All posts by Kristen

Mills, Bills, and Trill

The first week of school lesson plans usually consist of getting-to-know-you type activities.  In planning, I figured it would be a great time for exploring in math.  I hemmed and hawed about it.  At first I thought I’d do a 3 act lesson.  They are always exciting and engaging, but I couldn’t think or find one that these kids hadn’t seen in 5th grade.  

But then I found this……

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This was a picture I found a long while ago and kept it in my files, never knowing what to do with it.  I saw the math in it, but didn’t have a solid idea.  However, over the summer, inspiration struck and I got to work.  

Have you ever asked your students about millions, billions, or trillions?  Do they truly understand the magnitude of these ginormous numbers?  It was worth a conversations.

Part one of our investigation was showing the above picture and simply asking “what do you notice and what you wonder?”

My students recognized notice/wonder which thrilled me.  Some perked right up when they saw those questions (which made me smile).  I noticed that my students focussed on the picture itself.  Some of my higher thinkers started pondering the saying.  Finally, we got to the question I was looking for….which was how many pictures are in a video.

Here’s the information we were looking for…Screenshot 2017-08-19 21.24.24.png

We decided we needed to figure out how many pictures were in a second, then a minute, and so on.  They determined that one second of video would be worth 2400 words.  And the video would have to be less than 1 minute.  One minute of video would be 1,440,000 words.   Not bad for my 6th graders.  They were getting the hang out this.  

 

Then I asked them how long it would take them to draw a billion circles.  Saw this at a workshop given by Graham Fletcher back in January and I finally found a use for it. The students were thrilled to investigate this for sure.   

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With much enthusiasm, the students were jumping with energy on this one.   One girl raised her hand and asked, “are were really doing a billion?”  I looked at the clock and responded, “we got a few hours left so I don’t see why not.”  Their eyes got bigger.  

First we took guesses.  I felt like I was on the Price is Right.  “I’ll say 7 hours…I’ll say 7 hours and 15 minutes.”  One group kept whispering about the question and concluded that it should take about 1 second per circle.  I loved this observation because I could tell they were not only thinking, but trying to make sense of the problem.   The class concluded that we should just try it for a minute.    Before we got started though, there was more discussion on how big of a circle they should draw.  Wouldn’t that be a factor in how many they could draw in a minute?

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I started the timer and the students worked vigorously on their circles.  The looks on their faces was priceless.  They focussed, they concentrated, they were super-serious about getting this done.

When the timer went off, they counted up their circles.  We took a poll to see how many circles were drawn and the range was between 80 to 120.  For our purposes, we kept using 100.  Next, we figured out how many circles in an hour, a day, and then a year.  Finding out how many circles in a year was a bit of a doozy for them, but they persevered.  I was also happy to report that they knew how to read their place value very well.  Whew!

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We even discussed what would 2 years looked like, and they told me it would only be one hundred  million circles.  “That’s not enough.”

I revealed the answer and they were floored.  I’m not going to reveal the answer in this post because I want to leave a little mystery to the question.  Go ahead…do the math yourselves.  (Answer is in the lesson PDF below).

We weren’t done yet.  For the last piece to this investigation,  I remembered this Twitter pic from Mark Chubb.   And I also saw a ripe opportunity to break out the clothesline.  I asked my students “Where would 1 million go?  Where would 1 billion go?”

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After much debate and moving cards back and forth, this is what they agreed upon.  I was puzzled because they didn’t really know the relationship between billion and trillion.  I let them watch a video I found on Youtube and some referenced that when they were validating their answers.

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However, I wanted to push them further.  I inquired why each of the cards was equally spaced.   Were there an equal amount of numbers between each number?  Some answered yes.  Some were completely puzzled.  Rather than beat the horse to death, I wrote a few new numbers on cards to see if they could show me the relationship.  I wrote 0, 10, 100, 1000.     The conversation got a little more exciting because my students were dealing with numbers they could relate to a bit more.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the final clothesline and specifically where they moved the cards.  

