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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Two New Book Studies!

Good morning! I have 2 new book studies planned for this winter and wanted to share the details with you!

Coming up next week we will be taking a look at Children's Mathematics.  This is a great book about cognitively guided instruction and will help you help your students construct their own knowledge and develop their own strategies.  This book is full of great ideas for teaching kids addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  This book includes QR codes and URLs to take you to videos of the strategies described in the text.  If a picture is worth 1000 words than a video is priceless!  

Starting in January, we will be taking a look at Number Talks which is another resource you will keep going back to.  This book includes a DVD with examples of number talks at each grade level.  If you are a K-5 teacher this will be a  must ready book!  

If you are new to my blog or haven't seen one of our book studies before here is how it works:  Once a week I will write a blog post sharing my thoughts, ideas and favorite quotes from the section assigned to that week.  I will share the post on Facebook as well.  You can participate in the book study in several ways.

1) Leave a comment on Facebook with your thoughts and ideas from that week's reading.
2) Leave a comment on the blog post about that week's reading.  This can become quite lively when you subscribe to the comments and are able to see other people responding to your comment.  
3) If you have your own blog go ahead and post about it over there and leave the link in the comments section of my blog.  It is a great way to keep the discussion going.  

Hope you will join us for one or both book studies!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Math Play

Recently I have been reading books about play including The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally and Learning Through Play. I have also been following several blogs on Facebook that have inspired me to include more play with learning.  Today I want to share with you one of my first attempts at including more open ended play in math class.  I put together this tray of items and sat with kids as they explored the materials and thought about math.  I tried this out with kids ranging from age 4 to age 8.  The pictures below will show you some of the ways the kids used these materials.

Materials List
Bingo chips
Colored match sticks
Number buttons
Assorted number dice
Dot dice
Foam beads
Play Dough

Ready to go!  I grabbed this sectioned tray at the Dollar Tree

Representations of 5.  I love the tally marks and the way they used the dot dice to leave an impression on the dough

A student asked me to draw a 10 frame for them.  Then he played roll and build using the bingo chips and a dot dice.  After a bit he realized that he was never getting any numbers bigger than 6 and investigated the die to figure out why.  

A young lady investigation the dot dice.  She is practicing subitizing, one to one correspondence, fine motor skills and putting numbers in order. 

Stamping the dough with 4 sided shapes

Hammering shapes into the dough

Ordering the number buttons and representing them with bingo chips

Coin patterns

The coins leave a great imprint on the dough.  I think darker dough would make it easier to see the impression

Ordering and representing numbers

Building the number 9

The many ways to make a 7

An older student working on addition equations.  He used the visual of the ten frame that another student had built to help him solve this problem.  

Two students playing a coin game

I so enjoyed my first attempt at putting more open ended play into math time.  I would love to see how other teachers and parents do math play.  I challenge you all to think about how you can add more play to math, snap a picture of it and post it to my Facebook page.  I can't wait to see other ideas!
Head over to the Love to Learn Linky for more great ideas for kids!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Math Literature: Equivalent Fractions

Today I want to share with you one of the newest additions to my math literature collection.  This one is great for grades 4-6 or anyone interested in equivalent fractions.

This book is part of the Charlesbridge Math Adventures series which includes other great upper elementary picture books such as the Sir Cumference books.  This book is the newest one and was just published this spring.

In this story, a young boy by the name of George Factor collects fractions of all types.  He goes to an auction to purchase a rare fraction for his collection but it is stolen before he can bid on it.  He thinks it is the work of the evil Dr. Brok who has been known to steal fractions and disguise them so they can never be found.  George puts together a ray gun using an old keyboard, a whisk and other spare computer parts.  The ray gun is able to reduce fractions and rid them of their disguises.  He goes to Dr. Brok's house and reduces fractions until he finds the missing fractions from the auction.  

George with his ray gun! Ready to reduce some fractions. 
I plan on using this book in grades 4 and 5 when we talk

about reducing fractions.  I think it would be really fun to build the ray gun like George has in the story using an old keyboard and such.  I have to think more about how I will be attaching these parts together so if anyone has any suggestions for how to make this let me know in the comments below!

I will be following up this story with a little holiday themed equivalent fraction sort.   You can grab this to use with your students from Google drive.  

This reindeer themed equivalent fraction sort is a fun way to practice fraction equivalency.  It can be used as a simple matching game or turned into a memory game.  
If you are looking for a fun way to practice fraction addition and subtraction, you might want to check this out!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Low Prep Way to Work on Place Value, 1 More, 10 more and Counting

Do you have an impressive collection of craft sticks in your classroom?  How about some rubber bands and a sharpie?  If you have this basic supplies you have everything you need to make a fun and easy game that will help your primary students practice a few important skills.

I actually use craft sticks a few different ways in the classroom but today I want to share with you how I use them for 10's and 1's.  Each kid or pair of kids needs 10 craft sticks (any size or color).  On one side of each stick, make 1 dot in the middle. On the other side of each stick, make 5 dots on either end.  Now each stick has a 10 on one side and a 1 on the other.  

Now you put all of the sticks in your fist and hold them a few inches above the surface of the table or floor and drop them.  Some will land with the 10 side up and some will land with the one side up.  Kids need to figure out how many dots are showing.  When they first start doing this activity, they will often organize the sticks into tens and ones before they count. 
Many kids will organize the sticks into tens and ones when they first start playing this game

When kids put them in order like this it is a great time to talk about tens and ones and what the 6 and 4 mean in the number 64.  There is nothing like a visual to help kids explain that the 6 means 60 and 6 tens. 

