Monday, April 21, 2014

Introducing Division Concepts!

Today is my day to post over on All Things Upper Elementary, and today I am writing about how I got my students engaged in division--and how I related it to multiplication. I wanted to come up with an activity that would be a good introduction for my entire class and could also set the stage for some small group work later with my students who struggle.  It worked out pretty well, so I'd love to have you stop by and see what we did!

I hope all of  you had a wonderful Easter.  We hit SEVENTY DEGREES here in Wisconsin and no one knew what to do!  The rain is falling now, so baseball games are in jeopardy again.  We shall see!  Thanks for stopping by and head over to ATUE by clicking the image below.  Thanks a ton!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

May today find all of you in a restful, happy place whether you celebrate Easter or not.  Today I will travel to see family for the day and am going to try my best to be grateful for everything that I have.  I don't take the time often enough to reflect.

As we start off this next week, I want to get everyone just a few pages of "Easter News" for you.  One, be watching for upcoming details of book study that I will be hosting this summer on questioning in math class.  I'll post details later this week in case you want to join us and get the book!

Also, I am nearly finished with my geometry sorts resource (finally!) and hope to post it later this week.  I did manage to get a Double Scoop lesson posted yesterday on helping third and fourth graders develop division understanding--especially as it relates to multiplication.  Click here for more information.  Also, I wanted to let you know that I am having a BOGO sale this weekend...and it ends today!  So if you are interested, here is the information.  It's a great deal...but make sure to read the information carefully to make sure I can get you your free product!

Finally, as we had our nicest weather of the year yesterday, I can't help but think we are all in for brighter days ahead!  Think positive thoughts as you head out this week and make it a good one.  Thanks for stopping by on this very special holiday!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five for Friday!

It's Friday again...and I'm joining up with Doodle Bugs again for her "Five for Friday" link up!  It was a busy week with report cards and everything...but I have a few other NON-report card things to share!

I bought my mom an orchid for Easter...I bought mid-week and am trying to not kill it by Sunday.  It is so gorgeous and will match her living room perfectly--if it's alive!
It's April.  It snowed.  Again.  Nothing more to say.
We are working so hard on division concepts in my room, and one of my struggling math students "passed me a note" after class.  It made my day.
I started trying to regroup and get myself organized.  If you know of something I am supposed to do over the next months--let me know so I can write it down.  ;)
We are digging into our informational text unit and the students are SO excited.  I've blogged about it a few times, but if you want to check out the most recent post I linked it to the photo if you are interested!As always...thanks for the great link up--and go check out the other great bloggers and THEIR weeks!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Read like a Writer": Informational Texts

Greetings!  Just thought I'd share a little more of the beginnings of our informational text reading unit...I think some students had some nice "a ha" moments today!  We started off by partner reading some "easy-to-read" content-related human body books.  We are studying the circulatory system, and I told the students that today we were going to try to "read to learn" and find some new information about how writers actually write informational texts.  I wanted to keep reinforcing the idea that when we research, we need to take our learning and "jot" notes in our own words...and that we need to be constantly thinking about what information is important enough to include in our own writing.  I asked them to work with a partner to read, then flip the book over and try to write down some of the information they felt was key--two different facts, to be precise.

Everyone got to work (several noted how "easy" the text was) and then worked to try to decide what information was most important and how to explain it in their own words.  I watched them struggle with both parts, so I brought them back together as a class.

I asked them to try to explain where they were struggling.  Some students commented that ALL the facts seemed important.  Others said that it was hard to put the sentences in their own words because "They seem perfect the way they are in the book." 

We talked about the reading level of the text--and how when writers write for children they make decisions about what information is MOST important--so they were right!  Every sentence WAS super important because the author had whittled away the extra.  We then looked at a much more advanced text on the same topic and worked together to read a section and noticed that we would really have to think hard if we were deciding what was most important in that text.

