Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mardi Gras Books to Share in your Classroom

It's Fat Tuesday friends!

We have been living large here since Mardi Gras began after Twelfth Night, and today our celebrations come to an end.  This is our second season of Mardi Gras, and honestly, we love every minute of it.  The colors, the floats, the bands, the beads, the moon pies, the general happiness.  I loved celebrating Mardi Gras in my classroom last week.  Of course we had to keep it real, and actually work.  It was not a day of pure sloth, but we had a great time wearing beads, playing math games <gasp> and enjoying our Mardi Gras music from Pandora. You can read about our Mardi Gras Celebration and the centers I used to learn history and practice math skills {HERE}.

I wanted to share few awesome books that are great for the Mardi Gras season that you may want to check out: (Links to these will take you to Amazon).

These three are great for younger children.  They are very easy reads for my sixth graders, but the time of year is so festive, they deserve a quick 10 minute read during SSR.

I've introduced a few to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Series Classics.  These have been popular this month.

This book is also a mystery, and my librarian couldn't keep it in the library because it is about Mardi Gras in Mobile AL... our area!!  She wants to be sure to order multiple copies, and I've added it to my list of book purchases as well.

Finally, I wanted to share just a few pictures with you of our Mardi Gras season.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!  I would love to hear if you celebrate Mardi Gras in your classroom!  Don't forget, my Mardi Gras Math Centers are on sale through the end of today! Grab them up to celebrate during the month of February!!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mardi Gras Celebrations in the Classroom

We had a such a fun day celebrating Mardi Gras!  I love when the whole city is excited to celebrate.

I started out the day by giving all of my students several beads to wear.  As they entered my classroom I had fun Zydeco music playing from Pandora.  My students could tell we were in for a great day of fun and learning.  This year I only had a half day with them, we had PD in the afternoon, but I wanted to keep them active and learning, and celebrating!

I set up three different centers to rotate through.  At thirty minutes per station this was a perfect amount.  I also had library and PE, and brunch before leaving.

Center #1:  Mardi Gras Float Board Game:  We have been studying integers, and I wanted my students to practice positive and negative integer phrases.  Students chose a card from the pile, read it out loud, and the group declared if it was a positive or negative integer. All of the cards have a Mardi Gras theme, and the kids loved moving their parade floats to the finish line.  I used bingo chips for markers, but I think I'll be on the look out for tiny cars or Mardi Gras themed hats or masks for future play.  One great thing about this game is that you don't HAVE to use it for integers.  You could just play the game reading the cards.  We happen to be studying integers, so it was perfect for us!

One of the other activities I love with these cards is a sorting task.  Several of my students had a lot of fun just sorting the task cards into positive and negative integers.  They were so proud to put these together!

Center #2:  Number Sense Mardi Gras themed Mental Math Computation:  Our next center was also math related.  I need my students practicing as much mental math computation as possible.  These differentiated task cards give students 4-6 directions to solve a computation problem.  The first set is just addition and subtraction related.  I use a lot of different words for these operations so it is perfect vocabulary practice as well.  The second set includes all four operations, and the last 10 cards include all four operations as well as exponents or questions that include statements similar to "go to the sum of the digits."  

Students can use a hundreds board for help if they need to, as well as a dry erase board.  They love to challenge each other with the more difficult cards, and my more capable students timed each other to see who could get the correct answer the fastest. 

I also love keeping these cards handy for when we have a few extra minutes before heading to a special class, lunch or buses.  When I use them with my whole class they are perfect to practice listening skills as well!

Center #3: The History of Mardi Gras:  Of course I had to sneak in a little reading lesson as well in during the center rotation!  I found a great FREE article from Fourth Grade Shenanigans about the History of Mardi Gras {HERE}. I printed it multiple sheets to a page and added a cover from clipart that I had to make a booklet.  My students did a close read activity with my student teacher, completing a cold read to make connections and practice internal comprehension, then they discussed text structure and historical evidence.  

I had them write down 9 interesting facts on round circles to represent Mardi Gras beads, and we cut them out and created necklaces on construction paper.  I loved their small group interaction with my student teacher.  She will begin teaching lessons soon, and this was a perfect opportunity for her to get to know my students better.

I also had a few students who could not attend PE, so I gave them an added bonus center to complete.  This one was Mardi Gras Float Fractions.  It practiced finding equivalent fractions and percentages by answering 10 questions.  When the questions were answered my students had to draw and color a parade float with the correct information included.  Here is an example:

I think this was one of their favorites, and I had several students who asked me for copies to take home over the weekend!  YAY.. they WANTED to do math!!

Our Mardi Gras Celebration wouldn't be complete without MOON PIES!  I had gotten a TON of them over the weekend at a Mardi Gras parade my family had gone to, so of course they had to come into school for my Smarties.  We had enough for everyone to have 2 moon pies, and they were so funny about flavors.  Banana was definitely the favorite.  I considered doing a graphing activity, but knew I wouldn't have time, so I added my idea to my planning list for next year.

