Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Contest: Win an Interactive Classroom Makeover Worth $75K

Edtech company eInstruction has launched the 2010 Interactive Classroom Makeover Contest, where you could win up to $75,000 worth of resources for your students.  Winners will be chosen in three categories: grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

All you have to do is create a music video demonstrating your ideal vision of tech usage in your transformed classroom.  Check out this awesome winning video for the K-5 category in 2009:

Entries will be accepted until November 3, 2010.  Sounds like a good class project even if you don't end up winning!

2010 Interactive Classroom Makeover Contest

Monday, August 30, 2010

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons: Let's Complete This Project!

At the beginning of 2009, I launched a collaborative project called 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons. The idea was that every week for an entire year, different teachers from around the globe would share their advice by answering this framing question:

What is the most important advice you can give to other teachers?

Entries came in from everywhere, but unfortunately, the project stalled after 39 weeks of great ideas. I shelved it indefinitely, but I knew that one day I would finish what I had started.

Today is that day. I'm asking 13 more teachers to contribute 13 short, simple lessons so that we can complete this project in 13 consecutive weeks.  Here are the details:
Email me (teachforever AT gmail DOT com) a short, 100-300 word submission along with your name, where & what you teach, and your blog or website (not required). I will omit any information you don't want published--you can be anonymous if you'd like (but please email all the information anyway, as it is interesting to me).

There are no qualifications to write besides being a current (or retired!) teacher; you can submit no matter your subject, grade level, school type, or country. Just try to write with the largest number of teachers in mind (all of them if possible). I do reserve the right to choose what will or won't be published (just like the Carnival of Education) and will likely post things in the order they were submitted (although I am flexible).
You can find all of the original entries in one place here.  I'm hoping to kick things off with Lesson #40 next Monday, and continue every week until we're finished.  Need more reasons to contribute?  Watch this video I made just after Thanksgiving last year:

One last thing: I'm happy to give each participant a digital copy of either one of my books, Ten Cheap Lessons or Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word, your choice.  I'm looking forward to your new ideas!

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons Project

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Upcoming Graphic Novel Explains the Origin of Life on Earth

Last month, I recommended the graphic novel BANG! The Universe Verse: Book 1 for anyone trying to teach kids about the Big Bang, physics and more.  In the meantime, author James Dunbar launched a project on fundraising site Kickstarter to support the creation of Book 2.  I'm happy to report he already hit his original goal of $1,000 to make that happen, but he's now set the bar higher: if he can raise $5,000, he'll make Book 2 freely available online just as he did with Book 1.

He's nearly there ($3,900 as of this writing), so I'm urging all of my readers to help.  Depending on how much you pledge, there are some great rewards available:
If anyone pledges $15 or more they will receive a signed and numbered, limited first-edition copy of "It's Alive! The Universe Verse: Book 2," about the origin of life on Earth, as soon as it comes out.  For just $5 they'll receive a PDF of the book, and anyone who pledges just $1 or more will get to follow the making of the book, including a sneak-peek of the manuscript and the preliminary sketches.
Dunbar has a lot more in store for us if he raises $5,000:
The more money I raise the quicker I'll be able to finish illustrating Book 2 and the better it will be.  And the sooner I'll be able to illustrate Book 3, publicize actively, develop accompanying lesson plans, test with teachers, apply for grants, and collaborate with programmers, animators, musicians, writers, artists, and so on until I've made the most inspiring and engaging science-education resource I can imagine (probably a super-interactive digital version & a beautiful, hard-cover, pop-up paper one).  The dream is to bring scientific literacy and curiosity to as many children as possible and I'd really appreciate your help!
Click through the link above to learn more about his Kickstarter project (and perhaps contribute).  You can read my original review here, and get more information about Dunbar and his project here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Essential Back to School Reading: Week 4

Addressing Comprehension Errors [Creating Lifelong Learners] - Things to think about when creating assessments, preparing students to take them, and how to reteach.

