Math Journal Sundays - Clue Words for Problem-Solving

31 October 2015
I've got another problem-solving journal entry to share today.  This Math Journal Sunday continues with our CUBES problem-solving entry from two weeks ago.  I've noticed that not all of my students are using the CUBES strategy each time they encounter a word problem, so I wanted to keep the strategy fresh in their minds.  This time we were examining clue words in word problems to help students determine which operation(s) to use - the "B" in CUBES - box out the clue words in the problem.

For the right side of the page, we used 4 magnifying glasses (for the CLUE words).  We wrote the four operations on the outside and clue words for each operation under the flaps.  Quick and easy.

For the left side of the page thinking, instead of the traditional left side of the page we do, we did another word problem to practice using the strategy (just like we did when we first did the CUBES entry).  We are just finishing up our patterning unit, so I chose a problem we could use patterning strategies (like a T-table) to answer.  We went through the problem as a whole group with students leading the conversation as to how to analyze the problem with the steps from CUBES (and color code the steps) and how to solve the problem.

Edit:  I've had many requests to turn this into a resource, so I've made one which you can see here.  Click HERE or on the picture to the right to preview it on TpT.  


Getting Students to Reflect on Their Writing

27 October 2015
REFLECT is probably one of the words I say the most each day in our classroom.  We're always going back and reflecting on our learning, and taking our reflections to make improvements in our work.  I've used quite a few different ways to do reflections in my classroom, but this year our focus is Traffic Light Reflections (you can click on the link to read a little more about these kinds of reflections).  We already use traffic light dots to reflect on our comprehension of our learning goals, so using full traffic light reflections seemed a natural fit.

We've been focusing a lot on writing reflections lately.  As we're moving towards student-led parent conferences in my classroom this year, I wanted to make sure all the students had a great base piece for their portfolios - reflecting on their writing and improvements at each stage so they can clearly communicate where their starting points were, as well as what goals they are working towards mastering.

My go-to writing resource at the beginning of the year is Paragraph of the Week from Teaching in Room 6 (you can read more about this resource on her blog by clicking HERE).  The clear and easy-to-follow step-by-step scaffolded paragraph writing practice is the perfect starting point for my students.  

When we have finished our rough drafts of the paragraph, we then use my Revising and Editing Resource to go through our writing pieces one step at a time.  Through this process, students color code their writing as they look for each expectation - from structure to mechanics.  As they code, they write a short reflection on a sticky note.  At the end of this activity, they take their sticky notes and fill in a full reflection sheet where they discuss their strengths and needs, and make plans for revision for their final good copies.  This reflection sheet is also included in the Revising and Editing Resource.

Students then use these reflections when writing and publishing their good copies.  At the end of the publishing process, students complete a final Traffic Light Reflection before they hand in their good copies.  I added a small copy of the rubric included in Paragraph of the Week to the reflection sheet so I could provide feedback right on their reflection sheet.  I love these quick reflections - quick and easy for the students, and the fact that they have to go back to their published copies and provide evidence for their reflection by color coding their work really helps them keep their reflections and goals specific and achievable.  And I really really love that I get to read little gems like this one below while I'm marking.  :)  Her "green" reflection - what she's most proud of - just makes me smile.

At the end of the traffic light reflection, each student had to set a personal writing goal.  They were given a clothespin to mark the goal on the Writing Goals Clip Chart in our classroom.  This chart is a daily visual reminder of their goals and has been so helpful in the classroom.  The students take control of their learning - coming to me when they believe they have mastered a goal (with writing pieces as proof), and get so excited to be able to clip their pin onto a new goal.  (Each clothespin has the name of a student written on it - you can't see it in the picture because I blurred out the names).

All these sheets - their rough copies, reflection sheets, good copies, and traffic light reflection get stapled together and kept in their portfolios after I conference quickly to provide feedback with each student.  Before they begin their next writing piece, they get these sheets out of their portfolios so they can see where they want to try to make improvements in their next piece.  Watching them go back through their reflections, seeing them think about their writing, and helping them actively make improvements to their writing is such a rewarding process for all of us.  They also do quick pair-shares with their "elbow buddies" to show and prove where they made their improvements during the writing process for each piece.

