Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Research Rotations or, an ode to post-its and highlighters.

I tried something new this week! I am calling it research rotations, I checked out about 50 books from the public library about maps. I had a stack of about 6-8 at each table, with about 10 sheets of ruled paper on top. I also added highlighters and post its to the supply bins (which already have pencils and crayons). I showed them some examples of my notes - how I like to use different colors and symbols to remember and remind myself to go back or try out. I also color code, for example: a blue 5 stands for 5th grade and everything in that same blue color means it is done in 5th grade, etc.

The plan was to have them read/take notes for a short time and then rotate to another table. However, they were so into it, that we didn't even switch! I will change the tables next time and give them new paper/books, and see what happens.

And the rules are: your paper cannot be blank at the end of the period. Other than that, there are no rules! I did this with gifted 1st and 2nd graders, and they blew me away!

In 1st group, we looked at maps, magnets, compasses, and navigation books, and they had blank white paper (they are not really ready for ruled paper yet). 
This made it easier for the kids to write/draw/highlight/post it however they wanted, rather than being restricted by lines/margins, etc. (which really doesn't make sense to them, yet).

I had checked out specific books for what was going to be a major collaboration over the classroom, library, computer lab, and the makerspace about compasses.

The Scrambled States of America Cover Image

The first week, we read The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller.

Then we looked at map books.


The 2nd week, before the students looked at the books again,  I asked the students why they think books on magnets and books on maps go together...guiding them toward compasses. Then I explained that the books included maps, magnets, compasses, and navigation books. Then we looked at all of the books!

The 3rd week, we read Bob and Joss Get Lost! by Peter McCleery, illustrated by Vin Vogel. Then we looked at real maps, along with all the books!

Next year we are planning on making our own compasses in our makerspace, after 3d printing pieces in computer lab, and of course, researching what we need in the library and their classroom.
We were going to try this this year, but couldn't get certain parts in time. Since I'd already checked out all the books, I still wanted them to look over them and get a better sense of maps.

In 2nd group, we only looked at map books, and they had ruled paper. 

We had a quick discussion of what side is "right side up" on ruled paper:
The dots are to the left and the larger blank space is at the top.
The larger blank space is usually for a header, with your name, title, and date of your work. We started with name and titles.
The dots are so you can easily add it to a 3 ring binder (I showed them my very messy lesson planning binder).

A girl after my own heart: bullet points and maps and colors!

This student wrote how he "detested" that some of the books were wrong!

We have been working on reading and questioning our sources!


Yes, they are, buddy! 

Then this student drew maps! 

Underlined "shapes, colors, lines"...the teacher has been working on highlighting IMPORTANT words, and not ALL the words..so great to see! 

"A map is like your looking down from the sky. "

I showed them a note I had taken where I drew a flower to remind me to go back, think more, and try something out - or "grow" my learning. She drew a flower!

Love this color and post it work!


Overall, we learned MANY things, at our own pace. I even sat down with my book and the notes I had showed them; and I read and took notes too! We have modeled all these ideas before, and it was amazing to see them put together their own thoughts and understandings. They even pointed out that some books had older copyrights or simply wrong information - we also talked about writing to the publisher to change information! I learned that the love of highlighters and post-its is universal, and we will do this again! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Book Review: Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Title: Front Desk
Author: Kelly Yang
Publisher: Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine
Copyright: 2018
Date read: 5/16/18

Mia Tang is 10 years old and has a job.

She is the manager at the Calivista Motel!

This job is full of danger and kindness, and along with being a 5th grader, she can be very busy! This story is about Kelly Yang's experiences as a child, she is a first generation Chinese American, and she and her parents really did manage a motel when she was a child.

Mia's parents help other Chinese immigrants when they need a place to stay.

One of the immigrants doesn't understand why he was fired, and it turns out he had said "hey baby" to a customer...this shed light on how we use language and how idioms can trip up non native speakers.

This story also brought up some school memories and reminded me of my school experiences; and to strive to continually grow and learn as a teacher - so that my students don't feel like the "other" in the classroom either!

She talks about how the picture of a Chinese man has grossly exaggerated eyebrows, this reminded me of learning about India in the 7th grade. We watched a video about life in India, where tigers and snakes crossed the streets. Obviously, this wasn't true. In this same class, we watched another video where Chinese ate dogs. I STILL remember both vividly and thinking, there are so many facts missing! I remember thinking, how could all Chinese eat dogs?? I don't even LIKE dogs, but I wouldn't eat them! Then we watched the India video, and I realized, these aren't entirely factual and I'd need to learn more on my own! (And to question things around me!)

Mia helps her weeklies and tries to do what's right, even when it is never easy. She finds out who are the good and who are the bad by their actions and not just their appearance. Her innocence is refreshing and she truly wants to make a difference and stand up for others.

Mia talks about how it is rude not to pay for a friend, or split the bill. In my household, we still fight over who pays the bill, and one of my relatives always just gives a credit card before we even order!

I enjoyed the writing and the story behind it (about wanting to share the author's experiences with her son). I especially loved the moment with her father, and how Mia is not a bicycle.


I already have some kids in mind who maybe feel like the “other” in the classroom but just don’t know there’s a Lupe just like them trying to find a way onto the “good” roller coaster.

This summed up a lot of immigrant experiences for me, as I am a first generation East-Indian American. I loved Mia’s voice, letters, “edits”, and the fact that she used a dictionary and thesaurus to improve her writing!

Thanks to the Anderson's Bookshop for sharing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday Book Review: Crash! Boom A Math Tale by Robie H. Harris

Title: Crash! Boom A Math Tale
Author: Robie H. Harris
Illustrator: Chris Chatterton
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright: 2018
Date read: 4/20/18

This is a very simple book that shows an elephant child building a tower. As he builds, he learns that stacking the blocks in different ways can result in towers that are stronger. I like the concept but feel that it was too simple for most kids that are interested in building. 3 stars.

More information from the publisher:

A Math Tale
by Robie H. Harris
illustrated by Chris Chatterton
Picture book
913⁄16 x 101⁄4 32 pages
Ages 2–5
Pencil and digital artwork
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7827-2
$15.99 ($21.99 CAN)

How do these blocks stack up? Gentle math concepts go down easy in this fun and accessible story for very young children by the esteemed Robie H. Harris.

Elephant has a bucket of blocks and wants to build something tall. Something as tall as Elephant. But will it stay up? CRASH! BOOM! Not this time. Build it again? One block. Two blocks? Four blocks?

It’s still not as tall as Elephant. More blocks! Now will it stay up? Now will it be as tall as Elephant? Build, balance, count—question, estimate, measure—predict, crash, and build again!

Young children
will happily follow along as Elephant goes through the ups and downs of creating something new and finally celebrates the joy and pride of success.

Robie H. Harris is the New York Times best-selling author of It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health; It’s So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families; and It’s NOT the Stork! A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends. She is also the author of the Let’s Talk About You and Me series. Robie H. Harris lives in New York City.

Chris Chatterton is an author, animator, and the illustrator of There’s a Bison Bouncing on the
Bed! by Paul Bright and When Santa Came to Stay by Timothy Knapman. Chris Chatterton lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.