Teaching and boxing [Lance Bledsoe] - What new teachers can learn from the sweet science.

Effectively Managing Your CYA (Cover Your A**) Folder [Math Tales from the Spring] - How to make sure you're ready for unexpected absences you'll take at some point.

Fidgeting and Doodling Could Be Unconscious Focus Tools [Lifehacker] - Keep this in mind before you jump down any kid's throat.

How Steve Jobs beats presentation panic [Macworld via Lifehacker] - If you're doing a lesson using a LCD projector, a computer, the Internet, and/or any technology, occasionally you're going to run into problems.  In this article, we learn how Apple's CEO keeps a presentation going smoothly even when things don't work as planned.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Domain and Range Song World Premiere! [Video]

Season 2, Episode 1:

Here are the lyrics to the song:
To the tune of “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce

To the right, to the right
To the right, to the right
Everything in the domain from the left to the right

On the graph, domain’s the x
From least to greatest, and here's what's next
I'm talking about the range--that's the y
how far up and down the graph goes at the same time
Put those in order from least to greatest too
So you can answer the questions that I gave you

Sitting in Mr. D's class, thinking bout how he's such a fool,
How we'll never ever forget how to do
domain and range yeah

You must now know domain, you must now know the range
I can help you understand in a minute
Matter fact, you’ll pass the test in a minute, baby

You must now know domain, you must now know the range
I can help you understand for tomorrow
So don’t you ever for a second ever forget, domain and range!

So when you have a coordinate point
A pair of (x, y), just remember this
Baby the first number’s the domain,
The second number’s the range
Cause the truth of the matter is… domain and range are so is easy!

Read about how I originally used this in class in Teaching Domain and Range (with a little help from Beyonce), and then read even more about it from my 2008 book, Ten Cheap Lessons: Easy, Engaging Ideas for Every Secondary Classroom.

Mr. D TV is my weekly teacher advice video series.  I cover just about any topic related to education and teaching.  If you have a question you'd like me to answer, email me (teachforever@gmail.com). If you like the video, check out last season's finale and my YouTube channel for more.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Do You Love About Your Job in Education?

Kindergarten teacher extraordinaire Mr. Halpern, who blogs at Look at my happy rainbow!, just wrote a great post about why he loves his job. This is a time of year to make sure you have an answer to that question, because it's going to frame your entire year.  It's not just a question for teachers, either; it's for school leaders, district administrators, and everyone else within the ed sphere.

If you're having trouble thinking of anything, you really need to reevaluate why you're working in education in the first place. You don't have to love everything about it--very few do--but there should be something that you absolutely adore.

So what do you love about your job in education?

Share your answers in the comments, Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

3 Years of I Want to Teach Forever = 3 Chances to Win My Book!

Today is the third anniversary of this blog. In marriages, the third year is traditionally the leather anniversary, which not coincidentally hearkens back to the nascent days of pro football.

Normally this might not be important to you, but if you'd like to get one of three digital copies of Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job, you're going to have to know something about football.  Specifically, you're going to have to figure out my favorite NFL team.

Longtime (and I mean looooooooooongtime) readers will have no trouble naming my team, but the majority of you will have to dig through this blog's archives to find out.  The first three readers to contact me via Twitter or Facebook with the name of my favorite NFL team will recieve a free digital copy of Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word.

Good luck!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wild Ride to the Heart Game Helps Kids Deal With Emotions

A new board game called Wild Ride to the Heart is a fun, engaging way to teach young children how to deal with often difficult emotions.  This would be a great resources for parents, teachers, counselors, after school programs, social workers, and anyone else who works with kids.

Players move around the board towards the heart, thinking and talking about different emotions along the way.  Generally speaking, dealing with emotions positively moves you forward while losing control sends you backwards.  That message is important for young children by itself, and it's fundamental to winning the game.

