Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why sometimes DIY is better than a printable, or, Making an easy mathgame

More math game making.  I'm actually starting to enjoy it, A LOT.  I also like buying premade games, I do- it does make things easier- but I want to be able to show my kids that they can easily make a game to play at home to practice their facts without having to buy something.  Which, for my kids, is just not in their families budgets.  My moose claim never to have played BUMP before.  Don't know if this is really true- but shoot- let's make sure to take care of that!

 Earlier in the day we had read Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong.  Folks, this is the greatest book evahhhhhh!  I will post on it's reading merits another day- but to get the gist here- anything they put into this magic pot they got double.  So it's a great book for beginning the concept of doubles facts.  I found out about the book from our previous math curriculum Investigations. All I did on the fly was pull out some great big sheets of construction paper.  I looooooove huge sheets of construction paper. And then made designs and pictures and wrote the numbers (evens only) 2 through 20.  We used our number cards without zeroes and wild cards to play.

We played in groups of four- it's just more exciting with four- but you can play as partners, or as a triad.  Players in turn draw a number and double it, then place a connecting cube or unifix cube on the number on the board.  The nice thing about the number cards from the Investigations series is that they have a pictorial representation of the number beneath the numeral- and the kids can use that to help them find the double if they aren't sure.  But I also showed them how to use their fingers and count up to find the answer as well.

Anybody else have kids that REFUSE to try using their fingers or adding up pictures to make sure they have the right answer?  They just want to guess?  I don't get that...anyway, moving on.

I put the rule in that they have to try to cover up all twenty spots on the board before they "bump" somebody.  They can only bump if they are forced to up to that point.  They are free to claim a spot by putting a second piece on top though if they have the luck.  Once all the spots have been covered- then they can start being ruthless with bumping if they prefer.  But we do play together a few times so they see the point in claiming a space as a strategy to winning instead of just going crazy with the bumping.

Aside from teaching them the idea of bump- I also showed how easy it is to set up a gameboard.  Something they could easily do at home by grabbing a piece of paper. (Although I did have a few insist that they had NO PAPER in their homes, and I actually believe them, so we're going to have a game board making session here soon in the classroom.)  They gasped, and made sounds of delight as I quickly squiggled up some shapes on the paper.

These boys wanted a board with snakes on it.

These girls were gaga for hearts.

Not my loveliest. 
I'll be redoing this one- but I suddenly had brain freeze on this one
as I realized I had to quickly make five.

Fish and Bubbles

Paw Prints

I plan on making nicer ones for a more permanent place in math workshop- but getting them excited about making their own by creating these quick ones was really priceless. Now they want to make their own, and undoubtedly will want to play it at home more than they would ever want to play something I just ran off and slipped in their homework folders.

What do you do to help with student buy-in?
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Two Games for Making Ten

In my continued pursuit of working on basic math facts with the moose- I've taken to inventing some games.  Or, adapting them from things I've seen, I guess.

I know that part of my kids' county math assessment is to be able to fill in the missing part of an equation that makes ten.  So we've been practicing "What's Missing?".  You can play with either number cards or ten-sided die.  I also give them whiteboards for this game.  They play in a group of four during math workshop.  But you can also play whole group if you want to take a quick visual assessment.  Our rule for writing on whiteboards and then revealing an answer later is "write it and hide it!".  They make sure to keep their answer secret this way until they are told it's time to reveal.

First player draws a number card or rolls the die and announces the number and says, "What's Missing? Write it and hide it!"  Everyone, including the player write the missing part of the equation to make ten.  Then the player says "Shoooooow me (insert number)" and everyone flips their boards around.  We do a straight up Price is Right voice for the show me part.  If there are different numbers represented, each different number has to explain why they picked what they did.  The whole group comes to a consensus and then they do the equation with the gestures I showed in a video on this previous post.

This game worked well enough for kids that have a pretty good grasp of the concept anyway, and love whiteboards.  But I have some kids that really, really, no I mean really, need a concrete representation.

So I thought about those games where we race to thirty and to one hundred and all that and thought about trying to make it into a race to ten.  But I also didn't want the game to be over in a heart beat.  So, for this game you use connecting cubes or unifix cubes, and number cards or a die ten. We played in groups of three or four, but you can easily play this as partners.

To play, in the first round each player rolls the die ten and takes that many cubes of the same color. If you roll a zero, you miss your turn.  If you have the number cards, take the zeroes and tens out.

There will not be a winner in the first round.  The task really begins in the second and consecutive rounds when they continue to roll the die or draw the cards.  They can only add to their tower IF they roll the exact number needed to make ten.  If they DON'T roll or draw the exact number, then they have to start a new tower.  If they DO roll or draw the exact number, then they finish the tower in a second color, so they can see the two numbers and then do the gestures for the equation.

