Thursday, April 28, 2016

Five Fantastic Facts about the Eiffel Tower and what l Learned while creating my Math Review Scavenger Hunt

Koechlin's first drawing of the tower.
It is very interesting doing the research for my recent math scavenger hunts. I have made one for The First Ferris Wheel, The Titanic, and now The Eiffel Tower. While researching facts on the Eiffel Tower, I found some interesting things that were fun, but didn't go into the scavenger hunt.

1) Most people assume that Gustave Eiffel designed the Tower named after him. The design of the Eiffel Tower was the product of Maurice Koechlin and Ă‰mile Nouguier who worked for Eiffel's engineering company. Eiffel didn't approve of the design until the head architect Stephen Sauvestre added decorative arches to the base of the tower and other improvements.

2) The tower is painted in three shades of color. It is lighter at the top and gets progressively darker towards the bottom to match the Parisian sky.

3) It is illegal to publish photographs of the lighting on The Eiffel Tower at night. You need to get permission from France to do so. The lighting is considered a work of art and under copyright. Photos of just the Eiffel Tower are in the public domain.

4) Winds can make the tower sway from side to side by about three inches. Heat and cold can make the height of the tower vary by as much as six inches. It is taller in the summer and shorter in the winter!

5) Hitler wanted the Eiffel Tower destroyed when the German army abandoned Paris in 1944. He  ordered the Nazi military governor of Paris to destroy the city and the tower. The governor decided not to do it because he loved Paris too much.

I made a math review scavenger hunt based on other facts and numbers related to the Eiffel Tower for students in grades 4-6. You can find it here.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Titanic Math Review Scavenger Hunt

The Titanic is another scavenger hunt that I created and used with my class. It reviews many of the 5th grade common core standards and can be used with fourth graders who need a challenge or with 6th and 7th graders as a review. I am still amazed at how my students respond to scavenger hunts. These thinking word problems with questions based on the Titanic require a lot of problem solving on their part, but they feel like they are in a game so they give it a great effort and become highly engaged.

A couple of tips that I have found helpful when doing these review scavenger hunts, such as this one or my First Ferris Wheel scavenger hunt, is that I may need to preview or review certain questions as some kids may not be secure remembering how to do something taught earlier in the year. As the kids are doing the scavenger hunt, I make sure that I am available to answer a student's question or give support when needed. While other students are participating on their own, I get to reteach mini-lessons with those who need it. I never grade the scavenger hunt answers. We review all the questions and answers together. This is why it is a review. It is a learning experience. Students can explain how they got an answer and this is a great time to reteach a point if many students struggle with a question.

You can find The Titanic scavenger hunt here.

Speaking of the Titanic, one of my best investments ever was a postcard I had bought at a roadside junk store in Maine when I was in 8th grade, It had a photo of the Titanic and a short message about  the disaster on the front and the back had a postmark and note (non Titanic related) showing it was sent six days after the sinking. I had just finished reading the book on the Titanic A Night to Remember and I thought it would be cool to purchase the postcard for 25 cents. Years later, when the Titanic movie came out and eBay was sort of new I sold it for $350.

My grandmother immigrated from Sweden alone when she was 16 year old. She always said that she was supposed to be on the Titanic, but missed the departure. This cannot be confirmed, but she said she took the next boat out and talked about seeing the iceberg. When my parents researched our genealogy, sure enough, my grandmother was on the next boat that left port. Thanks for being late, Grandma!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The First Ferris Wheel Challenge

The first Ferris Wheel was built for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. It was Chicago's answer to the magnificent Eiffel Tower built for the 1899 World's Fair. I first learned about this enormous structure when I used to teach fourth grade and used it as an introduction to multiplication of double digit numbers. I felt my students could visualize the concept better when they drew a Ferris Wheel with 36 boxes (cars) on it that each held 60 people. As a have been working on building scavenger hunts for my students to get them moving and solving math problems at the same time, I decided to move away from just solving problems to learning facts about the Ferris Wheel as they circulate around the room. I feel that it is my best scavenger hunt yet, and it kept my kids really engaged in the problems. They had to do some deep thinking as the solved these, which I really like to see! Like my other scavenger hunts that can be found at my Teacher Pay Teachers store, you can purchase The First Ferris Wheel Challenge to be used with your class. It was created as a review for my fifth grade class and would work fine as a sixth or even seventh grade activity. It could also be used as an activity for fourth grade students who need a challenge (the scavenger hunt stations can also be used as task cards). You can see my kids enjoying the challenge at various stations in these photos. I have a freebie of 15 permanent scavenger hunts stations that you can find here to make placing scavenger hunt cards easier for my students ( I let them do this) and to keep the room looking more organized.

Here is a quick video introducing the first Ferris Wheel.

