Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back to School Tips and Freebies Blog Hop!!

Way back in July, when the holidays were still brand new and fresh, I agreed to take part in a Back to School blog hop today.

Finish up at Ms. Fultz's Corner 
to enter a raffle for more prizes.

I am, of course, not back at school yet and won't be until September - and the kiddies won't be back until September 9th but I don't think we ever leave school completely even when we're on holiday!

I've been in Scotland all summer - and I've spent a large part of my time planning and creating and brainstorming with my retired teacher/headmistress mama... and then thinking of more things to do and better ways to do them.

Christi of Ms. Fultz's Corner organized this hop and I think it's going to be great fun. If you follow the hop all the way around you'll visit 12 blogs, collect 12 Freebies, read lots of tips and interesting ideas and then - at the very end of the hop - be able to enter a raffle for more fun prizes. Pretty cool!!

Once you finish with my part follow the link to the next blog (the awesome Christina atBunting Books and Bainbridge and keep on hopping! :)

So... Back to School tips...

Well, frankly, every year I feel like I need tips more than I can give them! But I'm pretty sure most of us feel like this so every little idea is useful. :)

I've decided to share my absolutely favorite thing to do in the classroom - Open-ended Math Projects.

Why is this a back to school tip?
Because it's something that I think should be introduced as early as possible to students - it kind of sets the tone for learning for the rest of the year. :)

I discovered open-ended projects last year, experimented, was delighted to find that my class absolutely LOVED them and realized how much my kiddies benefitted from them - in more than mathematical ways! (I'm talking cooperation, leadership, organization, creativity etc.)

Last year we did our first project in February. This year I'm starting the first week back to school!

An Open-ended project is an exercise in critical thinking; it can be a cooperative project or an independent challenge; it lends itself to extension work and reinforces key concepts; it has no single answer and it allows children to explore Math through real-life situations. It makes a wonderful bulletin board display and can become a pretty nice art project in many instances.

Best of all it elicits comments like: "Oh boy, it's one of those things again!" or "Ooooh, I LOVE these. Can we do another one tomorrow?"
How often do we hear that in Math lessons?

I've always done these projects as group center work. I divide my class up into mixed ability groups, hand out all the materials, go over directions and then wander around monitoring their work and making suggestions.

With the first project I gave a lot of guidance. By the time the year ended my class worked completely independently and their work was truly amazing!

To whet your appetite here are photos of some of our projects.

This was a Roman Garrison town project that required
measuring, symmetry and building 3-D shapes from
flat nets. The children designed their own layouts,
chose different buildings and constructed them from nets,
measured and built the walls and designed their
own legion banner.

The duck pond
The chicken yard

Our Perimeter Farm project required students to design
animal enclosures with specific perimeters. They could choose
shape and dimension as long as the perimeter
requirement was met. Animals moved in upon
inspection. They played with the farm for days!!

In this project students purchased supplies
for and designed an aquarium - working
within a specific budget. This
reinforced addition, subtraction and
multiplication skills as well as money
All of the information was collated into a
poster which was displayed on the bulletin

In this St. Patrick's Day project my kiddies planned a
party for the leprechauns. Using Leprechaun Gold they
visited the Rainbow Mall to purchase supplies for
their party.
Once their planning was done they decorated the Great Hall with all their supplies and added leprechauns :)
We kept this display up until June!!

The Chocolate Choice project required students to
fill three different chocolate boxes - all of the same weight
but using a different selection of chocolates each time.
Addition, subtraction and multiplication concepts were reviewed
and we reviewed measurement (weight) as well, playing with
grams (metric boxes) and ounces (standard boxes). 
This was a beautiful Valentine display board
- and it really impressed the parents when they
came for conferences in February!!

We have a pet class tortoise so we used this
project to practice finding area. We designed
an enclosure for the tortoise - students had to
find the area of their enclosure, figure out how much wood
to purchase to build it, purchase supplies to
keep the tortoise cared for and explain their
This was my introduction to finding area and
I loved the way the kids "got it" :)

These projects are now my passion! I love the way they can be used to help children explore concepts and learn Maths in a real life setting; I love the way they can become creative activities and add fun and excitement to the learning process; I love the way my students developed as critical thinkers over the course of the school year.

I'll be doing a lot more of these projects this year for sure :)

And now for your freebie...

If you'd like to try an Open-ended project yourself you can get either (or both) of these projects for free.

The Terrific Tortoise Habitat is always free and for a limited time (August 4th - 9th) Back to School Shopping will be free. Click on the links below the pictures to collect your freebie.

Back to School Shopping
Terrific Tortoise Habitat

Now... be sure to hop over to Christina's amazing post at Bunting, Books and Bainbridge

Bunting Books and Bainbridge

to continue the fun. :) Happy Back to School hopping!

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