Monday, March 26, 2012

Incredible Invention

Here is a great Linky Party being put on by Best Practices 4 Teaching. There are so many things teachers wish they could have. Here is what I would invent. I know cell phones work, but so many of my parents numbers are disconnected. This would be a good way to get in touch with them.

What would you invent? Link up!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Multiplying by Multiples of Tens

Third grade begins multiplication. Whereas in years past, students only had to learn their multiplication facts, they are now required to take those facts to a whole different level. Third grade students are required to, also, master how to problem solve with multiplication and to multiply 2 and 3 digit numbers by a 1 digit number.

One way to help make the transition from basic facts to "big" multiplication easier is by taking it step by step. One of those steps is learning how to multiply by multiples of tens, hundreds, and even thousands. Over the years I have developed, with the help of some students, an easy way to teach this concept.

The first step is to circle the basic fact. EX: 40 x 6=   The basic fact is 4 x 6. Once you know the basic fact-4 x 6=24, then just count the zeroes and add them to the basic fact-24 + 1 zero=240.

My students even helped me make up a song to help students remember the steps:

Zero is the Hero
He just won't stop!
All you do is count him,
At the top!
You add those zeroes,
To the basic fact,
And you will get the answer,
Just like THAT!

We use Zero the Hero to help us any time we are multiplying by multiples of tens and hundreds. It comes in really handy when multiplying with partial products and estimating.

I have a fabulous PowerPoint presentation that takes students through multiplying by multiples of tens and hundreds step by step. It even includes the song with me singing :) It provides examples, activities, and test practice.
Check it out at my TpT store.

Here are some of the videos and games that I embed into my presentations:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Properties of Multiplication

One of the keys in problem solving is to understand the fundamental properties of operations. I swear, I would give anything for kids to understand that they already know that 9x3=27 because they know that 3x9=27. But,for some reason, it is a hard concept to grasp.

When I teach the Properties of Multiplication I focus just on the identity, commutative, and associative properties with my third graders, and I take one property at a time. To guide us through our learning I use a PowerPoint presentation which you can download at my TpT store. It is full of concrete examples, activities with manipulatives, real life examples, and much more.

In addition to the presentation and the activities included in it, I use several other tools in my classroom when teaching about the properties of multiplication. I have an interactive bulletin board where students can sort the properties using index cards. I also use several of the following Internet games:
Math Playground Basketball
AAA Math
CoolMath Games

At the end of the unit students create a book about the properties. To create this book the fold their papers in quarters and cut along one of the middle lines. Next they place the 2 halves together and fold them to create a book. Each page of the book is used to write and illustrate about the properties of multiplication.

Here are some of the videos that I embed into my presentation to make for a smoother lesson:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pencil Problem Solved...FINALLY

There are somethings that take years to figure out. This is especially true when it comes to teaching. It takes years to perfect a lesson, years to organize your classroom perfectly, years to become an expert at dealing with parents, and years to figure out what to do about the dadgum PENCIL PROBLEM. 
I know you know what I am talking about! Kids lose pencils. Kids break pencils. Kids need to sharpen pencils in the middle of your lessons and grind away while you are trying to talk. Kids bring their own pencil sharpeners so they can sharpen quietly only to have all of the shavings fall onto the floor!! Then there are the kids that never, ever bring a pencil through your door!
Needless to say, it is a problem. In fact, I am pretty sure that at some point in time I have heard every teacher I know complain about the Pencil Problem. Here are some of my solutions, the tried, the trued, the failed:

1. Just keep asking for more pencils and start screaming every time someone gets up to sharpen a pencil during your lesson. I think in my early years I might have even thrown a pencil across the room in a fit of sharpening rage!

2. Provide everyone with pencils and their own sharpener. Problem #1: expensive (I mean I really think they eat pencils) and Problem #2: The blasted shavings all over the floor!

3. A central pencil cup. Everyone is to sharpen their pencils at the beginning of the day. If during the day your pencil breaks, you can trade it out for a pencil from the cup. The problem arose when kids brought no pencil to school or lost theirs.

4. A central pencil cup. Everyone is to sharpen their pencils at the beginning of the day. If during the day your pencil breaks, you can trade it out for a pencil from the cup. If you don't have a pencil to trade in, then you have to leave your shoe and to get your shoe back you had to put the pencil back.

