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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fly on the Math Teacher's Wall: Buzz Worthy Back to School Blog Hop

     There is just something about back to school time that makes everything seem so fresh and new.  I love getting to know new students and seeing how much my old students have grown and changed.  We have been back in action for 3 days and I think I had forgotten how tired the first week of school makes me!  My classroom is ready, I am well on my way to establishing routines with my students and hopefully I will be back to blogging regularly!  Today I am linking up with my math blogger friends to bring you tips for getting your math class off to a great start!  I want to share with you some of the ways I set up my classroom and some of the routines I teach to help increase math talk in my classroom.  

Wait Time

One of the best things you can do to increase the math talk in your classroom is to be very aware of your wait time.  When you ask a question or listen to a student's response, how many seconds are you giving yourself and your students before you start talking again?  Some studies have shown wait time in the average classroom is about 1.5 seconds.  Not a lot of thinking can happen that fast!  Being aware of your wait time and practicing it from the first day of school will make you and your students much  more comfortable and you will notice an increase in the number of participants.  You might also notice that taking a few extra seconds to think about what a student says before responding or hearing from another student will increase your awareness of what students understand and are able to do.  I personally aim for a wait time of 10 seconds.  Don't be afraid to watch the clock or count to yourself when you are first starting out!


When you re-voice a students' idea, it give your students a chance to hear the idea again and the student who shared it a chance to clarify their thinking.  When you have students re-voice each other's ideas, you give them the opportunity to take another person's perspective and hold them accountable for listening to each other.  Re-voicing can also slow the conversation down a bit so that kids can focus on the big ideas and those who require more think time a chance to clarify their thoughts.  

Room Set Up

When you are setting up your room for the back to school season or rearranging it for a fresh outlook as the school year continues, think about the spaces your students will be in for math talk.  If you really want kids to be talking to each other, make sure the way your room is set up reflects this.  I like having options for kids to talk at tables as well as space on the floor where we can do our number talks and other math discussions.   If you are seeing that kids will answer questions and engage with you but not with each other, I highly recommend sitting kids in a circle and removing yourself to the outside of the circle to get things going.  Once kids are more used to talking to each other and not just talking to you, I don't find this as necessary but it really helps when they are first starting out.  Also, remember to think about your wait time.  Kids will never have a chance to respond to other students if you are always jumping right in with a comment!

Pair Share 

If I had to pick a favorite strategy for getting kids talking about math, pair sharing would be my number one.  Giving kids a chance to talk to one or two other kids about how they solved a problem or what they were thinking gives them a chance to rehearse sharing their ideas and refine their plan for sharing their strategy.  Pair share can also help kids practice listening to another person's ideas and comparing them to their own.  I also like to hold kids accountable for listening to others so I often have them share their partner's strategy instead of their own when we come back to a whole group discussion.

Provide Focus Vocabulary

One of the reasons you want kids talking about math is to get them extra practice using math vocabulary.  I like using vocab cards to help kids focus on new words.  I will often use a magnet to attach focus words to the white board when we are discussing them.  If you are looking for vocabulary cards for grades K-8, check out this awesome (and free!) resource.  My vocabulary cards have the word and picture on the front and we write the definition on the back as a class.  That way it is in their words but it is there if they need it.  

I hope these ideas will help you get started setting up math talk in your classroom.  If you are looking for further reading on this subject, you should check out Talk Moves: a Teacher's Guide for Using Classroom Discussion in Math.  This book is full of ideas for getting kids talking across all kinds of math settings.  Great for grades K-6.  It also includes a DVD with video clips so you can see many of the ideas in action.  

Head over to The Research Based Classroom to check out more ideas for setting up your math class for back to school! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Made It: Scrabble Math Bulletin Board Freebie

I have 3 more weeks of summer vacation but I have already been back in the classroom getting things ready!   When you have 3 small kids at home you have to take every second you can to stop by the classroom and get stuff done.  I have moved to a new and much larger room this year and have inherited a bunch of stuff because we are down a few classrooms this year as our enrollment has declined.  I spent a full day in the classroom last week and managed to pull together a few things. 

My big accomplishment for this week was creating and assembling a great bulletin board.  I have been thinking about different board games I love and how to use them in my classroom decor.  I have always loved scrabble but have never found a way to use it in a math classroom.  One night on TPT, I stumbled upon a Scrabble font and decided to create my own math vocab bulletin board out of scrabble looking tiles.  Here it is:

You can head to my TPT store and grab this set for FREE!  I would love if you leave feedback! 

I made the scrabble letters I needed with this great font from Darcy Baldwin Fonts.   Most of her fonts are free for personal use but you can also purchase commercial licences if you want to use them in a product like I did.  

The border for this bulletin board is part of an old Uno deck I found in at a yard sale this summer.  I love the way it incorporates numbers and is so colorful.  

I can't wait to show this bulletin board off to my students and have been brainstorming ways to make it interactive.  Here is what I have come up with so far:

What word has the greatest points value?
Which word is worth the least amount of points?
Find a word that you have never heard before and look it up in the math dictionary. 

Any other ideas?  

Head over to 4th Grade Frolics for more #MondayMadeIt ideas!