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Lego Wedo

Yesterday was a Professional Development day for the entire province.   We are very lucky that we have the option of choosing to do some "self-directed" Pro-D, and that is what I did.  Myself and a colleague spent the day with our school collection of Lego robots.  We have 12 sets of Lego's Wedo collection, as well as 12 extension kits.  

I really wanted to explore these for their connections to the grade 4 curriculum.  I could see obvious values for developing visual spatial, team building, cooperation, etc.  My first thought was "these are amazing for grade 5 and simple machines outcomes!"  I needed a bit more to show me how they could be used to tie specifically into grade 4.

The introductory build...

I am happy to say I left the day with many grade 4 outcome tie ins....

Math: measure the area and perimeter, fractional parts, estimation

Language Arts: you can essentially write a story about anything, can't you?

Science: I think these will be a great "intro to science fair" and I am planning on using them to teach the scientific process.  The kits also offer many animal builds that can tie into my habitats unit.

Fine Arts: There is a few outcomes that refer to animation, leading me to....

Scratch!  This is a FREE! program developed by MIT.  It can be used on it's own, but also, is compatible with the Lego Robots.  The fish you see in this screen shot are being told to move around.  They can also speak to each other if they happen to bump, or change colours....  It can play music or your own recordings.  When a Lego Robot is connected, it can tell it what to do as well, with more options than the Wedo software.

My colleague and I challenged ourselves to build the Dancing Birds (that are in the photo above) and make them do more with the Scratch software.

Helping Students Master Basic Math Facts

Basic number sense is so important at any grade level.  The more I talk to other teachers, the more I hear about kids not having any number sense.  It seems that many have troubles memorizing basic facts, or have very inefficient strategies for solving those they don't know.  

I use the "All the .... facts you ever need to know" sheets from Trevor Calkins in my class.  There is some for subtraction, addition, multiplication and division.  Once a week, we will complete a sheet.  I give the class 6 minutes to complete, regardless of which facts they are working on.  I believe that if they are unable to finish in 6 minutes, the strategies they are using simply aren't efficient.  Everyone starts with addition and after completing the sheet with no errors twice they can move on to subtraction and so forth.  I make them get the entire sheet correct twice in a row to ensure consistency.  I also stress to the class that it's okay if you don't get it all.  Next time, your goal is to do the same or one better.
Here's some great ideas for teaching number sense I found on Pinterest:

There are so many ways to enforce number sense in the classroom.  Do you have any great strategies?  I'd love to hear about them!

Creating a Classroom Agreement

During my practicum, I was introduced to a series of three books: "Practical Ideas to Start up the Year", "Spark Up" and "Wrap Up".  There is a few grade level versions.  One thing discussed in the "Start Up" book is a class agreement.  I know a lot of classrooms have rules (as they should), but I really liked the idea of building those with the class as a set of expectations.  I do this over the first week of school.

I find that building this agreement with my students helps to increase their sense of belonging and responsibility in and to the classroom. It also helps to boost their accountability for their actions.  I'll lead you through the steps I take to build this agreement so that you can apply the strategy in your classroom as well!