Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sean Inspired {Place Value}

A few months ago I wrote a post about a student I worked with, Becky. I shared a strategy I used to help her develop place value awareness and build confidence in using larger numbers. Today I'd like to talk about another student, Sean. I've been working with Sean for a little over a year now, and it's been an amazing journey, for both of us!

When Sean and I started, he was a 4th grade special needs student (I won't get into the specifics) who had ZERO numeracy skills. He couldn't add simple numbers, had no concept of what multiplication was, no place value awareness...You get the picture. I had never encountered such a deficiency, so I almost didn't take the job. Almost.

After playing some games and breaking the ice I realized this kid had serious potential, but no one had ever really taken the time to help him, so we started our journey. One small step at a time. It began with counting and and connecting the number symbols to the amounts they represent. This may seem redundant for an 11 year old, but it was necessary. I used dots to help him see the value for each number, and gave him practice to count the dots on each number and say its name 5 minutes every day. Within a few sessions he was ready to start working with these numbers.

I LOVE Uno cards for math practice with kids, because they see that deck, they are familiar with it, it puts them at ease, because they know they are about to play a game, not work on "school stuff". As Sean was building his ability to represent amounts with numbers, I started bringing out the Uno deck. Here are a couple of the ways we played. (I take all of the "special" cards out of the deck before playing all of the games)

1. Count On

    With only the number 0-9, we flip a card over and the student tells you the next number. After a few sessions, I add to the game, by having them tell me the next two numbers, or three. That helps us bridge into skip counting where I have the student tell me two numbers more or three numbers more.

   After a lot of practice counting on, we turn it around and count back. Tell me the number before, one less, two less, three less. This is usually a greater challenge, but its well worth it in the long run!

  Count On can the be adapted to larger numbers by playing two cards at once; and then counting on from the 2-digit number. The skip counting can build from there by counting on by tens.

I couldn't find a writing program to couple with this game, and I always make sure to incorporate as many senses as possible for my students. So I designed Blast Off Mental Math. I had many other younger students who were using Rocket Math in their schools, so I used the idea behind it, introducing a new set of numbers, a small group at a time. 

2. Place Value Battle

    I really can't take credit for this, but I don't remember where I saw it, probably on Pinterest ;) You start with separating the deck into two piles, one for each player (this can be a multiplayer game, just make more piles). Each player turns over one card, they have to decide whether its value will be their tens place or ones place. (We had to use my Place Value Cards for this in the beginning) Each player now turns over a second card, placing it in the other spot. Whoever has the larger number wins!

   After some time playing with three place value positions, you can use three places, even four. The key is that once a player chooses the position for his card, he CANNOT move it! If your student isn't ready for Place Value Battle, you can just use one card and compare values. This is EXACTLY the same thing we all played growing up, only we likely called it War.

   I've noticed that some kids are a little too competitive for this game, or they get really bummed out if they aren't winning. In that case I don't use the collection strategy, I have the student Identify the larger number, if they are correct I place all of the cards in one pile, if they are incorrect I place them in another pile. At the end of the game, if the correct pile is larger I tell them they win, if the incorrect pile is larger I say, we have some work to do, and we focus some time on place value concepts.

There are a lot more games I could list, but I'll save those for specific content posts. What about you? Do you have a game you play with UNO cards, or similar playing cards (Skip-Bo works well to)? Share your game in the comments below!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Little Successes = Big Rewards!

Don't you just love it when one of your students makes a big step forward? Its like watching your favorite underdog team win the big game ;) Tonight that happened for me, so I had to get on here and share with you.

I just started working with a new 5th grader about a month ago. Her family had moved to our area only a few months before, and the school change caused a little snag for her. She's a bright girl and has a lot of mental math capacity. So I was extremely excited to be working with her.

Here's the catch. The kid is adding, subtracting, and even simplifying fractions in her head, yet she's still counting simple numbers on her fingers! Something was missing a few years ago. Parents tell me her teachers hadn't focused on memorizing facts, she had no automaticity at all. :(

Note to all elementary teachers reading this right now, sorry to call you out, I don't mean to...
Please, let me say that again, PLEASE spend some quality time developing automaticity with your students! I know it takes time and resources that you really don't have, BUT it catches up to them later if they don't get this early on. I have 9th graders who still count 43+2 on their fingers!! 5-10 minutes a day, that's all a little fluency program like Rocket Math will take, and it will mean SO much to your students later!!

Well, needless to say, I didn't start this student out where she was in class. This isn't a homework helping situation. (Although I do offer to help her there as well, its just not our focus). Instead we went back to adding. Yes you read that right, I told a 10 year old student that we are going to focus on adding SIMPLE numbers. If you are familiar with the Rocket Math series, it starts out with numbers 1-9 plus 1, and only works through 9+9. That's pretty simple for a student who can simplify fractions in her head!

So we set some goals, and filled out the goal sheet I use with all of my students. She seemed excited and it looked like she had a good system of support to keep her on track with extra practicing between sessions. 

Goal Setting and Monitoring
I thought she'd move ahead rather quickly. I was wrong! Not only was she NOT practicing in between our sessions, she wasn't getting the support I thought she would. But that's really typical, as sad as that is. We moved forward at snail speed. 

Until today. When I mentioned the date and that I knew we were approaching her halfway goal, I asked her what we have to do to make sure she's completing her practices. She immediately went to the fridge and grabbed her goal chart. She handed it to me and told me we hadn't written any updates on it yet, she needed to see where she was at! AMAZING kid I tell ya! So we looked it over and marked off where she was (not even a quarter way to her goal), then we looked over what she had been working on, and I said, let's get busy!

I let her warm up her mind playing the Match Up Puzzles I made to correspond with the Levels, then we hit the speed drills.

Rock Star Addition Match Up Puzzles
I said her fingers must have been on fire she was writing and answering CORRECTLY so fast! She beat every record she'd previously set and started new levels at a faster rate than some of her more recent attempts. She was actually answering the facts FASTER than what her writing speed assessment said she could do! All the while, she was SMILING! When a kid just starts to do what they know they should be able to do, it feels good, for THEM and the one who helped them accomplish. Just one of the little rewards of being a tutor :)

What are some little victories you've experienced lately?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Book Review: Ziggie Tales

This past week I have had the opportunity to review a new book by Kathleen M Wainwright. The book will be released on April 19th, so watch for it!

The story line is cute and you can read what my 9 year old daughter thought about it here. We decided to use this opportunity to launch her book review page on this blog. She's excited, and really connected with the main character, Marley.

Marley is a typical, eccentric 7 year old girl who has 2 best friends, her cat Ziggie and the rational Layla. When Marley cooks up a scheme, Layla is there to keep her in line. Everyone needs a friend like that!

Through a hard situation, Marley learns some valuable lessons about life and responsibility. A young reader will enjoy the adventure, mystery, and drama as it unfolds.

The author has put together a packet of companion activities for this book, and you get a sneak peek at that for FREE today, just for stopping by to read about this new book! Here's the link to a few activities to get your young readers acquainted with autobiographical poems. I know my little reviewer is excited to some of these going. I'll post here finished poetry after she uploads her next review ;).

Here's a chance to win this book for your young reader! You can come back and enter the drawing everyday of the book tour, so stop back and enter as many times as you can. The same drawing will be on all the blogs on the tour, so you can enter on any of blogs you visit.

Watch this post over the next few days as more of the details of the virtual book tour are released. I hear there will be some companion activities for this book, several other bloggers will be sharing other perspectives of the book, and a giveaway! So stay tuned ;)

So you don't miss any of the fun, here's a link-up of all the other blogs hosting this tour!

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