Friday, May 31, 2013

Biz World Update #3!

Well… It was a busy day in biz world in grade 4! It is very difficult to share every little detail of this program, so I sure hope some of you are able to join up and get your own kits!  This post is a set of "snapshots" of what has happened over the last several days--I don't want you to think this all happened at once!



This week, the four companies were able to hang their signs above their businesses (desk groups) and and all had the chance to work on creating a "pitch" to present to the venture capitalist to try to get funding.  The better the pitch, the better the offer from the venture capitalist. In fact, the students even have a rubric that they used to guide them so they knew what the venture capitalist was looking for.  They all have logos and slogans and are thinking about their "vision" for their store.

Of course, I was the venture capitalist and I was not warm and fuzzy during our meetings!  The company presidents and VP's of Finance did the presentations.  I critiqued their pitches, I talked about the appearance of their business and storefront area, I commented on what I had noticed about how their company worked together. In the end, I made four different offers to the different companies, and two of the offers were dependent on some improvements!

The Venture Capitalist "notes"

The list of graduate grows...

3 shares of stock in exchange for 37 Biz Bucks.  


Companies that had worked well together, had sent employees to "Bracelet University" (1 Biz buck per person per session!), and showed other signs of initiative fared well.  Once the companies got their money from the venture capitalist in exchange for two or three shares of stock, they sent to work making their prototype bracelets. Lots of planning had gone into this and they had to even register their design with a patent application.  Students had to spend their hard-earned money at the store to buy supplies . . .

Our store!

The goods!

This company was going through their finances and getting a purchase plan ready!

My next post will update you on the manufacturing process--next week the teams get busy and produce as many bracelets as they can!  We'll see if the Biz Buck incentive is enough to help their behavior.  A few more fines were handed out today . . .

We are having a blast--what a great unit to finish off our year together!  Have a great weekend,everyone!




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Big Announcement! A Collaborative Book Study!

Ok...I know a bunch of you have already signed on for my book clubs, but a great opportunity crossed my path and I couldn't refuse!  My math "trilogy" of professional reading continues with a collaborative book study with 3 of my other "math geek" blog friends from All Things Upper Elementary!  We will be taking turns "hosting" different chapters on our blogs and hopefully having great discussions about a critical topic-- problem solving!


Check out the posts all summer on my friends' blogs!

Jennifer Smith-Sloane at 4mulafun

Jamie Riggs at Miss Math Dork

Jennifer Findley at Teaching to Inspire in 5th Grade

The book being read for THIS book study is . . . NCTM President Linda Gojak's book "What's Your Math Problem?  Click on the image below to go to Amazon and check it out!

If you choose to participate, let me know--and have the first chapter read by June 12!  Check back to the posts which will be rotating among our blogs and join in the discussion.  We have so much to learn together this summer!


So . . . let me know--are you in for this one too?  You can do it!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Study Number 1!

For those of you who are interested in joining me through a summer of professional reading about math, I have the outline for the FIRST of THREE (that's right . . . THREE!) book studies!  Two will be very informal and done right here on my blog.  The third is a surprise--and more information will be coming soon!

To get us started, we are going to dig in to "The Differentiated Math Classroom" by Miki Murray for the month of June.  Here is my plan!


The book is divided into three sections.  I will be writing posts to match each one--with a quick summary and a list of discussion questions and a call for real-world examples.  I will write the post on the weekend which will give the entire next week for people to comment, read, reread and so on!  How does that sound?

So . . . Here is the schedule!  Please let me know if you are going to participate in Book Study #1--and then work to get your book so you can get started!

Post #1:  Weekend of June 8/9:  Discussion questions around section 1.  The following week will be used for posting!

Post #2:  Weekend of June 15/16:  Discussion questions around section 2:  The following week will be used for posting!

Post #3:  Weekend of June 22/23:  Discussion questions around section 3:  The following week will be used for posting!

If this format works well, we will do something similar in July and early August for the other book, "Minds on Mathematics" by Wendy Ward Hoffer.

