Friday, February 20, 2015

Memorization in math a bad thing?

I think a math curriculum that FOCUSES on memorization or makes it more important than conceptual knowledge is bad, but I think it's a fallacy to make it seem like memorization has no place.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Create some "Drawing Time" with my "Draw a Little, Write a Little" picture prompts

     My 3rd graders are ALWAYS asking, "Can we draw?"  I get a sad look on my face and think about how much I loved drawing when I was a kid and the opportunity for self-expression drawing provides.  Often, my answer is no.  Why?

     High-stakes testing has increased the pressure on the elementary teacher to focus so heavily on maximizing our reading, writing, and math time that teachers often feel as if they don't want to "get caught" doing arts and crafts activities.  In Indiana we have the standardized testing that all students 3--10 take, PLUS a separate reading test that is used to determine passing to 4th grade.  So when can we draw?  How can we fit in little moments the students really enjoy?

     Here are some printable picture prompts to answer that dilemma! Each page features an incomplete picture with instructions on what to draw to make the scene complete.  I find that when I DO have drawing be part of an activity it takes students FAR too long to finish.  Part of that time is students thinking of what to draw!  This eliminates that problem.  They provide a nice balance between student freedom/self-expression and clear guidelines.

Following the picture section is a short writing prompt coinciding with the picture.  Once again, it is broad enough to allow students to be creative and independent, while at the same time setting up a clear writing goal.  It could be finishing a narrative or conversation, writing a description, or explaining a situation.

Another great thing about this TeachersPayTeachers purchase?  It's ALIVE!  I will be adding more prompt pages to this collection as time goes by and YOU won't have to pay more!  Whenever you purchase this set, you will receive the prompts currently in the set.  When I add more prompts I will increase the price, but YOU can come back and download the updated set without paying any extra! You will get a notification on your TPT "My Purchases" page when the product has been revised. As of the original date of this post, there are 13 prompts included. (Updated in January 2016 to include 19 total prompts) Go get it now at my TeachersPayTeachers store!

Find some more TPT sellers' favorite products here:
Becca the Science Girl and Other Amazing Educational Things
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

If I had my own planet like "The Little Prince"...

I read The Little Prince aloud to my 3rd grade class.  We stopped after a few chapters to do some drawing in response to their reading.  The kids might not have the life experiences to really "get" a lot of the moralistic aspects of the book, but they have enjoyed listening to it and talking about it and definitely enjoyed this activity!

I'm kind of surprised I haven't read The Little Prince before now.  It is one of the best-selling books ever, and is actually the most prolific French-language book ever.  It was written in the 1940's by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  

In the story, a pilot has crash-landed in the Sahara desert and soon meets a "most extraordinary small person".  He engages in conversation with the "Little Prince" while trying to fix his airplane.  We learn about the prince's life (he's the only person living on his planet) and his travels from tiny planet to tiny planet (asteroids, actually), the characters he meets and the lessons he learns.

The pilot acts as narrator and illustrator.  he self-referentially refers to his own writing and drawing throughout the novella, which makes for a uniquely toned narrative.  Interestingly enough, de Saint-Exupéry actually DID crash-land an airplane into the middle of the Sahara desert, and much of the book is allusion to and metaphor of his own life experiences and philosophy.

Before starting the chapters where the prince recounts his travels from planet to planet, I had my class do a little art project in response to our reading.  I posed the question "If you had your own little planet like 'The Little Prince', what would it look like?"  I gave some instruction on drawing on their "spheres" with the right perspective and discussed some ideas and set them on their way.  I really liked their results!  

My 3rd Graders work on their "personal planets".

The final results.  I thought they were really cool!

As a mentor text, The Little Prince great for studying symbolism, metaphor, and allusion.  Those aren't big focuses in 3rd grade, but I like to discuss those deep comprehension concepts with my students, especially during read-alouds.  Some kids really are amazed when they start to see the "story behind the story" and understanding such concepts can really enrich their reading experiences.  I generally try to use poetry to teach metaphor and symbolism to such young students, but the flower on the princes planet, the inhabitants of the other little planets he visits and their idiosyncrasies, and the characteristics of the planets are all ripe for symbolism and metaphor discussions.

