Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More than one way to skin a cat.

Okay, so I know the title of this blog sounds disguisting.  But its something my family used to say.  It means more than one way of doing something.  (Although why you would ever need to skin a cat, much less need more than one way to do it... I have no idea.  Taxidermy?)


I've been thinking about engagement lately. Mainly because I have to present on this topic on Friday.  So here was my little experiment tonight.

Task 1:

It was okay.  Sorta fun because he got to work on the iPad.  He used his fingers and filled in the blanks.  I noticed that he stumbled over the signs plus and equals; so, I am not sure he has used them very much but he seems to understand the concept of what he's doing but not all of the language.  When I asked him to look back over his work and tell me what he learned he said I see a pattern its A, A, B, C.  2, 2, 5, 0.  So, he was starting to see that there was a pattern. Not exactly the connection I was look for but it shows some thinking.When I asked what he wondered at the end of this activity... He said he didn't wonder anything.  Hum...

Task 2:

He still enjoyed working with the ShowMe app.  At first Elijah took a deep breath when he saw the screen.  He went directly for 5 and 0.  While we had the screen paused he spent a lot of time trying different things on his fingers.  Soon realizing that it was easier just to use one hand... because it already showed that the answer was 5.  My earlier suspicions were confirmed while he was doing this tasks  that he didn't really understand what the + or = symbol meant (or at least its name) because I heard him mix up the terms, add, multiply, and equals as he was thinking aloud and deciding what to circle.  He had an ah-ah moment when he realized that he could add 1 to 2 + 2 because at first he just said, "I know I cannot do 2 + 2 because that only = 4.  I also wish I would have captured/recorded when he talked the number 9.  I wondered what he would do with that.  He put 9 fingers up and said, "Mom, that 9 will never work."
"Why?" I acted confused. He proceeded to explain to me and show on his fingers why 9 was more than 5.  This was interesting for me because it tells me his conceptual understanding of these basic numbers has improved this year.  It also tells me that his schema with looking at numbers (with this activity at least) is limited to addition.  I'd wondered if he would consider subtraction because I didn't tell him he had to add.  I think he just assumed it because of the previous task.  At the end when I asked what he learned he said he already knew about 5 and 0 but he didn't know about the 2 + 2 + 1.  He said that he wondered What would make 10.  After we stopped recording he said he wondered about 10 because he knew 5 + 5 = 10 but wondered now if more things made 10.  (He did however let me know that the Making 10 discussion could wait until tomorrow.)   I really wish I would have recorded the whole conversation so you could hear his think aloud. :-)

Task 3:

Now, he was pretty tired of math by this time.  I wonder what would have happened had I started here and worked the other way.  When I told him that we were going to do one more thing (for him to earn that quarter) he had a little bit of a whine.  Then I told him he was under the math curse. (We'd played this game after reading the book the other day.)  Now came his sneaky little smile.  "Mama, are you gonna ask me to find some math?"  Yes, I am baby.  Told him his tool was the iPad camera and he needed to find anything in the house that made five.  Armed with a camera (and after a few mischievous photos of the dog) he found this.  Jonah's Picture.  He said it was easy.  He looked at it and it was five.  When I asked him what the problem was to go along with it.  He said "Mom, there's no problem.  Its 5.  I look at it and I see 5 drawers."  I didn't argue with him if he said he saw it as a set of five who was I to argue.  But he kept talking about it.  "Its just five drawers. Five and nothing else.  Wait! Mom, nothing is 0."  So I asked if he could show me what he meant.  He said that bottom part looked like it could be a drawer but it wasn't so the dresser showed 5 + 0.  I think from here I would like to see him write it as 5 + 0 or 0 + 5.  I also think he's read to learn a bit more about number bonds.  I think those number bond bracelets would be a good place to go next.  He gets the zero property of addition and is ready to learn about the commutative.  I asked what he wondered now and he said, I wonder if its bedtime.  I'm getting tired.  So, I think it was his stoping point for the night.

*All three of these tasks used the "ShowMe" app.  It is free and has so many possibilities! :-)  Elijah wrote and illustrated his own bedtime story the other night.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day! (Remembering the reason for the season.)

