What Do You Do With a Problem?

I am sure you’ve seen this book:

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It’s not a new one, but I just recently read it for the first time to my class.  Ms. Turken, my co-teacher, and I had decided to start our year back after Winter Break with some reminders and reteaching about problem-solving.  We started with this book, as well with a structure for what to do when they encounter a problem.

I was so excited with how much my kiddos loved this book, and as usual, they had SUPER ideas about it and how they could apply the story to themselves.  The LOVED the way the problem got bigger (with the big black swirls) as he put off solving it, and they all agreed the best thing to do with a problem is just to figure out how to tackle it, not ignore it. 🙂

Once we finished the story, Nicholas had a great idea of how we should share what we had learned with others. Then, as is so commonplace (and so great!) with our class, kids kept adding their own thoughts to his original idea and they had birthed a plan where we’d have a whole display/presentation about problems they’d found (and problems they’d had) as well as possible solutions to those problems (which was part of our protocol we’d been learning about).  I told them that I would chew on the idea and talk to Ms. Turken about it over the weekend and get back to them.

As we talked about where we’d go with their grand plans, and it was a PERFECT fit with where we were going in Social Studies–don’t you love it when that happens?? 🙂  We were getting ready to start a history unit, and we decided to go with their excitement about problems/solutions and frame the thinking about how solutions to past problems can help us today.  We’d done that in a past year as we highlighted important people and it seemed like a great continuation and honoring of what kids were already interested in!  Again, love it when that happens–student voice is honored and our goals/standards are met at the same time!

So…our plan was to start with read alouds that show how people from the past (which was a word we had to spend a couple of days investigating because we couldn’t agree on the definition!) solved problems, having kiddos chew on this question as they listen and learn:

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We chose to read the same books to each of our classes, building on what one group of thinkers came up with and sharing it with the other group.   We have chosen books about smart and creative people, both men and women, some black and some white.  The focus has been the same, and kiddos are getting pretty good at finding the themes.  So far we’ve read these books:

I was tickled today, too, as our friend Addy heard someone say, “Take a picture of me!” and she said, “James VanDerZee!”, remembering one of the first books Ms. Turken read to us last week.  She reminded me of what the book was about and told me all about how it’s been one of her favorites. 🙂

Hear the rest (of this part) of the story here:

I’d love you to leave your comments below, and suggest some books you’d read in a history unit about problem solving!  We’re SO open to hearing about great new books!

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of April 25-29, 2016

We have been on a roll with warm-ups lately, and maybe since we’re still talking about many different things, they’ve given us a way to keep all the balls in the air.  Love that.  Enjoy! 🙂

Monday

One of the topics we’re working on right now is the foundation of fractions, and understanding about equal parts.  This warm-up led to a GREAT conversation about how 1/5 is always a 1/5, but the actual portion that is being considered changes based on the whole.  Oh, and we were all hungry when we were finished. 🙂

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Tuesday

It seems like addition and subtraction is a never-ending concept with 2nd graders, and we’re still working on it.  Oh well, as long as it takes.  School year’s not over yet and they can get it! Here was another opportunity to practice.

Wednesday

Ok, so I need to explain that that picture is a pizza, not a target.  It’s based on a picture we had looked at the day before in a math conversation.  It was based on an 8-slice pizza and how we could share it fairly if twice as many people showed up for our party.  This was the way one group suggested we do it, and we had to discuss whether we agreed if it was fair.  Which piece would you want? 🙂

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Thursday

We had a FABULOUS walking field trip on Thursday at the time we normally do math warm-ups, so didn’t have one that day.  We had a great day in the park and a movie instead! 🙂 (Don’t worry–it was connected to our curriculum!)

Friday

Another topic (which I found a way to weave into this conversation, too!) is the foundation of multiplication.  We told many stories of groups of things with this one.  Great thinking, Rm. 202 kiddos!

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Design Challenge: Earthquake Proof Buildings

A week or so ago I saw this tweet:

Since we had been studying slow changes and fast changes in Science for a while anyway, it made perfect sense to try it out!  And unfortunately, there had also just been some major earthquakes in both Japan and Ecuador that same weekend, so the idea of creating earthquake proof buildings was a real life one to solve.  And yeah, it would be fun. 🙂

We began by reading a pretty great Seymour Simon book on earthquakes to gain more information, and answer any questions that might come up about how they work.  Knowing exactly what happens helps us build stronger buildings that would withstand the tremors.

