Archive for the ‘Math’ Category

I don’t usually think the best place to go for great teaching resources is on a school website. Often, they are clunky, and the link pages they usually list are disorganized and cumbersome. There is one school website, however, that I have used over and over again over the years: the Greece K12 website.

Today, I was looking for rubrics for a speech unit. I wanted one that was simple but that would still cover the standards. I looked around and then thought I should google “speech rubric greece k12.” Sure enough, the first hit was a whole list of rubrics, and one of them was a speech rubric. It was exactly what I was looking for. To make my day even even better, the rubric was created in a Word document, which means I was able to download it to my computer and edit it to fit what I wanted for my class. This rarely happens with rubrics.

The page I have used the most on this site is their excellent, organized list of graphic organizers. This is a resource that every teacher, no matter the subject, should have in the toolbox.


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One of the challenges in doing video projects with students is having enough cameras for every group. Often, there is one or two cameras for an entire class meaning there are a bunch of students standing around waiting to use the camera which is frustrating for both the students and the teacher.

If students are allowed to use the technology they already own, the sharing of school cameras will not be a problem. This week, two of my classes are making videos to demonstrate satire. I have 9 groups filming and not a single one of these groups is using a school camera. The majority of them are using either an iPod or an iPhone to do their recording.

I’ll admit, I was a little bit skeptical at first. I expected a bunch of shaky film work with barely audible soundtracks, but the result of the videos was outstanding. The pictures were clear and crisp and surprisingly stable, at least as stable as most student made videos even when they are using a tripod. On top of this, the audio was loud and clear, even better than a few of the actual video cameras that we used.

Teachers and administrators often look at the technology that students bring to school as a distraction, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it can be.  However, not using the technology that students have at their disposal is asinine! The students have it. They have paid (or their parents have paid) a lot of money for it. Why not show them how to use it productively? Why not put it to good use? I do know this from personal experience: when students get the opportunity to use their own technology as a tool for learning, they become totally engaged in whatever they are being taught. Actually, when this happens, they take great ownership in their own education.

First, teachers need to be educated in how to use the technology that students use. Those iPods in the student pockets are not just a fancy Walkman (I bet you haven’t thought about one of these for a while!). They are tech powerhouses, almost as powerful as the desktop computer or laptop you are reading this on right now. Though this video is a few years old now, it gives a great overview of what can be done with an iPod in the classroom:


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Earlier this week, I wrote about using Prezi Meeting with a middle school class. One of the challenges we faced was figuring out how to post the links, which were insanely long to try and type in, so that other students could access the links. Here’s what we did.

1. Create a pirate pad (or equivalent). Go to

2. Click on the big frog

3. Once the pad is created, copy the URL for the pad

4. Paste the URL for the Pirate Pad to a blog or web page where all student will have access

5. Now, have one student in each group set up an active Prezi presentation and make sure you are in edit mode

6. Click on the “Meeting” tab at the top of the page

7. On the drop down menu, click “invite to edit”

8. A box will come up with a special URL for that Prezi. Copy the URL

9. Now, go to the Pirate Pad page and paste this URL along with a group name. This is important if several different groups are going to use the same Pirate Pad.

10. The rest of the group can now go to the Pirate Pad, copy the URL for their group Prezi, and past it in the address bar. The students will then be taken to the appropriate Prezi to work collaboratively as a group.

I think this will do it! My middle school students did this several times this week, and it worked great. The best thing about it was that they all got to participate in the construction of the project, which gave them much more buy in when it came time to present as a group.

If you try this and think of another step I may have missed, please let me know, and I will do some editing. Thanks!


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Today, I had a class of students working on Khan Academy. Like I said in a post a few days ago, the students are doing great. The students are now getting spread out more as far as what they are studying, which is exactly how the program should work. All of the students can work at their own pace and at their own level.

Up until now, the students have been working on math that was mostly a review, so it has been a great way to brush up on skill that they already know. However, today a few of them went into unknown territory. They started to study material that was totally foreign to them. One student in particular looked over at me with a puzzled look during class. He asked if I could help him. I told him to watch the video that went along with the lesson.

I know. I’m the teacher, so I should have helped him. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t exactly sure what the lesson was talking about myself. It’s been a while since I have done that kind of math. Besides that, I wanted to see how the video would help him with the exercises he was supposed to do to complete the unit. I have never seen how Khan Academy works in this way.

I helped him get the video going and then left for a minute. When I came back, I am guessing it had been five minutes or so, he was done working on a different unit. I asked him what happened to the last one he was working on. He told me he was done! I could hardly believe it. This was totally foreign material to the student. He had never even seen it before, and in a few minutes, he had completed all of the problems for that unit.

It it easy here to take the side of the skeptic. Sure, he may not be totally proficient on this material. Can he apply it in real life? Probably not. Will he remember it tomorrow? I don’t really know. All I know is that he did complete some math problems with little pushing from me, and he was pumped because he learned it on his own.

The students I have working right now on Khan Academy are intrinsically motivated to do the work and learn. They are getting no grade specifically for their work on the computer. Working on Khan is a “break” for them from the rest of the class. I don’t know that I have ever seen students so excited to learn on their own. On top of this, they are spending some time outside of class to work on the units with no motivation or pushing from me at all.

I am having a hard time believing it! I only hope that their excitement keeps pushing them.

