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A Go Figure Debut for an Australian Who Is New

The Curious Fox
Today’s Go Figure Debut takes us to Melbourne, Australia, (a long, long way from where I live!) to a teacher who has a very interesting teaching background. Libby has taught skiing/snow play to some very young children in the U.S. For a brief time, she lived in the UK doing emergency teaching work. She now resides in Melbourne, Australia where she plans to stay.

Libby loves getting her students to use higher order thinking skills and to work on projects that are intrinsically motivating. In her classroom, you will see students talking about their learning as well as spending a lot of time working collaboratively (two heads are better than one). Libby’s students solve problems, have opportunities to be creative and make decisions about their learning.

She started creating resources for her Teachers Pay Teachers store (Curious Fox) when she began maternity leave. Since her son is now one, she presently works part-time again at her school in Melbourne. Away from the classroom, she loves to go for runs while pushing her son around in his pram (stroller) and enjoys finding bargains at op-shops (thrift shops).

Libby has 124 resources in her store, 16 of which are free! She creates resources for literacy and numeracy and for all primary grades that are specific to Australia, the UK and the U.S. Her store contains scaffolded maths (math) projects that use real world information (such as distances between planets in the solar system) and/or require students to do things like make popcorn or plan real parties for their class. In addition, her store contains nursery rhyme packs and beginning writing resources that have worked well in her classroom. She also offers sets of higher order thinking task cards for a range of maths (math) concepts.

Because Christmas is coming up, Libby thought she would
share her free Christmas Math Investigation
resource. It includes a fun differentiated math investigation for grades 4, 5 and 6. Students are required to work out how many gifts “my true love” sends, use measurement to get an idea of how much milk Santa drinks on Christmas Eve, work with Santa’s travelling speed which is faster than the speed of light as well as making use of other math skills.

Only $3.00
Her 42 page paid resource is a Christmas Plan a Party Project where students use math skills to actually plan a real class Christmas party.  Most of the preparation requires paper and cardboard with only a few extra resources required. It is generic enough to suit a range of different types of Christmas class parties. Certain black line masters can also be taken out if you wish to not include an element in your party.

Libby also writes a blog.  One of her latest posts is entitled: Ten Things I Hate About Homework. (This might be an article my college students would like to read since every hour of college class time typically equals two hours of homework! OR - maybe not!)  But since you are not in college, you might find some interesting and legitimate reasons for hating homework.

A Go Figure Debut for a Teacher Who is Anything but new!

Anne is an elementary teacher from Texas with over 32+ years
of experience. She believes in making lessons fun and engaging but at the same time keeping them tied to the curriculum. She differentiates by using task cards as this gives students a chance to get up and move about the room. She does many hands-on math and science activities with her students! 

Anne implemented, "Scientist of the Week" into her classroom with great success! She wrote more about this activity on her blog called Believe to Achieve  (September 30, 2016 post).  It is an easy and fun way to make sure there is science, using the Scientific Method, each week in your class! Check it out as this might be a fun activity you can add to your classroom!

For fun, Anne loves to travel! Any beach is her little slice of heaven! Growing up she lived in ten different states in the United States as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Germany; so, I guess the love of traveling is in her blood!

She also loves spending time with her husband and two grown children! Often times, she will grab a Starbucks and then shop the aisles of Target! On a hot day, she declares that there is nothing better than a 7-11 Slurpee! Of course she has the app so every 7th one is free!

Presently, Anne has 200 items in her Teachers Pay Teachers store (also called Believe to Achieve).  They focus primarily on math and science resources for the elementary grades. Of the 200 resources, 21 are free. Since I am always working on money with my grandchildren, I especially like the free one about counting money. It is a colorful set of 24 task cards that focuses on counting U.S. bills and coins up $10.00. Included are a recording sheet and an answer key!

If you really want to save time, Anne has a math bundle for third grade that is eight months of no prep, grade 3 math for September to April! That's a year's worth of math! Each month features 30 pages plus a bonus activity! It includes a table of contents and those ever important answer keys! All you have to do is print them out and then use them! It couldn't be any easier.  AND….you save 20% (that's $8.00) by buying the bundle instead of the individual products!! 

