Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: January 2015

Trade and Grade with a FREEBIE!

I am so excited to be a part of The Primary Gal's Trade and Grade blog hop! I was lucky enough to be partnered up with the talented Debbi Watson from 3rd Grade Pad. She sent me her Winter Fraction Task Card Bundle!

You know that I LOVE me some task cards! I had been eyeing these cards because the graphics are adorable and the bundle includes a set of task cards for each of the three fraction standards in the third grade Common Core standards.

I usually use my math task cards as an independent center during my math workshop. Since students will be doing the cards on their own, I am careful to only put out sets that include skills we have already covered whole group and in guided math groups.

The dilemma? I haven't covered fractions yet this year. We will start our fraction unit in about two more week. I was racking my brain about how I could incorporate these fabulous cards into my instruction before the blog hop. And then, in the middle of the night (because that is when I think of all my great ideas!), I came up with a plan. I would use the Freezing Fractions set as a pretest! It is the perfect plan because we have such limited time for our fraction unit before standardized testing. A pretest can help me to plan my instruction so that I am making the most of all my math instruction minutes!

I had already decided to go with this plan, when I took a look at the recording sheets inside the task card set. Brilliant!!! It is like Debbi read my mind! She has two different versions of the recording sheet. One has the shapes already partitioned and the other does not!

This is perfect for differentiation. But in my case, I decided to use the recording sheet with the partitioned shapes for my pretest.

After I teach the standard, I can give the same task cards in math centers, but with the more challenging recording sheet. Pre and post assessment with just one set of task cards! Score!

Debbi included color and blackline versions of her cards. I love to use the color ones for centers and scoots. But I am happy to have the blackline ones as I like to use those in math journals from time to time.

I chose to have my kiddos do a quick scoot with this set of task cards. I put the cards on their desks. Students answered the card closest to them and then got up and scooted around the desks until they had answered all of the questions. My students love getting to get up and moving! Plus, they got to use their favorite color crayon. This is still exciting in the third grade!

When I graded their work (using the answer key that Debbi included), I was super excited to see that my students have a good foundation in fractions! The results showed me that I don't need to spend as much time on NF.1 as I have in the past. These kiddos are ready for more complexity!

I am looking forward to using the rest of the sets in this bundle (fractions on a number line and comparing fractions), when we get to our fraction unit next month! I highly recommend this bundle to any third grade teacher! It's a winner! Thanks, Debbi!

Would you like to try a sample from this fabulous bundle? Debbi was generous enough to share a FREE sample! Click on the picture below to download a sample of her Fractions on a Number Line task cards.

After you fall in love with the sample, you are going to want to check out the entire bundle! Just click HERE.

Be sure to head over to Debbi's blog to see how she used my Black History Close Read Passages and Interactive Notebook and grab a free sample!

Check out the other fabulous bloggers that have linked up with our trade and grade hop!

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Preparing for a Teacher Intern with a FREEBIE

I have the privilege of being a mentor teacher this semester for a teaching intern. This is not something that I would have volunteered to do. Not because I mind having an intern, but because I have never thought of myself as someone who has much to share with new teachers. I always thought that the teachers who had been teaching for 10+ years were the mentors. My principal came in to ask me while I was in the middle of administering a spelling test. Can you turn your sweet principal down in front of your entire class? I can't! And I am glad that I didn't! This is just one more way that I am stretching myself and I would never have been asked if they didn't think I was qualified. (I must keep reminding myself of that.)

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am OCD and crazy organized. So, of course I had to make a binder for my teacher intern!

I wanted my intern to have a place to keep all of her notes and questions. I also thought it would be a good place to store information about the classroom and schedules.

The first section is all about our classroom...

I included my behavior plan, class rules, homework and small group rotations. I thought that these pages would answer a lot of her questions and be a resource that she can refer back to when needed.

The next section is for schedules and calendars...

In this section, I included a schedule of our typical class day. I also included a map of our math, reading, language and science for the next quarter. Finally, I included some important school dates that she might need to know.

I also included monthly calendars so that she can record any other dates as the quarter moves on.