We then did a quick review of the text structures we had studied earlier this year...from compare/contrast, to chronological, to cause/effect, to description, to problem/solution.  We looked back at the simple text we had read in pairs and realized that really the only "structure" it had was that it was a list of important facts--one per page.

I told them that those easier books are a great way to get a quick overview of a topic, but to really learn NEW information, we were going to have to push ourselves.  I had them get back into their partnerships and read a key article from Scholastic News and try to identify how that author organized the text--and to see what information was included to help the reader learn more.  I asked them to highlight information they thought was interesting and useful, and we came back together to do some sharing.  As they shared information, I kept a running list (that I kind of wiggled to be the way I wanted!) and we ended up with the following:

*Key facts
*"Expert" opinions
*Real world examples
*Definitions and key words
*Clever titles

I then sent them back to use their highlighter to see if they could identify more of these "tools of the trade" and explained that these would be great things for us to keep in mind as we research--and that we might want to incorporate them into our own writing as we go.

The students were pretty excited to "read like an author" and start to see what they will be doing over the next few weeks!  More work and sharing ahead!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

SIX Ways to Incorporate More Word Problems into Your Day!

I know that we all know how important problem solving is--and that we want students to be able to apply the math they learn to real world situations.  That being said, most math series are rather limited when it comes to the types and numbers of quality problems available to use with students.  If you have been following me for any length of time, you know that I love to write and use word problems, so today I thought I'd share with you some ways that I incorporate "extra" problem solving into my precious instructional minutes!

I'd love for you all to chime in the comments--share your suggestions too!  Let's figure out how to squeeze more problem solving into our already packed schedules. goes--in NO particular order!

1.  Daily warm ups...I LOVE to use a word problem to start off class.  Sometimes I have the students work alone...sometimes together...and then we share what we got, how we did it, and so on.  Whether you do a gallery walk where students look at each other's work, project samples using a document camera, or just have students explain their thinking--warming up with a problem is a great way to get a math class started--and a great way to review previously taught concepts as well!

2.  Centers...often I find that teaching in smaller groups makes EVERYTHING better--for the students and for me.  If I divide my class in half or in thirds, I often make word problems an activity they do when NOT with me.  Sometimes they work alone and sometimes they work together--but it gives them meaningful work to do while waiting for their instructional group.

3.  Partner problem solving...this is absolutely one of my favorite ways to incorporate problem solving.  The discussion that happens between students is SO valuable and they can be taught how to "coach" each other without doing the work for each other!  Also, students get SO good at finding errors in thinking and learning how to "give and take".  We do a LOT of partner problem solving!

4.  Task cards...putting word problems on task cards lets you use problems in lots of ways--as centers, for fast finishers, and so on.  The best part?  You can differentiate by having different groups of students work at different levels or on different skills.

5.  Math journals/fast finishers...I ALWAYS have word problems displayed in places around the room for students who finish working early to use.  This is one of the "I'm done--now what?" things that I train them on early in the year!  I try to make these problems engaging, seasonal, related to a subject we are studying, or just interesting--that way students actually choose them!  I either put them in little baskets in my math area or use these nifty pocket charts from my favorite "Dollar Spot"!

6.  Learning posters...I've blogged about this before, but I love having students show their best work b making learning posters to display of problems they have solved.  When they solve a problem in an unusual way, or use a super efficient strategy, or organize their work particularly well--I may ask them to (or they may ask to!) create a learning poster of the problem.  This showcases their best work and lets them share with others their awesomeness!  I simply give them a 12 x 18 paper and they work to take their solution, reorganize it, label it, etc and then I display the posters for a while. Sometimes the students will actually share them with a small group or the class if there is a good teaching point. (This poster has the problem glued at the top because it was one of my perseverance problems and I included big problems in the resource for just this purpose.)

