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Teach Math Like Its Never Been Taught Before

March 15, 2018

math-problem

When you begin teaching your 5th or 6th Grade Math class, you often start with a high dose of ego.

You tell yourself that you can easily set any struggling student right by carefully and clearly explaining the skills and processes involved.

And then reality sinks in. It’s clearly not as easy as that.

There is a reason why your struggling students have continued to struggle throughout their first 5 or so years of schooling. It’s not the strength of the teachers they’ve encountered, because chances are, there have been some extremely adept teachers who have used tried and true methods for helping those student bridge the ever widening gaps.

Many teachers have expressed a reluctance of teaching 5th sand 6th Grade Math due to the introduction of concepts and skills which many Primary teachers find difficult. In truth, the major test of a 5th or 6th Grade teacher is not the skills itself, but rather the challenge of helping students learn skills they haven’t been able to grasp from their talented and competent previous teachers.

In order to cut through, teachers are therefore required to change things up. To employ slightly different ways of teaching the same skill. The following are some adjustments that work for me.

  1. Integrate the Skill in a Game – Kids love winning and try to avoid losing at all cost. Game play provides an incentive for children to learn skills that they may have ordinarily have claimed was too difficult. Dice games are the best because it provides a randomness that allows weaker students to often prevail over stronger students. I am constantly blown away by how effective game play is to break through to kids who usually struggle with Math.
  2. Change the wording – The wording of Math is so scientific and technical. Does it have to be? Absolutely not. So change it up. Instead of numerator and denominator, I use top bunk and bottom bunk. It helps. It doesn’t mean I will never teach them the right terminology, it just means I am more focused on the skill that the wording which can often intimidate.
  3. Reinforce the Objectives of Math – There is a reason why Math was invented and kids need to know that to be able to relate to it. I tell my students Math was invented for 2 main purposes. Firstly, to save us time. So instead of having to add 7 +7 a total of 8 times, I can just apply the sum 7×8, which is much quicker and easier. And secondly, for fairness. When I am dividing a birthday cake, everyone wants an equal sized piece. It turns out that children deeply value fairness and relate to the idea of resorting to shortcuts. Why not then explain how the skill of the day fits into one or both of the above categories?
  4. Bite Sized Pieces – I can’t tell you how many students I have confronted in the upper years who weren’t able to read time from an analogue clock. The big mistake, as I eluded to earlier, is to think that a careful and patient demonstration of what the big and little hands tell us will work. Again, you can bet that plenty of highly competent teachers have tried without success. My strategy is to break up the skill into small, bite-sized pieces. I tell them to ignore the hour hand. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Just focus on the minute hand. The next step is to show them the function of the minute hand and not move on until they get it. Only then do I introduce the hour hand. The problem that I have found is that reading an analogue clock involves a level of multitasking which kids (boys especially) find very intimidating. Take it slowly. One skill at a time. They respond better to that.
  5. Use What They Know – Students tend to do much better with currency than decimals. This is quite ironic, as decimals and currency are essentially the same thing. I tell all my students who struggle with decimals to pretend that 0.75 for example, is 75 cents. It helps! Math professors would be irate if they found out I was doing this. They would remind me that students will become unstuck when they encounter a decimal like 0.751, which doesn’t work with the currency technique. So what! Once I have taught them through currency their confidence levels are so high, I have found they are quite receptive to learning the differences that exist between decimals and money.

By the time your students have reached 5th Grade, they already have a sense for whether they like a subject and whether they are proficient at it. It’s so hard to turn the unconfident and unenthusiastic learners around.

But don’t give up. Just do it differently.

 

Click on the link to read A Maths Quiz That Manages to be Racist and Sexist

Click on the link to read Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

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Athletes Can Share Their Political Views but Teachers Can’t

February 19, 2018

Laura Ingram is wrong about LeBron James. He, and all other athletes are entitled to give whatever opinion they want, whether it be about sport, art or politics. Just like plumbers, engineers and dentists, he can say whatever he chooses.

There is only one profession in which it would be a problem if they were to vocalise their political views – the schoolteacher.

It is not our job to fill impressionable young children with our politics, but rather to give them the tools to make their own observations and build their own understandings.

I don’t want my students to think like me, I want them to think according to their own value system and find their own place in the world.

So LeBron can say whatever he chooses … at least until he stops dribbling and trades his multi million dollar career for a teacher’s wage.

Don’t Just Charge the Student, Reinstate the Teacher

March 7, 2016

leigh-anne-arthur-naked-pic

Charging the 16 year old who stole a teacher’s phone and disseminated her private photos isn’t enough. The teacher involved should have never been asked to resign, and deserves her job back:

 

The teacher of the 16-year-old who distributed semi-naked pictures of her around school has said she is “relieved” he is being held accountable for his actions with felony charges now against him.

Leigh Ann Arthur’s unlocked phone was taken from her desk by one of her students who found partially naked pictures of his teacher on it. He is accused of then taking photos of the images using his own phone before distributing them around the class.

