Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hello Fall

Fall is in the air...just not here in Florida. It's still around 90 degrees every day. But the humidity is down very slightly, so I'm going to pretend that fall has arrived! It's the best time of year and there are so many fun things you can do at school to celebrate the season. One thing I love to do with my class is make applesauce. It is super easy! You can make it in your crock pot and your classroom will smell delicious all day long. Here's all you need...

Peel, core, and slice about 12 apples (whatever will fit in your crock pot). Add 1/4 cup water. Turn the crock pot to low, cover, and let cook all day. Check periodically to make sure the apples aren't sticking. They will make their own water, so I've never had an issue with this. An hour before you plan to serve the applesauce, check to see how soft they are. If still firm, turn the crock pot up to high.

When the apples are soft and you're ready to eat, turn off the heat, pour off a little of the water if the apples made too much, and stir in 1/4 cup sugar. If you used tart apples, you might want to add a little more. Sprinkle in a little cinnamon, too. I never measure this. I just add it to my personal taste. I've noticed that with second graders, less cinnamon is better than more. To make the applesauce extra special, you can also add a few drops of vanilla extract. Yum!!

Another fun activity we do in the fall is Candy Corn Day. Usually sometime in October, we plan a day of activities all around the theme of candy corn. The kids rotate through centers like Candy Corn Measurement, Candy Corn Patterning, and Candy Corn Crafts. Some of these activities can be found in my Halloween Pack...

Because fall makes me so happy, I think I'll do a little giveaway! You can win my Halloween Fun Pack plus these October Calendar Cards and my Fall Fun Math & Literacy Centers...

Just enter below to win all three! Happy fall, ya'll.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


I know, I'm such a sad little blogger.  I haven't even managed to write one thing since school started. I'm really not lazy...  just pathetically disorganized.  Once school starts, life is over for me.  It's all I can do to get myself there and back every day.  One thing is going exceptionally well though this year and that's math.  Before I explain what I'm doing, let's get one thing out there... I hate to teach writing.  It's the WORST!  If I ever get called into the principal's office and told that I have to move to 4th grade and teach writing all day, I will probably quit or at least cry like a baby.  Thank God for my partner teacher.  She handles all of that awful writing and I get to do math every day.  Yaaaaaay!! I love math!

Last year I started using math journals on a more regular basis.  They are SO much better than those rotten math workbooks we get.  The kids are much more involved and they really have to attend to the task because they are "writing the book" so to speak.  So this year I have basically ditched the workbooks completely and we are only using journals.  I've split math into two parts: morning math meeting and guided math/centers.  If you don't have time for a morning math meeting, no worries... just have an afternoon math meeting or a before-lunch math meeting, whenever you can fit it in - as long as it precedes your guided math group time.  Here is what a typical day of math looks like for me:

Morning Math Meeting:
  • Students sit on the rug with their math journals.
  • I sit in my comfy blue chair next to the easel.
  • Students open their journals, write the date, and close their journals. 
  • I pose a math "situation" to them, usually some sort of dilemma I have involving either brownies, cookies, or rabbits invading my vegetable garden. I also use my math problems to accuse my partner teacher of eating many pieces of candy from the candy jar, 20 or 40, sometimes even 100.
  • I tell the students what strategy I want to use but it always involves drawing some sort of model and a number sentence because these are strategies I want them to become proficient in. Some days I also use a part/part/whole, sometimes a number line, sometimes "friendly numbers" etc. The key is to use a variety of strategies so they become familiar and fluent with them all and understand that any strategy is okay as long as you get the right result. What I don't want to happen is for the kids to get stuck on only using a standard algorithm or a single strategy and think there's only one right way.
  • I work out the problem, using my chosen strategy, while thinking aloud. I always make sure to talk about how I know what operation to use. How can I tell if I should add or subtract? I don't tell them what to do. I just let them hear me think through it.
  • After I model my strategy, I invite them to help me write a new problem on the chart paper. I call on students to add to the problem and we always make sure we end with the question.
  • We work through the new problem together, using the same strategies I just modeled. I call kids up to help write on the chart and show our thinking.
  • Finally, I give them their own problem. They open their journals, copy it down, and then solve using our strategy for that day or any other strategy we've already learned. But they MUST always show a number sentence to go with it because at some point, they have to move away from drawing a picture every time.
  • After a few minutes, I ask them to partner up and share their work.
  • After sharing, I ask, "Whose partner used a great strategy to solve this problem?" The kids raise their hands and nominate their partner who then gets to come up and show their work on the chart.
  • That it's - same thing every day - I do, we do, you do - with whatever skill we are learning. The whole process takes about 30 minutes per day. The kids love it, I love it, and they are doing awesome in math this year!
Later in the day after specials, we do guided math. If you already do guided reading, adding a guided math time is a cinch. Here's what it looks like:
Guided Math
  • Students work at math centers related to the skill we are learning. I usually give them a variety of games and task cards (see below for ideas).
  • I call small groups or individuals to my table for individualized instruction based on their needs and what I observe during morning math meeting.
  • It works very much like small group reading time.
  • Students come to the table with their whiteboards and markers. Sometimes I do direct instruction (with or without manipulatives) and sometimes I play a game with them to reinforce a skill.
  • Small group math is the BEST for reaching every student and catching problems in math before they get bigger.
Right now we are working on the first two standards in the Operations and Algebraic Thinking strand. My math centers consist of a dice game (like bump), Hot Dots, multi-step problem task cards, and a math facts game called Kapow:


So that's how I do math! We don't use worksheets or workbooks and we are all about explaining our thinking. If you have a blog post about how you do math, please link up below: