Saturday, November 12, 2016

Multiplication Madness!

Where did the last month go?! Fall is in full-swing with math workshop! I've found that when we spend enough time early in the year on place value and number sense, teaching multiplication and division go much more smoothly. We always begin exploring abstract concepts with concrete manipulatives. Base 10 pieces are some of my favorite.
As I pose various multiplication problems, student use the base 10 pieces to build & solve. This leads naturally into learning about area model and partial products (again, place value is the basis for these). We move from building multiplication problems to learning how to record our process on paper.
For homework, instead of giving a worksheet with numerous problems, I've been giving 1 problem and students solve using at least 4 different methods. They LOVE this and for me it's time-saving because it's self-checking; all four solutions should be the same answer!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Multiply the Fun

There's just something about technology that motivates my students! Practice multiplication? Groans fill the room. Practice the same multiplication BUT use an iPod to scan QR codes? My kids can practice for hours!!
Third grade ends with students learning 2-digit x 1-digit multiplication problems. Fourth grade should ideally begin with my kids knowing this so we can move on. Alas, it is not always the case! Before we can move on to multi-digit x multi-digit multiplication, my students need lots of practice with just 1-digit! These Fall Multiplication Task Cards are an independent activity that my students use during Math Workshop. (You can read more about that here.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Erosion Extravaganza!

Although I've taught fourth grade for the last 20 years, either my grade level partner or a science teacher had taught science. My specialty was Social Studies. . . soooo . . . new partner this year and new science standards, I was eager to learn more about NGSS and start teaching science!
Since our earth science unit, Earth's Systems, connects so perfectly with our Social Studies unit on geography and landforms, we decided to start with 4-EEE2-1: Students can make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation. 

My partner and I planned an Erosion Extravaganza day! The class had already learned about landforms and formed them using Play-Doh (you can read about that here). After watching this erosion video,


we divided up our grade level into 3 groups: one group explored erosion and weathering using chocolate chip cookies. The second group was outside experimenting with sand trays and the effects of water on landforms, and the third rotation was annotating passages and taking notes on erosion and various types of rocks. (We had our teaching assistant and two parent volunteers supervising in that room).

During our cookie rotation, we reviewed the 3 types of physical/mechanical weathering:
  • Temperature: rub hands together to make heat, then hold a section of the cookie (chocolate chips melt)
  • Wind: rub two cookies together to see how wind rubs against rocks, creating deposits
  • Water: place a chunk of cookie in water, crumbs disperse and start separating from the main chunk (rock deposits form)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Apples are Not Just for Eating!

There's nothing like a good STEM challenge created by my friend, Kerry Tracy, to motivate students and engage them in problem solving and engineering design. 
Aligned with the NGSS, this activity challenged students to create headgear (using limited materials) to hold an apple during a relay race. Student used pipe cleaners, tape, rubberbands, cardboard, tape, and string. These challenges always amaze me at how readily students jump in and start exploring with materials.
Some of their headgear were very creative! However, not only did the apple have to stay balanced on the child's head, but it had to be easily passed to the next team member.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What's my Number? A Place Value Game

For some reason, place value is sometimes a difficult concept for students to grasp.  Place value flip books? Check. Building with Base 10 pieces? Check. Number lines? Check. Most of you know that I'm big on getting kids to think & justify their thinking: time for a GAME!
Just the word "game" has my class excited about whatever we are learning!  Always a favorite "board game" is Mastermind, the logic game where players have to guess their partner's color pattern. They use logic to make deductions about the pattern.  In comes Digit Mind, the place value version of this game!

With a partner, students pick a "secret" 3-digit number.  Each time someone guesses, the other person tells how many digits in the guess are correct and how many of those digits are in the right place.  (But they do NOT tell which digits are correct.)
This becomes a process of elimination, using previous clues. After playing a couple rounds of class vs. the teacher (which they LOVED), partners were ready to pair off. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Let's Get Logical: Back to School Style

So much focus these days is on memorization of facts, but that does not require real thinking.  (In fact, Dr. Jo Boaler from Stanford University, claims that it is even harmful to children!) To read more about the latest research on effective math practices, click here
Getting children to practice thinking and forming logical conclusions is helpful in so many areas (plus it's fun)! My students LOVE using School Supplies Logic Task Cards! They read clues regarding the amount of objects in a group, while using pencil, ruler, and scissors tiles as manipulatives.
 Although some students may not need the physical tiles, actually moving pieces around to compare, and building amounts and touching the school supplies helps to make the abstract problems become concrete.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Play-Doh in 4th Grade? Yes, please!

I know I have work to do when I mention science and students groan. Whaaaat?! Who doesn't love science? Solution? Play-Doh! Linking up today with Laura over at A Grace-Filled Classroom for Classroom Ideas.
One of our fourth grade Earth's Systems NGSS standard (4-ESS2-1) is to make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.  Since my husband and I are BIG National Parks fans, we try to visit them and get out into nature as often as we can! (And I'm sure you know that 2016 is the centennial of the national parks so all fourth graders & their families are FREE!! However, fourth grade teachers are not free. . . sigh. . .)

Anyway, landforms and the effects of weathering and erosion is SO cool to see in person. I never get tired of looking at majestic mountains,  hiking through deep canyons or being awed by natural landforms. Since I take A LOT of photos, I put them altogether in a powerpoint to show my kids. Many of them have never been to a national park, and their mouths dropped open when I showed them the pictures. This evolved into my Landforms Photo File, which includes all the teaching points to go along with the pictures. (This is my cheat sheet as I teach!) Click on the photo below to learn more.
But looking at pictures is not enough; I wish my kids could experience the landforms, as well. In comes the Play-Doh. (The Dollar Tree had 4 packs for a dollar.) As we learned about each landform, students worked in partners to build, mold, roll, pinch, and shape the landforms.
 They LOVED working with the Play-Doh & it doesn't stick to the desk or stain hands. Easy clean up and rapt attention!