Saturday, December 29, 2012

Guided Math: Exploring Multiplication and Division

My third graders will begin exploring multiplication when we get back to school next week. It is a huge endeavor but students are always anxious to get started on "big kid" math so I know they will be motivated.  But what about me???  After so many years teaching the same content it is easy to get stuck in a rut reusing the same activities again and again. 

Although John Van de Walle's "Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics" book is my go-to math guide, this year I've found a couple of others that I really like.  I'm loving "Mastering the Basic Math Facts in Multiplication and Division".  These authors take a real hands on approach to teaching the Big Ideas involved in a study of multiplication. 

Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics: Grades 3-5 Volume 2(Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics Series) (Paperback)Mastering the Basic Math Facts in Multiplication and Division: Strategies, Activities & Interventions to Move Students Beyond Memorization

We will be working on understanding and using all models of multiplication and we will relate it to division from the very beginning. To help students visualize the math, I will be using manipulatives and math mats.  Students will roll two dice to arrive at two numbers to work with.  They will use those numbers to represent a multiplication problem on the mat.  For instance, if they roll a 4 and 2, they could create the number sentence four groups of 2 equals 8.  Students could see that as 2+2+2+2 and also as 4x2. 

Here they can use simple manipulatives to show the math.  I would also encourage students to tell a math story using the mats and materials.  For instance they might say:  Four scuba divers were swimming in a lagoon.  Each diver saw 2 fish.  They saw 8 fish in all. 

Students would then write down the repeated addition sentence and then the related multiplication sentence.
I created different mats to  use with different materials.  Here students are filling cocoa mugs with marshmallows.

These lucky pirates found jewels in their treasure boxes.  Here we cut the cards apart but they can be left together as a sheet as well.
This mat has students telling multiplication or division stories about children with snowballs.
It took one trip to the dollar store to find the manipulatives needed for three of the mats.  Other manipulatives are easy to find in craft stores.

My plan is to incorporate these mats during Partner Practice time during Guided Math.
They could work for the "On My Own' time as well but I love to encourage the conversation about the math for this one.

Interested in using these with your students?  You can find them at my TPT store.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guided Math: Growing as Mathematicians

I was flipping through a booklet on Guided Math that I got from a great conference I attended last spring. There was a page of statements for students to consider as they assessed their own progress. The page was entitled:
Evidence That I'm Growing as a Mathematician
a. I support my conclusions with valid mathematical reasoning.
b. I give more than one solution and/or more than one approach to problems.
c. My explanations show careful reasoning and deep thinking.
d. I use models and methods from class to solve problems.
e. I make connections among different ideas in math.
f. My explanations show that I am constructing deeper and broader understandings of math concepts.
g. I make and test conjectures about ideas and methods.
I must say it made me feel better to read this list. No where does it say: "I score in the nintieth percentile on a standardized test". HAH... Perhaps we can assume they would do well if they can show evidence of statements a-g but it is refreshing not to have it as an assessment criteria.
We have been working incredibly hard to provide problem solving opportunities that focus on skills and strategies that students construct and discuss. Much attention is being placed on the process of solving the problem rather than the answer itself.  Most students have made great strides and are showing strong evidence that they are indeed growing as mathematicians.  I especially appreciate the verb  choice "growing" because it implies that they are not expected to have evolved into an expert yet and that it is OK to still be in the process of developing their skills.


I must say that running small guided math groups just feels good to me.  Gone is the frustration felt when as a teacher  you look around and know that you have lost the attention of far too many students.  I've taken a simplistic approach to running this system.  My students are either having Teacher Time, On My Own Time, or Partner Practice Time.  This Target pocket chart helps to keep students and teacher on track.  I spend about 15-20 minutes with each group so that I have face time with all students in small groups for 3-4 days a week. 

The On My Own Groups have enjoyed working with the IPads lately.  We have a good program that allows students to practice their basic facts.  It allows students to choose a level of difficulty to work with and then times their speed in solving basic addition/subtraction facts. They slide the sums over to the puzzle and if correct, it reveals part of the puzzle.  Students were totally silent and engaged the entire time I met with my small group.  Love using the IPads!

