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Saturday, September 27, 2008

POW! To the moon!!

My uncle sent me a link this morning, with an out of this world proposal -- TEACHERS! IN!! SPACE!!!

Sign me up, baby, because I've always wanted to see Uranus!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Green Eggs and Math

I hate open-ended questions.

OK, so I don't really hate them. I really do believe that, in the long run, they are much better than multiple choice questions. I just hate the fact that getting my kids to answer them is like pulling teeth or boating a marlin.

They never want to put any thought into their answer, and they often write down stuff that makes no sense whatsoever.

For instance, one of the questions at the end of the Plant chapter in our science book says, "What is a seedling?" MANY of my kids throughout the years write, "Every seed has a seedling," as their answer. Congratulations, you looked back in the chapter and found a sentence that contains the word "seedling," but it doesn't ANSWER the question!!!

Yesterday, I gave a math test, and the final question said, "Give an example of when you would round instead of using exact numbers. Explain."

As you might, guess, I got a myriad of wacky answers. The best were any that mentioned what we had discussed when we first started rounding, which was going to the store and trying to keep track of your total cost. But some just said things like "at school," or "at a job." Um, no soup for you!

But then there were the kids who really took the "when" part of that question emphatically. On girl wrote as her answer, "Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday." I guess Wednesday is rounding-free day?

Several other kids wrote "Never. You wouldn't get an answer." Right, so let's just keep practicing this skill that you will NEVER use. (well, they DO diagram sentences in middle school)

But the one that takes the cake reminded me of Dr. Seuss. When would we use rounding? According to this girl, "At my house, in the car, in a tree, at the school," etc, etc.

I will not round that in a box.
I will not round that with a fox.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Everybody loves vomit

What is it exactly about vomit and kids? Or perhaps vomit and people in general? It might seem like an odd question, but take a moment to consider people's reaction to vomit. Personally, MY reaction to someone vomiting is to get as far away as possible from that person and that hurlage. However, my kids, and many kids I have observed in the past few years, don't have that same reaction.

Yesterday, I was stooped down by one of my students' desks, helping him with a problem. All of a sudden, from the other side of the desk, I hear the sound of 500 wet paper clips hitting the floor -- ah yes, someone has blown chunks.

I stand up and see this girl staring at me with a dazed look in her eye, and a stained shirt. She's waiting to be told what to do. Had I shouted, "VOMIT!" she probably would have puked again. Had I shouted, "JUGGLE BOWLING PINS!" she might have attempted it. Instead, I shouted, "GO TO THE BATHROOM!"

Meanwhile, every other eyeball in the room is riveted to the puddle of puke on the floor. WHY??? Why do these kids STARE at throw up??? The sarcastic side of me came out, and I couldn't help but say, "PLEASE! Keep staring at the throw up! Let's all get a REALLY good look and make ourselves sick!!" I should have invited them all to bring a camera next time, for posterity's sake.

In other, less sickening, news, this week's Mr. Teacher column on is titled This Weak's Columm, and it tackles the issue of public misspellings. Company signs, city slogans, text messages, you name it. Check it out!

Also, please check out this week's Carnival of Education, now running over at Steve My article about weird arrangements of the human skeleton is over there, along with several other gems.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Just a few ideas

If you don't live in the Dallas area, perhaps you haven't heard, but the school district has mistakenly overspent and underbudgeted to the tune of roughly $64 million dollar. Yes, a number that is higher than third graders are required to have knowledge of, according to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

At any rate, there has been a lot of pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth over what this shortfall might bring -- layoffs, severe program cuts, class by candlelight -- but I am not here to add more worry to the situation. Instead, I like to go by Stallone's credo -- if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the disease (ok, maybe that's not the context or the quote) -- and heaven forbid I be part of the disease.

So I've been thinking about how we can get this $64 million back without anyone losing their jobs, and I've come up with a few ideas. See what you think.

1) Pass the hat around -- the simplest solution of all. We pass around the hat, everybody at each school throws in a couple of bucks. . . In no time at all, we'd have that $64 million knocked down to $63.8 million.

2) Charity auction of teachers/staff -- I've never personally taken part in or been to a charity auction, but they always seem to work on tv shows and movies. A teacher stands up on the stage, and the bidding begins. The high bidder gets to take the teacher/administrator/superintendent home for a day to be their personal servant. I imagine I would go for roughly $23.50, and I would be willing to walk a kid's dog, clean their room, and file their PlayStation games alphabetically for that, all in the name of helping out the district.

