Saturday, September 11, 2010

Read Around the World

My third grader came home from school yesterday with her Friday Folder from this first week of school. She has a very loud, boisterous voice and fairly shouts everything she says. We were packing up her and Little Sister's things at the child care center they go to after school and she was shouting about having to read all these books about different countries and such. As I was trying to stem off a headache from her super boisterous voice, I said we'd look at the paper together at home and figure it out.

The packet is a "Read Around the World" project that the 3rd grade team at her school came up with. Basically it is just a reading log and they get "miles" for every minute they read (1 minute = 20 miles). So they included a chart in the explanation packet to detail what countries they would travel to by reading. I think this is a brilliant idea and I might just steal it!

I have a big map that a friend of mine gave to me over the summer and I might get it laminated and hang it on the back wall where I have some spare room. Then my students could have little reuseable symbols to mark where they are in their travels as they read and complete their required reading each day. I am going to ask my teaching partner if she wants to do this as well because I think it is absolutely brilliant. Such a simple idea yet provides some incentive and a little bit of geography exposure too. And I'm sure that my class will love "traveling" to Mexico and some of the other countries that they are from.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Multiplication Groups

In my last student teaching placement, I had 5th graders, then my first year teaching I taught a 4th/5th split grade. I was astounded how many of those kiddos either didn't know their multiplication tables at all (they learn them in 3rd grade) or only knew about half by memory.

It is one of the ONLY skills I push my students to have memorized since knowing how to multiply makes division so much easier. The beauty of the Everyday Math program for me is that (at least at 4th and 5th grade), they really do show the relationship between these two types of math. Over the last two years, my students have done much better once they realized that if they know how to multiply, they can divide anything, they just have to use the turn-around facts like they learned when they learned to add and subtract, except they are using multiplication and division. It's probably one of the best light bulb moments I see in teaching older students.

During my first year, one of my colleagues shared with me a multiplication/division group idea. I do not know if she made it up or developed it with someone else or what. Basically, she put together a bunch of types of multiplication (such as multiplying a 3-digit number by a 1-digit number, multiplying 2-digit by 2-digit, etc) and made a pretest to see where her students were in being able to APPLY multiplication along with knowing their multiplication tables.
Since I didn't start teaching there until after Thanksgiving, was the 3rd teacher in that classroom since August and had a split grade, she took pity on me and shared this program with me. I have never used the division part because I've never needed to do so. Once my students grasped the multiplication part, they were hitting home-runs with division because they grasped the concept that they really do go hand-in-hand.

As such, during spring break that year, I created a set of worksheets to go along with the multiplication groups. The groups simply identify where each child is working with multiplication (the children rarely work together on these although sometimes I did allow it). A few days a week there would be time for children to bring me their sheets to be checked and if they passed it, they could get another sheet and/or the test out sheet for the group level they were in to try to move up to the next level.

Since I had all of these documents already on my computer at home, I decided to alter them (very slightly) and create .pdfs with them to share with anyone reading who is so inclined. You'll find them on the Teacher Resource page. Please let me know if you decide to use them -- I would love to hear how someone else puts them to use in their classroom.
Keeping track of the worksheets and such can be a bit time consuming but once you find a way that works for you, it is SO easy. I created a spreadsheet with the kids names along the side and the multiplication numbers -- ie. 1.1, 1.2, etc -- along the top and then just marked half an X in one color when I gave them that sheet and used another color to finish the X to show me they'd passed it so I didn't accidentally give kiddos the same sheet twice. Sometimes I added the date too for kiddos who were taking a LONG time on the sheets so I could check in with them and see if they were struggling or just not doing any of the work.

There is another math screener that I have used in the past that I hope to share in the upcoming weeks. I'm currently trying to figure out where it came from so I don't violate anyone's copyright by posting it here. Stay tuned for updates on that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Word Wall Activities Lists

I had a couple requests to share the word wall activities lists I posted about last time. I did not keep a master copy but since I have nothing better to do (*wink*), I decided to make a new master copy. The font isn't as pretty as the one I have but hey, it works.

I have absolutely no idea who actually came up with all of these activities so I couldn't provide credit for them. If you use them on a site for download, please be sure you provide a link that you got them here. Thanks! :)

Word Activities - 1

Word Activities - 2

Word Activities - 3

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Recently, I downloaded a free sample of NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children for my Kindle. The sample includes Chapter 1 which is called "The Inverse Power of Praise". It is very interesting and filled with a lot of actual data from experiments done with children to back up the claims they make.

Basically this chapter talks about how when we tell children they are smart, it actually produces the opposite effect than what we desire when we say it. Children who are told they are smart eventually stop trying when they think a task is going to be too difficult.

One of the big questions asked is "why does [a] child who is measurably at the very top of the charts lack confidence about his ability to tackle routine school challenges?"

Why indeed.

Dr. Carol Dweck completed a series of studies with children to try to pinpoint information about the effects of praise. In the first part all of the children were given a non-verbal IQ test that consisted of puzzles. They were designed so all of the children would do fairly well. They randomly divided their praise between praise on their intelligence and praise on their effort. They found after two more series of tests that the students who were praised for their effort actually chose the difficult puzzles for the last test while the majority of children who had been praised for their intelligence went wtih the easy test. Basically they copped out. Dweck summarized this by saying that when we praise children for their intelligence we are essentially telling them to look smart and not to risk making mistakes.

Additionally after a round where the test was purposely too difficult, the children who had been previously praised for their effort took the news better when they found out they hadn't passed -- they chalked it up to the notion that they must not have tried as hard as they could. The children who had been previously praised for their intelligence took the failure to mean they really weren't smart at all.

In the last test (the puzzle test mentioned above with the cop-out), the effort praised students scored an average of 30% higher than their original score while the intelligence praised students scored an average of 20% lower than their original score.

There is so much more to the chapter but I was hooked just reading this far. As a teacher in the inner city, I find varying degrees of children who receive praise. Some children are never praised for anything unless they are at school. Some children are praised so much that their parents won't accept that the child earned a lower grade because "my kid is smart, s/he should have a higher grade". Even in elementary school this happens. [There is a parent in the sample chapter of NutureShock who told a teacher she couldn't give the child a C because it would "hurt his self esteem".]

I think what appeals to me the most about this book is that these are not just two drones who are spouting off random opinions that they think everyone should soak up and accept. They are providing real evidence from many studies (the study listed above spanned 10 years with the same results throughout those 10 years regardless of the socioeconomic status of the students) to back up their claims.

I can't wait to purchase the full version and see what else they have to say.