3 Tried and True Ways on How to Teach Multiplication

The gateway to learning algebra and higher forms of mathematics is multiplication.  It is critically important that elementary school children learn the concept of multiplication as well as, just learning the multiplication facts.  I am a big believer in using manipulatives and concrete objects to teach concepts to elementary school children. When introducing the concept of multiplication or when my students are practicing with the idea, we use manipulatives such as the foam tiles that are included in the math program.  You can use anything:  beans, counters, buttons, etc. 


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But it is also essential to use the manipulatives with strategies that can transfer to paper and pencil models as well.  Though there are many ways to teach the concept of multiplication, I have always emphasized equal groups, arrays, and number lines.  Each one has its strengths and difficulties for students to use.

MAKING EQUAL GROUPS


The first strategy is to teach equal groups.  After all, multiplication is the grouping of equal numbers of objects to quickly find a total.  Students must be explicitly taught, and they must practice forming, identifying and counting equal groups.  The student's desktops become whiteboards in my class. Students can be told to get 12 tiles and see what kind of equal groups can be formed (3 groups of 4, 4 groups of 3, 6 groups of 2, 2 groups of 6, 1 group of 12, 12 groups of 1).

Once grouped, students can draw circles around each group and then use skip counting.  Once students are able to form equal groups, I also give them a number that can not be formed into equal groups such as 13.  This is to emphasize the importance of having each group equal.  When groups are not equal, you can not multiply.

Here are some videos that illustrate the concept of equal groups.  They can be assigned to the students to watch individually or watch it as a class.  They are kid-friendly and offer good examples and explanations. If you're using Google Classroom, you can post them as a resource for students to use at home or in the classroom.  If you use EdPuzzle.com, these videos are excellent for prompting the students with questions so that viewing the video is just not a passive experience.







This particular video really emphasizes the ideas of groups, by using real-life examples of "group holders."





USING ARRAYS TO MULTIPLY


Once students have a solid understanding of equal groups, arrays can be introduced.  Arrays are to multiplication what ten frames are also.  Arrays provide a structured way to see groups making it easier to count totals and recognize quantities.  I use the same tiles to create arrays.  I like to start out a lesson on arrays by asking how groups could be arranged in a way to make them easier to count.  Eventually, someone discovers or builds an array.  Then we have a discussion of why arrays are easier to count.  It's also a great idea to show them real-life examples of how ordinary everyday objects are grouped in arrays.

Check out this video!





Arrays are also a useful tool for discovering the Commutative Property of Multiplication.  Just rotate an array 90 degrees, and you have a related fact!  If you have students eventually draw their own arrays, it is a good idea to use graph paper.  Graph paper will help the students keep their arrays from morphing into uncountable blobs!

Here are some more kid-friendly videos to demonstrate the use of arrays.


This particular video is very useful because it also prompts the students with questions making it more interactive.





Which kid doesn't know about MineCraft®!  Keep the motivation going with this MineCraft® themed explanation of arrays.




USING NUMBER LINES TO MULTIPLY


I always use this method last.  Why? Because though it looks straightforward to use, students make many mistakes when using it!  Sometimes students do not count enough spaces to jump or confuse jumps with how many to jump at once.  In either case, it requires careful teaching and making sure the students understand the steps involved in using a number line to multiply.  I've also thought about using an open number line to multiply as this may lead to less confusion counting the tick marks to jump.  An open number line requires the student to SKIP count by a certain number for each jump.  A marked number line requires a student to count the same amount of ticks each time.

I have number lines that are laminated, and the students put them on a marker board to use. Number lines do not lend themselves very well when using manipulatives.  But by this time, most understand the concept of equal groups.

Here are some videos that can be used for a review or for teaching how to use the number line to multiply.

This first one also points out to students common mistakes when using the number line!






Here's an example of using an open number line.




POWERPOINT RESOURCE WITH PRINTABLES!


Once I have established the concept of using each of these strategies using manipulatives or, I want my students to start connecting multiplication expressions to go with equal groups, arrays, and number lines, I use a PowerPoint I created that explicitly explains how to write multiplication equations.  It's a three-part PowerPoint that teaches equal groups, arrays and number lines to multiply.  It comes with printables that are used along with the PowerPoint.


