TpT Newsletter

So, I was this month's featured teacher in the TpT newsletter. Yippee Skippee!

In addition to a little blurb about me, there are also links to ten free teacher resources from other teachers, as well as a list of the top selling teacher materials. If you want to have a peek, here is a link!

Daily Brain Teaser #90

Jack and Ben were walking along a road when they saw a sign that said Joytown 126 miles, Sad City 84 miles. The towns were in opposite directions. The boys decided to walk toward Joytown. They stopped to have lunch exactly halfway between Joytown and Sad City. How far away from Sad City were they when they had lunch?

____ miles

Teaching Tools: 7 Ways to use Individual Student Whiteboards

This is the first post in the Teaching Tools You Gotta Have series. I plan to discuss a different teaching tool each week! Generally, these will be inexpensive, yet highly useful. So, be sure and check them all out!

With individual student whiteboards you can save paper, make learning fun, and keep your whole class engaged all at the same time. There are many uses for these handy boards! If you don't already have a class set, you don't have to spend a ton of money to get one. The material is inexpensive and available at your local hardware store, and most stores will cut it for free. 12x12 seems to work well for most classrooms, but you can have it cut to whatever size you want.

Once you have your boards, you will need to decide whether you want students to keep them in their desks or if you'd rather keep them in a central location and distribute as needed. I prefer the latter as I think it keeps the boards in better shape. A good way to get dry-erase pens is to have students bring them at the start of the school year with their school supplies. A clean, white sock makes a good eraser.

Now that you have your boards, here are some ideas on how to use them:

To Display Answers 
Students can easily write short answers on their boards and then hold them up for you to quickly scan and check. Consider using for mental math problems, spelling, or review of pretty much any subject.

In Partners
Students can practice spelling words in partners with one partner giving the word and the other writing it on their white board. They could also use the board to keep score when playing a game.

For Handwriting Practice
Using a whiteboard is a good place to start just to get the motion of the letter down. Of course, it is different than writing on paper and you will need to do some of that too, but it can be a fun, first step.

Instead of Scratch Paper
Save paper by having students use whiteboards as scratch paper whenever they will not need to save their work.

Instead of Clipboards
Great for when students are moving around the classroom to collect data that they will not need to keep permanently. Also good for times when students are sitting on the carpet for instruction rather than at their desks.

As a Quick Mood Gauge
Ever feel like your class is just off, but you can't quite put your finger on it? Try having your students each draw a quick face on their boards - either a smiley face, a sad face or a neutral (straight line for the mouth). It gives you a quick read and may possibly lead to a class discussion about what is going on.

For Indoor Recess and other Free Times
Great for games like hangman or just for drawing. Kids love to use these during their free time.

Do you use individual student white boards in your classroom? Please share your ideas!

Next Week: Name Sticks!

Daily Brain Teaser #89

Ms. Kendall's class had an ice cream party.

24 chldren had hot fudge on their sundaes

17 children had a cherry.

There were 26 children in the class.

How many children had both hot fudge and a cherry?


Ways to Make Group Work, Work

I believe that most teachers don't really know what is going on socially in their classroom. Not because they aren't paying attention or because they don't care, but because much of the social interaction - especially negative interactions, happen at lunch or recess, or before or after school, or intentionally behind the teacher's back. As adults, we can't really, truly know what is going on. Sure, we know who is super popular and who is neglected or rejected, but that still leaves a lot of unknown territory.

And that makes group work tricky because all of those unknown status hierarchies get carried into the group. Add to that the varying academic abilities of your students. Add to that the fact that there are more and more kids with various special needs - Aspergers, sensory integration issues, ADHD, not to mention any number of quirky tendencies that can make group work challenging.

Yet, group work is important. Kids need to learn to work in groups. So what can we do to help? Here are some ideas:

Make the Groups - Don't Allow Students to Choose 
There are several reasons for this. First, when students are allowed to choose their group members, some kids get left out. This is beyond hurtful. And when they are finally assigned to a group, they know they are not wanted. Also, students do not always make the best choices for group mates. And finally if you do the grouping, you can balance them socially and academically. Even if you don't want to group them yourself, using Popsicle sticks or some other random method is still better than allowing kids to group themselves.

Set Ground Rules about Behavior
At the top of the list should be treating everyone in the group fairly and with respect. Dividing work fairly, listening to every one's ideas should be in there as well. You might also have a plan for mediating disputes within the group.

Give Everyone a Job
One of the main problems with group work is that often one or two kids do the majority of the work while the rest of the group members slack off. By dividing the work involved in the project into parts so that each person has their part, you can make sure everyone does his or her share.

Grade the Project Both as a Group and Individually
When students know that they will be graded on their individual contributions, they are less likely to let others do all the work.

