Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays everyone!

I'm taking the next few days off, so no Five for Friday, Awesome Weekend Videos or episodes of "Dear Mr. DeRosa" this weekend. The next posts you'll see will likely be a look back at the best of 2009 here on the site.

If you're bored and hungry for content, there's 400+ posts preceding this one on all sorts of topics.  One way to find something interesting is to scroll down to the Tags on the sidebar and click through.  If you're looking for something specific, go to Google and add this to the terms you're searching for:

...and you'll only get results from this website.  For some reason, it works better than the built-in Blogger search box (go figure).  Happy hunting!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Download My Book for Free Until Tomorrow

I realized that I neglected to make my book Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition available for free download as promised on Monday (I was traveling home for the holidays), so I'm making it available for the next 24 hours.

Click here to download it!

15 Continuing Education and Career Development Resources for Teachers

The web is an excellent place for teachers to research continuing education and career opportunities. There are sites that offer information on accredited teaching and certification programs, sites that provide details on teaching grants, and sites that allow educators to browse new job opportunities. Here are 15 resources to explore when you're ready to advance your education or career.

NEA - The National Education Association (NEA) provides educational resources for teachers in addition to information on teacher grants and education events.

TEAC - The Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) offers a list of accredited teaching programs for current and future teachers.

All Education Schools - All Education Schools provides details on undergraduate and graduate education programs in the United States. Other site features include articles on teaching careers and certification.

Online Masters Degree - The site isn't specifically geared toward teachers but it does offer helpful information on earning a masters degree from an accredited online program.

National Center for Alternative Certification - The National Center for Alternative Certification provides answers to frequently asked questions about alternative routes to teacher certification.

TeachersCount - TeachersCount is geared toward aspiring teachers, but the site also offers a nice list of grants, continuing education resources, and professional development resources for current teachers.

Fund for Teachers - This non-profit organization provides grants to teachers who are interested in pursuing new education and career opportunities. Fund for Teachers also links to other online teacher resources.

Teachers Support Network - The Teachers Support Network offers information on teaching certificates, education programs, professional development, job hunting, and other education-related topics.

The Apple - The Apple is an online community for both current and future teachers who want to network, explore teaching opportunities, and learn more about available teaching degrees and scholarships. - is a recruitment service and job board for teachers and administrators who are looking for education-related employment opportunities. The site includes postings from more than 1,700 U.S. school systems and private schools.

Education America - This education employment network allows teachers to search for jobs online and gives employers access to teachers who are actively looking for employment opportunities within the U.S.

The Chronicle of Higher Education - The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a job board for educators who are looking for administrative, executive, and faculty positions with colleges around the nation. Teachers can also elect to search for jobs with organizations other than colleges.

TedJob - This online higher-education job marketplace makes it easy for teachers to find jobs with universities, colleges, and other academic organizations. The site also allows teachers to make their resume available to employers online.

AFT Salary Surveys - The American Federation of Teachers publishes an annual survey and analysis of public school teacher salaries. The survey and the analysis can be downloaded for free.

TeachStreet - Teachers who are want to find new students can market their classes and services through this site. TeachStreet also offers tools to help teachers enroll students in classes, send invoices, and collect payments online.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #37: Bucket o' Fun

This week's entry comes from Jessica Lepore, who teaches Spanish at The Chicago High School for the Arts in Chicago, IL.

I have what is lovingly referred to as my "Bucket o Fun". This small bucket is filled with plastic baggies full of activities related to the current unit and recycles concepts from previous units occasionally. The baggies are filled with verb conjugation matches, vocabulary cards, sentence builders and activities to help improve subject verb agreement. I use these in many different ways:
  1. If a student needs tutoring, I have him/her work with the cards that meet their needs
  2. My teaching aide is in the classroom once a week, and she uses them to informally assess student progress one on one
  3. If there is extra time at the end of a lesson, I distribute them around the room and the students work in groups on the material
  4. I use them to quiz special education students who may struggle with more traditional pencil and paper tests
The options are limitless. This is a really inexpensive and easy way to differentiate instruction for all students. The little bucket can be picked up at the dollar store. I use simple 3x5 notecards, a Sharpie and Ziploc baggies for the individual activities. As the students learn a new concept I add a new activity to the bucket. My teaching aid also will work on keeping it up to date if I get behind - a student might even work for this and would probably enjoy it.

Read more about this project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 38 is scheduled for next Monday, December 28th, but there is no entry in the queue.

As promised, the download
version of Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition will be available for free all day today!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tear Down the Ladder of Consequences: How to Become a Master of Classroom Management

This is the latest from my teaching advice video series "Dear Mr. DeRosa". I love the randomly selected still picture (thanks, YouTube!).  It says, "I can chop you right in half!"

Check out or subscribe to my new YouTube channel to see the rest of the series and future videos as well!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five for Friday: Student Lifehacks, Boring Schools, a Great Scholarship and more

  1. 100 Essential Lifehacks Every Student Should Know - The list is aimed at current and future college students, but most of the ideas apply to high schoolers as well. 
  2. Posse Scholarship - A post on Sup Teach? reminded me of this great scholarship opportunity for underprivledged students trying to get to college.  If you teach in a Posse city, you can nominate your best and brightest for this honor.  Last year in Boston, one of my seniors made it as far as the final round of the selection process, and while they didn't get it, they paved the way for many others who will apply in the years to come.
  3. Fix Boring Schools, Not Kids Who Are Bored - The Innovative Educator hits the nail on the head yet again.
  4. Emergency Homeschooling: How to Survive (and Even Thrive) When Schools Close - I'm a little late sharing this, but it will certainly still be useful for many of you for the next few months!
  5. "Math is all around us" activity - Quick and easy idea from teachingmathcreatively.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Teachers Can Help Make Their School's Security a Priority

Without invoking sensationalism, you must admit that media coverage of school shootings can bring a chill to the bone. Aside from being chilling for the obvious reasons, is it also because as a teacher, you worry if such a thing could ever happen at your school. Thankfully, shootings occur at a tiny percentage of schools. However bullying, fights and theft are extremely widespread and are nothing new to many teachers’ classrooms and school yards.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report, 2008, 86% of public schools reported one or more serious violent incidents, thefts, or other crimes, amounting to an estimated 2.2 million crimes. That number is astounding! This means that 86% of schools are seeing distractions to learning, student and staff unease, and inappropriate behaviors that detract from the process of learning. These are only a few reasons why teachers, among other school administrators, are becoming more concerned – out of necessity – about security risks.

