Feast Week Part 7: THE FEAST!!

Ok, so I’m not at all sure how it got to almost the end of February and I didn’t tell you about the final part of Feast Week!  I know…I’m sorry!  But you’ve been reading blog all along, right?  We’ve been busy!

But here’s perhaps the most important part of the whole thing we called Feast Week–the feast!  (And just in case you haven’t read the first parts of Feast Week, you can find the first one here, and then the others are linked from there.  It’s worth your time if you haven’t read them!)

The day had finally arrived, and we were excited.  But no, we were not excited about the fact that Winter Break was just a day away, or because we’d be off for 14 days–we were excited because all of our hard work with fractions and recipes and cooking and baking and planning was about to pay off!

And it went even better than we’d hoped.  Thanks to some fabulous parents who were willing to let us throw out this crazy idea of our Winter Party to them (and then just told them to run with it!), we ended up with a lovely, delicious meal that helped us all see the fruits (and hams and green beans and ice cream pies) of our labors.  It was definitely a  FABULOUS FIFTH GRADE FRACTION FEAST!!

Anticipating our fabulous feast as we wait outside the cafeteria!

Anticipating our fabulous feast as we wait outside the cafeteria!

Looks good, doesn't it? Tablecloths and centerpieces and everything!  So elegant!

Looks good, doesn’t it? Tablecloths and centerpieces and everything! So elegant!

Here's our handiwork!  Looks yummy!

Here’s our handiwork! Looks yummy!


That bowl is guacamole–I promise, it was pretty good!

Moving through the line

Moving through the line–sausage snack wraps were a hit!

A toast to food, fun and friends!  (and fractions!)

A toast to food, fun and friends! (and fractions!)

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Feast Week Part 6: Now We Cook!

So before we could FEAST in Feast Week, we had to have a feast, and that meant we had to make it!  So Friday afternoon, before our big party, we got busy making things.  Remember, our appetizers were party pickles, sausage snack wraps, fruit, and guacamole.  We got into our tribes to work.

Check out our culinary creations:

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If you missed any of the previous parts of this tale, check out the Feast Week tag for parts 1-5.  Next up: THE FEAST!!

Feast Week Part 5: Let’s Go Shopping!

Hopefully if you’re here, then you’ve been along for the first parts of the journey, but if not, you can catch up on the beginning of Feast Week, the fractions involved, the meal planning, and the way our plan was derailed before I go on.  It’s been quite a journey already, that’s for sure!

After we had figured out exactly what we would finally buy, we had to decide where to shop and then head there to get what we needed.  Part of the job after they totaled up their appetizer cost was to determine whether it was a better idea to shop at Schnucks or Dierbergs for our ingredients.  Overwhelmingly, they decided that Schnucks was a better option for us.  And so to Schunucks we went!  Yes, you heard me right: I put 20 5th graders on a bus and took them to the grocery store.  And I did it by myself (along with Mrs. Hong and her class).  And they were great. 🙂

IMG655I wonder how many people were confused by the sight of a school bus at the grocery store!

We started by having a quick grocery store overview lesson–we talked about the general area where everything was, talked about the expectations (which were the same as at school!) and made a place to meet when we were finished.  And then they set off with their shopping lists to get what they needed.

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While they shopped I ran around wandered around the store to make sure everyone was doing ok (remember, this was the week before Christmas–the place was a madhouse!) and finding what they needed.  I cannot even tell you how proud I am of these kids.  Completely on their own, they maneuvered a really large store, politely made their way through crowds and even made smart shopping decisions–everything we bought was on sale!  We were all finished and back to our meeting spot in just about half an hour, which was record time, I think!


Our original budget was around $97, and we made it out of there even under by a few dollars!  We spent right around $94, and like I mentioned before, EVERYTHING they chose was on sale.  The best part to me was when a group figured out that it was more cost effective to buy bags of 4 avocados that were 2/$5 than individually at 10/$10.  That’s some savvy shopping!

IMG658Check out that receipt!  My favorite part is at the bottom: “YOU SAVED $35.97.” Nice!

IMG656Congrats on a job well done, 5th graders!  You are grocery store superstars!

Next step–Part 6: Now We Cook!

