Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easy Fraction of a Set Game

Fraction of a set can be a challenging concept for fourth grade.  Often they are still trying to understand the idea of fractions dividing a whole into equal sized parts.  So looking at a given number of equal sized groups that relate to one as "one whole set" is very confusing.

To begin, we go back to the division dots task cards that we used earlier in the year.  This gets them comfortable.  I much prefer the "we did this already" as opposed to the, "I don't get it."  Because the moment they are bored I tell them, "Good, you remember.  Now we're just going to add one more step, which is to color a certain number of sets after you circle them."  And they are on their way!  There are 3 levels of practice in my fraction of a set task cards.

In order to help them conceptualize fraction of a set without a visual, I came up with a quick review game you can do with your class, and all you need is masking tape!  

Here's how I explain and scaffold for the game.  Right before Morning Meeting, I used thin masking tape and divided the rug area into a large area and a small area.  That day I had 16 students.  I told them "I want 1/2 of the class in the large area, and 1/2 in the small area."  They quickly and easily got into 2 groups of 8. 

Next, I asked each group to line up in their section.  I wrote "1/2" on the board and explained that there were TWO lines, because 2 is the denominator.  I asked if they thought they could get into FOUR lines, with only 1/4 on the small side and 3/4 on the large side.  Once that was done, we determined that 1/4 of 16 is 4.  I asked them how much 3/4 of 16 was, and they counted 12.

The next day I pushed them a little further, asking for 3/8 of 16.  They needed some reminding about getting into 8 rows, but what most of them COULD do independently was to get 3 of those lines in the smaller side and 5 on the larger size.  I asked how many kids were in the 3/8 of 16 section and they counted 6.

The final variation of this game was to find a "mystery number."  In Math in Focus, Chapter 6 (Fractions) they have to basically "do fraction of a set backwards." 

In other words, I tell the class that I am thinking of a certain class size that is SMALLER than the number of students present today.  That number is a mystery.  However, I will tell them that 3/5 of that number is 9. 

Again, to start out they need reminding that they need to get into 5 rows.  They remembered on their own to have 3 rows on one side with 2 rows on the other.  Then I reminded them that there should be 9 kids on the side with 3 rows.  At that point, they remembered they needed equal sized groups.  

When there was a single student left over, not in a row, they determined that the class size I was thinking of was one less than 16:  15. 

In the end, we discuss 3 ways to find fraction of a set.  I had a few kids find the algorithm (method 2) on their own as they were working on the task cards!  They really feel like they "own" it when they "Find a method."  

Do you have any tips for teaching fraction of a set? 

Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT

Monday, April 21, 2014

Introducing Division Concepts

As we started to dig into our division studies, it became painfully clear to me that some of my students had some major gaps in their understanding of multiplication and division concepts.  I decided to put the main unit on hold for this group and wanted to design some activities to help bolster their understanding of grouping and sharing.  

To begin, I wanted students to really understand the idea that multiplication and division are so linked that we can almost use them interchangeably in our minds—but that our math language needed to reflect what we are doing.  What do I mean?  We often teach students what many call “turn around” facts.  We tell them that 4 x 3 is the same as 3 x 4.  But is it?  Is four boxes of 3 pies the same as 3 boxes of 4 pies?  No it isn’t.  They both represent 12 pies—but the situation is totally different.  I decided to play with this a little and made up a version of a grouping game I have used for years.  Here’s how we started.

I told the students that they were going to be a “herd” of animals today and that I had researched a whole bunch of animals that traveled in herds.  I also let them know that when animals who travel in herds are threatened, they sometimes break into smaller groups to protect each other.  I told them that I was going to break them into smaller groups today and then we would write the mathematical equations that we discovered in the process.  We counted our “herd” and found that we had 20 animals this day.

I taped off an area of one of our empty classrooms (this would have been fun to do outside as well with a chalked off area) to have as our “pen” for extra animals that couldn’t find a group.  I also put some animal “tokens” in the pen so that each child who ended up there took a token—and the token was a “get out of the pen free” card so the same students didn’t always up there!

