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!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Don't you just love when this happens?

I love teaching my students! I try to make it fun and memorable. Well, today it was proven that I do just that, at least with some.

Here's the story...

I love to craft during my free time. I make jewelry using mostly crystal beads and charms. I've actually turned it into a small business.  I attend craft and peddler shows when I can.  I love to create and meet different people.  I often ask my husband, "How does it feel to be married to an entrepreneur?"  I hope the expression he gives me means that he knows what that word means. Jus' sayin'!

I know! I know!  You're thinking, "What does this have to do with teaching?" Just give me a little time!  I'll get to it.  :D

Well,  I was at a Mini Peddler show that took place in my home town, which happens to be the same place I have taught throughout my entire career.  So there I was, meeting, greeting and crafting.  Then out of no where, one of my former students walks in! A really sweet girl that actually graduated just last year.  She happened to be my student when I was teaching fifth grade.  Now, that was nine years ago!

I know what you're thinking. Wow!  This teacher must be in her twenties!

Anywho, while we were chatting back and forth, two of her younger siblings, a brother and a sister, came over.  She introduced me as her former math teacher and almost immediately their eyes became as huge as saucers! The sister asked in a shocked tone, "You were her teacher?" almost as if it was impossible.  I guess my gray hairs had something to do with that.

Well, the four of us continued to chat. Some of the conversation was about the jewelry I created and some of it was about how she, my former student, was doing.  She told me that she is going to school to become a nurse.  She said she really like helping people and she also loves to bake.

Now, let me give you a little background about this sweet, young girl.  As a student, she was very quiet and a bit shy. She struggled quite a bit in math, but she NEVER gave up!  Just to she how she blossomed and how she shared her future goals with me was the highlight of my day!  I am very proud of her.

As we finished our conversation, she started to walk away but suddenly turned back to face me and with a HUGE smile on her face she said, "Miss, you remember that song? Two, three, five, seven, eleven..."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!  You see, sometimes our students don't understand or grasp concepts right away, so you have to be creative and give those particular students what works. So, during a prime and composite numbers lesson, I ended up creating a song that would help them remember the prime numbers up to the number fifty. It's a strange but peppy beat and I am proud to say pretty catchy.

When she stopped to tell me that one thing, well, that just made me gulp and smile. Yeah. My eyes also did water up a bit.

I've encountered many former students and our conversations often do lead to "Miss, remember when..."  I love those moments, because they remind me that everything I do in my classroom with my students will impact them in some way.  They will remember.  With that said, I'm going to be sure to give them something wonderful to remember.


Here are the lyrics:

The Prime Number Song

2, 3, 5, 7, 11
Unlucky 13
17 Magazine
19, 23, Michael Jordan's number,
29, the last of the twenties.

31, 37, 41, 47,
"Don't forget about me!" says 43.

I'll try to post a recording later.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Candy Corn Math

Fall is in the air and so is MATH!!!

I made this candy corn math activity to use to check for understanding for our unit on equations. I figured it would also make a great display as well.

I had each student choose two problems and I gave them permission to talk it out with a partner, if needed. When they were done, I had them check their answer by looking at the answer key that I taped to the front of the room.  If they got the answer correct, they were to turn it in. However, if their answer was incorrect, they had to take it back to their desk to figure out where they made the mistake.

Some students wanted to do more than two!  Wow! Students asking for more math problems!  Who knew?

Anywho! When all students were done, I explained to them that I wanted to hang their work as pennants on a string.  They jumped right on it!

We figured out that this was the best way to put the candy corn pennants together. We taped a long piece of string to the whiteboard. Then taped the candy corn equation with the back facing us. This turned out to be so much easier.

Then we had an awesome crew display it in the hallway. These kids worked so well together putting these up. 

Here they are! Don't they look great!

Here's another view.  My students are very proud of taking part in activities like this. They especially like to point out to their peers which one they did!

You can find this activity HERE

I hope this was helpful!  Thanks for reading and have a great day!!!

Monday, October 10, 2016

We learn...

Of all the quotes I've read, this is my favorite!

I truly believe what William Glasser stated is 1000% true and I live by it in my classroom!

10% - Have you ever had a student ask "How do you do this?" two seconds after you have given them the assignment that actually has directions on them?  I usually tell them to read the directions.  I know it sounds harsh, but I want that student to be independent and not rely on someone else to read and explain for him or her. I also have students refer to their journal notes often when they "forget" how to do something.

20% - I instruct for about 15 minutes and then I have my students take turns listening to each other explain a problem.  I have student A and student B, or shoulder partners, taking turns. One explains while the other listens.  I sometimes also do a rotation when students are in a group of 4.  I try to teach my students that its important to listen to someone else's ideas because they might learn a different way to solve a problem.

30% - I like to use visuals when I teach.  Posters, word walls, diagrams, and flow maps are all great to use in math journals or around the room for a quick reference.  I have created colorful and animated powerpoints. I also like to incorporate videos from the internet into my lessons. 