5. Mechanical pencils for all. And then came the lead and more lead and more lead that none of them could ever get loaded into their pencils.

At this point I was ready to throw in the towel and just go completely to pens which doesn't seem to work to well in an elementary school classroom!

Then my partner teacher last year came up with a marvelous plan. We attached cups to each of my desks. When the kids came in, there were 2 sharpened pencils in their cup. If during the day, both pencils broke they could trade them out for newly sharpened pencils that were sharpened every morning and afternoon by my Equipment Helpers.

This was the key, and works exceptionally well. Especially since we trade classes four times a day and I have four differently groups rotating in and out of my classroom. Each time a child sits down at their desk their first task is to check their cup and each time they leave my room they are to check their cup. If at any point (no pun intended) a pencil is missing, they are to tell me immediately. The person who walked out of my room with my pencil will, no doubt, rue the day! Trust me, after one time they don't leave again with my pencil. Now our cups not only hold our pencils but, also, an Expo marker and eraser.

Where do I get the pencils from? Well, at the beginning of the year we require all students to bring in 2 boxes of 24 pencils. Instead of letting the kids keep them and lose them (or eat them as I swear they do). I take up the boxes from the children leaving them with 6 or so to keep in their book bags. Then I store all of the rest of the pencils and pull them out as needed to replenish our supplies.

I do the same thing with notebook paper. They each bring in 2 packs. One goes in their folders and one goes in my paper drawer. When anyone runs out of paper, I give them more from the paper drawer.

I have found that handling supplies like this saves sanity and embarrassment. It keeps the kids whose parents won't keep them supplied with what they need from being embarrassed, and it keeps my sanity. Now, instead of getting frustrated when kids don't bring pencils into my room I point to their cups. And instead of nagging them to bring in more paper, I just had them a stack.

Pencil Problem Solved!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ancient Greece Jeopardy

Talk about something that is hard to find info on! It is near about impossible to find material with which to teach about Ancient Greece. Our standards call for us to teach ancient Greek architecture, democracy, and the Olympics.

Like so many other topics, our text book has limited to no information. So I have scoured the Internet and found a few things and then created many other things.

One of these is a Jeopardy PowerPoint presentation that I use as a review. It covers democracy, the Olympics, voting, architecture, and maps. It is a wonderful resource!

Check it out at my TpT store. It would be a great review for you state exams that are coming up oh so soon!

Since the information is so hard to find, I thought I would save you some time and add a few of the videos I use during my unit on Ancient Greece.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wonderful Word Problems

Did you know that the majority of math questions on standardized tests are word problems? Did you know that many kids who are low and reading score poorly on math portions of tests because they can not read the problems? Did you know that it doesn't have to be that way?

My lower performing students always do so much better in math than they do in reading. Why? Because if they can barely read, how can they comprehend a word problem. In fact, in 12 years of teaching I have only had 1 child fail math. I believe one of the reasons for this is that I focus a lot on key words. They help give kids an advantage over word problems.

If a student can find the key words in a problem, then, most of the time, they don't even have to read the rest of the problem to figure out what to do to solve the problem. Key words have made my students successful problem solvers and have significantly increased test scores. Before focusing on key words, my students who were low in reading would score well on everything except for word problems, but now they are finally able to show off their strengths in math!

I start off teaching addition key words. I help students remember the words that tell you to add by using the acronym BAITS.
In all

I spend a day or two solving addition problems and then move on to subtraction. These are the ones that really seem to elude kids. After several years of gathering subtraction key words, I finally got a list of the most frequently used words that tell students to subtract.

I teach to them as 3-2-1:
3 M's, 2 L's, CDF
Many more
Much more
Much _______er (shorter, longer, fatter, hotter, taller...)

It is amazing how much key words help students understand how to problem solve. I teach addition and subtraction key words during the first nine weeks. Later, after my units on rounding, estimation, the meaning of multiplication, and several other units I do a quick review of addition and subtraction key words and start teaching the word that tell students to multiply.

