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Welcome to my math blog! The purpose of this blog is to help you stay informed about our learning and experiences that have taken place during our math class. I have also included links your child (and you) may want to use in order to supplement math learning in 5th grade.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Think Through Math: Placement Test

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After spending yesterday talking about the mindset needed when approaching Think Through Math and all of the rewards that will be available, now it was time to take the placement benchmark.

Our lesson frame for today:
  • We will discuss how to use Khan Academy as a resource and the rewards involved in passing 5th Grade Skills in Khan.
  • I will complete my TTM placement test and then work on 5th Grade Skills in Khan.
We began by reminding ourselves of the rewards available as we work on passing 5th Grade math skills this year:

Now it was time to benchmark.  I am going into the Think Through Math journal in detail tomorrow, so once students finished the benchmark, I had them go onto Khan Academy and begin working on the 5th grade math skills.

Think Through Math: Introduction

We began our day solving a "Which One Doesn't Belong" as a bell ringer.  I love these challenges because there is more than one answer.... students are allowed to think differently as they work on this activity.  I always allow my classes to work together as table groups to help foster new ideas.

Our lesson frame today:

  • We will learn about our use of Think Through Math this year including keeping a journal of our work, rewards we can earn as we work through the program, and setting goals to ensure our success.
  • I will describe the relationship between having a growth mindset and my success with Think Through Math.
Growth Mindset Math Journal Entry

I began by revisiting mindsets because most students (and parents) enter my room with a FIXED mindset saying "I am not good at math." I want to get rid of this thinking immediately, so we used an interactive journal activity called "Growth Mindset Math Journal Entry" by Jennifer Runde from Runde's Room. This activity allows me to state some fixed mindset beliefs and work with students to change them to growth mindset statements. Before moving on, I asked my classes to talk with their table groups about the importance of reminding ourselves about mindsets before we begin working with something new.

Once we had changed our mindset to growth, I introduced the online math site, Think Through Math. We will be using this as our main instruction in our blended learning classroom. Before everyone's mind shifted back to a fixed mindset, I wanted to explore all of the rewards students can earn and they progress through the program.

On the Think Through Math site, as you work through a lesson you earn points for every correct answer.  On TTM there are multiple ways to spend your points:

      • Avatar customization - individual
      • Classroom goals - team
      • Charities - individual

Besides these online reward incentives, there are a plethora of classroom rewards:

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Once we had jumped right back over to a growth mindset while discussing all of the rewards, I asked them to talk as a table group again about their mindset on working with Think Through Math now.  The overwhelming response was excitement.

Finally, we talked about the TTM Journal students would be required to keep.  This was just a quick intro, I will be discussing it in more detail in a few days.

Their exit ticket for the day:
  • Name 3 ways having a growth mindset will help us succeed when working on Think Through Math.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Capturing Kids Hearts: Social Contract

Over the summer our school district worked with The Flippen Group on their program called Capturing Kids' Hearts.  This was one of the most rewarding workshops I have ever been to!  In deference to their work, I will not go into much detail on the process for creating our Social Contracts.  Basically, you work with your classes to come up with words/ideas based on how they would like to be treated and how they would like to treat others.

This process took about an hour with each of my classes.  I think the time was worth it!  Our final contracts:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Structure Struggle: Mindset Lesson

So, the first three days of school were all about challenges, team building, and struggle.  I think of all of the activities, this way my favorite!  I love to give students true challenges and this was one!  I originally found the activity on the Teaching in Room 6 blog.   She used this activity to teach a growth mindset.  You can find the activity on the  Class Creator Blog.  It was titled "Teaching Kids to Struggle."

Basically, I followed the instructions from "Teaching Kids to Struggle" for creating a structure made from a single sheet of paper.  The challenge was for the kids to recreate the structure using the same size paper I did and a pair of scissors.  Before allowing students to begin, I asked them to work with their table group to come up with a plan.  I also asked them to review our Secret to Success poster to ensure success as a team.

I gave the classes 10 minutes.  As they worked, I roamed the room writing down things I was hearing as they worked.  Typically, the overwhelming thought at the beginning was that this was going to be easy.  That changed fairly quickly!  Students who just started cutting their paper without a real plan became frustrated that they couldn't try again and instead of working with someone at the table who still had their paper, they would just sit and shred the paper with scissors.  Others would just throw down the scissors and cross their arms.  I began hearing things like:

  • This is impossible!
  • How did she do this?
  • This is bologna!
  • She must be a rocket scientist.
  • I don't get it!
After the timer went off, I started debriefing my students by asking questions about how they felt during the challenge.  I mainly focused on the changing emotions from the first minute of the challenge to the last minute.  They all agreed they went from "this is easy" to a very frustrated "this in impossible!"  I then read through the statements they had made during the challenge and explained that these were all statements of a "fixed mindset."