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We talked and discussed and made predictions and inferences.  Then we got with our partners and planned–most on paper and some with some help from their iPad.

Then we got busy building.  The 1st building part was actually spread over two days (an afternoon and then the next morning) because we ran out of time.

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We used this design cycle protocol to help us know what to do, and wrote down the timing so we could keep on track.

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Some even tried out their prototype on the earthquake machine before the “real” deal.  They got some ideas about redesign or shoring up their foundations.

Caught some groups in their planning stages:

We took videos of our trials, and many kiddos voiced their ideas for redesign in their recordings.  We all did some writing/thinking about it, but I’ll share those in another post, since after I add our videos, this piece will already take you 7 hours to read it!  Thanks for hanging in there–it’s worth it, I promise!!

Charlie, Evan and Joshua


Ella Marie and Emily


Millie, Amelia, Ja’Mia and Tyrin


Makayla and Ava


Amber, Sara and Thomas


Peyton, Baron and Landen

Forces that Shape the Earth: Slow and Fast Changes

I shared some building challenges we had done a couple of weeks ago, where we solidified our understanding of both bodies of water and landforms.   We still had some thinking to do, as well as demonstrating that we understood the difference between slow changes and fast changes that happen on Earth.  Besides using things like Legos, big blocks, pattern blocks, and other things to build with, we often incorporate art into our science and social studies work and represent ideas with pictures.  This was one of those times.  It was a mural/collage project, much like these that have happened in 5th grade (with both regular units as well as with test preparation).

Our first step was to jot down what we remembered about slow and fast changes we’d already learned about.  We made this chart together:

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We brainstormed what we knew about the difference between slow/fast, as well as examples of each, and the causes for these effects on the land: wind, water and ice.  Their directions were then to create a representation (2D with paper and other art supplies) that everyone could recognize and explain when they looked at the poster.  No words (except for the two parts of EROSION and WEATHERING since these were important vocabulary terms) were allowed.

While kiddos worked, they went through the design cycle as they planned, created, tested (by sharing their representation with another group or two to see if others could recognize the concept they were trying to display), redesigned and then shared by putting their creation on our poster.  This mural did a couple of things for Rm. 202 learners–helped them solidify understanding of concepts, demonstrate that understanding, as well as remind them of that learning as they connect the picture to the idea in their heads.  I plan on using the images on this poster as a part of our assessment at the end of the unit (I just haven’t fleshed out exactly what that will look like yet…still in the design phases!).

Here are the images on our mural.  Can you tell what each of them represent?

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Each one up close.  Half are slow changes and half are fast changes.  Oh, and there is one image that we thought was an example of both:

I was really impressed with the diligence portrayed while they worked on this project.  There were a couple of pairs who had to go through 2 or 3 versions of their creation before they figured out one that made sense to someone but themselves.  There was lots of cooperation and suggestion that happened during our work session, too, as kiddos bounced ideas off each other, shared supplies and asked other pairs for help.  Another example of an engaging, motivating and focused way to practice science without pencil/paper or just reading about it.  Way to go, Rm. 202 scientists!

If you want, leave us a comment about what you think our pictures are images of.  We’d love to share our learning with you.  What questions do you have?  We’re becoming experts on these ideas of forces that shape the land! 🙂

Design Challenge: Bodies of Water

We have been studying Earth and how it changes.  We’ve talked about slow changes like weathering and erosion; fast changes like earthquakes, volcanoes and floods; landforms  like plateaus, mountains, plains, barrier islands (which I have to admit I didn’t really know about!); and about bodies of water.  Because we needed to breathe a little bit of life into our work after having been discussing and watching videos for a few days, and because I know my kiddos are builders and creators at heart, I tried to figure out a design challenge of sorts that we could try.  There were many options I could have employed (and still might), but I thought that bodies of water would be a nice place to start.

So kiddos chose groups (in 4s) and then I explained their job: Create a representation of the body of water they get (I passed out cards to each group) so that everyone else can guess what it is.  They had options for research before they got started if they needed clarification on the characteristics of their body of water, and they could use whatever supplies in our room that they wanted.  There was a 30 minute time limit.

So do you think you can guess what each one is?  Try it out.  Here is body of water #1, a picture and a video (oh, and the video might have a spoiler, so guess before you watch it!):

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Ok, here’s #2:

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Try it with group #3:

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Group #4 made this:

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Check out #5, made with Legos:

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Ok, and now that you’re done, check your answers.  Promise that you’ve tried it?

