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Even Today with Spell Check and Technology, Spelling is Important!

Noah Webster, an American lexicographer (one who compiles a dictionary) was the first person to write a dictionary of American English. It may have taken him more than 25 years to do so, but this book permanently altered the spelling of American English by offering a standardized way to spell and pronounce words. He learned 26 languages, including Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit, in order to research the origins of our country's tongue. You may not know this, but Webster used the Bible as the foundation for his definitions.

Before his dictionary, Americans in different parts of the country spelled, pronounced and used words differently. To create uniformity, Noah used American spellings like "color" instead of the English "colour" and "music" instead " of "musick". He also added American words that didn't appear in English dictionaries like "skunk" and "squash". When he finished in 1828, Noah's dictionary contained 70,000 words.

During Webster's lifetime, American schools were anything but productive. Sometimes 70 children of all ages were crammed into one-room schoolhouses with no desks, poor books, and untrained teachers. The textbooks came from England. Noah thought Americans should learn from American books so he wrote a spelling book for children. Known for generations simply as The Blue-back Speller, millions of American children learned how to uniformly spell and pronounce words. Webster also established a system of rules to govern grammar, and reading. Clearly, he understood the power of words, their definitions, and the need for precise word usage in communication. Without a common oral and written language, he felt the country would remain divided.

Fast forward to today with the use of texting. Writing skills have turned into sentence fragments while spelling consists of numbers, symbols or abbreviations. These habits carry over when students are at school; consequently many really don’t know how to spell or write well. No longer can students punctuate correctly since text messages often contain run on sentences with no punctuation, In addition, with the constant use of lowercase letters, students fail to use capital letters where they should. How do I know? I teach at a community college where about 60% of our students are in remedial English which involves sentence structure, basic grammar and spelling. When assigning a written assignment, I must include how many words a good sentence contains and how many sentences are in an acceptable paragraph. Even these requirements do not guarantee a complete sentence.

It seems we have moved away from standard spelling to inventive spelling (an abbreviated, expedient form); yet customary spelling has not gone out of style. It is required at school, in business, at work and in just everyday life.  In addition, the correct spelling of words affects academic success. Students are frequently assessed on their skills in written language because it is considered a strong indication of their intelligence.

Spelling is an indication of a number of things when a person applies for a job.  When correct spelling is used, words are readable and communication is clear. This convinces a prospective employer that the job applicant has been well educated. It also tells them that they take care of detail and take pride in what they
present.  Let’s face it, university applications and job resumes littered with spelling errors don’t make it very far becuz badd spilleng is hrd two undrstnd wen yuu reed it.

Furthermore, good spelling streamlines communication. By following the identical rules for spelling words, we can all understand the text we read. Likewise, good spelling avoids confusion. In a way spelling is similar to football. It is up to the person passing the ball to make sure the receiver actually catches it. The same goes for spelling. If you write with intent and proper spelling, the receiver of that text will understand it.

As teachers and parents, we should care about the fundamental part good spelling plays in our language and everyday lives. We owe it to our students to give them the necessary skills and essential spelling tools for learning and communication so they can be successful.

If you liked this article and would like to purchase some useful spelling resources, check out these two games. Their purpose is to help and encourage students to practice spelling words in a non-threatening way while having fun learning to spell.


Surprise! Leap Year Doesn't Occur Every Four Years

We live by and teach our students that there are exactly 365 days in a year. In reality, the earth turns approximately 365 and a quarter times (six extra hours) on its axis by the time it has completed a full year's orbit around the sun, which means that every so often the calendar has to catch up.  Since those six extra hours add up to 24 hours over the course of four years (4 × 6 = 24), our calendar includes a leap year every fourth year.  (It's similar to receiving a free ice cream cone after getting your frequent buyers card stamped the fourth time.)  That is the reason the month of February has 29 days instead of 28 for a total of 366 days in the year.  (Yes, we have to wait an extra day for Christmas!)

This year of 2024 is a leap year, but why is the word "leap" used?  Believe it or not, it has to do with patterns. (All math is based on patterns!)  Typically, a calendar date that is on, say, a Monday one year will fall on a Tuesday the next year; then Wednesday the year after that, and so on. However every fourth year, thanks to the extra day in February, we "leap" over Thursday and that same calendar date lands on a Friday instead.  

Believe it or not, there is a mathematical formula for figuring out leap years. (Don’t you love it?) It goes like this: A leap year is any year whose date is exactly divisible by four except for those years that are divisible by 100, not 400. (No, I didn’t make this up!) So years that are evenly divided by 100 are not leap years; however, if the years are also evenly divisible by 400, they are leap years. BUT this is only a temporary fix! This will work for about 3,300 years, at which point we will be a day off - again!

For example, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. In the same way, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2900, and 3000 will not be leap years, but 2400 and 2800 will be. Therefore, in a period of two thousand years, we will have 485 leap years. By this rule, the average number of days per year will be 365 + 1/4 − 1/100 + 1/400 = 365.2425, which is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds.

So why does this formula have to be so difficult? Because, in reality, the exact number of days in a solar year is slightly less than 365.25 (365.242374, to be exact), so the algorithm is designed so that a leap year is omitted every so often to account for underestimating the length of the earth's orbit.

Unfortunately, there's an exception to the "divide by 4" rule.  (You knew there would be).  For some time, astronomers have been able to more precisely estimate the earth's orbit. In reality, that number is roughly 365.2422 days, or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, just a smidgen under the 365.25 days previously discussed.  By comparing the numbers, we see that the number above is off by 26 seconds. To make up for this, a rule states there can only be 97 leap years over the span of 400 years, not 100 as you may think. [Source: U.S. Navy Astronomical Center] One way to remember the rule is this:  Years that occur at the turn of centuries such as 1900 and 2000 must be evenly divisible by 400. This is why 1900 wasn't a leap year but the year 2000 was.

