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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Praise vs. Constructive Criticism

While we were learning about Growth Mindset we spent some time discussing the difference between praise and constructive criticism.  

We began with a discussion about what students like to hear more and why? Of course, praise is something that we all like and want to hear. We then discussed which of the two (praise or constructive criticism) is better for the growth of their brain and more connections between neurons. We discussed why constructive criticism can be difficult to hear sometimes, but how important it can be in our continuous growth as learners. We also let them know about a little secret....sometimes it is even hard for adults to hear criticism.

We concluded that praise is something that makes me feel good about myself, and constructive criticism is something that will help my brain grow.
Small groups were formed and we did some sorting activities determining which scenarios were examples of praise and which ones were examples of constructive criticism.  We then charted some phrases that were examples of each. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Multiple Strategies in 5th Grade Math

 Multiple strategies and justifying our thinking are important components of our fifth grade math classroom. Often times I will pose a question and encourage students to show their math thinking not only using one strategy, but also using another method as well. 

Today students were asked to find the area of one of the rectangles on the smart board using any strategy they wanted. 

As students were working I encouraged those who were finishing up their first method to think of another strategy they could use to show their thinking in another way. I also nudged students forward just a bit more, asking them what strategy they felt was the most efficient. 

As students were finishing, I walked around the carpet area and took pictures of  their awesome and diverse math thinking. I then post these pictures on the smart board and ask the "math author" to explain their processes and explain which strategy they felt was the most efficient. 

The rest of the class is able to ask questions for clarification. 

Just take a look at this fantastic and flexible math thinking! 



Math Facts - multiplying by four

This week we reviewed multiplication strategies we learned in 4th grade. Many of us had to "dust off" our multiplication fact knowledge to be successful with multiplying two-digit by two-digit numbers using multiple strategies. 

One of the facts we reviewed was our fours facts. In third grade students learned that if they knew their twos fact (x2 or doubling) they could easily find their fours facts too. 

Let's say I'm trying to solve 4 x 7, but I'm need a strategy to help me solve it, I can use my knowledge of 2 x 7 to help me. I know 2 x 7 = 14 (see below). I've doubled 7 to find my product of 14.


I know can double the product of 2 x 7 to find 4 x 7:

2 x (2 x 7) = 2 x 2 x 7 = 4 x 7
*using the associative property

Fourteen doubled is equal to 28. This is represented in the picture below. 


Why is this important? Fifth graders can apply many of these same strategies to larger numbers. This shows that they can be flexible with their thinking. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Looking for Patterns in Math - Working with Exponents

Math is full of patterns, and mathematicians leverage these patterns when they are solving problems; they are all around us, we just have to notice and use them to our advantage.

This is evident in our Mathematical Practice Standards (student behaviors in mathematics); especially Mathematical Practice Standard #7 Look for and Make Use of Structure, where mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure.


We began with this problem:
What patterns do exponents make when the base is 10?
We ran through an example and then students were sent off to explore the patterns.

Students organized their thinking in many different ways. Some created charts, while others wrote the expressions down on separate lines.

And did we find a pattern?  Of course! (Keep reading below to find out what it was...)


One pattern that we discussed was the idea of "add a zero" based on the number of zeros within the sequence of 10 we were multiplying.  So I wrote this on the board:

10 + 0 = ?

We talked about if we were actually "adding a zero". 



Mathematically we aren't "adding a zero", rather the digit 1, in this case, is changing place values and the product (answer) is increasing by a factor of 10.



We then extended out our thinking by determining what 10 with an exponent of 23 might look like. 

Math patterns are all around us, it is so important to notice these patterns to make us stronger math students. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

We spent a majority of our first week learning about and discussing Growth Mindset. We began by defining "Fixed" and "Growth" Mindsets.  

Fixed Mindset is the belief that a person's intelligence and ability is something they are born with. A person with a fixed mindset may give up on things when they get too difficult. They care about looking smart, and this often limits their true potential. Because looking smart, or wanting to look like it came easily to them, they will often seek out easy options.

Someone with a Growth Mindset believes that a person can grow and develop their abilities and intelligence. This type of person will often want to know how to improve and get better. They know that learning sometimes takes effort and they often don't give up on themselves. These type of people often see greater growth over time.  Growth Mindset individuals will often seek a challenge because they know it will help them learn more. 

One of our first activities was where we read The Dot by Peter Reynolds. This book is about a young girl that is hesitant to begin a painting. Her teacher asks her to make a mark on the paper and sign it. This begins a whole journey where the main character learns to make all different kinds of dots, even becoming a "dot expert" of sorts and her art work is put on display. We then asked students to make their own dot, a place that they were going to begin their 5th grade journey. Their dot should reflect something about themselves. 


These dots some became part of our classroom door displays: 


We continued to discuss Growth and Fixed Mindsets by sorting characteristics or actions of each. 



This also became part of our classroom displays and something that we will reference throughout the school year. 

We even talked about "Famous Failures". People we might thing are incredibly talented and maybe even perfect within their talent. Not so true, and we know this since we have a Growth Mindset. We know these people have had many failures along the way (like all of us), but the fact that they continued to have a Growth Mindset made all the difference for them!



Friday, September 4, 2015

Saving Steve - Continuing to Team Build

Meet Steve....(that little gummy work)
Unfortunately, Steve's boat capsized, leaving him floating on the bottom of his boat. To make matters worse, his life preserver is under the boat. Students were given the task to save Steve. 
Teams could only use the tools provided (paper clips) to touch Steve, the life preserver, and his boat. Will out teams rescue Steve and ensure his safety by placing the life preserver back on him?
Look at these teams working together!  They were up for the challenge!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

What Would Happen When You Can't Communicate?

Small groups of students were given puzzle pieces. Their task was to create five squares. 
So, what was the catch?  No talking, gesturing, or taking puzzle pieces from their group members. 
Students could only give puzzle pieces away. 

What happened?  Most groups had a few moments (or minutes) where everyone sat there, waiting for someone to pass a piece to them. 

We discussed how important communication was within groups, and when communication is limited to only giving puzzle pieces away it makes the task extra challenging. 
There are so many great ideas we will continue to discuss during the school year. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Getting the Year Started with Team Building

Welcome Back!  We were so excited to get the school year started, especially since we had such a fun first week back planned for our 5th graders.  Part of our plan was team building activities.

Working cooperatively and communicating with a group will be an important skill for our 5th graders this year.

Circle the Circle - the entire 5th grade created two large circles. Students passed the hula-hoop around the circle while having their hands connected. 
We discussed strategies that worked well for the group. This was important because eventually we added four hula-hoops to our circle.


Once we were ready we moved some additional team building challenges! We continued to use the hula-hoops, this time we created small groups for "Helium Hula-Hoop".  Teams could only touch the hula-hoop with the sides of their fingers (i.e the pads of their pointer fingers pointing each other). This was one of our requirements because students also couldn't hook their fingers around the hula-hoop. A big part of this task was relying and working with others to be successful, and communication. 

Most groups initially had the hula-hoop rise instead of lower until students began working together to figure this task out.