Math in a box

Happy Summer everyone.  Hadn’t expected to blog much this summer as I’m vigorously preparing for my new teaching assignment.  However, something  “mathy” showed up  and I was asked to review it.

Sumboxes is a new subscription company that comes to your door step.  It’s essentially math-in-a-box.   In all my years of teaching, I haven’t seen “teacher” boxes, let alone subscription boxes that include math.  The sample box I received was geared for teachers or parents of kindergarteners.   Upon further research of their website, they also have boxes for first grade and second grade.  

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What’s in the box?  

Let’s get to the nitty gritty before anything else.  Watch below….

Let’s lay it all out…. You have 2 math activities that include directions/notes, 2 PVC zipper bags, dice, cards, dinos, a magnet, and a sticker —-all included in a neatly blue and yellow schemed wrapping.  

Upon my inspection, there’s a lot going on in this box. First, I liked that there was not one, but two quality activities.  I can totally see kinders at my school excited by the fact that they were playing games with dinos (who doesn’t get excited by that?!?!).  Secondly,  the instruction cards, notes, and activity boards were on good quality card stock.  They weren’t flimsy at all.  It seems as though they will survive some wear/tear from little ones.   I also was thrilled to see that I can store the activities in the zipper bags (if you haven’t come across these before….get them!!!!)  Lastly and most importantly, it’s all there.  As teachers, we scour the internet (Pinterest, Teacher Pay Teacher, or blogs) or our activity books (blow that dust off of them) to find quality activities.  If/when we do find activities, we then have to rummage around for the right materials, supplies, etc.  All of this takes time, effort (copying, laminating, cutting), and money.  And sometimes—in the case of TeacherPayTeacher—-you don’t truly know what you’re getting until you download the file (just because it has a cute font doesn’t make it good).   

Long story, short — it is refreshing to see an idea like this come along where more math  content is being offered.  No fuss, no muss.  

My thoughts…

Heading back to the Sumboxes website, I read about the company more and came across this.

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I like what I’m seeing

 

  It’s usually perceived by parents and students to be hard, difficult, and boring.  To read this mission statement is refreshing.   This mission statement also aligns with my views that math can be intriguing, invigorating, and enjoyable.  Why can’t students play games and do activities that practice math skills?  I can imagine the look on students’ faces when we take out one of these boxes.  Pure excitement! 

Here are a few questions that rattled around in my brain…..

  1. Would SumBoxes offer a menu of what math concepts are going to be covered in my future boxes?  For instance, this month we are adding, but next month we are covering subtracting.  
  2. Will SumBoxes eventually create boxes for third through fifth grades?  I can see the potential for fractions, decimals, etc.
  3. If I’d like another box of the dinosaurs, can I get an additional box without having to pay for a full separate subscription? 

(As I ponder more, I will be adding more questions in the future.)

My advice for teachers and coaches would be to check out Sumboxes.   I can see schools/principals subscribe to this for individual teachers and/or grade levels.  Teachers could try a box out for a month and rotate them among their colleagues.  The potential to for support in math is there.  It’s a great tool/resource to have around which will engage our students in math.

****This review was completely unsolicited.  I’m not getting paid and compensated in any way, shape or form.  I just like math stuff. ****

 

 

 

 

Reflections 2016-2017

  Teachers are trying to survive the last 3 days of school.  Bulletin boards are being tossed, broken pencils are discarded,  and trash cans all over my district are being filled.   As I sit and watch all the end-of-the-year activities, I can’t help myself but think and reflect on the past year.   And it was a wonderful year.

My year in review….

  1.  Presenting at CMC was nothing short of incredible.  As my mind rewinds to my short days in Palm Springs, I catch myself smiling at the memory.  Yes, it was a lot of work–7 months of planning, collaborating, and practicing—>but it was well worth it.  You can read about it here.
  2. Publishing for the California Math Council’s magazine,  Communicator. Stacy’s and my work on the flipped hundred’s chart went state-wide. Teachers from all over the state were retweeting the blog post.  And because of this, my little blog post got over 600 views (and still counting).  That maybe small potatoes in comparison to some blogs, but that’s big news to me.
  3. Graham Fletcher and 3 Act lessons For two days in January, I got to see, meet, and “hang” with Graham Fletcher.   Terrific math specialist who presented conceptual ideas surrounding 3 Act lessons.   And what is even more amazing is that he linked this site with my 3 acts onto his.  Educators around the world have been viewing my lessons.  In addition, he liked what Stacy and I did with one of his lessons so much, that he included on his website. Overall, Graham Fletcher is the real deal. He’s really sincere, humble and full of magnificent ideas.

