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Clothesline Math Teaching Strategy for ANY Grade and ANY Math Concept

Have you heard of the clothesline strategy for teaching math concepts? I read about it last year and have been using it in my classroom ever since. The beauty of this math strategy is that you can use it with ANY grade and for just about any math concept. It's perfect for use in a number talk.

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In the picture above I have a double clothesline set up so that students can move the picture of the fraction to match the fraction. They also have to put them in order from least to greatest. I used this as a number talk one day before my lesson.

The first time I read about this the ideas immediately started swimming around. There are so many uses for this. 2D shapes? You could order them by their properties. Teaching your students how to count? Get them to reorder the numbers. If you have a younger grade you use smaller numbers, older grades? Use bigger numbers or decimals.

One of the best things about this strategy is that students use higher order thinking skills.

You don't have to use 2 clotheslines like I did in the image above. You can just use one if that is what works for the concept you're teaching. When I was teaching my students about ordering decimals we just used one clothes line.

The clotheslines provides a great visual and interactive tool for students to manipulate numbers, shapes, etc.

How to Set Up Your Math Clothesline:

It's really quite simple. You need some string or yarn and then you can string it across your board. I clip mine onto the chart paper hooks if I don't need students moving the pieces but when I want the students to use it then I attach the strings to magnets. These are the ones I use:  CLICK HERE

I use cardstock pieces folded in half  to write the numbers or draw shapes on.

TIP: You can maximize the card stock by using the inside as well. I have other numbers or shapes drawn on the inside so if I want to do another activity I just fold the cardstock the other way. You can also use the back of the cardstock.

What other ways can you think of to use this strategy? Post them in the comments below!

If you want to checkout more about math clotheslines you can visit the Estimation180 website where I first learned about this strategy. It's one of my favorite sites for math talks.

Science Activities For Teaching about the Properties of Light

When I teach science I like to have some stations set up for students to rotate through. I find this gives me the chance to meet with small groups to go over concepts and I also find my students easier to manage when they are working in small groups.

I usually make one of my stations a technology station where students do some self-directed learning of the basic concepts. I often use Edpuzzle to make a video quiz. You can learn more about the awesome Edpuzzle website from my post here.

Here are some of my other favorite ideas for teaching about the properties of light.

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Properties of Light Activities:

1. This is a simple experiment for teaching about light refraction. It's called flip an arrow and you can read more about here. It works great for a science center or station.

2. I also like to put this game, Laser Maze, out as a center and I leave it around for students to play at other times when they have finished their work early:

3. This one is such a fun activity and incorporates art as well!

4. Teaching about how light creates shadows is important and this is an easy low prep activity:

5. What would a light unit be without teaching students how to power a lightbulb!

6. These light circuits are a fun one for the holidays but of course you can use it at any time!

7. To show that light is made up of the colors of the rainbow:

8. Why is the sky blue? A light refraction experiment:

9. An anchor chart:

10. Another anchor chart for transparent, translucent and opaque:

11. One of the first things I do with my students is brainstorm the sources of light:

12. Then we categorize them into artificial vs. natural:

13. Color Mixing with light:

14. Glow stick light science!

15. Secret message science!

Teaching about Plants: A Science Inquiry about Plants and Outer Space

What better way to teach students about plants than by actually growing them? I found this really neat company called Tomatosphere, and they send you seeds that were in outer space! It really sparks a good inquiry when you ask your students, "How does outer space affect plants and seeds?"

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I love to start an inquiry with my students by bringing something into the classroom, setting it in the middle of our circle and letting them share what they are wondering or what they think we're going to be learning about. It creates even more wonder and engagement.

After a few minutes I share where the little packets of seeds came from and what they are for.

What is the Tomatosphere?

Tomatosphere is a Canadian run initiative but they ship their seeds to the United States as well. It is a totally free program where students get to investigate the effects of outer space on seed germination. Students record their results at the end of the experiment and their results help scientists learn about issues regarding long-term space exploration.

When you tell your students that they are helping real scientists learn about space exploration they get pretty excited and they take their "job" seriously!

How the Tomatosphere science program works:

When you sign up to receive seeds they will be delivered to you in the spring. Your class will receive 2 sets of seeds. One set has seeds that were sent into space or treated in space-simulated conditions. The other set are "control" seeds. You have to plant the seeds separately so you can keep track of them. We labelled ours Set A and Set B and put them into large white containers.  

You can see that our seeds are planted in peet pucks. We used these ones:

The peet pucks are so easy to use, you just add water and they expand, then you stick one seed in each peet puck.  This is how they look after you add water (this one has a seed that germinated and has begun to grow).

Throughout the experiment I had my students record their observations and then we would have discussions about their predictions. It was interesting to talk about which set we thought had been in outer space and which ones were the control seeds.

Before they began recording observations I asked them, "What do you think scientists write about? How can we write like a scientist?". This is what they came up with to help guide their observations:

They didn't write each of these things every time they did observations but they kept our anchor chart in mind. On the first day we wrote about the steps for the experiment and materials needed. Then throughout their observations they would add diagrams, notes, etc. They really felt like scientists.

The experiment is very engaging because we started to see the plants grow within the first week. We set them by the window in my classroom. Each morning students would come in to check on the changes. A couple of times per week my students recorded their observations in their plant observation booklet. We even tied it into math and recorded measurements. Which set had the tallest plant? Which set has the most germinated seeds? Which set has the shortest plant?

When the experiment was done, each student got to take a tomato plant home.  We were lucky to have so many that germinated.

The final part of the experiment is to go to the Tomatosphere website to record their results. Once they do that they get to find out which set were the space seeds and which ones were the control seeds. They also get to find out the overall results from all participants.

This is such a great experience for your students and I highly recommend it!

If you missed the link to sign up, CLICK HERE

Teacher Hacks for When You're Tired

Too Tired to Teach?

It happens to the best of us.

We all have those days where we stay up too late grading papers, planning fun lessons for the next day, organizing materials for science experiments (or binge watching your favorite show on Netflix). Then you pay for it the next day when you have to be "on" all day but you can barely keep your eyes open. When I'm tired like that I always end up with a headache too which makes it even harder to get up in front of a group of little people and teach.

These tips also work for when you're sick and you need to plan your day for a sub. When you're suddenly sick at 4AM there's nothing worse than trying to plan full lessons for someone else to teach. You can use a few of these ideas to throw into your sub plans.

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