Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Two weeks in

Well we are two weeks into our formal Number Agency.  I have to say because the time was taken at the beginning of term to really hook children in and build belief that this years Number Agency seems already so much more settled.

It is incredible to see how well the children have settled into the flow of agency and the Professor (in puppet form) and Cowgirl Calculation have been excellent additions.

Children are already showing an early understanding of subtraction and addition and can identify the villain responsible for any havoc cause...knowing if things are being added or taken away.  I am also noticing their number knowledge and number sense going from strength to strength.

A basic sequence looks like this at the moment:

1. Warm up (usually a song or materials based game)
2. Professional development with the the moment our focus is understanding what the written number actually means (number sense) using patterns and materials
3. Alarm goes off and client speaks to us.
4. Villain makes an appearance and poses the problem (The children have identified a sound that marks the villains entry, waves for subtraction shark and galloping hooves for the Knight Adder)
5. Agents get into problem solving teams ....get their materials and try to solve the problem...
6. Cowgirl Calculation comes in to talk through how we solved the problem
7. Present answer to the villain and touch base with the client to ensure everything is back to rights.

At the moment it is taking about 50 mins to run this.

The excitement at doing 'maths' is contagious and I love the mathematical mindset this approach is giving my children.  I wouldn't teach maths any other way!

What is even better is that if fits so well within my play-based environment... their imaginations, creativity and visual awareness and understanding are incredible thanks to our lovely fluid play-based environment!

The make the tower warm up today.  Roll the dice and get that many joining blocks.  Roll the dice again, think about how many you will have now, get that amount.  This lasts for three minutes.  We then count the tower, write the number, split the tower into groups of tens and explore what that number we have written actually looks like :)

Then the professor had us using dice today for professional development.  First with one dice.  Roll the dice, count and then write the number.  As an extension some agents then paired up, rolled both dice, added them together and wrote the number.  Love the way these activities can be differentiated.  

Problem time....Subtraction shark was playing havoc with the baker today.  He took six cakes away from the 12 the baker had many left?

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Play, glorious, mad, mess!

Something I have learned through this journey is to embrace mess.  Our classroom and the environment around it can look like a tip at times, but the play going on within it is simply amazing.  Something that has come about quite naturally is that children respect each others items.  Not once have I had to remind them about respecting each others work.  

With the start of Number Agents this week came a lot of spin off play, totally led by them.  It was awesome to see.  

One of our invitations today was to create the farmers farm out of loose parts...they had a lot of fun.  Some stuck at it longer than others, and that is ok.  

A play-based environment is such a wonderful way to bring new children into the classroom as well, I don't ever remember visit days being so easy.

New friendships abound in our play-based classroom.  It is amazing to watch children's social skills and ability to empathise develop so quickly, just because they are allowed to (largely) negotiate their own play situations and problems.  What I have particularly noticed is the cross over between girls and boys.  More often than not children are engaged in play that is not just with boys, and not just with it so often used to be.

We always make the most of our outside environment, and the sun makes a huge difference!

I don't think I could honestly say that children have ever been happier in my class.  They are so settled, so keen, and could talk the hind leg off a dog!  The are all blossoming in confidence and that sly little smile and the twinkle in the eye that I see from my shyest class member is so rewarding.

The opportunity to just sit alongside them when needed, to play, to talk, to scaffold is very freeing, I don't ever feel like I have done my job so well!

Today we also linked in some writing with our 'farm' theme.   I use the word writing in the loosest term of the word.  Basically we write from our drawings by sounding out and labelling.  These will later turn into sentences as they continue to develop.

The loose parts farm :)

This is our school discovery shed being used by two classes today (junior./senior) such fabulous interactions.

Inside the shed :)

Glorious mess!

Creative :)

Making ramps :)

Imaginative play...

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Officially Open

We kicked off the first session with this message...

Message from Head Agent.

A couple of things I talked to mine about today that I think are important in this approach...

1)This is imaginary, we know that right....but it is still fun eh!
2)Being an agent is like being a superhero, we are not always that superhero...we change into an agent and then we change back :)
3)Our existence is secret from Mrs Allen, she must never know what we are really doing. (they love this...)

Sitting in the portal/agency area was our confidential box.  We had a look at the map and the check in and check out system and I used storytelling to get them into agency.

They were super excited and this can be a hard balance as they have so much they want to add to the conversation and whilst their imaginings are important we do get keeping them on track is a priority.

There was a little of setting up to do and agency did take us a little longer today, but I think I can get it down to 50min-1hr.

The professor was a huge hit.  He was brilliant at teaching them to count one to one and the looks on their faces when he engaged with them one to one were priceless.  I am glad I have added a puppet to this role.

There is a real dramatic trick to agency and so much is done on the spot and I think with time I have got so much better at being flexible.  I spent a lot of time referring to my secret files today, but as I get back into the swing of things this will get easier.  Today our check out buzzer wasn't working so I had to go into role as Mr Fixit...just a quick 360 turn and I was in character, I quick turn back and I was back to being myself.