Here is an actual video of the first Chicago Ferris Wheel although after it had been moved from the original site in Chicago.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Student Responses to Movement Based Activities

This week I asked my students their impressions on using one of my movement based activities in the classroom as self -regulation and movement based activities are part of my three year goal for my district. They reflected on using the classroom spin bike, the bouncy bands that each student has on their desks, and the "Move Around Math" scavenger hunts that I have been creating.

Move Around Math Reflections
I have created many "Move around Math" scavenger hunts to get kids up and moving while doing math. You can view all of them here.

Previous posts:
How to get your students moving during math class: Host a classroom Scavenger Hunt

Move Around Math Classroom Fraction Scavenger Hunts Grade 5 Common Core

Here are some responses:

"Move Around Math" helped me during math by letting me move around and not just being cooped up at my desk doing a work sheet. It's a lot more fun too! I also get to walk around the room and it's an extra challenge trying to find them. KO

"I like "Move around Math" a lot because.I thought that math was not fun but when Mr..Hansen showed us "Move around Math" I thought it was so much fun. There are three things you are doing when you do "Move around Math". You are getting excercise, having fun, and doing math. EL

The scavenger hunts are my favorite because when we do them I get the chance to move around to find and do math problems. It is also fun at the end when I can figure out the joke or riddle. When we do the scavenger hunt it helps me solve the problems by moving around to do them. That is why I like the scavenger hunts DA

"Move Around Math"scavenger hunts helped me during math class Because it helped me to understand multiplying and adding and subtracting fractions.It also made me active and helped me pay attention more in math. Even I thought math was just doing tests and doing worksheets, but when Mr.Hansen showed us "Move Around Math" it was so much fun  JJ

I like when my class does scavenger hunts because when I work I like to move around to concentrate on my math, science, and social studies because I work a lot harder. NS

I liked the "MAM" ("Move around Math) because instead of sitting down and doing a worksheet, we get to get up and move around. This is good because it is good exercis, and it is more fun. Plus there's a joke/riddle to solve once you complete all the problems. It also helps me focus more. That's why I like "MAM". LS

I love "Move around Math" because I never could remember how to solve a simple math problem, but when I got up and moved my legs I just remembor things that I learned in 3rd and 4th grade. RW

The "Move Around Math" scavenger hunts helped me in class because when I am sitting at my desk I cannot think well but when we get up and move around the classroom it gives me exercises and math becomes easy. Also moving around the classroom is much more fun than sitting at our desks and doing worksheets. CT

Scavenger Hunts help me because I get to move around. They are a lot of fun. JB

Spin Bike Reflections

previous post:
Using a Classroom Spin Bike to Learn Self-Regulation

“The spin bike has helped me by moving my legs to get anger out or stress. Also it has helped me by paying attention in class when there is a test. It has helped by calming down when I am high or when I do something that I shouldn't have...That is how the spin bike helps me.” LN (not sure about the “high” comment)

“I have math anxiety so when we take a test I usually get very nervous. When I am stuck on a problem in a math test and am very frustrated or nervous I go on the spin bike. This helps me calm down. Sometimes I pedal fast which gets the frustration out of me. Other times I pedal slow and think about other things besides math.  Both of these help me very much. I ride the bike for 5 minutes only and then go back to my math test. After my rides on the bike I feel more focused and ready to attempt the hard math problem.” CB

“When I have used the spin bike, I've noticed some improvement in my ability in math. I've noticed when I've had a math test or quiz, I would struggle sometimes. Then, when it's my turn to use the bike, I go on the bike and start riding while I'm doing the test. When I don't use the bike and I take a test, I usually get a P. But, when I do use the spin bike, I usually get Ms. I've also noticed improvement in math because of the bouncy bands. When I don't use the bouncy band, I usually get stressed out and I don't do so well. When I do use the bouncy band, I don't get stressed out and I do well in math. The bouncy bands and the spin bike really helps me out in math class and I always get good grades because of it. The movement helps!” JT  (P= progressing towards standard. M=meets the standard)

“I have realized that when we are doing math and I’m frustrated  the bouncy bands make me calm. Also I have realized when I go on the Spin Bike and we are doing math it makes me more confident. And last of all when I do "Move Around Math" it helps you do better in math.” AC

Bouncy Band Reflections

previous post:

Facilitating Focus and Reducing Stress Through Bouncy Bands

“The thing that helps me the most are the bouncy bands. During a lesson when I put my shoes on the bouncy band they help me because, I feel like I focus more when I bounce. Also I tend to get nervous when we do math. Like, I feel like I'm going to fail and have to stay back a grade.  But the bouncy bands help me and my anxiety calm down.” LP

“The bouncy bands helped me during math because when my legs move around it gets me active and ready to learn and if I go into another classroom that doesn't have bouncy bands then i don't focus as much.” LM

