Now that we have studied economic concepts like resources, scarcity, goods, and services, the 3rd grade has embarked on a new journey -- our own mini-economy!
Here's how it works: the students have applied for and obtained classroom jobs like: door holder, librarian, veterinarian, and supply straightener. At the end of each week the students receive a salary for completing their classroom jobs. They can earn bonuses for going above and beyond in their jobs, and can lose pay for not doing their best. They will keep track of their earnings and have the opportunity to spend their money at our monthly market. But they must be wise, because at the end of the year there will be a SUPER market, where they can buy more expensive, big-ticket items.
In order to make our economy feel authentic, we held a design contest for our class currency. We first studied currencies from around the world to learn how important symbols can be to a community. After building that background knowledge, the students submitted their own designs.
The designers got a chance to explain the symbols they included on their currency, then the students took a vote. After a few tie-breakers, the top 4 designs were chosen. These 4 designs became the 20, 10, 5, and 1 denominations. I copied them on colored paper to make it official.
We then voted to name our currency, and the students settled on "Funny Bunny Money" or "FBM" for short. Next, we chose a symbol - which looks like a giant F with a B and M attached - and our currency was complete!
Our mini-economy does not stop there. No, the students have worked too hard learning about how businesses work to stop there. The final, and perhaps most exciting, piece of our mini-economy is the opportunity for entrepreneurship! If a student would like to earn extra income, he/she can start his/her own small business selling a good or service at the monthly market (Our first market was February 1, our next will be March 1). A student with a talent for bracelet-making can sell bracelets. A more task-oriented student could start a cubby-cleaning business. Whatever they decide, they must fill out a business proposal and have it approved by me. Then, they must make an advertisement so that the consumers know what products are available for purchase at the market. I also have a business at the market, selling coupons for experiences like bringing a toy to recess, or 20-minutes of iPad time.
If you want to hear how our first market went, keep an eye on the blog!
My final note on the mini-economy involves you, the parent. If you have small items or big-ticket items that you would like to donate to the end-of-the-year SUPERmarket, please send me an email. The more diverse the market is, the more incentive the students will have to do their jobs well and start a business of their own!
After a long and (hopefully) restful winter break, school is back in full swing! I have to say, we are having an amazing start. There have been a few moments that have caused me to stop and marvel at how far these students have come in so many ways. They are growing up right before my eyes!
This week we embarked on our long-awaited economics unit. From the very first day of school, students have been asking, "When do we get to do the thing with the money?" "When does the market start?" Well, here we are!
Before we get to the fun stuff, we have to lay the foundation. This week was all about why we are learning economics. The conceptual lens for this unit is "Choice," so we began with a concept building activity to help us think deeply and broadly about the idea of choice.
I divided the students into 3 groups. Their first task was to choose a secretary. This person would be responsible for writing down the group's ideas during our brainstorm. I then gave the groups 5 minutes to think of as many examples of choices as they could. This task was difficult at first, but became easier as they wrote down each idea. After 5 minutes, we went around the room, each group sharing one example of choice at at time. I recorded their thinking on our concept chart.
Next, I pointed out to them that some of their ideas sort of go together; for example, "governor" and "president" could be put into a category. One student remarked, "Yeah! Like one category could be 'outside' and you could put 'litter,' 'run,' and 'hobbies' in that category!" I then gave the groups another 5 minutes to write down other categories they see and which items would go in those categories. The students quickly realized that items can go into more than one category, and that each group would probably come up with completely different ideas -- we are learning that that's OK!
The final phase of this processing activity was indeed the most challenging. Here is where we really stretched our thinking and synthesized our ideas. After sharing and listing our categories, it was time to come to the rug and put it all together.
The question I asked was this, "What can these categories tell us about choice?" The idea was to create some big idea statements that are true about all different types of choice. I prompted them by giving them sentence starters like "Choices can..." "Choices might..." "Choices can lead to..."
Here is what they came up with!
I was so impressed with their ability to think so abstractly. Though this activity was challenging, everyone was participating, thinking flexibly, and trying their best.
Economics is all about choice. Producers and consumers make choices every day in regards to their money. As we move through this unit, we will continue to reference and add to our choice concept chart, making connections to our own lives, other subjects, and the world around us!
Vocabulary is one of those tricky subjects where if the teacher isn't careful, it can go in one ear and out the other. Students need lots of repetition, examples, and opportunities to use the word in order for it to truly become part of their vocabulary. One way to see if students have really internalized the meaning of a new word or concept is to ask them to not use it! Introducing: Guess that word!
This game, which takes place during our morning meeting, is similar to the game "20 Questions." One person is given a word on their forehead. They are allowed to ask 5 yes/no questions to narrow down what it could be. During this process, the person who is "it" is using deductive reasoning, while the rest of the class is considering the the definition and properties of the concept in order to answer their questions. After 5 questions, the class is allowed to give 5 hints. It takes some practice for the students to get used to giving hints that don't use the word or give away the word.
