How are your kiddos when it comes to solving word problems? To be quite honest...mine stunk...until lately!! I wrote my Superhero Problem Solving unit specifically to help my firsties with an area they are struggling in tremendously. I will use this unit closer to the beginning of the year next year, but I am just now using it since I wrote it this year.
I started off with one strategy per day. We started with the easiest strategies and are progressing along. The unit covers (and I go over it in this order in my classroom): Use Manipulatives, Draw a Picture, Act it Out, Circle Key Words, Cross Out Extra Information, Use a Number Line, and Draw a Chart or Diagram. The other day we discussed circling key words....and that was the day I introduced Super Plus and Minus Man (see my previous post). The kiddos are continually referring to the anchor charts I posted in the room to see if they have any addition or subtraction key words in their word problems now.
Today we worked on crossing out extra information. As I teach the strategies, we are continually reviewing my STARS problem-solving steps as well. The steps are: Search for information (the kids circle all information given in the problem), Think about the question. We underline the question or circle key words in the question. Activate a Strategy. The kids have a strategy ring with each strategy we have gone over and can continually check it. I have also posted charts of each strategy on a bulletin board. The kids are realizing that they can often use 2-3 strategies for one problem. They are also realizing that activating a strategy means determining whether to add or subtract. R stands for re-read and recheck. I'm reminding the kids to make sure they copied down the right numbers, make sure they read and answered the question correctly, etc. Finally, S stands for See if the answer makes sense. That's a biggie!!
Each day when we cover a strategy, the kids have a strategy mini book to practice the strategy. As you can see from Christian's work, he combined strategies...he drew a picture, he crossed out extra information, and he circled key words.
I'm not just saying this because it's my product, but I can honestly say I'm AMAZED by the kids' problem-solving progress in such a short time. They are really beginning to think like mathematicians!
How do you encourage better problem-solving skills in your classroom?