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Welcome to my blog! I use my blog as a way to reflect, share, organize, and re-conceptualize my views as an educator. Enjoy and feel free to comment, post, disagree, and share your opinion. The more perspectives, the better!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Money Mania Part 1

Money was my second big math unit of lead teaching. My mentor teacher pre-warned me that money is often something that the students either really get or don't get, especially at first. I wanted all of my student to get money, but I was not satisfied with many of the resources I found. As a result I ended up making several resources I thought I would share them with everyone in blogland. Hopefully it will be useful to others teaching a money unit in the future.

Here is the link: Money Unit. This should take you to a collection of the unit in Google Docs. I believe you can download the documents into word and make any changes to them you would like.

Here is an overview of the unit:

- Identification Pre-Assessment. A checklist to use to see which children in your class can identify the amount and value of each coin. I am so glad I did this step (well, asked a parent helper to do this step) because I immediately found out that much of the initial material for the unit could be turned into a quick review, rather than the several days I had planned. As the identification is a major part of our standard I was able to repeat this step with the children who could not identify coins in the pre-assesment as quick checks throughout the unit.

- "That's a lot of Change" coin counting song. I made up a short song for the coins. It is attached as a big book that I used daily to review the coins with my students and as a individual counting book that my students filled in and kept in their desk folders in the beginning of the unit to help identify coins. I can't for the life of me remember what the tune of the song really is, but here are the words:
  My brown penny is worth 1¢.
My brown penny is worth 1¢.
My brown penny is worth 1¢.
That’s not a lot of change!

My fat nickel is worth 5¢.
My fat nickel is worth 5¢.
My fat nickel is worth 5¢.
That’s not a lot of change!
My tiny dime is worth 10¢.
My tiny dime is worth 10¢.
My tiny dime is worth 10¢.
That’s not a lot of change!
My big quarter is worth 25¢.
My big quarter is worth 25¢.
My big quarter is worth 25¢.
That’s not a lot of change!

In my pocket I have one penny.
In my pocket I have one nickel.
In my pocket I have one dime.
In my pocket I have one quarter.
That’s A LOT of change!

Note: After the first day, we changed the last part of the song to "In my pocket I have 41 cents". This is because on the first day I gave the children a challenge to figure out how much change they would have if they had one of each coin. I let them work together and observed them. This was a great way to see which of my students were familiar with counting money and what kind of strategies they used.

Coin Bingo- My students love Bingo, or in this game "MONEY", and it is a great way to practice identification.

A Dollar for Penny- This is an easy read book that is about a little girl who has a lemonade stand. Each customer gives her a different coin and eventually she has one dollar. We read the book and put up the coins and counted how much money she was collecting as she read.

Race to 100 (or Race to 1$)-We played this simple game on hundreds day....how perfect could this unit have aligned? To play the game each child was given a sorting mat (a column for pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters) and play money (6 pennies, 3 nickels, 3 dimes, and 5 quarters) and a die (dice?). As they rolled the die they put that amount of pennies onto their board. The trick to the game was that there was not very many pennies so they were forced to trade up as they got closer to a dollar. This was tricky for some of the students, but the more they played the easier the conversions were for them to make. The children played in partners and the first one to get to 100 cents won the game (but we encouraged them to keep playing).

Count by fives dance- I modified this idea from a TFA corps member on our resource site. It is a fun way to practice counting by fives. It was used as preparation for counting coins in the second week of our unit. As we counted by fives we would do motions similar to those in the Macarena. Instead of swirling our hips we put our hand on our knees, feet, knees again, crouched down on 95 and jumped up and shouted 100. 

Caps for Sale math- We read the classic story Caps for Sale. After we read the book we drew pictures to figure out how much the peddler would have earned if he sold all of his caps (remember, "Caps for sale! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!" 

I also gave the children a worksheet with word problems to see how much money he would earn if they caps cost different amounts or if he sold different amounts of caps. This worksheet is linked to in the money unit link above. They did this in partners because I had not yet taught them formally how to count change. We had practiced some strategies, but there had not been a formal lesson. It was amazing to hear the strategies the children used...especially after we had played the race to 100 game. You will also notice on this page, and many other pages from the unit I have listed challenge problems. The way I set up challenge problems is that the children must show me that they have all of the correct answers on the original side of the paper (we give immediate feedback in math b/c it is done in half group so I only have ten students to check). Once they have gotten all of the problems right on the first side they can work on the challenge problems. This is a huge motivator. Sometimes I will give them a piece of candy or a sticker for getting all of the challenge problems right, but the word "challenge" is usually motivation enough for them. If they do not finish they can keep it to work on when they finish other activities, during center time, or as morning work the next day (or they do not have to finish them at all). I also let them take the papers home and work with their families on it. If they bring it back the next day and there was a treat attached, they can get it the next morning. 

Alright...there is week one of our money unit...it is past my bed time, but the rest of the unit is coming soon!  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


One of the few things I learned from my Kindergarten practicum (other than how not to treat students) was a game called BANG. It is a really simple game that helps children practice sight words (and I taught the children how to play it using math facts). In the game you have some sort of flash cards. Take a few of the cards (about one for every 5 or 6 cards) and put a small sticker on it. After that you are ready to play!

The rules of the game are simple: You move in a circle. Each child is shown a card. If they say the sight word (or give the fact etc.) they keep the card. If they get it wrong, the next person gets a try until the card is taken. When you get to a card that has a sticker, you get a "bang". If you are right, then you can take a card from another players pile--but only if you can say the word/ give the answer. Play until the cards run out. The player with the most cards win.

