Eating Equivalent Fractions

With the introduction of Common Core this year, many of our math standards have changed.  My fourth grade students have spent weeks working with fractions.  (Seriously – weeks.  I’ve just come back from maternity leave and they are STILL working on fractions!)  In order to augment the classroom instruction, my students did some iLesson work with equivalent fractions.

Equivalent FractionsTo begin with, we used several apps on the iPods to independently practice identifying equivalent fractions.  McGraw Hill makes a great app called Equivalent Fractions.  It is a paid app, though McGraw Hill is known to make its apps free a few times a year.  The gameplay is a cross between a solitaire game and a matching game.  Players match cards with images of equivalent fractions and draw from the pile when they can’t make a match.  I like that the students had pictorial images to compare, especially as we were beginning instruction on equivalencies.

squeeblesAnother app we used was Squeebles Fractions.  This one is a little bit more fun as it involves cake.  Students have to feed the Squeebles pieces of cake based on fractions.  The catch is that students have to know equivalent fractions to be able to divide the cake correctly.  The app does a nice job of making student apply their knowledge to feed the Squeebles.

The students’ favorite activity however involved candy bars.  I always use food as an example when talking about fractions.  Who wouldn’t want 4/5 of a candy bar instead of 2/10?  However, on my teacher salary, I can’t afford to buy the amount of candy I would have needed to let everyone cut candy bars into pieces.  Instead we used our Ken-a-Vision Flexcam and the Educam app to split candy bars into equivalent fractions virtually.

Students used the Educam app to complete a performance assessment.

Students used the Educam app to complete a performance assessment.

Students cut candy bars into equivalent fractions virtually.

Students cut candy bars into equivalent fractions virtually.

After sending an image of three Snickers bars to the iPads, students were asked to choose a simple fraction, split the candy bar into the correct amount of pieces, and label the fraction.  Students then had to figure out two equivalent fractions (open ended – students could find any equivalency they wanted), split the candy bar into pieces, color in the part they were going to eat, and label the fractions.  Students uploaded their images to Dropbox and I used this as a performance assessment to show whether or not the kids could find equivalent fractions.

Students had to show the process they used to find the equivalent fractions.

Students had to show the process they used to find the equivalent fractions.

I also used this lesson with a group of students working on modified standards.  We took the same idea, but used two Kit Kat bars.  With this group, I required them to show me the math calculations they did to find the equivalent fractions.  Using both the pen and typing tools in the app, students split, calculated, colored, and labeled their candy bars.  I used this group’s uploaded images as an assessment as well.

I loved the engagement level of this assessment, and the mastery that kids were showing when they applied their knowledge.  However, I’m sure that the students will tell you that the best part of the equivalent fractions was when I let them eat their math lesson.

Alliteration – iLesson style

We’ve been working on figurative language the past few weeks, and I have to say that tying technology into figurative language has been a lot of fun!  With my love of creation based apps, these activities have been a perfect match.  I hope to post several small iLesson plans in the near future showcasing some of our great projects.

ImageWe started with alliteration as our first skill.  To start off the lesson, we of course did some note-making.  Instead of using a podcast this time, my students explored the app Baby’s First Monsters: ABC.  The app features the Alliteration Academy.  Each letter of the alphabet is represented by an alliteration about a mythical monster or legendary creature.  After making sure that my students knew that I didn’t want to know anything about the actual monsters, they were given the purpose of defining the word alliteration using just this app.


Locating alliterations in Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

Our next activity hooked my students immediately because they got to listen to music. Using the iPods, students had to listen to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.  The rule, as always, is to listen to the song twice.  The first time is always just to listen.  The second time students played the song, they had to write down as many alliterations from the song as they could.  I set a timer, and allowed them ten minutes to do this.  After coming up with a few – and the obvious title of the song – I put a copy of the lyrics up on the Smartboard.  Students used highlighting tools to identify the alliterations they heard and any others that we missed.

