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A Brilliant TED Talk!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Karen Justl, one of our district's technology coordinators, sent me a link to this TED talk by Dan Meyer.  Mr. Meyer is a high school math teacher, but what he has to say in this talk applies to math from Kindergarten through 12th grade. It's well worth 11 minutes of your me!

I am a big fan of Love & Logic for discipline.  I was fortunate enough to learn about it way back when I was student teaching.  I used in it my classroom and I use in now as a parent.  One of the central themes of Love & Logic is that we, as adults, need to have a "silent smile" when kids mess up.  As uncomfortable as it is to watch your child make a bad choice...the beauty of that bad choice is that it becomes an opportunity to learn something.  The same could be said of problem solving...we have to give children the opportunity to struggle, make choices, make bad choices, and learn from those mistakes.  It is in those mistakes that learning...real learning...can occur.

There's another tenet of Love & Logic where I see a huge connection to problem has to be real. With Love & Logic, kids have opportunities to make decisions in the real world & then they have to live with the natural consequences (good or bad) of their decisions.  I love the examples that Mr. Meyer gave about how to take a textbook problem & make it real.  That's what math is about - real life!!  When you're trying to figure out something mathematically there's nothing there to break the problem down into steps for you...there isn't a "math expert" standing right beside you to help you solve the problem (usually!).  Regardless of the grade we teach, we could all take a word problem from the textbook and tweak it just a bit so that is becomes the students.

Ask fewer & shorter questions...and be less helpful. It's the most helpful thing you can do!

A Little Better

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The latest version of the proposed Mathematics TEKS can be found by clicking HERE.

Check them out...they are slightly more reasonable than the last version...and a little easier to read and understand!

What the State Board of Education decides to do with these is anyone's guess...they met yesterday to discuss this latest version.  I got to watch part of their discussion via a live webcast.  It was quite interesting...they were very concerned about making sure that there was alignment between Math & Science and some board members felt like it would be wise to slow this process down a bit & give the educator committee time to reconvene and make any final changes they felt were necessary.  I am not quite sure what the final outcome of that discussion will be...I guess we will have to wait and see!  And rest the mean time we have more than enough to worry about with STAAR.


Word Dynamo

Today I discovered a cool new tool thanks to a blog post over at iLearn Technology!  It's called Word Dynamo & it's a part of

With Word Dynamo you can do several different things:

  • Take a 10 word "quiz" & get an estimate of how many words you know.  You choose the level to use (elementary, middle school, etc.).  Once you're done, you can do a variety of activities designed to increase your vocabulary.  Totally random words...but I bet kids would enjoy seeing their estimated vocabulary increase!
  • As a teacher you can create a word list for students to use...they can take quizzes, type the word given the definition, etc.  You can select a definition from their list (not kid-friendly) or write your own definition.
  • Search for lists already created by others & use those.
There are MANY ways this could be used in any subject...have FUN!


A Fun Math Website

Monday, October 31, 2011

Looking for a new way to have your students practice some mathematical thinking?

Check out Hooda Math!

I found this website today while surfing around on Edmodo in the Math community.  What a great find for elementary age students - lots of great games!  I especially liked some of the logic games...could have played Factory Balls 4 forever!  This will be one you definitely want to add to you list of websites for centers!

A New Favorite App!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If you are a fourth or fifth grade teacher you have GOT to check out Factor Samurai!  Oh.My.Goodness!!!  It is loads of fun.  Many of your students will be familiar with Fruit Ninja...this is similar but with a twist of math, of course.  I found it to be super addicting!!!
iPhone Screenshot 5
To play, you have to swipe the composite numbers...and that includes factors that are composite.  For example, if 24 floats across the screen, you would swipe it.  But then you also have to swipe the 4 & 6 that appear because they, too, are composite.  And kudos to the developers of this lose points for incorrect swipes...which means that students will be less likely to just start swiping whatever is on their screen (a.k.a. guessing).

At the moment, this app is FREE and it's available for both the iTouch and the iPad.  Go...quickly...and grab it!

Time to Catch Up!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wow!  It's been a while since I've visited my little blog here. least we hope that it does!

I thought I'd share with you some of my recent favorite finds.

First, Steve Jobs has, of course, been in the news lateley.  I'm sure you've seen or read his commencement speech to the Stanford class of 2005.  If you haven't, you can view both the text & the video here.
But these are my favorite two paragraphs:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Second, and related to the first, is the iPad!  I found this great list of resources related to the iPad.  From lists of apps for various groups of students to digital storytelling to free books to a really fun video of an iPad'll find it at this LINK!

Third, YouTube recently released YouTube for Teachers!  You can find a nice little introduction to this new resources HERE.  Create your own channel  with playlists and favorite content for easy access for students!  You might even want to try out a FLIPPED LEARNING EXPERIENCE!!

Finally, the New York Times recently featured a really interesting article titled What if the Secret to Success is Failure?  I will warn you that it is quite lengthy...but it is well worth your time.  The author delves into some recent research about character traits that help students be successful and the efforts of leaders at two very different schools in New York to help students develop these character traits.  No technology...but some excellent food for thought none-the-less!

