Sunday, April 29, 2012

Summer Blogging Question... with a Giveaway

I woke up at 4:00 in the morning...
Which wouldn't be bad on a school day--but it's a Sunday!
Why did I wake up?
Because I was panicking!
And why the panic?
I was plagued by this uneasy thought:

What do people blog about in the summer?
I wish I could say I made this up, but, nope! This is precisely the kind of thing that I agonize over!

Now that I have made a commitment to being a blogger,
(and I am still thankful to all of you who urged me to stick with it),
I made a promise to blog twice (or thrice!) a week.

But I wasn't a blogger last summer.
I started blogging in the fall when school was already starting.
And my school starts in September.
So I'm thinking near the end of August I will have some "Getting ready..." posts.

But what about the beginning of August?
And the last three weeks of June?
And, Lord help me, what about July?! 

I don't want to go to detention for unfinished homework (again).
Maybe I will feel less anxious if I have some ideas.

And there's a treat...

I'm hoping that your comment lands on my favorite number
(which I won't divulge... but it's somewhere in the archives so I can't lie about it!).
If it does, there's a $20 Starbucks gift card waiting for you.
(If your name doesn't link back to your blog, please leave your e-mail address).

The Giveaway will end on Friday, May 4th, so don't forget to leave a comment.
And if you're not already a follower, I hope that you'll consider joining in...

Maybe an iced mocha, a passion tea lemonade, or a caramel frappuccino will be by your side
when YOU are blogging this summer.

So here's the prompt: What will YOU be blogging about this summer?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Table Top Dividers for Tests... and Other Activities.

Well... two firsts have occurred!
First first: My real life got in the way of my blogging life. And I have to say I didn't like it!

Testing is a week away and it seems as if I am either trying to teach forty-three skills before The Test, or I am trying to design an interesting way to review eighty-seven skills before The Big Day (and the three that follow!)

Second first: I just found out how difficult it is to take pictures of cardboard and plywood. Who knew?!
And that's what this post is about!

After teaching a million thirty years, I am continually amazed that some of my best teaching skills and materials have been acquired in the last five years. I have often found myself saying (out loud/to myself): Why didn't I learn THAT earlier?!

And so it is with my plywood and cardboard combo.

I have tried a lot of test dividers. I've purchased some, borrowed some and created some. And then a few years ago, I saw this variation in a first grade room. I borrowed one of the "bases" and asked a handy daddy {rolls eyes}  to re-create a set.

The "bases" are 1 x 4 inches One zip down the center with a table saw and we were ready to go!

And the "chipboard" is 9 by 12 inches. The cardboard can be placed in the base horizontally or vertically--depending on what you are planning to do.

We use the dividers for tests all year long. In fact, it is commonplace for a student to say, "Should I pass out out blocks and boards?"

Best of all, these little gems are called into service for other activities too! We use them when we play a game called Map-O, where we practice using latitude and longitude in a "Battleship" knock off that we call "Gereenpeace." (And Farley's Angry Birds game springs to mind, as well!)

We use these when we practice following directions to have students create "matching pictures."

We use them for any partner game where we say, "One two, three, reveal!"

Best of all when we are not hiding our work from one another, these become our mobile clipboards.  Cheap--and not a disaster if they are accidentally destroyed or left behind.

Back to testing...
I've currently adorned our dividers for our practice testing. The kids enjoy the encouragement--and have looked forward to a different character each day. (And I always love a chance to smile at DJ Inkers graphics!)

During REAL testing, of course, our blocks-and-boards will be blank. No print allowed.

We already have most things removed and/or covered up, and everything will be down next week. Our classroom looks pretty drab and bare these days!
Lately, I have found myself laughing every time I see words printed on apparel.
Will I need to say: Here is some masking tape to cover up that word on your shoe. We wouldn't want to remind people to use a capital letter in brand names...

Or: You will need to turn your shirt inside out--those words might be on The Test--no spelling or punctuation clues allowed...

There are words hidden in funny places in our room too. Today I noticed the heater is labeled!

Then again, every child can get a word of encouragement if you are lucky enough to have a SMART board... and it doesn't have to be turned on!

If you haven't finished yet, GOOD LUCK on The Test. And if you are lucky enough to be done, CONGRATS!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Algebra Pieces, Differentiation, and Fixing a Mistake

I know that six plus one is seven.

Really, I do.

And I am sure that re-posting information from an earlier post is expressly forbidden in the Blog Rules of The Universe.

However,  I am also thinking there is a caveat somewhere that says: If your picture--in a post about algebra--suggests that six plus one is eight, you have an exemption...
And you are allowed, actually encouraged, to post a fix-up!
I have been fretting about my algebra post for a while.  Most of my posts don't get a lot of views, and I used to just move on to creating the next installment, hoping that someone would find something they liked or could use.

