Friday, June 29, 2012

Everybody Likes Recognition!


This week was so busy, with 3 days of workshops, that I never had time to respond to Melissa at More Time 2 Teach who so kindly awarded by as "One Lovely Blog." The rules of the award are:
1. Follow the person who gave you the award
2. Link back to the person who gave you the award
3. Pass the award on to 15 new bloggers

So, here are some blogs I love, in no particular order:


3rd Grade Thoughts

More coming later!

Guided Math Book Study: Chapter 5


I have been looking forward to the chapter 5 discussions -- Using Guided Math With Small Groups. This is my number one area I want to tweak this summer to be more effective. Chapter 5 is huge - over 50 pages - and I found myself going back and re-reading a lot.

Of all the advantages of small-group instruction I zeroed in on this: We can give our students the support they need and adjust instruction to maximize learning. It's an effective way to:
* differentiate
*teach math "hot spots"
*teach with manipulatives
*assess student learning informally
*support math process standards
I really like the idea of doing the manipulative work in small groups -- so much easier to organize for that than whole group.

I just finished two days of training for Common Core Standards (I still have 2 years before they are fully implemented at my grade level) and it was clear that guided math is going to be awesome for this. 

One thing I find helps me with small group instruction is to write my lesson plans as I go, so I am working on a format for that. I find that trying to do the plans ahead keeps me from actually responding to what I'm seeing each day in the lesson and in formative assessment. 

What are you already doing in small-group instruction that works for you? What are you going to change?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Techday

I am always looking for ways to use technology in my classroom, so Thursday is going to be Techday here at Math is Elementary. To get the fun started I want to tell you about a wonderful little resource from Scholastic (yeah, the book people!). It's called Study Jams and is a site that features some short videos on both math and science. Here are the math topics:

One of my favorite things to do with these is use them as a quick introduction to a concept we are going to learn about. My students are immediately engaged by the cartoon explanation. These also make great activities for the computer work station. In fact, at the beginning of the year when we are exploring place value I make this one of my first computer activities. Students watch the video, complete the brief online quiz, and complete a vocabulary activity. Because it's early in the year, I give them a foldable with the vocabulary already on it and fold and cut lines. Later they just fold paper and make their own.

My students cut across the top and bottom line -- that makes the foldable fit into their math journal better! Then they just cut the lines on the front only (this takes some modeling and practice until they realize they can't cut through the whole thing). Under the flap they illustrate the word and write the definition.

To go directly to the Place Value video, click here. If you would like a copy of my vocabulary foldable that goes with it, just click one of the foldable pictures. Enjoy!

Freebie Fridays

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Math Literature: The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Fractions Book

I love using math literature with my students, and over the years I've collected quite a few favorite books. Over the summer months I'm planning to share some of them with you, including some activities to go with them. This one is a favorite book about fractions. Students love Hershey's chocolate, so it's a natural for a classroom activity! A few years ago I would purchase candy bars for each student . . . but rising prices and teaching two classes have forced me to abandon that practice :)

The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Fractions Book by Jerry Pallotta is a fun way to introduce fractions to students. My students have not done much work with fractions when they come to 3rd grade and I found that they were lost when we began the unit midway through the year. Along with fraction strips, fraction circles, and some virtual manipulatives the Fractions Book was a great way to give them some hands-on experience as they began to develop concepts.

To make it affordable, I created my candy bar models that can be printed and laminated. We never have trouble with them melting! (BTW, miniature candy bars at the end of the activity are much more cost effective.) To go along with them I also have fraction cards, comparison work mats, and equivalent fraction recording sheets.

This is the very first product I have placed in my store. You can purchase this digital download for $2.00 by clicking the My Store tab or by going to my TpT or TN stores. If you choose to download Candy Bar Fractions, please leave me feedback.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Made It

I'm linking up again with 4th Grade Frolics Monday Made it linky party. I get inspired every week to add to my summer to-do list!

During the past week I crafted a couple things floating around on Pinterest. First, I decided I needed one of the Teacher's Toolboxes. I picked mine up at Home Depot. I thought the gray would go just fine with my "Wild" labels.

My classroom theme for the year is "Wild About Learning," (it's our school-wide theme) so I created set of labels to go on the drawers and used clear shipping tape to apply them. My finished box looks like this:

If you'd like a copy of the labels you can download them here.

Next up was the Pringles can ruler holder. The ones I've seen online have been decorated with scrapbook paper, but I made mine with duck tape. 

My last project was pencil cans -- I've decided to try these to cut down on students taking instructional time to sharpen pencils. Again I used recyclables, this time a couple of soup cans. Like the ruler holder, I used my trusty duck tape and printed labels.

