## The Oreo Project

If there's one math activity that my students remember for years after being in my class, it's Oreo Day.  I have been doing Oreo Day since 2011 (you can read my first blog post about it HERE), and even on the first day of school, new classes of students will ask, "Are we going to do Oreo Day this year?"  And of course, my answer is ... you can count on it.  ;)

I've tweaked our day a bit over the years, added in even more math, and created an Oreo Project Graphing Activity that students hand in for assessment at the end.

We start our day with the Oreo Stacking Challenge.  This. Is. So. Much. Fun!  I put my students into groups of 4, with each group needing approximately one large package of Oreos (the median stack is usually about 25 Oreos - I think our record is 33).  Rules for stacking include - use only one hand, no adjusting the stack at any time, once you place your cookie on the stack, you cannot move it, and even if one cookie drops from the stack, the stack is considered tumbled.  I hand out a large piece of paper to stack on (to help contain any crumbs) and a pack of cookies to each group.  Groups choose their first stacker, and the rest of the group has the job of counting the cookies as they are placed in the stack.  After all groups have finished their first stack, we record the results on a chart, and then repeat until all members have had a turn.  After this first round, we have a quick discussion about strategies for taller stacks (some of their strategies are hilarious), then we complete a second round so that all students have two results.  We pick the best result from each student to make our set of data.

From there, students use the data to find the mean, mode, and median of the numbers, and then they draw a bar graph (with intervals) to display their data.  A double bar graph comparing two sets of data (boys/girls, first stack/second stack, etc.) is another option.

Note - because of the handling of the Oreos, we don't actually eat the cookies we use to stack.  But we definitely do share some of the extras at the end.  ;)

This year we tried out a new Oreo activity, and it was a HUGE hit!  While shopping for the Oreos (I've also asked parents to donate packages to the class), there were SO many flavours!  My daughters suggested I do a taste test with them ... and the rest is history.

For our Oreo Taste Test Challenge, we had 7 different varieties of Oreos.  I cut the cookies in half (we had to show some self-restraint - lol) and placed them on plates around the room.  Students walked around the class testing the different flavours.  To vote, I gave them each a token to place in a cup beside their favourite flavour.  We then counted our results and recorded them on a tally chart.  Mint Oreos were an overwhelming favourite this year!  We recorded the results on a tally chart, then students used the data to create a pictograph, then found the percentages for each flavour to create a circle graph showing our preferences.

You can view the resources that accompany our Oreo Project by clicking HERE or on the picture below.  This resource includes lesson ideas and instructions, all the printables you need for the data and graphing activities for the Stacking Challenge and the Taste Test, as well as a rubric for assessment.
Besides graphing and data management, there are so many other activities you could do for Oreo Day:
• make the phases of the moon with the bottom of the cookie and the icing
• create a new flavour of Oreo and make an advertisement for it (print or video)
• write a descriptive paragraph about an Oreo
• write a short story from the point of view of an Oreo who escaped from the cookie factory
• research the nutritional information to compare different kinds of snacks
• find the unit cost of one cookie
• measure the circumference of an Oreo (or find the area)
• calculate how many Oreos you would need to stretch across your class or down the hall
• build a structure to protect the cookie from damage and have an "Oreo Drop"

Note:  If food allergies/sensitivities, or medical issues are present in your classroom, you could still have fun with a stacking contest to collect data and use non-food items like erasers, marker caps, math manipulatives like linking cubes or counters, etc.

1

## New Christmas Drama Circle Activities

The month of December always brings out the excitement in my students, and for me, one of the best ways to take advantage of that excitement and energy is to pull out the drama circles and let them perform!  Drama circles aren't just for drama though, they are also perfect for engaging in morning meetings, oral reading activities, reading with fluency and expression, following instructions, listening, cooperative learning, and risk taking ... all bundled into a fun activity that always has my students asking to do the activity again.  With December just around the corner, I have created two brand new Christmas Drama Circle activities - 'Twas The Night Before Christmas and Santa's Workshop - that will be so much fun in the upper elementary classroom!

Drama Circles are similar to the "I Have / Who Has" game.  Each drama circle contains 40 cards that follow in a sequence, with each card having a different instruction to act out or say aloud. Students assemble in a circle to perform their scenarios. Cards are passed out randomly, and students can have more than one card (so all cards are used).  As each student finishes acting out his or her card, the student with the next card in the sequence starts acting out his or her card. The game continues until the last card is acted out.

One of my new drama circles, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, could also be used for a Christmas play or Christmas concert idea.  The format of this drama activity is slightly different - cards alternate between a "narrator card" and an "audience card".  The classic poem is read by the narrators, with the audience (students with audience cards) interrupting and interacting after every few lines.  Narrators could be standing together, with a seated audience scattered around them.

My newest drama circles also contain black and white versions of the drama circle for an ink-saving option, as well as an assessment tracking page to observe and grade your students' performances.