“The bouncy band really help me because when I’m trying to learn I have to move a lot to be able to listen and when I use the bouncy band i find it so much easier to listen and way more fun. Another reason is because during math I don't really like to have a lot of papers and numbers in math but my mood for math changes when I use the bouncy bands.” JL

“The bouncy bands help me so much when I’m going a hard math problem. I get all nervous and shaky. Then I remember that I can just put my feet on the bouncy band and there off and moving. I calm down a lot. I also use it for math tests. I love them they work so well and other kids will love them to. I use them all most the whole day! Mostly math class. Even though math is one of my best subjects. (I think.) With the bouncy band my grades went up. I just love it so much.” AC   
“The bouncy bands help me during math by giving me a chance to move my feet (also not to tap on the ground, 'cause sometimes I "stomp" on the bouncy bands). It also gives me a place to rest my feet when I'm too tired to bounce around.” JT

“The bouncy bands are a great stress reliever when you have too much energy. It is great for tests.” JM

“Not Just a Foot Rest-Bouncy bands are a great way to get your feet moving during a math lesson! Scientists say "kids who are moving during a lessons, studying, or a test will do better". Last year I did and experiment on memory before and after exercising. If you’re moving during a lesson you will remember more. “HR

“The bouncy bands helped me because when I am nervous that I will get a math problem wrong  I start putting my feet on the bouncy band and then I start to focus and get the math correct. “ LC

“The bouncy bands help me during math class by helping me when I'm stressed out.  When I'm stuck on a math problem moving my legs helps me not get stressed.  Also the bouncy bands help me think better, they help me focus on the things I have to get done.” VM


Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to get your students moving during math class: Host a classroom Scavenger Hunt

Students should not be sitting in their desks all day long. Scavenger hunts are a fun way to get them moving while working on their math skills.  Studies and experience has demonstrated that students who move learn more effectively than sedentary students. Rather than hand your students a worksheet or asking them to solve problems on a computer site like IXL (the downfall of having acquired a Chromebook for every student in my class is that can make them even more sedentary as they sit in front of a screen), I have been creating and using math scavenger hunts for my students. They solve similar problems that they would be working on at their desks, but now the problems are posted around my classroom and they have to get out of their seats to move from problem to problem. The awesome thing about the scavenger hunts is that the kids now enjoy doing the work. My students get all excited when they see a new hunt being posted around the classroom.   

I have been creating a variety of math classroom scavenger hunts for my fifth grade class and you can find them all here at my Teacher Pay Teacher store. I call it "Move Around Math." There are 15 problems to solve in each scavenger hunt as well as a hidden message. The numbered problems are placed around the classroom and the kids have to move around finding each card before solving the problem. They can start anywhere and go in any order.  I include a blank student worksheets and a worksheet with the problems listed (for modified work or to be used if projecting the problems on a white board when you check over them with the class). I also include an answer sheet. It is an easy no-prep way to keep you students active and working at the same time. 

I have also created scavenger hunt number stations. I laminated these and have hung them in permanent spots around my the classroom. It makes my room look more orderly and it saves me work. Now when I do a new hunt, I have my students take down the old cards and tape the new ones on the number stations. You can find the number station cards here.

Here are some variations to try. 

1) You can tape problem cards to the walls or on other visible surfaces or you can tape them under desks or other unlikely places if your students really need to move and explore. I did the "under the desk"  game on a day they needed some extra movement and it worked quite well. I had them move all chairs to the sides of the classroom and reminded them not to poke their eyeballs out with their pencils when moving on the floor.

2) Tape a card to the back of each student (print out more than one copy of each card if you have more than 15 students). Just tell the class when they have one problem left that they can look at the problem on their own back and solve that one. This was fun because the "problems" were always on the move and they had to cooperate with each other to read the problems.

3) Use the activity as a whole class activity during class, as a free time activity when other work is done, or as a “before” school or class  or as an activity when all other work is done.

4) These problem cards can also be used in a math center, but it defeats the “moving around” purpose. 

5) Place your cards in the hallways or outdoors when the weather is warm.

I strongly believe that we need to allow movement in the classroom.
I have my own classroom spin bike to help my students with their focus and anxieties as they learn self-regulation. You can read about it here.
I have also added bouncy bands to each student's desk. More information here.

Here are my current 5th grade math scavenger hunts (more are being developed and classroom tested). 

4.NBT.7   Adding Decimals

5.MD.1     Measurement Bundle

5.NF.4     Multiplying Fractions
                Fractions Bundle

                Permanent Number Stations

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Move Around Math Classroom Fraction Scavenger Hunts Grade 5 Common Core

This recent study says that, "Kids who move while learning may absorb more."

"Kids who jump, squat and move their bodies during math and spelling may learn more effectively than students in typical sedentary classrooms."