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras in your classroom?  I would love to hear the ways you celebrate.  If you are interested, the above mentioned MATH GAMES are bundled together in my store.  They are ON SALE through Fat Tuesday if you want to start the week with a little celebration!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!--- 
Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Integer Word Problems: Real World Questions {Mid-Week Math Motivation}

Hello friends!  Thanks for stopping by for a little Mid-Week Math Motivation.  Today I want to share a math lab that I worked on with my students when we were studying integers.  This is a great way to really assess your student's understanding, plus it keeps them up and moving.  You can really listen to their math conversations, and they get to socialize in groups too!
I spend the first few days of my Integers unit working with students on recoginzing integer phrases and graphing them on a number line.  I set up a number line in my classroom from -10 to +10 and then use phrase cards.  My students each get a phrase card and they have to find where their number would be represented on the number line.  We also practice opposite integers and my students get to pick a partner to be their opposite on the number line.  They have to explain the phrase, and their partner has to explain why they are the opposite.  I am specifically looking for understanding that they are equal distances from zero, not that one is a positive and the other a negative number.  I use the task cards and number line from this bundled set for the activity.  We also use foldables for vocabulary, and I come back to the set again for cooridnate grid.

The next day I split my students into groups, and the real fun begins.  I try to keep my students in groups of 4-5.  This way everyone is involved in the writing process, and no one can completely take over the group.  Everyone needs to contribute.  The task for this integer unit was to create a real-world problem involving  two integer phrases.  Students have to graph the integer on a number line and then compare the integers.  

I give my students about 20 minutes to create the problem and put the information down on chart paper.  I use chart paper that is gridded.  If you teach math and don't have gridded chart paper, run, don't walk to order some.  It is perfect for graphing inequalities, integers, creating number lines, coordinate grid, geometry.. you name it.  And it sure beats just using a plain old ruler and trying to keep the number line straight!!  

Here is an example of a problem my sixth graders created:

Next we complete a gallery walk of the problems.  I use a sheet with five number lines.  So if I have more than 5 groups of problems, the students are spread out and still get practice.  Yes, it is ok for students to not do ALL the problems!  With at least five you can still listen to them think, monitor their math comprehension, and complete a formative assessment for the benchmark.  I give students about 3-4 minutes at each poster.  On their recording sheets they have to draw the number line using the scale provided, graph each integer and make a comparison of them.  

This activity is a perfect example of a math lab that gets students up and moving and keeps them on task.  Worried about time?  Draw the number lines on the graph paper ahead of time or have students create the problems one day in class, and then complete the gallery walk as a lesson warm-up the following day.

I follow up throughout the week with warm up multiple choice questions from THIS packet.  They are quick and easy and involve rational numbers too.  We put them in our interactive notebooks and I have students color the questions they want me to formatively assess.
Have a great week!  If you need a way to spark conversations about math in your classroom, feel free to download this FREE card.  I have my students glue it into their interactive notebooks and use it as a reference tool throughout the year.

I would love to know the activities you use to keep integers REAL in math!  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Celebrating and Taking Ownership of your Learning

I've been working with my students on unpacking our standards.  I read an article about getting students to take more ownership in their learning, and I think teaching them about our benchmarks and mastery is a perfect way to do this.
We just began a new unit in math on Integers and Rational Numbers.  I have to cover TEN benchmarks in the Number Sense standard that deal with integers and rational numbers.  I projected a few of the benchmarks on the board, and we spent time discussing what each one meant, and the skills that we would cover.  We also talked about what it meant to have mastery in each skill.

My students keep a copy of our standards in the front of their math notebooks.  Included is each benchmark for our entire year.  I've begun grading assessments according to each benchmark.  This allows my students to see specifically what skill they have mastered, and what they still need to work on.  Here is an example from a Decimals test I recently gave:

On the test I covered Least Common Multiple/ Greatest Common Factor and computation of decimals in all four operations.  My Common Core standards include:
6.NS.3: Fluently add, subtract, multiply and divide multi-digit decimals using a standard algorithm
6.NS.4: Find common factors and multiples.
So I gave this test two grades.  I staple a grade sheet to the front of the test that shows the benchmark grade for each section, and then students put these grades on their benchmarks sheets in their interactive notebooks.  That way they can see what skills they have mastered and what skills they need to work more on. My students were really motivated about reaching mastery level.  They want to maintain that A/B status.

With this unit I also started including my benchmarks on the wall in my classroom.  After each assessment I post how many students reached A/B status.  I don't post individual names, I don't think that is fair.  You certainly could do this, but I like the anonymity of just A/B status.  My students want to be a part of this group.  I made a BIG BIG BIG deal out of it... passing out Mardi Gras beads to everyone that scored an A or B on EITHER benchmark, dancing, clapping, playing music.

