## How Do You Engage Everyone in a Lesson

1. Allow children to use their imagination especially through role play.
4. Include some mysterious searching.

These are some things I did recently with my students at the end of the school year. I gave them some background on World War II, told them they were secret spies, and that their spy skills were going to save millions of lives.

I further explained about the enigma machine in which Nazis used to send secret messages which we call cryptograms or ciphers. This set the stage for them to stay actively engaged enough to finish a cryptogram. Even students who normally struggle to figure out normal assignments had a renewed interest in solving a puzzle! For the second lesson, the solving of their second puzzle led them to find a location for their next clue. I have never had a more engaged group of students!

Even the teachers of these classrooms I taught were engaged with figuring out the cryptogram. I included the school secretary as one of the clue givers, and students enjoyed leaving the classroom for a moment to find the next clue. When proud students returned from the secretary with their “Secret Agent” badge, this encouraged others to keep working to figure out the puzzle.

These lessons were some of the highlights of my year, and I hope you enjoy them, too. Here is a link to this critical thinking resource on TPT.

## Fun Hands-On Geometry Lesson for Kinder and First

At this time of year attention spans are short so it is always good to bring in a fun hands on activity. Why not use shapes to make new figures? I used this for an enrichment unit to see which of my students could demonstrate different perspectives in an enrichment class, but you could easily use it to meet these common core standards for kinder and first graders.

Kinder: CC KB6: Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes.

1st: CC standard 1GA2: Compose two-dimensional shapes (rectangles, squares, trapezoids, triangles, … to create a composite shape, and compose new shapes from the composite shape.1

This will take a little preparation because you will need four right triangles cut out of card stock. Each triangle needs to be of a different color. I used the Ellison die cutter at school and cut out squares. Then with a sharp pair of scissors, I cut down the middle of the square to make 2 triangles. Of course remind students to take care of the triangles so you can use them over and over. I chose not to laminate because I felt the plastic edges would probably make the shapes not fit together very well.

Next, you pose several different figures for the students to make. Students have to use all four triangles for each figure.

1. build a square.
2. build a triangle.
3. build a rectangle.
4. build mountains.
5. build a diamond (really just the same as a square but turned differently. See if your students know to do this.
6. build a house
7. build a pinwheel (if you attempt this one be prepared to show students a picture of a pinwheel. This one proved to be most difficult for students because even after they had built it, they had the triangles turned the wrong direction and thought they were correct.)

Solutions are below.

I had my students sit on a circle around the carpet and build their figures. Some of them looked at others work to help them. If you really want to know who knows what, then this configuration wouldn’t work well, but at times, I think it was helpful for students to see their peers work. I liked sitting in a circle around the carpet because I wanted to see the students closely during this time.

Alternately, you could tell the students to build as many different figures as possible with four right triangles and record them as they find each solution. This could be done on a separate day. Heres a link that shows the ways and other activities to do with right triangles.

The four triangles

## What Do You Do in Your Math Intervention Group?

So, I have a math intervention group.  I have done intervention lots of ways…and the thing is, there are always core things that kids struggle with.  Those things without a double are always addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts.  Next, they struggle with the standard regrouping algorithm.  And, why do they struggle? BECAUSE, of course, no one sits with them at home to help them learn these things if the concepts don’t sink in during school time.

Enter me.  I have been working with some students the past few weeks on subtraction regrouping…with success!  Here is what I have done, and what I have discovered.  First of all, several of the intervention students were able to regroup UNTIL they had to regroup across zeros.  They weren’t sure what to do when they had to borrow two places over.  How did I figure this out you ask?  Well, with my group of four students, I gave them a worksheet. (gasp!  a worksheet??!!) Yes, I gave them a worksheet and had them work a few and checked to see which ones they were getting correct and which ones they were missing.  I would have them work one problem and hand me the sheet to check.  This way they were getting immediate feedback.  During this time, I realized that they weren’t getting the answers right unless they borrowed across zeros or had to borrow two places over.  I used and am so thankful for Super Teacher Worksheets subtraction worksheet generator!  This conveniently allowed me to print a new worksheet (complete with answer key) when I felt they needed practice.

