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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Perseverance Pays Off... When Will We Learn

How long will you try something? How long will you struggle before you give up? What about your students? Will they try and give up or will they as the students from this article indicates other countries persevere, work together, help one another then when they achieve, celebrate the achievement?

This article and post was talked about this summer in one of my professional development classes and it has caused me to think that we need to teach "progressive struggle." That ability to work on something until we can get it, rather than just giving up thinking it's not worth the struggle to persevere.

Thanks to Amy for sharing this in our PD. Now, let's continue to share this with other educators and parents as the first day of school rapidly approaches.

P.S. Remember to read the comments. They are just as encouraging!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Don't let math go down the drain this summer!

This list of Math apps can help to keep the math skills sharpened during the Summer. Don't let them go down the drain or be filtered out with the pool water!   I use Slate Math in the classroom and my 2nd graders loved it!  Check out the list: TEN MATH APPS from


Friday, April 18, 2014

Counting Down or Counting Out?

There are less than 30 school days remaining in our 2013-14 school year. We are half-way through the last nine week reporting period. High stakes testing will begin in just over a week. What is happening to our learners? To our educators?

As the weather has improved and the days have become longer it seems there is a correlation to the memories getting shorter and the focus getting more and more cloudy.  As teachers there is a tendency to push and push, shoving more and more facts, figures, learning into an already saturated and sometimes exhausted mind of a young learner.  As I was talking to an educator (not at my school, thankfully), she stated that she was "counting down the days." Then she smiled and gave me that "I-can't-wait-until-Summer-break" facial look. Had she given up? Was she counting out her students? Had she thrown in the towel?

In preparation for our state's annual standardize testing, I am tutoring a group of seven third graders in math. They weren't ready for what we did. Using techniques from Dave Burgess's Teach Like A Pirate (@burgessdave #TLAP) along with ideas from Richard Byrne's websites and these third graders began to experience math in an entirely different way.

The first day my seven learners (all third grade girls) were waiting at the assigned point in the school with the other learners that were participating for nine hours of interventions over three weeks in preparation for the standardized tests.

They knew who I was. Evidently I have a reputation. (Thanks, PIRATE DAVE!) I announced in my strong teacher voice, "Mr Don's Math Scholars! Please, form a triangle."

Quickly they struggled to awaken from their after school coma as they tried to comprehend. "What? Form a triangle? Huh?"  One girl even stated, "Mr. Don, I'm not a math scholar, sir. I'm not really that good at math." To which I looked at her and whispering, corrected her, "I'm not good at math, YET!"

Breaking into a typical drill sergeant cadence. We marched from the meeting spot (as a triangle) to my room chanting,
"I may not know, but I believe, 
mathematics is for me! 
We will study, we will learn,
not just facts but skills we earn.
Math is everywhere we see
I can do it, You will see
Math is great and math's for me!"

As we marched down the hallway I ask questions about triangles, vertices, obtuse, acute, etc. They were answering quietly. I smiled and said, "I can't hear you!"  Then I smiled and at that they realized this was not going to be a typical math session.

We chanted down the hallway, now we were looking for triangles and identifying the types of triangles we could find all around us. We then continued the learning inside the room with activities, tech tools (iPads, Elmo, Projection systems) not by themselves, but as teams, as collaborators. We did this until we returned an hour later with a new chant exiting back to where parents were waiting to pick up their young mathematicians. No pencils. No paper. Math skills being enhanced by using our brains, powers of observation and using the tools we carry with us every day (yes, some had to user their fingers, but that's is a good purpose for them!)

We are now half-way through the intervention time. We continue to form geometric shapes as we cadence to the room. Yet, now, they are leading the cadence, calling out the geometric forms, identifying lengths/widths, and giving me formulas for finding area, circumferences, putting fractions into ascending and descending order all as we constantly move for the entire hour. No sitting (if at all possible) and continuously checking in with each other for understanding. We are noisy. We are learning. We are having fun, too!

The benefit to me has been enormous. I am just as rejuvenated at the end of the session as they are. We are making the time count not just counting the time.

We realize we have testing strategies as well as math skills to work on improving.

How do I know that learners should not be counted out as we approach the end of the school year? That young mathematician who "wasn't very good at math" celebrated yesterday with her team as she was able to solve a complex logic problem. Everyone in the room could hear her brain "click" and then see the light turn on as she "got it!" We all celebrated.

Let's keep counting down for events and stop counting out. Let's keep providing that hope of "Yet!" and not leaving learners in the ring thinking that they have been counted out and their match was lost, returning to their corner without hope.

"Yes, I know and I believe, all learners are extraordinary!"  (Their favorite chant as we end!)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014


E! for Explore is a great curated website of ideas and resource for teachers and parents. They have selected unique learning activities, and searched the internet to compile ideas from other sources around the internet.

Their index helps you find what you may be looking for in activities in math, science, even Language Arts. They provide easy links to those websites. All E is for Explore activities conform to state common core curriculum standards.


Monday, March 17, 2014

English Is For Everyone website!! reading comprehension site is filled with great passages for teacher resources in reading.  One of my favorites is for Reading Comprehension. The passages are leveld for the beginner through the advanced. The passages have the number questions, the number of words already for you and the material is age appropriate and interesting to the reader.

I like the resources listed on the site and will use them for additional material for enrichment as well as for interventions.


Responsive Classroom Resource...

My school and the district have been implementing Responsive Classroom for this school year. I needed a place to remind me of the concepts and basics of the RC approach and strategies. This site from the Albert Bridge School in Brownsville, VT has provided a great reminder for me in kid-friendly terms that I can look up and remind myself and my students about being a responsive classroom.   Thanks to the third-grade class who put these items together and a shout out for all of the school implementing Responsive Classrooms in their schools and districts!!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

My 5 New Math Sites!

Here are Math Sites I've heard about, stumbled across, and been using in my class. I wanted to post a selection here for my parents and others that are wishing to allow students to get some interventions while on Spring Break!!

1. A+ Click
A+ Click helps students become problem solvers. No fees, no ads, no calculators, and no sign in. The website features a graduated set of over 4000 challenging problems.The questions are based on the Common Core Standards in Math and go beyond with emphasis on thinking and not just wrote number sentences.

2. IXL Math ( is a subscriber fee based math site (plus other curricula) and to me is worth the fee. It offers standards based material and makes math fun and not boring (how many number sentences can a student really do to show mastery?)

3. A set of Mathematics Resources for Elementary students. The sites are interactive and provide engaging learning experiences. I use this for interventions and supplemental work outside of the classroom.

4. Cool Math 4 Kids ( Visually stimulating, engaging sites, and great intuitive lessons. That's just for the kids. Parents there is also a link for you that will help guide through the maze of helping with math homework, getting ready for kindergarten, and a set of resources. This is one of my favorites for the parent guides as well as the student interactivity.

5. Kids Numbers ( A collection of games, worksheets, and interactivity to assist the early learner in having fun with math.


If you have your favorite FREE math website please post in the comments. Parents and teachers are always looking for ways to help students get a positive learning experience in math that will last a life time!