Lessons that I Love

There aren’t a lot of lessons that I do that I absolutely love.  This is probably because I do a lot of direct instruction because that is how our school day is organized and all it allows.  I don’t like it, but it is what I have to do.  I’m hoping with this move to IB that things will change and there will be more flexibility allowed in when/how we are able to do things.  This hope is because I know that IB has a tendency to be more inquiry based rather than Direct Instruction.


However, there is one direct instruction plan I love.  I do not remember who made it in the first place, but I got it off of the Smart Exchange (for Smart Notebook Files).

It’s all about rounding and starts off with a little story.

“Once, King A decides to send a message to king B.  He calls for a messenger and asks him to take two messages.  One is spoken aloud and king B has the key to understand it.  The second is a written message that the messenger cannot look at or he will die.  The messenger gathers some friends and starts off to King B.  

When he arrives he tells the king the message and gives him the written message.  The king agrees to do what King A asks, and then opens the message and reads it the message makes him so angry that he Immediately he sends his soldiers to grab the messenger and his friends and kills them all by cutting off their heads.”

Rather strange way to start a math lesson isn’t it?  But it’s really a mnemonic device that will help the kids remember the order of rounding.

1. Identify the king (namely, what place value you’re rounding to)

2. What is the message (I’m hefty, or I’m wimpy- hefty is code for go up one, wimpy code for stay the same)

3. The king does it (goes up/stays the same)

4. All the messengers die.  (Because a cut off head looks like a zero, so all the messengers become zeros.)

For a majority of my kids this really works!  This is one of my first math lessons each year.  I know it stuck because now we’re in December and they’re still using it now that we’re rounding decimals.



Visiting the IB School

AFter I decided to stick my foot in it at a PTO meeting last month, I offered to go reexplain myself to the parents this month. This involved me going with a group of people to visit an IB school here in the City.

The school is called Quail Run. When I compare our AIMS scores to their AIMS scores we’re basically in a dead heat and we both have about fifty percent of our population from out of district. Size wise we’re a lot larger, though they have more grade levels. We’re K-4 and Quail Run is K-6. Class size is roughly the same- between 29-32 kids in each class in the higher grade.

The environment of the school is what is really different. I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what is different, but I’ll put down what I have found.

1. Peace Table. The school has an initiative called the Peace table. From Kindergarten on up the kids are taught how to solve problems between two people. They are allowed at any time to call another kid to the ‘peace’ table either in the office or in their own classrooms. There they follow guidelines that go Person A talk, Person B listen, Person B talk, Person A listen. Then they come to an agreement, then agree to it. The principal says that his behavior problems have gone down dramatically since then. The teacher can keep an ear out just in case they need to intervene.

2. The PYP Central Themes. The themes seem really thought out and fit well with the standards that we have to teach.

3. So Quiet! All of the classes were so quiet, even when the teacher was saying that the kids were going to “anarchy” because she’d left them alone for a while to talk to me. They were nothing like the anarchy that my class descended into when I got back.

4. The emphasis that not everything fits into the themes and not everything can be constructivist. That really resonated with me. I love constructivist teaching, but not everything works with constructivist teaching. When it comes to interventions for our lowest learners it is so important to deliver instruction in clear direct instruction ways.

5. It is going to be really hard. There is a lot of time that is going to be spent on this project. The principal of Quail Run said that on average the grade levels spent two hours a week setting up their themes and their lesson plans over a three year period.

There is so much more, and I’ll blog more as we keep going. I’m still very concerned that we’re going to lose a couple of teachers here at Simis because of the time commitment. None of us are lazy, but we do have a lot of people with families and it’s hard to meet outside of school.

Keeping you posted- PIO Phase!

International Baccalaureate – Primary Programmee

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this program. The problem right now is that I only know the abstract about the program and not the practical application.

Before I jump on board I really want to see the program in action and talk to teachers who have really bought into the program. I want to examine their documents and see how they match mine.

Is that too much to ask? I feel really nervous any time I turn something in that is half baked because I’m feeling unprepared.

1. Are there separate central themes for each section?
2. How do the central themes change day-to-day teaching?
3. What kind of assessments are used?
4. What do lesson plans look like?
5. Is the lessson planning collaborative or individual?
6. Is there room within the themes to be able to put in book studies like The Phantom Tollbooth?
7. What impact does the themes have?
8. What resources are used do develop the day-to-day lessons the kiddos see?

I’ve got more questions, but I’m out of time. Do I have a right to be concerned?

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