Whether or not the person guesses their word, everyone gets lots of practice thinking about the word and all its aspects!
This week the 3rd graders began the most important math unit of the year -- The Relationship Between Multiplication and Division! By the end of the year, your child should be fluent with his/her multiplication facts. But before we begin fluency practice, we must lay the conceptual foundation. Hands on practice is key!
Today, we read The Doorbell Rang, a picture book that uses a real-life division example that all kids can relate to -- sharing cookies! Throughout the year, when students need a reminder of how to solve a division problem, I will remind them that "division is like sharing cookies."
In this story, Ma makes a batch of 12 cookies for her two children to share. But as the doorbell rings, more friends come, and they have to share. As we read the book, the students modeled the sharing situations with their own paper cookies. As the story went on, they were able to predict how much each child would get once they noticed the patterns. "Ohhhh, each person gets 6 because I know two sixes are 12 and there are 2 children!"
After modeling each division situation in the story, the students got the chance to practice on their own. Partners used their paper cookies to practice solving division word problems and writing the corresponding number models. Enjoy the pictures and video below!
Remember at the end of this post where I told you to stay tuned to read about our makerspace project? If not, please familiarize yourself before continuing. You'll want the whole story, trust me.
After the students had gathered sufficient knowledge about their topic of choice (Women's Suffrage Movement or Civil Rights Movement) it was time for them to share what they learned. Challenging myself to provide new and authentic ways for students to share knowledge (other than an essay), I decided they would use the design thinking process to create an artifact from that period in time that could teach passersby something about that movement. In order to do this, we first had to learn what an artifact is! Each student was told to bring something from home that is a "little piece of their history." We then did a gallery walk, where students looked at different artifacts and tried to make inferences about that person. For example, looking at a used pair of roller blades, students guessed that perhaps their owner is athletic, adventurous, fun-loving, and a kid (based on size)!
Next, we thought about what artifact could a person find that could teach them something about the two movements. Students drafted an initial design and then shared with the group. The Women's Suffrage kids shared their designs first. When they were done, I asked a question to the rest of the class (who did not study Women's Suffrage). "What questions do you still have about the Women's Suffrage Movement?" I then wrote down their questions. Students asked questions like, "Why couldn't women vote?" and "When did this happen?" We repeated this process with the Civil Rights group. This process allowed the creators to develop a sense of empathy for their audience, which is actually the first step in the design thinking model. Once students understood what the audience's needs were, they were ready to improve their design. For example, one student added the year 1876 to her ballot box to show that women were not allowed to vote in that specific election year. Another student labeled his two schools "black" and "white" to correlate the fact one school looked nicer than the other with race. Meeting with the audience, hearing their questions, and improving their designs allowed the creators to move closer to their mission of creating an object that could educate someone.
The students worked in the makerspace to bring their design to fruition, and you can see them in a display above their cubbies. Behind each artifact is an article that student wrote describing why and how they made it. You can also look at their design sketches. I will post pictures below, but I highly recommend coming in to take a closer look!
The part of me that loves balance wishes that I weren't blogging about math games after just having posted about a math game. However we are in the midst of a long-term humanities project, so a language arts / social studies post will have to wait. Therefore, the part of me that loves excess will now tell you about two math games in one post!
Our current unit is all about exploring our base-10 number system. A huge part of undertanding base-10 is becoming familiar with patterns that have to do with 10. For example, ten ones make ten, ten tens make one hundred, ten hundreds make a thousand, etc! Being able to compose and decompose ten also lends itself to understanding multiples of ten. For example, 3+7=10, therefore 30+70=100 and 300+700=1000!
The game Take 1,000 is meant to help students use their knowledge of what makes 10 to help them make 1,000. It goes like this: Partners have a deck of cards face down in between them. The cards have multiples of 50 on them (100, 700, 50, 350, etc.). One at a time, the students flip over a card, creating a line of numbers. They continue to flip over cards until someone sees a combination that makes 1,000, at which point that person says "1,000!" He/she then must justify how those numbers add up to 1,000. If he/she is able, he/she gets those cards. This game is challenging at all levels. In the beginning, students are looking for two cards (usually multiples of 100) that together equal 1,000. As they become more automatic with what makes 1,000, the students are better able to recognize combinations of 3 and 4 cards that together equal 1,000.
As we delve into the conceptual complexities of the base-10 system, it's important that we not lose the valuable computational skills we've gained along the way. Triple-digit subtraction that involves borrowing is one of those skills that needs lots and lots of practice, which is why I love the game Take Down.
In Take Down, both partners begin with 1,000 points. They take a series of turns, flipping over cards to make 2-digit numbers, and subtracting those numbers from 1,000. The goal is to get as close to 0 as possible without going into negative numbers. For instance, I might flip over a 7 and a 3. Because I want to get to 0 first, I choose to subtract 73 from 1000 (a triple borrowing problem). I now have 927 points. On my next turn I will create the largest number possible to subtract from 927. The students love the competition aspect of this game so much that they don't complain about the fact that I'm basically just asking them to subtract a bunch.
