Some people may call it an addiction, but I like to think I have a healthy appreciation for professional books.  I mean, addiction implies that there is something damaging, right?  Granted, my wallet may be suffering a little bit, but I think overall it is a pretty harmless addiction to have!

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a firm believer in pushing children's mathematical thinking. I strive to find ways to help my students build their understanding while having fun and still being able to apply their new skills.  I am a huge fan of the standards for mathematical practice, and truly believe that all concepts we teach should be taught through the lens of those practices.

I am also a believer in trying to make connections across content area, which is why I continue to support the math is real life linky party that happens the first Wednesday of every month. If you are a blogger who teaches math, I highly encourage you to consider writing a post for this great link up!  Watch for my post next Wednesday on a real-life math topic . . . and I won't drop too many hints, but it might have to do with another one of my "addictions".  We'd love for you to link up any posts YOU have written that show how math is used in the real world!  

But let me get back on track. A book I read a few years ago was very impactful for me and really helped get me thinking about how to step away from whole class math instruction. Guided Math by Laney Sammons is a great, easy to read professional book that might give you some clues as to how to begin the process of shifting away from whole class instruction. She keeps things real and talks in "teacher talk"--a nice change of pace from some other recent books on mathematics instruction.  She has a new book out now that has me pretty excited! Teachers have talked about reading strategies for years, and the standards for mathematical practice have been a great way for teachers to begin thinking about thinking in math class.  This book takes the concept of literacy strategies and plops them right into math class!  From vocabulary instruction to questioning strategies to visualization--Sammons shows how to make math instruction more meaningful.

I am SUPER excited to get reading, and I will definitely be posting as I go!  Feel free to pick up a copy for yourself and join the discussion!  I don't think you will be disappointed--Laney has a very "easy-to-read" style!

Tomorrow is HALLOWEEN, and to celebrate I am going to throw a 10% off everything in my store sale!  Stop by if you have been looking for something new!  I have 2 new products coming out soon--and I want to remind you again to keep watching my blog and Facebook over the next week or so for a big announcement!

Hello, All!

You might not have noticed because I secretly scheduled a few posts while I was gone, but I just returned from a quick 4 day vacation to Cozumel!  Thanks to Hurricane Raymond, we had rain all day every day--but we still managed to have a good time, do some snorkeling (I mean . . . you're all wet anyway, right?), and have some rest and good food.

But what I really want to make sure you all know is that my collaborative blog, ATUE, is having a giveaway and I want you to enter!  Don't you want to win one of two, $25 TpT gift cards to use at any store?  I would!  So . . . all you have to do is visit all the participant's blogs (the link below to get you started) and collect some words about FALL!  Mine is a little trickier . . . but you will need everyone's word/phrase to get entered!

My favorite things about fall is WATCHING TREES TURN colors in my backyard!  

Now--what are you waiting for?  Get over there because you only have 2 more days to enter . . . and I would LOVE the winners to be MY blog followers! :)  You deserve it.  

And while you are thinking about giveaways . . . I just need you to be thinkin' that my lil' old blog is nearly one year old.  I am thinkin' you are going to WANT to see what news I have in the next week or two!

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the iconic "Judy Clock", but as I was working through some different problems involving time with my class, I noticed some HUGE misconceptions--so big that I realized Judy was only going to be able to help with part of it!

I quickly realized that although a number of my fourth graders can't tell time (this is an increasingly big problem!), they have some other major misconceptions as well.  I saw students who:

--didn't realize the hands moved at different speeds
--didn't understand that there are 60 minutes in one hour
--didn't understand that there are 60 seconds in one minute
--didn't know that there are 24 hours in one day
--didn't know that there are 30 minutes in a half hour and 15 minutes in a quarter hour

and more.

Needless to say, Judy and I backed up quite a bit and while I had most of my class working on some problem solving, my "time team" and I got to work trying to build these foundation skills.  We counted by seconds.  We closed our eyes and tried to guess how long a minute is.  We used Judy to "notice" things about our clock (12 numbers . . . 5 minutes between numbers . . . and so on).

We tried doing some skip counting if one hour is 60 minutes, how much is 2 hours?  3 hours?  1/2 hour?  Some students were still struggling, so I grabbed some paper and started cutting!

When I used "Judy", students had a hard time keeping track of anything more than an hour so . . .

  . . . we started adding and cutting and labeling our parts so that students could start "adding" time.  I made up goofy problems like, "Jim flossed his teeth for 30 minutes, turned in circles for 15 minutes, ate cheese for an hour, blew bubbles for 15 minutes . . . how long was Jim busy?" We got to work "building" these times and putting them together to make full hours.  The kids had a blast!

