Counting Collections


I can't believe I didn't know about them before, but after watching an ICTM webinar by Denise Brown (check out the recording here!), I was hooked! Immediately, I reached out to a few teachers in my district that also watched the webinar. I co-taught a counting collections lesson in each of their classrooms, one kindergarten and the other 1st grade. Wow. It was amazing.

Then, I saw another ICTM webinar by Kassia Wedekind (see that one here!) where she talked about nudges during counting collections. Ah ha! Another amazing idea.

Now I wanted to try more counting collections lessons. Luckily, we had a teacher institute day coming up and one of the original counting collections teachers agreed to present the idea to all of the kindergarten and 1st grade teachers. She did an awesome job sharing how she was using the routine in her classroom.

Next, I put together a traveling "Counting Collection Collection." I went to the dollar store and bough…

My Favorite Fraction Manipulative

Wait, that just looks like strips of paper?!
Yep, that's what it is. Introducing my FAVORITE fraction manipulative. No need for fancy plastic fraction tiles, no purchase order necessary, no app to download. Just find some paper and cut it in strips. It can even be "GOOSe" paper (good on one side), as in scrap paper!

Here's why I love it:
1) It makes fractions visual. 2) It relates to tape diagrams. 3) It helps make connections of where fractions go on the number line. 4) It's a manipulative that won't expire. It always works, even when students start exploring decimals and percents. 5) It's fun!

I have done this lesson with lots of kids over the years. It works great with grades 4-6. 
Here's the procedure:
1) Put a lot of strips of paper out! (you want kids to have access to extra in case they "mess up") 2) Have students start with 1 strip and fold into halves. This is usually accessible for all kids. But walk around to help if anyone is stuc…

STEM Themed Toys, Gifts, and Prizes

My district hosts a student-centered conference called SIT (Students Involved with Technology). It's a great event where students present their knowledge of tech to other students. It's held on a Saturday and open to kids in grades 3-12. There are students from our district and also kids from surrounding areas. There is even a kid keynote!

Generally our biggest issue is kids running in the hallways... because they are so excited to get to the next session!

The adults just help kids get set up and are there to supervise, but it's the students that present and learn from each other!

Each year we cap off the day with raffle prizes. This year I was asked to make an Amazon wish-list of prize ideas. So, basically, I got to shop for $900 worth of fun stuff! I tried to get prizes that would appeal to kids that range from 8 years old to seniors in high school. I also put some artsy stuff on there, some coding stuff, books, toys, and t-shirts.

Who do you think is more excited about…

Finding HAPPY: Efficiency, Productivity, and Avoiding Teacher Burnout

Dusting off the old blog. How is it possible that I haven't blogged since October?! I've missed you!
Lately I've been thinking a lot about how to help with a common phrase I hear in education: "One more thing." As in, "this new (initiative/idea/curriculum/app) is just one more thing I have to worry about in my classroom."
And I get it! With the rate of new initiatives/ideas/curriculums/apps coming across my desk, it's a dizzying pace of new and change. But I also like a lot of these new ideas. I often present to teachers about these ideas! So, in my role of instructional coach, how can I help teachers embrace them too without feeling overwhelmed or burning out.

First, I think we need to look at the ideas of happiness and success. In this Ted Talk by Shawn Achor, he looks into the idea that being happy makes us more productive. Often, we might think that success will lead to happiness, but this is backwards. And, in fact, thinking you need success for h…

Rethinking Professional Development

As a coach, one aspect of my job is thinking about developing professional development for teachers. I actually really love this. It's a unique opportunity to really dig into what adult learners need and want.

Last year school year, I was thinking about how I could have an impact on professional development in my district. There were a few things I was thinking about:

1.) I really wanted to have a chance to go deeper with some teachers and was thinking about a cohort model. In my own teaching journey, I have been impacted greatly by a few experiences, many of them when I felt connected to a community of learners.

2.) As an instructional coach in a 1:1 district, helping teachers be innovative with technology and integrate purposeful ed tech is part of my job.

3.) My district has high turn-over. I began researching some of the aspects that go into people being satisfied with their jobs. While I couldn't impact their pay, I could work on some of the other ideas such as a "w…

Adjust Your Zoom

There are times in education when we need to "zoom in," look at the details and the fine points. There are other times that a more global view is appropriate. We need to "zoom out" and look at the big picture. In my coaching conversations, I have noticed that many times when teachers or teams are frustrated, we need to adjust our zoom.

ZOOM OUT Scenario 1
A team is working on common plans for math. I walk in and teachers are talking about the number talk for the second lesson, then jump to the stations planning for next week, another teacher mentions that they need to make a formative assessment to use, too. Then they all look at me, "this is hard and overwhelming!" they say, "how can we make this planning easier?"

This is a situation where we need to zoom out. Focusing on the details of lesson plans before the big picture is mapped out results in frustration and lack of focus. There are so many tiny details of a unit plan. While it is easy to ge…

Post-It Geometry Challenge

This activity is a fun investigation into symmetry. However, you don't have to wait until you are explicitly teaching geometry or symmetry. It encourages students to be precise and persevere in problem solving. Use it to help address those Standards for Mathematical Practice!

I think 4th grade and up would enjoy a few of these challenges. I've tried it with middle schoolers (6-8) as well as adults. I love the fact that this is an opportunity for all learners to engage in math at the same time. It might even be an opportunity for students that don't find as much success in math class to excel.

Here's how it works:
1. Put the picture of the post it notes with holes in it.
2. Students are challenged to take a post-it note and try to fold it so that with 1 single punch with a hole punch it will create this when opened back up.

I suggest showing this image first:

This one requires a simple fold of the post-it in half. 

Walk through how this one works and let everyone have tha…