Monday, December 1, 2014

Introduction to Fractions

We have started to discuss fractions! By 4th grade, the kiddos have had a ton of practice naming fractions of a shape, as well as naming fractions of a set of objects. We continued that practice and discussed the definitions of the numerator and denominator. We also extended our knowledge by figuring out how to find fractions of a number, such as 12 and 24.
We began by pulling out 12 squares and physically dividing them up into equal groups. It didn't take the kids long to figure out that to find fractions of a number, all they had to do was divide the number by the denominator of the fraction they were looking to find. For example, if they want to find 1/4 of 24, they could just divide 24 into 4 equal groups. Since 6 would be in each group, 1/4 of 24 is 6. Finally, we discussed how, if we found 1/4, we could also find 2/4, 3/4, etc.

Finding fractions of 24

Friday, November 7, 2014

Describing Relationships Among Numbers in a Table

When we talk about relationships between numbers on a table, we really go two different directions with it. First, we dipped our toes into algebraic thinking by discussing variables and algebraic expressions. We used variables to look at different tables and either determine the rule of the table, or use the rule to fill in missing information in the table.  
Secondly, we discussed different ways we can describe a table. Developmentally, this is harder for a 4th grader than you might think. We began by looking at the relationship between the numbers 1 and 5. I asked the kids to think of a real-life relationship between 1 and 5. Someone said hands and fingers. We started discussing how many fingers are on 1 hand, 3 hands, 6 hands, etc. I asked them how we might organize our information so that we could see the relationship more clearly. We decided to make a table. Once our table was made, we looked at our relationship and came up with ways to describe it. The hardest part about this is that the kids tend to want to describe it in a way that is opposite of what is actually happening. For example, one of the ways our table was described was, "The number of hands is the number of fingers multiplied by 5." This is opposite of what is really there. This is a very common mistake for 4th graders! It led to a great discussion, though, about looking at what is reasonable. Could we ever have more hands than fingers? Not unless we'd had some very unfortunate circumstances. ;)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Forms of Energy Found in our Rooms

As we finished up our investigation of different forms of energy, we made a picture of a room that had to contain at least one example of each form of energy (mechanical, sound, electrical, thermal, solar.) The kids had to label each form of energy used and/or produced in the picture, then list them out on the side of the page.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Volume and Mass

Today we practiced finding the mass and volume of different objects. First I asked the students to come up with some way to organize their information in their journals. Most eventually ended up with a table. To find the volume, we measured the water displacement after the object was placed in a graduated cylinder of 200 mL of water. To measure the mass, we used a triple beam balance. The most challenging object with regards to mass was the ball, which wouldn't stop rolling off the triple beam balance. Eventually the students realized they would need something to hold it. They chose a beaker, and figured out how to measure the mass of the ball without including the mass of the beaker - measure the mass of the beaker separately, measure the mass of the beaker and ball together, then subtract the mass of the beaker. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Glow Stick Investigation

Glow stick dipped in hot water

Glow stick dipped in hot water

Glow stick dipped in hot water, then again in cold water at the bottom. You can see the difference!
We continued our discussion of the behavior of atoms this week with a glow stick investigation. We activated our glow sticks by popping them, making the liquids inside interact to cause the glow. Then we dipped the glow stick in hot water, and it immediately got much brighter. We discussed the reason for this was because those atoms are getting more and more energized by the thermal energy, so the chemical reaction causing the glow was happening faster. When we dipped the glow stick in the cold water, the color immediately dulled due to the loss of energy. The atoms began to slow down. Fun activity!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Subtraction Strategies

I began our exploration of subtraction strategies just as I did for addition strategies. I gave all the students the same subtraction problem, and let them solve the problem however they wanted. I selected several students to write their strategies on the board. Just as with addition, the kiddos were shocked at how many different ways their friends solved the same problem! We focused on two different strategies for subtraction: Number Line (which can look three different ways) and Subtracting by Place Value.

