Category Archives: Guest Blog Posts

Helping Middle Schoolers Avoid the Summer Slide

~Happy to have another blog post from guest blogger Catherine Ross. Summer slide. How can our kids avoid it?~

summer slide

Every summer, an evil monster waits in the dark looking for its next victim – a young mind ready to stay idle for over three months. What evil monster? Why, the dreaded Summer Slide indeed! Children lose mammoth educational ground during their summer breaks because they are away from regular studies for a long time. Summer slide affects middle school children the most as they are in the most crucial phase of their education – the middle school years not only help kids discover their favorite subjects and areas of interest, but also help them set the foundation for advanced studies. While parents get busy planning family holidays as soon as summer sets in, ensuring that the learning doesn’t stop sometimes takes a backseat. So how can summer slide be tackled among middle school children while simultaneously making the most of the sunny, breezy season? Below are a few ways to make learning seem like a game and prevent summer slide in middle school children.

Setting goals

summer slide


Middle school children must understand that it is important to stay connected to their last year’s syllabus. What they’ll learn in the next grade will build upon what they learnt in their previous grade. So it’s essential to know their last year’s math, science, and grammar syllabi. Set goals with your middle school child and try to make the learning experience fun. Examples: solve 100 math problems in a week, read four short stories in two days, conduct three science experiments in 5 weekdays, etc. The time limits will make it challenging for a middle school child to achieve the goals and eventually help in preventing the inevitable slide.


summer slide 4


Setting a goal of reading four short stories in two days doesn’t necessarily translate into reading four short stories in one day. Or, solving 100 problems in a week doesn’t mean the middle schooler will solve 50 on the last day of achieving the goal. The whole objective of ‘setting goals’ is to ensure that the middle schoolers continue to practice their lessons through the break. So oversee your child’s daily routine and make sure she plans out the tasks sensibly. If a child has to read four short stories in two days, she should ideally read two a day, and solving 100 problems in a week will mean solving 14 a day on an average. When your child gets bored of solving problems and reading stories, switch to fun games for kids online that are both educational as well as fun.


summer slide


Plan mid-summer rewards for kids on successfully achieving their goals. Why would they want to complete the tasks assigned to them within a limited time if there’s nothing waiting at the end of it for them? But avoid rewarding them with very fancy gifts and instead choose books, stationery, puzzles, board games, etc. In other words, choose rewards that have an educational value.

Going out

summer slide


There’s another objective to summer besides trying and avoiding summer slide – enjoying summer! Museums, nature parks, and zoos never cease to teach us. Take kids out to these destinations and give them a chance to explore beyond their textbooks. Incorporate learning cleverly into these trips by studying maps of the places you explored, going back home and writing essays on the trip, documenting the trips to make a journal on their summer holiday, and more. After all, summers are meant to be outdoorsy!

Don’t forget to enjoy the sun while trying hard to avoid summer slide. Play while learning and learn while playing to make the most of both.


Author Bio:

Catherine Ross is a full-time stay-at-home-mum who believes learning should be enjoyable for young minds. An erstwhile elementary school teacher, Catherine loves coming up with creative ways through which kids can grasp the seemingly difficult concepts of learning easily. She believes that a ‘fun factor’ can go a long way in enhancing kids’ understanding and blogs at

How to Come Up with a Winning Science Fair Project Idea ~ Guest Post

So your child is in middle school and is participating in the school science fair, and you’re now trying to help come up with science fair project ideas. Irrespective of whether your child was forced to take part in the science fair or even if science is a much-disliked subject, you can turn the situation around with a winning science fair project idea. Here are six tips to share with your child to ensure (s)he enjoys working on the project, learns a lot in the process and maybe even ends up with a prize!

science fair 1

Science Fair, 09” by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  1. Begin Early

The science fair is a long way away, and you figure you have more than enough time to come up with a good science fair project idea and see it through to the end. Great! That’s no reason to put off starting on the project. You never know what complications may arise once you actually begin. Even the seemingly simple task of coming up with a good idea may take a lot more time than expected. The last thing you want is to find out that you have only one week left for the project, and an understandably limited choice of ideas to choose from. With more time in hand, you have the liberty of choosing a topic that truly interests you, spending enough time to do research and understand the topic in detail, and collecting the necessary information in a well thought-out and organized manner. And if you’ve got your eyes on the prize, each of these factors will help differentiate your project from the other good ones on display. Believe me, the judges can tell.