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This week, one of my classes has been working on a website using the Lifeyo. That might not seem like something worth writing about, but what is cool is that they are all able to work at the same time. They all log into the site and are able to add content to the site.

These students are in my Current Issues class, and I have asked them to go out on the internet and find different current events from around the world. They then write down the title, author, and a two sentence summary on a Word document. After that, they cut and paste their “event” onto the website which has several pages named after different classifications of world news that the student came up with like education, crime, and government.

I have 12 students in the class, and they are all able to get on at the same time and post their events without much trouble. Sometimes it does get a little messy as events tend to be place on top of each other. However, this is quickly fixed after everyone is done posting.

Basically, we are using the website as a place to post the student’s assignment. By doing this on the internet, the project is much more real for the students, and their engagement level is quite high. To be honest, they are loving it!

There are lots of applications for a project like this in most any classroom. Here are a few more ways to try this in your classroom:

1. Math: Have students work out problems and post the instructions on the website. Your class could have their own “Math Instruction” site. I am guessing that this would also serve as a good reference for them in the future.

2. English: Students could make a “Grammar Guide” site. Each student could find one grammar rule (or be assigned one), research it, and post the rule along with examples. Maybe they just all find examples. There are lots of places this could go.

3. Science: The teacher could give a topic and have the students go out and find information relating to a topic to post on the site. This is a great way to pre-teach a topic!


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fakebookphoto © 2010 Sean MacEntee | more info (via: Wylio)Saturday, I wrote about the several different apps for making a fake Facebook walls in the classroom. I started to explain some of the ways this activity could be used with students, but didn’t dig too deep, so today I thought that we could get out the shovel and pick. Let’s get started:


  • Students can pretend they are a famous scientist and explain a particular finding or experiment from that persons perspective.
  • Students can be a certain chemical in a compound and explain, from the chemical’s viewpoint, what happens when mixed with other chemicals. This one will really stretch the mind of the students and probably the teacher.
  • Have a student write from the perspective of an earthquake, a tornado, or a tsunami. This may sound silly, but it will show the teacher whether or not the student understands a concept.

Math: This one might seem like a stretch to some, but there are students in the math classroom that will benefit greatly from this kind of activity.

  • Have students be a number in a math problem and tell what happens to them through wall posts. Their friends can be the other parts of the problem.
  • Students could be a geometric shape and explain what functions that shape serves.

Social Studies:

  • Students could act as historical figures. This activity has great potential. Students could be a civil war general, a ruler in ancient China,  or slave on a ship crossing the Atlantic ocean.
  • Students could be a country and explain what the people within the country are doing.
  • This one will test the student mind for sure. Have them be a rock on a hill overlooking a valley. Explain what is happening there as it is settled by the people. Maybe a rock along the Oregon trail, or on the coast near Cape Horn.

Language Arts:

  • Students can write from the perspective of characters in a story.
  • The RAFT concept can be used here to have great potential in the English classroom. Instead of being a character in a story, maybe the students can write from the perspective of a fly on the wall, or a chair in the room, or the family cat.
  • Students could be a comma and show how it is used in the comma’s own words. Again, this is a mind bender.

I’ll admit, some of these ideas are a little on the crazy side, but that is what makes them so fun. I guarantee that students will take an idea and totally run with it using a fake Facebook app. They will be engaged in what they are learning and eager to share their knowledge with others. This is one of those activities that will not only be fun, but also be one of the best learning opportunities for particular students.

As always, I am open for more ideas. I would love to hear how you have used fake Facebook apps in the classroom. Leave your ideas for the rest of us in the comments.

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Go to the Khan Academy main page and start looking for a lesson. There are a bunch of them on there, over 2,100 lessons on several different levels of math as well as other subjects. One things Khan Academy has going is that the lesson are arranged in order to a great extent. There has been considerable care in arranging lessons in much the same order they would be found in a text book.

The problem is that a student who needs to find lessons on trigonometry functions may have no idea where to look. Now I hope that what I am going to write next does not offend anyone, but I just have to point this out because I am guessing that there are quite a few who may not ever find this unless they are told. I am learning more and more, that what is often obvious for some is a revelation for others.

In the upper right hand corner of the screen, there is a search bar which works exclusively with the lessons on the site, and it works well. For example, type in “trig functions” and up pops several trig lessons, but this is not all. When just the word “trig” is entered in the box, there are two playlists listed. When clicking on the playlist, users are taken directly to the entire trigonometry chapter where all the related lessons can be viewed in a hierarchical means of learning the content.

Whenever I approach a teacher with a new web tool, much of the apprehension stems from the extra time it is going to take in learning how to use the new tool and then also the time in teaching the students how to use the tool. Khan Academy is not like most sites I have seen.

It is easy. That is really the only way to put it.

One other note of interest: When looking at lessons, and especially when teaching students to use the lessons, pay special attention to the comments at the end of each lesson. If there is something that Khan has left out in his tutorial, the answers to questions can often be found in the comments. In one comment thread, learners were discussing how to use the calculator correctly to do the work outlined in the video. Someone had a question and five people responded with help.

Okay, I did it again. I went back and talked about Khan Academy! I just can’t seem to get away from it this week.

If anyone has ideas on how to use this or other tips for using the site, I would enjoy hearing from you. Have a great day!

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