I gradually added more time and trickier problems like, "If Caren read for 60 minutes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then only read for 19 minutes on Thursday and 35 minutes on Friday, how long did she read in all that week?  They IMMEDIATELY said it was too hard and they couldn't do it!  I grabbed one of our "hour circles" and wrote 60 minutes on one side and 1 hour on the other.  We lined them all up and worked with them almost like they were base 10 blocks!  I reminded them that we persevere and, like most math, we could BUILD it.

It was a very busy 40 minutes, but I think we made a lot of progress in our ability to "visualize" amounts of time, turn hours into minutes and minutes into hours, and to add different amounts of time together.  Did it stick?  TIME will tell!  HA!  Terrible terrible humor--but stay tuned! 
This lesson isn't over yet . . .

As we work into some elapsed time problems, getting a good handle on these concepts is critical!  Where are we headed next?  THESE!

OK . . .  it's not like it's getting a 36 on the ACT or anything, but don't you love it when you see your students making progress?  Remember back a few weeks when we were just starting our mapping unit and I asked my students to take 10 minutes to "draw the world".  It was a great way for me to see exactly where students were--and what I saw wasn't pretty!  I never posted any photos because, frankly, it was so embarrassing to see just how limited their knowledge of world geography was.

We worked and learned and worked some more and finished our unit a few weeks ago.  I decided to try the same task again--2 weeks after the unit finished to see what they retained.  I held my breath and . . . WOW!  Such improvement!  I decided THIS time to share a few of the "before" and "afters" with you.  Remember, this is 2 weeks after the unit AND they were only given about 10 minutes to complete the task.

I was so impressed!

Now, don't get me wrong--I am fully aware that none of these will be reproduced in an atlas any day soon--but these are three students who truly had almost NO understanding that we have 7 continents and 5 oceans or that we have lines on our maps/globes to help us locate places and that help us understand about climate.

OK...had to share a few more "afters"!  Sorry the lighting isn't great--those pencil lines don't show up well!

So--I am going to enjoy the fact that they learned it and have actually retained it for a while!  I think I'll do it again later in the year to see what sticks!  For those of you who missed it the first time, the resource I used to REALLY teach the concept is linked below in case you are interested!

Have a great day!

If you have ever struggled knowing the best way to teach grammar to your students, you are not only one! Whether you infuse your grammar instruction into your reading and writing units or whether you teach from a more traditional curriculum, I think it is safe to say that none of our students have mastered the English language!

Last year I came upon a clever little book that might be a fun thing to add into your instruction.  Patricia O'Connor has written a best-selling book called "Woe is I" and now has written a version for kids.

The book is written with a great sense of humor and plenty of good examples really help make our language more meaningful to students.

I pick and choose pages to read and share with my students to try to help make grammar points more clear.  Just like some students need manipulatives in math, I believe some students understand topics like this best with stories and analogies and graphics.  So . . . after sharing the information in the book about pronouns, I took the most important ideas and made it into an anchor chart for our class to use!  We then went on a "hunt" in the realistic fiction pieces we are writing now to decide if we use too many pronouns, not enough, or if we are JUST right.  Grammar can be fun--or at least not torture!

Have a great end of your week!

It's my turn again over on ATUE where I am posting my reflections about the idea of teaching our students to PROBLEM SOLVE rather than SOLVE PROBLEMS!  I had a really hard time getting my thoughts organized for this topic, but I feel so passionately about it!  Stop on over and check it out--click on the logo below and see what you think!

I can't believe October is already tick tick ticking away.  You might start noticing some minor changes in my cyberlife, so stay tuned!  To begin, you are going to notice less images of . . .

and more of . . . 

The changes will continue over the next few weeks--and you are going to LOVE what will be coming up in early November.  I promise!  For now, keep an eye out for my new logo and hop over to ATUE to read my musings about math!

See you soon!

 I had every intention in linking up with 4th Grade Frolics last Monday for "Monday Made It", but--alas--life got in the way!  This month I have made SO many things for TpT and for my classroom, but I thought I'd share a quick and easy "I have a problem that needs solvin'" project.  I am a scrapbooker AND a teacher which means I have PAPER EVERYWHERE.  I often have strips of paper left from trimming down photos and/or preparing class projects, and it always seems like such a shame to throw them in the recycling bin.  My students are constantly using their valuable sticky notes as bookmarks, so I put the two together and . . .