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The printables help connect the manipulatives to writing multiplication expressions. The PowerPoint is animated and has sound to keep the students engaged.  Many questions are embedded into each slide to keep the students thinking about what is happening.  Presenter's Notes for the teacher also guide the teacher through the PowerPoint lessons and provide questions for stimulating mathematical thinking.


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Take a look at the full PREVIEW HERE.

Click below to see all my 
multiplication resources!


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How to Use the Compensation Strategy for Addition

What are some of the strategies you teach your students or children to add two and three digit numbers?  Do you use compensation?  Or do you begin teaching with the standard algorithm?  Teaching students to be flexible in their strategies makes them more likely to persevere and find a solution.  One of the many strategies I have been teaching my students to use is making a ten.  The next step is teaching compensation which utilizes a number close to a ten (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, etc.).  

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Compensation is defined as adjusting one number when adding.  See the example below:


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COMPENSATION OR TRANSFORMATION?



But hold on!  In some math textbook series, this is referred to as transformation!  So what is the difference?  In my research, the difference between compensation and transformation is that in compensation only one number at a time is adjusted, while in transformation, both numbers are adjusted simultaneously.  Though it seems like semantics, it does make a difference when teaching this strategy to second graders!



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In my district, we happen to use the Go Math textbook. Though we are encouraged to NOT use it as intended but to focus on the standards, number talks, math talk and teaching students strategies I still use it for practice (students have consumables).  In Go Math, this process of adjusting numbers is referred to as compensation.

TEACHING THE STRATEGY


Since I have Math Their Way training, I try to start teaching a concept or a strategy at the concrete level which is defined as using manipulatives only.  Eventually, we move on to the connecting level in which numbers and symbols are now associated with the use of manipulatives, and then we move onto the symbolic level, in which students use paper and pencil.

Before I began teaching the strategy, I made some work mats that were double-sided and would help add some structure to the lesson.

FRONT SIDE


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BACK SIDE



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Download the Compensation Strategy Work Mats here as a PDF!


In the examples below, we started learning compensation by only using manipulatives to represent numbers.  I also used a Number Talk in which I showed number models similar to the ones below and asked the students to find out how many there were.  Students shared various strategies, including counting on, making a ten, grouping tens and ones, etc. 


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I would give the students two numbers that they had to represent on either side of the zigzag line.  For this part, I had the students work together as partners sharing one mat since I was limited in the number of manipulatives I had for this lesson.

The students would physically move the ones over to one side to complete a ten.  Note that we did not trade the new ten for a rod (that comes later when we focus on regrouping).



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SWITCHING TO THE CONNECTING LEVEL



Now that the students had an understanding of the concept of adjusting or compensating numbers, it was time to put manipulatives away and go to drawing models for the number as well as adding numbers and symbols for addition.


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We used the boards to practice this at least 5 times before I could see that the majority could do use this strategy independently.    From there it was time to go to the symbolic level and practice in the math consumable.


Here's a video of one of my students using this strategy independently.








What other strategies do you use for teaching addition with two and three digits?  Please share below in the comments!

If you would like to make your own mats for teaching the compensation strategy, download this PDF!  Just print out on cardstock, laminate, and you're ready to go!




Making 10 is an Important MUST HAVE Mental Math Strategy

Just the other day, I taught a lesson about making a TEN to add sums greater than ten.  For example, with 8 + 6, you could increase the 8 to a 10 and reduce the 6 accordingly by 2 to make a 4.  Thus, 10 + 4 = 14.  Adding with a zero easier to do mentally.  But as I soon discovered, my second graders could NOT mentally make a 10 in their heads.  They did not have automaticity for the addends that made sums of 10.  So I had to stop the lesson and go back and have them practice just making a ten with two addends.





Many, many years ago I taught first grade.  Back then, I had been trained in Math Their Way. By the end of the year, my first graders could make ten mentally and pretty much knew all the math facts to 20!  Math Their Way is a developmentally appropriate curriculum to teach addition and subtraction.  The ability to make ten or to mentally rearrange numbers and internalize the addition facts gave these first graders a tremendous conceptual understanding of addition.  Why don't we have that today?





WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?



