Monday, January 26, 2015

10 Reasons to Put PLAY Back into Math

Math that really sticks, is math done through play! When kids play, their brain is activated by the excitement of the activity, not fear of an unknown concept. What's the best way to beat math-phobia? The answer is PLAY! Classroom and online games might be just what your kids need!

Why use play in the math classroom?

1.  "Playful math is to numbers what poetry is to words, music is to sounds, and art is to visual perception." Mathematicians play with math, so do 4 year olds. Losing that playful outlook on math is where the problems begin. Using a playful approach to math encourages out-of-the-box thinking and problem solving.

2.   Games provide unlimited practice. To achieve math mastery takes lots and lots of practice. If that practice is dull, minds wonder and practice ends up being wasted time. Games make kids focus because they have to in order to play the game. It gives a purpose to practice!

3.  Games promote math talk. If playing the game with a partner, students must discuss how to get the right answer, and rethink together when the answer is incorrect.

4. Since there is a natural desire to win, students can easily be lead to achieve above what they are normally expected to achieve. 

5.  Games don't define how a problem must be solved. Students are set loose to find their own ways of discovering the answer….they find their own meaning!

6.  While kids play math games, this gives teachers the perfect time to observe an assess. Kids rarely notice!

7. Playing classroom math games encourages cooperative learning. Math isn't the only thing kids will learn in math class, they'll also learn how to be a team play, problem-solve, and be a good winner or loser.

8. Games are the perfect differentiation tool.  Visual learners see pictures, kenesthetic learners are active with movement (throwing dice), auditory kids love the communication involved, and the kids who love to write can be the note-taker or record the answers.

9. It's hard to develop strategic thinking unless you do activities that make kids use strategic thinking. Gamres are perfect for this. Losing says to kids that there is a better way, what is it? This also promotes metacognition. Kids have to think about their thinking to figure out how to win.

10. If you want to motivate kids, just tell them that the next day in math will be game day. They'll come in with big smiles eager to start. That includes that little math-phobic kid in the corner. A few sessions with fun math games will draw him out and into the fun. 

Some great classroom games include:

It's amazing the concepts kids can learn from a couple of dice!

20 engaging, skill-building math games for Kids:

Great Online Games

This terrific site called Math Game Time has great math games (as well as other subjects) by grade level. Don't be afraid to check out games on the grades above your own, there are many at each level that can be used by lower grades. GREAT for differentiation. Best part....there are lots of teacher videos on how to teach different concepts in the curriculum at the bottom of the page of each grade level.  This game is called "Meteor Multiplication". It's perfect for third and fourth grade practice!

This site from Funbrain is a math arcade that is more than fun. Students select their ability level, so it easily goes from second grade to fifth grade practice. 

If you teach upper elementary don't miss There are LOTs of good (and fun) games to practice those multiplication facts. Check out the menu bar for addition, subtraction, and division games. There is so much good stuff on this site there isn't room to list it all! This game is called "Pirates II"

Don't miss this site FILLED with math games and activities for second grade in most of the math strands! It includes more than 100 links. Best part…it is categorized with pictures under each strand! This game is called, "Life Guards". 

This great center/computer game gives kids a fun way to practice subtration facts! To get the correct answer the students use the bee's stinget to pop the correct number of balloons to give the answer. Adorable and so, so educational!

This site from math playground is FULL of games for all levels. I love this one about area and perimeter!  Don't miss the game on Tangrams!!

Hope you kids learn lots with these games, and have fun doing it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why Teach Grammar?

UGH! Is it time to teach grammar AGAIN???  I've felt that way more than once…way more than once!! Why is teaching grammar so important anyway? Well, first of all, those who use bad grammar can be really annoying. What they have to say becomes less important than how they say, or write it!

Consider this:

1. Students don't acquire good grammar skills just through reading, writing and speaking. Grammar instruction needs to be constant, and ongoing.

2. Many college instructors are totally frustrated that their students don't know basic grammar rules. A National Curriculum Survey done by the ACT found that college professors consider grammar and usage skills as the most important skill for those entering college. Don't think teaching these skills can wait until high school, they can't. By high school habits are set, and it's very hard to change those bad grammar habits.

