Tag Archives: critical thinking

Connecting Globally: A Collaboration Is Created!

Being connected is a must for everyone!  As a connected educator I can not imagine my life without the support, inspiration, colleagueship and critical thinking that my PLN has given me over the years.  We all have stories of how we have become connected as well as the many talented people who have changed our lives because of our connection.  Today I posted on Twitter: “Twitter is giving me opportunities for rich conversations w/others. that I can be enriched here through the inspiration of many.” I feel strongly about this.  As an educator I am continually modeling not only how I use digital tools, but why.

In a yearly author study I explore with my Kindergarten students we enjoy the repetition, rhyme and creative characters and dialogue in Dr. Seuss’s stories.  This author study encourages my students to be themselves and share their story.  Through our own ability to tell a story, we connect and engage with others.  Just as I explore the gift of sharing and telling a story alongside my students, I also enjoy sharing my own.

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Knauf via a conversation on Skype.  She contacted me because she came across a blog post I had written in regards to using Kidblog and social media with young children for teach.com. We connected on Skype and Twitter. She wrote an article that was published in Germany about our conversation and what she had learned from me, my story, my experience. Here is our interview.

Who is she?

Helen is a professor in the field of early childhood education at the University of Applied Sciences Fulda.  She is a researcher with an exploratory focus on social networks and digital media and parent participation. She is a mother of three, plus a teacher of early childhood education. I am so looking forward to this connection.


Helen and I have remained in touch over the past couple of years on Twitter, Google+, email and Facebook.  This fall we will have an opportunity to meet face to face for the 1st time!  Helen is coming to the USA!  She wrote a grant and it was funded!  She will be spending time alongside me, my students and my families learning about how I begin to build, explore and discover connectivity alongside my students and their families.  This opportunity is possible because of a blog post I wrote for teach.com and that Helen, and other people are reading. This is where I am reminded about the purposefulness and power of an authentic audience.  A global collaboration develops because I choose to be transparent, share my voice and use digital tools to connect with others, who like me, want to make a difference.

Connectivity means many things.  What is most important to me about connectivity is how it can bring people, countries and learning together.  Think about your own classroom, opportunities to share a story that is important to you.  Share it and be open to engage and further your conversation globally.  This is where we begin to model how we can collaborate and work as a global team to share our own learning and enrich each others lives.

So looking forward to meeting Helen and learning from her.  I am most #grateful. Think about a way you can inspire, be inspired by someone.  What will you do? What will your impact be?

Ongoing Reflection and Thinking

Last week I was reminded about the importance of self reflection and choice through play.  When students have both the time and opportunity to pursue a personal interest they are able to connect, collaborate and engage in meaningful ways that would, well, really surprised me.  One of my students is very interested in tornadoes.  He has been exploring books, creating tornadoes and even brought in a “tornado tube” and shared how a tornado is created.  unnamed-4Through his interest and passion for this topic he was able to share his ideas and engage through play and exploration of text about his topic.  He choose a friend to go to the library and get some books on the subject and then read them.  Afterwards he created an amazing picture of what he thought a tornado might look like from outer space.  I was so intrigued by his perspective. After having a conversation about what he created it was clear to me that by giving choice and more opportunities to our students we are giving them invitations to be inspired and share about what they wish to explore.  This is where our students experience critical and deep thinking because they work tirelessly to pursue their own understanding.  Through their curiosity they are  not only sharing what they are passionate about, but also inspire others to learn alongside them. Here is where authentic learning naturally leads to meaningful conversations and opportunities to collaborate.  Later this student asked if we would tweet his picture.  When I asked him why; “I want to share my idea with the world.” I recently heard from a parent as well about their Kindergarten experience.  Through feedback I am able to reflect, rethink and begin to think about things that worked well and what opportunities do I have to make changes moving on.  She shared; “I just want to say a heartfelt “thank you” for teaching our children in a way that inspires them to apply what they learn to real life problems!  You don’t just teach them to memorize – you teach them to understand!  Two examples in this past week show how much __ has grown in your class with regard to understanding math. First, two days ago we were discussing his birthday party. He was trying to determine how to divide all his friends up into the six stations we are going to have. He asked “If we have 5 friends in each group how many is that?”  I asked him what he thought and within 30 seconds he replied “30!”  He explained that he combined stations so he could count by 10’s:) This is on example of what can happen for our students when we create opportunities and invitations to learn in ways that connect, engage and inspire us.  For me I am thinking of ways that I can continue to offer choice through the content I am required to pursue.  I am thinking about ways I might be able to offer choice more often and in ways that might inspire my students to become more curious about the what, why and how we explore together when pursuing questions. unnamed-2unnamed-3Here are a couple of reflections from my students in Kindergarten this year.  We are creating books about what we learned how to do in Kindergarten.  Here is another way to think about what your students learned, but also what they were most interested in.  This is also another opportunity for me to reach out and ask more about why these ideas were mentioned, what they offered? As an educator I want to offer the best learning experience for my students.  I want them to feel important, cared for and also know that I have hope for each of them.  Learning is for everyone.  Through my own ability to ask for feedback and engage in meaningful dialogue about my own learning I am able to make changes and improve learning for myself, my students and their families.  Through my own change, I am growing and modeling how transparency can be revealing, but offers ways to create more learning opportunities that promote meaningful reflection and growth.

Math Studio In Kindergarten!

What is math studio?  How did it evolve?