      

  4. Clotheslines – this routine started a few years go when I saw Andrew Stadel present it.  However it was presented for the middle school/ high school teachers.  I took the idea and developed it for elementary teachers.  And it grew exponentially in popularity around my district.  Since publishing my cards, this page has been getting more and more hits. 

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    A sample of cards for kindergarten
  5. School Wide routines –  I presented to a few schools about some of the engaging routines that they could be doing in their classrooms with their students.  As a follow-up to my presentations, I’d start surprising the staff with some “mathiness.”  I started school wide estimation contests and had posters of “Which One Doesn’t Belong” in staff lounges.  Teachers were hard core/competitive with coming up with  answers.  However, the conversation continued well after my presentations and that was the point.  To keep the conversations going….and hope that they’d try it in their classrooms.

    6. More of everything… In my reflection last year, I made it a goal to just have more of everything.  And I got that.  I was in so many classrooms.  During my busiest day, I was in 6 classrooms, plus was scheduled to meet with my boss.  I ran marathons on certain days.  But once again, to empower teachers, see smiling kids enjoying math and understanding it—was all worth it.

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Looking forward…

I’m having difficulty writing this part.  The reason is that I’ve been told my position has been dissolved.  I’m going back into the classroom.  For months I’ve had to carry on with my work knowing that my hardworking, dedicated teachers would no longer be receiving my support.  I was crushed.   It is only recently that I’ve come to terms with the district’s decision.  

With that said, I have accepted a position in my district teaching 6th grade at an elementary school.  There was a lot of strategic thinking involved in my decision. It happens to be my son’s former school.  This school is also where the staff really made an effort in trying out my math strategies techniques.  It’s also where my collaborator, Stacy, works (she’s already asked me to be kindergarten buddies with her–and we are going to be doing some awesome math projects).  And when it was announced to the staff that I’d be joining the team, the staff was excited and so happy.  The math wizard has a new home.   

It would have been too easy to head back to middle school and fall right back into my routine.  Going back to my elementary roots after 16 years at the middle school level will be a challenge.  But I’ve never met a goal that I couldn’t reach.   I love taking on a new challenge.  

And there is plenty of other opportunities to look forward to. First of all,  Stacy and I submitted two proposals to speak at conferences.  The first proposal was submitted to the CMC North conference in Asilomar.  The second proposal was submitted to a kindergarten conference in Pasadena.   We are not able to make it to the CMC South conference this year, but we have several ideas for the next round of proposals.  Secondly, I’ve been recently asked to join a team of people to present at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  Andrew Stadel has contacted me and I’ll be representing the elementary side of clotheslines.  

Recently, a teacher asked me if I regretted taking the position.   I don’t live a life of regret.  I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done. My work has never been about me.  It’s been about the teachers and the students.  To see teachers smiling and invigorated by new strategies has been a thrill.  To see students engaged and excited to do different activities and lessons was amazing.  And to see my work being talked about via Twitter or this blog has been fulfilling.  Finally, if I didn’t take this position 2 years ago, I wouldn’t  have had the stories and experiences I can talk about now.  None of this would exist.  

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I saw this at Target and it reminds me to be the best no matter where I go during this next chapter in my career.

 I’m just going to see where life takes me.  I am open to all possibilities and opportunities.    That’s all I can do.

Until next time,

Kristen  

 

 

 

 

Where did the numbers go?

Back in January (yes, I’m back logged a few months) I did a professional development for 4 – 6th grade teachers.  I was asked about presenting something that could help with the ever-looming testing in the spring.   My purpose was to introduce them to the strategy of Notice & Wonder while showing them what a numberless word problem was.  I emphasized the fact that we have to slow down the problem solving.  The students need to focus on content rather than just grab numbers and add them together (I call them calculator kids). Both strategies (and my presentation) were a HUGE success.   Each teacher not only left with a base knowledge of notice and wonder, they also left with 2-3 numberless word problems to try in their classrooms.  One 5th grade team tried them out the very next day.  

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Teachers got to write their own numberless word problems.

