When a colleague told me we should try interactive notebooks in math, we agreed and then went on our merry ways and did math the same old way for another year, so at the end of that school year, she approached us again and DEMANDED we buy this Interactive Math Journal by Jen Runde. We took a look, bought it and then went on summer vacation. Near the end of the summer I opened it up and it CHANGED MY WORLD. I will never teach math the same way again. That being said, there are a few things I learned and will change for the upcoming year to get the most of math journals.
Interactive math notebooks are an investment, but like all good investments they take time to show a good return. Patience is the key! They take time, but they result in deeper understanding, so here are some things you need to consider before starting your interactive math notebook journey.
What do you do when you want to challenge students, but you also want them to learn? We give them critical thinking challenges. Critical thing requires many skills-problem solving, collaboration, design thinking, and perseverance. When a critical thinking question is carefully crafted, you can get students to explore learning outcomes while having fun and being engaged in their learning at the same time. Continue Reading
Flexible seating is all the rage, but we’ve been using the philosophy in our classroom for years. While it would be nice to have a variety of seating options, we know it’s not always possible, but you can still have seating options without spending a dime.
Have you ever tried asking your students to find a place to sit and work? Try it! You’ll be surprised by all the places they’ll find to do their work. Continue Reading
How would you feel if you knew you were a wonderful writer but the only way you could express yourself was through modern dance? What would you do if you have to recite your report card comments by memory to each and every parent? How would you feel if you were given the choice to write your report cards any way YOU want? (Ours would be invisible!)
Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that make you want to write the best report cards the world has ever seen?
So why are we so determined as teachers that there’s only one way to assess our students? Why can’t they have choices too? Continue Reading
Makerspaces: They seem to be all the buzz, but the concept that drives them isn’t new. For many years, we’ve been focused on directing every moment of our students’ lives. As parents, the lives of children are scheduled to the point they never have a moment to decide for themselves what to do. So when did we decide as adults that play is a bad thing?
Exploration is key to problem solving, critical thinking and self-regulation. Children learn by role-playing real-life situations, rearranging toys, touching materials or using items in unconventional ways. So why not include Makerspaces in our school environments? Continue Reading
Our students love to have some choice over what they read as part of the Language Arts program. Book Clubs are one way to encourage reading and discussions-just like adults do. Students read for enjoyment and then talk about what they have read and recommend books to others. Continue Reading
How do we create a classroom community where all students feel they are equal and belong? It turns out we’ve had more combined grade classes that straight grade classes since we began teaching, so we can’t imagine teaching any other way. First of all, we call it a combined class rather than a split class. It’s the first thing we do with parents because our combined classes are not like the old ‘split’ classes.
When students come into our classroom on the first day of school they immediately collect into two different groups-the lower grade and the upper grade. They don’t know each other well and like to sit with their friends. We don’t give students a seating plan right away (or sometimes at all) so we can see which relationships form or are already in place, but then we slowly start changing their mindset about the combined class.
So, what are our secrets?
Project based learning can be a challenge because it moves the control from the teacher to the student. When we began our teaching journey, controlling every aspect of student work from beginning to end seemed like the right thing to do. As we’ve evolved as teachers, we learned that loosening the reigns has many benefits. Check out some of the best reasons we use project based learning in our classroom. Continue Reading
Teaching students to overcome challenges can be difficult when we live in a society that is all about getting things done quickly. We have technology, parents and constant distractions constantly telling students they can learn anything anytime with little or no effort. As a teacher, this is very challenging when students feel they’ve failed, get frustrated or give up right away.
This was what was happening in our classroom. Students that could manage challenges were more successful overall because they kept working until they got it. It felt like it was a lack of effort, but it was much more than that. So we started investigating and researching best practices to help us teach students to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Continue Reading
Flexible seating-it’s all over social media right now. It’s strange to us that it’s so popular right now as we’ve been doing it in our classroom for over seven years, but there is definitely a trend that doesn’t mesh with our philosophy of flexible seating.
Flexible seating is a mindset-not an opportunity for shopping!