Sunday, April 9, 2017

Time to Review Skills for State Testing!

For many of us, state testing for math has not taken place yet, but it's right around the corner!
You know what that means?! Yup! Teachers are lighting candles and saying prayers all over the states! Also, sales for stress balls are skyrocketing! Not to mention wine sales are hitting the roof!

Okay! Okay. All mentioned above might not be true for everyone, but hey...ya' never know!  😉

Truth is, we are spending time reviewing with our students to make sure they remember the skills and strategies we have taught them throughout the year. Positive attitudes along with stress levels are high! (Sorry. My humor keeps getting in the way of my post.)😁

If you are getting stressed. Be sure to smile or laugh. As a matter of fact, be sure to do it every day and every chance you get! Laughter is a great stress reliever. Don't let the small stuff get to you. Ya' haven't died from state testing or state scores yet, and you aren't going to! I promise. :D  Just don't smile to hard, otherwise you're just going to look constipated. That's never a good look for anyone. (Oops! There's that humor again! Sorry!)😄

With that said, I just wanted to share time savers that I have for testing practice available at my teachers pay teachers store. They are quick and easy to prep and don't cost very much. I promise!

Small group instruction and math stations are a great way to review! Check these activities out. You might find something that will save you time and take a load of stress off your back at the same time.


Spring Time Math Review - This set has a great mix of computation review. It contains twelve different practice sheets and included answer keys. Students solve problems in space provided, then look for their answer found on the characters at the bottom of the page. They can shade in or color the characters.


Fraction, Decimal, Percents Puzzles - These are really quick and easy to prep. Just print and cut apart using straight cuts. No curves to go around. That takes FOREVER!!! Sorry, just a little venting. Anyway! Students match the equivalent fraction, decimal and percent to create a rectangle for the set.


Area of Composite Figures and Shaded Regions Loop Game - Loop Games get your students walking and talking about math! It's great to use for cooperative learning as well. Just print out cards, shuffle them up and tape them around the walls in your classroom. Then group students and have each group start at different cards. Students solve the problem on the card then look for the answer on another card in the room. Once they find it, they then go to that problem and solve it. This continues until students solve all problems and end up back on the first card they started on. A fun way to review and also gets students teaching other students if they forgot about a skill.





Fact or Fib Attributes of 3 Dimensional Figures - Fact or Fib is a great activity that will get the entire class involved. I have Fact or Fibs on PowerPoint so you can move on to the next slide when the class is ready. I have animated the slides which allows for more student engagement.  They are easy to use! Just show a slide, give students time to think whether the statement shown is a fact or fib, then countdown from three to have them all show their Fact or Fib cards at once. Click on to the next slide to see the answer. Students can then discuss why they chose they answer they did and if it was correct. Then move on to the next slide.  You can get a free download of my Fact or Fib cards HERE.





Polygon Smack Down - Don't worry!!! Students don't smack each other with this one! It is a competitive activity though! Divide class into two teams, show mini poster on the board or wall via projector, read a clue card, then countdown from three to let students know when they can go up and "smack down" their hand or fly swatter on their answer. Whoever does it first gets a point for their team! Lots of fun in the classroom with this one. I have a few to select from.


Mad Math Skills - This has five different practice sheets! A great way to review many skills at once. Answer keys are included for easy grading.  Each problem contains two expressions that students solve, then they compare the answers using inequality symbols. Can be used as class work, home work or even a warm up!






Gridded Response Boards for State Testing Practice - These are quick and easy to make and can be used year round! Just print, laminate or insert into page protector. Students can then use a dry erase marker to solve problems and show their response on one side and practice gridding their answers on the other side. Easy clean up too! If you didn't see one that you can use in your classroom, contact me! Maybe I can create it.

Well, there you have it! Just a few of the activities that I have created and have available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. There are plenty more to choose from! So if you didn't find a skill you needed here but liked the activity, be sure to check out my store. I just might have the skill you are looking for with the activity you wanted. 

If there is something in particular that you would like to see, be sure to contact me! I just might be able to create it.

