Zero the Hero–His First Appearance

wpid-20150823_110355.jpgZero the Hero made his first appearance at the OK Corral on Friday.  It was the tenth day of school.  He brought every kid ten Goldfish crackers which we counted by ones, twos, fives, and tens.  We in the OK Corral were astounded at the difference in how long it takes to count by ones versus by tens.

On a side note, counting out ten Goldfish times sixteen took less than a whole package of the yummy crackers.  So there are plenty left to enjoy at home.  Bonus!

Zero will return again on Day 20.

It’s Almost The 100th Day Of School

wpid-20150121_071248-1-1.jpgWe only have a few more days until the 100th day of school.  Zero the Hero will officially retire for the year.  But before he does, he has plans for a celebration.  If you thought that Day 90 was easy, with six rolls of Smarties equaling ninety, check out what Zero left us the other day.

Stapled to gallon-sized Ziploc bags are instructions for kids to bring in their own 100 collection.  Kids can put 100 anythings into the bag and bring it to show the class.  In years past, we’ve had 100 rocks, 100 pennies, 100 hair ties, 100 marbles…

Clearly, Zero’s mama didn’t raise any dummies.

Zero at 90

Today was the 90th day of school at the OK Corral, exactly half-way through the instructional year.  Zero the Hero visited, leaving us each 90 Smarties, because we’re 90 days smarter, of course.  He challenged us to count our Smarties by ones, twos, fives, and tens.  Then as we wrote about the experience in our Zero the Hero Journals, we were encouraged to enjoy our Smarties.

wpid-20150114_165222-1.jpgYou may wonder, why Smarties?  Aside from the obvious pun, years ago Zero the Hero discovered a secret:  Smarties come fifteen to a roll.  That means that six rolls makes 90, and Zero doesn’t have to count out 90 Smarties times twenty kids.  Yep, pure genius.

Until the company that makes Smarties decides to save a billion dollars a year by shorting the rolls a couple of pieces.  Then we’re screwed.  But for the time being, 90 is the easiest visit from Zero the Hero.

Well, until Day 100…

Zero at 80

wpid-20141217_070938-1.jpgOn our last week of school before a two week holiday break, we celebrated our 80th day of school.  Our good friend Zero the Hero brought each of us 80 jelly beans.  As usual, his email message instructed us to count our jelly beans by ones, twos, fives, and tens.  After counting, we were to write about our jelly beans in our Zero the Hero Journals, enjoying our jelly beans as we wrote.

Today for the first time, and keep in mind this is Zero’s eighth visit, a lightbulb went off for one of my friends.  “Hey, this is math!” exclaimed Princess Nastypants.  And thank you for playing along, I thought but didn’t say.

Confession: Normally for the 80th day, Zero the Hero brings red and white beads that we string on a long pipe cleaner.  When we bend them it makes a cute candy cane Christmas tree ornament.  But Zero was out of money right here before Christmas, so we had to just make do.

Wait until the 90th day.  Zero the Hero will share a brilliant fun fact.  Until then…

Zero at 70

wpid-20141204_111946.jpgZero the Hero made his return to the OK Corral this week to celebrate the 70th day of school.  He brought each young scholar 70 Froot Loops, which we counted by ones, twos, fives, and tens.  We then worked to string our Froot Loops into necklaces which we wore around the school for the rest of the day, much to the envy of the others we encountered in our travels.

The first time we did this activity way back in the day, I thought my first graders might be too cool and streetwise to wear necklaces made of cereal so my initial plan was to hang them on the fence to feed the birds.  But the kids were so into making necklaces to wear we just went with it.

“Girl, I make this look good!” one of my friends commented to her bestie, complete with hand on out-thrust hip and head waggle.  Alrighty, then.

Zero at 60

Zero the Hero made his sixth visit to the OK Corral this week.  He brought each young scholar sixty pieces of Indian corn (or, if you prefer, Native American corn).  We were instructed via his regular e-mail message to count them by ones, twos, fives, and tens.  He then provided us with a coloring page featuring an ear of corn, telling us to glue the bits of corn to the page and decorate it accordingly so that we could display our Indian corn in our classroom.  Afterwards, we were to write about the whole shebang in our Zero the Hero Journals.  By the way, Precious Precocious  dissolved into gales of laughter at my use of the word ‘shebang’ and will probably be incorporating it into her extensive vocabulary.

You may be wondering where Zero found the Indian corn.  I’ll let you in on a little secret but you can’t tell anyone.  It’s popcorn dyed with food coloring.  Many thanks to Miz O Postrophe who suggested putting out community puddles of glue on pieces of cardstock and giving each young scholar his or her own cotton swab to use to apply the glue to their papers.

Zero and 50

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Zero the Hero returned to the OK Corral yesterday to celebrate Day 50. He left us fifty stickers along with a big 50 design to cut out.

