Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Looking Forward with Excitement, Looking Back with Amazement

Hello Families!

This issue was a long time coming!  I was sure that the notes for the two meetings I wanted to include were typed, but when I got home this weekend, I realized they had been written those days and were very organized in our class discussion binder on the information table at work!  So then, I had to wait to publish, in order to type and include that important info. I hope this blog entry was worth the wait!

This week we are starting our neighborhood investigations using the students' images and cross streets to investigate maps, the cardinal directions, street plans and learn more about each other.  I am so excited.  I know each child will shine when they share their special photos from home.  Thank you so much to each of you families for helping to make this possible.  More soon on this as we enjoy these experiences.

Another exciting happening this week will be our first class field trip.  We are lucky to be getting a special tour of a library.  We will be asking questions about the librarian's job, as well as how the library runs.  The students are learning more about our community and are also taking risks by going out and about as a class of learners.  I know this will be a meaningful and memorable day.  Thank you so much to Leslie, one of our Field Trip Coordinators, and to our parent drivers, for making this possible!

We are also investigating more about the trees referenced in our poems.  If any of you have any information, or examples of these at your house, please send us photos or share what you know!  

Last week one of the discussion topics that came up often were tally marks.  Earlier in the week, Natalie shared a breakthrough she had with her estimation/counting work.  She had such a large number, which gave her the challenge of knowing what she had counted before and where she was in her counting. Even though she was organizing the gems in groups, they just were not working for her.  I suggested she move to tallies and add the element of writing the number she was at, under each bundle.  This helped immensely  since she could not do all the counting, checking and writing in one day.  She was able to leave her work and then come back, seeing right away where she was at.  She also shared that writing her goal number, at the bottom of the page, helped her remember what she was counting to.  

When Natalie shared this work in class, the discussion really helped others.  The class started seeing patterns in the way the five bundles work, as we count by fives.  (The students were looking at her work when they shared these ideas:)

Evelyn: There's 5, no five, 5, no five, 5, no five.
Malaya: There's a 5 and a zero, 5 and a zero.
Jennifer: Malaya noticed the pattern in the ones place.
Amelie: If it's higher, then there's two numbers, when there's a 10 then it's two numbers.

We used a 0-99 chart to help us see these patterns among all the other numbers.

Later that week, when the students who were sharing their challenges in their survey work talked, Rachel Lee asked a question that inspired us to think about an important answer:  Why are tallies useful, anyway?

Kayla: Because it helps, you can remember, so I can know bundles.
Evelyn: I know why tally marks are so helpful, just in case you don't know that number.  Sometimes my arm gets tired writing a lot of lines so it would be easier to do tallies.  But there is something different about how tallying works.  Sometimes I forget that you have to do one, two, three, four, and then a crossover.
Mathis: 'Cuz then you know groups of 5, 'cuz then y ou could know how many that is.
Jennifer:  Like if you see 1 bundle, you know right away how many that is?
The Group: Yeah!

Another concept we have continued to explore are maps and,specifically, how cities are laid out.  Last week I grouped the class for an afternoon investigation.  Each of the four groups received a city map: Houston, Paris, Chicago and Portland.  The students talked in their groups about patterns they noticed and whether they thought their city's plan would or would not work.  In all of our day we have been working on backing up our opinions with our reasons why.  Especially when disagreeing with someone, you would be sharing why you have a different opinion. instead of arguing back and forth.  This work was helpful with that. 

After the groups met, we reconvened in the meeting space to for each group to share what they discussed.  We used the projector to look together at each city's map.  One of the patterns that many students observed might work was having circular streets as well as roads that go straight up and down and across.  If you look up Houston, you will see an example of this.  The students noticed while we were looking at Paris' street map that it looked a bit mixed up.  I took this chance to mention that this city was around before cars, and that lots of the streets are very small because they used to only be used for walking on.  

Exploring these city maps brought more awareness and insight to the students' next efforts in creating blueprints for possible layouts for the roads in the construction city the students want to create.  Here you see examples of the students' new ideas.  Notice how their lines are becoming more careful and intentional.  The students realize that others will "read" their work and they know that they can use this as a method to communicate their thoughts and ideas with others.  This is important difference in all their work!

As we continue to plan our giant construction city, as well as while we investigate our own neighborhoods, I know that more of these observations and discussions will arise.  Stay tuned!  This week we will also look at how the cities are laid out on certain types of geographic features.  For instance, what would be different when planning a city with hills, with a river, or on flat land?  What special issues would a city planner have to think about with these types of geography in mind?

Thank you to our family reader, also!

I hope you are having a lovely week.  I know we are here at IA!  Thank you for all of your connection and communication.  Love, Jennifer

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