Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl (Eat, Watch Commercials, Shop) SALE!

During the Super Bowl I like to:

1. eat
2. watch the commercials
3. shop online school sales

If you're looking for something to do during the Super Bowl (or anytime before!) you can visit my Teachers Notebook* and Teachers Pay Teachers Stores for significant discounts...through the weekend. Enjoy!

(*Teachers Notebook is having an additional 10% off, store-wide sale, starting Saturday.)

Click on the photo captions for blog entries describing products:

Journaling With Top 10 Lists

Presenting Multiples & Factors!

Egg Carton Fraction Addition Task Cards

Powers of 10 Scoot

Vacation Workstation

Descriptive Poetry & Tissue Painting

101 Ways to Make Book Reports Fun

Skittle Fractions, Estimation & Graphing

Feelings Journal

Explore Oregon Regions

Stores at Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook also have freebies! If you download a freebie or purchase a product, become a store follower to receive notification when updates are posted. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Journaling with Top 10 Lists

I've always enjoyed Dave Letterman's Top 10 Lists. Recently, we've had a bit of a slump in journal writing. With foggy, dreary days, periodic bouts of illness, and nothing much new on the horizon, it's been hard to come up with much to record. So I decided it was time for a change...

Journaling with Top 10 Lists

I made a whole series of journal pages (20) in which students can record ten items on a topic and then choose one (or more) of the topics to write about in a paragraph below:

Head on over to:

Teachers Pay Teachers



to get your copy.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Math Monday Blog Hop, 2014!!!!!

Math Monday Blog Hop starts up again in February. Please share your ideas on topics to cover, February-May. Thank you for posting your content suggestions in the comment area below.

Also, please enjoy (and continuing posting) on the topics covered from September-December this fall:

Fall 2013: Themes
The Fall 2013 schedule includes the following themes. The links will stay open for the 2013-14 school year. As you teach, come back here to look for new ideas from other bloggers or link up to your new ideas.

Sept. 16: Math & Children's Literature
Sept. 23: Counting, Cardinality, and Subitizing
Sept. 30: Math Notebooking
Oct. 7: Fall or Halloween Math
Oct. 14: Geometry
Oct. 21: Fractions
Oct. 28: Math Vocabulary
Nov. 4: Thanksgiving Math
Nov. 11: Measurement
Nov. 18: Holiday (December holidays) or Winter Math
Nov. 25: Addition & Subtraction
Dec. 2: Real Life Math
Dec. 9: Multiplication & Division
Dec. 16: Time & Money (which we have little of in December!)
Dec. 23 & 30: take a rest! No Math Monday.

January-May 2013 Themes:
List ideas in the comments below! :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Scoot: Multiply & Divide Decimals & Whole Numbers by Powers of 10

Have you played Scoot with your students? I love the game! Basically, you spread task cards around the room and each child moves from problem to problem when you call "Scoot," and enters answers on a record sheet.

I LOVE anything that involves getting up and moving! So I created a new Scoot game for my students to practice multiplying and dividing decimals and whole numbers by 10 and 100. The cards can also be used in math centers or as task cards for early finishers. Perfect for classrooms and homeschoolers!

I've designed the cards so that students must closely evaluate different combinations with similar numbers in every set of four cards. For example, cards #1-4 are as follows:

135 x 10
1.35 x 10
1.35 ÷ 10
13.5 x 10

All cards show some form of a whole number or decimal multiplied or divided by either 10 or 100. Exponents are NOT included.

32 cards, record sheet, and answer key are included.

This game was designed to support the following Common Core Standards:
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT.A.1 Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT.A.2 Explain patterns in the number of zeros of the product when multiplying a number by powers of 10, and explain patterns in the placement of the decimal point when a decimal is multiplied or divided by a power of 10.
You'll find the game on Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook!

Cover Background, MyCuteGraphics
Frames & Bubble Border: Mr. Magician
Cartoon Characters: Monster Wrangler Mike

Friday, January 24, 2014

Powers of Ten: Powerful Teaching Resources

News Alert!
Check out my just-released SCOOT game that supports students as they practice multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals by 10 and 100. You'll find it on Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook!

To commence our decimal unit, we looked at the powers of ten and more specifically:
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT.A.1 Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT.A.2 Explain patterns in the number of zeros of the product when multiplying a number by powers of 10, and explain patterns in the placement of the decimal point when a decimal is multiplied or divided by a power of 10. Use whole-number exponents to denote powers of 10.
Early on, we examined The Great Wall of Base Ten (from a lesson in The Math Learning Center's Bridges Curriculum):

On the far right of the picture, you see a unit (1cm x 1cm). What you can't see (and what the kids had to envision and then make) is what happens to the right of the unit. They cut out a tenth and a hundredth and discussed what happens to the number when you move each direction across The Great Wall of Base Ten.