You can see here how this lucky moose was able to finish her equation or tower of ten and win that particular round.  However, none of the other players loose any of the towers they've begun to build.  So there comes a point where there is the potential for another winner each round.

Now, this little moose has gone three rounds without a finished tower. Another way to make this game more challenging is for the player to say what they HAVE to roll to finish a tower. My guy told his group that he would win IF he rolled a 1 or a 7 - but any other number would begin a new tower.  Note his grand moment of disappointment at rolling a 2.

The game goes for as long as you want.  At the end of time, the winner is the person with the most completed towers of ten.  My kids play for fifteen minutes and then move to another workshop. In this picture, four people they had gone six rounds, and you can see that one player has made a tower of ten.

My moose really enjoy games that are slightly competitive- but also based on chance, so that the winner is not determined purely on skill.  I like this game for workshop, and I think it is definitely adaptable for greater numbers, but I'd like to add a bit of accountability into it as well.  I can make a simple sheet with columns of ten boxes that they color in two colors to represent the equations they made during the game.  That should do nicely.

What sorts of games are you making up in your classroom for your kids?

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Writing on Notecards update

Took a video of my kids working on their notecards for writing that I wrote about in this previous post.  I took it actually to prove to my kids that they are capable of working diligently without screaming for thirty minutes.  But then I thought you might like to see the different levels of engagement.  Sorry that I'm not a fabulous cameraman.  Maybe I need to set up some sort of camera dolley on the ceiling or something...

At this point, working tandem with my ESOL teacher, we've given the kids the following mini-lessons to go along with their writing:

1. Who are you writing for?  A very limited exercise in Author's purpose, we identified that when we write a story it's usually for someone else to read.  So we talked about what we wanted the reader to get out of it.  We DID NOT touch on persuasion, my kids aren't ready for that yet.  We did say that if we wanted our reader to learn something new, we would be writing for giving information.  If we were writing for our reader to enjoy a story (entertainment) then we wanted the reader to get wrapped up into the emotion of the story.

2. What do you want the reader to feel?  We talked about how to write a story from the perspective of a BIG EMOTION. We were hoping to get the kids to zero in on a target emotion so that they could write better smaller moment stories.  I'd been getting recounting stories of "I woke up, I pooped, I ate chicken, then I drove to the store. I bought chips. I went home. I watched TV. I went to bed. The End."  So we made up a quick graphic organizer to keep in their writing folders where they answered what, when where and why questions before writing.  What- the emotion.  When - age, time of day, year of school, etc. Where- location of moment of big emotion. Why- three bulleted items of what happened to make them feel that big emotion. 

The little page I drew up has space for ten different emotions, and they fill in a box or two before going back to the card story they are currently working on.  Most of the kids have about two stories in their folders now.

Next up for the mini-lessons is to make a much more specific graphic organizer for a story where we really explore what we want the reader to get out of the story and what connections we want them to make, so that we can stay in the moment better.  My co-teacher Mr. Morales is also starting to prep them for putting a problem into their story.  we'll be getting to that too.

Enjoy the video!

 I know many of you said you were going to give it a try in your rooms.  How is it going?
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The marriage of handwriting, fine motor, and sensory play

 Handwriting.  True, it's sort of a done deal by the time they get to second grade- but I don't think it's wrong to try to help them make it a bit more legible.  And I think a lot of that comes down to some fine motor skills.  And then there's that whole thing I have for trying to add in sensory experiments in my room.  So here's my nefarious plot:

First of all, I went to Sparklebox to get some free print outs of ground, grass and sky letters.  I also put the download up on my promethean board so I could lead them through the formations on handwriting paper. 

After the alphabet exercise, which we now store in our writing folders for reference, I created this "workshop".  I decided not to call them centers this year because my students think centers=play time.  So we're calling them workshops.  When they get to that station, they are "at work" in "a shop" and I shouldn't hear them when I'm in "my shop" because walls should buffer sound.  Some days it works, on others it doesn't. Still going to give it a try though.  Anyhow- they use the handwriting paper to write ten words in their BEST handwriting.  At the moment I have them choosing their classmates' names to write.  I have the names written on sentence strips s they can see the ground grass sky formations as well.  After they've written ten- then they can get some playdoh and create "snakes" to form the words with.

This is where the fine motor exercise comes in.  I showed them how to knead the dough to make it soft, and how that worked our wrist and palm.  And then how they could roll it into a ball, working their palm and wrist also.  And then finally into a snake and how that exercised our finger muscles.  I was actually extremely surprised that they did not know these general playdoh mojo moves.  They all gasped in surprise when I rolled a snake.

 Notice in that second picture how they've got their j backward?  This was a great moment where I was able to show them and let them physically move the dough to get it right.  And then fix it on their writing paper as well.

Now, for the sensory part, I went to my fave- you know it!- Pinterest baby!  And found this recipe for Apple pie scented dough.

It was actually, not hard to make at all.

