Thursday, January 29, 2015

Multiplying Fractions

I have taught upper grades for a long time.  In all of that time, I am ashamed to admit that I have never taught multiplying fractions using a model <runs and hides in shame>.  The algorithm just makes sense to me, so that is what I have always taught.

Well, the people who wrote the CCSS and SBAC think differently, so I am learning to adapt my craft this year and include far more models into my teaching.

Now, if you have been reading my blog for a bit, you know that this "using models" thing isn't always the easiest thing for me (re: multiplying decimals...remember that fiasco??!) but I am getting more and more adept at it, and I think I am getting into the patterns of it all!

So this week, when we were learning about multiplying fractions, I actually STARTED with the model.  I know....shocking.

I started with multiplying whole numbers by fractions.  I taught the kids that if you have 3 x 1/5, that means that you have 1/5 three different times.  Just like regular multiplication!  Using the visual model, I was able to show the students what multiplying fractions by whole numbers actually means. I drew three rectangles, each broken into 5 parts.  Then, one part of the five was colored in on each rectangle.  Putting them together, the answer became 3/5.   What's more, I was able to show them how it lead right into repeated addition!  1/5 + 1/5 + 1/5 = 3/5 

Then, using those models, we were able to make the connection to the actual algorithm.

It got a little complicated when we got to fraction by fraction multiplication.  Drawing the fraction strips was relatively painless, but putting them together into an array was a bit more complicated.  We remedied this by making sure that one fraction rectangle was drawn vertically, while the second one was drawn horizontally.  After they were drawn, the two rectangles were set on top of each other, forming an array. 

It actually forms a multiplication array!  That was a huge aha moment for me....and the students were able to see the multiplication too.  Then, when seeing the numerator, the part that was shaded in and used was the overlap of colors.  It really, really helped to see it that way!

The algorithm just came naturally after that.

I created some task cards for the kids to practice the multiplying in context too.  They LOVED these.  Kids love task cards.  Working in groups, they were able to talk about the math, discussing strategies, and applying what they had learned over the course of the week.

To practice how they will be tested on the SBAC, I created a multiple choice AND a constructed response sheet.  Boy, was that constructed response tricky for the kids!  They were able to apply what they learned, but explaining it is going to take more time.  :) 

On a happy note though, when we went to the computer lab to do some practice test training, one of the questions asked the kids do actually show the multiplication model for a fraction problem.  You should have seen the beams of light coming from the smiles on these kids.  They just KNEW they had that one correct!
How do you teach multiplying fractions?  Do you incorporate models into your teaching?  If you would like the lessons I used, I put them together (as well as ALL of the samples, work practice sheets, and task cards I created) for you in my Multiplying Fractions in 5 Days pack.  You can get it here.  :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tuck Everlasting {Introduction and Prologue}

We started our novel study for Tuck Everlasting this week.  Now, this story is NOT a read aloud.  (we are reading Wonder for that.)  Instead, this is a whole group novel that we are reading to learn about story elements, figurative language, grammar, and fluency.  We use this book in lieu of the anthology, but are learning the same skills that we would if we were sticking tight to the basal.  So this book is something that will have the kids reading, rereading, and then reading again.

To introduce the story, I had the students examine the actual physicality of the book before I told them anything about it.  We did this with our first novel study, Gregor the Overlander, as well.  First, I read the title to the kids.  I ask them to make an inference and predict what the story will be about, simply based on the title.   They wrote their ideas on a sticky note and we shared out. Then, I placed the book cover on the doc cam and asked them to make a new prediction on a sticky note.   Using the visuals, how did that impact their thoughts on the book?  Again, we discussed.  Finally, I read the plot summary on the back of the book and one last time had the students write their thoughts on the book on a sticky.

What is interesting is hearing how some students really want to stick with their original predictions based on the title, EVEN after being faced with the new ideas presented in the visuals and the book summary.  They were very gung-ho in their initial thoughts!

Now, if you have ever read Tuck Everlasting, you know that it is heavy in figurative language.  There is so much imagery brought to the reader through metaphors, similes, personification, etc...that it would be a disservice to this book to read it without really dissecting the use of these writing techniques.  So, to start us off, I created a huge figurative language chart to display in our classroom (yes, I did use my window space.)  As we read the story, and as we find examples of figurative language, we will be adding it to the chart.  (using window markers)  The chart will grow as our understanding of the story grows!

