In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC13: A Book I Love



I love an alphabet book. As an upper grades teacher, we often get steered away from ABC books as being too juvenile. When this series of books came out a few years ago, I was blown away by their content, concept, artwork, and thoroughness. I love teaching about our home state, North Carolina, and this book makes an amazing model for students doing their own writing. In order to write a similarly complex story, students’ research has to be as robust. As a starting point, a book like this is an excellent class project. Students can research biographies, locations, professions, and animals. But, there are some more demanding and challenging ideas, too. What about math concepts? I’m mulling over the idea of challenging my students to write about Algorithms, Multiplication, and Quotients! Watch out kids…. Mrs. Hines has an idea!

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BC9: This Week in Learning

My students are currently wrapping up a unit on adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators. It is essential that fifth graders have a working conceptual understanding of fractions, as well as an ability to practically solve problems that involve operations. By this point, they should be able to extend their ability to model into their ability to solve using algorithm. This week, we will be spending some time working in Thinking Blocks. Thinking Blocks has recently moved to Math Playground, but they also have newly developed apps for fractions, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. It integrates modeling, algorithm, and word problems. I am hoping it goes well with my kiddos this week. I’ll let you know.


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What other sites do you use for an integrated approach to teaching operations with fractions?

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Kenan Fellows Application Open Now!


As I look back at the three professional development experiences that we have had through our Kenan Fellowship, a few key ideas come to mind and they are best described with a plant metaphor. I am not a gardener, so I may not do the art of growing justice, but I will give it a shot.

Seeds: The PD institutes we have experienced haven’t been enough to fully grow a garden, but they have been able to plant seeds. Whether it was the use of Augmented Reality in the classroom developing as teacher-leaders, we were exposed to a variety of gardens to grow. There is no way to grow each of these types of seeds, but I think we have all found a specific seed or two that we are wanting to cultivate. For me, these include growing my use of social media in the classroom and developing as an advocate for change in education that is student-teacher-leader focused.

Roots: While there may not yet be tons above the surface, the professional development institutes we have shared have built strong roots for growth. The foundations of knowledge and experiences we have shared have been exceptional at meeting us “where we are” and allowing us to move forward from those points. As a PD leader myself, I’m often the “feeder” but miss out on the opportunity to “get fed.” Our sessions, many with people I have known for ages (like Paul and Jason), gave me the chance to just sit, learn, and grow.

Water: Considering my dip in the Nantahala, this reference is probably obvious

Time: At this point, I’m just looking forward to time. I need time to process, time to reflect, and time to forge a new path for leadership that fits my needs, desires, and personal mission.

Fruit: My Kenan Fellows experience is bearing fruit in ways that I hadn’t anticipated… new friendships, increased professional opportunities, engagement in my own teaching, and learning benefits for my students.


Applications for the Class of 2015 Kenan Fellows are open now. Please take the time to consider this opportunity. It is not for everyone. It’s time consuming. It’s demanding. It’s hard work. But, it’s also an exceptional opportunity for professional growth, networking, and fun! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

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Totally Tangrams – Repost for NCCTM 13

More Tangrams Resources:

Advanced online tangram patterns to re-create

Literature Connections

Tangram Challenges from Illuminations

Tangrams from NLVM

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Photocopy Free Math – NCCTM ’13

PDF Version HERE

Some examples of Walk Thru videos

Examples of Paper Slide videos

Make an Origami Fortune Teller

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Math Anchor Charts

I admit it.I hate clutter. I don’t like it in my house. I don’t like it in my classroom. It distracts me, and really makes me a bit crazy. My school system focuses a lot on creating anchor charts, which I love. They are useful, address a different type of learner, and provide an excellent reference point. But, I couldn’t keep piling them on my walls and keeping them there, too! I had to come up with a different way to keep them accessible for my students, so I made a 9×12 version of each (which is a favorite way for me to spend a Friday night at home, haha!). I have a notebook filled with page protectors, and they are all in there, sorted by subject. I also took a picture of each one and created a web album that I linked to my class webpage. I can pull it up on the whiteboard or television in my room at any point, and so can my kids! Check it out!buttefly

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Expression Matching Cards

express cardsMy students are always needing help with the process of writing numerical expressions to match the word expressions. I made a set of 24 cards that can be used for a whole class matching activity, where each person gets their own card and has to find their partner. They can also be used for a set of cards for matching in small groups or centers. They can be solved, or not, depending on the needs of your students. They are also great for having your students use them to generate a list of key words for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.



The PDF form is attached here!

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Dividing Fractions by Whole Numbers Matching Cards

Right now, my fifth graders are learning about dividing fractions. We are focusing on dividing unit fractions by whole numbers and whole numbers by unit fractions. My kids are picking it up quickly and are even able to easily draw and connect the models to the algorithms for dividing fractions. Today, I gave each student 3 small sheets of paper (about half the size of an index card). They had to come up with their own problem and write it on one card, write the solution on another card, and draw a corresponding model on the third card. The girls put theirs all in one basket. The boys put theirs in another basket. I let them switch baskets and put together the equations, solutions and models. What great practice for them! The picture below shows some of their work. You can click on the one shown for more examples. The best part right now is that I have a full set of 23 dividing fractions matching cards to use as intervention and enrichment, and I didn’t have to make them!


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Learn Zillion


Do you feel like no matter how much you accomplish, you always have a zillion things to do? You do, but I’ve recently been checking out a great way to help with that. Learn Zillion!

There are tons of great things out there to help with the transition to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, but they are often overwhelming. As I’m learning the standards and making their labels part of my daily language, I want a resource where I can go for lessons, learning, clarification and sharing. That resource also needs to be read-able after a long week of work with my students, my own children and everything else that life throws at me. I love the clarity of organization and tools!

If you are flipping your classroom, this is also a great place to go for lessons and ideas!

I’d definitely encourage you to check it out!

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Connecting Math and Literature

Why should I connect math and literature? Literature will help students address the eight standards for mathematical practice. Remember that these practices are not what the teacher will do; these are things that students need to be able to do as fluent mathematicians.

Here are some great ideas for connecting mathematics instruction with children’s literature. Thanks to TL Connected for these great resources.


1. Stand Up / Sit Down: As you read a story aloud to your students have them listen for specific mathematics attributes and stand up or sit down. For example, if you hear a prime number stand up, if you hear a composite number, sit down. Or, if you hear a shape that is a quadrilateral stand up. If it is a triangle, sit down.

2. “Smart” by Shel Silverstein: (PDF) Have students consider the point of the poem. They can also write out the mathematical proof in her defense. Infer what her dad is really thinking. Support his thinking with proof. Additional Shel Silverstein poems and questions are also available from TL Connected.

3. Psychic Math: Have students think of a 4 digit numbers. They earn points by meeting certain place value criteria. Love this! Once you have checked it with your students, have them generate a list of the possibilities to earn the greatest number of points. (see page 5 of  handout packet) The activity came from this book – it looks awesome, despite the title’s relationship to testing.

4. Marilyn Burns: Check out these favorites –  Spaghetti and Meatballs for All and The Greedy Triangle. The Brainy Day series is highly recommended! Here’s a great version of The Greedy Triangle as a Reader’s Theater Script. Here some additional resources for a foldable to go along with The Greedy Triangle.  I love this lesson for Spaghetti and Meatballs for All, too. Instead of showing the kids the illustrations from the original book, you can hand out 1″ square tiles and have kids generate areas and perimeters as you read the story.

5. Counting on Frank: Relating to Volume lesson from NCTM (p. 7 & 8)

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