Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Fun!

Yes, I know it isn't Friday anymore, but I'm linking up with Fun Friday anyways!
The First Grade Parade, Pinterest, Subtraction games

I saw this linky on  Fourth Grade Flipper, and I couldn't resist!  If you would like to join in, head over to Teaching Fourth and link up.
I am very excited this morning- Donna at the Math Coach's Corner mentioned one of my posts in her Bagels and Blogs post this morning!  Head over to The Math Coach's Corner and check out her amazing blog!
Have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

October Fun

I love October!  Even though we really don't have a "real" fall here in southeast Texas, I still get excited when the calendar turns to October.  I grew up in Pennsylvania so at least I have my memories of autumn leaves and crisp, cool days and nights!  But Halloween is still Halloween, and it is one of my favorite times of year!  For the next few weeks we'll use pumpkins, bats, spiders and all kinds of spooky things to help motivate our little ones to learn and have fun at the same time.
Last year I made these math games to add to my stations.

Click here to download the games.

My class last year loved learning about bats. Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade has some of the best bat ideas.  I can't wait to do this Venn Diagram and bat fact activity.

Gail Gibbons has some great non-fiction books for this time of year.

Happy fall, y'all!  There's a bag of candy corn around here with my name on it so I am off to indulge!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I think I have become obsessed with problem solving!  My class this year seems to really enjoy being challenged, and they do a fantastic job so it just makes it fun to teach!
I was searching for some strategy charts to display, and although I found some great ones, nothing seemed just right.  So I created some!  I chose the strategies that our curriculum teaches to start with, but I may add others later.
Here they are if you would like to use them.  I made 2 versions because I am very indecisive this morning!
Download here.  Note:  Google docs does not show the chevron background but it's there when printed.

Download here.
Clip art is mostly from Scrappin Doodles and Thistle Girl Designs.
Hope you can use these!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Problem Solving

My district provides Exemplars for math problem solving, and my school has made using them a priority this year. I am the first grade representative on our campus math committee, so I will be partially responsible for guiding my team through the implementation of Exemplars.  Fortunately, I was already familiar with the program from my time in another district, but I have never used them with a whole class before.  So I decided this week to try out some Exemplar-type work with my class so I could share with my team before we actually do our first real Exemplar problem for our portfolios.

On Wednesday, our daily journal prompt was:
I have 8 apples.  Some are green and some are red.  How many of each can I have?

Many children just wrote the equation 4+4=8 and then drew a picture.  There wasn't a lot of evidence of their thinking although I was pleased that several of the students were able to verbalize that since 8 was an even number they knew they could make 2 equal groups!  So on Thursday I decided to change things up just a little and incorporate some of the routines that our math committee has established for Exemplars.  I wanted to emphasize that:
1.  Mathematicians show their work in different ways.
2.  You need to circle your answer.
3.  Use math vocabulary to explain your thinking and then highlight those words (an Exemplar strategy).

We started by discussing Wednesday's problem, and then I started a chart of ways mathematicians show their work.  I saw a similar chart on Donna's blog, The Math Coach's Corner.  (I learn so much every time I visit her blog!) Here is the chart we created- minus "table" as we added it later.

Then I posed this problem:

After we read the problem together,  I had the students tell me what they were trying to find.  I made sure that the word combinations was mentioned.  We discussed possible strategies, and then I let them go to work, reminding them to circle their answer and tell how they found the answer.  I gave each student a sheet of manila paper to work on.  Some students immediately started to write equations.  Others started to draw baskets.  Interestingly, a couple of students started to draw 8 boxes on their paper.  When I asked why, they weren't sure.  I think it is because we use this paper often for what I call 8-square activities; for example, I will write 8 short a words and the students will copy one in each box and draw a picture.  I noticed also that some students were spending most of their time drawing and coloring baskets so I stopped the class and did a quick reteach on math drawings and reminded them that these were quick sketches, not art class drawings!

When I noticed that most students seemed to finished or close to finishing we stopped and discussed some of the strategies they used and shared how many combinations they found.  About half the class found that there were 6 combinations.  We then used our highlighters to show any math words we used in our explanations.  Most students had one math word such as "I wrote number sentences" or "I used counters."  I then explained that mathematicians like to make sure of their answers by showing their work in a different ways and use more math language to explain what they have done.

The next day I used this same problem to introduce a new way to show work.  I used one student's work to show how she had the same combination twice, and I talked about how many students kept asking me if they were finished because they didn't know if they had found all of the ways.  I told them that sometimes we need a way to organize our data.  Using seven 2 color counters, I showed them how I would start with one red and then count how many were yellow.  I wrote this information on the Smart board in table form.  Then we made 2 red, counted the yellow and wrote it on the table.  Then I just wrote a 3 in the red column and asked  "How many yellow?"  We completed the table together, checking with our counters, and I explained that a table was one way to organize your thinking when working with combinations.  Then we added it to our chart.

This week we will do a similar problem: "There are 8 animals in the barn.  Some are cows and some are horses.  How many different combinations of animals could be in the barn."  I can't wait to see how they approach the problem now!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reflections on Resolutions

In July I linked up with Amanda at Teaching Maddeness to share my new school year resolutions.  To help keep me on track, I'm going to share my progress each month.

Goal 1: Organization
I'm proud to say that my teaching table is usable most of the time!  I bought some storage carts and put a shelf behind it to hold all my small group supplies.  On Friday, I was actually able to pull a spur-of-the-moment math group and have all the supplies I needed right there!
However, now my desk has become my "hot spot."  I have the organizational tools I need- file pocket chart, supply organizer, paper organizer, etc. but I just haven't gotten into the habit of using them!  Instead, everything ends up piled on top of the desk.  I spent 30 minutes on Friday looking for a  form that needed to be turned in. :(
Filing is still a problem area, too!  I did set up storage carts for monthly activities so my teaching stuff is better organized, but I still have piles of student work and forms to file.  I need to get that straightened out this week before conferences start.

Goal 2:  Guided Math
Math stations are up and running and I have been able to pull a few groups.  I still need to establish a regular schedule for groups, but I feel good about what we are doing in math so far.

Goal 3:  Guided Reading
I've really only been pulling groups for about a week.  I needed to get at least some of the Daily 5 activities introduced and complete a benchmark assessment on each student.  Most of my reading manipulatives and games are now stored behind my teaching table for easy access during groups.  I use a binder to store lesson plans, anecdotal records and running records for my groups.  The binder also includes information that might be helpful during groups such as questioning guides, strategy charts, book level expectations, etc.  I made "thinking clouds" to help me remember to ask higher level questions.  We can pull a cloud and discuss the story using the prompt.

Goal 4: Technology
I do my calendar on my Smart Board.  The activities are very interactive, and I have included lots of songs which the kids love.  A lot of the songs I use are from Jack Hartmann's Math in Motion CD.  I love how many math skills we can practice during this time!
The kids have started to use Kid Pix to write and illustrate sentences.
We still need to learn how to login using their personal logins/passwords.  Right now we are using a generic student login which makes saving work more complicated.  My goal is to have them start using their own logins this week so they can save directly to a folder on the shared drive.  I have created a class blog on Kidblogs for the class to share their work.  All that is left is to get a few more students' work uploaded and then send the link to the parents.  I am very excited about using the blog as a digital portfolio of our work this year!  I have found Kathy Cassidy's website very helpful for blogging inspiration and tools.

Overall, I feel pretty good about my progress toward my goals.  If I could just get the organization thing down...a few more hours in a day would be helpful!