An Environment of Numeracy

I just started a book study, led by Mrs. Bell and Mrs. LeSeure, on the book Guided Math by Laney Sammons.  I have only read the first few chapters so far, but am really loving it already.  The book is based on the idea of using the strategies that kiddos already know as readers (visualizing, connecting, questioning, rereading, summarizing, etc) in relation to math; the same things that we do to understand what we read can help us understand math (or any other subject, for that matter!).

So, like I said, we’re just at the beginning, but have learned the overview of the big ideas in Guided Math.  Then we were supposed to choose one that we were going to commit to change or add to our math class as we work through the book together.  My goal was to add to the environment of numeracy in my classroom: to find new and innovative ways to add math to parts of our day outside of “math time.”  The goal is to get kids thinking like mathematicians in all parts of their life at school.

One way to do this, even from the minute they walk into the room in the morning is with warm-ups.  These are quick, math-focused questions that kids answer on a chart for everyone to learn from together.  This was our warm-up from this morning:

It wasn’t a ground-breaking question, nor is it the most deeply I’ll ever ask my kids to think, but it got us focused on math right from the beginning.  I loved it when someone said they had no idea what to write and with just one question from a friend, were able to add “I used math when I had to figure out how long I had until I had to leave to go to my dad’s house” to the chart.  That’s what it’s all about really, supporting each other in our learning.

So what math did you use this weekend?  How do you involve your kids in mathematical thinking outside of “math time?”  What suggestions do you have for math questions we can use for a warm-up?  We’ve love to hear your thinking and add to ours!

Geometry Challenge for January 23

Today was one of those days when I decided to totally change my plan for math and it worked out tremendously better than the original plans. Let me tell you about it. 🙂

My kids are used to what I call “geometry challenges”, where they have to prove that a statement is true, by using what they know as mathematicians.  The first one we did was to prove that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  They worked alone or with a partner to show how that was true, or to find a way to prove that it wasn’t.  Then next one was to prove that a straight angle equals 180 degrees.  With that one, they used Power Polygons with angles that they know to show whether that statement was true or untrue.  Needless to say, they’ve totally rocked each of those situations, and really shown what they know about geometry.

So today I was headed in a totally different direction, but decided to do today’s lesson as a challenge again.  Here is what they were asked to do:

Like in the past, they had amazing things to show for the work on this challenge.  Before I show you what they did, I’m curious to know what your answer would be.  Could you answer this challenge?

Perfect Timing

Spread Love, Not Hate

Found this today and am so excited to join in!  Such great timing with what’s going on in our classroom right now, and also coincides closely with No-Name Calling Week that we are doing at school during that same time frame.  Stay tuned for more soon, and be sure to drop by on February 3 as I speak out with many others against bullying!

Links I Like

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long while now.  Mostly because my kiddos are amazing bloggers now, and many of them have started their own personal blogs at home, inspired by what we’re learning in school.  So here’s a list of blogs (some kid-created, some from teachers and some that are just inspiring to me) that I follow.  Please feel free to check them out, read a bit, and leave a comment or two!

  1. Mrs. Bearden’s Class kidblogs–We’re online!  Check us out. 🙂
  2.–Great math games organized by grade level
  3.–My kids love this one!  They even do it at home (even when I don’t tell them to!)
  4. Robinson Elementary School–Ever wonder about the amazing place where I work?
  5. Jim and Blue Guy  –Story of a cartoon character and his crazy life (Jared’s personal blog)
  6. Bill the Banana –Follow Bill the Banana on his crazy adventures (Colby’s personal blog)
  7. Hooked on Life —Find knitting patterns to make and love (Abigail’s personal blog)
  8. Cartoon and More–Crochet love (Kathryn’s personal blog)
  9. Calling all Clemson Fans–Biggest clemson fan ever! (Evan’s personal blog)
  10. Make It and Love It–I get so much inspiration here.  I’ve tried so many of these great projects!
  11. Daily Daisy (and Caleb, Too!)–My friend Carrie shares pics of her amazingly cute kids
  12. Weelicious–Have a kid to feed?  Or are you hungry for something wholesome and healthy?  You’ll find something wonderful here.  Believe me–I’ve tried it all!)
  13. Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension–I gotten so many great ideas and most of my blogging inspiration from Mrs. Ripp on her blog
  14. Picky Palate–Found some yummy, yummy stuff here.  Haven’t tried much yet, but have it in my plan soon!
  15. A Math Dictionary–We use this all the time for math help.  So organized and useful.
  16. I Heart Organizing–Just found this one the other day, but am so excited to read it and start organizing!
  17. Open the Door to B4–Our New Zealand friend, Mrs. McKenzie’s, blog in Reefton, NZ

Now as I get this far down my list I realize the thing I hate about making lists like this: I will inevitably leave someone out.  So I’ll save those for the next list.  When I remember the ones I forgot.  🙂

What links do you like?  What websites or blogs to do you follow that you find useful and helpful, either in your personal life or your classroom?  Share them with us!

