Monday, October 31, 2011

Singing About Domain and Range (Again)

Today I'm performing the Domain & Range Song for my math models students:

I'll let you know how it goes this time around with my kids, but feel free to show it (or perform it) for your own.  In the meantime, read the original post on how and why to use ideas like this in your classes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Reader on What Needs to Change in Education

17 Signs Your Classroom is Behind the Times [SimpleK12]

Why Alternative Education Needs to Go Mainstream [GOOD]

Remediation Nation: Why College Students Say High School Needs Change [GOOD]

Top 10 Signs Your School Is Caught in a Time Warp: List for School Leaders [The 21st Century Principal]

Good Teaching Trumps Hi-Tech [The Quick & The Ed] - Let's remember that just purchasing technology or putting it in student's hands doesn't excuse us from good teaching that utilizes it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Updated Newspaper Math Activity

One of my favorite classroom tools is the newspaper, and I'm excited to reintroduce it to my classes this year.  I updated this 2007 newspaper activity focused on rates, ratios and proportions.  In the activity, students are directed to specific sections of our local newspaper where there's data like currency exchange rates, gas prices, and our team's football statistics and use those numbers to solve problems.

It's designed specifically for my local paper, but you should easily be able to adapt it to your own.  I purchased enough papers for groups to share to keep costs (and mess) low and also picked up a stack of (free) flyers from our local supermarket chain.  The latter was used for students to find examples of rates and unit rates.

Updated Newspaper Math Activity on rates, ratios and proportions 

Here's a collection of the newspaper math activities I've used over the years:

Using the Newspaper in Algebra I
More Ways to Use Newspapers in Algebra I
Even More Ways to Use the Newspaper in Algebra I

You can find more ideas for using newspapers in the classroom in my book Ten Cheap Lessons.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Four Classroom Ideas I've Recently Rediscovered

I've had to dive deep into my bag of tricks this year to help my struggling students improve.  Here are some of the lessons and ideas I've used since school started:

Math in the Real World Project
Project Idea: Independent vs. Dependent Variables
Getting student feedback: October 2008 edition
Linear Equations Formula Book

I hope you find some of them helpful!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Are College Students Really Underprepared?

ExamSome alarming studies have been published in the last decade which show many graduates of American high schools are not prepared for entry-level college coursework. The percentages given in the various studies differ widely, but one found approximately half of all students entering post-secondary institutions (40 percent of those entering four-year colleges and 60 percent of those entering two-year colleges) are required to take remedial courses in math, reading, or both before beginning entry-level college courses.

What makes a student ready for college? Obviously academic experience is key. Students who take more high school courses in English, math, and science have greater success in college and are more likely to complete a college degree. Students with higher ACT and SAT scores also tend to be more successful in college. However, other factors play a role, and more than just academic knowledge is necessary to make a smooth transition to college.

Some non-academic skills critical to scholarly success include time management, goal-setting, and enough self-esteem to believe one is able to do college-level work. Courses on conventional campuses and online college classes both require students to work much more independently, with less supervision and teacher assistance, than do high school courses. Higher-level critical thinking skills are also required.

Studies show fundamental differences in expectations between the standardized tests used in many states to qualify students for high school graduation, and those used by many universities to determine placement in remedial or entry-level coursework. High school graduation tests in math contain items more likely to be open-ended and set in realistic situations, while college admission and placement tests require logic, procedural knowledge, and problem-solving. High school tests also rarely include material beyond first-year algebra, but college tests routinely include material in second-year algebra and trigonometry. In tests of reading, high school tests measure comprehension using multiple choice questions, while college tests assess students' ability to draw inferences and conclusions.

There are also significant differences between coursework requirements for high school graduation and for college admission. In many states, students who have taken the courses required for high school graduation haven't met the minimum requirements for college admission.

Many studies have recommended closer collaboration between high school and university curriculum planners so that college-level thinking skills are developed much earlier. Some states are changing their high school graduation requirements to coincide with college entrance requirements, but much more work needs to be done to ensure that consistency nationwide. Efforts are also underway in many communities to encourage more academic rigor in middle school.

Unfortunately, the gap between high school graduation and college readiness isn't one that can be bridged overnight. It will take a concerted effort by educators, lawmakers, universities, and students themselves to make the necessary strides.