On that note--I do have to announce that after MONTHS of work, my last few Seasonal Word Problem Collection problem sets are finished!  I have also bundled them at a HUGE savings--nearly 50% off!  I have knocked another few dollars off the bundle price for the next week or so in case my blog followers want to grab it before it goes up to full price--it ends up being only a little more than $2.00 per set!  I've included links to the last two sets, Earth Day and Summer, as well as the bundle of all 8!  If you are looking for problems that are more topic centered or task cards--check out my store for those as well.

So...chime in!  What other ways do you try to get more word problems into your schedule? After all, our whole point in teaching math is so students can apply it to real world situations, right?  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five for Friday!

I sure don't seem to get my act together very often to join in with the "Five for Friday", but this week I promised myself I would be on the ball!  It's been a CRAZY week...the baseball season has started, third quarter has ended, my student teacher left, report cards are due, and I have been working feverishly to get a resource finished that has been hanging over my head for here goes!

Don't forget to stop by the linky and check out everyone's week!  It's so much fun to get to know everyone "virtually"!

This is my latest professional book and I am L-O-V-I-N-G it!  I posted about it yesterday a little if you are interested...the students are loving what we are doing, and Aimee Buckner's writing style is so "real world" for teachers!

This is embarrassing.  This is an empty sleeve of Thin Mints. It's been a tough week.  It "went missing" all in one prep time this week.  Not my finest moment.

My son was inducted into NHS this's pretty competitive at his high school, so it was a pretty big deal.

Yesterday was "Opening Day" for his baseball team!  They won 10-0 and he was on base all 4 times and flashed some slick glove at short stop.  Makes me feel like summer is almost here!
This was my BIGGEST accomplishment this week!  After working on it for months and using it with my own students, I'm thrilled to FINALLY have this off my "to do" list!  I'm offering it at an extra reduced price for this next week to celebrate!

Hope everyone has a GREAT Friday and thanks to Doodle Bugs for the great link up!  Next week is another busy one for me...good thing the Thin Mints are long gone...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Getting started with informational texts

Our next unit in a reading and writing involves the study of informational texts.  This unit is geared toward helping students recognize different text structures and how writers organize informational text so that their readers can truly understand their messages.

One book that is forming the foundation for my unit is yet another wonderful professional book by Aimee Buckner.  If teaching the research process has ever been challenging for you, you are going to want to pick up this little gem and see if it doesn't really change your way of thinking about how kids can conduct their own research projects.

Our curriculum asks students to conduct a research study project on a topic that we have studied this year… a topic that they are interested in and can push their thinking beyond what was covered in class.  For example, we studied immigration and learned a lot about it, and if student was very interested in that topic, he or she might extend their learning by choosing a topic that takes a new angle or "slant" on the topic of immigration.  Perhaps they might want to research the Statue of Liberty and find out how that statue became such a symbol of freedom for the new Americans. Perhaps they are interested in the criminal activity that happened at Ellis Island as the new immigrants arrived.

To get this process started, we began by brainstorming a list of the topics we have covered this year and then began to talk about smaller topics within those topics so that we could start to see how they could turn into interesting research projects.

Along with this, I really wanted my students to begin to look at informational text through the eye of a writer. Buckner encourages this study of texts, so my students spent some time yesterday with piles of books and magazines to hunt for examples of things informational text writers need to know about or use when writing.

On this first day of this investigation, I gave the students all the circulation and respiration books related to our current science unit and ask them to spend some time in partners reading and hunting to help me make a list of tools and techniques that informational text writers use. Check out all the things they found!

I also knew that I really wanted a big chunk of books in the room that the kids were going to be really excited about looking at, so I booked a short time in the library and asked every student to find three or four information texts that they thought could be read in one sitting and that many students in the class might find interesting.  They found everything from killer bees to WWII to bulldozers to Persian cats--and they were SO excited and begged to have reading time.

