Monday, April 29, 2013

Telling Time With Cubes

I'm teaching time in a new and adventurous way this year.  This particular lesson all started with cubes.  I would have never thought cubes could lead to a better understanding of time, but stick with me and you'll see that it makes complete sense.  Each child had their own train of five.

After counting every child's set of 5 cubes, I traded them for a paper copy of five cubes which we then taped to a poster.  We labeled the number of cubes on the top and the number of trains on the bottom.  (I would have gladly used my whiteboard for simplicity sake, but my Smart board was totally in the way.)

Once we noticed several things about this interesting number line, we removed all the cubes past the 12th train and formed them into a circle like you see below.

Well, what do you know?  Looks an awful lot like a clock, eh? Of course, there was much discussion going on throughout this lesson.  I left out lots of information.  I just wanted to give you a gist of how it went and wet your appetite.  If you're interested in reading about the complete lesson, check out this post where you can find a link to an article that explains it in full.  It's good stuff!

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Allow Yourself the Right

This post meshes well with last week's Saturday Saying about  teachers and change.  (Look here.)  I want to be the kind of teacher who doesn't wait for change to knock down my door.  Instead I want a say in the changes that occur in my classroom by seeking out the ones I know will be best for my kids.  Having said all that, Richard Allington's quote below adds another important dimension to this whole discussion.

When making a change, like teaching something new from the CCSS for example, I believe it's important to allow myself the right not to get it correct on my first attempts.  Before even launching into the unknown, I adopt the mindset that it's okay if there are bumps along the way.  I expect them in fact and refuse to kick myself about when they present themselves.  Like the quote says, change is anxiety-provoking as it is.  My attitude concerning inadequacies with new material shouldn't add fuel to the fire.  It takes time to make changes that will last.  It's okay if it takes three to five years of teaching a new unit or concept before I feel like I'm great at it.  I'm going to allow myself the right to not get it all right.  

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Slit Clocks?

I think after 19 years of teaching, I might be on the verge of possibly figuring out how to teach time.  The short article below got me on the right track.  It spells out four lessons in such a fabulously concrete and sequential manner.  It makes a lot of sense.  You should definitely read it.  (Click on the picture for your own copy.)  

I love how the article suggests introducing the clock with the hour hand only.  It's a brilliant idea.  Lesson two shows how to use slit clocks for this purpose, which I had never heard of before.  Here are a few pictures of how to make one.

 Draw the numbers of a clock on a paper plate.  Then cut a slit at the 12.

 Cut out a circle.  Draw the hour hand like so and cut a slit as well.

 Slide the small circle through the slit on the paper clock.  Move the small circle from the back and hold the clock with the other hand.

In this lesson, the kids picked up very quickly that if the hour hand is pointing directly to a number, like the 6 for example, it's 6:00.  When the hand is just beyond the 6, they learned to say, "a little past 6:00."  If the hand is almost to the 6, they say, "a little before 6:00."  

The kids had lots of opportunities to practice with partners, both showing times and reading times.  They practiced directly on the hour, and they had a chance to be tricky as well by moving their hour hand a little before or after a number.

Go grab that article.  You'll be glad you did.  I sure am!

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Monday, April 22, 2013

ROY G BIV Measurement

It's sweet when art and math collide.  If you consistently read my blog, you've noticed a plethora of measurement posts of late.  That's because we've been in the midst of measuring.  Over a week ago we put our measurement skills to the test when we used them to create these 3D rainbows.

I found the rainbows on Pinterest, but the link didn't lead me to any directions.  Here's how I made them.  Each child got 12" strips of paper in each color of the rainbow.  We then measured and cut them to match these numbers.


Talk about lots of practice measuring!  I also got to talk about the idea of ROY G BIV, which helped each child put their strips in the right order.  After they got their strips ordered and the ends all lined up, I came around stapled the lined up end for them.  That left the other ends nowhere near lined up, but there's always one in the crowd who can figure out how to pull them all together and line them up anyway.  Once I got that person's second set of ends stapled, they became available to help those who just didn't get it.  In the end, they are colorful representations of how much these kids have learned about measurement!

If you're wondering what the writing on the strips is all about, we labeled each one. 
r = 12 in.
o = 11 in.
and so on

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Two Kinds

This quote meshes well with a thought that's been swirling around in my head of late.  Maybe this is an oversimplification, but I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to change, there are basically two kinds of teachers.  There's the teacher who's typically on the receiving end of change, rarely on a mission to track it down, and then there's the teacher who is seeking out change and creating it for themselves.  The teacher who receives change, whether happily or not, doesn't typically have a choice.  They are pushed along simply because change happens.  Sometimes this kind of change proves to be helpful and sometimes it's not, but most likely they're stuck with it regardless.  The teacher who creates change isn't waiting for mandates from oftentimes faceless people who will never set foot in their classroom.  Instead, they're constantly searching out instructional changes as a result of their own daily research.  They're reading, reflecting, and seeking.  On a personal note, my life is one of consistency.  Change in my daily routines is not necessarily appreciated, but as a teacher, I strive to be a creator of change instead of simply letting it push me around.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Colorful Me

I'm in a linky kind of mood today.  The Let's Get Acquainted topic this week is Skittles.

Red - favorite ice cream
For the longest time, cookie dough ice cream trumped all, but once I discovered cake batter, nothing else quite compares.  (Cookie dough can be added as a bonus!) 

Orange - favorite memory from college
I have a terrible memory, and I was pretty busy working and studying in college, so I'm lucky I came up with something.  My favorite memory though is Ernie Thompson, my advisor and one of my professors.  The way he talked about the importance of prayer in our teacher lives still blesses me.  

Yellow - favorite sport team
Pete's not a team, but he is the best tennis player of all time.

Green - favorite fast food place
I'm not good at spending money on food, but I've recently discovered a love for Jimmy John's number 12, onion, no tomato, on wheat.  Sigh.

Purple - wild card (tell anything)
About seven years ago, I rode my bike 632 miles through France.  (Would you believe I haven't touched my bike since?  It's still sitting in my garage in pieces from its trip back to the States.)

That's me in colors!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Zero Teacher Prep Measurement

Last week I shared about the informal rulers we made.  (Look here.)  I also shared about the broken ruler idea, which helps to clear up some major measurement misconceptions that even upper elementary kids still struggle with.  (Click here.)  I combined both of those concepts to create this task.  It takes zero teacher prep, which admittedly, I like a lot.

The idea was that each mathematician got to choose an object of their choice from their desk and place it above their informal ruler in a way that would trick everyone else.  In other words, they couldn't line up their object with the first unit like they typically would.  They had to choose another unit to line it up with.  (This task alone was good for a handful of them who still needed practice lining up the edge of an object with the beginning of a unit.)

Then each child left their object and ruler on their desk, grabbed their whiteboard and marker, and traveled around the room to other desks to record as many measurements as they could.

First off, it was sure nice that I had nothing to prepare for this lesson.  Secondly, the kids loved traveling and proving they couldn't be tricked.  Lastly, it was pretty obvious who was indeed being tricked, and I was able to have some one-on-one teaching time with them.  All in all, a success! 

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Monday, April 15, 2013


Today I got my first new student of the year.  Even though there are challenges and stresses that come with new arrivals, it makes for a perfect opportunity to review what makes Miss McMorrow's class run smoothly, and it gives kids numerous opportunities to model appropriate behaviors in all areas of our day, which makes my job easier for sure.

Talking about and using ambassadors is one of my favorite parts about getting a new student.  When a new little person comes to our "country," I talk about the all-important job of an ambassador.  This person will show them around and make them feel welcome.  For example, during Daily 5 time, an ambassador (of my choosing) will stay with them the whole time and model how to do everything.  At recess, a few ambassadors are handy to show the new little person around and play with them.  You get the idea.  Typically, the ambassadors are put to work for several days until our new friend is settled in and feeling more like one of us.  Hopefully this is how our new little guy will be feeling very soon.  (He's a sweetheart by the way.)