Check in Frequently
Check in with groups frequently to make sure they are on schedule and that they are all getting along. Monitoring group work time is one informal way. You could also talk with groups about how things are going, or have a formal timetable for them to follow.

Plan Diverse Projects
For long term projects especially, try to have many components so that everyone can find a place to fit in. This is especially important for struggling students who may feel that their contribution will be sub-par. If there are many different aspects to the projects, odds are, everyone can find a way to contribute that is valuable to the group.

Plan Carefully for Quirky Kids
Some kids have a really hard time working in groups. My son was one of these. Now in high school, he does fine in groups, but in elementary school and even Jr. High, group work was extremely stressful - not just for him, but also for the other kids in his group. You probably have one or two kids like this in your class. Assign them carefully and monitor closely. With the proper guidance, the project could become a tremendous learning opportunity for these kids. But left to their own devices, they are very likely to crash and burn.


Daily Brain Teaser #88

Cassie has 3 pairs of dice. What are the total number of sides, corners, and dots on her dice?

Sides _____
Corners _____
Dots ______

Totally Cool Social Studies Assignment

My daughter's 8th grade social studies assignment is to make a comic strip with at least seven panels that features Jr. High students living without the Bill of Rights. Three amendments must be broken in the strip. So much better than reading from a textbook!

Blog Carnivals

The Carnival of Educators is at I Want to Teach Forever this Week. I saw some terrific posts! Also, this carnival will be hosted right here at Minds in Bloom next week so be sure and get your submission in! Here is a link to that ever-so-handy submission form.

You can also check out  The Carnival of Homeschooling at the Daily Planet.

Daily Brain Teaser #87

What word connects the three words in each group?

Example: aid ~ head ~ rock = band  (bandaid, headband, rock band)

  1. mate ~ class ~ bath ______________
  2. chocolate ~ maid ~ carton ______________
  3. sea ~ egg ~ turtle ______________
  4. swing ~ spare ~ track ______________
  5. bell ~ mat ~ knob ______________
  6. sweat ~ tail ~ polo ______________
  7. house ~ fire ~ flash ______________
  8. bed ~ computer ~ bite ______________
These are called Tribonds and you can find more here

Daily Brain Teaser #86

There were fifteen cookies in the cookie jar. After each of five children took cookies, there were none left. Use the clues to discover how many cookies each child took.

Diane took two cookies less than Carla

Sam took four cookies

Norm and Carla took the same number of cookies

Cliff took one more cookie than Norm

Carla took one less cookie than Sam

Cliff ____
Norm ____
Diane ____

Trivia Bonus: Who are Cliff, Carla, Norm, Diane, and Sam?

Word Searches are Stupid

Word searches are stupid because they have very little educational content other than that the words in the search are usually vocabulary words from an area of study. Not only that, they take very little thinking to solve. Basically, just scaning for letters. They are the ulitmate form of busy work.

Here are some ways to make them less stupid:

Use clues instead of a list of words  If you are studying state capitals, instead of listing the capital cities of the midwest, list the states with a write on line and have the students fill in the correct capitals before finding them in the word search. Or give clues to the words. For example, if are studying cells instead of simply listing the word "membrane" you could write: This is the layer that surrounds the cell.

Scramble or code it Scramble each word in the word list and have a write on line for unscrambling before students find them in the word search. Or write the words in code and have the students decode the words before finding them in the word search.

Make it tricky  This one is especially good for spelling words. Make your word search manually rather than using an online word search generator and make it tricky by including many near-misses For each word, have several places in the wordsearch where the word is almost spelled correctly, but is just one letter off. This means that kids must look at the word carefully to make sure it is correct.

Have students create their own  Use graph paper. Then have them swap with a neighbor. Even better, have them define the words they choose to use or justify why they should be included in a themed puzzle.

Daily Brain Teaser #85

Six girls, Amber, Anna, Beth, Gigi, Janine, and Mary wanted to do something fun on Saturday. They could not agree on one activity, so they went in pairs to 3 different activities, rollerskating, the movies, and bowling. Use the clues to discover which girls did each activity:

Gigi and Janine do not like bowling.

Mary and Beth did the same activity. Both girls had to change their footwear before doing their activity.

The two girls with names that begin with the same letter did not do the same activity. Neither of them went bowling.

Janine and Amber went to the same activity.

Gigi did not go to the movies.

Bowling   ___________ and ______________
Skating  ____________ and ______________
Movies  ____________ and ______________

Hint: Start by pairing the girls, then find their activities.

Daily Brain Teaser #84

Kendra has made a list of all her favorite things, but it is missing the consonants. Can you fill them in?

