The first lesson of a new unit always feels like an entire class period of formative assessment to me, which I love! I think finding out what the students know about a topic, especially if it is the first time it is introduced that year, is so interesting.

Since the first lesson of the 4th grade fraction unit starts with fractions of a 4 x 6 array, we wanted to create an introduction lesson that was more reflective of all of the great work they did with fraction strips in 3rd grade to get a better picture of what they know. In 3rd grade they do all of the cutting of the strips, and since we didn’t feel that was necessary to do again, I created a SMARTBoard file so we could build together. [the file is attached at the end of the post if you want to use it].

I posed this slide to introduce the whole:

Then I asked this sequence of questions as we built them on the board:

*If I wanted halves, how many pieces would I have? What is the size of each piece?**If I wanted thirds, how many pieces would I have? What is the size of each piece?*- etc….until they were all built.

I wanted to reintroduce the language of “size of the piece” from their 3rd grade experiences. Every once in a while I would pause and ask how much I would have if I had more than 1 of those pieces to see if they could name fractions over a unit. For example, *What if I had 3 of those fourths? How much would would I have? *

Next, we put up the following questions with the picture of the fraction strips we built:

They recorded them in the journals as a group and then we made a poster to add to as the year progresses. They started with fractions they could show on the fractions strips and an interesting conversation about the fact that we couldn’t list any for 1/8 or 1/12 based on the strips, arose. After talking with their groups, they generated a couple. The conversation about the change in the size of the piece when we make equivalents and how many pieces we would have was really awesome (Yeah, 3rd grade team):)

This was as much as we could fit into one class period, so we asked them to journal about any patterns they noticed or things they were wondering about fractions.

I apologize for the overload of student journals from this point forward, but there were so many great things to think about in planning the unit from here!

These are things that jumped out at me after reading and leaving notes in their journals, I would love to hear any other things that stood out to you:

- A lot of talk about “doubling” and “halving” when naming equivalent fractions. Will want to address what is exactly doubling, what that means in terms of the fraction strips, and how it is affecting the numerator and denominator.
- Interesting noticing and wondering about addition. Some wondering how it works and others thinking they know.
- Love the even and odd talk throughout!
- Some wondering about multiplication and division of fraction!
- The range of fractions – how many we can name, how many unit fractions there are.
- The size of a fraction in different forms – Is the whole the biggest fraction? Is the numerator smaller than the denominator?

In case you want to try it out:

Nancy BelkovI notice that these students observations and questions put them in a great place to keep learning about fractions. Their interest is primed! They sound ready to explore some of the questions they raised and more questions that are presented.

Nancy Belkov

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