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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!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

CLOSE Reading - What Does It Really Mean? (Special Education Use?)

Thanks to Grant Wiggins at I have found great material on really helping me to understand what Close Reading really is and how to implement it in my Special Education classroom.  (See complete article here.)

The main take away for me is that Close Reading should and can become as natural as reading itself. Unless you have some difficulty in reading or processing. Yet, that's where I found my epiphany. In finally understanding all the steps and process in Close Reading through the writing of the article posted,  I can see where I wasn't spending the right amount of time discovering the layers of meaning hidden within the text.

Once I began to break down the reading selection into "chunks" digestible for my students (i.e., get to know your students capabilities and then stretch them) - we were able, together, to navigate the depths of the text.

"Going down deeper!" I would say, as we would re-read, re-think, and try to see if we could find something that we hadn't see before. The discovery was the "fun" part. The analysis not so much. So we, keeping with the metaphor, we focused on the treasure - looking at what we  found, how did it relate to us, where was it found? What does it look like on the bottom? On the top? On the side?, etc. Yes, we had to take the time to teach the analysis steps in ways the students would come to find as an extension of the discovery. Then folding in the comparing and contrasting from what we had found earlier, we were well on our way through the analysis portion of the Close process.

Now we can discuss what we found, what we have concluded and predict or think ahead on what we will find as we continue to move through the text. It has been exciting to do this and to watch this unfold for each of the students in their own specific manner and pace.

Pacing was my Nemesis. I wanted to move through the book much faster than they did. Just as life, for us typically-abled we zoom through things and more often than not, miss things. But as my individually-abled students keep teaching me, when we go at our own pace, somethings become more important at the time than other things. The focus on the color of the dress the princess is wearing is just as important as the focus on the type of sword the prince may use to slay the dragon. While those may not be the main points, they are to those students. It is my job, to help them see the details as well as the main topic of the text. When we have all finished our analysis, then we can summarize to reach the main topic(s) and move forward. This takes several iterations. But, oh my, how joyful the journey.

I'm convinced that more we practice the more we will increase our speed of the process. I'm even more convinced that not practicing at all is a disservice to each person. What important lesson we are teaching by excluding the rich details as we summarize the main points and thus complete the comprehension of the story? After all, I may not remember all of the details of what I read, and sometimes the main idea that I've reached is different than a colleague based upon my prior-knowledge and attention to (or lack thereof to) such details. That is the fun and joy of reading - discussion and learning by interaction within a safe relationship.

Thanks again to the great staff of writers at TeachThought-com as I go back to see if we can determine the type of dragon - you know, even if not fully stated it is important to those who focus and know a lot about dragons.

I teach K-3 special education students in an urban school district in Middle Tennessee.

Showing Respect and Calm when a student "Acts Out"

The site has a blog entry by Janice O'Leary titled, "5 More Quick Tips to Deal with Inappropriate Acting Out Behaviour" which I found was a great help to me with some of the students in my classroom.

While I don't believe in "talking-over" students that are intent on interrupting while you are trying to communicate with sentences that start with "I see that...," "I noticed....," etc., I like to create calm in the room by playing with a toy - even just a marker and rolling it on the table to gain or re-direct their interest from the behavior being displayed by acting out. Sometimes the simple act of sitting close by and rolling a marker on a table and not talking will generate a new interest and/or curiosity.

After gaining their attention I really like items four and five from Ms. O'Leary's blog entry:

"4. Do, not say. Children pay more attention and learn from what adults do than from what they say. If you want your child to be polite, then you must be polite. You cannot expect your child to be non-aggressive when you are fighting with your neighbor.

Yelling “Calm down” at your child will not work, you have to show the child how to behave. Being disrespectful to a child solves nothing, you only teach them that this behavior is acceptable in your family. You must be composed. “I do not like it when you call me names like this.” Then calmly walk away.

Model the behavior you want to see in your child. Show them how to handle frustrations. “I am very upset with the way you spoke to me”, then walk away. Don’t just say “you need to be polite.” Show them in your everyday life how to be polite.

5. Accept bad moods and bad days. Everyone has bad days. This coupled with your child’s difficulty with problem solving and communicating can lead to major arguments. Sometimes people are just not morning people. If you recognize this, you can avoid fights by having an established routine with less communication. Breakfast, get dressed, off to school.

You can accept a bad mood by saying, “It looks like you are having a bad day, lets chat in ten minutes.” Bad moods are okay, you can accept them and say “I know your team lost and you are upset, just take it easy tonight.” But if the bad mood leads to your child to taking out their anger on you and it escalates into disrespectful, rude or obnoxious behavior, that is not okay.

You say “I am sorry you are having a bad day, but don’t take it out on me.” Then walk away. Remember to disconnect."

Please read the entire blog post here:

And a special thanks to all of the great writers at for providing great information and strategies for all of our students.


Reading Dimension Recommendations from Anthony Smith

Reading Dimensions from Anthony Smith's blog entry published at has been a great help for me to get my perspective and solidify my approach for teaching pre-reading skills into a working strategy for readers at various levels. Other links embedded and referenced in Mr. Smith's article have also helped me to go deeper into the "why" of the reasoning behind his approach.

Check out the blog and hopefully you, too, will find something you can use immediately in your classroom.


Motivate Children to Do Better in School (great 10 ways from Debbie Pincus)

10 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Do Better in School by Debbie Pincus MS LMHC

Read the entire blog post here:

In reading the above blog link I was struck by the simple, yet effective methods, Ms. Pincus discusses in her listing of the ten ways to motivate children to improve in school. The article is great for parents as well as teachers.

My favorites as both a parent and educator are:

Number 1. Keep a relationship with your kids that is open, respectful and positive. This is a great foundation to build upon all of the other ways. Without respect and positive relationship no one is attentive to listening to a parent or teacher.

Number 4: Ask the teacher. As an educator it is important to have your son or daughter know that you have a positive relationships with their teacher. To work together as a team (parent-child-teacher) to help the child understand there are no "enemies" here, but all want him/her to succeed.

And, Number 10, "Don't Futurize" -- We have no way of knowing what will happen in the future, nor do we have any control on events that may happen as a result of others making choices that affect us. What we do have control over is the way we look at and process events which help us to make decisions and choices. Anxiety can lead to paralysis at worst, and can cause us to miss seeing or hearing important information as we process situations in order to make good choices. What they will doing or where they be living in 20 years is not as important to a child trying to work through the anxiety of math one evening at home - it is important for him or her to be successful in front of their peers.

Pincus provides even more ways to help our children to reduce the anxiety of life in school and all that brings, with making sure the responsible adults in their lives assist them in navigating through their journey as them become responsible adults to hopefully repeat the cycle for their own children.

Read more: