Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Closing in on 10,000 and a Giveaway!

For some reason unknown to me, my son has been fascinated these last few months with watching my Pinterest numbers. I'll admit that I'm not usually a numbers watcher, but this too has me a bit surprised. Here's this morning's screenshot of my Pinterest site.

If you can't read that teeny tiny type, here's what you'll find.
  • 135 Boards
  • 5,057 Pins
Before winter break William asked if I'd ever make it to 5,000 followers and I basically laughed. Why would 5,000 people want to follow me? I'm not laughing anymore. 

If you haven't been to my Pinterest site, you'll find these aren't your "typical" boards. There are no recipes, clothes, or any personal items. The boards are all about teaching. About 75% are related to math, the rest mainly to science, with a bit of social studies thrown in. Since I'll be picking the social studies piece of my class back up this summer, I'm sure I'll be expanding this area in the future.

This is all a very long way of saying that 10,000 is a milestone that should be celebrated. Knowing that I'll reach this number sometime before the end of the month, I've decided to giveaway a few of my favorite science poetry books to one lucky winner. Here are the titles.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Math Freebie - Equivalent Fractions BUMP!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Even though my class is starting multiplication and division this week, I'm already thinking ahead to fractions. Here are two versions of a BUMP game on equivalent fractions. In the first, students must find equivalent fractions for one-half, one-third, and one-fourth. This board contains numerical fraction equivalents, as well as pictorial equivalents. In the second version, students must find equivalent fractions for one-half, one-third, two-thirds, one-fourth, three-fourths, and six-sixths. This board contains only numerical fraction equivalents. Both boards are pictured below.

I hope you get a chance to use this in your home or classroom. Please let me know if you try it and how it works! 

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's Eating You? - Food Chains and Food Webs

A food chain shows the ways in which the organisms in an ecosystem interact with one another according to what they eat. When a series of food chains weave together in an ecosystem they are collectively known as a food web. While there are many good nonfiction books about food chains (just ask your school  librarian for some suggestions), I am partial to picture books and poetry on the subject. Here are some books and web resources that can support instruction in this area.

Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web. By Victoria Crenson. Illus. by Annie Cannon. 2009. 34p. Marshall Cavendish, (9780761455523). Gr. 2-5.
While mainly about a shoreline food web on the Delaware Bay, this book also does a fine job describing the life cycle of the horseshoe crab.  Horseshoe crab eggs serve as an important component of a web in which migrating shorebirds, fish, and other animals feed on the eggs. While these animals feed on the eggs, they are in turn eaten by predatory birds (herons and a falcon).

Pond Circle. By Besty Franco. Illus. by Stefano Vitale. 2009. 32p. Margaret K. McElderry, (9781416940210). Gr. 1-3.
Using a form that follows "The House that Jack Built," this rhyming text explores a food chain around the pond near a young girl's house. Here is an excerpt. "This is the frog / the loud bullfrog / that gobbled the beetle / that ate the nymph / that nibbled the algae / that grew in the water / that filled the pond / by Anna's house."

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard. By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. Illus. by Priscilla Lamont. 2012. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 40p. (9780517709900). Gr. 2-5.
This book opens in the spring with a family of four (mom, dad, son, daughter) preparing to plant a garden. The soil is prepared, seeds are planted, and then watered. Narrated by Alice, the young girl in the story, readers are lead through the many stages of growth of in the garden. The two chickens, Maisy and Daisy, appear throughout the book and provide information on everything from composting, to the plant parts we eat, to food chains and food webs, and more.

The Story Goes On. By Aileen Fisher. Illus. by Mique Moriuchi. 2005. 32p. Roaring Brook Press, (9781596430372). Gr. preK-3.
This book begins with a seed, which sprouts and is then is eaten by a bug, which is grabbed by a frog, which is swallowed by a snake, and so on, and so on up the food chain. In the end, it's the decomposers that get to work on what remains.

Trout Are Made of Trees. By April Pulley Sayre. Illus. by Kate Endle. 2008. 32p. Charlesbridge Publishing, (9781580891370). Gr. 1-4.
What happens when leaves fall from a tree and land in a stream? "They ride in a rush above rocks and over rapids. They snag and settle soggily down." From here they become food for bacteria and a home for algae. They are further broken down by little critters, like crane flies, caddisflies, shrimp and stoneflies. These critters are eaten by predators. Guess where those leaves are now? When the predators are eaten by trout, the trout are made of trees.

