Oh Baloney! Incorporating Large Numbers into Tall Tales

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SWBAT incorporate multi-digit numbers into their creative writing.

Big Idea

Students write and read aloud an exaggerated story using multi-digit numbers up to 1,000,000.

The Hook

10 minutes

I started this lesson today by recalling the details of the discussion that occurred in the last lesson about numbers, How Much Is a Million?.

I asked: When do numbers get hard to imagine? In the movie ( or book) did anything seem really crazy to you? Can you really imagine a million of something easily? I brought the discussion back around to the goldfish bowl in the book and emphasized how hard that goldfish bowl was to believe!

I wanted to guide the discussion back to real world situations to help them connect the concept of large numbers, so I asked: What large numbers, up to the hundred thousands place, do you see everyday?  Have you ever noticed the population sign when you enter out town? How many people live here? 

We discussed different numbers and determined that most numbers we see every day are a lot smaller. We live in a small town of about 2500. We are rural here, but we talked about the size of Chicago and Milwaukee.  We discussed how many corn seeds a farmer would have to plant in a field near our school. Would he know how many seeds he planted? Would it be the same as planting seeds in a garden? How many million corn stalks are in an acre?

One of my students said that he thinks that numbers get to be hard to imagine after you just can't count anymore. I asked what seemed large to him? He said sand on the beach. Another student piped up and responded with the grass in the yard. Another student talked about hair.

From these remarks, I was confident that my students could make up numbers and have some fun with writing about them.

 Choosing a topic to write about: I told my students that they needed to choose a topic that was meaningful  that involved numbers above 1,000 and less than 1,000,000. I wanted them to write about something familiar, but then exaggerate it into a tall tale.

 They like to talk about numbers and do have an awareness at this stage of what is exaggerated, but have difficulty comprehending the size of Chicago, for example. So, I was looking for them to choose a topic that grabs them!

We brainstormed on the whiteboard together. Our list: Football stadiums, sports arenas, cities and populations, Disneyworld vs. Disneyland or other theme parks, the Grand Canyon and the water flowing over Hoover Dam. We talked about the size of Lake Michigan and the depth of Lake Superior. Could we exaggerate about the amount of fish in those lakes, or the size of them?  We worked together to guess the sizes of some of the objects on our list. It was fun to see their perceptions. Some were way out of whack. I thought about how much larger things looked to me as a child!

Set up for the activity: We researched stadiums in the area using our  iPads and listed the sizes on the Smartboard together. They copied numbers in their journals as students read them and I wrote them. Reading the numbers aloud was great practice in mastering the standard.

I asked: Did any of the numbers surprise you? We talked about the size of Wrigley Field compared to U.S Cellular Field and the Metrodome. 

I continued by asking: What kind of stories could we make up about smaller things using crazy large numbers up to one million?

Modeling the Writing/Teacher Think & Write Aloud

10 minutes

With Smarter Balance and PARC tests on the horizon, students need to get  comfortable when it comes to writing about math, so I think this fictional writing helps ease them into comfort by allowing them to be very creative in their exaggeration and using numbers.

Think Aloud: I told them that I would  show them how to write an exaggerated story by letting them hear my  thinking out loud. I explained  that they are to only listen and that if I  ask a question aloud, it is meant for me to show them my thinking, not for them to answer. 

I chose a number from the list that we had researched to model and talked about how I just liked the way it looked. I picked the population of Chicago...saying I also think Chicago is cool and that my daughter lives there, therefore, I can connect to this number. I wrote this story all right in front of them as they watched and listened.

This is what a "Think Aloud" sounds like...in a nutshell gives you a little insight about what this process sounds like. The Think Aloud gives my students a level of confidence and helps get rid of the blank paper syndrome because they hear me struggle to write, change my mind in the process and make mistakes I have to fix when I edit.

After the story writing process was done, I went back and read it aloud, reading  the mistakes, thinking it through and talking to myself about those mistakes. I read it over again to model editing and revising strategies out loud, and I fixed it as I went along. When I was finished, I read the whole thing again. Then, I checked the words backwards from the end looking for spelling errors. I read it once more and asked out loud, does this make sense? Can the reader understand me even though I know the numbers are exaggerated?

It is my hope through this process that students can get more comfortable with writing as well as incorporating large numbers into their writing.





The Practice...

25 minutes

 Assign: When I was done with a teacher think/write aloud, I told my  students to choose a topic that interests  them.


* Choose a number that is between 10,000 and 1,000,000, but add in digits other than zero in every place value because I want them to write a challenging number to read.

* The number in the story must be written in word form properly. 

* Use a highlighter to highlight your number word in your final copy.

I had them do their plan/web on the iPad  ap Simple Minds . This is a great tool for students to plan their writing.After they planned, I told them they could start their story in their writing journal. I allowed them about 15 minutes to plan and then they could start their writing. I roved the classroom, checking on their topics and their plans.

* I compiled a list of numbers from 20-99 including the word hundred and thousand. They are allowed to use this list when they write to ensure that spelling is correct.

Oh Baloney!

15 minutes

Whole Class Sharing: Now it's time to share!

My students worked on practicing reading their stories aloud before they shared. This helped them find mistakes and allowed time for them to edit.

When students were finished, we shared by reading it to the class.A student shares her exaggerated story and proved she could read a large number out loud and incorporate it into a tall tale.  When she finished, we waved our hands and said, " Oh baloney!". It was so much fun! I stopped to ask some questions to move their thinking along to help them understand that we need to ask ourselves if numbers make sense. I am hoping to make them more aware that they have to think and prove that their answers make sense in their problem solving. I asked them if they thought any of the stories could be true. I heard a resounding "NO!". So, they understand exaggerated numbers. Now they should be able to transfer that understanding into looking at solutions to their word problems and getting them to read and write numbers accurately.

The sharing part of this lesson is a riot! It was so much fun to hear and see what ideas they came up with while assessing their accuracy in writing and reading large numbers properly.