You are welcome to have these labels also -- Enjoy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Guided Math Book Study: Chapter 4


Chapter 4 is about using guided math in your whole group instruction. The author makes some great points about some of the challenges of whole group instruction, including keeping all students attentive and engaged, having less than the optimal time for feedback as students are involved in independent practice, and the simple fact that some of the best assessment happens in the small group setting. We need to remember that whole group instruction is just one of our tools. Like any tools, it needs to be used appropriately. Some examples given are:

1. Mini lessons
2. Activating strategies
3. Reading math-related literature
4. Math Huddles
5. Practice-and-Review sessions

Like many, I tend to spend a lot of time on whole-group instruction. One of the changes I want to make for next year is to do more mini lessons, so I have been reflecting on my math curriculum and how it lends itself to doing that. My favorite part of the chapter was the framework for a math mini lesson (Figure 4.1, p. 112). It involves four parts:

1. Connection: tapping into prior knowledge
2. Teaching Point: "Today I am going to teach you . . . ", then demonstrating and modeling.
3. Active Engagement: the guided practice part of the lesson and including things like "turn and talk" to get students involved.
4. Link to Ongoing Work: summarizing what we learned and talking about applying it as they work. This can be a great transition into the workstations.

I have created a simple planning sheet to help me look at turning the four pages of a daily lesson in my math curriculum into a mini lesson. You are welcome to download it and use in your own Guided Math journey. Just click the picture. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Equal Shares

Just ask your kids if they have ever had to come up with equal shares -- they have a zillion stories! When I am introducing division I always like to give them a chance to share some of those stories; it can be a very emotional issue as they laugh at some of the stories and express their indignation over times when things were not "fair!" Once I hook them in, I like to use the book The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins. As we learn about division, and later fractions, this story gives us a common language and we refer back to it often.

One of my favorite things to do is assign the characters from the book to students and have them act out the story as I read it aloud, sharing the illustrations with the document camera. My school still allows food, so I bring in a package of cookies, set a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of a table, and begin the story. When I taught kindergarten I always used the book, and I still use it in 3rd grade. It is one of those wonderful stories that can be used across grade levels. With older students you can extend the learning into fractions or division with remainders very easily. To help you get started I've created a Freebie for you. If you use it with your students, I'd love to hear how you adapt and extend. Just click the picture to download, or go to TpT or TN from the sidebar.


Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guided Math Book Study: Chapter 3

This is turning out to be such an awesome book study . . . I am so glad I decided to participate. If you are not reading along there is still plenty of time. The study won't finish until July, so grab your copy of the book and join us.

Click on over to Primary Inspired to catch up with the bloggers hosting each chapter.

Chapter 3 is titled "Using Math Warm-ups in Guided Math. When I had a self-contained classroom I used math for my "morning work" a great deal but when I began team teaching last year I stopped. Not only did I not see half my students in the morning, but I also had a lot of students who just barely made it to the classroom by the tardy bell. I teach at a Title I school, and many of my students take advantage of the free breakfast. I've wondered how to incorporate the math warm-ups into this setting, so I was eagerly anticipating this chapter. 

After reading about the importance of the math warm-ups, I'm definitely going to be incorporating this in the coming year. I will take the first few minutes of each math class for "math stretches." One key thing I learned from the reading was to choose different types of activities each day (I had wondered how to fit everything in each day!). For example, Monday might be a data collection activity, Tuesday patterning, Wednesday number of the day and so on. This would definitely work in my classroom.

This morning I was at a workshop on what's new in the Smart software version 11 and it got me thinking about putting my math stretches on the Smart board - I'm thinking that a notebook with the daily pages. If I create them this year, I could use them over again with any needed tweaking. One more thing on my summer to-do list!

One of my favorite sections in this chapter is the "How did my family use math last night? Math stretch. I talk a lot with students about "real world" math, and this would be a great addition to that. When I began quilting this year I brought in one of the blocks I made and we discussed all the math involved. Students' answers to this question will make a great class book, too.

What are you doing now for Math Warm-Ups? What plans do you have for the future?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quiet Dice, Or Preserving My Sanity!

We do a lot of activities in my classroom that involve dice. Almost every day during math work stations the sounds of dice rattling and rolling can be heard. Which is great, except for the part where they really get on my nerves while I'm working with my small groups!

In the interests of preserving my sanity I decided to craft some dice that would not make all that noise. A couple of sponges, scissors, ruler and a permanent marker were all I needed.

The sponges I purchased were about 1 inch thick, so I started by cutting 1 inch strips. I accidentally picked ones with wavy edges -- no problem, I just trimmed them off.

Using the permanent marker, I put dots 1 inch apart the length of the strip and cut.

