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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Opinion and Persuasive Paragraphs (Greek Myth Style!)

Excitement about Greek mythology was at an all-time high as we sadly ended our unit. It was time to move into comparing and contrasting folklore and writing persuasive essays. "I wish I could bottle their enthusiasm," I sighed. Then it hit me! We could segue into opinion writing with paragraphs about characters in Greek mythology!

Our first discussion centered around persuasive techniques from another famous Greek fellow, Aristotle.

Then I introduced a simple organizer used for argumentative writing.

Modeling was my next step. (Note: This step is essential to exemplary student writing. Don't skip it!) I used the organizer to plan a basic paragraph then set to work with some strategies that really strengthened my writing.

Students planned opinion pieces to explain the character from Greek mythology they would choose to invite to dinner. The next day, I introduced the differences between opinion and persuasive writing (first person focus versus third person focus; call to action in persuasive), and they planned persuasive pieces on which character to elect as president.

After that, they were allowed to choose which piece to finalize. Just look at some of these paragraphs! I'm so proud of them!

One of my colleagues wanted to try this with characters from stories her students had read this year. She inspired Opinion and Persuasive Paragraphs Featuring Characters from Literature. Thanks, Gretchen!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Greek Mythology Character Sheets

My class is having a blast with Greek mythology! I have never seen them so excited about reading. The goal of our first project was getting to know the mythological characters. I gave each of them a blank research template, and they set to work. Take a peek at our finished products:

Every day I find students milling around the display, reading and discussing. "Wow! This one throws lightning bolts!" or "I read about this one in a different myth," can be heard.

After we began this project, I found some awesome clip art by EduClips and decided to publish a set of Greek Mythology Coloring and Research Sheets. (A blank template for those who want to draw their own pictures is also included.)


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Place Value Strips (4.NBT.A.1 & 5.NBT.A.1)

More place value! Earlier this year, we worked on whole number numeration; now we're up to our elbows in decimals. In addition to daily lessons, students are getting their daily dose of decimals and explaining the answer. Every day.

Day by day, they're getting stronger. But we still run into a few snags. Students attending yesterday's morning tutoring session requested more practice on multiplying and dividing by 10 and 100. If you've read any of my other posts on numeration, you know that Beyonce's song, "Irreplaceable," helps us with this one:

To the left, to the left
Everything's ten times in the place to the left... 

To multiply by ten on paper, however, we typically move the decimal point to the right. Ugh! That's confusing! My morning tutor buddies needed to move back to something more tangible, so we made some place value strips. It was easy and effective.
  1. Cut sentence strips into two-inch pieces.
  2. Give each student a whole sentence strip and ten two-inch pieces.
  3. Have each student make a decimal point in the center of the sentence strip then mark five place values (two-inch lines made with a ruler and a marker) on each side of the decimal point.
  4. On the two-inch pieces, have them write the numerals 0-9.

Here's an abbreviated version of what happened in our tutoring session:

Place eighty-nine hundredths on your strip. Students did this with no trouble. Yay!

Multiply by ten. Everyone knew that they were supposed to slide their digits, but some slid to the left and others slid to the right. Oh boy. We had to stop and talk about Beyonce, the fact that we should get a bigger number when multiplying by ten, and how each digit in the number should be ten times its original size.

Multiply by ten again. Good, everyone was on board.

Place three and nineteen hundredths on your strip. Success again.

Multiply by ten. Yes, I think we've got it!

Place seventeen and nine hundredths on your strip. Ugh-oh, watch out for place value! The nine should be in the hundredths place.

Multiply by one hundred. Yay! We're getting this.

Now place this number on your strip: fourteen thousand... Oh no! We have fallen apart. Fourteens are all over the place! It was time to go back to periods of three numbers (and put a comma on our strip to show where the thousands place ended). After several minutes of remediation, discussion, and practice, we were back on track.

Divide by ten. Yes! They slid their numbers to the right.

In my mind, a place value strip and moveable digits are completely necessary when teaching 4.NBT.A.1 (Recognize that in a multi-digit whole number, a digit in one place represents ten times what it represents in the place to the right.) and 5.NBT.A.1 (Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 as much as it represents in the place to its left.) As an additional bonus, they really help students learn to build whole numbers and decimals, which is essential to writing them in standard form (4.NBT.A.2, 5.NBT.A.3).

This little teaching idea worked wonders in my classroom. I hope it's something that will help you too.