Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weekly Problem Solving Journals

Several weeks ago we had a team planning meeting to plan for our math instructional unit.  Our first instructional unit in math is multiplication and division with the factors 2,3,4,5 and 10.  I always feel so much pressure teaching this unit because it such an important concept for students and I want to make sure I do the very best job teaching it as possible.  

One of the things that we wanted to make sure that we give our students plenty of exposure to is using their new found multiplication and division skills to solve problems.  Over the years, I have tried many different approaches to problem solving in my classroom.  I have typed problems on a power point and had students solve them in their math notebook.  I have typed problems on address labels and put them on pages of their math notebooks.  

These methods all worked just fine and students were able to get sufficient practice.  The one downside that bothered me was the fact that our math notebooks stayed at school and parents were never able to see the problems that students were being asked to solve.

The idea for Weekly Problem Solving Journals was born and our problem was solved (like my little play on words!). 

The idea was to take one type of problem and work on it for a week.  Students would get a week's worth of practice and we would be able to scaffold the instruction and practice of those problems.  We use the Weekly Problem Solving Journal as our math bellwork each day.  It takes between 5 and 10 minutes.

On Monday we look at the problem together and I model how I think through the problem.  We highlight important information and then we discuss different strategies we could use to solve it.  I model my thinking as I solve the problem step by step and then how to prove that my answer is correct.

Tuesdays we try a similar problem.  I still provide some guidance.  We do some table talk discussions with peers and solve and prove our solution.

Wednesdays are my students' favorite day, it's "Work With a Partner Wednesday."  This allows them to have some support as they discuss the problem and work through it together.  As I'm walking around and checking in with each group, I also look for different ways that groups solved the problem or proved it and I have them share under the document camera with the class.

Thursday students try it themselves.  I give them some quiet thinking time and they work through it. As they are working, I walk around the room and help those who get stuck by questioning them and coaching them through it.  After our quiet time, we check the answer together.

Friday is our independent practice day.  I always tell my class that it's like going to the doctor for a check up.  I just need to check to make sure they are growing and learning.  The last page of the journal is a review problem.  When they have completed the last two pages of the journal they turn it in.

We've been using the journal for about a month now and I have seen a huge improvement in my students problem solving skills.  I love that the routine is consistent from week to week and that it allows me to provide targeted instruction on problem solving without taking up too much time!

My Weekly Problem Solving Journals are available as a growing bundle in my store!  This means that you can grab them now at a reduced price and redownload the file as new journals are added!!!  When the bundle is complete it will contain 25-30 journals and will cost over $50!  You can grab it now for just $8.50.  The price will increase as each week is added, so grab it now for the best deal!!!

The bundle also includes an editable version of the Weekly Problem Solving Journal so that you can create your own problems!

Monday, September 5, 2016

My Plans in Pictures {September 5-9}

This week is a super short week.  Monday is Labor Day and then Tuesday is another day off for students.  Our district moved to full day professional development days for teachers last year.  The days usually back to a 3 day weekend giving our families a 4 day weekend.  Teachers are given choices and we get to sign up for professional development classes that will be most meaningful to us.  Tomorrow I will be taking a class on building my classroom website and then a class on planning instructional units for ELA.  I'm looking forward to learning a lot and getting a lot of work done!

Here are my plans for Wednesday-Friday in pictures!

Spelling: We will be working on phonograms {we use the Spalding program} and high frequency words.  We won't have a normal spelling list or test because of the shortened week.

We will be learning all about abstract nouns using my Abstract Noun Pack.  There is a flip book to put in their interactive notebook, a slideshow to use to teach and practice, a write the room to practice and then a culminating art project.

Reading:  In reading this week we will be learning how to use context clues.  The activities in this pack are always a huge hit, especially the made up words.  

My kiddos always love coming up with made up words of their own and writing their own sentences.  It is an amazing way to practice and they don't even know that's what they are doing they are having so much fun!

Writing:  This week we will be finishing up an opinion writing piece.  We will have a mini-lesson on stretching out our sentences and will use that to revise our opinion piece.  We will use the activities from my S.U.P.E.R. Sentences pack.

Math:  This week in math we will begin learning the strategies for multiplying and dividing by 2 and 5.  You can read more about the strategies I use to teach multiplication HERE.  And HERE. I'm so excited for my kiddos to start wearing their multiplication and division wrist bands as we learn!  

M.A.T.H. Centers:  In centers this week we will be reviewing arrays using my Hip,Hip, Array pack.

We will also review division as equal sharing using my division task cards.

Science:  In science we have been learning about the types of rocks and how they are formed.  This candy comparison is always a huge hit!  There is just something so engaging about making a lesson yummy!  This activity is part of my rocks unit, you can check it out HERE.

It's going to be another fun and exciting week in third grade.  It will all be capped off by our local high school rivalry football game!  The two high schools are a mile apart.  The K-8 school I teach at feeds to one of the schools and my husband teaches/coaches and our daughters  attend and are on the Pom Team at the rival school!  It's going to be an exciting way to end the short week!

Today and tomorrow you can grab all of the products that I will be using for 20% off in my store!  Use the links to go check them out.
Happy Labor Day everyone!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Weekly Routines {Tuesday: Tuesday Folders}

Several years ago, I received an email from a parent.  she was concerned that she hadn't seen any graded papers coming home and had no idea how her son was doing in my class.  I thought that was rather odd since my grade book is kept up to date and papers were mailed daily and their mailboxes were cleaned out daily as part of our pack up routine.  I explained this to her in my response.  Long story short...she found a bunch of papers crumpled up under his bed and in the back of his closet.  And those were just the ones that actually made it home...he admitted that some went in the trash can he passed walking home through the park.  

This experience led to a new routine in my classroom that year and it is one that I have used every year since....Tuesday Folders.

Each Tuesday my students bring home their Tuesday Folder filled with all of their graded papers from the previous week.  Inside the Tuesday Folder is a paper that parents sign saying that they have received and looked through all of the papers.  There is also a space that they can jot down any questions or comments.

Parents know to expect this every week and that if things appear to be missing that they should email me!  We also have an online grade book system that parents have access to so they can cross check to make sure everything came home.  
It has been a great way to keep everyone accountable.  It keeps me on track with grading because everything needs to be finished and my grade book updated in a timely manner.  It holds parents accountable, they sign saying they've seen all of the papers so there aren't any surprises come progress report or report card time.  And students are held accountable because they know that their parents are expecting to see their folder and its contents every week...nothing can get thrown in the trash!

Why Tuesday?
I chose Tuesdays because it gives me time if I need to catch up on grading over the weekend.  It also allows me time to input grades into the computer on Monday when we return to school. Sometimes the system we use is difficult to access from home and I wanted to allow myself time for technical difficulties.  Also, many of our school holidays fall on a Monday, so sending them home on a Tuesday helps account for those days off!

How I Organize Tuesday Folders
I have a bin in the classroom where I put papers that need to be mailed.

Graded papers and flyers that are going home go in this mail tray.  One of our classroom jobs is "Mail Person,"  it is their job to work on mailing the papers.  I sometimes have my junior high T.A.s help the mail person stay caught up.  
I have a crate with file folders in it.  Each students' Tuesday Folder goes back into their file when it is returned to school and the papers get "mailed," right into their folder.

On Tuesday when it's time for them to go home my helpers pass out folders and each student looks through their papers and organizes them into the folder.  
If folders aren't returned to school by Friday, I send an email reminder to those parents to please look through their child's folder and return it to school.
This system has been a great way to make sure parents are informed of their child's progress and that no one is missing important papers.  If you would like to try implementing Tuesday Folders, you can download an editable version HERE.