A Word Game for Any Subject
I love to play thinking games with middle school students, don't you? (Especially when they don't really view it as thinking)!
Making the Game Quite a few years ago (at least 15) I went to a make 'n take workshop, and the person running it had several math and language arts activities made from cardboard circles. For this particular activity, a hole had to be made in the center of the circle, and a shoestring was secured to the bottom of the circle and threaded through the hole. The circle was divided into 32 sections, and each section was labeled with a letter of the alphabet (using some letters, like vowels, twice). As you can see in my OLD and very used wheel below, the sections can be colored so the circle is more attractive:)
How to Play
The rules of the game can be conveniently written on the back (less chance of forgetting them!) Here they are: 1. Divide into 2 teams (sometimes I divide the class into 3 or 4 teams). 2. Spin the wheel for Team 1 (hold onto the shoestring and spin wheel). 3. A member of Team 1 stops the wheel with thumb and forefinger (so the thumb lands on only one letter).
4. The team must think of a word using that letter, in order to earn 1 point (they have 10 seconds to think of the word...I don't let them use proper nouns).
5. The team may choose to spin again. If they do, they must use their first letter AND their new letter in a word, to earn a total of 2 points. If they think of a word within 20 seconds, their point total is 2. If they can't think of a word, they go back to 0 points and the next team gets a turn.
6. If Team 1 gets to 2 points, they may choose to spin again to earn 3 points (using all 3 letters in a word in 30 seconds), then 4 points, (using all 4 letters in a word in 40 seconds) and so on. If, on any turn, the team can't think of a word, they lose ALL points, and play goes to the other team.
7. The first team to reach 6 points wins.....(this doesn't sound hard to the kids, but once they get to 4 letters, they often end up losing their points. It's tough to get to 6 points because of the combination of letters they end up with.) 8. The time limit is 10 seconds per letter, so as a team attempts to earn more points, the time limit increases. (3 letters = 30 seconds, 4 letters = 40 seconds, etc.) Students really do enjoy this game and work hard to think of words....it's FUN thinking! Video I made a video of the game a few years ago and added it to the Tools for Teaching Teens store (this is a group I collaborate with:)  feel free to watch it to check out how to make the wheel and play the game! Click to watch on TPT.
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ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
Have you tried this Mathline probability lesson? If not, you may want to give it a try  "Rock Around the Clock" is a great activity for your middle school math students!
Overview In this lesson, students are presented with a contest situation: in packs of gum, there are photographs of six different rock stars. The first person to collect all six pictures, AND take them to the radio station that is sponsoring the contest, will win an allexpensepaid trip to any location in the US. The Question The question posed to the students is this  "What is a reasonable number of packs of gum you should purchase in order to collect all six pictures?" This question is discussed as a class....to think about the fewest number of packs possible, but also to consider how many packs would be reasonable.
Simulating the Contest
The students are put into groups and each group is given materials to simulate the contest. I have used this lesson twice; once I used dice and once I used colored disks (on which I wrote the rock stars' names). When using the dice, students simply roll the die and then record the number that was rolled (each rock star would need to be assigned a number). When using the disks, the students picked a disk from a cup, recorded the star that was chosen, and then returned the disk to the cup. The lesson suggests that each student complete their own trial; I had the groups complete two trials together rather than each student completing their own. I also had all groups use the same materials  the dice one year and the disks another (the lesson plan suggests that the students use dice, spinners, OR disks for their trials and that the lesson then include a discussion about the possible differences in results based on the method used....I did not address this part, but it is definitely an option, especially if you have a longer math period).
Could you use a quick math activity to help your students practice identifying decimals in standard and word form? How about some comparing and ordering of decimals? I've got an activity that covers all of those for you:)
When I created this one, we were just beginning our work with decimals (in grade 6), and my students had done a little bit of work with writing decimal numbers in word form. They had also worked on comparing decimals several times during the year, in our Daily Warm Ups book. Using the Decimal Matching Activity The first step in the activity is to match each card with a decimal number in standard form to the card with the correct word form. I allowed students to work alone or with one partner, and the matching didn't really take that long. I did have similar numbers (like 9.68, 9.068, 9.0068 etc), so that the students had to read carefully and take some time to compare those similar numbers.
Once students had their matches, I checked them before they moved on to ordering the numbers.
Using the standard form cards only, students ordered the numbers from least to greatest. I did not check these at this time, but instead had them write the correct order on their recording sheets so I could check later. However, as I walked around and checked in with students, I found some that needed to have a conversation with me about why 2.006 is not larger than 2.06... this was a good opportunity for individual conversations.