I believe students will enjoy Anne's fun filled activities because she takes the time to make them simple for you to use.  Take a few moments to check out her store and use the custom categories on the left of her store's home page to make your search easier.

The Long and Short of It - Division

The topic of long division has come up a great deal lately; so, I thought I would again post this article which was seen originally in September of 2014.

My remedial college math class is currently working on fractions. (Yes, many college students don't understand them!) When we discussed how to change an improper fraction to a mixed numeral, long division came up. I showed the class a shortcut I was taught many years ago (approximately when the earth was cooling) and none, no not even one student, had seen it before. I wonder how many of you are unfamiliar with it as well? First let's look at long division and how most students are taught today. We will use 534 divided by 3.

Now if that doesn't make your head swim, I don't know what will. Everything written in the third column is what the student must mentally do to solve this problem. Then we wonder why students have trouble with this process. There is another way, and it is called short division for a reason. This is the way I learned it.......
I don't know about you, but I would rather have my students doing mental math to solve division problems than writing everything out in the long form. And the paper and frustration you will save will be astounding! So what will it be.....long division or short division?

Divisibility Rules Resource
As a Side Note: Since many students do not know their multiplication tables, reducing fractions is almost an impossible task. The divisibility rules, if learned and understood, can be an excellent math tool. This resource contains four easy to understand divisibility rules and includes the rules for 1, 5, and 10 as well as the digital root rules for 3, 6, and 9. A clarification of what digital root is and how to find it is explained. Also contained in the resource is a dividing check off list for use by the student. If you are interested, just click under the resource title page.

Let's Pitch Paper!

My college students love, love games.  I found one on Pinterest which I adapted for the new class I am teaching called Conquering College.  In this class, the students have a reading quiz over an assigned article about every three weeks, and I am always trying to think of new ways to review. I tried the game, and it was a "hit".  It is called "Pitch" and here is how you play it.

1) Divide the class into two teams and assign them two pages of the article to review.

2) Each student is to write a question about their part of the article on half a sheet of paper.

3) Select two captains to come to the front of the room.

4) Have students crumble up the paper and throw it, trying to hit the captain of the opposite team. (I have team #1 throw; then team #2. I also have four questions that I throw into the mix.)

5) The captains mix up the questions and place them on a table. They then go to board to keep score.

6) Alternating between teams, one by one, the students go and pick a question, which they must read aloud and answer correctly for their team to get a point. If the student is unable to answer, the question goes to the other team for them to answer.

7) The captains are the last students to answer a question.

The first time we played, the two teams tied so both teams received a small candy bar. The students LOVED it!!!! They were not only engaged, but they were having fun. I was surprised when they said things like, "That isn't a good question because it can be answered with a yes or a no. Or that is a well written one." I think the next time we might make airplanes and call the game "Crash Landing."

I shared the game with other faculty members, and here is what a chemistry instructor wrote me...

"I have done 'muddiest point' with my chemistry students and had them ball up and throw their papers at me...even my double section which has 62 students. I got bombarded with blue paper as the students tried really hard to hit me. It was hysterical!!!"

So, now it is your turn. Maybe you will have a "pitch" battle or just maybe, the teams will "pitch" in and help each other.

Be-Leaf Me! Fall is Great!

When Aunt Sue moved to Florida, she would send home some strange requests.  One year, she wanted us to send her a box of fall leaves.  Since Florida lacks deciduous trees, her students were unaware of the gorgeous colors produced by the trees up north.  The only problem with her request was that the leaves we sent would be dry and crumbling by the time she received them. What to do?

I solved the problem by ironing the leaves between two sheets of wax paper.  It was something I had learned in elementary school many, many years ago (back when the earth was cooling).  My granddaughters still collect leaves so we can do the activity together.  Here is how you do it.
  1. Find different sizes and colors of leaves.
  2. Tear off two sheets of waxed paper - about the same size.
  3. Set the iron on "dry".  No water or steam here!
  4. The heat level of the iron should be medium.
  5. Place leaves on one piece of the waxed paper.
  6. Lay the other piece on top.
  7. Iron away!
Up above, on the right, you will see what ours looked like when we were finished.

