Friday, April 20, 2018

Design a Cube City...a Study in Volume!

Some of my fifth grade friends have been hard at work, designing cube cities as a culminating activity to their study on volume. In some cases, they worked together to create entire towns! Take a peek...

Nice perspective!

A true metropolis!

Great use of color!

Love seeing Lady Liberty in the background!

3-D trees and bushes!

It's always more fun when you work together!

Want to read more about the process behind this lesson? Learn more here. Or,  purchase the complete lesson here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Math Manip Tip: Fractions on a Geoboard

A geoboard provides endless opportunities for fraction exploration. To increase your options, flip the tool over and use a dry erase marker on the back. Students can label, outline, write equations, and more!

Yesterday, I worked with a third grader who was struggling with fractions. Initially, it appeared that her greatest struggle was to understand the meaning of the numerator and denominator in relation to the parts. On a geoboard, she agreed that that this portion represented 1/2.

She then created the other half with another rubberband. I asked her if she knew what the 1 and the 2 represented in 1/2. She did not. So, on the geoboard, together we noticed the whole was divided into two parts and that each side represented 1 of those two equal parts. With a dry erase marker, she labeled each part.

I asked her if she could show 4 equal parts. She quickly did, and could tell me that each part was 1/4 of the whole.

Next, she made 8 parts and said that each portion was 1/8, labeling them. I asked how she knew that they were eighths. She said it was because there were 8 (equal) parts. We checked. With the dry erase marker! She then drew lines to represent sixteenths. We decided this was much easier than adding a lot more rubberbands.

After she noticed 8 equal parts make eighths, I asked her how many equal parts there are when there are fourths (4!), halves (2!! at this point she started grinning), thirds (3!! and grins harder, since we hadn't even attempted this one.)

It was time to wrap it up. I left her thinking about addition. For instance, if you have 1/4, how many more fourths do you need to equal 1 whole?

Using only a geoboard and a dry erase marker, we could repeatedly draw fractional parts, label fractions, count, erase, think again,...and more! If you haven't used a geoboard for fraction exploration--and written on it with a dry erase marker--you are going to love this!

Don't have a geoboard? Try the free online app from The Math Learning Center.

And for more fraction ideas, visit past blog entries.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Multiples Practice with Puzzles...and Mythology!

Multiples can prove to be a challenge for students in grades 3-5. In fourth grade, we expect students to be able to determine whether a given whole number between 1-100 is a multiple of a one-digit number. Makes total sense, right? I mean, how hard could it be? Enter classroom...

Teacher: Morning, Johnny!

(Johnny wipes sleep out of eyes.)

Teacher: Think about the number 36. Is it a multiple of 6?

(Johnny blinks. Wipes his eyes.)

Teacher: Multiple, Johnny. Remember? We talked about this yesterday.

Johnny: Seven?

Ever experience anything similar?  To that end, I like to offer extra opportunities for practice. I want something that is...

Visually appealing
Practical for a variety of levels
Perfect for math centers

This new set of Multiples Puzzles gives students ongoing practice with identifying and ordering multiples. Always on the lookout for ways to integrate math and literature, I selected Greek Mythology as a theme. Here's how they work...

1. Copy the puzzles on cardstock, choosing from black/white or color versions. Laminate, as desired.

2. Cut puzzles on horizontal lines into strips.

3. Place each puzzle in an envelope and label with the correct multiple.

4. Place in a math center, assign as homework, or use during a lesson on multiples.

5. As an additional option, as students complete each puzzle, they can note patterns they observe on 100s grids in their own Book of Multiples.

Teachers can differentiate by offering students puzzles that correspond with the practice most needed. Two blank puzzles are included for the creation of challenge puzzles.

Take a closer look at Multiples Puzzles for Greek Myths.

Looking for more multiples practice? My students have enjoyed making flap books & folds (see here and here), and used them as ongoing reference tools in their math journals.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Kids Write and Produce Fractured Fairy Tale Plays!

With summer upon us, I couldn't resist pulling out Fractured Fairy Tales, my all-time favorite unit to teach. Three excited kiddos gather with the ultimate goal of writing and producing a fractured fairy tale play. Take a peek...

