Dec 13, 2013

Fabulous Find Friday: Flip Cap problems

I loved this idea I found from Tabitha Carro over at Flap Jack Educational Resources.  Seeing it was one of those "why didn't I think of that" moments!  But now that I've seen it...there are so many ways to adapt this simple premise.  I'm thinking multiplication facts, parts of speech practice, synonyms, equivalent fractions, number of shape angles, measurement equivalencies...the options seem endless.  What would you use it for?

Nov 15, 2013

Fabulous Finds Friday: Standards Based Assessments

During a school training today, the topic of our grade level's math assessments came up and I remembered all over again how much I love this great find!  It's by Kristine Nannini, whose tPt products I love, and much of her stuff is based on collecting, analyzing and interpreting data.  This particular math assessment is one I stumbled across last year and I love the way the questions push the kids to show their understanding-no multiple choice, 25%-chance-of-guessing-right here.   Best of all, it's divided up by standard, which is absolutely perfect for giving as a pre- and post- benchmark for each unit that I do.  Seriously, it's uh-mazing.  You'll love it!

Standards Based Assessment: 2nd Grade Math *ALL STANDARDS*  Standards Based Assessments: 3rd Grade Math *ALL STANDARDS

 Standards Based Assessments: 4th Grade Math *ALL STANDARDS  Standards Based Assessments: 5th Grade Math *ALL STANDARDS 

Nov 1, 2013

Fabulous Find Friday: Not a Math Person

Does this picture make you feel anxious inside?  Because honestly, it makes me want to hyperventilate.  And then go shopping.  Just so I can still feel like a successful adult even though I can never remember how to solve quadratic equations or find a linear inverse.  (And don't even get me started on imaginary numbers.  Imaginary?  Really?  Exactly how is that useful?)

I was that kid that never felt very good at math.  I always got hung up on silly questions like, "But why does that work?" and "But how can numbers do that?"  And chances are you were not that kid that always sat next to me, the one who had the answer written in manically microscopic handwriting before the teacher had even finished the question, the one who was naturally good at math and also good at making me feel dumb.  Chances are, you were not that kid because most people in America don't feel like they're good at math.

A couple years ago I decided it was time to take on math.  I was "a big girl" now, and I really wanted to take some astronomy classes at the university that required a lot of math.  I enrolled before I could realize what a stupid idea it was.  And I have never worked so hard at anything academic like that before.  I actually bought the textbook...and read it.  I watched videos online before the class.  I became friends with a rocket scientist.  I even learned the location and hours of the math tutoring center.  I finally learned how to study, seeing as I had breezed through most of my schooling on a whim, a prayer and an excellent short term memory (not to mention a measurable gift for, passed on from my lawyer father).  And between you and me, it actually felt good.  Really good.  Like, "I'm-a-functional-adult-and-not-as-dumb-at-math-as-I-thought" good.

So when I got an e-mail about this article by Miles Kimball and Noah Smith it definitely resonated with me.  I'm already a huge believer in the growth mindset, but with math I've recently gone from "I'm not a math person" to "okay, I can do math".  Mind you, we're not bffs or anything, even with the newly discovered math skills.  But I definitely agreed with what Kimball and Smith had to say.  Here's a fabulous quote from the article:
"Again and again, we have seen the following pattern repeat itself:

  1. Different kids with different levels of preparation come into a math class. Some of these kids have parents who have drilled them on math from a young age, while others never had that kind of parental input.
  2. On the first few tests, the well-prepared kids get perfect scores, while the unprepared kids get only what they could figure out by winging it—maybe 80 or 85%, a solid B.
  3. The unprepared kids, not realizing that the top scorers were well-prepared, assume that genetic ability was what determined the performance differences. Deciding that they “just aren’t math people,” they don’t try hard in future classes, and fall further behind.
  4. The well-prepared kids, not realizing that the B students were simply unprepared, assume that they are “math people,” and work hard in the future, cementing their advantage.
Thus, people’s belief that math ability can’t change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Heh?  Is that good or what?  If you're "not a math person", or if you teach non-math people, you should hop over and check out the article.  And just in case Math doesn't validate you this week, I promise, you can do math.  Now go kick Math's butt. 


