Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fairy Tale Favorites!

Fairy tales invite students to think about short stories in new, exciting, and creative ways. Here are some of our favorite activities that focus on character in grades 4 and up.

Poetry & Art: Character
I invite students to create diamante poems that either show the changes in a single character or contrast two characters. After writing a poem, students create background displays. Here's how...

First, think of a prominent feature from the book that is fairly easy to define in an chunky outline, like a beanstalk (right) or stars (left.) Then, make shape templates out of cardboard scraps and use teeny pieces of tape to mount them on background paper.

Spray them with tempera paint that has been watered down just slightly...enough so it will go through a spray bottle. (Test this ahead of time and remind students that less is more. Too much spray will give you "lake effect poetry.")

When dry, remove templates and write the poem. A couple colored construction paper cut-outs help the artwork to "pop" and give it more depth. I use this tempera spray art for a variety of poetry-art projects. Students always love it!

Character Study Sheets

"Character analysis"'s not a phrase that brings students running. But what if you change it up a bit? How about scoring characters on report cards? It's so much fun to consider...

What grade might you give Red Riding Hood for "follows instructions?"
How about Cinderella's stepsisters? What grades might they receive for "gets along well with others?"

Character Report Card

Character: Adjective Scale
Throw in a few adjectives--and their opposites--and you've got the makings of more creative character analysis.

On a scale of 1-10, how might you rate each of the three pigs for lazy versus industrious behavior? How would Hansel and Gretel score on impulse control? The possibilities are endless...

Casting Characters
Finally, what if you got to cast characters in a movie production? Can you describe each character and cast a famous actor or actress in the roles?

I love teaching short story through folk and fairy tales! Read more about our unit adventures here and here.

You can also preview the character analysis sheets here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Art & Poetry: Winter Art from the Heart

I spent the morning with an incredible group of (almost 30!) second graders, creating winter scenes.

In preparation for their scenes--and for poetry writing--we brainstormed nouns, verbs, and adjectives that they might find in a book with the subject of "winter." They came up with fabulous lists.

I am tickled with how these turned out. On another day, they'll complete poems to go on the back of each winter scene. Here are a few to share...

Wisemen, angel, Mary & Joseph

Notice the "naughty" list?

Love the reindeer.

Wreaths on the fence are a nice touch.

So much detail. Love the colored birds.

Now THAT is an angel! (And what a Rudolph!)

Check out the Grinch!

Frozen comes to life! The kids started singing spontaneous carols--and the Frozen tunes--while they worked!

Penguin habitat!

Tree is all decorated.

Angel AND Santa!

Displays for a class of 30 kids takes up a lot of counter space! :)
You'll find the updated lesson here. (If you've already purchased it, please download your free revision with winter scenes.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Math in Real Life: Brownies for a CROWD!

I love exploring "real life" math with students. Today I'm excited to be linking up with:

 A monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by

A month ago, my family attended an annual camp retreat. When I walked in the kitchen and saw this...

...I knew it was time for real life math. My sister, the baker, was in the process of preparing brownies for 150. Here's her recipe:

Thankfully, a computer program converts a standard brownie recipe to serve 150. But the question do you convert fractional parts of quarts, gallons, tablespoons, etc.? And what does that equal in portions that bakers are likely to find friendly? For example:
  • How many cups of cocoa power, sugar, and flour are needed?
  • How many sticks of butter?
In the kitchen, this chart is posted on a nearby cabinet. 

Using that chart, she made some delicious brownies! Can you figure out exactly how much of each ingredient she used?

What other "real life" math moments do you see in this activity?

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Sale, Calendar, & Events!

So much going on this month! Sales, freebies, math hops and more!

Today kicks off TPT's Cyber Monday & Tuesday sale. Save up to 28% by using the promo code TPTCYBER at checkout.

In my store you may want to check out the "Presents."

Presenting...Multiples & Factors
These little factor and multiple flap book "presents" require students to write the definition of "factor" and "multiple" and list 5 multiples for 2-10 and all the factors for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 18,  24, 36. Blank versions are also included for teachers or students who want to use their own numbers. Great for use in math notebooks!

Presenting...Powers of Ten (pictured below)

Color, cut, and glue these little "present" flap books to review place value and decimal patterns when multiplying or dividing by powers of 10. On each sheet students solve nine problems and write descriptions of the patterns they observe. Blank versions are also included for teachers or students who want to use their own numbers. Revised **TODAY** to almost double the content! If you've previously purchased the product, you can download the revised file for free!

December Math Calendars
As always, the NRICH site is sharing online math holiday calendars...a problem each day for the days leading up until Christmas.  Visit them here, by level:

Primary Calendar (British Stages 1-2*)
Secondary Calendar (British Stages 3-5)

iHeart Math Holiday Hop!
23 math bloggers have joined up to offer a season of mathematical tips and freebies!You can begin today by visiting Mr. Elementary Math.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Counting Backward...and Why It Matters

By this time in the school year, many of my first grade friends are pretty comfortable with counting forward. Sometimes it sounds like this, in warp speed:


But ask them to start with a number other than one and everything changes:

Count from 5 to 13.

Count from 18 to 25.

Count from 23 to 31.

Suddenly, student comfort levels become more apparent.

But if you really want to know how fluent students are with number sequence, ask them to count BACKWARD.