  1. Choose a topic that really interests you

The right way to go about finding a good science fair project idea is to begin with your interests. Don’t read through a list of ideas and see whether any of them appeal to you. Rather, take some time to think about what kind of topics get you excited. It doesn’t even have to have a direct link to science. What things make you sit up and pay attention? Sports? Cats? Building things with your own hands? Narrow your list down to a few of your favorite topics and spend some time thinking about them. Most probably you will have to do some additional reading on the topic to come up with a question that interests you. The Google Idea Springboard is a great tool to help you out in this area. You’re likely to spend a few weeks if not months working on your project, so having a topic that you love will keep you interested till the end.

  1. Come up with a good question that you can work with

A good science fair project idea begins with a good question. How do you define a good question? Firstly, it should not be a question that has already been answered by someone else. If you design a science fair project around the question ‘Which color light do plants grow best in?’, it is unlikely that you or anyone else will learn anything new from it. The experimental procedure and results for such a project can easily be found on the internet. Even if you do decide to do a project based on a science fair project idea you found online, make sure to change the question and ask something new so that you are experimenting and doing research on a slightly different area. Secondly, the question should truly interest you. Don’t adopt a question that someone else finds interesting or exciting. Use your ‘favorite topics’ list, spend time playing with different ideas in your head and only settle for a question that you would genuinely like to know the answer to. This interest will completely change the way you approach the project.

science fair 2

Sanna Science Fair by terren in Virginia is licensed under CC BY 2.0


  1. Consider the experimental procedure involved

Remember, while trying to settle on your science fair project idea, you have to come up with a fool proof method for collecting data to answer your question. Consider the kind of time, energy and resources required to set up your experiment, and realistically evaluate whether it can be accomplished with what is available to you. Also check your experiment for any flaws. Is the data that you are collecting quantifiable? Is there any subjectivity involved? Have you considered and taken care of external factors that may affect your results? If you do not know the right answers to these questions, or how to design your experiment accordingly, you will need to spend some time understanding how to set up a scientific experiment.

  1. Feel free to change your question based on your background research

It is entirely possible that as you go about collecting the information you need for your project, you realize that your question isn’t a very good one, or that you think of a better and more interesting one. Feel free to change your question according to your findings. This is where point #1 becomes even more important.

  1. Make sure you understand all the concepts involved

Don’t worry about finding a topic that sounds highly complicated or scientific. In fact, the more simple your topic, the better you will be able to work with it. Nobody is expecting Ph.D. level research from you. More importantly, you will find the research and data collection far more difficult if you haven’t fully understood the topic yourself. Feel free to ask for help from an adult or the internet in order to learn more about the topic, but when it comes to the project, do all the thinking and analysis yourself. This will help you immensely when it comes to answering the judges’ questions about your project, and your in-depth understanding will show.

As long as you keep these tips in mind, you can be sure to come up with a science fair project idea that will win you over, impress your audience and maybe even tip the judges’ scales in your favor.


Author Bio:

Catherine Ross is a full-time stay-at-home-mum who believes learning should be enjoyable for young minds. An erstwhile elementary school teacher, Catherine loves coming up with creative ways through which kids can grasp the seemingly difficult concepts of learning easily. She believes that a ‘fun factor’ can go a long way in enhancing kids’ understanding and blogs at


Bringing it to Life: Art in The Middle School Classroom

Thank you to Claire Holt for once more writing an amazing guest blog post! Fantastic ideas for incorporating art in middle school!


