Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sidewalk Chalk Math & I'm Flattered!

Two of my fourth grade classes are taking a math test on Friday.  We thought today we would do a fun review.   This means going outside for sidewalk chalk math!  I should mention that we are having a mini heatwave.  The temp outside today was 93.  My partner teacher and I were tempted to stay inside and revise our plans, but it turned out to be cooler outside in the shade and breeze than it was in our NOT air conditioned classroom.  I'm not sure I'm going to make it to June 27th if this heat keeps up!

Sidewalk chalk math is something I have done with my students every year once the weather gets nice.  It involves getting a bucket of sidewalk chalk and a math page covering the skills of your choice.  We paired up the kids, and took them out to the shady area of the blacktop behind our school.  The kids solved the review sheet by showing all their work on the blacktop.  Simple!

Yes, there are two #4s on the sheet.  
We just penciled in an A and a B. 
Problem solved!

My other class was unable to go outside, so we just switched it up a bit.  Sidewalk chalk math became magic marker math.  This time I gave each friend some chart paper and two markers.  They solved all the problem on the chart paper using magic markers.  Turns out it was just as fun as sidewalk chalk math and a lot less messy!  In the past, I've actually done math this way on occasion and it is amazing how a couple of smelly markers and big chart paper that's all your own to write on will immediately engage your friends.

This is actually a good way to do on-the-spot assessment.  No student was given a red magic marker.  Red just happened to be the teacher color marker today, but it could be any color that your friends don't use.  I know some teachers don't like the whole "red pen" thing.  Having a color maker the kids didn't have allowed my partner teacher and I to wander the room and put a big check, C, or star on each problem answered correctly. As we walked, we could easily see the red and know right away who needed checking.

If we saw a friend struggling with something, we were able to crouch down and provide a little one-on-one instruction.  As this was a mixed review for a test, it enabled us to really focus in on those that needed specific help with specific skills. I mention that I did this with a partner teacher, but it is very manageable with only one teacher in the room.  I have done it that way many times.

I guess the point of this post is to show that just switching things up a bit by changing the scenery, method, etc. can make a huge difference in student engagement.  All my friends in both classes were practicing finding the volume of prisms, identifying faces, edges, and vertices, working with positive and negative integers, and much more.  All my friend were actively engaged and very receptive to help.   What they didn't do was complain that we had a math review or lay their heads on the desk and complain about the crazy hot temps in our classroom. Everyone actively participated, prepared for the test, and nobody complained.   I consider this a success!  How do you switch things up in the classroom?

And, then this happened. . . 

A few months ago I was interviewed for an article in the Summer 2013 issue of  Scholastic's Instructor magazine.  I had done a post a while back giving some tips on how to pack up your classroom for the end of the year that got a little notice. Written by Julia Martin, the article is called 10 Tips for Packing Up Your Classroom.  I was happy (and beyond flattered!) to contribute some of my thoughts.  It was nice to see some of my ideas in print in a magazine I actually subscribe to. The article includes many more great idea by other teachers that I totally plan to borrow!  If you get a chance, click the link above and give it a read! 

Thank you, Scholastic!

By the way, Scholastic's Teacher express has extended their Dollar Days sale for two more days.  So, obviously the sale ends two days from the date of this post.  If you aren't familiar with their Dollar Day sale, take a look.  They provide a ton of different teacher resource ebooks that you can purchase for just $1.  They are digital downloads of the actual books you would normally buy and use as black line masters, etc.  It's a great way to gather some new resources without cluttering up your bookshelves.  Click HERE to visit their sale page.  You can browse by grade level.

*This is not a sponsored post in any way.  I would have told you all about the Scholastic Dollar Days sale even if they hadn't included me in their magazine.  I am sure they don't even know I have posted about it!  But, it is too good a sale to not share with you! 


  1. Congratulation on being published! I love your blog! Your wonderful ideas have helped my classroom be organized and full of learning. Thank YOU!

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad you found some of what I ramble on about a bit helpful! Lol!!

  2. Congratulations! How fabulous to be recognized! Great article!
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

  3. I am packing up my classroom this year for a move upstairs and to a new grade level and subject. I just sought out that post of yours from last year the other day to read it again. Thanks for giving me some more great tips. Like you, many of my resources, lessons, and books I have acquired over the years will now be obsolete as I am moving to sixth grade. Congrats on the publication.

  4. Hi Bonnie,
    I so know what you mean about some of our teaching materials becoming obsolete as we move grade levels. When I moved from enrichment classes to teaching basic skills classes the following year, there was so much I wasn't able to use!
    If you are packing up, this is a good time to weed out some of those posters and such that you don't need anymore. If you didn't see it, I did a post about reevaluating all those posters we buy every year. I can't post a direct link in comments, but here the page:

    Thanks for reading the blog!