Meanwhile, my small groups have been exploring our "Big Idea".  That idea being that we can use multiple strategies or approaches when solving for sums or differences. Running the small groups has allowed me to use manipulatives with those students who still need and benefit from them.  Here we are using base ten blocks.   We glued magnets to some of our sets so we could manipulate them on metal surfaces like these inexpensive cookie sheets.

We use these mats a lot when working through math problems.  Here you can see how the students were drawing out partial hundreds charts to arrive at the sum.  Another strategy used here was splitting numbers into ones and tens. 

Look at this child showing evidence that she is growing as a mathematician:  Showing multiple approaches to solving one problem.  Here she used a partial hundreds chart, drew a number line and split the numbers.  Awesome!
Allowing students time to share their thinking in these small groups has done wonders in helping them grow and learn.

Here is a small but FREE file that I've posted onto TPT.  It has two of the open ended strategy sheets we have used recently.  You can plug any two digit numbers in and student can use the different approaches to arrive at the same answer.  It is a great way to have them check their thinking.

Head here if you are interested:

                                  I'm in the process of filing other packets onto TPT so check back!

                                   Comments? Thoughts?  Email Me!!  I love to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snow is Falling....Books are Calling

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with family. I had a great time and am now looking forward to some rest and relaxation. It is snowing and sleeting outside right now!  A perfect day to stay in with a book. I have three I'm reading right now. First is a Maeve Binchy's A Week In Winter. Maeve Binchy has always been one of my favorite authors. She finished this last novel shortly before she died this past summer.  I will savor every page...what a talented writer!
I'm also into reading Rick Warren's What on Earth Am I Here For?  I loved the Purpose Driven Life so I'm looking forward to this one.

Finally, I've heard from friends that this book is worth reading.  We have a new Barnes and Noble in town and I  began reading this one there in the store.   It hooked me from the start. Hopefully it will be the motivation I need before heading back to school next week.
Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator
Speaking of books, last week I had my students respond to a book they were reading by doing some writing about the character, setting, problem, solution and  then their reactions to the book.  We used this snowman template that I adapted from a cute snowman art project I found on Pinterest. 
This one I am naming: Snow is Falling....Books are Calling.  I like having students write free responses to books they are reading.  Having them share them with the class helps others try out books they may not have read on their own.
We posted these to our writing board for others to read:

Last year my students wrote simple book reports using this cute penguin response sheet:
Chill Out With A Great Book!

I only have scanned documents  to offer for these two book responses but if you are interested, email me at and I'll send them your way.
I've also added a New Year's Day File to TPT if anyone is ready to think about next week.
Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

 If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things, if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.
Author Unknown
Wishing you a week of calm and silent nights. - Doris

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two Days and Counting!

Hello All! I hope everyone is having a great week before Christmas! This is my plan for the next two days....
 Yes!  Students and teachers have been working hard and I think we all are ready for a break.
I know we are all focused on shopping for those last minute gifts for family and friends but how about your classroom?  Looking to gift yourself with something new to use when we get back?
I wanted to share a teacher supply site that I used recently and loved.  Check out MPM School Supplies for ALL your school supplies. They have a large inventory of all kinds of materials a teacher would need. Their search options allow you to navigate the site and locate items you need quickly and easily. Plus their delivery is incredibly fast!
MPM School Supplies
I was even more impressed with this company after reading this on their page:
As you purchase your teacher and classroom supplies from our expansive online teacher store, you are putting smiles on the faces of children around the world. How? MPM School Supplies is a proud sponsor of several children’s charities! Our family owns several businesses, all with the same purpose: To Experience the Joy of Touching Lives™. In keeping with our overall mission, our goal is to provide you with the best online shopping experience possible and, in doing so, improve the lives of children around the world.
I love when a company has more on their minds than just making money! 
Take a peek over there and check out their clearance items.  GREAT DEALS! Look what is currently on clearance:

Equate Original TilesThese math tiles are on sale for $2.86 !!  They are like scrabble tiles but with numbers and symbols instead of letters.
Mix Match Games Language Arts Gr 3

Also on clearance right now is this book of Language Arts Skill Games.  I have this and my kids love using it.  I like it because the games are so easy to put together.  The boards are colorful and bright and ready made.  All you have to do is cut and bag.  The play is the same on all the board games, the pieces just change depending on the skill you are focusing on.   This is on sale for $5.71!!  Good price for a bunch of new games for a literacy station!