For enthusiastic students who are entering the fifth and sixth grades, life begins to shape itself in a myriad of fascinating ways as adolescents develop their sense of identity and nurture their ever-changing interests and attributes as the world opens before them. With so many possibilities awaiting and the desire to learn combined with the complex changes that begin to take place as they enter one of the most vital transitional phases of life, keeping the classroom open as an inclusive and dynamic space is essential. Engaging interest and cultivating critical thinking in preparation for the oncoming high school years is critical, and one of the best ways to do this is incorporate creative activities that are accessible and fun.

Here is where the humanities continue to play an important role, despite its reduced presence in the classroom over recent years due to cuts in public education. The core creative processes that drive innovative problem-solving skills as well as collaboration and a healthy venue for expression are essential for succeeding in today’s world, so it’s important to never take their value for granted. Through the discovery of music, art, and literature, individuals will find a unique outlet for their voice and incorporating them into the classroom – particularly art, and it can be included on a multi-disciplinary level.

Enhancing the Learning Experience through a Variety of Mediums

Art provides one of the most revealing mediums through which people can come to better understand the lives of their ancestors and the resonances of various events and beliefs throughout history. One of the most exciting and immersive ways to learn about past events and penetrate the “how”, “why”, as well as the “what” is to take a look through art textbooks at some of the vibrant mediums which artists used to portray the dynamic world around them. Featuring some of history’s most iconic works and inspiring the class to use similar techniques and create their own masterpieces will make this even more integrative – Medieval mosaics and coats of arms can be composed from construction paper, paint, and a little imagination, and can even be created online for a practice brainstorm. Small-scale models of ancient wonders can be made by using clay, cardboard, glue, popsicles, toothpicks, cloth, and paint etc. Building a bridge and testing its resilience by placing weights on it is one way to experiment with the basics of engineering as well as encourage peer participation and resourcefulness.

coat of arms



Finding Innovative Ways to Share Information

As well as discovering the many joys and complexities of art and architecture, teachers can generate interest in other creative fields which are found in the worlds of science, math, and information. As graphic design becomes the main medium by which facts and resources are delivered through the improvement of technological advances in media, experimenting with different ways to share this information is a vital skill for the growing generations. Using collages, colorful flow charts, diagrams, and 3 dimensional models – like a model of the solar system – draws on both visual and kinetic learning techniques, as well as transcending traditional methods of recording information.

art in middle school



Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda states that “Great science is about thinking out of the box. And art is way out of the box, and having that kind of influence improves both sides. Artists test the edges of how humanity is and can be, and scientists make it happen.” Suggesting that one of the best ways to improve education at the earlier levels would be to more effectively combine the art and science communities, Maeda follows the forward-thinking educators who are seeking to work with more interesting methods of instruction.

By handing over the gauntlet to the class so to speak, students are more motivated to try out their own ideas and methods and with some encouraging guidance can develop their talents. The learning process which is undertaken during every project is gift enough in itself, but getting to enjoy the finished product and competing in local events featuring students from other classrooms and schools is another excellent activity which inspires community involvement. Classrooms can even go the extra mile and learn the value of helping out others by painting murals for local libraries and other public spaces, and witnessing the importance of how art can transform a community.

With a little bit of creativity, students and teachers can create an environment where the level of learning is both enjoyable and memorable, and cultivate their potential for thinking outside of the box which will equip them for success in years to come.


Art For Students Who Can’t Draw (Guest Blog Post)

I am so excited about this guest blog post. Claire Hodgson has some simple, practical ideas for including art into our classrooms (even for those of us who may not be Picasso)! Thanks again Claire, for your fantastic post!
Art lessons can be a chance for everyone to have some fun in the classroom and show what they can do, but only if you ensure that every child feels able to create something, regardless of how much natural artistic talent they may have. When you are coming up with lesson plans, you should consider how you could provide art projects that don’t just inspire the most creative students.

