Friday, September 23, 2016

Tables and Measurement Conversions

This week we spent lots of time looking at sets of data in a table, and finding the relationship. It's often easy for students to find the pattern and fill in missing information. What can be difficult is trying to use number sentences to describe the pattern. Often our kids are shown a table, then given words that describe it to determine which descriptions are correct and which aren't. We spend time practicing actually plugging in the data to check the description.
This week your child was given a picture of a vehicle. They had to determine how many wheels the vehicle had, then create a table to prove how many of their vehicles were needed to reach 24 wheels. After we finished, we describe the table in many ways, then determined which of our descriptions were correct and which weren't.

Next we discussed how tables could help us with measurement conversions. The students figured out they are a great tool in keeping our conversion work organized!

Monday, September 19, 2016


Rounding numbers is often taught in a very rule-based way, not conceptually.
"Just look at the next door neighbor and if it's 5 or higher, the number goes up. If it's 4 or less, the number goes down."
That probably sound really familiar to most adults. There are even a ton of cute sayings to help us remember this idea.
I like to focus on a couple of things when teaching rounding. Firstly, I ditch the phrase, "goes down" and replace it with "stays the same." The number in the position you're rounding never goes down. It either goes up or stays the same. This can be confusing for some. Secondly, and most importantly, we start rounding by placing numbers on a number line. This helps us determine if the number rounds up, or stays the same.
For example, if we're rounding 437,284 to the nearest hundred, we would make a number line. One end of the number line will be labeled with the hundred thousand the number is already in - 400,000. The high end of the number line will be labeled with the next hundred thousand - 500,000. Next we find the middle of the number line - 450,000. Finally we determine if the number falls to the left of 450,000 or to the right of 450,000. We do this by focusing on the ten thousands place (this is where the whole "look next door" idea originates.)

After we practiced this MANY times, rounding to MANY different places, we moved to the shortcut.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Relationship of Numbers in our Place Value System

One of the most important concepts a child can learn is number sense. This week we spent a lot of time investigating what happens as we move left or right in our number system, and comparing numbers in different places in our place value system. We related them to each other by describing their relationship. Using equations to describe the relationship is a pretty big concept for 4th graders to grasp. We spent lots of time writing equations to describe them. I tried to color code my journal examples so it makes sense.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Place Value, Expanded Form, and Number Line

This week has been all about place value. We started our discussion with the importance between the words "place" and "value". We practiced writing numbers in word and expanded form, and spent lots of time practicing saying numbers correctly. In 4th grade, the expanded form changes a bit so that we focus more on the multiplication involved. For example, 28,437 would look like (2 x 10,000) + (8 x 1,000) + (4 x 100) + (3 x 10) + (7 x 1). Today, we focused on putting these numbers on a number line and correctly identifying the intervals of the number lines.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Frequency Tables, Dot Plots, and Stem and Leaf Plots

This week we focused on ways to collect and organize data. We began by making frequency charts and dot plots, which aren't new for 4th graders. We simply reviewed their set-up and purpose. We then moved to stem and leaf plots. These are new for 4th graders, so we spent a whole math block just creating them with made-up data. The next day we brought in some already-made stem and leaf plots so that we could really evaluate them to determine what they represented.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Classroom Culture

One of the most important things that happens at the beginning of each year is the setting of expectations. I like to put my students in charge of how our classroom is run (with some limits, of course!), and want their input on what will make this a successful year.

We began with a Classroom Culture Gallery Walk. The students answered answering six prompts - What do I hope to learn this year? What can Mrs. May do to help me be successful? What do I have to do in order to be successful? School should always be ________. School is important because _________. What should students in our classroom be doing to make our classroom run as smoothly as possible?

After every student had answered the prompts, we did a gallery walk around to look at the different responses. These responses led to the creation of our Classroom Culture Code. I got this idea from a teacher blog several years ago, but cannot remember whose in order to credit it. If you know, please let me know!

Later this week we worked on center expectations. Each student wrote five ideas regarding effective center time. After they wrote their ideas, they got into groups and tried to categorize and title their ideas. When they were finished, we combined them into our Center Time Rules. This idea came from my summer professional development with Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Happy New Year!!!

Here's to new beginnings! One of the biggest perks of being a teacher is that every year is a fresh start! Everything is shiny and new, and it's a great time to reinvent ourselves and remember why it is we do what we do. My personal goal is to get better and better. I never want to stop growing, both as a teacher and as a person. So my "New Year's Resolution" every year is simple - be better than you were last year.

Four years ago I created this blog, as my resolution was to become an even better communicator. I keep this blog and send the link, along with class information, every Friday in my weekly e-mail to parents. A great deal of what we do is in our journals, so this blog has been a great way for parents to see what we're doing in class. I'll post picture examples of our activities every week. So please enjoy the picture evidence of the amazing thinking going on in the 4th grade!! Happy New Year!!!