Wednesday, October 29, 2014


I'm curious. Has anyone else given the "Candy is not a good choice for breakfast" or the "Candy is not a great idea for your snack" speech this week? I'm not joking when I say that I've had multiple students bring large bags of candy to class just to munch on while they work. I had to do a double take when I saw a jumbo bag of Laffy Taffy sitting on a student's desk, and I couldn't help but laugh. Kids will be kids.

We are right in the middle of our division unit, and for the most part I'm happy with how everyone is progressing. Our biggest obstacle is the same as it is every year-multiplication facts. I'm sending home my multiplication facts booklets with some of my students, and I think those are helping a lot. I also bought a couple of games from Lakeshore Learning, and I'm using those games for a few of my work station activities. My favorite game is definitely Flip It.
 Students roll four dice and group the digits to create two 2-digit numbers. Then, they flip down two factors that can be multiplied together to reach the product of the 2-digit number rolled. If there aren't any factors that can be flipped, the student's turn is over. I'm allowing my students to use a multiplication table as needed, because I still have several who need a little more time on multiplication facts.
My students LOVE, and I LIKE Multiplication Jenga. It's certainly fun, but geeze those blocks are loud when they fall. I nearly jump out of my skin every time it crashes to the floor.
I've also started using my College Football Math Task Cards, and it cracks me up to watch my students sort through the cards to find their favorite teams. Even my most reluctant students enjoy the football task cards.
I also recently made a new No Prep Multiplication Printables pack, and I've been using the other activities as needed. I absolutely love this pack, because it's so teacher friendly. The only preparation needed is printing, and that's it!

Some of the games can be played with a partner. In this game, students roll a die and multiply the number rolled by three. Then, they color the product of the two numbers. Students take turns rolling the die and coloring the numbers, and the first person who colors three in a row wins.
Some activities are more basic. In this activity, students had to color an array to show a multiplication facts.
The multiplication table was quite a challenge for some students, but I do think that they now truly understand how to read a multiplication table.
I gave this comparing numbers sheet to some of my students who needed a little challenge.
This spin and color activity is a ton of fun! I just have students use a paper clip and pencil for a spinner. They spin two times and multiply the two numbers together, and then they color in the product of the two numbers.
Without a doubt, my students' favorite activity was Color by Number. You would have thought that I gave them an extra hour of recess when you saw how excited they were about this activity.
I've organized the activities so that there are some easy versions with small numbers and more challening versions with larger numbers. There are MANY more activities in the packet, so if you'd like to see a large preview, just click on the picture below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Government Interactive Notebook & a Free Presentation

We are now full swing into our government unit, which is one of the hardest concepts I teach all year. I'm not sure how I get so lucky to teach division and government at the same time!
I actually enjoy teaching government, but it's so difficult for my students to understand. I think part of the problem is the vocabulary. There are some very big words in this unit that are difficult for students to read and pronounce, much less understand. I'm on the verge of coming up with a great idea for teaching government, but the idea hasn't made it's way from my mind to an actual project.

I started the unit by teaching about the three levels of government. I made a little PowerPoint presentation that explained the three levels of government in student friendly terms. You can download a copy of the presentation here.
After discussing the presentation and reading a little, students completed a levels of government entry in their social studies interactive notebook.
After I felt like my students were comfortable with the levels of government, I then introduced the three branches of government. We've watched a United Streaming movie, read some out of GA Studies Weekly, and have read a few nonfiction picture books. Students also added a 3 branches of government entry to their interactive notebook. I love that this student colored her leaves to have an autumn look. I thought that was so original!
For the next few weeks, I'll teach the roles, responsibilities, and names of the three branches at each level of government. My goal is to make the remainder of this unit as fun and as relevant as possible, so be sure to check back in for some new ideas. I'd love to hear how you make government fun for students!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Products & Freebies

I absolutely love this time of year. There is just something special about all of the excitement in October, November, and December. I think it's during these months that I'm most appreciative of being around students, so I can see their excitement and joy over all that comes with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

