Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Are your students BEGGING for pen pals?? Since the start of the year I've had SO many students come ask..."Mrs. Ippy, uh, can we have pen pals this year?" Unfortunately between the assessing we teachers are doing and the content we must cover pen pals tend to fall low on the list of priorities.

HOWEVER, speaking of testing...I was doing some reflecting on the state standardized assessment our state requires for the 3rd grade. Many practice questions from the math portion of that test required our littles to read a story problem, read a fictional student's thought process, then analyze whether or not the fictional student was correct. WOWZA! That's a lot for a 9 year old! So, to get in the practice of this business I thought up a crazy idea that would kill 2 birds with one stone...that is, the math error analysis & having pen pals! ;) 

The idea is math pen pals!! I talked to my teaching buddy across the hall and ran it by her first. The idea is that my students will read a 2-step story problem, and solve using the 5 step formula we've been practicing. Then, my students will write a constructed math response explaining their thinking. (See my anchor chart regarding a math constructed response below!) While my students are busy solving during our math workshop, her kiddos are doing the same, except with a completely different 2-step story problem. After our students both solve and write their responses, we switch papers.   

I copy these pages double sided so that the original students' thinking is not lost. My class will read the story problem and the original student's thinking. Then, they will flip the page over, solve on their own and write a letter to their pen pal explaining whether or not they agree with the first students' thinking! 

I am SO excited to give this a whirl! My class and my friend's class have both responded to the first story problem...can't wait for them to read and respond to their peers. I know that this isn't the traditional pen pals my students were hoping for...but hey, teachers make it work! 

I am thinking about making bundled sets of these, because, really, this whole pen pal concept could be used with ANY math content (not just 2 step story problems). My plan is to eventually add it to my "writing about math" component of my math workshop.

Interested in trying this out in your own classroom? Check out my FREE sample here! :)

Would you be interested in a resource like this?! Please..any feedback is appreciated!!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

It's that time of year yet again! Snow is falling, lesson plans are calling...and Christmas break is almost here! I wanted to create a FUN winter art project that still included math practice. So, after much thought I came up with my CUTIE PENGUINS!

 This craft-ivity is a great one, not only because your kiddos will be thrilled to create their own arctic penguins but also because the math piece can be differentiated to meet the needs of your students. In 3rd grade, we used multiplication and division number sentences to show fact families, however, addition and subtraction would work well for younger learners as well!

Here are some things you should know if you're looking to pursue this craft. You will need the following supplies to make it happen:

  • Colored construction paper
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Glittery pipe-cleaners
  • Hot glue gun & glue sticks
  • Clear Glitter (optional)
  • Spray adhesive (optional)
So, after printing and copying the penguin templates on coordinating colors I made a stop at Hobby Lobby to pick up the rest of my supplies. I had fun picking out cute paper to use for the penguin scarves! I also made sure to pick up glittery pipe cleaners, clear glitter, and spray adhesive for a super snowy touch!

Once we finished cutting out, assembling, and gluing our penguins together it was time to add the pipe cleaners. I dropped a glob of hot glue on the back of each ear muff and held the glittery pipe cleaner there until the glue had dried. I had pre-cut pages of teal construction paper, so next we added our penguins and fact family page to each teal sheet. Then, to make our snowy penguins REALLY come to life I sprayed each sheet with the Elmer's spray adhesive (I LOVE THIS SPRAY GLUE!!) and sprinkled clear glitter on top to give the illusion of snow falling. 

 The penguins turned out ADORABLE! My kiddos truly had a blast creating their arctic penguins. In fact, the craft was so much fun that they blew right through the math part of this project! I added some letters to my bulletin board that read: "Fact Families are Snow Much Fun!" While at Hobby Lobby I picked up some colorful and cute wrapping paper that became my bulletin board paper and some lime green garland that I stapled around the whole bulletin board. Finally, I swung by the dollar store to pick up some glittery snow flakes to add here and there. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a full picture of my bulletin board (the tiny hallway really hinders my photography skills!) But here it is:

Click here to find my penguin fact family winter bulletin board art project in my TPT store. Also, find my bulletin board letters here for FREE! I simply printed on white card stock, cut out, and laminated for durability!