Friday, April 26, 2013

Math Night and a Freebie!

Just few weeks ago, we were celebrating all things literacy in true Dr. Seuss style.  This week, we went all out for math!  It should come as no surprise to you that I look forward to this night in a way that some people look forward to the birth of a child.  That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have always had a flair for the dramatic...

Anyway, I do really look forward to nights like this because it is an opportunity to meet families, educate parents about your personal/school/district math teaching philosophy, showcase student work, and have some fun with math.  This year, we were lucky enough to be able to send simple math activities and manipulatives with students so that they can practice at home.  Kids went classroom to classroom to learn how to play a game, and then collect their loot.  It was like math Trick-or-Treating!

The game I played is one of my all time favorites because it can be used to address so many important math concepts, including computational fluency.  Since 3rd graders are expected to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide to solve multi-step problems, "Bowling for Numbers" seemed to be a good jumping off point.

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In this game, students roll two double-dice to come up with four digits.  These numbers are then used to build as many equations using all four operations as they can to come up with an answer in the range of 1-10.  When they come up with one of these numbers, they "knock it down" by crossing it out.  If students get stuck, they get a second roll to try and knock down the remaining numbers.  At the end of the game, all remaining numbers are added up to determine a score, and the lower the score, the better.  My students love this game, and it was a pretty big hit with parents, too.  I love this game because students happily sit and practice using all four operations, and it can be modified and differentiated for any grade level.  Get your own copy by clicking the pic above!  

Enjoy, and Happy Friday! 

PS- Have you seen double-dice?!  Kids will do ANYTHING you ask if double-dice are involved! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Scientists in Action!

We are down to our final 5 weeks of school and it is DEFINITELY Spring, which means my students are full of energy and excitement!  I've learned that for my own sanity, instead of trying to control and minimize the Springtime-craziness, I must take advantage of it.  So in these final weeks, we are pumping up the engagement with lots of hands-on, minds-on learning in all subject areas...especially science!

We've saved the best for last, and are using our final weeks to learn all about different states of matter.  Last Friday, we took our learning outside into our school's courtyard to observe each state of matter within a balloon 'shell'.  We filled several balloons with water and froze them to represent the solid,  Balloons filled with water represented the liquid, and balloons filled with air represented the gas.    

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These little scientists took their jobs very seriously!  They wrote down lots of 'sciency' words like 'airish substance' and 'liquidy inside' to describe the different balloons.  Of course, we had to "remove" the shell to truly see what the insides looked like.  You would have thought we took the kids to Toys 'R Us because they were SO excited!  My favorite quote that goes along with the pic below: "THERE'S MATTER EVERYWHERE!!!!"
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Next, we used resources from Hope King to observe what the molecules look like within different states of matter.  Using balloons as the molecules, I filled clear garbage bags up- the solid had tons of balloons tightly packed together, the liquid had several balloons that could move and flow, and the gas had very few molecules that had tons of room to move and float around.  The kids were quick to make the connection, and ready to make their own molecule models.  

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Today, we explored the differences between observable and measurable criteria, created TPR to help differentiate between "volume" and "mass", and used our super science skills to classify a foreign object (Poprocks) based on its observable criteria.  Much to their surprise, we discovered that our foreign substance had a solid shell, but a gas (Carbon Dioxide) center.  It was also helpful that students came to the conclusion that by combining different states of matter, like solid and gas, and even solid and liquid (Poprocks and spit), weird things can happen!  

Where will we go from here?!

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I still have a few tricks up my sleeve!   

What do you do to wrangle in the end-of-the year jitters?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spark Saturday

I decided to link up with Head Over Heels for Teaching Spark Student Motivation Saturdays to share how Class Meeting helps to motivate good behavior, kindness, and community within my classroom. 
From the beginning of the year, we have weekly class meetings each Friday.  We always follow the same format to keep things running smoothly- encouraging words, class concerns, and goal setting.  I start each meeting with encouraging words for the class that I have.  Sometimes they are directed at the whole class, and sometimes they are directed toward individual students.  I try and use this as an opportunity to highlight the good behaviors and choices that students are making in hopes of encouraging more of that from the entire class.  You'd be amazed to see how reminding a student about a positive choice or action that occurred earlier in the week can fill them with pride and confidence.
Next, students have a chance to give encouraging words to one another.  We have set guidelines that these encouraging words must be specific (as opposed to "thanks for being nice to me") and should be something above and beyond what is normally expected of all kids.  I have been repeatedly blown away by the thoughtful, heartfelt words that students share with one another.  I've had students talk about another child's academic progress, times where students have gone out of their way to include someone in a game at recess, or even a little bit of extra help offered during a challenging lesson.  They are always so sweet, and students seem to love getting and giving these encouraging words.
After that, we spend some time problem solving.  Students are given voice and can express concerns, and then other students offer problem-solving solutions.  Many times, the solutions offered by the other students are enough to resolve the issues posed, and they feel empowered to know that they when they have concerns, we can work together to seek a resolution. 
Finally, we set a goal for the upcoming week.  Every now and then, I will suggest a goal based on something that comes from a class concern, but more often than not, the students will suggest a goal that is way better than anything I would have come up with!  We work on the goal the entire next week, and revisit it and our following class meeting. 
Class meeting has become a vital part of my classroom community.  Students look forward to having that time to showcase the positive actions of others, problem solve, and work together to accomplish goals. 
What are some things you do to 'spark' motivation in students?  I'd love to hear all about it! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pizza Math!

