Sunday, January 31, 2010

'Ten Cheap Lessons' Celebrates Cotton Anniversary, Excited About New Socks

original Ten Cheap Lessons teacher resource bookToday is the second anniversary of the publication of Ten Cheap Lessons: Easy, Engaging Ideas for Every Secondary Classroom, my teacher resource book. I've been so humbled by what readers have had to say about it over that time:

"I have used several activities in your book, and since I am the Algebra I lead teacher that means all Algebra I classes used the activities.  We especially liked the Independent vs. Dependent Variable posters.  It really help the students, and as they personalized their poster, it allowed us to know more about each student... Thanks for a great resource."  - Katie Owen, Corpus Christi, TX

"First, let me say, 'AWESOME book!'  I love doing meaningful activities to reinforce learning in the classroom, especially for math.  I purchased your book a couple of months ago during my student teaching.  What a great resource!"  - Laurie Line, NV
"Easy to use and adapt. Check it out." - Eric DeSobe, via

"I love this resource! It gives a lot of great, easily adaptable and continuous ways to structure formative assessment in your classroom!" - Kate Barbato, via

"Hi. I've downloaded your book and had a read. It's great. Thanks very much!" robertd1981, via Twitter

"great resource. Already have some ideas to implement in my classroom from your book." SErwin, via Twitter

"Thanks very much. Lesson one will be use the first day back from break. Perfect!" Schadenfreude, comment on

Ten Cheap Lessons Second Edition teacher resource bookLast year, I released an updated Second Edition, with additional lessons and a spiral binding for easy copying (as a teacher, I know we need to copy a lot).  The download version of the Second Edition is just $5, which means you save a dollar but get more content!

You can get Ten Cheap Lessons from the Bookstore, or online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

If you really want to help get the word out, ask your local bookseller to order a copy for you.  As far as I know, the book isn't available in stores, but if people request it, who knows what might happen!  If you already have the book and are ready to pass it along, there's a few people waiting to trade for it on PaperBackSwap as well.

Thank you to everyone who's purchased a copy or downloaded it for free!  It's important to me that I'm making a difference for teachers (and ultimately students) all over the world.  Happy anniversary!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Carnival of Educators: Nary a List in Sight Edition

Welcome to the January 26, 2010 edition of the carnival of educators.  Besides the great submissions included below, you'll find several articles without a name attached to them.  Those posts were collected by yours truly.  Here we go!


Dave Saba presents Singapore vs U.S. Math: we lose posted at Edbiz, saying, "For 21st century skills we need to focus on applied mathematics."  Dave also wonders: is the Apple Tablet for Education II "[d]isruptive innovation from Apple?"

Liam Goldrick presents D-Day posted at The Education Optimists.

Sarah Ebner presents Is inclusion good or bad for education? posted at School Gate - Times Online - WBLG, noting "I ran this post, written by a teacher, to ask what can be done about disruptive kids. Are the issues the same the world over?"  Join the conversation!

Marie Snyder presents Department Competition: The Great Green Challenge posted at Project Earth.  "We tried to get all our teachers to become more environmental by pitting them against one another," she writes.

Bellringers (Carol Richtsmeier) presents Pants On The Ground, Boxers & Anthems posted at Bellringers.

How to Waste Money on Technology in Schools ends with a discussion question: "What are the worst technology purchases you’ve seen in schools?"  I'm sure you've got tons of great examples, so head over to Creating Lifelong Learners.


Pamela Jorrick presents Not Everyone Can Write Right posted at Blah, Blah, Blog.

Free Science Labs thanks to My Homeschool Guide.


Rachel Lynette presents I'm Done! What to do with Bright Students posted at Minds in Bloom.

Alisha Harmann presents How To Calculate / Read An ACT Score posted at How To E-D-U.  High school teachers can turn this info into part of a lesson on getting into college.

Victoria Westcott presents Shannon Shares Her FAQS About Teaching & Living in London, England posted at Teach in London, saying "Shannon is a Canadian teacher working in a British secondary school. She shares her FAQs from her family & friends and provides great stories about what it's really like to teach in London as a young Canadian."

Fish! on Look at My Happy Rainbow is a great example of the kinds of adventures this male kindergarten teacher shares on a regular basis.

Speaking of fun adventures with students, check out Week in Review from Pigtailed Teacher, which sounds like a common week in elementary school (or middle or high school for that matter).

Traumatized for life is a not-so-uncommon story of how a successful, bright adult developed a math phobia thanks to her third grade teacher, shared on Learning Strategies.

That concludes this edition.  Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of educators using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: , .

