Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pennies for Peace

This week we spent a lot of time exploring and discovering money! Usually I introduce money to the class in a very predictable, organized and methodical fashion. It has always worked and the children left being able to recognize and identify all of the coins. Well this year I had Mr. Alfie Kohn whispering in my ear to let go of my control and see what happened. I was nervous and worried about teaching "without a plan" but my curiosity got the best of me. In the next few paragraphs I will do my best to share with all of you what happened as I tried to "teach" the class about coins, without a plan.
One of my students from last year, Elle, was inspired after we read Greg Mortenson's Into The Wind in class and raised some money for his Pennies for Peace organization. Over the break she ran her own lemonade stand and proudly brought in all of her change with a note asking me to count her money and send it to Greg and the children in Pakistan.
On Wednesday I talked with the class about what Elle had done and presented the bucket of change to the class with the question of "How can we count her change?" I was met with blank stares, and had to think quickly! This was not what I was expecting to happen! I then dumped out all of the change onto the rug and asked the class if any of them knew anything about any of the coins. S.Y was the first to speak up when she said "I know that four of these (pointing to a quarter) make a dollar." No one disagreed with her, so then I asked the class how we could figure out which were the big ones, and which weren't. After giving them each a quarter to look at and discuss with their buddy they decided that their coin (still not named a quarter yet) could be used as the compare coin and that they would put all of the big coins into the bucket, while leaving the non-big coins on the rug. As the children were sorting the coins S.P. was showing her friends how she would hold her coin up against the other coins and if it was a match she would put it in the bucket. M.B. was showing her friends how she would stack all of the coins between her fingers to see if they were the right size. One child accidentally tossed his compare coin into the bucket and began adding nickles to the pot. A few children looked at me to do something and told him that the coins he was adding were NOT the right ones, but I let it continue until all of the quarters (and a few nickles) were in the bucket. When the sorting was completed I held up the bucket of coins and asked the class if they thought it was filled with only quarters "Nooooo!" they quickly responded. So we dumped out the bucket and the children shared their sorting techniques and we sorted once again.
After the quarters were sorted the children discussed how they would count the coins. A.K. suggested that we make stacks of 4 and then count up all of the stacks, the class agreed so that is exactly what we did. At the end P.R., M.B. and K.F all had 3 quarters and weren't sure what to do. Another discussion began and M.B decided to give P.R and K.F each a quarter and she was left with one. Then all we had to do was count the stacks (21) and the extra coin. At this point P.R. said "There is one quarter left, so it we have $21.25." My response was something like "Did anyone hear P.R?" Finally we were able to name the coin (a quarter) and give it an amount (25 cents).

We then repeated a similar procedure when someone (my mind is failing me at the moment, but I am sure your children will know) said that they knew there are 100 pennies in one dollar. We then sorted and had to figure out a way to count them. We tried counting them one-by-one but that quickly failed, A.K. suggested making stacks of pennies, but the class couldn't agree on how many coins would be in each stack. Finally E.L suggested that we use "The chart with 100 boxes on it." So out came the 100s chart. R.L. suggested that if we put one penny in each square (starting with the 1s box) then we wouldn't even need to count! So that is exactly what we did. 98 pennies later we had the chart almost filled. The class really wanted to reach 100 so I scrounged around in my desk and found 2 copper pennies and we had $1.00.

The third counting session was very similar, to the first and second session and the children were getting the hang of working together to share ideas. When we got to the nickles, no one knew how much they were worth. V.V. suggested that if I read the words on the coin, maybe it would tell us. Thankfully it did and we learned that a nickle was worth 5 cents. P.R. quickly did the math in his head and shared with the class that 20 nickles made $1.00! The class really wanted to use the 100s chart again so we filled up the chart to 20, put those coins in a pile and repeated the process until all of the coins were used ($1.90).
Our final counting session was with dimes. The class wanted it to be "fair" so that everyone started with the same amount of coins to count. After much discussion they asked that I pass out the coins one by one until they were gone, then take away the coins that made their friends have more (their words, not mine). Each child ended up with 5 coins (perfect!) and I had 7. More discussions were had regarding how to make stacks of 10 until finally they all agreed to share their coins with their buddy to make a 10 (someone said 5 and 5 make 10). Needless to say, we had $7.20 in dimes.
The entire coin counting session took up four Math Job times and was very slow moving. At the end I was able to ask the class about any of the coins and they were all able to tell me at least 1-2 things about each coin. I was, and still am, very impressed by how the children respectfully taught one another, and were comfortable in asking questions sharing their thoughts and working together. It was a huge learning experience for me and the class.
Here are a few photo's of some of the other ways we learned about our coins.

Counting how many drops of water will fit on each coin

Rolling the coins through play dough to discover the texture of the edges

Recording their discoveries

Rubbing their coins to make an imprint

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oh The Things We Learn...

As I sit here to blog on a Friday night, my mind is drawing a blank as to what it was we learned about this week. I suppose that it why I usually blog on Thursdays! Let's see how this goes...
In math this week we began exploring the 100s chart (as we gear up for learning about Charles Schulz' age when he passed away). The children spent one meeting time pointing out all of the patterns they recognized within the chart and discussing why all of the numerals (yup, you can ask them to tell you the difference between a numeral and number) were written in the order they were. One of our main focuses this week and last (and likely next) has been on both place value and number reversals. 
The children also worked both collaboratively and independently to solve word problems about Charles Schultz. I was not the best photographer this week so here is and example of one of the word problems they worked on.