Only $4.95
You can also use this activity to identify leaves.  According to my husband who knows trees, leaves and birds from his college studies, we "waxed" a maple leaf, sweet gum leaf, elm leaf, cottonwood leaf (the state tree of Kansas - they are everywhere), and two he doesn't recognize because they are some kind of ornamentals.

So my suggestion is to get out there and start gathering leaves because your students, children and grandchildren will love me!

Do you want your students to have fun with leaves? Check out  a six lesson science performance demonstration for the primary grades which utilizes leaves. This inquiry guides the primary student through the scientific method – 1) exploration time, 2) writing a good investigative question, 3) making a prediction, 4) designing a plan, 5) gathering the data, and 6) writing a conclusion based on the data. A preview of the investigation is available. Just click on the title. After all you might have an unbe-leaf-able time!

Spiders Are Your Friends!

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.

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.

A Go Figure Debut for a Texan Who Is New

Her Store - Math Imagination
Today my Go Figure Debut is for a Texas girl, Linda Bernal, who is in her 27th year of helping children’s minds to grow and to learn to love math. (Like me, she cures mathphobics!) She currently teaches seventh grade math although she has also taught 5th, 6th and 8th graders as well. (She must love that middle school aged student!)

Ever since she was a little girl, Linda has wanted to be a teacher. Her house was the “hangout” spot in the neighborhood, and she can still remember playing “school” with all of the kids on the block. Of course, Linda was the teacher! Her dad even bought her one of those play chalkboards that would flip vertically, and she swears it was her most favorite thing ever!

Believe it or not, Linda actually struggled with math in elementary and middle school. Her forte was reading. Not only was she in a book club, but she had shelves full of books at home; so, you would assume she would want to be a reading teacher, right? WRONG! The turning point was when she attended high school. She claims she had the most patient and amazing math teachers who made it so easy to understand the “numbers with the letters” (a.k.a., algebra) and “all the stuff around the shapes” (a.k.a., geometry). These two teachers inspired her to become a math teacher which still boggles her parents’ minds.

In her math classroom you will see students walking around during a loop game, having discussions on how to solve a problem or sometimes even debates. During practice time, students may be writing on their desks with dry erase markers or creating entries in their interactive journals using foldables. Linda thinks students retain more when they are actively involved and when they have to explain math to another person. (I agree!) She firmly believes students get more out of working on a game with a partner than completing a 30 problem worksheet alone. She still does the worksheet thing; she just doesn’t do it on a daily basis with as many problems.

Only $3.00
One of the games in her store is a 12 problem loop game, and best of all, it is free. In the game, students practice in determining the surface area of nets that create three-dimensional figures. Students find the surface area of each figure by using the formulas for finding the area of rectangles and triangles.

Free Item
Linda currently has sixty-nine items in her TPT store, six of which are free. Most are math activities, but she does have some posters that can be used in any classroom. One of her free resources is called the  Simplifying Fractions Spinner Game. This game has students simplifying fractions by spinning two spinners to create their own fraction so that every student will have a different fraction.

Other resources in her store include Loop Games, Matching Cards, Smack Down, and Fact or Fib. Some of the activities are interactive power points that create great discussions between students! She also has a blog called My Math Imagination. You should take time to go there and read her article called "Nail It."  Not only does she have a mathematical sense of humor but what she does with fingernails is amazing.  Check it out for yourself!

Mathematical Patterns

Since all math is based on patterns, this week, I want to target some mathematical problems in which we investigate developing patterns.

In the first example below, you will notice we begin by multiplying one by one; then 11 by 11, and so forth. Each time we multiply, the number of digits in the multiplier and the multiplicand increases. Do you see the pattern that progresses in the answer (product)? Notice how this multiplication pattern forms a triangle? Can you figure out what kind of triangle it is?

