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...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I just had to!

This summer I saw a mini 'fridge on Pinterest...

Our lunch has been shortened to 30 minutes this year, and of course I am always late because of some kid calamity....

Usually I arrive in the lunch room and bemoan the fact that I have forgotten my Diet Coke yet again!

And then I remembered Pinterest.  It was a bit expensive, but...

Who can resist a pink polka-dotted mini-fridge from Pottery Barn?!   It arrived today and it is even cuter in person!  (Can you say that about a 'fridge?!)

I am trying to figure out how to hide it in my room, but still be able to see it and be tickled by how cute it is.

When things are tough in the classroom, sometimes we need to find JOY wherever we can!  (Mine is in the 'fridge!)

Happy Wednesday (Does that mean it's almost Friday?)

YIPPEE!  A give-away at Ashleigh's Educational Journey!

I think Ashleigh knows that my paycheck goes to 1) Starbucks, 2) Office Depot, 3) Amazon... and then some less-important things like house payment, electricity, and phone service!!!!

How fun!  A chance to win a $25 gift card to Amazon!

Click the link and join up too!  Thanks, Ashleigh, for the exciting addition to our week!

Ashleigh's Education Journey

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Week Ending September 23rd


It was a busy week in our classroom!

We are still reviewing routines, but things have fallen into place... well, okay, I'll admit: Some days it seems things are falling elsewhere!

We are doing word sorts in "Word Study."  Our District doesn't have a formal spelling program, so we do Sorts and I try to differentiate.  Some kids were responsible for learning meanings of new words (as part of Daily 5 work) as well.

So many "big kids" today don't have a strong grasp of phonics.  And don't get me started on their spelling!  It was pretty funny to see them concentrating so hard, murmuring "ch, ch, ch" and "zsh, zsh, zsf."  Maybe next week "shure" and "mesher" will look closer to the original!  I've attached the sort in case you have the same problem!

In Language Arts, we are working on interacting with the text, so we annotated different excerpts and asked questions of the author.  I tried a "game" called "Say Something."  Students walk around with their texts, and each time I ring the chimes, they stop and discuss their questions about the text with the person standing closest to them.  We also started a Read Aloud.  It's an "oldie-but-goodie" called Heads, I Win by Patricia Hermes.  It touches on respecting differences (socioeconomic ones, in particular).  Kids love the author's sense of humor (which can be a little over the top, so I have to censor occasionally).  It's great to see something that holds the attention of 34 kiddos for longer than 2 minutes!

We're still working on linking decimal quantities to fractions.  Using the colored dot dice I mentioned in a previous post, we play one of several variations of a game called ZAP.  The object is to get one whole frame filled with tenths and hundredths before you roll a ZAP.  You need to exchange (1 tenth for 10 hundredths) as you accumulate pieces--and sometimes break them apart when you need to subtract.  It was loud, but fun, and some of my strugglers are beginning to catch on.

We are working on geography before we study ancient civilizations in social studies.  It was AMAZING to me that very few kids could name the continents and oceans--and that Orlando, Texas, and China had apparently been designated, without my knowledge, to continent status!.  Here's the song I taught them to try to cement these details in their brains.  It may be primary (great for second or third grade), but we'll call it review and move on!

We also started Literature Response Logs this week.  Each week, the students write a letter to me in their Response Notebook (AKA spiral!) about their reading.  It works out to 8 or 9 kids each day) and I write a few notes back.  I can already tell I will be a maniac trying not to fall behind on this one, but some of them were really excited about writing letters.  I guess that just proves you never know what will catch their interest!

I'm looking forward to a new week of learning together...

Here's the link back to the Linky Party..