Charles Schulz had _____ black pens.  He needs to put them in boxes.  _____ black pens fit in each box.  How many boxes can he fill with the black pens?
 (10, 5) (10, 2) (20, 10) (20,5) (20,4) (30, 10) (30,15) (30,5) (30,3)
They also merged their artistic abilities with their math skills with a brand new game called Grab and Draw. The game was inspired by an illustration Charles Schulz created when he was a student. The children loved this game and the results were pretty impressive!
This week the children also chose the character they would like to draw on their canvas. They spent a lot of time practicing in their sketch book and we should be ready to start working on our canvases next week! We also began making our own Peanuts coloring book with our illustrations! Here is a peek at one of them.
Writer's Workshop:
We have been writing A LOT about Charles Schultz this week. From creating our own comic strips to writing our Did'ya Know?! statements, the children have been busy! To help frame each until of study, I will often use a KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learn) chart to see what the class is most interested in. It provides me with a lot of insight and helps guide the lessons. This year for the "Learn" portion of the study, we are filling out Did'ya Know speech bubbles to share what we have learned. My favorite was this one.. "Did You Know... That Peppermint Patty sometimes calls Charlie Brown 'You Sly Dog'." Who knew?!
Reader's Workshop:
We have begun a new read aloud... Pippi Longstocking. We have enjoyed discussing some of the big words that are used in the story, and how we could figure out what they may mean. We also have been discussing her character and the choices she makes and how she handles the situations she is in.
During independent reading time the children have been reading their book baggy books both independently and with me. They are now able to read quietly for almost 20 minutes, allowing me lots of one-on-one time.

Global Buddies:
We are gearing up for my trip to Tanzania in February and trying to involve the whole school. On Thursday the children decorated flyers that will be distributed (by them) to the whole school next Thursday. After corresponding with the principal of the school in Tanzania I was told that they would like sharpened colored pencils and pencils, block erasers and hand held pencil sharpeners. When I shared this news with our Global Buddies they were quite disappointed that they couldn't send water, clothes and food. This opened up a great discussion about the amount of stuff I was able to bring, the weight of various items and which items can be shared among many people.

Another great week has come and gone :( See you next week!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy New Year!

It has been a busy start to our new year in Room 5. I hope you all had restful and relaxing winter breaks and are as happy to be back at TCS as I am! Over the past few weeks we have had a mixture of days dedicated to transitioning back, assessments and Great Artists. The children have done an amazing job with all of the transitions and I am looking forward to focusing on Great Artists for the next few weeks!

The children and I just finished the last book of our Toys Go Out series. We have enjoyed spending our afternoons joining Lumphy, StingRay, Plastic, Sheep and many other characters as they learned about friendship and conquering their fears. Thank you again R.L and family for providing us with the series. 
During word study the children learned about the th and sh digraphs. To help remember these sounds the children learned that when the letter h (who is very happy, helpful and has a lot to say) comes up to the letter t (who is always teasing and is not the nicest of letters) the letter t puts his tounge on his tooth and makes the th sound. Later, the letter h approaches the letter s (who is very studious and silent) and it startles her so she puts her finger to her lips and says shhhh
In Reader's Workshop the children have been working on reading independently for 10-15 minutes each day. During our assessment days I was able to formally assess everyone and determine their current reading level and which reading strategies they are using, and those they can continue to strengthen. They all have new books in their book baggies and I am looking forward to supporting their development. 
Great Artists:
We began our Great Artist study by filling out the beginnings of our KWL chart. The children were asked to tell me what they knew about Charles Schulz as well as what they wondered about him. Their responses are now on display on the white board in our classroom. Knowing what the children wonder about our artist will help to guide our study, while making it more meaningful and engaging for your children. 

 In the fall, the class came up with a free choice art activity called Copy Draw where one child will draw something and give directions to another friend who is copying their picture. I found this activity to be very TCS and have stolen the idea for our independent artist time. Above are examples of the children playing Copy Draw with Charles Schulz. 

On Tuesday, the children used the monitor to follow a How To Draw Snoopy tutorial. After following the step by step instructions the children discussed whether or not this method of instruction was helpful to them. Most of the class preferred their Copy Draw technique while others enjoyed the step by step instructions. Above are two examples from the How To Draw Snoopy Dancing tutorial.
During Writer's Workshop the children are familiarizing themselves with the idea of comics and comic strips. To introduce the Peanuts comic strip to the class I have been removing the text and allowing the children to create their own story lines. The children have enjoyed creating stories that follow the sequence of the drawings, while having to make sense as well. I have enjoyed reading what they come up with!
Every week the children write both a Weekend Prediction and a Weekend Report. During this time, the children are encouraged to write independently while applying the skills they have been working on during word study time. Last week they were introduced to the Magic 5 of Writing. After each Weekend Report and Weekend Prediction, the children will check their writing to see if the have done each of the items on their Magic 5 checklist. At this point in the year, the children are only required to check and see, but as the year continues they will be held more and more accountable for each of the 5 responsibilities. 
The children have been busy creating and exploring the world and works of Charles Schulz. I am really looking forward to this study and cannot wait to see how everything develops and turns out. Below is a sneak a peek at your little artists in action.
V.V working on his Woodstock rub

An example of one of your children's Woodstock rubs

An Artist in Action, drawing Mr. Schulz

S.Y. working on her Woodstock rub