Before and during the game, players are encouraged to talk about emotions with their own stories and experiences.  This ensures that you're reinforcing the lessons and offering plenty of opportunities for teachers and parents to dive deeper into often difficult emotions that will undoubtedly surface.

What makes the game most valuable for parents and teachers are the Tools of the Game, a procedure that kids follow when they land on one of the faces on the board.  They can either show a matching face, tell a story about a time they experience that emotion, or "Go to the Heart".  That last one means they perform a sort of calming exercise while focusing on their heart.  It's very simple and I think would be very fun for young children up to 3rd grade.

I think some people might assume that you would only play this with children who were having a lot of trouble controlling their emotions.  The game clearly provides a safe environment for kids to talk about emotions, and should be very helpful with kids already having problems.  Yet I would urge parents and teachers to play this will all students, even those who appear emotionally healthy, as serious emotional issues can show up or develop later.  By giving kids a good foundation, you're setting them on a path to deal with whatever comes their way.

GIVEAWAY ALERT! I'm giving away the copy of the game I received from the Institute of HeartMath, which includes the complete game as well as background information on the Institute.  For a chance to win, contact me via Twitter or Facebook only and tell me who you would play this game with and why before Friday 8/27.  I'll pick one winner randomly.

The game is actually very inexpensive ($14.95 before shipping) and worth your money.  Order it direct from the Institute here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Essential Back to School Reading: Week 3

6 Back to School Tips to Organize Your Classroom [TeachHUB]

1st Day Parent Homework [Math Tales from the Spring] - Here's another version of a parent letter to help you develop your own.

This Year Will Be The Best School Year Ever [So You Want to Teach?]

Dancing Toward Uncertainty [GOOD] - How to learn from your students.

5 Readings and 2 Videos to Help Others Get Going with Personal Learning Networks [The Innovative Educator] - You're going to need help this year.  We all will.  Luckily, it's not hard to find any more, and this is a great guide to building your own professional development quickly and easily.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Best Advice for the First Days of School

Today I'm invoking an old education cliche: good teachers know how to beg, borrow and steal.  That truism has a root in a much older one: there's no need to reinvent the wheel.  Keeping both in mind, here's six pieces of advice I wrote last year to help get you ready for the first days of school:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lies My High School Teacher Told Me: How to Better Prepare Your Students for College

As someone who recently graduated from college, I can attest to the fact that most high schools do not adequately prepare their students for the critical secondary school-university transition. College, of course, is already a huge shock of change after change. For many first-year college students, they will experience for the first time what it's like to live without their parents. They will also be surrounded by a fresh set of friends and peer pressure that is one step above what most experience in high school.

To soften the blow, I believe it is absolutely critical that high school teachers, especially those instructing junior and seniors, give their pupils a more realistic academic experience that closely resembles a college environment. Since I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and attended a public high school there, I also know first-hand some of the unique challenges presented to Valleyites who first make that leap into the higher education unknown. Here are some tips.

1. Don't remind your students of deadlines.

One aspect of my first year college experience that I had a particularly tough time getting accustomed to was the lack of hand-holding. This was especially true when it came to deadlines. Professors gave students syllabi at the beginning of the semester, and these deadlines were expected to be met without reminders. Do your students a favor and give them some personal responsibilities when it comes to time management. 

2. Encourage class participation--both in and out of the classroom.

By far the most enriching part--academically and personally--about my university experience was developing an intellectual relationship with my professors. At first, I was shy, but as time wore on I realized how much more rewarding the process of learning can be when you stop keeping your curiosity to yourself. Unfortunately, I missed out on much of the student-professor interaction simply because I wasn't used to it from being a student in high school.

While of course, student-teacher interaction at the high school level has many more limits than it does in college, a high school teacher can prepare the college student to-be by encouraging frank discussion and participation. Let students know that you are willing to talk about academics outside of the classroom in a professional environment.

