The end of the year is almost here, but we have one more posting duty before us. So here goes.
Recently, my wife and I purchased a Docle Gusto single serving cappuccino/latte macchiato machine. It is capsule based and works really quickly and well. Some people call such devices wasteful or extravagant, but I really find its products stimulating, sweet, and enjoyable. This got me to thinking...are there activities that we regularly use in our classrooms that some might think are extravagant or wasteful in terms of time and resources, but we find stimulating, effective and enjoyable to both ourselves and our students? I have one such activity I like a lot.
On the first day of class in Math 1350 (Fundamentals of Mathematics I, i.e. math for pre-service elementary and middle school educators I) I hand out a copy of a worksheet that has five problem solving problems on it. These problems require no more mathematical knowledge than the course prerequisite (college algebra) and are more based on reading and planning than calculations and formulae. I have the students work in groups and ask them to write on the board a carefully worded solution that will stand on its own without verbal explanation. After each group has their solution on the board, the class rotates clockwise one problem (a detail they were unaware of earlier) and this is the work they must use to present the solution to the class. Frequently, students find missing details or are completely lost as to how to follow the solution on the board. We then have a discussion on completeness of solutions and try the process again. The second solutions are usually much more carefully worded and presented. I find this effectively demonstrates how much detail and clarity is needed in a solution without my needing to be excessively verbose. I am including, as an attachment, a pdf of the worksheet I use.
So here is the discussion topic.
Describe an activity that you regularly use in your classroom that some might think is extravagant or wasteful in terms of time or resources, but you find stimulating, effective and enjoyable to both yourself and your students. The topic can be one you use at any point in the year.
Thanks folks and I look forward to reading about your activities.
p.s. When you are at ME by the SEa, feel free to stop by and say hello. I will be presenting "32,768 Hamburgers And Other Peculiar Applications"
I have an activity that I always do with my 5th and 6th graders from Day1 to the 5th Six Weeks of every school year, and that is reviewing the Fact Famiies of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I usually do this everyday for about 15 minutes, varying my activities form board work to paperwork to contests individually or groups . Some teachers commented that it is a waste of time because they should have memorized them already by the 3rd and 4th grade levels. Well, I believe that if students know their facts by heart, that is with FLUENCY, all the other operations and math lessons will be easy for them. Also, contests, oral work, written work on these fact families ae fun! They are good wam-ups, make the students happy and keep them "rolling" till the end of our Math lesson of the day. They look forward to getting little rewards for correct answers , like a pencil, or a candy, or a bag of chips, or a pen. These small activities , though a waste of time for some, motivate my students to keep on memorizing their facts (students these days do not memorize stuff anymore because modern technology gives them all in a press of a button!). These activities are also effective especially with our new state test that is timed. If students know their fact families in the four basic operations, not too much time will be wasted in giving the answers when they are multiplying, dividing, adding, or subtracting numbers.
Activity- I have an activity that is used from day one to the last day of school with my first graders:
I have my students name the odd numbers and even numbers daily. I also have the students
do ther calendar every day and go over the days of the week, months of the year and write
the current date explaining if the number is odd or even. We count by 2's, 5's, and 10's.
WE count to 20 orally and write it on paper, then later we count to 100 and write to 100.
We also do flash cards and fact families to help them memorize their math facts.
I also tell them if they forget which numbers are odd and even to make a list like this:
1 3 5 7 9 ODD
2 4 6 8 10 EVEN (IF IT ENDS IN 0)
I still teach Pumpkin Math at Halloween! I always find a way to stick it into the curriculum! The students bring in pumpkins of different sizes and take different measurements. On the nextl day, we cut the tops off and they weigh the pumpkins as they "lose weight". (You guessed it, they get to scoop out the guts!) I am always amazed at the number of students who have never gutted a pumpkin. They then use all of the data they gathered to make 3 different types of graphs. On the final day, I bring the pumplkins seeds back up to school, after washing them and soaking them in salt water, and cook them on my electric skillet. The students then get to eat the seeds as they work at their desks. This activity takes almost a whole week out of our curriculum, but the students are all engaged and have a blast! I have been doing this for about 12 years now and I still have former students asking if I still teach with pumpkins! I love to say, "but of course!"
I do something similar with bananas - students weigh the bananas, peel them, eat them, and then weigh the remaining peels. Before the activity, they guess what percent of the banana is peel. Afterwards, they calculate what percent of the total was peel. They really enjoy it.
Happy End of the Year to Everyone! I incorporate as much math as I can during the holidays especially during our Party days. My students like that I incoporate games some they have played otheres they have not. With any game they don't realize they are learning. At Halloween I incorporate Science into probablity. My students roll dice and then make monsters that go with the number they have rolled. This also helps with character traits.
In the Spring, my class made confetti eggs. I had about 5 students that had never done that. They dyed them and filled them.
As a teacher I want my students to take away memories that we had fun in the room. The activities I do in the room helps with social skills as well. I think that is important in every classroom.