So . . . I am SUPER excited to get going on this wonderful way for us to connect about teaching with teachers across the world --and about such an important topic!  Again--let me know if you are "in" for book study #1!  


Monday, May 27, 2013

BizWorld Updates, OK Donations, and More!

Happy Memorial Day!  I hope everyone has had a relaxing weekend.  I thought I'd update you on a few things as we move into the new week.

First of all, in honor of the tornado victims, a portion of my sales today will be donated to the Red Cross.  I donated products to the bundles being sold, but I will also be writing a check myself to go directly to the Red Cross after today's sales are complete.  

Secondly, watch soon for an exciting announcement about how my book studies this summer are going to change a little bit!  One book will remain the same--but a NEW book has been swapped out for the other.  I can't tell you more now--but it's going to be a great book study AND a lot of fun for me!

Finally, I promised you an update about Biz World!

What has happened since my last update?  Let's see if I can remember it all . . .


  • Each company has come up with a name, a logo, and a slogan
  • Each company has designed a billboard to hang above their "company" (ie: desk group)
  • Each company has signed a business contract and had to visit the "state government" (ie:  school secretary) to file the paperwork and pay the fee for incorporating their company--an.d in exchange received 10 shares of stock.  We talked about the "pie" of profit--if the company keeps ALL 10 shares of stock, they keep all their profits.  We also talked about the start up costs of a business and it became crystal clear to the companies that they were going to need some additional funding for their rent, salaries, and other expenses.
All "employees" were required to sign the business contract and code of behavior.

  • Each company has started working on their business plan so they can "pitch" to the venture capitalist--their goal is to be so convincing that the venture capitalist will agree to pay top dollar for only 2 shares of stock.  
Each company got 10 shares when it incorporated with the government!



  • Each company is starting to plan their "prototype" bracelet so they can test whether or not it will be efficient to manufacture.  On Tuesday, a friendship bracelet making course will be offered--for a fee, of course!  Most companies plan on sending one or two people to the class!
As you can imagine, the students are SO into this!  This week--the company presidents and VP's of Finance make their pitches to the venture capitalist (ME!) and get funding!  This will allow them to buy supplies, pay rent and salaries (and FINES!  I have already fined two groups for "littering"!  I love this power at the end of the year!) and more!  Watch for another update this week once things get rolling again!

Again, if you know of anyone who needs products from my store today--I will making a donation to the Red Cross in honor of those in need in Oklahoma based on my sales.  I am also hoping to start seeing some sales on my "Rescue Pets" word problems--two charities could be helped at one time!  Have a wonderful day--and remember those of who have served our country as you enjoy your time with family and friends.  We can do THAT because of THEM.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

End of Year Preparations

Aren't three day weekends glorious!

I hope all of you have been able to regroup and relax.  I know many people are starting to finish up at school--but I have been surprised to hear how many people go even deeper in June than I do!  My students' last day is June 11,  and I go until the 12th--with 7 other scheduled days in district this summer for data retreats, trainings, and the like.

As the days wind down with students, we need to finish assessing, finish our final units, and get some closure to the year.  Being a fourth grade in a K-4 building, my students not only leave ME, but leave the school as well so we try to prepare them for this change by taking a trip to the new school, reflecting on their time in our building, and building connections with students in other classrooms so they know as many faces as possible when they merge with the other 2 elementary schools in fifth grade.

This week, as we begin to wind down,  I am going to do some brainstorming about their memories for this year (we are going to write small memoirs) about what we have learned, how they have changed, what was special to them, and so on.  Some years I actually do a bulletin board where the students write up their reflections and I can use it to welcome my new "herd" of students in the fall.  I have decided to do that this year--it's a great reflection tool for these students, tons of fun for my next class, and (insert sheepish grin) a ready-made bulletin board for fall!

I put together how I am going to do it . . . threw in a few options for people . . . and plopped it in my store last night in case anyone is interested and doesn't want to plan it out themselves!  Keep the faith through these next weeks--look for a Biz World update tomorrow!





Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book talks!

Just a quick post today--we had our "1/2 price book fair" and, of course, I had to make a dent in the inventory!  I am absolutely obsessed with getting new books for my classroom . . . I wonder how many thousand I have--I should get my students to estimate that!

Just wanted to share what I do when I get new books--I want to get them into students' hands as quickly as possible!  First, I "book talk" each one.  I read the blurb on the back, give any author information, page through it to see if I notice anything interesting (reading level, cool chapter titles, etc), and then I throw a post it note on the cover.  I do this for 4-6 books at a time (more than that, they lose interest) and then set them out somewhere in the room for students to explore.


If students are interested, they put their name on the post it note.  At the end of the day, I draw popsicle sticks to put the names in a sequence, move the post it to the inside cover to keep it safe, and pass the book to the first person on the list!

It helps the students get to know the books in our collection, builds excitement, and helps students add to their "I want to read" lists.

Just thought I'd share!  Have a great Friday--more posts coming about Biz World over the next week!




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Biz World--Real World Learning

The most exciting unit of the year has started!

For the second year, my fourth graders are participating in the coolest simulation EVER!  Last year was a learning experience, and my students STILL voted it the best part of the school year, so I am hoping that the improvements and revisions I have made THIS year will make it even better!  What is it?  Parts of speech?  Cell Structure?  Sentence types?

A drum roll, please . . .

Biz World!

What IS this?  Another teacher in my building found a little something online a few years ago where she got one of these kits for free--after looking at it, she realized the kit was more appropriate for fourth and fifth grades and donated it to me.  I am SO grateful to her for sharing!  Over the next 3 weeks, my students will be going through the process of working with a team to create a business-

*from job applications to interview
*from logo design to filming a commercial
*from meeting with a venture capitalist to creating a prototype
*from incorporating to selling shares of stock
*from manufacturing to sales.

And the most amazing thing?  It's all completely developmentally appropriate!  I will share out several blog posts about how this unit unfolds, but if you have anything to do with economics, teamwork, or finances in your upper elementary classroom--this is a "must try"!  I know they have other kits for older students as well.  Here is their website if you want to check it out!   


What is this all about?  I will be dividing my class into "companies", each of which will be planning and opening a Friendship Bracelet company!  They will do everything from creating a business plan to actually MAKING a "store front" to sell their unique bracelets to classmates!  We use "Biz Bucks" as our currency and learn more about economics than any textbook could ever teach.


Practicing our eye contact!

"Tell me about yourself . . . "


Pulling off old name tags to make way for the new "Employee Labels"!

Students coming in and finding their new jobs posted on their desks!

Vice President of Finance!  Just what I wanted!

Brainstorming within the companies--what makes a good company?  What makes a good employee?

Starting to brainstorm possible company names (organized by the Vice President of Marketing)

The first "Biz Bucks" were passed out for returning the parent letter!


So far we have . . . 
*brainstormed what makes a successful business and successful employee
*learned about the importance of presenting yourself well with eye contact and a firm handshake
*talked about different roles within companies and how the most effective businesses work as teams--and how people with different skills might do well at different jobs
*used a list of interview questions to practice interviewing
*filled out job applications
*did "real" interviews with a local businessperson . . . we wore our shirts and ties and everything!
*formed our companies based on the jobs we were hired to do
*started brainstorming company names and logos

As you can see, we've had a busy first few days!  Stay tuned and see where we go next with this simulation.  This is a FANTASTIC way to end the year--the students are engaged, are learning, and are applying everything we have worked on this year!  Just thought you might want to check it out!



NOTE:  There are many fundraisers led by teachers around the world hoping to raise money for the victims in Oklahoma.  Please consider donating to one of them--let's make a difference.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Head over to ATUE!

If you like me, you are swimming upstream these days . . . there aren't enough waking hours to get things done!  I have been blogging less.  Sleeping less.  Worrying more.  Eating more.

Can anyone relate?