Particles in Different States of Matter

Our particles made out of stickers
We've been discussing ways to classify matter, and one way is by states of matter. By the time I get 4th graders, they've had lots of exposure to solids, liquids, and gases. Determining the state of matter for an object is nothing new. It's my job to introduce how heat can affect a state of matter, and what happens to the particles as the state changes.

We began by marking off a "jar" on the floor. We just used chairs as our boundaries. We packed ourselves into the "jar" and pretended to be the particles of a solid block of ice, frozen in a jar in the freezer. We were all touching, and no one was really moving much. Then we pretended someone took us out of the freezer and sat us down on the counter of a comfortably-warm room, so we started to slowly melt into a liquid. We began to move around and bump into each other, still within our jar. Finally, someone held us over the stove, so we began to move faster and faster, bumping into each other and the walls of the jar, until finally we became a gas and came out of the jar and flew around the room. We compared the particles of a gas to a sugared-up toddler. Ha ha!! Then we went in reverse and eventually became a liquid, then a solid again.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Scientific Method

The last two days of science class have been all about the scientific method. We decided to do an experiment to determine what effects different liquids would have on the physical properties of gummy bears. We used a glass of water as our control, then brought in a glass of vinegar, a glass of water/baking soda, and a glass of water/salt. Before we put the gummy bears in the solutions, we first measured their length, width, thickness, and mass. We also observed their physical traits. Then we added the gummy bears to the solutions and left them overnight. The next day we observed their physical traits and again measured their length, width, and thickness. I hadn't ever done this experiment before, so I was pretty surprised by the differences we saw!!

Our gummy bears in relation to the normal one in front

Measuring the gummy bear left in salt

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tools Search

A student example of our journal entry

A student example of our journal entry
In science this week we did some research on our Mac Books. The students were challenged to find a picture of these different tools, then write the name and describe their use(s). I thought this might be more fun and meaningful than me showing them the tools and telling them the information. I had lots of great-looking journals!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Apple Observation

An example of our apple observation
Today in science we practiced our observation skills by observing an apple. There were two reasons we did this: 1. To practice what documenting a good observation in our journals should look like. 2. We had just finished learning about the difference between an observation and an inference, so I wanted the kids to practice strictly focusing on observing the facts. They did a great job! We're going to have some good-looking journals this year!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Observation vs. Inference

Observation vs. Inference Journal Entry
This was our journal entry for observation versus inference. I began this lesson by acting out a skit (the kids not involved in the skit had no idea what was going on!) while we were cleaning up our math centers to get ready for science. I purposely had a few kids leave a mess at their center, then I made a scene about how upset I was. The children who made the mess had a really hard time keeping a straight face, but they did a great job! Now, let me make it clear I don't do this for very long because I don't want the other kids to start to worry. But boy, talk about hooking their attention! Their eyes were glued! I basically just acted WAY over the top and told them they were never doing centers again as long as they were in the 4th grade, and they were going to clean my room during recess for the next month. Once the kids and I started to laugh because we couldn't hold it in any longer, we discussed what they observed me doing, and what they inferred from their observations. Then I acted out a few more scenarios and we looked at some pictures and discussed those observations and inferences as well.

The kids will learn about making an inference in language arts, but it never hurts to hit it a little in science as well. This always proves to be a hard concept to grasp at 9-years-old! Really the main idea I wanted the kiddos to grab was that observations are strictly the facts about what's going on. When making an observation in science, it's very important to keep opinions and prior knowledge out of your observations. Those can be brought in later, when analyzing data and deciding which direction to go in an experiment.

One thing that's not on our journal page (and we'll probably add Tuesday) is the idea of using our prior knowledge. We discussed it in class, but forgot to add it in the journal. In class, we talked about how we make an educated guess by using the knowledge we already have that's stored in our little "file folders" in our brain.

