Thursday, October 24, 2013

Solving Word Problems

Every year, one of our biggest struggles is problem solving skills.  Word problems are intimidating for a lot of students.  My kids always struggle with knowing what to do or where to start.  This year, I made a poster with some key words for my students.  I used math operation symbols and inside of each typed words that help indicate which operation to use. My hope is that it will be a starting point for them as they develop these skills.  I copied the poster for my kids and they cut in apart and glued the images into their composition book.  We included an example problem with each image.

All of the reading in word problems is an immediate problem for students.  They see all the reading and automatically shut down.  I hope that having a few strategies will make them less intimidating from the start.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Amazing Race

Last week, my team organized an Amazing Race for our kids.  We had clues throughout the school that students had to find and interpret.  My favorite clue was probably the one with a riddle that led them to a locker in the building.  Then they had to solve 3 math problems to get the combination to get the next station card.  This card was really hard for them, but I liked it.  The clues sent them a variety of stations setup in various rooms around school. All of our stations were somehow academic.  For math we had a giant Sudoku station and some logic/math puzzle stations.  Our students just finished maps in social studies so they had to solve some riddles to identify note worthy attractions around the world, like the Eiffel Tower.  They then had to find the location on a map and provide the longitude and latitude.  The students even solved tangrams up in the office with the principal.  It was a fun way for them to move around the school and interact with him.

Overall, students did well.  The hardest part for them was understanding that they had to solve the riddles to get clues and not just pick up cards anywhere they saw them.  We had the kids in groups and each group was a different clue "track" so that we never would have more than 3 groups at a station.  This got a little messed up when they started picking up random clues...

This took a lot of set-up, but I am hoping now that it is finished that it will be easier next year.  All the cards and things are in a box stored away till next year.

Clue Cards and Station Cards

another clue card

Clue Envelopes 

group envelopes... they kept their clues and score cards in here.
giant Sudoku cards
station manager cards

more station envelopes 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The F word...

FRACTIONS...  Every year my students dread fractions.  When I tell them that is what we are working on they all gasp and moan.  Of course it is never as bad as they imagine it will be.

For multiplying  fractions this year I created a graphic organizer with my students that had all the steps they would need to solve a problem.  I use steps in my classroom whenever possible.  My lower students will jump at the chance to have steps and then they follow them religiously.  The steps to working out the problems make them feel successful.  They can participate in class conversations and always can relate to where we are in a problem.  If they are lost I can simply tell them what step we are at and they can pick it right up with us.  It helps them to not make silly mistakes as well.  Once they have the steps mastered the students are more confident to move on to more grade level appropriate and challenging problems with the steps as a guide.

Multiplying fractions isn't a sixth grade skill, but applying fractions to other problems, like word problems, is a sixth grade skill.  I often find that the basic skills need reinforced/taught  before we can get to the higher level thinking.  The the steps seem to be a very efficient way to get us successfully moving forward.

I created an anchor chart, to hang in my room, that matched my students graphic organizer.  Unfortunately, the laminator machine ate it!!! :(  I got a picture before I sent it through... so you can see what it did look like.

I don't really want to devote an entire new entry to dividing fractions, but this is what kids glued into their composition books for steps to divide fractions.  It is hard to see, but this graphic organizer focused a lot on the vocabulary.  We stuck with the traditional "Keep it, Change it, Flip it" but also added some technical terms to it.
This was our graphic organizer for
dividing fractions...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mystery Samples

Today, my students completed one of my favorite labs of the year.  The students take film canisters (you know, from back when we had rolls of actual film for the camera) that have mystery items sealed inside.  They shake each canister and make an observation about the sound it makes.  Then, they test to see if it is magnetic.  Finally, they make an inference about what is in the canister.  This lab is so fun to watch, and the kids guesses are awesome!  Sometimes they are right on and other times they are very off, but creative. :-) Inside the canisters are items like paperclips, rubber bands, marble, button, eraser, paper, and toothpicks.  I have 15 canisters and they rotate in groups about every two minutes.  They have to work quickly, but that is part of the fun.  If you don't know what is in the canister more time isn't going to help.

The lab comes from the book Picture Perfect Science.  We do the whole observation and inference section in the book.  I love that I get to read "kids" books to my 6th graders.  They always get pretty excited about the fact that they get story time again.  They all gather around on the carpet at my feet while I read.  Some are too "cool" to act excited, but they love it too.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Skittles Lab

We did a Skittles Lab this last week in science. Our science blocks are pretty short, so it took us about 3 days. I absolutely love this lab!!! It incorporates so many different skills from both math and science. 

Kids start by making a hypothesis about how many total Skittles and how many of each color they think there are in a fun size bag. Then, they open their bag and fill in a data table with their information.  Next, students go around to each other and collect others Skittles data. Once they have all their data, students find the average of the total Skittles in a bag as well as the average for each color. Next, students make two bar graphs, one of their personal data and one of the class averages. Students have to identify the independent and dependent variables and write a strong a conclusion. Finally, students find the median, mode and range of the data for each color of Skittle.

Students collecting data
calculating averages

student data table
counting Skittles

happy hump day...