Working Through My Feelings On Blogging Less

I recently realized that while I still blog a lot professionally, I’m not writing as much as I did in previous years. In the past, I sometimes found that this happened to me during report card times or holiday times, but often blogging less, really bothered me. Now it’s not. In fact, I’m not even sure what else I would write about. And it was then, that I realized why.

For the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a fantastic teaching partner, Paula. Between our conversations in the morning and after school, and usually some text messages and emails in the evening, we are constantly talking, thinking, and reflecting together. While we have many similar values, we often think differently when it comes to many topics. Paula’s questions and insights have resulted in many changes in my approaches, and vice versa.

Probably, for the first time in my life, I’ve consistently talked through my blog posts with somebody else before I write them. Paula’s also inspired many of these posts. But after some of our conversations, my desire to write is slowly fading. I got the ideas out there, even if only to a small audience, and I got that different perspective. Paula’s my real life commenter, and sometimes that is enough. Other times, I still feel motivated to write, or I think there might be other perspectives on the topic, so I blog with the desire to hopefully hear some feedback.

Now though, my 5-7 professional posts a week have dwindled down to 2-3. I’ve always found my blogging topics through my teaching and life experiences, but maybe I need to find new inspirations. Doug Peterson, a prolific blogger, often looks to articles to inspire his posts. Is it time that I start doing the same? Maybe, since I’m not missing these extra opportunities to blog, a little less writing is okay. Sometimes I feel as though I’m living my blog posts now instead of just writing them. What inspires you to blog? Have relationships also changed some of your blogging patterns? I never thought I’d feel comfortable with writing less, but maybe in the ebb and flow of blogging, I’m on the way down right now before going up again.

Aviva

How Do You Decide When To Move The Bucket?

Yesterday was a fantastic day! We’ve actually had two great days since we’ve been back at school after the holidays, and it’s hard not to enjoy the calmness and feel the excitement over the learning that’s happening in the classroom. In the past, when I’ve had a great day, I’ve really wanted to “freeze time.” My thinking has always been, let’s keep with what we’re doing, as we must be doing something right. I think there’s something to be said for this thinking, but I also think there’s something be said for making some changes. 

At the end of the day yesterday, my teaching partner, Paula, and I reflected on our day as we always do. It was during this reflection time that Paula suggested a slight change in room design. Over the winter holidays, I bought a big bucket at Walmart to use on the LEGO table. The thought was that we could add some sticky notes, thick popsicle sticks, tape, and plasticine, along with our sign books, to inspire students to create signs and possibly even a LEGO City in the bucket. Before the Break, we saw a lot of similar play at the LEGO table, and we wanted to intentionally interrupt this play, extend the reading and writing possibilities for some students, and see what happened.

Yay for @amazoncan! This year, instead of buying each child a gift for the holidays, we bought some gifts that we can all enjoy together after the holidays. 🎁🎁🎁 Love this Kinetic Sand that has all kinds of art and math (patterning, etc.) potential. Plus the LEGO people can hopefully combine with the sign provocation and this great new bin (see second photograph) for a possible LEGO world. Maybe, as @paulacrockett suggested, we can even have kids creating speech bubbles for the LEGO figures to talk to each other. So many reading, writing, and oral language possibilities! ❤️ Love my holidays, but am now super excited to go back! #ctinquiry #teachersofinstagram #iteachk (SWIPE ⬅️ TO SEE THE BIN … & IT’S ON WHEELS. If it doesn’t work for a LEGO mini-world (our attempt to intentionally interrupt the LEGO play), it may work as a “floor sensory bin,” as @paulacrockett suggested.)

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

When we added this bucket on Monday, it didn’t take long for children to move it from the table to the floor. Then it just sat there. Speaking to Paula, she thought that it was too deep for the students to use well, and they really wanted paper to draw the roads and places in the city. They even measured and cut out their own piece of brown paper to add to the LEGO table, which they used to start creating their city. The problem was that some students didn’t want to make a city, and one child got really frustrated when his landscape was being used for something different. We chatted at the end of the day on Monday, and thought that maybe we could put the brown paper inside the large bucket, move the bucket onto the ground, add a separate container of LEGO along with the plasticine, sticky notes, popsicle sticks, and tape, and encourage students to create in this new space. We even added a few big pillows around the bucket to attract children to it.