Fast forward a few weeks, when I met with my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. P.   We planned a lesson which would introduce the kiddos to a numberless word problem.  During our planning session, we came up with the idea of putting a bunch of problems together so that the students could review all the previous material.  Little did I know, this one planning session turned into me running between 3 different schools showing all 3rd and 4th grade students numberless word problems.  

Now let’s begin with my favorite —the marble problem.  I did separate marble problems for both 3rd and 4th grades.  And both problems created the most conversation.  

I got the students into a routine by starting off with “notice & wonder” before drawing any concepts or figuring any of the problem out.  I created this template to help the students navigate through the problem.  It also helped that they kept track of their thoughts throughout the process. 

3rd grade  (each number was a separate slide of a powerpoint)

  1. Jeanne has marbles.
  2. Jeanne has marbles.  Some marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow.
  3. Jeanne has marbles.  Some marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow.  The rest of the marbles are green.
  4. Jeanne has 12 marbles. Some of the marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow. The rest of the marbles are green.
  5. Jeanne  has 12 marbles.  3/12 of the marbles are blue and 2/12 of the marbles are yellow.  The rest of the marbles are green.  How many marbles are green?

Was a little apprehensive about doing a problem on fractions with 3rd grade, but they stepped up to the plate and were superb with their problem solving. 

Here are a few pics to see…

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4th grade – each slide was a separate slide of a powerpoint.

  1. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. 

2. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has many marbles. 

3. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has many marbles. Louis has marbles.  

4. Ty has 6 times as many marbles than his sister, Pam.  Pam has many marbles. Louis has marbles.

5.  Ty has 6 times as many marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has 34 marbles. Louis has 202 marbles.  Who has more marbles, Ty or Louis?

By the time we got to number 3 (…..Louis has marbles.) the students were freaking out.  “Who’s Louis?”   “Why does he need marbles?” 

By the time they got to the last layer of information, they were excited to find the answer.  More importantly, they knew what they needed to do.

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Final thoughts….

  • “Layering” the information of a word problem really helps the students focus on the content of the problem.
  • It slows down the problem solving process.
  • Students get to create a mini – movie in their heads before they are slapped with numbers and the question.  
  • The teachers noticed that by the time students got the question, they knew how to solve.  They were also able to draw out and model their thinking. 
  • One big AH-HA was that students don’t know how to properly give an answer.  They need to work on being specific with their thoughts.  For instance, students would tell me 7.  I asked them 7 what—7 flamingos at a dance?  7 cows jumping over the moon?  Students need to be able to write/type out their full complete answers to get credit on the tests.
  • The notice/wonder routine is really inclusive.  Teachers were amazed at how many students were engaged and participating.  Everyone of the students had something to say.  
  • Lastly—Mrs. P did a notice and wonder talk with her students about the whole numberless word problem.  This is what they had to share….IMG_1652

 

Such a worthwhile routine especially before testing where there are MANY word problems.  Here’s hoping that all of it transferred to the test.

Crossing my fingers…

Kristen

Cents clothesline

Recently, I was invited into a 2nd grade classroom to work on money (2.MD.8 Solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, using $ and ¢ symbols appropriately).   The teacher wanted to try out something new to go along with this standard.  My suggestion was to try out the clothesline.  Let’s see if students could put different variations of coins from least to greatest.  It totally make cents (1st bad money pun)

And it went splendidly.  

Each student was given a card to work on.  They calculated the total amount and put their answers on a post it note.  When they were ready, the hung their cards on the clothesline.

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When they were finished, we went over each card and made sure that we added each coin correctly. 

At the end of the session, they students asked why they were doing the activity now (they were well passed their money unit).  I answered by telling them how many skills were involved with this activity.  

  • recognizing each coin and its value.
  • practicing their addition skills with one and two digit numbers
  • comparing and ordering the numbers
  • showing equality with some of the coins (for example- 1 dime is the same as 2 nickels which is the same as 10 pennies)
  • realizing what happens when you have more than 100 cents.

After my answers, I realized how much “bang we got with our buck.” (2nd bad money pun).  This activity had a lot going on it.  And all we did was put up a string and gave them cards.   But the thinking that went on was nothing less than incredible.  

 

Until next time,

Kristen

 

What’s a Shape?

Back in February, I came across a blog post from Telanna about shapes.  She saw a Twitter post from Sarah Caban asking a simplistic question.

 How would you define the word “shape”?