Quite a few will rattle off 10 - 1. But ask them for other sequences and you'll soon discover things you might not have known.

Count backward from 13 to 5.

Count backward from 17 to 9.

Count backward from 27 to 19.

I've recently been doing some intervention work in first grade. Some students can slowly and methodically count back. Others really struggle. In a few cases, I would never know about their lack of confidence with number sequencing if I had only asked them to count forward.

It's interesting to see what strategies they use. Today I watched one little boy do this:

17, um...

(whisper counts on his fingers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7...6),


(whisper counts on his fingers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,...5),

15, etc...

Based on his whispers, it appears that he understands that the order of numbers repeats in the teens, but he must go back through the single digit numerals to figure out which ten & something digit comes next.

Some kids need written support to count backward. If they ask for help, I write their responses in a double ten frame as they count:

27, um..., 26

I continue writing, recording each number as they say it:

After working with a hundreds grid for quite a while, the double ten frames look pretty familiar and they can usually relate to the decade numbers being on the far right.

Robert Wright's (et al) book, Teaching Number in the Classroom with 4-8 year-olds, has many ideas about the relevance of backward number sequences in mathematics. Here's a sample:
"Children might omit a word in the backward sequence which they do not omit in the forward sequence, for example, sixteen, fifteen, thirteen, twelve, and so on. This error can be persistent and can result in errors when using the backward sequence for subtraction, for example, 17-4 as sixteen, fifteen, thirteen, twelve!." (p. 35)
 What insights have you gained from asking students to count backward?

Monday, October 27, 2014

October: Art & Math Classroom Activities

I'm back from a brief trip to Disneyland with my husband and youngest two boys.

That's me in the front seat at Space Mountain = sheer terror. Don't let the closed eyes on the kiddo fool you. He was fearless...the only one in our family who wanted to do California Screamin' again. Apparently we have a roller coaster kid on our hands.

Today we're taking it easy. A little soccer. A little Halloween art for Fearless and I. We're doing a fall version of Poetry & 3-D Art for Every Season* with a 3-D Halloween display and diamante poem:

Spooky, Dark
Howling, Creeping, Blowing
Pumpkins, Ghosts, Spiders, Webs
Dinging, Tricking, Treating
Fun, Sugary

I love how these 3-D projects look on display. And the artwork inspires kids to write, write, write! The fall season could feature scenes with leaves, corncobs, blowing trees, scarecrows...anything from autumn.

*This has been updated on TPT to reflect the photos shown here! On sale til Halloween. :) If you've previously purchased this product, an updated version will automatically be available to you.

The artwork inspired Fearless to write some of his own poems:

(...he said it's all in caps!)


October Math
Another favorite October activity? Skittles: Fractions, Estimation & Graphing. Grab some candy while it's on sale this week and you're set for math!

Remember to graph your Halloween candy...and don't miss Tamara's ideas for math-inspired spider webs!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Have Multiple & Factor Confusion?

Kids sometimes find it confusing to differentiate between multiples & factors. Here are a few visuals that I've found helpful:

Multiple: the product of a given number and another number. 

We could show this on a number line:

To find the multiples of 3, we can start with our given number (3) and then multiply it by 2 (6), by 3 (9), by 4 (12), and so on... 

We also see multiples represented by tile (Number Pieces):

1 group of 3 tile = 3
2 groups of 3 tile = 6
3 groups of 3 tile = 9
4 groups of 3 tile = 12

We can also use a visual model to investigate factors.

Factors: numbers that, when multiplied together, result in a product.

One of my favorite ways to do this? Lay out the product with tile (Number Pieces). Let's look at 12:

Use the 12 tile to form as many rectangular arrays as possible. The dimensions produce factors of the number. Here we can see arrays with dimensions of:

1 x 12
2 x 6
3 x 4

(Note: When using this visual model, prime numbers are also easy to distinguish: if it's prime, only one rectangular array--a 1 by the number--is possible.)

Why Do We Care?
My son is currently taking AP Calculus. He just popped in my office, saw what I was doing and said, "For us, finding factors is just one tiny step in a huge process. We do it all the time." Factors are a part of  higher level math! And, at a slightly lower level, students frequently use factors when working with fractions...not to mention (!) multiplication.

Additional Resources
I just created Fold It!...Factors & Multiples, a new set of flap books (Venn Diagrams & Shutter Folds) for students to compare and contrast factors and multiples. When complete, pages make a nice addition to student math journals. Alternate versions (different number combinations as well as blank copies) are included to allow for many uses: differentiation, exit slips, homework, notebook pages, math stations, etc.

The new set is also available as part of a bundled Multiples & Factors Flap Pack that includes the popular Flap Books "Present" Multiples & Factors (pictured right).

As always, new products (& bundles) are introduced with a sale price.

More Ideas
Looking for more ideas? Here are some of my favorites from around the web:
  • Flap Books & Online Games - in this blog entry, I share photos of flap books we made and link to a variety of games on the web
  • Factor & Multiple Anchor Charts with Student-Made Posters from Young Teacher Love - both are awesome.
  • Online Venn Diagram - create your own Venn Diagram to compare factors & multiples (example, right)
  • Multiple Mummy - kids use adding machine tape to make multiple strips and turn their teacher into a mummy.
Tune back for a multiple/factor game that you can play with any size group, 1 to 100!
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