  1. Color:  ___ ___ E E ____
  2. Fruit: ___ A ___ A ___ A
  3. Vegetable: ___ A ___ ___ O ___
  4. Dessert:  ___ ___ O ___ ___ I E
  5. Animal: ___ U ___ ___ ___ E
  6. Flower:  ___ O ___ E
  7. Sport:  ___ E ___ ___ I ___
  8. Board Game: ___ O ___ O ___ O ___ ___
  9. School Subject: ___ ___ I E ___ ___ E
  10. Place: ___ I ___ ___E ___ ___A ___ ___

Ideas for Encouraging Self-Evaluation

School is all about evaluation. Everything from written work to behavior to how neatly one keeps one's desk is up for judgement. And then of course there are those endless batteries of standardized tests. While this is the easiest and perhaps most effective way to get the desired result, ultimately, it can have harmful results. Among other things, it trains children to look for external validation, discourages them from taking academic risks,  and restrict creativity to the narrow band of what is required.

Rather than constantly bombarding children with external evaluations, we can, at least on some occasions, encourage them to evaluate themselves. Here are some ways to facilitate self-evaluation.

Ask Question
Rather than pointing out what is wrong or even right, ask questions that encourage students to look more closely at their work. Some ideas:
  • What did you mean when...
  • Why did you...
  • I'm wondering about...
  • How did you feel about...
  • What are three things you like about...
  • What are three things you might have done differently?
  • How could you improve...
Use Rubrics 
Teachers often use rubrics for grading. Consider having students use the rubric to grade themselves. You could use this in addition to your own use of the rubric or you could conference with the child after he or she has done the rubric and come up with a final grading together. Ideally, the project doesn't have to end there. More learning can take place if students are given the opportunity to correct what went wrong and resubmit the project.

Encourage Student to Self-Check
It is much more empowering to find and correct one's own mistakes rather than having them pointed out by a third party. Some ways students can self-correct:
  • Have students read essays, reports and other written work out loud. Often you hear mistakes that you don't see.
  • Have an easily accessible list of words that are frequently misspelled, possibly on a poster.
  • Have a check list of things students should always look for in written work such as beginning with a capital letter, including end marks, neatness etc. before they turn it in.
  • Allow students to use answer keys to check their own work
  • If correcting papers as a group, allow students to correct their own papers rather than trading with a neighbor. Trading papers can be embarrassing for a struggling student.
Set Goals
Setting goals is a great skill for kids to learn. By identifying a challenging yet attainable goal, writing it down, and making a plan for action, students learn that they can make real and worthwhile changes. Here is a free Student Goal Setting Worksheet.

Skip the Grade
Does everything always have to be evaluated? Try doing an assignment and telling the students that while you will read it, it will NOT be graded. See what happens.

Daily Brain Teaser #83

Put + and - signs between each number to make the equation work.

8   4   2   3   3   1 = 7

Challenge: Can you do it in two different ways?

Daily Brain Teaser #82

If you wrote all of the whole numbers from 1 to 100, how many times would you write the number 2?


3 More Games to Play While Waiting

Whether you are standing in line at the bank or standing in line to ride Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, waiting can be a trying time for kids. Here are 3 verbal games to make things more fun. These are aimed at older children. If you have little kids, take a peek at 3 Ways to Entertain Small Children While Waiting.

Alphabetically Speaking
Choose a random letter of the alphabet. Take turns having each person say a sentence as part of a conversation you are all having. The tricky part is that each person must begin his or her sentence with whichever letter is next in the alphabet, and he or she can't take too long to think about it. When you get to Z, continue with A until you get to the letter you started with. So a conversation might start like this:

Have you seen Avatar yet?
I have, it was great!
Jake was my favorite character.
Kate was mine.
Let's go see it again next week.
Maybe on Friday?
No, I have guitar lessons that day.
Oh, how about Saturday
Perhaps, I'll have check my calendar.
Quite a busy life you have
Really, you think so?
Seems like you are always busy doing something

Speak as One
In this game you form sentences by each person saying every other word. If there are two or three people, it works well to tell a story. If there are 4 people, pair them off. Each pair acts as one person - saying every other word. It can be really fun to have the two pairs have a conversation.

Verbal Tennis
This is a challenging game for sure. In this game, you take turns adding a sentence to the conversation. The trick is that you may only ask questions, no statements allowed. Also, you may not start your questions with, "Don't you think that..." or some other similar phrase that is just a statement disguised as a question. So a conversation might start like this:

Where did you get that shirt?
Why, do you like it?
How could I not?
What do you think of the color?
Do you think it is more of a red or an orange?
Can you stand in the light so I can see?

Sale at Teacherspayteachers is having a sale - everything 10% off on Saturday and Sunday just use this promotion code at checkout: PR5TD

If you want to see what I sell on TpT, just click on one of the blue links on the left sidebar, or go here to see my TpT store

How Many Educators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

Please take this post in the spirit of fun and lightness in which it is offered.

One to write a detailed lesson plan on how to change the lightbulb to be turned into the administrators for review at least a week before the lightbulb is to be changed.

One to be sure the lesson plan includes plans for how to differentiate the changing of the lightbulb so that all learners can benefit - differentiations will include:
  • Composing and performing a song about changing the lightbulb
  • determining how long the new lightbulb will last based on past lightbulb statistics
  • writing a paper on the history of lightbulbs and presenting it to the group
  • allowing participants to work in groups to change the lightbulb
  • drawing out a diagram of how the lightbulb will be changed
  • exploring what it really means to change a lightbulb and what effect the changing of the lightbulb will have on those who change it as well as those who benefit from the light
  • relating the changing of the lightbulb to other experiences in one's own life
  • discussing how changing the lightbulb will impact the enviornment
One to make sure that changing the lightbulb is challenging for both highly capable learners and those needing remedial help.
  • Highly capable learners will be challenged to come up with ways to change the lightbulb without the use of a ladder
  • Those needing more help will recieve special instruction on the "Lefty- Loosey, Righty-Tighty" lightbulb changing technique.
One to make sure that the lightbulb changing lesson plan is consistent with district objectives and Common Core Standards.

A task force of six to design  a comprehensive yet standardized test on lightbulb changing.

One to administer the lightbulb changing test.

A committee of 15 to interpret the results of the lightbulb changing test.

A committee of 20 to design a new lightbulb changing curriculum since the test proved the old one was a failure.

A committee of several dozen to passionately debate the merits and shortcomings of both the new lightbulb changing curriculum and the testing methods.

A team of four to convince that original teacher who wrote the first lesson plan not to quit her job and move to a small hut on the beach in the Bahamas with no electricity and therefore, no lightbulbs.

Daily Brain Teaser #81

Emily has a fish tank.
Yesterday she bought 4 angelfish and 5 guppies for her tank.
She spent a total of $60.
An angel fish costs $6 more than a guppy.

What is the price of a guppy and an angelfish?

Guppy ____
Angelfish ____

Daily Brain Teaser #80

Please vote in the poll on the left sidebar - it only takes a second and would be much appreciated!

Jenny has 11 coins that make a total of 61 cents.

How many of each coin does she have?

____ quarters
____ dimes
____ nickels
____ pennies

clip art from

Your Classroom Culture: 12 Question to Ask Yourself

Every classroom has a culture. Some aspects of your classroom culture might have evolved organically while others have been carefully planned and implemented. You may be pleased with some aspects of your classroom culture and not so pleased with others. As the teacher, you are the primary architect of your classroom culture. For that reason, it may be good to reflect a bit and see if what you have created is working in the ways that you had planned.

With that in mind, I offer these questions for reflection:
  1. What are five adjectives that describe my classroom culture?

  2. How do my students feel about school?

  3. How do my students feel about each other. How well do they work together?

  4. Do we "gel?" Do we feel like a cohesive group?

  5. Is my class a safe place to take academic risks?

  6. Are questions, creativity, originality, and new ideas welcome?

  7. What values are important in my classroom - respect? tolerance? trustworthiness? self-control? kindness?

  8. What behaviors are important in my classroom -trying your best? following directions? staying on task? helping others?

  9. What motivates my students to do their work or behave appropriately?

  10. How are discipline issues handled in my classroom? What is the result of this strategy?

  11. What makes my classroom special and unique- what are students likely to remember 20 years from now?

  12. Other than academics, what are three things I hope my students learn from being in my class?

Were any of these questions particularly helpful? Do you have more to add? Please share with a comment.

Daily Brain Teaser #79

Four children went to the library last month.

Lilly went twice as many times as Robin.

Ted went 4 times more than Barney but three times less than Lilly.

Barney went 5 times.

How many times did Robin go to the library?


Image from Clipart

Blog Carnivals Blog Carnivals this week. At The Carnival of Homeschooling at Raising Real Men I especially appreciated Why We Need to Ask “Why?” at The Expanding Life and a post about the board game Pentago at I want to Teach Forever.

The Carnival of Educators is at the Examiner this week.

At We Teach We Learn, you can find the Edge of Education Carnival.

And finally, you can find A Homeschooling Carnival at Homeschool Trenches.

Daily Brain Teaser #78

Five Super Important World Leaders got together to talk about their favorite flavors of ice cream. Each of the Super Important World Leaders shook hands with each of the other Super Important World Leaders.

How many handshakes took place?

Teaching Resources

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