3) Concessions -- Let's start selling Cokes during class for $2 and popcorn for $4.50. Sure, there might be more spills and stained tests, but think of the profit we could make!!!

4) Talent show out behind the barn!! -- this sort of thing ALWAYS worked on Little House on the Prairie, so why the heck wouldn't it work here? Just think about all the untapped talent that the teachers and staff of DISD have. We could charge $10 a ticket, and I'm sure people would come from milles around to be amazed by the big show.

5) Corporate Sponsorship -- I've been pushing this for years now. We get some major companies to back us, and we place their names on certain things around the school district. "Kids, please take out your Visa spelling list, sponsored by Kellog's." "Your math quiz today is brought to you by IBM, proud sponsor of a new generation of scholars." The kids already have a dress code. Slap a Nike swoosh on the breast of each dress shirt, and we cut that shortfall in half immediately.

Any thoughts? These ideas have legs, people! Let's get it done!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Photography at its very best

Hey everyone,

I have a very close friend who, with her husband, runs a most excellent photography business, specializing in wedding photos. Recently, they have been honored by being selected as a finalist in the San Francisco Chronicle's Bay List. The competition is currently running, and my friend is in, I believe, 10th place right now.

I'd like to ask anyone who's willing to go to the SF Chron's website and vote for Allegro Photography! Check out the page and you will see the outstanding quality of the photographs. Yes, they do ask you to register to vote, which I know is a pain for some people. But you don't have to write a review, you don't have to provide any personal info other than your date of birth.

I voted, and it took me like 2 minutes.

Thanks in advance to everyone for your support!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The head bone's connected to the foot bone...

Yesterday, as part of our ongoing discussion of systems in science class, we looked at a skeleton. More specifically, I gave each pair of kids in my class a skeleton puzzle to put together. There were about 20 pieces, some depicting more than one bone, and the kids had to use brads to connect the pieces through holes.

My kids have some VERY interesting ideas about their bodily structure.

I saw one group immediately trying to fasten the pelvis to the base of the skull.

Every group in my afternoon class thought that the arm only had one bone, so they had the hand approximately where the elbow should be.

The lumbar vertebra piece, which is supposed to go between the rib cage and the pelvis, was instead placed by one group on the UNDERSIDE of the pelvis. Um, that's a different bone, fellas!!

Today was actually a fantastic teaching day. I thought it would be awful, because the curriculum called for us to teach rounding to the nearest 10 and nearest 100. Normally, this is a pretty difficult concept for the kids to grasp in a week, and our guides gave us one day to teach it.

So I used the "punch it up" method to teach it to the kids. And lo and behold, they got it, they really got it! My low low kids who can barely subtract, they were rounding numbers to the nearest 10 and 100!

Will they retain it? Who knows. But at least they got the concept and can probably be reminded how to do it in the future.


I was sent this brilliant picture in an email today. I might just have to start paying my bills this way!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm finding my voice again

Thanks to either time or antibiotics (or quite possibly the Junior Whopper I had for lunch today), my voice seems to be slowly returning. Thank you to everyone who voiced (oops) concern for me over the weekend. It was such a great topic that I even wrote about it for this week's Mr. Teacher column over on, titled The Voice of the People. Go check it out and leave a comment or 4.

We compared numbers today. Greater than, less than, that sort of thing. My kids seemed to grasp that pretty well for the most part. Or course, they really sank their teeth into the whole "alligator mouth eats the greater number" mnemonic. Literally. Almost all of them had the inequality sign pointing the right way on their exercises, but almost all of them had drawn HUGE inequality signs, complete with jagged teeth, forked tongues, and in some cases, firey breath.

A fellow teacher, Mrs. Math told me that one child looked at an exercise where the two sides were equal and exclaimed, "The alligator don't know which side to eat!!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are eyeballs supposed to twitch?

OK, I have a question for all of the teachers out there. At what point should I start to get really, really scared?

I usually have a few kids at the beginning of the year who don't recall their basic mathmatic facts well or who have forgotten the need for and the skill of borrowing (or regrouping). This year, I have a few kids who are the EXCEPTIONS to these issues.

