Mastering Multiplication: The Quest Begins!

We've just finished our first unit on multiplication. Our curriculum splits it into two different units, although we kinda just mesh it all together anyways. In this first chunk though, we focused mainly on knowing what multiplication, how it works, and why it works. We did lots of exploring and built many strategies to solve multiplication (and division) equations and word problems. We practiced writing and reading equations and we are well on our way!

I can say, I'm happy with our progress so far on the fundamentals, but now, my focus is more on fact fluency.

Every year, it seems to get harder to get kids to know their facts fluently. Really, the reality is- you just need to memorize them. Now that they know what multiplication is, they need to get to the answer quickly, but correctly. The word "efficient" is a buzzword in our room currently. I tell them to use the strategy that is most efficient for them- that still lets those kids who need to draw a picture to do so... if that is the strategy that can get them the correct answer as quickly as possible. Some kids though, are finding strategies like skip counting on their fingers, hand tricks, or simply just memorizing them to be the most efficient.

I had to make an interactive poster for the 9's trick because some were getting confused using their own hands... hmmmm.

I'm still allowing them to "pick their poison" but that doesn't mean I'm not trying to make those facts come a bit quicker.

Enter: Games, games, and more games

It is expected they practice their facts at home. The sad reality is very few of them do. So I'm trying to work in some time throughout our day on practicing facts and trying to hold them accountable, while helping them work towards a goal. The first step in this process is finding some low maintenance games that they can play alone or with a partner.

Our game boards have been in full swing! I have given each student a baggie with 3 dice (different numbers on them) and two counters. They keep this in their desk so when they need them, they are right there. The beauty- they make up their own rules to fit their needs. One way we've played has them pick a factor and write it down, roll the dice and multiply that number by the factor they wrote down. If they are write, they roll a different dice and that determines how far they move on the game board. To make it even more fun, they use their whiteboard markers to change up the game by adding "LT" for loose a turn, "RA" for roll again, etc. Another beauty of this way, if they are playing with a partner, the could each pick a different factor they want to work on. Another way we've played is where they just roll 2 of their dice and multiple them together, then roll the other dice to move.

We've also been using a FREE resource from Brooke over at Teachable Moments:


This is another great, easy game that students can play alone. They predict which number will win and before you know it, they are acting like they are announcing the Superbowl or Kentucky Derby! They each have a SmartPal where they slide in the game board and then just use their dice from their baggie and they are set! They choose which facts to practice. They know which ones they need to practice due to our weekly fact checks. We use the fact checks from Nancy Nutting's Strategies to Make Facts Stick resource,  which divides the facts up by the twos, fives, zeros and ones, nines, squares, threes and fours, and sixes/sevens/eights facts. This helps students know which factor to choose when practicing.

We do these assessments once a week and I check off the facts that they mastered. In order for it to be considered mastered, they have to get the entire line correct in 50 seconds or less. It is timed and we go line by line. They write their finish time down and we correct it right then. It really helps to do this because they are so excited to see if they've mastered a line. We talk about success in our fact fluency can look different each week: We might be trying to master a line; we might be trying to finish a line we didn't before (even if it takes us longer than 50 seconds- I give them 1 minute); we might be trying to get fewer "circles" which means ones they did not solve correctly or finish. When they turn in their assessment for me to double check, they share their "successes" which include all of the ones listed above, which helps those kids who may not master a line each time. What is helping to motivate them along?

They are working towards their license. Once they've mastered all 7 lines, I make them a license complete with their picture and get it laminated for them to keep and show off to their family and their 4th grade teacher to show them they know their facts. Our first license was earned (of course our laminator was out of film though so I couldn't give it to her yet) this past week and that alone motivated a lot of students to keep working towards theirs. I asked our first license holder her "secret" and I was happy to hear her say that she practiced the math flash cards I sent home with her. Hopefully the others heard that she practiced AT HOME. She's now working on her division license.

How do you improve your students' fact fluency? I'd love any other tricks to pull out to keep mine motivated!



MLK JR. Day: Celebrating Change by Saving You Some (SALE)

I don't know about you, but we have tomorrow off from school. Before we left on Friday, we watched a Brain Pop Jr. video on Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and had a discussion on why we had Monday off. The sad reality, is that we still have space to grow in the fight Dr. King started nearly 70 years ago with a letter to an editor stating the need for equality. I look out at my class and think of all the amazing experiences I'm gaining by working with such a diverse population. Each of my kiddos brings something everyday that teaches me to not only be a better teacher, but a better human being. They teach me compassion, humility, kindness, empathy, and hope. I couldn't imagine not having such a "tossed salad" in my room, where we teach one another about our different beliefs, goals,  and families. Because of my students though, I still see the injustice we have yet to overcome. We've seen improvements, but we have a long road ahead still.  Having courageous conversations with our students and shedding light on our past is giving us hope for our future.