#1–ocean    #2–creek    #3–lake     #4–river       #5–bay

The best part?  We had fun, we learned alot and the only thing I’ve heard since we finished is “When are we going to do this again??” 🙂

Second Grade Math Warm-Ups: Week of April 4-8, 2016

We started a new unit this week on geometry, but aren’t all quite solid with adding and subtracting within 1000 yet, so we came back to that as well.

Monday

Somehow I got home today (it’s Friday, when I usually post these while I am eating pizza and watching our family movie) without a picture of Monday’s MWU.  Oh well, I’ll just tell you.  The chart simply asked the question “What is a polygon?”  Well, I thought it asked it simply, but I was surprised that many kiddos answered it very differently than I expected.  What I thought I was asking them to tell me was the definition of a polygon.  What most of them game me was a picture of a hexagon.  Those that didn’t draw a hexagon pretty much described one in a few words.  I was puzzled by their responses, but as has happened more than once with these problems, it was a great lesson in asking better questions.  Had I asked “What is the definition of a polygon?” or even “Use words to tell what you know about polygons,” it would have made more sense to them.  I guess I did get information that they knew that a hexagon was a polygon, and that they didn’t understand the word itself, too, so it wasn’t a total wash. LOL

Tuesday

This one was another attempt at a vocabulary question, and was based on responses to the pretest from our geometry unit.  We had a great conversation about the difference between these two things, and how one is for 2D shapes and the other is for 3D.  We got out the rectangular prism and a Power Polygon that was a square and looked at the differences.  Oh, and notice how they connected the word “difference” with comparison, and so many of them drew a Venn Diagram.  Nice work, Rm. 202 kiddos!

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Thursday

This was a great day, because Ja’Mia and Ava volunteered to create our Math Warm-Up (like has happened with lots of things in our room lately!), so I told them to have a go.  They had to solve their problem, too, so that they would know if we got it right.  Unfortunately I changed the numbers just a teeny bit when I wrote it, but I do know I got the -18 part correct from their original problem.  Check it out:

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Want to explain a couple of things on the chart, based on our conversation.  The 900 at the top is because we talked about how estimating the answer before we solve the problem is a way of helping us know if we’re right.  We knew that the 300 and 500 would be at least 800, but then since both of the numbers were so big, it would be closer to 900 than 800.  We decided that the 69 in 369 was screaming at us (do you hear it??) that we should compensate and make the problem easier so we moved 1 from the 532 and made 370+531.  Then we moved 30 over to the 370 to make 400 and added together the resulting numbers.  Once we got to 901 – 18, we remembered what we had learned about constant difference and knew that if we added the same thing to both numbers we could get the same answer with an easier problem–thus we did 903-20, which is super easier than subtracting 18.  I was impressed with their hard work and glad to see that so many of them could apply the strategies we’ve been practicing.

Friday

Today is a busy morning usually, because we do a Week-in-Review sheet that takes the place of the math warm-up.  Often we don’t even get to it, but I decided to try it as our right-back-from-recess activity and it worked pretty well.  We tried another one like yesterday’s but I changed the numbers a bit.

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This one has many annotations, too.  Let me explain:

We had to have a quick explanation of the directions, as many of them thought I meant that they should use their calculator.   I just meant I wanted them to figure it out. 🙂  The 800 is our estimate, which we figured out by thinking about 500 + 400, but then realizing that 73 is about 100 so we subtracted that next.  The red words were a request for a reminder of the strategies we have learned (as well as a reminder that I still owe them an anchor chart!): Circle, Split, Add; Circle, Split, Add with a number line; splitting; a chart that we’d used during our investigation into the T-Shirt Factory (that is really a visual form of regrouping 10s/1s); and compensation (making an easier problem).  As we were deciding upon a strategy to try together, I reminded them that good mathematicians choose one based on what the numbers tell them, not based on their favorite or the one they know the best.  Kiddos decided that the numbers were telling them to subtract first, because they noticed that the 75 in 475 could help us subtract the 73.  Once we rearranged the numbers, we realized our problem was a SUPER easy addition problem.

On a side note, at our class meeting today, the topic of math came up and many kiddos marked it as their “trouble spot” with a red dot.

