Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rational Number Line Activity

Why am I so tired? Unlike most of you, I didn't have to work on Friday, so I should be completely well-rested! But, for some reason, I am exhausted. I bet you are wondering why we didn't have school on Friday. Well, in the great state of Texas, we LOVE our county and state fairs, and Friday was Fair Day. We haven't had Fair Day off since my first year of teaching, but we got a new superintendent this year and reinstating that was one of his first orders of business. I like this guy already!

I spent Friday organizing some things for my high school reunion which is NEXT weekend...can't believe it! 10 years has FLOWN by.

Anyhow, on to more important things: my activity from Thursday. When I taught 6th grade, I had cards with random positive rational numbers on them that the kids had to line up from least to greatest without talking. It was great fun, and they were mostly compliant. The different classes would compete against each other and the next morning they would all rush in to see which class was the fastest. Like I said, this was 6th grade. In case you missed things, I now teach 8th grade and they are way too cool for an activity like that.

So, I created new cards that are positive and negative rationals and put magnets on the back. Each kid got a card (some kids got two if there were less than 30 kiddos in a class) and they were put in groups of 5-6 students. Their first task was to order those cards in order from least to greatest. They all competed to be the first group done--yes! They were engaged! They were excited! They actually thought they would win something! Just kidding...there was a small prize!

Then, when two groups were finished, I had them combine their cards to order all of them from least to greatest. Just when they thought they were done...

 They worked really hard on this and were so proud when they called me over to check their work. Then, I had them order them on the board. Remember those magnets? That's what they were for! They could easily move these as more cards were added.

 As they were finished, other kids would come up to correct mistakes. It was awesome to see them all help each other!

Just about this time, my building principal and assistant superintendent walks in. Let me set the the outside observer, it is absolute chaos in my room. Kids are everywhere. Yellow cards are everywhere. Some students are so competitive that they are paying more attention to the timer than to the actual task. BUT, everyone was participating, and was able to explain the task. I call that a win!

How was your week?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

4-touch SMARTboard activity

Y'all. Teaching is hard work. And what's even harder than that is creating engaging activities that my 8th graders won't find too elementary and will still learn. I am not a big fan of the worksheet. I am, however, a big fan of repurposing worksheet questions into an engaging activity. 

When I moved to my new campus, I saw there was this huge SMARTboard in the hallway (kind of in a common area). I thought it was weird and assumed that maybe teachers didn't have them in there rooms as I had last year at my old campus. Nope, I still get one in my room. What is fancy about this one is that four students can "write" on the board at one time! Now, we can illustrate multiple ways to solve problems, race each other in a review game and so much more!

I decided to reserve the board for our first test review this past Thursday. I created a simple smart notebook file that had the problem with a line down the middle if the screen to reserve space for each team to work the problem out. Because of the unit we were in, I decided to just have two teams. It worked great! 
The original rules were that the whole group worked out the problem before sending a representative up to work out the problem. They could bring notes or whatever they needed. However, as they made a mistake, teammates would come up to the screen to help and before I knew it, half the class was trying to answer the question. Of course, they were working and I certainly didn't want to stifle that. 

There were several times that I had to stop the game because they would get SO into it that there would be actual shrieking. Now, while this didn't bother me so much, we were surrounded by several other classrooms and had to control our noise or we wouldn't be allowed back!

Gotta love teamwork! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

I'm BAAAACK! & a freebie!

You know what has me stressed out lately? No, it's not the beginning of the year chaos...ok, maybe it is a bit. But, really, every day I constantly think about how long it has been since I have blogged. It has been FOREVER since I blogged and since I put a new product on TPT! Seriously, I have been in a rut! I bought so much stuff for my own classroom during the big sale, that I haven't had to make anything for myself! Until now...

I realized on Monday I will be teaching the real number system, and then comparing and ordering rational numbers the rest of the week. My kids (for the most part) know how to convert rationals, but not so much when the decimal is repeating. So, I typed a short step-by-step list of what to do. I tool Jennifer's idea from Teaching High School Math and put them on a label so that the kids would be able to just stick it in their INBs and we could spend more time practicing!

Want to see how I did it? Don't worry...they are NOTHING fancy...but are available for free from TPT!

Click here to download. Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Currently September

Y' is September...and it is still super hot outside! So much for fall, right? I am linking up with the Fantastic Farley from Oh Boy, 4th Grade for her monthly CURRENTLY!

Listening: When I started typing this, I was watching America's Got Talent...but I got distracted, and now I am watching Love It or List It on HGTV. LOVE this show! It stresses me out every time because there is ALWAYS something that goes wrong...but it mostly has a happy ending...which I love. 

Loving: I am SO thrilled with my decision to move to a new school. Besides being closer to home, the people are great, I love my classroom (reveal coming this week!) and my students are awesome. It sure is nice only driving 7 minutes to get there! I just can't wait to get into a routine so that I don't need to be there at 7 AM. Our contract hours are roughly from 8-4, and I just can't bring myself to leave the house at 7:45! 