Ms Arthur says she was then forced to resign after the school told her contract would be terminated if she didn’t quit.

Four of the photos were also printed out and put in Ms Arthur’s letterbox with a “threatening” message on the back of one of them, the teacher has said, according to ABC News.

Her student is now facing felony charges for violating the Computer Crimes Act and for “aggravated voyeurism”, according to police chief Sam White.

 

 

Click on the link to read Talk About “Stealing” a Teacher’s Livelihood!

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Click on the link to read Stay Away From You Students’ Facebook Pages

A Bad Day or a Bad Teacher? (Video)

February 17, 2016

 

Sometimes I feel that the true worth of a teacher is measured by how restrained they are on their worst days. All teachers have days where they are struggling to control their urge to explode at students or the class. But the best teachers find a way to stay calm and maintain a consistency in mood.

I’m not sure this teacher acts like this on a regular basis, and I don’t really like her belittling tone or the employment of a “calm down chair” (a chair I recommend her use for herself), but if her worth was measured by this episode, I wouldn’t have thought she’d have scored very highly.

Hopefully she can use this experience to help motivate herself to be much better on a bad day.

 

Click on the link to read Tips for Surviving Your Teacher Evaluation

Click on the link to read Tips for Surviving a Teacher Observation

Click on the link to read The Call to Have Students Rate Their Teachers is Better than it Sounds

Click on the link to read First Work Out What a Quality Teacher is, Then Evaluate

 

The Countries Where Teachers Are Paid the Most

December 3, 2015

 

highest-paid-teachers

Luxembourg gets the gold medal by a fair distance!

 

 

Click on the link to read You Can Get Paid Like a Monkey Without Being One

Click on the link to read Which Country Pays the Most for Its Teachers

 Click on the link to read “Better Pay Leads to Better teachers”: Prove it!

Tips for Making Co-Teaching Work

October 27, 2015

team-teaching

I don’t enjoy co-teaching. Perhaps it’s because my style is different, perhaps it’s because I’ve never found the right partner, but my preference is to go it alone.

However, if I was to go down that path, I could do a lot worse than follow these steps courtesy of educator Natalie Marston:

 

1. Establish rapport.

The first step that you (the regular classroom teacher and the special education teacher) need to take is to establish a relationship — even before the students enter the building. Get to know each other on a personal level. After all you will be together the entire year. What things do you have in common? Are you married? Children? Hobbies? Where did you grow up?

When the two of you have a comfortable relationship and rapport with each other, the children feel more comfortable in the classroom. Students can sense tension as well as harmony within the learning environment. A positive relationship will help minimize misunderstandings and motivate you to resolve problems before they escalate.

2. Identify your teaching styles and use them to create a cohesive classroom.

Are you a hands-on teacher who loves doing experiments and using manipulatives, never to open a textbook? While your co-teacher needs to use the textbooks first and then supplement with experiments and manipulatives?

How do you manage behaviors? What are your discipline styles?

Instructional and discipline styles are just two factors you need to examine so that you can combine the best of both of your styles to create a cohesive classroom. You need to find a balance that makes everyone comfortable.

When you plan lessons together, you can use your two styles to complement one another and thus enhance the lessons and the delivery of instruction. You create a cohesive classroom with consistent expectations when both of you are on the same page with instruction and discipline styles.

3. Discuss strengths and weaknesses.

How can you utilize each instructor’s strengths and weaknesses? A good way to do this is to have each of you make a list of strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Then take the lists and compare them and highlight the strengths that are dominant for one teacher and allow that person to be the lead teacher in those areas. By using these strengths, you can differentiate your instruction to meet the needs of a larger group more frequently within the classroom as well as allowing for individualized instruction.

4. Discuss Individualized Education Plans and regular education goals.

To create Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), the special educator needs to involve the regular educator in the special education process. Students in special education belong to both educators, so the general educator must be informed about the IEP for each child. Otherwise, the two of you cannot effectively execute the plans. It’s difficult to educate a child if you are unaware of his or her special needs. It is important to discuss the modifications and accommodations as well as the goals and objectives to ensure student success in the classroom. The special and regular education teacher can then work together in meeting the student’s goals and ensuring adequate progress.

In the same way, the regular education teacher should discuss with the special education teacher his or her goals for the regular students, as the regular education students belong to the special education teacher as well. Both educators should be addressing the goals, objectives, and mandatory curriculum for that grade level.

5. Formulate a plan of action and act as a unified team.

You have to make decisions constantly throughout the year, so if you formulate a plan of action in the beginning of the year, disruptions will be minimal.

Consider the following items in your plan of action:

  • Scheduling
  • Expected classroom behaviors
  • Classroom procedures, such as class work and homework policies, turning in work
  • Consequences of not following rules and procedures
  • Grading
  • Communication between home and school

Talk about what you will tolerate as well as how you will respond to actions that are not acceptable. Be consistent when dealing with parents, and meet as a team for conferences with them. Determine your roles in advance so that you do not contradict each other or foster misunderstandings during the meeting.