The last section of the binder is for notes and questions...

I included lots of copies of the notes page. I thought she might think of things as she is observing or teaching that she wants to remember for an assignment or for her future classroom. I have already seen her using these pages! Yay!

When I was an intern, I had 101 questions every day. It can be tough to remember the questions and some days, you just don't have time to ask them. I gave my intern these pages so that she can write questions as soon as she thinks of them. If she doesn't get a chance to talk to me, she can leave this page and I will write my response and get it back to her as soon a possible.

Would you like to grab the cover pages, dividers and notes pages from my binder for FREE? Just click on the picture below.

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Teaching Students to Write About Math

Two years ago, I added math journaling to my math routine. I am not going to lie- it was PAINFUL! My students would often just write one word answers. And the ones who wrote a paragraph made NO sense. Reading them was my least favorite teacher task and always made me feel like my students just weren't getting it. And it dawned on me- I had been teaching math, but had failed to teach them how to explain their thinking! Fast forward two years and lots of tears later- I think I have finally figured out how to teach my students to write about math. Here is what I have learned.

Writing about their mathematical thinking is a phenomenal way to deepen student understanding of concepts. If a student can write about the steps he used, or how he knows his answer is reasonable- then I know he has fully mastered a skill. This deep understanding of the concept will make more complex problems simpler in the future. A third grader who can explain what 4x7 means is going to do much better at solving 45x72 in the fourth grade because they didn't just show knowledge of a fact- they showed understanding of a concept.

Another benefit to adding math journaling to your routine is that instructional time is tight! I often have to steal some minutes from my writing time to finish my reading or math groups. I can feel confident that my students have engaged in lots of quality writing in their math journals. We just have to integrate subjects in order to fit it all in.

Finally, the CCSS for mathematical practice require students to draw models and explain their thinking. We need to be practicing this!

Let me give you a breakdown of how I teach math journaling in five days. I use a scaffolded approach.

In my classroom, the first day of teaching students to write about math is all about the teacher.  I will be doing all of the work today. I display or write the math prompt on my board. I will carefully read the prompt (more than once) as I think aloud. I will underline and circle key words and chat with myself about what operation or steps I need to use to solve. I will draw a picture or other visual representation of the problem. I will then write a complete paragraph to answer the prompt. I use one of our math journal sentence starters.

I go back and reread my answer to make sure it makes sense and that I used proper spelling and grammar. I display my rubric and check my work using the guidelines. I make adjustments to my answer.

This is key: I do NOT ask for any input from the students. Yup, you read that correctly. This actually makes my students uncomfortable because they are so used to leading and driving class discussions. Many students will put their hand up in the air to try and offer suggestions or answers. I do not call on them. Trust me- this is not the norm in my class. But I have discovered that many students NEED to see me do a journal prompt. They can't be distracted with having to write or come up with answers. Students have trouble listening when their hand is in the air or when they are trying to form a response in their head. They just need to listen to me think through the problem. I know this is not engaging, but it has made a huge difference in my students' understanding of math journal expectations.

To spice it up, at the end of the lesson, have students tell their partner some things that they noticed you did while writing about math. You could make a list or an anchor chart if you have time.

The next day, I open the lesson by reminding them about the way I read, drew and wrote about math the day before. You could have them share again with their partner. Next, I give every student the exact same prompt. We add them to our math journals. Be sure to give expectations for how you want these glued in! I had a little guy glue his to the middle of the page. Sigh...

I still display the prompt on the board, but I ask students for input. What should we do first? What do you think are key words? What are we being asked to do? What operation do we need to use? What kind of drawing would help? What kind of math vocabulary can we use?  I still draw the picture and write the paragraph, but I do it with their input. I guide them. I strongly encourage them to write the answer just like mine. They are practicing the writing, but not having to come up with the answer on their own. Plus, they will have a sample in their notebooks or a journal prompt done to your standards. They can refer to it later when they are journaling independently.

After we write, we get the rubric out. (I have all my students keep one in their notebook for simple reference.) We grade our response together and then make adjustments to meet the expectations. Don't skip this part! Students need to understand how they will be assessed. They need to understand the expectations and practice going back to revise. I like to close with a quick pair share. What steps do mathematicians take when writing about their thinking?

