Inspired by a little summer reading I did, as well as the news of the Fields Medal's first female winner, I've put together a little poster I will print for my classroom wall... (if it doesn't show up on your screen, you can also download it here as a word doc file).
The August sunrise over the city was indeed lovely at 6:15 am this morning... at that point, I'd already been up for an hour, creating dayplan templates on the computer, since I simply hadn't been able to keep my eyes open past 1:00 a.m. while working on them the "night" before after spending a full day at school!
At 6:15, before the boys woke up, I took a little break and walked out onto the balcony to appreciate my scenic view for a few minutes.
Today marked Day 4 in my week of "slogging" in my new classroom, and thanks to the support of a cast of thousands (okay, well, maybe "dozens" is closer to the truth), my room is beginning to look like a place where I can teach and students can learn math. And science.
This is the first time I've forgotten to take "before" photos, but rest assured, it was the usual mess of falling apart bulletin boards and desks all mashed up in a big pile in the middle of the room when I arrived on Monday morning.
Thankfully (and fortuitously), I had happened across a newly-hired OT from my board while running a yard sale in the adjacent city earlier in the summer; she was buying one of my old Anne Davies professional resources and a whole slew of kids' books. When she told me she was a new and as-yet-unassigned teacher in my board, I rubbed my hands together with glee, and tried to temper my delirious excitement when I asked her if she might want to volunteer in my classroom in exchange for some experience and mentoring!!! (My partner is currently living and working in another province, and I won't have a student teacher until January, so I was all alone this year for classroom set-up; no easy feat when moving to a new school, especially after being on leave for a year!)
The dear girl obliged, and faithfully followed up by email a few weeks before school return as I had instructed her to. (Not only that, but she also makes her own cosmetic products, and is TESL certified -- I can tell this is a good one, and I am sure she will be working full time in no time, but in the meantime, I hope to develop a symbiotic professional relationship!)
Brittany was a Godsend, almost single-handedly putting together my bulletin boards (I decided on the more cost- and time-effective fadeless paper route this time, rather than painting, but there still seemed to be a ridiculously large quantity of trim to cut and staple.... and then we ran out of staples on the first day and had to go begging for more!). She also did a goodly chunk of the cleaning out, sorting and labeling of lower cabinets. (Alex and I had done the upper ones earlier in the week.)
Once again I swore not to spend my own money on my classroom, and once again, I relieved myself of nearly a thousand dollars: Ikea-furnished reading corner (yes, even Grade 7 and 8s love that stuff!!), artsy trim, math-inspired and encouraging quote posters, markers, notebooks and pocket files!!! Yes, it's true, apparently this intermediate school does not supply student "stuff". But I NEEDED the pocket files, for how else was I going to implement the brilliant guided/balanced math program I had learned about at one of the workshops I attended this summer and plan to run this year, featuring problem solving folders???!!!
Since the school seems to be flush for manipulatives, and since my new classroom has ample storage, and since my "moving guy" with a van has had some health problems which precluded him from being as involved this year as in previous years, I elected to finally let go of my trusty, wooden math storage unit and blue bins filled with manipulatives that I have acquired over the years. ($1000 worth of stuff I sold for under $300 -- ahhh, but it makes me happy to empower another teacher, whose mental health and whose students will surely benefit from the availability of well organized, classroom-based manipulatives).
And it offset my own costs somewhat.
While unpacking various and sundry boxes, I happened across the charger for my old iPad which had been stolen in BsAs last year -- sent it over to my old school, which gratefully accepted the donation, since they have a whole whack of old iPads with frequently-missing cords!
My new school/classroom comes with pros and cons. A few of both:
It's Thursday night now, and after four full days (and nights) of working to prepare for Week One as best as possible, I am off to spend one final weekend on PEI. Despite the help of a dear friend, who hung out with the kids for a few days so they wouldn't have to be bored to tears helping mom and dad put their classrooms together, and the help of said dad, who offered rides in exchange for breakfasts, dinners and other treats, and the help of the kids themselves, who at age 10 are actually beginning to be useful in such matters, and the help of the lovely Brittany, who really did some hard manual labour for the two part-days she was in, I could STILL use about 6 more hours to get ready, lol!
But my body is TIRED and BROKEN, and I simply need to get one more weekend in on the Island before the season is over for another year. It's important for both my soul and for my relationship, the latter of which will suffer enough hardships as we embark on our first year of nearly full-time long distance!!!
My desks are grouped, my day plans are copied, materials for the first activity are sorted and set up, and I am ready for a few days of pastoral serenity.
PEI, here I come....
After thinking long and hard about the concept of guided or "balanced" math, and reading a few different resources about the topic, I've put together eight "math centers" which I hope will offer an age-appropriate and engaging learning experience for my Grade 7 and 8 students this year.
I invite and welcome feedback.
I have almost all the materials I need, and will once again spend way too much money to acquire the rest:
(Donations gratefully accepted here; consider it a fee for these great, ready-made materials, lol!)
My plan is to introduce 2-3 of the centers as whole class activities during the first weeks of school, then have students practise working in small groups at each center, with lots of opportunity for metacognition about learning skills and work habits. Once things are humming along, I will add new centers each week or so, until all eight are up and running.
