New Friends in New Jersey

Yes, we did it again.  Third Skype in three weeks!  This one was a little different from the first Mystery Skype and the second one we did last week.  This time the location wasn’t a mystery; 4th graders from Lakehurst, NJ wanted to connect with students in the Midwest since their class was studying our region, so we just chatted.  SO many thanks to Mr. Bedell (@jasontbedell) for setting it up and Ms. Lambusta for being game to try Skype for the first time with her class!

The structure was similar to what we’ve done before, but since we knew that our new “friends” were going to ask us a whole slew of questions, we decided to find a way to give everyone more “screen time” during our Skype session.  I paired everyone up and they had two jobs: answer a question and ask a question.  We went through the first round and they asked us, then we asked them some questions.

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We were really interested to find out that one of the “specials” classes the 4th graders went to was Spanish.  There were lots of ooohs and ahhhs when they shared that nugget; kids in our school district don’t have an option for a foreign language until middle school.  We learned that Minecraft is a big deal both in NJ and MO, that they lived close to the ocean and were affected by Hurricane Sandy, and that their school is near a naval base.  Pizza was a popular school lunch (as are chicken nuggets!), and kids from both classes like to play sports games on their game systems.

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We had a great conversation with our new friends in New Jersey and then began thinking and talking.  We talked about whether we liked Mystery Skype or this type of chat better.  It was pretty much 50/50; many liked the “guessing” part of a Mystery Skype because it was a challenge to their brains, and many others liked the “regular” Skype because they liked the opportunity to ask and answer questions more related to them than geography.

That got us thinking about other ways we could use Skype.  Ames suggested that there were probably lots of other things that could be a mystery when we Skype besides location.  That comment made me think of a list I read from Krissy Venosdale (@ktvee) where she shared ideas for just that!  We also thought we could combine them both and first figure out the location, then get to know them better like we did this time.  Both great ideas!

I am so excited with how excited my students are during these types of activities.  They thirst for new ideas and enjoy trying new things, especially when they involve technology.  I LOVE that they trust me when I say, “Hey, I heard about this–how about we try it?!”  They are game for ANYTHING!

Besides being excited to try this again, we’re excited to invite other classes to join us!  One of our 5th grade neighbors is going to sit in on our next Mystery Skype so they can learn more about it.  Maybe we could even start marking our Skypes on our map of connections and try to get every state!  Wouldn’t that be cool?!

So…do YOU want to Skype with us?  Comment here or contact me on Twitter (@jenbearden).  We’d love to meet you!

 

We’re Connecting with the World. Again. :)

If you’ve been here for a while, then you know about the map that hangs in our classroom.  And then how it changed after some really good suggestions from some really smart 5th graders. If you’re new here, or you haven’t read those past posts, then let me tell you about it.
Blogging is a great activity for so many reasons.  I read blog post from fellow teacher and blogger Pernille Ripp the other day that really summed up everything I wanted to say about the “why” of blogging.  One of the really important benefits, which goes along with Common Core beautifully, is the global connection that blogging brings with it.  Children have the opportunity to reach outside themselves, sometimes to “talk” to people from places they’ve never heard of or don’t know much about.

 

In our classroom, we have this map.  Right now it looks really sad and empty:

But it doesn’t have to stay like that, and that’s where you come in.  On this map, we’re going to keep track of the places from where all of our comments come.   As readers leave comments–and tell us where they live–we’ll put in pins to show us all the places where we’ve made a connection.  We’re hoping to be able to reach as many countries and continents as we can!  So far, we actually have had comments from several places in Missouri, Alabama (thanks Mrs. Clark!), Kentucky (thanks Mr. Browning!), Argentina (courtesy of @gret in Buenos Aires!), Alaska (thanks Ms. Girard), and Australia (from Mr. Mannell, who is a regular visitor to our blog!)!  I’m a little late in getting those in, but partly because I was hoping that after this post, we’d have tons more to add!
So…if you are willing, after you read this blog, or our kid blogs, leave a comment and tell us what you think (and maybe if you’ve already commented, but didn’t tell us your location, come back again)!  Please tell us where in the world you live, so we can add you to our global connections!  We’re excited to see how our knowledge of the world grows as our pins are added and we continue on this journey!  Thanks in advance for your help!  We’re excited to meet you. 🙂

Reading Museum

All during the first week of school, we spent our time in activities to get to know each other better.  During our second week, we continued, but with the focus of getting to know each other better as learners.

So on Friday during Reader’s Workshop, we held a Reading Museum.

The idea was simple, really.  Each reader in our room–including me!–set up an “exhibit” that told something about themselves as readers.  Then we went around to each exhibit (after having a quick conversation about expectations–you have to act a certain way in a museum, after all) to see what each person laid out.  We made connections to other readers’ books and asked questions we had, too.

Once we were finished, we debriefed on what we had learned during this activity and how it would help us in the future.   What a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon!

Check out some pictures from our museum:

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Have you ever been a part of a Reading Museum?  What books would you put in your exhibit?  We chose books that we liked, that we’ve read over and over, that someone read to us when we were little, etc.  We’d love to hear about your selections!  Leave us a comment, please! 🙂

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!

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. 🙂

Are you connected?

Today I was at school all by myself.  Ok, not all by myself, but without any students there.  It was a work day for teachers before students return tomorrow.  And it’s definitely a nice way to ease back into the school routine slowly.

I had a couple of goals today, one of them being this new bulletin board:

It’s right at the front of the room, behind the rocking chair I sit in for read aloud and much of our carpet time.  I hope it becomes a place where we can have daily conversations about the world, specifically about the people and places we’re connecting with via our blogs.  The plan is to mark the places where visitors (and those who leave comments) to our site are from.  I anticipate some really rich conversations around culture and geography will spark from this map–thanks to you, our readers.  Can’t wait to see how full the board becomes as the year goes on.

Will you help us?  We’d love to set the goal of getting as many different pins as possible on our map! Be sure to leave us a comment after you read and tell us a little about your town and yourself.  My kids would love it if you did the same on their blogs, as well, which can be found at www.kidblog.org/MrsBeardensClass2.

Can’t wait to see who we will meet this year!