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Getting A Grip on Gratitude

We live in a nation where we have so much to be thankful for. We enjoy a measure of wealth that billions in this world can only dream of and previous generations could not have even imagined. Is it possible that we have grown so accustomed to our affluence that we have lost the wonder of it? Is it possible that our affluence is harming us even as it blesses us?

Unfortunately, I think many in America are infected with the contagious and dangerous disease of "affluenza". How do I know? Because daily, I see people exhibiting the symptoms of the disease. One of the first symptoms is discontentment with what they have. As we possess more things, satisfaction and contentment declines. Many times wealth doesn't deliver joy, only emptiness.

Secondly, obsession is a symptom of affluenza.  I want more; I need more; I deserve more is advertised everyday on T.V.  If we already have a product, we are enticed to upgrade to the latest and newest version or to replace it altogether.

Ingratitude is another indicator of affluenza.  We have so much that we have no needs, just wants, and as we acquire those desires, we tend to forget the words, "Thank you." Finally "affluenza" results in a non-giving spirit.  We grudgingly give or give a meager amount to satisfy our conscious. Shouldn't our giving reflect our abundant blessings?

This Thanksgiving, take time to be thankful.  Share with those you love why you are thankful for them. Call someone you haven't seen for a while and tell them you are thankful for their love and friendship.  Invite someone who has no family to have dinner with your family. And don't forget to give thanks to God who gives us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.

It Depends on the Angle - Complimentary and Supplementary Angles

My Basic Algebra Concepts class just started a brief chapter on favorite to teach! We are currently working on angles, and as we went through the definitions, I noticed my students were having difficulty distinguishing complimentary from supplementary angles. Since most of my students are visual learners, I had to come up with something that would jog their memory.

The definition states that complementary angles are any two angles whose sum is 90°. (The angles do not have to be next to each other to be complementary.) As seen in the diagram on the left, a 30° angle + a 60° angle = 90° so they are complementary angles. Notice that the two angles form a right angle or 1/4 of a circle.

If I write the word complementary and change the first letter "C" into the number nine and I think of the letter "O" as the number zero, I have a memory trick my mathematical brain can remember.

Supplementary Angles are two angles whose sum is 180°. Again, the two angles do not have to be together to be supplementary, just so long as the total is 180 degrees. In the illustration on your right, a 110° angle + a 70° angle = 180°; so, they are supplementary angles. Together, they form a straight angle or 1/2 of a circle.

If I write the word supplementary and alter the "S" so it looks like an 8, I can mentally imagine 180°.

Since there are so many puns for geometric terms. I have to share a bit of geometry humor. (My students endure many geometry jokes!)

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You might be interested in a variety of hands-on ideas on how to introduce angles to your students. Check out this resource.  It explains how to construct different kinds of angles (acute, obtuse, right, straight) using items such as coffee filters, plastic plates, and your fingers. Each item or manipulative is inexpensive, easy to make, and simple for students to use. All of the activities are hands-on and work well for kinesthetic, logical, spatial, and/or visual learners.

Making Parent Teacher Conferences Worthwhile

Are You….....
  • Tired of always talking about grades at parent/teacher conferences? 
  • Tired of feeling like nothing is ever accomplished during the allotted time? 
  • Are you having problems with a student, but don’t know how to tell the parents? 
  • Do you want to be specific and to-the-point? 
When I taught middle school and/or high school, these were the items that really discouraged me. I knew I had to come up with a better plan if I wanted parent/teacher conferences to be worthwhile and effective for both the student and the parents. I created a a checklist that I could follow, use during conferences, and then give a copy to the parents at the end of the conference.  It contained nine, brief, succinct checklists which were written as a guide so that during conferences I could have specific items to talk about besides grades. I found it easy to complete and straight forward plus it provided me with a simple outline to use as I talked and shared with parents.

Since other teachers were able to use it successfully, I took that checklist and turned it into a resource called Parent/Teacher Conference Checklist, Based on Student Characteristics and Not Grades. Nine different categories are listed for discussion.  They include:
  1. Study Skills and Organization 
  2. Response to Assignments 
  3. In Class Discussion 
  4. Class Attitude 
  5. Reaction to Setbacks 
  6. Accountability 
  7. Written Work 
  8. Inquiry Skills 
  9. Evidence of Intellectual Ability 
To get ready for conferences, all you have to do is place a check mark by each item within the category that applies to the student. Then circle the word that best describes the student in that category such as "always, usually, seldom". (See example above.)

Finally, make a copy of the checklist so that the parent(s) or the guardian(s) will have something to review with their student when they return home.

Now you are ready for a meaningful and significant conference.

Spiders Are Your Friends - Learning about Spiders

Spiders! We see pretend ones in the store as Halloween decorations (some are pretty terrifying) or real ones outside in a web they have created.  For some reason, these creatures are always something that students want to learn about. How are spiders different than insects? What is an orb web? Are all spiders poisonous? How does the spider not get stuck in her own web? These are questions that students will ask because they are curious and inquisitive.

Did you know spiders are really useful animals and serve mankind well? They eat mosquitoes, grasshoppers, locusts and other insects that are harmful to man. A single spider may kill about two thousand insects in its lifetime. Even though you may be afraid of spiders, very few are dangerous. The black widow and the brown house (recluse) spider do have poisonous bites, but there are no other common house spiders known to be dangerous.

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Spiders are not insects, and insects are not spiders. Spiders are arthropods because they have spinning glands used to create silken threads. Sometimes spiders are called arachnids because of their eight legs. Spiders and insects have different attributes. All insects have six legs, but all spiders have eight legs. An insect has a three-part body, but a spider has only two parts to its body. Insects have antennae or feelers, and spiders do not. Spiders can usually be found in basements, barns, garages, or attics. In warm weather, you can find them under rocks or logs, sitting on fences, or in the grass and flowers. There are about forty thousand different species of spiders.

Interested in learning more?  Check out a ten page short mini reading/science unit  about spiders. First, the students read a short passage about spiders. Then they answer several questions about the reading based on Bloom's Taxonomy, or they do an activity related to the reading passage. Activities include dictionary work, spider math problems, labeling the parts of a spider, and completing a spider web. This mini unit is appropriate for grades 3-5 and will take about five days to complete. An answer key is included.

Want more spider activities? Check out the two word search puzzles and the two crossword puzzles available in time for Halloween!