Yesterday in class, we began my favourite unit of the year. I enjoy teaching structures as the children have the opportunity to build with a variety of materials – and enjoy it. Even all the girls get into it – though some of them tell me they are not good at it. It saddens me to hear a 7 year old already inhibited by the social expectation that girls are not good at building and at math.
Yesterday I gave my students the opportunity to build with blocks and lego. The classroom was buzzing with activity as the children tried to build what was in their mind. I love seeing their creativity. The structures that they build also give me an idea of where they are in understanding three dimensions.
I spent the day stepping over lego and blocks but I did not mind. Learning was at work – even in their attempts to draw what they had created.
The children in my classroom were exploring and learning today. I am sure that they went home and told their parents they played with lego the whole day but hopefully, by now, the parents will understand that the day was more than just play.
I am always looking for ways in which to make my lessons interesting and when my colleague came up with an idea to combine Math and Art, I knew that I was on board. Our aim was to test the children to see their understanding of symmetry. Incorporating the winter theme as well as their knowledge of lines for visual arts, we asked them to design the patterns of a mitten. The children were then expected to draw the symmetry of their design on the second mitten.
I was happy with the creations of the children as I am clearly able to see their understanding of symmetry. Their designs will definitely help me with writing their report cards this week.
One of the activities at the Math centre this week in my classroom was all about area. How do you introduce area to 6-8 year olds? The grade 1 and 2 curriculum encourages teachers to introduce their students to this concept using non-standard units; that is, blocks and other manipulatives. I have found that the children enjoy this activity (which they do in pairs) and eagerly measure the surface of books, their journal, the seat of a chair, and a book shelf.
A few surfaces are covered by many blocks and the children need to work out some strategies to count up to large numbers. This necessity leads to one of those moments when the grade 2 partner helps the grade 1 student The students’ collaboration often leads to both grades understanding the basics of area and measuring it.
Which photo do you prefer? The colour? Or the black and white?
Yesterday was day 100 of the current school year. It has been 100 days that I have greeted this year’s group of children; a 100 days that we have sung together, counted together, worked together. Each morning we count the days of the school year. We count by 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, up to 10s. As we are counting by multiples, I sow the beginnings of multiplication knowledge. As the number of days increase, the children notice the patterns in the 100s chart that we build every day on the board.
Yesterday we hit 100. “So many days Madame!” Yes, and by now the children are used to counting in multiples. To celebrate 100 days at school, I asked the children to make up some board games using their knowledge of multiples. The grade 1s were asked to use a multiple of their choice up to 100; the grade 2s up to 200. They enjoyed creating the games and then playing them in the afternoon.
It is satisfying to see the children apply their knowledge – knowledge built over the last 100 days by following our morning routine. Now we will begin to count the days from 100.
One of the expectations of the course that I followed was to create a unit for the class I am currently teaching. I decided to do an inquiry on structures and, in order to understand how structures are formed, the children needed to understand that structures are created using shapes. The best way for them to learn the range of shapes that exist is for them to play games and do activities.
At centres, the children did the following:
Bingo: I asked them repeat the name of the shape after I had called it out (they were learning the French vocabulary at the same time as learning the name of the shape).
Tangrams: Using the cards in front of them, they created designs using shapes.
Matching: The children matched colours with shapes.
Lacing: In order to improve fine-motor skills, the children laced a range of two -dimensional shapes.
Memory game: I asked the children to call out the name of the shape on the cards they turned over. In this way they practiced saying the name of the shape in French.
Creating booklets: Children created their own shape booklet using pictures they had cut out from magazines. The pictures they chose represented the shape they were showing on the page of their book.
The children enjoyed the activities at the various centers – and they enjoyed playing the games for a few weeks. They learned the shape vocabulary quickly and were easily able to move onto the next step of the inquiry.
Yesterday afternoon I went on a workshop based on teaching Mathematics to children in the Early Years (kindergarten to grade 2). One of the quotes that had been put up on the wall resonated in me:
So often children begin to believe that they are incapable of doing Math – that it is too difficult for them and that they will never achieve in this subject. Once they believe that they are incapable, they close their minds to the various possibilities of problem solving. Our challenge as teachers is to make them believe in themselves and their abilities. And to encourage them to enjoy the journey of solving Math problems. Teaching kindergarten, I have not come across a child saying they cannot do Math – and yet as children get older, some of them begin to say “I am not good at Math”, “I cannot do this”, “Math is not the subject for me”.
What I love about the above quote is that it can be relevant to other things in a child’s life: writing a paragraph or essay, participating in gym or a team sport, learning another language. As teachers, and even parents, the best thing we can give any child is the confidence to try whatever task is set out in front of them; and to have the belief that they can grow from the experience. The experience is in the doing and the process – not so much a perfect end result.
I enjoy learning and I have learned that making mistakes is part of the process. It is my hope that each day I help children realise that it is in trying and in making mistakes that we learn. It is my hope that each day I help a child realise that they can learn anything.