Yesterday, we stood back and watched. A couple of students used this bucket for their LEGO creations, but largely just because they were waiting for an open spot at the eating table. We put this bucket near the table, and it drew them there. After they ate though, they didn’t go back to play more. Maybe they would have today, but maybe not …

Meanwhile, we have a couple of boys that are finding it harder to settle into play. It’s not that they are causing problems or failing to learn, but they tend to wander a little more than other students, and when they do settle somewhere, we’re wondering if their choices are really providing them with the best challenges for more thinking and learning. On my way to duty yesterday, I said to Paula, “I wonder if they need a project, but what might interest them? What could we do?” I went off to duty, and Paula watched, listened, and thought. This is when she suggested to me, “What if we move the eating table over a bit, and put the big bucket over by the unused shelves? We could then bring over the recyclable materials, email parents asking for some more empty rolls, and inspire students to create between the bucket and the shelves. They could make ramps or marble runs or maybe even a structure to use with the rice in the sensory bin.” I loved her idea!

The same students that we wondered about are the ones that continue to use the piece of wood near the LEGO table to create a ramp. However, their ramp is always the same size and used in the same way. Maybe the use of found items along with the various levels made possible due to the shelves and the bucket could result in some more thinking and learning. This might draw these students from other places around the room, and even hold their interest for a longer period of time. There are all kinds of opportunities here connected with math, science, and language learning … not to mention the connections to inquiry.

So even on a wonderful day, we shifted the learning environment to make room for something new. Our chat yesterday made us remember about the need for constant reflection. As educators, are we always looking at how to improve? Are we taking a close look at the needs of each of our students, and sometimes making changes to better support those couple of students that need it most? How do we avoid just being happy with the status quo? Even on the best of days, there can be little changes to make things that much better … maybe even for just one or two students. Reflection is necessary. Any educator or administrator will tell you that it matters. How do you give yourself enough time for this reflection? How do you include various viewpoints to help you see (or consider) something that you might not have on your own? Once again, I’m reminded that “a little Paula can go a long way.” 🙂

Aviva

Are we all “math teachers?”

This is a post that I’ve been thinking about for a while now, but a conversation with a good friend over the Break, helped me finally formulate what I wanted to write. During the school year, we have seven P.A. Days: these days are used for a variety of things, including professional development, assessment/evaluation, and report card writing. One of our recent P.A. Days had us looking closely, talking about, and planning for math. Inevitably, discussions among educators after this day had people questioning, but what about those teachers that don’t teach math?

I’m sure that we can all think of these teachers in our school. Maybe they’re …

  • the librarian.
  • the phys-ed teacher.
  • the music teacher.
  • the art teacher.

There could even be more educators to add to this list, and I can understand why people might question these individuals spending their day learning about quality math instruction. Yes, we can all see value in learning for learning’s sake, but nobody wants to waste their time. Is a focus on math, a “waste” for these people?

There might have been a time that I would have argued “yes,” but now I take a different perspective. What if we didn’t see “math” as a separate subject, but as a way of thinking, learning, and problem solving in all that we do? In a way, this is almost like the Kindergarten approach to mathematics, but I’m hoping that this thought process can extend beyond Kindergarten. 

I keep reflecting on these examples from previous years: both from my own experiences in teaching and those that I have read about from others.

Holiday Decorating=Mathematical Thinking

More ‘Fame’, More Letters, More Fractions

When we make the link between math and these other content areas, I think wonderful things begin to happen.

  • More students begin to view themselves as mathematicians. We’ve all heard kids say before, “I’m not good at math,” or “This is really hard for me.” But sometimes, when we find another way to help students understand and apply mathematical concepts, they become more confident in their skills. 
  • Students begin to understand why math is important. It’s often when these skills are embedded in other curriculum areas, that children begin to make the real world connections to what they’re learning. This is when it’s so important to do what’s emphasized in the Kindergarten Program Document and “notice and name” the math learning. Then the mathematical connections are clear!
  • Students get more meaningful practice time. Some math concepts can be challenging for students. The dedicated math block each day may not be enough time for some kids to review and practice different skills. But when math is embedded in other subject areas, more time is invested in the subject, and often times, what didn’t “click” before may click later.
  • Spiralling begins to happen. While I’ve heard lots of talk about “spiralling math,” and I know some educators that do it, a strand-by-strand approach is still very common for many. But when we look at all subject areas as good places to reinforce, teach, and extend math thinking and learning, often one strand doesn’t align well with all subjects. Instead then, students get opportunities to explore different strands, and maybe even different process expectations, in the various subject areas. 

  • We move from specific expectations to big ideas. There are many specific expectations in the Math Curriculum Document, and I think it’s easy to get caught up in trying to meet every one of them. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s a bad thing to teach it all, but my concern is that in an attempt to do so, we miss some of the bigger thinking and learning opportunities for students. There is a lot of value in the process expectations, and it’s these expectations that could align really well with other subject areas. Maybe by focusing on them in these areas, we help students become more mathematically confident learners.