Oct 19, 2013

A Teacher's Halloween

Are you ready for Halloween?  Better yet, are you ready for the school day after Halloween??
I'm not that into Halloween (Christmas is more my holiday) so I'm always looking for easy and cheap costumes to wear in our school's Halloween parade each year.  Do you ever have this problem?  So this year I decided to plan earlier and I've been scanning Pinterest for a few easy ideas I thought I'd share with ya.
The Paper Bag Princess                 Teachers! The stress of searching for a Halloween costume is done! Click on this image to follow this Pinterest board! It's an entire pin board of Creative Halloween Costumes for TEACHERS!!! Over 100 ideas already pinned!
The Paper Bag Princess-love this book!             Viola Swamp from Ms. Nelson                                                                                Is Missing

Raining Cats and Dogs!                              DIY Halloween Costumes: Mime | cable car couture                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

"It's Raining Cats and Dogs"                                                      The Classic Mime

Halloween treat bags for the kids classes! Love it!


One year I was Charlie Chaplin, since all I         And one last Halloween idea...  
needed was a bowler hat and fake mustache.     How cute is this!
My 2nd graders had never heard of him, so        (courtesy of Mud Pie Studio blog)
we enjoyed Chaplin movies as we waited for 
the school Halloween parade.

Oct 11, 2013

Parent Teacher Conference Questions

Next week will be Parent Teacher Conferences for our school, which is early for a traditional, term-based schedule.  But the teachers thought that meeting with the parents earlier, before the term is over and grades are official, would be more helpful.  (Can I just say how lucky I am to be at a school where that's even an option?  So grateful.)  This way we can touch base with the parents and talk more about the child and their growth, than grades and percents.  It will be interesting to see how it works out, but I'm really looking forward to it.  In that stream of thought, another teacher at our school pinned this form that a parent would fill out/ask at PTCs and I thought the questions were really interesting. If my parents asked these questions, I would love it!  Go to iMom and check it out.


Oct 9, 2013

Um, hi again...

Alright, I know I've been a little MIA from the blogging world lately.  Okay, a lot.  I've been feeling a little like that slacker friend that hasn't called or made any type of contact in forever and now doesn't know what to say so they keep moving "call so-and-so" to the bottom of the to-do list, which totally isn't helping things, and then all of a sudden it's been two months without a word.  Not that that's ever happened to me.  I'm just saying.
But I promise I'm back, and have so much to share!  I've been recording my kids starting out math tasks this year and they've had some really great math conversations with each other.  Our math is flowing brilliantly and I LOVE the depth that the Common Core has to offer (and the depth it requires of the students).  So much good stuff to come!

Aug 9, 2013

Fabulous Finds Friday: Hot Fudge Monday

So I know the blogs have been hit and miss this summer...mostly miss.  But the days of summer have just flown by, and sadly, they're quickly coming to an end.  I started getting e-mails again about choosing library and computer lab times and had to face the fact that it's time to jump into the school world again.  I also pulled out some teaching books I ordered at the end of the school year and got excited about this one all over again!
Grouped by part of speech, it has tons of really great student sheets for each of the parts of speech, most of them involving a piece of writing.  One of my favorite is an assignment to write about a used pop can, telling his sad story to a psychologist about being crushed and drained.  So fun!  Head to Amazon and check it out!

Jul 19, 2013

Fabulous Finds Friday: Kids Book Review site

So funny story...  About a month ago, a Vivint sales rep came to my door to tell me that, although Vivint mostly does home security, they were trying out a wireless internet system in my area. She wanted to know if I was interested in trying it for a month and giving feedback.  I was actually very interested seeing as I had just gone the rounds with Comcast AGAIN and was fed up with them and looking for a new option.  And so Vivint wireless was installed and peace was once again restored to our cable/internet world.  Last week another sales rep came by to get my feedback on my experience so far.  As we were talking, I mentioned that I happened to be a teacher.  She mentioned that she happened to help start a site for kids to review books, called  She described it as Goodreads for kids, but there is a nice twist to it: free books. For your kids. For your classroom.  For your library.