Thanks so much for looking and have a wonderful day and good luck to everyone on all state tests. Just like everything else, this too shall pass and so will our kiddos!!!  😉









Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pass Around Activities for the Math Class

I believe that providing opportunities for your students to discuss solutions to problems in math class is a must! They can learn from each other and teach each other. Let's face it, the reality is that some of our students will not always learn only from the teacher. We can show them 100 problems for the same skill or till we are blue in the face, sometimes they just need to hear it explained by their peers.

One of the activities I use in my classroom is called a "Pass Around".  There are many advantages to this activity. One is that you only need as many problems as you have groups. For example, my largest class is broken up into six groups, so I only need six problems when I use this activity. My smallest class is broken up into four groups, so I will remove problems five and six for that class.

Students are each required to show their work on their own paper, so everyone in the classroom needs their own work page. I will admit that when I first introduce this activity, some students try to get away with having only one work page for their group which leads to only one student doing all of the work. That is what we DON'T want to happen. So just look out for that. After doing this a couple of times, they get the idea. 

I then have them fold their work page in fourths and number the front 1, 2, 3, 4 and the back 5 and 6. This will change if you have a different number of groups in your class. If you have only five groups, you will have them number from 1 thru 5 and so on. The number of groups will correspond to the number of problems you will use. By the way, I have my students in groups of four. You can see how I set them up HERE.
     

The reason I have them fold their paper like this is because even at the 7th grade level, some students still write their work ALL OVER  the place on their paper. Some students do not organize their work neatly on their paper. This is even after I tell them to set it up like we did in our notes! Ah yes, the teenage mind. This technique will at least "contain" their work for each problem in a designated section of the paper. It makes it so much easier for me when I grade their work.

I also have them decide who will have the job of "problem number monitor" for their group. Their job will be to remind the group what problem number they are on and what section of their work page to show their work on. This is because all groups will be working on different problems as the problems will be rotating around the room.

I then set the timer according to the types of problems that are being solved. The first round always takes a little longer. I think it's because of the discussion and teaching that is taking place. I give them a minute or two less for the rest of the rounds. For example, if the problems are on order of operations, they might just need four minute rounds. But if the problems are about determining a missing dimension in similar figures, they might need six minutes. The number of steps will determine the time you give.

To begin the activity, I tell the class how much time they will have for their group to find the solution to the problem they start out with. I use timers from http://www.online-stopwatch.com/.  They have colorful and fun timers that you can display. Displaying the time really keeps the students on task.


When time is up, students remain seated in their groups and "Pass Around" their problem. I have students rotate their problems clockwise or counterclockwise around the groups in the classroom. But you must keep going the same direction for the entire activity so that they keep receiving different problems. Eventually, they will complete the set of problems.


Some classes will complete all of the problems and some won't. I'm okay with that! That's because the discussions that take place, the amount of peer tutoring that will occur, and the amount of learning that will be achieved will make up for it. You will see it happen as you monitor the classroom during the activity. You can also do some one-on-one teaching and small group instruction. You will encounter "that group" that you will need to remind to stay on task, but that is nothing new in our career. :)

The best part? I didn't need to make copies of a worksheet for every student! I only needed one worksheet to cut up and write problem numbers on.

Here are more suggestions on preparing a "Pass Around" activity for your classroom.
  • Instead of just cutting up a worksheet, type up the problems and print them out on colorful card stock.
  • Laminate for durability.
  • Students can use dry erase markers on laminated cards to underline or circle important information.
  • Add clip art related to word problems to help students understand what the problem is about.
  • Print the problem so that you can fold the page in "tent" form so that all students in the group can see the problem better. Check out the pictures below. 
Same problem at the top and bottom
but opposite orientations.
Students in the group can see and read
the problem from the front...
...and the back when folded in half
to create a "tent".
  

 I hope you will try this activity out in your classroom. It will work for any subject and grade level. You can use it as a test review, guided practice, or for an enrichment class. I know it makes a difference in my classroom, I'm sure it will in your classroom too! ;)

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask! I'll help with what I can.  Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!!!


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Line them up!

I teach six 45 minute 7th grade math classes and one 45 minute math enrichment class. The math enrichment class rotates with three other core subject area teachers in my pod throughout the week. During enrichment, I try to focus on students' math weaknesses and create or look for activities to strengthen them. With that said, there is one weakness that was really driving me nuts! So this is what I did.

