Friday, March 27, 2015

Monster Math Freebie!

Ever wanted to try out my super cool Monster Math Battle tournaments...but weren't quite sure about it? Well, I made this little freebie just for you. This is a collection of three of my math battles so you can give it a try. 

Not sure what I'm talking about?! Well, you should definitely check these out. I've made several different tournaments where classic movie monster are dueling it out in a math battle! The kids love it, and don't even realize they are getting much needed practice. I also have a couple of different varieties of shorter Ninja vs. Samurai battles!

The tournaments are very reasonably priced, but whether you're ready to purchase a whole tournament or not, I hope you at least enjoy the freebie! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

NAPDS Days 2-3

Day 2 began with a light breakfast followed by an awards ceremony. After the awards, Alex Dixon and her mother took the stage. They shared Alex's story, which is a great example of how having grit can be more important to a child's growth than any other factor. 

The short version of Alex's story is that she suffered a stroke during an emergency brain surgery, which left her with none of her previous academic knowledge. She couldn't remember how to say her name, or even the alphabet. She worked hard to get herself to the point where she is now, an advanced math student who has overcome most of her physical disabilities. She's still working hard to become a better reader, and to regain full use of her right hand, but among other accomplishments, she has passed her high school exit exams. Overall, their presentation served as a great reminder of the power of perseverance.

In the afternoon of day 2 and all of day 3 I was able to go to several sessions, including two on closely related topics that I have dabbled in and have a lot of interest in pursuing further; service learning and Firefox Projects. The ideas of student choice in how they learn, bringing in the community to learn from, and serving the community in some way are all really appealing to me as a teacher.

I'd love to think more on how I can implement some of these concepts into some of the project based learning stuff we already do in my classroom. Have any of you ever done a Foxfire project?

Friday, March 6, 2015


I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend and present at the National Association for Professional Development Schools conference in Atlanta this year!

My team did a study on the perceived effectiveness of Penn State's preparation of new teachers regarding readiness to teach in classrooms with high diversity. Phwew, that's a mouthful! Basically, we wanted to know if the new teachers who were graduating from Penn State felt ready to teach in a classroom that had cultures different than their own. Our findings were really interesting, but hard to sum up in less than a 45 minute presentation! The basic theme we found was that the interns felt exceptionally well prepared to teach in general, but a little underprepared when it comes to authentic experiences with students in low socioeconomic situations, and with ELL students. 

We were lucky to be given a Thursday presentation slot, so now I get to sit back and enjoy attending all the other presentations!

Thursday's keynote speaker was Ron Clark from the Ron Clark Academy and also known from the movie The Ron Clark Story (where he was played by Matthew Perry)! And yes, I did just type Ron Clark three times in one sentence.

There is no doubt that Ron's presentation was highly engaging. He is full of energy, he's funny, he has a lot of great stories...but I left the conference room with mixed feelings.

Ron had a great analogy when it comes to the different kinds of teachers you find in schools. He described a school as a Fred Flintstone style bus. To keep the bus moving, you have to put your feet down and provide momentum. 

He described four types of teachers; Runners, Joggers, Walkers, and Riders. You've got the runners, who teach above and beyond. These are the people who take on every job, go to every dance recital, stay late, get there early, serve on a million committees...and do it all with a smile. Next, you've got your joggers, people who go above and beyond, usually THINK they are runners, but aren't actually doing everything they possibly could. The walkers are being dragged along by the runners, trying and usually failing to keep up with teaching trends, etc. Finally, the riders are the teachers that are sitting back and waiting it out until their retirements doing the same things they've done for 25 years.

I get the analogy. I've been a runner or a jogger for my entire career. This is where my mixed feelings came in. Ron said every teacher needs to be a runner all the time. If the people in your life aren't helping you run, he said you need to kick them off your bus. He said this applies to fellow teachers, administrators, and even wives and husbands. He said that if teachers on his bus want to jog or walk sometimes that they can get on a different bus...

I WANT to be a runner all the time. And I really try to run as much as possible. But I also have to recognize that my life has to consist of more than just my teaching. I invest much more time into my teaching than I think is healthy already! I love my kiddos, and I value them more than most other things in my life. But I do have other things in my life that also deserve my time and attention.

I also don't have the resources that Ron seems to have. He mentioned several lessons that he did with his kids, most of which seemed to be highly dependent on a gimmick of some sort that's purpose was to increase student engagement. Will I steal some of these ideas to do as a special activity? Absolutely, yes! I loved his ideas. But I simply can't afford to go out and buy 20 lab coats and goggles or 20 pairs of sunglasses or whatever material for 180 days of school, 5 subjects a day... And I don't feel it is reasonable to expect me to do that.

He also focused a LOT on how his methods impacted his state test scores. It really turned me off that he put so much effort into talking about test scores because I felt like he was validating them as a viable measure of teacher effectiveness...which they aren't.

On the other side of things, he did say some things that I think are very reasonable. Don't sit on your stool. If kids are in the classroom, you aren't on a chair. Move around. Smile. Do something that engages the kids as much as possible. Have high expectations for your kids and hold them to them. Don't "wussify" them. Teach to the top, not the middle. Don't spread poison in your school. Administration should celebrate their runners a bit more and get rid of the riders.

All in all, I enjoyed his presentation, and whether I'm fully on board with all of his thinking or did get me thinking. I wish I had the $700 it takes to visit his school for two days so that I could make a better judgement. 

Have any of you had the opportunity to hear him speak or visit his Academy? I'd love to hear your comments!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Our experience with MobyMax - plus, win a free year!

I was recently given the opportunity to try out MobyMax with my class. I have to admit that I hadn't heard of the site before, so I was anxious to see what it was all about!

They have a great introductory video on their site, but I'm going to point out some of the features I really liked. Check it out and if you like what you see, enter my drawing below for your chance to win a free year subscription for your class!

The subjects section gives you a good idea of the types of material the site covers. Each of these buttons will take the kids to a placement test, followed by practice with those skills. 
A lot of my kids felt that the placement tests were a little long, but I noticed that many of them completed the placement test and went immediately into the practice. The Fact Master activity is really informative to me as a teacher, because it is really easy to have the kids go through several facts in a short amount of time, and the site tracks it all for you. And unlike flash cards, every kid is actively engaged because no partners are needed!

My kids really like the Vocabulary section too, because they love learning new words.

 The classroom tools section has some really cool features too. The Messenger app lets kids send you messages directly from their account to you. The Wall is a place where you can post things for your kids to check out, like polls, messages, or assignments. 

 The next section is a lot of fun. "Vibes" can be assigned to kids for working hard, or even for being off task. It's a great way to give a little reminder or a little praise privately. My kids' favorite section was the Games section, of course. The Games section comes with a little feature that makes it really great, and makes the Subjects section more important to the kids. Basically, the kids add time to their game timer by completing sections in the Subjects area! So for every set number of minutes a kid is working on math facts, she is also earning herself a set number of minutes of game time. The amounts earned versus work put in or all adjustable too!

MobyMax is definitely worth checking out. In addition to the times that I have planned for my kids to do a particular activity on the site, my kids often choose to use it during recess on days when we can't go outside! Enter my raffle below for your chance to get a year's subscription free for your class!

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