Vulture View. By April Pulley Sayre. Illus. by Steve Jenkins. 2007. 32p. Henry Holt and Co., (9780805075571). Gr. K-3.
Scavengers and decomposers play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. In helping to break down dead organisms, they are responsible for returning basic nutrients to the soil so that they may reenter the chain. In this book, we get a glimpse of the scavenging role that vultures play, along with some poetry and interesting facts about these oft maligned birds.

What's For Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems From the Animal World. By Katherine Hauth. Illus. by David Clark. 2011. 48p. Charlesbridge, (9781570914720). Gr. 2-5.
This collection of 29 poems examines what animals eat and are eaten by.  Not for the faint of heart, or squeamish, the poems provide a realistic, albeit humorous look at  the natural order of things. Included in the back matter is an explanation of some of the more difficult concepts and vocabulary (symbiosis, mutualism, commensalism, etc.). Readers will also find includes information on the subjects of the poems.

Wolf Island. By Celia Godkin. Illus. by the author.  2006. 32p. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, (9781554550081). Gr. 3-6.
What happens when a top predator in well-balanced ecosystem disappears? This story highlights the changes that occur on an island after a family of wolves accidentally leave the island for the mainland. Without predators, there is nothing to keep the deer population in check. When it swells, the deer eat so much grass that rabbits and mice have fewer young. This results in less food for foxes and owls. This is a terrific resource for demonstrating how the balance of an ecosystem can easily be upset. It also does a fine job of explaining why the top predators in a food chain are so important.

This site contains a series of short videos that describe different organisms in an ocean food web. 

Energy Pyramid
This page includes a video that describes the energy pyramid in an ecosystem. It defines producers, herbivores, and carnivores. Once students review this information, they can learn more about energy pyramids of the forest, prairie, and ocean.

Here's a video from Scholastic on food chains. Also includes links to key vocabulary and a "Test Yourself" feature.

Here's a video from Scholastic on food webs. Also includes links to key vocabulary and a "Test Yourself" feature.

This short, entertaining video from PBS describes the organisms in a simple ocean food chain.

Web Sites
BBC Bitesize Science - Food Chains Activity
In this activity, kids try to discover the organism at the top of the food chain in a land and sea ecosystem. As the parts of the chain are filled in, information about the animals appears on the screen.

BrainPOP Jr. - Food Chain Lesson Ideas
This page includes background information on food chains and food webs, as well as ideas for teacher activities and family activities. Links to BrainPOP videos are included, but keep in mind that even though one video a day is free, these are generally available only to subscribers.

Chain Reaction - Build a Food Chain
After reading a bit about the organisms that make up the food chain, kids get to try building a chain that might be found in a forest or a northern ecosystem (think Arctic).

The Food Chain Game
Kids drag parts of the food chain into the correct position. Once the chain is complete (and correct), kids can watch it come to life and see the chain in action.

Food Chains
In this activity kids learn about various living things, sort them into different categories and discover where they fit into the food chain. Habitats explored include ocean, forest and desert.

My Science Box - Food Chains
In this food chain lesson, students review the concepts of food chains and the roles of organisms in a food chain through a sorting activity. Cards representing different organisms in a California ecosystem are first sorted by what they eat (herbivore, carnivore, etc.) and then are reordered to create several food chains.

Science NetLinks: Cycle of Life - Food Chain
This lesson focuses on the food chain by helping students understand that almost all kinds of animals’ food can be traced back to plants and that the sun is the ultimate source of energy needed for all organisms to stay alive and grow.

For Teachers
Background Information from the VA SOL Curriculum Framework
Grade 3
  • A food chain shows a food relationship among plants and animals in a specific area or environment.
  • Terrestrial organisms are found on land habitats such as deserts, grasslands, and forests. Aquatic organisms are found in water habitats such as ponds, marshes, swamps, rivers, and oceans.
  • A green plant makes its own food using sunlight, air, and water. Green plants are producers.
  • A consumer is an animal that eats living organisms (plant or animal).
  • Certain organisms break down decayed plants and animals into smaller pieces that can be used again by other living organisms. These organisms are decomposers.
  • A food chain, which shows part of a food web, can have an animal that eats only plants (herbivore). It can have an animal that eats only other animals (carnivore). It can also have an animal that eats both plants and animals (omnivore).
  • An animal can hunt other animals to get its food (predator). 
  • An animal can be hunted by another animal for food (prey).
Grade 4
  • Populations of species that live in the same place at the same time together make up a community.
  • The organization of communities is based on the utilization of the energy from the sun within a given ecosystem. The greatest amount of energy in a community is in the producers.
  • Within a community, organisms are dependent on the survival of other organisms. Energy is passed from one organism to another.
  • All the populations and the nonliving components in an environment that interact with each other form an ecosystem.
  • The sun’s energy cycles through ecosystems from producers through consumers and back into the nutrient pool through decomposers.
Grade 5
  • Plankton are tiny free-floating organisms that live in water. Plankton may be animal-like or plant-like. Animal-like plankton are called zooplankton. Plant-like plankton (phytoplankton) carry out most of the photosynthesis on Earth. Therefore, they provide much of Earth’s oxygen. Phytoplankton form the base of the ocean food web. Plankton flourish in areas where nutrient-rich water upwells from the deep.