Many of my students were making careless mistakes when adding or subtracting whole numbers and decimals. They know about place value. They know how to set up a whole number as a decimal. However, I think they get "caught up in the moment" when solving a problem and just rush through it.  I don't know if you are aware of this, but, some students just don't like math and their goal is usually to hurry up and finish their work so that they can do something else. (Insert sarcasm here.)

I've tried several strategies, such as having them write whole numbers as money. Everyone likes money, right?! Well, that only helped a few. Then I tried having them underline the ones place in the numbers and to line those up. That was a flop. Apparently, it's too much work to underline numbers. When I would point it out to students, their response was, "Oh! I forgot." Now, when I say "point it out", all I had to say was, "This is set up incorrectly." and almost immediately they remembered the proper way.  So this is why I say that they are just rushing and they really do know how to do this. Don't you hate that this sort of stuff happens a lot in math class?

When I taught fifth grade back in the day, I remember a snowman activity I created that would help students focus on the correct way to set up problems when adding whole numbers with decimals. I gave students a picture of a snowman and a problem. They were to add three numbers, two decimal numbers and one whole number. They were to set up the numbers on the body of the snowman so that the decimal points were the buttons on the snowman. It was only one problem, but my goal with this activity was about quality, not quantity. It really helped that time, so why not try it out with my 7th graders during enrichment?

This is the activity as I created it for my 7th graders.


I made 26 different problems involving addition of two decimal numbers and a whole number. Students were each given a problem but asked to work in groups so that they could discuss and help each other when solving. 

  


Everyone has a different problem, so no cheating could take place. I asked them to solve their problem on the back of their page first so if they had to erase, it was okay. Notice the snowball at the lower right hand corner? That's their problem's letter. After they solve their problem, they were to go to the board to check their answer. They just had to look for their problem's letter to do that.



I also displayed a picture of the snowman with a problem completed to show students how the "buttons" should look.  If they answered correctly, they were to complete the front of the page and color the snowman. If they were incorrect, they were to go back and correct it.


Students did enjoy the activity and there were many great discussions.  With this activity, I know a great memory was made that will help them remember to line up those decimals! Their discussions also helped them to complete the statement at the bottom of the page. It also makes a great display. It's a win-win!!!

You can find this activity HERE.

I hope you find this activity helpful. It can be used for different grade levels, as a ticket out the door or as I review.  

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!!!!


Sunday, January 1, 2017

New year! New you! New seating assignments?

I hope everyone brought in the new year with happiness and joy! I also hope you have had the chance to re-energize during winter break for the second half of the school year!

It's been a while since my last post. I blame it on work overload and holiday chaos. I'm sure many can relate.  ;)

Any who! It seems the new year has blessed me with a huge wave of ideas and energy. (I truly hope it will last all year.) 

I'm actually thinking of going to work before I actually HAVE to go to work, if you know what I mean. You know the saying, "New year, new me!" Or at least, new seating arrangements and new seating charts. Yeah, it's about that time.

Let's talk about these, shall we? This is what I do in my classroom.

I have my desks set up as illustrated below. I actually write the letters and numbers on the desks with permanent marker. I've tried the colored dots, labels, stickers, etc. with packing tape, but some students keep fidgeting with the tape and curling the ends. GRRRRRRR! Don't you just hate that?


The number on each desk is the group number and the letter represents the student sitting at that desk. It comes in handy and definitely avoids confusion. For example, if I'm calling up a group to conduct a presentation in front of the class, I just call on Group 3 when it's their turn. If it's time to put away journals, I'll just have student C from each group put them away. No arguing. No chaos. I love it! You can find more information about writing on desks with permanent marker HERE.

By the way, I refer to this as "Position One". All desks facing the front of the classroom. As you can see, the illustration above shows 24 desks. You know and I know that not ALL classes have exactly 24 students, so you have to be creative for some classes. If I ask student D to gather the supply baskets for their group and student D from Group 4 is absent or no one sits at this desk, I just tell students to go on to the next in line which would be student A in their group. I just needed to tell each class about this once and they caught on really quick.