As they progress and practice playing this game, I encourage them to straighten them up but to leave them in the order that they fell.  This really helps push their ability to add ten more and one more to any number.  They have to have a good understanding of two digit place value to do it this way. 

This student would count 10, 11, 21, 31, 41, 51, 52, 62, 63, 64.  I then might have them count them fro m right to left to practice a different sequence and to help them see that the order you count in doesn't matter.  
Now the student counts 1, 11, 21, 31, 32, 33, 43, 44, 54, 64.  They will start noticing that some numbers appear over and over again.  After playing this game as a whole class, in pairs and at math stations we will have a whole group discussion about why this is happening.  

After students have had several opportunities to play this game, I will have kids play with partners and shout out their number as they finish each round.  One student will record these numbers on the white board and the rest of the kids will be playing this game for about 5 minutes.  Then I pull them together and we talk about what numbers people got.

Some of the numbers you can get while playing this game.  Notice anything?

 We might organize the numbers in order so it is easier to see and then think-pair-share things we notice.  Then I like to ask some deeper questions like these:

Are there any numbers that are possible to get that are not already up here?
Why haven't we got any of those numbers?
How could I get 65 when I play this game?
How do you know if a number is not possible?
What if we played the game with 9 sticks?  What numbers would be possible then?

Make sure you are following me on Facebook, Pinterest or Bloglovin so you can check out my next post about other ways I use these sticks to promote the big ideas of math!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Top Ten Christmas Gifts for Teachers

As a teacher, I have always appreciated receiving an extra thanks around the holidays.  Whether it is an extra hug, a smile, a hand written note, a Christmas card or something else it has always been held close to my heart.  Now I also sit on the other side of things and have kids whose teachers I would love to thank around the holidays.  I have already started thinking about what I would like to give my son's teachers this season and started thinking about my favorite gifts from the past 10 years.  

Praise for a Job Well Done

Two years ago, I received the most wonderful holiday gift and it cost the giver nothing but a few minutes of her time.  It was an email addressed to me and copied to the principal and school board explaining how this family's child benefited from my services and what a difference I had made in this child's school experience.  This is something I treasure to this day and I can refer to when my job seems overwhelming.  

Group Gift

This Chocolate Caramel Crunch basket was a bit hit!

Some students work with many adults in their daily travels around the school building.  Depending on how many teachers, assistants and support staff your student works with, trying to thank them all with a gift can get expensive and time consuming quickly.  Several families I know have solved this problem in a fun way.  They put together a gift basket or special snack and leave it in the staff room along with a card thanking staff members for their work with their children.  Some families have made this a tradition and do it every year.  The two gift baskets our staff looks forward to every year are a fruit basket an a chocolate lover's basket.  

School Supplies

Teachers love school supplies and often spend their own money on things for the classroom.  Fun supplies like scented markerspost-it notescute staplers or other themed items can add to a teachers decor or collection.  Classroom necessities that are always running low like pencils and dry erase makers also make great gifts.  If you want to give your child's teacher something that will last for a very long time, invest in a quality pencil sharpener or 3 hole punch.

Oriental Trading Gift Card

When I asked about holiday gifts on my Facebook page I learned that Oriental Trading offers personalized gift cards.  I know many teachers who use Oriental Trading for small items for their classrooms and a personalized gift card looks like a fun way to say thanks.   They also have an emailed gift card option for those who leave shopping to the last minute or want an easy way to have their gift delivered.

Coffee or Tea

My favorite coffee of all time!
Most teachers I know drink tea or coffee every day.  With a bit of research (aka asking your child) you can find out if your child's teacher is a coffee or tea drinker.  Look around their classroom the next time you are there and you will probably see or smell some evidence that helps you see if it is tea or coffee they prefer and you might even find out what flavors or brands are their favorites.  


What could be better during the busiest time of year than having dinner planned for you?  I have received gift cards to the local pizza place or take out restaurants several times and have loved them.  Another reader on my Facebook page suggested a dinner to go basket.  I love this idea.  A cute basket and some pasta and sauce and maybe a bottle of olive oil or a loaf of bread from a local bakery and this would be ready to go.  There is something about gift baskets that I find so appealing.  Having to not think about dinner would be a great gift to give (and receive!) 

Gift Cards

If you know a few things about your child's teacher than you will probably have some idea about the types of things they like to do.  If you know something they are interested in, you can pick up a gift card to a local store that matches their interests.  Even if you never go to that type of store, you can always pick up gift cards online or at the grocery store.

Pampering Items

Teachers tend to be well groomed and many use lotions and such on a daily basis.  I know many teachers who keep a favorite bottle of lotion near their desk so this is a great place to look to get a favorite scent.  Lotions and soaps make great gifts and are easy to arrange into a gift basket or to wrap in cellophane for an easy to give gift.  If you are not sure about what scent to go with, I find that vanilla is a fairly universally loved scent and usually is a safe bet.

Something Local

Whether your child's teacher loves home knit scarves, maple syrup or farmstead cheese, receiving a locally made gift is wonderful.  You can honor your child's teacher while supporting the local economy, farmers and craftspeople.  This is really a gift that gives back to the community in many ways.  If you are not sure what to give, do a quick internet search for local gifts in your area and you might be surprised what you come up with.

Amazon Gift Card

This is a default gift you don't know your child's teacher that well or you want to be sure they find their gift useful.  Amazon is the go to store for many busy teachers to get supplies for their classrooms or books and other things for themselves.  They sell cards in many designs and you can decide if you want them packaged in a card or box or sent by email.  Quick, easy and painless.  

I still have a few weeks to decide what I will be getting my son's teachers.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!  What are the best gifts you have ever received or gave to a teacher? Check out my Facebook page where I will share my decision in a few weeks!