50% - Using manipulatives, such as red and yellow counters, for modeling integers and then drawing the model really does help students see why a negative plus a negative has to equal a negative. I do the same with algebra tiles as well so that they can see what needs to be done to get the variable by itself on one side. I model and explain, then I have them model and explain so that their partner can hear the steps, once more.

70% - Isn't it amusing when you ask students to discuss something and all you hear is crickets. Yet, you ask them to be quiet and listen and you can't even hear yourself think over all the talking?  At the beginning of the year, I notice that many of my students have trouble putting their thoughts into words. I'll ask for an answer, and a student will give the correct one. But when I ask them to explain how they arrived at that answer, they respond with the infamous, "I don't know." I do a lot of pair share, shoulder partner and round table discussions. At first I provide starter statements because that makes it easier for them to begin. By about the third six weeks, they get better and are more independent when it comes to explaining in complete statements. 

80% - I try to incorporate many real life situations involving math in my classroom. For some activities, students get to go up to the front of the classroom and present their work. However, I let them know this before they start on the activity or project.  They seem to be more careful and try harder when they know that they are going to actually present it to their peers. They get better and better with presentations and speaking in front of their peers as the year passes.

95% - I always have my students explain to each other. I tell them that if they can explain something to someone, that means that they understand it.  So I have them make that their goal, to be able to explain how to solve a problem.

Gone are the days of teachers instructing in front of the classroom and having students sit quietly and perfectly still for the entire class period.  They are NOT going to do that AND learn. Students need to be more involved in their learning and teachers need to be facilitators of learning. Don't just ask for an answer, ask "Why?" or "How did you get that?" Get students to explain to each other. Trust me when I say that it's almost like "pulling teeth" when you first begin, but giving them starter statements really helps.  Stop with the daily worksheets or daily book work.  Have your students up and walking during a Loop Game or partnering up with someone to complete a matching card activity. 

I've even done a stand up, hand up, pair up with a worksheet and have had success with that. Yes, I said worksheet. I use them in my classroom, I just don't use them daily. Putting a little twist on that type of assignment seems to get certain students to actually want to try. Struggling students also will have someone to discuss solutions with. How about having one student explain and solve the odd numbered problems and the other student explain and solve how to do the even numbered problems.  This simple little twist really takes away the "Oh no, another worksheet" statement and makes it fun. One more! I have told them to select their own problems on the worksheet to solve. For example, they may get to choose six out of ten problems. Some usually excitedly respond with, "Any six?". I answer with yes and a smile because I have reeled them in!  LOL

Discussions and learning will happen! You will see it and hear it and when it does happen, you will smile.  My favorite is when I hear a debate followed by "Miss, can you tell him I'm the one that's right?"  That one makes me smile the most.  When this happens, there is so much more learning happening on both sides, by students and by the teacher.

This is the way I see it. Some students want to talk. Well, give them something to talk about with a math stations or activity! 

You can get a free download of this poster HERE

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Teaching Assistants in the Classroom

Do you ever feel like you have given 50 examples and students still don't understand?  Well, I really don't ever give 50 examples.  I actually tell my students "statistics show" that after three examples, they should pretty much understand all or most of the steps.  At least, that is what one of my college professors said.

Anywho! I know it can seem a bit discouraging when you have given your students examples, notes, hands on activities, etc. and yet, some still do not understand. The reality of it is that you can try and give them examples until you are blue in the face and guess what? Some of them will say they STILL don't get it!  That's why I delegate some of my students as teaching assistants.

Now, I just don't give this job to anyone! They have to earn it by proving that they have mastered the skill.

This is how I do it in my classroom.

First, I introduce the lesson. You know, the usual. I explain what the skill is, tell them if they have prior knowledge or if it's brand new to their grade level, provide a real life example of when and where they might use it, etc.

Then, I provide notes, examples, and a step by step explanation.  After the third example, I have students (shoulder partners) take turns explaining how to solve one problem each to one another. Partner A explains their assigned problem to Partner B, who listens and only helps when needed. They they switch roles, and Partner B explains a different problem.

After each partner has solved and explained a problem each, we regroup as a class and talk about it.  I then allow them to try a couple on their own as I walk around, monitor and answer any questions they might still have.  At this time, I am also checking answers of students that have completed the problems.

Finally, I give them an independent assignment. During this assignment, I might be monitoring or working with a student that needs one-on-one help. As students complete their work, they turn it in, I check it and if they showed all of their work and answered correctly, I "hire" them as teaching assistants. My students love it and they get to wear one of the "Ask Me!" badges that I created. I then announce to the class the name or names of the students that are my teaching assistants.

I also assign the job of teaching assistants during other activities that take place in the classroom. This is really handy during a large class.

I don't really know how I should take it when I see so many hands go up after I have announced a teaching assistant's name. Yet, I know how some students prefer to ask one of their peers for help. It's a win win situation!  My teaching assistant understands the skill/concept so well that they can teach someone else, other students (shy or otherwise) get to hear it from someone different that might help them understand better and I get to help other students while this is going on!

