Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Friday, June 02, 2017

Math - It's What's for Breakfast - Day Four

Whoo-wee! It's Friday. It's our last day with this group of students. Next week I will be leading a brand new group with this same information. So next week's posts will just be what I'm noticing instead of a full breakdown, just so you know!

After the math vocabulary stickers and roll call  I jumped in and took over the Estimation Problem for the day. I wanted to get my feet wet and ready for Monday. Today it was about the height of a Ferris Wheel, but they gave us a clue when they included the guy from Monday's estimation. The students had to remember that his height was 6'4". It was funny to watch them all immediately pinch their fingers on the picture and then try to count up how many of those it would take to reach the top of the wheel. Since this was an inaccurate and unsteady way of measuring many only got about half of the correct numbers of people to count.

I also asked the teacher participants to weigh in with their estimations and share their strategies. One of them brought up the idea of just counting up half way and then doubling it. Which leads right into today's Number Talk strand!

If we used 64 x 1 and then showed them 32 x 2 can they 'decompose' (ask them to use the correct terms we discussed yesterday) the 32 into 30 and 2 so that the problem could be (2 x 30) + (2 x 2)? Highlight any strategies shared that came from our lessons this week, such as Area Model or Number Lines.

Today's Activating Strategy was called Eliminate it. There's a table with four two digit numbers in them. They are just random. Tell the students that there is no right or wrong way to answer this question. But look at all four and remove one of them from the rest. Make sure that you stress that the student talks through their math reasoning behind why they selected that number. Have them refer to the place values of the numbers, or the odd-evenness, prime-composite, digit is repeated, etc.

Next was time for only one workstation rotation today.

Yesterday I gave you some homework to do research into Three Act Tasks. Dan Meyers created a google doc that he is sharing about various math problems in LiveBinders. Students watch a little video or look at a picture. Then they talk out what they notice and  IMPORTANTLY try to determine what the video could be asking. They estimate, placing their guesses on a number line with LOW choice at one end, and HIGH choice at the other. Their estimate falls somewhere on this line. Students need to determine what information is needed to solve their selected question. Then they work through the math and offer up suggestions for results, justifying their reasonings.

You get to decide if you reveal the answer, or let them walk away without solving it.

We had a survey for the students to complete, so we stopped today earlier than usual.

Next week is all me with four teachers watching me conduct these lessons for 16 students.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Math - It's Whats for Breakfast - Day Three

Good morning Mathematicians,

If you're as bad as me at staff developments you see some great ideas and immediately want to try them out. Which translates into DollarStore Run!

My Coordinator had these great little 3x5 corkboard picture frames with the Station Labels attached to them. I had to get them and of course couldn't find exactly what I wanted. I did grab some 3x5 frames with a shadowbox effect. I removed the glass and cut up some scrapbook papers to color coordinate with my table colors (red, blue, green, purple). I have table buckets in these colors to keep materials organized. I have even spray painted the backs of my student white boards to coordinate as well.

Yesterday I noticed that the Coordinator picked out one or two students to highlight for each activity. I found these great small plastic traffic cones printed with "Great Job!" "Awesome!" or "Way to Go!" I grabbed a couple of these to give out at each table to "Make You Famous" and know who to call on when I need a student to explain. I will watch for the student who mostly seems to understand the math behind the concept to give this award to.

I also grabbed some Mardi Gras beads - 8 for a $1 with colors that coordinate with my tables. When the students arrive for my class next week I am going to ask them to select a color and sit at that table as a means of separating my groups on the first day. I will then assign tables according to ability for the next two days. This requires some quick assessment of these new students as they work through the math activities on Day One.

Now, on for today's Math Work:
Focus - Variables - a symbol that takes place of the unknown

We started with Math Vocabulary and worked through their definitions. Another estimation from this great site called Estimation 180. It has enough for EVERY day of the school year...umm, hence the name, right?

