Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brings Me to Tears!

I have always enjoyed getting cards and notes from former students.  I have kept each and every card, letter, graduation or wedding invitation I have ever received from my former "kids."  One cherished letter I received a couple of years ago, I keep close at hand so I am can read it when I am feeling down and wondering if I am making any difference in my students' lives.  This particular child was placed in my classroom several years ago right after the Thanksgiving break.  He had always been an extremely difficult child and that year was no different.  He was so misbehaved for his 4th grade teacher that he was taken out of her classroom and placed into mine.  Although at first, I thought this unfair to my other students and myself, I persevered.  I became attached to this child as I made him tow the line the rest of the year.  I found items he was interested in...mainly historical figures and worked with him on his social skills. I became so attached, I almost cried when he left the elementary school.  I couldn't help but worry if his teachers in the future would guide him and care enough to make sure he followed the straight and narrow.  A few years ago, when he was in high school, I received a letter in the mail from him.  He thanked me for all that I had done for him and wrote how much he appreciated that I had not given up on him.  I still cry every time I read that letter. (I am tearing up even now, and I am basically not a crier).  The really good news is that he graduated from high school and is a working, contributing member of society.  I am now able to keep up with him on facebook and am so proud of the man he has become and the relationships he has formed in his life.  
Well... a couple of months ago, a 5th grade teacher shared a paper one of her students, (my former student), had written this year.  At the first of the year my school emphasized "Future Stories."  These Future Stories were about thinking about what the future held and what each student could see themselves doing when they were grown.  This child wants to be a teacher when she grows up.  Once again, my heart melted when I read the words on this student's paper and was reminded of why I teach. It was just a brief little paragraph but, that's all we need sometimes to light a fire under us and motivate us to do whatever we can to help our kids. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas / Holiday Activities

The "Dreaded" Word Problems
I try to weave in as many word problems and problem solving tasks throughout the year as possible.  I have created some holiday themed problem solving and word problem task cards, and am in the process of creating even more.  This is a weak area in most grades.  I have included a couple of examples of my Thanksgiving and Christmas task cards below.  Although they can be used in a math center, etc... these cards were presented as a whole class activity.  I presented them using my best friend, the digital projector :)  Once finished, I posted some of the more creative answers on chart paper and displayed them in the hallway and my classroom.  I love these problems because they allow my students to really think and be creative themselves. 
Thanksgiving Tales
 This card is about the size of 1/4 piece of paper. 
I always create 4 to a page.
I simply place the task card on the digital projector and use it as a whole class opening before beginning my lesson.

Oftentimes the students are required to work the problems out showing at least 2 different representations of the problem.  They always have to label, label, label.  I feel that when they label, they have to think more about what they are putting down on their paper.

Christmas Tales

Adopting a 2nd Grader for Christmas
My 4th graders were so excited when I told them they were going to be adopting a 2nd grade child this holiday season.  This simple idea is beginning to develop into a year long project between my class and the 2nd grade class.  I assigned a child from my class to every child in a 2nd grade classroom.  We began the project by designing Christmas cards for the little tikes.  My kids were beside themselves when making the Christmas cards.  Much effort was put into making them look good.  I took a picture of each 4th grader and we placed it somewhere on the Christmas card.  When finished we taped a candy cane to the card.  This first introduction was not in person.  Last Friday, our Christmas party day, I presented the cards to the 2nd graders and told them how excited we were to be their 4th grade pals.  The happiness on those little
faces was priceless. They wanted to write us back right then and there!  Their teacher told me at the end of the day that was all they talked about, in spite of the party and festivities of the day.  I can't wait to get back to school and plan some awesome activities or surprises with my class.  If anyone has any suggestions about some fun activities or ideas please let me know!   


Saturday, December 17, 2011


Division Vocabulary
The first item I concentrate on when I begin my division unit is the vocabulary.  There are 4 words my students need to be familiar with:  Divisor, Dividend, Quotient, and Remainder. One of the favorite activities of my students is the vocabulary flashcard division activity.  The students each receive a vocabulary card packet containing the 4 key words.  (I place these in a library card pocket for each student.)  I hold up larger cards with division problems on them.  I have the part of the problem I want them to concentrate on highlighted in red.  I give my students time to find the card that he/she thinks goes with the highlighted part of the division problem.  On the count of three the students then hold up the card that matches my flashcard.  It is a fun way to practice the vocabulary.

Division Vocabulary Flashcard Activity
The teacher flashcards.
The student vocabulary cards.

  My students also play a short memory game with the division vocabulary words.  It only take a few minutes and the students usually have enough time to complete the game a couple of times during a ten minute period.

The 8 cards are mixed up and placed in either a 2 x 4 or  
4 x 2 array.  Students take turns attempting to match each vocabulary word with the correct definition.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Multiplication Unit

Multiplication Unit

My multiplication unit begins with a review of arrays.

I love my magnetic


Large Arrays
Before my students begin modeling their own large arrays, we spend a couple of days creating arrays using pre-made templates from AIMS Marvelous Multiplication and Dazzling Division book. Students position base ten blocks to visualize the process of multiplication.  
 I copied and laminated enough of these templates for each student in my classroom, and placed them in manilla file folders.  I also placed base ten blocks in plastic baggies.  This makes it simple to quickly hand out the materials and get started on the activity.

My students enjoy creating their own large arrays.

  Here are a few of our large arrays.  My students label each section of the array.  When they are finished with the large array, the children use the distributive property to check their answers at the bottom.