In the end, there are many benefits to exploring number concepts through games. Aside from the academic practice they provide, the children are also gaining interpersonal skills. We speak explicitly about these skills and their purpose before, during, and after group work sessions. I'll leave you with a simple chart the class dictated about the do's and don't's of group work.
This week the 3rd graders played a game called "Perfect 500," a strategy game focused on estimation and rounding. Each turn, the students got 5 number cards. They had to choose what 2, 2-digit numbers to create that would give them a sum near 100. At the end of 5 rounds, the person whose total was the closest to 500, without going over, won!
As a way for me to check their understanding, the students completed an exit card after playing. I wrote my questions on the board.
Exit cards are such great insight into the students' way of thinking. Here are some examples!
You are probably well aware that the 3rd graders at HHAI are given lots of opportunities to make choices. Last week, we took the idea of choice to a whole new level, introducing what is called "academic choice." Academic choice is a teaching strategy that comes from Responsive Classroom. You can learn more about it here. Basically, the idea is that the teacher decides what she wants her students to learn, and the students get to decide how they learn it. When students get to direct their own learning, they intrinsically become more motivated learners. The learning becomes a part of their identity. They retain the information better and gain confidence in the process.
Inspired by this idea, I decided to infuse academic choice into our current unit about civics and government by allowing the 3rd graders to choose a topic to study, and direct their own learning of that topic. The 3rd graders got to choose between two points in history where people fought for their rights: the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Suffrage Movement. No matter which topic they chose, I knew they would come out with an understanding of what it means to fight for one's rights.
After they decided which topic to study, the students were given a task sheet that looked sort of like a grid. Each square had a resource to read, watch, or look at along with a simple task such as a question to answer or a poster to make. Students were assigned to read 3, watch 2, and make 1. Differentiated expectations, along with the freedom to choose which tasks to do, made for a learning process tailored to each student's needs, abilities, and interests.
Once they were given this task sheet, the learning was put in their hands. Day after day, they decided what to work on and did so at their own individual pace. Being able to switch from reading a book, to watching a video on an iPad, to looking through an article helped maintain a sense of novelty and intrigue as the students gained knowledge and exposure to their topic. I circulated the room, offering support when needed. From the start, the positive effects of this type of learning were clear. The room was quiet, but alive with the buzz of learning.
The information they were learning felt like treasures they had discovered, and their excitement was evident in their eagerness to share what they'd learned with their peers and with me.
Stay tuned to read about the exciting Makerspace project they will create to show what they learned during independent learning!
I have a confession to make: I. Love. Grammar. I loved learning it as a kid, I love teaching it, and I love discussing and debating the nuances of it. Today I'll share with you a fun grammar activity we did!
We began the school year reviewing the most basic part of speech: nouns. This week, we moved to the next logical part of speech: adjectives. Why are adjectives the next logical step? Because they describe nouns! It is easy to find the adjectives once you've found the nouns. You simply go to a noun and ask, "What kind? Which one? How many?" But we're not there yet.
I began today's activity by putting some simple adjectives on the board.
I told the class that these are describing words, and that we were going to use them during our greeting (the first part of morning meeting).
"Adjectives describe nouns. What is a noun?"
"A person, place, or thing!"
"Right! Did you know that you are a noun? I want you to think of an adjective to describe YOU! You can choose one from the board or think of your own. We will then use your adjective in our greeting. For example, "Good morning, fancy Mrs. Skillman"
Once everyone wrote their adjectives on their post-it notes, we went around the circle and greeted each other with our adjective and name. It was a great way to spice up our greeting! Hover over the photos below to read what each student's adjective was (the writing in the picture is hard to see.)
At the end of all this, Smokey hopped by the rug. "We should do one for Smokey!" they shouted. So I snapped a pic.
"What adjectives could we use for Smokey?"
The students had lots of thoughts about this: soft, curious, hungry, and adorable were some of my favorites.
Our first conceptual humanities unit is called "Building a Community." During this unit, social studies and language arts standards combine to form a study of civics and government. We began last week by learning about "rights," the protection of which is the foundation of any civilized community.
This week our unit has lead us to think about how rights are in play in the classroom. In partner groups, the students brainstormed what rights we have in the classroom. Then, partner groups combined to form small groups who refined their lists to make them even better. As a class, we shared and consolidated our lists of rights and brainstormed what rules we could put in place to protect them. The students pointed out that some rights are protected by me and some are protected by them. Conversations like these bring out such interesting comments and connections from the students. One student pointed out that Smokey has all the same rights we do, and so some of our rules should be to protect her!
Finally, we used our list of rights and rules to create our class constitution. By creating our own constitution, the students gained a sense of power and ownership over the culture of the classroom along with an intrinsic understanding of the nature of rights and laws.
Little people, big minds.