Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Week Thoughts... and Math!

Happy Thanksgiving, Teacher Friends!

I'm thrilled to have a week at home with my family. We've spent the first days of the break reading, watching movies, cooking together, going to the gym, playing games with friends, walking the dog... I shopped for a few Thanksgiving groceries this morning, and I couldn't believe how beautiful the produce was! I love the colors, the patterns, and the order!

I've also done a little reorganizing around the house, and I'm looking forward to a few sewing projects. Of course I plan to do a little school work this week, too, but at least I can do it from the couch!

Speaking of school work...

While I'm normally focused on everything literacy... this time I want to share some math activities. I've been using a variation of Daily 3 Math in my classroom for a few years. For those not familiar with Daily 3 Math, it provides opportunities for students to do math by themselves, play a math game with a partner, and participate in some kind of math writing. I have adapted the program so that it works for my students and works for me. I limit student choices using a pocket chart menu that coordinates with the math cart where I store all the math supplies.

I can give students lots of choices for Math Writing or only a few. I can customize Math by Myself so that students have differentiated options, and I can include pre-purchased games and activities in the Math with a Partner section. I can color-code choices in the pocket chart so that the students know which drawers they can choose from that day, and I can insert cards that say "iPad" and give the students the option of a math app. I've made the system flexible for me, so that I can direct students to the activities that will help them learn and move forward. They still love it, because while there aren't always tons of choices, there are definitely some choices. Occasionally, I'll go a little crazy and tell students that's it's a "Math Choice Day," which means they can choose any math activity, no matter the drawer or category. They go nuts for that!

I know other teachers who store all their games in binders. More power to them! I thought and thought about that, but I just couldn't figure out how it would work with my little first graders. There are no doubt a million ways to implement Daily 3 (or my adapted version!) into a math block.

I purchased my cart from Amazon at least seven years ago. I'm pretty sure they still sell them. I was concerned that the cart wouldn't last, but it sure has. And I've changed schools and classrooms a ton, so it's been moved and handled a lot. It's still fine. I tighten the screws every now and then, and it's all good.

The first set of drawers, labeled "Math Tools," hold things like dice, calculators, dice-in-dice, game markers, a variety of manipulatives, clocks, math toolkits, and maybe a few dozen of those cute little erasers from the Target dollar bins. Maybe.

The second set of drawers contain just what the label says: Number Games. The activities in these drawers are all focused on number concepts. There's a special version of "Go Fish," some games purchased from Lakeshore or Amazon, "Giraffe" (which is just a kid-friendlier version of the card game "War"-- I couldn't bring myself to say "War!"), and oldies-but-goodies from Math Their Way, Marcy Cook, and Kathy Richardson.

The Strategy Games are games that require some sort of logic or strategy, while still focusing on math skills. There are variations on Connect Four (that I've created), Mancala, and seasonal/thematic Bump games.

The Paper and Pencil activities include roll and color pages, double dice activities to practice addition, domino math, and basically anything that involves paper and pencil. I have shared with some teachers who insert their adopted math textbook work here, and others who use number puzzle work like KenKen. Anything goes!

At the bottom, I have drawers labeled "Patterns" and "Puzzles." There are some seasonal pattern activities in there, plus a variety of puzzles. Some of the puzzles are my Number Sequence Puzzles, and those vary by season and theme. There are also math puzzles from teacher supply stores that focus on addition facts or number sense. And sometimes, just for fun, I toss in a "Frozen" or "Star Wars" puzzle, because I believe that jigsaw puzzles are good for kids! (Remember, I can always limit the choices by removing "Puzzles" as an option on any particular day.)

Our math block goes a little like this: minilesson, work time, minilesson, work time, minilesson, work time. Sometimes the minilessons have a "write this in your notebook" component, and other times the whole minilesson is an interactive read aloud that involves math. While students are working, I am free to work with individuals or small groups.

So... though my heart is in literacy, I want my students to love math, too!

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