 MPM School Supplies is offering my readers 10% off your first 10 purchases.  So click here to browse...happy shopping!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Appropriate words are hard to come by tonight. What is really worth saying after the horrible event at Sandy Hook Elementary? As teachers we are shaken to our core. I know we have all cried many tears for the loss of those innocent children and women and in our anger, fear and despair may be questioning God's love for us. Why would God allow such suffering? Many years ago I read some amazing books on the topic. One was written by Joni Tada who was paralyzed in a diving accident. Her book, When God Weeps, is an examination of the purpose of suffering and is not an easy read.
There are no sweet, easy answers in this one. Your view of God will no doubt be challenged but in the end will be refined and enlarged. Reading Tada's book helped  me to make sense of the loss and suffering in my own life and helped me comprehend the full impact of God's greatness and His goodness. I have learned there is purpose to the dark times of my life, that God is all sufficient, always present and has a divine and unique plan for my life. I must trust.

I will end this Sunday's words with Point of Grace and their amazing song, Immanuel.

Our God is with us. He has has not left us. And He never will.

Wishing you comfort in your suffering. -Doris

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week

Hoping you are finding joy this holiday season.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday's Words for the Week


Wishing you a calm start to this holiday season!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nouns and A Seasonal Pattern Poem for Winter

We finally finished up our unit on nouns. In third grade students need to be able to identify words that name people, places and things. They also need to be able to classify nouns as either common or proper  with the hope that they will then use them correctly as writers.
We recently played a Scoot game that allowed students to have discussions with a partner as they attempted to  answer various questions about this part of speech. I love eavesdropping into these conversations. As a teacher you can learn so much about what your students know and don't know by hearing them think aloud as they justify their answers with each other. Visiting partners during a Scoot activity  allows me to seize a great teachable moment to either clarify or confirm student thinking.
 I made sure I gave them a variety of different levels of questions .
 Immediately after playing, we go over the answers and they total for a score.

Later in the week, I had my students help create a reference poster to hang on our wall.  I love when students help in the creation of our charts.  I think they use  them more when they are kid made.
Here students are coming up with word and picture cards to show the difference between a common and proper noun. 
 I will now hold them accountable for using that capital letter whenever they write a  proper noun!
When they make errors I will simply direct them to THEIR chart in order to correct them.
Hanging  resources like these around the room allows students to become more independent and self-reliant.   

I've added this file to my TPT store.  It includes the SCOOT game and other printables that I use when teaching this part of speech.

You can check it out here:
After a few lessons on what a noun is, I like to find a way to focus on this part of speech as we write. Here is a pattern poem that I have used with great success for many years.
We recently wrote this seasonal free verse poem about fall but any season would work wonderfully.
It begins with students brainstorming nouns that are related to a season. My students did Fall and came up with words like: barns, pumpkins, farmers, etc.  They then describe each noun with two adjectives and record these on the web.  Here is the prewriting sheet we use to gather our words:
After we have lots of words, we can use them to create a poem based on this pattern:

Here is a finished example of one my students created:

I gave them an opportunity to create a bit of artwork to accompany the writing.  We made these fun fall owls.

Then we displayed them to share with others. 

I think this type of free verse poem would be great to write during this time of year. Students could generate all kinds of noun lists connected to winter or Christmas or Holiday time.

I've bundled the winter and fall versions of these templates in a file.  

Interested in creating these with your young writers?
I am posting this FREE on TPT.

You can download here: 
Have fun writing with your kids!!