You can take a peek at these Christmas activities individually, or check them out in a Christmas and Winter-themed Drama Circle bundle featuring 6 different drama circles perfect for the month of December and beyond.  This bundle contains:

• Christmas Drama Circle
• Twas the Night Before Christmas Drama Circle
• Snow Day Drama Circle
• A Christmas Carol Drama Circle
• Santa's Workshop Drama Circle
• Winter Drama Circle

If you're new to drama circles and would like to give them a try for the first time, please give my FREE Fairy Tale Drama Circle a try.  Download it HERE.  Enjoy!

0

## Numberless Word Problems

I started using Numberless Word Problems in my math classes late last year, and immediately, I was hooked.  I loved how it made my students look at work problems in a different way - they really had to think about what the problem was asking ... and develop a plan to solve it - without being distracted by the actual numbers in the problem, or just taking the numbers in the problem and adding or multiplying them together.  The conversations that were happening between my students were fascinating - they were far more willing to take risks with their partners or small groups because the numbers were eliminated at first - students weren't worried about their math skills, or getting the "answer" wrong.  Engagement was definitely high and students were eager to share what strategies they used to "solve" the numberless problems.

Numberless word problems are an excellent way to get your students thinking about WHAT the word problem is actually asking them to do and developing strategies for solving the problem.  Using these kinds of word problems provides the essential scaffolding that helps students develop a stronger understanding of how the numbers work together and how to make a plan to solve the problem.

I would use these problems as a mini-ish lesson (takes a little longer than the 10 minute lesson) when beginning a particular concept (operations, measurement, fractions, etc.), when teaching a problem-solving strategy (using smaller numbers, simpler problem, identifying the operation, etc.), or when practicing algorithms or strategies for multiplication and division. These are great for differentiation when practicing these strategies because students are working with "their own" numbers for the first problems; encourage students to use numbers that are reasonable, but that they are comfortable working with.

I would do these activities as a whole class - projecting the problems so everyone could see.  I would display the first slide - a chosen problem with all numbers removed like the example on the right.  You can make up a problem or use any word problem you have that fits your learning goal for numberless word problems (grab a textbook or worksheet) - just remove the numbers - and make sure you separate the problems (don't have all 3 on one page - students shouldn't see the third problem until the very end).

After I displayed the slide I would them let my students talk (or use whiteboards or their journals) with their elbow buddy or small group, asking:

• "What do you know about the problem?" (here I would look for answers like numbers are increasing per day)
• "What do you need to know?" (what are the points? is there a pattern? how many points on Thursday?)
• "What is a possible solution?" (here I ask the students to try to come up with an equation related to the learning goal (in this case - adding and subtracting large numbers) using their own set of reasonable numbers - they may come up with something like 100 + 200 + 300 + _____ + 500 = 1500, or 250 + 300 = 500, or something completely different.)  At this point I ask students to share some of their equations with the class and we discuss if the answer makes sense and if it is reasonable. This is a great time to check for misconceptions, too - make sure students understand the importance of the word increasing ... and that we are looking for a specific answer for a specific day.

I would then show the second problem - same problem, same question, with some information added to it.  This time students discuss:
• "What changed in the problem?"  "Does this change your equation?"  How?"
• By asking them again, "What do you need to know?" they narrow down what information is still missing and realize that the actual question they need to solve did not change, but HOW they go about solving the problem may change - they may need to change their equation (here I would look for students realizing this was a multi-step problem - that they would probably have to add points together and subtract from the total to find Thursday - reminding students of the learning goal while they work through these questions often helps them with choosing the correct steps).
• Students work with their partners to change their original equation (either by substituting in the new information for their number and re-evaluating, or by using a new equation altogether.  Again, students are asked to share how their thinking evolved or what made them change their thinking.

The third problem I show has all the information they need to solve the problem.  But instead of having students work with their partner or small group, I have them work independently for the first few minutes ... then I usually allow them to partner up - making sure they "prove" their solution to each other.  That independent part is important to help them become risk-takers and attempt difficult things and use their problem-solving strategies and make a plan to start ... and all those great things we want them to do when working independently. I choose one or two pairs or groups to share their work at the end and model how they solved the problem.

I've been making some Numberless Word Problem resources to use in my classroom.  Each resource contains 10 different scaffolded problems, plus an extra "challenge" page that has 3 - 4 more word problems (not numberless) that review other math concepts related to the word problem.  There are also problem-solving templates, learning goal and success criteria to display, and an answer key.  Each resource also contains a self-reflection form, as well as peer and teacher feedback forms for formative assessment opportunities, and a rubric for more formal assessments.  Having students actively use the feedback forms to make improvements on their next problems by explaining how they used the feedback on their self-reflection forms makes these word problems an excellent portfolio piece or piece of assessment evidence.

You can take a peek at these resources by clicking HERE:

0

## Quick Writing Reflection

This super easy "Don't Stop Until You're Proud" chart may be the best thing that happens to your writing program.  Seriously.  Student self-reflection, goal-setting, peer feedback, writing collaborating, teacher evidence, portfolio piece ... all in a 5 - 10 minute activity.  And the very best one - student pride.