Thinking: I have been teaching for 7 years (this is my 8th) and I am blessed to have a student teacher this year! She starts on Wednesday and I am super pumped. Will post more on this after I meet her!

Wanting: This is a no-brainer and I bet every one of you out there reading this agrees with me! This weekend has been glorious...except for...

Needing: A NEW AC UNIT! We came home Friday after a week of work and just wanted to relax. It felt warm in the house, but our AC is essentially turned up during the day and cools down when we get home. We just attributed the warmth to the hot day it was outside. We went for dinner, and when we got home, it was 84 degrees! Our poor dog! After making a few phone calls, we set off to my parents house to stay for the night. Our dog, Banjo, was delighted! He loves going to grandma and grandpa's house and he's never been allowed to have a sleepover!

The next morning, we headed back to our house to meet the AC repairman. He told us that a few things needed to be replaced and then he would be on his way! Music to my ears because it was SO disgustingly hot outside and inside. I was watching the Aggie game when the power went out throughout the entire house! When he flipped the switch, the power tripped! GREAT. Low and behold, he was wrong, and we needed a new compressor. However, our house and unit is 10 years old and because it uses an older kind of freon, it didn't make sense to replace an expensive part. SO, we had to purchase a BRAND. NEW. UNIT. Who knew they cost so much?!? I did...but I thought we would have moved before having to deal with it! Because it is Labor Day weekend...the SOONEST it could be replaced was Tuesday. Awesome. So, we have been at my parents house all weekend long. Technically, we went out of town for the weekend since they live in the next town over :).

I can't wait to go home tomorrow after work! Luckily my hubby will be home to oversee the repair. I'll be in my air conditioned classroom :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Marshmallow Challenge - Day 2 Activity hat goes off to those of you who blogged regularly throughout your first week back to school. I literally was lucky to make it home without falling asleep at the wheel! Teaching procedures to 8th graders is SO much easier than teaching them to 6th graders. In fact, since I am new to the school, many of them were super helpful in telling me how things are done there and so on. The bell schedule is a little different than the one I was on last year, so I have new dismissal times to memorize. I would just ask my kids how much time is left and wouldn't you know...most of them ACTUALLY know how to read a clock!? Amazing.

I was so impressed with how my students behaved all week. These are some of the most polite kids I have ever taught. My classes are widely diverse, but the kids don't even acknowledge it, which is awesome. I am so privileged and blessed to have these kiddos to call my own.

After our first day of getting to know you activities (I actually saw all of my classes for about 30 minutes a piece that 1st day!), I knew we were ready for team building on day 2. I had already gone over my syllabus on the first day which I hadn't ever done before, but I felt like I could since I didn't have to give a school tour, etc. I am the one who needed the school tour! (True kids walked me down to the textbook room so that I could issue them textbooks!)

I know I have COMPLETELY rambled, so let me get right to it! I read about The Marshmallow Challenge earlier this summer and KNEW that I wanted to try it in my class! If you want to read more about The Marshmallow Challenge, click here.

I spent about $10 on supplies for 6 classes which equates to about $0.06 per student. I am so willing to spend that on any lesson that students are going to get something out of. Here is the basic challenge:

Students use the following materials:
20 pieces of spaghetti
1 yard of tape
1 yard of string
and 1 marshmallow
I also include scissors for easy cutting

The challenge is that students must create the tallest freestanding structure out of these materials with the marshmallow on top--in 18 minutes or less. It is super easy to do this, but the marshmallow is the key to keeping it upright. Many students build the structure as tall as they can and then put the marshmallow on top...and then watch it collapse before their eyes. We all think of marshmallows as light, airy, and fluffy, but in this challenge, they might as well weigh as much as a brick!

I did have several groups that were successful, but sometimes I was too excited that I forgot to take a picture! The tallest one was in 7th period and it was 22 inches. I did not let the students tape anything to the desks and that is what was harder as well. Here are some of the successful groups:

This was the first one done in 1st period, and they were so proud. They had started doing some large contraption that of course fell right over after putting the marshmallow on top. This must have been Plan B. Or Plan E. Either way, they were only 1 of 2 groups that were successful in that class!

This was the winner in 1st period at 18.75 inches. They said their inspiration was the Eiffel Tower!

I was so shocked that this one stayed up! This one was the 3rd period winner.

This was the winner in 7th period and overall! 22 inches...super proud of these boys!

I can't wait to see what else I can throw at these kids to do this year. They are all begging me to do this again so that they can fix their mistakes--I promised that we would do it in the spring to see how much they had improved!

The best part was the recap at the end of the challenge where we discussed that most everything in life has a "marshmallow aspect" to it where it kind of throws a wrench in the plans and how we can overcome it in math. Did I mention I love my kids?!?

If you made it this far in my post...thank you! If you are looking for an easy way to incorporate this into your classroom without much setup, you might be interested in this product that can be found in my TPT store:

Looking for more Back to School activities to use in your math class? Check these out!

Be sure to drop me a line and tell me how it went in your class!