Distributive Property of Multiplication

For many years I dreaded having to teach my 3rd graders the Distributive Property of Multiplication. They just always seemed to struggle!

Then one day I had an idea that changed ALL of that and teaching the Distributive Property has actually become one of my FAVORITE math lessons of the year!

What’s my secret you ask?
The Distributive Doctor 
more on Doctor D. in a little bit... 

But first, let's talk about planning... I like to block out a few days (usually 3-4) in order to provide my kiddos with plenty of practice at all 3 levels of instruction: concrete (using manips), pictorial (making drawings), and abstract (using numbers).

  We begin by...

Manipulatives are key in order for students to be able to "see" and truly understand this property. So we use them quite a bit in the beginning!

I'll start off by having my students show me an array. (This step is usually easy, since we've already learned about multiplication and arrays.)

Next, I tell them that we're all going to be distributive doctors or surgeons for the day! They LOVE this! I even refer to them as Dr. Smith or Dr. Rodriguez :0) You should see their faces light up when I call them all doctors!!!!!

Our first "operation" as newly named Distributive Doctors is to use our scalpels, otherwise known as popsicle sticks, to cut our arrays. 

Using an EXPO marker, I have them write on their desks a multiplication expression for each of the arrays. (Don't worry, the writing comes off easily with a tissue.) 

At this point we spend some time discussing that we haven't added or taken away any counters so the number of bears we started with has not changed. What has changed, however, is how we've decided to group them. 

Next, we add both arrays together to find the total. We repeat this a few more times and practice "breaking apart" the arrays in both horizontal and vertical directions. 

The following day we practice some more! 
Drawing Pictures is next... Once I feel the majority of my class has mastered breaking apart with counters, we move on to pictorial representations. We follow the same steps we practiced above, the only difference is that students are no longer using manips., but instead drawing pictures.

You can make things interesting by using a Q-tip and paint. The key is to provide plenty of time experimenting with the Distributive Property so that students become comfortable with it.

You can even set up a center with supplies such as graph paper, scissors, colored pencils, and glue sticks.

One of our favorite activities is Doctor D. You can check it out by clicking here.

Using Numbers is the last step. Now that students have had plenty of practice visualizing the Distributive Property, it's time to remove the support.

Some students will reach this level sooner than others and that's okay. The goal is for all kids to receive PLENTY of practice and support in the beginning, so that by the time they get to the abstract level of understanding they get what's going on. All of the hard work and time that was put in in the beginning will pay off in the end!

I hope sharing how I tackle the distributive property with my own students has helped you find a few new tips for your OWN bag of tricks!

Many of the resources used in this post come from my 
Distributive Doctor resource which can be found here.

YouTube Channels: Focused on Science Experiments

I love using science experiments to help my students understand difficult concepts. And although I know how hard it can be to find time to prep, carry out, and clean them up, I also know that it can make the world of difference.

Sometimes a lab is the deciding factor in whether or not students make the connection between what they're reading in a textbook and the real world.  It also doesn't hurt that the kiddos  LOVE being little scientists and watching/making "cool" things happen! So you'll score some extra brownie points with them too!!!

To help you save time searching the Internet for experiments, I've compiled a list of 5 AMAZING YouTube Channels focused on science and experiments. You can also download my FREE Scientific Method Foldable resource in case your students need a refresher.

1. Sick Science!- This YouTube channel is all about easy peasy science experiments for kids. It is by science extraordinaire Steve Spangler so you know it has to be INCREDIBLE because that man is a science guru.


2. SciShow Kids- This kid friendly channel does a great job of exploring many topics that kids wonder about such as what causes thunder and lightning, why do we burp, how do animals stay warm, etc... What I love about this site is that it makes topics easy to understand and even includes science experiments and their explanations. If you don't have time to conduct an experiment, your students can watch the experiment being carried out and then hold a discussion. {Although I'm going to warn you, after watching these videos, your students are going to want to conduct the experiments themselves.}


3. The Quirkles-  The authors of this channel actually have a series of books that include 26 imaginary scientists that focus on helping children develop a love of science. If you want to check them out you can go here. What I love about their YouTube channel is that they have science experiments that go perfectly with each monthly holiday. For example, during the month of February when we're all trying to think of activities that tie in to Valentines, your students could learn what the blood that pumps through our ❤ heart ❤  is made up of.


4. WhizKidScience- This channel created by an 11 year old and his brother who both love science. What I love about this site is that it's by kids for kids and that the brothers always explain what they're doing step by step. Their experiments are easy to follow and are made using common household items.


5. Doctor Mad Science- This channel is hosted by a 13 year old autistic boy. It is another site for kids by kids. The majority of Jordan's experiments use household items and are simple to replicate. (Some steps will require an adult) This site is a great place to get ideas for future classroom experiments.


Are you ready to try out some of the experiments demonstrated in these channels? If so, which one caught your eye?

