Monday, November 30, 2015

Promoting ownership of learning

At our school we talk a lot about having a growth mindset in all aspects of life, especially in ones educational career. We encourage our students to look at each problem, situation, activity as a way to grow as an individual and think about mistakes and "hardships" as positive ways to learn and grow. Here is a great article on Carol Dweck's growth mindset.

Since I spend most of my time teaching students in small group settings and I focus on 4th and 5th grade math, I have a section of my bulletin board dedicated to their "I can" statements, growth mindset poster and my kid friendly version of our Marzano scales. 
Every time we begin a new unit or start working on a new standard I change the "I can" statement posters and we discuss it and look at the examples. If you like this idea- check out my teachers pay teachers store for the 4th and 5th grade math standards in the I can statement poster format. 

Throughout the unit we address our growth mindset statements because I tend to get a lot of these statements: "This is so hard," "I'm never going to get this," or the occasional, "This is so easy." 
I have also just started having the students informally assess themselves on where they believe they are on our Marzano scales. Some days I will have them hold it up on their fingers (4, 3, 2, or 1), other days they will check it off on the scale with expos, write their initials, etc. This helps them to reflect on their own progress and learning. Some people may think, "oh well of course they are going to say they are at a level 3 or 4 even when they are not." But you would be surprised at how honest students actually are when they feel safe and comfortable. Also, if they say they are a 3 or 4, they then have to prove it by completing tasks related to that standard! To read more about Marzano and the scale process, check this out.




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hands-on Multiplication

I've been teaching 4th and 5th grade for the past 7 years so I have never had to "get back to the basics" of what multiplication really looks like in younger grades, until this year. 

I work with a student who has Downs Syndrome and so I am working on how to multiply with her. She has a great knowledge of place value with the base 10 blocks so we began multiplication by using them. You can get the Tupperware to keep your base ten blocks nice and neat at the dollar store! They have changed my organization life!!

My awesome co-worker, Rose (who has her own blog you need to check out), gave me the idea of using an ice cube tray to help represent the "groups".

It keeps things organized and she can see how many groups she has made and how many more she needs to fill.

When we have put all of our blocks in the groups we, "dump and count" to find our product.

Then, we write our complete number sentence on a laminated sentence strip with a handy-dandy expo. We have also added in creating our own little "story problem" where she writes the, who, usually a person, and then the "what" usually some sort of food. (In this case it was cookies).

This has really helped her see what multiplication means and she really enjoys using the manipulatives and creating her own authentic problems! And I have to admit- I enjoy "getting back to the basics" of what multiplication looks like!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Multiplying Fractions Strategies

My fifth graders are learning how to multiplying fractions by whole numbers. I know some of you may be thinking, "Wow, I didn't learn that until middle school!" I know! I didn't multiply fractions in fifth grade either! But, the truth is, it's actually an easier concept to grasp than you may be thinking... because we use models to represent it!

When I was in school, I know that I learned to multiply fractions by making sure both of the numbers were fractions (so if there was a whole number, put it over 1) and then multiply your numerators, then your denominators and that was your answer. Of course, if you came up with an improper fraction you then had to change it to a mixed number or be sure that your fractions were simplified. I merely memorized these steps and therefore I was pretty successful while multiplying fractions. But, I had no idea what it all meant and what it looked like… until I started teaching.

When we began the unit- I introduced it with fraction circles since they are the most concrete representation of fractions. The students have been using fraction circles for years and I like how you can use the colors to represent each separate fraction and then show how they come together to create the product.

Then we moved on to actually representing the visual models with paper and pencil instead of manipulatives. I still wanted them to keep the colors so they could see where each fraction came from to create the end product.

There are many different strategies and models to represent this concept. One of my favorites is on a number line. The reason why I like this strategy the best is because it helps students to see fractions on a number line- which is one of the most common places they will use them in real life- measurement! I tend to see students struggle with reading a ruler or a meter stick, even in 5th, 6th, 7th grade. Also, the need for changing improper fractions to mixed numbers or simplifying fractions is eliminated. 

Feel free to copy my anchor chart. During group, my students and I created it together. They have one for their notebook and I have this one hanging in the room for them to reference. Also, check out the task cards I created for this standard.