We worked through another set of Number Talks. Today the strand was Doubling and Halving where the students will try to break apart or 'decompose' one of the factors - 3 x 2 x 6 - to make it easier to handle. My Fourth Graders haven't been introduced to PEMDAS, so that conversation didn't come up. The students did fine with this and even with the Commutative Property problem. What caused them trouble was when we extended it to a four digit expression - 6 x 6 x 2 x 12. They started zoning out and were not confident in their strategies. We moved on after some extended Wait Time. Remember - Today is not the time to teach new concepts.

Currently, we are working through some Multiplicative Comparison Problems. Asking the students to discuss what they already know and what they need to know gives them a focus. The problems were picked because they included skills that the students should already posses, they required them to explain or prove their thinking, and included an engaging portion that activates what they will be learning in an upcoming lesson.

There is an Activating Question first, kind of a We Do. A Teach Question, like an I do. Then an Active Engagement Question, You Do. Students need to talk out what they already know and what is the question asking us to solve. Can they write an equation? You can refer back to the Anchor Chart to help them understand that words like 'is' and 'times' translate into math symbols. We want to get the students to be thinking about the 'variables.' They can use their number lines to show the sets from the problems.

We moved into Workstations next. There are four and students are given 20 minutes at each. There is an I\ndependent station where students work with pencil paper questions. There's a Group Work station where they are to discuss with each other how to approach and solve the problems provided. The Teacher Led Workstation has three Multiplicative Comparison problems that uses the same numbers each time, however you are guiding the students to see that the product will NOT always be the same. Students are given permission to use number lines, white boards, and snap cubes to help them solve. The computer station uses MathPlayground to check their understanding of multi-step word problems. Students work independently here and if they finish early they can choose a different game from this site to work on.

We started a Three Act Task. If you aren't familiar with teaching method, I'm going to give you some homework to research it before tomorrow's blog post.

See you then!

Math - It's What's for Breakfast Day Two

Teachers, congratulations if you got through yesterday's post. Summer Brain is a real thing, people. Once those school buses drive off the lot, it turns on. So kudos if you managed to get through Day One of Summer Math Institute with me!


Today the teachers arrived a half hour before the students in order to preview the day. The biggest thing our coordinator stressed was that we need to 'Step Back' and let the students take over. This session is not for teaching any new skills, it's strictly to observe how students approach and attack math problems. We want to witness their reasoning skills in action. As teachers we can notice concepts that we need to address during tomorrow's mini-lesson or bringing up in small groups as needed.


12 students came tumbling into our room and we got right to work asking them to pick out a Math Vocabulary Sticker to wear for the day. In their journals they have a spot for them to write out what they think their term means and illustrate it. We shared those out loud with the group. They were a bit shy and needed some coaxing, but this activity got them talking and thinking about math already.


We are focusing on strategies to bring NUMBER LINES into more math lessons this week. So we had some activating strategies to see what the group was already capable of doing. We handed out a plastic one that had a blank side and a ticked side. It was interesting to see how few of them actually understood how to use these as a tool.


Another issue I noticed to address with these students is as they approach math exemplars, or word problems, they seemed obsessed with taking whatever the first two numbers are in the problem and adding or multiplying them. To slow them down at the beginning of the year don't stress out on finding the answers but rather concentrating on deciphering the problem. What do you know? What do the numbers mean? What are they asking you to do?


Number Talks was a huge "Aha Moment" for me when I first saw this strategy at an earlier institute. Sherry Parrish (pdf - Number Talks video - Sherry Parrish ) is the Number Talks guru. It basically asks children to explain their thinking and use those strategies to teach the rest of the class additional ways of solving problems. It was interesting to listen to the students talk through their math. We had to cringe when students were off with their reasoning, but it helped us to see where holes were and how to address them in later math lessons.


The students were also asked to reflect on the class. They had a survey to complete sharing what they are already comfortable with in mathematics and then they wrote in their journals about Something I found challenging today… Tomorrow I am excited about…


Day One was a juggling act as we got used to the kids and they got used to us. Using the materials and showing their math thinking caused a lot of confusion. But by Day Three I think they will be experts.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Math-It's What's for Breakfast - Day One

Umm, what was I thinking? It is 8:05 A.M. on my first official day of summer vacation. Here I sit in a school cafeteria, learning about how to teach MATH! It is start of the 2017 Summer Math Institute. I have attended several of these in the past and gotten tons out of them, but only as a participant. Somewhere along the way my name was submitted to TEACH the class this year.