My students talk a whole lot in my classroom. I love for students to discuss ideas for solutions, take turns explaining to each other, and peer tutor during certain activities. "Shoulder partners" are perfect for doing this! So is "Position One".  Group 1 is shown below. Students A and B are shoulder partners and students C and D are shoulder partners.  If the activity involves taking turns, I'll just have students A and D from each group go first, then tell students B and C to go second.  It works really well in my classroom.
 
"Position Two" is for group activities, such as stations, projects, etc. Sometimes, I even allow students to sit in "Position Two" to complete a practice sheet for a newly presented skill. This gives students that are struggling or don't understand something a chance to ask students in their group for help. This works really well for students that are too shy to ask the teacher for help in front of the whole class. Some students prefer to ask a peer instead of the teacher on certain situations. They just feel more comfortable doing that. I'm okay with that as long as they are learning!


As you can see, only students A and B move their desks so that they face each other. Students C and D remain in the same position. This makes the transition from one position to the other easier, quicker, quieter and smoother.  It also allows all students in the group to face each other to allow for better communication during activities.


By now you have noticed the order of the letters in my groups. It comes in handy for activities that require all students in a group to take turns participating. I direct them to take turns clockwise or counterclockwise. This is so that they can understand what direction clockwise and counterclockwise go in, especially if and when it appears on a particular test. You know it will and not only on a math test. ;) Most importantly, with more vocabulary, they receive more knowledge and more power!

Another advantage to setting up your desks this way is that you can make larger groups for other activities. For example, you can have all A's form a group, B's form another group, all C's form a group and all D's make the last group. They can do a gallery walk activity then reconvene with their main group to share ideas they gathered from the group they were just in! Imagine all of the discussions, ideas shared and learning taking place!

Whew! That sure was a whole lot of information!  I truly hope it is helpful.

I'd like to spend a little more time explaining how I assign seats now. I promise, I'll be quick. 

I don't allow my students to just sit anywhere they would like. I'm pretty sure you know why. I use test data.  For example, when we finish a unit and take the unit test, I place students from highest score to lowest score. I then create quartiles, so that I have quartile 1 (highest), quartile 2, quartile 3 and quartile 4 (lowest).  I place one student from each quartile to form one group alternating between highs and lows. This way, students can peer tutor each other when they are doing a shoulder partner activity and their levels are not so far apart that they will get frustrated with each other. I also do take personality conflicts into consideration. :)


I hope these tips on seating arrangements are helpful! As anything else in life and on the internet, all of these are not guaranteed to work but they are definitely worth a try!  I do understand that everyone is different, students and teachers alike. I also understand that everyone has their own ideas as well.  I am just sharing what works for me in my classroom in hopes of helping someone else.

Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful 2017!

If you do have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. I will get back to you as soon as I can!  ;)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Loop Game in Action!

What is a Loop Game?

It's a great way to get your students to become engaged in learning, to discuss and explain how to solve problems and to have students peer tutor other students.

Let's face it, some students can find worksheets boring. Loop Games will definitely break up the monotony that sometimes occurs in the classroom due to daily worksheets.

They can be used in a variety of ways from test reviews to having students practice skills while you work small group.

It's easy to monitor the class because students are walking around solving problems and having discussions while you facilitate learning.

I usually put students in groups of two to three, depending on the class size. I also make a reduced copy (print 2 to 4 pages on one sheet) of the Loop Game to use as an answer key so that it's easier check students' progress throughout the game as I am monitoring.

Here are some of my students in action during a Loop Game.








Notice the white pages with the blue border that are taped to the wall in each picture? This is how I set up my Loop Games. Students start at one of the problems, show all of their work on a sheet of paper and when they find the answer, they then look for the next card that has the answer they found at the top of the card.

For example, in the picture shown below students would ignore the 2 at the top of the first card because that's the answer to a problem on another card. They would solve the problem 5 x (63 ÷ 7) + 7. and then look for the answer at the top of another card in the room. In this case the answer is 52. Students would then solve (36 ÷ 6 x 5) - 20 and look for that answer at the top of another card in the room. In this case, the answer is 10.


