Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Benefits of Teaching Math Games

With Easter around the corner, I have decided to have a Math Games Day.  Providing students with math games encourages consolidation of concepts studied in class.  Students are able to apply their mathematical knowledge while increasing their skills.  Math games often foster a positive attitude towards a particular math concept.  When games are differentiated, students are able to succeed regardless of their level.  I have two games that have been differentiated for these purposes.  One is the Draw a Bunny Addition Challenge and the Draw a Bunny Multiplication Challenge.  The other games are Addition Easter Egg Bump and Multiplication Easter Egg Bump.  I have also designed this game called "Race to the Easter Egg".  Student will draw number cards based on digits 0 to 99.  These will then strategically place their numbers on the board.  There are only 25 spots so students will have to choose their number positions wisely.  

 Math games played in the classroom become excellent home-school connections as well.  Students are often able to “teach” their parents concepts gained in the classroom.  Students whose first language is not English gain instructional “know how” as well.  Games are common in a variety of cultures.  Simple math games are quickly learned through direct observation and social interaction.
My Easter Games are available until April 1st, 2015 for 50% off at the following link.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Using a Puppy Theme for a Graphic Organizer

I have been using a puppy theme with a lot of my graphic organizers lately.  When I introduced my students to friendly letter writing I created this organizer:

It helped students understand the parts of a letter while providing a nice visual to show them where things belonged.  I made this organizer much larger and created a classroom poster.  Each student was given an organizer for their writing folder.

The puppy theme continued with paragraph writing.  This time, it was in the form of a doghouse.

It's now time to bring the dog back with some journal writing.  A cardboard cut out of our mascot is sent home with a journal and specialty writing paper.  Here's the cover for our class journal:

The dog theme has been successful and really assists students in organizing their work.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Using the Traffic Light to Guide Students' Responses

We started our Persuasive unit this week.  I began with general questions to guide students' opinions.  We read the Tony Stead book, "Should We Have Pets"?  You will notice that most students were in favor of having a pet.  Two were not sure and one was adamant about not having one.  We then decided that the students would move towards jotting notes about how they felt so that they could verbalize their opinions.  Here's a graphic organizer that helped them:

As the week progresses, we will steer the conversation to a debate format.  My goal is to have the students learn to "argue" their opinions verbally and then move to persuasive writing.  

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Understanding the Probability Continuum

Big Idea:  The chance that a future event will happen can be characterized along a probability continuum of impossible to certain.

Developing the Big Idea:  Children will develop the big idea of probabilty if they explore it naturally instead of “memorizing” formal rules and definitions.  Developing the big idea can be taught as a link between a traffic light and the chances of something occurring. 

Exploring the Big Idea:  Using event cards, students are asked to decide where they would go along the continuum.  A red light signals a driver to absolutely “stop.”  In this case, we change stop to impossible.  When a yellow light flashes, a driver should slow down but in some cases, a driver speeds up and goes through the light.  It is “equally likely” that the light could mean slow down or move along for some drivers.  A green light signals “go” or in this case, “certain”.   

Ways to Explore the Big Idea:  Keep a file of event cards on display as part of your opening exercises.  Have the student of the day choose a card and place it on the continuum.  Another idea is to have the students place a traffic light at a math station and place cards at the proper light.     

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Author's Chair

The Author’s Chair is a celebration of sharing a piece of writing.  It is considered a culminating task in the writing process.  The Author’s Chair is a good way to gain positive feedback from students’ peers.  An Author’s Chair has many purposes:

- To develop ownership of a piece of writing
- To develop learning skills that involve collaboration
- To develop peer editing skills
- To ensure motivation
- To develop active listening skills as an audience
- To reflect upon student work
     An Author’s Chair should have criteria co-constructed by both the teacher and students.  The teacher should model what reading in the Author’s Chair looks and sound like.  Here's an effective strategy called TAG to assist in guiding students' responses to their peers: 

Author's Chair is a great way to celebrate student's writing and reinforcement of oral communication skills. 


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Inquiry Based Learning

Education over the past few years has pushed teachers toward teaching through inquiry. Teachers have learned to gradually release the onus of learning onto students. It hasn't been an easy process. When I began teaching through inquiry, I had to revisit my own knowledge and approach to this.  I realized that I had to build a positive classroom community first before I could even begin an inquiry discussion circle. Students had to learn to explore, activate and build upon prior knowledge without arguing.  They had to learn to respond positively!

Learning through inquiry starts with an inquiry discussion circle.  The circle is a positive time to develop a classroom community.  Here are some suggestions to begin the inquiry discussion circle:

1) Start with a large circle where students must face one another.

2) Pose a question or begin a discussion about a topic.
3) Have students respond to what they already know about a topic.
4) Give students a notebook or small journal for entering things they would like to record.
5) Have students pose questions about what they would like to explore.  Wondering questions may be posted on a wonder wall display board.  Students can then use these questions to categorize them and then answer them.
Wonder Wall Display
6) Encourage students to brainstorm ways they could explore their topic.
7) Give positive feedback.  Encourage students to do the same.
8) Try not to answer questions directly.  Guide students to answer their own questions.
9) Think of ways students could have questions answered:  guest speakers, media, interviews, written texts. 
10) Give students time to explore their topic.  Meet again periodically to discuss students' findings.  

Inquiry Notebook Guide for Jot Notes and Citing Sources

11) Hold an inquiry showcase where students present their findings. This may be done individually or with a peer or peers.  Inquiry questions may lead to skits, interviews, letters, journals or visual displays to show student findings.

Remember that inquiry circles are about talking, questioning, listening, decision-making, communicating, exploring, wondering and making connections.