Coming Up With Ideas

Some children struggle with art because they find it hard to come up with new, creative ideas. They look at a blank piece of paper, and all they can see is a blank piece of paper. Finding new ways to help these kids to unlock their creativity can ensure that they get to enjoy art class as much as everyone else. One of the reasons why art is so important in education is that it encourages students to express themselves and to come up with their own ideas. Giving the less artistic kids a little nudge of inspiration can help them all to become more inventive and imaginative. It can be particularly rewarding if you need to reach out to students with additional needs. Children who have ADHD or who are on the autistic spectrum can often surprise you with their dedication and creativity when you find the right subject or material for them to work with in an art lesson. The easiest way to make sure everyone can come up with a good idea is to plan a more directed art lesson, where you offer a particular source of inspiration or starting point for the class to work from, but you can also encourage more experimental creativity by helping your students to look at the world differently.

A good source of artistic ideas can come from linking your art class with a book that the kids have been reading, which can be a perfect opportunity to link in to the core curriculum for literacy, particularly when it comes to finding evidence in the text and understanding figurative language. Try getting them to draw a picture of a character or location from the story, thinking about what visual clues are provided by the book, and how much is left to the imagination, or ask them to draw both literal and figurative versions of things that have been described metaphorically.

A different way to inspire creativity is to encourage the children to find a new way of looking at the world. There are endless ways you can do this, but it can be as simple as getting your students to find a new perspective from which to look at the world, by turning upside down, looking at objects close up or through a mirror, or cutting out and decorating a picture frame that they can use to compose their pictures of a landscape or still life. If you thread string into a grid pattern across the frame, they can even use this as a tool to help them keep their drawing to scale. The grid technique can even tie in with math lessons and the core standards for understanding scale drawings, since it can be used to copy and resize pictures.

Techniques for the Less Artistic

Another issue for some children is that they simply lack the technical skill of some of their more naturally artistic peers, which can really damage their confidence. Introducing a variety of techniques can ensure that everyone gets the chance to express themselves, and it can also make teaching art easier for you, since you won’t have to be particularly artistic to demonstrate them.

1. Photography: taking photos can be the perfect way to allow kids who are less skilled with paints and pencils to learn about composition. If you can get your hands on a cheap, kid-friendly camera, this can also be a great homework or vacation assignment that you can use to get an insight into what is most important to each child. Ask them to come back with five or ten photos of people, places or objects that matter to them.

2. Computer Art: kids who might not come across as particularly artistic in more traditional art lessons can often be the ones who have the best computer skills. Allowing them to show you what they can do with computer drawing and painting tools can give them a big confidence boost.

Digital Art

3. Comic Book Art: a lot of artists start by copying other people’s work, and comic book art and cartoons use bold lines and bright colors, which can be easy for kids to copy and use to create their own stories.

4. Collage: this is the best medium for ensuring that every child gets the chance to do something creative, since it requires willingness to experiment more than technical skill, and it can make a great collaborative art project. You can provide a variety of materials yourself, but it can also be interesting to see what the kids will bring in if you let them collect extra material at home. Encouraging them to see everything as a potential piece of art can generate some really surprising effects.

5. Mosaics and Pointillism: if you want a slightly less messy lesson than collage making, then you might want to look at Roman mosaics or pointillism. This is an art history lesson that can easily merge into a practical art class. You can prepare plenty of little squares or circles of colored paper, like the remnants left over by a hole-punch, or get the kids to tear off tiny pieces for themselves, to glue down to create their own mosaics or dot pictures.

Paper Mosaic  
Claire Hodgson: After a decade in graphic design, Claire decided to combine her passion for writing and her family by being a full-time mother and freelance writer. On a more personal note, she says she also loves to take her English setters for long walks.

Say What? Guest Blog Post – Accountable Talk in The Classroom

I think you’re going to love this guest blog post, written by expert teacher, Julie Faulkner. Julie has been teaching English in TN for over 10 years. She has taught 7-12 English as well as composition and literature at the college level.  Julie has worked this past year as a common core trainer in ELA for TN to train teachers to implement common core. 

Take it away , Julie! 