Students should not be sitting in desks throughout the day. Period. It is a good thing if I can get my students to learn while incorporating movement at the same time. I have been having great success with classroom scavenger hunts in my classroom. Instead of doing a worksheet at their desk, my students start with a blank numbered worksheet and move around the room looking for the problems that they have to solve. I have taped the numbered problems all around the class for them to find, copy, and solve. It has worked fantastic. At first, I thought that it might get a little bit wild, but they were actually very quiet as they moved around the class completing their tasks. There is a good healthy buzz in the classroom and the students are more engaged in their work compared to what they would be doing if it was just seatwork.

I thought it was so fun to do that I have begun developing my scavenger hunts as products on Teachers Pay Teachers. I have started with fractions and have five scavenger hunts listed already. They tie in with the 5th grade Common Core units on Fractions, but can be used for advanced 4th graders or as a review in the 6th grade. Each scavenger hunt has 15 problems as well as a hidden message puzzle to solve just to make it more fun. Each scavenger hunt game sells for $1, although if you want to check out the quality, I currently have listed the 5th Grade Math Scavenger Hunt: Converting Improper Fractions and Mixed Numbers as a freebie.

Here are the fractions scavenger hunts:
5th Grade Math Scavenger Hunt: Adding and Subtracting Fractions
5th Grade Math Scavenger Hunt: Adding and Subtracting Mixed Numbers
5th Grade Math Scavenger Hunt: Converting Improper Fractions and Mixed Numbers

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner

One of my fifth grade girls writing a poem
at the Area 2 School in the Mathare Valley
Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum is a well-written and inspirational book that tells the story of the two authors and their relationship and work in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Kennedy Odede grew up in Kibera and Jessica Posner was a college student from America who met and fell in love in Kibera. I have been to the Mathare Valley slum of Nairobi three times now to work with the teachers and students of Missions of Hope International and the descriptions of the slums gave me a much clearer insight into the lives of the children I have worked with. They live a life that Istill find hard to imagine even when I have seen where they live. Jessica went to live in the slum, which to me is something I have been told is unheard of for a white American to do. I appreciated the descriptions even as I cringed at how brutal life in the slum can be. I also know how hard-working the people of the slum can be and how much education is valued (when you can get it). Seeing how Kennedy and Jessica built a school for girl's out of their dreams and all the other ways they have found for the people in the slum to empower themselves shows how hard work and imagination can give hope and transform a community. There is a love story here as well as Kennedy's journeys to America to receive a college education. I could not put the book down and it is a book most people would enjoy reading. It relates the importance of education to the lives of so many growing up in poverty around the world, especially to those who normally do not have the opportunity to even go to school.

Here is one of the fifth grade students from the girl's school in Kibera that Kennedy and Jessica started reciting a poem that she wrote:

Here Eunice recites her poem in New York City and is interviewed along with Kennedy and Jessica:

The last two times, in 2014 and 2015, I have been to the Mathare Valley slum, I have taught poetry writing mainly to the fifth students at the Area 2 School as well as to the 6-12th grade students at the Joska School so this girl's ability to write poetry is something that is wonderful for me to see, because I have been constantly amazed at the poems written by the Kenyan students I have worked with, even when most of them have never written a poem before. I just have to up my game in how I present them for others.

Here is a poem based on William Blake's "The Tyger" written by one of my fifth grade student's named Mary. She is just as talented as Eunice.

That is the first poem that Mary wrote and she wrote it in less than 30 minutes. Here is some of Mary's story and what happened a year later when I saw her again this summer.

I worked with two new classrooms full of enthusiastic fifth graders at the Area 2 School this past summer and I again used "The Tyger" as a model for writing animal poems. I had a little free time during lunch my last day there and I asked the teachers if I could photograph the poems that the students had written on their own that I hadn't seen yet. I saw this poem by Sidney on Aids. I wish I had time to have found out more about Sidney's poem, but this little gem was written in his notebook. They were asked to write poems talking to animals, but Sidney took his second poem to a completely different conversation. I had met Sidney in 2014. We had performed the "The Rainbow Fish" to the students at the Area 2 School. I was the starfish. The next day the students performed the play for us taking on our roles, which included a videographer with a fake camera on a pole. Sidney played the starfish and so I had this photo of all the starfishes together at the end of the video. The kids nailed the play. I don't know how they did it, but it they performed it much better than we had! There is so much talent in the slums!

You can find out more about my trips to the Mathare Valley here.

If you have Amazon Prime you can watch the PBS show"A Path Appears Season 1" episode 3 to see a lengthy portrayal of Shofco, the program these people set up in Kibera. 90% of the show (with the school, the streets, and the kids) reminds me so much of Nairobi's other slum Mathare, but this video delves much deeper into the violence against women and girls and how they are helping. I just watched it and it is well done. It starts at about 40 minutes into the episode (BTW it is not for kids).