Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Break with family and friends. 
It is hard to believe that Christmas is one month away!  
Did you do Black Friday shopping?  
Thought this was a a funny but true thought...

I have some friends who make it a yearly event and it becomes more about making memories with friends  than finding the great deal.  I love that idea.  I chose to stay away from all of it this year.  Trying to motto for now being enough is enough.   

Love these words: 

We just finished a sermon series called, Strapped at church today.  With the holidays upon us, it was perfect timing. With all the hype over deals and sales and the pressure to find the perfect gifts it is so easy to get overwhelmed and overspend. I'm determined to stay out of stores and on my budget and focus on the simple and free joys of the upcoming holidays.
Interested in getting some inspiration and hearing a Godly perspective on spending money?  Check out and listen to the "Act Your Wage"  audio sermon:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Building Better Number Sense; Number of the Day

I'm back once again with math on my mind. Here is a post about Number of the Day. I'd love to hear from those of you who are using it on a regular basis and have seen a positive result. I'm on a mission to help my students strengthen and build their skill with numbers.  I love Number of the Day tasks because they are naturally differentiated and generate rich math talk and discussion.
Here is the poster version of Number of the Day.  In this Winter Set, all the numbers are presented in a winter fact.  I wanted the number to mean something rather just having it be randomly generated.  Students will write a math representation of the number given. It is amazing to see how different students respond.  The more you engage students in this activity, the better variety of answers you will get.  I think the key is to spend a bit of time on sharing the ideas given.  Students are really interested in hearing how others answered and are inspired by each other's thinking.  You will get great stuff if you keep at it!

There are times where I will simply just have students respond with a free choice on the poster by writing their idea on an idex card and taping it up.  See the above photo.
Other times I will print off a sheet as shown below.  Here I will require students to think about the number by responding to a given math prompt. We have worked on place value, rounding, comparing, etc. so now I want them to show what they know.  This gives me quick assessment data.

 I've used the calendar numbers for our number of the day but it limits us in using only tens numbers, the days of school numbers increase by ones so that ended up being just yesterday's work plus one more. This year I've worked on incorporating higher numbers and have bumped the rigor of the tasks.
The numbers on some of these tasks have reached the hundred thousands place.  I've included a problem solving component in the student sheets as well.
 This bundle includes the numbers and student tasks I will be using in January.  Are you interested in trying these out?  Head to my TPT store to get more information!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Problem Solving: Comprehending the Math

I hope everyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving!  I'm loving that we are not in school today and with my own kids occupied with friends I've decided to take this opportunity to send out a quick post. 

Math has been on my mind.  I'm in the middle of reading this great book, Comprehending Math by Arthur Hyde.   

Here is what Hyde has to say about the braiding of math, reading and thinking : 
"For many years the teaching of mathematics and especially problem solving has suffered from insufficient attention to thinking and language.

YES, I totally agree! I've sat in way too many data analysis meetings with frustrated teachers.  We are seeing time and time again how students are ending up with answers that just don't make sense. They are getting confused by the language and are sometimes arriving at ridiculous answers.  They are clearly not understanding the problem. They are not thinking. 

Arthur Hyde argues the point against teaching "key or cue" words and sees it as part of the problem.  In his book he states: 
"What is the fundamental message the kids get when told to look for the key/cue word? Don't read the problem. Don't imagine the situation.  Just grab the numbers and compute." 

Again, I have to agree with him on this one.  I do believe that students need to know that words like: altogether, in all, sum and  total relate to the idea of combining and the result will be a larger number than what they started with.   What I don't want my students to do is over rely on just using key words to solve word problems.
I've had students who have struggled to the point of freezing up when attempting a word problem.
These same students have  become more successful in solving math problems after I've modeled a plan of attack.   My third graders are using a problem solving flow chart that relies heavily on comprehending the problem first and foremost. We use our "good reader strategies" and spend time telling the main idea or "who" "what" of each problem. Visualizing and verbalizing the action of the problem does wonders in helping students "see" the math.
Here is the sequence we use:  

Notice how step one is all about just reading and thinking. 
Step two requires students to use my number one reading strategy: Visualize the Action.  Students draw a math picture.  This is a simple pictoral representation of what is happening.  It is not an elaborate drawing. Students use easy to make symbols to stand for the people and things in the problem. 
Step three has them figuring out a strategy to solve the problem.  So often an appropriate strategy becomes apparent from the drawing of the math picture. 
The final step has students rewriting the question in the form of a statement and inserting their final answer. 
This forces students to think about the reasonableness of their answer. 

 Interested in grabbing a set of these materials to try out with your students? You can check out this file at my TPT store.  Click here for more details: 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday's Words and A Free Thanksgiving Download

A special loved one has been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer.
My heart is hurting.
These words seem appropriate

Be thankful for all you have, because you never know what will happen next.

This Thanksgiving I am especially grateful for the people in my life. 
For all my awesome teacher friends,  here are some Thanksgiving files I've posted free onto TPT.
The first one is a poetry follow up to the poem, I Ate Too Much.  This is a poem out of this fabulous collection of Thanksgiving poems by Jack Prelutsky.  You MUST seek out this book to read with your third graders.  My own personal copy is over 15 years old and is falling apart. Lucky for me we have a copy in our school library.  It will go in my poetry station of the week. Kids love this one.

After reading some poems, I like to have my students compose their own.
Here is what is running currently in my writing station.  Students think of all that they are grateful for.  This is a good opportunity to expand their vocabularies by teaching the synonyms: thankful - grateful - appreciative.  They compose an acrostic that shares with others what they are grateful for.
Dictionaries are a great tool to keep out at this station.

Each line must begin with a word starting with the given letter. I required a phrase for each line since
we are big, competent third grade writers.

 My students did not disappoint. Here are some golden lines they wrote:
Thankful for freedom
Houses in nice neighborhoods
A big fat turkey to eat
Not being bored at school
Kids having fun together
Songs that make us dance

Yes, there is much to be grateful for!
Click this link if you are interested in trying this in your classroom. 


Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week and a Free Veteran's Day Download

Happy Veteran's Day! 
Sunday's Words go out to all Veteran's and their families.
Where would we be without these men and women who have sacrificed so much for all of us?

We must never take our freedom and liberty for granted.
God bless our Veterans,
for it is because of them I can worship as I please, speak as I wish, and live as I choose.
Let us be forever grateful.
Are you teaching about this important national holiday tomorrow?
I'm sharing some free documents on TPT.
You can download them here:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

It's been a tough week for many.
  Here in Virginia we had just minimal damage from Hurricane Sandy. But I was born and raised on the Jersey shore and Sandy blew through my hometown causing destruction like no one there has ever seen. My sisters and brothers and their families made it through ok but many have lost everything. I've shed many a tear this week for them.
 I spent my summer days at this very spot on the Avon boardwalk. We would get there early in the morning, pack sandwiches for lunch and stay until dinner time.  We would walk the boards, sit in the sun and swim in the waves.  It was home for us.
Sandy hit hard last week. Homes were destroyed and the shoreline has been forever altered.  

These pictures make me so sad.

Please say a little prayer for these people who are hurting tonight.  Many are still without electricity and gas is being rationed.  Houses were damaged beyond repair, some just blown into a pile of debris by surf and wind.  People have been left homeless. 

So here are this Sunday's Words for the Week:

God bless.   Stay strong my New Jersey friends.