Do you ever wonder why some students are so quiet during classroom discussions? Could it be because…They don’t have a clue what to say? Maybe they don’t want to be judged by their peers? Or maybe they don’t see the point?  This summer I spent hours training and preparing for common core.  In doing so, I realized effective speaking and listening are hugely significant and tied directly to everything else.  It became very apparent that effective communication, though, goes way beyond common core and the classroom – it is critical for college and career readiness.

To elaborate a little there – a short story – my husband works for a major business corporation in the US and takes conference calls daily. Never did I realize until I was thinking about how to incorporate talk into my classroom, how this practice actually does fit the mold for “college and career readiness.”  I will also say here, that up until this point, I was actually struggling for rationale as to why I should even “waste” my precious class time with discussions.  So, this summer I overhead my husband using what we call in the academic world “accountable talk stems.” After I asked him about it, he elaborated that effective communication was critical – maybe even one of the most important things his job requires. Thus was born my entire pedagogical approach and rationale for implementing thoughtful and structured academic talk. 

To me accountable talk occurs two ways in the classroom – what the teacher says and what the students say.  Teachers usually talk a lot in the classroom setting. After all, we are responsible for covering material, questioning, checking for understanding, and managing class time, right? While the former is true, I realized quickly that what I said and how I said it in my classroom could actually make or break student growth.  As a result, I began to change my questioning patterns to use “smart talk stems” myself.  But that wasn’t all – WARNING – this next part might be painful.  I began to wait on students to answer me.  Yes, crickets and all. And in the beginning there were lots of crickets.  I was so used to throwing out a question, and if the student couldn’t answer right away, I’d answer for him/her for the sake of time or fear of it looking like I hadn’t explained the topic clearly enough.  I might even let another student bail him/her out.  Students are used to be nurtured in that way, and it became very apparent to me that I was guilty of giving students an easy way out to the point of actually crippling them from being able to struggle and articulate their own thoughts.  Secondly, I realized that I had been allowing students to only answer half-way or maybe even incorrectly.  If they answered with a correct one-word response, I would drop it and move on. If they answered partially wrong, I would reword it for them to make it correct.  Suddenly, I realized I was doing all of the questioning and answering.  In that regard, sadly I had no true measurement of their understanding. I began to slow down- to ask students to explain in their own words. I asked other more eager students to wait and then elaborate on the prior student to teach listening and feedback skills. 

Additionally, to truly be able to express a thought and to be productive, there must be justification.  Students must be able to say why or how they know with credible reasoning.  In my ELA classroom, it is easy to correct a comma in daily oral language and move on. Or, we can fix a subject-verb error “because it just didn’t sound right.” That type of justification doesn’t truly do students any good the next time they encounter that same mistake.  I wanted my students to learn how to not only have the answer, but to have the answer and be able to say why.

Once I began to model accountable talk practices with my students, speaking and listening came more naturally to them when it came time for them to host their own talk time. I didn’t start out eating the whole elephant here, either, with this second leg of accountable talk.  This type of practices takes a long time to develop.  I began to put students in pairs for a “turn and talk” or “pair/share” type activity. We practiced with topics that were easy to discuss. Then we moved to whole group discussions.  Each time, though, students come prepared to talk with something they have written first.  Afterwards, we also write again to sum up the discussion or for reflection.  The talking portion of class is tied to the text and the task. Ultimately, we have a triangle of talk-text-task (and not necessarily in that order every time).

I am reminded of a country music song lyric (not surprising given my TN home) that says, “It’s all talk, talk, talk- talking in the wind.”  Unfortunately, a lot of times that can be true. We talk in circles; some talk too much, and others don’t speak up at all.  Some comments are useful and some derail the main point.  I think having a goal and modeling is crucial for the success of the discussion.  Students must be learning not only what is an effective way to listen and speak to each other, but they also must be gaining subject-area content knowledge.   And, I think that’s the ticket – this is just yet another tool in our deep and wide toolbox to help us prepare our students for the world in which they must eventually enter and be productive citizens.

