Taken from a painting of Kapiti Island at Sunset.
by Sonia Savage.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Newbery Award Challenge.

I have decided to take part in the following challenge being run by some teacher/librarians in the USA.  One of my goals is to read more children's literature so this is just one of the ways that I can work towards that.  The challenge is to read all the Newbery winners over the years.

The challenge can take a year or a decade, so that suits me as I don't want to limit myself to just these books. You can read about the challenge over on the blog MrSchu reads.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Joy of New Learning!

Some of my students do the ICAS Mathematics papers with the University of New South Wales. They just like the challenge and it’s a choice for them if they want. Those that are good at Mathematics generally like to give it a go.

The following question in the Yr 7 and Yr 8 paper had the better students in my class stumped. As their teacher I was totally lost as well.  Teegan went home and asked her sister and she came back with an explanation that we couldn’t follow so being the end of term and year we left it.
However when the holidays came around it was something I wanted to find out about so I took the problem to my friend and a past Math’s teacher to help me.  Here was the problem.

35.                          4! = 4x3x2x1
                                5! = 5x4x3x2x1
                                Jess wrote the expression 20! – 19! on the board.
                                Which of the following has the same value as this expression?
(A)        1!
(B)        20
(C)        19x19!
(D)         20x19!

When first looking at it I thought maybe (A).  I was applying the only background knowledge I had which was  taking 20! – 19! =  and thinking of it as 20a – 19a =.          However having peeked at the answers I knew this wasn’t correct. I was worried by the top piece of information but I couldn’t find any pattern and in the end chose to ignore it.
'Punctuation marks made of puzzle pieces' photo (c) 2008, Horia Varlan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

However now I have new information!   The ! is a special symbol, it stands for factorial. I hadn't known that. So 4! stands for 4x3x2x1.    5! as above.  6! would be 6x5x4x3x2x1.   Factorial is related to the word factor. So 6,5,4,3,2,1 are all the factors of 6!

I now had some helpful information but it took me awhile longer.  So….
20! – 19!  =  20 x (19 x 18……x1) – 19x(18x17….x1)
                  = 20 x 19! – 19!
                    = 19 x 19!          which is (C)
Factorial numbers get bigger quickly.   20! is 20 x 19!  so if we take away one 19! we have 19 x19!
20! is 20 times larger than 19!

The part in blue took me a little while to get.  Later in the day I went over it in my head and I said to my friend awhile later, “So I’m going over the factorial thing and this is what I think…
As he listened he said “I don’t think you have got this part, and he named the place where 20! is 20 times greater than 19!, so we chatted over that and finally I saw it.  Or at least I did, until I sat down to write this and then I had to go to his paper to look at the notes he had jotted down and then it came back to me.

Now to those that did Maths for high school and college this probably is a no brainer. But for me who was told in Year 10 that girls didn’t need Maths (1960’s) this was very new learning.  My love is reading and writing, however I need to teach Maths to Year 8 and I actually enjoy it too.
Why did I want to solve this problem?  Well firstly I was driven by the fact that I wanted to be able to teach my students about it.  That was my why.  It has no other relation to my life, and I have to say it probably has little relevance to a large part of the population.  So why would my students need it? Well obviously they are not going to get the message that girls don’t need Maths so it is a small step in the bigger picture.  Now that I knew the word factorials I was empowered to search further about them. A video on You Tube showed me a little more. 

I hadn’t seen them mentioned in Algebra at the Year 8 level but what’s the harm in going further? I was partly driven also by my need not to have my students say half way through the year “I haven’t learned anything new in Maths this year!”  Now while it wasn’t Teegan who said this, or indeed anyone in my class in 2011, I know I will get great joy in sharing my knowledge with her and the others who are ready for it.   Students who on the whole are showing through testing they are at Level 5 in the NZ curriculum but are still at primary school.

And learning for the sake of learning is actually very satisfying.  Now I need to share it in a way my students will get it, so that one day very soon they can go beyond me.  One thing I can predict is they are going to grasp this far quicker than I did.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Read the Book before the Movie.

Today I finished the book War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. I have had it sitting on my table to read for a couple of months.  One of my goals has been to read more books that my students are reading or might read. I have been aiming for one a week.  With the holidays I want to increase that a little more.

It was a wonderful and touching story. It explored the relationship between horse and master, horse and horse.  Morpurgo tells the story through the eyes of the horse in a way that reminds me of Black Beauty.  It is a story of strong bonds, friendship, loyalty, commitment and kindness. And the futility and mindlessness of war. The main backdrop is World War 1.  I loved it and found I needed to reach for the tissues a few times.