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Eliminating "No" From Your Vocabulary [Video]

Mr. D TV is my weekly video series where I give advice to teachers on just about any topic.  If you have a question you'd like me to discuss, email it to  If you like the video, check out the last episode or my YouTube channel for more.  See you next week!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Useless Subs, Heartbreaking Student Revelations and More [Five for Friday]

  1. Sub Woes [Math Tales from the Spring] - Mrs. H explains the not so surprising reasons that most of us hate taking days off!
  2. I cried 4 times today [Sup Teach?] - Krizia reveals how a unit on overcoming adversity opened the proverbial flood gates for both her and her students.
  3. Educational Games Fun for Teens and Parents [Connect With Your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology]
  4. You Can Be a Change Leader [TLN Teacher Voices] - A book recommendation for teachers and administrators eager to create lasting positive changes in their school.
  5. Shouldering the Burden [ms_teacher] - Why are teachers the ones who always have to make more and more sacrifices when there's budget cuts?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Contest: Pitch Your Children's Book Idea, Win Access to Thousands More

Big Universe: Read, Create, and Share Children's Books OnlineHow many times have you looked at a children's book and thought, "I could have written this"?  Or maybe you're a parent or elementary teacher who never has enough books to keep up with voracious young readers?  Have I got something for you! is an awesome children's literature website where you can read, create and share children's books online.  The site allows teachers and parents to give kids access to thousands of books, makes it easy for them to create their own, and they can keep track of and share their favorites with you, siblings or classmates.  Teachers can find leveled books and recommended reading lists, then assess students after reading, all in one comprehensive online location.  Here's a demo on reading and sharing.

When I first learned about the site, my mind immediately began swarming with ideas for children's books that could make math interesting and fun (probably without the reader even realizing they were tackling intimidating math concepts).  This inspired me to get together with for a great contest:

The Contest
Pitch your children's book idea!  Give me a quick summary of the plot, the skills you aim to teach (or how your idea would benefit young readers), an example of text or images you'll use, and who your potential children's book would be aimed at.  Don't write the whole book: imagine you are sitting down with me and you have about five minutes to sell me on your idea.  Remember, the best ideas can usually be explained in the fewest words!  Check out this demo of BigUniverse's author tools to get an idea of how easy it would be and the great resources at your disposal.

The Prize
A Six Month Premium Membership to!

How to Enter
Post your pitch in the comments below.  Emailed entries will not be accepted.  Entries must be 500 words or less.  The contest ends at 11:59 PM CST on February 20, 2010.  Anyone with a good idea for a children's book can enter (excluding employees of, of course), but there will be only one winner!  Good luck!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Awesome Weekend Video #4: Hot for Teacher!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cold Weather Learning, Classroom Tweeting and Blogging [Five for Friday]

  1. Fun With Fourier’s Law in the Cold Weather [Wired: GeekDad] - Awesome, easy science experiment you can do at home or school (if you can convince your kids to brave the cold)!
  2. Don't be illTwitterate or aTextual [The Innovative Educator] - Great ideas for using Twitter, text messaging service, and a free classroom response system (CRS) alternative with your students.
  3. Requiring algebra in eighth grade [Learning Strategies] - Larry Davidson comments on several articles about this issue.  I have my own thoughts on the issue (I wrote about it when California first started talking about it in 2008) you can read here.
  4. Introducing Logs [f(t)] - I love Kate's way of easing students into this often frustrating topic.  This is what I'll use the next time I teach it!
  5. The Case for Blogging in the Classroom [Creating Lifelong Learners] - Mathew Needleman dives into the subject thoroughly and from all angles.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reaching Out to Students You Haven't Built Relationships With [Video]

"Dear Mr. DeRosa" has become "Mr. D TV," but the idea is still the same: I'll offer advice on just about any education-related topic you're wondering about. I'm happy to be your sounding board or just your comic relief. Email your questions to  Like the video?  Find more on my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #39: Using YouTube

This week's entry comes from Alison Robinson, a technology specialist in Houston, TX.  Check out her new blog Tech Tips, Tools and More!.

For teachers who have not yet journeyed into the vast world of YouTube, but have a Google account (Gmail) you can create a YouTube account using your Google login. (I think this is supposed to simplify the process since YouTube is owned by Google however, I think for some it just confuses the process.) Or, you can go right to YouTube and create an account.Once you have an account created you can search educational videos, add your own channel to your blog or website as well as add videos to your playlist. I recently created my own YouTube channel which includes a playlist of How-to videos.

Tip: If you are looking for a way to share a favorite video without displaying the distracting comments use Silentube it!. Silentube it! allows you to open a video within this site and play the video in peace!

Read more about this project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 40 is scheduled for next week, but there is no entry in the queue.  I will continue posting entries until the series is complete, but I won't be focusing on it as much as I did last year.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

13 Free Flash Card and Study Help Applications

Whether it's for yourself or your students, there's lots of great, free options for creating flash cards and studying just about anything.  All of the applications below work on any platform unless otherwise noted:

Anki - Secretly powerful multimedia flash card download built for syncing between your computer, online or iPhones and similar device.

