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Mad Scientist Day

Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades
Mad Scientist Day!  This is seriously one of the best days of the year in my classroom!  As a class, my students have the opportunity to earn points for excellent behaviour and excellent learning - with the points going towards earning extra excellent learning days!!!  Mad Scientist Day is our first one of the year.

This is my second year doing Mad Scientist Day.  This year I switched up the activities a bit. Last year we had Mad Scientist Day the day before Halloween, so our activities were very Halloween based.  This year, that wouldn't have worked.  All of our activities are aligned with the science strands we study during the year, so they have a little information to draw from when we get to the particular units.

I "set the stage to engage" first.  A fun costume and a few props did the trick - something quick and easy to set up.  Students were also invited to dress up as Mad Scientists for the day.

Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades
Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades




















Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades
Our first activity was a STEM activity for making catapults (tie in to Simple Machines - levers).  I divided my class into small groups and gave each group a plastic spoon, two popsicle sticks and masking tape.  They were also allowed to use anything in their desks.  Last year, before Halloween, I had small plastic rats to use as the load and we called our catapults, "ratapults".  This year we used hershey kisses and "chucked chocolate".  I gave them around 15 minutes to build their catapults.  Once we were done, we had a chucking chocolate competition.  Students had to measure the distance they could "chuck their chocolate" in metres and centimetres.  Each group had 3 attempts, and then we compared and ordered the distances (YAY for a math tie-in!!!).
Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades

Mad Scientist Day for Upper GradesNext, the little Mad Scientists got to smash some rocks - cracking open geodes for our tie-in to Rocks and Minerals.  I bought some geode kits from Amazon (affiliate link to the product below).  This was definitely the WOW activity for the students.  It definitely took some time to get through the whole class, so I used the time to take some awesome pictures of my students dressed as mad scientists sitting behind the prop desk.




Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades

Mad Scientist Day for Upper GradesAs we completed each activity, students worked in a little Mad Scientist booklet I made for the day (the AWESOME clip art was part of the Mad Scientist Set by Melonheadz Illustrating - you can see it HERE).  For each activity we had to fill in "What we Did" and "What we Learned".  You can download a copy of this booklet I made HERE (just a note - it's not editable if you are doing different activities, but it can definitely serve as inspiration).
Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades

Mad Scientist Day for Upper GradesNext up was Making Blood Models (tie in to Human Body unit).  I've blogged about this as a full lesson before - you can see this blog post HERE.  Each student had a water bottle.  We added a drop of yellow food coloring to the water for the plasma.  Then we added cheerios (dyed red with a full bottle of food dye) for the red blood cells.  Mini marshmallows were added for the white blood cells, and we used small circles of paper from the hole punch for platelets.  We watched a Brainpop video on blood before we made our models to further our learning.  The students LOVE this one!

Mad Scientist Day for Upper Grades

For our last activity, we had to blow something up!  Mentos and coke fit the bill - and was a fun tie-in to Matter and Materials.  I have wanted to do this FOREVER!  So much fun!  We added 7 mentos to a bottle of coke (I read online that 7 is the perfect number) and watched the fun!

video

Mad Scientist Day was a perfect way to reward students with an awesome day of learning they will be sure to remember.  Engaged students LEARN.  Period.



Using Task Cards with Board Games

A set of task cards and any blank board game makes an engaging yet rigorous way to help your students master math concepts.
My students love task cards - especially ones that get them moving.  That's exactly why I created my Math Circles - sets of task cards that get my students up and moving while learning and mastering the concepts.  So engaging for all students and absolutely perfect for your kinesthetic learners.  If you're anything like me, you have probably have tons of sets of task cards in your teacher stash already.  One day last year, while I was figuring out ways to use my task cards in more engaging ways, I had an awesome thought.  I wanted a GIANT game board so we could "play math" in a GIANT way.  So, I made it my plan to accomplish this during the summer.  I'm so glad I did - our giant game board has been an amazing addition to our math classes, and whenever my students literally BEG me to "play math", I know I've got a winner.

