# Fostering Critical Thinking Tip #2: Area Outside the Box

I gave my 4th and 5th grade students the following math problem:

“Draw as many rectangles as you can that have the area of 18 square inches. You may use a calculator.”

15 minutes later all of my kids understood that there were three clear possible answers:

1 in X 18 in

2 in X 9 in

3 in X 6 in

But then something magical happened. I pushed them a bit harder and said that there were unlimited answers to this problem. “Can you find other answers besides these three? Don’t forget, you are allowed to use a calculator.”

Every student sat by her/himself and formulated an answer to the best of her/his ability. The students then met others in the back of the room to share their results and reach consensus (while the others continued to try to solve the problem near the board.) Eventually, all of the students realized that they could get answers like:

1.5 in  X 12 in

or

4 in X 4.5 in

My students developed much better mathematical understanding and reasoning skills through this critical thinking lesson. You see, I didn’t spoon feed them the answers. I gave them a challenge and let them figure it out with the help of their peers. The problem was challenging enough for about half my kids to get some correct answers initially on their own, and the other half to at least take a stab at it. Then, by collaborating, the entire class was able to wrap their brains around the idea. This is the direction education is headed with Common Core.

# The Bedley Bros. #EdChat Ep. 10: Rick Morris

The Bedley Bros. have a sit-down with the guru of classroom management and instructional strategies, Rick Morris. He shares thoughts on the Independent Classroom Culture, “happy productive.” Rick believes that classrooms are not going to be truly happy places unless the students operate independently.

Rick Morris’s Website “New Management”

# The Bedley Bros. #EdChat Ep. 9: Interview with Alex Kajitani

Watch Alex’s engaging discussion with Tim and Scott on the latest episode of The Bedley Bros. EdChat. Alex, the 2009 California Teacher of the Year, shares ideas from his new book Teacher of the Year Handbook. Both of the Bedley Bros. also share a quick tip for teachers. Whether or not you are in the running for Teacher of the Year, educators will benefit from this lively interview with the Rappin’ Mathematician.

Show Notes

Teacher of the Year Handbook

Rappin’ Mathematician

# FaceTime for Absent Students

Last week, Jordan, one of my fifth grade girls, was caught doing something without permission! AND I LOVED IT!

Jordan’s classmate, Koral, was on a trip out of town to attend a funeral. During our book clubs (literature circles), I noticed that Jordan had propped her iPad up in front of her and was talking to Koral on FaceTime. Jordan knew that our class was a safe place to try something new. She also knew that I would approve of anything she did that enriched her education or that of a classmate. So here is Jordan reading Chomp to Koral, separated by a measly 1000 miles.

# Kid EdCamp 2

Dena Glynn shares her experience trying a Kids EdCamp with her class.

We are working on a trimester-long research project. Each student chose her/his own topic. I wanted to see how much they knew about their subjects already AND see what they didn’t know (via other student’s questions). Kid EdCamp seemed to be such a cool way to showcase the learning and reveal the holes in their research.

I had been playing up the idea of a Kid EdCamp with my class since I first read about it on TimBedley.com but didn’t give the students much info. I told the kids, “There are some people who think kids can’t do this.” The night before, I assigned them a homework project to create a short (under 2-minute) movie, a collage, or a ShowMe about their topic. I thought these would make good introductions for Kid EdCamp presentations.

The Day of the EdCamp

I made the matrix schedule board (out of butcher paper) but left off the locations of the sessions. The sessions took place in six locations, four in my room and one in the adjoining library. Only 30 of my 35 kids were at school, or else I would’ve needed two library locations. We held five 10-minute rotations.

Students who wished to lead a session put their names and topics on large sticky notes. I selected students randomly to place their stickies in the matrix. I explained to the class that a session might include only one person or more (I didn’t set a limit because I wanted to see how it played out.) I expressed my desire to have every session with at least one attendee. I also explained that it is more important to choose a topic one is curious about, know a lot about, or want to learn more about rather than being with one’s best friends. Then, all students wrote their names on mini post-its and placed those in the boxes they wanted to visit. One tricky part was getting the students to NOT place their name sticky on a session time slot in which they were also presenting. The kids created new blog posts on our class blog entitled Kid’s EdCamp. Each student had to type the times, places and locations of the sessions they would attend. This was done to save time during the EdCamp. I didn’t offer the option of spontaneously changing sessions. I didn’t even know if this whole thing would work. Perhaps I will allow students to vote with two feet at future EdCamps.

Large stickies for leaders. Small stickies for participants.