I also do a timed multiplication page every other day to help with fluency of math facts.
Every day in math class my students worked on TAKS Target for 5-15 minutes as a review of the TEKS. We also used mad minutes for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division as part of our homework and in class. Finally we practiced flash cards or other games/coloring worksheets that involved students learning their facts through out the school year. Have a wonderful summer vacation all of you! See you in a couple weeks.
I have used the Renaissance Learning "Math Facts in a Flash" program about 3x a week for 15 minutes each time. The students worked on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Their goal is to do 40 problems correctly in 2 minutes. The Benchmark for 2nd grade (which I teach) was all addition facts. All of my students mastered that goal. I even had 5 students complete through the division goal. It was interesting to notice that as the students progressed, they began to see the fact families and understand more of the number relationships. The students also had their own sets of flash cards and would practice them in small groups and take them home to practice.
During the fractions unit, I read The Hershey's Fraction Book. The kids each had their own Hershey bar and we made problems and "saw" the different fractions.... AND they got to eat the candy. It was fun, but a learning experience.
Not on math, but something I did do regularly was incorporate character lessons. It did take some time, but it built relationships and helped the students solve problems with others. It helped to build a "team" feeling in our classroom.
I use target math and go over every problem with the students. I at first did not and waited till jan to start because the students did not have the skills to do the problems on their own in the first semester. Well I decided to start day one and call it my mini lessons. I started to have more commended performance after that so I continued. I have to make sure if the students are not slacking because they will be waiting for me to do the problems for them to just copy so there is alot of observing and pull out when you see a pattern of a student not either understanding the system or they really are struggling with basic skills. I have them take detailed notes also on everything I do I give them a grade for it so they are willing to do it. I have very few that give me a hard time about it. At times it takes up 15 minutes of instruction but I feel its worth it.
I always have a warm-up at the beginning of class with 4 problems that are spiraled from previous units. I will continue to do this as well as a timed facts review to improve fluency. The students enjoy seeing their number of correct answers improve. I also use smartboard games which they really like that go along with the unit that is being worked on at the time.
I agree with most that the use of flashcards and worksheets dealing with facts from addition thru division are considered wasteful and extravagent. I however believe that they are useful, because students need to know their facts in order to be successful in math in general. I also use TAKS target as a sponge activity at the beginning of class. I give them 15 minutes to work on it while I check homework and planners and then we go over the color of the week. At the beginning of the year the students are feeling a little overwhelmed, but by the end they are successful and are confident about answering the questions.
My answer is very similar to Sandra's. Each day I have 5 problems that we use as a review of previous skills...and then we complete multiplication timed tests from Color-coded mulitplication - an activity that I picked up at Me by the Sea a few years ago. The kids enjoy moving through the colors as they learn their facts. See you all next week and I hope you all have a great summer!.
My students have a working breakfast. As they eat their breakfast in the classroom, they work a total of five problems...some of these problems include those that provide a review and sometimes they will get something new. Like Debbie's students we also review our multiplication facts at the end of the day...the children love doing this because it is on powerpoint. Both activities allow my students postitive opportunities to learn.
I love teaching my students sudoku, even when I only taught science. It amazes me how many students struggle with this concept. By third grade they should be able to count to 9 right? But is not the counting that gets them. It is the attention to each row and box that gets them. Some students really love the challenge and they come away from it looking for the challenge in the next lesson. others take longer to get the concept, but they are elated when they complete the first one.
There are several things I like to do in the classroom that some others don't because they do not like to stray away from "the plan". Yes, some are very stressful, but the kids really enjoy and I want them to enjoy. One that I do sporatically is "I have Who Has" and I like it because it reviews them on skills. The other one that I used to refuse to do and gives me a headache is my pumkins around Halloween, like Christian said she does. They all bring in a pumpkin (any size) and we weigh it, measure it, see if it sinks or floats, predict how many seeds (they always think the bigger one has more and they are always wrong), count the seeds, check their predictions, etc. They absolutely love this day and activity, but by the end of the day doing it with two classes I am drained. I have pictures in my journal of this...Some of my autistic kids refused to put their hands in it to get seeds out, but when they saw everyone else having fun they did! ANyway, I am glad I strayed away and do these activites because they really do enjoy them!
This was a breeze to come up with. My activity would be the Cone Problem. Students cut out 6 to 12 circles of a given radius. They then mark/cut out a central angle (from 15 to 120 degrees, in increments of 15 or 10 degrees). They tape the remaining edges to form a cone. Their job is to determine which size central angle to cut out to maximize the volume. We attack this problem in many ways - measure the volume of rice that each cone has, put that into stat, use regression to determine the best model, and then find the maximum point. We also attack the problem algebraically. It is a one week problem - at least it was with my 8th graders in the past.