I do like to have a little seasonal fun in my classroom, but I do keep it in moderation. I still move forward with standards based instruction. I just try to give my lessons a seasonal look and theme. One of my favorite additions to my seasonal products is my Fall Themed Constructed Response Task Cards. I've been working on constructed response problems all year, but they can be so tough for students. I want to give my students as many different opportunities to practice solving constructed response problems as possible, so I wanted to add them to my math work station rotations. I was tempted to give the cards this adorable Halloween look, but I couldn't stand the thought of printing, laminating, and cutting only to have to put them away in a couple weeks. I thought that I'd save myself a lot of work by giving them a generic fall look, so that I could get several weeks worth of use out of these cards.
I've included questions for rounding, place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division because these are the concepts I have taught this year. We've just started division, so I may take those cards out for another week or two. You can look at the examples below to get an idea of the rigor of the task cards.
I'll also use my October and November Spiral Math Review Task Cards during the next few months. I like how excited my students get whenever I introduce a new month's worth of spiral review cards. They always look for the new content to complete first.
I also have a Language Arts Spiral Review Task Cards, and the month of November is FREE! You can grab those here! Speaking of free, I've temporarily removed my monthly creative writing packs from TpT. I want to spruce them up a little. In the meantime, they are still available on this blog.
Even though we're technically finished with our multiplication unit, a little extra practice never hurts, so I'm printing out some of the activities from my Halloween Themed Multiplication Activities as I write.
I liked this when I made it last year, but after seeing it's usefulness I really love it! I was surprised at how many days it was just what I needed for that extra little boost of multiplication instruction. There are two pumpkin patch activities where students solve multiplication word problems and another where students draw arrays to show potential pumpkin patches. I absolutely love the problem solving required for the Haunted House and Costume Shop activities! They are definitely my two favorites. My students thoroughly enjoyed the Halloween Candy multiplication table and the Ghostly Word problems. I made it in a color and in a black and white version, because if I print at home, I print in color, and if I print at school, it's in black and white.

I also wanted to share what I'm doing for my other math work statins, but that may have to wait. Apparently that basket of laundry won't fold itself! Here's a link to my other fall products!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Representing Division

This post is going to have to be short and sweet. Mainly because I have forgotten to take almost any pictures in my classroom the last couple weeks. I feel like the second I walk in the door everything turns into a whirlwind, and I don't even realize that I forgot to take any pictures of our activities until I'm back at home. I'd love to find a way to slow things down and to lose the franticness of my day. Does anyone else feel the same, or is it just me?

We've started our division unit, and I did manage to take one little picture with my phone.  (I love how they just changed the divisor to make the problem work out without a remainder.)

We have spent the past several days learning about the concept of division. I started by using a variety of manipulatives and having my students place the manipulatives into equal groups. I then introduced how placing items into equal groups transitioned into a division equation. After I felt like my students were comfortable with equal groups, I taught them how to represent division with a grouping model, array, repeated subtraction, and a number line. I spent one day on each type of representation, and then I gave a quick assessment to see how well my students understood the concepts. (Click on the picture for a copy of the assessment.)
The top portion of the assessment had students represent a division equation through a grouping model, repeated subtraction, array, and number line. The second section of the assessment had students write a division equation modeled by a grouping model, repeated subtraction, array, and number line. Can you guess which part gave my class the most trouble? Hands-down the second portion was the one that stumped my students! Through this assessment I learned that my class has a pretty good grasp on how to model division, but they still need work on understanding how to read and write a division equation. Tomorrow, we're going to really focus on understanding models of division and writing division equations. What part of division gives your students the most trouble?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Anchor Charts

I never thought I had a jealous streak until I started seeing all of these amazing anchor charts pop up online. Oh my goodness! There are some seriously amazing artists out there, and I am not one of them! I've always tried to make nice looking charts, but I found that it was taking me way too much time to make anything special. I would make my "rough draft" anchor chart with my students, but then I would recreate what we made together to make it presentable.

This year I wanted to try something new and improved, and I'm loving the results! I've created an anchor chart for each of the third grade math Common Core Standards. Some standards needed more than one chart; for instance, I made one chart for rounding and a separate chart for place value. The thing that I LOVE about these charts is that they are BIG! I wanted the information on my chart to be readable for all students no matter where they were in my classroom, so I created 18"x24" charts.
I've already got a new system for keeping them organized, which is great for me! I'm hanging all of the charts for our current unit. For my first unit, I had a place value, rounding, properties of addition, and types of word problem chart.

Then after I finish the unit, I group all of the charts together and hang them on hooks on the wall. This way my students can refer to them whenever needed.