Here is another interesting pattern. In this one, instead of multiplying by 1, then 11, then 111, the answer (product) looks like the multiplier in the pattern above. Do you notice anything else significant?

Yes, we are multiplying by 9 each time. Now look at the number being added, and count the number of ones you see in each answer. Surprised? Isn’t it amazing how math is ordered, methodical and precise? Maybe that is one reason I love to teach it!

"Sum" Trick

In the book Ten Black Dots book, there are a total of 55 black dots. Normally, to find that answer, you would add the numbers together.

But did you know there is an easier way? Take 10 and divide it by 2. That equals 5. Multiply 10 x 5 and you get 50 then add in the 5 which equals 55. Too confusing? Well let's look at it in groups that equal 10.

As illustrated above, 10 is by itself so it is 10. Then if we group the numbers so that each group equals ten, we have four additional sets. All together, we have five groups of ten with five left over which equals 55.   5 x 10 = 50 + 5 = 55

This will work for every sequence of consecutive numbers which begins with one and contains an even set. In other words, sets that contain 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12... numbers. Merely divide the largest number by 2; multiply the largest number by the quotient, and then add the quotient.

Example:  14, 13, 12, 11, 10,  9,  8,  7,  6,  5,  4,  3,  2, 1

This will also work for an odd numbered sequence like 11 but the formula or quick trick for finding the sum is a little different. As seen below, we again divide 11 by 2, which 5.5 or rounded up equals 6. Again we group sets of two that equal 11. There are five groups plus 11 by itself so that makes a total of six groups.
Since there are no numbers left by themselves, simply multiply 11 by 6 (the rounded up quotient) to get the sum which is 66.

I love to write a series of consecutive numbers which begin with one on the board, and have the students find the answer using their calculators while I do the math in my head. Of course, they are amazed and swear that I have memorized the answer. I then ask me to give me a series (not off the wall or so large that it would take forever to use the calculator) and again I quickly give them the answer. I then teach them that math trick.

Students love "tricks" like this, but I always burst their bubble by telling them mathematicians are astute people. That's why they are always looking for faster, quicker, and smarter ways to do math!

A Go Figure Debut for A Poet Who Is New!

Theresa's TPT Store
Today’s post features a Board Certified Teacher from North Carolina. (As most of you know, Board Certification requires a great deal of work!) Theresa has taught Reading Recovery, been a third grade resource teacher, has taught first and second grade, as well as a first and second multi-age class. She has been teaching for 19 years and says she still loves what she does!!! Besides teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family and taking care of her two cats that are named Cindy Lou Who and Boots.

Her Teachers Pay Teachers store, Theresa’s Teaching Tidbits, is unique in that it contains several resources that showcase poems. Theresa even features a poem of the week and offers a bundle of these poem activities in the resource entitled: Poem of the Week Bundle. It includes all four of her Poem of the Week elementary products at a discounted price. They are:
Discounted Bundle
  • A Kind and Caring Classroom: Poems of the Week that Promote Good Character
  • Science Poems and Activities for Primary Grades
  • Patriotic Poems and Activities for Primary Grades
  • Fall Poems and Activities for Primary Grades
She suggests using these poems as a part of your weekly routine to teach comprehension, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and fluency.

Free Resource
Since her students love word searches, Theresa has created a ten page freebie called Word Searches: Fry Word Finds. She uses word searches to help early readers increase instant recognition of high-frequency words. Each word search in this free resource features ten of the 100 most used words in reading and writing and includes three different word searches with answer keys. These would be perfect for a center or for those who finish early!

Additionally, Theresa has a blog that bears the same name as her store. I loved reading her August 27th post about having a school garden. Since I teach at a college, we have gardens everywhere, but they aren’t created or maintained by the students which might be a good thing. If you take time to look at her blog, you will see pictures of her current classroom which might give you some ideas for arranging yours. In addition, she shares some books that made it to her front porch over the summer. I get the idea she loves reading books to her students!