So here’s how the game worked…

First of all, I called out a type of animal (buffalo, giraffes, zebras, wild boars, cows, bison, elephants…) and the size of the group I wanted them to form.  For example…“Elephants—form groups of 5!”

The students scampered to make their groups and I asked for help writing the equation on the board. 
20 ÷ 5 = 4 

and then I restated….“So I just formed four groups of 5? 

I wrote 4 x 5 = 20.

We tried again.  “Giraffes—form groups of 2!”
Students quickly paired up and we wrote the equations.

20 ÷ 2 = 10
10 x 2 = 20

The students were getting the hang of the game so I decided to move to the next steps.  “Buffalo—form groups of 8.”

The students struggled a bit to make their groups—but eventually four of the leftover buffalo found their way to the holding pen.  You can see their
“tokens” so they wouldn’t have to be in the pen again!  We worked
to write the equations this time.

20 ÷ 8 = 2 groups with 4 remaining
(2 x 8) + 4 = 20

We continued with several more rounds until I could see that the students were getting the hang of it!  We wrote down some of our rounds on the board (when I remembered!) and then I asked them to try to do some mental math to determine what would happen if I asked them to make groups of 9…then groups of 6.  They did a great job!  I knew that I had given my entire class enough to go on—and I was ready to continue the work with my more struggling students back in the classroom.

While my other students were working on some problem solving, I pulled my intervention kiddos to continue with our “herding” activities.  I made some cute little animal tokens (the ones we used in the game) to use as counters and we started working to tell herding stories. I wanted to see if they could apply the skills of the game a little more independently and could make the shift to recording their math equations on their own. Much like the game, I told herding stories but this time gave each student a baggies of animals—and I was able to change the number of animals in the herd at will.  So the questions began…

“You have a herd of 12 animals.  Divide them into 3 groups—what do you get?” 
“You have a herd of 16 animals.  Divide them into 8 groups—what do you get?”
“You have a herd of 20 elephants.  Divide them into 5 groups—what do you get?”

We did several rounds where the groups worked out with no remainders, but then they BEGGED for remainders! Students started really seeing the connection between their multiplication facts and the division problems! We kept track on the recording sheet to make sure that we were getting the practice with the math language and grouping concepts. We kept going for another few rounds, and I gave each one of them a baggie of critters to teach their families about “herds” at home! 

I knew I wanted to have some additional practice activities, so I wrote up this activity, made some fun animal "tokens"/counters, added in some word problems and bare number problems and put it out there as a product--but as you see, this would be SUPER easy to do on your own!  Get creative and have fun building math understanding with your students!


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Testing Time is Upon Us!


Greetings Dear Friends!
If your school is like mine, you are currently in the "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" mode of state testing. This year, Utah instituted a new test called SAGE (Student Assessment for Growth and Excellent).
It has been interesting to see how the students have reacted to the new format- most have commented on how much more they like the test because it is more engaging and interactive. So, I hope that works out in the end!

But, I will say that I have spent HOURS teaching and teaching and teaching concepts. This is the first year that I did not "stop" teaching to review. There is so much to learn that I can't stop to "just review". Instead, I gave the students 5 minutes at the beginning of class to look through their journal and look for things "they forgot they knew". Then they would share with a partner 3 things they forgot they knew. It does work wonders and it is surprising what the students come up with to share- and it is usually DIFFERENT ideas meaning the two students heard SIX things they forgot they knew. SCORE! I do this each day during the "testing" window! LOVE IT!

One of the favorite things the kids like to review in their journals is their Order Up! pages. If you haven't had a chance to try them out, you can get this one for FREE! Just click on the picture to check it out! To get them to fit in their journals, I copy them at 50% (the strips and the work mat). That ways they both fit on one page AND in their journals. WAHOO!

Click >>HERE<< to get your FREE set!

I have had many people tell me that Order Up! has been a fun way to review with their students for the text and have had great success with the 60+ sets of Order Up! that range from math and science to language arts and more!

What about YOU? What strategies, activities, and methods do you use to help those kiddos ROCK THE TEST?