ImageOur last activity used a new app that I just discovered,  iFunFace.  The app uses pictures either from an album or using the camera feature and creates talking bobble heads.  The students developed their own alliterations and then created mini-movies of their talking heads.  While the app I used is the full version, there is a free version available – it just has less of the accessories and voices.  Students chose to either use a photo of themselves, or to locate a Creative Commons photo that represented their alliterations.  The results were hilarious!  Check out a couple of our videos:

Fox alliteration 

Crocodile alliteration 


Teaching Time

We’ve been doing a telling time unit the past week or so, and I thought I’d hit a few of the highlights of the unit.  First of all, teaching time can be pretty boring.  How many ways can a student practice either using a manipulative clock to show a time, or reading clocks to tell time?  Finding a hook to reach the students is essential to keeping the students engaged.  Here are a few of the ways I incorporated technology into our time unit.

I started the unit by teaching my students a really specific way of telling time in a step by step fashion.  To help clarify the procedure, I used a great screen casting app called Educreations.  I created a quick two minute video that detailed the steps and posted it on my class webpage.  This allows my kids to access it if they need to, but more importantly allows my students’ parents to see exactly what the procedure looks like.  Check out the instructional video here: Telling Time to the Five Minutes.

I also used two apps on our class set of iPods (though I could use them on the iPads as well).  The first is a very simple time app good for beginners.  Wooly Wormies: Tell Time Lite has several practice games including a parent/child game, a change the analog clock game, and my favorite a matching game.  I had my students practice matching digital times to analog clocks showing times to the quarter hour.  My first group of students used this app to self check and practice their skills.

A much more in depth app is Mathtappers: Clockmaster.  The app has three difficulty levels: time to the quarter hour, time to the five minutes, and time to the minute.  Players either change a digital clock to reflect the time given on an analog clock, or turn the hands on an analog clock to match a digital clock.  After ten chances, the app gives a score out of fifty points.  This makes an easy informal assessment grade if you need it.  The app stores information for up to four students per device, making this a good progress monitoring app as well.

Overall, I was really just looking for some quick ways to hook my students into a unit that can at times seem boring.  The only way to learn to tell time is to practice the skill repeatedly.  With digital clocks making analog clocks outdated, it’s even more difficult to engage the students.  These few activities brought a little life to what could definitely have been a dry unit.

Halloween Narratives with a Twist

With Halloween just around the corner, and the students starting to get hyped up, I strive to find engaging ways to tie the holiday into our instruction.  The challenge is to stay away from some of the routine pumpkin lessons and find a rigorous way of letting the kids expend some of their built up excitement.  We do this by writing Halloween narratives.

Instead of a generic “write me a spooky story” directive, we go at the narrative in a whole new way.  This is the first time our students have been exposed to narrative writing this year, so we begin with a quick day of introduction.  Using our interactive notebooks, students take notes on my side of the notebook.  We define narrative as a story that is usually fiction.  We also note that a narrative has several essentials.  It must have a plot (defined as beginning, middle, and end); characters (with several outlandish examples); and setting (not just where, but the time of day, season, weather, etc.).  As a class we then create a class Wordle (a word cloud) with all of the setting words that we can think of in a 10 minute period.  I print out our class Wordle and the kids paste it on their side of the interactive notebook.  Check out our Setting Words Wordle here!

We use the Unpleasantville Soundtrack to create the basis for our narrative.

The following day, our narrative assignment is explained.  Students are given a 10 minute period to listen to songs selected from a spooky soundtrack.  All of the songs are instrumental.  I use the Unpleasantville Soundtrack found at, but any spooky soundtrack will work.  As of the time of this blog post, that album is free.  Students must select one song from the given tracks.  Based on the title and the theme of that song, students must create a completely imaginary narrative that goes along with the music.  They must at some point in the piece address the title and tie it all together.  As students work on their narratives, they have free access to the iPods to listen to the music, so long as they continue to work.  The room is completely silent for several days as students work through the graphic organizer, rough draft, editing, and final draft phases of the writing process.  They are completely engaged in their work and instead of fighting to get a couple of paragraphs out of these budding writers, I’m getting pages!

We finish up the lesson by having students record themselves reading their own narratives on the Garageband software found on MacBooks.  Once they’ve recorded themselves, I lay down the track they chose behind their voices to create a spooky story.  We end up with a great way of publishing our writing – in an unconventional way.  Though, at this point, I’ll remind everyone to be careful of copyright rules.

I’ve attached a copy of the lesson plan and rubric I use for this narrative lesson.   Halloween Narrative Lesson