In her August 20th post, Theresa gives you a step-by-step picture tutorial on how to make four-pocket folders that she uses in her writing workshop. (You’ll have a good laugh on why she didn’t make a video tutorial.) She even has free labels for these folders that you can download. You’ll just have to check out her blog to find out where and how…something I highly recommend that you do!

There's A Place For Us!

My college students just finished the first chapter in Fractions, Decimals, and Percents where the focus was on place value. Over the years, I have come to the realization how vital it is to provide a careful development of the basic grouping and positional ideas involved in place value. An understanding of these ideas is important to the future success of gaining insight into the relative size of large numbers and in computing.  A firm understanding of this concept is needed before a student can be introduced to more than one digit addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. It is important to stay with the concept until the students have mastery. Often when students have difficulty with computation, the source of the problem can be traced back to a poor understanding of place value.

It was not surprising when I found that many of my students had never used base ten blocks to visually see the pattern of cube, tower, flat, cube, tower, flat.  When I built the thousands tower using ten one hundred cubes, they were amazed at how tall it was.  Comparing the tens tower to the thousands tower demonstrated how numbers grew exponentially.  Another pattern emerged when we moved to the left; each previous number was being multiplied by 10 to get to the next number.  We also discussed how the names of the places were also based on the pattern of:  name, tens, hundreds, name (thousands), ten thousands, hundred thousands, etc. 

I asked the question, "Why is our number system called base ten?"  I got the usual response, "Because we have ten fingers?"  Few were aware that our system uses only ten digits (0-9) to make every number in the base ten system.

We proceeded to look at decimals and discovered that as we moved to the right of the decimal point, each number was being divided by 10 to get to the next number. We looked at the ones cube and tried to imagine it being divided into ten pieces, then 100, then 1,000. The class decided we would need a powerful microscope to view the tiny pieces.  Again, we saw a pattern in the names of each place:  tenths, hundredths, thousandths, ten thousandths, hundred thousandths, millionths, etc.

I then got out the Decimal Show Me Boards.  (See illustration on the left.)  These are very simple to make. Take a whole piece of cardstock (8.5" x 11") and cut off .5 inches. Now cut the cardstock into fourths (2.75 inches).  Fold each fourth from top to bottom. Measure and mark the cardstock every two inches to create four equal pieces. Label the sections from left to right - tenths, hundredths, thousandths, ten thousandths. Numbers (see free handout below) will fit into the slots which are the unfolded part of the cardstock. (You can type up the names of the places which then can be cut out and glued onto the place value board).

Here are some examples of how I use the boards.  I might write the decimal number in words.  Then the students make the decimal using their show me boards by putting the correct numbers into the right place.  Pairs of students may create two different decimals, and then compare them deciding which one is greater.  Several students may make unlike decimals, and then order the decimals from least to greatest.  What I really like is when I say, "Show me", I can readily see who is having difficulty which allows me to spend some one-on-one time with that student.

If you aren't ready to do decimals, Show Me Boards can also be made for the ones, tens, hundreds and thousands place.  Include as many places as you are teaching. I've made them up to the hundred thousands place by using legal sized paper. As you can see on the left, my granddaughters love using them, and it is a good way for them to work on place value.

I have attached a link to a number handout which is FREE. Just run it off onto cardstock, laminate, cut apart, and place the numbers into small zip lock bags (one sheet per child). Try using different colors of cardstock, so if a number is lost, it is easier to find the bag from which the number is missing.

Free Resource

Under the resource cover on your right is the link to a free page of numbers which anyone is welcomed to download and use.

A good way to practice nay math skill is with a game. Your students might enjoy the place value game entitled: Big Number.  Seven game boards are included in this eleven page resource packet. The game boards vary in difficulty beginning with only two places, the ones and the tens.  Game Board #5 goes to the hundred thousands place and requires the learner to decide where to place six different numbers.  All the games have been developed to practice place value using problem solving strategies, reasoning, and intelligent practice.

