Monthly Archives: March 2012

It’s Spring Break!!

Some people look at vacations as a time to get away from work. I view my Spring Break this coming week as a time to catch up on connecting with more middle school math blogs, and to start preparing for the two weeks we have to review before we take our state achievement test. My students know all of the information that will be presented on the test, but of course they need to be reminded of some of the things we haven’t done in a while.

When I first began teaching, and wasn’t utilizing as much, all of the creative activities, hands-on materials, and games that I have the last few years; reviewing at the end of the year was almost like teaching the material all over again. What I’ve noticed since incorporating all these things into every lesson, is that when I go back over to review…..they may not remember at first, but it just takes one key word or one example to bring the concept back to the front of their brain.

I have generally given packets, had the students work the problems, and then went over each problem with them together. I felt as if they needed pencil/ paper experience and that was the best way. This year, I am going to do a combination of some pencil/ paper activities with a lot of fun activities. It is important for the students to stay engaged and to continue to enjoy coming to my class, not to dread walking in to monotonous, rote worksheets every day for two weeks. My quest for this week is to build some great review activities to use in the next two weeks. Hopefully, you will be able to use them in your classes as well! Keep checking back this week for some great material. In the mean time, I would love for you to check out my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. I have some great freebies that have been featured in the weekly newsletter as great freebie downloads of the week. Here is a link to my store. If you could “follow” me on this blog as well as “follow” my Teachers Pay Teachers store, I would SOOOOOOO appreciate it! Thanks for your support!!

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It’s Almost Pi Day!!!


Oh my gosh!! I am so excited!! This will be the first year, in my eleven years of teaching, to actually be in school on March 14. Usually we are on Spring Break, but not this year. I am so excited!!! “What is Pi Day”, some of you may ask? Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference with its diameter. Basically, pi means that the distance around the outside of the circle is the same distance as going from one side of the circle to the other side (making sure to go through the center) “three plus a little bit more” times. The actual number is a never ending decimal¬† that is most often rounded to 3.14. Pi Day is known throughout the mathematical community as March (third month) 14.

My class will celebrate Pi Day with Moon Pies. I am going to read Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi to them. I am then going to give them each a Moon Pie. I will have them do an activity similar to my freebie “Dragons, and Medicine and Pi, Oh My!”, only I will have them use the Moon Pie as their circle. I am pretty sure the students will have a great time! Will all of them like the Moon Pie? Probably not, but oh well, their loss. LOL! Only one more day!!

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Who Really Taught You How to Teach?

I’ll be first to admit that I am absolutely embarrassed by my first few years of teaching. I was new, I was young, I was not “Teacher of the Year” material at that point. Don’t get me wrong….I totally thought I was doing great things. I taught my heart out, with what little bit of teaching knowledge I had. I’m not here to blame anyone, and I’m sure most teachers had great college classes that taught them these wonderful pedagogy that I was deprived of, but I will tell you that my college teaching classes taught me very little about the actual art of teaching. And an art is exactly what teaching effectively is. My professors went to great lengths to teach me how to write an amazing lesson plan (of which my current lesson plans are scribbled on a piece of paper the topic and the materials I need.) They went to great lengths to teach me how to use multimedia. They told me all about the great “theories” of behavior management. What they didn’t tell me is, what are some great techniques for teaching fractions. How do you create effective cooperative learning groups? What are amazing ways to teach discovery learning?

My student teaching period (which was in three different high school maths) wasn’t a whole lot of help either. I didn’t feel as if I was given any great techniques on teaching. I was given a couple of days to watch her, which was stand up and lecture for a little bit, give them their assignment, and voila! she was done. After those first couple of days, she kind of “threw me to the wolves” one might call it. I was given a teacher’s text book….. and that was it; no resources, no workbooks, no nothing. So what did I do? I stood in the front of the room, told them how to do the lesson, gave them the assignment, and voila! I was done. She would reflect with me on things I had done right/wrong, but never introduced me to any kind of differentiation for the different learners in the class.

Then I was hired for my first teaching gig. I was the new 9th grade Algebra I teacher in a local jr. high. Ready to take on the world. The jr. high was about 95% free and reduced lunches (about 92% of those being “free”), and over 20% English language learners. I was warned that it was not a good situation. I could tell by the questions the principal posed in the interview, that he was not well liked and that he was looking for someone to be his snitch. I answered him the way I knew he wanted me to answer because I needed a job. It didn’t take him long to realize that I wasn’t the “snitch” type of person. He was a terrible boss, and I do blame him for holding me back as a teacher, for a lack of encouragement, and for making my life a living hell all together.

I did love the students in that school though. They were caring, loving, compassionate students who truly appreciated the things I would do for them. I realized that standing up and just telling them how to do the assignment was not working. I began searching for resource books to help me find more interesting ways to teach the lesson. I looked for better worksheets that made practicing the concepts more fun. I dug for innovative ways to help them remember the concepts we were working on.