Not wanting to miss out on the bandwagon, I decided to jump in.  Considering that I have access to such a grade span, I patiently waited for the right time in each grade level’s curriculum to pop in on a few classrooms and have a conversation.    Each teacher that I chatted with was also intrigued with my master plan and wanted to see/hear the results.

Kindergarten

And so my journey of defining shapes began with Mrs. Z’s kindergarten in March.  She was right in the middle of her shapes unit (perfect timing) and so she asked the kiddos the question “What is a shape?”

Here’s a snap-shot of what was discussed….

  • Some shapes are big and small. 
  • sometimes round— circle or oval.
  • some are skinny/ thin
  • different sizes
  • star, heart, rectangle, square, triangle, diamond, hexagon
  • shapes have points and angles.  (T asked –do all shapes have points)
  • Not all shapes have points.
  • shapes you can trace or cut out.
  • Everything we color or write or draw is a shape.
  • Shapes are everywhere because they are. 

The kiddos keep having side conversations asking questions like “are they lines?” and “what about letters?”.  One child proclaimed “the sky is not a shape.”  Upon hearing this, another child replied, “but what’s in the sky?  Sun, Stars and Clouds”.

 

After the in-depth conversation, Mrs. Z asked them to get up and make shapes with their bodies.  First, they made a circle (or the attempt at a circle) and then a rectangle.  Some students ran up to me to show me the shapes with their fingers/hands.  

 

Third Grade

Fast Forward three weeks—->>>

My next door neighbor, Ms. N, teaches third grade and upon hearing about my shape quest,  invited me in to lead the discussion on shapes.  They were also in the middle of their geometry unit, so the kiddos wanted to impress me with their growing geometry vocabulary.  They also corrected me in that they are discussing POLYGONS, not shapes.  

  • something that has sides
  • has a vertex (corner of a shape)
  • has angles—> can be 90 degrees
  • has different sides
  • could be a quadrilateral
  • has to have more than 3 lines
  • has to be closed —-> all lines connecting
  • can be a polygon
  • shapes are all around us
  • convex —> shape doesn’t have a cave in it
  • can have a concave in it
  • rectangle can have opposite sides
  • can have parallel sides

 

Fifth Grade

OK OK OK.  I have a guilty conscience about this one.  I cheated.  Full admission of guilt.

 I didn’t have time to go to a fifth grade classroom.  Time became of the essence for the fifth grade teachers with reviewing for CAASPP testing.  

HOWEVER—- I have an a 11 year old son (5th grader) who was happy (** sarcasm**) to have a conversation with me about shapes.  Yes…this is what we do during our commute into work/school.

  • shapes are in everything
  • there’s no one thing that doesn’t have a shape
  • shapes are the building blocks of life. (how philosophical of my son)
  • have corners
  • they can have an infinite number of sides, but then that might turn into a circle
  • the sides are not always the same.
  • there are squares, rectangles, hexagons, circles, triangles, 
  • rectangle has uneven sides
  • square has all even sides

I asked what he meant by “uneven” and my son said that it was when one side was larger than the other.

Final Thoughts

Students in the primary grades start by being introduced to their shapes.  It becomes just identification which is the first level of learning.  By third grade, they are being exposed to more specific language and vocabulary.   This third grade wanted to impress me with their knowledge of geometry.  They had been testing out different shapes to see which would pass their definitions.  As for 5th grade, they have a broader view of what shapes are.  They have also explored 3 dimensional shapes as they discover volume.  

If I had a chance to follow up with each class, I could ask the question, “what does NOT make a shape?”  It would be a great contrast to their base knowledge.  It would challenge their thinking and we could probably have an in-depth conversation about their comprehension of shapes.  

A magnificent exploration.  Much thanks to Sarah Caban & Telannannalet.wordpress.com for the inspiration.

 

Until next time….

Kristen

 

Writing in math

Like I was saying in another blog-post, I’ve been exploring the different ways and types of writing that could go on in a math classroom. Last year,  I was asked to present on the subject.  

This is a topic I dabbled in when I was in my own classroom, so I was pretty excited to share with my elementary teachers.  

It’s been a question that’s been in everyone’s heads for such a long time.  How do we incorporate writing in math?  I know that it should be done, but I wanted it to have be meaningful.  I wanted it to be authentic.  A student’s writing is one way for us to see inside their heads.  What’s going on in that brain?  How is he/she approaching problems? 