Getting Started

In the first two minutes of class, students make lists of every fairy tale they can recall. The highest recorded number? Six! I tell them they'll soon have a lot more! We do a little Round-Robin story telling of the Three Little Pigs, with a pantomime thrown in. They think they're hilarious. (They are right!)

I give them each a bibliography so that they can add titles & authors as they read.  ...'Cause, whew...are they about to READ!!!!

Sorting and Reading
The team audibly gasps as they spot the selection of fairy tales. While I own a lot myself, I also add a generous selection from my local library.

[Note: For entertainment, after the unit, I counted. 82 of my books + 30 library books. And I didn't even begin to gather all that are available. Fractured fairy tales are one of the best reading hooks you can ever give a group of kids. Don't miss this opportunity!]

I challenge students to sort the books by individual story. So, for example, all the Red Riding Hood tales go into one bin, labeled with a sticky note. As children peruse the pile, they can also write their names on sticky notes and place them on the covers of books they want to revisit.

I plan on giving them 15-20 minutes to read. After 20 minutes, they beg for more. After 30, they beg for more. After 45, they concede to move on to the next part of the project.

Story Mapping
Next, these young writers spend a little time thinking about "What Makes a Good Story?" This is where a plot map comes in handy. We read Little Red Riding Hood together and talk about the points of action in the story, creating a plot map with rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. They love quantifying the level of excitement in each moment of the story.

At this point, we also refer to a Folk & Fairy Tale Characteristics poster as we consider, "What makes a fairy tale a fairy tale?"

Pre-Writing a Fractured Fairy Tale
We gather to create an anchor chart on concepts we could change to create Fractured Fairy Tales. As a group, students choose one particular tale to fracture, with the idea that the individual tales will eventually be combined into a group tale. By the time the chart is complete, students are bursting with ideas.

Using the anchor chart for support, they gather ideas on a Fractured Fairy Tale Think Sheet, and begin writing individual stories.

At this point they shock me again. I anticipate 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted writing. They beg to keep going...and going...and going. As students finish, they silently read from the giant stash of books. The final writer stops (after repeated pleas to continue!) after 60 minutes. Talk about perseverance!

Group Story Work Begins!
At this point, students meet to read their stories aloud to one another. Listeners ask authors to highlight portions of stories that they recommend for the group production.

Something from each person's story is highlighted--something about the setting, the dialogue, a character, a turn of phrase--something! Everyone's work is valued by the group.

Students then use a Fractured Fairy Tale Think Sheet in a group pre-write. After agreeing to basic content, they begin writing a group story. Each child is assigned a job, with jobs rotating every 5 minutes. With just three children in a group, jobs include: Manager, Time Keeper, and Scribe.

Group Scriptwriting
Without fail, students crazy-love this next part.  Together, and using their group story as a backbone, they write a script on color-coded paper. This technique (my 20yo invention!) is fabulous as it allows students to easily revise. And revise. And revise. And did I mention...they LOVE IT!

Rehearse and Perform
And then, oh my--blocking the performance, choosing costumes, selecting the perfect stage, inviting the audience--endless fun! And of course, when it's summer, there is no better Rapunzel tower than the play structure.

As soon as the performance ended, this crew started debating which fairy tale they'll fracture next summer!

Want to get kids inspired to read, write, and act? Read more about the this unit on my blog. Or learn more about the entire Fairy Tale Lesson Plan Bundle (100+ pages of lesson plans, student handouts, photos, bibliographies, tips, and more!) by clicking here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm a Math Coach, and Trust Me When I Say This is Better Than a Fidget Spinner!

The day I announced that we were going to do some math challenges with fidget spinners, the gadgets were permanently banned at school. (If it hasn't already happened at your school, it's going to.) The fourth grade teacher leaned over and whispered, "I can't say I'm disappointed."

Yeah, I get that. Fidget spinners are the WORST. Like a purple llama doing cartwheels through the classroom.


