Archive for Ideas

Sweet Probability

Remember a few weeks ago when I said that our kids tend to be low in Graphing, Probability and Statistics? I’ve been doing lots of hands on activities to help my students really understand probability and statistics, here are a couple of the ones that the kids really liked:

Probability Spinner:

I got this idea from, this is a great website  for 3rd-5th grade math practice. Find the spinner activity here. This is what we did:

We discussed the probability of spinning each color, something we have done lots of times. Red is 4 out of 8, or 4:8, or 4/8, green is 1 out of 8 and so on… They get that, but they don’t “get” what it means. So, we did an experiment. I give the kids spinners and they used a paperclip to see how our probabilities matched up.

The kids worked in partners and spun 32 times, keeping tally of what color the paper clip landed on. They they determined what the actual probability of spinning each color. We compared their outcomes to our original probability and students were able to see that it was pretty close to what we had predicted. By the end of this activity they really “got” that probability is not just a random number that means nothing, it is actually predicting what would happen.

Candy Probability

Another fun activity to learn about probability is the probability of getting the different colors M&Ms. I think they might have liked this one better, mostly because I gave them a cupful of M&Ms 🙂

Here is the record sheet I made for this activity:

Candy Probability:

Here is what we did:

I gave each student a Dixie cup full of M&Ms (I used to buy the mini bags of MMs, but now I just buy the big bag and use mini cups…way cheaper!) They separated them into colors and counted them.

Then we determined the probabilities and created graphs of the different colors.

You can see this child chose a scale that was too big for his was really interesting to see them try to figure it out.

There was lots of learning happening here with probability and graphing. The kids had to reduce their fractions and compare the probabilities. They also had a choose a scale for their graph that worked for the number of M&Ms they had. Hands-on, minds-on!

There you have it! Two hands-on activities that will help kids understand probability and statistics…and give you a little snack (great for a Friday afternoon 🙂


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April Fools!

I wanted to share this April Fools joke that I just played on my 4th graders…

I copied this word find and gave it to them as bell work. I told them since it was Friday I wanted to give them something fun. I also told them whoever got all the words first would get to pick from the treasure box. They all began furiously working…but unbenknowst to them, none of the words on the list were in the word find. Except, of course, the word: APRIL FOOLS.

When they began to get frustrated I told them to “Look harder.” or “Concentrate.” I even had a student say, “Miss, I can only find the word ‘FOOL'” Bahahaha. My co teacher (who was doing the same activity) stopped in to drop something off, and when she heard my kids having trouble said, “I don’t know what the problem is, my class is already done with theirs!” LOL.

Finally, before they reached a breaking point, I told them I would give them a hint and helped them find the “A” in April Fools… they loved it and they are all bringing them home to dupe their families and friends 🙂

Find the trick puzzles here:

Or download the one I used here: April Fools Puzzle

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Measurement 4: Air and Water Temperature

A few weeks ago I shared about an Alexander Day I had where everything seemed to go wrong…especially a particular science activity. Even though this activity was generally a flop, it was not because it’s not a good activity! It was a flop because I didn’t think through one important detail: styrofoam cups + pointed temperature sensors = big mess! I found this fun activity online here, and I adapted it for my measurement packet:

Air and Water Temperature

Other materials:

  • temperature sensors–meat thermometers work great. I bought a set on amazon, unfortunately they are no longer available. I bet you could just ask your friends and family to borrow theirs 🙂
  • Plastic Cups–Again, do NOT use Styrofoam cups for this activity! You will have a very soggy mess.
  • Warm and Cold Water

Here’s what we did:

1. Give the kids a cup of hot water and cold water. (remember plastic cups!!)

2. Their task is to mix the hot and cold water until it feels the same as room temperature.

3. After they think they have gotten their water to room temperature, they will use temperature sensors to measure the temperature of the water and air and note the difference. Teacher Tip: In general if the room is cool, their water will be cooler than the air, if the room is warm the water will be warmer than the air.

4. Now they will do the same activity using the temperature sensor to get the water temp to match the air temp.

5. After they have gotten the water to within 1 degree of room temperature, they will feel the water and note whether it feels warmer, colder or the same as the room temperature.

6. When everyone has finished, discuss why it is important that scientists use measurement tools and not just their senses to take measurements.

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Measurement 3: Temperatures Around the World

Since we are looking at measurement in relation to science and social studies, I also incorporated an activity dealing with temperatures around the world. Kids in the upper elementary grades are usually just starting to realize there is a world outside of themselves and they are very interested in learning about other places. When I researched websites for this activity I found the greatest resource: WunderMap. This map tool is so cool! It gives you current temperatures around the world. I used this Weblist to do both of these activities and I also have a video of how to use Wundermaps. Here are the two activities we did with it:

1. Temperatures Around the World.

I listed locations around the world and had the kids predict if they would be hotter or colder than the temperature here. They also had to list a reason for why they thought it would be hotter or colder. Some of their reasons were a little weak, such as “Hotter because China is hotter”, but even I had a hard time explaining my reasoning for my hypothesis!

World Temperatures

2. What affects temperature.

The next temperature activity we did was an exploration of what affects world temperatures. For this activity I went over the key vocabulary: equator, coast, and elevation, then I let the kids explore the map again. They had a much more difficult time with this because I didn’t tell them the answer. Do you have this problem with your students? They always want you to tell them the right answer? We are working on “using our brains” to figure things out. It’s a tough lesson–to teach and learn! So anyway, this activity was more frustrating, and when I do it in the future I will preface it more clearly that this is a discovery, they might not discover the right answer, and that’s ok! The next day I went back to the maps and taught a lesson about the equator, coast and elevation. In the end they really “got it” and loved using Wundermaps.