Fair warning...you may want to change the name of the game (or get ready to hold in your adult humor)... because you will her things like...

"I am going to bang you!"
"Stop banging me!"
"She is banging me again!"

Dr. Seuss' imagination

Miss Prinzo (after reading the millionth Dr. Seuss book of the week):  "Dr. Seuss had a great imagination, didn't he?"
Class: "Yes!"
L: "Well, actually I think I have a better one."

I don't doubt this. Not for one second.

2 Weeks!?!?!?!?

I am officially finished with my 30 days of lead teaching! Well...finished minus an excessive amount of paperwork to catch up on. I am in shock that it is over. While it is nice having some more free time in my life, there is still so many things I wanted to try, so many days I wish I could have a repeat of, and a few I would like to forget.

Dr. Seuss week was a great week to transition out of the lead teacher role because there was so much going on and so many activities in which both my mentor teacher and I were heavily involved that there was no drastic change from one person to the other.

The past few weeks, once I had established myself in the lead teaching role, we had really started working more as a team rather than her observing. It was really nice to see how a classroom would work in a team teaching or classroom teacher-special education teacher setting. We would regularly create a plan for intervention/ re-teaching students and I could see the gains made by the students who benefited from this time. It really sparked an interest in the idea of team teaching and is something I hope to explore in the upcoming weeks. My mentor teacher has friends who team teach at a nearby school and I think I would like to observe how it works one day.

Back on topic...2 weeks! 2 WEEKS! I am not ready for it to be over (though some extra free time will be nice). I think my plan is to use one of my days off during the week to volunteer for half of a day. It just seems right. I can't imagine leaving my classroom. We started the year together and I want to finish it with them! It is a good thing I am going on Spring Break or I am pretty sure I would end up back in my classroom every single day (that or crying and wandering around like a lost puppy).I am trying not to get ahead of myself. I still have two weeks left with the Frogger's and plenty of time to worry about next quarter next quarter.

I also am stuck trying to figure out what my goodbye gifts will be. I have a list of thank-you notes a page and a half long to write, but I want to get something special for my mentor teacher and something small for each of my students. This weekend will be time to go shopping (after Fasching, of couse!). Ideas are more than welcome!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Review: A Chance to Make History

I love Cincinnati Public Library. I really do. Their holds list, unlike the libraries in my hometown actually delivers a book to you...sooner rather than later. I was shocked when only days after requesting Wendy Kopp's book A Chance to Make History it came in to my home library. 

As my free time is limited, I was only able to read a little bit at a time, but every minute spent reading it was more than worth my while. Here is a taste of the book for you:

Unfortunately, I did not get to go back and re-read/ take notes on it as planned (it is due back tomorrow), but here are some impressions of the book. The things that stayed with me even a couple weeks after reading it:

- Kopp does a great job of talking about the issue of educational inequity. She approaches the subject with a very realistic, yet optimistic tone. 

- Teaching is leadership. This is something that is so clear to me, but that I find missing from much of my educational coursework. There is more to being a teacher than caring about children (not that caring for children is not a critical part of being a teacher). There is more than knowing curriculum content. Teaching is a holistic profession and the traits of a great teacher are almost synonymous with the traits of a good leader. Kopp illustrates this point (as well as all of the other main points in her book with examples of successful teachers), but it was this passage that really hit the point home for me:

"Every time we study teachers who are having a profound impact on the opportunities facing children growing up in low-income communities, we find teachers who operate like the most effective leaders in any context. They establish an ambitions vision for their students' success that will make a difference in their academic and life trajectories. They invest in other-students and their families--in this vision and in working hard to reach it. They are purposeful and strategic in moving toward it, constantly evaluating their students' progress and making adjustments to ensure their success. When they encounter obstacles, they do whatever it takes to overcome them, exerting extraordinary time, energy, and resourcefulness. They reflect on their accomplishments and shortcomings, seek and find help from veteran teachers and other colleagues, and improve over time." 

I am pretty sure she just summed up the teacher I hope to be!

- I particularly liked the "Silver Bullets and Silver Scapegoats" chapter in which Kopp discusses many of the problems and "solutions" in today's discussion on educational reform. She explains that there is no one magic solution to education reform, but rather many factors working together.

- Kopp's final statement---simple, yet powerful: "We can unleash the potential of our urban and rural children to 'make history.' The question is simply whether we will."

As a future Corps Member, I am so glad that I took the time to read this. It gave me a better idea about what I am getting myself into and reaffirmed my decision to join Teach For America. I am excited to be a part of a group of people who are working together to make an impact on the lives of so many children--both in individual classrooms and through the national conversation on educational reform. 

I highly encourage anyone in the field of education to read this book. I am not saying Kopp has all of the answers, but I found the book a refreshing look at the state of education and education reform. For more information, visit the book's website: http://achancetomakehistory.org/

She's Taking Advantage of My Mother!

" She's taking advantage of my mother!"
" She's taking advantage of my mother!"
" She's taking advantage of my mother!"
" She's taking advantage of my mother!"
" She's taking advantage of my mother!"
" She's taking advantage of my mother!"

After hearing this over and over again for several minutes on our field trip bus ride I had to ask. What does it mean when a seven year old says," She's taking advantage of my mother!"? Stop tickling me. I should have known!