Tag Archives: math

A Day of Love and Learning

They practically danced in this morning, clutching bags of carefully labeled Valentines for their classmates.  Anticipation of candy, trinkets, and a day of celebration made the energy palpable.

I’ve spent years dreading Valentine’s Day.  Not because the holiday makes me feel sad or because I have any real complaint with the holiday overall, but because it has felt like a wasted learning day.  The high of Valentines and candy overshadowing math and reading and writing.  I tried ignoring Valentines, banning them outright, shoving them off to the side…none resulting in a satisfactory outcome.  I kept coming off as the Ebenezer Scrooge of February, ruining everyone’s fun.

So I decided to try something new this year.  After much thought, I approached my students a few weeks ago to talk about a potential plan for the day.  I started by asking my students if they wanted to bring Valentines for their classmates.  It was unanimous.  Every student wanted to bring them–some had already purchased them or started making and/or planning their hand-crafted gifts.  So I asked if they were interested in using their Valentines as a learning tool and having a Valentine’s themed day of learning.  Again, it was unanimous.

I didn’t want to just add hearts to math problems and read a Valentine picture book.  I wanted whatever we did to fully incorporate the actual Valentines and push our thinking and learning forward.  I decided on graphing and spent some time Monday and Tuesday reviewing the essential elements of a graph.  My students are already adept at interpreting graphs, but not quite as confident building their own.  Yesterday we explored creating a data set and practiced constructing our own graphs as a class.  Today, once the Valentines were all distributed, I asked students to sort their Valentines into 3-5 categories to create a data set for the bar graph they would create.  I loved watching the focus as the Valentines were sorted for a reason, data sets recorded in their math notebooks, and graphs created on “real” graph paper.  They willingly put the Valentines back into their bags and put them deep into their backpacks for the rest of the day.


data set

After recess I pulled out Love by Matt de la Pena.  I love a book that makes me think…and makes kids think.  I loved watching their faces as I read each page and showed the pictures.  Looks of confusion showed as they tried to figure out love defined as adults blocking the view of the TV and love as burnt toast.  Smiles appeared as the story turned to love as a game of horseshoes.  I heard a student gasp as the beautiful brown face appeared in the mirror. The discussion that followed brought up understandings about loss and love, death and memory.  We decided that we will re-read the book tomorrow, there is more that we want to explore.

The day flew by, we didn’t have enough time for all I wanted to accomplish today so we will continue tomorrow.  In my 29th year of teaching I continue to learn from my students.  When I listen to their needs and desires and combine them with my own goals, magic happens.  That crazy holiday energy that can make teachers want to pull our their hair became my friend today, pushing students to think and create…and yes, to learn. I’m already thinking about next year’s Valentine’s Day and how I will include my students in the planning to make the day productive and have fun doing it!  I #loveteaching every day, even on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's Day




Weekly Photo Challenge: STEM

Here’s the week 7 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology!  (Here are weeks 12345, and 6 if you want to look back.)

Probably because I have been busily writing a grant this week for state funding for our writing project site, all the current educational buzz words are bouncing around my brain.  One that has been getting lots of play lately is the acronym, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

So that has me thinking, what does STEM look like in my photographs?  Today I happened to attend a technology event at the new public library in downtown San Diego called Innovation Day.  The goal was to bring technology leaders of all sorts (from superintendents to ed tech and IT folks to classroom teachers) together to examine some products from vendors and to hear some short presentations about the use of a variety of technological tools.  Walking around the beautiful new library building was a treat in itself, featuring breathtaking views of the city and the bay and some unique architectural features.  This fits the “E” in STEM for me (could probably include some “M” too!)

SD library dome

The beach seems to fit every photo category for me.  This pairing of seashells shows symmetry and the fibonacci sequence.  We don’t always think about math when we look at seashells…but they are perfect examples of those mathematical concepts I just mentioned. Do you know which is which?


And then there are the intricacies of science.  The biology of grasses that grow on the sea cliffs, the slow and constant wearing of erosion on the geologic features, the physics of waves…


So this week’s photo challenge is to represent STEM in photos. Where do you find science, technology, engineering and math?  How does looking through your camera lens through the lens of STEM impact what you see and what you share?  Share a photo (or several) that pictures STEM in some way.  Post either the photo alone or along with writing inspired by the photo.  I also invite you to use others’ photos as inspiration for your own writing and photography.  I often use another photographer’s image as “mentor text” for my own photography, trying to capture some element in my own way.

I like to share my images and writing on social media…and I invite you to share yours widely too. (You might consider Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+) Use the hashtag #STEM and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy.  You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kd0602.  I’d love to follow you if you share your handle.

You can also share your photos and writing by linking to this blog post or sharing in the comment section below.  I am excited to see how you represent STEM through your lens!