The foundation of a safe learning environment is where students feel safe and can focus on lessons and assignments instead of worrying about if they will be robbed or bullied after class. While teachers may not be responsible for designing an overall security program for their school, they can still make a huge difference by proactively getting involved. Below are a few simple steps to help teachers create a safe environment by supporting administrators and School Resource Officers (SROs) in their efforts:
  1. Have an anonymous reporting program - Give students a way to report things they see, hear and are afraid of without drawing attention to themselves. Given the popularity of cell phones among students of all ages, some local law enforcement departments have seen success with better crime reporting by allowing young people to anonymously text tips to their hotline. With an appropriate and well-defined cell phone usage policy in place, phones can be used to help create a safer learning environment.
  2. Address issues - Schools that address issues swiftly and consistently create an expectation among the student body that inappropriate behaviors will not be tolerated.
  3. Minimize opportunities for violence – Become involved in the use of tools like access control, video and physical presence to monitor potentially volatile areas (underneath stairwells, blind spots/corners in the school, restrooms) and make them less attractive spots for violent activities. For example, teachers at your school responsible for monitoring large rooms – i.e. cafeteria, gymnasiums, libraries - should also have access to live video surveillance during certain parts of the day.
  4. Take action - When teachers get involved by sharing information with SROs, helping with natural surveillance, immediately addressing or reporting issues when they see them, and generally being aware and proactive, students understand that security is a priority at the school.
Small steps can make a big difference when it comes to security. From a personal safety perspective, it is well worth some thought and effort. I invite you to visit the Wren Education + Network Video blog for more recommendations and ongoing trends in school security. A school with fewer security problems yields a richer, more focused learning environment.

This is a guest post from Bret Rachlin of Wren Education + Network Video blog, who focuses on school safety in depth.  Wren Solutions, the security company that hosts the blog, has a lot of quality tips and information for teachers and administrators interested in school security.  Also, the company is sponsoring a scholarship for School Resource Officers to help further their education.  Read more about the scholarship here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five Gift Idea Guides for Teachers and Students

Last year I wrote a few posts with gift ideas for teachers, and since you're likely thinking about that now, here they are:
  1. Seven Great Gifts for Teachers (and Three to Avoid)
  2. The Best Gift Students and Parents Can Give Teachers
In addition, here's three more lists from around the edu-blogosphere recently:
  1. Gifts for math lovers [from Math Mama Writes...]
  2. Top 20 Holiday Gifts for Teens [from Connect with your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology]
  3. Edutopia's 2009 Guide to Holiday Gifts for Teachers
I hope you can find something for your favorite teacher and/or student?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Video: 4 Episodes of "Dear Mr. DeRosa"

Besides writing here on I Want to Teach Forever, I also write a weekly advice column for Teach for America Corps Members and Alumni called "Dear Mr. DeRosa".

Back in November I started video blogging to answer reader questions, and while the original posts are on the members-only site, the videos are publicly available on YouTube.  You can view all of them on my YouTube channel.

I just posted today about whether it's a good idea to send students home with work over break:

There's three more "Dear Mr. DeRosa" videos, plus my "commercial" for 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons (which has now been without an entry for 4 straight weeks).  I'll post updates here when there's a new video so you can join in the fun.  In the meantime, you've got some catching up to do!

Mr. D's YouTube Channel

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Awesome Weekend Video #2: The Muppets do "Bohemian Rhapsody"

I think this is going to be a new weekly feature. Sometimes it will have to do with education, sometimes (like today) it won't.  I laughed the whole way through this, and I'm pretty sure you will too:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Five for Friday: Just One More Week (Give or Take a Week) Edition

  1. Chaos Reigned Supreme - Mrs. H recounts what happened when the forecast called for an amazing 1 inch of snow in temperate south Texas last week.
  2. Believing in Your Students - Awesome inspirational story from We CAN Fix Education about how simple gestures can be so powerful.
  3. Wolfram Alpha Teaches You Math, One Step at a Time - Lifehacker gives a great example of just how powerful the Wolfram Alpha engine is.  Who needs TI?
  4. Cardstock Geometry Puzzle (video) - Denise of Let's Play Math tracks down an interesting lesson idea.
  5. Technology and Your Local School: What to Donate and What NOT to Donate - Wired's GeekDad blog breaks things down at a perfect time for those getting into the spirit of the season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Would You Buy For Your Classroom With $1000?

With the holiday season upon us, I think it's safe to assume that besides having a personal wish list, every teacher has a classroom wish list as well. Let's imagine that you've been given $1000 to spend solely on classroom materials.  What would you buy?

I'm really curious as to what items come to mind immediately--is it all technology?  Books?  Pencils, paper and other office supplies?  Furniture?  Or something else completely?

We can use the prices from Amazon's stores for Office Products & School Supplies, Books, and Electronics. If you've got something else in mind, a search from the home page should help you find it quickly.

Post your wish list, prices and links in the comments.  I think this is a good exercise for you to think about what you might do with grant money and a way to share great books, technology and other resources with educators who may not know about them.  Go forth and explore!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Free Access to Lesson Plans on Thru 1-18-2010

The holidays have come early for teachers!
The TeachHUB Holiday Lesson Plan Giveaway provides all TeachHUB members with unlimited access to an archive of 500+ lesson plans through January 18, 2010. All lesson plans are inspired by pop culture and news headlines, aligned to national teaching standards and are a great way to enhance existing curriculum. For more information and to access the archive of Pop Culture Lesson Plans, please visit

If you know of other great freebies and deals (or you're the one who's giving them away), please contact me so I can spread the word!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mr. D on Twitter!

I know I'm way behind the curve on this one, but I'm finally on Twitter.  I've noticed a steady stream of readers coming in from the site each day, but I haven't really been able to figure out who is linking here and why without an account there.  So if you're on Twitter, send me a message so we can get connected!

My username is teachforever09.

Follow teachforever09 on Twitter

Monday, December 7, 2009

Entries Needed for 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons

Unfortunately there's no entry for this week's 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons project yet again.  That's three straight weeks!

