Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quote of the Week -- August 31, 2014

“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Have a good week,

Friday, August 29, 2014

Likely, Unlikely, and Impossible

I have been developing some materials to teach probability this fall and over the next few weeks, I plan to share some freebies with you.  Today's freebie is a tri-fold paper for a whole group active response. Click here for the free download Likely, Unlikely and Impossible from my Google Drive.  Students fold along the horizontal lines and attach the top margin to the bottom margin.

The first lesson is to introduce the words and have students hold the correct term toward you. Use some non-mathematical situations which require a prediction.  Here are some examples:

1. At the end of the day, the school busses will arrive to take some students home.
2. At the end of the day, a limousine will arrive with a movie star.
3. At the end of the day, a unicorn will arrive carrying a rainbow.
4. It will be sunny all day.
5. It will rain sometime today.
6. The clouds will turn purple with orange and green stripes and shower cotton candy.

You get the idea.

I would love to read comments about how else you introduced these words.  Don't forget to come back next Friday for more freebies in this series.

Update: November 2015

In this packet are seven “carnival games” students will evaluate based on likely and unlikely outcomes. I have included a tri-fold page with the words “likely, unlikely, and impossible” so all students can respond at the same time in class discussion.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger

My students and I love the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger.  Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O'Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind is a wild ride with unique characters and an out of control plot.

Lenny Flem, Jr. is the only one who suspects the one with the fake mustache of being up to some evil plot. He meets Jodie O'Rodeo and the two of them work to foil the impending world domination.
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quote of the Week -- August 24, 2014

“If people like what you do it's because you're good at what you do. If they love what you do it's because you know Why you do it.”

Simon Sinek

Have a great week,

Friday, August 22, 2014

Customary Measurement Chart

When teaching measurement, I find that students need two things: lots of practice measuring real objects and a chart summarizing what they need to know.
Like the Metric Measurement Chart, students can use this chart and a calculator to make conversions:

  1. Find the column that matches the unit you are starting with. 
  2. Move down until you find the space where it shows one. 
  3. Move along the row until you find the equal amount for the unit you are converting to. 
  4. This is the amount by which you multiply.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader

The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader is realistic fiction for comic book enthusiasts.  Tucker MacBean, raised by a single mom, decides to enter a comic book writing contest for a scholarship to help his family.  In between each chapter of this story line is a page from Tucker's creation.

I plan to introduce this series to some of my fourth graders this year. 
For a related writing prompt, click here.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Can Calculators Boost Number Sense?

                Once when my stepdaughter was in fifth grade her teacher assigned her a page of fractions to be converted to decimals using long division.  This touched off one of the most memorable kitchen table homework battles.  She insisted that her teacher said she couldn’t use a calculator.  I shamelessly bribed her with one M&M for each problem completed.  The assignment was finished and turned in.  I vowed I would never give a similar assignment.  My stepdaughter hated math, still hates math, and is choosing a college/career path where she will no longer take math classes. (Probably not because of this one assignment, but it didn’t help.)
                When I teach conversion from fractions to decimals, I want my students to see the pattern.  I show them how to enter the fraction as a division problem.  They fill out a similar sheet to the one my stepdaughter was given using a calculator.  We discuss what they see for a particular fraction.  For example: 1/5 = 0.2, 2/5 = 0.4, 3/5 = 0.6 and so on.  By having a clear lesson focus, seeing the patterns, I can determine when my students should use calculators and when they should not.
                In every fourth grade classroom, I have a group who struggles to become fluent in multiplication and division facts.  This gets compounded when I want them to multiply and divide large numbers.  For some, I teach the process and let them use multiplication tables for the facts they haven’t memorized.  Others have such a lack of number sense, that they don’t see the following pattern: 8 X 4 = 32, 80 X 4 = 320, 80 X 40 = 3200.
                I showed one student this process with a calculator.  What didn’t make sense for her when she saw someone else’s completed table, made more sense when she used the calculator and wrote down the answers.  I want to emphasize the guided aspect of this process:  she was making the calculations and writing the answers.  She could begin to predict how large the products would be based on the number of zeroes in the factors, because she was doing the work with a calculator as a tool.  I wanted her to notice those patterns by looking at accurate answers.
                This year my whole class struggled with measurement.  I developed several lessons and stations for practicing length, volume, and weight.  One of the activities involved reading food labels and computing the volume and weight of the contents.  Because my focus was on learning the relative amounts of these measurements, I let them use calculators for the computations.  I knew they were not strong enough to multiply decimals and fractions without a tool.
                When teaching students process and strategies for computing numbers, I don’t let them use calculators.  I am clear with my students, their parents, and myself, when I am testing them on computation and when I want them to go beyond and study patterns and develop more complex problem-solving strategies.  After all isn’t that when we use calculators as adults?

What do you think? How do you use calculators in your classroom?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Quote of the Week -- August 17, 2014

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” –St. Francis of Assisi

Have a great week,

Friday, August 15, 2014

Box and T-Chart

Most people know about Venn Diagrams when teaching compare and contrast.  Someone showed me the box and t-chart form for displaying the same information.  I find it is easier for students to write neatly inside the spaces.  I also find it easier for students to create their own on notebook paper -- especially if you are facing a copy paper budget crisis for the fifth year in a row.

To download this form from my Google Drive, click here.  Students write what the two topics have in common in the box and list the differences in the t-chart at the bottom.  I often require a certain number of facts listed in each space.

Also, this weekend August 15-18 I am giving away a copy of School Poems for Poetry Notebooks from my Teachers Notebook Store.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

I discovered this author this summer and I am in the process of reading everything in print he has written.  I am not a history book fan, but he chooses incidents that are not well-known and shares these accounts in such an engaging way that they were more entertaining than some of the fictional stories I read this summer.

I had never heard about the plot to steal Abraham Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom.  I don't want to give away too much, but it involves counterfeiters and the Secret Service.  I plan to share this as a whole class read aloud, because it is such a well-written informational text.

Here is a police report form students can use to launch a related writing assignment.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Student Created Fraction Strips Part 2: sixths, eighths, and twelfths

If you missed the first part of Student Created Fraction Strips, click here. 

Depending on the experience level of the students, I may introduce sixths, eighths and twelfths on the second day.  If I have already taught the Magnified Inch lesson, some of the fractions may go more quickly.

I don't try to have students fold the sixths.  We talk about the whole as 12 inches and dividing that equally in six pieces is the same thing as 12 ÷ 6 = 2.  Each piece will be 2 inches.  I hold up sixths next to the thirds and we see how there are two sixths for every third.
I have students fold the eighths instead of measure.  Each piece will be 1 1/2 inches and that is a little beyond what my students were capable of doing.  Instead we fold half, then half of each half, and then half of each fourth. 
Holding up a finished copy and showing the relationship between halves, fourths and eighths helps.  As a final step, label the fraction strips you made today with the words and numbers for each fractions.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quote of the Week -- August 10, 2014

“The responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all the ideas but to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”
Simon Sinek
Have a great week,

Friday, August 8, 2014

Text Features Form

If your class is like mine, you will spend some time teaching text features this year.  I wanted to share a simple form that I use to see how my students are doing recognizing text features and explaining how they add to the text. Click here to download Text Features Recording Form from my Google Drive.
This chart is the basis for an anchor chart I develop at the beginning of the year.  I have students work in pairs to find and record features and the next day independently.  I have a class set of Eyewitness Books on different topics I use for this.  I also use our textbooks and trade books for different units of study.

This year, we will have a subscription to Time For Kids.   I know my students will have even more practice with text features.
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