As I placed the book on my Goodreads page I noticed people talking about the movie that is due to come out.  What a coincidence.  I bought this book because I thought it would appeal to the boys in my class. Now I know after reading it,it may appeal to the girls as well.  I do regret not reading it earlier so that they might read it before the movie comes out.  It is due out in the USA this month, and if online sources are correct it is due to come out in New Zealand on January 12th 2012.  I hope it carries the essence of the book.  Get the book out of your library, read it and then go see the movie!  You can also get it on Kindle, but this is one you will want to share.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Step Leads to Another!

As the New Zealand school year winds down I look back and think, another year much the same as any other.  But in fact 2011 has been a great year of professional development and change.  In January I did the Edublog's teacher blogging challenge and through that I learned about new tools and made new connections. It was well worth it. It lead to another fork in the road. Twitter!

As I did the Edublog challenge I began to realize Twitter might be something to explore. I did so a little reluctantly.  It turned out to be the best professional development ever. I can pick and choose from all the wonderful ideas that educators are sharing. It’s awe inspiring.  Twitter pointed me in the direction of  Daily 5.

Over the January break I had placed the Daily Five and CafĂ© book on my Kindle, but they sat there in my TBR pile.  As I became aware of the Daily Five chat on Twitter, I got those books upgraded to the front of the queue and read them. I was an immediate convert, and from mid-year started to implement it in my class.  While the majority of people on Twitter seem to be mainly Junior school teachers, I was inspired by them and joined in with my Year 6 – 8.  The students loved the choice of Daily Five and it wasn’t long before they were up and running.  The Daily Five Chat on Twitter each Saturday has become the one chat I like to be there for.  I have learned so many tips. The best part is being renewed and enthused by like-minded professionals who take part in this chat.

During the chat one Saturday, The Book Whisperer was mentioned. I had seen this book on Amazon, but had noted it with a maybe….sometime….   The chat again nudged me to read this book by Donalyn Miller and I found answers to some of my questions I had for my Year 6 – 8 class as I implemented Daily Five. After reading this book I made a goal to read one children’s book a week and I think I am on target.  I started a little reluctantly but find I am enjoying the books.  I also get a buzz from seeing a book I have read and given a Book Talk about being read by a number of students in the class.  They get a buzz when I read a book they recommend. I will definitely continue with this into 2012.

Donalyn Miller mentioned the book Guiding Readers and Writers by Irene Fountas and Gay Pinnell.  This is a rather large tome.  I haven’t read it all but already it has been worth the money I spent.  I did want to implement some of the ideas this term, but my plans disintegrated when my Principal had emergency surgery and I had to re order my priorities.  I intend reading it further during our summer January break so that I am ready to hit Term One next year organised to go!

After reading Daily 5 and reflecting on the spirit of the book, I turfed out students individual desks and set up tables and a few desks.  I no longer kept a teacher’s desk for myself.  Today my relief teacher asked me “How is your free range classroom working out?’’ After a few laughs at the idea of my students and I running around like hens in a paddock I responded.  “I love it.” I think the majority of my students do too. For a while they clung to their “own” space but as time went by that changed.  I don’t have any custom made furniture for them to store their belongings so that has been an issue, but it’s not serious enough for me to abandon it. 

We have a large open plan space on our school property that now functions nicely as a school hall. However at one side it has a long narrow space that was once a classroom.  One of my colleagues was bemoaning the fact that she will have the largest class next year and is housed in the smallest room.  After a few days of this, without much thought I said, “I’ll move out and you can have mine, but I am not moving into your small hole.” I actually rather like the room I am in! I decided to move into the space by the open plan, and merely informed the Principal that was where I was going. While he was still coughing and spluttering I called it a fait accompli! 

  I'm moving classroom.  So between teaching only some days  in my classroom and working in the office other days, I am also cleaning my classroom that I am moving out of, and cleaning and throwing out junk from the space that I am moving into. I am full of excitement.  I met our local Resource Teacher of Literacy today, and told her where I was going next year; she responded “That will so suit your teaching style!” She should know, she has spent many hours in my room over the last number of years.  Just quietly I am sure it will too and I am so looking forward to the possibilities.  This year was to be one of personal voice - yes that's what I said on my Voki!  Hmm, I think it's a wrap!
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