Enjoy...and let me know what you think!

Daily Staff Development

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Being a relative newbie to the world of web2.0 tools, I've quickly discovered two things.  First, there is a LOT of stuff out there.  Second, it's constantly in essence one will never be able to catch up.

However...that doesn't lead me to despair!  One of the most exciting things about all of these changes is the way in which I get ideas & learn new things.  I guess you could say that thanks to the world of social networking, I've become a self-staff-developer. My favorite part of this?  It doesn't require two hours after school!  I'm a mom of two little boys.  During the week one has gymnastics, one has soccer, and we all go to church.  I work full time, and have a couple of volunteer gigs on the side.  So I'm busy!  But by being plugged in to a couple of key resources, I'm able to keep up (sort of) and continuously learn about new things.

Here are my favorite the moment.'s an ever-changing world out there!

Diigo Education
Diigo has two features that I've come to really appreciate.  First, it's an online bookmarking tool.  This means that you can save your favorites here and access them from any computer.  The second feature I've come to appreciate is the Education group.  When you save a bookmark, you can save it to the Education group.  While I've never done this (still a consumer, not a contributor in this arena), I do receive a daily email with links to all of the resources others have saved to the Diigo Education group & they usually include a brief description of the website.  It takes about 5 minutes to scan this list and see if there's anything of interest to me.  Many days it's none...but today I found THREE new resources that I thought were worth saving and coming back to! Jackpot!!!

Twitter & Tweetdeck
I will be the first to admit that until this summer I saw absolutely no value in Twitter.  I had Facebook & kept up with people that way...why would I need to use Twitter, too?  Then I learned about hashtags...those magical little #words in a tweet that help making a search for something of value so much easier!!  Twitter has become a constant source of ideas.  There are several people I follow on Twitter, but I also have my Tweetdeck set up to constantly search some hashtags such as #sbisd, #sbicoach, #edtech, and I'm going a add a couple more in the areas of math a language arts.  It's fun...any time I have 5 minutes I can check Twitter on my computer or phone & see if there's anything that grabs my attention!  For more information on Educational Hashtags, click here!

Google Reader
Have you discovered blogs yet?  Well, probably so since you are reading this. If not...get ready...because it's a big, exciting world out there!  Blogs are yet another way to share ideas.  Many of the links on Twitter will lead you to different blogs where people have posted their ideas. That is how I've found many of the educational blogs that I follow.  My other source for blogs?  Blogs...people reference other blogs in their writing.  Click the link...and viola, another gem has been discovered!  Google Reader is simply a way to organize your blogs.  Rather than having to click on each website, Google Reader keeps a running list all the blogs you are following & allows you to read all recent posts.  You can also place the blogs you follow in folders.  I have folders like Ed Tech, Math, Scrapbooking, Moms & Cooking, etc.

So there you have it..three ways to get staff development whenever you have 5 minutes to spare.What are you waiting for?  Get learning!

A Couple New Favorites for the iPad

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thanks to a suggestion from Rummel Creek librarian Karen Harrell, I recently downloaded two FREE apps to my iPad:  Color Effects & Stamp It!  I have had more fun playing with these two apps!  Color Effects will let you make a photo black & white...and then recolor just selected parts of the picture.  Stamp It! allows you to stamp words, phrases, numbers, etc. onto a photo.  Super fun!

So here's a little project I worked on using both apps.  First, I took a photo with my iPad2.

Next, I made the photo black and white and then recolored the box of staples and the disk using Color Effects.
Finally, I stamped the picture using the names of the shapes of those two objects.  You can add as many stamps as you'd like to a photo using Stamp It!
And there you go...a super easy, fun way for students to identify various shapes and 3-d figures in the environment!
I'm sure you can come up with MANY more uses for these two apps...not only in math but also in Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies...the sky's the limit!

Get ready, math teachers!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So Texas just released a draft copy of the proposed revisions to the Mathematics TEKS...all I can say is WOW!  There are some serious, and I mean serious, differences between our current TEKS and what they are proposing.  Don't get me wrong...some of it is excellent!  I love that they are including subitizing and number combinations to 10 in kindergarten; explicitly laying out expectations with regard to the three types of subtraction; use language like "unit fraction" in 3rd grade;  and recognizing strategies such as partial products and partial quotients as legitimate means to multiply and divide.  These are things that we've been encouraging our teachers to do already, and now there are explicit expectations from the state that support our work.

Some of the differences...just in Number and Operation?  
  • Place value to 999 in first grade
  • Big shift in emphasis on fractions in second grade
  • Move from place value to the ten thousands in 3rd grade to place value to the billions in 4th grade
  • HUGE focus on fractions in fourth grade (decomposing, finding equivalents, using common denominators to compare)
  • No reference to whole number place value in 5th grade, but of course another HUGE emphasis on fractions (adding fractions with "uncommon" denominators and multiplying and dividing fractions with a whole) and decimals (multiplying and using in quotients).

