Teacher Tip #3

The theme of my last “Things I never knew . . .” post was sickness. Why?

It’s November–cold and flu season is upon us.

This time of year, I cannot stress this enough: stockpile tissues and paper towels.

Got a 6-pack of tissues? That’s not enough, get more. Got a 12-pack of paper towels? That’s not enough, get more.

Go to Costco, go to Sam’s Club, go wherever there are large packs and good sales. Ask families for more of these items–even if you have a few on-hand. This stuff goes fast!

Cold and flu season is here. Kids will come with coughs, fevers, and runny noses. Your co-workers will have the same. You may be afflicted with illness. You never want to run out, so start asking, and start stockpiling, immediately.

Whatever you do, make sure to have lots of tissues and paper towels.

Favorite books: Early Years Mathematics

Our reading choices regularly neglect mathematics.

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There are tons of books that we happily read to babies. Nostalgia runs deep for cute plots, fuzzy characters, and a bit of laughter.

In our standardized book choices, children receive critical lap-time that develops vocabulary, phonemic and phonological awareness, and all other facets of beginning literacy.

At the same time, we have a plethora of games that continue to build these same skills. Nursery rhymes, hand games, I Spy, etc. all work together to build the requirements and awareness for children to begin reading and writing.

We are building fundamental, incredibly important, building blocks. That is good. That is commendable and absolutely needed.

However, I am here to point out that there is only a bit of math, at times, there is not a focused look on mathematical practice. There is less intention when it comes to the foundations of mathematics.

In my experience, in normal non-school settings as well as school-settings, the same attention to the building blocks of mathematics is absent–maybe minimally present, at best.

We do not speak math. We do not practice math. We do not notice math. Certainly not with the same veracity as we do letters and sounds.

So, this list of favorite books is focused on mathematical practice and discussion. If we can get kids excited and interested about mathematics, as babies, imagine how many more mathematicians–meaning engineers, architects, coders–we can support and create for the world!

Favorite math books for babies:

  • ABCs of Mathematics by Chris Ferrie
  • Introductory Calculus for Infants by Omi Inouye

Favorite math books for young children:

  • The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds
  • The Greedy Triangle by Syd Hoff
  • Books by Tana Hoban (there are quite a few)
  • Chicka Chicka 1 2 3 by Bill Martin Jr. & Lois Ehlert
  • Books by Stuart J. Murphy (there are many!)
  • Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles by Christopher Wormell

Things I never knew . . .

Installment #2:

Five things I never knew . . . until I became a teacher:

  • how long I could be sick–that first year I was sick for three months straight
  • how sick I could be, and still go to work–sick days are few the first year, not to mention sick days are difficult to take anyway as a teacher
  • how worthless all those immune booster drinks and powders are–they are no match for school germs
  • how much Kleenex are consumed/can be consumed in a single day–between my sick self and my sick students, I can go through several boxes in a single day, it’s ridiculous
  • how many kids come to school sick–it’s a lot, and often

Product Overview: The Birchbark House

Native American Heritage Month is November.

No study of American history is complete without looking at the experiences, culture, and contributions of this land’s original inhabitants.

A rich classroom library includes stories from every community, and authors from those communities.

With this in mind, I recommend The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. I discovered Erdrich’s work in college and absolutely fell in love. I have read a number of her works and each one has been phenomenal.

I introduced some of Erdrich’s work in my 4th grade class, and even brought my personal books that my students borrowed, and they enjoyed them as well.

My desire to include a story that allowed for important discussion and reflection on colonization, and a different lens of American history, led me to create a book study on The Birchbark House.

This book is categorized as realistic fiction. The story touches on culture, language, and family. It is a great book to discuss colonization, cultural assimilation, and loss. It is also a great story to discuss strength and community.

My product, a complete novel unit, can begin in November and take you through winter break. This product includes vocabulary, comprehension questions, and added exercises for each chapter. There are even background building and extension activities suggested for this unit; it provides the opportunity for a depth and breadth of learning.

As with the Spider and the Fly, even if the product is not what you need, or what you want for your classroom right now, I recommend reading this book and any other work by Erdrich, it is truly worth the read.

Birchbark House

Monthly Advice–November

November is a short month.

In the United States, in November, we have Veterans’ Day, which sometimes turns into a 4-5 weekend. Then, we have the Thanksgiving Day holiday, which is increasingly turning into a whole week vacation. In addition to these days, there are staff development days, maybe furlough days, or perhaps you already have a 4-day work/school week.

So, in November, while we have 30 days in the month, we have very few actual instructional days. Therefore, my greatest advice is review. Before the semester ends, this is probably the best time for review and extension. Instead of trying to cram a new concept, especially a complex standard or new set of standards, insert review lessons and extensions.

As we know things are forgotten over a weekend, let alone a long weekend or a week-long vacation. So it makes sense, in a month filled with multiple gaps, to insert lots of review (and a little less new).

Suggestions:

  • Bring back a center–their favorite one.
  • Bring back a center–one that was “too hard,” and give it another chance.
  • Add another layer to learning–modify a previously completed experiment, add another component to an existing center, etc.
  • Create a make-up hour/day for students that have missed assignments or want to redo assignments.
  • Have students re-imagine, or reapply, an existing assignment to another text.
    • example: if a student was required to research the time period of a text that you assigned, this month have the student pick a different text/time period to practice those same research skills

This month: review and extend. Your students will benefit, and you will be providing them a much deserved opportunity for added success.