As a parent, I’ve seen my own son come home with those “write to explain” questions at the bottom of his worksheets.  Usually his answers are short and blunt.  Or some of us have seen writing like this…

tumblr_inline_nxemap2Y751t2pr7r_1280Yup…this kid is going places.  I do appreciate the humor in this, however this is not what we are going for.

Some elementary teachers have admitted to me that they usually skip the “explain” questions at the end of the homework.  And let’s admit it…what student completely takes ownership of those questions at the end?  How much thinking/reasoning are teachers seeing out of those questions?  It’s not happening. 

We need to get our students’ buy-in.  We need them to take ownership.  We need them to be engaged in the problems.  We as teachers have to be creative.  As William Zessner said,Writing is a way to work yourself into a subject and make it your own.

So here’s a few ways I’ve engaged students into writing.

  1. Performance tasks/PBL – Performance tasks are a perfect way to engage a student into a problem.  It’s a spring board to have them create their own writing.  This is a 4th grade task that one of my teachers tried out. Stone%20Soup  A teacher can cover at least 3 subjects in one task.
  2. Exit cards.  I have used exit cards to ask questions.  I think of it as an extension of a number talk.  For instance, explain to me that 17 x 28 is greater than 16 x 29.  
  3. Error Analysis.  One question I ask students as closure is “how will you know when you’ve learned this?”  Usually I get answers like “when I get an A on the test.”  I’m never convinced.  I’m looking for the student to give me the answer of “when I can show/teach you the concept.”  I’ve created a template that can change with the concept.  For instance, here’s one on division. Div Err Analysis
  4. Start with the answer...I haven’t used this one yet, but I’ve seen a few versions of it. Let’s say that you start with the answer of 6.  The student has to write a math story to go with it.  I see this especially for 1st and 2nd graders who need practice with their addition and subtraction (and also writing).  

I know I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just starting the exploration.  I would welcome others to leave comments as to how they tackled this topic.  

 

Until next time,

Kristen

April Fools Day

Ahhh.  April Fools Day.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year.  Yes, it’s a day that I have grown older by 365 days.  Yes, it’s a day that I notice more grey strands in my curly brunette hair.  And yes, it’s a day that I see a few more wrinkles on my ever aging face.

However, it’s also a day of fun, jokes and shenanigans.  If you know my personality, you would say that April Fools Day is the perfect day for me to be born.  I’m full of energy, always willing to have a laugh, give a smile, and just have fun.  We only have one life to live, so why not make it a positive experience!  But in the spirit of the day I started to recall all the zaniness that I’ve encountered on this majestical day.  And so I have a question….have you ever wondered what’s it’s like to have a birthday of April Fools Day?   Oh…let me begin to tell you.

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One would assume that I would be the one to play tricks and pull shenanigans (can you tell I love that word?) all the time, but in actuality I’m fairly tame.   Sure, the threat of pranking my friends and family is always looming but I know when and where to cross that fine line.  What can I say–some people have better senses of humor than others.  And there’s always the balance of how far to push those boundaries.  In pulling a good prank, you want the victim to have a smile or a laugh.  However some people cross that line of propriety and the results are not favorable.   There’s a lot of pressure on the prankster to get it just right.  

The big question I usually get is…am I usually the one playing the tricks or do people play tricks on me?  And the answer is Yes and Yes.  

Usually on April Fools Day, I love to tell my students all my zany stories of all these tricks.  However, since I don’t have my own classroom of students, I’ll regale you with some of these stories.

 Tricks I’ve played on people…

  1. In college, snuck in and dumped a full bucket of cold water on a roommate while she was taking a hot shower.
  2. In college, I’ve “baby powered” my neighbor’s room (put a folded up newspaper filled with powder under the door, and use a hair dryer to spread the powder)
  3. Short-sheeted several beds (if you don’t know what it is—look here for directions)
  4. One of my colleagues had a jar of marbles on her desk.  For days/weeks, I would take 1-2 marbles out (when she wasn’t around) until one day someone heard her exclaiming “I think I’ve lost my marbles.”
  5. One of my masterpieces happened last year.  This was my friend’s car.  Gotta admit that I was a little nervous dealing with an Audi, but I persevered.  Got in a lot steps that day.  And it only took one roll.  

Price of GladWrap – $3.49       Joy of playing a terrific joke – priceless

Tricks played on me….

