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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Reading & Writing Poetry

For my last writing workshop unit in the spring, I taught a poetry unit.  I have to admit that teaching poetry makes me nervous.  And for a good reason.  I quit teaching for 7 years after my second baby was born and when she went to first grade, rather than go back to teaching full time, I decided to take a creative writing class at a local university.  We had three major writing assignments for the semester and then for the final we picked our best two assignments to revise and turn in.  One was a short story, one a memoir, and the third was poetry.  When I received my poetry assignment back, I also got a short note from the professor encouraging me not to use the poetry assignment in the final.  So it's not just my opinion that poetry is not my thing.   That note just keeps popping into my head every time I think about teaching poetry. I'm not sure how well I can teach something that I can't do myself, so I knew I really needed to enlist some good poet mentors for this unit.


I started by finding 12 different poem types to teach: couplets, quatrains, cinquains, alphabet poems, limericks, ubi sunt poems, doublets, free verse, found poems, acrostic poems, picture poems, and villanelles.  I typed up small definitions for each poem type that my students could glue into their writing folders and my plan was to explore a new poem type each day and have the students work on writing one of each.  I used the R is for Rhyme by Judy Young book for many of the examples.
Clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon.
Then I started looking for poems we could use as shared text to read and analyze.  Because of where we were at in U.S. history, many of the poems have a civil rights theme.  I put these poems on chart paper, but you could easily throw them up on the screen with a projector. 

Then I went through lists and lists of literary devices and picked out some that I thought would be good to teach.  You can see my complete unit plans by clicking on the picture below.  Links are also included on the document.


I ended up adding a few days to the plan for writing the more difficult poems.  A day was fine for the couplet and quatrain, but free verse, found poems, and especially the villanelle needed more time.  I also threw in a few writing days where students could work on any poems they needed to finish up or any poem type they wanted.  I threw in a day after  3 or 4 poem types were taught and then again after another 3 or 4 types were taught.  I checked off poem types as we went to make sure that all of my students were completing at least one of each poem type.  I split it into two check off periods, but next year I will check off on a weekly basis just to make sure that no one gets behind.

Final Projects

For our final project, each student had to pick 5 poem types to include in their book of poems.  These are the poems they were required to edit and revise.  My students were required to also put a text box on each page explaining the type of poem, so they got points for the poem itself and for the explanation.  Bonus points were given if any of the literary devices were used.  You can grab my assignment sheet and grading sheet by clicking on the picture above.

This young poet not only integrated social studies into her writing, but was determine to use all the literary devices she could.

I was surprised that I didn't get more free verse poems put into the final projects.
Many of my poets liked having some rules when they wrote.  I think this poet was creating her own rules.
Limericks were one of the class favorites.
Unfortunately this happened while we were writing villanelles and this young poet created a limerick within 5 minutes of the fall. I think it was everyone's favorite poem.  

Doublets were created by Lewis Carroll and they can be very difficult to compose, but my students loved playing with the words to change one letter at a time.
I know he says he hates them, but this poet had a lot of fun sharing this poem with the class.  He thought he was so clever.
This ended up being a really fun way to end our year of writing.  While I usually write along with my students, this time I just shared mentor poems and that worked out great too.  Who knew that a poetry unit would be so fun?  As you start planning for next year, remember that April is National Poetry Month and Tuesday, April 24, 2018 will be Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day.  You can grab my student assignment for the day here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Task Problem Tuesday

Welcome back for another Task Problem Tuesday.  This is a really fun line plot task, with "really fun" being the key words according to my students.  They really loved this task.  I introduced line plots by putting one on the board and letting my students talk about what they knew, what they could infer or discover, and what mathematical statements they could interpret from the data.  Then we headed right into working on line plots for the next two days.  This task is actually the third line plot task we did.

Science Fair Ribbons

Along with the task, I gave students copies of the size of each ribbon for them to measure.  It would have been great to have actual ribbons, but I'm not that over the top!  Copies worked just fine.
Note: Make sure to have student round to the quarter inch when they measure the ribbons. I would also suggest having them measure with a partner so they can verify correct measurements before they get to the graphing.  We had a little issue with different rulers giving different measurements, so if possible, have everyone use the same type of ruler too.

