Monday, April 14, 2014

We Are Loving Kidblog!

Have you tried blogging with your students?  Ever since reading this post by my sweet friend Holly, I’ve been meaning to try Kidblog with my fourth graders.  I finally took the plunge a few weeks ago and my kiddos have been absolutely loving it!

Kidblog is FREE and extremely user-friendly.  It took me less than 5 minutes to set up my class.  Logging in for the first time was super easy—students simply select their name from a dropdown menu and enter their password.  (I gave all my students the same password to start off.)  Their blogs are private and you actually need to log into our class to my kids’ posts.

Kidblog is a great way to publish student work so their peers and teacher can read and comment on it.  We published a couple of informational writing pieces on there already and I noticed that it definitely raised the quality of their work since they were writing for an audience.  Here’s a screen shot of part of one student’s Winter Olympic writing piece and the comments she received from her classmates. 

In addition to writing and reading responses, my students recently started publishing their lit circle jobs on Kidblog.  They worked extra hard on their jobs last week knowing they’d be published on Kidblog.  Here’s a picture of one group in their meeting.

I feel that we’ve just scratched the surface of Kidblog—the possibilities seem endless to me.  I want to look into connecting with other classrooms.  Let me know if you’d be interested in that!:)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Learning by Explaining: Meeting the Demands of the Math CCSS

The new CCSS emphasize the importance of students not only “making sense” of math problems, but also explaining their thinking.  Therefore, I’ve had to make some adjustments to the way I teach math to allow my students more opportunities to explain their thinking and reasoning.  Here are some methods I’ve implemented this year.

Student-created Tutorials Using Show Me
Sometimes I'll have my students create video tutorials for tricky concepts using the free app Show Me.  Then I'll put it up on our class website and/or make it into a QR code to throw in a center for the other kids to watch, if needed.  
Some of my kids can put together a better Show Me tutorial in 10 minutes than I can in an hour.;)  Check out the simplifying fractions one below.

Word Problem Explanations Using Keynote
Last week I gave my students a fraction challenge activity.  They had to take a screen shot of a fraction word problem, insert it into Keynote, and explain all the steps they took to solve it.  Then they shared their Keynotes with one another.

More Partner/Group Work
Rather than having my students complete centers, such as task cards and scavenger hunts, independently like I did last year, I'll usually have them work with their "shoulder partner."  Even though my classroom gets a little noisy at times, I know my students are getting more out of the centers because they are explaining their thinking.  Here are two of my girls completing a "Scan the Room" activity together.

Math Talks
I try to fit in math talks at least 2-3 times per week.  I'll put up an open-ended question like the example below and give them time to think, then turn to a partner and explain their reasoning/how they solved the problem.  Then we'll share and write the answers on the board as a whole class.  During math talks, we emphasize the process and strategies over just getting the correct answer.

Student-led Mini-lessons
Sometimes I'll have a student come up and conduct the mini lesson either at the beginning of math workshop or partway through if I see them using a good strategy.  This benefits not just the student up there, but the entire class.  They really enjoy hearing from their peers and working through problems together rather than having me explain everything to them.
It's taken awhile to train my kiddos to focus on the process rather than just getting the correct answer, but I can definitely see a difference in how they approach math problems. 

How do YOU get your students to explain their thinking?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tried it Tuesday: Math Vocabulary Padlet Walls

Today I’m linking up with my friend Holly today for a quick Tried it Tuesday post. 

I actually got this idea from my amazing 4th grade teamie, Brooke.  I’ve been having my kids add math vocabulary to their own personal Padlet walls.  They can use appropriate images they find online or ones they’ve created themselves in Notebook or with Skitch.

Here’s a picture of one of my students’ math walls.

You can check out my post about how we used Skitch to mark up our own geometry photos HERE.

Be sure to check out Brooke’s post as well as the other Tried-its!  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Test Prep: Assessments, Centers, and a FREEBIE

Here in Illinois we currently have just a week and a half until THE test!  It always seems to sneak up out of nowhere and I’m usually in a crunch to get in every last standard.  This year I decided to make a one-page assessment for each of the five math domains of the Common Core.  I gave these short assessments a few weeks ago to get an overview of which standards I could skim over and which needed more in-depth review.  I'm also using them to target specific students for intervention groups.   

As you can see from the above examples, my kids were pretty solid in Base 10 and Geometry, so we only needed a couple days to review those concepts.  They struggled a lot with some of the Measurement and Data standards, so I allotted enough time to go over those standards in depth. 

Line plots are always very tricky, but we had a lot of fun with these new task cards I made.  My students used vis-à-vis markers to complete the line plots of the various sets of data.  They scanned the QR codes to self-check their answers.  I do have this same set without QR codes as well.:)

My freebie for you is an assessment that’s included in my line plot task cards.  All my task card sets include a quick assessment that you can use in the center or later as a quiz grade.  I hope you can find it useful.  Click the image to grab it for free.:)

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Geometry Apps and Activities for iPads

Geometry is one of my all-time favorite units to teach because it’s easy to make it hands-on and applicable to the real world.  My kids are OBSESSED with the new Cyberchase Shape Quest app by PBS Kids.  Their favorite game to play is Patch The Path, which uses 3D augmented reality.  Students need to use spatial reasoning and modeling to “patch” the path so the animals can get across.  I took a short video of one of my girls playing it so you can get the gist of how it’s played.  

They also love playing Hide and Seek, for which they must uncover specific shapes to find their animal friends.  This game is great for practicing and reviewing geometry vocabulary.  Did I mention this app is free?!  I highly recommend it!
Another activity I love doing with the iPads is taking pictures of geometry concepts around our school.  The kids used the free app Skitch to mark up their photos so it was clear which geometric terms were being represented.  
Then we made collages using the marked-up photos in Pic Collage.  They turned out pretty good if you ask me.:)
As with most math concepts I teach, I put a couple of QR code scavenger hunts up around the room for the kids to complete during centers.  This one has them identifying various polygons.
And this one, which is a FREEBIE in my store, has them identifying types of lines and angles.  The QR code on each phone leads them to the next term until the hunt is completed. 
I’ll leave you with some FREE geometry posters in case you haven’t grabbed these from my store before.  
Maybe some of these ideas can help get you through test prep season.;)
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