## Wednesday, April 23, 2014

### Easy Fraction of a Set Game

Fraction of a set can be a challenging concept for fourth grade.  Often they are still trying to understand the idea of fractions dividing a whole into equal sized parts.  So looking at a given number of equal sized groups that relate to one as "one whole set" is very confusing.

To begin, we go back to the division dots task cards that we used earlier in the year.  This gets them comfortable.  I much prefer the "we did this already" as opposed to the, "I don't get it."  Because the moment they are bored I tell them, "Good, you remember.  Now we're just going to add one more step, which is to color a certain number of sets after you circle them."  And they are on their way!  There are 3 levels of practice in my fraction of a set task cards.

In order to help them conceptualize fraction of a set without a visual, I came up with a quick review game you can do with your class, and all you need is masking tape!

Here's how I explain and scaffold for the game.  Right before Morning Meeting, I used thin masking tape and divided the rug area into a large area and a small area.  That day I had 16 students.  I told them "I want 1/2 of the class in the large area, and 1/2 in the small area."  They quickly and easily got into 2 groups of 8.

Next, I asked each group to line up in their section.  I wrote "1/2" on the board and explained that there were TWO lines, because 2 is the denominator.  I asked if they thought they could get into FOUR lines, with only 1/4 on the small side and 3/4 on the large side.  Once that was done, we determined that 1/4 of 16 is 4.  I asked them how much 3/4 of 16 was, and they counted 12.

The next day I pushed them a little further, asking for 3/8 of 16.  They needed some reminding about getting into 8 rows, but what most of them COULD do independently was to get 3 of those lines in the smaller side and 5 on the larger size.  I asked how many kids were in the 3/8 of 16 section and they counted 6.

The final variation of this game was to find a "mystery number."  In Math in Focus, Chapter 6 (Fractions) they have to basically "do fraction of a set backwards."

In other words, I tell the class that I am thinking of a certain class size that is SMALLER than the number of students present today.  That number is a mystery.  However, I will tell them that 3/5 of that number is 9.

Again, to start out they need reminding that they need to get into 5 rows.  They remembered on their own to have 3 rows on one side with 2 rows on the other.  Then I reminded them that there should be 9 kids on the side with 3 rows.  At that point, they remembered they needed equal sized groups.

When there was a single student left over, not in a row, they determined that the class size I was thinking of was one less than 16:  15.

In the end, we discuss 3 ways to find fraction of a set.  I had a few kids find the algorithm (method 2) on their own as they were working on the task cards!  They really feel like they "own" it when they "Find a method."

Do you have any tips for teaching fraction of a set?

P.S.  For more tips, follow me here:
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT
Pinterest
Instagram

## Wednesday, April 2, 2014

### Edmodo vs. Classroom Weebly Blog

Over on All Things Upper Elementary, I wrote about my first attempts to use Edmodo with my class.  To sum up, it has some great features for my fourth graders, and they were very excited about it.  However, because I have more experience with Weebly as a classroom blog, I feel as though I need to decide for next year: will I use Edmodo, Weebly, or both?  Today I weighed the benefits of each in order to come to a decision.

Both sites:

• Allow teachers to publish text, photos, documents, and links. It's great to have a "home base" when you want students to go to a new website ("go to our page and click the link" instead of "type in this long address").  It's also great for kids to use at home as a study tool if you post your anchor charts, Educreations videos, or YouTube videos of demonstrations you've shown in class.
• Allow students to post replies.
• Allow teachers to "moderate" comments (which means they are not published until the teacher approves them) if you wish, as well as turn off moderation (so kids' comments appear immediately) if you wish.
• Any post or comment can be deleted at any time.
• Get kids excited about reading and typing for an authentic purpose.

