Building community beginning on the first days helps to create new relationships and strong bonds that will last throughout the year. Creating a shared vision of the expectations, developing a common understanding of classroom limits, and fostering a love of learning are only a few of the characteristics you might have in mind as desired outcomes. Ultimately, achieving mutual respect and a spirit of collaboration creates an ideal working environment for the classroom.
When community exists, each child feels valued. A sense of shared purpose unites the group and working together to accomplish goals becomes a priority. Our goals are BIG and require the effort of all of our members. The uniqueness that each student provides as a member of the community must be valued and each individual strength will make the community stronger and better. As children develop a sense of duty to the community, self-discipline is likely to emerge more naturally and from the child’s (intrinsic) motivation rather than from external or reward-based methods (extrinsic).
Early in the year, creating purpose in the child’s movement and activity is desired and we balance the freedoms offered within the environment, the needs of the young child to move, and the constraints of the environment. Providing structures and routines will help to create order as well as ensure a safe environment for your children. A strong sense of community is one of the most effective ways to teach how to use individual freedoms.
How do we build community?
We play games and have fun together. We share lunch and work with each other, mixing-up our groups with an emphasis on getting to know new friends. We interview and find out more about each other by sharing experiences, stories, traditions, and the accomplishments we are proud to have achieved. We make time to appreciate each other and learn how to recognize others, as well as ourselves.
In our community, we learn to problem solve, developing the skills necessary to take care of ourselves and others. When solutions are found and conflicts resolved with little or no direction or intervention by an adult, students feel great pride! Creating a class agreed-upon list of rights and responsibilities with the students allows them to partner in holding others accountable and enforcing your shared vision of community.
Grace and courtesy work also play a role in learning how to act in a community. A firm handshake and smile in the morning set a respectful tone for the day. Allowing students to have the role of a “class greeter” is a great way to have students serve in a leadership role as they create personal and inviting welcomes to the community. Practicing how to greet visitors with a cup of tea and a special chair or preparing a class snack are other ways students can assume responsibility. Modeling ways to ask for help, challenge other student’s ideas and even how to say “no thank you” respectfully are tools your students will need to have in order to work effectively in their community.
A natural extension of building community within our classrooms is to reach outward. The work that starts within our classroom might find opportunities in other areas within the school. Participating in the work of the larger community helps the students feel proud and invested. Students experience, on a small scale but in a real way, that they can create change. We can act individually or as a group – and we DO make a difference!
Specific Ideas to try at the beginning of the year might
Toss a ball in a group to help learn names
Learn a favorite food of a new friend
Create a scavenger hunt in the room to learn a new environment
Share with a friend something you like about yourself
Work together to line up without talking
Offer lessons on classroom jobs
Provide lessons and model grace and courtesy
Make a list of “Classroom Rights and Responsibilities” WITH your students and have them initial or sign
Have a procedure or place in the classroom for resolving conflicts –create a “Peace Table” or “Peace Corner”
Follow our Journey. Lesson Study with a Focus on Visualization.
Jugyou kenkyuu, a Japanese phrase gives us the term “Lesson Study”. Introduced in the U. S. in the late 1990s, interest in Japanese lesson study remains strong in the education world throughout the United States. Our Lesson Study this year will focus on visualization and metacognition.
Lesson Study & Mathematics
Lesson study works well across education and in particular, in improving mathematics education. We will wrap up professional summer reading on visualization in September with a look into the routines we create in classrooms that promote visualization. During “Introduction to Lesson Study” in October, we will explore what lesson study is, how it works, how to use it, and best practices with a focus on creating metacognition in students.
Pre-Lesson Study Questions
We engaged our focus group from St. Edward School in Vero Beach by asking the following questions:
What attracted you to this Lesson Study?
Overall the participants felt this lesson study would improve their ability to use visualization strategies in their own classrooms. They felt the experience would allow them to “dig deeper” into learning the best way to improve their teaching skills to build visualization.
What do you hope to learn from this Lesson Study
Participants generally responded similarly, wanting a deeper understanding of the science behind visualization, learning how to integrate visualization into their daily teaching, and using visualization to help students see concepts in a different way.
What is visualization to you?
It is creating a picture in your mind, being able to ‘see’ what you are hearing or reading to help you better understand the lesson, and it brings life to situations, assisting a student in understanding the concepts being taught.
What do you feel you already know about visualization? (before reading)
The response to this question was consistent with all participants. All felt that visualization was a way of seeing something in your mind to better or fully understand it and using it in math as well would bring life to situations and assist students in better understanding the concepts being taught.
Ideas on how to get kids to visualize math?
