Did you know we learn math in 3rd grade? You wouldn't know from reading my blog! I get so excited about our humanities activities that I forget to share all the fun we have in math!
This week we began exploring fractions. We started at the most basic level - identifying and conceptualizing fractional parts. Yesterday the students folded equal-sized paper strips into various amounts (halves, thirds, sixths, etc) and labeled the parts (1/2, 1/3, 1/6). The big idea here was that no matter how we split up each strip, the total amount, or whole, was the same. They also discovered how many of each part it took to make a whole. For example, it takes 3 thirds to make a whole.
Today, partners got together to answer some questions about fractions using the work we made yesterday. Some questions were pretty straightforward, while others really made them think. The video below shows the students working through the problems.
After attempting to answer the questions, we came together as a class to discuss. Our conversation moved to noticing that some lines on the various strips matched up. For example, the 1/2 line matches up exactly with the 2nd 1/4th line. So 1/2 is equal to 2/4 as long as we are talking about the same whole! This discussion of equivalencies became very rich, as the students noticed a few other fractions that lined up with 1/2. A couple of students even noticed patterns! For example, looking at the equation 1/2 = 3/6, one student noticed that if you multiply the numerator and the denominator by 3, you get the second fraction. So we tried applying that strategy to our other equivalencies and guess what, it worked!
Tonight's homework reinforces their budding understanding of equivalent fractions. As we move deeper into this unit, I will be sure to catch you up on what we discover!
One of the major takeaways in 3rd grade is learning how to write an essay. The students move from expressing their ideas in a paragraph with a topic sentence, details, and a conclusion, to expanding their ideas into multiple paragraphs, with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Last trimester the students wrote their first ever essay - an informational essay about communities. This trimester, they are venturing into the passionate world of persuasive essays.
Our topic is this: Is Casa Tua Bakery a well-run bakery?
Given the 3rd graders' now-expansive knowledge of economics, and their eye-opening trip to the bakery, they should have all the information they need to form a strong opinion in regards to this question. The challenge is for them to not just say "Yes, because I like their food," or "No, because it's too small," but instead to back up their opinion with well-thought-out economic arguments based on evidence.
In order for the students to keep track of their thinking and stay organized in their process, they are now using writing binders. These binders are a tool meant to help the 3rd graders move towards independence in essay writing. Included in the binder are reference pages reminding the students of writing "power moves" we've been learning this year (using similes, hyphenated adjectives, starting with a quote, etc.) as well as helpful sentence starters and transitions for those who need a jumping off point. Each binder also has a flip book containing simple checklists for each paragraph. For example, once a student has done all the steps in the introduction paragraph, he/she will simply tear off that page to see what to do next. As we continue to learn more valuable writing tips, their binders will become more robust resources.
We are still in the 1st draft phase of this essay, and it's amazing how independently the 3rd graders are moving from paragraph to paragraph with this new tool at their disposal!
The ability to form an argument and write an essay that coherently expresses one's reasoning is a crucial 21st Century skill, and these kids are well on their way!
Little people, big minds.