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Monday, November 28, 2011

Lord, give me the length...

Our focus for this week in science is strength and direction of forces.

This morning, when I asked my homeroom what "strength" meant, I was met with nothing but blank faces. Of course, I often encounter this even when I ask what "subtraction" means, as my homeroom tends to be a really lazy, really low, really apathetic group.

I prodded the group by asking, "Doesn't this word sound a little bit like 'length?'"

"Oh yeah!" they replied.

"And do we remember what 'length' means?" I asked, fully expecting for them NOT to, as they did NOT remember what congruent or symmetry meant earlier.

But a few did venture, "How long?"

So I tried to scaffold even further -- "So if Length means how Long, and they both start with the same letter... then maybe STRength means...?"

Almost all of the kids shouted, proudly even, "How long!!"

I'm gonna need to get me some extra long Tylenol for the rest of this year...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas time is almost here!

Hey everyone,

It's time to get your Christmas shopping done, so I'd like to make aLinkvailable a couple of ideas for your loved ones.

First, I still have a wide variety of T-shirts and such at the Spreadshirt store, including the phrases, "I teach, therefore I am... poor," "Houston, we have a word problem," and "You give math a bad name"

Secondly, I'd love to send you a signed copy of Learn Me Good or Learn Me Gooder! Just shoot me a comment or an email letting me know what you'd like, and I can get them in the mail in time to beat the holiday rush. You'd be getting the author's signature PLUS beating the Amazon price...

Happy week back to school!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Girl with the Turkey Tattoo

Hey all,

It's Thanksgiving Thursday, and I've been fighting off the turkey sweats and tryptophan coma, watching my fantasy football team get obliterated, and I've seen countless commercials for a certain movie, so my blog post title was chosen accordingly.

It sure has been nice having this whole week off, even if there isn't a whole lot to do at the in-laws'. But I figured it's a good time to reflect on what I'm thankful for, and share a few of those things here.

Things I am thankful for:

1) My (bratty) wife, who insisted she be number one on this list
2) My family
3) My little wingnut, arriving in May
4) My job (and by extension, my income)
5) My students (or to be completely honest, SOME of my students)
6) My friends
7) Learn Me Good Groupies (Both of you)
8) My house
9) My health, even when it's hidden under a hacking cough, watery eyes, and enough mucous to choke a walrus
10) Cheez-its
11) Sweet tea vodka
12) The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family
13) Duke basketball dominance

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And to all a good night!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Extra information, begone

Sometimes I cringe to think about the way I used to have the kids solve word problems. In our standard problem solving model, where the first "box" requires the kids to write down important information from the problems, I would have them start at the beginning of the story and write all of the numbers with their corresponding units. But this can lead to a really packed, overbogged-down first box...

Last week, I gave the kids this problem:

Mr. Teacher has 37 hats, 28 baseballs, 19 gloves, and $640.00. He bought 3 cookies for 50 cents each. How many more hats does he have than gloves?

With my OLD technique for problem solving, most of my kids probably would have bogged down on all of the extra information. But with the NEW way, nearly everyone in the class got the question correct.

Now, instead of starting at the beginning, I have the kids start at the end. They always write the QUESTION first, and then focus in on the unit that the question is asking them to count. In this case, it's only hats and gloves. The kids were able to ignore the baseballs, the dollars, and the cookies.

The few kids who DIDN'T get the question correct are the ones who still think "how many more" is a prompt to add instead of subtract.

I have a low group of kids this year, and they have trouble retaining concepts. But they are definitely getting better at problem solving, especially when the target the question and the important units first.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

No bout a doubt it

Thanks to Matthew at Look at My Happy Rainbow, I have a new top blog to check out on a regular basis.Link

He posted an excerpt on Facebook from Heidisongs Resources, the blog of Heidi Butkus. I have to share this excerpt as well, because it is fantastic. While Heidi (and Matthew) teaches kindergarten, and does NOT like to be told that teaching older kids (or adults) is the same -- I think we can safely apply much of what she says to all of elementary school.

This is her list of...

The Top Ten Signs You Work in Public School

1. The best person that can be found to teach K/1 teachers how to teach any subject is someone who has only taught high school.
2. If you were to add up the hours it takes to teach all of the required lessons in all of the teachers manuals in all of the subjects, they would total more than 22 hours of direct instruction per day.
3. Your current reading program is very similar to one that you have used before, way back two generations ago when the curricular pendulum swung the other direction. (I guess the advantage is that if you don’t like what you currently have, wait around for a couple of years and another curriculum or theory du jour will be in vogue to take its place!)
4. The curriculum that was chosen for you to use in Kindergarten was based on how well it works in some other grade level.
5. There is a teacher at your school that regularly calls in sick more days than she actually teaches, and somehow manages to hang on to her job.
6. You have had an LCD projector mounted on your ceiling for two years, but there is no money for a screen so you cannot use it. Or vise versa.
7. Three years after you have been given a new math program, they find the money to train you on how to use it.
8. Your legislature is thinking of increasing your hours but not your pay.
9. You know what your kids need to learn, but you don’t have time to do it because of all of the required programs.
10. The best way to make sure your kids learn (and therefore keep your job) is to close your door and do what you know works for your students!