This is a guest post by Marina Salsbury.  Marina planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes around the Web about everything from education to exercise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

5 More Seth Godin Ideas Every Educator Should Read

This past summer I shared 5 Seth Godin Ideas Every Educator Should Read, but I knew I'd have more of his wisdom to share in short order.  Here you go:

The warning signs of defending the status quo - You won't hear me arguing to change for the sake of change, but these are things to consider when there's uncomfortable changes on the horizon.

Back to (the wrong) school - Echoing Sir Ken Robinson, Godin points out that we're preparing students for an economy (and world) that no longer exists.

Confusing obedience with self-control - I'm having trouble thinking of examples of how we don't do this in most schools.

The facts - Applied to teaching: you need more than facts (you'll fail if you don't complete this, you'll get in trouble if you do that) to convince your students of anything.

Yelling and whispering -"Yelling... is a waste of time, regardless of how urgent the issue is."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Teaching Economics with Games and Activities

The field of Economics is at the cornerstone of our everyday existence. There is no aspect of our day to day functioning that it does not impact in some way, shape or form.

Whether we’re shopping at the local mall, dining out at a restaurant, toiling away at our jobs, or simply having our cars serviced, there’s no escaping its basic principles, practices and reach. That is exactly why today’s student benefits from understanding its relevance and how it defines and shapes the future.

Even though it’s a serious topic, class instruction doesn't have to be boring and strictly “by the book.” You’ll find that the class environment and experience will be much more enjoyable and enlightening through combining various teaching methods, including games and activities. Games and activities are great teaching tools to encourage interaction, comprehension and retention.

With this in mind, here are a few creative and fun ways to teach learners of varying ages and levels about economics.

1. Schoolhouse Rock Series - Have you heard of this clever product? For those that haven’t, Schoolhouse Rock was a series created by David McCall that made learning various subjects really cool and fun. Inspired back in the ’70s when his son was having difficulty remembering and mastering mathematical concepts, he came up with the idea of using rock music as a teaching tool, and produced a line of musical educational products that addressed an array of subjects---from math, to grammar, to the constitution, It originally aired as musical shorts on Saturdays, back in the ’70s on ABC, but all of the original videos are available on DVD. Its effectiveness existed in using key phrases, colorful language, alliteration and other devices to boost memory and to create lasting connections.

2. Monopoly Game - Monopoly is a board game originally created by Parker Bros that imparts important and useful concepts and vocabulary words for students of economics. Participants will use strategy to buy and sell property, learn about applicable taxes, and handle money transactions in the process. Hugely popular, the game is still enjoyed today by adults as well. Besides the fun factor, it’s a great way to incorporate aspects of monetary economics.

3. Add technology to your assignments. Online activities can also bring a new dimension to your efforts. There are many online resources that provide puzzles, worksheets, vocabulary lessons, and even interesting links to follow. How do you find them? Simply “Google” the key words in the search engine. For example, to find your subject, type in “economic games” and you’ll yield a listing of perhaps thousands of leads. The more specific your inquiry, the more successful the search. Try it.

4. Bring students current on current events. Bring a recent newspaper to class and find relevant headlines that can be discussed in the classroom. For example, President Obama’s job creation plan, or the rising price of gas. The want ads can be used to discuss career goals, entrepreneurship, and taxes. Sales ads can be the catalyst for a conversation of wants vs. needs. Get the picture?

Follow these four techniques and tools to make learning economics a fun and rewarding experience for your students. Also, keep in mind that we are living in a day and age (and video culture), where “entertainment value” is increasingly important, even in the classroom.

This is a guest post by Troy Edwards, who writes for the blog What is Economics? where you can learn about and study economics 101. He has been in education for 10 years as a teacher and administrator. Currently, Troy is a math and social studies teacher in a special settings school for disadvantaged students.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Student Self-Publishing, Solar Energy Lessons & More

Tikatok Across the Curriculum - This Barnes & Noble-owned website, which allows kids to publish their own books, will be releasing a free series of activities, projects and more for incorporating writing across the curriculum in grades K-8 over the next year.  There will be one new module released each month on their website.

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Curriculum - There was an exciting event going on recently on the National Mall: teams of college students from around the planet are showing off solar-powered houses that aim to maximize efficiency while keeping costs low (and designing something people might actually want to live in).  The DOE has created four lesson plans on solar energy for middle and high school students to supplement the event.