Whenever possible, I like to share books and videos that reinforce or expound on our studies. Here are several favorites. (If you're in my class, watch the videos below!!) :)

Books: Powers of Ten
Ten Times Better by Richard Michelson - an excellent introduction to the topic, this book illustrates 10 times the numbers 1-10.

 On Beyond a Million by David Schwartz - illustrates the powers of ten.
 Big Numbers and Pictures That Show Just How Big They Are by Edward Packard - look for this out-of-print book at your library that also illustrates the powers of ten.

 Can You Count to a Googol? by Robert E. Wells - Before we even began reading, my students connected the name "Googol" with the search engine. After we finished reading--and they learned the definition of "googol"--they had a pretty good guess about why it was given that name! (Also illustrates the powers of ten...all the way to a googol!)

Videos: Powers of Ten

Secret Worlds: The Universe Within
- From the site: "View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons." After watching the presentation, you can manually zoom in and out, watching the powers of ten increase & decrease.

Powers of Ten - From YouTube: "Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell. POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC (Available at"

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fractured Fairy Tales: Character

Poster now available here.
Our fairy tale exploration continues...

We began our Fractured Fairy Tale study with a focus on plot. After writing our own variations of The Three Little Pigs, we read Once Upon a Time: Writing Your Own Fairy Tale, talked about the elements that make up a fairy tale, and considered the techniques we used in our own writing. We met in author's circles, revised, edited, and completed final copies of our stories.

The handout (shown right) helped us to distinguish fairy tales as just one kind of story that appear under the broader definition of "folk tale." To be a fairy tale, stories often include magic elements, fantasy characters, etc. (We are actually studying both folk and fairy tales.)
This week we continued by looking at character. We read fairy tales of our choice (traditional or fractured--with the only stipulation being that students had to know the traditional tale before reading the fractured version) and wrote report cards on characters' behaviors. Some characters didn't get very good grades! A Character Adjective Analysis (looking at adjectives that describe characters) and a Character Casting Call (who would portray your character in a movie?) helped to round out a character study.
Character: Point-of-View
Popcorn-style (everyone participated!), we retold the story of the Three Little Pigs, this time from the wolf's point-of-view. It's not easy to see things from one character's point-of-view. We then read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, where the wolf shares his (twisted!) perspective on the story.

Think Sheets are now available here!
We analyzed the wolf's point-of-view using a Character Think Sheet. Then each student chose another story to analyze, specifically looking at how a minor character might view the story's problem. Student choices included the troll in the Three Billy Goats Gruff, one of the lazy animals in The Little Red Hen, and the stepsisters in Cinderella. Each student made some notes on a Think Sheet and then wrote one page from that character's point-of-view. Diary entries and letters (Dear Mom, ...Love, Wolfie), helped to organize thoughts.

Next week we'll finish up the character study and begin thinking about setting.

Follow our Fractured Fairy Tale journey:

Part I: Plot
Part II: Character
Part III: Character with Art & Poetry

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

**new!**Fairy Tale Bundle (all fairy tale products available)

**new!**Fairy Tale Bibliography Record Sheets, free!

**new!** Fairy Tale Maps: Exploring Setting

**new!** Fairy Tale Think Sheets

Character Studies: Folk, Fairy Tale and Short Stories

Fairy Tale Plot Sheet

Fairy Tale, Folktale Characteristics Poster

Disclaimer: if you're interested in purchasing any of these books through Amazon, all commissions go toward foster care in China through Grace and Hope (who sponsored my child) at no additional cost to you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Students Love This Calculator App (free)

This week we played a new game from our 5th grade curriculum (Bridges Second Edition) called Beat the Calculator: Fractions. In the game, students race to try to solve a fraction addition or subtraction problem before an opponent solves the same game using a calculator. I offered to let one pair of students use a free app on my iPad rather than using a regular calculator. The app, My Script Calculator, records almost any equation written on the iPad and then transforms it into type and solves.

First, you write the equation with your finger or with a stylus:

The numbers magically transform into type:

And then the problem is instantly solved by the calculator. This video shows more examples:

My students love this app. Since I require them to enter fractions as division expressions, it reinforces the concept of fraction as division:

CCSS.Math.Content.5.NF.B.3 Interpret a fraction as division of the numerator by the denominator (a/b = a ÷ b).

This app also highlights something that is crucial to understanding the future of mathematics teaching and learning. I can enter almost any problem on this calculator and instantly see the answer. In the age of technology, it's easy to find the answer to an algorithm. What's hard? To define the problem or to answer: "What is the problem asking us to do? What do we need to know to solve the problem? How do we go about solving the problem?"

Friday, January 17, 2014

School Choice: Introverts Vs. Extroverts

Tonight, I asked my 7yo son a question. "If you could spend time with zero, one, two or five people, how many would you pick?"


