Friday, November 30, 2012

Data: The Proof is in the Spreadsheet

I'd say that I'm a pretty sequential person.  I need things to go in order so that I can logically move from one thing to the next.  This is why I love following set units in Math. The state of  Georgia has provided us with a scope and sequence in order to give us direction in teaching.  This year, with the adoption of Common Core, we were given a new list of Math units that cover all of the Common Core standards.  

In order to successfully teach these units, my 5th grade team needed an idea of a "big picture" so I began looking into the 5th grade CCSS in detail in order to create assessments that would give us an idea of how to determine the amount of mastery our students are achieving.  I ended up creating 7 final tests (assessments) for each of the 7 units.  These are my 5th Grade Math Tests that I wrote about in my previous blog post.  

Nowadays, one of the most important things for teachers to do is provide evidence that their students are showing growth during the year.  Proving this growth is something that can be difficult.  We've been lucky in this day and age because technology has given is new incredible resources that have built-in growth charts:  Star Reading and Math,,, etc.  

Data expectations in education are increasing, even at the elementary level.  In order to provide evidence of student growth with my math tests, I've added Excel data sheets to go along with each unit.  

Each spreadsheet contains columns for each test item (question), along with the Common Core standard associated with the problem.  

Teachers can input data from their unit pre-test in order to get an idea of which skills students have already mastered prior to the unit, and which skills have not.  This helps with planning, grouping, and differentiation.  Data can be observed for each student as well as each skill.

**Are you unsure how to use Excel?  Are you uncomfortable with advanced technology? My  Math Test Excel Data Sheets come with a complete explanation and step-by-step tutorial pages to help with setting up the spreadsheet and navigating it.**  
After giving the pre-test and using your data to decide how to go about tackling this unit (do I spend more time on adding fractions or subtracting fractions?) you give your post-test to your students.  In the excel worksheet, there is a summary section that can show a percentage of the pre-test and post-test score so you can compare them for each student as well as the class average.  All of these figures are calculated from what you put into the spreadsheet, so you don't have to do any match calculations or averaging.  The directions all of this are included.  In addition, each file has a separate spreadsheet for varying class sizes.  This way, if you get a new student or have a different class size in the future, you don't have to worry about re-formatting, adding a new row, etc.  All the work is done for you!

With the increased demand for data and proof of mastery/growth from administration, I've found that these resources have been a great help in just proving what I already know is happening in my classroom.  


Monday, November 26, 2012

Testing 1,2,3...

Since adopting the Common Core State Standards this year, I've definitely had to make some adjustments to my math plans.  Georgia has grouped the Common Core Standards into 7 teaching units. (with an 8th unit for "show what you know")  

I have been creating Unit Tests (or formative assessments) for my team to use to assess our students.  We give our students a pre-test before a unit, and then formally assess them at the end of the unit with a post-test.  We use data to group our students based on the pre-test.  I've found this to be a huge help with differentiating instruction because I'm able to group my students better with this information.

The challenge has been coming up with fantastic tests for these units that will be challenging, involve real-world problems, and also include all of the common core standards for each unit.  I've been working very hard on these, and I've finally finished them all.  Here it is: 5th Grade Math Test Bundle - Entire Year

I'm so excited to see how the kids do with these tests.  We've already completed our first 3 units and today we pre-tested Unit 4: Fractions  and will get underway with this new unit tomorrow.  

Fractions can definitely be a difficult task to tackle, especially with such a wide range of learners.  Many students have already had experiences with fractions, while others have had very little exposure to them.  I'm definitely going to be looking into ways to differentiate this unit so that I can meet the needs of all my students.  I look forward to sharing these ideas as I get them.  

Terry :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Over the River and Through the Woods...

I'm currently en route to New Jersey for Thanksgiving break and I just finished a new activity that I'm excited to work on with my kids when I get back.  We're about to get ready to move out to Fractions soon, but I came up with another activity to give a final test of their ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals.  I like coming up with creative, real-world (or fictional ;) ) projects that will keep them engaged.  

The activity I created is called Santa's Christmas Shopping Spree.  In this activity, Santa loses electricity to his toy shop and must go shopping for the remaining toys that need to be finished for Christmas morning.  My kids will have to calculate the cost of the remaining presents from a toy store after being given the "Nice List" and all of the toys' prices from the toy store.  From there, they will complete additional activities to go along with the story, such as calculating gas costs, speed of the sled, differences in prices from one toy to another, and taxes.  Every operation with decimal numbers is exercised.