Well, I just popped over to my collaborative blog to see what's been going on over the last week--and, as usual, there are some AMAZING posts!  You really need to head on over there to see all the great ideas!

I wanted to let you know about my post over there today--it's a very different kind of post!  No teaching tips . . . nothing inspirational from my classroom . . . but a post about a little project that has been brewing in the back of my mind for a while--and I have finally acted on it!  

I'd love for you to come on over and check it out--and here's a little teaser to get you interested!




Interested?  Here's the link!  I'd love for you to see what I had up my sleeve!






Saturday, May 18, 2013

Decimal/Fraction Connection Review Stations

This past week we have done a little "review" over the connection between decimals and percents (and tied in percents a little even though the CCSS don't mention them in 4th grade...shhhhhhh), and it was a good time to "catch" some of those students who really weren't super solid on the concept when we did our bigger unit earlier.  To make sure I could really see what student could and could not do, I divided the class into three groups and rotated each one through 3, twenty minute stations:

*Word Problem Challenges
*Hands On Sequencing
*"Teacher Time"

Here's what it looked like!  The first rotation simply involved students solving a set of 3 word problems that had fractions and/or decimals in them.  There were conversions, adding fractions with 10 and 100 as denominator, and a "missing factor" problem.  Students were allowed to work alone or in pairs to tackle the challenges.  If they finished early (some did), they could work in their challenge folders or play the Trilogy memory game we had played the day before.



The next station is one that might look familiar if you have been following my blog for long . . . I broke out my decimal sequencing cards and threw in some fraction ones as well.  I gave the students a number of options . . . they could pull two cards and decide which symbol ( < > =) would belong . . . they could grab a stack of cards and put them in order from smallest to largest . . . or they could get creative.  And they did!





The final station was "Teacher Time" . . . a chance for me to sit with groups in front of the Smartboard and present different problems and really watch how they solve them.   This was a time for me to trouble shoot with a few students and see who might need a little "one on one" work during our I/E time.  I did identify 3 students during their rotation who had some gaps in their understanding and was able to pull them later that day.  I will work with them again Monday and see what stuck!  




I hope everyone had a good week--and, if you are like me--you are wondering how in the world you are going to get everything done in these last weeks!  Have a wonderful weekend!





Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Elementary Engineering!

.
One of the things I love the most about teaching fourth grade is how EXCITED students get when you tell them that they are going to be "real" scientists!

One of our district units in fourth grade is a science kit called "Motion and Design" which is, essentially, an engineering kit.  It is a FANTASTIC way to end the year because the students are physically active "doing" science and have really learned the collaborative skills needed to be successful!

To get us warmed up for the unit, I have created a few cooperative challenges for the students to try to get them in the scientific frame of mind.  I want the students to not only be able to work together, but I want them to see that scientists are constantly have to do things like  . . .

. . .  troubleshoot problems
. . .  ask good questions
. . .  handle materials carefully
. . .  follow directions
. . .  make modifications to their work
. . .  take careful notes

and more!  One of the challenges I designed was a "column challenge" where the students were given a set of supplies (1 sheet of paper, liquid glue, 1 paper clip!) and told to design a column that would support as much weight as possible.  I gave them about 10 minutes as a team to meet, brainstorm, and experiment with the materials.

 When the experimenting time was over, I gave the students 20 more minutes to work and told them they needed to fill out their planning sheet, get it approved by me, and then build their tower. I allowed them to build 3 different columns--as long as they had their plans on their sheet!





Groups got to work and it was fun to see the different design attempts came in.  After the students had been working for a while, I threw in a curveball!  I stopped work and told them that many times in the real world, plans change at the last minute and I added in a new requirement:

The column must be at least 3 inches tall.

You should have HEARD the moans!  I simply pointed at the clock and the kids quickly regrouped, got new supplies, and got to work.

I had tall columns, short columns, square columns, round columns--and even "combos" like this . . .


