Saturday, January 16, 2016

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

We had such a good time learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week with lots of literacy activities.

As this week's Poem of the Week, we read and discussed my poem, Dr. King's Dream. I'm pretty proud of this one. I want students to share my belief that dreaming big is important and that one person's dream can change the world.

We read several books about Dr. King. I discovered a new book this year and I absolutely love it!  It's called My Uncle Martin's Words for America and it was written by Angela Farris Watkins, Dr. King's niece. One of our wonderful teacher assistants loaned it to me. I've got to get my own copy!

We talked a lot about some of these important words and what they mean. I used my vocabulary cards and the word search from my Dr. King's Dream packet.

We also read some other great books about Dr. King.

Finally, we read a wonderful book written by students with big dreams, We Dream of a World. I love this one, too!

After all that reading (spaced across the week), I challenged my kids to dream big, too. I asked them to think about big problems in the world that they would like to fix. I asked them what would help all of us have a better life? We then wrote about our dreams for a better life. I'm always so impressed with their responses - they show such awareness and compassion! Here are a few of my favorites this year.

She meant "by making people not poor." I did have her edit it, but I forgot to take another picture after she finished.

On Tuesday, I'll be creating our bulletin board to share our dreams. Here is a picture of last year's board.

We had a great time learning and writing about this important American leader. If you would like my poem and the accompanying activities, Dr. King's Dream is available in my TPT store. 

Until next time!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Math Tip Monday: Ideas for Teaching Word Problems

It's time for another Math Tip Monday! Thanks for joining me and K's Classroom Kreations on our monthly linky party. We hope you find many useful tips, strategies, and resources to enhance your math instruction.

This month, we are focusing ideas for teaching word problems. 

Teaching for understanding 

In my classroom, I've always referred to word problems as story problems. I think it helps students to realize that there is a story they must read and comprehend prior to solving the problem. I believe in using a comprehension based approach to teaching story problems. I've found key word strategies to be problematic, so I try to avoid emphasizing key words. 

I use my daily Math Talks to teach story-problems. I include a variety of problems throughout the year, making sure students have multiple opportunities to practice solving all sorts of problems. Students learn to analyze and solve the problems using these steps.

Math Posters: Be a Good Mathematician! - available in my TPT store.
We read the problem. We read it again and close our eyes to visualize each part. We act it out or we connect it to a real life situation. A student retells the story in their own words. We draw a picture or write an equation to represent the problem. We discuss the appropriate operation (addition or subtraction) and brainstorm possible strategies for solving the problem. Students then solve the problem independently in their math journals. After a couple of minutes, we share our strategies and solutions. Depending on time, we either share with a partner or I choose a couple of students to share their strategies with the class. I spend a varied amount of time on each of the steps, depending on which one I'm emphasizing that day.

I've found that spending ten minutes to analyze and discuss just one story problem during a math talk has far more long-term impact on learning than when I would demonstrate how to solve a problem, followed by students solving ten problems on their own. Making this a part of our daily and weekly routine helps students gain a deeper understanding of story problems. By this time of year, my students rarely just add or subtract numbers without reading and attempting to understand the problem. 

Types of problems

When we analyze problems, one of the things we discuss is the type of problem. Is it a collection problem? A change problem? A compare problem?

Here are some examples of each:

Story problems are tricky, so helping students to notice differences between different problem types can really help them to successfully solve problems.

Jigsaw activities for differentiation

Differentiation can be hard to manage when you are teaching story problems. One way I am able to do so discreetly is by using Jigsaw activities.  I start by grouping students in homogeneous pairs. I write problems that are appropriate for the abilities of each pair. I use the partners' names in each problem, starting with my lowest, struggling learners and working up to my challenge-needed high flyers. Here's an example:

 I make two copies of the page (so that each student has his/her own copy of the problem to glue into their math journals) and cut the problems into strips. The partners take the strips, glue them down, and then work together to solve the problem. They are required to show their strategy or make a proof-drawing. Because the problems are differentiated, the students all get to experience success at their own level. If you have some early finishers, have some generic problems prepared for them to solve while others are finishing up.