If all of this process seems daunting - don't get overwhelmed - it's actually pretty simple.  We break down this process quite a bit.  Students spend about 4 days writing their pieces (from the paragraph of the week to longer pieces like the Halloween narratives we're working on now), then one to two days on the revision and editing process, including first reflection (depending on the length of the writing piece), another day or two on their good drafts (including publishing them), and then one more day on their traffic light reflections before handing in.  Each day I provide them with about 20 - 30 minutes of writing time (on publishing days we may take a little longer).  Each full writing piece from start to finish takes about two weeks of these writing blocks - and results in a wonderfully polished and substantially improved piece of work.  When they focus on their reflections at each stage and use these reflections to improve the next piece they write, they are always amazed at how much their writing improves from piece to piece (and so am I).

EDIT:  I have received many requests to share a copy of the reflection sheet I have - so I made a new one to share with you.  If you would like a copy, just click HERE or on the picture to the right.  I uploaded it to google drive - you just need to click the down arrow to download a copy.  :)  


Math Journal Sundays - Patterning

25 October 2015
This week's Math Journal Sundays post is all about patterning.  We have been working on creating and extending numerical patterns, identifying the pattern rule, and making a table of values for a pattern, so I tried to incorporate all of that into our entry for the week.

We started out on the right side of the page with our learning goal in curriculum language.  After discussing what it meant, students completed a student-friendly learning goal on the left side of the page (their output) - we came up with the goal together and everybody used it in their journals.  We then discussed "what I already know" and added that below on the left side.

For the foldable, we used a small rectangle (1/4 of a piece of paper) and cut five strips almost to the edge of the page (leaving about 1 cm - this is the part that was glued to the journal).  On each of the strips, we wrote a number pattern.  I modelled the first one, then I asked for volunteers to come up with the patterns and we all wrote them down on our foldables.  Under each strip we wrote the pattern rule.  From there, we took one of the patterns and turned it into a table of values - with the term number on the left and term value on the right.

Once the right hand side of the page is complete (the input) we go back to the left side of the page.  This time I asked the students to independently come up with their "what I learned" statement - related to the information they just learned through the lesson.  (I do a gradual release of responsibility for the left side of the page - mid way through October, they are expected to do a little more independently on the left side of the journals).  From there, they had to do their proof of learning - I reminded them that the proof had to be directly related to what they wrote for "what I learned" - this allows for differentiation because they are coming up with a problem and solving it at their own level.  They also completed this part independently.  For the reflection, I wrote down a question related to the entry, and they answered the question in writing.

Happy patterning!


Math Journal Sundays - CUBES Strategy

18 October 2015

I have missed my Math Journal Sundays posts so much, I'm bringing them back!  This year I have a split 4/5 instead of a 5/6 when I started the journals, and my class hasn't quite mastered the fine art of following instructions just yet, so we're moving a little more slowly this year in our journals ... and that's perfectly OK.  This extra time put into the modelling and set-up at the beginning of the year will be well worth it (and they're already getting better at following instructions!)

We're on our fourth entry this year.  We typically do journal entries on Thursdays, that way if a student is absent on Thursday, they have Friday to catch up (Fridays we usually do math stations).  I'll share some of our first ones in the next few weeks.

Today's "Math Journal Sundays" focus is a new entry that isn't in Interactive Math Journal 1 or Interactive Math Journal 2.  While problem-solving this week, I noticed my students needed a little extra practice reading the problem and making a plan for solving the problem.  So, I brought out the CUBES strategy.  I first made an anchor chart to hang in the classroom and we discussed each step together as I modelled it on the problem at the bottom of the anchor chart.  I purposely chose an easier problem to use at the bottom of the chart so all my students could understand the problem and know how to solve it, and we could focus on HOW to use the CUBES strategy instead.

We then made an CUBES entry for our math journals.  We used a net for a cube (see what I did there?) for the entry (and that way I could also throw in a little extra geometry talk).  The top panel had the title, and the 5 remaining panels had the different steps for CUBES.  I am a huge fan of colour coding, so we coded each step a different colour on our entry, and those are the colours they will use when working with the strategy.

For the left side of the page, we did something different than our traditional left side of the page thinking with reflection question.  Instead, we did some application and used the CUBES strategy on two different problems.  We worked as a whole group on one problem, and students worked independently on the second problem and then had a peer check their work.  

Edit:  I've had many requests to turn this into a resource, so I've made one which you can see here.  Click HERE or on the picture to the right to preview it on TpT.  

And that's that.  I'm so happy they have this reference in their journals.  If you're interested, you can check out all my older Math Journal Sunday posts by clicking on the link at the start of this post.

Happy Sunday!