Right when you think that it is NEVER going to become anything and this is the worst idea in the world...
The kids are now using this dough exclusively for the workshop.  And they like it. A LOT.  Many have asked for the recipe.  And nicely enough, I am seeing some improvements in their handwriting legibility.  I'm adding in sight words this next week so they can practice these as well at this workshop.  I plan to make a new play dough scent or texture every few weeks, and consistently change out the words for sight words and content vocabulary during the year.
I think this workshop is working because they are motivated to "play" with the dough- and in exchange for that treat, I get some handwriting practice ( and potentially word work...) and fine motor building.
Anybody else out there trying to combine these three ideas?

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reading Comprehension salad

Sometimes, I find myself hating buddy reading.  GASP!  But it's because a lot of the time, well, they aren't reading.  Or if they are reading, they aren't you know, really reading.  Or one of them is reading and the other isn't paying attention.  Or they aren't really talking about the book.  Or a million other things.  And when I thought about it, I think it has a lot to do with that they really aren't sure what to say.  Even when we do give them prompts and sentence stems.  They just don't get it.

Now, I do truly love and adore the book Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  She has a great activity called reading salad in her book.  In the activity, you show kids how real reading is thinking, and that as we put in our lettuce pieces for thinking and our red tomatoes for the text we read, we end up with salad that is big on greens.  Meaning- we think more than we read.  I love making reading salad with the kids.  But then I got to thinking that it really shouldn't be a one time deal.  So I started doing it for every book I read aloud.  And then I was thinking about putting the other comprehension strategies into the bowl in the form of other vegetable mnemonics.  And why not train the kids to make salad for themselves?  Giving them this task as they buddy read will help me to get a quick visual on who is on task and who isn't.  Also, giving them their own salad pieces to take home in my universal homework folder gives them a way to make reading more concrete at home with their parents.

So here are some kids using the pieces in a wicker basket I had on their tables.  But the basket is not necessary.  You can easily just make a pile of pieces in front of you as you read.  The green is for thinking, "lettuce think" about what we're reading.  Anytime they have any thought or use any comprehension strategy as they read, they put a piece of lettuce down.  They only put down one tomato if they had a thought on a particular page of text.
It also works well when you have to make a triad in buddy reading. It gives the third person an active role.  No one is passively listening, they all add pieces in to the salad.

The white pieces are onions.  I still have to draw circles into them.  I decided on onions being for connections, after doing a lesson out of Tanny's book called "Concentric Circles of Connection".  The kids agreed that a sliced open onion looked like our chart.  At the moment, we are concentrating on text to self connections. Any time we have one, we discuss it and add it to the salad along with a green piece of lettuce, since it's a type of thinking.  We also have talked about making our connections return to the text.  I showed them this picture I saw on pinterest:

So when we are making a connection to the book, I start my finger at the top of the book, and as I say or they say their connection I make a big loop outward and then bring it back around.  So they've started making that gesture too when they make a connection.

I made orange carrots for Questioning.  And honestly, it was just for the "k" sound.  Questioning Carrots.  I liked the sound of it.  Any time we think of a question about the story, or about a character, we put in a carrot and a piece of lettuce to go along with the text tomato.  I've had to talk to them a lot about words that begin questions- because they weren't sure.  They were actually more likely to make a prediction- "Maybe...such and such will happen" rather than a question-- so it's a continued work.

Making the pieces is not exactly easy.  I will come up with a better way for next year- but for now I've been cutting 280 pieces of each veg out of construction paper.  I have had to create an assembly line of forced labor.  Here we're making the cucumbers for visualization.  We also had to draw on the outer ring of green and seeds.  I picked the cucumber for this strategy because of how you put cucumber slices on your eyes at a spa.  They kids get it, and when we visualize we put the pieces up to our eyes when we talk about it.  When teaching this though, it takes a lot of modeling.  I've had to keep the book nearly shut when I read so they can't see the picture and guide them through a visualization before I show a picture.  They aren't doing this independently yet- but we will get there.

Next up for the assembly line is cutting out yellow bell pepper rings.  I've decided to go with Peppers of Prediction/Prior Knowledge for the inference piece.  We'll be hitting that by the end of the week.  What I have left to get to in the next weeks are Main Idea (summarizing), Synthesizing, and Monitoring for Meaning.  I know I want to do salad dressing, originally I thought for synthesizing, but now I'm thinking it would be better for main idea (summarizing).  I want to do croutons.  And I was thinking this morning of doing mushrooms for Monitor for Meaning, but maybe I should do mushroom for Main idea, and salad dressing for synthesizing, and croutons for Monitoring...decisions, decisions....

I will try to take a video of a read aloud where we use the pieces so you can see it in action.  Ideally, I'd like to do a parent tutorial video and have my ESOL co-teacher Mr. Morales do it in Spanish so I can post it on my school web page.

What do you think? Something worth giving a go?

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