If you need motivation to get involved, check out the video I made called "5 + 2 Reasons to Contribute":

Read more about the project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Awesome Weekend Video: School of Rock

Friday, December 4, 2009

Five for Friday: Countdown to Winter Break Edition

It seems like only yesterday we were counting down to Thanksgiving!  Of course, Thanksgiving is like a sneak preview of the break we're really looking forward to: winter break!
  1. 40+ College Resources for Parents and Students - Personal finance blog Wise Bread offers a huge list of ways to save money and pay for college.
  2. 21st Century Educators Don’t Say, “Hand It In.” They say, “Publish It! - The Innovative Educator scores again with a guide on integrating technology into your lesson plans easily.
  3. It's Not The School, It's The Student - The Simple Dollar reflects on a study that says the college you go to ultimately doesn't make a difference in your future success.
  4. Guide to Online Schools' Top 200 Education Blogs - Featuring this blog among many others!
  5. Use Basic Fat Math to Lose Weight - Does this equation on Lifehacker really add up?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You Can Count on the Sequence Numbers Board Game

Sequence Numbers board game
The original Sequence Game is a classic mixing traditional cards, a board game, and a little bit of Connect Four.  I'm always looking at old school games for their possible classroom applications, but I didn't see where this one would be directly educational.  Recently, I learned about a new version of the game that you should definitely have in your elementary school classroom (and at home as well).

The Sequence Numbers Game allows students to practice addition and subtraction number facts in the context of an easy to learn game.  The game goes like this: each player/team has a handful of these number facts cards.  The game board, as you can see in the picture, has color-coded numbers that match the cards.  Each turn, you can put one of your chips on the answer to one of the cards in your hand.  The object is to get five chips in a row.

I've played this, and watched some students play it as well, and I think this would be a big hit with kids in grades 2-5.  It would make a great Christmas present for your favorite elementary teacher or student.

Buy Sequence at

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Best of I Want to Teach Forever: November 2009

After years of writing mainly about middle and high school math, I've been excited to expand my horizons and write about elementary math, books, technology and other education-related topics over the past few months. With that in mind, here's my best work from November:

If you like this site, there are many easy ways to support it:
  1. Pick up my revised and updated book, Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition ($12 spiral-bound paperback, $5 digital).
  2. Contribute to 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons.
  3. Subscribe to my RSS feed or become a Follower (click Follow on the sidebar).
  4. Send in a guest post.
  5. Click the Share button below to add posts you like to StumbleUpon, Technorati and other social bookmarking sites (or share links on your own blog).
  6. Email me your ideas, questions and suggestions!
Thank you, as always, for participating! If you've only recently discovered the site, here's the most recent "best of" compilations:

Best of October 2009
Best of September 2009
Best of August 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

15 Education Technology Blogs and Podcasts for Teachers

Education technology blogs and podcasts can be excellent resources for teachers who are interested in implementing technology into their classrooms or lesson plans. Here are 15 blogs and podcasts that almost any teacher can learn from.

iLearn Technology - The iLearn Technology blog is hosted by an elementary teacher that writes about integrating technology in the classroom. Posts include reviews for tech tools and tips on tech implementation.

Free Technology for Teachers - Richard Byrne writes about free tech resources and how to use them in this popular education technology blog.

The Ed Techie - Martin Weller, a Professor of Educational Technology at the UK's Open University, hosts this education technology blog. Posts focus on elearning, web 2.0 resources, technology integration, and similar topics.

The Innovative Educator - The Innovative Educator blog addresses teachers who are interested in educating innovatively. The blog has a companion wiki, Twitter feed, and social network.

TL Advisor Blog - This blog from Tech & Learning features posts from a large group of teaching professionals who share information about education technology.

Teaching All Students - This blog from Patrick Black focuses on assistive technology in the special education classroom. Patrick blogs frequently about tech tools and how they can be integrated into lesson plans.

Classroom 2.0 - This online social network was created for teachers and other educators who are interested in implementing web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. Members blog frequently on a wide range of ed tech topics.

NextGen Teachers - NextGen Teachers is an invitation only community that encourages educators to explore the next generation of teaching and learning. Blog posts include information about tech tools, blogging, conferences, and workshops.

On Blogging and Social Media - This blog from Nik Peachy is dedicated to helping teachers and other educators explore blogging and social media. Nik also offers a free ebook with web 2.0 tools for teachers.

Teachers Teaching Teachers - This weekly webcast explores the most effective practices in technology. Teachers can join the live webcast each Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. EST.

EdTechWeekly - EdTechWeekly is a weekly podcast that shares the latest news from the education technology community. Episodes also feature useful tools and tips on integrating technology in the classroom.

The Teacher's Podcast - Mark Gura and Dr. Kathy King, a popular podcasting team, host this teacher's podcast. Episodes focus mainly on ed tech resources and professional learning.

TILT - TILT (Teachers Improving Learning with Technology) is a teacher-created vidcast that explores technology in education. The vidcast welcomes text, links, audio recordings, and video recordings from other teachers.

It's Elementary - It's Elementary is an EdTechTalk podcast that focuses on education technology in the K-6 classroom.

Geek!Ed! - Produced by five self-described geeks from a school district in Michigan, this (mostly) weekly podcast explores the impact of technology in education.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online school for

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Video: 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons - 5 + 2 Reasons to Contribute

Read more about the project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Five for Black Friday

  1. Edublog Awards 2009 - Nominations are open until Tuesday, December 8th.
  2. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy - Nancy Flanagan of Teacher in a Strange Land writes about happiness and the goals we make for ourselves and our children.
  3. Scholarship opportunity for School Resource Officer - Something to share with your campus security officers or for charter school teachers who fulfill multiple roles.  Read about one teacher's experience here.
  4. Making Science Cool - "Educate to Innovate" - Wired: GeekDad reports on the White House's STEM initiative.
  5. Black Friday deals on - Do you really need to brave the mall and big box stores this weekend?  You can get everything you need online!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You, Teachers!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interactive, Educational Webcast from Chevrolet and Weekly Reader

After reading the cover story in this month's Inc. magazine about all of the new businesses growing out of the nascent electric car industry, I'm convinced this is going to be a big part of the future of our country.  So when I received an email related to it I had to pass it on:
Hi! I'm writing to tell you about a cool new program from Chevrolet and Weekly Reader. The companies are partnering with Harvard-Westlake Middle School in Los Angeles to webcast what could end up being one of the world's largest show-and-tells. Teachers and students across the country are being invited to participate remotely via live video webcast as nearly 800 Harvard-Westlake middle school students and teachers learn about the basics of electricity, including why it’s important and how this common energy source can be used to transform the way we drive. With the launch of vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt less than a year away, now is the time for students to learn more about the advanced technologies that are leading us into the future of transportation and what it will mean to them in the future.