I'm lucky in that most of my students love writing every year.  They really do.  A definite credit to my fantastic coworkers who built this into our students.  We do a lot of formal writing all the time, but we also make the time to do a lot of "free writing" in my class.  Any writing style.  Any genre.  Any topic.  Just write.  10 - 15 minutes.  But ... be prepared to share your writing with a friend at the end of the time.  (You can read more about this time in my blog post - Just Let Them Write).

About every 2 - 3 weeks, I quickly title a piece of chart, "Don't Stop Until You're Proud - The Line I'm Most Proud of Today is ..." and hand out sticky notes.  The chart isn't instagram pretty, but it's easy and crazy effective.  Which makes it way better than instagram pretty in my books.  I usually have this set up before they begin writing, so they're working just a little harder while they're crafting their pieces ... knowing they will share their best at the end.

This chart works for any kind of writing - after formal writing lessons, or after fun free writing time.  I try to do a combination of both.  Sometimes I relate the writing to a particular goal we're working on from our writing units which focus on the traits of writing, or from our independent writing goal clip chart, or I ask them to include a kind of punctuation and circle it (comma, apostrophe, etc.), and sometimes there are no rules at all.

When our writing time is up, I ask the students to read through their work, focusing on their very, very best line or sentence from their work - the sentence they are most proud of (I really play this part up).  They then buddy up to read each other what they have.  Working together, they need to make at least two improvements to their line (improve a word, fix spelling, add a phrase, etc.).  When this is done, they write their sentences on a sticky note and add them to the chart paper.  That's it.  My students are always anxious to read what others have written - and their compliments to each other are so genuine.  I love it.

So ... chart done - now what?  You could leave the activity at that - writing revision, self-reflection, peer feedback, peer collaboration ... 10 minutes ... check.  Or you could use the stickies for:

• students add them to a portfolio page where they can track the growth in their writing over a term or year
• teacher can add them to assessment binders for writing evidence - especially at the end of units or near the end of the term
• use them in student teacher conferences to set new writing goals or provide quick oral feedback
• use them as exemplars of great writing and share (can be anonymous) with the class
• use them as story starters for a quick writing activity - read the student's sentence and have the class write the next sentence (or finish the paragraph) (my classes LOVE this one)
And this chart doesn't have to be for writing - I'm going to try, "The proudest math moment I had today was ..." next year.  :)

Writing resources in this blog post:

0

## Donut You Know ... A Fast No-Prep Math Game

Looking for more fun ways to incorporate a little extra math facts practice into your day?  This super fun, no prep math game is a huge hit in my classroom.  I've seen the idea floating around instagram and pinterest a few times, and decided to try it out.  My crews always love a little competition, and actually, practicing their math facts too, so this game became an instant winner.  They seriously love it.

You start out by drawing a donut (hence the name - "Donut You Know".  We use whiteboards, but any surface can be used.

Then you write your numbers around the donut (be intentional with the numbers depending on the skill you are practicing).  *These numbers can stay the same for all the rounds you play.*

Then ... with dramatic flair ... announce the donut hole number and skill ... and watch the students go crazy as they try to solve all the facts first.  *No calculator allowed - mental math only.

We don't use a time limit - the first person, or pair, or group to solve all facts correctly wins.  When a group has finished, they yell, "check" and all groups pause - markers in the air.  I run over, do a quick check, and if all are correct, the game is done and we start again with a new number.  If they have an incorrect fact I hand the board back to them and say, "game on" - meaning they need to find their error and correct it and all other groups can go back to work, too.  It literally takes one minute to complete a round.

To play a second round, just erase the numbers around the donut and in the donut hole - leaving the numbers on the donut.  Just change the skill and number in the middle of the donut hole and students solve all the facts again.

This game can be used to practice all kinds of math skills:
• whole numbers and decimals
• doubling and halving
• tripling and thirding
• multiplying by powers of 10
• mental math strategies
• number talk strategies

0

## Back to School Graphing Activity

Are you looking for a new idea for a math back to school activity?  These back to school Pop-Up Bar Graphs might be just what you need!  I needed something new this year because I will have most of my class for a second time (I taught them in 4th, and will now have them for 6th).  They are a fantastic bunch and I'm looking so forward to another great year with them.

One activity they particularly enjoyed was our Pop-Up Bar Graphs, so I thought I could incorporate that idea into our first day of school this year.

This Back to School 3D Pop-Up Bar Graph activity contains an ice breaker activity students will use as they survey questions.  The object is for each student to find out how many classmates have the same answers as them.  They will then use this data to complete a graphing organizer, graphing reflection, and an interactive 3D bar graph that will WOW!  A learning goal and success criteria poster is also included, along with full lesson and assembly instructions.

You can take a peek at these bar graphs by clicking HERE or on any of the pictures in this post.

0