What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
--Samuel Johnson

Last 6 Teaching Articles

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Upside-Down Hundreds Chart?

UPDATE: It appears the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) may actually (implicitly) support my call for a revision of the traditional hundreds chart. The CCSS call for emphasis on building number sense. Students are expected to understand numbers and number relationship, not merely be proficient with manipulating them through externally taught (versus internally developed) algorithms. In fact, students are not expected to even be proficient with (addition and subtraction) algorithms until the end of 4th grade! In other words, number sense should be a solid foundation upon which we build our mathematics house; don't start building until the cement has cured! Hopefully, my idea for an "upside-down" number chart will help in building that foundation! (Maybe it can be the rebar lattice. See, what I did there, with the lattice, and the chart being like a vertical lattice?)

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What Do (Don't) You Know?

 

Every day I ask my students to "show me what you know". It may be in the form of an answer on a dry-erase lapboard they hold over their head (we are low-tech/low-funds at our school, i.e. no cordless clickers). They may raise their hands and give an oral response. They may share with a neighbor and report orally afterward. About every 5-10 school days, they take an actual paper-pencil quiz or test. Each of these activities is a form of assessment that I use to inform and guide my instruction. In these days of high-stakes testing, I feel that the purpose of testing has been mutated. End of the year assessments have become less about guiding instruction and more about "accountability", which for many teachers carries sinister implications of unfair judgment. (There's a whole hugely important discussion about THAT for which we have no room here.) Recently, a 7 year old asked me a question about testing that gave me much pause.
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In Search of the Perfect Grade

I have always had difficulty accepting the traditional 100 point grading scale. Poor performance resulting in "F" grades can severely affect averages, especially when the score is a "big F" (below 50%). I usually gave students at least 50% or 55% in a grading program so it would register as an "F" but would not kill their chances of ever getting out of the "F" range.

After discussing report card grading methods with colleagues at my school, I decided to investigate different methods of finding central tendencies of scores. I had no idea how many different ways there are to find central tendencies! I read, I computed, and now I comment.

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Paragraph Tool

I like to use visual and color cues when teaching my students. A few years ago I created an online paragraph tool that allowed my students to see the connection between a "T-chart" outline and a written paragraph. I have updated this tool and I would like to share it with the teaching community.

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Schools Kill Creativity

Even though I am frequently accused of being “left-brained” and “pragmatic”, I think I am very right-brained in my daily life. I play with music, make pottery, and teach dance, among other things. Creativity and the arts are very important to me; they surround me in my personal life, and I have even decorated my computer desktop and my Nook with a quotation from Einstein: ”Imagination is more important than knowledge.” So, it kills me that teachers are now required to spend so much time on language arts and mathematics that there is literally no time left in the school day to address the arts. I recently stumbled across a video of educator Sir Ken Robinson giving a talk, and I have to agree with him when he says that “schools kill creativity”!

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Learning to Read... by Reading?!?!

I recently read an article that was lauding a Delaware high school honors chemistry class for being “innovative” and “different”. What amazing new approach to learning was being implemented? Put simply, the students were learning by doing. What insanity! You mean they were learning science by actually doing science?!? Duh! Well, if it works for science, then why don’t we apply it to reading instruction?

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