Window Dressing

We moved our “We’re Connected with the World Map“, remember? Well, in order to have space to do that, we had to move the class chart we had made during our punctuation study.  Our class had the great idea of using our blinds to hand the chart, so we could see it more easily and refer to it during our conversations on the carpet.  That is, indeed, the whole point of the chart anyway, but where I had decided to hang it did not facilitate that happening.  Again–my kids had a great idea that I wish I had done in the first place!  So now our smart thinking about punctuation hangs above our heads while we work and think together in our meeting space–right where it should be!

As a String Pulled Tight

Ok, before I start, I have to warn  you that what I am about to tell you about is really so incredible that any words I choose to use won’t really do it justice, but since that’s what happens here, I’m going to give it the old college try. 🙂

There is a big long back story I could tell you about life in our room lately–the not-so-pretty part that I don’t usually post about–but I’ll just state it simply:  we have a problem with bullies in Rm. 201.

So today at lunch I made the decision, with the help of my good friend and teammate Melissa, to have a meeting about it.  We decided it was time to lay it all out.  To sit down and hash out our problems together.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about it.  I wasn’t sure we’d come to a solution today.  I wasn’t sure how long it would take.  I wasn’t sure if I’d have all the answers I needed, if kids would be willing to share, and I really wasn’t sure how the bullies would react to the conversation.

But–like I have done on many other occasions in my teaching career–I had to put that aside and take the risk.  Jump in the deep end.  Go for it and trust that we would figure it out together.  And what happened next was nothing less than remarkable.  I’m going to borrow some words from my friends’ blogs today to help tell some of the rest of the story:

  • I think this resent class meeting was amazing never been better. I’ve never seen my class mates be so cooperative and helpful. Every one was amazing. I hope that the next class meeting is no different than the one today. I think many shout out’s have been given and I hope that everybody knows how absolutely outstanding it was.
  • YYYYYYAAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had an awesome conversation today about bullies!!! I don’t know bout you, but I don’t like  bullies! But our class is so much more… fun,happy,nice, and friendly! I have never seen anything like it! it’s amazing!!! I am not scared to leave my things  out. We discovered who the bullying was.  So nice to know what was going on but now we do good bye bully’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)
  • Today after lunch Mrs. Bearden pulled the entire class to the carpet in a circle to talk about bullies. The tension in the room was so bad, it was like I was a string being pulled really hard. We handeled it soooooooo well it was amazing! Mrs. Bearden said to tell names which no teacher has ever asked me before. It was scary I was afraid that if I said anything to someone, that they would get mad. But when the brave people in our room stepped up, It was amazing everyone was great. And it got even better when a friend of mine stepped up and said that she would like to say sorry to every one she had hurt.

             That broke the string.

                After that we talked about apoligies and eventually came to saying that we will start fresh.    Right   now as I am blogging well you probably not reading this as I am typing it, but as I am I hear people who would not usually laugh together, are. Every thing feels great in here. Especialy after we all had 2 billion pounds on our shoulders when we were talking about bullies.

  • Today, are schedule changed after lunch/recess–a lot. Wait! Let me say that again–a lot.Here is how it went…We stopped in the familiar 3rd grade hallway on our way to room 201. Mrs. Bearden announced that when we walked into the classroom, we would not be sitting on the carpet facing her rocking chair, but in a circle. We were all very confused, but did it anyway. We all sat on the carpet in a circle. Mrs. Bearden sat with us and said “We have some bullies in our class” Everyone’s eyes paced around the room, searching for the bullies. Then, Mrs. Bearden said that this was just like a class-meeting, except we would be mentioning names. Silence. That was when the action happened.Everyone said something about how they have been bullied and who bullied them. When I was done with mine, I cried. I was so scared because I didn’t know what the bully would say to me about me sharing the scene when I was bullied. But everything was fine. The bullies said sorry in a serious, emotional way–they even got an applause. The one who bullied me came to me privately and said sorry. Everyone was so happy after the hour-and-twenty-five minute meeting.
  • People in my class are so nice. They tought me not to take that anger out on them just because my brother did that to me.  And they didn’t do that to me. They are just trying to help me and be kind and try to be my friend. I really thank Evan for been a really good or really really great host. I am so sorry. Tomorrow a new girl is going to be walking in this class and is going to hang out with people a lot. I said that stuff from my heart. I had almost cried when I heard all the people say my name. It was like a radio going. I was like “I really did this stuff to these people.” I was so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so sorry. I really think Evan can be a great host.  The show can be called “The Evan C. Football Player Show”. So thank you everybody and I am sorry for what I did. I am so sorry for calling you a big elephant head and sorry for being mean all the time. And I mean all the time. Sorry. Bye!

