My Favorite: The Distributive Property & Half-Time Activities

ICYMI, there’s an Explore #MTBoS Blogging Initiative underway this month and it’s not too late to join in on the insanity fun.

Week 2 of the initiative is about about favorites.  Since I couldn’t decide on which idea was better, I’m going to share two favorites.  One favorite is for teaching the distributive property and the other is just a quirky part of my classroom culture.

Distributive Property:

I don’t know if this idea is found an any textbook (I’m going to guess yes), but I got this strategy from a veteran teacher at my school earlier this year and it made the Distributive Property with basic algebraic expressions a breeze.

In order for this strategy to be effective, it’s helpful if students know how to combine like terms.  Instead of teaching students to blindly multiply everything in parentheses by a value outside the parentheses, this strategy builds the basic idea of the property for algebraic expressions by appealing to the definition of multiplication.

Here’s the idea:

  1. I write a handful of expressions on the board for students to consider simplifying and practice reading. For example, I wrote 3(x+2), 5(w-4) and 4(3y+6) on the board when I used this strategy earlier this year.
  2. After reading the expressions aloud, I ask students if 3(x+2) could also mean (x+2)+(x+2)+(x+2).  If students are unsure, I dial back the algebra and ask if 3(2) also means 2+2+2.
  3. I drop the parentheses around the (x+2) terms, then I ask student to simplify this long expression by combining like terms.  The students arrive about 3x+6.
  4. Rinse and repeat with the other examples.  Some students might start to get annoyed, which is exactly the point!
  5. With the examples completed, I ask students if they notice anything about the numbers in the starting expressions and the final expressions.  If students are unsure about the question I ask, “How could we skip the step of writing out all of the addition and combining like terms?”
  6. Students usually share an idea based on the activity or the question jogs their memory of the Distributive Property in some way.  I share that the Distributive Property is really just due to the nature of multiplication, but we can also think of it as a short-cut to the annoying process they just carried out a handful of times.  It also is helpful because an expression like x(5+y) would need to have 5+y added an unspecified amount of times before combining like terms, so the distributive property allows us to jump to the final form.

Half-Time Activities:

I teach 80 minute blocks.  I love it because my students have time to explore new ideas, get practice with concepts and skills, and it allows for larger activities that involve creating a poster or product.  As much as I love the time I have in lessons, students and myself need breaks to stay focused.  When we reach half-time in a period (40 minutes), I let my students take a couple minutes for a stretch break to talk and relax.  Before jumping back into the lesson from the break, I have different activities for each day of the week just for fun. Here’s the rundown:

Lame Joke Monday- I share or students share 3-4 lame jokes. The jokes are so lame they’re funny.

Trivia Tuesday- I ask 4 random trivia questions for students to answer.

Once Over Wednesday- Students come up with a story for a painting or picture.

10 Random Facts Thursdays- One student answers 10 random questions asked by myself or the class.  Recurring questions this year include, “Which person in this room would you swap hair with if you could? If you could jump in a pool filled with anything, what would it be? Would you rather have an extra thumb or big toe?”

Friday- Usually students are taking a quiz, so I forego a special activity; however, I sometimes share a short YouTube video or tell a 2 minute story.

I wish I could say I got my inspiration from what Sarah Hagan does in her classes, but I thought of these activities after noticing most YouTubers have themes for each day of the week.  I knew it would be an easy way to prepare students to focus for the remainder of class and have some fun, too.

What’s your favorite? Let me know or send me a link to your post!






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