Here's what the activities look like:

I can't wait to see how they like it.  If you're interested in using this activity in your own classroom, you can find it here:  Santa's Christmas Shopping Spree.  Have a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday!

Terry :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Menu Math Madness

As my class has been rapping up our Numbers in Base Ten Units (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimals), I've been trying to come up with creative activities to use with them to test their mastery of the content.  I began with my Thanksgiving Menu Math activity.  I've recently created a Christmas version.

In my Christmas Menu Math activity, students will need to calculate the cost of a grocery list of items that are needed for a family that is preparing for their annual Christmas Eve celebrations.  They will be given a menu of items at the store along with a grocery list.  They will need to be able to multiply decimals by decimals and whole numbers in order to find out the total cost of the items.  They will also need to calculate sales tax in order to find a total.  

The second part of the activity has students using coupons to decrease the cost of the bill.  They will need to again use decimal multiplication and subtraction to find the new totals.  Five short answer questions are included in order to have students explain their logic and reasoning to some of their answers.  

Here is what the activity looks like:

I have another activity that I'm working on that will also test these skills and more, in my upcoming "Santa's Shopping Spree."  Check back for more details on this and a link to the item as soon as it's finished just before Thanksgiving.  

Terry :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

First I must say that I'm extremely excited that this is the last full week for us before Thanksgiving break.  (We have the entire week of Thanksgiving off!  :)  More than getting off of school, I love that it allows me the opportunity to go home to NJ to be with my family for an entire week.  I always hated the rush of flying out with everybody else in the country Wednesday night, and flying back the day before another school week.  

In school I've been working on trying to get into the holidays with my students by designing new holiday-themed activities for them.  

One of the more challenging skills that I'm working on through our new Common Core standards is teaching with informational texts.  I'm trying to find creative ways to do this, so today I created my new Black Friday Literacy and Math Activity  I wrote an informational piece about Black  Friday with questions to go along with it.  I was surprised at how much I learned about the origin of Black Friday just by reading up on it.  Here's a quick peak:

To extend my activity, I also created a "mock" Black Friday shopping activity for our math class.  Students will pretend to go shopping at my technology store and use coupons to get Black Friday discounts.  The skills they will use involve decimal multiplication.  Check it out:

This product can be found on my Teachers pay Teachers store here:  Black Friday Literacy and Math Activity

Another popular item I've created to go along with our decimal unit (Numbers in Base Ten) is my tiered activity, Thanksgiving Menu Math.  I've been finding teaching to be a lot more fun when I get myself into the holiday spirit, and my students seem to be enjoying themselves much more as well.

For more information on my items, please check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  A link is located on the upper right hand section of my blog.  Thanks for checking in.  I hope you enjoyed another "tidbit" from Terry!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bull Run Novel Study

This year I began reading the novel Bull Run by Paul Fleischman with my 5th graders. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Bull Run is an historical fiction novel that contains diary entries from characters from the Civil War, leading up to the Battle of Bull Run. Each character is involved in the war in a completely different way.

I had some trouble finding resources to accompany the novel, so I decided to begin building a novel study unit. I began with my first resource, a character study analysis. There are 16 characters and the diary entries go back and forth between the many characters, so I found that it was difficult to keep track of them all. Here's how I decided to organize it:

Sample Character Study page

Since we began the book, my students have had a much easier time with keeping up with the characters and getting to delve further into details about each one.

Here is a view of the many pages that I've included in my novel study, along with a link to where it is available on my store through Teachers Pay Teachers Bull Run Novel Study Unit. Included in the unit are Figurative Language activities, discussion question activities, short answer response questions, an entire vocabulary study, compare/contrast activities aligned to common core, a final test and project with included answer keys/grading rubrics, and much more!

Feel free to respond with any questions you may have! I'd love to hear comments and feedback.

My very first blog

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would have a blog.  I guess this is a year of firsts for me.  

I am in my third year as a 5th grade teacher in Atlanta, GA and I have gained a new level of motivation and spark in teaching this year.  I owe a lot of this new surge of energy to TeachersPayTeachers.  This fantastic website gives teachers the opportunity to sell products and activities they create to other teachers all over the world.  

I first found out about TpT in August, and was shocked to learn that it has been around since 2006.  Since the end of September I've been constantly working on new activities, tests, projects, etc. that I can add to my seller's store.  I've been working hard on coming up with new authentic ideas that will not only work well in teaching the Common Core standards to my students, but also be appealing to other teachers across the country as well.

I'm starting this blog so that I can become connected with other teachers and I hope to share some of my own teaching and learning experiences with them.

Please check back here to see new activities I come up with, as well as advice for other teachers.