Now that Seuss-Mania is over, we are back to the grind because there is so much left to accomplish in 3rd grade.   We are just finishing up with Multiplication Boot Camp, and I'm so delighted to say that ALL 23 of my students will be graduating from Boot Camp this week.  Of course, we have to celebrate in grand style, and will be having a pizza party.  However, I'm not going to let my little mathematicians off that easy!  If they're getting a pizza party, they're going to have to work for this week, we've had some major pizza problems!

On Monday, I presented them with the following problem:  "On Friday, we will be having a Pizza Party, but because I am so busy, I have no time to take care of the details.  I need your help.  Determine the type of pizza I should order based on what everyone likes.  Figure out how many pieces of pizza each person will get, then plan out the types of pizza I will need to order to keep everyone happy.  Use the menu from "Jason's Pizzareia" to calculate my total cost.  Be ready to present your findings in a clear and organized way.  Attend to precision because our party depends on it!"

Students collected data and we recorded the results.  Who would have known that some 3rd graders would prefer pineapple and ham, or even bell pepper pizza, over pepperoni?!  

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They worked in their groups to plan out the sizes and types of pizzas we would need.  Students had to use different combinations of sizes and fractions of a pizza to make sure we would have pizza for everyone.  Then they calculated the price using the menu provided.  This took some serious perseverance and precision, but by the end of our math block, each group had a poster to present.  They were shocked at how much pizza would cost!

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By Tuesday, my sweet kiddos were gravely concerned about my bank account, and of course, their pizza party.  Some students had even gone home and asked their parents if they could bring in money to help cover the cost.  Oops!  I was glad they were so concerned, because our pizza problems were continuing!  Our math on the second day involved the students finding me a better deal on the same sizes and quantities of pizza.  They used our fancy-schmancy Google Chromebooks to research local pizza places and their prices.  Students compared prices, found deals and coupons, and recalculated our total.  They were even kind enough to figure out my savings!  $40-60 dollar savings...these kids are good! Spirits were definitely on the rise...but we still weren't done.

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By Wednesday, my kids were acting like they were on an episode of "Extreme Couponing".  "Mrs. Ward!!  Domino's has a Monday-Thursday pizza special, we could move our celebration!" and "Five dollar Hot 'N Ready's!".  They'd gone off the deep end, which was exactly where I needed them to be.  

We began our math time by revisiting Mathematical Practice 1, which says that mathematically proficient students will "make sense of problems and persevere in solving them".  All year, we have stressed that making sense of problems and persevering often involves revising the plan and creating a new course of action.  Today, we would do just that.  Students went back to the drawing board to find me my rock-bottom deal.  Most groups scrapped all the special toppings and went with our top two choices.  

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This group got the total down to $27!  Impressive!

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$30 for six pizzas is a pretty good deal!
We wrapped up our Pizza Math by talking about all the ways in which they used math to solve a real life problem- data collection, fractions, addition, subtraction, multiplication, multi-step problems...the list goes on.  Needless to say, these kiddos have earned their pizza party!  Just another awesome week in 3rd grade.

Happy (almost) Friday!

Friday, April 5, 2013

April Currently

This is my first "currently"...eeek!  I couldn't resist after reading some of Farley's blogs from "Oh' Boy Fourth Grade".  I particularly liked her "ooze" post :-)  Check it out by clicking below.

Oh' boy fourth grade

Anyway, here goes my very first ever "Currently" for April.  Captivating, I know.  

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I feel so accomplished. :-)  Don't forget to check out Teaching Blog Addict's Ultimate Freebie Celebration, where you can find tons of classroom freebies, including over 260 in the 3rd and 4th grade category alone!  You can find mine there, too, it's number 130.  I hope your freebie downloading doesn't interfere with your weekend plans...mine might.

3rd Grade and Fourth Grade Free Download - Teacher Fun on Teaching Blog Addict    

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Literacy Night...Seuss Style!

This week, our entire school has been invaded by Dr. Seuss-mania for literacy night!  Each hallway selected a Seuss book, and then went to town decorating bulletin boards, walls, and doors using their book as inspiration.  Our hallway chose, "Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!", and each class chose a page.

My class chose the page that says, "Think and wonder.  Wonder and think.  How much water can 55 elephants drink?".  Naturally, my students immediately curious about this question....and many more.  How much water DOES an elephant drink?!  What about a baby elephant?  Do African Elephants drink more than Asian Elephants?  Man, it's as if Dr. Seuss intended to make kids curious about this stuff!  You have to take advantage of these curious, teachable moments, so my lesson plans changed (EEEEEKKKK!!!).  I mean, we can do auto-biographies next week, right?

So instead, this week we shifted into researcher-mode.  Students worked in groups to research how much water an elephant drinks in one day.  They checked several sources, because good scientists use reliable information.  They then narrowed their focus, and averaged the information from several sources. Finally, students used multiplication to determine how much water 55 elephants would drink in a single day, and they presented their findings to the group. 

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While all that was a blast, we also had to take care of our Literacy Night bulletin board.  The students drew and colored 55 elephants, and of course, we had to include the fantastic Science and Math work because we all know that literacy is not taught in isolation! 

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It's a little more busy than I'm used to, but the kids love it, so it will have to do.  Tomorrow night, we will showcase some of our very favorite 3rd grade books, make an awesome bookmark craft, and chat about end-of-year reading goals.

Does your school have a Literacy Night?  How do you get families involved and excited about literacy?  I'd love to hear all about it!