I love the belief of young children and the size and capacity of their wish is that as teachers we would continue to foster this, I believe it is an incredible asset.

I made a couple of highlighted notes on my planning.

This is an editable link to our agent eyes today.  They said some interesting things and actually noticed a lot more than I thought they would.

I did not use cowgirl calculation today....just starting to problem solve is a huge ask for our little ones, so she may or may not come out tomorrow I will play it by ear.

This approach is not an easy one, but man it is worth it, just the engagement on their faces makes all my multiple-personalities and tired voice well worth it.

Friday, 10 March 2017

What Have I Noticed After Five Weeks

We have been managing to make the majority of our day play-based.  We do spend a short time on daily six each day, read with children individually and have one 'writing session' per week.  Of course Number Agents also takes up part of our day.  Our play makes the most of outside when the weather permits and we also have a lovely native garden area (or bush as the children call it) where we can play.  Play ranges from kicking balls, scootering, bike riding, water play, deconstructed play which mixes a range of items, teachers,  puppets, shows, sheet huts,  etc etc etc...basically whatever the children decide to direct themselves into.  The other day, they even put on their togs and went running in the!

We are only five weeks into our term (didn't start till the 7th)  and I already noticing some very positive things.

*Happy kids, very happy kids!  I've always prided myself on making school as fun as possible, but now it truly is...the joy on their faces is awesome and wow the excitement at every turn could power a small city.

*Much more perceptive children, they seem to notice everything!  Because they are truly interacting with their classroom environment they notice every little thing.  The are empowered to do so.  They are know longer waiting to be told what to do.

*Improved social relationships.  Children much more willing to engage with each other around a play-based task and not worry about whether their 'best friend' is doing it.

*Lots and lots of opportunities to read and write and a lot of opting into these types of activities within their play-based day.

*No boredom and much more focus.  They persist at tasks because they want to do them.

*Greater awareness of each other and emotions, they spend a lot more time talking to one another, they just know each other better.

*No need for timetables, things happen as they happen when they naturally fit.

*Children adjust quickly to school  they are happy and settled and their parents seem a lot more at ease too.

*They naturally challenge themselves with tasks.

*They love to expand on what we have been doing in agency and take it into their own play.

*They call it play-based and love it!  No fancy terms needed.

*We all have more freedom, there is no pressure, if things don't get done, they don't get done and no-on is negatively effected as a result.  If children notice something in their environment we can take a small group aside and learn more about this.

*We have time to sit alongside children and do some one on one work with them.  We know children a lot better.  We know their needs and can cater for them individually.

Those are some of the things I have noticed, there are probably many more :)

All ready for the first week of agency proper

I'm really happy how the last few weeks have gone.  Children are super excited to be in agency and thanks to seesaw I think their parents probably have more of an idea of what they have been talking about :)  

So my planning for the first week is done (I only teach three days a week, so that is why there are only three days)  

I have no idea how it will go yet, each class is different and this year will be the first year I have used the professor in the form of a puppet.  Usually I go into role as the professor and will be interested to see if the buy in is better or not.  The professor comes in to teach 'required' knowledge or strategy and until I get a gauge on where they are at a little more, I will just work on the basics, which I believe along with a good foundation of number sense are incredibly important.  

I will also be using Cowgirl Calculation for the first time to explore the agent talk moves.  I always find this one of the hardest things to incorporate into problem solving and am hoping this puppet will help me with this.

I will be using Agent Eyes right from the beginning this year, which is something I discovered towards the end of maths PLD.   I am hoping that over time they will get better at exploring visual problems.  I also think this will really help to make strand based links.  I also have a sneak suspicion that I may start to see these things appear through play.

My first weeks planning is here.  This should work as a view only document as it is an open link.

The image I am using this week is here.  This is an editable link and I am happy for you to add any thoughts your agency also will be interesting to see what they say.  My hope is that we can start making agency connections throughout NZ and our agents can then start linking up with one think of the authentic writing and oral language contexts in that!

My class this year is based on much more significant amount of time spent in student led play.  We spend the majority of our day in student led play and when we finally finish swimming we will have even more time!  

I am not an expert at play-based learning and would never ever presume to be so.  I have a lot to learn.  I know that Number Agents is not student led play in any shape or form.  However I do believe it fits well in MY programme, and can exist beautifully into programmes like mine.  Number Agents is a playful approach.  It harnesses imagination and creativity and feels like a natural extension of their play.  In fact they take so much of Number Agents back into their genuine child-led play that it is sometimes hard to separate it.  It is almost like in my class they become symbiotic.  

Through my student-led play I have noticed children have become a lot more visual and a lot more perceptive.  This should really help Number Agency.

And so we have our Top Secret Files Ready in our Confidential File Box....

We have our map of NZ with the villains ready to be discovered...

I don't know who is more or the children....ha ha I think we might be equally excited. 

 Perhaps I am naive to believe it is me leading this...I think it is them leading me down a very very exciting track!  You know what..I love that!