Using various concrete and pictorial models
Incorporating color in our board witing to connect ideas
Relating ideas especially in the operations
Have children create a short movie in their minds with each math concept so they can ‘see’ the process and verbalize it before computing
What questions do you have before we start the lesson study?
Can all students visualize?
How are other teachers using visualization?
Does the brain have any physical limitations with visualizing?
How do we teach visualization to students so they use it seamlessly when seeing a math problem?
What forces the brain to want/have to visualize?
We will be holding a private Lesson Study at St. Edward’s School, Vero Beach, FL in September.
Follow us through this Lesson Study.
We’ll be at Oak Hill High School in Nashville, TN, October 2, 2019 – October 4, 2019. Seats still open!
Click here to register for this event and for details on this Lesson Study.
As schools begin to embrace technology in the classroom, one question that Sarah often receives is, “What apps do you use in your workshops and classrooms?”
With a multitude of apps available, it can be challenging to
find the right app that can help teachers teach better and engage students more
Sarah shares her list of frequently-used apps below.
Drawing and Writing Tools
Algebra Balance (iOS $1.99)
Bamboo Paper (free for iOS, Android and Windows)
Turn your screen into a paper with Bamboo Paper! Draw and write effortlessly with the various pens and brushes available. The zoom function in this app allows you to write in small spaces and fit more notes onto a page. This app also allows you to add images to your notes and write on them. Notebooks created within the app can also be shared and exported to other mobile platforms and cloud services.
Noteshelf (iOS $9.99)
Personalize your notes with Noteshelf! Individual notebooks can be easily customized in Noteshelf using the extensive library of cover designs and page templates in the app. Writing and drawing tools are available to help you write notes and draw precise geometric shapes with ease. There are also several fonts to choose from within the app if you prefer to type.
In Noteshelf, notes can be written across pages, just like a physical notebook, making it easy to create sections. Noteshelf also allows you to insert photos and write on them. Another excellent feature is its audio recording function, which means you never have to worry about missing out on the nitty-gritty details. Making annotations and signing PDFs is also a useful feature in Noteshelf. Other features include scanning of documents, password protection of notes, and syncing with Evernote and cloud services.
Pencil Box (iOS $0.99)
Pencil Box is a drawing tool that will help anyone who wants to draw with precision. To start, pick a drawing tool and begin drawing or import an image to draw on. Besides the many brushes and shapes available, Pencil Box also allows you to add and edit layers of your drawing, making it easy to add or delete parts of a drawing without having to start over.
Geometry Pad+ (iOS $6.99, Android $5.99)
Geometry Pad+ is a dynamic app that allows you to construct geometric shapes, such as circles, squares, triangles, rhombuses, and parallelograms, with precision and ease. Beyond creating shapes, this app also allows you to mark out angles within shapes and draw arcs using the in-app tools. The app also comes with a measuring tool that can measure lines and other properties. Other shapes properties, such as perimeter and area, can be calculated using the in-app tools as well. All documents can be saved and exported, making it convenient for future use and reference.
GeoBoard (free for iOS, Windows, and web browsers)
Learn about shapes in a fun and interactive manner! In Geoboard, bands can be stretched around pegs on a virtual board to create line segments and different types of polygons. Available on both mobile and web-based platforms, GeoBoard can also be used to illustrate area, perimeter, fractions, angles, and many other concepts. With three board types to choose from and multiple band colors to work with, this app is bound to bring a lot of fun to the classroom.
Number Lines (free for iOS and web browsers)
Available as a mobile and web app, Number Lines helps you to customize number lines easily for your classroom. This app allows you to create number lines with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and even negative numbers. Students can visualize number sequences and demonstrate strategies related to counting, comparing, adding, subtracting and much more. Elements of the number line can also be hidden to encourage creative thinking.
Pieces Basic (free for iOS and web browsers)
This interactive app helps students learn about place value and develop their computation skills with multi-digit numbers. Number Pieces Basic is a great visual aid for teachers to use in classrooms to engage students as pieces can be dragged around to illustrate addition and subtraction problems. Equations and expressions can also be written using the text tool. The app can be used on-the-go on a mobile device or from a web browser on a computer.
is a great visual aid for teachers to use in classrooms to engage students as pieces can be dragged around to illustrate addition and subtraction problems. Equations and expressions can also be written using the text tool. The app can be used on-the-go on a mobile device or from a web browser on a computer.
Manipulative of the Week (free for iOS)
This app bundle provides a free manipulative every week and contains the 14 most popular manipulatives used by students and teachers. Some of the apps that Sarah uses frequently are listed below.