Happy St. Patrick's Day Folks!  

Last Sunday for youth group we spent a bit of time talking about the reason for the season.  So often we only use that phrase for Christmas but it applies to so many of our holidays.   St. Patrick (like all Saints) has a very interesting story!  He used the shamrock to teach about the trinity.  Click Here To Learn More!  We spent a part of our day outside looking for shamrocks.  Picking two shamrocks one for ourself and another one to share the message with others.  

(Elijah was so proud to find a 4 leaf clover.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Superhero Cooks

Last night my little super hero, who has taken to calling me Queen Minion, made me this beautiful snack. 

Such a good little cook.  But I also found this on my phone this morning...

Sweet Pea's Workout

Sweet Pea is doing a great job sitting up now! Yeah!!  Way to go sweet pea! :-)  His physical therapist says its time to start working on crawling.  So, she showed us this exercise.  

He puts his arms over the side of the couch and keeps his legs bent in the crawling position.  He thought it was pretty fun.  So, I thought I'd snap a few pictures.  

Hey Mom... Did you wanna take some pics of me??

Well, lets pose then.  
I am absolutely not kidding. He thrust his little body back and grabbed at the camera.

How could I not take a few photos with my sweet pea when he was posing. 

That little ham.  

The (some-what) Happy No.

Any one who has gone through the journey of trying to become a legacy (traditionally) published author has faced rejection, rejection, rejection.  Most of the time those rejections come as a non response.  You're left wondering did they read it?

Or a form reply... Decline, decline, decline, decline because your writing is not as good as theirs or hers or his or mine.

But sometimes, rarely, only twice for me you get a personalized rejection.  It's still a no.  Still a I'm sorry, we'll have to pass.  However, it has personalized feedback.  You get to have the mini-celebration that someone valued your idea enough to at least read your work.  I just received one of those "(some-what) happy no" letters last Friday.  Here's what it said:

Ms. Bemiss:

Thank you so very much for your query.  Unfortunately, Back Then is not quite right for us, so I am going to pass.  I understand your impetus for penning this story -- so much to pass on to our children.  Yet, in this very tough picture book market, I am afraid I feel Back Then would get lost.  Although a few things made me pause, mostly I worry that there is very little room for the illustrator to work his or her magic and interpret the story visually.  Given how subjective this business is, I am sure there are others who will feel differently.  Best of luck as you continue to make those connections.

Wishing you much success on your journey,

I am so thankful for this feedback.  Hopefully this is just one more rejection on my way to acceptance.

I do have a somewhat exciting update on my Hockey story... The Nashville Predators are considering selling this story next year through their foundation.  So, it's still not a yes... but not a no.  I would donate the sales to their foundation and the Monroe Carell Jr. Hospital.  Keeping fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Visible Tweets

I learned about this at TeachMeet KY 2011 but am just now having the opportunity to use it.  Check out the link below to see our K-2 Digging Deeper into Mathematics Common Core tweets regarding Teaching Student Centered Mathematics.

@B4= Before Portion of Lesson
@During= During Portion of Lesson
@After= After Portion of Lesson


Monday, March 5, 2012


I'm prepping for a literacy training next week and wanted to try out a new tool.  I came across "Vuvox" from a web search and thought I'd give it a try.

Here goes nothing...

Click here for Vuvox

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Schema, Schema, Schema

You know in college when we learned about Jean Piaget... I liked his ideas.  I even hoped at one time to be able to go take a class in Ireland and Scotland centered around his ideas but that didn't pan out.  However, I'm embarrassed to say that it wasn't until 9 years into my teaching career that it actually clicked for me... why his ideas were so important.


Jean Piaget is the grandfather of this term.

Prior Knowledge,
Background Knowledge,
What ever you call it
Schema is the foundation for ALL learning.

Whether you are talking about learning your ABC's or Quantum Physics.
It's all based on Schema.

See, we can only learn something if we have a bit of knowledge (or hook to hang it on- Or Folder to put it in)

Click below for an example. Follow these directions, no cheating...
1.  Read the paragraph.  Do NOT scroll down and look at the image or you'll ruin it. :)
2.  What is the paragraph about?
3.  Scroll down and look at the image.
4.  Reflect.  How did that picture help you understand the paragraph?