It really works well in my class. It also gives my teaching assistants a sense of pride and respect, knowing that other students trust them enough to ask for their help.

Here are some of my teacher assistants helping out during a Loop Game.

Here is a close up view.  If students didn't hear me announce the teaching assistants name(s), they know to just look for a student wearing an "Ask Me!" Badge.

Every time I go to a conference or training, I save the plastic badge holders.  I printed out the "Ask Me!" label, cut it out and slipped it into the badge holder. So all I paid for were the glitter stickers! Not bad, huh?  :D

I hang them underneath my clocks by my desk for easy access. If I forget, my students see them and remind me. Imagine that! Seventh graders reminding me about the "Ask Me!" badge because they want to wear it when they help their peers!  I love it!

You can get a free download of a similar "Ask Me!" badge

One last thing!  I always make it a point to have my students thank the teaching assistants if they have helped them in any way. It becomes more meaningful. At least I think it does.  :D

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trouble with the Nines!

Years back, I was told a funny and memorable story about a football player. I don't recall where or exactly when I heard the story, but ever since I became a teacher, I have retold the story to my students at the beginning of every school year.  To this day, I still get some of my former students approach me and say, "Miss, remember the story about the football player and the nines?!"  Ahhhh, yes. It's the funny stories they remember the most.

It goes a little something like this....

It was a cool Friday morning and the day of one of the biggest football games of the season.  As the star player, Johnny, was walking down the school hallway wearing his letterman jacket and a huge confident grin, you could hear students yelling out comments like "Good luck at the game Johnny!" and "Score big Johnny!" Johnny just kept smiling as he waved and nodded.

As Johnny entered his math class, his perky teacher, Mrs. Perkins, happily announced that they were having a "Pop Quiz". Well, that announcement sucked the happy out of Johnny right away! He held his head with both hands as he began to freak out! So many thoughts went through Johnny's head!  "Of all days, why today?" "I'm so bad at math!" "If I fail, I won't be able to play during tonight's big game!"

As Mrs. Perkins merrily walk around the classroom distributing the Pop Quiz, Johnny began to slouch down as if to melt into his seat. She placed the quiz on his desk and he jolted right back up. "Oh no!", he yelled. "Not the nines! I still have trouble with my nines!"

Mrs. Perkins announced, "You may begin! Oh, and by the way, this is a timed quiz. You only have 5 minutes!"  Of all the gasps heard in the room, Johnny's was the loudest.

He looked at the quiz and then heard his coach's words echoing in his head, "Always try your best, no matter what! That's what a winner does!" Johnny decided to take the advice his coach gave him and he began to read the quiz carefully.

"Hmm.  This doesn't look so bad. Let me see here.  I know some of these."

"I know 9 x 0 is 0 and 9 x 1 is 9. Wow!  This isn't that bad after all!  Let's see what else I know." As he went through the list of nines, he began to get a little bummed out again, because he didn't know the rest of them. Then all of a sudden, he got to 9 x 10 and yelled "I got another one! Ninety!"
After Mrs. Perkins reminded him that this was a quiz and he was supposed to be quiet, he apologized with a huge smile. He was smiling because he knew at this point, he was NOT going to get a zero on this quiz. There was still a chance that he would pass. So he continued, a little nervous, but still optimistic.

"Coach was right! Always try your best!", he thought to himself.  "Hmmm...I know I have three correct so far. Let's see how many I've missed.", he whispered.  After counting quietly and slowly as he wrote numbers down the list he exclaimed, "What?! No way I'm gonna pass now! I'm gonna miss eight problems!"  
Mrs. Perkins chimed in again and reminded Johnny that he had to take the quiz quietly so that he wouldn't disturb the rest of the class.  "Sorry Mrs. Perkins!", he whispered.  He then proceeded to look at the quiz.  "Wait a minute!", he thought. "I'm not really good at math, so maybe I miscounted the number I've missed!" So back at it he went, but this time starting from the bottom to the top.
"Well, I guess that's that! I'm not gonna play in the big game tonight for sure.", Johnny said as he took the quiz up to Mrs. Perkins. He slowly handed it over to her as he tried to keep his hands steady, but they were shaking so bad that the paper looked like there was a a gust of wind blowing on it. 

His head hanging low and as bummed out as can be, he started to turn to walk back to his desk, when all of a sudden Mrs. Perkins excitedly told him, "Congratulations Johnny! You made a perfect score on your quiz!" Johnny was so shocked that he fainted!

The moral of the story? Johnny's coach said it best! Always try your best, no matter what!

I hope you enjoyed my story. I'm sure there are other versions of it out there somewhere. My students are always amazed and most of the time I here them say, "I never noticed that the answers were like that!"

Another thing I share with them is that when you add up the digits, they equal nine.  For example, 1 + 8 is 9, 2 + 7 is 9, and so on.

I know tricks are not always the best way to teach students math, but if this one makes students feel more comfortable or even more confident with their multiples of nine, I'm going to keep sharing it with them!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!!!