The presentation and event will take place next Monday, Nov. 30 from 9:40 to 10:30 a.m. PST. You can find out more information at this link:

Teachers and students across the country are registering to attend this webcast, and you're welcome to join, too, if you'd like. Register by Sunday, Nov. 29 at in order to submit your questions.

If you'd rather just watch the streaming webcast, you can do that at or
I realize some of you might be skeptical about exposing your students to a corporate-sponsored event like this, and I certainly share your concerns.  Nevertheless, if it's something that will get students excited about science and math and the big possibilities that this technology offers, I think it's worth taking a risk on.

If anyone decides to take advantage of this at school, please let me know how it goes.  I'm going to try to watch it and report on it as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Enter To Win 100 SAT/ACT Prep Books For Your School!

Author Brian Leaf is giving away a prize package of one hundred copies of his books, including McGraw-Hill's Top 50 Skills for a Top Score and Defining Twilight: Vocabulary Workbook for Unlocking the SAT, ACT, GED, and SSAT. To enter, simply email One entry per person, but everyone from a school may enter. One email will be chosen at random to win. Contest ends January 4th, 2010.

In addition, Brian has made part of one of his books, McGraw-Hill's Top 50 Skills for a Top Score: SAT Critical Reading and Writing, available for free download. You can download, print and photocopy, post on your website, or even forward the free pages directly to students' email inboxes. Leaf has committed to being available to college counselors, educational consultants, teachers, and students who have questions about the book or SAT/ACT prep in general. The download is available free at

For more info, visit

Monday, November 23, 2009

No 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons Entry This Week

Catch up on recent entries here, and then get writing!  There are quite a few weeks left to complete the project (even though there aren't that many weeks left in the year) so we will have to carry into 2010 a little bit.

I'm already thinking about another year-long project for next year, and while I have some ideas in mind already, I'm open to suggestions.

Email your entries and suggestions for next year to teachforever AT gmail DOT com.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Video: The Pi Song

Read more about it (including lyrics and more) on the mental_floss Blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Five for Friday: Yes, It's Really Almost Thanksgiving Edition

  1. Carnival of Homeschooling: NaNoWriMo Edition - Worth exploring for educators in any venue.
  2. 99 Excellent Advice Sites for Teachers - 100 if you count my blog!
  3. - My boss tipped me off to these math games using cards and dice designed for Grades 2-3.  IPMG Publishing's website contains tons of free, fun activities.  If you've been interested in all of the simple number sense games I've been writing about, you'll certainly find a lot of new resources here!
  4. Survey Shows Parents Would Rather Talk Drugs Than Science or Math - A good summary and reaction of the report is up on Wired: GeekDad.
  5. Find a Way - The always interesting educators at Sup Teach? share another story about how easy and important it is to show students you care.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Use a Deck of Cards to Set Your Child Up For Future Math Success

It's never too early to start working with your children on counting and grouping, and you can use just about anything.  I'm partial to using a deck of cards, though, because they are so simple to use for this and so many other activities as your child gets older.  This basic activity is designed for young children up to the Kindergarten level.

Give the child the entire deck (minus jokers, rules for Texas Hold 'Em, and other extraneous cards).  Ask them to group by color, suit and number or letter (rank).  Make sure you encourage them to arrange all of the cards into their respective groups.  As they arrange the cards, have them count how many are in each group, and ask about whether the groups are the same size or not.

You might explore this idea visually, having them arrange groups into equally sized rows and columns.  I've seen other teachers have students stack the groups of cards vertically and talk about the relative heights of the stacks.

The possibilities for extending this simple exercise are endless: you could have them group all of the cards bigger or smaller than a certain given number, or shuffle the deck and challenge them to create groups more and more quickly.  You could play any number of traditional card games that covertly teach math skills.

You could even explore ideas such as even and odd numbers, but at some point you're going to get into concepts that are far beyond the Pre-K/K level.  Then again, if your child seems to like this kind of game and is progressing quickly, you should by all means raise the level of difficulty as high as you can.

All in all, you can do this anywhere with no setup, and in a short period of time.  If you're worried about your kids ending up in the World Series of Poker due to their use of regular cards, you can do a lot of these activity with a deck of UNO cards (not to mention by playing the game itself).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teachers Without Borders Writing Contest Starts Tomorrow

[Just received this great tip via email:] Teachers Without Borders has recently partnered with, an online co-op of sorts for writers, to create the “Teacher Connections Writing Contest” which will start on November 18 and end on December 9. All in all we are giving away $400 in prize money to top rated articles written for this contest. The best part is, in the spirit of our mission of connecting teachers with each other, this will be an invaluable resource and outlet for teachers around the globe to share ideas and expertise on subjects close to them and potentially earn money doing it.  Click here for more information!

Monday, November 16, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #36: It's All About Relationships

This week's entry comes from Lindsey Croston, a middle school math teacher from Florida:

It’s all about relationships.

And not the crazy scandal kind that make us cringe when we see on TV. It’s about the relationships that we build with co-workers and administration, with students as their mentors and the people shining light on their path toward knowledge. It’s about the relationships we build with parents as we band together to get the students who sometimes act like nincompoops to wake up and realize that there’s more to life than texting and Twilight.

As we build positive relationships with those around us – professionally and personally, we start to see change come about. It may be minuscule, but suddenly knowing that the student who’s constantly falling asleep in class is doing so because he was working late to help his mom pay the rent, or the co-worker who’s a bit snappy on Mondays because her weekend really sucked and she’s stressed because her kids just aren’t getting it – for the 3rd or 4th week in a row helps us to respond appropriately – to offer the words of encouragement that help make the world a better place. Then, hopefully because of the relationships we’ve built, when it’s our turn to have a crappy day, someone will notice and lift us up.

When it all comes down to it, teaching is just as much about passing knowledge as it is about changing the world one person at a time. As teachers we see so many students come through our doors, and then walk right back out. It’s impossible to think that as an individual you can reach all of them, and I’m not encouraging a martyr complex, “No man is an island,” and without relationships, we’re just rocks in the sea. It’s imperative that we connect with others – unless we connect with our students, they can’t see the passion that we have for the knowledge we’re imparting to them.

Lesson plans pile up, papers get graded or file-13’d, legislation comes and go, programs get funded and then cut. There are so many things that as teachers we can’t control. What we can control is making sure that each student knows that no matter how much he/she may get on our nerves or drive us batty, we still care about them and want them to do their best. We want them to succeed – as I tell my eighth graders, “I really like you, but I don’t want to see your face next year.”