3. When students apply for grants, interviews and other opportunities, those with poor grammar make a poor impression. The writer/speaker can end up losing an outstanding opportunity that he/she is prepared for, just because their poor English usage makes them appear uneducated. Again, teachers must start early to teach these skills.

So what can teachers do?

a. Identify grammar standards for your grade level.
b. Find out what your students do and do not know. This lack of knowledge may not be just with what you teach at your grade level, it may be cumulative from former years.
c. Look at skills your class as a whole needs. Focus on three or four skills each week to really work on both in whole class, and individual activities. Computer games are great for this!
d. Don't forget homophones! There, their, and they're, it's and its, and other high frequency homophones stick out like a sore thumb when misused! Include one set each week with your spelling lesson, and don't let them go until the class is proficient.

So…how about some fun resources to help with those pesky grammar skills? Check out the freebie below, and don't miss the great games and activities on this post. They are perfect for centers or group work!  If kids are having fun, they just learn more!  Enjoy!

This game called "Word Invasion" allows students to choose any part of speech, including adjectives and adjectives to work with. Once the game is played, and time is up the game gives an accuracy rate and shows the words missed. An absolutely terrific game for centers!

OMG! I love this site! Students or teachers can print posters (really cute ones) for any part of speech, use teacher tools to find out fun activities to use in the classroom, students can make up wacky stories using parts of speech, test their knowledge and much more! VERY engaging with terrific pictures. Love this one!

This one is just great practice game! It comes in easy, medium and hard. Perfect (again) for centers!

How about two more freebies that includes adjectives nouns, and suffixes? They are designed for second, third  and fourth graders.  Click on the link below the picture:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why Learn Mental Math?

Some people think mental math skills are no longer important. After all, we have computers and devices that can do it for us any time we choose. But there's more to it than that! Here are some very important reasons for teaching (and learning) mental math skills.

1.  Teaching mental math encourages kids to really understand how to reason through a problem, not just memorize it. Doing mental math means using conceptual understanding and problem solving. In fact, using mental math strategies often helps kids to really "get it".

2. Being proficient in mental math strategies help students realize when a problem doesn't "look" right. Students are thinking about the problem (mind's on) throughout the entire process rather than relying on a formula of some kind.

4.  More and more schools are placing a high priority on problem solving in math. Mental math gives the tools for problem solving, and helps students evaluate their answers.

5. Doing mental math in a classroom discussion helps students orally talk about math concepts and how they are using them. They develop not only mathmatical concepts, but the math vocabulary they must know to solve the problem.

6. It gives students lots of practice with basic facts and combining operations.

7. By using mental math, students play with the patterns that exist in our number system. As a result, they develop a deeper conceptual understanding.

8. Kids love the "tricks" involved in figuring out mental math problems. It's fun because they know a lot of people who can't do it.  Give kids a good strategy for mental math, and they feel like they are able to do mathmatical magic!

9. My favorite reason….They have to think!

If you need a set of games made just to sharpen those mental math strategies, try out these games from Top Marks…all are free and perfect for centers/stations! The game shown sharpens addition mental math skills. Others include a variety of math skills.

How about a great freebie to help with those mental math strategies? I have made 12 Math Thinker task cards complete with an answer sheet and a grading key. This makes this free resource perfect for centers! Click on the link below the pictures for your freebie!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why Vote?

Voting is the core of our democracy, yet the United States ranks toward the bottom of all democracies in the number of citizens who actually vote. That means we all need to do a better job teaching kids why voting is so important. I hope the great videos below are helpful!

This is a beautifully done short video on the importance of voting, done with simple posters. Perfect to start a discussion on the importance of voting!

Upper Elementary students are all about celebrities…this celebritiy video gets to the root of why it's important to vote!

This three minute Ted Talk is all about why we vote on a Tuesday. Kids will love this!

LOVE this one! It's the history and importance of voting done in a really engaging cartoon style!

If you are interested in holding a mock election in your classroom, don't miss this great post from Scholastic.  Click on the "Vote" button to get a complete lesson plan with PDFs included. There is also a great lesson plan on "Parties, Platforms, and Polls". Lots of things to check out here, most are free. 

If you are looking for some great worksheets about elections, don't miss this site called "abcTeach" You do need to create an account to download the worksheets, but it is free. 

Happy Voting!