Sunday, November 23, 2014

BIG things in math - Part 3

Read part one and part two to see how my fifth grade students began using Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada's "Out of Many, One" in math class.

After figuring out the square footage and weight of the materials used for "Out of Many, One," I wanted to give my students the opportunity to create something large. My original plan was to go outside and measure our school's field, make a scale drawing of the field, figure out an image that would fit the shape, and then use string to mark a portion of the artwork in a little-used corner of the field. A week of very rainy days made that plan impossible, so we figured out a suitable indoor alternative.

My fifth grade math students separated into two teams to design large posters for one of our school's hallways. I showed my kids the wall spaces available for posters before giving them a selection of different size graph paper and the requirement to include a quote or slogan that represented a growth mindset, but otherwise I left them alone to come up with something. 

Our spaces had obstacles including a fire extinguisher
The first day of work on the project consisted mostly of measuring the space for the poster. Both groups recorded a number of measurements, but had a difficult time translating those to a scale drawing. Seeing that my students needed some more experience with scale drawings, we spent part of the next class period looking at diagrams, blueprints, and other scale drawings and discussing how large objects were represented accurately in smaller drawings. We also looked at our second activity with "Out of Many, One" in an attempt to see how we previously worked with scale.

It didn't take long from there for students to complete their scale drawings. When they presented them to me for approval, I asked how much butcher paper they needed and how large the writing and other features would be on the poster to double-check their scale drawings.

Next, students divided up the work on their posters. It was interesting to see how one group put assigned members certain squares from the graph paper while the other group chose one person to work on text and others to complete specific drawings on their poster.
This group used 1/2 inch graph paper

Both groups ran into trouble with teamwork along the way. I did my best to let them solve their issues, but I had to step in a couple times to help. One group had a very difficult time drawing objects on the big poster to the correct scale based on their scale drawing. I frequently checked in and had them look back at the scale drawing to confirm that their poster matched the plan.
Turning the scale drawings into large murals
took a lot of careful measuring

In the end, my students created some nice art for a bare spot in the hallway, got some practice measuring & multiplying, and learned a bit about scale drawings. It definitely took longer than I planned. We spent three full math periods working on the project and used the last ten to fifteen minutes of class frequently for about two weeks. Still, the students really enjoyed the project and it gave them a chance to demonstrate their budding understanding of scale. If I do this with next year's fifth graders, I would want to give them some more opportunities to work with scale drawings before getting to this project and I would want to speed up the process of creating the final posters. Still, it was a fun project and it makes me excited to find more extended problem solving opportunities for all of my math groups. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Seeking enrichment for all

Teaching in an advanced learning program, the idea of enrichment drives so much of what I do. I'm always trying to go beyond our curriculum to provide my students deeper understanding. It's terrific! I love seeing what my students can do and sharing all of those enrichment opportunities with them.

But my students make up about 20% of my school's population in grades 3-5. What about the other 80%? What about the younger kids? If my job is to provide enrichment, how can I provide enrichment to all?

My first attempt to provide enrichment to all is our Invent Idaho competition. I participated three times when I was in elementary school: adapting a phone cord as a dog leash, creating a cat food container that was also a serving dish, and making a mash-up of Tiddly Winks and the Game of Life. The competition challenges students to create something. They keep an inventor's journal with their thoughts and sketches, build a prototype, and make a display board to share their invention with the world (or at least everyone at their school).

Last week some of my reading switch groups were canceled due to testing, so I took the opportunity to visit other classrooms and get the whole school (not just the kids officially in my program) fired up about inventing. It was awesome! Since visiting the first and second graders, I think I've had at least half a dozen of the little guys come up to me each day and tell me an invention idea. A fifth grader I never met before visiting his class has come to see me twice during recess to show me blueprints and dig through my tinker box for materials. I think we're in for some awesome inventions at our competition this year!

I shared this video with all the classes I visited

I'll put some posters up around the school, make a few guest appearances on our morning announcements, and keep encouraging the inventors I meet in the hallway. Hopefully that will result in a wide reach for this enrichment opportunity.

We're still about a month away from our school competition, but I'm already asking myself how I can provide more enrichment for all opportunities. The next one on the calendar are the classroom and school spelling bees I coordinate in January. Like any teacher, my time is limited, but I know there have to be more ways that I can help provide some great opportunities for all the kids at my school. Do you have an enrichment for all opportunity that works in your school? Please let me know in the comments. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...