Read about some other mentor texts at this linky:

Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Determine Reading/Grade Level of a Text

Have you ever wanted to find the reading level of a newspaper or magazine article, website, or other such text?  Have you ever, for the purpose of differentiation, re-wrote a science or social studies text in simpler language?  Have you ever written a test or passage and wanted to know if the reading level was appropriate for your students?  There are some ways for you to make that determination.

There are many readability measures out there. Gunning fog, Coleman-Liau, and Dale-Chall  among others.  Flesch-Kincaid may be the the most used in education.  They all involve formulas involving word length, sentence length, syllables, and other variables.  However, there is no need to grab a text and a calculator to check texts.

There are many websites offering tools to determine readability levels of texts.  Many of these websites not only allow you to type or copy/paste text into a box for determination, but also will give a level for web pages when you enter the URL.  I'm not sure how trustworthy they all are; I tried the same text in a few and got 1-3 level differences in some scores between sites.  I found to be the best.  It seemed to ME to be the most accurate with the scores.  You can type or copy/paste text and enter URLs for free.  For a donation of at least a dollar, you can upload documents to be checked.  Other websites can do this, but gives you an average of the levels as well, which I find useful.

You can also use Microsoft Word to check Flesch-Kincaid readability grade level and ease of reading.  I made a quick tutorial for how to set up MS Word to do this for you that can be downloaded at my TeachersPayTeachers store.  It's free to download.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fraction Task Cards

We'll be doing work with finding equivalent fractions and comparing fractions soon. I wanted to get in some review of naming fractions before then. While I was working with one group on the whiteboard on perimeter and area, and another group was practicing some 3-digit addition and subtraction, one group was working with naming the fractions on Snowy Fractions Task Cards from Mrs 3rd Grade (TeachersPayTeachers). They are a very attractive set of task cards and my students really enjoyed working with them. My kids loved the penguins on these winter-themed fraction materials.  All the fractions are full color, but two version of everything are included; one set has a nice full color border on each card, and one set is a more printer-friendly blackline border.  I used the ink-saving version, but the cards still looked great.

 Also included in this set are strips with three fractions on them for students to order from least to greatest. This is great practice for my 3rd graders; they need to realize that 2/10 is NOT greater than 1/4 just because the digits in the numerator and denominator are larger. The relative sizes of the pieces is important to consider. Having the visual there to reference really helped that concept sink in. I did some pre-teaching with these today so that next week they can work on them independently or with groups.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Collaborative Pinterest Board Invite: Elementary Teacher Blogs

Post by Adam Thompson - TPT.

Go comment on this post on my Facebook page if interested.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Addition and Subtraction Mental Math Memory Matching Games: Develop Computational Fluency

It can be frustrating for educators when the pendulum swings and what used to be considered the most important topic or skill is put on the back-burner and previously secondary concepts suddenly receive a majority of the focus.

In math education, there has often been a battle between conceptual understanding and computational or procedural fluency.  These domains, alongside application, are equally important. Thankfully, it seems we have come to a time with the Common Core that all three domains (conceptual understanding, fluency, and application) receive equal time and focus; more people have come to the understanding that conceptual understanding leads to fluency in computation and procedure, both of which are required for accurate and efficient application.  All three domains work together to develop well-rounded math ability in students.

These sets of memory matching games can help students in the development of mental computational fluency.  Between these two comprehensive sets of memory matching games, all mental math addition and subtraction computation standards for grades kindergarten, one, two, and three are covered.  That includes : K.OA.A.4, 1.NBT.C.4, 1.NBT.C.5, 1.NBT.C.6, 1.OA.C.6, 1.OA.D.8, 2.OA.B.2, 2.NBT.A.2, 2.NBT.B.7, 2.NBT.B.8, and 3.NBT.A.2.

There are almost 90 20-card memory matching games total in these two sets.  Card-backs to conceal and disguise the cards are also included.  Click on the covers above to view them at my TeachersPayTeachers store.