Monday Math Freebie - Oldies But Goodies

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
I've only participated in Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies a few times, so that means I have lots of freebies folks may not have seen before. I'm highlighting a few of those today.

Addition Fact Strategies - I have created a packet with two versions of a chart for students to track their progress in mastering addition facts by the strategy used. You'll also find an explanation for each of the strategies presented. They are arranged in the order I generally teach these facts/strategies to students. Here's the page on my favorite strategy, "two apart."
Download Addition Fact Strategies.

Phases of Matter Sort - They might be called "states" of matter in your text or curriculum standards, but in the newest revision of our standards, "states" of matter was replaced with phases. If you want a copy with the word states, shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you one!

Steal the Treasure! - This game is based on a game called Walk the Plank that Aimee of Primarily Speaking wrote about. I got her permission to adapt it, so I have both an addition and multiplication version of the game. Each file comes with teacher directions, student directions, and three different game boards. The addition version is shown below.

Everything on my site is free, so if you're looking for more freebies, try these links.

I hope you get a chance to use these resources in your home or classroom. Please let me know if you try them and how they work! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Strategies for Learning and Remembering Basic Addition Facts

I started teaching about addition and subtraction this week. We spend a lot of time thinking about how we get kids to master basic facts. When students first begin to work with addition, they use concrete objects and need to count all of the objects in the set beginning with one. Eventually they move on to counting up from the first addend. Our ultimate goal is to get them responding automatically to basic facts. The question is, how do we get there?

In helping students work through the operation of addition, we need to help them think about patterns and relationships so that basic facts are derived from number sense and thinking skills. Yes, they do need to be memorized, but I want my students to have a strong sense of number so that if they don't remember a fact quickly, they have some mental strategy for getting there.

To that end I spend a great deal of time reviewing strategies for addition facts. These should all be familiar to you, but there is one that seems to surprise teachers when I share it with them. Here's what it looks like.
I call these the "Two Apart" facts. That line on the addition table represents doubles facts. The "two apart" facts are in the shaded blocks. To use this strategy, students must know their doubles facts. When the addends in a sentence have a difference of two, the sum is the double of the number between them. 

5 + 7 = ?
The number between 5 and 7 is 6. 
6 doubled is 12.
5 + 7 = 12

This works because we've used compensation to adjust the addends. When we add one to the smaller addend and subtract one from the larger addend, we get two equal addends. This is the doubles fact!

Here are a few more examples.
6 + 8 = 7 + 7 = 14
7 + 9 = 8 + 8 = 16

See? This is simple and elegant and based in a strong understanding of numbers.

I've put together a packet with two versions of a chart for students to track their progress in mastering addition facts by the strategy used. You'll also find an explanation for each of the strategies presented. They are arranged in the order I generally teach these facts/strategies to students.
The ideas presented in the packet are designed to help meet the following Common Core Standards for Math:
  • 1.OA.3. Apply properties of operations as strategies to add and subtract. Examples: If 8 + 3 = 11 is known, then 3 + 8 = 11 is also known. (Commutative property of addition.) To add 2 + 6 + 4, the second two numbers can be added to make a ten, so 2 + 6 + 4 = 2 + 10 = 12. (Associative property of addition.)
  • 1.OA.5. Relate counting to addition and subtraction (e.g., by counting on 2 to add 2).
  • 1.OA.6. Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).
  • 2.OA.2. Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. By end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers.

I hope you get a chance to try these strategies in your home or classroom. Please let me know if you try them and how they work! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Naming Winter Storms

Photo by Jason Meredith.

