Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Than One Right Answer

I was reminded of something very important this week. It happened while reading Q is for Duck, with a charming 2nd grade girl. The book matches each letter of the alphabet with something that begins with a different letter and asks the question, "Why?". The subtitle tells us it is an alphabet guessing game, and guess she did. She came up with some great guesses to connect the given letter with the animal on the page. They were every bit as good as the answers the author chose. I watched her disappointment when she turned the page, and read a different answer than she gave.

I think kids get used to being right or wrong, so it was important to me to help her understand that her responses were different than those chosen by the author, but they were not wrong. She was thinking so hard that I could practically see the wheels turning as she thought of words that would work. Here are some of her guesses.

B is for dog. Why? The author chose bark. My young reader chose best friend.

F is for bird. Why? The author chose fly. My young reader thought of flap because a bird flaps its wings.

G is for horse. Why? The author chose gallop. My young reader picked giddyup.

M is for cow. Why? The author chose moo. Both milk and mammal were my young reader's good suggestions.

I applaud this young lady's creativity and am glad for the lesson she taught me while I was tutoring her.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Place Value Cups

I've kept busy this summer helping elementary students develop an understanding of math. One of their favorite activities is using Place Value Styrofoam Cups. I saw this idea on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.

We use the cups to:
     understand place value
     practice counting forward and backward
     learn the names of large numbers
     decompose numbers to expanded form

I've given cup sets to several teachers and they have reported very positive results. This prompted me to write directions for making them. The directions are a FREE download on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Registration is required, but there is no cost to join. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

T - H - E - Y THEY

From OpenClipArt.org -   johnny_automatic    
As I was walking into the lunchroom last week, a very young boy looked up at me, winked, and said, "T - H - E - Y, they!" It took me just a minute to remember him. He was in a kindergarten word study group I taught one day the prior week. I had told the group that I used to spell and say my words in a chant to get them stuck in my head, and I demonstrated, "T - H - E - Y, they!" This little boy and I crossed paths several more times, and each time he winked and chanted the spelling of a word. I don't know if the chants are helping him learn his spelling words; I do know that he added fun to my day each time I saw him.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Is That All There Are?

From OpenClipArt.org - PeterM
Is this how most students react to learning multiplication facts?
How much time is spent at school and home working on learning these facts?
Would many students say that frustration is a synonym of multiplication?

Have you ever thought about the number of possible products when multiplying the numbers 1 through 10? I hadn't until I started designing a multiplication game. I discovered the answer is 42. Not only that, but half of them are either one-digit numbers or multiples of 10. That leaves just over 20 numbers to learn.

Maybe kids could learn faster, and with less frustration, by thinking about and understanding how numbers relate to each other. In other words, by developing number sense.

100 Chart for Multiplication

Friday, March 2, 2012

Marvelous Math Play Date

From OpenClipArt.org - jhnri4
Everyone who regularly reads my blog knows I love to play math with kids. This week I had an amazing math play date with a second grade class. My hat is off to schools and teachers that are transforming the sage on the stage into a guide on the side. This practice is especially effective in math because students have the opportunity to solve problems in a way that makes sense to them. I was thrilled to observe what second graders can do when encouraged to figure it out for themselves.

The kids were writing, solving, and explaining their own multiplication problems involving teams of players, candles in holders, and spiders' legs. One girl said there were 9 spiders with 8 legs per spider, so there were 72 total legs. She explained that she knew that 10 eights equals 80, so she took 1 eight away, and that left 72. Yes!

A boy chose 51 teams of 5 players. He figured out there were 255 total players this way: 20 teams had 100 players, another 20 teams had 100 more players, 10 teams had 50 players, which left 1 team of 5 players. Wow!

Another boy explained his answer of 28 total candles in 4 candle holders with 7 candles in each by saying he knew that 2 sevens equals 14 and that would be half, so he added 14 and 14 and got 28. I love it!

I'm sure many classes are anxious for math time to end, but not this class. They chose to spend their milk break time explaining the problems they created and the solutions they discovered. I was having as much fun as they were.

Here's to putting away the mad minutes and letting kids amaze themselves and their teachers with what they can accomplish when given the opportunity to think.

Update - March 9, 2012

I had the pleasure of watching the same second grade class work their math magic all week. Here's one more example:
There are 23 bags with 14 balls in each, plus 7 extra balls. How many balls are there in all?
One student explained that ten bags had 140 balls and another ten had another 140 balls, so that was 280. Then he said he knew that three 14s were the same as six 7s, and that three 7s equals 21, so three bags had 42 balls. 280 + 42 + 7 extra = 329 balls. Marvelous thinking!

I wondered how the older students who grew up on more traditional math instruction would take to solving problems with more thinking/reasoning and less memorization of algorithms/strategies. I can report that they are doing just fine. I got to spend one math session with a sixth grade class while they worked out problems with partners. It was great fun to watch and listen as they thought and talked their way through the assignment. Active engagement at its best!

Go Spencer Tigers!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pencil Tapping - A Learning Opportunity

I've been doing a lot of thinking about ways to help students understand inference. It all started during a reading intervention last week. Third graders were working on the inference strategy, and I asked them to tell me what they knew about inferences. The response was blank looks and silence. I went through the usual explanation without seeing any evidence of understanding. Noticing that one boy was tapping his pencil, I gently put my hand down on the pencil and asked him what he thought I would like him to do. He replied, "You want me to stop tapping my pencil." When I exclaimed that he had made an inference, the discussion and learning took off. The kids came up with some great examples of inferences that could be made in various situations.

This led me to investigate methods of helping students to become better readers by improving their ability to make inferences when they read. I found some great ideas:

A third grade class in Connecticut made this video on inferences - Mr. Salsich's class explains inferences

Learning how to infer with riddles - Inference Riddle Game, and with rhymes - Guess Who

Some good pictures for inference - Inferring from pictures

Another third grade class uses VoiceThread to make inferences about pictures - Mrs. Trivette's class on VoiceThread

This website developed by the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board has super activities for kids involving lots of reading strategies, including inference. A key to enter the kids' section is freeInto the Book

These entertaining and informative YouTube videos are also from the group in Wisconsin - Storylords

And to think that all of this interest, inquiry, and investigation started with a tapping pencil. I may never again view that as a disturbance. Then again ...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fun Friday

Fifth grade language arts and science classes at Spirit Lake Middle School were especially interesting last Friday. In language arts, I got to watch the results of the Snack Attack assignment. The students had been asked to develop a presentation that detailed the process of making their favorite snacks. It was an introductory assignment designed to give them experience for a future and more comprehensive presentation. On Friday, several students did Keynote (PowerPoint) presentations, and one played a video that showed her actually making the snack while she explained the process. The presentations were creative, entertaining, and informative.

I had heard that I should prepare myself to be amazed in science, and I found that to be true. The students conducted an investigation/demonstration which resulted in a fabulous, foamy substance called elephant toothpaste. With goggles on, one student held up the flask he was carrying to his table and exclaimed, "I feel like a real scientist!" Learning has never been more fun! The students were totally engaged, and many recorded their scientific discoveries with their webcams so family and friends could see the young scientists at work. If you are in need of elephant toothpaste, the recipe is included in this YouTube video.