CoboCards - This well-designed, easy to navigate web application focuses on collaboration perhaps more than any other site on this list.
Cramberry - Good online application for vocabulary and other things you could fit in just one line of text (that's the limit).  Works on your iPod Touch/iPhone as well.

FlashcardExchange - This site has a large web-based library of ready-to-study flash cards, and a free account allows you to create and study online.  More advanced options (like sharing or printing your cards) required a paid membership.

Flashcard Machine - Collaborative, multimedia web-based application great for teachers; they can set up a stack of cards that can be accessed without registering for an account on the site.

Genius - Simple, no frills text-based flash cards. [Mac only] - Simple, web-based virtual flash cards for yourself or collaboration with others.  Setup email reminders to make sure you study, and then do so in a variety of ways.

Memorizer - Forget about fancy user interfaces.  This download is as utilitarian as it gets, but it has one key feature: Your simple, text-based flash cards popup randomly while you're using your computer for other things, so you're always studying (sort of). [Windows only]

Mnemosyne - Perhaps the most interesting software on the list, when you use Mnemosyne, you can contribute to research on human memory and how "flash card" style repetition and studying works.

Pauker - This free, open-source option is simple and text-only. It works on all platforms, but you must have Java installed.

Quizlet - More than just flash cards, Quizlet is a web-based application that allows you to both create study materials and quiz yourself (or others) on the materials.  It's also a good option for those that want to share via social networks like Facebook.

Study Stack - This website's best feature is its well established collection of already created study guides.  Or maybe it's playing hangman or a crossword puzzle with your flash cards.

Teach2000 - Powerful, option-rich download that has a handy USB drive versions, which is great for those of us that can't install programs on our school computers. [Windows]

Did I leave your favorite free application off the list?  Do you have any positive or negative reviews of any of these?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Get Everything You Need to Start a Garden at School with Welch's Harvest Grants

    Check out this great grant opportunity for the green-thumbed teacher:
    As a family farmer owned company that is proud to grow and nurture grapes, Welch’s is here to help teach the value of sustainable agriculture and healthy eating. Hands-on experiences with planting, tending, and growing gardens provide a dynamic setting for learning and benefit kids of all ages.

    This year, in partnership with Scholastic, Welch’s will support school garden programs through Welch’s Harvest Grants. We are pleased to invite you to submit an application for your opportunity to win a valuable garden for your school.

    Entries will be judged by experts at the National Gardening Association, and two schools in every state will be selected to receive a Welch’s Harvest Grant. Winning schools will receive a customized indoor or outdoor garden package filled with a variety of tools, seeds, educational materials, and more. Deadline for submission is February 6, 2010, so we encourage you to start working on your grant application today.
    The contest is open to all K-8 schools (public, private, homeschool).  Visit for the grant application, the rules and all the details.  I was told the application should only take about 10 minutes and be pretty straightforward.  100 schools will be able to start a class/school garden, which is a great learning tool for a variety of subjects.

    Interested in the idea of starting a school garden, with or without a grant?  Check out Sustainable Table's school garden and food projects resource page, with links to help you get started.

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Online Vocab Games, Personal Finance and Speed Dating [Five for Friday]

    1. 'Word up' with Fun, Free and Engaging Vocabulary Games [Digital Play] - All ten online activities would be great for helping ELLs.
    2. Speed Dating [f(t)] - If you've never seen it, this is a great structure for collaborative practice for any topic and any subject.
    3. Free Personal Finance Website from the University of Idaho [via Consumerist] - Great for lessons on real world math.
    4. The 'youngest headmaster in the world' [via Wired:GeekDad] - Have you heard the story of the Indian teenager who comes home from school and teaches what he learns to hundreds of children in his village who can't afford to go?  If not, you need to.
    5. Carnival of Homeschooling 4th Anniversary [Why Homeschool] - Always a good resource for teachers of all kinds.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    The Collected Best of I Want to Teach Forever 2009

    I've been publishing monthly "best of" collections to highlight what I think is my best work that might have flown under the radar:

    and here's my best work in December:
    And with that, my "year in review" series for 2009 comes to a close.  If you've found something useful, inspirational, or interesting on this site, there are many easy ways to support it:
    1. Pick up my revised and updated book, Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition ($12 paperback / $5 digital).
    2. Contribute to 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons.
    3. Subscribe: RSS feed, emailTwitter, YouTube channel 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, Delicious 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!  2009 was awesome, and 2010 is going to be amazing!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    The Most Read Posts in 2009 (No Matter When They Were Posted)

    I Want to Teach Forever has been around since July 24, 2007, but as I've noted many times, readership wasn't anything near what it was this year.  Most people have been discovering posts I wrote a year or two ago only recently, and so the majority of the ten most read posts this year were written earlier.  Since I don't have enough time to merit a "best of the decade" post, this is the best you're going to get.