There are many different words that clue students in to multiplying to find the answers to problems.  To help students remember, I teach them the acronym PEGS:

Armed with key words, students can solved almost any problem. 95% of key words have key words. For the ones that don't I teach them to draw problems out using unit bars. Unit bars are Singapore Math strategy that have revolutionized my students' problem solving.

I use a great PowerPoint presentation when teaching addition and subtraction problem solving. Check it out at my TpT store.

I also have a graphic organizer that I use with my students. You can download it here for free.

Here are some videos and songs I also use during class. I embed them into my PowerPoint presentation to make the whole lesson flow smoother.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Linky Party: Teacher Tips


Teach123 is having a linky party!  When you think about your first year of teaching or when you switched grade levels, what do you wish you would have known before you began?  What advice can you give your fellow teachers?  

Here are some tidbits of advice that I always share with new or soon-to-be new teachers:

What are your best tips for teachers starting out either in their career, a new school, or a new grade?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Giving Meaning to Multiplication

Any time someone thinks about third grade, they think about two things: cursive writing and multiplication. Now, in my opinion, cursive writings is a thing of the past. I mean other than signing your name, when do you really use it. Every paper turned in has to be typed, and soon every child will carry around a laptop or iPad with which to take notes.

Multiplication on the other hand is a fundamental skill in life. It is one math concept that I can honestly say I use every day. There are 4 of us and each of us will eat 4 chicken nuggets, therefore I need to cook 16 chicken nuggets. I workout (Ha!) to 8 different songs that are about 4 minutes in length and I am able to know that I worked out for a little over 30 minutes! There are 170 calories in a single serving of ice cream and I had 2 servings, so I know that I really blew my diet with a whopping 340 calories just for dessert. See what I mean! We use it everyday.

But to be able to use it effectively we must truly understand the meaning of multiplication. This is a concept students must thoroughly understand in order to be successful in mathematics. I teach students that multiplication can mean different things in different situations but that all of these situations revolve around 4 central elements:

Multiplication Means...
1. Groups of- 3 x 4 means 3 groups of 4
2. Rows of-3 x 4 means 3 rows of 4
3. Repeated Addition-3 x 4 means 3 times I add 4
4. Counting by- 3 x 4 means 3 times I count by 4

The fundamental tool I use when teaching this unit is a 27 slide PowerPoint presentation that thoroughly explains the meaning of multiplication to students. It provides examples of the meaning of multiplication as it is seen in groups, arrays, and repeated addition. It even shows how the answer to a multiplication problem can be found by counting by certain numbers. It is a standards based lesson that could be used in one setting or spread apart over a few days taking each meaning one day at a time. It also provides notes for students and test prep practice. It has been tried and tested in my third grade classroom. You can download a preview of it or purchase it to use in your own classroom at my TpT store. 

I also use several different activities including grouping, grouping, and more grouping of manipulatives. We use colored tiles and Geoboards to create arrays. We also create graphic organizers and individual student books to illustrate one multiplication fact explained in 4 different ways.

In order to thoroughly engage students in learning about the meaning of multiplication, I incorporate many videos in songs. You can find some of my favorite below:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sinister Subtraction

I don't know about y'all, but in all my years of teaching I have yet to find something as difficult for students as subtraction. It is the one concept students will have one day and lose the next. In fact, sometimes they will work one problem correctly and when they get to the next one they completely lose it.

Yet, subtraction is one of the most important concepts students must master. Without it, figuring out change, calculating elapsed time, dividing and countless other skills are out the window. The one way to make sure that the concept of subtraction sticks is by making sure students understand the "Why?" of subtraction.

I am frequently asked by parents, "What happened to borrowing? Why is it called regrouping now?" Well, when you borrow something like a shirt that shirt doesn't change. It is still a shirt and eventually (hopefully) you return it. When you are "borrowing" with subtraction, you are never giving anything back to the tens or hundreds place where you took it from, and you are changing that ten or hundred into something else like ones. In other words, regrouping what you took into something totally different.

I spent many hours creating a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating the different ways students can subtract to solve problems. Some of these methods incorporate strategies from Singapore Math. Other methods have been gleamed from countless workshops and conferences. And some I found while scouring the Internet for ways to help make subtraction easier for students.