3. For RGV students, prepare your students for social, cultural, and racial diversity.

The Valley is in many ways a great place in which to grow up. However, as anyone who has lived in the RGV for some time knows, the area is very heavily influenced by Hispanic and Catholic cultural values. When I moved from the Valley to a university in a very urban setting, I experienced a heavy dose of culture shock. I interpreted the idea of "personal space" as coldness, simply because in the Valley, closeness to kin and friends is the region's hallmark. I was also ill-prepared for the diversity of opinions on a range of topics. Especially if you teach social science courses in Valley schools, be sure to address some of these issues.

This guest post is contributed by Kate Cunningham, who writes on the topics of online university rankings. She welcomes your questions and comments: cn.kate1 @ gmail.com.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Essential Back to School Reading: Week 2

6 Back to School Essentials for High Schoolers [Wise Bread]

Ten Helpful Reads When Planning for an Innovative 2010/2011 School Year [The Innovative Educator]

Classroom Management for the Secondary Math Classroom [Math Tales From the Spring] - Pretty much of all of Mrs. H's advice applies to any and all secondary classrooms (except for the rules about calculators).

Top 20 Websites No Teacher Should Start The Year Without [Making Teachers Nerdy via Shelly Terrell] - Don't worry, it's not a list of education/teacher blogs, but more a collection of practical resources.

How to Make This Year The Best of Your Career [So You Want to Teach?]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Giveaway: C-SPAN in the Classroom & Jamestown Settlement Swag

This week's giveaway is a combination of free swag I picked up from C-SPAN in the Classroom while at last month's National Charter Schools Conference and some great U.S. History materials that once adorned my classroom walls.  The winner will receive everything seen above, including:
  • 1 reusable C-SPAN in the Classroom tote
  • 1 C-SPAN American Presidents Timeline poster
  • 1 C-SPAN pencil
  • A souvenir Virginia licence plate & frame commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement in 2007
  • Set of 6 postcards from the historic Jamestown Glasshouse
  • 1 glass paperweight hand-crafted at the Glasshouse (it says "Discover Jamestown" around the edge, surrounding an image of the iconic ships that brought settlers there.
A great gift or jackpot for any U.S. History teachers out there, and it's free to the first person to email me the answer to this (easy) trivia question:

What crop did the Jamestown settlers begin to grow that saved the colony and soon became the most important crop for the economy of the southern colonies?

Send your response to teachforever@gmail.com.  Good luck!

UPDATE 8/13: We have a winner!  Thank you to everyone who wrote in--everyone who did knew the correct answer: tobacco.  Remember, I'm doing giveaways like this every week in August, so keep checking back to see what you can win!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great Teachers are Already Masters of Inception

If you haven’t seen Inception, I won’t spoil it for you, but it revolves around a simple question: Is it possible to place an idea in someone’s head, so that they believe they came up with it themselves?  This process is called inception.

In the film’s opening moments, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character explains that an idea is more powerful and virulent than the nastiest virus—once it’s in your head, it’s almost impossible to get out. True enough. Yet all the characters also work off the premise that inception is difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. I disagree: great teachers master this skill and use it from the first day of school.

It's no secret that good teachers work to make the transition from providing information to providing the opportunity for students to learn on their own.  When teachers become facilitators, that's when students start learning amazing things.  That's inception.

Inception also happens when teachers set out clear expectations on the first day of school and model them consistently throughout the year.  Now you might say, "but that's not the same thing.  You're planting the idea and eventually they just following along."  With certain things, you're right.  If you tell them they should do something because you as the teacher think it's important, some students will follow suit.  But make no mistake: no student will ever buy in completely if you straight up tell them something.  At the risk of sounding too existential, a lot of it is just about being there.

I'm a believer that who you are as a person can make all the difference in what will happen in your classroom in a given year.  Students observe you and other and ultimately make their own decision.  If you lead them down a path to success without really trying, just by being there, that's also inception.