Switch to Edmodo:  The pros

• Edmodo appeals to kids because it looks like Facebook.
• Edmodo is much more "social" as opposed to Weebly, which is more teacher driven.  That is, on Weebly the teacher writes posts, and the kids can click "reply" to respond.  Kids can view each other's comments by clicking "comments."  On the other hand, on Edmodo, kids can see all replies at a glance.  They can write their own posts, not just reply to the teacher's.  They can even upload pictures and links.  All that felt really scary to me at first!  However, as my instructor said, most kids are not going to post inappropriate things right in front of their teacher any more than they are going to stand up in the middle of class and say inappropriate things or display inappropriate photos.  (Of course, if your students are the sort who would, see above regarding how to moderate posts).
• Edmodo has built in online storage.  They can save a document they are working on in class into their Edmodo "backpack," then save it onto their computer at home.
• Privacy.  The kids and I can post photos on Edmodo.  When I used Weebly the only photos I posted had their faces cropped or digitally covered.  Now they can see their pictures of class parties, showing off projects, and so on.
• Polls.  This is a niche thing, but for fourth graders to see their votes turn into a bar graph is a great learning experience in and of itself.  Edmodo also makes voting easy, private, and fun.
• Quizzes.  Like Google Docs, it is possible to create a "form" that can be used for online quizzes.  The idea of having it all integrated is nice.
• Teaching communities.  It's not just the kids who benefit from Edmodo.  If you participate in the online communities, you will be surprised what ideas and resources teachers from around the world can offer you in no time!
• Features I haven't mastered yet.  There are alerts, assignments, and a calendar on Edmodo.

Stick with Weebly:  The pros

• I can keep more control.  I fear that if the kids can post whatever they like, there will be too much junk to weed through to get to the content I want them to see at home.  There are filters on Edmodo, such as "view posts from the teacher," but for fourth grade it seems like one step too many in terms of accessing information.
• I can keep posts more organized.  Although both sites allow posts to be organized (such as math posts, science posts, and so on), I don't think I have the ability to move a post if the kids (or I) post in the wrong area by mistake.  There are also archives by month in Weebly that I don't see in Edmodo.
• I can schedule posts.  In Edmodo, when you post there is a time stamp and to my knowledge those posts can not be reordered; it's there the moment you click "send."  And if I'm up very late on a school night, I don't like having my students see that reflected in the time I post (it just sets a bad example).  In Weebly, although I can't schedule posts in advance (to my knowledge) I can move posts around.  So if I write 3 posts and I want the math one to appear at the top, I can change the dates to post date the other two.
• It's not the most profound reason, but as much as the kids like the look of Edmodo, I don't.  My Weebly blog has a lot more "personality" with the background image, custom banner, my choice of fonts, and so on.
• I can create pages in Weebly.  I like to have important information on separate pages, such as "How to Log in to Study Island" and "News for Parents."  I don't see that on Edmodo.  I feel like those things we talk about at the beginning of the year that I want them to access all year will get lost in the mix.
• No student accounts to worry about.  I had to create a permission slip for my students to check the "my parents agree to the terms of use" box.  Weebly does not require user accounts and they don't require parent permission.  So when there are some parents who do not give permission (I have 3) I feel as though things are not equitable for all my students.  It was bad enough to have a blog when not all my students couldn't get on at home due to lack of internet access.  But to now have a place where some of my students can't go on even during the school day makes me think twice about what I post.
• No username and password hassle.  On Edmodo, with every child using a different password (and forgetting) it adds an extra management piece that is more of a hassle.
• I'm not sure I need those extra features (alerts, assignments, and a calendar).  I have to admit I don't love kids seeing things on there that I'm not updating; it makes me feel like a slacker!

 Limited Time Freebie
Conclusion:

I think that next year I'm going to do exactly what I did this year.  Start out with the Weebly blog.  It's easier to manage.  Then, as with all good teaching, the time will come for "gradual release of responsibility."  We will switch over to Edmodo when they have seen me model what a good post looks like, (informative, but encourages a response from readers) I feel that their comments are on topic, and I can trust them to represent themselves well online.  It's working for us this year, so I will do the same next year.

Do you use either of these online platforms with your class, or have you tried one of the others?