Games Over Worksheets

Games Over Worksheets


The longer I work with children, the more I see the value of playing games. Playing math games is a powerful way not only for students to learn and master skills but to apply those skills.
Games give you the same great practice as the best worksheets, but are vastly superior. Why?
  • Games are much more engaging than worksheets. Who doesn't want to play a game, right?
  • Games can address curriculum standards as well as, or better than, any worksheet.
  • They can be less stressful. We typically don't "grade" games, so that pressure is off kids.
  • They are new and fresh each time they're played. Especially if the game includes pulling cards randomly or rolling dice, you never know what you're going to get.
  • Once students learn a game, they can work independently. That's great for building confidence and for the smooth flow of a classroom.
  • Games are typically one-prep/low-prep for teachers. Enough said.
Subscribe to my newsletter (to the right) and you'll be able to access my Resource Library. There, you can download my Valentine Fraction 4-In-A-Row game. Complete directions are at the top of the page. You can copy in color or black and white. All you have to add are number cubes and markers.
I deliberately designed this version to include more challenging fractions. By February, students should be able to reduce fractions successfully. This game gives them tons of opportunities to have fun while they practice this skill!
I'd love to hear how it works for you! Happy Math-ing!
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Pat McFadyen
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Valentine Math Choice Board FREEBIE

Valentine Math Choice Board FREEBIE


     We're heading into the wonderful Valentine season! There are so many fun and creative activities for this time of year and we can't forget that academics come first. I've designed a fun and creative, Valentine-themed Math Choice Board for you - and it's free! Kids can choose from among 16 different activities to practice math and get creative! I've included three different color versions and an ink-saving black & white version.
    How to get this Valentine Freebie? Sign up for my newsletter. You'll have access to the link and an immediate download.
     I'd love to know how you like it!
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Pat McFadyen
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Movies That Will Inspire Teachers

Movies That Will Inspire Teachers


     Teachers spend their careers feeding and inspiring others. It's no surprise that teachers often need a dose of inspiration themselves. A recent Facebook thread had members sharing their favorite inspirational teacher movies. Some were funny, some modeled great teaching, and some modeled the teachers we don't want to be. As I read the list, I thought how great it would be to have a ready resource for those times when you need to pile up on the couch with snacks, and possibly tissues, and reaffirm why we all do this. 
     Consider searching for a quick synopsis before you watch these movies. You can determine which ones fit your needs and tastes, then sit back and be inspired! I'd love to know what other movies inspire you in the comments section below.
  1. Mr. Holland’s Opus
  2. The Ron Clark Story
  3. School of Rock
  4. Akeelah and the Bee
  5. Stand and Deliver
  6. Mona Lisa Smile
  7. McFarland USA
  8. Finding Forrester
  9. Bad Teacher
  10. Dead Poets Society
  11. To Sir, With Love
  12. Mr. Holland’s Opus
  13. Dangerous Minds
  14. Kindergarten Cop
  15. Freedom Writers
  16. The Miracle Worker
  17. Billy Madison
  18. Matilda
  19. Pay It Forward
  20. October Sky
  21. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  22. Jump Street
  23. Mean Girls
  24. A Smile As Big As The Moon
  25. Facing Giants
  26. Wonder
  27. The Marva Collins Story
  28. Harry Potter
  29. Finding Nemo
  30. Big Fat Liar
  31. Precious
  32. Renaissance Man
  33. Remember the Titans
  34. To Be and To Have/Etre et Avoir
  35. Lean On Me


Stock photo by Samuel Ramos, TpT Hardplayed
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Pat McFadyen
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Have Fun Building Number Sense: Play "No More"!

Have Fun Building Number Sense: Play "No More"!


