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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 revisited

This week's Tuesday Tip o' the Hat goes towards my old online employer, Some of you may recall I was a weekly columnist there, until they decided to do away with their regular columns, and I was out on the proverbial interweb street. I'm not bitter though. :)

Anyway, I got an email from Kat, their community outreach director, about some pretty cool things brewing at for the holidays. One of them is a Holiday Gift Guide. Here's what Kat says about the Guide:

"Our team of editors, teachers, parents, and of course kids spent the summer testing thousands of toys, games, and books. The products that made the final list had to be fun, well made, and fairly priced – and they also had to sneak in some learning. We ended up with about 12 choices for each grade level including at least one “splurge” and at least five “Under $10” items (you won’t believe the awesome stuff we found in this stocking stuffer category!) Unlike many other gift guides, no one pays to be part of our list. These are items that we found on our own and fell in love with!"

Kat then goes on to say that they even have a customizable widget for the guide, so I thought I'd check that out and tailor it to the grade that I teach, 3rd. Here's what I found:

Finally, Kat talks about a brand new Winter Activities Challenge:

"Many of you participated in our 2009 and 2010 Summer Activities Challenges. With generous support from the folks at Campbell’s we’re going to help parents survive the holiday break with a Winter Activities Challenge. It will run from 12/6 through 2/28. In that time, participants just have to sign up and complete at least five activities. Everyone who completes the challenge will be entered to win one of 101 prizes. We’re giving away 100 LEGO creator sets and our grand prize winner will receive an iPad! Unfortunately, you can’t sneak a peek at the Challenge until it’s live on our site (12/6) but here’s the link to use at that time: If you’d like an email reminder when the challenge is live, just shoot a note to I can also send you the Winter Activities Challenge logo or other visual assets if you need them. "

I don't know if this is ONLY for parents, or if teachers can be included, but it's worth checking into.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How do you attain participation?

Howdy folks, and welcome back from Thanksgiving break. I hope all of you had a great one and didn't just stuff yourself with stuffing.

I think that one of my little girls indulged a bit too much over the holidays. As I was right in the middle of a fantastic demonstration on arrays, I suddenly heard the sound of 500 wet paperclips hitting the floor. I looked over to see a big splotch of turkey-colored vomit on the ground.

"Go to the bathroom!" I shouted at her. She replied by standing up, turning towards the door -- and then retching a fresh batch of puke onto the ground.

Anyway, this Interactive Monday post is NOT how do you feel about vomit, so we'll end THAT topic here.

Instead, my question is, How do you attain participation in class? We always seem to have those kids that come in day after day with nothing better to do than try to impersonate a brick. Sometimes these are kids who do fantastic on tests, but they never talk in class. Sometimes they are kids who fail horribly in class and never raise their hands in class. Sometimes it's the vast majority of the class!

I am finally getting to a point this year where most of my kids are participating. There are still a few who very rarely volunteer anything in class, but something is a big improvement over nothing. To get to this point, I have used a combination of bribery, parent conferences, student conferences, threatening to give them a failing "participation grade" -- which is about as existent as the "wardrobe selection grade" -- and, in some cases, what borders on badgering.

So any other strategies out there? How do you get participation from your "bricks?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Getting back into shape

Last week, we went over 2 and 3-dimensional shapes in class. This is usually a fun, though confusing topic for the kids. They enjoy identifying shapes -- they just tend to identify them incorrectly for quite a while. For instance, anything that is round, they want to call either a circle or a sphere. Clocks, tires, pennies. If it's a long skinny cylinder, they know it's a cylinder. But the short and squat cylinders, like the aforementioned clock et al, they see round and think sphere.

But we're getting there. Even though Thursday was the coldest day of the year so far, we took our designated "shapes walk" outside. The kids had made flip books with doors for 6 of the major 3-dimensional shapes, and we walked around the sidewalk outside of the school, looking for real-life objects that met those shapes.

In addition to being cold, Thursday was also a short day, because teachers had extended horizontal planning in the afternoon, so we didn't get to walk a complete circuit around the school. It's a shame, because there's a perfectly cone-shaped tree on one side, and pyramids on the playground.

Nevertheless, the kids got a thrill from seeing telephone poles, roofs, fire hydrants, stop signs, etc, and shouting out what shape they were.

At first, some of them wanted to spend more time complaining about how cold it was rather than looking for shapes. I told them to suck it up. OK, well, not in those words.

I asked if they would rather freeze their spheres off looking for shapes or slink our sorry cylinders back into the rectangular prism and sit on our butts til they were 2-dimensional.

OK, so I didn't use THOSE words either. But ultimately, it was agreed upon that a bit of cold was a fair trade off for the great outdoors.

And the really great thing about the week? Nobody got any toothpicks stuck in their ass!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In my ever so humble opinion

I was banging my head against the wall today while trying to teach a lesson about Fact and Opinion. And that's a fact.