6. Take risks and grow.

A wonderful aspect of co-teaching is that it allows you to take risks, learn from each other, and grow as professionals.

Co-teaching provides a safety net when you take risks in your instruction. When you try something new and it doesn’t work, you have another teacher in the room who can step in with another technique or lesson that works, or point out the area of difficulty, or assist in redirecting the lesson. When you are the only teacher in the room and a lesson bombs, you often have to stop and move on and then analyze later why the lesson fell apart — without the assistance of someone else in the room observing the lesson.

 

 

Click on the link to read What Type of Teacher Are You?

Click on the link to read The Making of a Great Teacher

Click on the link to read The Perfect Teacher According to Students

Click on the link to read How to Praise Students Properly

Teacher Recreates Harry Potter Experience in Her Classroom

August 25, 2015

harry-potter-classroom

It’s all about getting your students to see their classroom in a more positive and exciting way. I just love it!

 

A US school teacher has brought a little extra magic to the classroom, decorating it like Hogwarts School  of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter series.

Stephanie Stephens from James L Capps Middle School in Oklahoma City told ABC News America it was always tough to instil a love of reading in students.

“This year, I chose to go with a Harry Potter theme because if I am excited and enthusiastic, students tend to follow suit,” Ms Stephens explained.

“My goal is to help students find at least one book or genre that they can find exciting and be as enthusiastic about as I am regarding Harry Potter.”

 

hogwats classroom

 

hogwarts-class

 

Click on the link to read Students Love it When Their Teacher Dares to be Outrageous

Click on the link to read The Questions that Great Teachers Ask Every Day

Click on the link to read Learning as an Experience

Educators Leading Children to Where Predators Hide

July 22, 2015

is-safe-schools-hub-safe

The website recommended to teachers to encourage their students to feel safe from bullying has been revealed as a magnet for predators.

We must stop promoting the Safe Schools Hub, because by the sounds of it, it’s anything but safe:

 

Schoolchildren are running the risk of exposure to predators though a website run by the federal Department of Education and Training.

In what must be a cruel twist of irony, the starting point for this is none other than the Safe Schools Hub, which is intended to protect children from bullying and other forms of harm.  

Although the Safe Schools Hub has as one of its “Guiding Principles” that schools must “accept responsibility for developing and sustaining safe and supportive learning and teaching communities that also fulfil the school’s child protection responsibilities”, it is failing to do so itself.

Because it is run by the federal government, the Safe Schools Hub is used as a resource by many primary and secondary schools across the country.  The original intention of the site was to prevent bullying in schools, and it attempts to stamp out discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity, gender and the like.  These are all good things, but when it comes to protecting students, things go badly awry.

 

 

 

Click on the link to read How Vulnerable are Your Students to Online Predators?

Click on the link to read The Truth About Those Internet Safety Myths

Click on the link to read Shaming Students is Never the Answer

Click on the link to read The Perfect Cyber Safety Clip for Parents to Watch With Their Kids

The Dawn of a New Punctuation Mark

July 2, 2015

exclamation-comma

Meet the exclamation comma!

 

World, meet the exclamation comma — the punctuation mark you didn’t know existed, but that you almost certainly need in your life.

The exclamation comma is, as its name suggests, a symbol that looks like an exclamation point, only with a comma instead of a period at its base. As the Grammarly blog noted this week, it’s used just like an exclamation mark “to denote excitement, add flourish, and generally lend a statement a certain degree of emotion and emphasis,” but it’s to be placed within sentences rather than at the end of them.

For example:

“That velociraptor is so scary [insert exclamation comma] but don’t worry, he’s not going to eat you.”

“I’d love to use a new punctuation mark [insert exclamation comma] yet the others might get jealous.”

 

The exclamation comma was reportedly created by American inventors Leonard Storch, Haagen Ernst Van and Sigmund Silber in 1992, who also lobbied for its widespread adoption. However, their patent for the symbol lapsed in 1995, and their effort to popularize it ultimately failed.

Interest in the exclamation comma has surged this week after the Grammarly blog’s post on it, but it’s not the only obscure punctuation mark that deserves attention.

For instance, there’s the question comma (the exclamation comma’s inquisitive cousin), the SarcMark (short for “sarcasm mark”), the irony mark and the wonderfully-named Interrobang (which looks like what would happen if an exclamation point and a question mark jumped into bed together).

 

Click on the link to read Meet the UK Classroom Where Every Student Speaks English as a Second Language

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Los Angeles: Why Is Rafe Esquith in Teacher Jail?

June 24, 2015

Diane Ravitch's blog

Rafe Esquith is one of the nation’s most celebrated teachers. He teaches fifth grade in Los Angeles. Each year, his class produces a complete play by Shakespeare. They are known as the Hobart Shakespeareans.

Esquith was suspended for making a joke. Here is the story. Unbelievable.

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