Then I simply numbered the sides from 1 to 6 (of course I plan to do some with higher numbers also!). My package of sponges had one green and one purple, so green became my numbered dice and purple my operations dice. 

There you have it -- my strategy to keep my sanity! And for a great way to store your dice, hop on over to Little Miss Kindergarten to read about using a simple craft / tool box (I picked mine up at Walmart).

And for more fun, I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics "Monday Made it." Click the button and check it out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Guided Math: Chapter 2

Wow! This chapter has a ton of information and it's going to take awhile to process. It's all about creating a classroom environment of numeracy. Most of us do a great job of creating a print-rich environment, but are we numeracy-rich? Is my classroom a place designed for math learning to take place?

After reading about classroom arrangement, I feel pretty confident that I'm doing well there -- since I teach 3rd grade math twice a day and students are at math work stations nearly every day of the year I had to develop a workable arrangement! At the end of the year I worked on my organization and storage of materials, so I think that will be better in the coming year. However, I have a ways to go in creating the numeracy-rich environment described in chapter 2.

Here are some thoughts on topics covered in the book:

Calendars/Agendas: In third grade I've not done a "calendar" time, but reading this chapter has me thinking about ways to incorporate the calendar into routines

Manipulatives: These need to be a little better organized so that students can easily grab what they need.

Problem of the Day: I got away from regular use of this and need to get back to it -- especially with my new math journals.

Word Wall/Vocabulary Displays: I think I did well with this last year. Current vocabulary is put up as we come to it; at the end of a chapter I move it to a wall that displays it for the rest of the year. My vocabulary cards have the word, definition and a representation. I used this great vocabulary foldable from Laura Candler this year, as well as Frayer models.

Math Journals: Number one on my "add to the classroom" list. I loved doing interactive science notebooks this year and want to do the same in math. Guided Math has some excellent suggestions for use.

Graphic Organizers: I tend to use the same few over and over. The book points out that many of the language arts organizers can be adapted for math -- I'm going to try to come up with at least half a dozen to use on a regular basis.

Class-Made Charts: I have NOT been incorporating this. With limited wall space, I will need to come up with a good way to display these.

Okay -- time to stop before I am completely overwhelmed! How about your room? What do you do to create a numeracy-rich environment?

Check out the discussions of the first two chapters:

Chapter 1 by Brenda at Primary Inspired

Chapter 2 by Dana at 3rd Grade Gridiron


Thursday, June 14, 2012

How Big Is A Foot?

I LOVE to use books in math class. One of my summer goals is to create a bunch of activities to go with favorite math books. First up is a wonderful book by Rolf Myller, How Big Is A Foot? One of the things I like about this book is that I always used it when I taught Kindergarten and still use it with my third graders! It is an awesome way to talk about standard vs. nonstandard measurment with any grade. In the book, the king wants a bed built for the queen so he measures her with his feet. However, when the little apprentice measures with his feet the bed turns out to be just a bit too small! Reading this book to my students always leads to great math talk.

To help with acting out this story I have created some "feet" for measuring students. I print out several sets and divide kids into groups to measure and record the dimensions needed to build a bed for a classmate. It quickly becomes obvious that not all the beds turn out the right size. 

You can get a copy of the Freebie by clicking here or by going to my TpT or TN store. Happy measuring!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guided Math Book Study

Photobucket Have you heard? There is a great online book study going on right now, and you are not too late to join in. We are reading the book "Guided Math" by Laney Sammons. I ordered my copy from Amazon and had it in just a few days.

Jump on over to Primary Inspired to get started with chapter 1 even if you don't have the book yet. 

After reading the first chapter last night I have lots to think about. Some of my questions are:

1. How does this work with the timeline I am supposed to follow -- teaching a new lesson every day?

2. I teach two classes (same math lesson) each day. That means I don't have "morning work" time with one class. How might I adapt?

3. What will I need to change in my classroom environment to make it numeracy - rich?

So much to think about; I'm looking forward to delving into chapter 2!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Place Value Practice

One of the first math concepts we work on is Place Value, and students always seem to struggle with it. I've been working on an activity that will help me assess where students are in their understanding as well as provide differentiated practice for them early in the year. When I am introducing a new math station activity I almost always do it at my small group "teacher" station first. We will sit and play a new game together before I place it at a station for them to practice. That way I know who can help teach it to others and who needs to work on a lower level of the activity.

My new "Place Value at the Beach" pack includes three levels of Concentration-style place value games aligned with Common Core standards. They can be used as individual games or combined for a mixed practice activity. Use the links in the sidebar to download this for FREE at my TpT or TN  store, or click the picture below to go directly to the Google doc FREE download. 

If you use this in your classroom, please let me know how it goes. 

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Pin It button on image hover