When I first started teaching, my first lesson was on place value. Ones, Tens, and Hundreds. I had to stop myself from exclaiming, "How can you not get this??!???" to a couple of the kids that didn't comprehend. But I learned to take it down a level and teach it to their level, and in different ways.

With fact and opinion, I still haven't figured out how to teach it to the lower levels. Yet I still find myself struggling mightily not to just scream, "What about this is so difficult??!!???"

I started by talking about how a fact was something that could be proven right or wrong. I used a student's shirt as an example. "A has a gray shirt on. Can we prove this?" The kids told me that we could look at the shirt to prove it. Excellent. Gold star. We proved that it's gray. "A's shirt is awesome. Can we prove this?" The kids told me that we could look at the shirt to see that it was awesome, and that proved it.

OK, clearly I'm doing something wrong. How about this one? "Spaghetti tastes delicious! Is that a fact or opinion?" "FACT!" the kids shout. "We can prove it by tasting it!!"

I tried to differentiate the two by saying that opinions are merely how someone feels or what they think -- something that not everyone in the world might agree with. But they just didn't get it.

At one point, I sat down in my chair and asked, "I am sitting in a chair. Fact or opinion?" At least 5 kids shouted, "OPINION!!"

1 or 2 kids may have even shouted, "ESTIMATE!" just because they like to shout random vocabulary words in the hopes they are right.

Teaching fact vs opinion is very hard. And I'm pretty sure that's an opinion, even though all of my kids would say it is a fact.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Giveaway!

Hey everyone,

We're getting very close to December, and that can mean only one thing -- we're already looking forward to having time off from school!

Oh yeah, and getting gifts for and from loved ones as well...

So anyway, I thought it would be a great time for a little Learn Me Good holiday cheer.

Here's the deal -- I am going to give away 2 copies of Learn Me Good (paperback OR e-version) and a funny T-shirt from my spreadshirt shop . To win one of these 3 prizes, all you have to do is get somebody to "like" Learn Me Good on Facebook.

Tell your friends and family to like Learn Me Good and to put a comment on the page saying that you referred them. Each time I see that you referred someone, your name goes into the drawing. The more you refer, the more chances you have to win!

I will choose the 3 winners on December 15th. That will give me time to send things in time for Christmas and/or New Year and/or Festivus.

Good luck, and happy referring!

Interactive Monday -- Check your work

This is always a sore point for us teachers every year -- how to get the kids to actually check their work after a test. They know they're supposed to. They know that they should. They just don't want to. It's a lot like getting them to SHOW their work at the beginning of the year, but the struggle lasts a lot longer.

Before we take a test, I always ask the kids, "And what do you do when you're finished?" And they all respond, in full-on zombie mode, "Check your work." All this means to them is that when they raise their hand to tell me that they are done, that they need to add the phrase, "and I checked it,"-- in much the same way they feel the need to cover their nose with both hands when asking for a kleenex, or start doing the pee pee dance when asking to use the restroom.

This past week, I had kids insisting that they had checked their work carefully, yet when I glanced at it, not only were blatant errors obvious, but in some cases, there were whole problems that had not even been done!!

I'm tempted to tell the kid that Stevie Wonder could have done a better job of checking this test -- but then I realize that these kids have no idea who Stevie Wonder is.

Anyway, I'm trying something new this week. I have graded their tests from Friday, but I haven't put any marks on it. I am going to give the tests back to the kids and tell them that there are mistakes. I will not tell them which problems they got wrong. They are responsible for checking carefully and finding those mistakes, and then circling the problem number that they corrected.

It should be very interesting to see what this experiment yields. My HOPE is that the kids will find their mistakes and realize that this is what checking your work is really all about -- finding the mistakes and fixing them BEFORE turning the test in to be graded.

My FEAR is that I will get papers back where the student has changed a formerly correct answer to an incorrect one.

So my question to you is, what do YOU do to convince your kids to check their work carefully?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tuesday's tip -- a little quip

I got this email from The Scholastic Scribe this weekend:

Hey, y'all!

Those of you who've followed me for a while know that I'm an eclectic chica. A little opinion here, a little prose there, a funky photo or two and an occasional piece of verse. It's the poetry that I'd like to address today.

We have a poetry community of sorts, at the high school where I teach. Every so often, they hold what they call a "Poetry Slam." Contrary to the competition that the name implies, these slams are meant to challenge the creative among us, and get those creative juices flowing. Many of our students rise to the challenge, and a good time is always had by all.

So, this is what I propose, only for our little corner of the blogosphere.

I was daydreaming this afternoon, and conjured a couple of verses. I wondered if my friends out in Blog Lang ever had these introspective moments themselves. I figure that enough of us are alike that this could very well be the case.

Here is my proposal:

I want to write a poem every week (make it Tuesday...I have nothing better to do on Tuesdays, do you?). I'll post my poem, and perhaps a neat photo or two, on my blog. I hope then that some of y'all will follow suit, posting a bit of poetry on your blogs, or a photo for thought, as well. Doesn't have to be anything epic. A limerick, a couple of lines of open verse. Anything that moves you will do the trick! And if you don't feel like writing that particular day, don't. Just have fun flitting around the blogosphere to see what others have come up with for your reading pleasure.

