Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Memorizing Multiplication Facts

Okay, I have something to admit. I didn't memorize my multiplication facts until college. There - it feels good to admit it!

Now, that being said, I am still pushing my fourth graders like crazy so that they will memorize their facts this year - before Christmas. I just see how much easier everything in math is if you don't have to think really hard every time there is a multiplication or division problem.

Most of my kids are doing great - way better than I ever did. However, I have a few kids who seem to be refusing to memorize their facts.

I have one student who comes to the classroom every morning (yes, every morning) an hour before school to work with me. Now, I admit that I don't spend that entire hour working with her one-on-one - I do have to get ready for the day, but I do work with her.

I was so excited when our instructional coach came to give her a multiplication test to see how much she had progressed. Well, she didn't improve. In fact, she got worse. What?!?

I sent the four students who haven't improved on their time tables home with a massive packet of multiplication work for Thanksgiving Break. Mean, I know, but what else can I do?

I don't know if any of them will do any of it, but hopefully something will stick in their brains.

Anyway, I am on the look out for new and different ways to help students learn/memorize their multiplication facts. Any ideas?

Lattices - Freebie

I just posted this new freebie in my Teachers pay Teachers store. My students love using the lattice method to multiply two-digit numbers, but can't for the life of them draw the lattices. I just printed up a bunch of copies of this sheet and they were able to get to the math much faster.


PS - If you haven't yet taught (or learned) the lattice method I will be putting up a video soon!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Daily 5 in 4th Grade

After reading The Daily 5 book this summer I was excited to try it out in my new classroom this year. I knew I would have to make some adjustments based on all the blogs I read about Daily 5 in intermediate classrooms, but I wasn't exactly sure what that would look like in my own classroom.

Two months in to school here is what it looks like...

First, we don't get to every round every day. There just isn't time. Some days we just do writing and others we don't do writing at all. I have sometimes managed to get a reading round in by combining it with science or social studies. I pull small groups for guided reading of a science or social studies topic while the rest of the class reads silently. It works really well because my class loves reading and they consider this a treat :).

Second, I know that a lot of people don't include Word Work in intermediate grades, but we do. Kids practice their spelling or Greek and Latin roots during Word Work. It is one of their favorite rotations because they can use markers and other art supplies.

Third, building our stamina was so important! If you haven't started Daily 5 yet, don't rush through this process. My kids were able to do it fairly quickly because they had been trained well through the years, but we still took almost two weeks to get to the independent place they needed to be. One thing I want to do, but haven't done yet, is pull them back again every so often to remind them what being independent looks like in our classroom.

Fourth, we don't to Listen to Reading. Well, I do a real aloud at the end of the day most days, but we don't do an official Listen to Reading station. I know a lot of blogs say this too, but I just thought I would add it.

I will add pictures to this post next week.

I will say that we don't do Daily 5 with any cute signs or stuff like that - we just do it. It seems to work well for my kiddos. :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Importance of Homework

I know that the pendulum swings back and forth over homework. I myself have thought about it many different ways over the years. Our superintendent made a big deal about homework at his welcome message this year, but not in the way you would think. He wanted to encourage us to not make a big deal about homework. There are some kids who just can't do homework every night - through no fault of their own. He encouraged us to give these kids the opportunity to do homework at school without any penalties.

I liked what he said - it isn't fair to penalize kids for choices their parents are making. I have worked hard this year to only give kids the most important homework, and create time in class for the kids who didn't do it at home.

After a couple of months of this I have some findings to report.

It turns out that giving students the opportunity to do their homework at school doesn't matter. The kids who aren't doing their homework at home are not taking the opportunity to do their homework at school either (at least in my class).

I do have a few thoughts about why this is true...

1. The kids who are unable to do their homework at home are the same ones that struggle in school. By the time they get to fourth grade they are used to not being successful. They just don't know how to succeed on a very fundamental level.

2. The kids have not learned how to execute a task on their own yet. Kids who do their homework at home started with parents heavily involved in the process. Over the years the parents gradually stepped away and the kids took over. By fourth grade many students are able to sit down and do their homework on their own. The students who have never done homework at home didn't have the modeling and help that the other students did. Now they aren't sure where to start.

3. For whatever reason - too tired, too hungry, too distracted - these kids have a hard time paying attention in class. If they aren't paying attention in class they don't really know what is going on. Since homework is based on what we are practicing during class, they don't know what to do on their homework. Since they don't know what to do they get stuck.

So, those are my ideas about the homework situation. But is homework really important? Well, I have some thoughts on that too.

Homework for the sake of homework is not important. However, when used as a tool to give students more time to practice and think, is vitally important.

In every class I have ever taught there is a direct correlation (almost to the letter grade) between how much homework in completed and a student's final grade in a class. The more homework you complete and turn in, the more likely you will get an A.

Notice I said there was a correlation. I don't think it is a cause and effect relationship. Homework is easier for kids who understand the material so they are more likely to do it.

That being said, getting kids to do their homework every night is going to increase their understanding of the material.

So, what do we do as teachers to use the relationship between homework and understanding to increase student achievement?

I have no idea. I have tried many different systems throughout the years to make homework as accessible as possible. Now I even stay on Edmodo all evening so that my students can ask me questions and get answers back in real time. Unfortunately, I get lots of questions from my high achievers and none from my students who struggle.

I also keep the classroom open for an extra hour two days a week and have offered to keep kids even more than that. Again, my high achievers love it and come all the time. Struggling students... not so much.

What have you tried that has worked well for struggling students? I really, really want to know!