So here's how it works.  Publishers that are looking to get an idea of what kids like, or just get the word out about their book, send copies to, who then send it on to you.  The kids read it, post a review about the book on the website, and get to keep the book (printed copy or e-book is sent).  You, as the teacher, can go online and see the reviews your students have written and can help them pick which books they should request.  The more books you get, the more books your kids can try and become interested in.  Reading books can suddenly become techy and "cool".

So the big question is, how are you going to use this great site??  Here are a few of my ideas:

  • A lot of teachers assign monthly book reports-this has never been my kind of thing.  But I think it might be fun to have a book report assignment consist of reading and reviewing one of the books on LitPick.  The kids would probably get such a kick out of reading each others' reviews as they were posted, which might encouraged the stragglers to get theirs done too!
  • Every couple of months, we have a Parent Student Book Club, in which the kids and their parents read a book and meet together to discuss it (and eat treats, of course!).  I'm planning on requesting a class set of one of the ebook versions to use as our Book Club book.
  • Use one of the books as a read aloud and write a class review together.
  • Have pairs of students partner read one of the books together, co-write a review, and then present their review to the class as if they were Siskel & Ebert.
  • Have students use their review to create a movie-trailer-like video.  You could set up a "movie theater" with the chairs, pop popcorn and watch everyone's movie-trailer book reviews.  If you wanted to you could even type up a list of all the books being reviewed so that, as they're watching, the students can mark which of the books they want to go read.
  • Have students create a book jacket for one of the ebook versions they request, using their review on one of the inside flaps and writing a summary of the book on the back.
  • Every week, give kids time to tell the class what book they're reading from LitPick and why they gave it the review they did.
What else can you think of that you could do with LitPick?

Jul 8, 2013

Rich Math Tasks - What Are They Really?

I'm sitting in a motel room watching "How the Universe Works" and doing Pre-Calc homework, at the end of day 1 of a math training I've been presenting.  What a Monday.
Math has definitely been on my mind lately, and I'm excited about some of the work I've been presenting at this math training.  Ever heard of a rich math task?  It's the new big thing floating around the math world and I've seen a lot of supposed "math task" cards and activities floating around tPt.  It's actually been a bit frustrating for me as I've opened task document after task document, only to find that it's really just a math activity for small groups or a multi-step story problem.  This is not the core of a rich math task and is not what I'm looking for.  So I thought I'd list some characteristics of rich math tasks.

Rich math tasks...

  • The problem has important, useful mathematics embedded in it.
  • The problem requires higher-level thinking and problem solving.
  • The problem contributes to the conceptual development of students.
  • The problem creates an opportunity for the teacher to assess what his/her students are learning and where they are experiencing difficulty.
  • The problem can be approached by students in multiple ways using different solution strategies.
  • The problem has various solutions or allows different decisions or positions to be taken and defended.
  • The problem encourages student engagement and discourse.
  • The problem connects to other important mathematical ideas.
  • The problem promotes the skillful use of mathematics.
  • The problem provides an opportunity to practice important skills.

  • (courtesy of "Why Is Teaching With Problem Solving Important to Student Learning?", NCTM April 2010) 

    Would you add any other characteristics to the list?  Do you use rich math tasks?

    More resources and math task ideas to come!

