Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fall Workshops: Math Potholes: Multiplication

This is the time of year that we hear lots of parents stressing about math facts. In Long Beach, students in grades 2-5 are required to answer at least 65/70 facts correct in under 10 minutes (approximately 9 seconds per fact). In order for a student to receive a 4 on their report cards, they must be able to answer 68/70 facts correct in under 5 minutes (approximately 4 seconds per fact). This does not leave room for students to use aides, such as their fingers, a multiplication chart, or pictures. To help students pass these benchmarks, we use several different strategies.

First, we look at the four different ways that we can show multiplication using pictures. Here's an example:

Source: Natalia Ginns

Then, we show students how they can use a multiplication chart to help them when they get stuck. This is a nice visual for three main reasons. 1) It's easy to find patterns in a multiplication chart that help you remember some of those tricky facts. 2) When students use it, we have them circle the product that they got stuck on so tha we can keep track of their "hard" facts. 3) We like to show students how the chart can be folded in half, demonstrating how there are only half as many facts to memorize.

Source: Guru Parents
Once we feel that students understand what multiplication is and how to represent it visually, we shift gears into multiplication memorization. We have all sorts of tricks for memorizing facts, and a variety of ways that students can practice them and drill themselves. One of our favorites are multiplication wheels.

Source: Practical Pages

Another favorite is math towers.

Source: Teacher Tipster
If you missed our post abut our math facts Jenga, you can view that post here.

We can't wait to help your students memorize those facts!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall Workshops: Fine Motor Fun

Research shows that fine motor skills are linked to success in writing and academics. I just HAVE to share some of the super fun activities that we we used for our fine motor workshop last fall. They are geared towards students in Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, but the activities are so fun that even I had fun! This post contains affiliate links; read more about them at the bottom of this post!

One of my friends from my undergraduate days, Christie Kiley, is a pediatric occupational therapist and has a blog with many wonderful ideas! I help contribute to one of her fine motor boards on Pinterest, and this workshop encourages many fine motor skills that she explains on her blog. Here's a snippet:

Pincer grasp: Pinching with thumb and index finger. 

Finger isolation: Activating a single finger on command (such as the index finger for pointing and pushing). 

Thumb opposition: Coordinating the thumb with the other fingers to help with holding, squeezing, and strengthening the space between thumb and index finger (known as the “web space”).
Tripod grasp: Pinching with thumb and index finger while resting the object on the middle finger, much like you’d hold a pencil. 

Hand-eye coordination: Coordinating hand movements based on what the eyes are seeing. Also known as visual-motor integration. 

Bilateral coordination: Coordinating the use of two hands to accomplish a task, such as stabilizing an object with one hand while working with the other. 

Midline integration: Being able to come to and cross over the invisible line that separates the left and right sides of the body. This contributes to the development of hand dominance. If your child struggles with this, encourage midline crossing by placing desired items on the side opposite the hand they are using so they have to reach across their body. 

Here are some sample activities that we did together:

Students dug up sight words and then wrote them in the sandbox. Each student went home with a set to use at home since we live so close to the beach. Use non-toxic play sand to keep it safe for little ones. 
This activity helps strengthen those little muscles that support the pincer grasp. Make sure you use washable paint so that you can easily wipe the paint off of desks/tables/little hands.
These sensory bags are great for all students, but especially for those with sensory processing difficulties. We practiced prewriting skills and letter formation with these bags. You can use this non-toxic orange hair gel for a bright and fun pop of color.
This activity is great for practicing that tripod grasp that helps with writing. Students practiced making patterns, letters, numbers, and pictures. You can use an old bulletin board at home, or use these cork tiles to set up a rotation station. I'm loving these push pins to make it extra fun. What kid doesn't love decorative office supplies?!
Here's a three-for-one activity that practices letter recognition, spelling, AND fine motor all at once. These bright and colorful, wooden clothespins are great for adding visual stimulation.

This is another pencil grasp activity that helps students hold onto pencils correctly. If you have a clothespin handy, try this one out at home.