Have a great weekend-
John, Created by MrHughes 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fun, Quick, and Easy Reading Comprehension Games for the Entire Class!

Hello friends!

It's Jen Bengel from Out of This World Literacy. 

Spring Break!!

I hope you all are having a wonderful spring.  Many of us have had our spring break and some are still counting the days until it is our turn.  My family and I are actually on the beach this week enjoying some fun, family, spring break relaxation!

Reading Comprehension Game One: New Learning Share

Materials Needed: a mentor text


1. Gather the entire class and have them stand in a circle

2. Tell the class to listen carefully as you read out loud to them.  When they learn something new they are going to jump forward into the circle.  

3. When every student has jumped forward stop reading and shout, 'SHARE!'

4. Students will then turn to a partner and share what they are thinking and learning.  

5. Give them 30-60 seconds to share and listen to as many people as they can.

6. The teacher then shouts, "TIME' and the class gets back into their circle.

7. Have a few students share what they heard someone else say about their new learning and thinking.  Ask if others were thinking the same thing!

8. Repeat steps 1-7 several times as time allows.

*** This is such a fun game because it gets ALL students involved, thinking about the text, and actively learning!  You can also play this game in any subject or as a review for a test!

Reading Comprehension Game Two: Question and Answer

Materials Needed: Unlined index cards (2 per student)
                             Popsicle sticks (1 per student)

Preparing to Play:

1. Pass out two index cards and one Popsicle stick to each student.

2. Instruct students to write a large 'Q' on one index card and a large 'A' on the other.

3. Glue the cards back-to-back between the Popsicle stick so that they make a sign with the 'Q' on one side and the 'A' on the other.


1. Gather the entire class and have them sit in a circle where they are all facing each other.

2. Tell the class to listen carefully as you read out loud.  When they have a question about what you are reading tell them to hold up their stick so that the 'Q' is facing the circle.

3. Continue reading until several students are holding up the 'Q' side of their sticks.

4. Stop, call on one student with their stick up to share his/her question.  Tell the other students if they think they have an answer to hold up the 'A' side of their sticks.

5. Go around the room, giving each student with a question a chance to ask it aloud to the class.

6. When every student has asked his/her question (some may be the same), tell those students who held up the answer side of their sticks to go to the person whose question they can answer.  

      ***Students will shuffle around into small groups.  It will be confusing to them at first, but they will quickly catch on.  If some students have neither a question or an answer, tell them to sit tight.  This also is a great assessment because it tells you these students may not be thinking much during reading.  You may want to have some reading conferences or guided reading groups on thinking during reading with these kids!

7. After a few minutes, have the students return to their original spots in the circle.  Ask those who had questions if their friends were able to help answer them.  This will be a great conversation!!

8. Repeat these steps as time allows.

*** This game is so fun because everyone gets involved.  And it allows students to take charge of their own questions and answers.  They have power over their own learning.  It is also an excellent assessment for teachers to see who is carefully thinking during reading and who seems to not have any questions/answers.  It works really great with informational texts in science and social studies.

I hope you and your class have fun trying these games out!  I would LOVE to hear how it goes in your classroom!!!  Please consider leaving a comment below.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you are enjoying some relaxing time before the big push for the end of the school year!

You can click on the image below for a free spring resource from my store.  I hope you can use it with your students!

Best wishes,
Jen Bengel
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Guest Post: Kimberlee Fulbright, Close Reading Journey Through Text

How can we get students to review standards taught, yet continue high levels of learning? I have begun what I like to call a "Journey Through a Text," with my students. This is a great way to:
1) Use when introducing a skill during mini-lessons
2) Once all mini-lessons have been taught and students have practiced the skills; it is a great way to review all skills independently on their OWN level.

First, it is important to have a plan at how to take your journey. What I want to do next year, that I didn't do this year (remember, it was my 1st year in 5th grade... still learning what works and what doesn't). My plan next year would be to introduce and model these skills with each novel we read. In doing so, they will have seen my modeling multiple times. PLUS, they would have practiced (with my guidance) multiple times. In addition, I want to make the process slow and steady. It is never a good idea to rush such deep work.