For the final stage of the activity, partners must pair up with another set of partners to share their problems, strategies, and solutions.  Sometimes, I split the partners up and they each have to be able to explain the problem and solution on their own. I hold students accountable for the sharing time by randomly asking students to tell me something they learned from the second partner during sharing time.

It takes time to prepare, but students are always engaged during the activity. When I listen in on the sharing, I love to hear my students using the same language we use during our math talks.

Creating their own story problems

One last tip: if you haven't had your students write their own story problems, you might want to start including this as part of your workstations, morning work, or independent practice. I've found that having students write their own story problems increases their understanding of the problems they have to solve in class. I'm always on the lookout for good student problems to use during my math talks. It's a great way to build student confidence and increase engagement. Students love it when I use their problem with the class. I've even received comments about it from parents!

What are your best practices for teaching story problems? I hope you'll share in the comments or by linking up. In the meantime, make sure you check out all the great tips from our fellow bloggers.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016! My Goals for an Amazing Year!

Happy New Year!

I can't believe it's 2016 already! I decided to join Stephanie from Mrs. D's Corner again in setting some goals for the year.

I'm starting the new year off right: sitting on the couch and watching my Florida Gators take on Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Go Gators!

I'm also thinking about the goals I made last December

As usual with my New Year's Resolutions, I had only moderate success. I definitely need to refocus on my living healthy goal. While I continued to cut back on processed foods and have meatless Mondays, I still have room for improvement as I work toward a healthier lifestyle. I wrote 32 blog posts in 2015, which was a vast improvement over 2014's 11 posts.  My goal to stop planning on Sundays is impossible very difficult to achieve. I'll have to set up some new routines to reach that one in 2016. Organization...ummm, yeah. Let's just agree not to discuss that. My workshop goals are always a work in progress. I'll be revising and reteaching when we get back to school on Monday. And I'm still committed to making sure learning is fun for my students. Overall, these are ongoing and long-term goals that I'll probably still be working toward when I retire!

So, what about this year?

I love the format for this year's goals.  Hopefully, I'll do a better job achieving them!

A good deed I'm going to do: As I get older, kindness has become an increasingly important trait to me. With everything that's going on in the world, I think it's even more urgent to notice, encourage, and teach kindness. I'll continue to use my Hearts Full of Kindness activities and my Kind and Caring Classroom poems in my classroom. I'll also share acts of kindness on my blog, Facebook page, and Instagram. I'd love to hear about acts of kindness from others. Please join me in sharing them!

A new skill I'd like to learn: I've always loved drawing and painting. Now I'd like to learn the technical skills for creating clipart. Any suggestions for good programs or tutorials?

A book I'd like to read: I'm an avid reader and, happily, I received a couple of Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas this year. I was able to pick up I Am Malala last week. I'm so looking forward to reading it. I truly admire this young Nobel Peace Prize winner and I've heard wonderful things about the book. My sister bought me Humans of New York Stories. I started reading and found it so hard to put down! I've been a follower of the website for a while now. I've been so inspired and touched by the stories. If you haven't followed it yet, you're missing out.

A bad habit I'm going to break: This one is hard for me. I'm not a morning person and I tend to lose track of time. I usually get to work on time, but I definitely don't leave a cushion for unexpected delays. I also would love to have a little time to get my thoughts together before my students start to arrive. Even getting to school 15 minutes earlier would help.  Does anyone else struggle with this?

I'm going to do better at: I have so many ideas for products and blog posts. What I don't have is time. Well, this year, I need to make time.  I'm going to work on TPT stuff on a more regular basis. That means I need to actually schedule time to do so. I want to finish several works in progress. That also means making time to post regularly on my blog. I want to share my thoughts and ideas with other teachers. I want to share activities and strategies that work for my students. I'd like to give readers a reason to visit my blog on a regular basis.  That means I need to be more consistent and post more quality content. So, sleeping is optional, right? :)

A person I hope to be more like: I thought of a number of people who I admire, many of whom have very different qualities. I think, instead of picking one, I'll just focus on myself - accepting who I am and striving to be a better person every day.  It's a hard enough task without comparing myself to others.  

I'd love to read about your goals for the new year. Share in the comments or link up at Mrs. D's Corner.

Until next time,