And then Pinterest hit the scene!

Of all the things I have posted on my blog, only a few have achieved multiple pinnage: my TBA freebie, my desktop organizer, and the "Connections" anchor charts.

And an algebra activity.
An algebra activity where 6 + 1= 8!!!

Apparently I took the picture after a child arranged the "like terms"... and then I never looked at the answer.
A very nice "Anonymous" commenter wrote: "Shouldn't the constant be 7 (not 8) in your photo example?"
In other words, "Hey, BlogGirl! 6 + 1 is not now and never will be 8!"

So I am re-sharing bits and pieces of the old post... with added details and some differentiation in case you have students with varying needs in your math class or group.

Details on playing or reviewing are detailed below! And you will notice that  6 + 1 is now (happily) 7! How long do you think it will it take for me to contact all those friends who pinned the picture with the incorrect answer...


Algebra Deja Vu, Take 2

If you're like me, money is short and time is limited.  Still, you want to provide opportunities for math instruction (and interaction) that are beyond paper-and-pencil.

If you are REALLY like me, you just want another excuse to cut up colored cardstock on your 1993 vintage paper cutter! (Aren't you glad you're NOT like me?)

Here's a quick game that helps kids practice combining like terms.
I always like to do a few games like this early in the school year.  Afterwards, the sixth graders often ask, "When can we do algebra again? Algebra is fun!"  Isn't that music to a teacher's ears!

Here are the cards you will need for this activity. Click on the picture to take you to the document.

Sometimes I have the kids roll an 8-sided dice to determine how many cards they will use (Rolling a 1 or 1 2 is an automatic Roll Again)

So a card selection might look like this:

Need to differentiate?
Start with only the cards that have positive terms and integers (then the problem will only involve addition)

Need to differentiate further?
Limit the choices to one variable and the unit cards


If you have children who have some academic/mathematic struggles, there are still ways of adapting the materials so that these students are playing right alongside their peers.  For example, the students can use cards with only whole numbers (no variables). Manipulatives can also be added to support students working with whole number cards--or even a calculator.


To adjust the activity to include a peer with more significant needs, a set of cards with dots or squares can be prepared. so that a student with special needs can still play along--with adapted materials.

Even these cards can have varying levels of difficulty--shapes in a row are easier to count than shapes not in a row.

I posted the page on in editable format (I think), so you can make the cards easier or more difficult to suit the needs of your kiddos.

You can have students work in a center or work on their own as part of practice and review with a circulating adult. In this case, students need their own materials.

If you have one of those "Can-I-Help-You?" Pals with scissors and a smile, you can get out of cutting too!  (I, of course, have offered to cut the pieces for other classes! Crazy, I know!)

I am more inclined to have students work cooperatively in partnerships.
Just run off enough pages on cardstock to have a set for each two or three kids.  (I've never tried it with four... but if they can collaborate and cooperate, good on you!). You may want to run off more than one page of cards to increase choices.

The outcome of the activity looks like this. The students has drawn cards, written an expression with the like terms together, and then combined like terms in an expression.

Interactive play is summarized below:

I'll speak of twosomes because some of my kids are still at the "learning to survive in a partnership" stage.  We've done the conceptual part of the learning and a funny intro with cotton balls (Ahhh... material for another post!), so this is just a warm-up/practice.  I usually have kids work on whiteboards, but paper folded into eight squares would work fine too.

Each player chooses two cards initially.  They work together to combine like terms, discussing putting the variables in alpha order with units at the end of the expression.  I usually have to remind them that this is not an equation; we're not solving, just practicing combining the terms.  They talk about it and write the expression on the white boards. This is, obviously a precursor to solving equations, we're just not there yet.

After they have chatted about several combinations, I ask each partner to choose three cards--making a total of six.  If you're brave and they're ready, you can have them play "Write. Share. Compare"

After looking at the cards, each partner writes the expression.  They count "1-2-3- Share" and then compare.  If there is a discrepancy, they talk it through.  I love to hear:  "Oooooh. I get it now!"

I hope that someone can adapt this activity for her/his class. And I hope you'll let me know if it works for you.

Mostly I hope that your students will have fun!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Taxed and Tagged

I just read the title again and laughed (It takes so little...)

Want to help solve a mystery?
Scroll down to the cute, colorful frame.
Have you seen this before?
It wasn't on the side of a milk carton, but I am desperately trying to find its origin!

YIPPEE! Thanks, Miss T.  You solved our mystery!
The cute clip art came from Michelle Tsivgadellis! Check out Michelle's collections at her TPT store by clicking on the picture below.