In my current unit, I've added representing multiplication, properties of multiplication, unknown number, and types of word problems. I only add my anchor charts as I introduce them with my students. I've only referred to parts of the unknown number and types of word problems, since I haven't introduced division yet.
When I made these anchor charts, I knew that I'd eventually add them to TpT, and I felt like some people would rather have a regular 8.5"x11" poster, so I created those as well. You can see below the difference in size of the two posters.
I had my posters printed from and had them printed for $3 per poster. You can also print the large size posters on a regular sheet of copy paper and then tape the papers together. If you'd like to see the whole file you can click here!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Guided Reading Unit 2 & 3 Plus a Freebie

It is almost scary to see how fast this school year is going. I absolutely cannot believe that it's time for the extreme pleasure of completing report card comments and conduct grades. Ha!

I know that many of you are using my 3rd-5th Grade Guided Reading Unit 1, so I wanted to give you a little more information about Unit 2 and Unit 3, because I would guess that you're almost finished (or just finished) Unit 1.
Unit 2 moves students from learning basic comprehension strategies to applying those strategies while learning about story elements and elements of a non fiction text. This second unit focuses on features of fiction and nonfiction texts. The unit begins with a three week study on the elements of fiction. One week on characters, one week on setting, and one week on plot. Then, the second half of the unit focuses on elements of non fiction, including nonfiction text features and nonfiction text structures. I wanted to introduce these elements of fiction and nonfiction early in the units, because understanding the structure of a text will help students comprehend the text. Each section requires students to use evidence from the text to support their answers. I've also included a significant amount to response to literature within this unit, because I want my students writing about reading.
I was so excited about Unit 3, because it focused on traditional literature. I was surprised that it was by far the most difficult unit to write. One of the most challenging parts for me was finding the just right books to use for mentor texts. I wanted to keep all of the books appropriate for 3rd-5th grade, and I certainly had a few mishaps along the way. My favorite OOPS was when I wrote a lesson for a particular fairy tale and ordered the book AFTER I wrote the lesson. When the book arrived, I was more than a bit surprised to find male and female nudity on every page. Rest assured, I modified that lesson! This third unit focuses on traditional literature with fairy tales, fables, legends, tall tales, and myths. Each week focuses on a different type of literature and includes at least one nonfiction lesson that reinforces an idea from the week. For example, during the week that we read fairy tales, students will have one day to read a nonfiction book about wolves. Then, they will compare the fairy tale version of wolves with real information. This is the unit when students begin to spend a significant amount of time comparing and contrasting different books within the same genre. They will also begin to learn to identify the speaker and point of view. Other skills such as sequence of events, cause and effect, and supporting details are woven into the unit.

Now for the freebie! Several weeks ago, I had a request for an ELA recording sheet that could be used to give a whole class picture of every ELA Common Core Standard. I had to make this version a little different from the math version I already have, because of the organization of the standards. However, I think that this will be a help, so you can just click on the picture for your copy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Multiplication Word Problems

After just a week of representing multiplication through arrays, repeated addition, number lines, and grouping models, I felt like my students were ready to move on to solving multiplication word problems. I was very pleased with what they were able to do, so I wanted to step it up a notch. Rather than having my students solve word problems, I had my students practice writing multiplication word problems. Oh my. That completely though my class for a loop! This allowed me to see that they only understood multiplication at a surface level, but that they needed to dig a little deeper.

One of the activities that my students enjoyed was something that I thought of at the spur of the moment. I hung four anchor charts around the room and wrote a multiplication fact at the top of each anchor chart. I intentionally used the commutative property on each of the charts, so I wrote 3x5 on one chart and 5x3 on another chart and 4x6 on one chart and 6x4 on another chart. I had my students write a multiplication word problem on a sticky note that would reflect a multiplication problem on the piece of chart paper, and then they placed the sticky note on the chart.
 After just a few minutes, we had a mini closing, and I read some of the word problems. Initially, there were a ton of misconceptions to clear up. I'd say the majority of problems that I saw were addition, but there were also a handful of subtraction and division problems. We discussed what needed to be changed with the word problem to create a multiplication problem, and then students worked to write new word problems on their sticky notes.
After a little practice, I saw much better problems, which let me know that my class was grasping the concept at a deeper level.
We still have a way to go, but I feel like we're definitely headed in the right direction.

I also wanted to share a fun little freebie I made! It's a sample of my Common Core Constructed Response Math Assessments, and it has one constructed response assessment from each math domain. It's written in the same exact format and the questions have the same level of rigor. I feel that they are not just word problems and that they require the application of math skills. You can get the free pack by clicking on the picture below!