I use the website, Soft Schools, to electronically present ten fractional part questions about Memorial Day with the Memorial Day Fractions Quiz. These are quite easy, but I anticipate that some of my students will read this information too quickly, and miss some key details. I anticipate that after getting 1-2 questions wrong, they will read more accurately, and then get correct answers.
Every student has a small white board and marker that they hold up when directed. Not all of ours match, and there are "favorites", but no one fights over the "special" ones. If you don't have these, then you can just use sheet protectors to write on instead. If students hold their answer board up too quickly then other students can see their answers, and "have an excuse to be lazy", so I do a count down. 5.....4....3.....2...1..... turn. I quickly eye-ball the room, and this allows me to assess who's got it, and who doesn't have it, as well as common misconceptions, & repeat errors. The warm up here is "fun", but henceforth, the rest of the lesson is very meaningful, and incorporates history/social studies.
For this lesson, I'm using Math Centers. I haven't used these a lot this year, due to the unique challenges of this group os students, but feel that it's very appropriate for this lesson. You really have to be flexible in teaching, and willing to change things up and take risks. I know that my students have such a difficult time with multiplying fractions, so I know that I need to meet their needs in a really unique way. Our state test focuses on operations with fractions, and I know that my students have been very successful with adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators, so I want to leverage this to engage students in multiplying and dividing. I have analyzed the benchmark tests for my class, so this is how I got my data to modify and enrich my instruction.
Often times, teachers are very reluctant to use centers/stations in teaching due to possible classroom management issues. As a teacher, you certainly need to carefully consider the abilities of each student in each potential group. The centers should be engaging and fun, but most important is the ability to work with others effectively. When doing centers, I always let students know there is a time limit which is respective to the task.
Centers are not merely activities that you pull off the internet. Each task must be worded with vocabulary that is familiar to the student. The more students interact with a math vocabulary word, the more likely it is that they will remember the word/concept. Word problems, in particular, are very often challenging for students because they require students to apply mathematical operations to a real world setting. The more students have practice with word problems the better they will understand them. Some concepts can be very difficult to visualize, but physical objects can help students understand. Sometimes, students have trouble connecting concepts with the world around them, so real-world tasks need to be involved.
In this lesson, I have taken all of this information into account, and designed four engaging, real-world tasks (craft activities) around word problems. There are four bags with "clues" in each bag to help students visualize how to solve the problem; I'm using an inquiry based method here.
Students can manipulate materials, and talk to their partners to hypothesize how to solve an issue. Some teachers aren't comfortable with this, but again a great teacher will take risks in his/her classroom. Then, s/he can step back, and re-evaluate the method for future instruction of the current students as well as students in the future. As you will see, I use well-crafted problems and the minimal amount of information needed, and lead them to discover the answers and come to their own understanding of the ideas. This is far more meaningful than textbook questions.
Before heading to stations/centers, I explain all of the rules. I set up each station with some sample supplies and color pictures of each craft; it's important to note that the students are not making the crafts at the stations today. (That would take much more time; instead we have a good behavior celebration planned later in the week where we'll do these crafts.)
It's really important that this lesson is motivational. We've been doing review for a few weeks now, and my students are a little "burned out". Each team will determine what quantities of supplies are needed for the class to create the craft at the station, and then they will determine the quantities needed for Station #2, #3 and #4. Students will have five minutes in each station, and then a pre-determined person will transfer the bag to the next group.
Here, you might have students rotate, but my class won't in order to ease the transition. Students must also clean up, and put everything back as it was, and not give away of the answers. A little competition works well sometimes. I use four red, medium-sized gift bags; I want blue---a less obtrusive color, but there weren't any at the store.
I decorate the bags to aid in the mystery; they're dying to know what's in the bag, and "Who is it for?" I purposely did not number the bags, so my students don't get anxious about starting with number one, but instead used alliteration to entice them. I went to the dollar store, and got what I could find, but I didn't find everything I wanted to use. I also put the answer for the first question of each task on the bottom of the page; I want my students to have a hint if needed, and rely less upon me.
One thing that I've worked hard to wean my students off of is asking me to check each and every problem after few minutes. By doing this, students can check their own work, to ensure that they're on the right "page". I do not tell students this ahead of time, but rather once I see students needing a little assistance. My job is to help students help themselves, not to always answer their questions.
Contents of the Pretty Poppies bag: coffee filters, red paint labeled with amount, green pipe cleaners.
Contents of the Fantastic Flag bag: craft sticks, blue paint, gemstones.
Contents of the Wonderful Wreath bag: red tissue paper, white tissue paper, blue tissue paper.
Contents of the Whimsical Windsock bag: pipe cleaners, red crepe paper, white crepe paper, blue crepe paper, scissors.
Students will group members through the four stations. I rotate and facilitate. I am encouraging each group to look for patterns and relationships, and to try out different approaches to solving the problems that I've created. I'm going to need my students to be able to explain how they solved the problem rather than just get the right answers. I specifically designed the page into four "problems" or "tasks". This page looks less intimidating than a page with 15 questions; this helps with my students' motivation.
After each group is done with their stations, we come back together to discuss our answers. I hold out each bag, and ask how the materials in each bag helped students. Some repeated answers, knowing that it was helpful, but they were very vague. Others mentioned models and examples. One of particular interest was the .33 fl. oz. container of paint.
As enrichment, I assign this quick read 7 page booklet from Text Project, for students to increase their knowledge of Memorial Day. There are a few comprehension questions here as well. It's written to be used for students transitioning to 5th grade, so I just make the students aware of this before hand.
It's so important that my students know that Memorial Day is not just about BBQs, the beach, and fun. We watch the Charlie Brown clip Flanders Fields. We honor soldiers today by preparing to make crafts while reviewing math standards. I need my students to be well rounded people, & respectful of veterans and our service men and women.
As an aside, we have an Air Force base, a Marine Corps base, and an Army base about 90 minutes away from us, in opposite directions. I've taught in schools with children of military families who have dealt with deployment as well. My students need to have those "soft skills", the "people skills" as well as all the academic skills. So, as often as possible I try to "kill two birds with one stone", and combine those soft skills through other academic lessons. (Soft skills are less technical & mostly have to do with communication & interaction with people; these are so important in the work force.)