Archive for May, 2012

Our Imaginary Field Trip

This year I had the privilege of working with an amazing math teaching resident who I like to call JAM ON. Today is his last day so I was so happy to find an old post that I wrote during our first few weeks together. JAM ON, you were an amazing example of grit and commitment for students and staff. We’ll miss you!

I am super lucky that the math teaching resident I work with likes to dress up as much as I do. Today we wrapped up three weeks of summer school by taking the kids to an Array Museum, which we set up across the hall. At the museum, they practiced describing pictures with repeated addition and multiplication (on this sheet here). They also showed great museum behavior.

But the very best part was a break at the Array Cafe. The Cafe menu (here) featured a chewy chocolate chip cookie served in fractions. Students had to choose between a half or a fourth. Then they saw the cookies get cut. Luckily they had a chance to correct their choice if they were confused about which fraction was really bigger.

The Array Museum Curator

The Array Cafe Waiter

What a great way to end summer school!

May 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm 1 comment

How long does it take to make a thousand?

Because I won’t be teaching fifth grade math next year, I am trying to get up some old draft posts that I never finished. Here is one about a place value activity I did in the Fall.

Whenever an activity turns out to be more difficult than I expect, I figure that it was that much more of a learning experience. But I am still trying to understand what happened when I asked students to make one thousand using blank hundred grids. Even with groups of four racing to see who would finish first, it took an hour.

The point of the activity is for students to discover that they will need ten hundreds to make a thousand. At the same time they see the counting patterns on a ten by ten grid (which is something we might falsely assume they’ve noticed before).

The activity doesn’t require a lot of upfront instruction. You give the students blank hundreds grids and tape. You present the task and walk around.

One of the biggest challenges is getting the students to talk to eachother. When we did it, students began writing numbers without agreeing who would write what section. Some students didn’t accurately figure out where one person’s numbers would end so that they could start with next number. I had to hustle around the room to point out what people were doing among each group.

Some students also weren’t efficient writers. Many didn’t rely on number patterns such as the repeating digit in the hundreds or tens place to help them write faster. I didn’t want to tell them the patterns, but I sometimes stopped them to ask how some students were moving faster than others.

When they finally taped their hundreds together, it was very exciting. I can’t pinpoint exactly all the learning that happened, but the fact that it presented so many stumbling blocks leads me to believe it was a worthwhile experience. It also allowed us to make ten thousand, which was really exciting to hang in our classroom.

May 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm 1 comment

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

As usual, I disappeared after the start of this school year because work just got too crazy for me to keep up with a blog.

Among the many things at school that kept me busy, there was this:

And on top of all that there were field trips and small remediation groups and benchmarks and PD sessions….

Now that I’m back, I have another piece of news, which is that I am changing from fifth to eighth grade.

I know lots of teachers change grades quite often, but this is a really big deal for me because I have been teaching fifth grade for seven of the nine years I’ve been teaching. When you’re my age, seven years is almost a quarter of your life. It is also the grade where I really found myself as a teacher. It is where I first got results I could be proud of. It is where I proved those results were sustainable. It is where I first taught centers. It is where I rocked my sweet Fraction Girl costume. It is where for the first and only time I cried in front of a class. It is where I met the mayor. It is where I once had blood, puke, pee and snot coming out of different children’s bodies all at the same time.

Switching grades also feels like a big deal because I have been the only fifth grade math teacher since my school was opened. This has been great in terms of continuity from one year to the next. But sometimes I worry that I’ve sent the wrong message by staying put. I want teachers to see that it is possible to make changes in your career without leaving the classroom. Change is healthy.

But I’m not writing to explain why I made my decision. I’m writing because it’s important to say that sometimes even when a decision is good, it is painful. On top of being completely terrified that I will fail, I will also miss my beautiful, earnest, well-meaning, troublesome fifth graders. There are times when they are so incredibly lovely that it actually hurts. Fifth graders give Valentine’s Day cards that say, “Hugs and kisses.” Fifth graders call their teachers to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day. Fifth graders think I’m hilarious.

Every year, I read my students Dr. Suess’s Oh the Places You’ll Go. I’ve always felt like I’m reading it as much for myself as I am for them. This year is no exception.

May 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm 1 comment


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