Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mastering Math

Math was always my favorite subject when I was a school student. I think I would have enjoyed math even more if I could be a student in this day and age at Dryden Elementary School. 

Our teachers work hard to make sure students are gaining a strong foundation, and a high level of fluency with problem-solving and computational procedures. This helps students more successfully approach and solve real-world problems that deal with novel ideas. 
New learning is connected to students' previous learning, and the math problems students are presented continuously grow in sophistication. We are striving to ensure students understand math concepts in a variety of different contexts, possess speed and accuracy with their computation, and apply math in new situations. 
If you are assisting your child with solving a complex math problem at home, following are some questions you can ask your child in order to help them approach and solve the problem as independently as possible:
  • What is the problem asking?
  • Have you solved similar problems before?
  • Can you think of a number sentence (equation) to match the situation?
  • What tools can help you solve this problem?
  • Is your answer reasonable?
  • What is challenging about this problem?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hands-On, Minds-On Science

Some of my most rewarding moments in the classrooms are when I get to see the students actively engaged in learning science. There's always a lot of enthusiasm from the students as they explore and interact with their classmates during science classes. 

Our district's science curriculum is "inquiry"-based, meaning that it's intended to build from a child's sense of curiosity and wonder into learning how to learn.  It involves learning science concepts while applying the scientific method. It helps students move from observing what's happening to understanding why and how it's happening. 

Through science inquiry, students become more self-reflective and self-directed in their learning as they actively participate in the following processes:

WONDER: notice, ask questions, state problems
THINK: consider, gather information, predict
TRY: experiment, model, test ideas, repeat
OBSERVE: watch, examine, measure
RECORD: record data, organize, describe, classify, graph, draw
DISCOVER: look for patterns, interpret, reflect, communicate discoveries

It's truly an honor to be working in a school full of engineers, doctors, biologists, chemists, physicists, astronomers and inventors of the future!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Music Matters

This week, I was so impressed by our 5th grade band performance at South Middle School! These fine young musicians have made such great progress in such a short time. Kudos to their band director, Dr. Smith! They demonstrated such poise, maturity and respectful team spirit as they made beautiful music together. We are so fortunate to have music education in our schools starting in kindergarten. Below is an essay that my own children's music teacher would include in their concert programs from time to time. I have kept a copy because it so beautifully captures the many ways music positively impacts our lives. Listening to our fifth grade musicians inspired me to share it with you.

Why Teach Music? 
Music is a science.
It is exact, specific, and it demands exact acoustics. A conductor's full score is a chart, a graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time. 

Music is mathematical.
It is rhythmically based on the subdivisions of time into fractions which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper. 

Music is a foreign language.
Most of the terms are in Italian, German or French; and the notation is a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas. The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language. 

Music is history.
Music usually reflects the environment, culture and times of its creation.
Music is physical education.
It requires fantastic coordination of fingers, hands, arms, lips, cheeks and facial muscles, in addition to extraordinary control of diaphragm, back, stomach, and chest muscles, which respond instantly to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets. 

Music is all these things, but most of all, music is art. 
It allows human beings to take all of these dry, technically boring (but difficult) techniques and use them to create emotion. That is one thing science cannot duplicate; humanism, feeling, emotion, call it what you will. 
Why is music taught?
Not because we expect our students to major in music. Not because we expect them to play or sing all their life. Not so they can relax. Not so they can have fun. But so they will be human. So they will recognize beauty. So they will be sensitive. So they will be closer to an infinite beyond this world. So they will have something to cling to. So they will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good--in short, more life. Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cracking the Code

Steve Jobs once said, "I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think." 
Code is a language in which computer programs, apps and websites are written. Just as there are many languages spoken around the world, there many different programming languages. Basic knowledge of coding is becoming a fundamental digital literacy. Learning code is also a great way to strengthen problem-solving and creative thinking skills. It's exciting to imagine the multitude of rewarding career opportunities that will be available to our students as young adults that will require coding expertise. 
As an introduction, all grade levels at Dryden are participating in an Hour of Code during the 2014-2015 school year. Some classes will continue to provide coding opportunities throughout the school year, and students may choose to investigate coding during their Personalized Learning time.
Our Technology Facilitator, Mrs. Breaux, explains, "Doing coding exercises is a great way to demonstrate and reinforce independent work, clear and precise communication of questions and directions, perseverance, being fearless, and "failing forward" which is when you learn through iterations and adjustments until you gain success."
Following are some great kid-friendly coding sites that you may want to try during these cold winter days when it's too cold to go outside:
Tynker (grades 4-8)