This meeting, which was not structured like our usual class meetings, was a truly amazing scene.  I wished that I had taped it, so you could really see and hear what happened.  I was beyond impressed and proud with how bold and brave and honest everyone was.  They were so respectful and real while they calmly aired their grievances and talked about how they felt.  There was a natural leader that arose, and he did such a super job of synthesizing, restating and clarifying what the group was saying.

After about an hour-and-a-half, we got to a place where we clearly understood 1) what the problem was, 2) why some of it was happening, and 3) what we were going to do about it.  The feeling in the room was calm and relaxed and we knew that everything was (and is) going to be all right.  Obviously we didn’t solve all the world’s problems during that session, and we know it’s not going to be easy, but we have hope.  We know what we’re capable of, and trust that we will do what say we will do.

Time will tell, but I believe we’re on the right track. I think we’re at a fork in the road, a turning point.  We grew together today, had a shared experience that we can use as a benchmark for the future.  We’re closer, and we care more for each other.  So many people left with such great energy that I know it will affect us in a really meaningful way.

Remember all the times I’ve said my kids were amazing?  More proof today of how that statement is true.

What stories do you have about bullies in the classroom?  What advice do you have for my students about how to deal with bullies?  When have you had a scary conversation that ended up better than you’d expected?  We’d love to hear from you!

Kids Have the Best Ideas

Remember this? We started this map a little bit ago and have been so excited to watch the pins get added to mark all the connections we’re making!

Friday was class meeting day, and so the thing that everyone wanted to talk about was our Making Connections Map.  I thought that was odd at first, because I didn’t know what there was to talk about with it.  But that’s what’s really cool about how our class meetings work (if you haven’t read about them yet, check it out here): they’re in charge of what they want to talk about, and usually their ideas are WAY better than what I would have suggested anyway. It’s there classroom, too, after all, and they know what issues are bugging them as well as I do (sometimes better!).

So it ended up that they wanted to talk about the process of putting the pins on the map.  And they wanted to talk about how I shouldn’t have to do it all by myself.  Somebody even said, “Come on, guys, Mrs. Bearden was nice enough to not give us any homework, and so we should be nice to her and take care of this ourselves.”  Love it, right?  Then they decided that since the Manager’s job (maybe I should post about our classroom jobs some day soon) to check in homework, and they don’t have that responsibility anymore, then the Manager should be the one who is in charge of adding new pins to the map each week.  Which actually makes perfect sense, since we want the map to be interactive and usually I am the only one interacting with it!  Loved the idea of how it meant they could each get their paws on it, and be responsible to find the places for the pins.  I actually though, “Duh, Mrs. Bearden.  You probably should have thought of that initially–it’s kind of the point of the whole project.”  But now it’s even better because it was my 5th grade friends who reminded me of this fact.  Thank you, friends.

Another decision they made–which I agreed with again–was that our map was entirely too small!  We had so many pins already and they were all on top of each other.  Just St. Louis alone had about 6 or 7 because we marked them as each individual town.  So we found a bigger map and hung it up and we LOVE IT!  Check it out:

They decided to move it to the other side of the room to that big wall by the door.  It’s easier to get to, and it’s somewhere we’re always walking by, so we could look at it and talk about it really easily, too.

Most of our pins right now are in the US and Canada, and our new map makes them much easier to see.

It might look like we have a lot of blog followers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (or like my map friends don’t know where Missouri is!), but those are actually linked to a pin that’s on St. Louis.  We had a really interesting conversation about how we could label our own hometown in all of those ways.  So far we have blog commenters from St. Peters, Florissant, Fenton, Webster Groves, Crestwood, Kirkwood, and Bel Ridge–all part of the metropolitan St. Louis area.

But this still might be my favorite pin.  Courtesy of Judy McKenzie in New Zealand.  Check out her class blog here. 🙂

The Other Side of Me

I’m a teacher.  I love what I do, and try to do a really good job of it.  But I’m also a lot of other things–wife, mom, friend, sister, daughter, writer, crafter, runner.  I love what I do, but it’s the other things I do outside of school that keep me going, make it possible for me to stay balanced so I can do the best job I can with my students.

So I thought I’d take a minute to write about how I’ve been nurturing the other side of me lately.