Feast Week Part 4: A Change in Plans

The first parts of our Feast Week journey can be found here, here, and here. 🙂

Do you know Murphy?  Isn’t it his law that says that anything that can go wrong will?  Well he was present on the third day of Feast Week….

By Wednesday we were supposed to be ready to get our budget proposal to Mrs. Sisul so that we could be ready to shop on Thursday.  That was the plan, but then the plans had to change.

Like I mentioned before, we had decided to make 5 yummy appetizers.  We had figured out our shopping lists and figured out how much one batch of our goodies would cost.  And then we started multiplying.   And realized we were in trouble…

We first figured out how to change our  recipes to feed 20 (before we figured it out for 85) and we noticed something:

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We were using a favorite recipe of mine (from Catherine at weelicious.com) as an example and were figuring out how much of everything we’d need to feed 20, which meant we had to multiply our numbers by 5.  It was pretty easy work since most of the ingredients were cans or whole numbers.  When we got to the olive oil we got to display our fabulous fraction knowledge to create 5/3 which we simplified to 1 2/3 cups.

Ok, so all was well until we talked about how much it would cost us.  We started sharing our numbers from the day before for single batches of each recipe.  Some were around $5, but one was close to $15 for just one small amount.  We quickly figured out that if we were going to create the amount we needed for 85 people, we’d be multiplying the original numbers by 40! That suddenly sounded really expensive…

We went back to our tribes and revisited our numbers.  After adding together the total amounts for all five appetizers, to feed all of us we were going to be spending over $500! Obviously that was not going to work.  Mrs. Sisul loves us and thinks 5th grade is pretty great, but we were sure she wasn’t going to help us create a meal that cost that much–with all of the other things we figured it’d be almost $2000!

Then we had to make some decisions:

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Ultimately (while it was a hard decision to make and some actually had their feelings hurt a little), we decided to go with the things that were the most cost-effective: least amount of money for the biggest amount of food.  We decided to do sausage snack wraps, which are just little pigs-in-a-blanket, because they made 48 in one batch; party pickles (pickles wrapped in ham with cream cheese inside) also made many servings for not much money; guacamole, although we decided to ditch our original recipe and just use salsa and avocados instead of making it all “from scratch”; and fruit–but we abandoned the dip that was going to go with it and picked things we found in the add that was cheap for a lot (oranges, kiwi and apples).

After we reworked our numbers with our new plan, we were PLEASED to find out that we no longer had a budget proposal of $500, but of only $97.84!  And even after whittling it down by 4/5 (fractions, nice right?), we knew we could still get our goodies for less at the store by buying store brands instead of only choosing the major brands that were in the ads.

I can’t wait to tell you about our shopping trip!  Yep, you heard me right–we went on a field trip to the grocery store.  And we lived to tell about it. 🙂

Ready for Part 5?  Check it out here.

Feast Week Part 3: What’s For Dinner?

If you haven’t checked them out yet, be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of our Feast Week journey. 🙂  If you have, welcome back!

While we thought it would never actually arrive, December 17–the first day of Feast Week–finally came and we were ready to get started!  Our kiddos had done such an amazing job with all that they had to learn about fractions, and were now ready to apply that to a real-world situation.  They were super excited and very motivated.

Our class was responsible for appetizers.  While they were a little sad because they wanted to do dessert (everyone did, really!), they came with really great suggestions for what we could make for our portion of the meal.  Everyone came with family-favorite recipes from home, and we had some decisions to make about which we were going to use.  We got into our tribes to make these decisions, and narrowed the list down to these yummy choices:

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The next step was to shop for ingredients.  Using the circulars from Schnucks and Dierbergs, tribes got busy finding ingredients and figuring out how much their recipe would cost using these directions:

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As with everything they do, kiddos took on this job with much seriousness and concentration.  They had to feed 85 people after all!

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Read about Part 4 of Feast Week here!

Feast Week Part 2: How I Learned Fractional Parts Without Thinking About Pizza

In case you missed Feast Week Part 1, check it out here.

Feast Week was born, and we had decided what (and how) we were going to teach that big, deep list of concepts about fractions.  We utilized the UbD template for planning the unit, focusing on what we wanted the outcomes to be and then how we’d get them there.

