Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reading Between the Lines

1. Burned face with boiling water
2. Sliced open palm on a wet paper towel
3. Burnt pointer finger on lava
4. Burst glass pot lid whilst watering above finger with cold water
5. Sliced open tip of "tall man"
6. Broke out in pimples

So, perhaps you can infer from the above that I am a hot mess, clutzy, prone to accident, not a good choice for a cooking partner, ridiculous, not faring well without the parents...*sigh*

Aside from trying to meet my maker, I've been reading Laney Sammons, working on my ecourses with Sally,  listening to an audio book about happiness, watching Whole Brain Teaching videos (which have been making me happy since Chris Biffle reminds me of my dad), and connecting with another teacher with some expertise in class town building. 

One more week before I get to work in my classroom. Another week after that until teacher workdays. I am getting exxxxxxxcited!

Again, I'll be linking this post to the book study that Primary Inspired hosted this summer.  They are already done with the book- so you don't have to wait on me to read the next chapter.

Can I say that Chapter Six - Making Inferences and Predictions did not get me excited?  And I don't think it has to do with Laney.  My apologies.  I think it's me.  Teaching inference in reading doesn't get me excited either.  In fact, it makes me whiny. I don't wanna!  Because it sooooo hard, and they don't get it fast enough, and wahhhhhhhh.  I think that is the root of my problem here.  I am sort of glad to have come across the reference to how children do, for the most part, make great inferences when dealing with people's facial expressions, tones, and moods.  But they aren't translating this over to reading- or mathematics for that matter.  And this points to that visualization piece, don't you think?  If they can visualize what they are reading, they would be able to make better inferences.

On page 174 Laney says "making an inference requires considering new or unfamiliar information in light of what is already known."  So it's a matter of being able to make distinctions- another thing eight year olds aren't super groovy at.  But this points towards that safe risk-free environments where kids can try things out and not be afraid of being incorrect.  They have to make that inference, or  prediction and be ok if it turns out to be wrong- or if it turns out to not be answered at all.  There is a lot of discussion about encouraging the kids to think of themselves as mathematicians.  Makes me think of this pin I ran across a couple of months ago:

I've really got to make the point of calling them mathematicians anytime we are talking about math.  If I treat them like they are mathematicians, they will feel like they are mathematicians, and they will be mathematicians.  It's going to be so much to keep all in my head it seems.  Maybe I am biting off more than I can chew.  Or maybe I just need to breathe, and try not to cut my finger for a second, and relax.  I can do this.

You know, I've been teaching probability and data for eleven years, and it has never occurred to me that I am really teaching prediction and inference lessons.  This is a good place to take those baby steps in teaching the reading strategies within the math class.  I already teach this unit.  I already show graphs ALL.YEAR.LONG, so it will only take a second or two to point out "Hey, we're inferring here!"  Or, instead of "what does this data tell you?" I can say "What can you infer from this set of data?"  Perhaps the answer is still Ms. Meek's class brought in the most canned items for the food drive - but we've added that higher level vocabulary.  It's a small teeny step in the right direction.

When we do the probability games- have them decide if it's fair or not before they play.  And then explain why it was or wasn't afterwards.  There's a great dialogue in the book when it comes to even and odd numbers and how they add together in the context of problem solving on page 191.

I already announced that I wanted to take on expanding vocabulary this year.  The math stretch "word splash" on page 186 would go along great with this.  Throw the topic word of what you're teaching up on a piece of chart paper, and have them add in all the other words or phrases they can think of that goes with that topic.  You're activating prior knowledge, discovering misconceptions, getting some valuable feedback that can be used to adjust your teaching focus.

Another thing mentioned in the chapter is taking time for one-on-one conferences.  To really talk to them about their thinking and ask them to talk MORE.  I made a note to myself that it would be important to tell the kids from the very first day that if I ask them "what do you mean?" or "why do you think that?" it doesn't mean they are wrong.  Which most assume.  It just means I want to know more.  Everyone of these chapters talks about the importance of modeling and doing the think aloud, and I realize that we have become so rushed by the pressure of "getting all of this done"- that we are neglecting our professional calling.

I was pondering this statement earlier today while I braved washing dishes:

Being a teacher defines me as a person.
I have heard people say this. I am trying to visualize their face when they say it.  It's not really an expression of joy- more like, sheer determination.  Commitment maybe.
I have also heard people vehemently exclaim that they will not let teaching define them as a person and when they go home they go home and teaching isn't coming with them. I haven't decided how I feel about that yet.  Sometimes it makes me feel sad.  Other times, sort of ashamed that I do bring teaching home with me. Lots of times I struggle with trying to decide what the right sort of viewpoint to take is.  Or if there even is one.
But as I scalded myself (instead of paying attention to the temperature of the water I was filling the sink with, and leveling it out with a bit of cold I was, quite frankly, talking to myself), I tried the sentence in the other direction.
I define what it means to be a teacher.
If you looked in a dictionary, would your face be next to the word teacher?  And if it were- what would that mean about the word, teacher?  Would it be a positive or a negative term?  Would people use it as a form of praise, or an insult?
Sounds like some pressure- but it is, in fact, a bit of a reality.  Kids determine what a teacher is by the example they have before them.  It is this one experience that takes up 180 days, 1440 hours of their lives each year that gives them the definition of teacher.  It is in fact, YOU, who are creating the definition. 
What definition have I been creating? Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts...

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