Monday, June 30, 2014

Fun With A Name Tent

As I ask my new students to make a name tent with an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper on the first day of Summer Academy, I think, "Let's have a little competition." This wasn't in my lesson plan. Ha!

If you haven't noticed, I have become obsessed with classroom competitions. Here are two posts in case you missed them:
Fun With A Dot and A Line
Fun With A Sticky

Therefore, I'm adding today's post of Fun With A Name Tent to the "Fun With A" series. A name tent looks like this:

I use name tents for teacher trainings or on the first week of class with students so I can quickly learn their names. Right as I tell my new students to make a name tent, I announce, "Let's see who can fold their name tent into the best thirds?"

Game on!

If you have read (or remember) my two posts from above, you know this activity will go something like this:

  • Students get time to create their best thirds.
  • Students decide in their group (of four) who has the best name tent.
  • Students vote (whole group) by eyeballing the tents and make a prioritized list. 
  • Students define how we decide the best thirds.
  • Students define what to measure.

Here are some whiteboard shots of my lazy writing as I quickly jot down what students say. It's fascinating.

I handed each group a name tent that was in the running for the best thirds. Some groups used inches and some groups used centimeters to measure.

I didn't care nor tell them what unit of measurement to use. I walked around and questioned which unit of measurement they were using and asked them to explain why they chose that specific unit of measurement. We later had a discussion (almost arguments) about which made more sense for this task. Most students eventually were convinced by their peers that centimeters would be more accurate here. My second class had two tents that were extremely close, but couldn't tell which was better:

We had to compare 0.5 centimeters to 0.25 inches to see who had the smallest error, Leyla or Srihitha? It was awesome! We had to decide if we wanted to convert the inches to centimeters or vice versa. You can see that Leyla won by 0.135 centimeters. DANG! Those are some good folds.

Next, I introduced them to Estimation 180 by estimating my height. They'll be keeping track of their estimates in their compositions books.

My favorite part was this exchange:
Brianna: Will you tell us your height?
Me: No.
Brianna: What?
Class (disappointed): Ohhhhh!
Brianna: That's not fair. Then why are we doing all this work?
Me: I understand. I said I'm not telling you my height.
And then BAM! I take out my measuring tape!
Me: Brianna, stand on your desk chair and you can measure how tall I am.
Brianna: Oh, cool! 
We proceed to estimate my wife's height and then we estimate the TOTAL height of the class. This was fun. I asked, "What would be useful to know and how would we go about getting it?" borrowed from Dan.

My favorite was Mansi. She suggested that we multiply the number of students (20) by 5 feet since most students were about 5 feet tall. Then we add or subtract the difference of each student's height in relationship to 5 feet. We started a Mansi column in our Google spreadsheet. This would make for a pretty cool lesson on integers.

Before we went outside, I had the students get in order from what they thought was shortest to tallest. If you keep track of the data in a spreadsheet, use the spreadsheet to verify their order: another great tool from a spreadsheet.

With this organized data, you could do a lesson on mean, median, mode, and range. Even mean absolute deviation if you're up to it. Another great part was Dylan noticing a student was absent today. "We don't know the height of the kid who isn't here today."

You could take this task and apply the mean or the mode. Have students predict the height of the absent kid. Furthermore, you could segue into probability if you like. What are the chances the absent kid is the mean height? the mode height?

How sweet of my first class, they wanted to include my height in the total height. We went outside and looked for an area long enough to fit our calculated total height of approximately 103 feet.

We went a little bit past 103 feet because some students were considerate enough to avoid placing their feet next to someone else's head. The dismissal time was rapidly approaching so I let it slide. One clap on three for Reese. She had the closest estimate of 102 feet.

One. Two. Three.




  1. I am doing this the first day of school next year FOR SURE. Love the interaction on the first day.

  2. Thinking of implementing your Name Tent activity and may give a small prompt each day on one of the "thirds" for them to write as a "get to know you". That will last me the first week of school.
    Then, I was considering doing a similar Name Tent but into fourths on Monday. There might be more variety in how the paper is folded and we can discuss strategies (although a rectangular name tent doesn't seem to stand up very well! I don't think that will matter).
    Then students will have 4 places for the "get to know you" prompts for that week!

    I'm sort of meshing your idea with Sara Vanderwerf's. Was looking for something more "mathy" but would also allow me to get some personal info from them.