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Teaching Fractions with Penguins

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Do fractions make your students freeze with fear?  Through the years, I have seen many children give up on understanding fractions and not even want to give it a try.  I’ve tried many things through the years, including fraction tiles, fraction bars, pizza and pie games, and while they were helpful to many students, there were always one or two children in my class that just couldn’t grasp the idea. So, I recently decided to try a different approach – Laura Candler’s Penguin Fractions: Comparing and Ordering Resource Kit.

Let me tell you, my students LOVED these activities!  To top it all off, even those students who normally hang back and wait for someone to step in and tell them/help them find the answer were fully engaged and active throughout every activity.  And the results of how many students grasped comparing and ordering fractions?  Hmmmm… can scroll all the way to the bottom to find out! 😉

To prepare for the Penguin Fractions Activities, I first printed out the items from the packet I wanted (the packet is truly loaded with a ton of activities, penguin fraction cards, and teacher resources).  I chose to print in color, since I was going to be laminating and keeping the materials for future use.

I then took some time to read through the Teacher Step-by-Step Interactive Lessons.  Laura really gave me some wonderful tips for teaching fractions; things I had not thought about before!  After I read through the guides, I split the packet into 2 parts for my own use:
1. Lessons and Activities for future use and reteaching.
2. Lessons and Activities to use right now.

I then planned a special Penguin Fractions Math Day for all my math students. This was a break from our normal routine, so they were very excited!  I chose 5 particular Penguin Fraction activities to use with my students on this day (There are many more in the packet that I’ll be using in the future weeks as review).  After explaining what the students would be doing at each of the Penguin stations, I broke them into small groups of 3 or 4 and had them rotate to each of the centers.

Penguin Station #1: Save the Penguins!
(Finding Equivalent Fractions)
Oh my goodness!  My students LOVED this game!  So much so, that they did not realize they were actually working to find equivalent fractions.  😉  For this activity, students had to save the penguins from the sharks by spinning a fraction, finding an equivalent fraction, and placing it on their iceberg.  Once a student or team had 5 penguins on their iceberg, they were declared the winner and started the game again.  As the game progressed, my students became much more proficient and speedy in finding equivalent fractions.  I was so happy to see this! Best part? They played it on their own free time at recess.  Win!
Penguin Station #2:  Penguin Memory Match Game
(Identifying Equivalent Fractions)
This activity was also a big hit!  I initially thought that my students would breeze through this game in no time, but I was wrong.  Memory match is one thing, but memory match with equivalent fractions is another.  If I had asked my students to find matching penguins that were exactly the same (1/2 and 1/2), they would have easily mastered the game.  But this version has students finding matching penguins with equivalent fractions (1/2 and 4/8).  This proved to be a bit more challenging, which personally, I liked.  I want my students to feel challenged, but not so much so that they give up.  Fortunately, they were up to the challenge and within a short amount of time, were having a lot of fun with the activity and learning.  Hooray!
Penguin Station #3: Penguin Fraction Benchmark Comparison
(Comparing Fractions to Benchmarks)
For this activity, students had a pile of penguin fraction cards.  They had to decide if each fraction was closer to 0, 1/2, or 1.  I had students completing this center as a team.  They took turns drawing a card and then decided which benchmark the fraction was closest to.  If the team disagreed, they had to have a discussion and support their answer.  If they all agreed, they went ahead and placed the fraction on the correct benchmark.  Perfect penguin practice for fraction benchmarks!
(Note: In this particular picture above, there was some discussion about the fraction of 2/3, and whether it belonged in the 1/2 pile or the 1 pile. In order to compare 2/3 to 1/2 and 1, we converted the 3 fractions to 4/6, 3/6, and 6/6.  The students decided that since 4/6 is closer to 3/6 than to 6/6, it belonged in the 1/2 pile. Bravo!  Excellent problem solving!)
Penguin Station #4:  Penguin Benchmark Fraction Interactive Notebook Flapper
(Comparing Fractions to Benchmarks)
Anytime my students use interactive foldables in their notebooks, it is a hit.  Laura’s Penguin Benchmark Fraction Flapper was no exception.  The students had fun working together to identify whether each penguin fraction card was less than 1/2, equal to 1/2, or more than 1/2.  They then wrote it under the correct flap in their math notebook.  This was great in two ways: First, it provided good practice. Second, I could collect the notebooks and quickly assess which groups understood the concept and which ones were still struggling.  (By the way, all the groups had correct answers!)  😀
Penguin Station #5:  Penguin Puzzler Task Cards
(Comparing and Ordering Fractions)
At this Penguin Station, students each had their own dry erase board.  They then read a Penguin Puzzler task card together and solved it individually on their boards. When everyone had finished the problem, they all compared their answers with the key. If someone was wrong, the group worked together to find out why and make the necessary corrections. This activity was valuable for me because I could quickly observe which students were having difficulty and also evaluate what kind of errors they were making. That’s great information for any teacher!
Once students had rotated through all five of the Penguin Stations I had selected to use, I was ready to see what they really knew.  At this point, I handed out the “Silly Penguin Puzzlers” worksheet to each student.  It had 4 word problems where students were required to compare and/or order fractions in order to correctly solve the problem.
Guess what?  Thanks to all the great penguin fraction fun that led up to this quick assessment,
ALL 22 students demonstrated mastery of the concept!  YES!  VICTORY!
Hahaha!  What a great feeling for a teacher!  I am really looking forward to using the other components of this Penguin Fractions: Comparing and Ordering Resource Kit as periodic review as we get closer to state assessment time and then again next year as an introduction to comparing and ordering fractions. There is no reason any student should be frozen with fear when it comes to fractions. This resource is perfect for any 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classroom!  SO happy I found it! Check out Laura’s extensive preview of the packet HERE.

Looking for more great ideas for teaching math?

Here’s some other blog posts filled with great ideas for engaging your students in math activities that will help them learn!

Shelly Rees

Hi, I’m Shelly! Thank you for being here. I love helping third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers with fun and engaging activities that require no to little prep! Let me help you by taking some of the stress and work off your plate.


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Hi, I'm Shelly

Hi, I’m Shelly! Thank you for being here. I love helping third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers with fun and engaging activities that require no to little prep! Let me help you by taking some of the stress and work off your plate.

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