Find more Science Activities and Ideas Here:

Setting Goals and Sticking to Them [freebie]

I know it’s hard to believe, but another year is coming to a close and you know what that means...  'TIS THE SEASON FOR SETTING GOALS!

This is the time of year when everyone gets all excited about New Year's resolutions. I know that I get pumped up at the thought of a new beginning, a chance to start all over again,  a real life do over just like in the movie Groundhog Day

But how many of us set goals and ACTUALLY stick to them? 
Let’s be honest here, folks! I’ll go first...

I LOVE to set goals! I really do... I usually have them all mapped out in my head (mistake #1) and I start off really psyched. Then some times life gets crazy busy and I end up falling into my old routines and out the door goes some of my goals. When this happens my motivation quickly follows.

That's why I've come up with 5 tips for setting goals and STICKING TO THEM! These tips will come in handy when we return in January. We're going to spend the first few days working on these New Year booklets where we look back at 2015 and then plan goals for the New Year.

To make sure that we succeed, 
here are the 5 tips that we're going to stick to...

The first thing that I've learned about Goal Setting is KISS or KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID! Limit the number of goals you make. I know that around the New Year there's so much we want to do, and accomplish but it's best to start off with fewer goals and once you accomplish those move on to others. 

Having too many goals is difficult to keep track of and nothing ends up getting done. For students in 3rd grade and above I recommend setting a reading, math, and perhaps even a writing goal. With younger students you might want to focus on one goal at a time.

Coming up with goals that are EASY to achieve will mean students will experience small successes. This will then motivate them to keep on going and deter them from giving up. In the beginning it's important for our students to feel success with goal setting. Especially, if we want them to adopt this type of mentality for the future.

It's been proven time and time again (I'm proof of this one) that simply thinking or speaking your goals isn't enough to make them happen. You actually need to set aside some class time to brainstorm. Then have your students WRITE them down. 

Once students have written down their goals, it's important to post them up somewhere in the classroom where they will have a constant reminder of what they should be working towards. Remember... OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND! That's part of the reason Tip #3 is so important.

Make time to reflect. After coming up with goals, decide how much time you're going to give your students to work towards their goals before you have them reflect on their progress. 

Keep in mind that you don't want to wait too long or you run the risk of students forgetting about their goals. I suggest waiting between 1-2 weeks and then discussing how they did. This might be a good time to discuss that sometimes when we don't meet our goals we need to figure out what may have gone wrong and what they should do differently going forward. 

It's important to stress the importance of not giving up! Why weren't they able to reach their goal? Was their goal unrealistic? Did they not put in the effort or did they simply forget about their resolutions?

If you're interested in any of the resources in this blog post you can download them for FREE here or by clicking the picture below. 

So friends, have you used goal setting with your students before? If so, how do you introduce it in your classroom and what have you learned about the process? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Quick and Easy Recipes

If you're looking for a quick and easy appetizer or dessert to take to a holiday party over the next few days, no need to worry... I've got you covered! Check out the post I wrote over at iTeach Third. Each recipe is SIMPLE, DELICIOUS, and guaranteed to make your tired teacher heart happy!

The end of another year is quickly coming to a close and I don't know about you but I am EXHAUSTED! My dear friend Mary from A Classroom Full of Smiles said it best with this meme...

I'm at the point where I don't want to think about lesson plans, assessments, RTI papers, or conferences. So I'm not even going to go there. Instead, I've decided to focus on the festivities that we have in store the next few weeks.

Many of us will either host or attend various holiday or New Year's parties, so I've decided to gather a few QUICK and EASY appetizer and dessert recipes just in case you need to bring something to a get together or simply haven't had time to go searching around Pinterest.

First up...

  • Grape Jelly Meatballs from Buns in My Oven. I know what you're thinking... grape jelly and meatballs... WHAT???? Trust me, these are sooooo easy to make and sure to be a crowd pleaser. I can never make enough of these. Give it a try and you won't regret it!

  • Baked Brie from She Wears Many Hats. Melted oozy cheesy goodness with apricot preserves... need I say more. This recipe is delish with any kind of fruit spread so feel free to use whatever you have on hand. No stress!!!
  • Caprese Skewers from Iowa Girl Eats. These appetizers will look darling on any tablescape during the holidays and are just sooooo easy to make. I think even your kids or hubby can help you out on this one :0)
Next up...

Ever since I was a little girl, I've always loved making desserts! Unfortunately though, I did NOT inherit my grandmother's dessert making genes and through the years I have had some major catastrophes... the worst being the time I accidentally added cups of SALT (instead of cups of sugar) to a banana creme pie I was making. Now a days, I leave the dessert making to my 12 year old daughter.

Here are a few simple and easy desserts ideas...

