Building Student Engagement with Math Coloring Pages

Have you reached that point in the year where your students are not engaged?  Are they bickering with each other during math learning centers?  Small group work is so important to practice social and emotional skills, as well as to give you time to differentiate your instruction to meet learners where they are.  But sometimes I find that even when I give my fourth graders tools daily in their SEL tool belt, they reach a point where they need a break from each other, even for just one class period.  That's when I break out the coloring pages.

Now I know what you're thinking.  Fourth graders are smart enough to look at the bigger picture, skip the math content and color the sky blue, the skin whatever neutral shade is listed in the code, and then maybe do the math to find out if the shirt is yellow or red.  Typical "color by code" coloring pages aren't usually rigorous enough for upper elementary, and that's why I developed Math Quilt Coloring Pages.  

Differentiated Math Coloring Pages

These math coloring pages are perfect for upper elementary students because students can't just guess the colors of the polygons.  Most pages have triangles or squares, and each set of pages have patterns that aren't immediately obvious.  That being said, each set of pages is differentiated so there is at least one page with fewer problems on the page for learners who benefit from less visual noise.  Having a variety of pages also cuts down on kids peeking at their peer's papers who work faster than they do.  And the end result makes a beautiful display for your hallway.

Fourth Grade Math Objectives

The math objectives for these coloring pages are designed with fourth graders in mind:
  • Long division
  • Decimals
  • Factors
  • Equivalent Fractions
  • Rounding
  • Prime and Composite
  • Least Common Multiple
  • Multiplication

So if you're looking for math review when your students are burned out, try these math coloring pages

If you have any questions about how I implement these pages, leave a comment, or Ask a Question over on Teachers Pay Teachers.
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Mentor Sentences with Answers for Grades 3, 4 and 5

Do you use Mentor Sentences with your students?  They are a great way to cover Common Core Language Standards as well as what makes writing effective, as opposed to the traditional sentence correction method used in worksheets that ask students to find the errors.  I find that providing models helps students elevate the quality of their writing in context.   If you're new to the idea of incorporating grammar practice into the craft of writing new, creative sentences you can read my introduction to Mentor Sentences here


Another great feature of Mentor Sentences is the time spent on spiral review.  Those of us who use Mentor Sentences during our English Language Arts block encourage students to notice what works well in sentences they read.  Of course, an invitation to notice language is an open-ended activity; no one answer key will fit all possible responses.  Facilitating a variety of responses during daily class discussions will make the real reason for grammar instruction (learning to communicate more effectively) come to fruition. 


However, after a few years of use, (and the RETELL course emphasizing the importance of sentence frames for English Language Learners) I realized that I was helping my students with similar specific terminology in certain sentences.  Some students benefit from multiple choice options to initiate a discussion.  Because I teach fourth grade, I went to the grade level below to see what concepts they have already learned.  This helped me create a list of terms that I could draw from that they were more likely to be familiar with.  This helped cut down on students writing “I notice the sentence has a period” for every paper every week!  So today I wanted to provide you with the answer options for Mentor Sentences at each grade level:


Third Graders Might Notice These Concepts in Their Mentor Sentences

Some third graders will recall these common core standards concepts from second grade:

1.      I know that _______ is a collective noun.

2.      I know that _______ is a plural noun.

3.      I know that _______ is a reflexive pronoun.

4.      I know that _______ is an irregular past tense verb.

5.      I know that _______ is an adjective that describes _______ .

6.      I know that _______ is an adverb that describes _______ .

7.      I notice this is a simple (or compound) sentence.

8.      I notice that _______ is capitalized because it is a holiday (or product name, or geographic name).

9.      I notice that the apostrophe is used in the contraction (or possessive) _______ .

These sentence frames set a high standard of analysis for your third graders.  For example, some students will recognize a pronoun but not recall the term “reflexive pronoun.”  Some students will write “I notice the sentence starts with a capital end ends with a period” because it’s a safe, correct (if terribly generic) answer.  Obviously as the year goes on, you will want to encourage them to branch out, and these frames will help scaffold that process.


