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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hands-On Math: Base Ten Blocks

Hands-On Math is a blog series where I highlight a math manipulative or tool that I use in my 4th grade classroom. The posts will include links to purchase the tools from Amazon. Please be aware that these are affiliate links. I only recommend tools that I have used and loved myself!

What are Base Ten Blocks?
Base Ten Blocks are typically used for place value as they exemplify our base-ten numerical system. However, there are TONS of other ways to use them. Most sets will come with a thousands cube, hundreds flats, tens rods and ones cubes/units

How do I use them in 4th grade?
Big kids still benefit from concrete experiences for math. One way that I have used base ten blocks is to have students build multiplication problems. This comes at the beginning of our lessons on how to multiply two 2-digit numbers together. We use the base ten blocks to model the array model for multiplication. This provides kids with the concrete experience before moving to the pictorial area model and finally to the abstract traditional algorithm. 


We use centimeter grid paper to set up the problem. I got our grid paper from the ETA book that came with the blocks (see link below). First we outline an array to represent our problem. Then starting with a hundreds flat we fill in the array with blocks. Again starting with the hundreds block, we take away a section at a time and write a multiplication sentence for that section. Finally, we add all of the numbers up. 

Ready to try it? 
Get a starter kit from Amazon to use with your small groups. Click the picture below to check it out on Amazon!




Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tech Tools: Popplet

Tech Tools is a series where I highlight an app or website I'm currently using in my classroom. All apps or sites are free at the time the blog is published. (They may include an upgrade option). I am not affiliated with any of these apps or sites - just a fan from using them myself!

Techie Level: Beginner

App or Web: App (iOS) with web option

What is it? Popplet is a mind mapping app. It is a great tool for brainstorming and allows students to add text or images.

How have I used it? I especially like using Popplet to have students compare concepts using a "Double Bubble" thinking map, which is a lot like a venn diagram. I'm including a picture below of a student's comparison of mixtures and solutions

Student example:

Want to know more? Check out Popplet's site for more info., a demo and a link to download.

What do you think? Comment below and tell me how you've used this app before or how you plan to try it out in your class!
This blog series highlights FREE apps and sites to use in your upper elementary classroom. Perfect for teachers trying to find meaningful ways to integrate technology and take student thinking to the next level.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mastering Multiplication

We just finished up our unit on the 4 operations. When I am introducing multiplication and division with large numbers, I first focus on the skill. Then we follow up the skills with an in-depth problem solving unit.

One of the first skills I teach is multiplying large numbers by a 1-digit number. Our standards in Texas include multiplying a 4-digit number times a 1-digit number. This is an important skill because it builds on their knowledge from 3rd grade (2-digit times 1-digit) and lays the foundation needed for 2-digit times 2-digit - which comes next in our curriculum.

We spent a week on multiplying by 1-digit numbers. All of the activities that my kids did were in a Google Slide that I shared through Google Classroom. They worked through the following activities at their own pace:

They started with a video lesson, while completing a student anchor chart. The completed charts go in their math binder.

After the video lesson, they completed a sort. The sort was multiplication problems. They solved them on white boards and then sorted them by odd products and even products. {My kids LOVE to work problems out on white boards!!}

Next they used a deck of cards to create 10 multiplication problems that they solved on white boards and *their favorite part* got to check with a calculator. What! You let your kids use a calculator?? Yep! It keeps them motivated and they have to go back and find their mistake if they see that they get the problem wrong. We also spend a lot of time discussing why they really need to do the work on their own and use the calculator to check.

Finally, they complete a set of task cards. There were 10 task cards. I posted each card around the room. They walked around the room with a white board to work the problems. Then they posted their answers to a Google Form that automatically graded all their work. With a click of a button I could see which kids needed more help before their Friday math quiz (hallelujah!).

My kids love having their assignments in Google and having the freedom to work at their own pace. It also helps me pull students in small groups throughout the week.

More visual? Here's a quick glimpse of the Google slides.


Want to try it in your room? You can get all the materials I used in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Just click the picture below!

Need white boards for your class? You can find some on Amazon that are pretty affordable. This set has a good reviews (this is an affiliate link)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tech Tools: iBrainstorm

Tech Tools is a series where I highlight an app or website I'm currently using in my classroom. All apps or sites are free at the time the blog is published. (They may include an upgrade option). I am not affiliated with any of these apps or sites - just a fan from using them myself!

Techie Level: Beginner to Intermediate (depending on which functions you use)

App or Web: Currently an app for iPads

What is it? iBrainstorm is a mind mapping app. It has templates, but also allows for free form brainstorming. Additionally, you can collaborate with other iPads on one brainstorming session. 