So take the time to build a relationship with your students and your co-workers. Will you get as much done on planning? Probably not. Will you have the opportunity to smile or make someone else smile? It’s pretty likely. It might sound a bit like a Hallmark card, but really, relationships with others are what makes our profession worth all the blood, sweat, money and tears we pour into it.

Read more about this project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 37 is scheduled for next Monday, November 23rd, but at press time there is no submission to fill that slot!

As promised, the download
version of Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition will be available for free all day today!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

We STILL Use Math Every Day: Using "Numb3rs" in the Classroom

Last year, Texas Instruments announced they would stop updating the "We All Use Math Every Day" website, but stated that the site would remain up as an archive of all of the lesson plans that had been developed.

Recently, a reader emailed to tell me that the We All Use Math Every Day website was down. I emailed Texas Instruments and received this response:
Thank you for contacting Texas Instruments.

Texas Instruments is no longer affiliated with the television series "Numb3rs".

We have the activity exchange containing hundreds of free activities covering numerous subjects, including Numb3rs/We All Use Math Everyday activities at the link below:
If you search for Numb3rs, you'll see that all of the old activities are still available.  Unfortunately, the curriculum alignment for each episode seemingly disappeared into the abyss with the rest of the WAUMED site.

Luckily, I had saved a copy of the Numb3rs Activities Curriculum Alignment document, which I am now sharing publicly on Google Docs.  The PDF contains the episodes broken down by subject and specific topic, with direct links to the activities on TI's Activities Exchange.

Now you might be wondering, as I was, why TI would change their minds about the WAUMED website.  I realized the answer as soon as I visited the CBS Numb3rs site to find an episode guide: the show's partnership with Wolfram Research.

Wolfram Research provides the math behind the show, and although I don't know how long they've been doing so, they basically took over writing curricular connections for each episode at the beginning of Season 4 (about the time WAUMED ended).  With this year's release of Wolfram Alpha, their continuing line of Mathematica software, and their growing number of educational offerings, TI has to see Wolfram as a comptetitor.  No wonder they didn't want to have any lingering connections to the show.  (Hopefully they won't also delete all of the old activities from the Exchange--but I have a feeling I should start downloading those as well!)

So if you still want to use Numb3rs in your classroom, here's your definitive list of resources:

Contest: Win a Copy of Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full!

If my review of Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full! When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional Children and interview (parts one and two) with author Cary Chugh, Ph. D has piqued your interest, you'll definitely be interested in a contest to win a copy of the book!

The contest is simple: Share your most hilarious example of unsuccessful discipline in your classroom or at home.  Leave it in the comments section for this post (this is the only way to enter).  The funniest one (as judged by yours truly) will receive a free copy of Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full!.

There are no restrictions or requirements beyond what I said above.

Contest entries are due by Saturday, November 21st at 11:59 PM CST.  Good luck!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Five for Friday: It's NOT Christmas Time Yet Edition

  1. Mathspig Blog - Perhaps the best blog I've seen for stories about math in the real world, in history, misused statistics, and other such triviata that are either interesting to us or useful for the classroom!
  2. Carnival of Mathematics #59 - Speaking of always interesting and/or useful...
  3. How Do You Help Your Kids Become Good Adults? [@Wired: GeekDad] - This is a good discussion to have.
  4. What makes it worth it [@Hey Miss!] - A little inspiration to end your week!
  5. Nearly Quarter 2 [@Math Be Brave] - A little more inspiration in the form of overcoming challenges and rethinking your perspective on your classroom.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interview: Dr. Cary Chugh, author of Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full! [Part 2]

This is part two of a two-part interview with Dr. Cary Chugh, author of Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full! When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional ChildrenClick here for part one, or here for my original review of the book.

Your ideas seem to include a lot of common sense and are based on existing research--so why is it that so many parents and so-called experts get it wrong?

It’s not really fair to say the older approaches to discipline were entirely wrong. It’s more accurate to say that the status quo is partially correct. I never intended to write a book in the first place. I was trying to figure out a way to make behavior plans more efficient, to “build a better mousetrap,” so to speak. Ironically, I used the same research that spawned the conventional approaches to point out the flaws contained therein. I look at my contribution to the field of behavior modification as an extension of the behavioral model, not as a replacement. I think people will read these new ideas and have a similar reaction that you did, namely, “Why didn’t we think of this before?” And it is my hope that once behavior-limited discipline becomes the new status quo, the next generation of psychologists will take my innovations even further.

In the book, we're cautioned to avoid "control activities," such as assigning a chore if we're trying to make sure children learn something from discipline.  Is there appropriate use for this, i.e. you made a mess so you'll help clean it up?

The argument against using control tactics with children is that this mentality flies in the face of our overarching goal for them - teach them to develop self-control. My re-interpretation of basic behavioral research suggests that ending a punishment based on a predetermined length of time creates all sorts of problems for both the child and the adult. Ending a punishment after the child completes some type of corrective activity not only feeds into the child’s need for control, but also requires them to strengthen a better alternative behavior. Having a child clean up his mess is a fine first step for choosing a corrective activity, but that alone doesn’t teach the child how to use his materials any better in the future. We try to select corrective activities that fix the mess and impart a new skill. For example, if a child makes a mess with his desk supplies, that child would not be able to progress to the next activity until his work space was cleaned and he was able to practice the appropriate use of his supplies for the teacher or class. The next time, the teacher might not let the same child start his activity until he first practiced the “right way” to use his materials.

How can we get teachers and schools to embrace more behavior-limited punishments?  I think most traditional public school teachers are in an environment where time-limited punishments are the only way things are done.

That’s true and it’s a major problem. Think about your friends who got regularly got detention in high school. They came back the next day laughing about it. And the students who didn’t get in trouble never needed detention in the first place. In other words, time-limited punishments work great for the kids who don’t really need it! However, in elementary school, teachers use behavior-limited punishments all the time without really appreciating what they’re doing. If a kindergartner runs down the hallway, rarely does that child get put in time-out or have to write his name on the board. Most teachers simply stop all of the child’s activities until he can go back to the classroom and “walk down the hallway like a big boy.” The best time to impart a new school or strengthen a better behavior is when the adult sees the unwanted behavior. There is no need to wait until tomorrow to give the child another crack at demonstrated what is expected of him. Because we didn’t really grasp the dual nature of punishments before my work in this area, teachers (and parents) didn’t understand how to make punishments more effective for older kids. Now we do and that is why I am working hard to get the word out, not just with interviews like this one, but by initiating research with schools in my area to start spreading the word!

