Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tennessee-ya Soon!

Making our Tennessee topographical maps
Tonight has been one of those nights you never think about when you're a kid. I have been running around town tonight getting materials ready for (and then making 26 bags of) salt clay.  I always assumed all of the science experiments, hands-on activities, and interactive models we made at school just appeared. I never thought about the teachers running to Kroger for the THIRD time in one night just to buy another container of salt. I even had Mr. J in the kitchen in an assembly line kneeding the clay and packaging it into baggies. I love that guy. Granted, I had to constantly stop him from making clay poodles, airplanes, and other inappropriate shapes, but I was thankful for the help.

The plan is that we will be forming this clay into a topigraphical model of Tennessee. We'll be making the models tomorrow and then painting them on Friday. 

Here is the recipe I used:
4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. salt
1 1/2 c. water

  1. Mix the salt and flour in a bowl.
  2. Add water gradually to form a ball.
  3. Knead (pound, roll and pull) until it no longer falls apart.
  4. Do your project and allow it to dry at room temperature for approximately 2 day (more for larger or thinker projects).
  5. Paint
  6. Store any unused clay in a sealed bag in the fridge. Allow it to warm to room temperature before you use it again.
Painting the regions once dry!
Lessons learned:
My hands are SUPER dry (could it be the cups of SALT? Hm, toughie)
It was more like 2 cups of water
Dogs will vomit immediately after consuming any tiny balls of dough that fall on the floor and THEN if you're not paying attention you'll step in it. Awesome.

I'm really hoping that it hardens. So I'll either be writing a happy review on Friday or I'll be cursing the gods of clay for how they fooled me yet again (re: bad volcano experience of 2009).
<fingers crossed>
Proud of the final products!
Mrs. J

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Educating the youth of America about New Kids on the Block

Today's post will be short. Although the weather today was horrendous, I dragged my hind-end to the gym for the second (yes, second) day in--a--row!  Now I'm experiencing what can only be explained as my muscles' feeble attempt to rebel and remove themselves from my body. Ugh. I shall overcome!

We started to work on order of operations today and I pulled out my music video from last year. The kids loved it and I believe that I've made a few new NKOTB fans. One of my students asked me, "Are these the guys that sang 'Hang Tough'?" I decided he's now my favorite student (we'll see if that lasts tomorrow).

I tried loading the video on here and it took over an hour just to get the "you can't do this" message. SO, I'm linking you to my YouTube page where you can see it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sing it like you mean it!

One of the strategies I implement the most in my classroom is music. I love it. It's how I still can recite the quadratic formula (Thank you Mrs. Crowley), and I know it helps kids memorize information that would otherwise be boring or simply difficult to memorize. I have had even the most hardened of Atlanta-thugs in my middle school classroom doing the "Substitution Hokey-Pokey" so I no longer accept the "I don't sing" excuse. We're just having fun as a class and we just so happen to be learning.

The following is a song that I wrote about adding & subtracting decimals.

Adding Decimals
(to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?")

Adding Decimals (x2)
Line them up! (x2)
Every number has one,
at the end it has one.
Find the sum (clap clap)
Find the sum. (clap)

Subtracting Decimals (x2)
Line them up! (x2)
Every number has one,
at the end it has one.
Now subtract (clap clap)
Now subtract (clap)

I've been waiting for the Grammy nominating committee to call, but so far my phone is silent. Maybe it's broken?
This song is VERY easy to teach the students and I fancy it up with them once they've got it down. We break into groups and sing it in rounds, boys vs. girls, you name it. Much like the geometry game I posted yesterday, this is cumulative. When we start we only learn the first verse because we're only doing addition. 
I like that the song says "Every number has one, at the end it has one." because it's tricky when you've got problems like 57+43.18 to know where the decimals point is because its invisible. When working with decimals for the rest of the year all I have to say is "adding decimals" and they finish my sentence with "line them up!" Once last year my class had a spontaneous outbreak of singing (prompted by a student asking a neighbor a question, not by me) and my supervisor just happened to be in the room. She left and was all smiles.