Make the Game Board
A set of task cards and any blank board game makes an engaging yet rigorous way to help your students master math concepts.
I ordered my game board through Vistaprint.  It is a 4 x 8 vinyl banner.  If you create an account with Vistaprint, they have some amazing sales and promo codes they will keep you informed about.  I waited until they had a good sale going to buy the banner.  I bought some board game clip art from Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs and resized the game board a bit in photoshop (powerpoint would work, too) so it would fit.  I resized it to 24 x 48 inches and when I uploaded it in Vistaprint, the image worked perfectly - it's nice and crisp and fills the banner perfectly.

Now, go big or go home doesn't apply here.  You don't have to make a giant banner - anything would work.  You could draw a game board on bulletin board paper (it would make an awesome permanent bulletin board if you pinned the game pieces on it - a bulletin board you don't have to worry about changing ALL year long).  You could also use a large piece of cardboard - get your students involved in drawing the actual game board!  You could also do this on a smaller scale on regular paper so you could use it as a math station.  Anything goes!

A set of task cards and any blank board game makes an engaging yet rigorous way to help your students master math concepts.
Last year when I thought of this idea, I tried it out by projecting an image of a game board on my whiteboard (there are tons of free blank game boards available when you search on google images).  We just used whiteboard markers to track our progress around the board.  Quick and easy and best of all - no prep.

To go along with our GIANT game board, I decided we just had to have some GIANT dice, so I found some on Amazon (I have included my affiliate link below this post).  You can use almost anything for the game pieces - I have a fun little collection of "ugly dolls" (they are just too cute to be ugly) in my classroom that work perfectly.

A set of task cards and any blank board game makes an engaging yet rigorous way to help your students master math concepts.

Play the Game
A set of task cards and any blank board game makes an engaging yet rigorous way to help your students master math concepts.I used my Place Value Math Circle to break in our new game board (but could use any set of task cards - and this doesn't just have to be limited to math).  We rolled out our board game in a nice open area and I divided the class into two teams.  I had previously printed out the numbers for the game (the same set of numbers can be used with many of my math circles) and have made them into necklaces with string and a clip.  These hang on a hook in my classroom and we use them often.

I handed the first team the first card from the math circle.  They had to read the instructions and arrange themselves into the number on the card (numbers are written in different ways on different cards - in word form, expanded form, by place value column, and greater than and less than form).  When they were finished, the opposite team examined the card and determined whether the number the first team made was correct or incorrect.  If correct, the first team got to roll the dice and move the number of spots indicated.  If they were incorrect, they did not get to roll the dice or move.  Then, the second team got the next card in the math circle - and followed the same procedure.  Repeat.  If you are using 2 dice, the game goes quite quickly - if you want to make the game last longer, only roll one.

A set of task cards and any blank board game makes an engaging yet rigorous way to help your students master math concepts.
In the picture above, students were asked to build a number that was 1000 greater than 6,588,301. I also have sets that fit both the US and Canadian way of writing the numbers (either with commas as place value holders, or spaces). 

A set of task cards and any blank board game makes an engaging yet rigorous way to help your students master math concepts.And that's it.  SO much fun.  When we were finished, we came back to the classroom to reflect on our activity.  I posted a question from my Math Reflection Fans and asked them to answer the question on a sticky note which we then posted.  You could also just have them write their answers on a large piece of chart paper (whole group graffiti style) or on the whiteboard. 

My students are already asking when we're using the game board again ... and I have to admit, I can't wait!!!  I've got a Rounding Math Circle that will be perfect for the end of the week!












Introducing Growth Mindset in Math

Growth Mindset in Math - Starting Math Class Right!
This year, before we dive into our first math unit, we're setting up for a successful year by examining our growth mindset in math.

The very first day, I started with a math engagement survey, to see what my students' attitudes were about math and their learning (you can grab a free copy of this survey HERE).  It was pretty awesome to see that most of my students already have a pretty positive attitude about math - that's definitely a testament to the amazing teachers I work with at my school.

This summer I discovered Stanford University's YouCubed site by Joanne Boaler - full of amazing math lessons and activities that are designed to foster a math mindset in students.  I instantly knew I was going to start the year with this.