Now when I realized they needed help with regrouping across zeros, I realized there was a regrouping misunderstanding.  So, I used the Singapore math number discs method to show them what was happening when they were regrouping.  After showing them and having them do one with me, the next day they performed a lot better on their subtraction regrouping problems.  I have a SMART board lesson and worksheets if you would like some for students to practice with.  The grid is already made for the students…these however do not have seven digits like the worksheet above.

A few other things I did to help the students think about the regrouping process were.

1.  Say this little rhyme…”More on the floor, go next door, and get 10 more”.  This way they would always know they were bringing ten over…not 9, not 8.
2. Sometimes when students want to skip over a place value column, I would describe it as driving in traffic.  Your car doesn’t just fly over the other column, it has to change lanes one at a time…it can’t be a helicopter.
3. Another idea I mention is place value columns in relation to the drawers in a cash register.  If you cash in your \$100 bill for others, you trade it in for 10 \$10, then you trade in the \$10 for 10 \$1 bills.

Try these things and soon you will be on your way to having expert subtraction regroupers!

## Fun Christmas Lesson While Learning a Little History!

This year just for fun I let my students experience the “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” song during a 30 minute enrichment lesson. First, I let the students watch this video in which Gayla Peevey sings the song.

Then I give the students a copy of the words, and I rewind it to the beginning so the students can sing it with the words. At about 2:34 I stop the song and ask the students to tell me what they think happened to Gayla later in her life. I’ve heard students say several things ranging from Gayla became famous all the way to Gayla died. Then I ask them how old they think Gayla is today. I give students a few minutes to figure out how old she is (Gayla’s age and the date of the video show on the video). Then I play the remainder of the video for students to see Gayla all grown up at 73 years old.

Next, I read students a little history of Gayla’s life from this website. Then I follow up with having the students write an acrostic poem with the word hippopotamus. Students were so proud of their acrostic poems! If time, sing the song again! I always like singing the song because it makes me happy and makes the kids happy, too. Here are a few of the student’s acrostic poems. Enjoy!

## Need a Beginning of the Year Lesson for Symmetry?

This lesson was almost an accident, but it turned out so well!  Not knowing I was going to have to teach a particular class, I desperately went in search of the librarian’s expertise for a beginning of the year book. I couldn’t find the book I was looking for so she gladly showed me this book.

I read the students the story, calling particular attention to the stamp she receives from her grandmother, and then I had students make stamps.  In order to do this I used some bottle caps we had been collecting. Sadly, I spent too long at home hot gluing foam squares to bottle cap lids.

I was kind of worried that if the squares weren’t perfectly rectangular or square it would not look good when students stamped their letters, but actually kids wasn’t able to tell after the stamp was pressed down.  It really just mattered where the pressure was when the stamp was pressed down.

When I brought these to school, I had kids find the Korean letter that corresponded to one of their initials.  I used this page I found after a Google search.  Then I had students write their Korean initial once, draw a line of symmetry and flip the Korean letter over before they carved it into their stamp.  Because not every letter of the Korean alphabet corresponds to an English letter, I had students find the Korean letter that most closely corresponded.  I also gave them the option of picking a letter from their middle or last name if their first initial didn’t correspond to a Korean letter.  Students carved with their pencil into the foam.

Here are some of the results.  I let the kids take their stamps home.  NOTE:  If you don’t want stamp ink everywhere invest in some baggies for them to put their stamps into.

I did this with both first and second graders.  I was a little nervous about doing this with first graders, but they handled it like champs (one of my stamp pads was worse for the wear due to a first grader I might add).  I would do this lesson again, and it was such a rich lesson.  There were connections in the book to another country, the Korean alphabet offered a connection to another language, and the symmetry added a math connection.  The whole lesson took three class periods of 30 minutes each. Happy stamping! 🙂