The next day, I granted their wish--with the caveat that they were reading the books as writers hunting for things that the authors did to clearly "teach" us in their book.  I challenged them to try to learn not just the content of the book--but to learn about writing nonfiction as well.  After a nice reading time, we added to our list a little bit!

So...I can't wait to dig in a little deeper and see where things take us!  It's been fun to watch how excited they have gotten in just two days!  More to come...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Made It--Getting Ready for Team Research!

I'm happy to be hooking up with 4th Grade Frolics again for her wonderful "Monday Made It" link up!

This weekend I've been working on getting organized for our big research project.  Over the years I have tried many different approaches when teaching the research process, but over the last few years what I have enjoyed the most is TEAM research.  Rather than having 24 different topics going on at once where I am frantically trying to keep track of everything, now I do trios where I can really help each group do a better job.

It's great...we do some brainstorming about topics and then students rank their favorites and rule out topics they REALLY don't like. I work to put them in groups with people I know they enjoy working with and we are off to the races!  We research together...students share resources (we never have enough for 24 students to work alone anyway--especially with all 4 fourth grades doing this at the same time!), read and discuss together, start note taking and planning together--and then after a few days, we break off and they finish the process on their own.  It's the best of all worlds...they have GREAT academic discussions, they get the support of peers as they learn, but then they are EACH accountable for taking that new learning, organizing it, and doing all their own writing and presenting.

So...I always feel like there are papers and books flying EVERYWHERE during this process so I decided to invest in some new storage materials and "doctor them up" a little bit!  Here's what I did.

I love me some Dollar Spot supplies!
Step 1:  Assembly
Step 2:  Create fun labels on the computer and contact paper them on.
Step 3:  Quality control
Step 4:  Color coding!  Each team will easily be able to find their supplies!
The magazine files are for their notebooks, graphic organizers, and any other "loose ends" so they all stay together.  Because the labels are covered in contact paper, we can either label them by topic or by student names.  I can use them over and over for different activities/projects.

So this solved part of my problem, but I also wanted ALL of their supplies in one place so each group could just grab their stuff and go.
New tubs!  
This way they can keep pens, highlighters, their magazine holder, and books they are using all in one spot.

Then I started thinking about how CRAZY it gets while we are working and how I don't always have good systems for helping I made some coordinated laminated cards.  I'm not sure how I'll use them display with names of kids in groups?  A place for them to list their resources so we can make a bibliography?  A place to list questions that come up during research?  A way for them to hand me a card to let me know they need help?  I'm not sure yet--but I HAVE them!

So...I'm hoping the new systems might help ME as much as they help my students!  I'll blog more about our process as we get going on it.  Thanks again to 4th Grade Frolics for hosting this great linky--and make sure to stop by all the other great blogs that linked up this month!

By the way...I am pleased to announce the winner of my mini giveaway!  Thanks to all of you for entering, and the winner is...

Congrats and thanks to all!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Just for fun!

I am working this weekend to get some plans ready for the week, and I am printing off some of my spring word problems, my spring bulletin board project, and my informational text pausing points.  I thought it might be fun to give away a set of each of them to someone ELSE who is planning!

What are we working on in our "studio"?  Multiplying fractions then measurement...finishing our immigration diaries then moving to informational text reading and writing with an emphasis on different text structures.  We are going to do a little cartography where we make a map of our state and it's bordering states and bodies of water, we are finishing our human body unit--just circulation and respiration to go!  We still have memoirs, BizWorld, motion and design, and MORE to go! What are YOUR next units of study?  Leave a blog post comment as one of your entries and let me know!

Interested?  Check out the rafflecopter below.

It's a one day giveaway so enter now--it all closes at midnight tomorrow!  As a bonus, I'll put these 3 items on sale for the next few days as well!  Here they are...

Interested in ANOTHER giveaway?  Check out THIS ONE as Elementary Matters celebrates 1,000,000 page views!  Yep...I've donated a product to it--but CHECK out all the other ones!  More cool stuff to win!  See you tomorrow!