I love the idea of kids doing a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) challenge that gets them excited about inquiry, data collection, art, math, and more. And STEAM is what I wanted to use those blasted spinners for.

So I went back to the drawing board and created an even better challenge. Why is it better? Because students MAKE THEIR OWN SPINNERS! A made-in-China-possibly-filled-with-lead fidget spinner will never get kids excited about STEAM like their own creations will.  So take a glimpse at how these students made spinning tops, recorded spin times, and graphed the data...

Fold the Spinner: Math Vocab

First, fourth graders followed along with me as I demonstrated how to fold an origami spinner. Along the way, we stopped and made observations about the shapes being created. I heard a lot of mathematical terms and attributes of shapes, like:
  • trapezoid
  • parallelogram
  • rhombus
  • square
  • rectangle
  • parallel sides
  • perpendicular
  • angles: acute, right
  • congruent
  • lines of symmetry
  • and more...! 
Pretty awesome for a few minutes of paper folding!

Combine Math & Art

Next, the kids dove into art. They considered what would happen to the spin image if they colored their tops with different fractional color combinations. For example, how might two primary colors look while spinning? What would a spiral or dots or squares look like? What would black and white do? Kids used crayons, gel pens, stickers. We ended up with all kinds of creations.

Collect & Graph Data

Then it was time to spin, baby, spin! Students worked in pairs to time the length of spins and graph their data. Challenges were posed and kids delved into scientific inquiry as they noticed that some spinners went far longer than others. Many tweaked their creations, hoping that a slightly different design would increase their spin time. 

Finally, students did a second set of trials in which they changed a variable. Our students clearly know a lot about science, technology, engineering, art, and math! 

They begged for instructions to take home.


In the summer?

Well, I guess. Only if you really, really want it...!!!!

Then I gave them a summer challenge: to develop a spinner that would go for 40 seconds. I can't wait to see what they come up with! Have a great summer, all!!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Table TOP Math: Integrating Math, Art, and Vocabulary

Math vocabulary is like spinach.

While good for you, in some circles, both have been known to have a less-than-stellar reputation.

I'm not one of those parents who feels the need to sneak vegetables into my kids. Vegetables are just part of life, a rich part of our daily eating habits. For example, we make lasagna more flavorful, more colorful, more nutritious, and more interesting with spinach or kale.

Math vocabulary is no different. I don't feel a need to isolate math vocabulary, shoving a piece of plain, cooked spinach down anyone's throat. Math vocabulary is what we do all the time. It's part of the environment in a rich, mathematical life. It helps us to communicate our thinking with precision. Like exercise, the more we utilize vocabulary, the more natural it becomes.

I love finding activities that naturally invite a wide variety of mathematical vocabulary, preferably while having fun and integrating subjects like art. We found a perfect candidate in Table TOP Math.

Students make tops, designed to spin on tables. As they fold their creations, they describe what they notice with observations like:
  • 4 equal angles
  • 4 sides
  • opposite sides parallel
  • 2 sets of sides with equal lengths
  • angles: right, acute
They also give names to the shapes they observe:
  • polygon
  • quadrilateral
  • rectangle
  • parallelogram
  • trapezoid

Then, they try different coloring techniques, integrating art. What a great opportunity to experiment with design and guess what each will look like as it spins. Watch a few examples...

Table TOP Math available here
You could make math vocabulary an integral part of any origami folding project. Pick something with fairly simple folds that your students will enjoy, and apply vocabulary along the way.

If you're interested in Table TOP Math, it is now available as a *new* product at a marked discount. ENJOY!!!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fractured Fairy Favorite Unit EVER!!

**UPDATE: I'm working hard to make more pieces of this unit available. In the meantime, enjoy my favorite unit and one of love2learn2day's most popular posts!

Over the next 3 months, I will be teaching my FAVORITE UNIT EVER!!!  I first wrote and taught this unit back in the days before internet...before Common Core...before man discovered fire...

Just kidding. About the discovery of fire. But close.

Anyway, I'd like to share the unit as it unfolds.  I am teaching a group of 4th-6th graders in a 3 hour block, once a week. I originally taught the unit in 6th-8th grade language arts. The unit can be comfortably modified up or down to fit grades 3-8 in a classroom or homeschool setting.