After recording the order, students had to choose 5 of the numbers to write in expanded form.
It was a relatively quick activity (1015 min), and it gave me a good picture of these skills at this point. The decimal matching activity can be accessed for free above. It is also part of a larger Decimal Unit Resources file that can be found on TpT.
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I'm sure you use a variety of review activities in your elementary or middle school classroom  have you ever used Footloose activities? I've mentioned the activity in my blog posts before, but have never really explained it on this blog (I did on my old one, maybe 5(!) years ago), so unless you've used one of my Footloose activities in your classroom, you might not know how it works. It's an activity that is enjoyed by students of all ages, and can be used with just about any topic you're teaching. I use it mostly for math, because that's what I teach; but in the past, when I taught different grade levels, I used it as a review activity in other subject areas as well.
It's amazing how quiet and engaged students are when completing this activity. They are up and down, out of their seats, and you'd think they'd be very distracted...but no matter what the grade level (I've used it with 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades), students stay focused and work hard to complete the questions!
Have you played the math game, Krypto? It's a great activity for problem solving, reasoning, and practicing math skills (fractions!), and I think your students will love it!
Krypto is an activity I learned about at a conference where Dr. Lola May presented (in like 1993, I think!). I didn't realize until a long time afterwards that it was a commercial game that could be purchased :) I believe it's also available as an app now. I've used the game idea from time to time, following the rules as laid out in the book I got at the conferece. Krypto can be played with whole numbers or fractions (and with positive and negative integers as well, I'm sure!). Playing Krypto With Fractions The rules are simple (kind of like the "24" game): 1. Choose 5 common fractions, with denominators of halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, eighths, tenths or twelfths. 2. Students add, subtract, multiply, and/or divide the fractions to make the 5 fractions equal the target number of 1. 3. Students receive points for meeting the target number of 1. For example, if they reach the target of 1 using only 3 numbers, they get 300 pts; 4 numbers = 400 pts; if they use all 5 numbers, they get 1,000 pts. You can set up the point system any way you'd like. Krypto can be used as a team effort/team game or individual enrichment activity.
What's your favorite time of the school year? I'm guessing that it probably isn't testing time, nor the test prep weeks leading up to it! In spite of the fact that we never want to teach to the test or prepare students just for a test, the fact remains that students have to take the standardized tests, and we want them to do the best they can. So, how can we best use our test prep to help them?
1) Spiral Review The most effective test prep method I've found is using spiral review throughout the year. The warmups I use review previous concepts, reinforce current concepts, and introduce new ones. This way, we are always solidifying concepts ("prepping for the test"), and as we get closer to test time, the warmups give us a chance to discuss concepts that might show up in the testing, but that we won't cover until after the testing occurs. Using these warmups may put me a little 'behind' in the curriculum on a daily basis, because they take time; but it helps solidify understanding and puts my students a little ahead with other concepts at the same time. I'm good with that:) Finding the Lowest Common Denominator with the Ladder Method What's the most challenging math topic to teach/most difficult for your students to ‘get'? This was my question in a recent Instagram survey. I got a variety of responses, but the one that came up most often was fractions – remembering the ‘rules;’ students finding common denominators when they were multiplying; students (older students) not being able to find a common denominator; and so on. So, today, I’m going to share how to use the ladder method to find the lowest (least) common denominator, and hopefully, if your students have struggled with this, it will help them (and you!). Before I explain how it works, I want to share that I've used the ladder method for several years, after many years of teaching GCF and LCM the ‘traditional’ way  the way I’d been taught! And during those years, I’d often get frustrated by the fact that students would miss the GCF because they missed factors, or they couldn’t find the LCD because the numbers got too big so they just multiplied the denominators…..or they listed out the multiples, but made a mistake in one list, and so they never found an LCM/LCD. I'm sure you know what I mean! The ladder method took these issues away, and it also added something I didn’t initially expect – it appeared to improve number sense for many students who struggled with their multiplication facts or with the idea of finding factors and multiples. It helped them understand HOW numbers were related to each other by making the breakdown of the #s more visual (using prime factorization does this as well, but the ladder method provides a little more organization to the process, and I think that’s helpful). 
AuthorHi, I'm Ellie! My mission here is to support teachers as they work to provide engaging, meaningful experiences for their students. I've been in education for 25 years, teaching all subject areas at both the elementary and middle school levels, and am here to share what I've learned through those years, as well as what I continue to learn. I hope you'll find some ideas or resources here to help you out! Categories
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