It's also important that teachers are equipped to teach their students and create an environment that fosters growth in all mindsets. And for that, my store is on sale for Monday only! Stock up on some materials to help your students succeed while we celebrate a great leader!

Note: My Sale is Monday Only! Do some shopping on your day off!
Whether you have school tomorrow or not, I hope you take the opportunity to reflect on your students and the impact you are making in their lives; and think about what they are teaching you as well. :)



Plicker- Formative Assessment with a Scan of your Smartphone

I don't know about you, but our school/district is a little behind with getting technology in the hands of our students. I have mixed feelings about it. For example, we do have SMARTboards. And today, my bulb decided to die. And they didn't have anymore in stock. So now I have to wait for who knows how long. Looks like I'm going back into the old days of chart paper and overhead projectors until I can get it fixed. Is it weird I'm kinda excited about it? I have to say, I feel a little liberated!

However, technology can be crazy cool too. There are so many fun, educational apps out there that I don't really get to use because we don't have any tablets in our school for students to interact with. So when The Brown Bag Teacher posted on her Facebook about another blogger, Katie over at Simply Creative in Kentucky, and an app that only requires a smartphone (hey- I have one of those now!), I had to check it out!

I could do a super elaborate post, but honestly, Katie did such a fantastic job with pictures and explanations, so you need to go over and read her post on how this app can give you instant feedback on your students' progress. Just look at this data I got today as we learned how to use this tool while also having some "back to school" fun! Here is a very simply run down on the process.

1) Create your questions!

2) Post your questions and have your students select their answer with their cards and begin scanning! (again, visit Katie's blog for what I'm talking about).

 Or... switch views for a graph that is created "live!"
3) Review your data!

I'm excited to begin to include this throughout our day and collect data on my students' understanding of a variety of things! My team and I are already brainstorming some ideas.

Oh- I almost forgot! I selected a winner of my Making Change pack! Find out if you are the lucky one here!



Game Boards (plus) Task Cards (plus) Practice = Progress

Yesterday, I shared my new Practice = Progress tub that I'm rolling out after winter break to get to those kiddos who are still needing practice with standards we've already covered this year. I love the scrapbooking project bins from Michael's for these, because they are a great size and I can keep everything I need organized and in the same space. The giveaway ends tonight at midnight- stop by that post for great odds to win the resources in that tub!

Well I found an even slimmer bin and I had the idea of using it as game board storage system to use with all the task cards I've gathered and created over the last year on various skills.

There are lots of options that might work for you and your classroom as well, so I thought I'd share how I put mine together and give you some ideas on how you can replicate it in your room!

[1] Storage

Like I said, this container/tub/bin/ thinger is from Michaels. I guess they call it a case on the website. And I got it on sale... score! It fits normal copy paper size (but it isn't tight). Here, I store all of my game boards I made in the bottom half. I put them in plastic sleeves so I can save on laminating. I remember reading our staff handbook one year and our principal wrote a comment about how lamination sits around in landfills for over 100 years; followed by the statement, "Is this really something I want to last that long?" So now, I try to find alternatives to lamination because a) no, I don't want this stuff for 100 years, b) I don't have the patiences to wait to get things laminated and refuse to spend more money on my own personal laminator c) I don't want to get yelled at at school for laminating too much

On the lid, I have plastic hooks for the player markers. These will be laminated though (they're small). Yes, they sometimes fall off when I close the lid, but when I open it and place them back on the hooks, I can see if we are missing a set. I also have some task cards in here (more on that later).

[2] Game Boards

Game boards are easy and fun to make! I have so much clip art, especially from Creative Clips where theses circles are from, to allow me to make a variety of boards. I have some very basic ones to very elaborate ones. I'm all about choices! This way, students can choose one that interests them or I can guide others towards boards that I think are best suited for them. I wanted boards though that were pretty self explanatory to students. I will slip in an index card into the back of the sleeve to explain any special spaces if necessary.

Pond Clip Art from Teacher's Gumbo; Mouse Clip Art from Graphics from the Pond; Dinosaur and Bubble Gum from Creative Clips.

I used some of my other favorite clip art from other talented artists from TpT to make "themed" game boards too.

[3] Player Pieces/Markers
I have a sleeve on top of the lid too for students to slip their game board in and play on top of the case.
These are not necessary- but they are fun! I just made little player pieces and put them in a binder clip upside down. I made 6 different sets- some go with the theme boards (but can obviously be used with any board). However, you don't have to use them! Do you have counters? Have students write their initials or classroom number using a dry erase marker and use that! Connecting cubes? Have each student pick a different color to represent them. There's tons of options for player pieces.

[4] Cards and How to Play

Grab some task cards and a dice and you are ready to roll! One player starts and picks a card from the pile of task cards (face down). They read and answer (either verbally or write it down on a personal whiteboard). If the other players agree they are correct, they roll the dice and move that many spaces. If they are wrong, they don't get to move. Next person's turn! Simple!