It wasn’t until I moved to a different town and was in a different school that I was able to find the love of teaching that I was missing. My new principal didn’t have any vendetta with me. For the first time in my teaching career, I finally felt appreciated. I found a resource book called Hands On Math. I had actually had it a couple of years, but never really took the time to look through it. What a gold mine that book was. It wasn’t really that book alone, but along with it my personal goal to find as many hands-on lessons and activities I could find. Could I teach every concept in a way that caused ALL students to be ACTIVE learners? I still haven’t reached that goal yet, but I can easily say that most of my lessons require the students to discover and explore the concept or at the least be active in some form or manner. I recently went to a Kagan workshop. I realized that this was exactly the type of classroom I had been striving for. One that students actively participate in and enjoy coming to.

Back to the question in the title: “Who really taught you how to teach?” Did my college classes teach me how to teach? No. Did my mentor teacher, while student teaching, teach me how to teach? No. Did I teach myself how to teach? No. It was combination of all of those things, but most importantly it was my desire to turn my classroom into something more special than the traditional “teacher teaches, students learn” atmosphere. It was my obsession with making sure that all students learned. It’s easy to let little “Susie”, who never causes any problems, is as quiet as a mouse, but doesn’t understand a thing about what you’re doing, sit and be the shy person she is. It’s also very easy to send that wild, crazy, clown in your classroom to the office every day to let the principal deal with. I make it my mission to make “little Susie” want to participate. It’s my ultimate goal to make the “class clown” focus his/her energy into the activity we’re working on, to keep them from acting up.¬† So now I ask you…..who taught you how to teach? I hope that you will click on the “Comment” at the top of this post and tell me who taught you how to teach. Thank you for listening to my story and for sharing yours.Photobucket

 

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Ahoy Decimals! Today, Ye Shall Be Divided! Game for Dividing Decimals

Dividing decimals is one those skills that needs to be practiced over and over until students catch the hang of it. Nothing can be more boring to most students than having to work a worksheet full of division problems. A worksheet full of division problems can also be very daunting for students with low math skills. Do I give my students a worksheet that requires them to do some independent work? Absolutely. The difference is, that when I give them part of a class period to play a game, they are much more prepared and willing to do that worksheet. The game allows for cooperative learning and peer tutoring. It is an amazing way to allow other students to feel a part of the learning process by helping their fellow classmate. It gives students one-on-one attention with little to no help from the teacher.

In this game, one student is given a calculator to find the answer after all students have completed the problem. I always have every student in the group work every problem. This way I don’t have idlers with nothing to do. It also means they complete that many more problems. I generally tend to have the students work them neatly on a clean sheet of paper to be turned in. Do I grade all of those papers? Absolutely not, but I do give them a 100% for participation. Having them turn the papers in, also lets the students know that, even though we are playing a game, the game serves an important purpose.

When I make board games, I always cut them out, tape them to the inside of a file folder, and then laminate them. I would suggest you printing the cards and game pieces out on card stock to make them last longer. If you have a small class or only making one or two games, I would laminate the cards and game pieces. I play these games with my whole class, so I am usually making six or seven games at a time.

I hope you enjoy this game, and I hope your students get a lot of great reinforcement and enjoy playing!!

Please click on the link below to download the game, or click on my Teachers Pay Teachers link to download it and several more great activities!

Dividing Decimals Board Game

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Dragons, and Medicine, and Pi, Oh My!!

This is the first year of my eleven years of teaching that we will actually be in school on Pi Day!! Pi day, for those of you non-math geeks folks, is March 14. March 14 is Pi Day because Pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle and its diameter, is 3.14. Get it March (the third month) and the day 14. Pretty cute, right? Well because this is my first, I’m going to do it up right!! I’m not exactly sure what I am going to do for sure, but I know it will involve the amazing book by Cindy Neuschwander, Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi, some fried pies, and lots of activities!!! I’m so excited, I can hardly wait!! In honor of this great day, I decided to make some activity handouts with cute dragon graphics on it. This activity is one I’ve done for a couple of years in my class, and seems to be one that a lot of my followers look for on my blog site. I made it a freebie so that everyone can enjoy it!! I will have a link of it here on this post, and it will also be available on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for free. I hope you enjoy it!! I will have more posts in the next coming days with more Pi Day activities!! Come back soon!! Below are a couple of screen shots of the activity, and below those is the actual link to the full activity.

Click on the link below to get the activity!!

Dragons, and Medicine, and Pi, Oh My!!

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Elapsed Time: Who’s The Fastest Game

Today we had an amazing day in Mrs. Kerr’s class! We have been working on elapsed time, so I made a game called Who’s the Fastest. The students use multi-sided dice and a spinner to create their starting and ending times. They figure the time elapsed and then order the groups elapsed time in order from fastest to slowest. My students loved it! You can buy a copy of the activity as well as a graphic organizer I made to teach adding and subtracting time. Below is a link to my teachers pay teachers store so that you can buy it for a small fee.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Whos-the-Fastest-Elapsed-Time-Game

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Freebie Downloads Page

About two years ago, I stumbled upon an amazing blog, www.thecornerstoneforteachers.com. It has wonderful tips, articles, blog posts, and numerous resources. This last month, I saw that she was asking for people to enter one of our “freebies” to her site. She would choose the best to place in a blog post on her site. I was ecstatic when I realized she had chosen my freebie!! Here is a link to her blog post that includes my “Fortune Teller to Reinforce Finding the Circumference of a Circle”. It also includes some other freebies you can download as well. While you’re there, browse her blog for some great information and resources!

Click below for the link to the page. Thanks!!!

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