My runner's heart hurts for those who ran in Boston today.  My prayers and love go out to them.  Thank you God for legs that can run.  

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Pickiness

I love this quote from top to bottom, but I'm focusing my thoughts today on the bottom half.

Time can be hard to locate.  There never seems to be enough of it.  I live in a rather organized little bubble, and yet I rarely feel like my mental teacher list of things to do ever gets any shorter.  As soon as one item is crossed off, a new one takes its place, and it doesn't get much better until the children deliver their final goodbye squeezes and I lock my classroom door one last time before summer takes over my mind.

With all that's on my plate, thinking about what I voluntarily make time for is worth contemplating.  We all know there are times when teachery stuff takes precedence over moving students forward, pushing thinking and reflecting to the bottom of the list.  By the time all the other things, like those listed in the quote, find themselves done, there's little energy left for reflections about instructional improvements.  Granted, there are often things on a teachers plate that are must-dos and will never go away, but I also think there are things we sign ourselves up for that could be significantly less complicated and less time-consuming.  Regie believes in simplifying, so we can concentrate on best teaching practices.  I concur.  On behalf of our students and moving them forward, we could use some pickiness when it comes to how we spend our time.   

(Have you heard Debbie Diller's rule about time?  It's a great one.  See here.)

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Broken Ruler Talk and Swap (freebie)

Have you heard the research about the average young mathematician's inability to give an accurate measure of an object when it's moved to a spot on the ruler other than 0?  The results are not so good and prove that the typical youngster doesn't understand a ruler and how to use it.  

Donna from Math Coach's Corner has a great post about this concept and uses broken rulers to help remedy this measurement problem for kids.  I combined her idea with a review concept I saw on Mrs. Daniel's blog Second Grace Sparkle to create the following activity.

I made the following four pages of broken ruler cards and cut them apart to create 24 individual cards.  

Each mathematician gets one card and holds it in front of them while facing a partner who is doing the same.  Kid 1 identifies the length on Kid 2's card.  Kid 2 identifies the length on Kid 1's card.  They swap and find new partners and on and on it goes.  Mrs. Daniel calls it Happy Talk.  I hope she doesn't mind that I call it Talk and Swap.  

If you're looking for a great math blog to follow, I'd recommend checking out Donna's.  She knows what she's talking about! 

FYI: This lesson was preceded by the creation of informal rulers, which definitely set them up to understand the above activity better.  Go here if you'd like to know more.

Freebie Fridays

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Student-Centered Rulers

I thoroughly love the way Van de Walle recommends transitioning mathematicians from informal units to a standard ruler.  Based on his suggestions, we made our own informal rulers today.  

Here's step one:

(blue and orange in honor of the BSU Broncos of course)

Each child made their own.  I specifically told them to leave a space before glueing down the first unit, since the 0 on rulers doesn't necessarily sit at the very beginning of the ruler.  It's important that the kids use the rulers with the absence of numbers for a while too, but soon they'll show up.  The kids then practiced using their rulers by measuring each other's names using this sheet.  You'll notice there's also a box for predictions.  Van de Walle says it's very important for students to practice predicting measurements.

Here's step two:

See how the numbers are written in the center of each unit?  That's on purpose.  They're written there to make it clear that the numbers are a way of precounting the units.  Numbers at the ends of units turn the ruler into a number line, which is a more sophisticated concept according to Van de Walle.  We then finished measuring names.

This idea comes from Van de Walle's book below.  I'd highly recommend it!  I'm trusting that when we make the transition to standard rulers, my kids will have a much better understanding of how they work, thanks to Van de Walle's thoughts.

(He has a new edition out now.)

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