This task requires students to:
  • measure with inches
  • convert from inches to yards
  • round measurements to the nearest quarter inch
  • create a line plot 
  • add fractions
  • divide a fraction by a whole number
  • interpret data 
  • calculate mean, mode, median, and range
IMO, any task that requires students to use that many skills while you teach a new standard is a task worth doing. This task is part of my Line Plot Math Tasks, which contains 10 line plot tasks.  You can find it at TpT.  If you are only interested in the Science Fair Ribbons task, you can grab all of the pages for it by clicking here.  Happy problem solving!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Math in Practice: Something for All Grades

Welcome back for my last post about Math in Practice.  Today I am going to take a look at the sample tasks for all of the grades.  You don't need to take my word about these tasks, you can download them for yourself at Heinemann.

Math in Practice: Teaching Kindergarten Math
The kindergarten sample includes Module 5: Comparing Numbers 1-10. The lessons included in the module focus on comparing groups of objects and comparing written numerals.  Student use counting and matching as strategies for comparing groups and determine more and less with activities such as Matching Bears, Towers of Cubes, and Just Enough Carrots. When the students are ready to move toward working with numbers, the module includes games such as Spin and Show 1 More, Roll and Compare, and Which Number is Greater.  The module is filled with vocabulary and math talk opportunities, plus ideas for differentiation, literature integration, and I can statements.

First Grade
The first grade sample is Module 12: Working with Money.  This module focuses on recognizing coins, knowing the value of each coin, and counting sets of like coins.  In the About the Math section of this module, the authors recommend teaching this throughout the year with brief experiences that are scattered.  Incorporating these skills into your calendar time is a great way to ensure that you keep going back to the skills again and again.  The activities in the unit such as Coin in My Pocket, Comparing Values, Counting Pennies and Dimes, and Counting Nickels would make great additions to any calendar routine. I also loved the student made Coin Poster idea.  Many of the activities such as What Is in the Purse, Race to a Dollar, and Who Has More Cents would be great for math center activities too.   This is a really great module for introducing money.  

Second Grade
The second grade sampler has Module 11: Exploring Time.  The goals for second grade include telling and writing time to the nearest five minutes on digital and analog clocks and understanding a.m. and p.m.  This unit includes lessons with movement, such as Make a Human Clock, as well as lessons that connect to what they already know about geometry and fractions with Splitting the Clock.   One of the things I like the best in this module are the questions to help student think about time and the difference between a.m. and p.m. such as:  "Brendan said he ate breakfast at 7:30 p.m.  Do you agree or disagree? Explain why."  There are also some great practice game and activities included.

Third Grade
Module 5, Rounding Numbers to the Nearer Ten or Hundred, is the third grade sample.  It focuses on rounding to the nearest ten, the nearest hundred, and understanding what rounding is and how it can be useful.  I love the use of number lines as a visual for this concept and the lesson that allows students to discover the rule themselves for rounding both to the nearest ten and hundred.  There are also several great suggestions for practice activities that would work great as math center activities.

Fourth Grade
The fourth grade sample contains Module 9: Multiplying Fractions by Whole Numbers.  It focuses on helping students understand that nonunit fractions (3/4) can be a product of unit fractions (3 x 1/4), finding the product of a fraction multiplied by a whole number and solving word problems using visual models.  I love the use of pattern blocks to show the multiplication, as well as number lines.  This is definitely another strong unit.

Fifth Grade
The fifth grade sample is Module 13: Exploring Volume. My previous post, Math in Practice: Fifth Grade, is about using an activity from the fifth grade sampler. We built rectangular prisms from graph paper as we tried to discover the formula for calculating volume.  You can click the link below to read about it.

You can read my previous posts about this series with these links:
Math in Practice: Proficiency and Beliefs
Math in Practice: Fifth Grade

I have to say that I am so excited to have this resource for the full year.  Math in Practice has a wealth of hands-on, engaging math activities that will benefit your students.  Among my favorite things in this series are:

  • Engaging activities
  • Rich mathematical tasks
  • Discussion ideas
  • Math vocabulary
  • About the math teacher information
  • Differentiation ideas
  • Practice activities and games
This is such an amazing resource that will enrich any math curriculum.  Check it out at Heinemann.  You won't be disappointed!