Our first order of business was an ice breaker called Math Mingle. Think of those fresh faces on the first day of school full of interest, yet still doubtful. Ask them to stand up and introduce themselves to other people in the room, a.k.a. mingle. After a brief period call "Freeze" and give them a task to solve such as: "Make a group of people that share the same number of letters in their first name." Students will arrange themselves into groups by calling out numbers or holding up fingers, etc. Once that is settled ask them to start mingling again and repeat the process. Depending on the age of your students you can create appropriate math level tasks. Since I teach Fourth Grade I could ask my class to "Form groups that equal the same number of cups in 2 quarts," or "Form groups that has the same number of equal sides as an isosceles triangle."

Next was a 5-minute game of Math Pictionary. One person is given a card with 18 grade level appropriate terms on it. They will draw each term without speaking, trying to get their team to say the correct word. A point is scored for each correct guess. Extra point is given at the end if the drawer used no numbers or words in their drawing. You can use this as another ice breaker to see how much they already know or retained from last year. You could also use this as a review once you are finished a new unit.

Here is a suggested vocabulary list for the beginning of Fourth Grade:

1. Commutative Property 2. Array 3. Isosceles Triangle 4. Pictograph 5. Fraction 6. Elapsed Time 7. Tens Place 8. Rounding 9. Sum 10.

Time for some professional development. We read an article on the research behind introducing algebra at the elementary level and shared sentences, phrases, and words that stood out to us. It was interesting to think that primary students could still reason out answers to expressions that ask them to solve for unknowns without any direct instruction.

Now we are thinking about Vertical Progression of a standard. Our county has broken down each standard and provided Achievement Level Descriptors in grades 3-5. They are finalizing the K-2 as we speak. We were given a table with Emerging, Developing, Proficient, and Distinguished. The standard was broken into each category onto small cards. Our table was charged with the task to organize them into the correct categories. We were successful at our table, by the way. It's important to think about how students are performing on each standard as you form groups and assign tasks. This is a great way to create your small groups and differentiate according to their strengths. It also helps to think about how to reduce a standard down to its smallest parts in order to scaffold for those students that are starting at the Emerging Level.

After a short break we are smacked back awake. We are struggling through a Mobile Puzzle, or Logical-mathematical puzzle.

To me this is a Distinguished Level Task. To give this to a student who is working off of an Emerging Level, like me, they would check out pretty quickly after being easily frustrated. This task would require a lot of scaffolding for them to see the rules and patterns of how these numbers balance and relate to each other.

We broke for the day. Whew! Summer Brain is already setting in.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

And the winner is...

Congratulations go out to Anna Young!

She won the TpT $10 gift certificate to use during the sale.

You can still win with the TpT 28% sale by using the code BESTYEAR when you check out.

But hurry, it's only good for today!!

I'll be sending E. Husby her favorite ScrappyGuy product because she won the second prize!!

Flexible Seating - Crate Cushions

I am so proud of myself right now. I'm jumping in the deep end of the Flexible Seating arena this year and have already blogged about some ideas I had HERE.  I wanted to create some type of cushion for these crates I bought at Walmart. The crates are going to hold student work and Friday Folder materials and to help repurpose them into stools as well, I had to get creative.

I looked around at a few people's suggestions on how to create cushions, like this one from Hands on Learning. But their cushions fit down into the crates. I couldn't do that because I am using hanging folders and the cushion might crush those pesky little white handles like crazy.

I needed something to go on top. Something that would also be sturdy for some of my larger Fourth Graders. So I measured the width and length of the outside lip of the crate.

It was 14" x 16.5".

Then I went to Home Depot and bought a 4x2' piece of particle board that was only like $4. I had them cut the two pieces I would need from that for my project. I had them cut it slightly larger to overlap the crate at 15" x 18".

When I got home I looked at the sharp edges of the boards and my Teacher Brain went to, "Uh-Oh. Someone's going to get hurt." I took a small bucket and traced rounded edges on each of the corners.

