Back to School Activities
Always looking for new ideas for the beginning of the year? Me too!
I've got a few for you and your students, for when you head back to school!
The Name Game
I used this game for many years.....many times I'd plan not to, but then I couldn't stand not knowing kids' names right away, so we'd play:-) Students and I get into a big circle, and I ask students to come up with an adjective that describes them and begins with the same sound as the beginning of their first name, like 'Energetic Ellie." The first student to my left shares his/her name; the 2nd student repeats the 1st student's name and then shares his own. The third student repeats the first two names/adjectives, and adds her own. The activity continues in this way around the circle until we get to me, and I get to repeat all the names.
This game helps me to get to know all the students' names during the first class session. It also helps me learn about the students - it tells me who seems to have a good memory and who has more difficulty. I can see who appears to be confident and who is more hesitant; who's willing to accept help (I always prompt if they want/need) and who isn't. And of course, their adjectives usually tell me something about them:-)
Getting to Know You Truth or Dare
Truth or Dare - kids are intrigued when they hear the name! “Math Truth or Dare – Getting to Know You” is a set of 30 questions you can use to get to know your students and to help your students get to know each other.
There are 15 “Truth” question cards and 15 “Dare” question cards. Most of them do not have a “correct” answer, so if more than 15 students choose to answer a “truth” question or a “dare” question, then the questions can be used again.
The Truth questions ask about the students, while the Dare questions ask students to complete math computations (some of the computations are based on facts about the student, so these can also be used again, as students’ answers may be different.) You can grab this freebie on TPT or as part of the free download if you opt in for my email updates.
How do you help your math students retain concepts?
How do they remember the meanings of certain terms?
How do you help them prepare for those standardized tests?
Spiral review helps with all of these. I've been using spiral review for a long time, but never wrote about it before - so here we go:-)
How does spiral review on a daily basis help students?
I've been using daily math with spiral review since 2013 (and now there's a digital version!) I created my own daily math at that time, because I couldn't find a resource that really helped my students. With this spiral review, I found these benefits:
Ideas for How to Use Daily Math
1) Cut each page into the separate days for students to work on as their bell ringer or warm up (or assign each day to students in Google Slides).
2) Have students keep the daily math pages in a binder so they always have them available (my favorite).
3) Display the pages for students to see as they enter the class. They can complete the problems in their notebooks.
4) Use the pages as homework.
5) Have a weekly/monthly/quarterly quiz, allowing students to use their daily math pages as a resource - I love doing this because it helps students to make sure they don't lose their pages!
It's the beginning of the year (semester, quarter) - let's set some goals!
Have you done this with your students? If so, how did they do with their goals? Did they achieve them? Or, as happens with so many adults, did they try really hard for a few days and then kind of forget about them?
Why do we have difficulty achieving goals? As adults, we often fail to stick with the actions needed to get us there. Or we set goals that are 'too big' or require an incredible change in our behaviors. And it's hard to change behaviors! I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in behavior and change. But according to sources I've read and listened to lately, our brains resist change - they really want to keep us in the same patterns, with the same behaviors, because it's comforting and safe. If that's the case, then it's a little easier to understand why students have difficulty too. If their young brains also want to keep them in the same patterns because it's comforting and safe, how can we, as teachers, help them to break out of those patterns to meet new goals?
A Word Game for Any Subject
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!
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 all-expense-paid trip to any location in the US.
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.
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 working on 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!