    Hopefully if you'll find something you missed among these time-tested, popular posts:
    1. First Day of School - sample student surveys, parent letters, and more [8/22/07]
    2. Lesson Idea: Probability Using Deal or No Deal [2/9/08]
    3. Lesson Plan: Graphing on the Coordinate Plane using "Battleship" game [9/11/07]
    4. Sample 5E Lesson Plan: A Card Game for Combining Like Terms [8/16/07]
    5. Project Idea: Independent vs. Dependent Variables [10/13/07]
    6. Four Fun Ways to Review Factoring Trinomials [3/12/09]
    7. Adding and Subtracting Integers Card Game [10/29/07]
    8. Two Review Games: Multiplying Polynomials and FOIL [3/4/09]
    9. Three Fun Probability Games and Projects [8/11/09]
    10. Free Printable Graph Paper, Rulers and More [9/30/08]
    Did you discover something great here this year that was written in 2007 or 2008?  Share it in the comments.

    Read Every Special Series of 2009

    I've written several multi-post series this year, and in many ways, they're the stuff I'm most proud of.  They certainly helped bring a lot of new readers and colleagues that I've learned from.  Here's all of them in chronological order:
    1. 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons [weekly; started in January] - This project is still ongoing, as we've not yet reached 52 entries.  Send in your entries so we can wrap it up!
    2. The Mohawk Experiment: Year Two [February] - See the photo above.
    3. On Failure & On Success [March] - Reflections on the five biggest failures and successes of my 08-09 school year.
    4. Five for Friday [weekly; started in April] - Every week I share interesting, useful links from around the blogosphere and beyond.
    5. Big Idea Week [July] - Nothing short of revolutionary, game-changing ideas that I hope to help turn into a reality.
    6. History Week [August] - Seven lesson plans and projects from my years as a social studies teacher.
    7. Awesome Weekend Video [weekly; started in December] - Many more to come!
    There's a lot of new projects coming this year that I'm very excited about.  Stay tuned!

      Monday, January 4, 2010

      52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #38: Build a Classroom Library

      This week's entry comes from M Dahms, who has taught gifted and talented students in Queensland Australia for three years.  Check out her blog, A Reader's Community, which focuses on making the most out of the Reader's Workshop model.

      My advice is to build a classroom library. No matter what you teach, a classroom library can be a valuable addition to your classroom and to your teaching. When you have your own collection of books, students understand that you value books and therefore you value reading. Furthermore, you're able to keep a contained classroom, which the students can be proud of.

      For any teachers who stay in the same classroom all the time, this is a lot easier. Collect some books; beg, borrow or steal some sort of book display device (book trolley, book shelves, random cupboard), arrange your books in an attractive display (I like to put them into containers so they face outwards, students are more likely to look through them then) and invite the children to use them. For teachers who move around, put together a small, quality collection and make use of trolleys to take it with you.

      How can you use your classroom library? Well obviously for reading, whether you use it with the workshop method or for silent reading. For writing, you can provide reference and example books. For math, fill up with math dictionaries and reference texts, books on mathematicians and great moments in maths, for science and history books which are relevant to the topic. You can use them for research, for jigsaw activities, for debates, for fast finishers - the options are endless.

      Arguably, the most important thing we can give students is the ability to read, and the knowledge that reading is important no matter what you do. A classroom library can help you give this to every student you teach!

      Read more about this project here, then email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 39 is scheduled for next Monday, January 11th, but there is no entry in the queue.  I will continue posting entries until the series is complete, but I won't be focusing on it as much as I did last year.

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

      Sunday, January 3, 2010

      The Most Overlooked Posts of 2009

      I wrote a lot in 2009, more than I had in any year previous.  This means there was a lot to read, and I feel that some of my best work ended up slipping by unnoticed.  That's my opinion of course, and ultimately you are the judge.  Here's ten of my favorite (but not widely read) posts of 2009, in no particular order:
      1. Finding Life in Death - My uncle's death earlier this year forced me to reflect on my life and career.
      2. What Stephen Colbert Teaches Us About Effective Presentations
      3. How to Make Feature-Length Films Fit into a Class Period
      4. The Golden Girls Guide to Telling a Great Story 
      5. The Book That Made Me Love Math (and the Class it Inspired)
      6. What Teachers Can Learn from Billy Mays 
      7. What 21st Century Skills Should Mean 
      8. Send Yourself to Language School This Summer - My experience in a Spanish immersion program and why you should consider it if you teach a lot of Spanish-speaking ELLs.
      9. Detroit, Boston and the Great Single-Sex School Debate
      10. 3 Ways to Use Microcredit to Invest Your Students
      Is there a favorite post of yours that even I've overlooked?  Share it in the comments.

      Saturday, January 2, 2010