Celebrating and Taking Ownership of your Learning

I've been working with my students on unpacking our standards.  I read an article about getting students to take more ownership in their learning, and I think teaching them about our benchmarks and mastery is a perfect way to do this.
We just began a new unit in math on Integers and Rational Numbers.  I have to cover TEN benchmarks in the Number Sense standard that deal with integers and rational numbers.  I projected a few of the benchmarks on the board, and we spent time discussing what each one meant, and the skills that we would cover.  We also talked about what it meant to have mastery in each skill.

My students keep a copy of our standards in the front of their math notebooks.  Included is each benchmark for our entire year.  I've begun grading assessments according to each benchmark.  This allows my students to see specifically what skill they have mastered, and what they still need to work on.  Here is an example from a Decimals test I recently gave:

On the test I covered Least Common Multiple/ Greatest Common Factor and computation of decimals in all four operations.  My Common Core standards include:
6.NS.3: Fluently add, subtract, multiply and divide multi-digit decimals using a standard algorithm
6.NS.4: Find common factors and multiples.
So I gave this test two grades.  I staple a grade sheet to the front of the test that shows the benchmark grade for each section, and then students put these grades on their benchmarks sheets in their interactive notebooks.  That way they can see what skills they have mastered and what skills they need to work more on. My students were really motivated about reaching mastery level.  They want to maintain that A/B status.

With this unit I also started including my benchmarks on the wall in my classroom.  After each assessment I post how many students reached A/B status.  I don't post individual names, I don't think that is fair.  You certainly could do this, but I like the anonymity of just A/B status.  My students want to be a part of this group.  I made a BIG BIG BIG deal out of it... passing out Mardi Gras beads to everyone that scored an A or B on EITHER benchmark, dancing, clapping, playing music.

I wanted as many students as possible to reach this point.  Especially the first time I tried it.  I was looking for some serious extrinsic motivation from this activity.  Based on their smiling faces, I think I achieved it!

I would love to hear how you motivate your students!!

Using Books and Articles to Write Authentically

Every Thursday the mayor of the small town where I work comes to read aloud to my class.  How absolutely amazing and heartwarming is it, that this man takes time out of not only his regular job, but also his mayoral duties to faithfully show up at our doorstep and spend 30 minutes with us!
During the first semester we read Wonder.  Not only was my class completely enthralled by this book, but so was our mayor.  He LOVED talking to my class about the messages in that book, and they couldn't wait to discuss the precepts with him as well.

When we finished reading the book I had my students write thank you notes to him.  Each student chose the precept that meant the most to them, and wrote a friendly letter describing the precept and an argument as to why their particular quote was the best in the book.  This was a perfect "real-world" writing activity.  My students were writing with a purpose.....to a real person!

It is so important to create situations where our students are authentically writing.  Our mayor is used to listening to arguments and solving problems.  Creating this shared sense of authenticity for my students was a perfect way to work on writing stamina and involve the skills of a "real-world adult" in the writing process.  They could practice writing in their own voices and incorporate other skills we had been working on, including determining tone in writing.

When students had finished, I also had them write letters to me for the same purpose.  I hung these up in our reading corner, and it has been interesting watching my students read each other's work and argue a little over the claims.  Isn't that what we are looking for our students to do?  Discuss and support their claims?

Want to help your student write more authentically?  Here are a few suggestions:
Invite a community member into your classroom to share information about his or her job.  Pair this experience with an informational article you have read.  Have an article on hurricanes? tornadoes? snowstorms?  Ask a meteorology professor to visit from the local college or make arrangements to Skype and interview where they can share information.  Allow your students to discuss and interact about the topic at hand.  If you need to, help them design important questions to ask this expert. After the Skype, presentation, etc.  have students write about the experience with their own claim.

Finally, Model... model... model... model.. model.  Did I say it enough?  Your students watching you model writing is one of the most authentic, powerful tools you can provide, especially if you feel you struggle yourself with writing. I know sometimes that is scary, but your students watching you do something that you are not 100% comfortable with will tell them it's OK to not be perfect either!

I'd love to hear the tools you use to create authentic writing in your classroom.  Please share your ideas!


Interactive Foldables for Fractions and Modeling Division {Mid-Week Motivation}

I was up to my ears this month in teaching fractions.  Do you love or hate teaching this unit?  I seem to have a love/hate relationship with it.  There are days when teaching the concepts is awesome.  It's like we are being served hot chocolate on the Polar Express... people are singing and dancing and just genuinely happy.  Then there are days when I feel like I'm sitting in the dentist chair waiting to get my teeth drilled.....Today I want to share a few activities that I've created and used, and I hope they can make teaching fractions a little easier for you.

One of the first things that I teach is vocabulary.  It is so important that my students are speaking math correctly every day.  Speaking the language helps us to write the language, and this is important when it comes to assessments.  I use a foldable to keep the vocabulary all in one place.

To reinforce the knowledge and vocabulary I have my students use these memory cards to play concentration.  They love to spend a little time in small groups together, and speaking math is a perfect way to spend time with friends.

I also like to use foldables to teach my students the steps to adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions.  To me it is more important to practice the steps, then to spend time writing out all the steps.  We put the foldables into our notebooks, and then leave them open while we practice using our dry erase boards.

And yes, I do teach them the modeling of multiplying and dividing fractions.  I also spend time working through dividing fractions with common denominators as well as the multiplicative inverse of Keep-Change-Flip.