    Jul 5, 2013

    Fabulous Find Friday: Back to School Night Infographic

    Infographic courtesy of

    Do you ever get the feeling parents aren't reading your class, never?  I used to get frustrated when parents would ask me questions I had already answered in the newsletter, several notes home and the class website.  Incidentally, these were also the same parents saying on the end-of-year survey that they wished they were more informed about classroom happenings and curriculum and I thought, "Seriously? What more can I do?"    I finally realized that it wasn't about doing more but instead communicating in a way that worked better for parents.  I had to take a step back and think about where the break-down was happening.  As much as I don't want to face it, because I'm not a super tech saavy person, our world is changing, information is flying at people at a much faster pace and parents just don't have the time or the energy to sit down and read anything unless it's 144 characters less, so to speak.  This has led to my weekly newsletter about curriculum being condensed to bullet points under curriculum subject headings, calendar events written like a shopping list and all other information about classroom happenings being sent to parents in an e-mail listserve.  And can I just say, thank goodness for the e-mail listserve.  I write one e-mail with a brief intro, bulleted list of 1-2 sentences about what I need to communicate (fieldtrip info, supplies needs, volunteers wanted, etc), finish it off with an explanatory paragraph for those still reading the e-mail by that point, and sign off with a positive statement and a compliment to the parents.  Voila!  No lost papers in the dark abyss of the child's backpack, no copies or formatting needed, and the amount of "in-the-loop" parents more than doubled!
    Ever since then, I have reassessed the way I communicate important information to parents, making things simpler, less cluttered and less wordy.  Last year, at Back To School Night I went with an information packet in the form of a double-sided, 3 column brochure.  This was much easier for parents to read and understand.  This year, I'm thinking of branching out even more and putting my classroom information in the form of an infographic.  I have little experience with graphic design and no experience with programs like Photoshop but will that stop me? No.  Because I have found a site called that allows you to create infographics, well...easily.  And the best tip about creating infographics I've come across is to plan out ahead of time which information you want to display.  For me, this is important weekly dates like spelling tests or when homework is due.  I'm also including a month-by-month timeline of general curriculum topics, e-mail and class website links, a quote about my educational philosophy, dress code options, etc.
    The more I work with, the more I'm seeing how easy it is and thinking of the possibilities for student use.  Utah history infographic?  The steps for dividing multi-digit numbers?  The timeline of Sleepy Hollow?

    Have you used infographics yet?  I want to hear how you use them and what I should know as I jump into this technology adventure!

    Jun 21, 2013

    Fabulous Finds Friday:

    Have you been to yet?  It's an amazing website with SO MUCH stuff (for lack of a better word) all about the Common Core.  There are checklists and sample problems and articles and advice for aligning textbooks & materials and even some really good videos about the shift to Common Core and classroom lesson videos.  The picture above is from one of my favorite videos on the site, by Phil Daro, that really shows why other countries are passing the U.S. in math and why something needed to change.
    If you're going to be teaching the Common Core Standards next year, you seriously need to check out this site.  But come back to it often because there's so much there - I still discover something new every time I go back!

    Jun 14, 2013

    Fabulous Finds Friday: Airserver

    Have you heard of this app called Airserver?  It can project your iPad, iPod, phone or other device onto your laptop or desktop computer.  This is great for those of us like me that aren't at a wireless school and have a projector tied directly into a desktop computer...which is, of course, located across the room and far away from where I'm actually teaching the kids.  Using Airserver, I can roam the room with iPad in hand and still project on the board whatever it is we're looking at or talking about.  So much better than saying, "Let's look at this next one.." *long pause as I run across the room to the computer keyboard*

    Jun 11, 2013

    The Best Thing About You

    Okay, I know I've been off the blogosphere for a few weeks now...  But the last two weeks of school have been CRAZY!  And I've been getting ready for a teacher training happening this week.  And the dog ate my homework.  Any other excuses I can come up with??  Would it help if I bribed you with a freebie?
    This is a form I include in my kids' end of the year books, on one of the first pages.  We sit in a large circle and the kids pass their paper, in timed, 1 min chunks, slowly around the circle.  By the time their own paper circles around back to them, all of the students have written something unique and kind about that person (I have the kids read through the list on the paper before they write their comment, to make sure there aren't repetitions or ridiculous comments like "you're cool" or "you are nice").  It's a great compilation of compliments and a positive way to end the year!

    May 3, 2013

    Fabulous Find Friday: When I Grow Up

    Is this not so adorable?? I'm a huge fan of taking pics of my kids; pictures are such a great trigger to happy memories.  We don't have a school yearbook so every teacher makes their own class "memory book" and I am definitely doing this for ours.  I wish I had done this at the beginning of the year and posted it on our door.  How sweet would it be to see this lovely thing as you walk into the classroom every day?

    Photography by Christine Kay Photography

    Apr 29, 2013

    Easiest. Game. Ever.

    Today we played one of my favorite games for reviewing concepts.  And it just so happens that this game also gives me a lot of insight into my students' understanding.  I don't remember the original name of the game, but I've played versions of it before at grown-up parties.

    I've used this game for a lot of different topics.  We've been studying environments and Utah animals lately, so today they each got a picture of a Utah animal taped to their back, where they couldn't see it.  I've also used this for content terms and vocabulary.  In 2nd grade, this was our weekly practice for our vocabulary words.  After we had done our vocabulary routine to learn the words, I would give the kids 10 min. to study their words.  They could jot down notes, draw pics of the words, quiz each other, whatever they wanted.  It was always the most productive, focused time of the week and who would imagine 7-year-olds could study on their own??  This also gave me time to code a class set of index cards with the vocabulary words.  I'd tape the words to their back, and they'd walk around trying to figure out which word was on their back.  (After the first year, I had all the index cards laminated so I could use them year after year.)
    Rules of the game:
    1. Find out what's taped to your back by only asking yes or no questions
    2. You can only ask one question per person, and you can only ask each person once
    3. You only get once guess; if you're wrong you're out, if you're right, you can take it off your back and keep answering others' questions
    4. There's only a given amount of time, so ask good quality questions!

    Apr 27, 2013

    Fabulous Find Friday: Lit2Go

    Have you heard of this site?  I hadn't until I googled audio versions of a book we read as a class in 4th.  They have a ton of classic books like Tom Sawyer, Aesop's Fables, Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, Beowulf, Black Beauty...need I go on?  The best part is that every chapter of each book has a chapter summary, Flesh-Kincaid Readability level and both an audio and pdf of the chapter.  When we were studying The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, I could project the pdf of the pages from the overhead onto our whiteboard for choral reading or for their Reading Workshop assignments.  It was so helpful for everyone to be able to see and underline and mark sections.

    Check out the National Poetry Month section, or the Happiness Collection.  Yeah, they have a Happiness section.  Now tell me this site isn't great.

    Apr 23, 2013

    Home-, er...Class-Grown Lettuce

    Happy Earth Day!  How about growing some lettuce with your kids?  Use the cut-off part of your head of lettuce, stick some toothpicks in the sides to make sure the base stays just below the water and stick it on container of water.  My bok choy started growing in less than a week!  You could make a class salad in a month and bring a whole new meaning to recycling...while teaching science!

    Apr 19, 2013

    Fabulous Finds Friday: Show Me app

    Have you heard about this app yet?  It's so fun!  It's like a whiteboard on your iPad, but you can record both sound and what's happening on the screen, and then save it and e-mail it.  I recorded some of my kids explaining their mathematical theories about equivalent fractions and showed their parents the kinds of discussions we were having at school about math.  A teacher across the hall had her kids show and explain a math concept they had solidified that term and showed the short videos at Parent Teacher Conferences.  The parents, and my principal, were so impressed!  And the best part of's free!

    iPad Screenshot 4

    Apr 18, 2013

    Pattern Blocks: Equivalent Fractions

    Last week I posted about my newfound love for pattern blocks, especially for teaching fractions.  I gave all the kids each of the pieces and had them determine the value of each piece, if the hexagon equaled one.  The next week they used this information to find as many equivalent fractions as they could.  Even my low kids could do this because they could still choose a piece and sort out what other pieces fit "on top" of it.  And my high kids loved it because they could start thinking deeper and mixing different fraction combinations.  One of my high-bies even started thinking hypothetically about cutting the sixths in half but had a hard time explaining why dividing sixths would double the denominator.  As they worked with a partner, they made a list showing the fraction and equivalents.