                                       
     Would you like to have a no-prep math activity that you can use with almost any grade-level? Would you like to feel confident that you're building number sense? How about knowing you're creating a segue into pre-algebra? If so, let's play "No More"!
     When I say "no prep", I mean it! Simply stroll to the white board or Smart Board and sketch this:

     Next, pick a number. I typically use the day's date at the beginning of the year, but you can pick any number. Write the number at the top.
     Now, challenge students to call out as many different ways as they can think of to "express" that number. This is a beautiful way to get used to identifying just what a mathematical expression is - another way to say a number. I always make an ELA connection here, explaining that I can refer to a child, say Jayden, with different expressions. I can refer to Jayden as, "Jayden", "Mr. Williams", "the boy closest to the door", "the guy in the red shirt", "one of my students", etc. In the same way, we can refer to numbers in just as many ways.
     As you get started, students will typically share fairly simple expressions although some students are ready for more advanced examples:
      You can help students by interjecting some expressions yourself. Remind students that they can use the word form of a number, the short word form, Roman numerals, and later on, decimals and fractions.
     My students would often hang out with the easiest expressions they could think of, like addition. As you notice one operation being used a lot as in the example below, write the operation in the "No More" column. This means that there can be no more addition used in expressions for the rest of the game! Yikes! Kids really start to slow down and think!
     They may head for the relative safety of, say, subtraction. Let them go a while, then lower the boom. No more subtraction!
     Continue playing for a few minutes, usually 2 - 5. Once you eliminate a third operation, you're really cooking!
     You get the idea. You're guiding students to think deeply about how to create a number and they're understanding the difference between expressions and equations.
     Consider adding this to interactive math notebooks, assigning it as a warm-up, and letting kids collaborate before they share. I'd love for you to try "No More" and let me know how it works for you!
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Pat McFadyen
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Build Number Sense With Contig!

Build Number Sense With Contig!


     Have you ever heard of the math game Contig? If you haven't, please keep reading and consider adding it to your collection of go-to math activities. I recommend this game for any class for so many reasons:

  • it's awesome at building number sense
  • it's easy to prep and play 
  • each game is fresh and new 
  • you and your students can adapt it to your own needs as you go 
  • it works beautifully in centers, small groups, or as whole-group fun 
     You can download a free copy of the game board here. There is also a Contig, Jr. for younger students. Here's the game board:

     Materials are simple. For a pair of students, you need a laminated game board, 3 dice, and a different colored dry erase marker for each player.
In a nutshell, here are the rules:
1) Roll three dice. Use the numbers just as they are. For example, if you roll 2, 4, 6, they cannot be 24 or 62... just 2, 4, 6. 
2) Add the three numbers. The sum is your starting number. Cross it off the board. This is the only time that you are required to do anything specific with the numbers you roll.

3) Look at all of the numbers surrounding the number you marked off. These are your target numbers. For example, if your starting number is 12, your target numbers are 3, 4, 5, 11,13, 19, 20, 21. You do not have to mark them, as I have in blue below. This is just to show you what is allowed.
4) On each turn, roll three dice. The player can perform any operations in any order on those three numbers as long as the result is one of your target numbers. For example, if you rolled 3, 5, 6, you could say: 3 x 6 - 5 = 11. Cross off 11. 
5) Your new target numbers are 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21.
6) Continuing rolling 3 dice on each turn. Perform mathematical operations to produce one of the target numbers. Notice that your target possibilities increase with each new number. Continue play for a specified time or number of turns, whatever works for you.

     Once students are very confident with playing the game, they typically start asking to change the rules. That's great! This type of mathematical discussion is powerful. I always ask students to predict how their suggested change will affect the game.

     If students ask about the name, Contig, I love to make this ELA connection. I tell them it comes from the word contiguous, then ask if that sounds like a word they've heard before. They typically respond, "Continuous". I agree and say contiguous means continuous and touching. That refers to the target numbers that need to be touching, or contiguous to, the numbers you choose.
  
    I hope you'll give Contig a try. I love it so much, I created a version to send home with my students. It's a great homework activity. You can find it in my store here.

     Best wishes and I'd love to hear how Contig work for your students!
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Pat McFadyen
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Have Fun Learning With This Adverb Game!

Have Fun Learning With This Adverb Game!