 –Julie Faulkner


 Follow Julie at her TPT store

Free Smart Talk Stems Poster 

 Discussions Implementation Bundle for Middle and High School Levels (priced)



Wrapping Up The School Year

I’m more than a little jealous of those of you who are done for this school year. I personally can’t wait for the weather to warm up a little bit and start my daily outings with my own kids – you know, the ones I gave life? It’s been a chilly and rainy May, and I’m hoping for a nice warm and sunny summer. I have so many plans for the beach, picnics, playing at the park, and finding new places on this little island that perhaps I haven’t seen yet. Below is a shot of the fam from last summer. We camped that evening with some friends, went on a bit of a nature hike and ate out at one of our favorite little spots that’s only open in the summer time. All in all, a perfect stay-vacation! Insert sigh here…Wrapping Up The School Year

However, before all of the summer fun that I have planned, I need to make it through the final month of my school year!

end of school year ideasOn that note, Laura from Corkboard Connections, was kind enough to allow me to write a guest blog post for her and I’d love for you to check it out if you have a moment. I know I’m not the only one left wondering how to wrap things up in this final month of school!

Please, shoot me a comment with your best end of school year ideas so that everyone can benefit!


bullying video

Bump It Up Boards (A Guest Blog Post)

 Welcome to Kristy, from 2 Peas and a Dog, my guest blogger for today. Thanks again for such an awesome idea, Kristy. Enjoy folks!


Need a strategy to improve student achievement? Have you tried Bump It Up Boards? They are a great visual way to help your students self monitor their achievement.

bump it up boards


bump it up


How To Get Started:

Choose a curriculum expectation or focus you see as a need in your classroom. I chose the 4 R’s [retell, relate, reflect, review] reading reflections strategy.

Collect many work samples of your focus. You can use previous student work, ask colleagues for their examples, create your own, use government standardized test exemplars or search the internet for examples.

Ensure your samples represent a range of student achievement levels – not just ones that meet or exceed expectations.

 Student Involvement:

Students worked in groups to read the responses and “grade or mark” each response based on their previous knowledge of what makes a good Retell, Relate, Reflect and Review.

A student in each group was the recorder and wrote down all of their ideas on what made the each exemplar a Level 2, (C), Level 3 (B) or a Level 4 (A).

We had a class discussion and compared our answers to ensure consistency among our expectations for Level 2, 3 and 4 work.

Final Process to Create the Board:

Type up student thinking under the appropriate curriculum expectation categories – this will become your Success Criteria.

Type up the assignment expectations and format the graded work samples to fit on to the display board.

Colour code your examples by level and attach to a bulletin board or poster board. Have students reference this board while working on their assignments to self monitor their progress.

Products to Support Bump It Boards

Free Signs and Labels

Free Four R’s Complete Support Package
2PeasAndADog Blog

Inquiry Based Math Lesson on Data Management (Guest Blog Post)

I’d like to introduce a guest blogger this evening,  AnneMarie, from Looking From Third to Fourth. She teaches grade 3/4 in Ontario. She’s written an excellent and detailed data management blog post. Enjoy!


This year I am part of my board’s Junior Numeracy Network, where I work with math consultants and other Grade 4-6 teachers from other schools to develop, implement and discuss inquiry-based math lessons. In between our sessions we have to have another teacher and consultant watch us teach an inquiry-based lesson to discuss at our next workshop.

As I was about to begin my data management unit I decided to do a formative assessment lesson to kick off our unit. Previously when teaching in primary classrooms I have always started by making a class graph based on a survey questions – to engage the junior students I decided to change it up a bit. Here’s what I did.

First we played a classroom minute to win-it like game. Students were giving some conversation hearts (left over from our Valentine’s Math!). They were given 1 minute to stack them as high as they could. Each time it fell they were to start over – but record the height of the tower before it fell.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Her stack just fell over!
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Page to record data.