"What if you got to choose between zero, one, five, or ten people?"


That's my very extroverted 7yo!

Over the years, my five kids have spent time in public, private, and homeschool. We've tried to make the best decision for each child on a year-by-year basis. Unless there's been a compelling reason to do otherwise, we've allowed the kids to weigh in on the decision.

Enter my 7yo son.

Last year, we encouraged him to go to public school kindergarten. We live in a small, friendly community, and felt that a half-day in school was exactly what he needed to gain some more real-world experience after arriving home from China at the age of 3. This year, we were very open to either homeschool or public school. He chose public school even while his older brother remains in homeschool.

I find the choice interesting from an introvert/extrovert standpoint.

I am (thoroughly!) an introvert. The other three kids that I've homeschooled are introverts. We like spending time at home.

In contrast, if nothing is scheduled for the day (and sometimes even if there is), my 7yo wakes up and immediately says, "What are we doing today?" Translation: WHO are we seeing today? Preferably a LOT of people. And family doesn't count!

Although I would be happy to homeschool any of my children, I fully recognize how difficult it would be to homeschool this child if only because his social calendar is never full enough to suit him. Never.

Has anyone else ever thought about how being an introvert/extrovert applies to school choice? 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Math Class Quote of the Week

A student said the cutest thing this week. While working on some rather difficult fraction story problems, he suddenly quipped, "Either these are getting easier, or I'm getting smarter!"  

Love that!

(Reposting from earlier this week in case you missed the footnote!) 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Testing Expectations: Homeschool Vs. Public School

As many of you know, I have a Master's in Education, am a certified teacher, and have taught both public school and homeschool. The combination has sometimes put me in a strange position. I'm in one right now. I'm sorta perplexed.

This year, I'm teaching a class of 5th grade math students. The students happen to be homeschooled, but I am teaching all of their math content. I am using new curriculum* that meets the new Common Core State Standards.  With Common Core, I've often felt like the bar has been raised; a lot of the 5th grade content has been brought down from 6th grade and some of it is pretty intense. Just ask my students.**


In my state, homeschool students still take nationally normed, standardized tests. (Honestly, it's like the tests that I took through elementary school back in the 70s.) It's not based on Common Core. And it's not the state test that public schools use.  I wrote to our local homeschool test center and asked for a list of math content that my 5th grade math students will be tested on. They provided me with a list of 21 items. I compared the 21 content items to the Common Core. Here's where the 5th grade test items fell on the Common Core. (Granted, many of the 21 items were vague, but I tried to match them as best I could.)

5th grade (homeschool) math test items found on:

2nd grade, Common Core: 4 items
3rd grade, Common Core: 6
4th grade, Common Core: 5
5th grade, Common Core: 3
6th grade, Common Core: 1
Not found on Common Core (or too vague to determine): 2

So 15/21 items, or 71% of the items on the homeschool test are below Common Core grade level.

To make it more clear, I'll give a specific example: fractions. With Common Core, 5th grade students learn to:
"...apply their understanding of fractions and fraction models to represent the addition and subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators as equivalent calculations with like denominators. They develop fluency in calculating sums and differences of fractions, and make reasonable estimates of them. Students also use the meaning of fractions, of multiplication and division, and the relationship between multiplication and division to understand and explain why the procedures for multiplying and dividing fractions make sense."
On the "homeschool" (older, nationally-normed) test, students are required to:
  • Add fractions with the same denominator (which is 4th grade Common Core)
  • Identify fractional parts (which is ~ 3rd grade Common Core, maybe 2nd, depending on the fractional part)
The discrepancy makes me squirm. It means that my homeschool students have curricular and testing expectations several grades below that of their public school peers.

Please don't shoot the messenger. I'm still sorta shocked and trying to figure out what this means.

What are the ramifications?

*It's from The Math Learning Center...a non-profit organization that I've worked with for many years because I love and respect their math teaching methods. Their visual models, inquiry-based problem solving, emphasis on strategies, and hands-on methods have changed me as a teacher and learner of math.

**A student said the cutest thing this week. He was working on some rather difficult fraction story problems and suddenly said, "Either these are getting easier, or I'm getting smarter!" 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Free Coordinate Graphing Fun!

In the New Year, my 5th graders will be doing some coordinate graphing. I found some practice sheets (free!) that look fantastic... - This website has a variety of pictures that students can make using ordered pairs on a coordinate grid. It also gives you the option to create easier or more difficult activities. Includes answer key. - Using this site, you can type in a message that is immediately recreated on a coordinate grid...WITH answer key! How fabulous is that? In about 2 seconds, I made a sheet that said, "Happy New Year." You can set paper size, quadrants, and more. Fabulous!
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