Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Comic Strip Weekly Math Review

One thing I have always wanted to share with other teachers is one of the first great ideas that I got from another teacher when I was starting out.  My first year of teaching, I taught third grade.  This is such a pivotal transition year for kids, and there are a lot of things that can be overwhelming about it!  One of the many overwhelming things is math.  There are so many skills to learn, and they all have to be remembered in the spring when testing time comes.  One skill that my colleague and I always found our kids "forgetting" was adding and subtracting with re-grouping.  This is one of those skills that is taught at the beginning of the year and then forgotten as time goes on.  We were shocked at the end of the year when test prep time came and they had no idea how to do this basic operation.  So, my fellow teacher came up with a great idea that was so basic, but so brilliant!  On Fridays, we gave the kids a 10-question quiz, with five addition and five subtraction problems.  These problems used 3- and 4-digit numbers, and some used re-grouping and some didn't.  To make the quizzes appealing, my friend put a comic strip at the bottom of each one!  Genius!  We happened to use a popular comic strip about a boy and his stuffed tiger (I won't publish the actual name in case there is some type of copyright issue!), but you could use any comic that your kids are into.  It was amazing how the addition of that comic strip at the bottom made the quizzes so much fun!  My kids even cheered when they saw them.
The brilliance of this is that it allowed us to check weekly and see how the kids were doing with addition and subtraction, and work with them to correct any errors.  We were also able to keep the skill fresh in their minds throughout the year.  You would be amazed at how many children failed or did poorly on this quizzes throughout the year.  It was sometimes a shock to see the kinds of errors they made.  I found it a great way to keep an eye on their computation skills as well as keep the kids on their toes throughout the year.
To implement this in your classroom, just make up a template on your computer.  We did two lines with five problems in each one.  The top row was addition, and the bottom row was subtraction.  Leave plenty of space for computation!  You can make up your own quizzes, or you can even find some online!  Try, or a similar website for inspiration.
Keeping it to ten questions makes it easy for grading.  You can keep it to ten points per question, and if you try the two row format the grading goes super fast.  Plus, it gives you a weekly math grade which is always nice!
How about you?  What are your tips for keeping those basic skills fresh in the minds of your students?

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