How have I used it? I've used it a lot at the beginning of science units for students to brainstorm what they already know about a topic. We use Thinking Maps at our school and I love that iBrainstorm has the templates to match Thinking Maps. When they're done, students take a screen shot and upload to a Google Classroom assignment. 

Student examples:
I love how different these student samples are - kids always think of things differently than I do!


Want to know more? Check out iBrainstorm's site for more info. and a link to download.

What do you think? Comment below and tell me how you've used this app before or how you plan to try it out in your class!
This blog series highlights FREE apps and sites to use in your upper elementary classroom. Perfect for teachers trying to find meaningful ways to integrate technology and take student thinking to the next level.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Engagement Strategies: Beanbag Toss


Welcome to my blog series on quick & easy engagement strategies that can be used for any lesson, starting tomorrow! Missed out on the previous posts? Start here.

Engagement strategy #4 is beanbag toss!

What is it: In this strategy, you pose a question and toss a beanbag (or other item) to a student. They catch the beanbag and answer. Then they toss the beanbag to a new student.

How to use it: Ask a question and have students raise their hand to answer. Call on a student and toss them the beanbag. They answer the question. Ask a new question and have students raise their hand. The student with the beanbag will select someone, toss them the beanbag and then they answer. Repeat as desired.

How I used it this year: I used this strategy to have students brainstorm math workshop behaviors for our anchor chart. I had students sit in a circle and then asked them what it should look like/sound like during math workshop. I called on a student, passed them our emoji beanbag and they answered. I wrote their answer on our chart. Then they chose a different student, tossed the beanbag, and that student answered. We continued until we ran out of room on our anchor chart.

Why it works: Students want to answer so they can catch/toss the beanbag. They have to be listening to have something to say so they can get a turn. Tossing the beanbag made it feel more like a game and helped students stay engaged throughout this activity.

Bonus tip: Make sure you tell them they have to toss underhand. You can decide if you want students to volunteer by raising their hand or make it more of a "popcorn" style where students can pick anyone.

Your turn! Comment below how you've used this strategy. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Engagement Strategies: Freeze!


Welcome to my blog series on quick & easy engagement strategies that can be used for any lesson, starting tomorrow! Missed out on the previous posts? Start here.

Engagement strategy #3 is freeze!

What is it: In this strategy, play a song. While the music is playing, students are walking. Pause the song - students have to get with a person close to them and freeze.

How to use it: When the music pauses students get with a person close to them and freeze. Then pose a question for them to answer or discuss. Give them time to answer, then play the music again. When the music starts, they start walking. Repeat as desired!

How I used it this year: We've used this strategy a few times as a reflection at the end of math workshop. When the music stops and the students pair up, I would put a number up on the board (ex: 4,892,319,490) and they would both read the number to each other. Then I would call on one student to read it aloud for the class. Then I'd hit play and the kids would start walking again. We repeated a few times - as much as we had time for.

Why it works: Music makes everyone happy! Especially when you play a popular song that the kids like. The kids are moving which helps with their engagement. They also love the anticipation of not knowing when the song will pause - it gives the activity a game-like feel.

Bonus tip: If you have access to YouTube at school, use it to pull up practically any song for free. You can also search for kidzbop if you're worried about the lyrics. I used Happy and Can't Stop the Feeling because I like those songs. Make sure you stress the importance of walking - if they start running, they have to sit out.

Your turn! Comment below how you've used this strategy. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Engagement Strategies: Four Corners


This is the second post in my blog series on quick & easy engagement strategies that can be used for any lesson, starting tomorrow! You can check out the first post here.

Engagement strategy #2 is four corners

What is it: In this strategy, number the corners of your classroom 1, 2, 3 & 4. *you don't have to physically number them - just tell the students which is which* Students will move to a corner of a room depending on their answer to a question.

How to use it: Pose a question and give 4 answers. Assign each answer a corner. The question can be unrelated to the lesson. Students then move to the corner that matches with their answer. Once they're there, give them something to discuss or do as a group or in pairs.

How I used it this year: I asked a random question and gave 4 choices. (What sport do you like best: (1) soccer, (2) baseball, (3) gymnastics, (4) other). They moved to the corner of their choice. Once they were there I posed a question related to our lesson on science tools. Example: which science tool do you like the most? Which tool have you used in the past? They discussed the question with someone in the same corner. I had a couple of students share out. Then I asked a new random question, they moved corners and I posed a different question related to our science lesson. We repeated this a few times.

Why it works: Students are standing and moving which helps with engagement. It also forces them to work with various people without you having to be the one to choose pairs. Finally, it allows the students choice in where they move and they love when the questions reveal new information about them.

Bonus tip: If you end up with only 1 student in a corner have them pair up with someone else. Give them a short amount of time to choose a corner and move. I would count down and they had to be in the corner by the time I finished counting or I chose a corner for them.

Your turn! Comment below how you've used this strategy.