So teachers, I challenge you: can you get deep enough inside your students' minds to plant a good idea?  I think you can.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Teachers and Social Media: Dos and Don'ts

As technology continues to evolve and encroach upon every facet of our daily lives, the line between public and private spheres turns more and more gray. And with new social networks popping up every day, it seems almost impossible to keep your private life truly private anymore. As a teacher, and a normal human being, where does the classroom end and your real life begin? Can you truly keep your personal life separate from the professional atmosphere of your school life? Are you always a teacher, and never a person? Or are you able to distinguish and keep isolated your two different social worlds? Are you able to trudge the fine line separating what you deem private and what you deem public?

Making sure you adhere to a few simple guidelines regarding online interactions can keep you and your personal life safe from prying eyes. Consider the following three suggestions for protecting yourself in the world of social media, and you'll keep the line between your public and private lives distinct.
  1. Double check your privacy settings. Within most social networks on the internet – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter – you control the privacy settings of your personal account. This function allows you to choose who you want and who you don't want to view your personal profile. Take extra care when reading through these options and be sure to choose one that allows you to maintain your freedom within the confines of your personal account without having to make certain compromises for certain audiences. You can even choose to only allow those you're friends with to see your profile, insuring that students, parents, and administrators don't have access to your personal account and information.
  2. Be careful who you add. Friend requesting is the easiest thing to do on most of these social networks. Anyone – from friends and family to students and coworkers – can locate you and request to be your friend by simply typing in your name. Don't add anyone who you don't want seeing your personal account. If you've already adjusted your privacy settings, then those who aren't your friends won't be able to access your profile. This is probably the most integral part of maintaining that line between personal and professional. After making sure to mark your profile private, only allow your closest friends and family to have access to view your account. This is the true purpose of the social media, anyway, functioning as a convenient way to communicate with those you ordinarily wouldn't be able to.
  3. Don't go phishing. Identity theft and scams are one of the biggest issues surrounding these social networks. It's all too easy for random strangers to collect your personal information by tricking you into giving away personal information – usernames, passwords, credit card numbers – by dragging you to outside websites and promising you Ipods if you finish thirty surveys. These phishing scammers can easily collect all your private information and create profiles and accounts using your own identity, impersonating you for all the world to see and leaving your reputation and integrity vulnerable to scrutiny and defamation.
Carol Montrose is a writer for Online MBA Rankings where you can browse the top online MBA programs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Essential Back to School Reading: Week 1

Tips for New Teachers [Webmaths]

Mind the Gap: Taking Attendance [GOOD] - A teacher offers ideas and solutions for a class with poor attendance.

Recipe for Success [Math Tales from the Spring] - A simple takeaway from this post: if you focus too much on the negative, you'll forget there's so many positives!

Talking Out Loud Improves Memory Retention [Lifehacker] - This is why successful teachers always have kids repeat back instructions, ideas and ask whole group questions instead of just telling their students everything.  They also tend to let students talk out problems and work collaboratively instead of having them sit silently and work independently at all times.

The problems with Lemov's Teach Like a Champion [The Number Warrior] - A companion piece to a book that a lot of teachers will be referencing as they get ready to go back to school this year.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Book Giveaway You Have to Give Away

As promised, it's time for the first weekly giveaway of Back to School Month 2010.  This giveaway is a chance to get the digital version of my new book, Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job.  All you have to do is tell me who you're going to give it to when you're done reading it, and why.  The most compelling explanation of who you'll share it with and why will win.

It's important to me that my work gets in the hands of people who need it, even if that means giving it away.  So I'll be picking one winner daily, starting today and ending next Wednesday 8/11.

Three** options to enter:
  1. Leave me a public tweet on Twitter (mention @teachforever09 and include the hashtag #contest)
  2. Leave a message on our Facebook page with the same tag. 
  3. Post your who and why in the comments section of this post.
Please include the tag!  Enter as many times as you like between now and Wednesday, 8/11.  I'll be contacting winners for their email address each day, so make sure you're check the page where you entered every day this week!

Winners will be announced daily in the comments, on Twitter and Facebook.  No entries will be accepted via email--you know where to go!