Final thoughts…

  • We hear how the US and other countries have trillion dollar debts, but how many people truly know the size of that number.  It’s quite “ginormous” but how does it relate to millions and billions?
  • The students loved that they got to “investigate” something tangible.  They could all draw circles.  It was an easy task that they all handled.  It was hilarious to see them take it so seriously.  
  • The idea of the trillion clothesline was spot on with the investigation, but I saw many blank stares because the students couldn’t really fathom a trillion.  Instead of beating the idea to a pulp, we went with something they were familiar with based on their discussion and reasoning.  
  • This showed their lack of knowledge in how 10 related to 100 and so on. 
  • Considering this was the 2nd day of school, this showed that we will be making math fun, accessible, and worthy of their attention.   Many of my students said this was their favorite thing of the day.  

 

Here’s the lesson if you’d like to try it out for yourself.

 

Until next time,

Kristen

 

 

Welcome to Acosta Academy

Welcome back to a whole new school year!  I’ve spent the whole summer steadily preparing for my new assignment and it’s one that I’m embracing.  

Here is it…the night before my first day at a new school, new routines, new students, new colleagues—actually, they aren’t that new to me.  I’m supposed to be trying to rest up and review my plans for tomorrow and all I can think about is “I have to blog about this!”

To catch you all up….I used to be a middle school math teacher for 16 years.  The last 2 years, I was a elementary math coach.  Now I’m going to conquer teaching 6th grade, but at an elementary school.    I get to be with little kiddos again.  Ok…my kiddos won’t be so little, but I get to experience the joy, the smiles, the high-five moments, and the celebrations that come with learning.   

This transition was tough at first.  In the months following my decision, I had weeks where I was raring to go and then weeks when I was doubting myself.  I kept asking myself if I made the right decision by heading to an elementary school.  My 6th grade buddies at the other elementary schools were cheering me on every step of the way.  And with positive mindset, much support from the other 6th grade teachers, and lots of studying over the summer, I’m ready for my challenge.  This is going to be an awesome year.

In diving into this new experience, my inner elementary teacher started coming out.  I spent a good 2 months planning for decorating my classroom.  One of the kindergarten teachers at my site asked me back in March, “what’s your theme going to be?”  My reaction was “Theme?!?!?  Middle schools teachers never did a theme!?!?!?”  I go home and tell my husband about the conversation and he starts looking up things on Pinterest (he is totally a teacher’s husband!).  Low and behold, he holds up this picture….

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the inspiration for my classroom

My classroom is completely decked out with college stuff for my theme.  I created something from nothing.  All of what I’m about to show you is because of this single picture.    As a matter of fact, I’m calling it Acosta Academy.  I’ve had colleagues come in to see my progress and were completely floored with what I had done.  

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I also had a revelation.  I put more energy into putting together this elementary classroom than I had in all my 18 years of teaching.  I embraced the belief “Go big or go home!”  More is more in elementary.   

And in the little time that I’ve been in the elementary community, I’ve learned so much.  For instance, who knew that you could buy Walmart flat bed sheets for $5.00 and they were big enough for your bulletin boards/walls?  And I’ve discovered the joys of lamination.  It’s such a magical treat.  I can’t get enough.

And I’ve created some goals for myself for this year….

  1. Integrate 3 Acts, Which One Doesn’t Belong, Estimation,  Clotheslines, Open Middle, Numberless Word Problems, number talks and engaging math activities/stations into my math curriculum.  
  2. Learn and implement Google classroom as well as other Google tech with my students (Recently took a Google Cue Launch workshop and will be taking the first test soon)
  3. Conquer my fear of teaching English/Language Arts.  It’s a monster. 
  4. Find creative activities for partnering my kids with kindergarteners.  The kinder teacher and I have a few great math ideas/activities.
  5. Use my time in the classroom to embrace the joy, to foster curiosity, and to give my students the best for their last year at elementary school.

 

On a side note, I’m proud to announce that my kindergarten collaborator and I have been asked to speak at 2 conferences.  One of them will be at Calif. Math Council’s northern conference in Asilomar.  The other is at the Southern California Kindergarten Conference in February in Pasadena.  

I’ve also been asked the speak at my alma mater, Frostburg State University.  Sloop Institute on Leadership & Excellence has asked me to present on “Empowering Others.”  I love the topic choice and have already outlined what I’d present.  Even though the conference isn’t until March, it’s never to early to brainstorm.

There’s more exciting plans coming in the 2018-2019 year, but I’ll wait to report on that when things are more finalized.  

Until next time,

Kristen

 

 

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