My belief is that if we want to change mathematical mindsets, then we have to communicate to children that they are “mathematicians,” and we have to make math about more than a 60 minute block that happens every day. I can’t help but think about the 100 Languages of ChildrenIs “math” one of these “languages,” and do we need to help students communicate more frequently in mathematical ways? The Kindergarten Program Document has done away with subject areas, and I know that this is not the case for Grades 1-12 educators, but is there a way to make subjects more fluid? What value might there be for educators and students if “math” existed in all that we do? This might seem like a Utopian ideal, but I’d like to believe there’s a way to make it a reality. How, and where, do we start?

Aviva

 

The End Of Storify And The Beginning Of What???

I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while now. I think that my concern was that once I wrote it, I would need to accept that Storify is really going to be gone. A few weeks ago, I received an email that many others also received, indicating that the free service, Storify, would be unavailable after May 16th. What?!

Our daily blog posts exist because of Storify. Right now, we tweet and add images and videos to Instagram throughout the day, and then collect these posts in a Storify story: providing the context for them through the blurb at the beginning, and then providing an extension activity through the blurb at the end. We can then embed these stories in our class blog, and send the link to parents. Storify is an integral part of our workflow. What were we going to do now?

I felt overwhelmed when I read the email with the news, and with an uncertainty over what to do, I did the first thing that came to mind: I ignored the news. My hope was that the problem would magically solve itself. 🙂 Maybe not the best example of my problem solving, but I honestly didn’t know where to start. 

Many people suggested that I follow the instructions and export the stories, but the amount of data to export is overwhelming. I currently have 952 stories. 

  • Where am I going to store all of this data?
  • Can I upload the files into blog posts?
  • How long will it take me to do this, and is this a feasible goal?
  • If the embedded stories disappear though, what’s the impact on our class blog?

I keep trying to remind myself that all of these posts are on Twitter and Instagram, but the idea of having hundreds of pages of broken links brings me to tears. This experience has been such a good reminder for me that our class blog is an ongoing story of our thinking, our ideas, and our learning, and even though these thoughts may exist elsewhere, the collection of them is important and impactful.

But I was still at a loss for what to do. That’s when I read Doug Peterson‘s post on the end of Storify, and decided to leave a comment sharing some of my frustrations.

Doug replied with some other options that I could consider. 

As I explained in my next comment though, we have a few other considerations that make Doug’s suggestions likely less advantageous for us. 

This conversation had me continuing to wonder, how do I meet everyone’s needs? And so, I sat on the problem, thought about possible options, and continued to publish Storify stories. When the winter holidays arrived, I promised myself that I was going to come up with a solution and stop adding to what I knew would ultimately be deleted posts. 

Last night, with less than a week to go before we head back to school, I seriously investigated different options. I Googled “alternatives to Storify,” and started signing up and investigating various ones. None of them allow me to pull the posts that I want from Twitter and Instagram. Sway lets me add paragraphs of text, which I appreciate, but I still need to upload the photographs and videos from my device. I’m also restricted by the number that I can add, and most days, I have more to share than the maximum amount. I thought about just adding the Twitter links and Instagram posts directly into a blog post each day, but with over 30 to add on most days, the time commitment would be huge. We could share less, or write individual blog posts on different topics each day, but then parents are less likely to see what their child is doing (something that matters to them), and we’re less likely to get a good, clear picture on the overall learning happening in our classroom (which benefits us as we plan for the days ahead). 

These problems took me back to looking at Twitter Moments: Andrew Campbell‘s suggestion for me back when I first heard about the end of Storify. Reading a little more about these “moments,” I found out that … 

  • I can embed them into a blog post. Yay! This is less clunky than having parents click through links.
  • I can use the drop-down menu on each tweet to add it to a moment. This makes these moments easy to create on a device or on a computer, which I love. 
  • There is no limit to the number of tweets added to each moment. Since the number of posts vary on a day-by-day basis, it makes me feel better knowing that we can add any number of these posts to our moments if we want. 

I am restricted on how much additional text I can add to a moment, so I will likely need to write the context of the day and the extension activity right on the blog post, but this is certainly doable. The look of the overall post is similar to the Storify ones, and aesthetically speaking, I appreciate the cleanness of the display. 

After this Storify experience though, I am left worrying and wondering, what happens if Twitter gets rid of their moments? Am I just replacing one free option with another one that could very well disappear? My hope is that we can create these moments until the end of the school year, and then we can spend some time this summer reconsidering our workflow and possible blogging options for next year. Maybe we need to post directly in the blog to avoid the fear of discontinued products, but what will parents think of this option? How will this change our workflow and our interaction with documentation? It looks like my first blog post of the new year already connects with my one word questioning goal

Aviva