Challenge and Response with the Lightning Thief

We have been working our way through the first several chapters of The Lightning Thief as we brave our cold winter weather.  Today I wanted to share with you the Challenge/Response work that we've been doing as we learn more about Percy Jackson.  I have been asking my students to cold read chapters.  Basically this just means to read the assigned chapter for homework before I talk to them about it.  I think this is important because they need to practice the stamina of reading lengthy passages on their own.  I feel like sometimes we spend so much time prepping with vocabulary and background knowledge that our students don't really have to read the chapter or passage or story to get the "gist" of it.  Even my low readers have figured out how to slack off on a chapter and get away with it.  Just being honest friends, you know they do it.  One way that helps guarantee the cold read is to have students use post it notes and tag specific information.  For the first few chapters of our novel, we looked at Challenges and Responses of Percy.
At first, I did this assignment with my students, modeling what I was looking for.
I talked to my students about looking at Chapter 1 and finding a Challenge that Percy had to face.  Then we had to look critically for the Response that Percy had to the Challenge.  Finally, I wrote what I could infer about Percy's character.  
Next, I had my students go through the chapter in their triad groups and model the same behavior.  They wrote the Challenge/Response on index cards and then shared the inferences with discussion.  My students continue this technique when they read and we add to the charts in our room about Percy's character.  This helped us as we started to look at the archetype story of The Hero's Journey.  I'll blog about that soon.  My students did a fabulous job looking at this story structure! 

How do you insure that your students do your "cold read?"  Do you teach the Hero's Journey?  I would love to hear how you use it in your classroom!

Don't forget.. There is still another day to pick up this awesome Tricky Math bundle from Educents.
There is also a huge TpT sale starting tomorrow!  My store in on sale.   I'm getting ready to use my Salt in His Shoes activity as I begin my biography writing unit.
It's a great way to introduce biographies and how we can pull character traits for writing from picture books.  I'm also using the inspirational quotes to reinforce our character ed curriculum and as a way to create leads when we write.


Mathematical Monday... Starting our Ratios Unit

Today we started our unit on Ratios and Rates  This is a pretty big concept for my class. I think it represents close to 40% of the questions on our state assessment, so we will be under I little extra pressure for mastery of these topics.  I'm linking up with Jessica over at
I {heart} Recess for Mathematical Monday.
I start every one of my units off with a little vocabulary and a few foldables for our interactive math notebooks.  Here is a snapshot of some that I'm using for this unit.

I'm trying to incorporate a little sports into our work.  Basketball is in full swing and everyone is gearing up for baseball preseason workouts here.
A few other items that I'm using sets of Ratio and Rate Task Cards.  I made a set to practice word problems.  These are more like our constructive response questions where you have to show work in your response.  You can check them out {HERE} if you would like.
I use them in review, usually printing two per page and have my students rotate through centers for practice.  i also made a set of Ratio and Rate multiple choice cards.  We found through our data analysis that our students were having trouble with multiple choice questions, so I made a set of 40 cards that cover ratios and rates with varying degree of difficulty.  You can check them out {HERE} if you would like.
I'll be using these in our interactive notebooks.  I'm guessing you have also heard about the big TpT sale that is going on Thursday and Friday this week.  My store will be part of the sale.  Everything will be on sale!  By using the code TPT3 you can get an extra 10% so you can add those ratios products to your wishlist and get them at a steal at the end of the week!
I'm linking up with a few other awesome bloggers and sellers.  Check them out!


Sparking Student Motivation with a little March Madness: Pregame!

Right now, basketball is king in my neck of the woods.  I mean, how can you not be full of ALMOST March Madness when you live in the Orange Nation.
My Smarties LOVE basketball.  I think it is one of the only things that actually gets us through the LoNg, lOng LoNG, Cold winter.  I used a little of that love of basketball spark a little student motivation, so I'm linking up with one of my BBBs, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her weekly linky party.
I set up a little tournament play in my classroom.  

I created a series of Math Tournament Rounds to challenge my students and review a few math skills before our assessment.  Lucky for me my good friend Diane at Fifth in the Middle had already created a Basketball Madness packet that helped save me some time.
This packet goes through a series of Rounds leading up to the finals.  It reviews Order of Operations, Place Value, Multiplication, Division, Fractions.. a ton of basic skills.  On each page problems are given a point value so I can assign my students different point values to complete per page.  Thank you Diane for creating a simple way for me to differentiate!
Basically I gave each of my students a tag and started them at Round 1.  As they completed the sheet I gave them a prize (Smarties for Round 1) and had them move their tag to the next round.  My teammate and I set a 40 minute time limit.  This was broken into two 20 minute periods because we had a half day of school  It was a perfect amount of time.

Of course I have several high achievers, who made it to Round Three.  

