Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: "Slide Into Summer" with Engaging, Low-Prep Math
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"Slide Into Summer" with Engaging, Low-Prep Math

It's the end of the year and you feel all this pressure to end it with a BANG! But, if you are like me, you just might be really tired and zapped of all energy. It takes everything you have to clean out that lunchbox each night and get it ready for the next day. That snooze button lets you sleep in a little later each morning, and your summer yoga-pants style is calling your name. You also might be spending a good 60-80% of your school day focused on test-prep, and you might not have any brain space left to think about what to do after testing.
You know...those 5-10 days where you are all just d.o.n.e, but your students come to school and so you have to find ways to engage them. I've found that if I don't keep the engagement up at this time of the year, I go from "teacher" to "babysitter" and "behavior manager" in 5 seconds flat!

Well, I just might have the idea for you that will be relevant, curriculum related, and keep your 4th and 5th grade kiddos busy and engaged for a few days. This idea is great for before testing preparation {as I'm going to be using it} or post test-prep when you've got that {frightening} free time with a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds!

Years ago, I created a set of Summer-Themed math task cards to help my kiddos review 4th grade math concepts at the beginning of 5th grade. It was my way of helping them "hold on to summer" a few weeks longer, ease back into the school routine, and to assess how much they had retained from their 4th grade math learning. The set of 60 task cards is divided into three sets of 20 cards focused on Numbers and Operations in Base 10, Fractions, and Measurement {with customary measurement questions}.
This year, I am using my summer themed task cards as a way to help my 4th and 5th grade math students "Slide into Summer." I decided to go big and make it a fun event, rather than just another day of solving word problems. We held this event for two days the week before our End of Grade testing began. We partnered each 4th grader up with a 5th grader so that collaboration and discussion would occur while students worked on the task cards. {We only have one class per grade level, so this was for a total of 40 students. You could partner up across your own grade level in 4th or 5th grade}. To create partnerships, I thought about how to evenly match students so that they could get the support they needed from one another, but so that one partner was not more skilled or faster at working than the other. I have to say, I don't think I could have made better parternships (and some groups of threes) and I truly think it is worth the time to think about this ahead of time and do this activity in partners. Working with someone kept all students working hard and engaged. And, let's be honest. With 40 kids and only three adults, it would be impossible for us to be the one's in charge of answering everyone's questions.

The 5th grade teacher and I decided to make it even more rewarding for our students by adding a summer lunch buffet to our second day. We wanted to culminate the event, reward students for all of their hard work, and let them blow off some steam before sitting for days in testing mode. {We also wanted to use this as a carrot to keep them focused on working hard!}

To launch our themed event, I sent out an email to parents and shared it with students to get everyone excited. I told them "Grab your flip-flops, throw on your leis, and dig out those Hawaiian shirts or flowered sundresses." I asked for volunteers to send in sandwiches, fruit kabobs, veggies, some sweet goodies, and tropical drinks.

Then, we decked out the classroom in summer decor to get us in the summer mood. The dollar store is your friend when you want to throw a themed event! They have great stuff for summer-themed parties right now! I rolled out blue butcher paper at the front of my classroom to lay out the ocean. Students brought in beach towels and beach chairs. They wore their sunglasses and summer hats and were ready to go. 
For decorations  I wanted to spend as little money setting the stage as possible. I had about a $10 budget. I found this awesome umbrella at Five Below for 5 bucks. {They had a few different designs, but I loved this one the most.} The pelican umbrella made such an impact that I wished I had bought two. I also picked up a beach ball table cloth for our back table and two paper table settings with the ice cream, fruity drink, and watermelon at the Dollar Store. I bought a lei for myself to wear both days and a parent donated a set of leis for the class to wear.
We spent two days solving these math problems that helped us review math concepts and get more practice with reading word problems. All of the kids loved it and many said they wished we had "beached out" for math all year! I personally loved watching my 4th and 5th graders work together as they solved problems. The discussions I heard as they read the problems and worked together were awesome! Little miniature teachers were teaching one another all over the classroom!

If you need something easy, engaging, and worth your time for the end of the year, grab these for your themed math time as you wrap up the school year or head back to school in a few months!

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