Returning to in Person Learning: Next Steps

Have you returned to full in person instruction yet?

I feel very lucky that here in MA, viral rates have been dropping over the past few months and teachers have had the option to register for vaccines for about 2 months.  The children switched from hybrid instruction (in September) to fully in person at the end of March.  Like many schools, I’m seeing some children who were remote learning rock stars and others who struggled.  Plus they haven’t interacted with half of their peers for over a year!  The building was closed from March to September, and then my students were separated into 2 cohorts for 2 days in, 2 days asynchronous, and 1 day of remote instruction.  So now what?

Now that I feel more protected (and my mom and husband are too) I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.  It’s true that group and partner activities don’t work like they used to.  Protocols around eating and general sanitation are still in effect.  But the brain fog I experienced with too much all at once has cleared.  I’m feeling a sense of cautiously moving on.  So I’ve started thinking about next steps as a teacher for my students to finish the year stronger and prepare for the inevitable learning gaps some, but not all children will have next year.  My first priority with this class was some extra social and emotional learning time during the day.  But at night, now that remote learning is out, planning differentiation is my biggest priority! 

The good news is TpT is having a sale, so if you are also prioritizing differentiation now (or planning for next year) you can save 25% May 4th and 5th. 

Differentiating Your Return to in Person Learning

Many people love my Long Division Matching Game.  It’s easy to explain how to play (flip them over and try to find a match).  But what about students who have been unable to complete their work for the past 15 months during remote instruction?  Yes, some fourth graders still haven’t grasped the concept of multiplication, and it can feel frustrating when we want to move on to fourth grade standards.  This game will help you bridge the gap.  This Multiplication Arrays Matching Game looks very similar to the long division graphics, but it features multiplication equations.  I like to work with my multiplication skills group this game while the rest of the class does the long division one.  I spend time modeling how to count rows and columns to match the equations and then matching it to the answer on their multiplication table.  Soon they are playing the game independently and getting that much needed repeated practice with the concept of what multiplication really is.  It also helps them transition to the long division concept. 

On the other hand, some of your students probably did fine over the past year, and a few may have really excelled at online learning.  I found that although many of my students need reteaching now that they’re back full time, others are ready to move on.  Many people love my Line Up! series for comparing and ordering fractions.  What started as a small, quick activity has expanded into bundle covering multiple standards, and then turned into a Google Slides version with a motivating superhero theme for remote learning (although as adorable as those cityscapes look on the Chromebooks, I prefer using the original because the kids get up and moving to discuss the sorting process).  But what about students who are ready to move on to decimals?  This new addition to my product line:  Line Up!  Compare and Order Decimals takes the game your students are already familiar with and has them apply the process to comparing and ordering decimals.   

Or if you want low prep practice to introduce the topic, check out these Decimal Number Line Worksheets.

And if you missed my last blog post (or were waiting for a sale…and now it’s nearly here) I have Compare and Order Peppers:  Numbers to the Hundred Thousands Place.  This product is priced for the 4th grade standard but comes with levels of differentiation above (over a million) and below (under 10,000).  Keeping with the spicy theme, the levels of the place value are grouped into mild, medium, hot and extreme heat.  The illustrations and Scoville Heat Units for each pepper were researched to be accurate because most years my 4th graders become seriously interested in this topic.  Comparing and ordering numbers for different place values has never been more relevant to them!    

Are there other math skills you find yourself reteaching this year?  Let me know!  I might have a product already, or it might give me an idea to put on my to do list. 


Take Care!

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How to Teach Comparing and Ordering Numbers

Are your students learning to compare and order numbers?  In fourth grade, our objective is to read, write, compare, and order numbers up to 999,999.  Here is how you can organize your lesson sequence for place value with numbers in the hundred thousands. 

Assess Prior Knowledge of Place Value

Students should know place value up to the amount you are asking them to compare.  In other words, if you want your fourth graders to compare and order numbers in the hundred thousands place, but they can’t read numbers higher than 9,999, practice finding the value of the digits in numbers such as 12,345 and 234,567.  I have a fun, differentiated game called Codebreaker to help them practice applying this skill. 

Students who can’t read numbers as high as your goal can still practice the skill of comparing and ordering numbers.  Start them with numbers that have fewer places (in other words, numbers to 9, then numbers to 99 before delving in to numbers in the hundreds and beyond).  As you introduce the skill of comparing, nearly all your students can participate as long as you differentiate the numbers you are using.  Then during small group instruction you can provide intervention with the place value of higher numbers. 

Provide Direct Instruction for Comparing Numbers

When we compare numbers, we start from left to right because digits on the left have a greater value than those on the right.  In the number 1,234,567 the number with the greatest value is 1.  That’s because it’s in the millions place so it’s not worth just one; it’s worth 1 million.  Use the place value when explaining.  The 7 is in the ones place so it’s not worth as much as any of the other digits. 

When we compare numbers with a different number of digits, the number with the most digits is greater.  In other words, 100 is more than 99 because it has 3 digits but 99 only has 2 digits.

When we compare numbers with the same number of digits, compare numbers starting on the left because they have the greater value.  For example, 876,543 is greater than 765,432 because 8 hundred thousand is greater than 7 hundred thousand.  Again, name the place value when explaining.   

When we compare numbers with the same number of digits and the numbers on the left match, move one space to the right on both numbers to compare (as many times as necessary).  For example, 999,991 and 999,992 have identical numbers until you get all the way to the right.  The numbers 543,210 and 546,789 have identical numbers starting on the left, and in the next place over, but we find a different number in the thousands place.

Provide Opportunities to Practice Comparing and Ordering Numbers in Context

Now students have the math knowledge they need to compare and order numbers.  But your work is not done!  Teach the associated vocabulary and provide and model a variety of contexts for applying this skill.  For example:

  •        Which number is greater?
  •        Which number is less?
  •        If I have this many and my friend has that many, who has more?  Who has fewer?
  •     Fill in the blank:  123,456 is __________ 123,210.
  •        Order these 3 (or more) numbers from least to greatest.
  •        Order these 3 (or more) numbers from greatest to least.

If you’d like a fun activity for your students to practice comparing and ordering numbers, I have a fun task cards activity: Compare and Order Peppers.  And yes, it includes a paper version as well as a Google Slides version.  It was inspired by some of my fourth graders who were very interested in spicy foods, bringing in spicy Doritos and arguing which is the hottest.  Some watch the One Chip Challenge videos on YouTube to see people’s reactions to eating spicy food.  My husband (also a fan of spicy foods) introduced me to the Scoville rating system and I realized the potential connection to math! 

Or, if your students have mastered comparing and ordering numbers in context, start planning your lesson sequence for estimating.  You can get more teaching tips specifically about estimating here on my blog.

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