When the 1st minute was up I recorded their data (only at that point we were calling it scores) on our Brightlinks whiteboard.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

I was purposefully recording their numbers in an unorganized manner. Once it was up I asked them a few questions: Which ones were Preston’s? Who made taller towers the girls or the boys? Which number is on the board the most?  The students all agreed that we could not answer some of those questions just by looking at the numbers, and when someone told me what number was up there the most and I asked are you sure they quickly said well no, I said can you prove it and they started to hesitate. So we quickly reached our first pieces of consolidation:
*you need to organize information so that it is easy to read
*information that we collect is called data (yes they actually remembered it from the year before – they must have had a great teacher : ) ).

We started again, they had another minute to build and record data. Before I collected it from them we talked about ways to organize it. Some students tried to apply multiplication since that is what we just finished but a few came up with a chart. I was supposed to use tally marks but didn’t in my haste to collect.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Next, I gave students paper strips (all the same length). They were given 3 minutes to create the longest paper chain they could. Some students worked in partners, 2 worked alone. I did this to help introduce fairness/bias later on. I got this idea from a measurement activity I found on Pinterest and modified for this activity.
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

They labeled their first loop and put them away. The first part of our lesson was over.

That afternoon I had the students get their paper chains and bring them to our carpet area. I did not give direction about how to put them down. They all started putting them down in the same direction and one eager student started to line them up – but I stopped him for a minute and asked him to let people decide where to put their chains.

Once we had all the chains we talked about how they were displayed – were they easy to compare. The students decided they all needed to line up at one starting point so we could compare them. Yes, consolidation point 3 – our display need to be organized – in this case with a starting line.
Now we could easily compare the chains and see which was the longest.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Next we decided that our display reminded us an awful lot of a graph (although first we said grid and could not come up with bar graph or pictograph). I then asked them to identify features that were missing – they again focussed on a grid (ugh!). Finally we got to a title – yes – then had to decide where to put it. There was much confusion about whether it could a horizontal or vertical graph – finally we decided both were okay!
After that we finally got to the fact that we needed labels at the bottom to tell whose chain was whose. Yes more consolidation – graphs need titles and labels!
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Then I brought out my chain – and they lost their minds. I made it with 11 x 17 paper instead of their 8.5 x 11. They knew for sure that this was not fair. I asked a lot of questions about why they thought it wasn’t fair. I asked if they knew mine was longer than the rest – just by looking – could they really compare them. We came up with the idea that we needed to count mine to see if it was the longest – and it wasn’t. They were shocked. What did we learn – a graph needs a standard size or scale so that we can read it accurately. Yes, more consolidation.
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

Lastly, they were asked to make their own graph based on our data. They could choose a blank paper or one with a grid section in the middle. Many chose the grid paper – only to realize it was not big enough to count by 1’s for the scale – and some people were stumped. A few said “Oh, I know what to do” (yes, what a great teacher they had last year). And a few just added squares to the top of the grid (who the heck was their teacher last year!).

Our next steps are to use the paper chains and plot our data on a number line. Then we will find the median. We will also find the mode – we have 3 paper chains that have 19 chains and one that has 23 so we will focus on the mode being the answer the one that occured the most not the one with the most chains. Lastly they will make a model of their chain using paper clips and then we will find the mean by averaging out the paper clips from one chain to the next.

During our computer lab I plan on using this website to continue practicing our skills:

If you made it through that long post I would love to have you stop by and visit my blog some time!
Looking From Third to Fourth
Thanks for sharing such an awesome, and in depth lesson!  Any comments or questions for AnneMarie?
canadian link up, giveaway

If you don’t have time to read this post, I’m talking to you (Guest Blog Post)

I’m happy to introduce to you, Michael Roderick, my guest blogger for today. He’s got some really practical ideas on how to manage your time – I think most of us could use a little help in that area. I know I can! Take it away, Michael!


time managementAs a former teacher, I spent a great deal of time at school. Many times it felt as if I didn’t have much of a life outside of school. Then, something interesting happened.  I started prioritizing and developing time management tools and I suddenly had a lot more time to work on other projects. In the 8 years I taught I also was able to provide mentorship to student teachers, run a Drama Program, serve as a Department Chair, and as an interim Dean of Discipline. Below are some tools I used to make that happen. I hope they help you.