I drew a lot of parallels between your book and Teaching With Love and Logic by Jim Fay & David Funk, which I have been recommending to teachers for years.  What are the differences in your approach?

Again, I am prefer to look at my approach as an extension of the behavioral model. I actually like a lot of what Teaching with Love and Logic has to offer. The spirit of giving children more control over their own fate is something we share. However, like so many other good books out there, Love and Logic falls into the same traps when it comes to giving the child a consequence for their failure to comply. While they talk about giving the kids choices before a punishment is given, they offer kids no control after the punishment is given. We only punish to create motivation. So if we take a privilege away for the day, what if the child is motivated after 10 minutes without the privilege? They find their own use for the motivation, usually in the form of a meltdown. But what if they needed two days without the privilege to be properly motivated? Then they got the privilege back too soon. There is no way to predict how long a consequence has to be in effect before the child is sufficiently motivated and yet virtually every other book on the subject, even if they talk about giving the child control, advocates for these kinds of interventions that pit the child versus the adult. Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full! is unique in that it offers an approach that is completely based on basic research and makes the most efficient use of child’s new found motivation.

Click here to learn about a chance to win a copy of the book!

Related Posts:

Part one of the interview with Dr. Chugh
My review of the book

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interview: Dr. Cary Chugh, author of Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full! [Part 1]

This is part one of a two-part interview with Dr. Cary Chugh, author of Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full! When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional Children.  For my original review of the book, click here.

Your book discusses why a lot of the popular and conventional wisdom on discipline doesn't work.  Television has shows like Supernanny and others that seem to advocate time-limited discipline, reward charts, and all sorts of ideas that seem to run counter to the premise of your book. Are there good TV shows parents and teachers can watch for examples of your ideas at work?  Any shows we should avoid?

Yes – The Dog Whisperer! That’s only half a joke. Behavior modification is based on basic animal research and it is often the case that animal trainers adhere to the basic scientific principles of behavior change better than most parenting experts. Part of the reason for this is that animals don’t talk back and animals don’t evoke the same emotional reactions in their owners that difficult kids evoke in their teachers and parents.

The only "expert" I tell people to run from is John Rosemond. Here's a link to my favorite example of bad parenting advice (in the second question, he advocates locking 3 year old kids in their rooms for the rest of the day when they misbehave).  I often clip out his columns to show people what not to do.

In some states, parents would have to jump through a lot of legal hoops to get their school to make any formal accommodations for their child, such as a behavior plan.  How do we ensure schools and teachers are following behavior plans issued by parents? 

I think the best way to accomplish consistency across settings is for the parents and teachers to view each other as part of the same team with the same goal – to better socialize the child to the learning process and to maximize their potential. With the right mindset, we can avoid some of the typical problems that develop between parents and school personnel, such as one group blaming the other for not doing their job. In my experience, the most effective way to convince a teacher or the child’s team to try something new in the classroom is for the parents to demonstrate their own success using an alternative system at home. Parents often forget that teachers are human and are prone to the same frustration and anxiety when dealing with challenging children as they are. Good communication and good teamwork go a long way to preventing roadblocks from interfering with the child’s development.

Where does the idea of children having to be completely under control of adults come from?

Let’s face it - parents get trained as much as their kid do! For example, a mother who hovers over her son while completing homework gets instant gratification by getting it done more quickly. The same thing can be said for the parent who yells, threatens, or spanks. The title of my book, Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full!, is a funny example of the long-term effects of this kind of mentality. Parents get reinforced by the child’s quick response to being yelled at, but tomorrow they have to yell twice as loud while their expectations start dropping lower and lower.

If theory hasn't caught up to science, as you assert in your book, what can we do to protect students from bad decisions in terms of medication, being shifted into special programs or otherwise "labeled" in and out of school?

I like telling people that they will know if a particular punishment/reward scheme is working when they don’t have to keep using it. In fact, the last thing I wrote about in Don’t Swear with Your Mouth Full! is something called the Poor Man’s Evaluation. Simply put, if a child has the capacity to learn a new behavior and the teacher is using technically sound behavior modification strategies, the behavior always improves. If the behavior persists despite good interventions, then the child has demonstrated that he cannot control the behavior in question. At that point, behavior management is considered (e.g., change in classroom; formal accommodations). We try not start with behavior management tactics because if the child could learn a new behavior and we manage it, the child has no need to learn it because it is being taken care of for him. If behavior modification and behavior management fail, then we talk about the possibility of medication. It is a fool-proof way to prevent the child from experiencing unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments.

As a teacher I was always concerned about how many students seemed to be mislabeled as needing special education services or given "armchair diagnoses" of ADHD.  How real is this problem?  How potentially dangerous is it to the development of those kids?

ADHD is a very real neurodevelopmental disorder affecting approximately 3-7% of school-aged children in community samples. A thorough assessment by a trained child psychologist, very often in collaboration with the school psychologist, is paramount to the development of an effective treatment plan. In other words, we don’t just eye ball kids and take out best guess. I tell parents, “Kids can’t tell us whether they have ADHD so the adults better be pretty damn sure they do!” Failing to detect ADHD is also a major problem. Left untreated, kids with ADHD are at significantly higher risk for an array of secondary emotional, behavior, and psychosocial problems that can have devastating consequences. However, it is a major misconception that ADHD treatment always involves medication. In fact, the Poor Man’s Evaluation is used to determine the need for medication intervention. For kids with mild to moderate ADHD, behavioral interventions are equally effective as medication options. We do recommend medication as a primary intervention for kids whose symptoms are severe in nature. But, it is critical to note that most kids who go on medication continue to require more behavioral support than their classmates without ADHD.

I argue that behavior-limited discipline has the potential to be far more effective than typical strategies used with kids who have ADHD. It’s interesting that while we know that these kids experience “time blindness” (i.e., they don’t learn from past mistakes and they have difficulty predicting future consequences for their actions), all of the recommended practices incorporate time limits! With behavior-limited punishments and rewards, teachers and parents can take immediate advantage of the motivation their interventions create to shape the child’s behavior.