Journal Example


When we begin our journals, I really try to emphasize the importance of neatness. Clean lines, neat handwriting, clear messages, etc. all make it much easier to find helpful information. We added our first journal entry together as we discussed what guidelines we should follow when writing in our journals. The student picked any two-digit number, and then completed three activities using it. We walked through neatly dividing our page into three sections, giving each section a title, then completing the activity. What do I know about the number? How can I get to the number? and Word problem where my number is the answer. I kept in fairly simple, since the main goal was to discuss journal guidelines.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Introducing Centers with Wipe Out!

Wipe Out game card
Center response card

This week I introduced how centers will work in my room. We always start small with only one center so we can discuss expectations and practice appropriate behavior. I introduced a new game called Wipe Out. In this partner game, the kids cover up all the numbers with a marker. They take turn rolling two number cubes and using any operation to remover a marker. For example, if the child rolled a two and a three, he could add the two numbers and uncover the five, he could multiply to uncover the six, or he could subtract and uncover the three. The strategy comes in when they realize their first operation choice may give them an answer that's already been uncovered. They must then see if another operation will work. The winner is the first to clear the board. I always love to hear the discussion that comes with this game. They kids are always good about helping each other out!

When the students finished playing the game, they were responsible for filling out the center response card. I try to always have some sort of accountability in my game centers. Because I'm pulling a small group in the back and can't always see everything that goes on in the game centers, this helps me see who really played the game and who wasn't as involved as was expected.
 A pretty logical explanation for a 4th grader! Great thinking!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Math Review Folder

Outside Geometry Review
Today we finished our math review folder! We've been working on this a little each day for about 2 weeks. The folder contains some brief reminders and tips for all our big concepts from the year. We like to spend a couple of weeks before our STAAR test reviewing the year's concepts. As we reviewed a concept, we added a brief entry into our folder.

Geometry Review

Inside View

Area, Perimeter, Volume Review

Measurement Review

Lines and Angles Review

Measurement Conversion Review

Place Value Chart - Closed

Place Value Chart - Open

Fractions and Decimals Review

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

All Possible Combinations

When introducing how to determine all possible combinations of a given set of data or objects, we start slowly. We start listing out different combinations when looking at two spinners - one with the numbers 0-9 on it, and one with the colors red, green, blue, and yellow on it. The kids usually start volunteering different combinations, like 1 and green, 2 and blue, 5 and red, etc.

Where the thinking comes in is when I ask them if we've found all possible combinations. It doesn't take long for them to figure out they need some organization for their combination. Enter the tree diagram! We begin listing out our combinations using a tree diagram, then check to make sure we get all possible combinations. We usually only have to do this process two or three times before the kids see the relationship between the tree diagrams and multiplication. When you give kids tedious work, they naturally find the shortcuts on their own! :) 

I do point out it's important they understand the process of the tree diagram to see why the multiplication strategy works! It's SO important they understand the "why" of math!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Today we worked on probability. Probability is the measure of how likely it is something is going to happen. Up till now, most the kids have used words such as these for probability: certain, impossible, more likely, less likely, etc.We take it a step farther so that we may be more precise, and find the probability in fraction form.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Temperature is nothing new for 4th graders, but some of the vocabulary can be unfamiliar. We worked with various thermometers (traditional, round, etc.) to determine the temperature. We also found the differences between two temperatures. Finally, we discussed words that could be used to describe what is happening to the temperature - rising, falling, increasing, decreasing, etc.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Relating Congruence to Transformations

4th graders should already have a good grasp on the definition of congruence - same size, same shape. After a brief review of what congruence it, we take it a step farther and decide what transformation has taken place between two shapes that are congruent.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Symmetrical Creations

I gave the children some grid paper and pattern blocks, then told them to draw a line somewhere close to the middle of their paper. This line would be their line of symmetry. They created a design along their line of symmetry by tracing the pattern blocks and coloring them. After they finished, they traded papers with a partner, and their partners finished the drawing by making a mirror image on the other side of the line of symmetry. There was some great discussion, especially in regards to the blue rhombus. The kids had to consider how that shape would look when flipped over.