Fourth Graders Might Notice These Concepts in Their Mentor Sentences

Some fourth graders will recall these common core standards concepts from third grade:

1.      I know _______ is a noun (or pronoun, verb, adjective, or adverb) because __________.

2.      I know _______ is an irregular plural noun.

3.      I know _______ is an abstract noun.

4.      I know _______ is an irregular verb.

5.      I know _______ is a simple tense verb.

6.      I know _______ is a pronoun referring to _______ .

7.      I know _______ is a comparative (or superlative adjective).

8.      I know _______ is a comparative (or superlative adverb).

9.      I know _______ is a coordinating (or subordinating) conjunction.

10.  I notice this is a simple (or compound, or complex) sentence.

11.  I notice _______ is capitalized because it’s a title.

12.  I notice a comma is used because it’s in an address.

13.  I notice the comma and quotation marks are used because there is dialogue.

14.  I know _______ is a possessive noun (or adjective).

15.  I know _______ is a base word and _______ is the suffix. 

Again, these set a high standard at the start of the year for your fourth graders.  As they progress through the year, they should also begin to notice concepts covered in the fourth-grade standards you’ve covered early on.  On the other hand, you may find some fourth graders recognizing second grade standards.  They may need support or reteaching of some third-grade standards. 


Fifth Graders Might Notice These Concepts in Their Mentor Sentences

Some fifth-grade students will recall these standards from fourth grade:

1.      I know that _______ is a relative pronoun (or adverb).

2.      I know that _______ is a progressive tense verb.

3.      I know that _______ is a modal auxiliary.

4.      I notice that _______ are correctly ordered adjectives.

5.      I know that _______ is a prepositional phrase.

6.      I notice this is a complete sentence with no fragments or run-ons.

7.      I notice _______ is the correct homograph because it means _______ .

8.      I notice _______ is capitalized because _______ .

9.      I notice commas and quotation marks are used to mark direct speech (or quotations from a text).

10.  I notice a comma is used before _______ because it is a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.

11.  I know _______ is a Greek affix (or root).

12.  I know _______ is a Latin affix (or root).

13.  I know _______ is figurative language. 

Here are the fifth-grade standards that your fifth graders should start recognizing concepts from after you’ve taught them:

1.      I know that _______ is a conjunction (or preposition, or interjection) because _______ .

2.      I know _______ is a perfect tense verb.

3.      I know that _______ is a verb that conveys this time (or sequence, state, or condition) _______ .

4.      I notice these verbs _______ and _______ show an appropriate shift in verb tense.

5.      I notice _______ are correlative conjunctions.

6.      I notice _______ are used to separate items in a series.

7.      I notice _______ is an introductory element separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma. 

8.      I notice _______ is a tag that is set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

9.      I notice _______ is underlined (or has quotation marks or italics) because it is a title of a work.

10.  I notice I notice _______ is a Greek affix (or root) that means _______ .

11.  I notice _______ is a Latin affix (or root) that means _______ .

12.  I notice _______ is figurative language that means _______ . 

Want to try Mentor Sentence Worksheets?


I hope these sentence frames help you and your students elevate the level of discussion about their Mentor Sentences.  If you are looking for Mentor Sentence Examples you can pick up some free mentor sentence samples, browse isolated grammar concepts for grades 3, 4 and 5 or download complete bundles here

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5 Ways to Teach Place Value and Word Form

Once your students can count past 20, it's a good time to teach them place value.  I'm glad our curriculum in fourth grade starts with place value.  It makes sense that students understand what a number with multiple digits means and how to say it before we ask them to find products with 4 or more digits!   So to start out our year, I want to share with you 5 ways to teach place value and word form.

1.  Money (Hands on Learning)

The biggest hook I have for teaching place value is MONEY.  I ask students what is it about big numbers, like millions, billions, or more, that interests them the most.  Usually we get to money early on in that introductory discussion!  I have students start sorting play money on a place value chart to keep the learning tactile. 

There are several activities you can do with small groups, a place value chart, and money.  Students can build numbers (show me $23, 852).  Vary the number of places according to your objective and their zone of proximal development.  You can repeat this activity later in the year when teaching estimating as well as decimal place value by introducing dimes and pennies as tenths and hundredths.  You can also use these materials to add numbers.  I like to start with multiples of ten, such as "What is $2,000 more than $23,852?"  You can multiply, such as "Show me 3 sets of $42,312."  You can divide, as shown here.  And of course, you can demonstrate regrouping, such as, "I notice when I added I got 12 bills in the thousands place.  I'll trade ten of them in for the place to the right of it, which is ten times as much." 