According to the e-mailed instructions, we were to count the stickers by ones, twos, fives, and tens. Next, we were to decorate the giant 50 using the fifty stickers.wpid-20141030_094613.jpg

I was amazed at how many of my friends tried to get away with only using some of their stickers. I mean, the whole point of the activity is that there are fifty, right? Sigh.

Finally, we wrote about the whole experience in our Zero the Hero Journals. I imagine our pal Zero will be back for Day 60.  If he isn’t too jaded over the whole thing.

This Is Not Cupcake Camp

In first grade, we’re all about tens and ones these days. Understand, when you’re six or seven it’s a very complex concept. I mean, you’re still getting used to the idea that we always read from left to right. So next you find out that the placement of numbers matters, too? Oh, man, it’s a whole thing.

Enter Teacher Tipster. I defy you to watch this video and not wish for a moment to be a six-year-old in this guy’s class.

I gotta get me to the dollar store.

Don’t Be A Judgy Judgerson

I caved,  y’all. Gave in to the man. I have rolled out…(cue dramatic music)…Mountain Math.

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I’ve incorporated it as one of six Math Centers in our revamped Math block.
And it’s not horrible. I don’t hate it.

The kids seem to like it, too. Right now, though, it requires a lot of supervision as they learn how to use it. I have the time now with Enthusiastic Intern in the room.

My hope is that by the time EI leaves us in December, my friends will be ready to independently work Mountain Math.

See? I told you it would all work out.

Because Geniuses Run the World

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the Common Core State Standards.  For the uninitiated, they are the instructional standards for kindergarten through grade twelve, the core math and language arts content that students should have mastered by the time they graduate from high school.

Initially, Common Core was adopted by most of the fifty states, including the great state of Florida.  As with anything new, it was greeted with huge controversy and there was a lot of loud protest against the Common Core.

I had no problem with Common Core, per se.  I mean, doesn’t it seem reasonable to say that first graders in Maine, Oregon, Iowa, and Texas should all be learning the same thing?  If only so that if Johnny moves from Freeport, ME to Portland, OR in the middle of the year, he’ll be up to speed?

I think the visceral negative reaction was more due to the fact that once again, standards were tied to big, high-stakes, standardized testing.  I prefer to think of these tests as “Gotcha!” assessments.  If Johnny has a head cold and didn’t get the right amount of sleep the night before, or, heaven forbid, he’s just not feeling it on a given day, Gotcha!  You, the student, fail, and you, the teacher, are incompetent.

At any rate, mucho dinero  and ridiculous amounts of time were spent in the pursuit of retraining teachers and administrators on the Common Core State Standards.  Whereas previously, Florida teachers were required to teach to the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), now we were being required to teach to the the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  I know what you’re thinking.  Six one, half-dozen the other, right?  That’s where you’d be wrong.

You see, FCAT is owned by Pearson, and they have been getting millions of dollars for years for administering and scoring the test.  Ironically enough, they also get millions of dollars for selling intervention materials for students who score poorly on the test.  Well, that’s convenient.

PARCC, however, is a consortium of participating states, and according to the website, not affiliated with a publishing company.  The process of developing the test is described in this way:  The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.

But alas, none of that matters, because despite having spent the last three years gearing up for the inaugural launch of the PARCC this coming spring, the great state of Florida decided, in its infinite wisdom, to opt out of Common Core State Standards.  We were informed of this mid-May of last year.  We will, instead, be teaching the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) and Mathematics Florida Standards (MaFS).  I shit you not.  And, obviously, there will have to be a new standardized high-stakes test.  Do you suppose someone’s brother-in-law will get the bid for administering and scoring it?

And oh, by the way, said the powers that be, here’s a list of concepts you haven’t covered yet, but you need to cover them by the end of the year so that next year’s second graders will be up to speed.  I’m sorry.  Your emergency is not my emergency.

Which brings us back around to the the present.  We’re being asked to revamp our math block.  Must prepare for the new test.  Which my first graders won’t take for another two years.  Or at all, if the powers that be change their minds again.

We’ll need to add math centers.  Which we used to do, then were told we couldn’t do them, now we’ve gotta again.  Sigh.  I wanted to share a picture of a manipulative my girl Miz O Postrophe made.  She gives credit to Teacher Tipster for the idea, but it’s a really good thing.

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Ten frame made by Miz O Postrophe, from an idea by Teacher Tipster

You’re looking at a Dollar Tree baking sheet, painter’s tape, and two-color counters with magnetic tape on the back of them.  Boom!  You’ve got a ten frame.

Here’s what I think.  Regardless of which standards we use or what standardized high-stakes test we are expected to teach to, the truth is the truth.  At the first grade level, we’re teaching the nuts-and-bolts foundational skills of reading, writing, addition, and subtraction.  All the rest is smoke and mirrors.