And you can give choice to which task cards they use or assign them. I made these above task cards to fit our first MN Math standard for Number and Operations. There are 5 benchmarks in this standard, so I color coded each standard and labeled it to help keep them organized. But I'll also use other task cards I've bought on TpT and continue to make others to fit my students' needs. To keep them engaged and save on paper for recording pages (and the fact that I stink at keeping up with copies), these game boards are a great solution. Not to mention, you can use task cards that cover a range of content areas and students can focus on the content and not on how to play since they will be familiar with the game boards.

I'm excited to get these rolling for early finishers and for practicing those skills we haven't quite mastered yet! If you make your own game board storage system, I'd love to see it!



Practice = Progress: Making Change [Giveaway]

Boy have I been busy! The creating bug finally bit and I actually had time during winter break to work on some new things for my room. One of my goals going back after break was all about helping students with their gaps. I know which students struggle with money/rounding/subtracting across zeros etc.

But I struggle with time to meet with them all in small groups with our given curriculum and schedule. I wanted to find a way for them to continue to have practice with skills we've already covered, but they have not yet mastered.

And I wanted them to know if they were on the right track or not (instant feedback essentially).

And because I already said that I can't meet with them all on a daily basis (I wish they would figure out a way to clone people already), I had to think of a solution.

And I didn't want to make a bunch of copies that I had to constantly replenish and be on top of to know when they needed to be replenished.

And I wanted it to be engaging.

And I think I figured out something to help with ALL of these "ands" (and it's something you could put together with your own resources)!

Enter my Practice = Progress Tubs!
These are scrapbooking containers from Michael's- they were on sale for 50% this past week (so they were like $3.00) and work perfectly for my purpose!

This first one I created is all about working with change. Here in MN, we do not follow the Math Common Core- just the ELA. I was curious and compared our standards to the CCSS and man- I was shocked! We've been "told" that our standards are more rigorous/thorough in certain areas than the CCSS, which is why we haven't adopted them yet. I haven't compared them all yet, but with money, I definitely can see glaring differences. Anywho- for my students, they need to be able to make change in multiple ways, including using the fewest coins possible. So I created 5 different activities that relate to that standard (as well as some others from 2nd grade and other 3rd grade standards).

Remember how one of my "ands" was that I can't meet with everyone all the time? Well the lid when you open it becomes the "student control center." It has reference posters to help and directions for each activity that includes a materials list and work time expectations. I tried to make it as independent as possible. I just added a plastic page protector so that I can change out the main reference poster with different standards work and I made those two pockets out of card stock which again, will allow me to switch resources out. I attached them to the lid using double sided tape and Zots Strips.

What's in the tub? Here's the activities that I've combined for this tub:
Fewest Coins Possible Task Cards: I used "brag books" (I didn't know they were called that until I tried to describe them to the cashier at the Dollar Tree...which they were out of and I had to then travel to Walmart to find these BUT they were 3 cents cheaper #minorwin). I split them up into two books and have the directions right in these photo albums. Students need to use whiteboard markers for these, so that's why I went with the books. I included an answer key in the back for students to check their own work. However, I also have a recording sheet if I don't trust some of those little ones.

One of my "ands" was for the activities to allow for instant feedback and engaging. I made some puzzles and a "Go Fish"/Memory game for partners to work on together. They will *hopefully* check each others work on both of these.  To save on ink- I just printed the puzzles on colored card stock. And to keep the Go Fish cards more secretive, I printed them on patterned card stock (one side patterned- one side white) so that you can't see through the cards.

When they flip it over, they can see if they are correct, they missed any (like I did) or if they chose any that weren't correct.

I love these Clip, Flip and Checks and will be making more of them for things like area/perimeter, multiplication/division, etc. The clothespins were already beautified when I bought them at Michaels. But this will also help them stay in this tub- if they are lost, I'll know where it needs to go. These are perfect self-checkers. This is nice because I made 5 of them so a few kids can be working on this activity at once and just switch.

The last activity are task cards that work more on subtracting across zeros to find change (although they all don't require to). Again, I added an answer key so students can check their work... and I also have recording pages if I choose for some kiddos. These cards range in difficulty to provide challenges for all students. I may even include some calculators in this center to help them check. Again, it require honesty, but in reality, I'm shocked at how many students don't know what the symbols on a calculator stand for, so maybe we'll slip that in as well. :)

So now- when students finish their in class work, they can do one of the activities to practice skills we've already learned and keep in fresh in their minds. I can assign certain students to certain activities knowing that they are working skills that they need more practice with. I'm already working on tubs for some other standards (time and measurement mainly).

Want to win a copy of my Making Change Practice = Progress Pack? Enter the Rafflecopter below. A winner will be chosen tomorrow. Can't wait? All the activities are on sale in my store now (individually or in the bundle)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check back tomorrow for another "creation" I put together that makes task cards even more fun! And another way for me to make sure students are working on skills that they need additional practice on. And... And... And...


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