I'll post more songs in another blog and some of my famous music videos. Just a teaser: I have written songs to the Beatles, BeeGees, and New Kids on the Block to name a few. It gets pretty awesome.

Oh, and I can sing the quadratic formula for you sometime if you'd like!

Do you have any songs that work well with your class?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kinesthetic Area, Perimeter, Volume, and Surface Area Activity

This activity would work for grades 3-6

One of the biggest challenges that I've found with middle grade math is making something that is so formulaic (such as surface area) concrete. How can students remember that area covers, perimeter surrounds, volume fills, and surface area covers a three-dimensional figure? Well, here's what I do...

It's like musical chairs. Well, without the chairs. I used this during math (3-5 minute anticipatory set) to get the kids moving. Once we were out of the unit I still got requests to play this "game."
There are four motions that students need to master to be successful at this activity. When I say "area" they are to go down on one knee and spread their arms out as much as possible (like Superman, not Molly Shannon's SuperStar).
***I will interject here that when I first started playing this (with my third grade class) I had them drop all the way to the ground to "lay like carpet" and "become one with the tile" which I must admit was HI-larious to watch. It reminded me of those fainting goats that just fall over when startled. Well, I was informed by the teacher who inhabited the classroom below mine that while we were doing this, it sounded like someone kept dropping refrigerators on their ceiling. Not to be seen as being inconsiderate I modified it to the one knee spread out.  Now that I'm in a classroom with FAR less space (and much bigger 5th grader bodies) it's worked out well for me anyway. I do miss the fainting goats though....***

Now, when I say "perimeter" they must "mall walk" (not run) to one of the walls that serves as a perimeter of our classroom and touch it. When I say "surface area" they must wrap themselves up in the biggest self-hug possible. If I say "volume" they must spread their bodies out as far as possible (like a jumping jack without the jumping), filling up all the space around them.

Surface Area!
 So how does this all work? I put on music and while the music is playing the students must meander and glide throughout the classroom (sometimes I play classical, sometimes I play oldies). When I stop the music I say one of the four words; area, perimeter, volume, or surface area. They must do the appropriate action. The last one to kneel, touch the wall, or hug themselves is "out". Sometimes I like to be a pill and stop the music and say a non-related term like "addition" or "angle" and the students must stay frozen like statues or enjoy the same fate of taking their seat.  

I've really enjoyed watching the kids relate this quick get out of your seat activity to the problem solving we do in class, especially those pesky word problems. We work on picturing a problem and I can cue them with "is it covering, surrounding, filling, or wrapping" and I can see students mimicing the actions from the game at their seat to figure out which one applies. This is a cumulative activitiy. I usually start with just perimeter and area and add on volume and surface area as we cover it.

A few lessons I've learned:
1. I warn students that they must not hover around the walls. If I notice a hover-er I will wait until they are at the center of the room and call "perimeter". It's more a threat than anything because in seven years of playing this very few really test me.
2. Make the SmartBoard portion of your wall OFF LIMITS to be used as perimeter. Nothing like seeing a body hurdling towards your $5,000 piece of technology to make you cringe. (FYI: no harm was done)
3. Set clear expectations for going to the walls. I've had one student dive for the wall and get a nice bump on the chin. I've learned to be VERY clear with my instructions for fear of mama-e-mails claiming I'm abusing my students during math time.

Hopefully you can use this and your students get something from it!

Mrs. J

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Give it a go...

Hello! Welcome to my blog! I'm new to this whole thing so please bear with me as I get used to the formatting, and finding my virtual "voice" when posting about what is going on in my class! Please read the About Mrs. J tab to learn more about me, where I work, and why I started this blog. I'm going to keep this one to just a hello and I hope to be back again tomorrow!