Sunday, November 27, 2016

Growing Independence

It's happened...that seemingly magical transformation that always seems to happen around this time of year in 4th grade. The students have begun to realise how capable they all are. It is in this discovery that 4L students have grown to need me less as they seek independence in their learning. It's a delightful shift to witness and has kept me grinning from ear to ear all week! 

Here's the learning we've been up to. 

In Unit, last week we completed our research of a real animal. We worked in groups of 3 to share our "animal's story"- this is the zoomed out version of our animal. Using our knowledge of habitat, diet, and predators, we analysed how the features/behaviors our animal has promote its survival. We synthesised our thinking into a graphic or mind map and then shared these in small rotating groups of 3.

We continued to tie our real animal research into our work with our imaginary creatures as reality gave way to fantasy. We applied our new understanding and knowledge to complete an animal story for our imaginary creatures. We went back into our notes, thought about what we had learned through our own research and from our classmates to revise our work. The goal was to ensure that the features we had given our imaginary creatures did, in fact, support survival in the habitat we had imagined for it.

Steven thinks develops his imaginary creature's animal story

Rojus and Antanas build their animal story referring to notes and drafts

After the revision process, we created a final image of our creature and labeled it. We decided to share these with the whole class so that everyone could take notes and prepare for how their creatures might interact/survive in the event that they were forced into the same habitat. 

Eva develops the 'Limbo' while Migle works on the 'Taco Bug'

Nora refers to notes as she creates a final diagram of 'Cloudy' the dragon, while Rojus labels his creature 'Friger'

Antanas shares about 'Greenbug' as his classmates listen, ask questions and take notes
Having this firm understanding of our creatures allowed us to go to the next step of our writing process, which is drafting. We used RAFT writing again and this time completed diary entries written in the first person from our creature's perspective. Our first diary entry was about our diet. Some students wrote exciting narratives about catching and killing prey. Our more peaceful creatures wrote about their leisurely morning spent in a field eating flowers.

Aleksandras begins to draft a diary entry about how his creature 'Sasquack' finds its food

Gerda drafts her entry about the 'Reester's' predator attack
We then moved onto to write an entry about getting chased/caught by our predators. Some of our classmates volunteered to share their process with us so we could hear examples. These entries were exciting, dramatic and more action packed. We spent a bit of time figuring out how we could go about creating the appropriate amount of tension and suspense for these entries. We agreed that the reader should feel like they're on a roller coaster as they read this entry. The suspense should take us up the tall hill and just as the creature gets caught or escapes narrowly (climax- or peak of the roller coaster), the coaster should begin to slowly ease us back down the hill to safety.

Migle shares a diary entry with her classmates about how the 'Taco Bug' escapes Benas' creature the 'Sibertron'

Elena shares a diary entry about a narrow escape and newfound adaptation for her creature the 'Elemental Griffin' which leaves us on the edge of our seats!

In mathematics, we began unit 3 by taking a pre-assessment. (Find our Math Unit 3 Letter and Online Practice on the Mathematics page of our blog.) With the varying levels of understanding, we agreed to try something new during math. The students will choose their level of understanding depending on the concept being studied and will group themselves accordingly. We decided to group ourselves like this:
  • Deep Thinkers - like a fair bit of time to work through new concepts, like to work through examples with support, like having peers or a teacher close to give feedback or support
  • Questioners - like to try working with the new concept on their own first, like to ask questions only when they get "stuck", enjoy getting feedback from peers
  • Independents - like to work through the concept on their own and only check in with teacher once they've completed the task, like to grapple with challenges independently or using their reference book/math wall for support
Antanas works through a multiplication problem utilising counters to help him visualise the problem
Steven utilises his white board to break down factors and problem solve

We began multiplication number talks. The value of multiplication number talks is that it demystifies the process of what's actually happening when we multiply. Though there is some value in memorising our basic times table facts, there is no proof that this is a necessary step for successful problem solving. It may save time but what we've quickly realised is that some of us who have memorised facts struggle to manipulate information mathematically without being told what to "plug and chug" into an algorithm. It is necessary for good mathematicians to be able to break problems down into steps and to truly understand WHY they are doing what they do. The students have also grown more independent in choosing which mathematical tools best help them during problem solving and have concluded that there is nothing shameful about using our fingers when we need them! 

Students work on a multiplication number talk using various tools as needed
There has been a lot of discussion about which strategies are better for mental math vs. paper/pencil algorithms. Both are necessary and most often the situation in life will dictate which is used. We have been practicing with two main strategies this week. 
1) Break apart one of the factors
2) Round one of the factors and then add or subtract as necessary

Some strategies include repeated addition which we then formulate into multiplication number sentences

Shourya's thinking utilises the estimation strategy and Steven's thinking demonstrates the factor break-down strategy. Eva and Antanas' strategies are similar in the use of repeated addition formulated into multiplication number models

We had the pleasure of spending time together with 4A at the park this week. Our favourite activities this week were: climbing the big hill, playing "Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter", and observing the ducks and their interesting new winter behaviours. 

Veronika and Yelyzaveta enjoy some time in 4th grader's favourite tree in Tymo Park

Shourya, Basel and Yigit engage in a serious game of "Harry Potter"

Friends pitch in to help each other climb the big hill!

Some students discover that sturdy sticks work like Nordic walking sticks to propel them up the hill

Benas discovers that the ducks have mostly left the pond for this newly cleared space with a tiny creek...and what ARE they digging for in the mud, anyway?

Throughout the week, the students finalised their Genius Hour Passion Projects. They committed to an objective/outcome, began to think about how they would document their learning process, and thought through the steps they'd follow to achieve their goal. On Friday, the students were busy with various types of inquiry. While some were deeply invested in online research, others were jumping in and getting their hands on their tasks. Our goal is to understand that research happens differently for each of us depending upon which kind of learner we are. Some students determined that they could not begin anything without doing the proper amount of research for guidance. Others, however, decided that their instinct was to jump right in and try and then research when they got stuck. The students each named some "experts" they could refer to for help during this process. The goal here is to help them realise that "GOOGLE" does not always know best and that skill of multi-disciplinary thinking we're trying to achieve will mean reaching out to a real person who could offer guidance or input. We are not sure how this first round of Passion Projects will turn out but before we began this journey, we unanimously agreed that going through the process will help guide us in future endeavours and that we are willing to make some mistakes in order to grow! 

Benas and Rojus investigate gaming software as they begin their journey to coding, Elena illustrates new game characters based on her previous research, Basel creates a Harry Potter wand prop for his play, Yigit inquires with Aleksandras about how to shoot a video of his new dance moves

Krista uses a teddy bear as her model for dog clothes, Antanas begins his stuffed animal creation, Veronika researches programs for stop-motion animation and Steven watches videos of football tricks to get ideas for his own trick creation
Finally, we had the pleasure of celebrating our friend Benas' birthday together! 

Benas with his very cool (and tasty) Minecraft cupcakes made by Mom!

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