Number Agents is our name,
Solving problems is our game,
If you hear a villain near,
Call us quick and we'll be there!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Ready to embark...:)

This is not the clearest image, but you get the idea.  Last fortnight we spent time hooking in, this was incredibly, out of the world successfulπŸ˜ƒ

This week we have moved onto building belief via the voki and messages on our wall.  During the last phase of hooking in, this photo appeared.

We worked on blueprints for our agency (blueprints was a word suggested by one of the children.)  We also came up with a little chant...completely off the cuff!  So cool!

The message on the wall changed.  The children were so observant, they noticed the photo and words had changed and one of them even dragged a parent in to read the sign for them...:)  

Our agent numbers appeared in a bottle (in our portal area.)

With great excitement we got dressed up and had our agency photos taken and added our assigned numbers....their excitement was is inspiring and contagious and is part of the reason I love delivering maths this way.

And so now they wait with baited breath to hear from head agent.   This is the message they will see tomorrow.

I love how they take to this approach.  I love their enthusiasm and motivation and I especially love the way it shapes their mindset towards maths.

The excitement that has been brimming over in our classroom during the last few weeks is good enough to bottle and I wish that every classroom could be like this!

The other positive side effect is that so much of this spills over into their imaginative play, where they take it and expand on it in their own way.  

This approach gives children a freedom just to do what they do, imagine and build worlds around themselves.  Learning within these worlds is empowering, unthreatening and very rewarding for learners, best of all these worlds allow them success!

If you would like to know more I suggest purchasing the book.  Either hard copy, or through my TPT store...without this understanding, what I do will seem pretty random :)

Thursday, 2 March 2017

What I love about number agents


Number agents is a teaching approach that I developed based on Mantle of the Expert (of which I did the university paper and had used in my class for a few years)  and current maths PLD.  It is an approach that has transformed my teaching and the whole 'feeling' about maths in my classroom, it fits beautifully into my play-based room and there is a very symbiotic relationship.  I wrote the book because I wanted to share this approach with others...after all why should I have all the fun!  Seriously I believe it is good enough to warrant sharing.

These are the things I love most about teaching this way:

1)It is fun...absolutely fun!  The drama, play, use of puppets, and encounters with the villains are fun and the look on the 'agents' faces is absolutely priceless.

2)Materials are encouraged and used widely, but they don't need to be expensive.  The materials you and your agents use and prefer are not prescribed by this use what works for you and your agents.  The toolboxes make these materials special.

3)You can apply bits and pieces of what you have learned and use in in professional development time.  Basically any approach you like can be used in professional development, how you run these sessions and what you use is up to you.  Number Agents can work through any of your preferred is simply called professional development.

4)Problem Solving - Number Agents is strongly based on current Maths PLD.  It includes talk moves and best practice approach to mixed ability problem solving.

5)Development of vocabulary in Number Agents is a real spin off, we spend a lot of time talking out loud, exploring and discussing.  Agents are experts, therefore they are encouraged to talk like experts...and the villains use a high level of language and some fabulous words!

6)You can make it your own, as long as the facets of agency are used and the hooking in and building belief are done, how you then run agency is up to can take as long one day as you need and it can also fit quickly into a day that is jam packed.

7)Children are engaged, they are experts, for them the imagined problems are authentic, they have a isn't just a problem solving session, they are defeating villains and if they don't the consequences will be dire.  Professional development becomes crucial, there is a point to learning all this knowledge.

8)It particularly appeals to those learners that in the past may have turned off during normal maths sessions...specifically boys and those children who sometimes struggle to manage themselves.

9) And one of the most rewarding things of all is to hear that the teacher that has them next year is impressed with their understandings and mindset towards that is winning!

Yes there are some 'down sides' if you choose to put them that way:

1)It is crucial to read the book, to understand it and to put your own twist on it.  This is not a step by step programme that tells you what to do and when.

2)You still need really good content knowledge...this approach is dependent on your behind the scenes knowledge of where agents are at and where they need to be next.  It is dependent on you having a good handle of Mathematics both strand and number.

3)To do it right and to really use a Mantle of the Expert approach you will need at least four weeks of hooking in and building belief.  This is crucial if you want children to buy into agency.

4)While you don't have to be dramatic, you do need to be willing to step out of the ordinary when controlling the puppets and talking through the clients.

5) This is a new approach, I have used it for a few years, exclusively as my own approach and what I do...I am really the only person who can one around NZ has used this approach, this is the first year I have put it out there....exciting!  Obviously it would be great to be able to talk about this approach with others and to observe it in action...hopefully this will be possible sooner rather than later :)  I am happy to have visitors, but I am in Whangarei.

What I want most for children in our classrooms is for them to play, to imagine, to create, to develop a positive mindset to maths and to all learning...basically to be children.  I love Number Agents because it allows me to do this, and teach maths really well!πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™

If interested in a hard copy of the book you can click here to order...or you can visit my TPT store entitled Number Agents.