Friday, November 25, 2011

12 Activities of Christmas

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that those of you brave enough to fight the crowds had a great shopping day today.  To help kick off the Christmas season, here is the December version of my creative writing books.  I really enjoy reading my students' responses to the questions and prompts in the book.

I also wanted to let everyone know that there will be a site wide 10% off TpT sale on Monday the 28th, and the coupon code is CMS28!  I'll also have my entire on sale for an additional 10% off everything you buy.  I know I have my shopping cart ready to go!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

12 Activities of Christmas

I recently added what may be my new favorite product to my TpT store.  It's the 12 Activities of Christmas, and it is different from my usual items which are very specific to certain standards.  This product is geared more toward critical thinking and divergent thinking skills with a few really challenging activities.  I'm planning to use one activity each day in my class for a total of 12 days of Christmas activities. You can click on any of the pictures for a preview.

I love logic puzzles, so I had to include one in the packet, and students will have to help Mrs. Clause triple a cookie recipe in a different activity.  I was also thrilled to finally think of a way to practice longitude and latitude in a fun way where students can track Santa's route.

I also included a Christmas themed Sudoku that is on a 6 by 6 square to make it a little more manageable for 3-5 students.  There are also 2 graphing activities and an algebra activity where students have to find the weights of packages using balance scales.
The Number Christmas Tree is basically a number pyramid that is one of the most challenging activities in this product, but I think it will be great mental math practice for my students.  The Candy Cane Measurement is a fairly simple activity where students have to measure candy canes, but they won't start from zero on the ruler, which adds a bit of a challenge.  Another activity is Christmas themed word ladders, and since they are also pretty challenging , I've added a few hints to help students out. 

The Christmas Tree Farm activity is also very challenging, but students usually love it.  In the Carol Synonyms, students have to find the titles of popular Christmas carols by using synonyms for the carols.  For example, Quiet Dark may be Silent Night.  The last activity is my favorite, in this students get to design Santa's workshop by using area and perimeter to build different rooms that may be in his workshop.  

I also wanted to share a little free activity that you can download by clicking on the picture.  I'll be teaching fractions for the next few weeks, so it's a little Christmas fractions worksheet.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Work Stations Assessment

As many of you know, I've started implementing math work stations for the first time this year.  For the past several years, I've used the traditional math workshop model, so this is a change for me.  I only use work stations two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), because I need time for many of my longer math workshop tasks that are just not conducive for a work station activity.  I'm also not sure if my third graders would enjoy it as much if they did the work stations every day.  Right now, they're still huge treat for my students.

After a little more than 9-weeks, I feel like I've gotten into the swing of things and have learned how to adjust little things to make the work stations even more efficient in my classroom.  However, I've started feeling a little concerned about my students' accountability during work station time.  The activities that we do are engaging, so I don't have a lot of behavior issues, but I just haven't felt 100% confident that my students have been giving their best effort, and I've been noticing some issues with students not staying on task.  I've also been a little concerned that my students weren't getting enough accomplished during their station time and that they weren't being careful about whether their work was correct or not. I meet with small groups during the majority of the time, so it's difficult to be everywhere I need to be. Last week I had an ah-ha moment, and I think I've found one of my missing pieces to successful work stations-a weekly work station rubric.
 In my rubric, I'm assigning points for work habits and content for Tuesdays and Thursdays. 
It's very simple, but I can already see a significant improvement in my students' work ethic and motivation to to their best work.  I also think rubrics are an incredible tool in relaying expectations to students. I've left my rubric in Word format, you can make changes to it since I'm sure everyone has different needs for their students.  (If it doesn't look right it's probably because of the font I used.)   I'm sure my rubric will continue to evolve as I encounter new concerns.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Math Practice

I'm not a fan of doing tons of worksheets, but there are some math skills where my students really need extra practice.  We've recently worked on the distributive property, which is really tricky for me.  The first year year I taught it, I had to go online and teach myself how to use the distributive property myself!  It really surprises me that my students love doing it, and think that it is so easy, but I'm not complaining:)
Here is a worksheet that I've used in my class for extra practice.  I've scaffold it, so that it starts of fairly easy and progressively gets more difficult.

We've also started division, and my students think it is the best thing ever.  It never ceases to amaze me to see how excited they are to learn something new and grown-up (my kiddos think they're doing high school work).  We did the M&M activity today from my multiplication and division unit, and I forgot to take pictures, but I did make a short little practice sheet.  I cringe when I see my non academic vocabulary on it, but I'll add it later.  Right now, we're just working on the basics.
  I know that neither sheets are especially cute or exciting, but hopefully they'll get the job done.  I'll be uploading my new December Weekly Word Problems to TpT tonight.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekly Word Problems

My students are really struggling with word problems this year.  They do great when it's only addition, only subtraction, or only multiplication, but it totally throws them for a loop when they have to choose the operation.  I've done lessons on this, I have posters with key words, and I've even had my students create their own posters using chart paper, but this is just going to have to be a skill we practice daily.  I'm in the process of creating monthly word problem practice sheets for each month, so that we can practice 3 word problems each day.  The daily problems will be written so that the context of the story problem is the same for all three problems which will allow students to really focus on the math key words.  My August and September sheets will only have addition and subtraction word problems, and the October and November sheets will have addition, subtraction, and multiplication word problems.  The December-May sheets will have addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division word problems.  I will have 4 weeks worth of word problems for each month.

You can grab your copy by clicking on the picture!  I know November is almost over, and but hopefully you can use it next year.  I do have a year long bundle on TpT, if you'd like to use these word problems all year long!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Veteran's Day Choice Board

Each year around this same time I start feeling crunched for time, because I'm always behind the curriculum map, and little assemblies and programs start popping into our day on a regular basis.  I'm always happy for my students to have new and interesting experiences, but I do feel the pressure of not falling too far behind.  Despite this time crunch, I feel that it's important to set aside some time for teaching students about Veteran's Day and to allow them to complete a few Veteran's Day activities.  I recently created a Veteran's Day Choice Board that gives students choices in the activities they complete.   There are also student directions for each of the activities.  You can get your copy by clicking here!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bird Adaptations

Last week we did one of my favorite science experiments of the year.  We've been studying animal adaptations and spent a little time learning about how birds' beaks are physical adaptions of birds.  To enforce this concept we did a little experiment on birds' beaks.

This activity does require quite a bit of preparation, but I feel that it is definitely worth the work.  To begin with, I collected several types of tools to serve as birds' beaks (tongs, tweezers, slotted spoons, eye droppers, staple removers, etc.)  Then, I collected a variety of bird foods (snails/macaroni, grubs/m&ms, nectar/red water, worms/ gummy worms, small seeds, large seeds, flesh/staples in cardboard, fish/paper clips, beetles/raisins, duckweed/Styrofoam).  I typically mix the food in with oatmeal or potting soil to make it a little more realistic for students.  During the activity students have two attempts to collect as much food as possible with the two beaks of their choice.  I like to give students 30 seconds for each attempt, and I have students record their results on their data collection sheet.

Yum!  Snails!

 Grubs anyone?
 What beak works best for beetles?

 Every year my students LOVE this activity!  You can download your copy of the data collection sheet by clicking on the picture below.