Yes, the is last-minute, and no, I didn't set up a Mr. Linky thingy to keep track of everyone. I was just hoping that perhaps you'd visit my place tomorrow, and leave a comment. And if you've penned something yourselves, please let us know in your comment. I think we'll start out simple this time, and see where this goes.

If you have any ideas to throw into the mix, I'd sure appreciate them. I'm just looking for another way to "share," I guess. Thanks, in advance, for all you've given me on my almost three-year journey down this cyber-path.


This request from my good friend, The Scribe,
Made me put out my very best vibe.
I'll just think up a rhyme,
And be done in no time,
And now I'll have more to imbibe.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Interactive Monday -- off-site meetings

No big hoopla today. Just straight to the question. How do you feel about off-site meetings and trainings? And as a secondary question -- do you have to go to them often?

I ask, because I am at one today. And I had a series of them last year. On the one hand, it is good to speak to other teachers that you don't work with and share ideas. On the other hand, it's a loss of instructional time with the kids. Time that often seems to be so important that other things are taken away, like recess.

So, let's hear your thoughts.

Operators are standing by.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Daylight Saving Time

Last night, we fell back an hour for Daylight Saving Time (in your FACE, Arizona and Hawaii readers!!). And while it's always nice to feel like we've received an extra hour for sleeping, I agree with those that say a change needs to be made.

DST was originally conceived as a means of allowing afternoons and evenings to have more daylight, while mornings have less. This helped with gaslit buildings and such, but it has become a bit quaint over the years.

Many argue that it should be done away with completely. I'm not here to argue that. I would instead propose that we change the timing of it.

Currently, we change our clocks at 2:00 am on Saturday night -- technically, Sunday morning. But why is that? Nobody except college sorority girls and chronic drunks actually benefit from an extra hour on wee Sunday morning.

I think Saturday night is fine for the spring, when we LOSE an hour to Daylight Saving Time. But in the fall, when we GAIN an hour, I think we should gain that hour on SUNDAY night/Monday morning. Just about everyone who works a 40-hour job could do with an extra hour of sleep on Sunday night before Monday begins. Now THAT would be a savings!

In fact, I think I'll set my clock back an hour again tonight, just to test that theory...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tally ho!

Today began the annual "Survey your Neighbor" portion of 3rd grade math. We've been going over bar graphs, and we will soon begin pictographs, so the kids started their 6-weeks project, the first part of which involved collecting data.

The kids had to fill in the blank on this prompt, "Which ____________ do you like best?" and then supply 4 choices that fit the topic. The kids then used that question to make a tally chart, surveying their classmates as well as a class from across the hall.

I didn't have as many interesting topics this year as I have in the past. There were plenty of "favorite color," "favorite animal," and "favorite food." There were lots of "favorite shoes" as well as a couple of "favorite cartoons."

Then there are the scary movies. Whenever a kid pics, "Which movie (muvi [sic]) do you like best?" the choices almost always seem to be the most horrific, un-kid-friendly movies possible. Saw 6. Chucky. Paranormal Activity 2. One little girl's survey had these 3 movies plus Snow White. I told her that since I hadn't seen any of the others, I would have to choose Snow White.

I only heard one kid -- in one of the other classes -- asking people, "Which teacher do you like best?" I figured it was a no-brainer to vote for myself.

My colleague told me that one of her girls had a survey for favorite season where the choices were Summer, Winter, Fall, and Snow.

Now that the data has been collected, the next step will be to convert that information into a bar graph. So far, the graphing has been pretty good -- we'll see how they do when it's their own pet project.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tuesday Tip o' the Hat

Today, my tip o' the hat goes to Edna Lee at Regurgitated Alphabits, for her story about an obnoxious child and the adult who dared to stoop to his level.

You might notice my own personal take on the matter in the comments section at the end of her post...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Interactive Monday -- Field Trips

Hey all,

Thanks to everyone who participated last week during Interactive Monday. Now let's see if we can increase that number this week. Please invite your friends to come contribute as well!

This week, my question is What is your favorite place to take the kids on a field trip? OR, barring that, what place do you WISH you could take your kids?

We have recently been asked to come up with a list of possible places to take the kids this year, and several were immediately axed as soon as they were brought up. Who knew that EVERYONE and their brother had already been to the Dallas Aquarium? We've certainly never taken the THIRD grade there!

We passed an idea sheet around last week, and the 3rd grade team wrote ideas on it. My teammates suggested the Dallas (and Ft Worth) Zoo, the Imax theater, the Dallas Children's Theater, and a few other places. I contributed by writing the Home Depot loading dock and the local McDonald's Playland.

I tend to think frugally.

So where are some places that you like to go? And what do you do there?