Students then continue to do this until they locate the answer to the last problem at the top of the card they originally started at. Hence the name "Loop Game". Now, if they end up on the card they started at but did not solve all of the problems on the cards, that should tell them that they solved a problem incorrectly. To get them back in the game, I tell them which card they erred on to avoid frustration on their part.

Something I forgot to mention is that when I set the game up on the wall I make sure I mix up all of the cards so that the problems won't be in order. That way students won't expect their answer to be on the next card. I also have students start at different cards to avoid crowded areas. It's easier to monitor students when they are spread around the room.

Sometimes, I stand at the center of the room and listen to the conversations going on. I can say that I have smiled quite a bit! Mostly when I hear a student explaining to another student how the problem should be solved.

The best is when students in the same group rush over to me and show me their answers and they happen to be different. They ask, "Miss, who is right?". Well, I answer a question with a question of course and ask each to explain the steps. As they are explaining, that's when it dawns on the one with the wrong answer what he or she should've done to get the correct answer. Then it happens. The student with the correct answer yells, "I told you! I told you I was right!". I love the confidence in their voice.

Students rushing over to the teacher because they want to prove that they are correct! Imagine that. How often does that happen? LOL

I hope this information is helpful and you try it in the classroom!

Here's a Loop Game you can try for FREE with your students!
Just click HERE.

Be sure to try out some of my other Loop Games at my TPT Store.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Math-Imagination

If you are interested in a Loop Game for a particular math skill, just contact me! I'll create it and post it on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Vowels in Math?

Yup!  Students need to know what vowels AND consonants are in MATH CLASS!!!!

Of course, they should know them regardless, but lets face it, some students don't.

So I'm going to share a short story about how I help my students remember their vowels and consonants.  But before I do, I'd like to tell you why they need to know this for math. 


PROBABILITY!!!
 What are the odds, right?!  

Here's an example.
Henry has a set of cards. On each card is a letter from the word "MATHEMATICS". If Henry shuffled the cards and chose one without looking, what is the probability that it would be a vowel?

TA DA!!!  

There you have it! Sometimes the question asks "NOT a vowel". Now, that would be a consonant wouldn't it? 

Then we have the lovely "sometimes Y". But in math, we have enough pressure with the other letters of the alphabet known as variables.  So, we don't view the Y as a vowel.  In math class, Y is a consonant.  Please don't ask me "Y".  See what I did there?  ;)

Any who!  Onward to my story!  So after introducing the unit on probability and after going over a few practice problems, I show my students a problem similar to the one shown above. I then ask the class, "What is a vowel?" I give wait time and look across the classroom and see some facial expressions that tell me they definitely know what a vowel is and some facial expressions that, well, are really quite cute as can be because they are thinking about it.  Then I ask for a volunteer to explain. Many students do know, but there are a few that don't remember or just don't know. These are the students I created the story for.

So, here is the story.

I ask students, "Has anyone ever been to the store and then you end up seeing someone you haven't seen in a very long time?" Many hands go up in the air. Then I ask, "Does anyone here owe anyone any money?" Not so many hands go up.  Hmmm. I wonder why. Sometimes a student will blurt, "My mom does!" or something similar.  We laugh and I move along.  So then I tell them, "Let's say you answered yes to both of those questions. I wonder what you would say."  Then I let them have it, "Aaaaay!!!!  Eeeeeee!!!!  I OWE YOU!!!"  (A, E, I, O, U)

The students that know what a vowel is get it right away and start to laugh! Yes, there are a few that give an eye roll. But the students that didn't know or weren't sure learned it right away. I then explain that the other letters are consonants, NOT vowels.

There you have it. A quick and easy way to help your students identify vowels and consonants.

After this lesson, I then have students up and down the hall during changing of classes passing by my class yelling "Aaaaay!!!!  Eeeeeee!!!!  I OWE YOU!!!" and pointing in my direction.  I love it!!!  I sometimes respond with, "Yes you do!" and give them a wink.