The four methods I teach students are:
1. Drawing (With this method, students do not even need to know their facts. It works really well with students who have a hard time remembering their basic math facts.)
2. Old School (The way we learned it, but with a few twists)
3. Take a Penny (This method has revolutionized my methods of subtracting across zeroes as well as my students.)
4. Fair is Fair (This works really well with 2 and 3 digit numbers and keeps students from having to regroup.)

Check out my Subtraction With and Without Regrouping at my TpT store. In the presentation, which I use over a 9 day period, I insert several videos that help illustrate the different methods.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Become a Math Whiz with Whiz Quiz

Ask any elementary teacher what the number one thing students need help with in math and you will hear a resounding MATH FACTS. Knowing basic math facts is the most important skill students can have in math. It is also the one thing that can major inhibit a child's ability to score well in any math situation be it homework, a class assignment, weekly tests, or major state assessments.

Students begin working on math facts in kindergarten but they aren't expected to begin memorizing math facts in first grade. By fourth grade, students should have mastered all of the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Basic facts are defined as 0-9, i.e 3+9= 18-9= 3x7=  24/6=.

Now there is much controversy over basic facts tests. Many teachers and administrators believe that students should not memorize facts by practice with flashcards and tests, but should constantly interact with numbers and fact families in order to best understand the putting together and pulling apart of numbers.

This is absolutely true! Students must understand why and how numbers equal certain things. Students will better understand mathematical concepts if they are able to understand what happens when numbers are put together or taken apart.

However there comes a time when children must memorize their basic facts. Otherwise they will spend time figure out answers to basic facts rather than solving more complicated problems. Not being able to quickly recall basic facts will, without a doubt, impede students when problem solving.

Therefore in my classroom I use the Whiz Quiz. Each day students have 1 minute of fact practice. This minute consist of a strip of paper with 20 problems related to one set of facts, i.e. 2's addition or 4's multiplication. If students mastered that set of facts, they move on to the next set of facts on the next day. If not then, they must practice that set of facts that night for homework. They can practice in whatever way you decide (but I prefer writing 5 times each).

Whiz Quiz is a fast and effective method of fact practice. It takes about 2 minutes to distribute (if you are organized), one minute and 5 seconds to administer, and a couple of minutes to grade. It is differentiated and allows students to move at their own pace through the basic math facts. For instance, I have many children who are almost finished with all of their division facts and I have some children who are still on addition.

I have a bulletin board set up with stars. Each one has a set of facts on it "2's", "3's", "4's"...Since my classroom has a sports theme, students each have a football player or cheerleader. Each time they pass a set of facts they move their person to the next number.

To make it easy to pass out my Whiz Quizzes, I have a file box which has all of the strips organized numerically starting with the addition facts and working back to division. I call out each fact and students come up when I call out the fact they are on. Ex: "2's multiplication....4's division".

Once they get their strip, they write their name on it and then turn it face down on their desk. When everyone has been "served", I tell them to Get Ready, Get Set (turn paper over) and Go! I give them 1 minute and 5 seconds. When time is up I say, "Everybody stop! Pencils drop!" They pass their tests down to me and I quickly grade them. I can do it quite fast, but I recommend making a key for yourself if you find it taking too long. To make it easy, I do not even grade ones that are missing more than 2. I just circle the ones they did not get to and have them write those for homework.

If you would like to use Whiz Quizzes for yourself, please check out Whiz Quiz at my TpT store.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

First Review Soon to Come...

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their  open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Awesome Area

There are some things in math that I honestly don't know say to students when they ask, "When am I ever going to use this?" When it comes to finding area, I know exactly how they are going to use it. We talk about carpet, furniture arrangements, paint, personal space...the examples are endless.

I created a PowerPoint presentation to use in my classroom. I use it as a week long unit on area. It relates area to perimeter, shows how area is square units and how they can be counted to find area. It also contains my phenomenal Perimeter and Area song to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb. It then moves into how area can be found using multiplication by demonstrating how the square units are like arrays. Finally, there are several test prep questions at the end to help prepare students for a test. 

Click here to see a preview of the presentation or purchase it from my TpT store.

In addition to the PowerPoint presentations, I use several activities including videos and songs. Here are some of the videos and songs I embed into my presentation so that they will play instantly.