Musings and Strategies From the Teachers Next Door

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The Wizard of Oz – 3 Act Task

The Wizard of Oz

3 Act Task

CCGPS1.NBT.1-6, Standards of Mathematical Practice 1-8

ACT 1:

Ask Students:  What do you notice from the video?  Write down students’ observations.

What do you wonder?  Write down responses.

Ideally, you want to guide your students into identifying the problem themselves.  Make sure you validate ALL responses, no matter how silly they seem to you.  We like to write all responses down, on the board, on chart paper, it doesn’t matter where, it just matters that all students feel heard.  For true learning to take place, students must feel safe which means they are free to take risks, free to fail, and free to share.  The beauty of beginning a task this way is that every student has noticed something, which means ALL students have an entry point into the discussion.  All good tasks begin with an entry point for ALL students, not just a few.

Possible questions:  (Be prepared to have students ask ridiculous questions!   Acknowledge and validate all questions, but suggest that we put some questions in a parking lot since we can’t figure out those answers from the clip….and some would require speaking to the Tin Man himself 🙂 )

  • How much oil does it take to limber up the Tin Man?
  • Why are they using oil?
  • Where are they putting the oil?
  • How many squirts did they use? *** (This is the question on which we chose to focus.)
  • How many joints he have?

Have students make an estimate of how many squirts of oil Dorothy and the Scarecrow will use on the Tin Man.  Have them make an estimate that they know is too low and another that they know is too high.  Place these numbers on a number line.  Then have students estimate where they think the actual number of squirts would be on the number and discuss the reasonableness of their answers (SMP 6).

Act 2:


Give the students this picture, or pull this up on your interactive white board and ask, “How many joints are there on the Tin Man?” We came up with 14, but don’t feel like you are limited.  This is a great way to differentiate based on your class.  You could get very detailed and include finger joints, or you could keep it to 10 and only deal with multiples of 10.

Now you need to decide how many squirts you heard on the video for each joint.  At times, we heard 2 and other times we heard 3 squirts per joint.  Have your students decide what they heard and be ok with different groups having different estimates for the number of squirts per joint.

Ask:  Now that you know how many squirts Dorothy and the Scarecrow used on each joint and the number of joints the Tin Man has, figure out how many squirts they used on the Tin Man?

Act 3:

This is the reveal.  DO NOT SKIP IT!!! No matter how little time you think you have, do not skip this step!  This is where the real learning begins.  Have students share their answers and their thought process (how they got their answer).  Using your teacher superpowers, help students evaluate their work, learn from their mistakes, and critique the work of others. (SMP 3)

One idea we have found helpful is to post students’ work around the room and allow time to comment together – what we like, how we could improve our answer, and finally compare our work with others.

A Wish, a Problem, and a STEM Challenge….

Although I primarily teach math, I do have the opportunity to teach reading every morning. It is always exciting for me to see text come alive to students, to watch their eyes light up as they begin to relate to the characters and make those connections. I have to admit, this year, it was a rare occurrence to see this happen for my reading students. I think in part it is due to the inoculation of the idea that assessment is the end all, be all to determining a student’s ability to read and comprehend.  You know what I mean…AR tests, Lexile scores, read so many books from the library then take a test or answer some questions, it goes on and on. But where is the part where we forget about levels and abilities and just encourage reading because they will love it, because it will open a world both figuratively and literally to them?

As fifth grade teachers, we sometimes live by the adage that students have already learned to read and now their job is to read to learn. We no longer offer read-alouds or even just some quiet moments to read for pleasure during the day. Why? Because there is no pleasure in reading. It is now constantly linked to assessment. The fun has been sucked out of reading. How sad! One of my favorite poets/authors, Maya Angelou, voiced her opinion on the subject of reading in schools today here, and I must say that I agree.

So, the year wore on and this weighed heavy on my mind as I watched students struggle to engage with the texts in which we were insisting they immerse themselves and bask in the joy of reading (which wasn’t happening, in case you were wondering) and it dawned on me to read to them. They still need to hear fluent reading so that they can become fluent readers. So, after our regularly scheduled reading group, we embarked as a class on a journey through The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (see this).

As we journeyed deeper into the novel, we realized that the characters were on the most exciting scavenger hunt of their lives!  A STEM light bulb went off, so I created this STEM from Stories lesson plan.

The students were presented with a problem (Alex and Conner need to get home) and I asked them to think of  ways to help them, a way to solve their problem. A map, of course,  was the consensus. From that brainstorm, the design brief was presented. The students immediately went to work! The world that they envisioned in their minds (with help from evidence in the text) came to life for them as they created the maps. What most amazed me was the self-differentiation that took place! Take a look at the sample pictures and see if you can tell how they self-differentiated. As we continue with the novel, the students still get their maps and add landmarks and details.

Finally, I see a group of students who are anxious to read, to escape to this new found fairy-tale world and to their new found love of reading!

*To all of our blog readers: Leave a comment and you will receive the lesson plan for FREE as a thank you for reading our blog and lending support!*

Problem Based Math Resources

We are always on the lookout for great resources to share.  Here is a link to Problem Based Curriculum Maps for math grades 4 and up.  There is a curriculum map for each grade level along with a great activities that are ready to use.  Enjoy!

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