**I added the option of leaving a comment since Twitter and Facebook are often blocked at schools, and I certainly don't want to keep educators from entering.  Good luck!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Importance of Selling Your Students on Your Big Goals

The last couple of years I've had the opportunity to help out new high school math Teach for America Corps Members get ready for their first day of school in the Rio Grande Valley. TFA asks their teachers to make qualitative (problem solving skills, college readiness, etc) as well as quantitative (test scores, grades, etc) yearly goals well before school starts, which is a good idea for everyone to do.  Last year, a new teacher who had put a lot of work into her ambitious course goals asked me, “How do I invest my students in these goals?

First, I assured her that preparation goes a long way towards setting the stage for student investment. Genuine enthusiasm for your subject and the big goals you set, the professional and confident way you carry yourself in the classroom, and the welcoming environment you create for your students send a clear message to your students without saying a word:

"I am here to help you learn. I care about your success. I will do what it takes to help you succeed. These goals carry importance for you far outside my classroom."

A lot of this preparation will show itself on the first few days of school, when most students will make up their minds about whether they're going to buy in your goals. I told her that the environment you create sends a message, but that you have to be as explicit as possible in stating what your goals are and why they are important. The “why” part is maybe more important than the goal itself—if you don't know the answer to the “why” question, it probably shouldn't be one of your goals. I guarantee you that your students will ask you “why” as well, whether it be in the form of, “Why do we need to learn this,” or “when are we ever going to use [lesson objective] in the real world?

Let's say one goal is for students to be able to know how to solve problems on their own, something this teacher and I had discussed. Solving challenging problems is not a course-specfic skill by any means, so you can tell your students that the skills you learn in math class are going to help them in every class they take. You should also connect this kind of skill to being prepared for college, and for being an independent adult in the real world. The message, as I said before, will be clear: This is going to help you for the rest of your life.

Of course, just conveying these messages on the first day of school will not be enough to fully invest any given student. You have to revisit your goals throughout the year. It will frame your design of a Do Now that accesses prior knowledge; it will be something you clearly state when kids get that “what is the point of this” look during a lesson. You'll design lessons and projects with these goals either implied or in plain sight.

There's also a reason why your goals should be not just about scores but skills: your multifaceted goals will allow you to tailor your message to particular students. The kid who has never passed a state test will like the idea that you will get them to pass and won't give up on them. The kid who's already decided they're going to college will be excited by the idea that you're teaching them real skills they need, not just teaching them a test they're already going to pass. And a whole lot of kids will buy in to the idea that you really care about them.

Good luck and keep planning--it will pay off over the long term!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What Veteran Teachers Wished They Had Known Before They Started

It's okay to be worried or nervous going into the first day of school, especially if you're a brand new teacher. Yet even those of us who have been in the classroom for years still get anxious and may even overlook some of the wisdom we've accumulated from time to time. Knowing this was a question on the mind of many young teachers, I reached out to my experienced friends and colleagues for their advice. I asked them to answer this question as succinctly as possible:

What's the one thing you wish someone had told you before your started your first full-time teaching job?

Here's what they had to say:
  • The most important things you'll teach your kids won't come from a textbook.
  • About special ed students...mods...IEP meetings...laws ...etc....
  • Make classroom management your top priority (because you can't teach and they won't learn if you don't have control of your classroom).
  • Be humble. You may have fantastic ideas, but you won't have a shot of working with others at your school to make them happen if you come across as a newbie know-it-all.
  • Growth is not just measured with numbers.
  • Be proactive, not reactive.
  • Take some time and watch everything that is going on around you. Once you figure out who they are, seek out that successful veteran teachers at your school and ask them for help.
  • Every student deserves an IEP.
  • Everything you think, say or do matters. Everything.
  • Treat your students like they are your own flesh and blood.
  • Remember that your kids are people, not machines. And remember that you are, too.
  • Remember to take some time for yourself, it will be appreciated by you, your friends, and your students.
  • Your students may not always listen, but they SEE everything--actions often speak louder than words.
  • Engage and utilize the resources around you. Other teachers... anyone who you can share your vision with. No one ever said you had to be the change you want to see solo.
  • If you're miserable, find anyone--significant other, roomie, advisor, shrink--who can help you take hold of your situation.
I know most of these revelations focus on big ideas, but that should be a lesson in and of itself: the big ideas are the ones that will shape your approach to everything you do, and hopefully set you up for success.

