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Skill and Drill Without the Worksheets

I just wanted to share a quick idea for skill and drill with you today.  Maybe it's something you already do, but if not, read on - my students LOVE this activity.

This activity, which we affectionately call "Speed-Dating Math" is the perfect activity for when your students need that extra drill practice, and you know you don't want to pull out the boring worksheets.  We're deep into our multiplication and division unit right now, and this is how we practice using the traditional algorithm.

Basically, set your students up in pairs so they are facing eachother - long rows of desks or tables work the best for this.  Our desks are currently set-up in a "U" formation, so this works well.  Each student needs a whiteboard.  Before I had individual whiteboards, we would use laminated paper or paper in page protectors - basically anything with a wipe-off surface.  Students draw a line down their whiteboards to divide the surface in half.

  • I write a question on the board and give them exactly one minute to solve it on one half of their whiteboards.  
  • After that I give them exactly one minute to discuss their answers with their partner (this is perfect for those students who need a little extra time to solve because they can work with their partner to finish solving the question).
  • Then, using the other half of the board, we solve it together on the whiteboard, with students writing down the actual solution we do together (this takes about one minute also)
  • And the last VERY IMPORTANT step - they get one minute to compare their solutions with the correct solution.  If there are any errors they need to circle the errors and identify where they went wrong.  They do this error analysis with their partners, talking through the errors.  

At the end of the four minutes, I call out "Speed Date Switch".  The one side of the line moves one seat to the left and the other side of the line moves one seat to the right.  With their new partners, we start the whole process again.  We can complete about 7 questions in a 30 minute session.  Each question takes 4 minutes in total - but it's the deep analysis and comparison that makes it so much more valuable than just a skill and drill worksheet.  

I also really love using this activity for quick fun reviews - this is my go-to format for doing reviews with our math cootie catchers, or reading response cootie catchers after our read alouds.

This activity is definitely a winner in my classroom - the students ask every single day if we're doing speed dating math ... which is so funny when passer-bys hear this from a class of ten year-olds.  ;)

Math Journal Sundays - Growth Mindset in Math
With our impending division unit coming up next week, I have been hearing many utterances of fear and hopelessness popping up in the classroom.  "I can't divide" was heard one too many times for me last week.  Even though they actually CAN divide, and have been proving they CAN divide throughout our multiplication unit, I knew they needed a little reminder ... a reminder about growth mindset.

We did a lot of lesson on growth mindset at the beginning of the year, and we've been continuing to discuss it, but I wanted the students to have a tangible reminder of it ... in their math journals ... where they can flip to it whenever I (or they) think they need the reminder.

For this entry we didn't have a learning goal straight out of the curriculum - instead, we came up with more of a definition of what growth mindset looks like in the math classroom.  We discussed what we already knew about growth mindset - and some of the students were surprised that saying, "I'm already good at this ..." or something along those lines was an example of fixed mindset.  Many of them thought that only negative phrases showed fixed mindset.  We talked about how thinking you're already good at something may keep you from continuing to work harder at it and looking for ways to improve.  Light bulb moment.

For our journal entry, we made a foldable tool of a brain.  On the top flaps we left the fixed mindset side in black and white and colored the growth mindset side to make it more appealing - what we would want.  Under the top flaps we wrote phrases that correspond with each of the mindsets.  After we came up with a fixed mindset phrase, we talked about how we could turn it around to show growth mindset.  Again, we used black for the fixed mindset phrases and color for the growth mindset phrases.

We did a traditional "left-side of the page thinking" for this entry - talking about what we already knew, what we learned, proof, and reflection.  For the proof I had students go back through their math binders and portfolios to look for areas they need to keep working on - maybe they need to go back and work on something more, or look for areas they can improve, or where they could ask for help ... etc.  Going back through older work was a real eye opener for them - and many DID see how far they have already come - reinforcing that growth mindset that they will continue to learn things if they keep working at it.

If you're interested, you can take a peek at this lesson in my TpT store by clicking HERE or on any of the pictures in this blog post.

Adding Student Evidence to Learning Goals

I've been using my Building Better Responses Goals and Resources for a few years now, and they are one of my absolute favorite resources to use in the classroom because they just work for my students.  And they prepare the students for testing better than anything else I have used.  But, something new I've been doing this year is adding a student evidence piece alongside the goal - proving the mastery of the goal.  I am loving how this small change has excited my students and motivated them to work even harder.  It's an awesome thing to see.

If you are new to my Building Better Responses resources, you can read a little more about them in blog posts I have HERE and HERE.  Basically, it's our system of scaffolding the learning goals needed to compose a well thought out response - to reading, writing, or math questions (I have resources for all 3).  Students use colors to code their work - showing exactly where they have included each learning goal in their answer - actively monitoring their thinking and analyzing and reflecting on their strengths and areas of need.