In my afternoon class today (11 kids), I asked "What is 8 minus 6?" Silence for about 2 seconds. Then a low collective, "ummmmmmm" for about 3 seconds before the random guesses began. "SIX!" "THREE!" (a muffled "two") "EIGHT!" "GREEN!"

OK, no one said "green." Thankfully. It wouldn't have surprised me, though. But when almost the entire class needs to stop and count on their fingers for a question like "10 - 9" I start to get worried!

Borrowing doesn't seem to be an issue for them -- since most of them don't do it!! "What's 5 minus 7?" I ask. "TWO!!" the kids shout, as the high fives begin and the party favors get blown. And forget sensical answers. 104-98 apparently equals 194. 23-8 is 25. 200-89 is, naturally, 289.

I understand that as a 3rd grade teacher, I need to reinforce and remind kids of 2nd (and 1st) grade concepts. But I feel as though I'm spending more time TEACHING these concepts than the new, 3rd grade, concepts!!!

Anyone else going through this?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Video review

Lazy Sunday here at Mister Teacher's house. Still recovering my voice, hoping I'll be able to talk to the kids tomorrow. Football game on the background, rooting my fantasy teams on. Thought it'd be a good time to put up a couple of links.

The Darth Vader video has sort of plateaued, but if you haven't seen it yet, or if you have friends who haven't seen it yet, please check it out again, and comments are always welcome!

Same goes for the Learn Me Good infomercial -- my tribute to Billy Mays! Makes a great Halloween gift, Thanksgiving gift, or Christmas gift!

Do you know anyone who could use a healthy dose of Fractorix? Check out the video and see if you or your loved ones exhibit any of the symptoms.

Also, don't forget to sign the guestbook at the bottom of my page!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ike outside and marching in Place

Thankfully, I do not live on the Gulf coast of Texas, or else I would probably not be able to enjoy my sick weekend at home. As it is, living near Dallas, which is pretty darn far inland, I'm STILL seeing the effects of Hurrican Ike today. It has been raining nonstop all day long, and the wind is quite audible.

Earlier this week, my class and I were going over Place Value. The kids had only learned place value through the thousands (though there was some debate over whether they had stopped at hundreds last year, or thousands), but this year, they have to know it through hundred thousands.

Since my new room this year is MUCH smaller than last year, there just isn't enough space to play Place Ball. Last year, I had the kids run around, slapping the desks as if they were bases, and saying the name of each place as they went. No room for that this year. So instead we marched in "place."

I started the kids marching left, right, left, right, and we shouted out the places in time -- ONES, TENS, HUNDREDS, THOUSANDS, TEN THOUSANDS, HUNDRED THOUSANDS! It seemed to stick that day. We'll see how much remains in a couple of weeks.

Also, my thanks to Peter Jones at Great New Books that are a Must Read for his review of Learn Me Good.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Words fail me

I always get sick at school, but not usually this quickly. 3rd week of school, and I've already lost my voice...

Thank goodness for Primacare and penicillin!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

No more recess

This week's Mr. Teacher column on is titled "Give Me a Break," and it is the story of a school year without recess. Well, 2 weeks of a school recess with only 2 days of recess, anyway. Read the full story and weigh in if your school has done anything this drastic!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Taking pre-inventory

I was just looking at the Pre-inventory math test that my kids took last Wednesday. 20 questions that are supposed to be a review of 2nd grade skills that my kids (theoretically) learned last year. Realistically, there are 2 really hard questions on there, 2 others that are kind of tricky, and 16 that are practically no brainers.

I'm pleased to say that I DID have one student who scored a 90. He rocked the test. The next highest score was 60, and the average was around 40.

As if I didn't already know it, I really have my work cut out for me this year.

I never really expect much out of this test (which is why I'm so stoked about the one kid who scored a 90). Most of the kids are still shaking off the fuzz from the summer, they don't want to show any work or think about any of the problems, and so they tend to miss easy questions. But still... Some of the questions were just SO obvious that it still bugs me when they miss them.

For instance, one of the questions shows a picture of a rectangle (the question calls it an aquarium) and a square and asks how the two shapes are alike. I had 5 or 6 kids who picked, "They both have exactly 3 sides." THREE sides??!??

Another showed 4 fish and 3 birds and asked what fraction was birds. Only about 3 kids out of my 22 got this one right. Most of the others picked 3/4. Note to self, work extra hard on fractions this year...