Come back tomorrow for part two of this interview!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Review: Don't Swear With Your Mouth Full! by Dr. Cary Chugh

Educators know that in most U.S. schools, the most common approach to discipline is a version of detention.  At the elementary level, this takes the form of time-out or staying in from recess, lunch or other activities.  At the middle and high school level, the same principle is applied in the form of after-school detentions, in-school suspension, and out of school suspension.

In essence, our de facto response tells students You've misbehaved, so you must leave class for this amount of time.  Of course, I think most educators also know that for the most consistently challenging students, this approach usually fails to improve the student's behavior.  In his book Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full! When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional Children, child psychologist Dr. Cary Chugh makes the case for a better way to deal with students when the most common methods fail.

One of Dr. Chugh's main themes throughout the book is that there are no easy answers, no one-size-fits-all solutions to behavior problems.  Each problem requires a unique approach that has one goal in mind: make sure the child learns from whatever discipline you use.  Your child (or student) needs to learn the self-control required to not engage in the same misbehavior in the future.  In the book,

Dr. Chugh explains what research says we should be doing and compares it to what most parents and teachers already do.  Use of methods like the example above, something the author terms time-limited discipline, is deconstructed and analyzed.  He easily reveals why the idea that adults need (or will ever actually have) complete control over a child's behavior is no more than a myth.  It's helpful that the author always explains what the child's perspective on everything is and how they will respond to a wide range of conventional methods.  Ironically, he doesn't say that everything we do is wrong: for the most part, it's how we do it.

For example, Dr. Chugh doesn't say we should throw out ideas like time-out or detention.  Instead, we should remove the time limit and create a situation where the student can end their punishment if they can demonstrate the proper behavior we're seeking.  He doesn't really advocate creating positive incentives either; for most of the examples he gives, the child's incentive to behave is that the punishment will end.  This is a powerful idea that doesn't exist when we say something like, "You have to go to your room for the rest of the night," or "You're going to be in ISS for the next two days."  The child is stuck, and whether they're ready to go back to class in ten minutes or still not ready after that time frame has ended, we haven't actually solved the problem.

The author terms this alternative behavior-limited punishment, and this idea is really at the heart of the book.  Other methods may work temporarily, making misbehavior more manageable.  They may work great with children that rarely misbehave or get into trouble.  Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full!, however, is aimed at dealing with children where the situation has gotten out of control or the child has emotional and psychological issues causing serious misbehavior.  It's about repairing relationships and making real, long term positive changes in difficult situations.

The book is a quick and easy read, with each chapter ending in a series of Take-Home Points that summarize the most salient and critical information.  While the main audience for this book is parents, everything Dr. Chugh discusses absolutely applies to the classroom as well.  He differentiates his approach for young children and teenagers.  In addition, there's a chapter entitled "From Teacher's Pest to Teacher's Pet" that addresses these issues at school directly.  The last chapter serves as a review and clear starting point for changing our thinking about discipline and how to apply the author's ideas at home and in the classroom.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book for parent and teacher alike.  It's a refreshing, well-researched and well thought out perspective on the most frustrating and pervasive issue we deal with when it comes to kids.

Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full! When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional Children is available on as well as directly from Dr. Chugh's website.

Interview with Dr. Chugh Part 1 and Part 2
Enter for a chance to win the book

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where is this week's 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons?

It's still somewhere in the back of your mind, just waiting for you to type out and email to teachforever AT gmail DOT com.

Unfortunately that means there's no entry this week, which makes today a great time to catch up on previous entries. It also means that my book Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition is not available for free download today (but it's still only $5 to download anyway).

Looking ahead, on Tuesday I'll be posting a review of the book Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full! When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional Children, followed by a two-part interview with the author on Wednesday and Thursday.  Stay tuned!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Five for Friday: Countdown to Thanksgiving Edition

Yes, my weary friends, we're only a few short weeks away from Thanksgiving.  You're in the home stretch now!  You can do it!
  1. Enough With The School Projects! - Wired's GeekDad blog makes a good point about teachers giving projects that focus too much on art and creativity and not enough on content.  The article, written from a parent's perpsective, offers a lot more fodder for thoughtful discussion.
  2. WatchKnow - Helping Educators Find Videos That Students Can Watch to Know More [@The Innovative Educator] - A review of an interesting new website that collects and categorizes educational videos.
  3. Online Grading: Treat-- or Trick? - Nancy Flanagan of Teacher in a Strange Land makes the case that giving parents instant online access to student grades can be either pointless or endlessly frustrating for teachers.
  4. Selections from the instructions for the 18th World Puzzle Championship [@The Number Warrior] - An interesting challenge for you or your students!
  5. Keep Swimming, Friends - Sup Teach? feels your pain as the countdown to Thanksgiving begins!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Instant Elementary Grouping Game for School or Home Using Cards

Following up on yesterday's simple elementary grouping game, here's a way to use a deck of cards to do more practice on grouping in the classroom, at home, or anywhere you have some table space to lay out cards.  This is appropriate for K-3, (older children having trouble with multiplication and division).

Basically, using different amounts of cards, you'll ask the students "How many groups of ... can you make?" using the numbers given.  You can remix this activity in a variety of games, working your way up from a smaller group or starting with
  • Start with all 52 cards, face down.  Groups of 26, 13, 8, 7, 4, 2, 52, 1.
  • Remove 4 cards (leaving 48 cards).  Groups of 12, 24, 4, 8, 6, 2, 48, 1.
  • Remove 8 cards (leaving 40).  Groups of 10, 20, 40, 1, 5, 8, 2.
  • Remove 5 cards (leaving 35).  Groups of 5, 7, 35, 1.
  • Remove 10 cards (leaving 25).  Groups of 1, 5.
  • Remove 1 card (leaving 24).  Groups of 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 24.
  • Remove 6 cards (leaving 18).  Groups of 3, 6, 9.
  • Remove 8 cards (leaving 10).  Groups of 2, 5, 10, 1.
Throughout this activity there's opportunities to ask about multiplication and division facts as well as fractions.  You'll notice the number of groups and order changes in each round; that's on purpose.  I didn't include any group numbers that would leave remainders, which you can of course add depending on the child's aptitude and grade level.

You could replace the deck of cards with basically any other object, but cards are useful for many different types of games and I think are easier to organize and keep track of than block, beads, and other typical counting objects used in schools and at home.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Simple Elementary Whole-Class Grouping Game

I can't remember exactly where I picked up this idea--I'm not sure if I participated in this game as part of professional development of some kind or if I watched a colleague use it with their class.  Either way, it's a way to practice grouping with your entire class or any large group.  It would be most beneficial for grades K-2.

