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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Five Fabulous and Free Warm Up Activities for Virtual Math Lessons K-6

I have written in the past about how we structure math class and today I want to share with you the first in a series of posts about how we structure virtual math classes.  Over the past 6 months, we have played around with the structure of our virtual lessons and have landed on a digital version of what we do in class.  First thing is first and that is the warm-up!

Why a Warm Up

I like doing a warm up in a virtual math lesson for some of the same reasons I like doing them in person.  It is a great way to get everyone excited about learning math, it gives us a chance to review important concepts, and it is a perfect opportunity to talk about mathematical mindset.  It can be a chance to do a whole group number talk, engage kids in a low floor high ceiling task or introduce a game that will be part of our math menu or choice board later.  It is also a great way to honor virtual learners who arrive for class on time by having something ready for them to get started on. 

How Long?

Virtual math classes seem to vary in time more than traditional ones.  In general they tend to be shorter so I try to keep the warm up portion to 10 minutes or less.

Best Warm Up Activities? 

Here are the activities I have been able to do live over Zoom or Google Hangouts that my kids have loved the most.  


This has been the overall favorite of my students during distance learning.  You download the powerpoint presentation and hit present.  The slides include a visual model and clues to help them narrow down their estimation.  They practice important skills related to estimation as well as other grade level appropriate vocabulary as the clues help them narrow down their estimation.  They also fit nicely into a 10 minute or less time span and get kids excited to show up on time. 

Which One Doesn't Belong

The premise is simple but the results are amazing.  Four images put together and you think about which one doesn't belong.  The best part of this type of activity is that there is really not a wrong answer and there are many right answers.  It is also good practice at looking at things from different perspectives.  By the time we are done with one of these my students have usually found reasons why each number, shape or picture in the set does not belong. 

3 Act Math 

My students had actually already done most of these when we switched to distance learning.  They continued to be super popular to do from home, but you need to be pretty good at using the share screen feature to make it successful which by now many teachers are.  These start by seeing a picture or video clip and asking kids what they notice followed by an estimation and thinking about what other information would be useful.  Additional information is provided in act 2 which leads to a narrowed down estimate or an exact calculation.  Act 3 reveals the answer by showing the rest of the video clip or picture.  

Number Talks

Starting a virtual math lesson with a whole group number talk is a great way to build flexibility and fluency with calculation.  It is a great time to review important concepts and help kids work on how to listen and share.  The pair-share part of number talks kind of gets lost online so I keep our number talks even shorter than usual, typically no more than 3 problems.  That seems to be enough for kids to try out other classmates' strategies without taking more than 10 minutes.  If you have a problem string that is longer than that, it will usually work over 2 days better than trying to get it all in at once.

Mindset Videos

Official research and my own classroom research has shown me how important math mindset is and when you are in a virtual world I would argue that it is even more important than ever.  These videos are short, sweet a bit corney and pretty engaging for kids.  A quick video and a group chat about it followed by the teacher pointing out when she sees kids demonstrating the desirable mindset qualities found in the video during the main lesson that day is a great way to reinforce the importance of a positive mindset and help kids believe they can learn anything. 

Stay tuned for 3 more posts in this series about structuring virtual math classes for distance learning! Next up is main lesson followed by math menu or math choice boards then one final post that summarizes the structure of an online math class! 

Something to help with virtual teaching! 

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Sunday, September 27, 2020

The ABC's of Hybrid Teaching

We are three weeks into a hybrid teaching model and oh my goodness I am exhausted.   You might have noticed I have been MIA from the blog since I went back to work but today I was just processing all the things and this blog post is the result of that.  I still have a lot to share about differentiating instruction, math menus, meeting kids where they are and teaching online but right now I am in survival mode!  Without further ado, here are the ABC's of hybrid teaching! 

  • Acne: wearing a mask all day led me to having the skin of a middle schooler. I now have a skin care routine like a proper middle aged lady.(thanks Grove for delivering Burt's bees to my door!)
  • Breath mints: mask wearing leads to being hyper aware of your own breath smells. Everyone now keeps mints in their desks/backpacks
  • Confusing: Our kids come in 2 cohorts and keeping track of what I have done or said with each group is still a challenge I am working on conquering.
  • Dry: Extra hand washing and sanitizing leads to sandpaper hands for kids and teachers! Rooms without a sink are especially prone.
  • Extraordinary: in a short amount of time my colleagues have relearned everything they thought they knew about teaching and a providing quality instruction in new and interesting ways. 
  • Frustrating: just when we think we have it figured out, the guidance changes, the structure changes or our own children's school changes plans leading us to scramble for childcare.
  • Gawky: like an awkward middle school student my new roles and responsibilities feel a bit unnatural.
  • Hot: wearing a mask/face shield/goggles all day then the weather feels like summer is no joke.
  • Illogical: there are some regulations and requirements that make no sense. Neighboring school districts have different plans that lead to childcare nightmares for teacher parents.
  • Jaded: the rapid pace that things change and time wasted planning things that never come to fruition has added 10 years of jadedness in 6 short weeks. I'm afraid of becoming the "I used to walk uphill to school both ways" person!
  • Kaput: how I feel by 2 pm every single day.
  • Lonely: it's great to be back seeing some faces but I miss seeing all the faces and all the hugs and community building activities we used to be able to partake in. Kids who are not in the same cohort never get to hang out together and I get limited contact with other teachers.
  • Masks: we have to wear a mask in the building at all times unless we are alone in a room. We are never alone in a room. 
  • Nauseating: we are cleaning more frequently with stronger smelling chemicals while breathing in our exhaled air it's a combination that leaves me feeling nauseous at least a few hours each day. 
  • Obliging; teachers, kids and families have worked together to create the best of the situation we are in. 
  • Passwords: I spend an embarrassing amount of time resetting passwords and emailing parents and students with their passwords. Passwords might be my least favorite word in the English language right now.
  • Quiet: less kids, more spread out and no one really in the hallways along with a ban on singing indoors has led to an almost unnatural quiet in the building. 
  • Rewarding: when all is said and done setting those smiling faces eyes folks my heart with joy.
  • Stumps: we have taken teaching outside on stump circles that our amazing PTA volunteers delivered to school.
  • Tenacious: teachers and kids have really demonstrated this quality during this challenging time.
  • Unique: we are living history right now and we have to remember that this isn't forever.
  • Valiant: I have always said teachers can do anything and the obstacles my colleagues have conquered this year demonstrate this very well.
  • Wild
  • X-hausting: I'm kind of glad my car ride is a little longer this year. I am so mentally and physically exhausted at the end of each day I rely on the drive home for partial recovery.
  • Year-long: We might not be in hybrid forever, we might be fully remote, in person or in a different version of hybrid but we know for sure that this school year is going to be anything but normal!
  • Zoom: We spend Wednesday mornings on Zoom with kids while no students are in the building. We spend Wednesday afternoons on Zoom with other people in our building. Our students who are not at school send us Google Hangout messages or try to do video calls while we are in school with their classmates. It's a wild world and Zoom is part of our lives for now.
For all my fellow teachers who are living this nightmare reality right now, I'm with you.  I see you, I know how hard you are working, I know we will make it to the other side.  I know someday we can tell new teachers our stories and I know we will come out in the end better than ever.