When we start the our drawing models section, I tell the story of my father and baking loaves of bread.  Basically the idea that his recipe makes a certain number of loaves and I have to divide up the loaves.  Here is an example:

The idea of telling a story as we work through these problems really helps them make real world connections to the story.  One of the great things about completing the models first was I could use them to lead my students into developing their own concept for division.  This was really amazing this year. In just a few examples several figured out you could use a common denominator and make equivalent fractions, then divide the numerators and then the denominators to find the answer.  My students really caught on to this concept!  I love giving them multiple ways to solve problems, and many do a great job using math vocabulary for explanations with this type of problem solving.  I'm curious for teachers of fraction division--- do you teach your students to find a common denominator to divide?  Many of mine found it easier than the short cut this year.

I would love to hear how you incorporate vocabulary, or model drawing into your fraction lessons!
Leave a comment below and let me know!
If you need foldables for your classroom- check out my Fractions in Actions Bundle:  It includes Interactive Foldables for basic vocabulary, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; vocabulary matching cards for center work, and an interactive game you can use with any operation.
It is on sale right now on TpT for WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY if you are interested.

Have a great week!  If there are any math topics you would like me to blog about in the future, please let me know!


It's a Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Hello friends!  I'm sure that many of you have already heard, but just in case, Wednesday and Thursday there is a big sale going on at Teachers Pay Teachers where you can save up to 28% in my store by using the CODE: START16.

Check out a few of my products below.  They are major hits in my classroom!!
Don't forget to stop back tomorrow for a litte Mid-Week Math Motivation!! I'm talking fraction models and interactive notebook pieces!

Interested in foldables and interactive activites for your math block?
Try these:


How about a fun game to review and practice Greek and Latin Roots?
Do you teach Rocks and Minerals in your science class?  Try this bundle that includes CLOSE READING activities-- hello-- teaching reading across the content areas, labs, a study review and assessment.  It is one of my most wishlisted items.. If you have it on your list, grab it at this great discount!

Happy Shopping!


Language Skills Practice with Chinese New Year Activities

I just finished a MASSIVE redo of my Celebrate Chinese New Year pack.  It went from 27 pages to 85+ pages!  I am so excited to begin this in early Febraury with my students!

 I love pulling out the activities that go with Chinese New Year because they are bright and colorful, and we always need a little cheer this time of year.  This year Chinese New Year begins on February 8th.  I'm using my time off today to do a little prep work and planning.

I designed this activity packet to help my students practice fluency, reading closely, and several grammar/language based skills that they seem to have trouble with.  The packet now includes passages for all 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac.  Instead of having to re-write a passage every year I've now included all 12 animals and a calendar for animals through 2027.

I use the language skills activities in my interactive notebook.  I have students only glue down or tape the top part of each printed card.  Then they complete the answer on the inside.

When I have students use the homophone cards I add an extra challenge and have them write sentences about the Chinese New Year for the other two homophones.

I also have them create challenging sentences for combining for fellow classmates.  Many try to come up with the most difficult possible sentence, and I push my higher level students to use semi-colons as well.  It's always fun to end the week with a little writing prompt.  My students love to talk about the red envelopes that Chinese receive with money in them.  Red symbolizes luck, so I've included a quick writing prompt asking students what they would do with the money.  A second writing prompt digs a little deeper and asks students to wish a classmate luck for the coming year, and provide evidence that supports how a fellow student is similar to the current Chinese zodiac animal.  I'm looking forward to some great discussion on character traits!
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year in your classroom?  I would love to hear about the skills and activities you incorporate!


Equivalent Fractions with a Freebie {Mid-Week Math Motivation}

Hello friends!  One of my goals for 2016 is to get back into blogging more consistently.  I'm going to try and create a post mid-week (Wednesday or Thursday) that shares something I've found in math that has been helpful. My goal is to do this at least twice per month.  If I end up with 3 or even <gasp> FOUR times, awesome.. pat me on the back!  But twice is a good way for me to start.  The post  might be about a website, book, video, product, freebie or idea that I found useful, and I want to pass it on to you!

This week I've been reviewing Equivalent Fractions with my Smarties.  I have a little more work to do to wrap up dividing fractions before moving into decimals, but my kids are struggling with creating equal fractions when we review.  I always like to start my fractions unit by creating equal fractions out of construction paper.  You can read a blog post I wrote about this {HERE}.  This year I was really pressed for time before break, and I skipped over having students create posters of equal fractions.  BOY DO I REGRET THIS!  My kids can not think of equal fractions at all!  So here I am back at equal fractions, picking up the pieces of where I should have started the unit.

We began again with making anchor charts of equivalent fractions-- what is equal to  one and one half, one whole, one half, one fourth, and one third.

I divided my students up into groups of 5-6 and had them complete a gallery walk around my classroom.  They had about a minute at each poster.  They had to keep writing as many equal fractions as they could think of, but they could not duplicate any fractions that had already been written.

I did let them take their interactive notebooks with them because our fraction bars are glued in there, and I have many visual learners.  I love listening to their group conversations as they pass work at each chart.  Many started to notice mistakes.... I mean hello?  2/3 is equal to 4/12? This  was AMAZING because that was where I was headed next!
After we did the gallery walk through each poster I sent them back through again with a two minute time limit.  They had to find any mistakes on the poster and complete an error analysis telling what was incorrect, and then correcting the fraction.

This is what I think the best part of the lesson it, most definitely!

I finished this activity by giving my students a sheet with equivalent fraction cards.  They had to match the equivalent fractions and glue them into their interactive notebooks.

If you don't use interactive notebooks have students do them on a large sheet of paper and show you the results.

I let my students work together in pairs to complete this activity.  Fractions are always less scary with a buddy!  This activity gave me a great way to do a quick formative assessment of equivalent fractions and keeping them in an interactive notebook is a great reference tool.  Hang up a large sheet in your classroom as an anchor chart if you need a quick reference. If you want to use this activity with your students, feel free to download it {HERE}

Have a great week!

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