Friday, September 30, 2011

The Week Ending September 30th: Same Materials--Different Activities


My paper cutter is one of my cherished friends.
Once there was a fire in our area... and we had to decide what to take with us as we evacuated.  I admit I took a quick look at that paper cutter as I scooped up family photos and important papers!

I guess I just like cutting up colored paper!

Which is a lengthy (and just a tad unnecessary!) lead-in for my Week in Review!

Much of my week has been ho-hum because I've had a bad cold and I was just trying to get to Friday for some rest. But this set of activities was a success!

My kids are stuck on decimals.  I am trying lots of things for concept-building.  I also do "routines" (like warm up games) just to help students work with the numbers.  These activities allow me to circulate and give quick intervention and support to those who really need it.

I made the cards on colored cardstock.  Here's another tip:  I learned long ago to use a few different colors of paper.  When a card falls on the floor, I can ask, "Who had yellow cards today and is missing 4.32?"  And if I have to reorganize them later, I only have to check a few baggies.  For these lessons, I used lime, pink, yellow, aqua, orange and bright blue cardstock.  I have 34 kids, so I made 4 sets in each color.  I keep the whole set in a large baggie, label the outside, and box it later with the materials for that concept.

The cards look like this.  I re-made them on Google docs so you can use them too!

Click here to go to

Game 1:  Put Them in Order
I don't generally encourage competition between the kids.  I have a lot of strugglers, so I pair strategically and then have them compete against the timer.  Generally, I say something like:  Do you think every partnership can sort their cards in less than five minutes?  I start out with an achievable outcome so they can feel some success and then make it more difficult. 

I review what a coach does.  Coaches don't say, "Move that one..."  They ask helpful questions like, "Which one has more tenths?" or "Look at how many wholes." 

And then we sort. Usually I have a sorter and a coach.  Sometimes we play "Silent Coach."  This works best when we are near mastery, and it generally makes everyone laugh as the coach struggles to help without talking!  Obviously, we switch so both partners can have a turn.  As they get better, we try and "beat the  clock" in less time.  I ask the students to help me pick the time to beat.

One year, I got a set of bells from a kindergarten teacher.  When a partnership finishes, they ring the bell on their table (I have groups of six in my room).  This works best when I DON'T already have a headache! On a good day, the various notes of bell-ringing can sound quite cheerful!

Game 2:  Peace Not War
Leslie at Jack of All trades had a great idea!!!  Instead of dealing "one for me, one for  you," have one student make two "equal" piles, and the other one choose a pile from the two!  It works great.  Be sure to see her site for more fabulous ideas!

We are a nonviolent classroom... so "War" is out.  But we play the same card game and call it "Peace."  Makes the 'tweens laugh every time!  Cards are turned over one at a time.  The player with the highest number wins the two cards.  There is one duplicate set of numbers which causes a play-off.  It doesn't come up often, but when it does... it's extra fun!  Until they get the hang of it, there is almost always an argument about (for example) 2.7 being less than 0.6592 (after all, that last number is pretty long!)  This way the KIDS can explain for the 43rd time that "longest" number isn't always "largest," and that you compare numbers one place at a time.

Play continues until one person has ALL of the cards--not just until they play the cards that started out in their pile at the beginning of the game.  This takes some explaining at first.  Eventually, they will figure out the strategy, and they will know who will win by figuring out who holds the "greatest" number.

I will play this same game with numbers that are more similar next week.  By then, most of them should almost have a grasp on comparing decimals--with the help of their peers' instruction!

Game 3:  Add or Subtract
I do this last activity with white boards, but it could be done just as easily with paper folded into fourth (use both sides)

All of the cards are on the desk between the partners.  Each person picks one.  They look at the two cards and then decide which number is greater.  They line up the cards on their desks, with the greater number on the top, keeping the decimals IN LINE (otherwise they have a tendency to line them up by the digits on the right or the left.  Sigh.).  Here's my favorite part of this game:  They flip a two-colored disk to determine the operation.  Kids seem to think that adding should be yellow and subtracting should be red.  Happens every year! I think it's because they love adding and dread subtracting.

They do the problems "secretly" and then compare answers.  If someone has a different answer, both players check their work and explain their processes.  Funny, they don't care about "winning" in this one  And, oddly, they love it!

Well, that SUMS it up (hahaha--that's the cold medicine making me giggle).  I hope there is something that someone out there in BloggyLand can use.  I'd LOVE to see  a comment about--well, about anything!  I'd just like to know someone out there is actually reading this stuff.

The link takes you back to Clutter-Free.  Have a joyous weekend.  Hope to hear from you...


  1. First of all, I LOVE the polka dot fridge!!! Secondly - thanks for sharing the FUN games! I am really focusing on PEACE this year, so that non-violent stuff really resonates with me. And not just actions, words too! I made a bulletin board today that I'll post a picture of soon - PEACE: Have you got an APP for that? Can't wait to see how it all comes together. I found a little iPhone template that they're going to write their peace prescriptions on!!

    Thanks for weighing in on Ben's Bells - such a sweet story!

    The Corner On Character

  2. I teach Year 6 too. Found your blog via CFC - you have some great ideas. Thanks for sharing - Alex

  3. Thanks for the compliment, Alex!
    CFC was the beginning for me. I see that round blog button in my dreams!
    Thanks for checking in,


  4. Kim,

    Great site! Thanks for your insightful posts.


    Erin Klein

  5. You are an amazing teacher and an even more amazing person. What a gift it would be to have my children in your classroom!

  6. Good morning Kim and Happy October!

    I’ve nominated your blog for two awards in one. Visit the link below to copy/paste the little Blog On Fire and Versatile Blogger buttons. Share seven things about yourself and pass one of the awards (or both!) along to ten of the most versatile blogs you follow.

    Thanks for blogging; our cyberspace collaboration makes me better.

    The Corner On Character

  7. Thanks for sharing, this is exactly what I needed for my intervention group on our shortened day this week. We're going to have a decimal relay with this!
    Upper Grades Are Awesome


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