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Sunday, January 25, 2015

How Many Ways? Critical Thinking Challenge

I'd like to introduce you to How Many Ways? - February Edition.

If you like critical thinking math challenges for your students...
If you like open-ended activities that take very little prep...
If you like interactive bulletin boards that stay up for an entire month...

...then you will love How Many Ways? -- Feb. Edition. 

Here's the 4-1-1:
This is what your bulletin board could look like. For this example, your students are challenged to get to the target number, 30, using the numbers on the hearts and any combination of the specified operations. So, they could use just addition and get there in these ways:

4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 2 = 30    


4 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 30

By adding or substituting another operation sign, such as x, students can find the target number in many more ways. For example:

(4 x 4) + (4 x 4) - 2 = 30

 3 x (1 + 2 + 3 + 4) = 30 
(4 x 3) + (3 x 2) + (3 x 3) + 3 = 30

How fun is that? Clearly there are many, many, many equations that can be constructed to equal 30. However, you are not done. Not even close. 

Included in this product are 29 more target numbers, plus 3 blank targets for you to program. Also included is a division sign, should your students be ready for that operation. 

It is up to you to determine how challenging this activity is. If you teach the littlest learners, you can program the center to just require counting. I have even included number hearts with counting dots.  

If you teach older students, this activity will challenge them to use algebraic equations (although the variable is implied), reinforcing the order of operations and the value of parentheses.

As you can see, the heart icons are presented in color and black line.  If you choose to use the black line hearts, I encourage you to copy them on colored paper.

How Many Ways? -- Feb. Edition works well as a math center.  I provide heart shaped paper for students to record their equations and let them post them on the adjacent board. We post them in columns of 10, making it easy to determine how many ways we have found.

It is also a great anchor activity and/or sponge activity.  But my favorite way to use this activity is as a challenge for fast finishers.  It is not only highly engaging for those quick minds, but I also use them as checkers.  That is, they review the posted solutions to make sure they are accurate.  If they agree, they can put a little valentine sticker on the equation to validate it, as well as to show that it has already been checked.

Now that you've met How Many Ways? -- Feb. Edition, I hope you will become life long friends.

Have you met the other members of the family?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

February: Do What You Love

One of the things I love to do with my students is immerse them in poetry because it offers so many teaching possibilities. Naturally you can focus on poetic structures and poetic devices. But have you ever used poetry to teach reading skills? Because poetry is usually short and the message concise, it's a perfect venue for studying vowel sounds, contractions, punctuation, parts of speech, syllables, rimes, inflections, .... The  possibilities are nearly endless. It's always good practice to relate these skills to what is being read. Practicing skills in isolation may transfer to reading skill building; then again it may not.  

Does it sound daunting to combine poetry with ELA skills?  It doesn't have to be. As the ELA coach for my elementary building, I determined that poetry was generally intimidating to my teachers, or at least viewed as a luxury that may not receive much attention. Resolving to change that, I began giving my teachers units of poetry with "possibilities" for using it in the classroom.  Since I work with K-5 teachers and students, these Poetry Possibilities units have applications for all elementary levels.

Poems have reading skills already built into them.  All you have to do is look at it with a "reading skills eye." Thus, if the poem is replete with a particular consonant blend, use it in a guided reading lesson about that blend.  If the poem has a sprinkling of contractions, devise a review lesson about contractions using the poem.  As an example, look at the following poem, noting that it has several compound words in it.

Due to the structure of a poem, it is easier for young children to locate the compound words. If you reproduced this poem on sentence strips for use in a pocket chart, that would facilitate identifying the compound words as a group.  With a little magic and masking tape, you could make the compound words come apart. Alternately, you might focus on the punctuation and how it helps the reader to read with expression and fluency. Or, you might choose to conduct a mini-lesson on contractions. For example, the Possibilities for the above poem include:

If you are interested in more seasonal poems with teaching points and skill suggestions, visit my TpT store here. For February poems and possibilities, I have 3 (!) products: Black History Month Poetry Possibilities, February Poetry Possibilities, and  Poetry Possibilities for Winter.  Another unit, 100th Day of School Poetry Possibilities, is useful this time of year, as well. (Better yet, it's FREE!!) 

As a reading specialist, I highly recommend using poems for guided reading lessons and review lessons.  It has always been a favorite activity of my remedial students if for no other reason than they had less text to conquer.  Just a word of caution: reading poetry is principally about creating enthusiasm for reading.  Take care not to defeat that goal by always turning poetry reading into a skill drill.

As proof of just how much I love teaching with poetry, I present my Poetry Possibilities units:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Woo Hoo! I just have to tell you...

...that I am included on the TPT blog this week -- twice!  Yes, twice!! 

I am literally jumping for joy!

The first mention was for reaching a milestone in December.  Since no newsletter was published last week in deference to the holidays, those of us who reached milestones were included in this week's list. The TPT blog recognized the milestone achievers and featured the product I put up for FREE in celebration.  Because many of you may have missed that notification, I am leaving Winter Word Problems with Mortimer Moose as a free product until Tuesday, 1/6/15. Check it out before it goes back to full price. Mortimer is looking forward to meeting you!

The second mention is in the section about MLK, Jr. Day.  Scroll down and you will see my FREE product, Poetry Possibilities -- MLK, Jr. Day.  You can also find a little blurb from me about how my students and I celebrate this special day.

I feel so blessed to be included in the blog. What a way to start off the new year!  To celebrate, all of my Poetry Possibilities units are reduced 20% this week.