2.  Be the Number (Interpersonal Learning)
The second place value lesson will always hold a special place in my heart, because it's the reason I was hired at my present school (skip this paragraph to get to the lesson itself, or read on if you'd like my origin story, haha).  I got called in mid September for the fourth grade position when funding came through for the present teacher to take on a different role (so no red flags there in terms of why there was a vacancy).  When I arrived for my interview I had a gut reaction like never before; I felt like this could be home.  My interview went better than usual (I said things like "when I work here," not in an overconfident way, but because I was feeling it).  The panel was leaning toward the more outgoing other candidate, I later learned, but I was the second choice going into round 2, which was to come and teach a lesson.  I was given the option between reading and math (place value).  While the other candidate did a read aloud (and failed to impress) here is the lesson I taught that won over the panel (and the children).
Without seeing any of their curricular materials, I decided direct instruction of place value should point out that there are patterns to numbers.  There are times to say the period (thousand, million, and so on), times to say the word "hundred" in every period, and there are numbers I like to call "buddy numbers," such as "forty-seven" as opposed to "four, seven."  And speaking of the periods, in standard form, their names aren't explicitly written.  No, instead of writing "million," or using a period as in the punctuation mark, we write a comma (go figure?).  So to make all these patterns come alive for students, I created an activity for this group of students that I was meeting for the very first time called "Be the Number." 

After selling them on the idea that we'd be learning how to read big numbers like 247,856,423, I told them I was going to need some volunteers to come up and Be the Number.  Or more to the point, a part of the number.  And they'd hold up a sign.  Then I told them, "I also want to get to know you all a little bit.  I'm sure some of you have a good friend in this class.  Some of you love to be the center of attention.  And some of you don't talk very much but you're hard workers.  However you see yourself, I am going to need your help to build the number.  And if you aren't called to come up to stand in front of the class and hold up a part of the number, I need your help too, because audience participation is going to support the building of this big number, so are you ready?
First, raise your hand if you have a good friend in this class [I'll spare you the part where I asked their names each time so the interview panel saw I was already getting to know the children; there were 2 parents on the panel so I wanted them to see me getting to know their children right away].  Okay you two are the number 23.  Not '2 and 3;' you're going to say your buddy name together, 'twenty three.'  Next, I need someone who loves to be the center of attention.  Okay, Mickey, you come on up.  You are going to say your number, 'Four,' nice and loud.  Now we, the audience, are going to give you that attention you love by answering you with the word, 'hundred.'  Next, I need someone who is a quiet worker.  You're going to hold up this comma, and you don't need to say anything.  And we, the audience, are going to respect your need for quiet work by whispering, 'thousand.'"  

Now I'm hoping you can see where this lesson is going, choosing partners, centers of attention, and calm students, so I'll skip ahead to how the final number sounds:

Kid #11, loudly:  Two
Audience: Hundred
Kids #10 & #9:  Forty-seven
Kid #8 silently holds up comma, Audience whispers:  Million 
Kid #7, loudly:  Eight
Audience: Hundred
Kids #6 & #5:  Fifty-six
Kid #4 silently holds up comma, Audience whispers:  Thousand
Kid #3, loudly:  Four
Audience: Hundred
Kids #2 & #1:  Twenty-three
Round of applause!

The only preparation I needed here were about a dozen pieces of colored card stock (all one color so as not to be distracting in terms of patterns) with a number on each and two with commas.  Of course there was repetition built during the construction of the number as roles were being added in in so we practiced saying 423, then 56,423, then 47,856,423 before getting to the final number.  And I did plenty of pointing at who was meant to be speaking to help prompt the speakers throughout.  The social emotional part of the lesson, in my opinion, was even more important than the place value, but of course it also cements the concept of patterns in math by creating a real world framework.  The anchor chart in this post was designed to anchor students' thinking to the activity throughout the rest of the unit.  
3.  Chips (Hands on Learning)
The chips can be used the same way as the money, as explained above, but it makes the concept slightly more abstract.  The numbers on the chips are especially helpful when you move into decimal place value, since there is no coin representing a thousandth of a cent. 