And then we told our kids about it.  And they were BEYOND excited!  We were giddy about the plan, and my students were as eager as me to start our fraction work so we could head down the road toward the beginning of the actual Feast Week.  And just as we had hoped, this was just the motivation that 81 5th graders needed to get through a really hard unit on fractions.

But first we had to learn about fractions.  The unit was broken down into eight big ideas:

1. What are fractions anyway?

2. How are fractions related and equivalent to percents and how can they be used to solve problems?

3. How do you find fractional parts of a group (i.e. what is 2/5 of 30 students)?

4. How do you add and subtract fractions?

5. How can you multiply a whole number by a fraction? What does it mean and why would I need to do it in real life? (As a side note: this one was cool, because it is the same as finding the fractional part of a group–they just didn’t know that back at the beginning of the unit)

6. How can you multiply a fraction by a fraction?  What does it mean and why would I need to do it in real life?

7. How can you divide a whole number by a fraction? What does it mean and why would I need to do it in real life?

8. How can you divide a fraction by a whole number? What does it mean and why would I need to do it in real life?

The really fabulous (yes, I know I say that word a lot, and yes, I do it on purpose 🙂 ) thing about this unit was how many times I heard the words “Wow, this is easy!”  And how surprised so many kids were that it was easy.  For some reason, fractions is a four-letter-word to most people and honestly, I think that’s why so many of us (including me!) had so much trouble figuring them out.

We use Investigations as a math resource in our district, and I have always loved the way it works through math concepts–always starting with the why before showing the how.  And it was no different with fractions.  We did not start with straight number problems where we colored in pies that were the same amount, or with “this is the algorithm for adding fractions.”  We started with the why–or the “what” really.  What is a fraction, and how does it relate to percents, which are something that everyone already knows about.

Our fraction unit introduced many graphic organizers for kiddos to use to represent their math thinking, and the first one we used was a 10 by 10 grid.  We used it to find fourths (again, going back to something they already know), and figured out what fractions and percents we knew from those: 1/4 is 25%, 2/4 is equivalent to 1/2 and 50%, 3/4 is 75%.  Then I blew their minds when I showed them how they could find eighths on the same grid.  Yep, even though 8 is not a factor of 100.  Again, we had them think about what they knew and how they could use that knowledge to figure out something they didn’t know.  (I’ll let you stop right now and see if you can figure out how to do it.  Go ahead, I’ll even give you a 10 by 1o grid to use.)

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Yeah, so I’m sure you’ve figured it out, but I’ll show you anyhow:  If you find fourths, then think about what an 1/8 is.  It’s half of a 1/4, right?  Yep, 1/4=2/8.  Since you know that 1/4 is 25%, then you can easily figure out that 1/8 is the same as 12 1/2%.  Now you can use that to figure out the percent that is equivalent to any fourth or eighth, just by adding more of them.  3/8 is 37 1/2% because you know 2/8 (1/4) is 25% and then 1/8 is 12 1/2%.  Crazy, right?  I LOVE THIS PART!!  It’s so freeing to kids who have thought all along that fractions are impossible, too hard for them, some secret that they haven’t been told.  But now it’s just another puzzle–and they have the pieces to help them solve it!  This fraction/percent equivalence plays a HUGE part in the whole rest of the unit, so we spend lots of time at the beginning working with those numbers in different ways to help get it sold in their minds.  They had a chart they used as a resource, as well, throughout the unit.  Math doesn’t have to be a mystery.  It isn’t something you have to memorize.  You have tools and you just have to know when and how to use them!

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Another organizer we used were 4 x 6 and 5 x 12 rectangles.  They’re arrays, just like the 10 x 10 grids, but work better for other numbers that have factors like 3, 4, 5 and 6 (thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, etc.). We could use them to find the fractional parts of almost any number that way.