## Do You Have a Pi Day Plan? {Giveaway Time}

Do you have any fabulous plans for Pi Day you would like to share?  I am going to spend a little time doing two things.
1.  Discover pi. I am going to have a variety of circular objects such as Pringles containers, nut canisters, and other recyclable items for students to have access to.  Students will choose at least three objects.  Then they will measure the circumference with string and divide by the diameter of each circle.  I will provide string to measure the circumference and rulers to measure the string and diameter of each circle.  Then students will divide the circumference by the diameter.  I will do this to help them discover pi by themselves.  Students should roughly get three on each circular item.
2.  Next, I will print off enough digits of pie to at least fill a page.  I will have them go on a pi scavenger hunt to find as many meaningful numbers as the students can find that have to do with their life.  For example, they can possibly find their age, birthday, house number, zip code, phone number, etc.
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Sad but true…Most kids start out struggling with fractions.  In real life, we don’t count by fractions and fractions are smaller than our normal counting numbers.  Sometimes students get the “top number” and “bottom number” confused.  The computer makes fractions with a slash, and teachers tell students to write fractions with a straight line and not a slanted line.  There is so much to stumble over as a student!

Could making fractions a part of your daily routine actually help students have a better conceptual understanding?!  But of course, darling (with godfather accent)!  I mean, after all, when teaching kids to count, we count over and over again EVERY DAY in kindergarten.  Students count by 2’s, by 5’s, by 10’s etc. and that is how we teach them to develop number sense.  We somehow lose this idea when it comes to fractions.  What if we actually gave the same tenacity to counting with fractions?

I am going to show you the tool to use to be able to support your students through scaffolded understanding of counting with fractions.  Behold!  Fill in Fraction Number Charts! 😉

Students have the opportunity to count by ½, ⅓ , ¼, 1/5, 1/6, ⅛, 1/10, 1/12, and 1/100. There are a variety of number charts included so that students can start out finding patterns when counting by a unit fraction.  Then there are three levels of charts when counting by each fraction.  Each chart level gets increasingly more difficult as it scaffolds learning.  This could also provide differentiated practice for your learners.  When students become comfortable counting by unit fractions, they can then try the three levels of simplified charts if the unit fractions can be simplified.  Then after daily practice, ta-daaaaaa, better fraction understanding!

Oh, my gosh!  What a great idea for morning work!  Great way to start the day!

I’ll be back in a few days to show you a special fraction freebie I have in store for you!

## Try These Fun Christmas Stations!

I wanted my students to enjoy their last class with me before the Christmas break, so I planned several stations for them to work on.  The students really enjoyed the engagement of every station.

Station 1:  Students picked out a pine cone and were instructed to find seeds inside the pinecone.  I showed them a picture of what pine cone seeds looked like.  I gave them magnifying glasses so they could look closely and deeply into the pine cones.  I instructed them to draw a picture of their pine cone and to draw a picture of the seed.  In preparation for the next station, I instructed them to find two more pine cones that were really “pretty” and “tree shaped”.  I really wanted them to find two that were opened up really well so they could see the difference in station 2.

Station 2:  I had students place two nice flared out pinecones in water.  Students made predictions before they placed one pinecone in cold water and one pinecone in warm water.  I have no sink in my room, so I had a gallon jug set up for the cold water and a crock pot set up with warm water for them to dip from with a measuring cup.  Make sure to have paper towels on hand for any water that is spilled.  Now, students can watch the pinecones for a while, but it will take about 30-45 minutes before students will see any changes.  I make students look and notice what happened.  I don’t tell them.  Now the last group that does this station probably won’t notice what happens.  They won’t have enough time in an hour long class period to notice the pinecones change.

(So what does happen?  Pinecones close up when wet.  Why does this happen?  Pinecones don’t want to release their seeds when weather is wet because they want to allow their seeds to fly as far away as possible during drier weather so that they won’t compete with the parent tree.)

After students have noticed the pinecones closing up, make sure you leave time at the end of the stations to ask the students why they think the pine cones are closing up in the water.

In case you are wondering, yes the pinecones will open back up when dried out.

Station 3:  What happens when you place a peppermint under water?  After students have watched, then what happens when you place M & M’s under water?  This experiment wasn’t that impressive in my opinion, but the kids loved it!  The experiment works best in a white bowl.  The plates were way too messy when kids tried to throw out the water.  Water, of course, spilled everywhere.

