Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Text Features in Our Own Writing

We have been diving into nonfiction over the past few weeks with a unit on colonial America.  One of the key things we have been looking at are how various text structures contribute to the reader's overall understanding of the text.

Each time we read a nonfiction text, whether it be in the social studies book or out of a trade book or periodical, we stopped for a second to acknowledge the text features and make note of what they were helping us, as a reader, understand.

As a whole, the class decided that pictures with captions and headings were the most helpful in giving us information that we would make the text a bit clearer.  So, when the students were in the process of writing an informational article about one of the colonial regions, we decided to include those two text features.

First, the students researched one of the three colonial regions found in the early days of English settlement.  They used multiple sources and created several prewriting organizers to gather all of the information.  (we used the Essay of the Month format, so the kids were super organized when writing.)

After all of the drafting was done, the students added the two text features to their final drafts.  To put the picture on, I just cut an index card in half for each student and they used that little card to create the picture box. The picture they drew then had to represent an idea in the paragraph they wrote, as well as include a summarizing caption for that picture.  The heading needed to summarize the paragraph itself.

Adding these text features to the articles the kids wrote was an easy way to connect several of the units of study we have engaged in over the past few weeks.  What have you done to get your kids to connect text features, nonfiction, and writing?

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Little Measurement Conversion "Trick" {video}

One thing that I am finding I have to spend a lot more time going over now is measurement conversions.  In the past, I would touch upon it, but since it wasn't a key standard, my in depth study of it was limited, to say the least.  But now, with SBAC looming and conversions being SUCH a big part of all of the released questions, I am finding myself really diving into this skill.

Knowing the actual units of measure doesn't seem to be a problem for my students.  But it is making the conversions that are proving a problem.  The actual math itself (multiplying or dividing) isn't the issue.  It is knowing *when* to use the correct operation that is tricky.


I came up with this little gesture "trick" that we have been using to help the kids remember what to do.

If the unit of measure that is being converted is BIGGER than the unit being converted to, the students put their hands over their head and create a multiplication sign.  They then know to multiply by the conversion rate.

If the unit of measure that is being converted is SMALLER than the unit being converted to, the students put their hands low across their body and mimic a division sign.  They know that division is called for to convert the measure.

Got that?  Well, just in case, I made a little 1 minute video to show you just how to do it!  :)   I am not an actor, so bear with me ;)

Doing this little muscle memory trick, my kids have been pretty successful at doing their conversions.  I have a little poster to go along with this too!  It features the cutest little girl (if I do say so myself ;))  Just click here and download the preview...and you will get the poster to print for {free} :)

To practice, I have made some task cards, sorting activities, and other thinking pages that have helped them to really hone in on the conversion skills.

Are they masters yet?  No.  But they are getting there far faster and better than any class I have had before :)

Would you like the lessons and printables that I used with my students?  You can get them right here!  Comment below about how you teach measurement conversion (with your email so I can contact you).  I will use a random number generator and choose one person whom I will send my new Measurement Conversions in 5 Days out to!  I am going to pick the winner Saturday at 5pm PST.  Which is when I will then post my new resource.  I can't wait to hear all the ways you teach measurement conversions!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Spotlight on Read Alouds

For quite some time, I have had this teeny little bulletin board hung up by my library.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it since school began, but just have been too lazy busy to put it up.  I FINALLY finished it, and wanted to share it with you!

It is my Read Aloud Spotlight board!

The idea is simple.  The current read aloud book is spotlighted so that anyone walking into our room knows just what book we are reading.  I have the name of the book (in this case Wonder by RJ Palacio) showcased under a "spotlight".  I then have the cover of the book stapled up and a little area designated for our current chapter and some thoughts.  Each day, I wipe off the vis-a-vie marker and write the latest chapter.  I then have one student volunteer write their thoughts on the book so far.  The kids really enjoy this part.  I find that they are listening *extra* hard just so they have something valuable to write on the sticky note! (not that they didn't listen before, but now they have an added purpose.)

Below all of that, I have a little book spine clip art with the title of the book.  When our read aloud is done, I tape that little book spine onto our "Read Aloud Bookshelf" that I put on the window right next to this board in our library.

I love how this is making our read aloud, which is already the most looked forward to time of day, even more special.  What do you do to make your read aloud a stand-out in your room?

Oh...and since I actually MADE something, I am linking this little project up at my friend Tara's Monday Made It linky on her blog, 4th Grade Frolics!  It has been WAY too long since I have been able to do that :)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cutting up the Text Evidence

We dove into setting again while reading Tuck Everlasting.  As we delve more and more into citing text evidence, I wanted the students to really see what that meant.

Chapter one of the book describes the setting of the book in great detail.  In fact, it is so vivid that I had the students dissect the chapter to create a drawing.  On that drawing, they were only allowed to put something that appeared in the chapter.  If it wasn't written down, they couldn't draw it.

Then, I made a copy of chapter one for each student.  They were instructed to cut the text apart, gluing the actual text onto their picture to prove that what was drawn was in the text. 

This really helped to show the students that authors truly do paint pictures with their words.  It also allowed them a chance to "prove" their drawings using text evidence. 

Wow...short and sweet!  How unlike me :)

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.  :)