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Why Math is Nothing to Be Afraid of

When I was in my teacher training program, so many of my fellow teachers said they hated math growing up. Many adults still fear math. It feels like something foreign, a different language only teachers and mathematicians can understand. I personally love math. Why? Math is about finding connections, discerning patterns. When kids tell me they aren't good at math, I tell them they aren't looking at it in the right way, because kids are natural problem solvers, and therefore, mathematicians. Kids do math everyday, in natural, authentic ways. They estimate which donut has more sprinkles and choose that one from the case, keep score in games, count the stars in the night sky. Why, when attempted in a school context, does math seem so scary? I think it's because many teachers divorce math from its authentic contexts. They are pushed to cover so much material so quickly that they don't have time to teach each child at his or her pace. Many kids need to see math problems in... read more

Questions to Ask Your Kids About Their Reading

1. Can you tell me the main idea of this section? Finding the main idea in text is a huge focus of testing, and an essential skill for good readers. Every book, every article, every website has a main idea and supporting details. If you practice doing this frequently, your child will be vastly better prepared to do well in school and to understand his or her reading. Your child's response to this question will also help you see if she needs to go back and reread to gain a better understanding. 2. What do you think will happen next? When a child can make a reasonable prediction about a story, it is a clear indication that he has understood the reading and is also able to extend his thinking. Also, kids love guessing what will happen next in a story, and when they are correct, they get really excited. This is a great way to get your child thinking deeply about the reading and enjoying it more at the same time! 3. What are you wondering about? Questioning is... read more

Learning to Write, or Writing to Learn?

When I taught 3rd grade, my students were at all different stages of learning to read. We would say that up to a certain point, when kids are learning the letter sounds and piecing the words together, they were learning to read. Once they were able to read most words and move on to longer and more complicated texts, they were reading to learn. The same concept can apply to writing. Are you learning to write, or writing to learn? Many college students haven't been adequately taught to write research papers, or are returning to school after a long break, and therefore, have forgotten some writing skills. But when you are learning to write, it is much more difficult to learn from your writing. You are spending so much time trying to make the writing sound academic that the intention of the paper - to help you learn about a new topic - is lost. Instead of waiting for paper assignments to learn to write, be proactive. Take some writing courses over the summer, or look up some... read more

5 Inexpensive Supplies That Make Learning More Fun

1. Whiteboards and whiteboard markers Somehow, using these can transform any learning activity that involves writing, i.e. math and spelling, into an exciting time. Buy these at any office supply store, or visit Markerboard People for a huge variety of boards and inexpensive markers. 2. A timer Most kids like being timed. Whether you are timing them on knowing their math facts, reading a poem, or spelling a word, adding the element of speed will make learning activities feel more like games. 3. Smelly markers Smelly markers, the thick, colorful scented markers that come in a blue box, can do a lot to help kids have fun with learning. Use them to highlight printed reading passages, have kids grade their own math worksheets, create illustrated books, and more. Available at most grocery stores. 4. Magnetic tape and sticky putty What could be more fun than sticking things to other things? Not much. Use magnetic tape to create word cards to put on your refrigerator... read more

Seed, Bud, Bloom - A Creative Writing Lesson

A simple way to help students expand and improve their writing is to write a seed sentence on the board. For example: The child ate lunch. This is a seed sentence because you can't tell much about the child or about the lunch. Tell your student or students that our goal is to make the sentence bloom. You can either provide a pre-written example of a bud sentence or have the student or students help expand the sentence. I like to focus on the different parts of the sentence - Can we use more specific nouns? Was the child a boy or a girl? How about using a name? What about the verb? Can we make it more active to help the sentence come alive? The bud sentence could look something like this: Ronald scarfed down a pastrami sandwich. Much more descriptive, right? But the sentence could still be better. It could still expand and become a more interesting sentence. How about adding some adjectives? Or playing with the sentence structure to make it flow differently... read more

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