I haven't had time to look beyond Number & Operation.  When you first look at it, it all looks VERY specific and VERY long.  However, upon closer look you will notice that they've really narrowed it down to three "Focal Areas" for every grade level and then there are 10 - 15 "Supporting Topics for the Focal Areas."  I like helps you see that it isn't really 100 different things that you have to teach, just 100 different things you have to remember when you're teaching those 3 Focal Areas and 10 (or so) Supporting Topics.

But enough about what I think...what YOU think is important, too!  And while I'd love to hear your opinions...the most important thing for you to do is let the state of Texas know your opinions.  The window for submitting comments & suggestions is now through September 30th.

You can find the proposed TEKS revisions as well as information about how to submit your ideas HERE. I'm about to start my list now!!


A Bit of Inspiration for the Start of School

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teaching is get to have a "new year" twice a year!  To start this school year off, I've come across a video and a blog post that I've found were helpful reminders about the frame of mind I should have as I work this year.  May this year be a year that you teach, love, inspire, and learn!

The 12 Most Unexpected Ways I Relate to my Students as a Back-of-the-Pack Runner As a back of the pack runner myself, I could really relate to this and loved the way the author made some great connections to how we work with a variety students.

And you'll absolutely love this film!

Happy New Year!

Top 20 Teacher Blogs by Scholastic

Monday, August 15, 2011

This has some links to some great blogs if you're looking for something new to follow. It's a little old (from 2009...okay, that's ANCIENT in the blogosphere) but almost all of the links are still good and current!  I like this list because it's broken down into categories such as Best Blog for Hands-On Activities, Best Blog for Art teachers, Best Tell-It-Like-It-Is Blog, Etc.
Top 20 Teacher Blogs by Scholastic

Here's a Prezi all about...Me!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I created this Prezi so that I could share a bit about myself with you...I hope you enjoy it!

Getting Back to School

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Check out this blog for some great ways to use technology those first few days of school!

How Educators Connect with Kids on the First Day of School

And here is a Live Binder with some more great ideas!

10 Online Tools to Kick Start the Year


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I recently completed an introductory course to the world of Web2.0 tools.  The following is my final reflection from that course:

Wow - what a summer of learning this has been!  Just a few short months ago, I would have said that the internet was good for a few things - email, shopping, and Facebook.  Well, I also used it as a resource to look up information for time to time.  However, after attending the November Learning Institute, ISTE, and doing the 11 Tools course, I have had my eyes opened to a whole new world - an exciting world!

There are several resources online that I have come to really depend on for professional growth. I enjoy checking Twitter from time to time using some of my favorite hash tags; I am following several different blogs and using Google reader on my iGoogle page to do that;  and, while I initially found the daily emails from Diigo annoying (so I just deleted them), I have come across some great resources in those emails so I do try to scan it on a daily basis.

One of the things that I would like to do professionally is have a blog that I can use to share information with others.  I've really thought a lot this summer about the need/obligation to be a contributor AND a consumer of information online. I have to admit that, since I do feel so new to this web2.0 world, I really battle the thought running through my head that I don't have anything of value to add to the world out there.  These other people who have well-established blogs...the ones that I'm following...are good enough and why shouldn't I just refer others to those blogs?  But...I have come to think of it differently.  I see my blog starting out as a resource to others in my own little world.  Perhaps it's a place where I can post all of the great ideas that I find...that others may not have the time to investigate & filter through...and share them in a way that I think would work well HERE. And it's okay if there are only a few people who look at it.  If it will help those few people then that is what is important.

As for students...I think that many of the ideas espoused in by November Learning group and through the 11Tools course fit very well with my philosophy of education.  I have always been an advocate for student choice, collaborating, sharing, etc.  I guess the one thing that I've really thought hard about through all of this, perhaps more as a mother of 2 young children than as an educator, is my personal belief that we still have an obligation to raise children who can communicate orally face-to-face with others.  I understand the benefits of giving children the opportunity to collaborate and learn with others around the world...and I "get" that kids are communicating via all of these different mediums whether we like it or not...and I want students who are engaged in what they are learning.  But just like we never migrated to the metric system in the U.S., I don't think we will ever get to the point in our society where we won't need to be able to talk and communicate with others effectively.  Or...perhaps another way to think about it is that those who CAN talk and communicate with others effectively will have a huge advantage over those who cannot. So then they key  - the golden ticket - becomes finding the balance in all of that.

I'm not sure if I've answered all of the "questions" for this tool, but these are the thoughts that I've been pondering the past few months.  I think this is such an exciting time in our world...and in Spring Branch. The other day we were telling our kids about how we would get up on Saturday morning to watch cartoons because they weren't on during the week...and now they can stream most of what they want through Netflix 24 hours a day.  My oldest son's comment was, "I'm sure glad I'm alive now and not then!"  And while I sometimes wish cartoons were only on on Saturday morning, I think I can say the same thing about being an educator.  "I'm glad I'm teaching others now and not 30 years ago!"