Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Capacity Breakthrough!

As I stated before, customary units of measure are frustrating as a teacher because:

  1. There are SO many different numbers involved
  2. We are the only country that uses it
That being said, when I find something that works for a standard I have to teach, I want to share! I have been teaching capacity for 11 years and have never seen it "click" like I did today, I have used Gallon Guy, pictures, real models, but it all takes so much memorization of the numbers. Today, I told them a story that goes along with a model I use. It was like the room was alive with fictitious light bulbs going off all over! It was one of those teaching moments teachers love, so I had to share!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Measurement Game

Customary, metric, inch, yard, centimeter, or meter, the concepts are difficult to remember.
Is it 12 ounces in a pound or 16, do I multiply or divide to convert the cups into pint?
The numbers that they need to memorize, I still find myself googling as an adult. Games are interactive and fun for the children to practice using the tools and information. Below is a link to a free sample of a game for inches.

Extra materials required for the game are:

Inch tiles

Full product to be released tomorrow morning FREE a bit for Facebook followers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Free Sample - Math Review Pages for Partners - Many uses!

I felt like it was time for another quick to implement freebie to help review for the end of the year.

Versatile, many uses, multiple variations seem to be terms I use a lot, but that is because I like to switch things up and keep the classroom alive! These versatile pages have MANY uses! They can be partner pages, exit tickets, summative or formative grades, homework, centers, or individual review.

Uses: (There are no directions on the page to allow flexibility of use)

1) The original intention was to pass them out randomly and have a student with a black side pair up with a student with a gold side. They would then work as partners to complete the paper in the following way: They each do problem number 1 on their paper. When they finish, they switch and check each others problem number 1, correcting, complimenting, or both. Next, without switching back, they do problem number 2 on the paper they have. When they finish, they switch to check number 2 (they should have their original paper back now). After checking number 2, they do number 3 on the paper they have, switch when done and check, then do problem number 4 and so on until they do all 10. Essentially, the students are each doing 20 problems though checking their problems. Finally, they do the purple side for homework. The beauty of it is they have the other side with examples of each problem on the homework if needed.
2) Assign the purple side for homework, The next day have them pair up with a partner, check the purple side,  and do the other side as mentioned in #1. Number 1 does take some modeling at first, but after about 4 problems, they get the routine.
3) Assign the black and gold sides for homework, have then match up with their same side the next day to check and then do the purple side together.
4) Have then partner up with their same color (black or gold) and do the problems on that side together. Purple side then for homework.
5) Do the black or gold side for homework, pair up to check for understanding. They then do the purple side independently to turn in for a formative or summative grade or an exit ticket.
** If having them turn it in for a grade, the purple side is preferred since it is the same for everyone.**
6) Do the black and gold sides as described in number 1. After they finish, do the purple side independently to turn in for a formative or summative grade or exit ticket.
This is 6 ways I have used them, but there is the potential for many more! You could even have all do the black together, purple for homework, then assess them all on the gold….endless opportunities for review or assessment.
When modeled, the students do well correcting their peers problems and learn from the peer modeling. I role my expectations and play key phrases to use when correcting and complimenting their partners to avoid certain phrases.

For the full version, Each skill has three separate pages and answer keys to provide different options for review. I call the activity my Black and Gold papers (because I love the Steelers), and often give the purple side for homework, but have also used them for grades or exit tickets.

Free Sample: Math Partner Pages to help review for SOL's 4.1, 4.4, 4,5a

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Many Uses of the Paint Strip

I love color in the classroom. Color coding, color blocking, color patterns all add character to the classroom. The students also love color, but making colored copies or always using colored paper is expensive and not feasible. As an alternative, I have been using paint strips consistently in my classroom for about nine years, and I absolutely love them! Bringing out the box of paint strips increases the anticipation. The students like to read the colors they get and apply the colors to the content, which I often do for science and Virginia history. What does that mean? For instance, if we are studying cash crop (tobacco) the paint strip will be green, if the paint strip topic will be the types of rocks, the paint strip with be a brown or grey, or if the topic is products and industries of the Appalachian Plateau the paint strip will be shades of black due to coal being the product and industry of the region. Mnemonic devices are also easy to list on the strips! For the content, each child has a notebook ring, or paper clip (notebook rings can be pricey). I hole punch each ahead of time and then they put them on the ring or paper clip to store.