Before explaining this in much detail.  I asked the kids to answer a few questions pertaining to "What Does it Mean to be Smart?"  This activity came from a growth mindset pack found on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Basically, the kids were asked to answer "true" or "false" to 15 different statements.  Before going over the activity, I had them watch a growth mindset video put out by Khan Academy emphasizing that anyone can learn and to write down the idea they thought was most important from the video.

Once we had shared our thoughts about the video, I revisited the "quiz".  I did not go over them as though there was a right or wrong answer.  Instead, I had them write an "f" for fixed or "g" for growth.  I wanted them to begin seeing the difference between the two mindsets and understand that they have the power to choose which mindset they will follow.

To encourage them to choose having a growth mindset, I used an activity from Runde's Room called "Stick-It Together:  A Collaborative Growth Mindset Activity."  In this activity, students work with their group to change a fixed mindset idea into a growth mindset option.  Once students had completed the activity, each group shared out their growth mindset answers.  To finish off the day, I had them complete a final "stick-it together" that summarized our learning for the day.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cups Challenge - Student Led Classroom

Yesterday, my classes worked through the Breakout EDU challenge.  I began with this lesson in order for my students to begin thinking about working collaboratively.  To begin class today, I asked my classes to write down three things they wanted people to do when working in a collaborative group.  After writing these down individually, I had my students compare their ideas with the people at their table group.  They found that they all had very similar ideas of what they expected others to do when working in a group.

To finalize their ideas of what a good group does in order to ensure success, I had them complete a cup stacking challenge I found on the blog "Runde's Room".  Basically, students had to moved cups from a stacked pyramid into a single stack using only a rubber band and pieces of string.

It was fun to watch each table group approach the challenge differently.  While each group was successful, each group had different issues that arose as they worked through the challenge.  As we came back as a class, I asked the table groups to choose a "reporter" to share with the class a challenge they faced as a team and how they solved it.

At this point, I asked each group to create a list of 4 key points a team needed to follow in order to work successfully as a team.  Next, they were asked to agree on the two points they thought were most important for teams to follow in order to ensure success. 

As each team reported out their ideas, I recorded them on a Google Doc titled "Secret To Success."  We also discussed each idea in order to ensure that everyone agreed with the idea and what it might look like in action.  I explained that we would be referring to these charts as we worked in teams throughout the school year.

To finish off the day, I had my classes complete an Exit Ticket using the following prompt:

Apply what we have learned today to yourself. 
Describe how YOU will work in a group setting to ensure both your success and the success of your group.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Breakout EDU: Working Collaboratively

We started our school year off with a bang... well, a locked box!  It began when I found that Breakout EDU had created some Back to School Games.  I chose one that I felt was appropriate for my 5th graders and used the Dr. Seuss book "Oh, the Places You Will Go!"  I wanted to start our year off working collaboratively and to use the experiences to build a set of student-generated expectations of what was required for working in a group.

I began the class with a "bell ringer" that asked my kids to finish these thoughts using math as the main idea
  • I am excited
  • I wonder
  • I am nervous
  • I wish we could
I just wanted to get a quick idea of my students' ideas, thoughts, and feelings towards math.

Once this was complete, I introduced our challenge.  A box that was locked with three different locks (on a hasp) that must be opened in order for us to retrieve our "ticket to learn" for this year.

We had a shorter amount of class time today (60 minutes) due to the fact that we wanted to spend some time getting to know the students and we also had a plethora of parent notes that needed to go home.  So, with a 45 minute time frame, just to break into the box, we did not get to work on our expectations today.

This was actually part of my plan.  I am giving my classes two different challenges these first two days so that they have some experiences to build upon.  While every group, in every class WAS successful in breaking out of the box, we did have a major glitch.... one of the locks somehow had the combination changed mid-game so that 1/2 of 2nd period and all of 3rd period were unable to actually unlock all of the locks.  FRUSTRATING! 

However, all of my classes seemed to both enjoy the challenge AND enjoy a very different beginning to their school year.  I am looking forward to working with this great group of kids!