There are many ways to use the better response goals, but in my class, I teach them whole group - starting with the first goal and slowly adding to them - usually adding a new goal about every two or three weeks - this really allows for mastery at each step.  And each time my students show mastery of a goal, I add an evidence piece to the space on the board beside the goals.

 I post both my reading and math response goals on a small section of whiteboard, separated with some washi tape. (I finally found a use for washi tape!)  Each time we add a new goal, I model what a response should look like, and we talk about how we would color code the evidence in our answer.  The evidence piece always comes from student work - it is not a copy of an answer I've modelled - that doesn't show mastery of anything except the ability to copy from the board.  ;)

The first time I chose evidence pieces from the students - ones where they had really shown mastery of the goal, the students were very surprised ... and a little proud, too.

So, we kept it going.  We've recently added our fourth reading response goal and third math response goal, and I can't believe how well the evidence piece is working for my students' motivation.  Each time we do a response, my students work SO HARD to have their work chosen as the evidence piece, and they are so excited to share their work with me (and sometimes I add more than one evidence piece simply because it was too hard to choose ... and so more students have the opportunity to have their work shared - and all students will make it onto this board at some point through the year).  Most of the time their responses are written with resources from the Building Better Responses resource or my Stick-It-Together resources (the better responses and stick-it-together pair very well together), but really, any form of response would work well.

I am so proud of the work they've been doing - and I know when they see their work showcased like this, they're proud of themselves, too.

We're Sharing a Smile

With just a day or two left in November, crunch time has officially begun.  I'm currently juggling report cards, Christmas concert preparations, classroom assessments, holiday parties, plus all of the stuff with my own kids and around the house.  I wouldn't trade any of it, though - this is my absolute favorite time of the year.

TeacherspayTeachers is having their annual Cyber Monday/Tuesday sale tomorrow - just in time to put a Cyber Smile on your face (ps - SMILE is the checkout code).  All my resources will be on sale for 20% off, with an additional 10% off at the checkout with the SMILE code.  I know I'll be stocking up to help me get through the next month.  ;)

But ... I wanted to share another smile with you today.  I'm getting together with two of my best teaching friends, Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6 and Kristen from Ladybug's Teacher Files to give you a chance to win a few resources to give you a little help and inspiration.

I'm giving away one of my newest bundles - my Christmas Activity Bundle - filled with some of my favorite December activities that keep my students engaged and learning throughout the busiest month of the year.  This bundle contains 4 of my tried-and-true holiday favorites, plus a brand new resource.

There are 5 different activities included in this bundle.  The activities cover persuasive writing skills, creative writing skills, grammar skills, drama skills, oral presentation skills, cooperative learning skills, listening skills, and following directions skills.  Throughout all activities, there is an element of reflection and rigor – allowing students to reflect on all of the magic December brings.

The Dear Santa, I Can Explain persuasive writing activity could be completed over a few days (or longer), and makes a great December bulletin board.

The Giving Tree Craftivity needs a few classes to complete (two different versions are included) and results in a beautiful display that can be shared at school and then at home.

The Christmas Drama Circle and Christmas Homonym Letter make great last day activities when you need no-prep, high interest activities to enjoy the excitement of the last day with your students.

Lastly, the Stick-It Together Collaborative Writing Activity can be completed in writing centers or small group activities throughout the month of December.

Enter below for a chance to win this resource, PLUS Teaching in Room 6's Essay of the Month, AND Ladybug's Teacher Files' Instant Checklists.  And then be sure to visit their blogs to enter and increase your chances of winning.  :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop on over to visit my friends to see what they have for you.  :)  The winners from each of our blogs will receive all three of our resources.
Just click on the buttons below.

Math Journal Sundays - Mean, Mode, Median, and Range

For today's Math Journal Sundays post, I'm sharing the Mean, Mode, Median and Range entry we did this week.  This was our first lesson on it, so this journal entry was used as an introduction to the concept (although, students had studied some of them in previous grades).  This journal entry is based on an entry in my Interactive Math Journals 2 resource.  We used 4 index cards to complete this entry, but the resource linked above includes the 4 cards needed for the resource.

We started out on the right side of the page by defining mean, mode, median, and range on the cards.  To help them remember, I taught them this little rhyme based on Hey Diddle Diddle, which we wrote at the bottom of the page.  When the cards were complete, we punched a hole in each corner, and then attached the cards to the page with a brass fastener.

We did a traditional left side of the page thinking for the output, but for the proof/application, I wanted to work together to solve for mean, mode, median, and range, using the definitions we came up with.  We collected a quick set of data (I asked them how many markers they had in their desk) to work with, and got to work.  It was a perfect way to introduce these concepts to them.

The next day we continued with our study of mean, mode, median, and range with a special OREO day.  :)  This is one of my absolute favourite days of the year ... cookies and math ... can't beat it!  In fact, my own daughters wanted to get in on the action the night before ... how could I say no?  If you want to read more about our Oreo Stacking Challenge, it's in my original Interactive Math Journal, and I have a blog post you can read more at HERE.

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