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 all...it'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?