses Valerie Sabbag's fifth grader made. The one on the right is definitely an example of how the students persevered to achieve their goal of dropping their Sphero into the tub of water.
As you can see in that last video, the students landed their Sphero in the tub of water. It was super fun. A fun connection was Valerie's comment, "This is how we use textbooks" which was a reference to Matt Miller's book, Ditch That Textbook. Of course I had to tweet it to Matt right away.
As you can see, it was such an incredible time for those fifth graders. I feel so honored to have the chance to partner with such amazing professionals. I can't believe that I get to have these experiences of being able to support Valerie Sabbag with the Spheros, STEM, and robotics! This week, the first week back from winter break, has indeed been an incredible experience.
Word Cloud of student responses to using the Spheros.
Click "Read More" to view one last video of fifth grade students in Valerie Sabbag's class explore making their Sphero jump, dance, ... in the tub of water.
What an amazing way to start 2016! Today, the third graders in Kristi Van's class at Fairmeadow Elementary School in PAUSD had the pleasure of exploring Spheros. It was a fantastic experience where groups of students shared the iPads, explored the user interface of the Sphero app, and had a free exploration time with those fun robots. The third graders were very quick with finding and trying the different controls on the app. The students loved being able to change the speed of their Spheros, adjust the color, make their Sphero into a disco ball, and make their robot jump.
I received this message from a teacher at a school I support today and it was definitely my #flyhighfri moment. Teachers at Fairmeadow in PAUSD have the opportunity at each Tuesday's staff meeting to recognize a colleague with a shout out. It meant so much to me to receive this note because the teacher not only thought of me, but she kept it, held onto it, and made sure to give it to me. Today wasn't a work day for me and I was just dropping off things at the school. What a wonderful way to start winter break. I am touched, honored, and humbled for this heartwarming note.
I've had the pleasure of partnering with Diane Darrow, a fifth grade teacher in the Palo Alto Unified School District, throughout this school year so far on math instruction, setting up her math workshop, using Problem of the Month packets for extensions, analyzing formative assessments, and leading the students in number talks. It's been a pleasure getting the opportunity to watch her students learn and grow.
On Tuesday, December 15th, I led the students in a number talk on fractions. Diane and asked me to design a fractions number talk since her students had been working on fractions during their math workshop. I thought of using the easier operation of adding fractions but setting the challenge in the problem with unlike denominators. The denominators I chose could lead to a large common denominator or a smaller one if the students reduced the fractions first.
As our Number Talk progressed, the students shared responses and strategies that Diane and I both anticipated. Many students were able to see the relationship and equivalencies between fractions. Toward the end of the Number Talk, Diane and I were both incredible impressed by the flexible thinking from one of her fifth graders. Instead of trying to find common denominators with 8 and 10, the student thought of a way to make the denominator (8) of the first fraction (6/8) into the value of 10 in order to match the denominator of the second fraction (6/10). As a result he multiplied 8 by 1.25 in order to have common denominators of 10. What was interesting was he also multiplied the numerator by 1.25 to make it an equivalent fraction and got 7.5 as the numerator. That led to a wonderful conversation of whether you can have decimal numbers in a fraction. What do you think?
It has been such a great few weeks leading up to this week of Computer Science Education Week and the #HourOfCode. Teachers and students throughout #PAUSD were getting excited about spending an hour engaged in computer science, computer programming, and coding. I had the pleasure of helping a few teachers get set up on code.org, work with their students in going the lessons and modules on code.org and Khan Academy, and had the pleasure of capturing some of the excitement.
Below is a video I put together on my phone of Kindergarten, third grade, and fourth grade students at Fairmeadow. It was such a pleasure of me to share the #HourOfCode with those students and teachers, and to capture their experience for them.
Students at Fairmeadow Elementary School in PAUSD have the pleasure of listening to Patricia Polacco's storytelling. What an incredible experience for everyone in the room! Patricia Polacco are sharing amazing life stories focused on imagination, creativity, and values of exploring the world (vs spending hours and hours in front of a TV watching television shows and playing video games).
Patricia Polacco addressing the students - "We are all gifted. We just open our gifts at different times."
Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA in Palo Alto Unified School District.