What Affects Temperature

Side note: When we talked about elevation I showed my kids pictures from when I hiked a mountain with my family this summer. I showed them how we had on short sleeves at the bottom, and by the time we got to the top there was snow! They loved this personal connection and if they forget what elevation is, I just say, “Remember when I hiked the mountain…”

ALSO, in our Storyworks magazine this week there was a story about Jordan Romero, the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest and they made the connection to elevation again…so many connections! My kids LOVED this story and there are lots of inspirational videos on YouTube about this amazing kid!

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Measurement 2: Temperature

Temperature is a pretty basic form of measurement, we hear about it on a daily basis on the news and weather is a pretty normal subject of conversation. So you would think that kids would have no trouble “getting it”. But there are tricky parts of measuring temperature. For example reading what I’ll call a “red line” thermometer (because I can’t find out what it is actually called) can be really tricky for 4th graders! Also, increasing and decreasing temperatures especially when you are dealing with negative temperatures is very confusing!

When I was at The Dollar Tree a few weeks ago they had garden thermometers,  so I bought one to put outside our building. Now the kids read the thermometer every time they come in the door. “Miss, it’s ___ degrees outside!” is blurted multiple times per day…but they have become very proficient at reading that pesky red line!

So one of the first pages in our Measurement Packet is our Temperature Log:

Temperature Log

We also have been graphing the AM and PM temperatures and seeing the differences:

temp graph

So that is our introduction to temperature! Up next? Temperatures Around the World!

**Ps: The whole Measurement Packet will be posted after I finish the unit…I keep tweaking it as I do activities!

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CHAOS! Review Game

Has anyone else noticed that we are at the time of year when the kids need a lot of interaction and motivation to keep working hard?…spring fever has set in hard! A few weeks ago I shared the review game ZAP!, today I’m going to share another game that I named CHAOS! (Hmmm, do all the review games I invent need to be be capitalized with an exclamation point? I guess I want to emphasize how exciting they are 🙂   I pulled this game out of my bag of tricks this week and I thought I would share with y’all. I have used this game to review in math and to spice up test prep with multiple choice questions. Ps: Don’t try this game if you aren’t willing to put up with a little CHAOS!

Here is how it works:

1. I make sets of cards with questions on them–I usually make 4 of each card like this:

Length Perimeter and area review game

2. I print them out on card stock and laminate them…or you could just print them out and have the kids do the work on another sheet of paper.

3. Then I put each stack of questions on a desk or table:

4. Next, put kids into teams…I put them into 3-4 groups and then have each team break into partners. So each team will be working together for points, but will be working in pairs.

5. Start each pair with different cards, for example one pair gets card #1, another team gets card #2 etc… then it’s ready, set, go! Everybody starts working on their problem:

6.When they finish with their first card they bring it up to me and I check it:

That is me behind there checking a can also see the chaos going on around me as kids put up points and work on cards...
7. If they are correct they get to go to the SMARTBoard and roll the dice. Whatever number they get is how many points they add to their team:

8. Then they put their card back on the stack, get the next number and keep going until time is up!

9. At the end of the game we add up all the numbers and dub a winner… the nice thing about this game is it has a lot of skill and little luck!

The game usually takes about 15 minutes of intense activity, but the kids are super engaged and there is tons of learning going on! During this particular game of CHAOS! I heard these comments: “Wait, it says perimeter, do we need to add or multiply?”, “Is customary inches or centimeters?”, “Check the math chart for how many centimeters is in a meter!”, “Miss O said that when it’s a square we can multiply the sides by 4, right?” Trust me, I can’t inspire that kind of math thinking…but a little bit of CHAOS! goes a long way.

Here are some resources and ideas:

Download my Perimeter and Area CHAOS! game here:  PDF Publisher

Download my CHAOS Scoreboard for SMARTBoard here: Score Board (Chaos)

You can certainly play this game without a SMARTBoard, just use a regular dice and whiteboard…I played this game all the time pre-interactive whiteboard 🙂

Other CHAOS games:

  • Multiplication Word Problems:  PDF Word
  • Multi-Step Word Problems:  PDF Word
  • 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication: PDF Word
  • Long Division: PDF Word

Make your own CHAOS game: CHAOS Template

*Pssst check out other games I’ve posted about here

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Warm-Up 4 Writing!

In 4 days my little authors will take their standardized writing test. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m not a huge fan of standardized testing…I know it’s necessary to hold teachers and schools accountable, but my kids get so nervous and they have worked so hard!  I could not be prouder of my class and I want them to feel empowered and confident about taking their writing test.

Enter: Warm-Up 4 Writing! For the past month we have been doing Warm-Up 4 Writing each Wednesday  to get our kids ready for the TAKS test. As you know we have been doing Writers Workshop this year, but my students still need to be able to crank out a composition in response to a prompt on test day. So each Wednesday we do a practice prompt to get them ready. We call it Warm-Up 4 Writing and we try to make it fun and exciting…my team even bought matching jogging suits and headbands 🙂

My team! The first day we did this we played Jock Jams, had our kids stretch and was so fun!

Only the nerdiest of teachers would wear these outfits every week, right? The funny thing is, we have started a Warm-Up 4 Writing craze at school! Over half the teachers have gotten the jogging suits…do you think it is enthusiasm for writing or because they can wear basically pajamas to work once a week? 😉 We also have a school wide writing prompt that we call “Golden Pencil”, more about that another day!

Anyway, as the test approached we decided our kids needed a little incentive so we bought our whole grade level headbands and let them decorate them! They were hilarious and very creative with their decorating:

So there ya go, Warm-Up 4 Writing rocks the 4th grade! The kids really loved it and they are super pumped for their big test…and then it will be back to Writer’s Workshop!

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