Students predicted first what happened with the peppermint.  Most guessed it would turn white, but few guessed it would streak the way it did.  You must keep the dish still and not shake the desk to get the full effect of this.

After students watch the peppermint for about five minutes, have them predict what would happen when they place out M & M’s around the bowl.  I bought the small ones so there would be more color.  If students place them around the edge of the bowl, it makes a dramatic rainbow like this.  Again keep the bowl as still as possible.

Station 4:  Light up a Christmas light with alligator wires and batteries.  This station by far had the biggest WOW factor for the kids.  I didn’t give kids many instructions with this station.  I wanted them to do experimentation to figure this out.  I made the kids predict which type of batteries would work to light up the battery.  They lit up a small LED bulb.  (this wasn’t actually a Christmas light bulb).  To get these bulbs  I bought a \$1 LED flashlight at War-Mart and banged the flashlight with a hammer until I broke it enough to get the lightbulbs out.  It’s cheaper to buy bulbs that way :0.  To light up the bulb students need at least three batteries placed end to end with at least two alligator clip wires–one each touched to the positive and negative ends of the battery.  I used D batteries because I had a bunch in a science kit, but this will work with smaller batteries.  I hovered around this station because I knew students might struggle here.  I made it a point to talk about how scientists struggle until they figure things out.  We talk about how Edison didn’t give up the first time his improvements of the light bulb didn’t work and they shouldn’t either.  Now in reality, it would have been a lot cooler if I actually did have Christmas light bulbs, but I already had LED bulbs on hand so we used them.

ChristmasScience Here is an editable document I used when students visited science stations.  This is nothing fancy, but you are welcome to use it for your classroom and make it your own.

## Cheap and Quick STEM Lesson Your Kids will Love #2

This STEM lesson was more fun than I had anticipated.  We picked up ice cubes with a piece of string.  There are few materials needed.  The materials are cheap and it doesn’t take long to carry out the lesson in the classroom.

You will need:

• an ice chest or freezer
• ice cubes (the kind you freeze in ice trays) make about 5 per student to make sure you have enough
• string (like the kind you fly kites with)
• styrofoam bowls
• table salt (one container should be enough for a class of about 20)
• small cups or containers to distribute the salt
• paper towels
• water

First, we watched a video about how salting roads helps salt trucks melt ice and snow on roadways here:

Then I explained to the students that we were going to make a string stick to an ice cube and that they would be able to pick it up.  I had the students predict how long they thought that it would take to attach the string to the ice.  I realized mid lesson that the kids thought I wanted them to literally tie a string around the ice cube.  I had to clarify that we were not lassoing the ice cube, but that the salt would make it stick if they were patient (insert lesson about perseverance and patience here, wink wink).

These are the student directions in order.

• In your bowl of water put 1 ice cube (I passed these out when I was ready for them to begin).
• Put a pinch of salt on top of the ice cube
• Lay the string on top of the ice cube
• One team mate needs to watch time (I had this on smart board). The other team mate needs to watch the ice cube and pull on the string when the predicted time is up.
• If your string doesn’t stick, make a new prediction and try again. Switch partners.

I had a sheet in which the students predicted, and I also took some of their predictions and wrote them on the board.  Some students predicted up to 30 minutes.  Eventually, I reeled this in and said it wouldn’t take 30 minutes.  In honesty it takes somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute.  Also, I reminded students that they would only need a pinch or so of salt on the ice cube.  Some students think that the more salt they use the better the string will stick and end up using WAY TOO MUCH!  The important part of this experiment is the waiting.  I told students that if they added salt that they would need to add it a pinch at a time.

For those students who are successful, I challenge them to make more than one ice cube stick and predict how long it will take for more than once ice cube.  I walk around with a ziplock full of ice cubes during this time.  When students get more than one ice cube to stick it becomes a contest about who can get the most ice cubes to stick at one time.  The most I had students able to stick was 5 ice cubes.  Not many kids were able to do this.

After this experiment, it is fun to discuss more of the science behind why this activity works.  Because I did this during a 30 minute slot at a summer camp, we didn’t really have time to talk much.

I hope you can enjoy this experiment with your students, too!