Even better, my paint strips are always free! I used to get my paint strips from big box home improvement store, until the brand quit making strips and went to one color squares. When that happened, I called the maker and they saved me all the ones from that district. Since then, I have been looking at alternatives. For instance, Sherwin Williams has paint strips and if you call your local shop, they might save you the old ones when they switch them out. Since it is franchised from my understanding, they have to pay for the strips and do not appreciate you taking ones that are still in season or sale-able. My local store makes seasonal color switches and said that if I pick then up, they will save them. A big box supermarket that also sells paint, as well as everything else imaginable, has smaller paint strips. I asked the salesman there if I would be able to take a handful (about 20-25) occasionally when I came shopping. I was trying to get a feel for their policy. This particular man said that I can take every single one, then he wouldn't have to make anymore paint until another shipment of strips came in! He was joking of course, and followed up with you can have some for the classroom. Our town has three of these supermarkets, so if I grab a handful when I go in, or almost every time I go in, I can quickly accumulate enough just over the summer for the following year.

If you search sites for paint strips, the most common uses are for vocabulary or word usage like synonyms and antonyms, but the possibilities are truly endless!

A few examples, but not limited to in the least:
This set has a notebook ring.

Virginia History:
Quite frankly, any of the strands can be used! I love using them for Virginia History!
States that surround Virginia
List of regions with line pictures of physical features
Each region with it's land, products, and industries
Definitions of money in colonial times
Roles in the Revolution
Important people in the Civil War
20th Century Virginians
The list goes on!

Regions of the United States
Land Features
States and Capitals

This set uses the paper clip to hold them together.
Like with Virginia history, I feel any strand can lend itself to one!
Steps of the Scientific Method
List of Conductors or Insulators
Examples of Potential or Kinetic Energy
Planets in order of size or location from the sun
Phases of the moon
Vocabulary from a unit with short definitions
Types of rocks or process
Layers of the Ocean
Layers of the Earth, or Cute Mice On Ice

ANYTHING! I feel like I keep saying that, but it is very true!
List of equivalent fractions
Place value
Numbers that would round to a certain number
Steps to divide or Does McDonald's Serve Cheese Burgers
Equivalent fractions and decimals
Features of quadrilaterals or different types of quadrilaterals
Multiples of numbers - If you list two separate numbers on there own strip, then place them side by side you can find common multiples
Factors of numbers - Similar to multiples, if you list two separate numbers on there own strip, then place them side by side you can find common factors

Stem and leaf plots

Language Arts
Genre - Books the students have read. They try to fill a paint strip with titles of books that they have read in a certain genre. This is an inspiring way to get them to branch out of their comfort zone or genre.
Author's purpose
Transition words alternatives (Not always using first, next, then, last)
Sensory words for each sense
Parts of Speech
Inference - Listing the clues in the story for each inference
Word study or word patterns
Affixes - list certain prefixes, suffixes used in the same way

The possibilities are almost infinite!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Probability is LIKELY You Will Have Fun!

We started probability yesterday. This standard always lends itself to different ways to embrace it and have fun in the classroom. I have provided links to two games that I play in class. The one is a whole group game called The Game of Skunk. The students really enjoy it! I have seen it on blogs, but most of them are geared towards middle school. I have played it with fourth and fifth graders and they love it just as much! I then developed a reflections sheet for them to do for homework to apply the vocabulary for probability to the activity. 

To set up for this activity, I make two masters by copying the game board for Skunk on the front of both and then the dice game on the back of one and cards game on the other.  Next, I send them through the copier making half of each (for example if you have 30 students, you would make 15 of one and 15 of the other).

This activity lasted two days. Day one we played Skunk. Day two they turn it over and find a partner with the opposite page (Dice pair up with Cards to play) and play the games using the vocabulary and fractions for probability.

These are both great games to grasp the concept and entertain the students!

Game of Skunk and Reflection

Cards and Dice Game - There are no directions for this game, so I have written some up and attached them here: Directions

Friday, April 3, 2015

Butter.....My Favorite Versatile Experiment!