I love day three because I start to hear students talking just like me. That always makes me smile! Today, I start by reviewing the things we have talked about. I have students glue the prompt into their notebook and then I have them work with their shoulder partner to complete the prompt. While they are working, I walk the room and give lots of reminders. Don't forget to draw a picture. Don't forget to write in complete sentences. Did you use any math vocabulary? Most of my kids do a pretty good job on this day. A few partners need more help than others. I focus my efforts on these students. When most students are done, I like to have a few students share their responses. I carefully select students to showcase. As a class, we use the rubric to assess their responses. Then, I have students work on assessing their own writing. Students are always very proud of their work!

Day four is the first day that I ask students to complete the journal prompt on their own. The only catch is that I have them do it during their guided math group. I observe carefully as students work independently. I will offer reminders if I see kiddos forgetting things. If I see a student who is way off base, I will assist them. Since I only have 6-8 students in each math group, this day really gives me a chance to observe and informally assess. When they are done, we will use the rubric to assess all of their writing. We will end the group talking about any changes we need to make for the next time. I keep a list of students who might need some intervention or are not ready for independent journaling. I want to be sure and pull these students for an extra practice session very soon. I also need to decide if they are struggling with the journaling or with the math skill. These observations help me to guide future instruction with each group.

The final step is to have students complete journal prompts independently. I often have them do this during an independent math center. Be sure to choose prompts that cover skills you have already taught in great detail. If you use brand new skills, students are usually not able to dig deep enough to complete the journal prompts. I usually choose topics from the previous unit. You can also differentiate by giving different prompts to each of your groups. I only give one per week, but you can easily give more.

At first, I grade every student's journal prompts at the end of the week. This is not easy! I use the same rubric that the kids have. I like to write them some little notes too. We are having a mathematical conversation! After a couple of weeks, I have a list of students who are strong math writers, some who are close and some who are still struggling. I will no longer grade every person's prompts every week. I just don't have time for that! Those who are doing well, may only have one prompt per month graded. Those who are approaching may have two prompts a month graded. My strugglers will practice more in guided math groups until they are ready. I give them very regular feedback.

This five day procedure has been very successful in my classroom. Even my lowest writers are doing a fair job. They have room to improve, but their responses don't bring me to tears anymore!

Do you need some math journal prompts? It is important that your prompts are not just standard word problems that have one right answer. There is a time and a place for these types of word problems. But if you want students to explain their thinking and dig a bit deeper then you need questions that encourage that type of thinking. I have prompts in my store in various formats for grades 2-5. Just click on the pictures.

I would love to hear any tips or success stories you have when it comes to teaching your students to write about their mathematical thinking.

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January Pinterest Pick 3 Linky- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am excited to be joining the Inspired Owl and PAWsitively Teaching for their monthly Pinterest Pick 3 Linky Party. I am going to be sharing three of my favorite Pinterest finds that you could use in the classroom in January.

I absolutely LOVE teaching Social Studies and so one of my favorite topics to cover in January is Martin Luther King, Jr. My favorite pins are all simple and fun activities that you can use during your MLK lessons.

I love this idea of using white and brown eggs to show kids that regardless of the color of one's skin, we are all the same on the inside!
Click on the picture to see the original pin. 

Whenever I teach about Martin Luther King Jr., I ask my third graders to write about their own dreams. This craft looks like a sweet and simple way to display their dream writing.

Click on the picture to see the original pin.

I always like to emphasize that Martin Luther King Jr. promoted PEACE and nonviolent protest. This is what made the man so inspirational! This adorable peace dove art project is perfect! I love the multiple colors used on the handprints and they would be so cute hanging in the classroom during January!
Click on the picture to see the original pin.

I plan on using these fun activities as my students read about MLK using my Black History Close Read Passages and Interactive Notebook.

While you are checking out these projects, be sure to follow MY PINTEREST BOARDS.

Check out the Pinterest picks of other teacher bloggers!

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