Simple answer:  time!  We just do not give students enough time to internalize these strategies, so they use them effortlessly.  The same thing happens in all the grades.  In third grade, we just expect students to memorize the multiplication tables without internalizing strategies that help them learn those facts.  My youngest son is in fourth grade, and the same thing is happening in which the school is using a math textbook and just going page by page.  This results in literally overwhelming the student with strategies to multiply multi-digit numbers without giving the student time to internalize these strategies.





WORKING AT THE SYMBOLIC LEVE FIRST IS A NO-NO!



I have been teaching third grade since the early 2000s and so the last time I taught second grade was before the Common Core Standards were adopted.  I've always wondered why my incoming third graders STILL struggled with basic addition and subtraction facts.  I really didn't have the luxury to slow down because I had to teach multiplication!  So what ends up happening is we send third graders onto fourth grade still having NOT solidified addition and subtraction strategies.

If you look above at the textbook example problem, you will see that this is all done on an abstract level.  Students in second grade still need to operate at the concrete level (manipulatives, realia) before moving to a connecting level (manipulatives and numbers/symbols) and finally working at the symbolic and abstract levels.





When trying to do this lesson, I had the great idea of using a laminated card with a math frame so we could do many of these problems as guided practice.  What I quickly found out, was that my students could NOT come up mentally with an addend that would make a ten.  I assumed that they had had so much practice with ten frames in first grade, that making a ten was second nature.  But it was apparent that it was not!  So I had to backtrack and begin by practicing making a ten.  They just needed more practice in various ways, even if it meant using their fingers.





PRACTICE MAKING TENS



Games are always a great way for kids to practice basic skills.  We practiced making a ten using a die.  I would roll one die, and the students had to hold up the number of fingers to complete the ten (what's the missing addend? is the terminology I used).





Another way was to use the Chromebooks and find online games.  I found 2 particular games that I found fun and accomplished the task of finding corresponding addends that add up to ten.




This online game can be found here:  http://www.mathplayground.com/number_bonds_10.html.





This online game can be found here:  http://gotkidsgames.com/tt/tt.html.





We also added all the combinations of 10 to our Math Journal for reference.  We noted that there were patterns to making a ten.  We also found a double and demonstrated the Commutative Property of Addition.

I found this YouTube video particularly helpful to my students as well!





An anchor chart showing different addition strategies also hangs in our class.  We have not added the Make a Ten strategy yet and won't until the students are more proficient in just making a ten.





The empty space is for the Associative Property of Addition.  We will use this property to make tens.  I still to this day remember one of my math teachers showing us this simple trick.  When adding numbers in a column find the combinations of ten first!  So simple, but powerful.


USING THE CONNECTING LEVEL


If you're familiar with Math Their Way, the connecting level is the level in which students connect conceptual understanding (using manipulatives) to symbols to represent the same.  We used counters to represent each added in an addition sentence such as 7 + 5.  We arranged each as a ten frame (5 across).  Then we moved counters from one number to the other to make a ten.  Then students could see that all we had left to do was add 10 + 2 = 12.






There is one more step I will use to teach this strategy before practicing in the book again.  This video demonstrates it wonderfully.  Instead of using numbers, the teacher draws circles for part of the making a ten strategy.  This is perfect!  The students can visually see what needs to be combined to make a ten and what is left to add.  I've also added a link to this video for parents to watch as well!





Come back soon as I will be blogging about Multiplication Strategies to teach your students so they can attain multiplication fluency!


5 Helpful Multiplication Videos for Your Students

Most teachers report that students struggle with multiplication fluency.  In fact, the problem is pervasive enough that even my son's eighth-grade math teacher said the same thing at his Back To School Night presentation to the parents.  Almost all students eventually understand the concept of multiplication and can use various strategies (arrays, skip counting, repeated addition, etc.) to find a product.  But ultimately, multiplication fluency is needed to move on to higher level math problems and Algebra.





I grew up in the 60s and 70s when we weren't explicitly expected to have memorized our multiplication tables.  I still remember using the multiplication table in my Pee-Chee folder when I was not sure!  But one thing I do remember is Schoolhouse Rock and the multiplication songs... .who cannot forget the haunting melody of figure eight!

So here are 5 multiplication videos to help your students start practicing.  They can rock out to popular tunes, learn some tricks and tips and just have fun.