    As you can see, they even started getting into adding fractions with different denominators.  When I asked them why you could add different fractions, they were able to relate it back to equivalent fractions with common denominators.  Once we transitioned all that concrete work to the pictorial and abstract representations, they picked up on it quickly.  Any that struggled were able to fall back to the pattern blocks again to help them solve the problems.  Totally worth two days of math time, to save me a week of teaching fractions five different ways looking for a way that would stick with everyone.

    Apr 12, 2013

    Fabulous Finds Friday: Fraction Hopscotch

    We're pretty deep into fractions now, and I think we've all been dreaming of multiplying fractions in our sleep!  The kids have had a lot of good discussions and quite a few misconceptions and false ways of thinking have surfaced.  This is my favorite thing because you get such a good view into the kids' brains and can see so blatantly where they're going wrong.  And that just makes my job teaching so much easier!

    This game from Imperishably Beautiful for practicing fractions is ingenious!  On the blog, Shayla said it took her 45 min. to make, so I think I'd tape it to a long carpet remnant or a shower curtain (thumbtacked into the carpet to cut slippage).  You could use it for adding or subtracting fractions (using two throwing rocks), finding equivalent fractions, or have them multiplying whatever fraction they land on by a given whole number.  Any other ideas or uses?

    Apr 11, 2013

    Pattern Blocks: Finding Fractions

    I have become a HUGE fan of using pattern blocks to teach fractions.  As in, I will probably use them almost exclusively to teach different fractions concepts.  Yeah, the love is that deep.  It's so nice to show kids, in a way other than those overused fraction circles, how to manipulate fractions and it's much more challenging and engaging.  I actually only pulled them out to use for finding equivalent fractions.  We're now on day 18 of our fraction unit and we've used them for:
    - representing fractions
    - finding equivalent fractions
    - decomposing fractions into like denominators
    - decomposing fractions into unlike denominators
    - composing fractions in different ways
    - multiplying a fraction by a whole number
    - adding fractions
    - subtracting fractions
    - critical thinking
    - finding and proving math theories

    Who knew those little geometric shapes could be so useful, right? (We'll also be using them for geometry and angles soon)  It's also been nice because, when paired with a really good math task question, the kids differentiate themselves and level out at their own stage of difficulty within the task.  So enough talk, here's what we did with them.

    Finding Fractions
    On the board I wrote the following task question:
    "If this is equal to one whole, what would the other pieces represent?"

    Right away they were able to determine the red hexagons equaling 1/2, the blue rhombus equaling 1/3 and the green triangle equaling 1/6.  That was where they got stumped.  And therefore assumed the other pieces were impossible.  I had them trace the pieces on paper and cut them out so they could better manipulate the pieces.  Eventually they discovered a triangle fit on the orange square, as well as another triangle cut in half vertically with the pieces turned upside-down.  This meant the square totaled 2/6.  The cut-and-turn strategy got them thinking they could do the same to figure out the tan rhombus, which they did.  One tan rhombus cut in half horizontally can fit together in a green triangle, so we determined they were both equal to 1/6.  This led to a great conversation about how things can be different shapes but take up the same amount of space.

    We ended by drawing and writing in our Math Notebooks each shape and it's represented fraction.

    Apr 7, 2013

    Fabulous Finds Friday: Unkindness Behavior Consequence

    I saw this idea on Pinterest today, from the blog lil light o' mine.  Random acts of kindness are part of the birthday routine in our classroom so I was diggin' this idea.   I actually liked the comment from a pinner the best, which was to have a child pull a random act of kindness from the jar as a consequence for being unkind in the classroom.  I could totally see myself saying to a rude or harsh-speaking student, "It looks like you need to work on the skill of being kind.  Why don't you go pick out a task that will help you practice that."  Ah, how I love natural consequences.  And wouldn't it be great to have them perform their act of kindness before apologizing, just to soften the heart for a more genuine apology? 