I broke out the jigsaw tool that has been gathering dust in the far reaches of my garage and cut those edges down. It was awesome.

Then I some 1' poly foam I bought at Jo-Ann's (hint** Look at the remnants first, they might just be perfect for you.) and took out the Staple Gun to secure the corners first.

 Then I worked my way around the edge of the foam securing it to the board.

 I flipped it over and had a cushion ready to for the next step.

 I bought some broadcloth at Jo-Ann's as well. I asked the lady what type of fabric would be good to use in a classroom. This is what she suggested. I bought it purposely a little longer so I would have some room to work with. I had them cut them at 24" lengths. I chose a blue and green for our school colors. Just easy to remember.

Once again I just started stapling around. This time I started on the longer sides, like present wrapping.

 This is what it looked like when I finished stapling everything.
 My Teacher Brain came back and said, "That fabric in the middle is not going to work. If it's right on top of the crate, the fabric will rip and the whole thing will fall apart." Flashbacks to my chair pocket fiasco.
 So, I needed to remove that middle section of fabric which required a whole lot more stapling.

Here's what it looked like when I flipped it over. Great, right????

Now, here is the finished product on top of the stools. LOVE!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back to School with TpT 2016

Design by Glitter Meets Glue Designs

What a great way to start off a new school year winning stuff.

TeachersPayTeachers is having their annual Back to School Sale by providing you with 28% off of stuff on their site.

Make sure that you check out my store while you're browsing around for some great stuff to get started this year.

On top of all the goodness that TpT is providing, I'm throwing in my own. There's a $10 gift certificate to the site as well as a chance to win your favorite product from my store!

There are several ways to enter below. Make sure to check them all out.

I will be announcing the winner on Tuesday morning and sending out the winnings then as well. So start stocking up your TpT Shopping Cart with everything you'll need for the 2016 school year!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/97c4602/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 22, 2016

Classroom Makeover 2016

Wow! Have you had the moment of realization yet?

The one where you look  up and the calendar says you only have ONE WEEK of summer vacation left?

Because I'm having it. Right now.

There's so much to do! And only one more week to do it.

Shh, don't tell anyone, but I've already been to my room and started setting it up.

That's why I am writing today. I need your help!

This year means some big changes for my little room. We have a new principal, a large grade level, and I'm team teaching for the first time in 23 years.

With the change of students halfway through the day, I thought that seating was going to have to be more of a fluid event. One where the students can be more selective about their seating choices.

A friend had posted on FB that she was trying a Flexible Seating plan this year. I looked into on the internet, Instagram, and Pinterest and thought I would take the plunge.

Here's a few shots of the whole room. Yes, I know. It's tiny. And yep, those are 24 desks put out. But I put the groups into different configurations. There are two groups of 9, a group of 4, and a group of 2. It's all about options, right?

Here is a table I raised to waist high so that they can stand up and work. Those two buckets will be holding student work to be sent home and then have cushioned seats on top to be used as stools. 

Here's all the room I could spare for a whole group area. I got rid of my oversized chair, my easel, and a large rolling bookshelf. Instead I exchanged it for a thin folding chair from Ikea and placing my chart paper on the wall with some Command Hooks. 

I tried to get rid of my teacher's desk, but the custodian tells me that it is a requirement to have one in every room. Boo. So instead I switched out my super small computer table and made my teacher's desk the space for four computers to be set up. 

Here's my area for small groups. I have my regular teacher desk things in the small student desks behind this table. I can put my laptop on there and have it connected to the SmartBoard. 

As for another seating option, I have these kind of like cubby areas for groups to meet and discuss amazing literature this year. My friend, Jennifer Howard gave me this idea too. The little seat cushions were 4 for $7.
To ensure that everyone gets to choose the different options and to cut back on the squabbling, I usually have my reading groups set up into Monday, Tuesday, etc. They will get to pick their 'Comfy spots' on their day.
Okay, so here's where you come in. What else am I missing? How can I make it look more inviting without breaking the bank? Any ideas?? Help!
Remember, I only have ONE WEEK left.
Thanks for your help.