#1 Mr. De Maio


If you haven't heard about Mr. De Maio, then you're missing out on some very engaging videos!  He has produced videos for all different subject areas, especially for elementary students.  He's created a set of videos for each of the multiplication videos from two to nine.  The videos use today's modern music to have your students singing along and learning those facts!  Here's an example of one of his multiplication videos.




Be sure to subscribe to his channel!

#2 Schoolhouse Rock


If you were a kid growing up in the 70s watching Saturday morning cartoons, you got to watch these classic videos.  These cartoon vignettes taught us some important history (The Shot Heard 'Round the World), some grammar (Conjunction Junction), and multiplication!  I've always used these videos with third graders anytime we have some extra time or as part of a lesson.  The tunes are catchy using all different types of music (classical, country, Do-Wop, Boogie-Woogie, etc.).  Here's an example of one of the classics.






#3  Numberock


Think of Numberock as an updated Schoolhouse Rock with rap style videos.  Numberock videos can be found on YouTube as well as a dedicated site (www.numberock.com).   Numberock also has a store on Teachers Pay Teachers for math lessons for almost all grade levels.  The animation is top notch and the songs original and catchy.  Here's an example of one of the multiplication videos (there are videos for all the multiplication tables).





#4 Multiplication Trick for 9


My own son uses this trick ALL THE TIME when multiplying by 9 so I can vouch for its effectiveness.  Each year I teach it to the third graders.  I just put my hands under the document camera and demonstrate how to use this trick.  But a video is great to have because you can assign it for homework in Google Classroom!  This version is produced by PBS and Full-Time Kid.






#5  Multiplication Made Easy


This is a short video demonstrating some great tips for multiplication.  Using a multiplication chart, the video breaks down multiplication to about 15 facts you must memorize.  The rest can be learned from skip counting or using the Commutative Property of Multiplication.  It's a great video to show parents as well.






Come back often as I will continue to explore this topic of multiplication fluency.  I've been doing research and have found strategies and approaches to get those students to multiplication fluency.


Place Value Doesn't Have to be Boring!


Now that I have a full month of teaching second grade (previously having taught third grade for almost 10 years straight), I'm actually gaining an understanding of how second graders are prepared for third grade.  If you examine the Common Core State Standards for Math, you will see that place value is really NOT taught directly in third grade.  It is left up to first and second-grade teachers to make sure students learn to read and write numbers up to 1,000.  


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A PLACE VALUE GAME


But teaching and learning place value doesn't have to be boring!  One thing I notice about second graders compared to third graders is that attention spans are even shorter.  Another thing is that you have to mix up your teaching game to keep them focused and processing the information.  They also love to play games!


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So I made up this game to solidify the concept of ten 10s equaling one hundred.  First I spent about thirty minutes prepping the materials I would need.  Lots of place value rods and flats!  Luckily, out math program gives each teacher plenty of these to use.  They're also made of foam which eliminates the sound of plastic banging on a desk. First, I put the 10 rods into bundles of ten and put them in snack size plastic bags.  Then, I put all the 100s flats into a basket so they could be handed out.  Finally, just needed one die and my pick sticks (just craft sticks with each students name on a stick).


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To play the game, I handed out to each student between 2 - 5 of the 100s flats.  Some students got 2 hundred flats, some 3 hundred flats, some 4 hundred flats and some got 5 hundred flats.  Then I explained to students that I would roll the die.  If I got a four, I want to trade with someone who has 4 hundred.  But to make it random, I would first pick a name from the pick sticks and ask that person, Do you have 40 tens?(that being the amount I wanted to trade with the student).  If the student said no, I would ask why not?  Then I would continue picking names until I found a student who could make the trade:  40 bundles tens for 4 hundred flats.



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But just to make it more difficult, I said I needed to ask the student to answer a question before trading.  Sneaky me, I also wanted to have the students practice counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s and 100s.  So I might ask the student:  count by 5s starting with 50.  If the student answered correctly, we made a fair trade, and the class received one point.  So it was teacher vs. class for points.  If a student answered incorrectly, the teacher got the point.  Of course, they won!  Adding the random factor (die and pick sticks) kept everyone in the game.  Asking the same type of question Do you have ___ tens? helped reinforc the concept of ten 10s equaling 100.