I hope this is a story you will tell your students and I hope it helps in some way.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!!!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pumpkin Project

I use to do this project in 5th and 6th grade, so I thought I'd try it for my 7th graders.  I'm hoping to start this next week with my enrichment classes. I just wanted to share the idea today so other teachers can prepare and use it before Halloween as well. That is, if they would like to. ;)

As a teacher myself, I know sometimes funds are tight. So, I usually have students volunteer to bring in a pumpkin. I do communicate with their parents about donating. There are many parents that are eager to donate items to their child's class, especially if it's for a fun activity. In the past, I've even had some parents ask me how many I needed. I would recommend one pumpkin per class.

Explain to the class that everyday they are going to be given a task to perform. When they perform this task, they are to do it on their own without any help from their friends. I designate a portion of the class period to allow them to do this.

Students in some classes get so involved in the activity that they even give their class pumpkin a name!

Make it more interesting by surprising them each day with the task they are to perform. Keep them wondering what is going to happen next! It makes it fun.

Day 1: Have students estimate the weight of the pumpkin in pounds. Bring a scale to weigh the pumpkin after everyone has estimated. Be sure to tell students to keep the pumpkin over the table when they lift it, just in case they accidentally drop it.  I never had that happen, but it's better to be safe than sorry.  The winner is the person that estimated closest to the actual weight of the pumpkin without going over.

Day 2: Have students estimate the circumference of the pumpkin using a piece of string or yarn. Do not let them wrap the pumpkin with the string or yarn, they have to estimate it. I love to watch them use their imagination when they do this. They can get pretty creative! The winner is the person that cut a piece of string or yarn closest to the actual circumference of the pumpkin.  My students have not covered the unit on circumference yet, so I will not be mentioning any formulas.

Day 3:  Cut the top of the pumpkin and have students help you gut it.  I usually have two to three students doing this at a time.  I try to give everyone a chance. Some students pass because they don't like the slimy feeling, but some are thrilled about doing it! I have students place the seeds in a large, clear ziptop bag.  When all of the seeds have been removed, I have students estimated the number of pumpkin seeds in the bag.  The best way is to just pass the bag around so they can see and feel the seeds. Please make sure the bag is closed properly. You can use packing tape to seal the opening for good measure. 

I tell my students that I will announce the winner the next day, because I need to count the seeds.  Um, well, I take the seeds home to roast in the oven. I don't tell them I'm going to do that because it adds to the daily surprise.

There are many different recipes for roasting pumpkin seeds online.  I usually just look one up that looks easy and use it.  :)

Day 4:  I tell students that I didn't have a chance to count the pumpkin seeds to see who the winner was, (tee hee) but I'm going to let them count them. I then surprise them with the roasted pumpkin seeds!  After the oohs and ahs, I give a handful to each group of four to count. I then have them write their amount on the dry erase board at the front of the classroom. As you can imagine, this will create quite a long list of numbers, so we get into the discussion of "what is the best way" to add the numbers up!  This is done as they are eating the pumpkin seeds. We determine the winner and then I give them another task.

I assign their homework that is due on day 5, the very next day.  I have students design a face for their pumpkin and inform them that they will vote on their favorite design to use for their class pumpkin.

Day 5:  Collect "homework" and tape designs to wall, no student names showing. I usually place numbers by them to make it easier to vote on. This is done quietly and quickly.  Once voting is done, I then announce the winner and begin to trace or draw the design on the pumpkin, or have the actual winner do it if they would like to.  I then begin to carve the pumpkin as students complete an assignment.  I will have some come help if they are done. However, I am the one that carves the pumpkin for safety reasons.  I then place a battery operated candle in the pumpkin and we get to enjoy it for a while, because we then have a raffle!  That's right! The pumpkin goes to the student whose name is drawn!  

Surprise after surprise, students love these activities. It's a great morale booster for the entire class. It also only takes a few minutes out of the class period each day. 

Of course, you can change, omit or add anything you'd like to this project to make it your own. I will probably have to adjust my time line as well. I'm just sharing one of the activities that I have done in the past with my students.

By the way, I have them keep all of the information on a sheet of paper labeled Day 1, Day 2, etc.  That way, they can turn the entire page in for a participation grade.

I hope you do decide to use it in your classroom. If you do, please let me know how it went! 

Thanks for reading and have a great day!!!