I do math journal writing in my class. We have one journal assignment per week from the beginning of school. I give the students a prompt and they have to write about it. For example, one prompt I can think of is, "What if there were no zeros in the world? How would our world be different?" or "List all of the ways you can think of that math is used in a fast food restaurant." I give the students the prompt on Monday and it is due on Friday. The students generally do not like the writings at first because it takes a lot of thinking and work, but by mid-year, they love it! They get to share their writings on Fridays. When the idea was first presented to me from a fellow teacher, I thought that it was trivial and took up too much time, but once I started it, I found that it is amazing the insight you gain when you have students write about their math processes. We keep all of the writings in their Math Writing Folder and they get to take them home at the end of the year. They love looking back at all their writings and seeing how much they have grown mathematically and as a writer. It is one of their favorite keepsakes!
We did a castle project this year. It took a couple of weeks and a lot of "resources". The kids loved it and I think it was totally worth the time and resources. I had kids who scraped by calculating the volume, surface area, etc. for their castle. It was worthwhile in my opinion.
We got the TI-nspire calculators with navigator. (Still can't believe it!!!) It has a "Quick Poll". I can send the students a question and they answer it on thier calculator and then we can see the results up on the Smartboard. On Mondays, I liked to ask "What did you do over the weekend?" and on Fridays I liked to ask "What will you do over the weekend?" It didn't take long and it was always fun. A really good bonding experience.
Of course, there were those that had inappropriate answers...They got their calculator taken away!
I've used timed facts, CScope's Spiral Review, A.D.D., and Madd Minute in class. Though some view these as a waste of time, students like the idea of competition with peers and themselves. Some try to beat their last time. One must never give up a chance to allow them practice. They especially like it when it is extended, such as
Around the World with multiplication facts.
I have used the triangular cards for multipication /division cards everyday in the morning for 15minutes or at the end of the lesson. The pair student loved doing this. Whoever had the most cards would win. I also used the Mad Minutes worksheets. I also used the multiplication cards by testing each student. They had to answer quick and not use their fingers to get the answers. Students loved to compete with each other. Staff think its a waste of time but Its not. Oh I most forgot I used the Rhyme and Times every Friday Morning. Example: 6X7 Rings for you Put them on all fourty two.
I remember that activity, I was a student of yours!
Everyday I post two or three problems up on the board for the students to warm up their brains. After each student comes up to the smart board and solves the problem, wrong or right, we give that student a classroom cheer. At first, the students are totally mortified, but grow to love this time of cheer. It does take some time and it does get loud. The goal of this ritual is to make all students feel worthy and safe in my classroom. It is not about always getting it right, but more about trying and feeling safe to fail in front of the classroom.
In past years I have done an activity with my students right around Valentine's Day. Each of the students would receive a small bag of M&M's. They would sort them according to color and then figure the probability of taking each color one at a time out of the bag. The students would have to simplify fractions and make probability statements about each color in the bag. We would a then create a graph with their information. Then you get to eat your work. FUN!
I love the tetrahedron kite activity. It usually takes two days to make the kite and then we take an additional day to fly the kite. Many may think this is wasted time. During the process of making the kite we review the properties of triangles, quadrilaaterals, pyramids and similar solids. I make my students figure out where to attach the kite string in order for the kite to fly. We also review angle of elevation while we are flying the kites. My students really enjoy making the kites and flying themis really relaxing. I did not have time for my students to do this project the last couple of years. Thanks to the beginning institute I brought it back and hope to continue to use it every year.
I also like finding the surface area and volume of an ice cream cone. This is another one I have not used the past couple of years. I was able to incorporate it back into my lessons this year.
RE: 6th six weeks required discussion
I also use "mad minute" and "Race Track" for the first quarter of the year. I find that 6th graders are pretty good at multiplication facts but have slipped on addition facts, and more often than not count backwards to subtract. I have also used "I have" cards--have a great resource book for just about any math skill, but I really like the idea of having them make their own. We have 9-week exams, so the day after mine is usually a day to relax a bit but still do math.
For the first nine weeks, I do "Order of Operation Mobiles". In some years, the students create an order of operation problem involving all aspects of PEMDAS, then solve by placing each simplified step on a pencil diagram that gets shorter until the final solution. Writing the expression takes some doing, so when time is shorter I have them draw an expression. The pencils are then decorated and strung together.
I use several activities in the classroom that some people might think is extravagant or wasteful in terms of time or resources but I will only name one. I really like this game I do on the board with the students that deals with multiplication facts. Its kind of hard to explain, but I draw a multiplication table chart on the board and on the right and top I write numbers 0 to 9. Then I put the students in two groups and one by one they have to fill in the chart and that fastest group to fill the chart is the winner. Some teachers tell me why don't you just do the flash cards. I think that is boring and this way it keeps the students active and excited about their group winning. I believe this game is effective and enjoyable to both myself and my students!!!!
I have an activity that I started with my 5th grades which I believe to be very meaningful to both myself and students. It is a Bell Ringer that students start at the beginning of every class period. I take 5 problems from previous unit assessments that gave them trouble and students spend 5 to 10 min.working on one problem per day after a little reteaching they are able to master. If they get it correct they receive a stamp which later gets tallied as a grade at the end of the week.