I was a bit surprised last week when the winter storm that was heading for the northeast was dubbed "Nemo." Since when do we name winter storms? As someone who grew up in western New York and lived through plenty of lake effect snow storms and big blizzards, I don't remember a storm getting named unless it was a huge event, and even then they weren't name until AFTER they passed through. And let's face it, the names weren't very creative—the Blizzard of 1977 being a prime example.

Apparently the Weather Channel has decided that we should name winter storms. Here's an excerpt from their web site addressing this issue.
Hurricanes and tropical storms have been given names since the 1940s. In the late 1800s, tropical systems near Australia were named as well. Weather systems, including winter storms, have been named in Europe since the 1950s. Important dividends have resulted from attaching names to these storms:
  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
  • In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.
The article raises some really interesting issues. Of course, the teacher in me wants to know how this fits into the curriculum. I do think this topic provides a nice teachable moment.

You can read more about this issue at Why The Weather Channel is Naming Winter Storms.

Monday Math Freebie - Place Value Strips

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
My class is still working on pedagogy for teaching place value. This week we're using place value sliders and place value strips. I found a set of strips online but wasn't happy with them. You know what that means, right? I made my own!

I created three variations of the strip sets so that you can use them to differentiate. The first form includes the words for place value on the strip (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.). The second form includes numbers to show the value of the digit in a particular place. The third form includes no additional information. Each set includes whole numbers from ones through thousands and comes in both color and black and white versions.

Here's a peak at the file.
These strips were designed for use in activities that meet the following Common Core Standards for Math:

1.NBT.2. Understand that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones. Understand the following as special cases:
  • a. 10 can be thought of as a bundle of ten ones — called a “ten.” 
  • b. The numbers from 11 to 19 are composed of a ten and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.
  • c. The numbers 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 refer to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine tens (and 0 ones).
1.NBT.3. Compare two two-digit numbers based on meanings of the tens and ones digits, recording the results of comparisons with the symbols >, =, and <.

2.NBT.1. Understand that the three digits of a three-digit number represent amounts of hundreds, tens, and ones; e.g., 706 equals 7 hundreds, 0 tens, and 6 ones. Understand the following as special cases:
  • a. 100 can be thought of as a bundle of ten tens — called a “hundred.”
  • b. The numbers 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 refer to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine hundreds (and 0 tens and 0 ones).
2.NBT.2. Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.
2.NBT.3. Read and write numbers to 1000 using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form.
2.NBT.4. Compare two three-digit numbers based on meanings of the hundreds, tens, and ones digits, using >, =, and < symbols to record the results of comparisons.

3.NBT.1 Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.

4.NBT.1 Recognize that in a multi-digit whole number, a digit in one place represents ten times what it represents in the place to its right. For example, recognize that 700 ÷ 70 = 10 by applying concepts of place value and division.
4.NBT.2. Read and write multi-digit whole numbers using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form. Compare two multi-digit numbers based on meanings of the digits in each place, using >, =, and < symbols to record the results of comparisons.
4.NBT.3. Use place value understanding to round multi-digit whole numbers to any place.

I hope you get a chance to use these in your home or classroom. Please let me know if you try them and how they work! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Math Freebie - More or Less "I Have, Who Has?" Cards

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
My class is studying number sense and place value right now. To get them thinking about what this looks like I created a set of "I Have, Who Has?" cards for working on understanding tens and ones, as well as what happens when you add tens or ones to a number.

Included in this file you’ll find 4 different sets of “I Have, Who Has?” Cards for working on the following concepts:
  • one more/one less
  • two more/two less
  • ten more/ten less 
Each set contains 24 cards. You’ll find the following formats on the card sets:
  • Base-10 blocks
  • Tally marks
  • Expanded notation
  • Standard form
Here's what they look like.
These cards were designed to meet the following Common Core Standards for Math:
  • 1.NBT.2 - Understand that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones. 
  • 1.NBT.4 - Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number, and adding a two-digit number and a multiple of 10.
  • 1.NBT.5 - Given a two-digit number, mentally find 10 more or 10 less than the number, without having to count; explain the reasoning used.

I hope you get a chance to use this in your home or classroom. Please let me know if you try this and how your kids like it. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Science Freebie - Phases of Matter Sort

We're working on some basic skills in my science class this week and are focused on the topic of matter. Here's a simple sort for your students.

I hope you get a chance to use this in your home or classroom. Please let me know if you try this and how it goes!