28 Creative Ideas for Teaching with Twitter [MindShift] - See my earlier posts Weekend Reader on Social Media in the Classroom - Sept 2011 and 5 Thoughts & Ideas for Embracing Social Media in Education.

A Non-Designer's Guide to Creating Awesome Diagrams for Slides [Lifehacker] - If you must make slides (please don't), here's some creative guidance.

Learning Anywhere, Anytime: MIT Bringing Education to Cell Phones [GOOD] - For more on using cell phones in education, read last month's Weekend Reader on Cell Phones in the Classroom.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Using Comic Books & Graphic Novels in the Classroom

This is a guest post by elementary teacher and frequent contributor Adrian Neibauer. You can reach him on

Graphic Novels
Photo courtesy: Enokson
WHY use comic books/graphic novels in the classroom?

The short answer: I teach by whatever means necessary…even comic books.

The long answer: I use comic books/graphic novels in my classroom because I intend to change the way teachers look at literacy instruction. I want to give teachers supplemental literacy instructional tools: comic books and graphic novels, in order to increase their male students’ level of intrinsic reading motivation. I want to prove to parents and educators that I can adequately teach students to use critical thinking skills and reading strategies with comic literature.

Here are some great resources for those just starting out:
Most local comic book stores have $1.00 comics. It is probably the cheapest reading material I can find, and it is great for buying multiple copies for a guided reading table. Just be sure to read/preview any/all comics you purchase.

Graphic novels are a bit longer and more expensive, but they make some great ones for potential novel studies…especially if you want to read a classic and compare it to the graphic novel version.

I created interactive SMART board lessons for each of the eight essential reading strategies I intended to teach: Inference, Questioning, Prediction, Summary, Connections, Visualizing, Determining Important Ideas, and Synthesis. I also included an introduction to reading comic literature so that every student enters each lesson with a basic schema regarding how to read a comic book/graphic novel. I intended for this curriculum to take about nine weeks to teach, with one week dedicated to each of the reading strategies and the introduction. However, I want to reiterate that this comic curriculum is only meant to supplement already best reading instructional practices taking place in the classroom; therefore, teachers can use these lessons as they see fit in their classroom.

Throughout this process, I encountered some challenges. Each interactive SMART board lesson took considerable time to create. At times, I struggled with embedding various comic examples from my newly purchased books within each lesson. I do not own a scanner, so I relied on the Internet and my document camera to display the graphic novel example(s). There is a growing popularity in digital comic literature, but as with any new technology, it is not free. In the future, I plan to pursue this option.

Marvel's Digital Comics is a great resource for grades 4-5 or for anyone with a projector. You can view free samples of tons of great comics. NOTE: Always preview any literature, even comic literature, before showing it to students.

Marvel Kids is geared for the younger grades (K-3).

Adventures in Graphica by Terry Thompson is by far the BEST book of teachers wanting to get some comics and start teaching. Terry has amazing lessons that are ready to use for any classroom!

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. Great for anyone interesting in a more in-depth analysis of comic literature. It is written in comic format, which makes some of the heavier concepts easier to understand.

Basically, use what you have available. Teach student to read comics correctly, and then you can easily make the transition to regular text. DO NOT let anyone tell you that comics are easier reading than traditional literature. I own a copy of the graphic novel adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report. It is a DIFFICULT book!

Finally, present comics as just another medium for traditional genres. There are comic mysteries, memoirs, short stories, poetry, you name it. Don’t feel like you need to be an expert. Kids love learning/exploring new and uncharted territory together with you. Just have fun reading!

Friday, October 7, 2011

5 Resources for Connecting Math to the Real World

Move Over, Sal Khan: Sixth-Graders Create Their Own Math Videos! [Mind/Shift] - Kids using screencasting software, tablet computers and the web to make math tutorial videos.

Flickr: Math in the Real World [via Twitter] - Looks like a class project idea to me! See also Flickr: MAA Found Math's Photostream.

Ideas to Make Math Exciting [via Twitter] - Aimed at helping early elementary and other younger kids.

How Do We Get More Students Interested in Math, Science & Tech Careers? [INFOGRAPHIC] [Mashable!]

When Will I Use This? Why Math Education Needs to Adapt to the Real World - Education - GOOD