Still confused? Purchase a new calendar each year to keep you up-to-date! 

Ironing Coffee Filters to Make the Perfect Circle

When I teach angles or the properties of circles, I find that most children have difficulty cutting out a true circle (even with a blackline).  I have resorted to purchasing cheap coffee filters (not the cone shaped ones) and ironing them flat. You can iron several filters at one time, and once they are ironed, they form excellent ready-made circles. Here are some of the ways you can teach angles using these circles.
    Writing Formulas on the Coffee Filter Circle
  1. Introduce the fact that each and every circle contains 360 degrees.
  2. Have the students fold their coffee filter in half. Discuss that this is a straight angle. Ask, “How many degrees does it contain if it is one-half of a circle?” (180 degrees)
  3. Have the students fold the coffee filter one more time, into fourths. Talk about this angle being called a right angle and that it contains 90 degrees. Ask, "What fractional part of a circle is this?"
  4. Have the students use this fourth of a circle to locate places in the classroom where it will fit (e.g. the corner of their desk, a corner of a book, a corner of the board).
  5. Explain that these corners are right angles and without right angles, we would live in a crooked world. Nothing would be straight!
  6. With older students, have them write the parts of the circle and the formulas needed for solving problems about circles on the coffee filter circle.
Linking Math and Literature for Older Students

Read Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure) by Cindy Neuschwander. This is a story about a clever knight of King Arthur’s named Sir Cumference. By using ideas offered by the knight’s wife, Lady Di of Ameter, and his son, Radius, King Arthur finds the perfect shape for his table. Basic geometric vocabulary involving circles (circumference, radius, and diameter) is introduced.
$3.50

Want more hands-on ideas for teaching angles? Check out Angles: Hands-On Geometry Activities.

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Pinterest and the Benefits of Using Tailwind to Increase Traffic to your Teachers Pay Teachers Store

Maybe you have heard of Tailwind and maybe you haven't. To set the record straight, it is not a wind blowing in the direction of travel of a vehicle or aircraft or a wind blowing from behind. It is a Pinterest and Instagram Marketing, Scheduling and Analytics Tool.

I was first introduced to it on the Teachers Pay Teachers blog. Since I use PinterestI am always pinning new ideas, teaching strategies, Ohio State stuff (Go Buckeyes!), ideas for my college classes, etc., I decided to try using Tailwind instead of individually pinning each resource from my TPT store or blog. Before deciding if the paid plan was right for me, I was able to schedule up to 100 pins on Pinterest for free . What was nice is that there was no time limit on that free trial! It allowed me to schedule up to 100 pins on Pinterest while I could watch my analytics and the number of repins my items were receiving before deciding if the paid plan was worth the money.

I saw several benefits right away! More traffic was coming to my Pinterest Boards as well as to my Teachers Pay Teachers StoreI therefore decided to invest in Tailwind.  I am aware that pinning everything all at once isn’t ideal; consequently, it is important to space pins out a little so I'm not overwhelming my followers. Pinterest has even suggested that too much pinning in a short time period could be viewed as “spamming”, potentially hurting my rankings in search results and feeds. With Tailwind, I have the ability to create my own posting schedule, and I can use interval pinning to space out my pins so "spamming" doesn't happen. I can set a time period between when each image that is pinned anywhere from two days to 90 days apart. Tailwind even gives me the best times and days to post.

Here are some ways I am currently using Tailwind:
  1. To schedule pins
  2. To know when the best time to pin by using the Smart Calendar
  3. To schedule multiple pins to different boards at the same time
  4. To use interval pinning
  5. To use Smartloops - They let you automatically repin the same type of content to specific boards without having to revisit them. 
  6. To use the Tailwind Analytics - to know which are my best pins and where my repins are going
  7. To find my best pins using Pin Inspector
  8. Create new pins from scratch using Tailwind Create - I use this all the time to take an old, outdated pin and remake it into a new pin. You just add your images, and it will create hundreds of pin designs that you can choose from and instantly schedule into your Tailwind queue.
  9. Use Ghostwriter AI to rewrite and personalize your pin descriptions
Even though I haven't tried these features, you can also:
  1. Create a personalized marketing plan.
  2. Create an email list so you can send and receive emails.
  3. Customize your profile.
I know this sounds like a long advertisement for Tailwind, but I am so excited about the many benefits and results of this service, I just had to share it with you, my readers. If you are interested in joining Tailwind, I have a Tailwind tribe called Math Counts where any teacher who teaches kindergarten through high school can post math resources for free. Each person in the tribe adds their own pins in the queue. Once you see the pins in the queue, you can add them to your scheduled pins in Tailwind so your resources keep getting re-pinned to different boards. Tailwind has said that you do not have to be a paying member of Tailwind to be in a Tribe. Here is the link if you are interested in joining Math Counts. Just copy and paste it into any search engine.

https://www.tailwindapp.com/tribe/join?h=eYO2Fvg6qtxnGj

If you decide to join my tribe (which costs you nothing), you will also get a free month ($15 credit) if you ever decide to join the Plus plan. Most bloggers only need Tailwind Plus, which costs $119 per year when paid annually. If you choose to pay monthly then it costs $19.99 per month, or $240 per year. Note that Tailwind’s free trial lets you schedule up to 100 pins and 30 Instagram posts to test the platform before paying.

Getting started with Tailwind is easy. In the members area are five training videos that walk you through everything step-by-step and in much more detail than this blog post. There’s also an in-depth FAQ section, and if you get stuck with anything, their customer service is responsive and helpful. All I can say is that it makes running my Pinterest account much easier; I can be more strategic in my Pinterest marketing efforts plus it saves me a ton of time!  I hope you will check it out.