    Mar 29, 2013

    Fabulous Find Friday: Number Slider

    This handy dandy slider is is a great and easy idea.  I'm planning on adding a decimal point and using it for kids to compare decimals in partners, but I kinda feel like there could be endless ideas.  Give a number one place value at a time? (ie. Make a number with 7 thousands, 4 tens, 6 hundreds & 2 ones)  Have partners each make a number and then add their numbers together?  Make a number and write 10 more, 10 less, 100 more, 100 less, 1,000 more, 1,000 less?  Have one partner multiply their number by a 1-digit number, and their partner has to figure out their number by dividing?  Oh the choices...  
    Thank you, Michelle Harper.

    Mar 25, 2013

    Rigor Part I - Mind the Gap

        Rigor.  What a beautifully complex word.  A word, a concept, that often eludes me in my curriculum planning.  Long work commutes have been spent manipulating math problems in my head...and then jotting them down at stop lights.  On scraps of paper.  Or on my hand.  By the glow of my car's dome light.  Something was telling me this wasn't working...maybe it was the guy in the car behind me, waiting for me to notice the light had turned green.
        But what to do instead??  Lately I've had Yeap Ban Har's words running through my mind.  Advice I heard at a Singapore Math conference two years ago (or 14 in teacher years, which are like dog years).  Let them struggle, he said.  Get the most out of our problem and use it for days.
        Now the practical side of me thought this Yeap guy must be truly disconnected from the classroom if he thought one math problem could last my kids a whole week, even with "math discussion".  The other side of me, the one that wants to have a life outside of school, hoped he was wise beyond my own understanding and it really was possible.
        So I flipped open my dog-eared copy of this book and began rereading my old highlights.  SO MUCH GOOD STUFF.
    First of all, it discuss and compares the results of the TIMSS report, that beast of an international study that helped determine, through video and data, why Japan is a top performer in math and the U.S. is...well, not.  One of the most fascinating things to me was the comparison of lessons structure between the U.S., Germany and Japan.  They even showed it in an easy-to-read-quickly chart, which I much appreciated (I've become a bullet point kind of girl).  The break down is essentially this - in bullet point format: (one specific lesson that summarizes the general)

    • 15 min: having students work difficult problems on the board from the previous night's homework
    • 20 min: Teacher presents problem for day-theorem students have to prove-teacher leads through process
    • 10 min: Theorem reviewed by reading aloud from handout  

    • 5 min: review previous day's lesson & assign problem not finished
    • 5 min: Students present solution methods
    • 15 min: Teacher presents day's task for students to work on solving independently
    • 20 min: Students continue their work in small groups, discuss solution methods
    • 5 min: Teacher show good method for solving  

    • 8 min: Teacher asks short-answer review questions
    • 5 min: Homework checked by teacher calling on students for answers
    • 15 min: Worksheet given with similar problems; students work independently, teacher monitors, notices confusions & demonstrates solutions
    • 15 min: Teacher review of another worksheet & demonstration solving of challenging problems
    • 5 min: Quick oral review of problems similar to ones worked that day
    • 10 min: Students finish worksheets & assigns homework  

    So fascinating, right??  What did you notice?  Time lengths, surprising.  Depth of content, shocking.  Difference between a U.S. math lesson structure and a Japanese one?  Not surprising at all.  This comparison is why I decided last year to take a risk, trust my students and completely change the structure of my math time.  More on that soon...

    Mar 22, 2013

    Fabulous Find Friday: Bubble Wrap Area Task

    Okay, okay, I know already gushed about Dan Meyer and his math tasks only two days ago.  But I did the teacher version (aka "quick version") of his Bubble Wrap dilemma at a meeting this week and thought it was great.  There are so many areas of math in which you could delve deeply with this problem.  I think technically it's aligned with 6th grade, but it easily fit 4th grade's Area & Perimeter standards too.  Check it out, and have a good laugh at some of the faces he makes in the video!

