Fraction Lessons Have You Tearing Out Your Hair?

Trying to make teaching fraction more interesting?   Tearing out your hair? It was that frustration that had me looking for a way to give my students information they could understand and more opportunities to practice those skills.   The math book just didn’t seem to meet the needs of my students.  I was reminded by my mentor that textbooks should be a supplemental tool and not the curriculum.

Let me help you by showing you what I did to make multiplying and dividing fractions less frustrating!

I decided to take the textbook information and put  it into kid-friendly words.  

I had the kids glue the notes into their journals so the information would be at their fingertips!

And because the dreaded “End of Grade” test looms all year…I decided to create word problems to go along with the note students put into their journals.  That would give my students more practice than what was in our math textbook.

I also used the word problems as a review game.  I put one word problem on each student’s desk, in no particular order.  Students stand behind their chairs and the game begins as each student solves the problem on their desk.  As they finish, students put their hands on their shoulders.  When everyone has solved the problem on their desk, students move to the next desk.  When all the students have moved around the room and are back at their own desk, we go over the answers and students share how they solved the problems.

The word problems can be used in a lot of different ways in your classroom, beyond just a review game!  The word problems can be used as bell ringers to get students thinking.  You could put the word problems in your math center for independent work.

If you want to check out my word problems, just click on my picture.

Want a terrific teaching solution to your early finisher problems?

This happened in my early teaching career just about this time of year.  School had been in session for a few weeks and my students had mastered stations/center behavior…almost.  I had several students who  quickly completed their station work and despite being warned, always came to my small group to tell me, “I’m done, so what can I do now?”  I would have to stop and quickly find another activity to engage my early finishers.  In the meantime, I have lost the attention of my small guided group.  Picture me tearing out my hair!!!

Too often, the follow-up activities were just more paperwork.  In desperation one weekend, I created a group of task cards that encompassed many different activities.  I put them up on one of my bulletin boards with the heading CHALLENGE BOARD! Each student was given a Challenge Folder with their name on it.   I showed the board to the class and explained that IF each of them finished the station they were supposed to do early, they could come and choose ANY task card activity.  They could work on their chosen activity until time to come back to whole group.

I also explained the Challenge Board could also be their morning work activity choice as they came into class each morning.  That way ALL my students could be working on a challenge activity, regardless of early finishing of stations.

This was a life saver for me!  Everyone was busy AND my students had choices for their work!!!  Besides my October Enrichment Challenges (just click the pics!)  I also have enrichment challenges for Halloween Activities for Early Finishers and Holiday Enrichment and Challenges for Early Finishers.  Just click the link to find more challenges and enrichment activities!!

How To Help Your Students Become Awesome Summarizers!

With the start of  new school year and having students share their chapter summaries,  I decided I needed to explicitly teach my fifth graders how to summarize using the chapters in our novel, “Blood on the River”.  It’s an historical fiction novel about the founding of Jamestown.  Just an FYI,  it’s a great way to incorporate our Social Studies as we study early America.

In the past, won’t lie, I have sort of “guessed and by golly”‘d my way through summarizing.  It is not one of my stronger skills as a teacher.  Partly, I think, because it always seemed so subjective to me.  Well, last week I took the bull by the horns  and began to teach summarizing directly.

My students had summarized chapter 6 of the book as part of their homework.  It became very apparent quickly, that summarizing was needed to be taught explicitly.

As a teacher of 24 years, I am still tickled when my brain pulls out an idea that wasn’t part of my lesson!!!  After all the summaries were read, I went to the board and wrote:

Chapter 6 High Points

Then, as a class, I asked my students to review the chapter with a partner and come up with only six events or ideas that seemed to be very important.  I purposely avoided the words “main idea”.  That term always seemed to make students think there’s only one right answer.  Noooooo….not always!

As partners reported their “high points“,  many were simply supporting details, so as the students shared their ideas, I took their ideas and jotted them on the board.  Together, I helped them “see” the bigger picture of all their ideas. We worked together to put similar ideas into a more general sentence.

For example, in Ch. 6, there is a battle between a whale, thresher shark, and a swordfish that is observed by Captain Smith and Samuel, the main character.  All the students mentioned the battle as an important event, which it was, but the comment from Capt. Smith to Samuel was that no matter how big and powerful you think you are,  the less powerful can work together and bring you down!  That comment helped my kids see that high points in a chapter can be more than just an event.

After the kids and I wrote the six high points together, I had them use those points to create another summary in their reading journals.  I had them compare their first summary with the summary they had just written. The summaries were sooooo much more on point and the kids even remarked at the differences they saw.

It wasn’t me telling the kids what the high points or main ideas were, but all of us working together.  I did the same lesson two chapters later and the summaries showed more depth of thought and relied less on actual events of the chapter.

Give it a try and let me know if your students’ summaries have show growth as you work together!