On Winter Break, I had a lot of  down time.  I filled in a lot of that time sewing.  It’s a new hobby that has come up for me just since my baby girl was born; it seemed that there were many more things that a little princess needed than when Riley was a baby.  So that was the spark, but it’s grown into a crazy crafting fire!   Here’s what’s come out of my sewing room recently:

Sweater dress made from a shirt I don’t wear anymore.  Loved how the sleeve detail looked on those tiny sleeves!

Another sweater dress–this one from a “too-itchy, too-small” donation from her big brother.  Again, loved the details on this one: sleeves match the bottom, pleats on the sleeves and top of the neck.

Made these from leftover material from Riley’s Peter Pan Halloween costume.  The ruffles were a cute addition, right?  My favorite part. 🙂

These little pants were for baby girl’s birthday party.  Again re-purposing an old shirt I don’t wear.  There were really cute in the cake-smooshed-on-the-face pics.

Wish this picture came out better, but these were a Winter Break project to help corral all the new Super Hero toys Riley got for Christmas.  Love how they turned out.  So quick and easy.  Was thinking about making more of these for manipulatives or games in the classroom!

Mesh bag ($1 from GoodWill, 3 pieces of ribbon I already had, 30 minutes and two suction cups later, our tub toys have a new, drier home!

                                Baby girl’s GOTTA have bows in their hair.  And so then I had to make a board to keep them all organized.  This was my first project with Mod Podge.  Next one will be a little neater.

Ok, so this is a picture of the scarf, not me. 🙂  This was one of the first things I’ve made for myself.  It’s a knit scarf made all scrunchy with elastic thread.  This will become an easy gift for others–or for me! I want one in black now.

These were too-small pants that I added ruffles to.  Now she can wear them again and they are so much cuter than before.  Again, an old shirt of mine that wasn’t wearable anymore. 🙂

We’re a cloth diapering family, and I’ve been busy refreshing all of the Velcro on our diapers.  This job is super simple, but takes much longer than you’d think, but still so much fun!


This is probably my favorite project to date.  It’s a messenger bag that has straps that snap on to the stroller.  And I LOVE the the inside red and the print.  I think I’m gonna try this in a different size and shape next.

Ok, so I know–this is not a post about life in a 5th grade classroom.  But it is about the life of a 5th grade teacher, and so somehow it’s fair game, right?  Thanks for indulging me. 🙂

Oh, and don’t want to forget to mention that these are not my original ideas.  Ashley at is my cyberspace mentor and inspiration.  It’s just my sewing machine and me doing the work.

A Conversation about Homework

We had a great conversation in our class today.  I wasn’t surprised that it was great, because like I’ve told you before a hundred times, I have really amazing kids.  Here’s what happened:

In our classroom, Wednesday is homework day.  Today, however, instead of sending home the homework sheet, we had a conversation about a decision that our 5th grade team has made to not do that weekly homework sheet anymore.

What follows are some of the things my kids said in response to that announcement:

  • I think that’s great, but I’m not sure my parents will believe me when I tell them.
  • But what about next year?  I don’t think I’ll be ready for homework in middle school.
  • I think it’s a good idea because I’ll have time to play outside now.
  • Well, even if you don’t tell me to, I’ll still read and write at home anyway.
  • I think that even if you don’t send home homework to do, my parents will still give me things to work on anyway.
  • I don’t like that idea.  I’m just not sure about it.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised by some of them.  Maybe naively, I figured they would all think it was a great idea.  But I love that they were honest about what they were thinking, and that they were asking questions.  I have very thoughtful friends, and so several of them asked me about how long we’ve been thinking about it and how we had decided to do this.

I was happy to share with them what this announcement meant for them, and what it did not:

  • It does mean that they will not receive a weekly homework sheet of have-tos that they are to turn in on Tuesday.
  • It does not mean that they will never have homework, though.  Just not weekly, busy-work kind of homework.
  • It does mean that I expect them to use every minute we are in the classroom together wisely.  We cram a lot of learning into a day and I expect that they remember this and work hard.
  • It does mean that some days there will be things we will have time to start–but not finish–in class.  These things may have to go home for homework to be completed because we will need it for the next day.
  • It does mean that I want them to have more time to spend being a kid.  Doing things they want to do like play outside, ride their bike or spend time with their families.
  • It does not mean that I want them to stop reading and writing at home.  I am just not telling them they have to.  I want them to want to, and continue doing so.  (Many admitted that they would do this anyway, even if it wasn’t homework)
  • It does mean we will still have spelling tests each week.  We will find times to work on this practice during the school day.
  • It does not mean that I think my kiddos should go home and sit in front of the TV or video games all night long.  I hope that now they use their time to choose to do active things with their families or friends.
  • It does mean that I want them to continue to work had and love to learn.

I can’t wait to hear about how the conversation went when they went home tonight!  🙂