    Mar 20, 2013

    Dan Meyer Math Love

          I remember well the month that math and I got into what has become a life-long fight and a huge parting of ways.  It was third grade, and the instigator was...multiplication facts.  We struggled to find peace with each other for months upon months, with the list of casualties including my ego, my mom, my teacher Mrs. Eubanks, even my poor high school math teacher who couldn't wrap his head around the fact that I had to do some serious quick calculations to figure out 8 x 7.  Yeah, it was that bad.  And ever since then, math and I haven't really been on speaking terms.
        Which is why I did great teaching 1st grade.  Or Kindergarten.  Or even 2nd grade.  Nope, no multiplication facts there.  I could easily explain the decomposition of numbers or why you borrow when subtracting 3 digit numbers.  Easy peasy.  Until I moved to 4th grade math and realized I couldn't even understand two of the Common Core math standards (4.NF.4a & b, in case you're wondering.  "Understand a fraction a/b as a multiple of 1/b and...understand a multiple of a/b as a multiple of 1/b"...I mean, really, you smarties that wrote the Common Core couldn't figure out a way to say that in simpler terms?  Or in English??)  And so began my quest to make peace with math...or kick some math butt, depending on my mood.  
        One person helping me out this week - Dan Meyer.  He's only been in my life 2 days, but I would like to officially refer to him as my math love.  Could I be married to him and put up with his math mind 24/7?  No.  But do I want to show every single one of his math videos and problems to my kids?  Like, starting tomorrow?  Most definitely.  He's a high school math teacher, so most of his stuff is end of 4th/5th/6th grade, which is a bummer.  But I'm finding I'm able to adapt some of his stuff.  And watching some of his videos has gotten my own math mind going, and I've been able to write some really good math tasks the past two days. One of them was even a math task to teach 4.NF.4a.  Take that, math.  Kirsten, 1. Math...well, we don't really need to keep score.  Let's just say I finally won one.

    Want more Dan Meyer tasks?  Here's a shortcut to a list of his 3 Act Tasks, which are incredible!

    Mar 4, 2013

    Follow the Yellow Brick Road

    Any lovers of The Wizard of Oz?  With the new spinoff, Oz The Great and Powerful, coming out this month we had some fun making some yellow brick road inferences.  
    We've talked about the fact that an inference is {the text} + {your schema/background knowledge} = {an inference}.  The kids are actually pretty good at naturally inferring, but struggle to support their inference with details from the book, or know what knowledge they used to get there.  This activity let them start with the inference and work their way backwards if they wanted.
    After reading a chapter in our shared reading book and discussing, the kids cut a piece of yellow construction paper into fourths.  On one section they wrote the detail from the text that was their "brain clue", on two others they wrote pieces of background information from their schema that helped them, and on the last they wrote their inference.  Then out to the hall we went where everyone laid down their inferences in a long "yellow brick road".  While the Wizard of Oz soundtrack played (thank you Spotify) in the background, the kids walked down their piece of road, explaining their inference process to a partner.  Lots of light bulbs went on for my struggling students.  Sometimes all you need is a few good examples to see what something should look like...or to be able to say, "So that's what the teacher was talking about." 

    I had the kids leave their inferences laid out in the hall so I could quickly assess them while the kids were out at recess.  The one drawback?  "Follow the yellow brick road..." was playing on repeat in my head the entire day.  Anyone ever realize that song has very little lyrics??

    Mar 1, 2013

    Fabulous Finds Friday: Best Part of Me

    'the best part of me' writing prompt

    In another week we'll be having Parent Teacher Conferences.  Already.  Is it seriously almost Spring?  And do I really only have a few more months to teach...well, everything that's left??  In some moments that thought brings fear to my poor heart.  Then I see projects like this and remember what my main focus needs to be.  So next week I think the kids will be doing this writing about the best part of them (although with 4th graders, we'll concentrating more on abstract character traits).  I also thought it would be a good project to have hanging in the hall as parents are waiting for their conference.
    Deep breath, big sigh, diving into term three...

    Feb 22, 2013

    Fabulous Finds Friday: Desk Folders

    I thought this was a brilliant idea from 2nd Grade Sandcastle.  We use ours for unfinished work, so I can just glance around quickly to see who needs to stay in at recess to finish an assignment.  And when someone is absent, I can just stick the work in their folder for them to finish when they get back.  Yay for paper organization!