Growth Mindset in Math - Starting Math Class Right!
As I was reading more about the activities during my prep period on the second day of school, I came across this fun video made at a youcubed summer camp.  As I was watching it, I saw an image of this quote:  "In this class, mistakes are expected, inspected, and respected."  Perfection.  I pulled my big binder of bulletin board letters of my shelf and set to work.  By the time my students came in from recess, there was a new quote to look at on our wall.  When I posted the picture of this quote on my facebook page, a few people had mentioned they had seen this quote with the word "corrected" added (such a great addition ... but I have no more wall space to add the word - lol).  When my students and I discussed this quote to examine what it means, we all agreed that corrected is an integral part of inspected - when we inspect our mistakes, we are not only trying to determine where we went wrong, but also how we can use teacher and peer feedback to correct it.

Growth Mindset in Math - Starting Math Class Right!
One of our first tasks (suggested on youcubed) was to brainstorm what makes a successful math group, as so much of our learning and inquiry will be done in groups.  We did a think, pair, share activity and came up with this great anchor chart to remind us of the norms while we are working.  It hangs right below our "mistakes are" quote - and together they are exactly what we need to remember as we start our math year.

Growth Mindset in Math - Starting Math Class Right!



On Monday we our going to start our Interactive Math Journals, and our first entry is going to be my Growth Mindset in Math entry - the perfect start to our math journals.  You can read more about this entry in a blog post HERE.  From there, we will finish off our week with more great math inquiry lessons from youcubed.

Growth Mindset Math Journal Entry

With all of this, I am so excited to begin our year exploring math.  We're going to have a great year!









5 Activities for Teaching Place Value

5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!
I'm back with an all new "5 Activities for Teachingpost (click the link for more 5 Activity Ideas).  This one is all about Place Value.  Like many of you, I always like to start my math year with Place Value.  This post aims to take you past the traditional hands-on activities that students need like building and exchanging numbers using base 10 blocks, and hopefully gives you some new ideas to add to your collection.

1.  Interactive Math Journals - I always like to introduce new math concepts with an entry or two in our Interactive Math Journals.  I've got some fun ideas here on my blog that you can read some more about.  This one is from my original Interactive Math Journal.  Students identify the place value column of the highlighted digit.  You can see it HERE.
5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

Another math journal idea is from my Interactive Math Journal 2.  This one has students identifying the place value columns from billions all the way up to the billions column.  You can read more about it HERE.
5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!
2.  Cup-Stacking Place Value Game - This one is SO much fun!  You need styrofoam cups (or any cups with a lip so you can write a digit on the lip).  Label each cup with a digit from 0-9 (I used a sharpie for this, and I wrote the digit on both sides of the lip).  Repeat for the number of cups you have.  The number of cups you need depend on the number of students playing, and how high you wish your numbers to go.  For a group of 3, playing to the hundred thousands, you will need 18 cups.  (I bought a pack of 20 at the dollar store).  To work with numbers in the billions, students would build a pyramid with 10 cups.


5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

Spread the cups out and have your students seated around them.  
5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!As quickly as they can they need to stack 6 random cups in a pyramid, then collapse the pyramid so they have a stack of 6 cups.  The first person to read the 6 digit number the stack makes, wins.  To get all participating and keep the motivation going, you can give the first person 2 points, and everyone else in the group that reads their number correctly 1 point.  Or, you can simply make this a math station without any points at all.  :)  Take a peek at this video to see how we play it.

video

5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!3.  Math Stations - Dice, cards, dominos ... all of these manipulatives are great for building numbers to have students work with place value.  I have a fun package of math station sheets for place value that use dice - whole numbers and decimals are included (US and Canadian versions are both included in the resource).  With this Rolling Place Value resource, students will be working with standard, written, and expanded form of numbers.
To use less paper, I bought these great dry-erase pockets at Amazon.  LOVE them.  Just slide the sheet inside, and let the students work.  I'll include an affiliate link to Amazon at the bottom of this post.  If you want to take a peek at this Rolling Place Value Resource, click HERE.
5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