Magically Squaring Numbers

My college math students lack confidence (I classify them as mathphobics.); so, I like to show them math "tricks" which they can use to impress their peers.  I encourage them to know their squares through 25. (Yes, I know they can use a calculator, but the mind is so much quicker!)  When we get to solving equations using the Pythagorean Theorem, I introduce this trick. Please note: For the trick to work, it must be a two digit number that ends in 5.
Suppose we have 352.  (This means will be making a square.)
  • First, look at the number in the hundred’s place. In this case, it is the “3”. 
  •  Next think of the number that comes directly after 3. That would be “4”. 
  •  Now, in your head, multiply 3 × 4. The answer is 12. 
  • Finally, multiply 5 × 5 which is 25. 
  •  Place 12 in front of 25 to get the answer. Thirty-five squared is 1,255.
  • 3 × 4 = 12      5 × 5 = 25       
  • The answer is 1,225.
This means that we can build a square that is 35 by 35, and it will contain 1,225 squares or have an area of 1225 squares.

Now let's try 652
  • One more than 6 is 7; so, 6 x 7 is 42. 
  • Place 42 in front of 25 (5 x 5) and so 65 squared is 4,225.
  • 6 × 7 = 42      5 × 5 = 25      
  • The answer is 4,225.
How about finding the square root? We begin by looking at the numbers in the thousands and hundreds place. In the answer of 1,225, we would use the 12. Think of the factors of 12 that are consecutive numbers. In this case, they would be 3 and 4. Use the smaller of the two which, in this case, is 3. Now place a five after it. You now know the square root of 1,225 is 35.
Thirty-five represents the length of one of the sides of a square that contains 1,225 squares.

Now, try some numbers on your own. When you get comfortable with the "trick", try it with your students. They will find out that math can be magical!

Why is 'x' Usually the Unknown in Algebra?

Ted Talk
Again, it's time for some math information you might have missed in school. (Don't worry, I missed a great deal as well.)  Today's question is: Why is the letter "x" the symbol usually used for an unknown?

Even though the letter "x" is commonly used in mathematics, its use often appears in non-numerical areas within different industries such as The X Files or Project X. Terry Moore clears up this mathematical mystery in a TED Talk presentation at Long Beach, California.  In a short and funny four minute talk, he gives an unexpected answer to "why." Just click under the illustration to find out the reason!

A Go Figure Debut for a Floridian Who Is New!

Her TPT Store
Today my blog highlights Kelly Ann who is an elementary teacher from Florida. She started out teaching first grade, but after four years, she “graduated” to fifth which is still her grade level.

Regardless of the present-day hardships most teachers face, Kelly Ann loves her job. Even at a high-socioeconomic school like hers, her fifth graders come to school with a lot of baggage. Not only is she teaching content that they need for real life, but she enjoys helping them learn how to be good human-beings. Because her students spend such a large part of their day with her, she desires to be a caring, loving, authentic role model for them. That is why she describes her classroom as a family environment. She wants her students to take care of each other while they learn as well as to use their strengths to support each other.

Kelly Ann married her high-school sweetheart. (How romantic!) They have two small children - a four year old and a four month old; so, she is quite a busy lady! Generally, her life with a new baby consists of trying to keep everything afloat and trying to do Teachers Pay Teachers whenever she can! In other words, her free time is null and void. Fortunately, she is able to take this next school year off to be with her kiddos thanks to TPT.

Her Teachers Pay Teachers store is called “Created by Kelly Ann.” Right now it contains 101 quality and reasonably priced resources that are generally focused on intermediate science and social studies, with some ELA and test prep items mixed in.

One of her bundles that my husband is interested in (he teaches 8th grade science) is her Variables in Experiments Bundle. (We all love bundles because they save us $$$.) This resource includes three activities to help students practice and review independent and dependent variables, a difficult concept to master. One of her buyers left the following comment about this resource:

“The scavenger hunt was a huge hit in my class. I was also easily able to see the students who needed some additional help.”