Algebra Tiles (iOS $1.99)
Algebra Tiles provides an engaging experience for students to explore algebraic concepts. Using tiles to represent algebraic expressions, students can learn to add and subtract integers as well as solve algebraic equations.
Base Ten Blocks (iOS $1.99)
Base Ten Blocks are virtual blocks to help students learn about place value, addition, subtraction, regrouping and more. Students can work with blocks representing ones, tens, hundreds and thousands to explore addition, subtraction, multiplication and division strategies. The place value chart is especially useful when working with decimals as well.
Color Tiles (iOS $1.99)
Use Color Tiles to build number frames, make shapes, find fractions and more. The user-friendly interface gives users the freedom to create and customize manipulatives to suit their learning needs. Color Tiles helps students to develop their computing skills while enabling them to learn how to sort and classify objects.
to build number frames, make shapes, find fractions and more. The user-friendly interface gives users the freedom to create and customize manipulatives to suit their learning needs. Color Tiles helps students to develop their computing skills while enabling them to learn how to sort and classify objects.
Cuisenaire® Rods (Number Rods) (iOS $1.99)
Number rods can be placed along a number line to compare numbers and fractions. By adding and removing rods, students can visualize the addition and subtraction of integers and fractions. This app also enables students to view ratios and proportions at a glance.
Fraction Circles (iOS $1.99)
In Fraction Circles, fraction pieces can be moved, rotated, overlapped and put together. It is a versatile app as fractions, decimals and percentages can be used to label each fraction piece. Each fraction piece is color-coded, making it easy to identify and work with as well.
Fraction Manipulatives(iOS free)
Hundred Board (iOS $1.99)
Linking Cubes (iOS $1.99)
Linking Cubes are virtual multi-colored cubes that help students to visualize numbers in a pictorial manner. Students can learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide using different colored cubes. Place value can also be represented using the place value background available in the app. The built-in graph background makes it easy to create graphs as well.
Little Bit Studio Bugs & Buttons (iOS $2.99)
Number Frames (iOS free)
Osmo Tangram (iOS free)
Pattern Blocks (iOS $1.99)
Pattern Blocks is the closest thing you can get to physical pattern blocks. With a wide selection of two-dimensional shapes, including hexagons and trapezoids, students can learn about geometry, patterns, fractions, and decimals in a fuss-free manner.
Place Value Disks (iOS $1.99)
Software Smoothie Felt Board App (iOS $2.99)
Two-Color Counters (iOS $1.99)
Two-Color Counters is a minimalistic app for those looking for a simple yet effective way to understand numbers, integers, and fractions. Only two colors are used in this app as its focus is on illustrating operations concepts. Teaching ideas aligned to Common Core are also featured in this app.
Are you inspired? Try out these apps in your own teaching or learning journey and let us know the results!
Math facts are simply the basics: addition, subtraction; multiplication; division. They are basic number combinations and calculations we do every day. So why is it that learning math facts creates such huge problems for teachers and students in our classrooms?
Common subtraction mistake when children are learning math facts.
Is it that some of us are just naturally better at math than others? Perhaps. The good news is you as a teacher can help anyone improve their math skills. You might be wondering how. Well, rote memorization alone won’t get us there.
Can you picture spending several classroom periods on the number 5? Specifically, breaking it down into parts, and putting it back together again? Sounds like a lot of time, right? But, spending this amount of classroom time to decompose numbers using number bonds, allows students to gain a deeper, more flexible understanding of numbers. You might be wondering what those periods would actually look like, how you’d keep your students engaged and learning for that amount of time. In this blog, we will explore exactly that.
What are Number Bonds
Simply put, number bonds are the different ways we can break apart numbers. Number bonds are all about the relationship between numbers and quantities. The relationships of parts to a whole. Building the foundation for all mathematical operations. Building mental images of number relationships. While it sounds like a simple concept, it can be difficult for students to learn. So, it is important to dedicate time for them to learn the concept.
Use of color and representation helps to connect ideas.
How often are you journaling in your classroom? If you’re like most teachers, your answer might be, “Not often” or “Not enough”. Many teachers tell me, “I don’t know where to start”, or “I don’t have the time”. Sound familiar?
In this blog, we will focus on answering the following questions:
• Why journal?
• How do I start?
• What will I gain from adding it in my classroom?
Did you know that Journaling is one of 5 non-negotiable learning experiences?
As John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on
As teachers, it is important to “see” inside the minds of our students in order to:
• Inform our delivery and instruction to prioritize what comes next
• Collect evidence of growth in their thought process and their ability to
communicate that on paper
Journaling enables us to “see” our students’ thoughts and strategies and it helps the students
build a habit of thinking. However, careful consideration needs to be given to the
implementation process because it is not a natural process.