PS

If you’d like to check out this fabulous novel and the  vocabulary activities and discussion questions I use with my students, just click Blood on the River

 

How To Begin The Year Positive

Every teacher enters the classroom on the first day of school with high hopes and expectations.  I sure do!  Well, this year, instead of hoping the year stays positive, I decided take direct  steps to keep my students on the positive path and off the side  paths of negativity.  So what am I doing?  I’m so glad you asked!!!

*THE WRINKLED HEART activity :  A few years ago I saw this on  Pinterest and  “grabbed” this activity with both hands!!!  I wish I could find the person who first posted this idea because I’d hug them!!  This activity is a winner!

Give each student a sheet of red construction paper.  Have your students fold their paper and then cut out a heart.  Size doesn’t matter.  After their heart is cut out, ask your students to wad up their heart and WHISPER insults to the heart….just a short time!  Don’t want the students to get carried away.  After a minute or two of whispers, I ask the students to smooth out their heart and tell it , “I was just playing” or “I was just kidding”.   Have them continue to smooth out their heart.  Then ask the students if the marks on the heart disappeared after telling the heart they were “just kidding” or “just playing”.    Of course the marks are still there.  I remind the students that their hearts are just like the hearts they insulted.  While the words may be gone, the heart still shows the scars…just like our hearts can be scarred by careless or negative words.    It really got to my students…as I had hoped.  Words have power to scar and we resolved to make sure our words didn’t leave scars on anyone’s heart this year.

 

Let me know how you build community in your own classroom.

Thanks!

Growing Thinkers One Inspiring Quote At A Time

i’m just a level 2

With all the testing pressure we teachers have all felt, our students, themselves, feel that pressure even more, and too often their self-worth becomes tied to their test results…”I’m a Level 2″; “I’m not a Level 5”; and so on.  It REALLY bothered me when I heard my students talk like that!  I couldn’t seem to change their minds, so I started looking for a way to share with  my students inspiring words from other people and then have my students apply those encouraging words to their own life.

inspiration

I decided to create a collection of inspiring quotes from many different people.  I also decided my students needed to know a little about the person, especially if the person was not familiar to students.  So each person’s page has their quote and a short bio about the person.  I also decided that my students needed to do more than just look at the quote and read the biography.  Here’s one of my students responding to Henry Ford’s quote!

 

This became our Wednesday morning meeting!  Here’s what I did…first I had my students copy the quote into their writing journals.  Then my students read the biography.  Each page also had questions for my students to record their answers to go along with the person’s quote.  I didn’t leave it right there.  Once, everyone had finished writing their answers, the class then discussed both the quote and their answers to the questions on the page.

It really amazed me how so many of my students took the quotes to heart…it was what I had hoped for!  It’s Growth Mindset .  Check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

A Fabulous Sale You SHOULDN’T Miss!

it’s SAving season!!!

Hi folks!  So many of our colleagues are in testing or review mode right now.  It is NOT a time that any teacher likes.  I sometimes think that the time  AFTER testing is the hardest time of all!  A lot of students see the tests as the end of the school year and yet as many of us know, there are still weeks of school left!!!

#SPRINGSAVINGS to the rescue!

Today and tomorrow, there is a fabulous sale going on right now on TeacherspayTeachers!  Over 600 products have been discounted 50% !!!  Use the hashtag #SPRINGSAVINGS to locate them  Here’s your opportunity to grab some new activities that will engage your students and keep them from zoning out after testing is over!!

Use the #SPRINGSAVINGS and have fun perusing all the goodies!  Good hunting and may your new lessons engage your students and make your last weeks of school smooth fun and engaging!

 

Make Earth Day Fun and Meaningful

Two for the Price of One!

With Earth Day right around the corner,  those pesky end of the year tests are also beginning to show on the horizon, too.  As  a public school teacher,  I was ALWAYS looking for thematic activities that would also help my students sharpen their tested skills.  Sort of a twofer!  I think my Earth Day Activities will do both for you!

earth day 1970

Earth Day itself began in 1970 and was the brainchild of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.  He was very concerned that the Earth’s environment did not seem to be an important political issue and his first Earth Day drew millions of people to his cause.  Later that year President Nixon and Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency as a result along with legislation concerning both water and Endangered Species Act.

Earth day today!

In the 48 years since that first Earth Day, there has been a lot  more awareness of our need to recycle, reuse, and reduce.  I decided to combine facts about cleaning our environment with my students need to practice their math skills.  As a result, I created 24 word problems that will help my students learn how recycling can help improve our environment AND work on their problem solving skills at the same time!  I love being able to combine two school subjects; in this case, science and math within a single lesson!!

 

I also added a fun activity using Earth Day vocabulary.  My kids love, love word searches and so my Earth Day Activities also include a word search AND a writing activity!  I also included answer keys for both the 24 math problems and the word search.  Take a look and let me make your Earth Day lesson a snap!

 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Earth-Day-Activities-3755809

What are you doing for Earth Day?  Share your ideas with me!