You could do this in the classroom (depending on how much space you have) but you might need to move to a bigger space since your students will have to move around a little.  Once you're in your space, the game is simple:
  1. You will be calling out numbers.  Your students then get into groups of that number.  They can hold hands or at least hold each other by the arm (set your expectation for this ahead of time).
  2. They must get into their groups quickly and correctly.  If their group has the wrong number, or an odd number of students are left out because of the numbers you gave, they're out.
  3. Continue playing until you're down to a group of two.  These are the winners, and if you think they're up to it, they can be the ones calling the numbers for the next round.
Before the game, have students could the number of students in the class.  As you play, have students count the number of groups you've made and how many are left over.  When you repeat numbers, briefly discuss why the number of groups might have changed.  For example, if you used 3 when you had 18 students, then 3 again when there were 12 students left, this is a good opportunity to wonder aloud why there are only 4 groups of 3 left.

I realize that your very young students might not respond well to being "out" of the game, especially if they are having trouble socially.  Having multiple rounds of the game is one way to avoid this, but you also don't want only friends grouping with each other.  To add a team-building, socializing element to the game, you have to encourage students to try to make groups with everybody in the class at some point in the game.  I also remember during my time playing the game, that the groups started small and then got bigger, requiring the addition of different students to each one.

I'm not an elementary expert by any means, however, so any suggestions to this end would be greatly appreciated.

Grouping is an essential skill for both multiplication and division, but also for adding and subtracting, fractions, percents, decimals, and even combining like terms in algebra.  You can supplement this activity with anything that asks questions like "How many groups of __ can you make?"

Come back tomorrow for a follow up grouping activity using a deck of cards!

educarnival v2, Issue 11 is up!

educarnival v2, Issue 11 is up at I'm a Dreamer.  Enjoy the carnival, then submit your links for the next one!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Use Playing Cards for Unlimited Number Sense Practice

Here's a quick, easy number sense activity you can do in the classroom or at home.  All you need is a deck of cards.

Deal out 16 cards face up.  Arrange them in a 4x4 box.  This square is kind of a "number bank," which will be drawn from in the same way you would pick vocabulary from a word bank.  Ask your student to create as many correct equations using the numbers in the "box" to fill boxes or spaces.  You create a framework like this (this would be a great early elementary version):

__ + __ = __
__ - __ = __
__ + __ + __ = __
__ - __ - __ = __

Your student might not be able to fill the entire framework because the cards are drawn randomly, but that's the nature of the activity.  Encourage them to use as many cards as possible.

You can repeat this as long as your student is willing to do it.  Even better, you can adjust both the equations and the rules to practice different types of problems.

For example, you have to decide what to do about the ace and face cards.  I would suggest making the ace a one and the face cards all equal to 10.  You can have all of the cards be positive, or make black cards positive and red cards negative.  You can increase or decrease both the amount of cards and equations you ask them to fill in.  You can also change the type of problem (add multiplication or division).

Here's a much more challenging version of this activity:  Increase the square to 25 cards, but create a framework of three addition equations with fractions.  Your student has to use the cards to fill in both the numerator and denominator, and while they might take the easy road and use a common denominator, some students will take the challenge of making correct equations without them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #35: Learning to See

This week's entry comes from Ms. Alston:

As a special education teacher, my job and my students present a unique set of circumstances not fully shared or experienced, and therefore not always fully understood, by general ed teachers and personnel. I myself constantly struggle with my 'calling' as a special educator, so I constantly seek motivation in any way, shape, or form that I can get it. That inspiration came one day from Kira*.

Kira is one of my middle school students where I currently work. Since the beginning, she has truly been one of my most challenging students, academically and behaviorally. Kira was born to a drug-addicted mother and therefore she deals with the emotional, cultural, and economic challenges that unfortunately, usually comes with such inauspicious beginnings. Kira takes medication to help her focus and attend to classes, assignments, and activities during the school day. But of course, Kira frequently skips her medicine. On these days, she is unable to function for long in the regular education or resource class setting without some type of disruption.

On one of these days, she was sitting with the DES department Lead on one of her 'timeouts'. That day's issue was getting her to wear her glasses so she could see the board in class. Our department Lead encouraged her to wear them, admiring the look of them when she finally brought them out, and patiently citing all the reasons why she should wear them. But Kira was adamant: she would not wear the glasses. Her reason? " I need to learn how to see."

Learning to see. Kira's words continued to resonate with me in the days after this conversation was shared with me by my department chairperson. Although Kira's meaning of 'learning to see' was a physical thing she was attempting to overcome, the challenge I face, the one we all face as educators, is learning how to see our students. No, I don't mean seeing them standing in front of us in full, living color, but learning how to see them as who THEY are, and not as who WE are or who we want them to be. I won't lie and say that the view of our students will always be pretty or something we want to see, but it will provide us with the ability to accept them as who they are, same as we want from others for ourselves. This is not to say that acceptance of who they are should lead to complacency; we are, after all, in the business of molding and shaping lives. But if we can SEE and MEET students where they truly are, we not only have a better chance of reaching and teaching them, but we gain appreciation- appreciation from them, and a renewed appreciation for the special and delicate task we face as educators: learning to SEE the potential in ALL of our students, and then using that to show it to them and to the world as well.

*student's name has been changed to protect privacy

Read more about this project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 36 is scheduled for next Monday, November 9nd, but at press time there is no submission to fill that slot!

As promised, the PDF version of Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition will be available for free all day today!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Best of I Want to Teach Forever: October 2009

Happy Halloween! If you've had as busy a month as I have, you probably haven't been able to keep up with this blog as much as you might like. This weekend is a good a time as any to do so! First, catch up on recent entries in the 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons project. Then, check out some of my best work this month:
If you like this site, there are many easy ways to support it:
  1. Pick up a copy of my revised and updated book, Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition ($12 spiral-bound paperback, $5 digital).
  2. Contribute to 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons.
  3. Subscribe to my RSS feed or become a Follower (click Follow on the sidebar).
  4. Send in a guest post.
  5. Click the Share button below to add posts you like to StumbleUpon, Technorati and other social bookmarking sites (or share links on your own blog).
  6. Email me your ideas, questions and suggestions!
Thank you, as always, for participating! If you've only recently discovered the site, here's the most recent "best of" compilations:

Best of September 2009
Best of August 2009
Best of July 2009