  1. When I was a kid, I was told once that my birthday wasn’t really on April 1, but on April 2.
  2. When I was a kid, I was told I was adopted.
  3. For my 16th birthday, just before I was leaving the house for a dinner with my friends, someone called pretending to be the restaurant to tell me that the restaurant was flooded with water and rats (?).

My family and I have tons and tons of other stories to tell (my brothers have pulled doozies).  Let’s just say that I come from a family that knows how to have fun and keep the smiles & laughter going.  Never a dull moment.

Now you know a little bit more about me. And this is why I call my blog “The Mind of an April Fool.”

 

Until next time–keep laughing & keep smiling,

Kristen 

 

 

 

Names on a clothesline

It’s incredible to have teachers take something you introduced them to (in this instance–the clothesline) and see what they do with it.  And I can’t emphasize enough to my teachers that they should use whatever I give them and make it their own.  I usually tell them to “make it work for you.”  And then, they invite me in for me to see how they made it work.

In this instance, it’s Mrs. Z, my kinder all-star.  Mrs. Z decided to type her class list of students’ names onto cards and see what the kiddos would do with it. How would they want to put their names on the clothesline?  Quite a innovative way to make use of the number line.  I was curious too

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Mrs. Z explaining the cards

I assumed they when asked, the students would want to put them into alphabetic order.  Seemed like an obvious choice.  Nope…alphabetic order didn’t even come up as an idea. Instead, the students decided to count their letters in their names and put them in order from smallest name to longest names.  “Medium is in the middle,” I had one student tell me.  Got it! Thanks for explaining.

 

And little by little, they started placing their cards. And they did really well.  Yes these pictures look like that are incorrect because they are not in alphabetical order.  Remember though that they were putting them in order by number of letters in their name.

 

And one night for a parent evening for kindergarten, I saw this.  

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So much fun to see.  What a thrill to see one of my routines expanded and used.   This only proves that there are so many possibilities to the clothesline activity.

Until next time,

Kristen

 

Sorting in Kinder (a 3 Act)

My kindergarten collaborator, Stacy and I recently attended a 2 day workshop with Graham Fletcher and it re-ignited our passion for 3 act tasks/lessons.  She’s made it her goal to collaborate with me and create one task per topic.  I happily accept her challenge and told her, “GAME ON!”

The most recent topic in her curriculum was sorting.  This is a skill that we all take for granted.  We sort our trash into various recycling bins.  We sort through mail.  We sort our clothes while folding laundry.   How do we get little ones to understand how things are alike and yet different?

She already uses the “Which One Doesn’t Belong” routine and asks students “how would you sort these?” However, how can we bring this standard (K.MD.3 Classify objects into given categories; count the number of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.) to life in the form of a 3 act task?

Our answer was this….let’s give them a scenario they should be accustomed to.  

Act 1

 

As always we started with a notice and wonder routine.  

Notice –

  • I saw crayons
  • Math Wizard said “clean up”
  • He’s drawing a rainbow and boxes
  • Crayons are everywhere
  • I see markers
  • I heard the Math Wizard
  • She has a son ?!?!
  • He needs to pick up his stuff before school
  • It must be night time because it’s dark

Wonder –

  • Was he cleaning up to go to bed?
  • Was he cleaning up before dinner?
  • Was he cleaning up because he was done?
  • Does he have  a brother or a sister?

Act 2

I was really curious how Mrs Z was going to push their thinking beyond their notice and wonder.  She inquired further.  She showed the Act 2 picture. 

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“What would you do with that stuff?  What if Mrs Z said ‘clean up’? What would you do with it?  Where would you put the stuff?”

The students thought about her questions for a moment and slowly put their hands up.  One student piped up with “I’d put the pencils away”.   And Mrs Z next asked, “How?”

“The markers go together. The pencils go together and the crayons go together.”

“I WOULD ORGANIZE IT!”—>And there it was.  Just the answer we were looking for.  And that is a big word for this student.

And so we discussed how they would sort them.  Some students said by size.  Some students said by color.  One student said he’s organize them between caps and no caps (Markers have caps on them versus no caps.)

Usually at this part of the lesson, the students do some kind of calculations or reason out their answer.  How could they be expected to sort from a picture?   That’s where Mrs. Z comes in with her bag of tricks. Prior to the lesson, she made bags of pencils, colored pencils, and crayons.  Each group would be showing all the different ways to sort their bags.  Oh–let the games begin!