I wanted as many students as possible to reach this point.  Especially the first time I tried it.  I was looking for some serious extrinsic motivation from this activity.  Based on their smiling faces, I think I achieved it!

I would love to hear how you motivate your students!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Using Books and Articles to Write Authentically

Every Thursday the mayor of the small town where I work comes to read aloud to my class.  How absolutely amazing and heartwarming is it, that this man takes time out of not only his regular job, but also his mayoral duties to faithfully show up at our doorstep and spend 30 minutes with us!
During the first semester we read Wonder.  Not only was my class completely enthralled by this book, but so was our mayor.  He LOVED talking to my class about the messages in that book, and they couldn't wait to discuss the precepts with him as well.

When we finished reading the book I had my students write thank you notes to him.  Each student chose the precept that meant the most to them, and wrote a friendly letter describing the precept and an argument as to why their particular quote was the best in the book.  This was a perfect "real-world" writing activity.  My students were writing with a purpose.....to a real person!

It is so important to create situations where our students are authentically writing.  Our mayor is used to listening to arguments and solving problems.  Creating this shared sense of authenticity for my students was a perfect way to work on writing stamina and involve the skills of a "real-world adult" in the writing process.  They could practice writing in their own voices and incorporate other skills we had been working on, including determining tone in writing.

When students had finished, I also had them write letters to me for the same purpose.  I hung these up in our reading corner, and it has been interesting watching my students read each other's work and argue a little over the claims.  Isn't that what we are looking for our students to do?  Discuss and support their claims?

Want to help your student write more authentically?  Here are a few suggestions:
Invite a community member into your classroom to share information about his or her job.  Pair this experience with an informational article you have read.  Have an article on hurricanes? tornadoes? snowstorms?  Ask a meteorology professor to visit from the local college or make arrangements to Skype and interview where they can share information.  Allow your students to discuss and interact about the topic at hand.  If you need to, help them design important questions to ask this expert. After the Skype, presentation, etc.  have students write about the experience with their own claim.

Finally, Model... model... model... model.. model.  Did I say it enough?  Your students watching you model writing is one of the most authentic, powerful tools you can provide, especially if you feel you struggle yourself with writing. I know sometimes that is scary, but your students watching you do something that you are not 100% comfortable with will tell them it's OK to not be perfect either!

I'd love to hear the tools you use to create authentic writing in your classroom.  Please share your ideas!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Interactive Foldables for Fractions and Modeling Division {Mid-Week Motivation}

I was up to my ears this month in teaching fractions.  Do you love or hate teaching this unit?  I seem to have a love/hate relationship with it.  There are days when teaching the concepts is awesome.  It's like we are being served hot chocolate on the Polar Express... people are singing and dancing and just genuinely happy.  Then there are days when I feel like I'm sitting in the dentist chair waiting to get my teeth drilled.....Today I want to share a few activities that I've created and used, and I hope they can make teaching fractions a little easier for you.

One of the first things that I teach is vocabulary.  It is so important that my students are speaking math correctly every day.  Speaking the language helps us to write the language, and this is important when it comes to assessments.  I use a foldable to keep the vocabulary all in one place.

To reinforce the knowledge and vocabulary I have my students use these memory cards to play concentration.  They love to spend a little time in small groups together, and speaking math is a perfect way to spend time with friends.

I also like to use foldables to teach my students the steps to adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions.  To me it is more important to practice the steps, then to spend time writing out all the steps.  We put the foldables into our notebooks, and then leave them open while we practice using our dry erase boards.

And yes, I do teach them the modeling of multiplying and dividing fractions.  I also spend time working through dividing fractions with common denominators as well as the multiplicative inverse of Keep-Change-Flip.

When we start the our drawing models section, I tell the story of my father and baking loaves of bread.  Basically the idea that his recipe makes a certain number of loaves and I have to divide up the loaves.  Here is an example:

The idea of telling a story as we work through these problems really helps them make real world connections to the story.  One of the great things about completing the models first was I could use them to lead my students into developing their own concept for division.  This was really amazing this year. In just a few examples several figured out you could use a common denominator and make equivalent fractions, then divide the numerators and then the denominators to find the answer.  My students really caught on to this concept!  I love giving them multiple ways to solve problems, and many do a great job using math vocabulary for explanations with this type of problem solving.  I'm curious for teachers of fraction division--- do you teach your students to find a common denominator to divide?  Many of mine found it easier than the short cut this year.

I would love to hear how you incorporate vocabulary, or model drawing into your fraction lessons!
Leave a comment below and let me know!
If you need foldables for your classroom- check out my Fractions in Actions Bundle:  It includes Interactive Foldables for basic vocabulary, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; vocabulary matching cards for center work, and an interactive game you can use with any operation.
It is on sale right now on TpT for WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY if you are interested.

Have a great week!  If there are any math topics you would like me to blog about in the future, please let me know!

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