A couple of Hoggatteers have recently taken turns at the front of the class. As we are understanding multi-digit multiplication more and more, I've asked students to lead the class. They are free to use our stage, share call-backs, and call on students to provide steps in the problems. They quickly discover that teaching may not be as easy as they thought it was.
I always get to see alumni from our fourth grade class on Parent Conference days. Last week, a few former students - from fifth graders to high school seniors dropped by with smiles and reports about their interests. This one always leaves her mark:
In my recent reading of The Writing on the Classroom Wall, I found a couple of quotes to be interesting. The first reminded me of a watercolor painting.
The clearer your goal is, the nearer you are to it.
Last weekend, I saw such works of art at Silver Dollar City's fall festival. In one booth, there were large photographs displayed. They were bright and beautiful images of land- and waterscapes. Upon closer inspection, I could see more clearly that these were not photographs at all; the images were painted by an artist using watercolor paints. Up close, I could appreciate the talent and time spent in creating the images. In fact, the artist was working on a new painting nearby. From a distance, we don't see the intricacies of our goals, but as we get closer details become clearer to us.
For our positive behavior celebration for October, today, we will watch one of my favorite movies (perhaps my favorite musical of all time). Part of the appeal of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is its star, Missouri's own Dick Van Dyke.
*My favorite song? That's a tough one. You Two is just about the sweetest song between a man and his children. Hushabye Mountain is a sad and beautiful lullaby. Posh is a silly little ditty. Me Ol' Bamboo is a quick, fun dance number that leaves us scratching our heads. The title song is definitely going to be stuck in my head for a day or two. I am a sucker for a song that has counter lyrics, so the combination of Truly Scrumptious and Doll on a Music Box always makes me melt. But the one that slays me every time is Chu Chi Face, sung by the characters of Baron Bomburst and his wife. The song makes use of some dark humor in which these characters sing about how much they love each other ironically while trying to kill each other.
I wrote about an educator's need to take care of herself in my own book, There's No Busyness Like School Busyness. A likely analogy for this lies in the passenger airplane as the flight attendant gives instructions for unanticipated decompression in the aircraft:
Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.
A caregiver's success at taking care of himself first is more likely to take care of dependents who rely on him for their safety and wellbeing. In my book, I take this analogy a step further in a chapter labeled Lifeguard Training, but for now, the current analogy stands.
In his book, The Writing on the Classroom Wall, Steve Wyborney also takes things another step, telling readers to stay active in the form of exercising creativity.
Wyborney doesn't want readers to get stuck in a rut. He understands the need to change things up from time to time. Is it odd that Wyborney suggests taking risks as a defense against burnout? Perhaps it sounds odd to suggest doing difficult things as a strategy for combating boredom, but it makes sense to many parents and teachers who have experienced it in their own children.
There's a lot to be said for a well-behaved class...but there's more to be said for a student who takes that classroom behavior and makes it a part of his/her character. I know their parents and I want success for the children put in our charge. The video below has some interesting things to say about the science of character.
We tend to focus on our weaknesses instead of delighting in our successes. In the same way, we tend to work on filling our deficiencies rather than increasing our strengths.
The same may be true of weight-lifting. I suppose we don't like to look lopsided.
But sculpting our bodies may not be like sculpting our minds or our skills. Both teachers and students, adults and children, benefit from recognizing our strengths. And we all have things we do well.
Steve Wyborney words it like this:
While I had long believed in the value of improving in my areas of weakness...I came to appreciate the importance of focusing on and improving in my areas of strength. Doing so unleashes the incredible potential to develop true expertise that can be shared with others. As you grow you strengths and reflect upon them, and especially as you share them with others, take note of what happens to the "weaknesses" that you chose not to place your focus on. Notice what happens to your confidence. Then, notice what happens to your "best." I suspect you'll discover that you will redefine your "best" every time you authentically stretch for it.
What better way to teach the concept of goal-setting and revision than to strengthen our strong points? It allows each of us to do the things that we do best, while still focusing on improving.
I'm not endorsing the company, but this commercial for General Electric makes me think.
Take one and a half minutes to watch this video.
Now for some questions:
There is more value in planning units and constructing timelines for our instruction than in submitting ourselves to the menial task of intricately planning lessons for each of our courses. It might be the opposite for certain other teachers, but not for many of us. As educators, we must also be ready to take our classes in different directions as our students reveal to us their needs and interests.
As we progress through multiplication and prepare for working more complicated, multi-digit problems, we continue to test multiplication fluency. Our students are pressed to work 100 one-digit multiplication problems in 5 minutes. We wish for them to overlearn the facts in preparation of other Math applications that will also require the skill.
JORDAN and RAHAF have joined the ranks. They, along with CADENCE (who was the first to achieve the distinction), have successfully completed all 100 problems in 5 minutes, proving their mastery three times to earn the title of Multiplication Masters.
With hard work, our class average is rising, in spite of the "stress" of taking a timed test.
Congratulations, JORDAN and RAHAF!
It's always great to see students collaborating to create something new. After this activity from a week ago, they blogged independently about their creations, including illustrations and labels along with explanations of their creation.
I am very proud of the students on the Honor Roll list for the first quarter.
Eleven made the list, with almost half of those making straight A's.
One-third of the class also scored well enough to make the A/B Honor Roll
for the first quarter.
A's and B's
Now, on to conquer the second half of the first half of the year!
Yesterday, we tried something new - improv. We utilized a little of the acting exercise as a stealthy little prewriting tool. That is to say, after some explanation of the "rules", I pulled volunteers to try out some short planning "shows" in a game called "Yes, And".
As the performers did their thing on the stage, the rest of the class watched. We found out two things:
Surprise! The next part of the exercise allowed just that: if students thought they could do better, now was their chance. And they were eager to get started - writing, that is.
More about Improv can be found in my book for teachers, There's No Busyness Like School Busyness.
I've often wondered if we use the words mistake and failure to interchangeably. They are not, after all, the same. I once bought a poster at Cape Canaveral that featured Apollo 13's most famous line: Failure Is Not an Option. After some thinking, I decided that failure is an option.
Of course, more thinking brought another reversal in that area. Once again, failure is not an option. Mistakes, however, are.
Steve Wyborney writes:
To be fair, there are times when failure does include a sense of finality. Sometimes, as with failing a final exam, missing a scholarship or admissions deadline, or burning the Thanksgiving turkey as the guests are arriving, failure represents both a last chance in the moment as well as an opportunity to embrace a rich learning experience. Sometimes, it's possible to return to those specific experiences and try again. (It happens all the time at the Department of Motor Vehicles.) Other times, while we may learn from our mistakes, it is too late to try again. For example, the burnt turkey cannot be undone.
I think we need to distinguish between the two. Mistakes are not failure, and if we allow our mistakes to become failures, we've made some wrong moves somewhere along the way. As educators, our task is to train our students to accept mistakes and move past them.
However, when the learning is strong, when the classroom community is resonating, and when we feel an intense sense of purpose, we may feel less inclined to reflect. Yet this may be the perfect time to stop and evaluate what is working and why. These successes may represent attaining some of the very goals for which we have been reading, which makes these times of achievement very significant. This is an especially important time to take note.
We often miss opportunities to learn from successes. Sometimes we focus so much on our mistakes that we fail (Failure is not an option!) to learn from our successes. I like this concept from Steve Wyborney in his Writing on the Classroom Wall. Focusing so much on mistakes and failures is a pretty negative way to live life. We must remember that we have strengths, as well.
Once again, balance is the order of the day.
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