I found this cute little bucket in the Dollar Spot at a local establishment that should have a parking spot reserved for me.  Just a suggestion...  I then dabbled around making a sign on my computer and printed it off.
I mounted the sign on cardstock and then lined up my bucket so I knew how big to cut it.
I love my laminator!
I tested it out to find where the holes in the bucket were... these little guys could hold it all together!

Ta da!  That's it!

I know it isn't very fancy or spectacular, but it's solving a few problems and I think my students will like it!  Have a great week, everyone!  Stop by and check out the other great "Made It's" as well--the link is at the top of this post!

A week or so ago, we were really digging into our writing unit on realistic fiction when I started overhearing (ok, eavesdropping) on some students talking about what makes a book realistic fiction.  I THOUGHT I had explained things in a crystal clear fashion--and I really thought this was a pretty easy concept actually--so I kind of stopped in my tracks and listened.

For the next day, I pulled out this text to use as a read aloud, and I asked my students to help me decide whether or not the book was realistic fiction or not.  It's a tricky text--and it really got to the heart of what seemed to be tripping up my students.  Before I read, we reviewed some of things we had talked about:
It has to be a made up story.
I has to SEEM like it really could happen.
The characters have to be believable.

and so on...

After we read the text we had a discussion about whether or not it was realistic fiction and we had some debate!  Students believed that perhaps the main character was based on the author's real life and that therefore it was a personal narrative.  Others wholeheartedly believed it was realistic fiction.  True confessions--one thought it was not fiction at all because it was about a quilt.  Sigh.
Another true confession--at least 1/3 of the class had never heard of a quilt.  Enough said.

I went over to the class library and grabbed a stack of books and I read the back ("the blurb") to the class and we decided whether or not each one was "realistic"--and if it fit our definition from earlier.

(Notice the quilt book in the middle . . . they all agreed it was realistic)

We then grabbed some other books that fit into an informational category and talked about how they are realistic as well--but pointed out the key difference . . . the lack of story, characters, and so on.

So we ended up with three piles:
*realistic fiction
*NOT realistic fiction (We later named this "fantasy" based on the books in it)

I then pulled out The Patchwork Quilt again and asked them to go stand by the category they felt the book belonged in.  We had about 5 students still hanging out in the "NOT realistic" category, so we had a little debate where the two sides tried to convince the other to change their mind.  After about 7-8 minutes, all the students who were holding out in the "Not" category had reluctantly made their way over to the realistic fiction group.  I love having students explain their reasoning--it is so much more powerful than me just telling them.  I think we are in better shape with our understanding now, and I know as we write our realistic fiction we will be able to use this experience to help keep us on track.  Have a great day!

As I started to think about our next unit in math, factors/prime/composite numbers, I knew I wanted to dig in to the concept of multiplication using an array model to see what my students remember from last year.  I took one of my favorite lessons from recent years and tweaked it--and I needed it to be "sub friendly" as I was going to be out of my classroom for a training.  Here's how things all turned out!
The Task: 

Students should be told that they are working at a factory that packages square chocolates.  They have been asked to help the packaging department figure out all the different sized boxes they need to package different amounts of chocolate.  Because it is easiest to stack and ship rectangular boxes, chocolates can only be arranged into rectangular (arrays) boxes.

The goal is for students to understand that certain numbers have MANY different ways for the chocolates to be arranged while others have only one way.  I wanted to make sure students started in a very concrete way, so we actually wanted to BUILD the arrays.  Here are the steps I recommend.

1.  Model the concept of the array with students.  Make sure they are clear that an array is rectangular.  I cannot lie.  I love using a certain type of square, foil wrapped chocolates to show the concept of arrays.  This is particularly powerful motivation—as the students can each eat part of the modeled array when they finish the lesson for the day!  Consider a “medium sized” array to start—perhaps 12 candies.  This allows them to see arrays of different shapes and sizes.

2.  Show the students how arrays can face in different directions but are really worth the same amount.  I also show the students how to use manipulatives to model this.  You can use 1 inch tiles or even cut paper tiles--brown paper tiles can look an awful lot like chocolate if you use your imagination!  

3.  Model how students can sketch the arrays they build on the left side of their work space and write the coordinating number sentences on the right.  Tell them to skip the “prime” and “composite” part for now.   You decide if you want them to write BOTH numbers sentences (1 x 3= 3 AND 3 x 1 = 3) or if you only want them to write one of them.