MATH JOURNAL



Now it was time to transition over to a model.  In my class, we use a composition book as a math journal. However, we call it our Siri Journal.  You know, just like Siri on an iPhone. When you have a math question, ask your Siri math journal!


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In the journal, I had the students make a model for 230.  They drew 23 lines (each line representing 10). Then they grouped the 10s into 100s.  Then we wrote the number in different ways:  23 tens and 2 hundred and 3 tens.  We also did this with 370.

From there it was time for independent practice with the math book.  I'm not a huge fan of our math program, but I did like this particular set of math practice pages!


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SPIRAL REVIEW OF PREVIOUS LEARNING


I've also been embedding some spiral review into our daily routine. We do about two Number Talks a week to learn strategies.  We also just practice counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, and hundreds starting from various numbers.  This ability to manipulate numbers in your head (mental math) is probably the most important skill you can teach a primary student.  One of my sons started school after Common Core began, while the other transitioned to the Common Core Standards.  I can see a big difference in how they each handle math.  The one that started with the Common Core uses many flexible strategies to manipulate numbers, while the other one is still relying just on memorization.


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I also plan spiral review through games and centers.  I have created an entire set of games and centers to use to reinforce the concept of odd and even.  Having taught third grade, it is critical they understand odd and even!  We use the concept of odd and even to find addition and multiplication patterns!

 
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You can find these centers and games in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  They are part of the Odd and Even Teaching and Learning Bundle.


What strategies do you use to teach place value?  Please share below!


Save Time, Money and Your Sanity with Teachers Pay Teachers

What is it that teachers need more of?  Time and money!  There's never enough time in a day to teach everything we need to teach nor is there sufficient time in the day to prepare all our materials and make new ones for the next lessons.  Same with money!  Unless a district hands the teacher a credit card with no limit (very unlikely and probably illegal), teachers are digging out of their own pockets (or like that teacher in Oklahoma, asking for donations for school supplies holding a sign on the highway!) to buy materials.  This impact on time and money is compounded when a teacher switches grade levels!

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I had to change grade levels right at the BEGINNING of the school year!  That meant finding time to get new resources that would help me teach the second grade English Language Arts and Mathematics Common Core Standards.  I'm very fortunate to work at a school in which each grade level teams and shares ideas, planning, resources, and materials.  That is very helpful when making a transition to a new grade level.   But I still needed resources!


TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS SAVED ME TIME AND MONEY!



Though I am a teacher-author and create resources for Teachers Pay Teachers, I actually did not create resources for this new grade level, but rather for the one I had taught.  To create new resources for this grade level is not as easy as it looks.  First, I have to really understand the standard or topic being taught.  I have to design a lesson or an approach to teaching it.  Then I have to make the resource to help me teach that lesson.  I also have to try out this new resource with the students and see what needs to be modified.  But my students can't just sit there and wait for me to create the resources.  That's where Teachers Pay Teachers saves me time!


FINDING MATH RESOURCES


The first unit in math related to place value.  This meant teaching odds and evens, adding doubles, doubles plus one, standard form, expanded form, word form, digit values and place value names.  I did a search on TpT and found MANY fabulous math resources to use to teach these exact lessons.  All were FREE!  This was such a time saver!  I didn't have to reinvent the wheel.  The resources were high quality that aligned with my lesson/content.  All I had to do was download, print, laminate, and cut.  As a teacher-author, I could have probably created those materials from scratch. But why? It's already done and ready to go!  This saved me the time I needed to then create resources I could not find to match my teaching style or lesson.

Here are some of the FREE resources that I found and used:

DOUBLES CARDS



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I used these to play a matching game.  Students had to walk around and find the card that matched whether they had the number or the hands.  When they found their partner, I had them stand back to back.  Then I had a few partners justify why their cards matched.  Matching games are perfect for second grade because it gets them up and moving around!  Thanks to Blooming Beyond for creating this cards!  You can find them HERE.


DOUBLES GAME




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My students still ask to play this game!  They really enjoyed playing the different versions (doubles and doubles plus one).  Set up was easy. Just give them a die.  The instructions do say to color in the space to get 4 in a row, but I wanted the students to have many plays, so I just had them use counters to cover the sums.  We played the games instead of just working in our book or doing a worksheet.  Whenever we have some time in the day, I bring it out for a quick practice of doubles.  Thanks to Primary Inspiration for creating these games!  You can find the game HERE.