So there you have it.  A few of my introductory things to get us going on Tuck Everlasting.   What do you do to introduce a novel? (not necessarily this one, but any novel that can universally be used.)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Foreshadowing {in Tuck Everlasting}

Foreshadowing is a technique that authors use all the time, yet I find myself rarely discussing it in class.  Well, I thought I would do a little close reading of the prologue in Tuck Everlasting and have the students annotate the text to show evidence of foreshadowing.

We started by making an anchor chart for the literary technique.  The students took notes in their reading journals.  While we did this, the students naturally came up with examples from other books we had read aloud in class where the new-to-them device was used.  That was a promising sign ;)

Then, I passed out a photocopy of the Prologue to each student (as I didn't want them writing in my brand new books!)  On it, I had them write the main purpose of our annotation at the top of the page.  We wrote:

Purpose:  Underline evidence of foreshadowing in the text and write any thoughts about what it may be a foreshadow of.

For five minutes, the students worked independently.  I wanted to see what they would do alone before I led them through any example or they had partners to bounce ideas off of.  Then, once the five minutes were over, I had the students work with their seat partners.  They continued to annotate while I walked around asking them to explain to me what was being underlined and why, as well as asking them what their notes were in reference to.

After five more minutes (because there wasn't *that* much foreshadowing in the prologue), I called them together.  We discussed the foreshadowing and, more importantly, how they thought it was going to impact the rest of the story. 

The students really understood this topic by the end of this 20 minute lesson.  I really foresee great things coming from this lesson in our literary future!  (you see what I did there???  ;))

Want more Bright Ideas?  Visit my bloggy friends below for some great posts you can bring into your own classroom.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Answer Is....PART TWO

My classroom is an ever evolving entity (a Triple E if you will....).  I try something new and it may work or it may not.  Sometimes, things that I try actually grow even more from their inception.  That is what is happening with "The Answer Is...".   A few months back I posted about how I was using "The Answer Is" in my classroom (you can read about it here).  I wanted to post an update to tell you how it has evolved and changed to become even more interactive.

Each week, the students complete a "The Answer Is..." card, creating a good (usually multistep) word problem that goes along with each answer.  At the end of the week, I have been putting the cards with the problems into a little white container.  For a while, we didn't do anything with them.  But now, those little cards in the little container are a part of my problem solving station in the math rotation block.

Now, each week, the students grab one of the cards out of the little container and they have to solve it.  But solving it wouldn't be all that difficult (because, let's face it, the problem authors are actually 5th graders, so the problems aren't always that challenging!)  So in addition to also solving the problem, the students must DISSECT the problem using the problem solving strategies we have been using in class.

At the beginning of the year, I started teaching my students how to build better math responses using Jen Runde's pack from her store.  It truly has made my students think more deeply about their math responses.

So I had my students take those strategies and apply them to the Answer Is.  During the problem solving session of their math rotation, the students go to the "White Box" Answer Is area (we call it that because I put the index cards in a white box.)  and pick up a slip at random.  Then, they start solving the problem in the workspace on the response sheet.  While solving it, the students are color-coding their response. 

Doing this helps them to really see each step of what they are doing.  It helps them to distinguish between the various stages of solving a problem AND it forces them to actually write about what they are doing, instead of simply solving it.

This really has been the perfect way to up the rigor on an already rigorous activity...and keep the kids meaningfully engaged.

Want to try a free sample of the math response sheet I use from Runde's Room?  Click the preview in her store and one will come up to print out for you!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Free Up Some Time with Fifth Grade Freebies!

Fifth grade is the grade that I have spent the longest time as a teacher.  I have taught many other grades, but really, when it comes down to it, 5th is where my heart is.  Because of that, I am super excited to bring you, my loyal blog readers, an entire blog dedicated to fifth grade!  I am a contributor on Fifth Grade Freebies, a blog that strives to bring you the highest quality fifth grade ideas, lessons, and FREEBIES for you to use in your own classroom!

I am teaming up with 14 of the blog contributors to bring you an awesome blog hop filled with great freebies along the way....and when you make it to the end, there is a special giveaway in store for you!

So here we are, the start of the hop and I have a nice little time-freeing freebie for you.  This is something I use in my classroom to help the students with the scientific process.  It is a little trifold that we use for each and every experiment that our class conducts.  I find that it is really helpful in making the students think about their experiments and the required elements.  They know that each section must be filled in and it is something that now, after using it for some time, I can grab and give to them and KNOW that their science experiments will follow the correct process!  And now with our school-wide science fair on the horizon, using the proper experiment process is even more important!

Now it is time to hop to pick up your next freebie!  Head to Jennifer's blog Teaching with Grace for a great freebie I know you will be sure to love!