Schema Glog

See, I told you.  If you had seen that photo first the paragraph would have made sense the first time you read it.

We want to teach kids through relational (many) connections to their experiences (or other hooks in their brain.)  If you go back to the glog and click on the word "schema" you can learn more about it. (There's even a clip of my favorite math guy the late John Van de Walle speaking about making connections in math.)

 Also, clicking chart-stand graphic will take you to a psychology glog with a little slide show about how children learn.  Neat stuff... And it makes so much sense.

We also know that engagement is important to learning... SCHEMA, again folks.
If I cannot connect learning to something you know or care about, significant learning will NOT occur.

Another confession:  I used to think we only activated schema at the start of the lesson then I could continue to teach my heart out.

Ugh, wrong again.
That's why kids need to reflect through out the lesson.
Why, you wonder... Picture this.

You are sharing a story with young children (or lesson, or giving directions, or anything, really...) what happens?

Student 1: "Mrs. B that reminds me of the time my brother fell down."
Student 2: "Oh, Mrs. B I fell down once and broke my arm."
Student 3: "My dog had a broken leg when he got hit by a car."
Student 4:  "My Dads car tore up."

Sound like a familiar carpet time to you?  One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to get kids to STOP reflecting on their schema.  So really, if you think about this when planning your lessons, giving kiddos time for reflection throughout the activity can really help students to activate their own individual schema about the topic you are studying.  (It's important to remember because our experiences are always unique... so is our schema.)

The other thing I'm just learning is tied to schema is also exemplified  in the conversation above.


Saying things out loud helps them to connect to schema.  I mean, I have always let my kids talk out their learning, pair share, triads, whatever you call it.  But its just now making sense to me as to WHY they have to do it.  They are processing and sharing their schema...  (Which leads to QUESTIONS and Wondering... Agh... That will be another blog soon.)

So, I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I just now really connecting to what a great idea good 'ole Piaget was on to with Schema... I had kids make connections since my first year in the classroom.  (Although at first I only taught it as a thinking strategy in reading- How awful is that?) But I never saw the BIG PICTURE that schema is a part of EVERYTHING.

But you know, in college I probably didn't have enough (any) teaching experience to fall back on.  So, what I was learning and studying was not yet meaningful to me.  I thought it was sorta interesting but I didn't have the experiences (or SCHEMA) to attach it to yet.

Here's one of my favorite pictures of Piaget.

Interesting tidbit.  Did you know Piaget began developing his theories on how children learn while giving the IQ test to young children while working with Simon of the Binet-Simon IQ Tests?   He noticed that kids of a certain age all had the same wrong answers and was curious about the pattern.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

TWO days of TORNADOES in one week is TOO much for me.

First off, we are so so thankful our family is safe. Prayers to all suffering loss.

When the local college closes and national storm chasers show up in my area... I decide it's fine to pick my little super hero up early from school. (Thankfully his school district was supportive.)

But... When your picked up early by two elementary teachers (Mommy & Mamaw) the learning doesn't stop just because you leave school!  No, we made Cat-in-the-Hat Hat's and practiced reading Dr. Seuss books.  Caleb even made number bookmarks for everyone.  How perfect that today was Dr. Seuss's Birthday. This helped the children (and adult's) minds off of the 9/10 storm con index the national weather channel had put us under.

Jonah had to cut PT a little short today due to an ear infection and feeling a little yucky.  So, he practiced driving in the floor during the Dr. Seuss birthday party.  

Later as the COWS sirens went off the party moved down to the basement. 

Yes, they are wearing hockey helmets... This was what made it fun for them! You do what every you can to make it fun, keep them from being too scared but also stay safe.  That's also a bag-o-fun in the basement party packed with books, ipads, toys, water, yummy snacks. 

Joe slept through most of it.  Daddy played games on his phone.  

Paw paw monitored the weather. My how technology impacts everything now!

I really don't care for this weather... Here's to a safe spring.