Friday Favorites

Little Bit of This and That Just for You!

Reel Math Challenge

Not sure if you’ve heard of this. If not, check it out-

The Reel Math Challenge is an innovative program involving teams of students using cutting-edge technology to create videos about math problems and their associated concepts. This competition is meant to excite students about math while allowing them to hone their creativity and communication skills.

You can submit your name and email at the bottom of the website, so you will be notified when registration opens this fall. It would be fun to see what your students come up with!

Here’s a link to the actual contest website-

Project Based Learning

Rigorous, meaningful and effective Project Based Learning:

  • is intended to teach significant content. Goals for student learning are explicitly derived from content standards and key concepts at the heart of academic disciplines.
  • requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication. To answer a Driving Question and create high-quality work, students need to do much more than remember information. They need to use higher-order thinking skills and learn to work as a team. They must listen to others and make their own ideas clear when speaking, be able to read a variety of material, write or otherwise express themselves in various modes, and make effective presentations. These skills, competencies and habits of mind are often known as “21st century skills,” because they are prerequisite for success in the 21st century workplace.
  • requires inquiry as part of the process of learning and creating something new. Students ask questions, search for answers, and arrive at conclusions, leading them to construct something new: an idea, an interpretation, or a product.
  • is organized around an open-ended Driving Question. This focuses students’ work and deepens their learning by framing important issues, debates, challenges or problems.
  • creates a need to know essential content and skills.Project Based Learning reverses the order in which information and concepts are traditionally presented. A typical unit with a “project” add-on begins by presenting students with knowledge and concepts and then, once gained, giving students the opportunity to apply them. Project Based Learning begins with the vision of an end product or presentation. This creates a context and reason to learn and understand the information and concepts.
  • allows some degree of student voice and choice. Students learn to work independently and take responsibility when they are asked to make choices. The opportunity to make choices, and to express their learning in their own voice, also helps to increase students’ educational engagement.
  • includes processes for revision and reflection. Students learn to give and receive feedback in order to improve the quality of the products they create, and are asked to think about what and how they are learning.
  • involves a public audience. Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher – in person or online. This “ups the stakes,” increasing students’motivation to do high-quality work, and adds to the authenticity of the project.

Why use PBL?

Students gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and standards at the heart of a project. Projects also build vital workplace skills and lifelong habits of learning. Projects can allow students to address community issues, explore careers, interact with adult mentors, use technology, and present their work to audiences beyond the classroom. PBL can motivate students who might otherwise find school boring or meaningless.

Capture the Core

Check out the newsletters for your grade level-

5 Things Every Teacher Should be Doing Now to Meet the Common Core State Standards:

Lead high-level, authentic discussions. Teachers should craft good questions, and students should learn to cite textual evidence in their responses. For great ways to teach speaking and listening skills.

Focus on process over content. That doesn't mean content is not important. It means teachers shouldn't ask students to memorize vocabulary words or facts; instead, they should engage students in the gathering-information and learning process. Also, it’s a mistake to think you have to nail each standard, one by one. The standards are not meant to be taught via isolated, discreet tasks. In the real world, skills overlap, and they must overlap in the
classroom, too.

Create assignments for real audiences and with real purpose.
Don’t assign papers that are just for the teacher. Design projects with a real purpose,
such as to solve a problem in your community. Have students present their findings
to an authentic audience—online, in print, or in person. Students will benefit from
these rich experiences and be more motivated to learn.

Teach argument, not persuasion. According to Appendix A of the CCSS, persuasive writing might “appeal to the audience’s self-interest, sense of identity, or emotions,” where as a logical argument “convinces the audience because of the perceived merit and reasonableness of the claims and proofs offered rather than either the emotions the writing evokes in the audience or the character or credentials of the writer.” Teach students how to gather logical evidence.

Assign increasingly difficult texts. One way to increase text difficulty is to use text
sets. For example, one teacher at the conference suggested combining The Odyssey with a
Star Wars text and an NPR story on veterans and violence.Text sets increase engagement
and help students make thoughtful connections.

Key Areas of Instructional Focus in Math

Focus—the push for mastery of a few key concepts at each grade rather than shallow repetition of the same material. To achieve this goal, priority of specific areas must be made so students reach a strong foundational and deep, transferable understanding.

Coherence— thinking across grades and linking to topics within grades. Teachers connect
learning within and across grades to build new understanding on to foundations of previous

Rigor—the pursuit of conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency and application with equal intensity. Teachers present students with opportunities to demonstrate deep conceptual understanding of core mathematical concepts and apply them to new
situations in addition to promoting an ability for speed and accuracy in calculations.

Key Areas of Instructional Focus in English Language Arts

Balanced Literary and Informational Text:

50% Literary Text
50% Informational Text

Literary vs. Informational Text
Literary text is a narrative form of text and can be viewed as fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
Fiction: traditional literature, fantasy, science fiction, realistic fiction, and historical
Nonfiction: nature writing, travel writing, biographies, memoirs, essays.
Informational text is a kind of nonfiction text that includes exposition; argumentation
and persuasive text; and procedural text and documents.

Text Complexity—
consider quantitative and qualitative measures of the text as well as the reader and task considerations.

Text-Dependent Questions—focus on higher level questioning connected to the text; focus on evidence based answers in rich discussions and writing.

Close reading—Read shorter complex chunks of text with close attention; reread and look for evidence to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Academic Vocabulary—
Teachers need to be alert to Tier 2 Words (i.e., fortunate, industrious, absurd) which are frequently encountered in complex texts and are applicable across disciplines.

Writing Arguments—
Students need to take a stance in their writing and use
evidence from sources to support their position/claim.

Breast Cancer Walk

I’ll be there bright and early with my camera to take pictures for part of a digital story that we are required to make for DOT, as well as other interns who will be interviewing participants. I’m all for supporting a great cause. Hope to see you there!

Young Writers Program-National Novel Writing Month

I love how excited your students get about reading and just any competition in general, so I wanted to tell you about National Novel Writing Month coming up in November! Any student can enter and simply set his/her own reasonable, yet challenging word-count goal.

I absolutely love writing and would have been obsessed with this challenge in school.

“National Novel Writing Month happens every November! It's a fun, seat-of-your-pants writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!

That means participants begin writing November 1 and must finish by midnight, November 30. The word-count goal for our adult program is 50,000 words, but the Young Writers Program (YWP) allows 17-and-under participants to set reasonable, yet challenging, individual word-count goals.

In 2011, 250,000 adults participated through our main site, and 50,000 young writers participated through the YWP.”

The website provides tons of great resources for you to use for this project including their very own curriculum aligned with Common Core, customizable student workbooks, lesson plans, a virtual classroom to monitor students’ progress, letters for parents, classroom kits for incentives, etc.

The best part is the confidence and imagination that this project instills in students. Can you imagine how it would feel to have your own novel in elementary/middle school?

You know what would be great? If your students decided to commit to writing their own novel for the month of November, you should enter the Adult Program and write your own too! They would love that!

Upon completion, students are awarded a promotional code to receive a proof bound copy of their finished novel.

Check out the website!

Because you are still human...

Go make yourself some pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes this weekend!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick (all-purpose baking mix)
1 1/3 cups milk
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup chocolate chips (seems like a lot, but we might as well go all the way)

Combine the first four ingredients and stir until the baking mix is moistened and pumpkin is well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Heat a griddle or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto hot pan. When pancakes are dry around the edges and full of bubbles (after about a minute), flip. Cook another minute or so, until cooked through.

Hot coffee, warm pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes, and some cool weather...

Enjoy it!