4.  After you have done the first few number combinations with the class, you can send them off to work more independently. I ask students to come and show me their work after they reach 12 chocolates so I can catch misconceptions.  I do ask students to use the tiles or paper squares to show their modeling before drawing up to the point where I “release” them.  Some students will need to continue to model throughout the activity, but others have a strong sense of multiplication and area and can derive all the possible combinations without a pictorial representation.
NOTE:  Some students struggle to find some of the “middle” arrays.  They can see the long, skinny ones but struggle with the others.  One prompt I offer is “Can you build a box that has 2 rows?  How about 3?”  and see if they can move from there.

5.  On day 2 of this investigation, revisit the array you made on day one with the wrapped chocolates.  Introduce the term “factor” as you rebuild (using candies, tiles, paper squares, or sketches) all the possible arrays you can for that number.  I show the students how to identify all the numbers that are “factors”.  For example, for the number 12, students should have found:
1 x 12 = 12, 2 x 6 = 12, 3 x 4 = 12, 4 x 3 = 12, 6 x 2 = 12, 12 x 1 = 12

6.  I then show how I find ALL the different numbers that can be multiplied to make 12 and I circle them on the list.  I have marked them in red to show this.  Students quickly see that the “turn around fact” is simply the factors doubled.  In this example, twelve has SIX factors. 

1 x 12 = 12, 2 x 6 = 12, 3 x 4 = 12, 4 x 3 = 12, 6 x 2 = 12, 12 x 1 = 12

7. The final step of this lesson sequence is to define prime and composite numbers.  One of the easiest definitions for students this age to understand is the following:
A prime number is a whole number GREATER THAN ONE which has exactly two factors—”one” and itself.

A composite number is a whole number GREATER THAN ONE which can be divided by itself, one, and at least one other number.

After I started writing everything down and getting everything organized, I thought it might be something that others could use as well so I turned it into my latest "Scoop" resource!  I have been getting great feedback that these lessons have been super helpful--the photos and flexibility with different options make them useful for all sorts of situations.  Interested?  Here is the link!

As we wrapped up our unit on addition skills, I thought it would be fun to let my students explore some "real world" spending!  Our math series suggested giving students a $1,000 budget where they needed to buy 3 electronics items for the family.  I sent a note out ahead of time asking families to save their electronics ads, and we gathered quite a collection!

I gave the students the prompt and asked them to glue it into their math notebooks.

I reminded students to try to keep their work organized as they worked! 

In addition to simply SPENDING the money, I asked them to organize their work into a table and to be ready to determine exactly how close to $1,000 they could get (Differentiation time--not all students needed to do was presented as an "extra" which students do if they get the main part of the problem finished.)  The students were super motivated and got right to work!

Some students worked alone while others teamed up--and it quickly became clear that some of my more capable math students were going to solve this one relatively quickly!

I sat down at the computer and printed off a few more challenges for them . . . tasks such as:

"Find 4 items that total between $650 and $800."


"Find 2 items that total between $1,000 and $1,100."

The students quickly started using their estimation strategies to jot down product ideas and it was so much fun listening to their discussions and/or arguments about strategies!  One team decided that the smaller the range of numbers, the more challenging the task was.  Another team used one item (a TV) as a constant ($400) and sought out other products that added up to the rest of the total. After each task I did require them to "prove" their work and be ready to explain their thinking.  We "shopped" for more than an hour, and their independence during this time allowed me to pull a few small groups for some review work as we prepared for our summative assessment.  All in all, the students had a great time, practiced their math skills, and did some "real world" application along the way!

Just quick post to let you know that TpT is having a surprise "flash" sale this weekend in honor of 100,000 Facebook fans and I joined in!  I have tacked 10% more onto everything in more store for Saturday and Sunday only!  Make sure to use this code when you check out to get the full 20%!
Check out this adorable button from Whimsy Workshop!
Another piece of exciting news is a fun giveaway going on right now over at 2 Brainy Apples and there are some amazing prizes!  Check it out for a chance to win!  It's a big one!

It makes me think . . . next month is my one year (12 months!) blogging "anniversary", and I can promise you that I have some AMAZING things planned!  You will have to stay tuned over the next month to find out, but I think you will enjoy the fun!

Coming soon on the blog . . . more electricity posts . . . find our how our realistic fiction unit is unfolding . . . hear the latest on both Words Their Way and our iPads . . . and, as always, more about problem solving and other math related topics!  I'm off to spend the rest of the day cleaning up after 4 teen boys who landed here after the homecoming dance, writing sub plans for my FOUR days out next week (YES--FOUR!), and watching the Packers!  Have a great weekend, everyone!