Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good Ole' Problem Solving

As we dig deeper into Common Core, we're finding that more and more of our Math is looking like those good ole' fashioned "word problems" (as they were called in back in the day).  Our students can't seem to get enough of them.  The more tasks they do and are able to solve, the more they seem to want them!  I think the thing students are enjoying most is the challenge itself.  Speaking of "back in the day," I can't help but wonder if I had been given an opportunity to solve some real world problems with my friends, been able to talk about them, share our ideas, make a plan of action, implement, and solve them, I might have been a little more successful at problem solving.  All I remember is someone telling me to look for key words like "all together" and "difference."  Yes, those are important too, but shouldn't drive how a student goes about solving a problem.  There are many ways to solve problems.
At an inservice this summer our presenter gave us a super difficult 5th grade math task.  She gave us a few minutes to think about it and plan for how we would solve.  I began drawing pictures because I'm an artist...Um, no, that's how my brain works!  When my table got a chance to get together and share how we solved the problem, I was amazed at the different strategies all the teachers used to get it!  I honestly didn't even understand how one teacher got there, but she did! (She must be gifted!)  
Anyhow, I loved the process and although my title says "Literacy Coach," I've been able to work with some small groups of students.  Their little faces light up when I bring in some problem solving for them.  It's no longer a chore, but a coveted challenge.  They want to show me not one way, but multiple ways they can arrive at the same answer.  Check out the work a group of 2nd graders did for me today trying to figure out what combination of 14 coins made $2.14.  Each one worked individually on the outside of the circle while discussing with each other what worked and didn't.  What did it sound like?  "Don't try a bunch of pennies...that sure didn't work." "I tried half dollars and some quarters, but that doesn't work either."  "I'm getting closer when I change my quarters to dimes and nickels."  "I'm giving this problem to my DAD!"
What did it look like?  A MESS!  Don't ya' love their scribbles where they tried something and it didn't work?  When they finally arrived at the answer it went in the middle so they could proudly display their accomplishment.  

All this problem solving motivated me to create a problem of the day activity for each month.  I actually started in early October, but it took me longer than I hoped to finish.  So...the October one is done and October is about OVER!  Yes, that's how I roll sometimes.  :-)  I scrambled to finish NOVEMBER for those that want to start right away!  Click on the image for a trip to my TpT store to investigate. It's geared specifically with 3rd grade in mind, but 4th would enjoy, and if you have some high flying 2nd graders, they'd be challenged!  If you like it, let me know and I'll throw the October one in FREE for ya' from now until the end of November!   

UPDATE to this post:  I now have 9 school months complete!  September through May units are finished! You can get them individually, or all bundled up for a cheaper price!  

Bananas for math when it's fun,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Formative Freebies and Paybacks!

     Ever have a moment as a parent where you have to step back and just let it happen?  I encountered that recently when my daughter came home in tears one day after school...upset that she got stuck with most of the work for a group project.  The educator in me began asking all the right questions..."Who's in your group?"  "What's the assignment?"  "How did you get stuck putting it all together?"  After a quick investigation, I learned that her 3 fellow group members were all boys.  They had done some of the work at school, but when it came time to put it all together, I guess they decided that should be "all her."  In their words..."You put it together for us and we'll present it."  It was 3 against 1, and since she's the compliant "teacher pleaser" she brought the work home to put the poster together herself.  It broke my heart to see her upset, but I quickly noticed her demeanor change as she began laying it all out for the task ahead.  I asked if I could help in any way and she simply said, "No! I got this!"
Three hours later, she reappeared with a huge smile on her face holding a BRIGHT HOT PINK poster with the most beautifully (and girly) decorated poster you have ever seen.  It had ribbons, flowery sequins, bows, lace...you name it!!  She even sprayed it with perfume before going out the door the next morning!!  Yep, my daughter decided if the BOYS were going to stick hours of work on her and they got the job of a 2 minute presentation, she was going to make it as painful as possible for them.  The teacher in me was thinking, "Oh no, the decorating was a bit much!"  But the mother in me was saying, "YOU GO GIRL!"   Her teacher, who was obviously aware of what had transpired, simply walked by her in class, leaned down and whispered, "I LOVE IT!"

     I recently conducted a formative assessment professional development with a wonderful colleague of mine.  We had the best time sharing some strategies for quick checks in the classroom.  A lot of the ideas came from my "Let's Recap" packet (also free in my TpT store), but we threw in a few different ones I thought I'd also make available for grabs.  Hope you can put to good use in your classroom!