PLACE VALUE CARDS



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Another fantastic resource that I used to reinforce and practice standard form, expanded form, and word form.  I used the cards as a whole group matching game using my pocket chart stand.  Again, it got my second graders up and moving around.  They also had to justify their placement of the cards and explained why they matched.  The cards were ideal for encouraging mathematical discussion and critiquing another's reasoning.  The cards include place value up to the hundred thousand as well as decimals.  Very adaptable to any grade level in elementary.  Thanks for Angela Watson for creating this cards!  You can find the cards HERE.


I CAN MATHEMATICS STATEMENTS



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My district requires teachers to post the standard or the I Can statement on the board daily (and yes they do check).  I have a similar set for both ELA and Math for third grade.  But now that I teach 2nd grade, the standards are different.  I found this particular set of I Can Statements for 2nd grade and have been using them since.  They fit perfectly in the area on my whiteboard I have designated for listing the standards.  Thanks to Partyin' With Primaries for creating this set of I Can Statements.  You can find them HERE.


CREATING MY OWN SECOND GRADE RESOURCES


Sometimes, I could not find what I needed on TpT (whether free or paid), so I created my own resources.  I also rummaged through my closets and found ALL my base ten blocks!  So I separated them into individual baggies containing 10 rods (10s) and 10 cubes (ones).  I gave each student a baggie that was then used on a place value mat I created.  It is two sided.  One side is for 10s and 1s.  The other side has 100s, 10s, and 1s.  I printed each mat on cardstock and also laminated each one.  Then I gave each student a mat, an expo marker and a piece of felt for an eraser.


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I gave my students about 10 minutes of just using the base ten blocks for fun so they could get the novelty out their system.  Then we used them to show a number with a model (base 10 blocks) expanded form and standard form.  I also used the mats later to practice word form as well.


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ODD AND EVEN



When I couldn't find a PowerPoint to help me teach odd and even (I rely on PowerPoints all the time to teach content), I made my own!  Knowing odds and evens is a critical skill because it leads to understanding mathematical patterns as well as, understanding why and even number added to an even number will always yield an even number.  An odd number added to an odd number also produces an even number.  An odd number added to an even number yields an odd number.  This knowledge also helps with multiplication as well.  So make sure your second graders truly understand this concept! In third grade, it is only reviewed but is very important in understanding addition and multiplication patterns.

I am currently refining the PowerPoint and adding sound as well. I hope to have it available in my store soon!  It will be part of a larger resource that will include centers, posters, color by number sheets and an assessment.  Here are some previews of what it will look like.  UPDATE 9/6/17:  THE ODD AND EVEN TEACHING AND LEARNING BUNDLE IS NOW AVAILABLE IN MY STORE! CHECK IT OUT!


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I've also used an Interactive Notebook for math.  I've created some pages that the students glued in and filled out.  Once the school year is completed, I will gather all the templates and make them available.  Here are some examples:


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Soon, I will also blog about the very useful and time-saving English Language Arts resources I found on TpT to help me with my switch to 2nd grade.

In the meantime, check back at my store frequently to see when the ODD and EVEN Resource Pack will be available!  


5 Quick and Important Pieces of Advice When Switching Grade Levels

I have to admit that switching or changing grade levels as the school year began was nerve racking and very stressful.  Although I'm starting my 31st year of teaching, change is always hard.  I've taught mostly third throughout those years, and for the past decade, it has been teaching third grade.  I've had combination classes along the way (mainly a 3rd-4th combination class), but we have a very unique way of instructing our combination classes, so it was never an issue.  But this year I was assigned a 2nd-3rd-grade combination class and now am teaching a class of just second graders.   So, I offer some advice if you have to switch or are changed grade levels.


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#1 DON'T PANIC!


We may be teachers, but we are also human beings.  Your first reaction is to panic!  You're thinking of all those great lesson plans and units you won't be able to teach this year.  You're thinking of how you're going to have to teach new units and new standards.  You're thinking about all the resources you're going to have to buy, borrow or find around the school.  You think so much it is overwhelming!  It's OK to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and a little sad about leaving your preferred grade.  But you shouldn't panic.  Why? It will lead you to inaction.  You'll waste valuable time that you could be using to make the transition smoother.