One question showed a couple of base-10 block models and then asked which statement was true. The entire question could have been ignored, as the answers said 342>245, 342=245, 342<245,>342.

3 kids said these numbers are equal!!!!! What were they smoking????

Oh well. They are very well behaved this year, and there are not a whole lot of them, so that should make the intense work that is required that much easier.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

D+ in Copying

Why is it that kids have such a hard time copying things word for word or answering questions out of a book onto a separate sheet of paper? If I ask my kids to copy a word problem from the overhead, it takes some of them 5-10 minutes to copy 3 lines -- and that's only if I'm rushing them! If I let them take their time, we would do absolutely nothing else all day long!

If it was just a matter of not being able to SEE the overhead, that would be one thing. But my kids can see it just fine. But they write one word then stare at the wall for a minute. Then write another word then examine a tiny capillary in their thumb. Then write a letter then daydream about Yugi-Oh for 2 minutes.

And copying from a book is no better. Yesterday, I had the kids take a chapter pre-test out of the text of our new math adoption (Texas Mathematics, which so far I'm liking except for one thing -- there isn't a consumable workbook for each kid!!!!). 17 questions, none very difficult, with straightforward directions on 3 sections. Since the kids can't write in the textbooks, I give each of them a sheet of notebook paper.

I go over each section with them, giving examples of how to write the answers. I tell them several times NOT to copy any charts, questions, or word problems they see, just to write the answers. I tell them to work individually, NOT to treat this as partner work.

Then the madness begins. Some kids immediately begin to copy the place value charts they see on questions 1-3. One boy raises his hand and asks, "Can we work with our partners?" One boy writes "one four" as his answer to number one, even though the directions clearly state (and I clearly reiterated) that the answers to questions 1-7 should be numbers in NUMERAL form only. About three-quarters of the kids don't seem to understand that the question and the answer should not be EXACTLY THE SAME THING. They were just copying what they saw. "Wow, number 6 says '2 tens 5 ones' -- the answer must be '2 tens 5 ones!' I'm ROCKIN this baby!!!"

I had hoped to only take about 20 minutes on this activity. After about 20 minutes, though, there were only about 2 kids who were anywhere near finished. Of course the kid who was busy copying the 4 sentence word problem word for word was nowhere near finished. And the girls staring at the floor were only on number 5.

One girl turned in a paper where she had answered questions 1-3, 8, 12-14, and 16. When I asked why (and refrained from using the other two words in WTF?) she hadn't done the other problems, she stared at me uncomprehendingly.

Color me afraid. Color me VERY afraid.

In other news, my kids worked on their science safety posters today. Each group of 2-3 students had chosen a slogan such as "Always wear safety goggles," "Always cover your clothes with an apron," or "Always wear mittens when working with hot objects." The posters were not exactly OSHA-quality, but there were some grins and giggles.

My early morning group of girls who had chosen "Be careful around sharp objects" drew some very colorful pictures of kids having their eyes stabbed out, their hands cut off, and their backs punctured with forks. Clear message -- Check.

Another group, who had "Always wear safety goggles," drew a tiny figure with goggles atop an erupting volcano. If only the poor citizens of Pompeii had worn safety goggles...

In the afternoon class, a couple of girls who had chosen "Always wear mittens" had a very confusing slogan -- "Mittens with hands always wear bad" and an equally confusing picture that seemed to show chemicals dripping on someone's hands, causing bloody stigmata to bloom.

Hey, the posters might not serve as a suitable warning to anybody ELSE who views them, but I think the kids got the message of safety.

One final note -- has put up the new Mr. Teacher column for the week -- Where Is Everybody?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

a few odds and ends

This week's Mr. Teacher column on was supposed to be my wonderings on where all of my students are, seeing as how I only have 12 kids in my homeroom and 10 in my afternoon class. I think because of the long weekend, though, there wasn't enough time to proof it and get it online, so instead, there is a rerun of Save the Crossing Guard Save the World from last October. Check it out and relive the memories!

Darth Vader Explains the Pythagorean Theorem is now up over 17,000 hits since Saturday! And while around 7,000 of those hits are coming from the London Times article, there are many, many other sites that are running it too! Including this one in espanol!!

Lastly, please take a moment to sign my guestbook at the bottom of the main page. I always like to know a little bit more about who's reading...