Friends, they LOVE this!  They love basketball, they love competition, they love prizes, and they love math! YAY!
This Basketball Madness practice is part of a set called Tricky Math that is on sale at Educents until 2/27.  It is a great deal.  $10.99 for 10 products that help you with Multiplication, Decimals and Fractions.  You can check it out {HERE}.  If you happen to be a first time buyer to EDUCENTS, you can use my {REFERRAL LINK} and get 20% off.  It's a pretty great deal!


Hop Right Up and Practice those Fractions and Mixed Numbers on Tried it Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday friends!  I'm linking up with my friend Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday!

Three times a year we benchmark our students in Reading and Math.  We then create a "golf score," to determine which Tiered levels our students are placed in.  Classroom teachers are responsible for Tier 1 intervention.  This past week we received the data after our January benchmarking.  I have a few students I need to keep track of, and I personally added a couple more to make sure that they did not sip below our achievement line.
I meet with these smarties during our ECL time, which as I explained before is a team study hall.  Last week I began a review of fractions.  I know this concept is always difficult for my students, so we went right back to the basics of simplifying fractions and changing fractions between mixed and improper.

One of the items that I used after we did a basic review were a set of Froggy Task Cards from Emily at I Love My Classroom.  The cards are an awesome formative assessment for me.  In middle school, I don't have a ton of time for center work in math, so I have to use my task cards in different ways.  Because I was meeting with two different RTI groups having different needs, I used these cards in two different ways.  My first group still needs a little bit of help and prompting.  They are also my wiggle worms, so I like to get them moving.  I put the task cards up in the hallway and had them work through a set of 8 at time.  I don't keep the groups for the entire period, so I grab them for quick 10 minute intervals 2-4 times a week depending on what else is going on.  Remember, these aren't my rock bottoms, these are my students that are wavering on the dip.

The second group I was ready to give a formative to this week, so I had them practice using a scantron as well.  Again I used the task cards to help me.  I mean who doesn't love task cards that can serve more than one task... and FROGS.. Don't get me started!  This group sat individually with 15 cards and used them to take a "test" on the fractions.  I love the scantrons too because 1, they are easy to zip through the scanner, and 2) I can see analyze data right away and see if there are any specific questions they may have.  LOVE IT!

Interested in these task cards or a few other awesome items to help with tricky math or RTI?  Check out this bundle from EDUCENTS to help you out!  It is only $10.99 which is 70% off of what the total would be for separate purchases!  An awesome deal when we all know testing is right around the corner!  If this is your first time purchase and you use my {REFERRAL LINK} then you can get an extra 20% off.  Check it out if you are interested in adding some differentiation to your lessons or RTI.


Those Fractions and Decimals! What Tricky Math.. Great Help from Educents!

Friends, my Smarties are just finishing up with a long, long, workout with fractions and decimals.  Even though I have moved on to integers and rational numbers, those pesky fractions and decimals keep coming back to haunt us.  I'm so glad that I've come upon so many different resources for multiplication, fractions and decimals.  My Decimals Scoot and Task Cards have been a life saver for me over the past few weeks.  I've been pulling them out during my Core Lab time and reviewing key points with struggling students.  One of things I love about them is that they contain both computation and word problems.  I can take the basics and start slow with my kids that are really struggling.  Then, I can pull a group of my "accelerated" math students and challenge them with word problems.  Everyone gets a little extra push on their level.  

If you are looking for ways to challenge your students you may want to take a look at this amazing deal over at Educents!  I have teamed up with 5 other fantastic sellers to load your classrooms with 10 resources to help kids with this tricky math.

Along with my Decimal Task Cards and Scoot, I've also included my Lessons and Interactive Notebook Foldable for Greatest Common Factor, Least Common Multiple and Prime Factorization.  I teach these basic skills early in the year, and then revisit them several times so my Smarties retain the information. 

I always pull a little math back into my social studies unit when I teach Ancient Greece.  Have you heard of Eratosthenes?  He is an ancient Greek scientist and mathematician.  He is also a librarian who managed to measure the Earth with extreme accuracy in Ancient Greek times.  I love to read this book with them:
Erathosthenes is also the man responsible for discovering that all numbers factor themselves into primes.  It is perfect when starting to teach students about factors, fractions, and divisibility rules.  I used it as a great connection between our math lessons and ancient history.  

For a limited time the entire bundle of awesomeness for teaching those tricky math concepts is $10.99 from {Educents} which is about 70% off!  You get 10 total products which are amazing to use.  There is so much differentiation within in the pack, it will challenge both your high achievers and your struggling students!  AND!! Guess what!  This weekend you can get the bundle for $9.99, just use the sales code PRES10.  You can also link through using the Educents banner that you see on my side bar. 
If you haven't used Educents before you can become a member through this link {REFERRAL LINK}.  It will give you 20% off your first purchase! 

Multiple Choice Task Cards for Algebra and for Whole Number Operations

A few weeks ago we had a grade level data team meeting to discuss some results that were seen on our state assessments from last year.  Surprisingly, we found our students scored lower in the area of multiple choice questions than in constructive response.  Specifically, we found the questions in Expressions and Equations were difficult for them.  I'm thinking part of this is because it is the first unit that we do in the fall, and students tend to forget the little ins and outs that can easily be skipped on multiple choice questions.  I made a set of task cards for my smarties to start practicing this type of question.  I tell them they are looking to Beat the Multiple Choice Menace.  