 

Mrs Z and I wandered around the room eager to see what the groups would do.  She informed me that they don’t work in groups too often, so she was curious of how this would go down.  

Here’s one group’s explanation.

Here’s another groups explanation.

 

At one point, we noticed that a group put all their pencils together.  We asked them how they could further sort this group.

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Just when I thought we were pretty much done, Mrs Z runs around a throws unifix cubes on to their tables.  The kiddos didn’t bat an eyelash and just incorporated them into their categories.  Here’s one groups way of organizing.  What do you notice about the picture?

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Act 3

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Final thoughts….

  • Having the students work in cooperative groups for this lesson gave us opportunity to see which roles the students would fall into.  You can see who lead the pack and who followed along. 
  • Student usually come up with more answers than you can anticipate, but we are never disappointed.
  • I love the hands-on exploration part.  We got to see how they were organizing their items.  

Until next time,

Kristen

Divided Hearts – a 3 act

Yes. MORE HEARTS!  

In my research,  I hadn’t come upon a 3 act lesson in which the students had to divide.  My 4th grade teachers wanted to see what a division 3 act lesson would look like, so I created one.  This lesson  also helped me in learning how to use more features on the iMovie application.

I ran around to about 5 classrooms in the last three weeks to try it out. The first time, I had major tech issues.  The 2nd time, I questioned  my own judgement in regards to the Act 1 movie.   By the 4th time, I was convinced it was a decent lesson.  Why?  It promoted really great discussion (Notice & Wonder), got the students showing multiple strategies in solving the problem, and as any 3 act lesson is….it was engaging!

I present to you “Divided Hearts.” (yes, those are the same heart candies from my other 3 acts.  The way I see it–I like getting more lessons out of one purchase.)

Act 1 – 

 

Notice –  (compiled between 4 classes)

  • instead of putting in–> hearts are coming out
  • video in reverse?
  • glass filled with hearts –>boxes pulling them out
  • used 2 boxes at a time
  • glass empty at the end
  • candy all different colors
  • the hearts were divided into different boxes
  • shows one box at the end
  • didn’t use hands

Wonder

  • are the candies divided equally among the boxes?
  • how did they get candy inside the box?
  • how many candies were in the glass?
  • are there an even amount of candies in the cup?
  • how many candies were in each box?
  • how did they fly up inside the box?

What surprised me after each class was how fascinated the students were with showing the video in reverse.  Some of them couldn’t get past that.  However, I later told them that if I showed the video forwards, it would show how I’m adding hearts to the cup.  That might give them the idea of addiction or multiplication.  That wasn’t my intent.

Act 2

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How many hearts?
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How many boxes?

Before I continue with the lesson…take a moment to look at how many hearts are laid out. Take it all in.  Stare at those hearts. Those hearts and that layout became the bane of my existence for a few days.  I must have laid out those hearts and recreated the Act 3 video a good 4-5 times.  Sheesh.  But anything for the betterment of the students. Ok..rant over.

 

There were a range of strategies seen in every classroom.

Let’s start with these two… there were  a few students who didn’t know what else to do but start by counting out 168 candies.  The student on the right decided to use small lines.  It must have been exhausting to keep so many counted.

A few more strategies popped up that I have no explanation for (see below).  I had the students try to tell me about their work, and I was still stymied.  It’s not very often that I walk away still scratching my head.  I know they were onto something. If I had more time, I would have spent more time with them.

And then there were some who saw patterns and were making sense of what they had to do. They were avidly checking their work frontwards and backwards.  The 3rd student worked on her multiples until she got to 168.  She kept on persevering and that’s what mattered most.

ACT 3

Without saying a word to any of the students, I showed the last clip of the lesson.  At first, I heard groans because they thought they’d have to sit through 5 minutes of watching this random arm separate 168 hearts into 8 boxes.  However, once the video sped up, the fascination with movie making came back.  And when they counted the last hearts that fit into one box, the classes excitedly yelled “Yes” with a round of high fives.   That’s the moment that you eagerly anticipate as a teacher.  

 

Final thoughts

  • Technology is evil.  Always have a back up plan.  Because I save my videos to Vimeo, I was able to save myself and the lesson.  
  • My teachers have been learning just as much as I learn from the teachers and the students.  Some of them never knew of lessons that create so much discussion and intrigue.
  • Don’t want to ever count hearts again. I’m good for awhile (until next February). 

 

There is always more to come. 

Until next time….

Kristen