Bananas for my daughter who can "hold her own" when necessary!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Election Day Freebie

Election Day is sneaking up fast!  I always enjoyed election time in my classroom.  Students hear their parents talking about it, they can't escape from it being all over the television, so they are naturally curious about it.  What a better time to teach them how the democratic process works.  Whatever the grade level, you can adapt election type activities to fit the needs of your classroom.  Host a mock election, complete with registration cards.  Do some research on the candidates with your older students.  Tie in some quality literature to enhance your election studies. Check out some of my favorites: (Duck for President by Doreen Cronin, Election Day by Lynn Peppas, See How They Run by Susan E. Goodman, Vote! by Eileen Christelow, Letters from the Campaign Trail: LaRue for Mayor by Mark Teague, President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston, If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier)  If your school is a voting site, request one of the workers on their break to come speak to your class about the process.  They may even allow your class to come do a quick tour of the voting machines.  My class was invited to do this during a local election last year and my students were fascinated by the curtains more than anything else.  :-) During our mock classroom election we had to build a privacy area so they could vote in private!   Whatever you decide to do, have FUN and make it meaningful.  After all, we're blessed to live in a democratic society where we the people, have a voice!  Students need to learn this at an early age so they will not be afraid of the process as adults. 
Here's an Election Day Fun Freebie for you to get you started!  :-)  Click on the image to grab it!  

Bananas for my freedom and always thankful for those who serve to protect it,

Monday, October 1, 2012

Interactive Notebooking

Interactive Notebooks...Who has started?  Whose district has required it?  Or who is doing them on their own?  Why the surge of interactive notebooking for students?  From what I've read, research shows it fosters creativity, organization, and independent thinking.  Who doesn't want that for their students?  I personally like them because they serve as great review tools, they are of high interest to my students, and students take total ownership in their learning!  Let's face it, some topics don't lend themselves to "hands on" learning.  Interactive notebooks ARE hands on no matter what topic you're teaching.  What they are NOT, is students listening to a lecture and taking notes (insert high school and college flashbacks here).  They're called interactive for a reason, right?  
Students are DOING.  So what are they doing?  They are cutting, bending, folding, coloring, drawing, labeling, creating, writing to explain, and quite simply "showing what they know." It goes without saying that if your students can explain it, they KNOW it!  My students have been "notebooking" for 3 years now.  They WE get a little better each year.  I also try to tackle a little more each year.  I started with ONE Social Studies unit my first year.  (Geography)  The following year I added another S.S. unit. (Government)  This past year I added Economics and am now full throttle with math notebooking. (addition/subtraction, numeracy, money, multiplication, division, fractions, geometry, etc.)  They are available as individual units or cheaper all bundled up.  I'm still creating and adding!

 The few things that stand out about notebooking with my kids is 1.) They love it!   2.)  They have no choice but to be organized!   3.)  Their parents love it because their child IS organized and has access to all of their notes in ONE place.  4.) They are retaining the information better!  (Test scores are climbing!)  5.)  It has helped ME get organized AND more excited about teaching some topics that could normally be considered "boring" or "difficult" to teach.
I'd love to say there was some magic road map that helped me start at point A with interactive notebooks, but there wasn't.  A lot of it was trial and error (and continues to be a work in progress)!! But I would say that the place to start is the curriculum.
A.  Know what you're responsible for teaching and teach it in a way that your students can respond to it!
B.  Get familiar with foldables!  There's nothing MORE FUN than folding paper in a variety of ways to motivate your students into getting information down!
C.  Let go!  You'll be amazed at how creative your students will be if you let them.  TRUE STORY:  I was using the Government interactive notebook template that I created with my students and there's a picture of an old scroll in there.  Students were to cut it out and glue it in their notebooks and add some of the rights we as American citizens have in our country.  I was monitoring their progress when I noticed a student wadding his scroll up.  My first thought was "That little STINKER..." (and I won't go any further with that).  When I asked him what he was doing, he informed me that he was making his scroll look OLD (like the REAL Bill of Rights image we had just seen).  Not only that, but when he was finished making it look 'old,' he wrote some of the rights he had learned, rolled it up to look like a real scroll, and asked me for a piece of ribbon so he could tie it like a real scroll.  :-) He wanted to "QUIZ" his parents about some of our American rights and let them unroll the scroll when he got home in his notebook to see if they were right.

Need some additional interactive notebook ideas?  Try this INB LINKY!    What have you tried?  Success stories you'd like to share?  We'd love to hear! 

NEW to the Interactive Notebooking Party....GRAMMAR GATORS!  Learning about the parts of speech is full of some Super Hero fun!  

Bananas for writing to explain, so you can truly tell "THEY'VE GOT IT!"




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