I'm going to bring these cards our during out Core Lab time.  Basically this is the last period of our day when chorus or band meets.  Between A and B days I will see a majority of my students for a little extra practice over the next 6 week before we take our state assessment.

 I am going to have my students put the cards into their Interactive Notebooks so they can review them throughout the spring.

My plan is to have students work through the cards 4 at a time two or three times a week.  I'm also working on a set of cards about Ratios and Rate that I can mix in.  If you teach 6th or 7th grade, these cards might help your students.  You can find them {HERE}.  There are 48 in all.
If you happen to teach grades 3-5 I have also created a set for whole number operations that include question distractors.

 I'm going to throw these in the mix as well.  I think the distractors are important not only in the QUESTIONS, but in the multiple choice ANSWERS as well.  There are 32 of these.  You can check them out {HERE} if you are interested.

I"m linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It Edition.  I didn't really make anything for my home this month. I'm still cleaning out after Christmas, but I've been focusing in math on the task cards for school.

Have a great day!  Stop by and visit Tara and see what everyone has made!


Character Inferences with The Lightning Thief

My students and I are reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordin. We are really loving this novel.  I am using it to teach and practice a few close reading strategies including chunking the text with one sentence summaries and finding what I call "the gist."  Of course this is all leading to inferences and character analysis of the text.  We made a chart that dealt with character traits of Percy Jackson.  They were based on what my students noticed, and then what this made them wonder about.  I used a strategy called Carousel of Quotes.  Basically, I took a series of quotes from the first chapter and had students work in triads to discuss the quotes.  I really love this one in particular:
It always cracks me up to read the thinking of my middles. I was really happy to see that many of them could be insightful about a character.  Often I get the "He is nice, he is kind"  blah, blah, BLECH! Once we started to understand that we could learn about a character based on how other's perceived him, as well as dialogue amongst other characters we created another chart.

We went back into our text and found direct, cited evidence about Percy Jackson.  Based on this we had to share what we thought about Percy.  I pushed them to really look for evidence based on the thoughts and actions of other characters in relation to Percy.  This was difficult at first, but I've noticed as we are progressing through the text it is getting easier for them.  Every time we cold read a chapter my students are looking for this type of evidence.  The post it notes are mounting inside of the books.  Students are practicing chunking text with a purpose, which I am hoping will translate into their writing about the text this coming week.
Next up:  Challenge/Response and The Hero's Journey.  
What is keeping your students motivated during these snowy winter months?  Are you reading something that is lighting a fire with your students?  I'd love to hear about it!


Thursday Throwdown: You've Got To Move it.. Move it... Integers Number Line

Hello Friends!  I hope that most of you that live in the Northeast have managed to dig out from under the huge amount of snow that has gotten dumped on us this week.  Heavy Snow.. 10 inches of Heavy.. I had to shovel.. I'm breaking my back snow!  BLECH!  The only thing that managed to save me was thinking about my Syracuse Orangeman.. 22-0. Woot WOOT!

I'm linking up with my buddy Erin at I'm Lovin Lit this week for a little Thursday Throwdown.
We have been studying integers and rational numbers in Math.  This is the perfect time of year to teach this concept because it is relatively easy for my smarties, and with all of the snow days and students out with the flu and colds it is easy for me to reteach in small groups.  I also like these units because it is easy for my class to get up and moving around my classroom.  I often use a large number line.  I give my students integer task cards with phrases or terms and they have to line up on the number line.  I always say.. You've Got to Move it .. Move it as they move up and down the number line.  They get pretty funny about singing along when it is their turn!
The task cards look similar to this:
Once they get the hang of it I have my students choose a person and then ask them a question regarding integers.  This is always a hoot because they can get pretty tricky with each other.  Middle Schoolers always like to one up each other!  They sing the song and make the student "Move it.. Move it.." as they head to the number line or number LION.. or they aren't LYIN about absolute values when they finish.... good thing they understand puns!  When we get to rational numbers, which we started this week, I repeat this process with numbers that contain fractions and decimals.  They love repeating the process, and each time it gets more and more difficult. 
One new thing I'm going to try is giving them questions that are multiple choice in answer and response.  We recently had a data meeting for our grade level and one of the things we found was that our students ROCK the constructive response questions, and tend to tank more on the multiple choice questions.. GO FIGURE!  The number line gets my students moving around on snowy, cold, hum drum days, and it's always fun to practice the critical thinking of trying to create the ultimate stump the student question!
Do you have different ways to interact with your students?  Stop by and visit Erin to read about a few more ways.  If you are teaching integers and need a number line and task cards, you can go {HERE}

 I have put a bundle together with the foldables from my interactive notebook as well.  I'll be adding a rational numbers bundle soon!

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