Session 1
Focus: What Every Good Story Must Include/Parts of a Story

As students enter, I ask them to list every fairy tale title they can name.

Getting to Know You: Fairy Tales
We begin with a quick introduction in which students say their name, followed by their favorite fairy tale. They then repeat all the previous names/favorite tales in the class. This becomes a quick assessment tool as students offer up titles that are not actually fairy tales. In my class, one child named a book and said that the title is a fairy tale because it is fiction. I do not correct students as we will be learning more about what makes a fairy tale in the coming weeks.

Round Robin Fairy Telling
As a class, we retell the story of the Three Little Pigs, popcorn-style. I start the story and keep it going, randomly pointing to a student to have him/her fill in parts. I want them to recognize how much they DO already know. Later in the morning I can use this as an example for certain words/topics..."do you remember the DIALOGUE in the Three Little Pigs," etc.
What Makes a Good Story?
Next, a read aloud: Show Me a Story: Writing Your Own Picture Book. Here, we talk about the tools that authors use to create good stories.

Fairy Tale Bibliography
I hand out a blank bibliography so students can add each book that we read. We will be doing a LOT of fairy tale reading, and I want them to use this as a reference.

This sheet is now available here!
Parts of a Story
I read aloud a traditional Red Riding Hood tale. Then, together, we list fairy tale events and plot them on an excitement scale to show rising action, climax/turning point, and falling action. We talk about how these elements are in every good story...and how the stories that they write will also include these elements. I follow with a reading of  Ruby by Michael Emberley. This is a "fractured" version of Red Riding Hood. We track events and plot an excitement scale again, showing that even as the story changes, the general shape of the excitement scale remains the same.
A big portion of this unit includes drama. Today we did an introductory pantomime activity from Theatre Games for Young Performers.

First, I read a traditional Cinderella Story. Together, we build a chart to look at various elements of the story. I record on the bulletin board as students record on their own individual charts. Then, I give each student a "fractured" version or a version from another culture to read. They each add this book to their own charts, then present what they discover so that we can add to the class chart (and individual charts.)

It is eye opening to discover just how many versions of Cinderella there are...and how the elements stay consistent throughout the tales. It's those consistent elements that make fairy tales what they we're beginning to uncover how fairy tales differ from other types of fiction.

Think Sheets are now available here!
Writing Assignment: Fractured Fairy Tales

We'll be doing a lot of writing this term. To kick off the year, I read the traditional Three Little Pigs, then ask each student to use a  "Fractured Fairy Tale Think Sheet" to brainstorm how they might fracture the story. I suggest that they change one or two elements of the story--perhaps the setting, character, point-of-view of the story, etc...  But not all elements. Just a few changes allow students to start experimenting with fairy tale writing. I also mention a few additional guidelines. Their stories will likely include:
  • 3 little somethings
  • a "big bad" something
  • 3 "houses" of some type
  • dialogue between little somethings and big bad somethings
  • the phrase, "Once Upon a Time"
Before class begins next week, students will complete their own fractured fairy tales. Next week, we'll meet in authors' circles to revise our writing.

For additional support, students might also use this site from ReadWriteThink.

Fairy Tale Notebooks
We're compiling all our work into 3-ring binders with page protectors. At the conclusion of the unit, the page protectors will be taken out of the binders and made into permanent reference books.

Once Upon a Time there was a teacher who LOVED teaching fractured fairy tales...

Read more about our adventures here and here. And now you can also read about writing and producing the play portion, here.


I am gradually adding items from this fairytale unit to TPT. Currently available:

Fairy Tale, Folktale Characteristics Poster

Short Story: Plot Diagram for Fairy Tales and More!

