Monday, November 26, 2012

Go Math! Implementation: Month 4

We're in our fourth month of implementing our new math program, and I must say that my kiddos and I are really making some great strides. We've learned a lot through these last few months, and are able to complete a lesson in a day's time. There are still many things I know that can be better, but we're all on the right track. Here are my top 53 "Aha!" moments:

  1. Do math first. "I do better in math when we have it first thing in the morning." This statement was echoed over and over by my kiddos after I did some schedule swapping one week. I suspected this, but wanted to hear it straight from the horses' mouths before I made the permanent change in our schedule. Our original schedule called for math in the afternoon, but we much prefer to have a read aloud and time to read to self at the end of the day. It's a better ending to a rigorous school day.
  2. Focus on the Essential Question: I sort of skipped over this until I was part of a demonstration lesson in which the trainer focused on the essential question. I realized that the question helps focus students' minds on what they are supposed to be learning. Now, I always begin by reading it and explaining what they will be able to do by the end of the lesson. "Today, we will be exploring how to use a model to find factors of a given number..." We revisit the question during the lesson, "Are we using models to find factors of numbers? How?" and at the end of the lesson as a review, "How did we use models to find factors of a number?" Sometimes they answer orally and sometimes in their journals. 
  3. Anticipate issues with manipulatives: Upper grades have never had sets of manipulatives to use with their students until this year, so our students simply weren't used to using them. Many of my students had never even touched a base ten block before this year! As a result, I had to let them build houses with the base ten blocks, make patterns with tiles, and build towers with counters before they could be really utilized. Because it was all so new, sometimes the manipulatives were more of a hindrance than a help. For example, when using counters to model division with remainders, many of my kiddos didn't count out the correct number---multiple times! I've learned to think carefully about how to anticipate issues and solve problems before they can happen. 
Overall, I'm really excited to be teaching the new Common Core standards, and I love learning new ways to solve problems and new strategies to teach my kiddos.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Calendar Math Routine Freebies

After participating in the Guided Math book study this summer, I set a goal for myself to implement a successful calendar math routine in my fourth grade classroom. This was something I was a little nervous about, because I've only used Saxon math's calendar routines in 3rd grade and I just wasn't too sure what to do in 4th. Well, I did it! I think I've finally struck gold! I've waited a while to post this because I wanted to make sure it actually worked for me and my students. 

I decided to include these daily/weekly routines to begin with:

  • counting large numbers
  • number line (using multiple markers based on Every Day Counts)
  • date/day calendar questions
  • daily depositor and coin counter (based on Every Day Counts)
  • decomposing numbers
  • rounding and place value
  • elapsed time
  • facts practice
My daily routine: I spend no more than 15 minutes total on this, so I don't always do every part every single day. We start with facts practice. Sometimes this is a timed drill sheet, or I use the links I put on the flipchart (file below). Then I pretty much follow the pages in my flipchart. Although we do the same activities every day, I like to keep it interesting by varying the way we do them. There are basically three formats I use on different days of the week:
  1. Whole group using the the IWB. Any student who is not at the white board writes the answers on their individual dry erase boards.  
  2. Small group: I used poster board to make 5 calendar math posters. The posters have the same things on them that we do on the IWB (file included below). I just laminated the posters, and groups of about 4 work together to compete each section. The first group to complete every part correctly wins a treat. 
  3. Individual: I created a worksheet that looks like what we do on the IWB, and students write in their answers on their sheets independently, then we check together.
Every 2-3 weeks I test the students using a sheet similar to the independent practice worksheet. I'm so glad I've implemented this! It's a lot of math in a short amount of time, and a great way to review those skills that need to stay fresh. 

Now for the files. I've created a highly interactive Promethean flipchart that can be used on your whiteboard. There are also copies of the tests, worksheets, a PowerPoint version of the lesson (though not as interactive), and black and white printables to make your own small group calendar posters. Just click the link under the picture to download the zipped file. If you decide to download, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hurricane in a Bowl

We've all made the tornado in a bottle, right? Well, how about a hurricane in a bowl? I wish I could take credit for this activity, but I found it in my science book and just knew we had to do it. All you need are clear bowls, water, spoons, food coloring, and newspapers to help with spillage. Here's how:
Imagine the red swirling around really fast. 

I used the 5E model for this lesson (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate), and placed my students into groups of about 4 or 5. 

Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge: We had already discussed students' schema for hurricanes and read some sections in our book about how they form, how they're forecasted, etc...

Explore: Have students use a spoon to swirl the water around very quickly. As a group, the should work together to time the next part carefully. Once the water is swirly rapidly, raise the spoon out of the water and add food coloring. The food coloring should swirl around in the water, showing "arms" like a hurricane. *NOTE: There is a bit of a learning curve to this. If students continue to stir the water, the food coloring will mix and they won't see the model.

Explain: We discussed what each part represented. What does the food coloring represent? What does the water represent?

Elaborate: Discuss how the model is similar to and different from a real hurricane.

Evaluate: Okay, I didn't really get to this part, but if I did, I would have had the students write a journal entry explaining what they did and how the model helped us visualize the bands of a hurricane.

We had to repeat this about 3 or 4 times so the kiddos could all get to use the spoon or the food coloring, but even so, it was a very quick activity. What's even better is that the kiddos were having fun and learning the whole time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Put Students in the Trash

Well, to be fair, they got in voluntarily...Why, you ask? We did the coolest experiment about air pressure to show that air is pressing all around us. Each kiddo took turns getting into a giant trash bag and we stuck a vacuum cleaner hose in the bag. Volunteers held the bag so that no air would get in or out, and we switched on the vacuum cleaner. It was so much fun to see the kids actually experience air pressure! They were amazed, learned a little something, and had a great time doing it.
Me in the bag!

Explanation: when the vacuum cleaner removed air from inside of the bag, the air outside of the bag continued to press all around.

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