Although the topic of the materials at each center will change as we move through the math curriculum this year, the basic concept will remain the same.
Stay tuned for real-life reports on how it unfolds in the weeks ahead!
One of the pilots I sometimes fly with on PEI used to joke that this is a flying club where people sit around and talk about flying, but nobody actually flies! ;-P
It's true that more of the boys seem to sit around at the GA building after breakfast than are actually in the air on any given day, but in fairness, the weather was not particularly inviting today....
One of the guys brought a baby, though, and that was good fun: Willem and I discovered an old luggage cart near the lounge, and we wheeled around a bit until we found another willing "driver" to take the 14-month-old passenger for an extended ride around the apron!
Math Centres. It's the new thing, apparently. Like balanced literacy before it, "balanced math" is what we're allegedly striving for in elementary schools now.
It's kind of a relief, actually, the thought of having just a few students at a time to work with... I remember the last time I was in a classroom; it was only Grade 3, and yet already, the gaps were enormous! I had students who were constantly ready for the next math challenge while others struggled to add two single-digit whole numbers together. And forget debriefing a problem in a whole class setting; while two or three students looked and listened, others daydreamed, rolled around on the carpet, or picked at the shirt tag of the kid in front of them... no matter how engaging I tried to make my real life, three-part, problem-based lessons!!! So offering choice to the masses while I work with the few on a regular basis to teach in a targeted way that meets their needs is rather appealing.
What does this look like in a real math classroom, you ask?
Well, since this will be the first time I attempt this, I'm not entirely sure. But having read and successfully implemented my own version of the Daily Five and Literacy Cafe over the past several years, I can tell you that I can see the benefits to an independent, choice-based program, and I'm looking forward to working with individual and small groups of students on what they, specifically, need, based on my observations of their work.
Balanced Math, with a centres approach, has also been the subject of some TLLPs in recent years, and I myself was inspired after attending a 3-day math workshop this July as part of ETFO's Summer Academy in Maple, Ontario. So a number of people are beginning to play with this concept.
Here's what I'm envisioning for my own classroom next year:
Does this mean that I'll never teach whole class? Not at all. In fact, I'll probably begin most classes with some sort of "gathering activity" or learning goal review. At least until I get the students trained enough to be independent. And even once things are humming along, I'll still pull them all together once in a while to solve a big problem as a large group, and run a "Bansho-esque" lesson.
But in general, as with my literacy program, gone are the daily whole-class math lessons that speak to a handful of kids and alienate the rest.
We shall see how it goes. For now, I am cautiously optimistic! :D
Due to the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown conference (which preceded confederation), there are a series of numbers around town this summer. Today, on the boys' penultimate day here on the island, we decided to finally climb and pose like all the other tourists!
After our usual Sunday-after-church ritual of Taters-Cows-Internet-at-Beanz, we snapped a few more numbers photos, then headed over to the CARI with Tats for a swim.
Despite the rain, we decided to make one final stop at the lighthouse beach before heading home to bed.
After several re-schedulings due to weather, the annual Cable Head Fly-In finally took place on Saturday, August 16 at Jimbo's.
While the grown-ups were very serious eating burgers and folding charts in the fight for the title of master chart-folder (speed is everything; though some noted that Tom gave all the smaller charts to his friends!!!), Alex and Simon enjoyed setting up our new beach chairs in the shade. (Er, we won't mention the other "chair incident", which happened early on, and which some cruel pilot/photographers caught on film, lol!)
After the chart folding and paper-airplane flying competitions, it was time to separate the wheat from the chafe: below left, Tom and his crew give detailed instructions on the message drop exercise. Bottom right, Neil (my soon-to-be-co-pilot), listens intently.
After taxiing out onto the runway, I manage to take a few nice shots from on high before Neil comes in for a low and over, and I drop our message ball out the window with the intent of taking first place in this competition. (The ideas is for ones ball to get on or as close to a painted line on the runway as possible.)
At the end of the afternoon, Tom and Jimbo hand out the prizes (Neil and I win first for the ball drop - yay!), and a very special prize (recognize it, Vinx and Brian???!!!), accompanied by a long-winded and almost-believable story, is handed out to a poor, unsuspecting pilot visiting from away!
Another successful fly-in event at Cable Head!!!
One of our new favourite activities on PEI is berry picking: Last week the boys and I picked enough raspberries for them to take a batch to share with friends at summer camp and still have plenty left for snacking at home. This week, we headed back to the Berry Patch on Hwy 2 to see about blueberries.
It was the first time any of us had picked blueberries before, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
Turns out blueberries are right down on the ground, making them an ideal fruit to be "raked", which most outfits do, and then put them through a fanning machine, which separates the leaves and stray stems from the berries. For us amateurs, though, it was half an hour of handpicking. With all four of us eati--, er, I mean picking, we managed to accumulate two small baskets at the end of our hard labour.
I have a new-found appreciation for blueberry pickers, and a better understanding for why the prices for farmers' market or store-bought wild blueberries tends to be rather high!
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera now focuses most of her written attention to prolific blogging, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and, more recently, SMARTbansho and Homeschooling 4. Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
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