So, how do we take a journey through a text? I will show you step by step how to take the journey, which skills to focus on based on our 5th grade standards, and tell you a little about where students could go wrong with their journey, so you can be ready to get them back on track.

Here goes...

The skills/standards we will be working on are as follows:



* Figurative Language
* Inferences
* Textual Evidence/Main Idea
* Textual Structure
* Vocabulary
* Sentence Structure
* Visualization
* Context Clues
* Summarizing
* Theme
* Character Analysis 
* Point of View

I will talk you through half of the "Journey" using the text Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.

STEP 1 - choose a text; You can choose a novel to work on together (so you can model and practice together). This is what I recommend to begin with. Once you have completed a journey together at least twice, I would allow students to use an independent reading book (their choice & their level).

STEP 2 - Students will need to fill out their cover page with the text title, author's name, and choose 6 items to work on. Again, I would start slow... introduce one concept as you get to a mini-lesson about that specific skill. 

STEP 3 - Begin the journey. I will show you 6 of the 12 5th grade skills you can dig deep with. 


With this digging deep journey activity, students are to create a visual representation outlining the major points of the text. They must find a portion they have read that they can really visualize. Just saying: "The dog ran down the road." is not enough. If it said, "The gigantic German Shepard leaped effortlessly over the fence, as globs of slobber splashed here and there." then that would be enough details in order for us to truly visualize the scene. Students want to put general sentences here, but when you have modeled similar sentences, as I have below, they have a better understanding of what types of words and sentences can really paint a picture in their minds. 



After spending a lot of quality time with each type of figurative language, students begin quickly identifying these types within the texts they are reading. With this journey skill, students must dig deep to find an example of each type of figurative language, write the meaning of the example, and then illustrate. If for some reason the text you are working on does not have one of the types, then I had my students create one that would fit in their text. See some of my samples below:


At first, my students got this page and the vocabulary page confused. With this journey page, students review using context clues in order to figure out the meaning of unknown words. After modeling & practicing multiple times, students should be able to use the text around the unknown word in order to come up with a close meaning. Another skill we practice along with this is substitution. After reading around the unknown word, students can determine a word that would be similar in meaning, reread by substituting with that new word to see if the new word makes sense. If so, that could assist in determining the meaning of this unknown word.

Students are to find a word, and then they should EXPLAIN the meaning and HOW they figured that meaning out. Many students wanted to either "quote" the sentence with the word (incorrect); write a sentence using the word (incorrect); or write the definition of the word (incorrect). What must be thought about here is the process in which they took in order to determine the meaning.


Not all texts are structured the same way. After reviewing the different ways, students can begin to look at key words, visuals, etc. in order to decide which type of structure the text was written. Rather than just tell the structure, it is important that students are able to communicate HOW they know. They need to back their response with some type of proof. Some of the structures we have discussed are Cause/Effect, Sequence of Events, Description, Compare/Contrast, Problem/Solution, etc. See the example below:


Although texts can have more than one theme, it is important for students to figure out which theme is the overall theme of the text by providing enough evidence to support that theme. It is not enough to say that "Perseverance" is the theme, they must say that "the turtle kept going and didn't give up" as proof for support. Prior to identifying and supporting a theme, use picture books to teach mini-lessons to show evidence for many different types of themes. With this skill, students just wanted to list all the themes they could find. The proof is what makes all the difference!


Lastly, I wanted to show how we review compound and complex sentences. My students have learned so much about these types of sentences through first identifying these types within texts they read. After identifying these types, they can then combine sentences in order to create these types. Here, they can practice writing these more fluently by taking simple sentences within their text and combine them to create compound or complex sentences. Here are two simple sentences that I have modeled.

I hope that this "Journey through the Text" has shown a deep way of reviewing many 5th grade reading standards. I am sure there are many other creative ways in which to review these standards, but I found this way very rewarding for my students. I sure hope that it can be a time saver for you!!

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