These were used when we moved on to finding thirds and sixths (which you can do with percents, as well, too).  These were cool, too, when they figured out that 1/3 was 33 1/3% and that 1/6 is half of that.  That’s a crazy question: what is 1/2 of 33 1/3?  Wish I would have recorded them figuring out that it’s 16 2/3%. Really.  It is.  Try it.  Here, let me show you:

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The first time I did that it heard my head.  The second and third times it did, too.  Yeah, I’ll admit it.  Some of the things I ask my kids to do seemed crazy in the beginning.  Mainly because it’s not how I learned it, but this time around it totally makes sense.   I wonder what it would have been like to do math like this when I was a kid…

(Ready for Part 3?  Find it here.)

Feast Week Part 1: The Birth of Feast Week

First of all, Happy New Year!  I don’t know when you’re reading this, but I’m writing it during Winter Break, on New Year’s Eve Eve.  This is a time of year I both love and hate: the fresh start that comes both personally and professionally in January is one of my favorite things–there is an air of anticipation of new and wonderful things to come; the fact that Spring Break isn’t for another two months is a little disheartening.  Winter can be long in Missouri.

That being said, I am excited to tell you a story about what was happening in my classroom–well all the 5th grade classrooms at my school really–during the months of November and December.  It was a fun and exciting time in our school, full of learning and anticipation; an eagerness that had nothing to do with holidays or vacations.  We were doing hard work, focused on something that at that time seemed like it was forever in the future: Feast Week 2012.

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This year I have a whole team full of new friends, and with that comes new ways of doing things–mainly just because we have all done it differently in our previous teaching “lives,” and because we want to plan new things together.  So…when it came time to talk about fractions and how we were going to teach that dreaded fabulous unit, we knew it was something we wanted to do together.

First we looked at what we had.  I have taught a fraction unit of some sort for the last 7 or 8 years, in 4th and 5th grade.  Previously, we really just had to get our friends to a solid understanding of what “fraction” means (part of a whole), and be able to use fraction/percent equivalents to solve problems related to parts of a group.  There was also a small part that included adding and subtracting fractions, using the equivalents as the basis (rather than finding common denominators, which is a common practice).

This year, however, our school district is really trying to dig into the new Common Core Standards–hoping to get a feel for what they ask of our kids and how they’ll change things for us as teachers.  This is happening most deeply in math; all of our curriculum and rubrics were rewoven to match the CCSS this past summer.

Now, instead of just the basic foundation like I mentioned previously, our kids have to be able to do this:

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Can I be honest here for a minute and tell you that we were a little FREAKED OUT by all of that!  Unfortunately, until you get to know the CCSS really well, and dig into what they mean and are actually asking your kids to do, I find that they are written in a really complicated way.  Needless to say, the first time we even read those expectations we were scared: how were we supposed to get 10- and 11-year-olds to be able to do those things (and do them well, with a deep understanding) if we couldn’t even understand what the standards said?

So after we picked our jaws up off the floor, dried our tears, and got our heart rates back to a somewhat normal rate, we sat down to figure out just how we were going to tackle these things with our students. We began with the belief that they could do it, we could do it and we were going to do it well.  We wanted to do it in a meaningful, authentic and real-life way that would help build a “forever and always” understanding, rather than just an “I-get-this-now-but-will-forget-it-after-I-take-the-test-next-week” understanding.   That meant rewriting assessments, possibly reworking assignment and activities and rethinking our own working knowledge of fractions.

And so Feast Week was born.  It began as an assessment idea, really, but quickly melded into more of a celebration–a culminating activity that would incorporate all that we expected our kids to know and be able to do.  It was to take place the last full week before Winter Break, and would include all that goes into creating a Winter Feast–planning, shopping, cooking, and then of course, eating!  We based it on an activity I had done in previous years around Thanksgiving where I had students use the circulars from the grocery stores to plan dinner for their family.  In that scenario, however, the whole situation was hypothetical.  In this reincarnation, it was for real.  We set the 5th Grade Fraction Feast to take place as our Winter Party, and the kiddos were entirely responsible for making it happen.  Talk about real-life.  Authentic.  Engaging.  Motivating.

And yes, it was.  None of it was easy.   And yes, I can admit there may have been some tears shed along the way.  But we made it, and yes, it was FABULOUS!

Hopefully you’ll hang on for the rest of the story of Feast Week! I promise it’ll be worth your time.  🙂

(**Be sure to read Part 2 here!**)