Experienced teachers, please share your tweet-sized answer in the comments so we can make these an even more valuable resource.

Monday, August 2, 2010

15 Classroom Uses for Printable Magnet Sheets

When I finished my DIY Tetris-style magnetic block project, I immediately began brainstorming more uses for these printable magnetic sheets.  I quickly amassed a list of 15 free, easy to make and use games, manipulatives, and practical items for the classroom.  Below you'll find ready-to-use printables as well as ideas you can adapt as needed.

1. DIY Magnetic Poetry - I had fun doing this with the scraps from my original project, as you can see.  Obviously the classroom applications for this are endless: create a set using any vocabulary, parts of speech, or sight words you want your kids to learn.  The size of each word is up to you and depends on what's appropriate for your kids.  Have your students manipulate them into sentences, create a story, fix an incorrect sentence, finish an incomplete statement, sort them by type, etc.  Create a magnetic word wall (just make sure they're words you want to reuse year after year).

2. Make contact info magnetic business cards for parents quickly and cheaply.

3. Art project to decorate your board, desk, filing cabinet, etc.  Make your own or ask your students to create it for you (a great classroom culture builder).

4. Holiday gifts for students, colleagues, or anyone who helped you during the school year.  You could use it for end of the year gifts as well.  Create art, print a class photo onto it, it's up to you to fill in the blank.

5. Tangrams - This is a novel alternative to cutting up paper to review spatial relations and geometry.  More applications for tangrams.

6. Jigsaw Puzzle - Print any relevant picture on the sheet, then take a Sharpie and draw some puzzlesque lines.  Warning: Don't go searching for free, printable blank jigsaw puzzles online-- you'll find too many malicious sites out there.  My PC is well protected, but yours might not be.  Better to avoid it altogether.

7. Geometric shapes to use as manipulatives.  Alternately, create a big shape that you can divide into fractional parts.

8. Calendar - Print your school's academic calendar so you never lose track of it.

9. Magnetic Sudoku - I created this 3 page PDF that contains the standard 9 of each digit from 1-9 that you can then arrange as needed.  Why pay for it when you can make it yourself?  Plus, you'll have leftover sheets for other projects from the list.

10. Create ships for my Battleship-style learning game.

11. Perpetual Calendar - This is one of my favorite brain teasers to give students, from the book Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities.  The original creation was two cubes with different sets of numbers on each one in such a way that you could make all the dates in a given month from 01 through 31.  The problem is there doesn't seem to be enough spaces on the two cubes to do so.  I won't spoil the solution, but if you download the PDF I created, you should be able to figure it out from there.

12. Connect Four-style game -  Download my printable PDF (which looks like the image you see on the left) and have at it!

13. Deck of Cards - Take any deck you have, and use a scanner to create images that you can print onto the sheets.  With standard cards, you can fit 9 cards per sheet if you line them up 3 by 3, so you would need 6 sheets total to create an entire, accurate deck.  Of course, you could always just make a few key cards.

14. Random Number Generator - Print out the Sudoku PDF, put the cut out pieces in a bag, and pull out as many digits as you need.

15. Label sections of your board: Do Now, Homework, Agenda, etc.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August Awesomeness is Here: It's Back to School Month

My summer blogging vacation is over, which means it's back to regular daily posting for me with one exception: no posts on Saturday. Go outside.  August means it's Back to School Month, and I've got a ton of big plans to get you ready:
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