   
     When we teach grammar, students can get a little stuck on different parts of speech. Nouns and verbs can go more smoothly, but adverbs and adjectives can be challenging. The names both starting with the same letter can add an extra layer for kids to sort.

     For years, I used a game that is such a great learning tool! "In The Manner Of The Adverb" is easy to teach, so much fun to play, and helps students internalize an important concept. You don't even have to wait until you're teaching parts of speech to introduce it. It makes a great indoor recess game or brain break and is super at building collaborative skills. In addition, kids are very active, they practice expressive skills, and the game is supposed to be fairly quiet!

     How to play "In The Manner Of The Adverb": 
1. If you haven't already, explain to students what an adverb is and how it's used. You don't need to go into a lengthy grammar lesson, you'll be developing the concept by playing the game over time.
2. Have a list of adverbs from which to choose. If you're good at "mental grammar", that's great! I always needed a list so I could differentiate on the fly. You'll also need a list of tasks that can be performed in the classroom. Examples are "sharpen your pencil" or "adjust the mini-blinds". I've added a list below to get you started.
3. Choose two students, the Adverb Guessers, to step outside of the room. I always used two students just so they could support each other and to foster collaboration. You can use one, if you wish. Another character you might need is a Door Person to call the Guessers back in and to assure there's no peeking if you have a glass window!
4. Once the Guessers are outside, write an adverb on the board or a slate and silently show it to the rest of the class. It's important that no one says the adverb out loud. Erase the word and call the Guessers back in.
5. Start calling on students to silently perform a specific task "in the manner of the adverb". Let's suppose we chose the adverb "quickly". You might say, "Jayden, please come shake my hand in the manner of the adverb." Without speaking a word, Jayden would quickly leave his seat, come shake your hand, and return to his seat, all without speaking. The Guessers can now take a guess at what the adverb is. I always give each pair of Guessers three tries.
6. Let's suppose the Guessers don't know or guess incorrectly. You'll call on Lilly. "Lilly, please go sharpen your pencil in the manner of the adverb. Without speaking, Lilly will quickly walk to the sharpener, sharpen her pencil, and return to her seat. The Guessers can try again.
7. After a third try, or whatever works for your group, you can reveal the adverb to the Guessers, choose two new students, and choose another adverb.

   You'll probably have a plethora of students volunteering to perform a task for each adverb. They get so excited! To keep everyone active and involved, I allow students to sit on their desks or stand out of the way during the game.

     The two tools that I mentioned in Step #2 that are good to have at hand are a list of adverbs and a list of activities that can be performed in a classroom. To get you started, I've included a list for each. Feel free to add to them!
     I'd love to hear how this game works for you! Best wishes!
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Pat McFadyen
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An Inspirational Poem And A Gift For You

An Inspirational Poem And A Gift For You



     One of my favorite back-to-school activities for my 5th graders was to recite and learn this growth mindset poem, "The Ones Who Think They Can", by Walter Wintle. There are a number of versions of the poem, and this is the one that worked best for us.
     On the first few days of school, we would all read a projected copy of the poem together a couple of times. I talked about the meaning and the concepts behind it. I explained that the word "man" means "mankind", not just males. Each student would cut and tape the smaller version into their math or science journal for reference.
     We continued reciting the poem as part of our morning routine for a couple of weeks, then we'd do it together more occasionally. I challenged students to commit the poem to memory - memorize is a fine word, too. If they wanted to, they could recite the poem to me privately, or to the class. In return, they would receive a "100" in the subject of their choice. I do not typically reward students, or pay them, for academic performance. However, since this was an optional challenge, I felt good about it.
     Some of the phrases started to find their way into our everyday comments. If we mentioned someone who persevered against strong odds, someone might say aloud, "The ones who think they can!" If someone made a comment that was sort of down on themselves, someone might remind them, "If you think you're beaten, you are."
     Please grab a free copy here and use it in your classroom. I'd love to hear how it works out for you!
     
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Pat McFadyen
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