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In my school, we have a particular way of handling combination classes.  Usually, a combination class in my school involves just having a few (4-8) kids from the one-grade level combine with another.  Because they are so few of that one-grade level, the other teachers from that grade level agree to take them for most if not all of the day.  That leaves the combination teacher with one grade level to teach.  Yes, it does increase the numbers for the other teachers.  But we look at it this way.  Eventually, every one of us will have to teach a combo class, and if we can help each other out, when our time comes we will also get help.  Think of it as paying it forward.

But this year was very different.  Our three combination classes had an even split between the two grades levels that were combined.  So the only solution was for me to take the second graders from the 1st-2nd-grade combo and combine them with my second graders to form a complete class. This meant sending my third graders to the other third grade teachers.  So here I am now teaching second grade!

#2 GET THE PACING GUIDES!


When you're switching grade levels, the second thing you should do is find those pacing guides!  They will show you the entire year in a nutshell and will make your planning much easier.  In my district, grade level units were made by classroom teachers for each grade level and are shared in a Google Drive folder.  So it is straightforward to see what the units for the year are going to be.  In my district, these units are for English Langauge Arts and Math.



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There are also unit binders that each grade level puts together with the resources that support each unit.  Knowing exactly which standards I am going to teach with each unit is invaluable.  Knowing which content area (social studies or science) is integrated into each unit is also invaluable.  Having both allows you to see how the entire year will flow.  Find your pacing guides.  Locate the unit binders.  If your district of school does not have these, another way is to ask a teacher at that grade level to see if you can look at last year's lesson plans (because we know every teacher keeps those old lesson plan books!).  

#3 ASK FOR HELP!


Even with the pacing guides and unit plans, you're going to have questions! You will have lots of them. The third thing to do is don't be afraid to ask for help from the grade level teachers.  I am lucky to work at a school in which everyone is friendly and works together as a team.  It is easy to ask for help.  We've developed a culture at my school in which it is not "my kids" but our kids.  Since we team teach for English Langauge Development (ELD) and RTI, it is natural to think of all the students as our students.  We have a stake in all classrooms being successful.


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What if you don't have a friendly or helpful staff?  I've worked at those schools, too.  The best thing to do is to find a mentor.  Find that one friendly, helpful teacher (even if it's not the same grade level) and ask that teacher for help.  Don't feel intimidated to ask the principal for help!  That's a principal's job which is to support teachers.  Does your school or district have math or reading or some other type of instructional coach?  Ask them for help, too!  Don't add to your stress by isolating yourself and think you are showing weakness. It takes a professional to understand that help is needed.  Ask for it!

#4 REPURPOSE YOUR RESOURCES!


After teaching for 31 years, I have a lot of "stuff."  Yes, most of it is grade level specific, but I know I can adapt some of it to work in my new grade level assignment.  My fourth piece of advice is to figure out how you can repurpose all your read aloud books, unit resources, big books, digital resources, posters, etc., with your new grade level.  The Common Core State Standards from second grade and third grade have lots of overlap.  I'm not going to throw out everything and start over again!  Yes, I may need to borrow some resources or create new ones, but that's just part of teaching.  We're always on the lookout for new and useful resources.


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I'm fortunate that some of the second-grade units in my district are very similar to the third-grade units when it comes to content.  That means I will be able to adapt my third-grade resources to use in second grade.  But when I do truly need something, I know I can go to my colleagues and borrow resources.  Also, just yesterday I went to the public library and found some read alouds to use with the current unit.  Don't forget to use your public library as a resource!

#5  ENJOY IT!


You might as well enjoy it! You're going to be teaching that new grade level for an entire school year.  You owe those students the best teaching and lessons you can deliver.  I am almost sure that next year I will be returning to third grade again (we have real solid numbers now coming up).  So this year I look at it as an opportunity to see how second graders are prepared for third grade.  It will give me invaluable insight as a third-grade teacher next year knowing what I taught the second graders.  Also knowing what third graders are going to be learning in third grade, will help me prepare and challenge these second graders to be ready for the challenges of third grade.


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Also, it will give me an opportunity to create many new resources (both print and paperless/digital) to share with others in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Be sure to come back regularly so you can read more about this switch to second grade!


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