"The Properties"
 Commutative, Associative, and Distributive properties of multiplication. 

My students created
their own designs to
model the 
Associative Properties

I thought this design for 
the Associative Property
was very creative.  
It's hard to believe that a 9 yr. old
can draw this well, but, she can!

I am particularly fond of the football jersey models of the properties. My son is the kicker for our high school football team and his number is 5.  This child always goes to the football games and the other 2 numbers he is modeling are our 2 of our team's of which is his cousin.  I think this is a good example of using prior knowledge to problem-solve :)

Multiplication Grids 

When my class gets to larger multiplication problems, I use a grid that I purchased from a school supply store years and years ago. I placed magnets on the back of the grid to use on my magnetic whiteboard.  

I begin by placing a post-it note on the digit on the second row that is not being multiplied.  Then I switch the post-it to the other digit and multiply.
This way the students do not become confused.

My students model the large grid by using 
 grid paper at their desks.  (This centimeter grid paper is large enough to write a digit in each square.)  The grid paper guides students to place the digits in the correct columns and keep them aligned correctly.
I have my students cut out a single centimeter square at the bottom of the grid to cover the digits not being used on their own grid paper.  (I have shaded in the centimeter square so you can see it on the picture above.)

Birds of a Feather
 This is a 2 x 2 digit multiplication activity.  It takes a while for the students to finish.  First, the students work out 24 problems on notebook paper, then transfer the answers to the Birds of a Feather handout.  Finally, the
they cut and paste the birds onto the handout.  The directions tell which birds go with which numbers.  

As you can tell by the notebook paper laying on the corner of the desk, there is a lot of work involved with this multiplication activity.

iPad Time!
Since learning multiplication times tables is not a 4th grade standard, I try to work in as much time as I can anyway to let the students practice them...because we all know that even though they are supposed to have mastered the times tables in 3rd grade, it is a myth that they will know them all in 4th grade. One way we occasionally practice is with the iPads.  Our school has a couple of class sets of these, so, whenever I can get my hands on them, we use them.  The kids absolutely love them.

 Our computer teacher placed several times tables' activities on the iPads.

Of course, sometimes my kids get off task :)  
(I don't mind nearly as much when they are off task, if it is a present for me!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some Catching Up to Do!

Since I only started this blog about a month ago, I wanted to let everyone see some of the activities my students have been involved in the last few months.  We began the year with place value, of course.  My class completes many activities through the workshop model, that has a beginning, (teacher opening), middle, (student work time), and end, (wrapping up the activity by having a student or students show work and tell about the activity).  Therefore, the first week or so, I spend most of the math period on the rituals and routines of workshop.  Students need a clear intent about what is expected of them during workshop so that maximum learning can take place.  I have found it is better to spend a little time learning the rituals and routines well at the beginning of school than to fight the battle everyday the rest of the year.

This is my "What I Expect From Students During Workshop" Bulletin Board

"Workshop Model" Bulletin Board
This bulletin board lists the 3 parts of workshop,the standard(s) my class is working on, and  some reminders such as  "Accountable Talk", and "Ask Three Before You Ask Me."

Place Value Activities
These are cards I made for my students to practice periods and places.  Each child receives 6 cards in a library card holder.  I use the larger cards you see as flash cards.  There are obviously more flashcards than 2 :)  (The 58 on the large flashcard, 58,034, is actually blue.)  I begin holding up the flashcards with numbers highlighted in red.  My students then hold up one of the 3 period cards.  After using the red flashcards for awhile, I go to the blue cards.  At this point, my students hold up the period card and a place card.  My students love this activity!  I love it too.  Not only is it great practice, it gives me instant feedback about "who's got it."  I will get these cards out again when reviewing for the state standardized test this spring.

Period and Places Activity

M & M Place Value Activity

 Can anyone guess why the kids love this activity?  The worst part is getting everyone to bring in a bag of M & M's in a timely fashion.  I usually end up supplying many students with M & M's.  Even though, it is a hit, I copied the activity from the internet and it is a bit difficult for 4th graders.  Next year, I am going to create my own handout to go with the M & M's.

Place Value "Mini" Flashcards
These "mini" flashcards can be used at anytime.  I have made flashcards for periods, places, rounding and estimating.  

My kids use these "mini" flashcards different ways, but, the most popular way is to have one student in a group hold up the cards, and the other members of the group call out the answer.  The person who calls out the correct answer, gets the card.  The person with the most cards at the end of the game, gets to be the "holder" the next game.  Sometimes, I give the winner a small treat like an eraser or piece of candy.

Students using the "mini" flashcards
Even though I love for my students to move around and have fun learning, I still like it all to be organized and the least confusing environment as possible.  So, my students raise their hand and are called on, instead of shouting out the answer.  They also have scratch paper in the caddy on their desks for figuring out the answer when needed.

Place Value Professionals Board Game
I made this board game for my students to practice everything they have learned throughout the place value unit, since it is cumulative.
I Have, Who Has
I Have, Who Has is also a great review of any subject.  This one was created to review place value.  Don't let anyone tell you that an " I Have, Who Has" activity has to be whole group.  We play in partners and 3-4 member groups.

Moving Right Along to a mini Algebra Unit 
Input / Output

                                                                Lots of                 cutting
 Variable and Expressions Algebra Memory Game

This is actually a Algebra Math Center but, this year I converted it to a "memory" game.  My students really get into this activity.  I love to modify my lessons and activities from year to year...makes life more fun!
 Still to multiplication unit.