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Again I was puzzled by this (probably because I define trouble spots as places where our class has something to figure out together or areas/activity where our choices could use some reworking and they instead mark them as things that were hard for them to figure out), so I had them explain.  Many said that the warm-ups were hard this week because they had to both add and subtract in the same problem.  We came to the conclusion that it was probably “hard” because we still needed practice.  We also discussed that labeling something as “hard” can sometimes lead us to believe we can’t do it.  If our self-talk is always negative instead of saying “I just don’t get it YET”, that ends up being our reality because we’ve quit trying.  We agreed that I could give them just one operation in a problem and that they would work on positive self-talk as they tackled these tricky problems next week. Win/win. 🙂

 

Mystery Skype–For Real!

You might remember that last year we prepared for a Mystery Skype by Skyping with Ms. Turken’s class INSIDE of our school.  We were ready and had a plan, but then our Skype that we had scheduled fell through.  Somehow we didn’t get another on the books until this year.  So a week or so ago we did a Mystery NUMBER Skype with Ms. Bartin’s class at Keysor–the next step above someone in our school is in our school district. hee hee

Then, when I tweeted about how much fun we’d had, I asked for any takers on another Mystery Skype.  We quickly got a bite from Mrs. LaRose’s 2nd graders!  We quickly put a day and time on the schedule and I got busy getting my class ready for the big time.

Since a few years ago when I did this with 5th graders, I have made some new “friends” on Twitter and knew that they would be the right ones to go to for help.  Paul Solarz, 5th grade teacher extraordinaire and author of Learn Like a Pirate has some GREAT Mystery Skype resources, and I used many of them to get us prepared for our conversation.

It started with determining our jobs.  While Mr. Solarz has 5th graders and does most of his Mystery Skype work online, we were still able to use many of their listed jobs, modified a little to fit our needs.

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While I think that Mr. Solarz assigns jobs, we had a meeting before we got started and I explained each job, then we decided who should do each one.  If more than the allotted number wanted a specific job, kiddos had to find a way to decide who should do it (many of them played rock-paper-scissors to get to a decision).  In the end, we agreed that the right people were in the right jobs, based on their strengths and personalities.

I was excited (as were they) and even though I had done this many times before, I really didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t done it with this format in any other session previously.  Because we were ready a little early (ok, I did that on purpose), we were able to practice.  We were able to run through the whole deal twice, with me pretending to be the other class and them trying out their assigned jobs (thanks, Mr. Solarz for that idea–it was SUPER helpful!).  First I was in Illinois (Chicago, actually) and then I was in Florida (ok, fine–Orlando).  If you know me at all, you could probably guess those would have been my choices.  Ok, fine, they probably had a little head start on that, too.  Anyway…

While we were working, I was surprised with how busy everyone was, how well they worked together and how quiet but bustling the room was!  We were even able to host a few teachers who wanted to see what this whole Mystery Skype thing was about without any real trouble.  Thanks for Ja’Mia and Landen for submitting the pictures for this post, and for Khalani for taking the video.

Check out our archives from our first-ever REAL Mystery Skype!

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After we were finished, we sat down to debrief and it was great how excited they all still were–I had them turn and talk so everyone could get all their thoughts out, then they shared some with me.  Here is a little of what kiddos said, some positive and some things we might change:

I liked holding up the “Good job” sign, it made me feel great to see everyone focusing, learning and doing the right thing! -Sara

I thought it was fun and I really wanted to do a good job to help out our class! -Thomas

I liked that I helped find Vermont! -Amber

I didn’t like walking around the whole time. -Landen

I liked my job because I got to remind people. -Ella Marie

I thought it was tricky trying to find a question.  -Emily

I liked it when Nate and Charlie asked about the time zone. -Lawrence

I like that my behavior was good.  I got a “good job” card and I really wanted to do my very best for our class! -Jacob

I liked being a greeter.  I was good at that job because I am friendly. -Joshua

I liked learning things that I didn’t know about our state. -Ava

I liked learning about maps. -Evan

We also debriefed on jobs.  The consensus was that there were too many researchers, and that we needed to add a couple of new ones: Tweeters and Closers.  Mrs. Sisul, our principal, texted me during our session and asked that I make sure to Tweet since she couldn’t make it and I could not believe that I hadn’t even thought about it!  We will definitely find some friends to do that next time, as well as choose two friendly kiddos to close the call and say thanks and good bye.  🙂

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One more thing…it’s very long and it’s kind of shaky–it’s our first time, after all–but I think it gives a great example of all the hustle, bustle and hard work that was happening during our Mystery Skype.  We’d love to hear what you think, especially if you notice anything or have any questions.