Character Studies: Folk, Fairy Tale, and Short Stories

Fairy Tale Think Sheets: Story Analysis & Pre-Writing Organizer (New! 4/29/17)

Fairy Tale Maps: Exploring Setting(New! 5/5/17)

Fairy Tale Bibliography Record Sheets(New! 5/12/17)

Fairy Tale Character Wanted Posters(New! 5/17/17)

Folk & Fairy Tale Compare & Contrast Story Chart(New! 5/19/17)

The entire collection is also available in a bundle:
Folk, Fairy Tale, & Short Story Series Bundle (Now complete! Over 100 pages!)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Averaging with Unifix Cubes

Unifix cubes are one of my favorite math manipulatives. I especially love to use them when averaging.

In the "old days," when I was an elementary student, I was told that to average, you add up all the numbers and divide by the number of groups to get the average. Not surprisingly,



I first used unifix cubes to average when I taught "Measurement with Marbles," one of my FAVORITE math units that's now FREE from the Math Learning Center. I hope you enjoy that unit and my little videos on Averaging with Unifix Cubes.

Note: Due to video time limitations I could not show multiple ways to level the towers. When you work with children, however, I encourage you to help kids understand the idea of averaging by giving them 2 stacks, and then 3 stacks of cubes, and asking them to devise methods to level the towers. If we just TELL them what to do rather than allowing them to devise their own strategies, we're really just giving them a different version of my childhood experience (where I had no idea WHY I was doing what I was doing.) Give them some cubes and a little time for productive struggle! :)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Group Fraction Activity for Warm-Ups, Transitions, or Anytime!

As a math coach I'm able to see a lot of teachers and students in action. On a recent visit to a third grade classroom, I saw a fantastic activity that I can't wait to share! (Homeschool adaptations included below.)

In this particular class, student desks were configured in groups of 4 or 5. As students arrived at their desks in the morning, they immediately began working on a group task: "What fraction of your group are boys? What fraction are girls?" In the early stages of the activity, before everyone arrived, a group might have results like 1/3 girls and 2/3 boys. But as more students arrived, the results changed. A group might then have 2/5 boys and 3/5 girls. But the group next to them might have 1/4 girls and 3/4 boys. The answer entirely depended on when kids arrived and who was in attendance.

When the starting bell rang, the teacher focused the class and began asking groups to share. Each group shared the fraction of boys/girls in each group. As she questioned individual groups, she stopped and asked students to consider how one group compared to another. If one group had 2/5 girls and another had 3/5 girls, which group had a greater fraction of girls?

The activity also lent itself to thinking about fraction addition or subtraction. If a group had 2 boys and 3 girls, then:

2/5 + 3/5 = 5/5 = 1 (whole group)
5/5 of a group - 2/5 boys = 3/5 girls.

Students could also consider equivalent fractions. "If a group has 2/4 boys and 2/4 girls, is there another way we can think about the fraction of boys and girls?" (1/2 boys and 1/2 girls.)

This is a wonderful, quick activity that helps students to figure parts of a group with fractions. As they consider the answer, they're continually thinking about which number is used in the numerator and which is used in the denominator and why.

After observing the activity, I made a set of 75+ Math Task Cards that could be used with small groups (3-6), medium groups (6-12) or large groups (12-entire class.) Many cards encourage students to consider questions that help them to know one another better. Depending on teacher emphasis, the cards could be used in grades 3, 4, or 5.

If you are interested in the Task Cards, they are available on TPT as a new product at an introductory sale (deep discount!) price.

If you use this activity--with or without the Task Cards--I'd love to hear about your experience!

p.s. Homeschoolers could make up a similar activity with items around the house: "What fraction of my stuffed animals include animals with teeth? No teeth?"  Years ago I gathered Teeny Beanie Babies just for the purpose of sorting and fraction activities like this.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Math-y Valentine's Day Cards - FREE!

"Parallel lines have so much in's a shame that they'll never meet."

Print these humorous parallel lines cards for Valentine's Day or hand them out as mini-posters at any time of the year!

I add candy sticks or pencils to the parallel lines to make a fun, math-y Valentine's Day card!

Pick yours up (free!) here:

Teachers Notebook
Teachers Pay Teachers

Enjoy! (And thank you in advance for taking the time to rate this free product!)

P.S. Speaking of LOVE...and not miss this article on how love and math intersect.

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