What kid doesn't love Play Dough and Legos?! Students practiced forming letters and numbers, and also created pictures using the Lego pieces. You can grab a 36-pack of Play Doh and either let everyone keep a canister in their desk or have enough on hand so that you can divvy them up into your centers boxes/storage. If your home isn't littered with these little sharp corners of death all over the floor, you can grab this Lego starter kit or ask students in class if they have any extras at home that they'd like to donate.
This is great practice for manipulating small objects. These yellow and white golf tees are easy to spot if they fall onto the floor (or into your carpet). How cute are these glass marbles?!
This is a great competitive activity that encourages muscle control and coordination. Students are given one minute to grab as many as they can, and then we count and graph how many marshmallows each student grabbed. We love to incorporate math concepts when we can! Grab 40 pairs of chopsticks and set some aside for other centers.
This activity is great for correcting students that hold writing materials inefficiently AND for students that need to strengthen their hand muscles. We used a variety of materials to keep this one fun. If you can't find these at the Dollar Tree, you can order a set of pom pom balls for less than a latte AND use the leftovers for warm fuzzies (hot glue a pair of goggly eyes to the pom pom balls and give them to students when they say things to you or other students that make your heart feel warm and fuzzy)!
Our fine motor fun workshop began with a station rotation in which each student got to practice a series of skills on their own. One of the stations was one-on-one with the instructor. This allowed us to monitor and help each student in the workshop.

We hope you can replicate some fine motor fun with your students!

AFFILIATE LINKS: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link. I purchased all of the items myself, and all of the opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fall Workshops: Bookworms 3-5

Our bookworms workshop for grades 3-5 focuses on three of the reading strategies that our older elementary students struggle with the most: differentiating between main ideas and details, analyzing cause and effect relationships, and citing evidence to support text-dependent comprehension questions. Here's a sneak peek at some of the activities we will be doing in this workshop.

Main Idea and Details 
A student must be able to identify the main idea of a story before they can fully understand a story in its entirety. This is easier said than done with some of the longer pieces of text that students read in class. We will start our session on main idea and details by examining a few short paragraphs. Students will read them, and decipher between the main idea (what the story is mostly about) and the details (which sentences add more information about the main idea). Students will then be given an envelope containing detailed sentences. They will have a chance to practice putting the sentences together to write a main idea sentence that addresses ALL of the details. As a group, we will look closely at a longer piece of text, and color-code the sentences to reveal the main ideas and details of each paragraph. Students will take home two more passages to practice with on their own, which will be reviewed during our second session.  

Source: All The Dots
Cause and Effect
A large majority of the comprehension questions that our students are asked can be answered using the cause and effect relationships between events in a story. The choices that characters make in a story have consequences, that those consequences often have chains of events that follow. In non-fiction text, many historical events and scientific processes are explained as a series of cause and effect events. In this workshop, we use Thinking Maps to identify the causes and effects of events in our texts.

Source: The Applicious Teacher
Text-Dependent Questions
One of the major shifts in the Common Core State Standards is asking text-dependent comprehension questions. Let me explain what that means in English. Remember when you were in first grade, and your teacher read the story a class about a kid that got a new puppy? Remember how eeeeeeveryone wanted to tell their stories about when THEY got a puppy? That's called making a text-to-self connection. The story might have been followed up by a writing task that either asked you to write about a time that you got a pet, an animal that you'd like to have as a pet, or how you would have reacted if you got home and there was a puppy waiting for you on the front doorstep. You could easily receive full credit for a written response that had absolutely nothing to do with the story. Is it important for children to make these kinds of connections? Absolutely! Does telling about your own pet have anything to do with your understanding of the story? Although it's loosely connected, no. A text-dependent question might ask how Billy felt about getting the puppy, and ask you to cite evidence to support your answer. That's fancy classroom talk for "point to the place in the story where you found that information." Many of our upper elementary students are struggling to do this because they've never been asked to do it before. At best, they worked on it last year, and they certainly need more practice with it this year.

In this workshop, we will spend two weeks learning to understand the question, coming up with an answer, looking back in the text to support or refute that answer, and then explaining how that text helps us prove our answer.

Source: Luckey Frog's Lilypad
Source: Brooke Brown
Source: Create Teach Share
Source: I'm Lovin' Lit
Practicing these three skills will help your students meet and exceed their mid year reading benchmarks. We hope that if this workshop doesn't meet your needs, that you'll share it with a friend that might have students in need of this kind of practice.

Happy reading!