Free Item
Out of the five free resources in her store, I found this one to be well received. It is called Teaching Test-Taking Strategies Posters. These are test-taking strategies posters that her students practice all year long to help them prepare for the inescapable standardized testing. As I looked at the 91 ratings for this item, I discovered that buyers thought these posters were not only useful but just what they needed.

She just launched her new website that incorporates her blog within it. It is entitled Created by Kelly Ann as well. Recently, she has started to create "Quick Tips for Teacher-Authors" that can also be found on this site, Instagram, Facebook in addition to Pinterest.

In everything Kelly Ann does, her teaching, creating her resources, her blog, etc., she has set high expectations for herself!  Check out her store as I know you will love what she has to offer! My husband did, and he is now a Kelly Ann “fan!”

Sock It Away!

Most of us can't live without our cell phones.  Unfortunately, neither can our students.  I teach on the college level, and my syllabus states that all cell phones are to be put on "silent", "vibrate", or turned off when class is in session.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Yet, one of the most common sounds in today's classrooms is the ringing of a cell phone, often accompanied by some ridiculous tune or sound effect that broadcasts to everyone a call is coming in.  It’s like “technological terror" has entered the classroom uninvited.  Inevitably, this happens during an important part of a lesson or discussion, just when a significant point is being made, and suddenly that "teachable moment" is gone forever.

What are teachers to do?  Some instructors stare at the offender while others try to use humor to diffuse the tension. Some collect the phone, returning it to the student later.  A few have gone so far as to ask the student to leave class.

In my opinion the use of cell phones during class time is rude and a serious interruption to the learning environment. What is worse is the use of the cell phone as a cheating device.  The college where I teach has seen students take a picture of the test to send to their friends, use the Internet on the phone to look up answers, or have answers on the phone just-in-case.  At our college, this is cause for immediate expulsion without a second chance.  To avoid this problem, I used to have my students turn their cell phones off and place them in a specific spot in the classroom before the test was passed out.  Unfortunately, the students’ major concern during the test was that someone would walk off with their phone.  Not exactly what I had planned!

A couple of years ago, a few of us in our department tried something new.  Each of us has purchased those long, brightly colored socks that seem to be the current fashion statement.  (I purchased mine at the Dollar Tree for $1.00 a pair.)  Before the test, each student had to turn off their cell phone, place it in the sock, tie the sock into a knot and place the sock in front of them. This way, the student still had control over their cell phone and could concentrate on doing well on the test, and I did not have to constantly monitor for cheating.

At the end of the semester, we compared notes.  Overall, we found that the students LOVED this idea.  Many said their students were laughing and comparing their stylish sock with their neighbor's.  I was surprised that a few of the students even wanted to take their sock home with the matching one – of course.  So here is a possible side benefit....maybe socking that cell phone away caused my students to TOE the line and study!

How Many Classroom Rules Does A Teacher Really Need?

Now that most of us are getting geared up for a new school year, it's time to think about what classroom rules need to be established. Maybe the ones you had last year just didn’t work, and you are looking for a change. I could recommend many "Do this or this will happen" or "Please don't do this as it will break my heart" statements, but lists can become very long and mind-numbing. Maybe that is why God only gave Ten Commandments. Fewer rules meant less had to be memorized. So, maybe we need to ask ourselves: “How many classroom rules are really needed?” 

I would suggest making a few general rules that are clear and understandable since being too specific often leads to complicated, wordy rules that might cover every possible situation. Most of the time, I post six simple classroom rules (only two words each) in my room which encompass my main areas of concern. I find them to be more than sufficient to govern general behaviors, and because alliteration is used, the rules are easy for all of my students to remember.

1.  Be Prompt – In other words, be on time to school/class/group.

2.  Be Prepared – Bring the items you need to class or to a group. Study for upcoming tests. Have your homework completed and ready to turn in. 

3.  Be Polite – This rule focuses on how we treat each other. Show respect for your teacher(s) and your fellow students in the classroom, in the school, and on the playground.

4.  Be Persistent - The final rule spotlights the need to stay on task and complete an assignment even though it might be difficult. 