With so many allergies, many schools are going away from edible experiments and rewards, but I still do this one every year regardless of the grade or subjects I teach. What experiment is it?
My mother, a preschool teacher, introduced me to this experiment. She did it with her class every year. I thought about it and decided to do it with my fourth graders. I tried it one year, and the students and I enjoyed it very much! I absolutely love this experiment for many reasons!
  1. It is inexpensive to do, unlike many that require a lot of supplies, this one only requires heavy whipping cream and a jar.  I use a baby food jar and have the students work in teams. A smaller jars means a quicker reaction. A pinch of salt, a popsicle stick, and  bread or graham crackers to taste the butter afterwards is optional.
  2. It is easy to set up and prepare. All you do is pour the cream into the jar about halfway up and  seal the jar tightly,
  3. It is quick to do. In teams, the students shake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cream separates into a buttermilk liquid and a cream solid ball. It takes longer if the cream is cold or the jar is bigger.  I often take it out at lunchtime and do the experiment at the end of the day.
  4. It can be adapted for so many areas across the curriculum, and I will expand on that below. It is this reason that I have found a way to do it each and every year!
I feel like this experiment is great for ages 5 to 105! I recently did the activity this year and had a sibling of a student from a couple years ago. The sibling told me his mom doesn't buy butter any more and only makes butter this way at home in her mixer. She then stores it in the refrigerator because she liked it so much when the older child brought it home. Since they often bring in their own containers, I let them take home leftovers if they want it.

I have taught fourth and fifth grades and have used it in both. With the science involved, it could be used in older grades, or simplified for younger grades.

The ways I have used it and ways it can be used in these grade levels are listed below by subject area.


1) General investigation and the use of the scientific method. This can be paired with any of the other uses below to assess and grade for implementing the scientific method. (Variables, qualitative, observations, etc.)

2) States of matter - The cream will go from a liquid state to a fluffy whipped state (this is whipped cream, add sugar and put it on pie...YUM), to separating into a liquid and a solid (buttermilk and butter). This could include homogeneous mixtures, heterogeneous, etc.

3) Force and motion - This incorporates speed, friction, motion, force, all in one quick experiment. Discussion points included what speed would be most efficient, why the speed mattered, how friction played a role in changing the liquid, how the motion, or shaking, played a part in the change, etc. A variable could be shaking it up and down versus shaking it side to side.


1) Elapsed time - Write down the time the experiment started, shake it until it turns frothy. Record the approximate time it changed. Shake more until it separates into the liquid and solid, and record the time again. Calculate the time from the start to the end, in between different stages, give different start times and ask what the end time would be based on the experiment.

2) Measurement - Measure the liquid that is poured in, then measure the buttermilk produced and compare. 

Virginia History

1) Colonial Virginia - In the VS.4 standard, it talks about the food used by the colonial people. With this experiment, we talk about how this was the way they made butter then. They didn't have Costco or Target to buy butter. The colonists also didn't have refrigerators, so they made the butter when it was needed. The discussion and extending lends itself to where and how they got the cream, and the animals needed to have cream.

2) Regions Products and Industries - What region would have the products and industry needed to harvest the cream in order to make the butter? The Valley and Ridge region has Dairy as a major economic product.

Language Arts

5 paragraphs :
1) Write a "How to" explaining to someone how to do the experiment.
2) Descriptive writing describing the three phases of the experiment. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Math and Reading Virginia SOLs Test Prep

The Virginia Department of Education has identified certain SOL's in math and reading as challenging for students across the state in each grade level. In order to better prepare myself and my fellow teachers for the math and reading SOL test, I put together test prep cards for those specific standards. These cards are structured to practice the specific SOL standards identified by the VDOE during guided math, reading, or whole groups through importing the pdf into a flip chart. The questions on the cards are directly related those standards as directed by the VDOE and allow for a quick practice by card or individual standard. The cards are formatted as a fill in the blank to allow for multiple versions of the same question or for differentiation by math or reading group. The reading ones are very similar and follow the areas of challenge from grades 3-5.

To prep either the math o reading in advance, pint out the lesson page for the standard you wish to practice. 

Then, fill in the blanks for the questions asked. I often have more than one correct answer to make it similar to the TEI questions asked on the SOLs.

Finally, use a wet-erase marker to fill in the blanks on the cards to use in your group.

Best of all they are all FREE!

For grades 3-5 Math Cards:

For grades 3-5 Reading Cards: