Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seating Charts

Creating successful seating charts in the beginning of the year can be difficult, especially if you do not know your new students at all.  I start by setting the desks up in the arrangement that I like.  Since I have either 26 or 27 students in all of my classes, I decided to go with pairs:



I also worked out how I'm going to set up centers/stations:



The star is where I'll be seated.  This way, I can see everything that is going on in the room at all times.  The way that it is setup now means I'll need 4 different center activities at a time: one individual assignment, one partner activity, one small group activity (for groups of 3-4), and some practice problems for the group I am working with.  I've never really run regular math centers in my classroom before.  My goal is to have them at least once a week with each of my classes.  The plan is to have them take place on the same day every week.  This way, my first class can set the desks up and my last class can put them back in their normal places.  I haven't gotten my schedule yet though, so we'll see if I can work it out that way.  Last year, I had my two 8th grades for 80 minutes each and my two 7th grades for 60 minutes each on Tuesdays.  A day like that would be perfect!  Ideally, students would get to all 4 centers in one day, but I know that  could be pushing it.  I'll probably have a rotating schedule.  (Still need to work out the details...anyone have any suggestions?)

Okay, back to seating charts...my students start school the Wednesday after Labor Day.  They have half days that week, so I don't really see any class for an extended period of time.  Typically, I let me students choose their seats those first three days.  I would say that 99% of the time they sit with their closest friends...aka the kids they'll talk the most to throughout the year.  I keep a close eye during those first three days and take notes.  (Without even realizing it, they help me figure where they should be seated.)  Over the weekend, I use my notes to create what I feel will be the most effective seating arrangement for each class.  I have to say, it's been quite successful in the past.  I get lots of groans when new seats are assigned Monday morning, but it's in their best interest!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Made 4 Math Monday #2

I'm pretty darn excited about my second Made 4 Math Monday post!


About a month ago, I watched a presentation in my grad school class about using literacy stations in the younger grades.  One of the activities that was shared involved students creating words using water bottle caps that had letters written on them.  I immediately started to collect water bottle caps (and had my parents, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins do the same!).  Obviously, I teach middle school math so I wasn't going to use letters on the caps.  I wasn't exactly sure how, but I knew I would use them in some way.

Fast forward to last week when Hodgesgal posted this on her blog: Fractions, Decimals, and Percents Game.  I downloaded the game board and instructions right away.  I can't wait to use the game with my 7th graders!  We don't get to percents, though, until midyear and I really want to use these bottle caps sooner than that.  So, I created a Decimal & Fraction Matching Game to be used during centers.

The game is a center activity for students to complete in pairs. Each pair will need 2 game boards, 2 timers, pencils, and scrap paper. Each player will also need a set of 28 water bottle caps: 14 with fractions and 14 with the equivalent decimals already written on them.

I've decided that the students will play head-to-head. Each will start their timer and place each matching decimal-fraction pairs on the game board. When a player is satisfied with their answers, he or she will stop their timer. Once both players are finished, they will check each other’s work using the answer keys. Five seconds will be added onto a player’s total time for any incorrect matches. The player with the fastest time wins!

I started by making the game board.  (I will definitely be laminating them.)


Next, I got out my Sharpies and the bottle caps...


I made the fraction caps first.


Followed by the decimal ones.


I also made the matching percent bottle caps (so that they'll already by done when I want to play Hodgesgal's game).


I color-coded the bottle caps by type of number.  You could also make it more challenging by just using 1 color for all.



I bought this container at Michael's a few days ago to store the bottle caps.



It was only $0.99 (which I think may have been a mistake) and then I used my teacher's discount!  My plan was to have a compartment for each number and to have that number written on the bottom.  I think I have to get smaller containers to store each set separately though.

I really think my students will like this.  They normally love anything that involves a little friendly competition!  You can get the game board, directions, and answer key at my Teachers Notebook Store or at my TeachersPayTeachers Store.  I plan on making other activities to use with the caps...they are perfect for comparing and ordering rational numbers as well!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Translating Words Into Math

Being able to translate word phrases into mathematical expressions is a key skill.  Students need to be able to decode word problems correctly so they can solve them correctly.  I have been pinning lots of ideas for this skill onto my Middle School Math Board.

I pretty much combined a few that I liked to create the next 2 pages in my students' interactive notebooks.  I decided to have the kids make large operation symbols using construction paper (using the dot for multiplication instead of the dreaded x, of course!).  They will write all the phrases for each operation on the corresponding symbol.  I also included what I call "Turn Around Words" and "Parentheses Words".



I pretty much just drew the math symbols by free-hand.  Afterwards, I decided to make and print out some templates for my students to use (as a time-saver).  I also made parentheses to cut and paste in for the "Parentheses Words" as well as an equals sign.



 You can get the templates at my Teacher's Notebook Store or at my TeachersPayTeachers Store.  Print them on cardstock or mount them on cardboard and you're good to go.  (Don't worry, you won't need to print one of each for every one of your students...while some work on addition, have others do multiplication and so on.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My First Vistaprint Purchase!

Okay, it's not really my first order ever from Vistaprint, but it is my first purchase to be used in my classroom.  (I have ordered address labels and pre-printed Christmas cards from them in the past.)  After reading a bunch of blogs recently about using Vistaprint products in their classroom, I was inspired.  (The site was also having a big sale...it was a win-win!)

This by far is the best product I bought.  They are HW Passes printed on business cards.  I am so excited to use them in my classes this year.  I know my kids will LOVE them!  I will fill out the left side whenever I give a card out.  The student will circle what they are using it for and fill in the right side when they hand it in.


They came in a nice little box, too.  Perfect for storing in my desk drawer!


I also got a few other items...they are more for personal use than classroom use though.

I got this cute personalized pen.  (No one will be able to steal this one!)


Very nice return address labels.  (I'm thinking of ordering some more with my name, my school's name, and my school's address for anything that I mail home to parents/students.)


Magnetic business cards.


And pre-printed Christmas thank you cards to send to students.  (They will be a major time saver!)


Everything I bought was FREE except for the homework pass cards.  They were very reasonable though.  With standard shipping, my total for the whole order was $20.12.  (The shipping cost was actually more than the cost of the business cards.)  And, I received everything 6 days after I placed my order.  I will definitely be using Vistaprint again!

Ways to Show Multiplication and Division

Did I ever mention that I despise the multiplication symbol x!?  I would like to start a movement to ban it forever(I even change any multiplication x on posters hanging in my room to either the dot or parentheses!)  I think that when students first learn about multiplication they should be introduced to the dot, not the x.  The problem is in my classroom, x is a variable NOT a multiplication symbol.  It takes weeks months to finally get all 105 of my students to stop using the x.  (Phasing out the dot is another story...)

Another issue I find it that my students don't know all the ways to show multiplication and division.  The multiplication dot and the typical division symbol (the line and two dots) are rarely never used in Algebra.  In the past, I would have my students copy the ways to show multiplication and division into their notes.  This year, I am having them create a small but colorful foldable on construction paper in hopes that it will help them remember better.  It's the third lesson for my 7th graders.  Here is a picture of page 5:


Page 6 will be some practice problems on evaluating expressions.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Still Stocking Up...

Apparently, I'm going to be using a black and white theme in my classroom this year.  It was completely unplanned, but it's happened and I like it.  After my very successful trip to Target a few days ago, I stopped at a Michael's on a whim yesterday.  And, right outside the store, in their sales bins, I found a few great deals...that all matched the black and white hanging containers I purchased for each desk at Target.

First, I got this great container for rulers:



(Yes, it can also be a wine bottle carrier, but to me, it's a ruler container!)  It was $2.50 minus the 15% teacher's discount.  Score!

Then, I got these two great photo boxes, perfect for storing unit supplies or manipulatives.  There were  $1.94 each (and then the discount).


They are great because they have a place to label what's in the box.

I cannot what to get into my classroom to set everything up!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Properties of Math

My second lesson this year with my 7th graders is about the properties of addition and multiplication.  I was so thrilled when I found these foldables.  (And, they're free!)  They are perfect for the notebook!  I decided to include one for addition and one for multiplication.  They are on page 3 of the notebook.



Page 4 will be for application of the properties.  BrainPOP.com has a movie for the associative property, the commutative property, and the distributive property.  (They have other activities and information about them all as well.)

These are the first two foldables I will be using with my new 7th graders.  I honestly do not think that they have ever used a foldable before.  I can't wait to start with them!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stocking Up for September

I stopped by Target today with the intention of just getting batteries and athletic socks (even though I'm sure I already have a hundred pairs, every time I look for them, they are nowhere to be found!  I actually wore a pair of my husband's to the gym today!)  Anyway, I digress...

When I was in the store, I stopped by the "Dollar Bins" and was pleasantly surprised!  Since I decided to use interactive notebooks this year, I realized that my students would need constant access to scissors, glue sticks, highlighters, and markers.  While I do have a "Supply Center" set up in my class already, the idea of having every kid stop at the center to both borrow and return items every single day was quite overwhelming.

I did have a plan in my head.  On the side of every desk in my classroom is a small vertical bar that is perfect for hanging something.  I decided that I needed to find some sort of hanging container for each desk.  And, I found exactly what I was looking for at Target this afternoon!  Voila!




They are perfect!  I can easily fit small scissors, a glue stick, some highlighters and whatever else is needed each day.  And, they are also really cute.  I love the black and white designs!  Best part is that they were only $1.00 each!  I got 28 containers for just $28.00!  Amazing!

I also picked up 8 letter trays.  Four of them are wooden and very "cool" colors.  I plan on using one for each of my classes.  Everyday when my students walk in, they will check their class' tray for any handouts that need to be added to their notebooks that day.



The other four are plastic and a bit larger.  I think they will be fantastic holders for center activities each week!



Each letter tray was $2.50, so I spent a total of $20.00 on them all.  Well worth it in my opinion!  (I many even go back for some more tomorrow!)

If you have a Target near you, I recommend getting there ASAP!

Order of Operations

The very first lesson I will be doing with my 7th graders this year is on the Order of Operations.  They have already been exposed to this concept in 5th and 6th grade (and probably even earlier than that), but some still struggle (especially with expressions containing many terms and operations).


PEMDAS is the most common mnemonic device for the order of operations.  While I love "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally",  I have stopped using it the last few years.  I found that kids were following the letters exactly how they are written, not realizing that you multiply and divide going from left to right and then add and subtract in the same manner (despite how many times I told them).


So, I switched to GEMS a few years ago and really like it.  GEMS stands for: Grouping Symbols, Exponents, Multiply or Divide, Subtract or Add.  I'm a big fan of GEMS for two main reasons:
  1. The G helps my students remember that it's not just parentheses we're looking for in the beginning...it's also brackets and fraction bars.
  2. The S (instead of an A) reminds the kids that you can subtract before adding.  Just move left to right.  (This also helps them realize the same applies for multiplication and division.)
I had fun making the Order of Operations page in our interactive notebooks.  It's the very first "real" page!  Instead of using a foldable, I used four small Post-It Notes (one for G, E, M, and S).  I'm going to have the students write what each letter stands for underneath the Post-It.  I then included some sample problems where I highlighted what was done in each step.



I left page 2 bank for now.  My plan is to give the kids a quick pre-test before the lesson, and then give them problems for page 2 based on their understanding of the topic.  They will paste the problems in, then solve (showing ALL work, of course!).

I also found this very entertaining music video to show my classes on the Smartboard.  It uses PEMDAS, but I'm okay with that (they learn PEMDAS in previous years anyway).





Here is the link to the site with the video.  They have some great ones!

One of my big goals this year (besides the new interactive notebooks) is to use more centers/stations in my class.  My plan is to designate at least one day a week for just that.  I found a few ideas that I can use for Order of Operations.  The first is a dice game.  It's free too.  This game can be played in small groups or partners.  One student rolls a dice and all students place that number on their board.  The object is to get the largest answer.  I may create my own boards that are a bit more challenging.  I will laminate them for future use.  You can find the game here.


Another center activity that I'm planning will be using a container of brightly colored tiles that I already have in my classroom.  Each tile has a different expression on it (such as 12 / 3 + 7).  I'm thinking of having two students play against each other at a time.  I'll write target numbers on index cards.  Each student will have to try to put some expression tiles together to make one expression that equals the target number.  I can't find the tiles online, but I will take a picture of them next time I'm in my classroom!


I plan on using this dice game as well.  I have a few set in my class already.  Students roll a target number and then need to use the other three dice to somehow equal that target.


Get the game here.

Equate is another game I can use as a center.  It's basically Scrabble, but with numbers and operational symbols.


You can get Equate here.


I also found these "I Have, Who Has..." cards to use with the whole class.  I love using this type of activity.  The cards are also free.  There are only 24 though (and I have 26 or 27 in each class), so I will have to either add a few more or just make my own set.  Get the cards here.


Last, but not least, I found an Order of Operations Jeopardy PowerPoint game.  It's $5.00.  But, I'm not sure if I'm going to get it yet.  I think I already have A LOT for this topic.  It does look cool though!  You can check it out here.


I'm very excited to put all these ideas to use in September!  I will definitely let you know how it goes.  What works for you when teaching the Order of Operations?  I'd love to hear your ideas!