I have just completed my first year of math studio.  The studio provided 4 opportunities throughout the school year to collaborate, plan, produce, create and design math lessons that helped me and my colleagues develop how to get at the deeper meaning and concepts of a math lesson.  Phew!  Overall the experience was rigorous, but relevant.  I really enjoy the new learning and how much it can impact and improve student learning.  It is for this reason that I continue to create different on-line ways for others to read, collaborate and connect using the work that I have just begun to understand around “how to” teach, expose, experience  mathematics with young children.

Our school made a commitment to take a professional 5 day class through the Teachers Development Group.  This professional development has been amazing and very rewarding.  After taking the 5 day intensive course, we, the teachers at my school all began to work in collaborative teams to plan math lessons based on best practices.  A huge task!

What happens in math studio?

Math studio is a time when all the kindergarten teachers spend a day together to teach, observe, plan and talk about best practices for teaching math.  It is a great opportunity for teachers to share, collaborate and design math lessons that incorporate best practices.  We have had math studio 4 times this school year to work together as a kindergarten team to support each other in becoming strong math teachers, help our children think deeply about math(and ourselves) and to assist our students to develop mathematical habits of the mind. These math habits have been amazing and the learning that has developed is ongoing, never-ending and becoming almost seamless.  I mention this because children are now recognizing these math habits in all areas of Kindergarten!  For example; I put up blank paper all different sizes in our dramatic play area where many manipulative items are kept including blocks, tiles, etc.  A group of children created a blue print of a structure they created.  Using labels, symbols and numbers to represent their thinking.

My own experience with this professional opportunity has been endless. By using the different MHOM I have given myself and the children daily opportunities to practice and experience what these math habits can do for their understanding of mathematical concepts.  Through explicit teaching, role modeling and various technologies the children have been able to think more deeply about the math they are involved with.

The MHOM(math habits of mind) that we worked on this year were; making connections, justification, changing our thinking, how, multiple representations, conjectures and generalizations and private think time.

My post below is taken from my math wiki I created 2 years ago which focuses on mathematics in Kindergarten.  I hope to be able to collaborate, share and connect with others who are also interested in making learning engaging, exciting, relevant and fun!

Below I will share photos, video and reflections about the learning that occurred for me, my students and their families this year in Kindergarten.

In the beginning(fall)…

Children justify their thinking when they can talk and show their ideas about why something worked or not.

Children make connections when they see a connection between math ideas, representations and situations from everyday life.

We also learned about what a mathematical dyad was.

A dyad is structured so that children always have thought time about the task.

Always focuses on each child’s mathematical reasoning, justifications, and/or generalizations.

Always ends with an opportunity to share why their mathematical ideas are the same/different

Always follow a structure that provides children “practice” to talk to each other about what they heard and what they understand.

(This is taken from the teachers development group about How Math Teaching Matters)

“Mathematical Habits of Interaction”

Private Think Time is a very important time when thinking mathematically.  The children have an opportunity to think about their ideas before they share them.  This idea is a mathematical interaction because the children and myself think about our ideas and then share our ideas through interacting with others.  There are many Mathematical Habits of Interaction.

In the mathematical dyad the children all had some private think time first, before they shared their ideas, observations, and/or thoughts.

Multiple Representations

The children are becoming keen observers when it comes to making mathematical observations. Habit of Mind, Multiple Representations.  The ten frame cards represent numerals 11-18.  A great interactive game for children to begin to subitize and recognize the many ways numerals can be represented.

The children discovered that the number 14 can be made different ways using the Rekenrek.  Later we talked about what they saw and how we could write it.  The children discovered many different ways to represent numbers.  This is a great example of the Math Habit of Mind Multiple Representations.

Another Math Habit of Mind ……..Changing My Thinking!

Children love to create number patterns and look for patterns using a variety of objects.  As the children created different number patterns they began to solidify their thinking and understanding.  When they miscounted, they were able to “change their thinking” to the amount of sea creatures they needed to represent the number accurately.

 The children are beginning to discover that mathematicians change their thinking a lot!  Mathematicians do this when they have a different idea for a solution to a pattern, problem or an idea!  We make mistakes often and we have discovered that when we do make mistakes, we have a deeper understanding of what we were thinking!  This is when all the learning takes place.

 My reflections about the technologies I have used…………….

As a kindergarten teacher I have many opportunities to engage in productive math thinking.  My eyes have really been opened this year in terms of what young children(5 & 6-year-old children) are capable of!

I have also discovered numerous technologies that have helped in the engagement as well.  Podcasting has given young children an opportunity to use”math talk” to help develop and share their mathematical ideas.  Voicethread is another web tool that has given children a chance to interact and reflect on their mathematical ideas as well connect with others outside of our classroom!  Video has provided endless opportunities for children to reflect on their understanding as well as to use as a model of “what it might look and sound like”.  Children have just recently asked to use our flip camera to record some of their learning too!  Another great way of how technology can be part of a learning culture in a way that provides and encourages authentic learning and opportunities to grow from.  Photographs are easy to take and display.  In this photo you see how easy it is to show a mathematical understanding of children making a connection and justifying their thinking!

A wonderful thing happened during our “REST” time. The children collaborated together to make a row of chairs!  Later on the children continued to make rows using lots of different materials in Kindergarten!  Some of the comments were; “We know this is a row because(their justification) the chairs go from left to right in a horizontal way.”  A discovery; “Hey, It could be a column if you look at it this way.” A child stood looking”down” at the chairs.