4.  Number lines (Visual Learning)

If you like to teach math like I usually do, starting with hands on learning and then moving on to visual before ending with the abstract, Number Line Worksheets are a great way to do it.  I feel like there is a lot of buzz about fraction and decimal number lines, which I use as well, but that's just even more reason to start with whole numbers when exploring place value.  Having students look at the increments on these pages get them ready for estimating, as well as thinking flexibly about units in measurement, graphing, and of course, place value.  

5.  Games (Logical)
Finally, a math concept isn't complete for me unless we can make a game out of it.  You may notice that I put games last in my list.  The reason is I find a lot of math games are not playable unless students already understand the concept they are practicing.  That's just going to lead to off task behaviors.  So either save the games for independent practice or make sure you are partnering a motivated student who struggles with a student who enjoys taking on a teaching role (games are wonderful in those partnerships).  I have multiple games that I use for place value practice:

a.  Power of Ten is a card game.  This low-prep game has just 8 cards to cut out for each level (I have a whole number version with 3 levels as well as a decimal version).  Students draw cards to see if they are multiplying their number by 10 or 100 and moving across the place value chart in the process. 

    b.  Codebreaker requires even less preparation!  You can make copies of the Codebreaker gameboard for students to write on, or laminate/stick them in screen protectors.  Each partner writes a number of their choosing at the top, then asks specific questions about their opponent's number, such as, "Is the number in the hundreds place less than 5?"  I have a decimal version as well. 

    c.  If you're moving on from the concept of place value and word form and into the application of place value, such as comparing numbers, Comparing and Ordering Peppers is a fun game similar to the card game War.  I use the Scoville units for measuring the heat of peppers (and researched them so they are factual) because my many of my fourth graders are fascinated with which is the hottest pepper.  You can read more about my Comparing and Ordering Peppers Game here.  

If these activities sound engaging to you, you can find them all here in my Place Value category page.  If they're not exactly what you're looking for, or you have a question about the implementation, leave me a comment on the blog or "Ask a question" on Teacher Pay Teachers.  

Take Care!

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Prepare for New Student Orientation During Back to School Season

In September, we're prepared to welcome a class of new students.  But midyear, hearing, "You're getting a new student this morning" made me break out in a sweat.  I realized I need to be prepared for new student orientation all year.

Here's how to eliminate the stress that goes along with welcoming a new student to your classroom, even when it's sprung on you at the last minute.

Prepare for New Student Orientation in September.

Keep new students in mind while you are in “Back to School Mode.” Here's how to make a new student feel welcome even when his or her arrival is sprung on you unexpectedly.

Set aside at least 3 extras of whatever materials you make for your students (name tags, journals, and so on).  Put them all in the same place, such as a large manila envelope or Ziplock bag so that you have everything together when a new student arrives.  If you have an extra student desk in your room, put 3 stacks of larger items, such as books, notebooks, and folders right inside.
Keep a current supplies list.  If there are items you can't compile in a set space, keep a list on hand.  Update this list at the beginning of the year when you’re in the mindset for creating an organizational system for new student orientation from day one.

Delegate.  At my school, the assistant principal has the key to the textbooks closet.  This is why I’ve separated my “new student checklist” into books/other items.  I give the left half to her so she can get the textbooks and I keep the right half for myself. 
Keep extra “beginning of the year folders” for papers you hand out at the beginning of the year.  For example, many schools have student handbooks, emergency contact forms, surveys designed to get to know their students better, and so on.  Have extras on hand for a new student in one location.

Have "ice breaker activities" on hand.  Look through your back to school ice breakers.  Have materials ready to go, be it "find someone who" worksheets, "getting to know you surveys," or Morning Meeting greetings.  Depending on your class, you could pull out an old favorite or try something you didn't have time for in September.


Keep a New Student Orientation Checklist.

To get you started with your preparation for new students, you can download a free, editable new student orientation checklist

Prepare for Parent's Night.
Being in the mindset of welcoming your new students will also help you get into the mindset of welcoming their parents.  Here is my editable Parents’ Night Packet.

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