Yes, it was messy.  Yes, there were arguments.  But in the end, we waited a day for the columns to dry and then we TESTED!  We set some ground rules about sportsmanship and so on and then dragged out some old math textbooks to use as our uniform weights.



Of the 7 teams, four failed completely, two groups were able to stack 1, and one was able to stack 4!  The students were so excited!  Finished, right?

WRONG!  Here's where the REAL science comes in!  Just when the students thought they could celebrate, I asked them, 

"What did you learn from testing your columns?"

We generated a list of things we learned--that not using enough glue was bad . . . that making the column uneven was bad . . . that wasting time and creating inferior products was bad . . . and so on!  So, I explained to the students that many of them "failed" the challenge in that their columns didn't support much weight.  I asked how many of them thought they could apply what they had learned from their first round and improve their products?  Hands SHOT in the air and they begged to have another go at it.  I agreed--in the name of science!  I gave them another 20 minutes, enough materials to make ONE more column, and they set off to work.  

It was all worth it!  When we tested the next day, every group had a column that supported books! In fact . . . one of the groups was able to do THIS!


Give it a try!  I love doing this kind of investigation in my classroom. . . it is good for students to think mathematically, for them to think scientifically, and for them to work as interdependent members of a team.  



This lab is SUPER easy to do on your own...if you want my formal write up, here it is!  



Here is the other lab we did first--building the tallest tower possible!








Monday, May 13, 2013

Perimeter Misconceptions!



Isn't it one of the worst feelings to give a summative assessment that you feel CONFIDENT that your students are ready to take--and then you look at some of the mistakes they make and think 9f you're like me)

These kids have a terrible teacher!

After I shook off the embarrassment and regrouped, I designed my next plan of attack.  I wanted to tackle the misconceptions by presenting students with a variety of problems, each with its own little twist.  

First . . . A little warm up on the Smartboard.  The first slide shows the 5 partner questions I revealed one at a time...the other slides we worked through as review (all based on errors I saw on the test.)










After we had worked on these as a full class, then it was time for me to ask the students to "be the teacher".  I explained that I wanted them to really study WHAT the students did instead of just what the answer is.  What did this look like? Take a peek.  It's a terrible photo--so sorry!  The words at the top say, 

"A problem on a math test asked students to draw a square with a perimeter of 64 and asked them to find the area.  See how the following three kids did it.  Explain how each child did."



After the students thought, worked, and wrote, I flashed each students' work up on the Smartboard and we discussed what they did WELL and where they made their errors.


So . . . we studied Betsy's work and figured out that she did some things really well!  She knew that the perimeter had to be 64 feet--and hers was.  She also knew to multiply the base times height to get the area--and she did that accurately.  What did she miss?  She missed the part of the problem that said she needed to draw a square.  So I ask you as teachers--how did she do?  The students were mixed.

After Betsy, we studied Trevor's work.


Students were quick to point out the Trevor had things right!  He knew to label all the sides equally, how to make sure the perimeter was 64 feet, and that the area was correct at 256 square feet. Students were unanimous that Trevor passed!

Last up?  Paul.


Kids immediately were ready to throw poor Paul under the bus declaring how terribly wrong his answer was.  I stopped them and asked them to tell me what he did WELL.  Students identified that he DID know to make a square with all sides equal and he DID know that you find area by multiplying base time height.  What he did not do well was identify that the perimeter was supposed to be 64 feet, not each side.

So I asked the students, "Who would you pass?"

We had a fabulous discussion!  Everyone agreed that Trevor passed--but there were mixed review on the other two!  I asked the students what they thought was most important--and the kids agreed that an understanding of area and perimeter seemed key.  Once we decided that, a number of kids called out . . . "Then Betsy should pass!"  We discussed a little bit longer, and I told the students that this is what "grading" is all about--making decisions about what students know and don't know and can and can't do.  I also explained that showing work really helps teacher decide this (I have had a recent "I can do it in my head." epidemic.).

Just thought you might like to see how I tackled some of the misconceptions I saw on the test--and try to nip a few other problems in the process!  Hope you had a good Monday!