Stress and loss of time often come from feeling overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is a direct result of feeling like everything is urgent. If everything is considered urgent, then nothing gets done. 

Breaking down your week:

Create a list of everything you have to do in the next week. Even if it seems minimal, put it on the sheet. Once your list is complete, choose five things that you would consider a top priority. Circle them. Choose your second top five and put a square around them. Then leave the rest.  (10 minutes)

Now create an A column, B column, and a C column.  A=top 5- Done today , B=2nd top 5-Done tomorrow, C= Rest- Done within the week

Now approximate the time it will take to do each task

Choose test format- 5 minutes

Choose problems- 15-20 minutes

Write the test for 9th– 30-45minutes

Write the test for 10th– 30-45minutes

Write the test for 11th– 30-45 minutes

Now that you know how long each thing will take, punch it into your schedule.

If you prioritize and choose the most important things, you’ll find that not everything is urgent and you’ll have more room in your schedule to plan.

Grading strategies:

Specific days for specific assessment– Choose a specific day each week for tests and quizzes.  Ex: 9th graders get a quiz every Tuesday and a test every Friday. 

Paper overload- You can assign do now activities and do a spot check with 3 or 4 students randomly.  Do this often enough and you’ll cover the whole class in about a week.   You can also give each student a folder and collect 5-10 folders randomly each week. The key is spacing things out so that you don’t have a day when you walk home with 200 papers.  You can also stagger when things are due. So rather than having 4 classes with projects all due on the same day, you assign one class due on a Friday and another on a Monday etc.

Tracking- Whether it’s a clip board, a Note Pad, or an Ipad. You want a place that you go to for your notes from the day regarding students and issues. Having one place you can go to review for the rest of the day, will save you a ton of time.  You won’t have to run around finding notes in three or four different places. You can also plug in the items to complete into your online calendar, so you can see on your phone when it’s time to get something done.

Delegation- You do not have to do every single thing. Think about the things on your list that you can give to students. They can write your agenda on the board, help hand out papers, help you organize and more.

Keeping in Touch:

Email- Think about responses that you give all the time and create a template for that response. Whenever you are contacted about that specific issue, just cut and paste the template into your email.  Cut down on your folders.  You should be able to file everything into 5 easy to follow folders. You can remember them easily by thinking of clearing S.P.A.C.E.

  1. Students- Any email from a student regarding homework, assignments, questions etc.
  2. Parents- Any email from parents about a student and their progress
  3. Administration- This is where you file any email from the administrative team. Principals, Department Chairs, Asst. Principals, etc.
  4. Content- Use this for emails regarding lessons, tests, and anything else
  5. Extras- This is for clubs, activities, and any email that does not have to do directly with your classes. Ex.) Drama Club, Walk for a Charity, Newsletters that you’re interested in reading


Masterminds- Find a few teachers who teach the same subject and schedule a lunch or after school sit down at least once a week. One of the best ways to relieve stress is to converse with others experiencing the same thing. You can share best practices and connect which may be the best way to wind down.

Be realistic- If you have 100 papers to grade for tomorrow, it’s going to take you a lot of time. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get them all done. You’re human. Remember the plan, take things in small chunks and schedule throughout the week. You’ll get them done. Remember that any big number can be divided.  Do the math on your projects and you’ll find more time.

 Bringing it all together

  So in order to take control of your time, you need to ultimately do 5 things.

  1. Identify what’s important
  2. Schedule everything according to priority
  3. Track what you’re doing daily
  4. Keep email at bay
  5. Schedule time to recharge


Hopefully you have found these techniques helpful.  If you have good time saving techniques, I invite you to share them below.


Bio: Michael Roderick is the Director of Business Development for LearnBop , a tool that helps teachers save time.  He has mentored student teachers and has a Masters in Educational Theatre from NYU. He has also produced on Broadway and been published as a playwright. He can be reached at  @LearnBop on twitter