### Set Up Your Best Classroom Yet: Part 2

Yesterday as part of my blog series, Set Up Your Best Classroom Yet, I gave you a sneak peek into my second grade classroom with a focus on my guided reading area. I use the district prescribed curricula along with our reading, writing, and math strategy animals to help my students learn, apply, and transfer critical strategies across settings. My classroom décor centers around Hazel Hoot, an adorable green screech owl, and her special strategy friends. See how I integrate the Problem-Solving Pond along with our hands-on tools to support and enhance the required Saxon math curricula.

## Special Spaces

### Problem Solving Pond

In our sequel, Hazel Meets the Math Strategy Friends, Hazel swoops down to catch her dinner at the local pond when she grabs Upton, an enchanted fish. Upton oversees Problem-Solving Pond and promises to introduce Hazel to his animal friends, all who teach a special problem-solving strategy. Using these strategies and Upton’s guidance, Hazel blossoms into an accomplished mathematician who is able to tackle problems with ease.

In order to recreate the Problem-Solving Pond, I covered a bulletin board with fadeless blue water paper and added green tulle and silk pond stems to border the pond. Upton’s Solving Word Problems Poster and Strategies Banners are prominent features of Problem-Solving Pond; I reference them throughout each lesson. I printed our Problem-Solving Pond Bulletin Board Set added Velcro to the back of each strategy animal allowing me to detach to use during lessons.

I found this stuffed animal on Ebay that looks just like Upton and hung it with fishing wire and a plastic hook. During guided practice, I toss Upton to students and he helps us complete the problem-solving steps. Students LOVE solving problems with him!

I also found inexpensive jars at Hobby Lobby to hold our hands-on tools such as Max’s Counters, Brian’s Slide and Learns, and Fiona’s Fact-Fluency Pencils and added these adorable labels.

During center time, students solve their Saxon story problems using the strategy animals and our Problem-Solving Journals. They also use our hands-on tools such as Problem-Solving Mats, Brian’s Slide and Learns and Fiona’s Fact-Fluency Flashcards to reinforce learned strategies and concepts.

Students enjoy using the Astute Hoot rug to discuss their journal samples. They stand on the strategy animal that they used to solve the story problem and then discuss the strategies, process, and thinking they used.

Read tomorrow’s blog to see my Writing in the Wild West classroom space and accompanying hands-on tools.

### Create Write-On, Wipe-Off Problem-Solving Journals

Problem-solving plays an important role in my daily math instruction. Students use pre-made journals to help them complete the problem-solving steps, solve the problem in 2 ways, explain their thinking and rate themselves on a learning scale. These journals track students’ progress with mathematical understanding, strategy selection and application. They also serve as an effective assessment tool. I decided to make a write-on, wipe-off version for students to use during math centers. Follow these 4 easy steps to make them for your classroom, too!

1. Gather materials: You will need a class set of manila folders, problem-solving journal templates, glue sticks, a laminator and dry erase markers.

2. Prepare folders: Glue on the front cover, problem-solving pages on the inside, and the discussion prompts on the back. Laminate and cut out (a perfect job for a parent volunteer).

3. Select appropriate story problems: I use differentiated story problems during math instruction and color code to keep them organized. An extensive story problem bank is included in our Problem-Solving Essentials Bundle.

4. Model procedures and provide practice: Explain how to use the write-on, wipe-off problem-solving journals. Model how to use a dry erase marker to complete the journal. Select a partner to use the discussion prompts, thinking aloud as you go. Practice using the journals during whole group instruction, roving to monitor student understanding. As students demonstrate understanding, incorporate these journals into math center time, either at an adult-led center or an independent math center.

Download our Math Intervention Problem-Solving Essentials Bundle for over 200 pages of lessons, activities, worksheets, printables, everything you need for comprehensive problem-solving instruction during math intervention, special education and general education.