  • Cherry Cheescake Trifle Dessert from Freebie Finding Mom. This dessert is as beautiful as it is tasty and I love the idea of serving it up in individual wine glasses vs. the usual trifle bowl.
  • Caramel Apple Dump Cake by The Novice Chef. There's nothing like warm apple pie filling and caramel drizzled on top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It just makes my mouth water! What I love about this recipe is that it's a dump cake... meaning no heavy duty mixing. Simply dump ingredients into a pan spread, sprinkle, and cook.  YUMMO!
  • For the chocolate lover like my husband, there's Chocolate Lasagna by My Litter. Once again, this recipe is easy enough to enlist the help of your kiddos. Let's put the little goobers to work I say!
Honestly, all 6 of these recipes are pretty fuss free and simple enough for even the utmost of Tired Teachers to follow.  Let me know if you have any easy recipes of your own.

Have a restful, peaceful, and wonderful winter break... recharge your batteries and spend some much needed down time with family and friends! Many blessings to all...

8 Ways to Make Learning FUN!

Today I wanted to share with you this post I wrote over at 
I’m the first to admit that technology is AMAZING! There’s nothing like conducting research on the Internet or searching for a book on the computer. It sure beats
having to spend hours researching in the public library or searching the card catalogs.

At the same time, I realize that every day I step foot into my classroom I’m asked to compete with Technology’s quick pace and 3D animations. Our students are used to instant gratification, immediate answers, fast moving games and action packed videos. 

So how do we compete with that?

We do the BEST that we can and we look to each other for support. That's why today I'm sharing with you 8 strategies that have proven to be successful in MOTIVATING and ENGAGING my third graders!
This is one of the easiest ways to guarantee that your student’s are actively participating. Simply hand them an Expo marker and a tissue and have them practice their spelling words, solve math problems, write complete sentences, ... anything you want right on their desks. 

(Don't worry, it comes right off with a tissue or a wipee. FYI-black markers work best.) While students are working, walk around and spot check. I use this ALL the time and my kids ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!
You can even leave motivating messages on their desks for them to find in the morning.
Third graders love to use blocks, counters, cubes, Legos, etc... So whip out those manipulatives or play dough and let students have FUN while they learn. Just remember to set
clear expectations and rules from the beginning.

I have found that manips. not only encourage student participation, but are a great asset when introducing new math concepts. They are also a must for those visual and
tactile learners. I always like to introduce new math concepts using manipulatives first.
If I want my students immediate attention, all I have to do is head on over to my glue sponges because they know that it means it’s time for an interactive notebook activity. It’s amazing how quickly students learn to cut, fold, and glue the pages of their notebooks. 

Not only do INB help them develop fine motor skills, but it is also
a fun way for students to record information, demonstrate what they’ve learned, and it can also be a great assessment tool. In my classroom, we use interactive notebooks in
ALL subject areas and my students never seem to get tired of them. (The pictures included are of my Text Features, Intro. to Science, and Government Interactive Notebooks)

Pattern Puzzle Freebie
Allow your students to work with a partner or in small groups. Encourage them to solve problems together through discussion, trial, and error. The more they work together, the better they will become at listening to each other, and
solving problems on their own rather than depending on you.

Collaboration is also great for those students that have difficulties getting started or completing tasks. I have found that when having my students complete difficult tasks or assignments, they are more inclined to try to figure things out on their own when they have a partner versus working independently.

Students L-O-V-E to conduct experiments and although they do take some prep work in advance, they are well worth it. Science experiments are a great way for students to practice their problem solving skills. It encourages them to think critically and involves reading, writing, and sometimes even math skills. If you’re looking for some great science experiments, check out Steve Spangler’s Science website here.

Post-it Notes are like little colorful squares of magic. I say this because anytime I take out Post-its for an activity, my students quickly sit up straight in attention waiting to find out how they’re going to get to use the notes today. 

My kids ABSOLUTELY LOVE them! I can’t say enough about Post-its... (I wish I had invented them!) I have them in all colors, shapes, and sizes and use them in so many ways. I’ve even been known to run them through my printer using a template so that I can print on them.
Take out a bottle of paint and BAM you’ll have your students attention just like that! I know this because just a few weeks ago it happened to me. It was the first time that this year's students saw me take out paint. The sparkle in their little brown eyes was enough to validate what I already knew... Kids love to use paint and art supplies.

I know that many teachers don’t like it because they think things are going to get messy. Well I’m here to tell you that that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes all you need is a small blob of color on a plate to get your students attention. 

I’ve done big projects such as my Solar System Craftivity
where students use feathers and marbles to paint and projects such as my Landforms 3D C
raftivity where students used little paint but plenty of other materials such as yarn, glitter, and paper bags. Just give it a try and see how it goes... 
Addition and Subtraction with Regrouping Task Cards
 Lastly, make learning fun by finding the time to play games. My kiddos love playing Scoot with task cards. They also love simple games such as Multiplication War or Around the World. If you search on Pinterest you can find a bunch of ideas on games to play in the classroom. The key is to find games that motivate your students and that make learning fun!
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