I also have a similar resource for rounding - including numbers from millions to thousandths on individual sheets so you can easily differentiate for your students.  Students will also compare and order the numbers they made.  To see this Rolling with Rounding Resource, click HERE.  Each of these two "rolling" resources include an extra page that students can complete and hand in for a formative assessment.
4.  Place Value Scavenger Hunt - I've got a fun little freebie to share with you.  This Place Value Scavenger Hunt has students hunting for numbers - around the school, in a newspaper or magazine, online ... wherever you choose to have your students look.  I'm planning on having my students work in groups, giving each group an iPad.  When they find one of the numbers on their scavenger hunt, they can take a picture of it on the iPad.  At the end of the activity, they will go through their gallery, showing the 15 pictures.  To grab a free copy for your classroom, just click HERE.

5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!5.  Place Value Math Circle - This Place Value math circle is always a hit in my classroom because it gets us up and moving, and really exploring numbers.  It is especially beneficial for the kinesthetic learners in the classroom.  This math circle is similar to my drama circles in that everyone gets a card with a direction to follow.  Each student is given a digit from 0-9, there is a decimal for someone to wear as well.  Once everyone is wearing their digit, the first person reads the instruction on the card and builds the number using people in the class.  For example, in the picture below, the card said, "Use 5 people to build a number with a 2 in the ten thousands place, 4 in the thousands place, 9 in the hundreds place, 6 in the tens place, and 3 in the ones place.  Read the number aloud."  I have both a US version and a Canadian version available.
5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

5 Fun Hands-On Activities for Teaching Place Value that your students will LOVE!

And that's about that.  What are some of your best tried-and-true place value activities in the classroom?  Leave a comment below explaining all about it.






Quick Tips for Back To School - One Little Word Themes

Are you looking for some quick tips for back to school?  I've got just about 2 weeks to go before we start, so this is definitely where my head is right now.  And I'm starting with getting my room set up.  And that all starts with a theme.



Apart from trying to have cohesive colors in my room, I wouldn't say I have a decorating "theme" for my classroom.  I do love having a nicely set up classroom, and I do love the cute classroom themes I see all over pinterest and facebook, but a full out theme is not something I thought I could pull off - decorating-wise or time-wise.  But ... does a classroom theme need to be a decorating style?  Does it need to be time consuming and costly?  In one little word, NO.

My quick tip is one that worked very well for my class last year.  Classroom themes can be easy.  Classroom themes can be one simple but powerful word.  I wanted our theme to be more than a decorating style.  I wanted it to mean something.  So instead, I took my "theme" from the one little word I thought was most important for us to have a successful year, and such an important life skill for the future - my classroom theme was (and will be again this year) "collaborate".

"One Little Word" classroom themes can be taken from anywhere.  They can be from a novel you are starting with (if reading Wonder at the beginning of the year, "Choose Kind" would be a fabulous classroom theme), they can be a character trait you want your students to display, or a verb meant to motivate like Think, Encourage, Lead, Persevere, etc., or a growth mindset word or phrase you want to keep reminding your students of.  It just has to be something you remind your students of daily, and keep reflecting on throughout the year.

For me, collaborate is what I wanted my students to start right from day one.  It was something I knew was necessary for all of us to have a successful year.  So, we got started right away.  I had each student trace their hand and arm, and decorate the inside with the names, and other words and pictures that were important to them.  Then, we posted our hands reaching up to our goal - and used my big bulletin board letters to spell out COLLABORATE.  This was placed over our main board, so it was in front of us every day, all year long.  A great reminder throughout the year as I knew I'd be having them working together and learning from each other every single day.


As soon as that was done, we talked about what the word means, and how we collaborate in the classroom - not just student to student, but student to teacher as well.  After a great brainstorm session, we tried it out with our first Stick-It-Together Collaborate Activity - one for back to school.  It was a great way to start to get to know one each other, start thinking about what our year was going to be like, start working on our goals, and most of all, start to COLLABORATE.

I can't wait to share pics from my classroom set-up this year - full of reminders to collaborate, space to collaborate in, and resources to collaborate with.  The two-week countdown is on!

Check out some more ideas below from some of my fabulous blogging friends, and get ready to grab some inspiration to make this the Best.Year.Ever!




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