5. Be Productive - Always put forth your best effort! Grades are achieved; not received; so, do your best at all times.

6. Be Positive – Bad days happen! If you are having one of those days, I do understand. Please just inform me before class that you are having a bad day, and I will try to leave you alone during class discussion. This is not to be abused.

I firmly believe that class rules must cover general behaviors, be clear as well as understandable. Being too specific often leads to complicated, wordy rules that might cover every possible situation, but are impossible to remember.  (A good example are the IRS tax rules which I still have difficulty comprehending). 
Here are a few things to consider when communicating your classroom rules.
  • Establish clear expectations for behavior from day one.
  • Use techniques such as interactive modeling to teach positive behavior.
  • Reinforce positive behavior with supportive teacher language.
  • Quickly stop misbehavior.
  • Restore positive behavior so that children retain their dignity and continue learning.
If you are interested in using these six rules in your classroom, check them out on Teachers Pay Teachers. Each two word rule is written as a chart, and each is ready to download and laminate to hang in your classroom.

Aliens and Trapezoids

I am always looking for ways to help my students remember things.  For example, when we learn about the properties of one, I sing (yes I do, and a little off key) One is the Loneliest Number.  Since there are so many quadrilaterals to learn (*7 in all), I create quadrilateral stories.  Here is one of my students' favorites.  (Keep in mind, these are college students.)

Once upon a time, I planted a broccoli garden in my backyard.  Since I love geometry, I placed triangle statues all around my garden.  Every morning I would go out to my garden to weed, hoe, fertilize, and water my precious broccoli plants.  One morning, I noticed several of my plants had been eaten.  I was one upset lady; so, I decided to stay up all night and watch to see which critters had the nerve to venture into my garden for a broccoli feast.

That night, I sat at my bedroom window watching the garden.  All of a sudden, out of the sky, came a UFO which landed in my backyard.  As I watched, the door of the UFO opened (I use my arms to imitate the opening door while I say, S-q-e-a-k!) and out came some little aliens.  As they approached my broccoli, they repeated, "Zoid, zoid, zoid".  (I use a high alien like voice.) Sure enough, they ate several of my plants!  They then proceeded back to their spaceship and flew away. 

The same thing happened the following night and the night after that; so, I knew something had to be done.  I went to my garage, and got out my trusty chain saw to cut off the top of each of my triangles.  (I imitate the noise of a chain saw.)  Inside each cut off triangle I placed a bunch of broccoli to entice my visitors.  I knew if those aliens got inside, they would never get out because of the slanting sides.  I went back into my house to wait.

Sure enough, like clockwork, the UFO returned.  Again, the door of the UFO opened (s-q-e-a-k!) and out came the same little aliens. They proceeded to my cut off triangles, and perched on the edge peering down at the broccoli, all the while saying, "Zoid, zoid, zoid".  One by one they leaped inside to eat the broccoli, and guess what.  I trapped-a-zoid!  Okay, you may not be laughing, but I swear this story does help my students to remember what a trapezoid is. 

Let's discuss a couple of important math things about trapezoids that you may not be aware of.   In my story, the trapezoid is an isosceles trapezoid or as sometimes called, a regular trapezoid.  Not only does it have one set of opposite sides parallel, but it also has one set of opposite sides equal (marked with the black line segments).  It also has one line of symmetry which cuts the trapezoid in half (the blue dotted line).  This special trapezoid is usually the one taught by most teachers, but it is really a special kind of trapezoid. 

   trapezoid                                   isosceles trapezoid
For a quadrilateral to be classified as a trapezoid, the shape only needs to have one set of opposite sides parallel as seen in figure one.  The first trapezoid is the one that sometimes appears on tests to "trick" our students.

In the second figure (the isosceles or regular trapezoid), the sides that are not parallel are equal in length and both angles coming from a parallel side are equal (shown on the right).  Lucky for me that I used the second trapezoid for my trap or my zoids would have been long gone, and with my entire crop of broccoli, too!

*square, rectangle, rhombus, parallelogram, trapezoid, kite, trapezium