I instructed the session leaders to take charge of their group. begin the conversation, and keep the discussion focused on the topic. Other students could ask questions and share experiences. The participants had to take notes during the sessions on their blog.  We used this same blog post as a reflection at the conclusion of the EdCamp. When we started, I was so excited! I made that very clear to the kids. I told them I was most excited about the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.

How did it go?

It was AH-MAZE-ING!! All students took ownership. One of my resource kiddos, who barely scrapes by, led a talk on candy and was basically as knowledgeable and well versed as Willy Wonka. The Dragon Fruit session got interesting when one person asked what they grow on. This led to Googling images of the plant and being grossed out at the sight.  The parkour group hadn’t seen the YouTube video about the parkour dog, so I had fun showing them that.

What I learned

I learned by letting kids’ passions surface, it is miraculous. Everyone was able to be an “expert.” I had three sessions on”dogs” and they learned from each other. If we could tap into that intrinsic passion and align it, somehow, with other subjects, the potential is astronomical. I thought the 10-minute time frame was perfect.  I started ringing the bell to rotate about a minute before.

Student Behavior

The kids behaved ridiculously well. Visitors stopped by at different intervals and commented on the high level of engagement. I walked the course and some of the groups needed reminders to take notes but no incredible goofing off was noted. At the conclusion of one of the talks, the speaker shook hands with the audience. One thing I wanted was the leaders to be “higher” (either standing up or on a stool if they were on the floor) than than rest of the group. That way I could instantly see my speakers. The other thing was that the groups naturally were between 1-6 people, without my interference. I think a group larger than 8 is too big and more easily distracted.

Synopsis

This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.  I told them I think we’ll do something similar at the end of our research project but invite other classes to be a part of it. Maybe we could use our multi-purpose room and have different stations.

Guest blogger Dena Glynn is a 4th/5th grade teacher at Tierra Bonita Elementary School in Poway, California.

# Book Party!

Students engaged in recommending books to each other during a recent book party.

So what book are you reading these days? And what made you decide to grab that book and read it? Most likely, you heard about it from a trusted friend, relative, or colleague. Do kids recommend books to each other? From my experience, the answer is NO. They aren’t naturally talking about the books they love at recess, on their cells, or online. That’s where you and I come in. We need to provide class time and clear guidance for our students to learn how to recommend books to each other. I train my students at the beginning of the year to record, in their binder or on their iPad, a “Books to Read” list. This list should include the title along with how they can find the book. If it’s in the library, then the author’s last name is usually sufficient. If a friend will loan them the book, then write the friend’s name next to the book title. As students finish reading their current book, they look at their “Books to Read” list to choose a new one.

This is where the Book Party comes in. Students learn to roam around the classroom “party-style” and just informally chat with one another about the books they love. All students must be carrying their list. Students are allowed to gather in groups of 2 or more. The only “rules” for the Book Party is that all students must be either talking about a book they love, listening to someone else talking about a book, or writing down a book recommendation on their “Books to Read” list. One key to helping students to stay focused is for the teacher to constantly scan the room checking for students who appear to be off task. Book parties normally last about 5 minutes. Sometimes, at the end of the book party, I will ask students to hold up the number of fingers to correspond to how many books they added to their list. Here is a brief video peek at my students conducting a book party.

# The Bedley Bros. #Edchat Ep. 6 – Bye Bye Letter Grades?

In episode 6 of the Bedley Bros, Tim describes how 2/3 of his students and their parents opted out of letter grades this year. He addresses the obstacles and shares the triumphs of de-grading his class.

# #CUE13 with the Bedley Bros.

Scott and I went to the CUE (Computer-Using Educators) Conference this past week and interviewed some of the movers and shakers in the world of #EdTech. Watch our latest Bedley Bros. #ElemChat featuring Sir Ken Robinson, Kevin Honeycutt, Randy KolsetCatlin Tucker, and Brent Coley. We also show you some of the latest COOLEST new gadgets from vendors.

Tim and Scott present on Common Core Research communities

Slides from Presentation

QR Codes Page

7 Tests of Reliability

## 16 Tips for Clean Slide Presentations

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By Tim Bedley Tweet   I have been assigning slide presentations to my elementary students for many years. I found myself repeating the same critiques to group after group. Now, I don’t leave “PowerPoint” style to chance. Here are a … Continue reading

# Using video to build schema

By Tim Bedley

Many of today’s students lack the life experience to truly comprehend what they read. Schema is the background knowledge a reader applies to understanding literature. In order to build schema, teachers and parents may want to use videos as the next-best-thing to a real-life experience.

I have organized a list of schema-building videos on my class website to accompany most of the stories from our basal reading book. With so much available on YouTube, a quick search can normally result in a plethora of options to help children build schema.