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If you teach math – make the time to get your kids to this site (CCSS aligned)!

I had heard about this site a while back. I checked it out and knew that it looked pretty cool and that the kids would probably enjoy it. Then I got busy.  I didn’t have time to register all of my students and get their logins and passwords created. I just didn’t have time – period.

Well, turns out I should have found the time. Sumdog is an amazing math site (designed for ages 6-14) and I’ve only just scratched the surface. (I know that this is old news to some of you out there – so I’m talking to those of you who are like me and love to get new ideas and websites, but just don’t always have the time to actually do anything with the lovely new resources.)

sumdog math website


So, what makes Sumdog so great?

1) It’s FREE! There is a priced option that gets the kids more games and you more statistics on each student’s progress – but the basic package is free. I know you love that, right?

2) Students can play not only against the computer, but against other kids in their class or kids around the world who are online at the same time. They’re more engaged since they’re trying to beat their friends or “that kid from The States”. (I actually have kids playing this on the weekend – I can see when they last logged in!)

3) There are little extras to hook our middle-schoolers, especially. They can change their avatars to look more like themselves. As they advance through the levels (correctly answering questions and/or winning games) they collect coins to buy new clothes, accessories and other “cool stuff” like instruments and bicycles from the Sumdog Shop for their online persona. They can also use those coins to access special games. My students are surprisingly motivated by this “Shop”. We haven’t gone “shopping” yet, but they want to get in there!

4) Teachers can choose the skills to target, or you can let the computer generate the problems as the student is playing. Sumdog is set up so that the computer generates questions that are at the appropriate level for each of your students.  When the questions get too hard, the computer will automatically drop the skill level down, so that the student doesn’t become frustrated. It’s built-in differentiation!

5) You can easily find out how your students are doing because Sumdog has a “Reports” section that allows you to monitor the level that students are working at and where they should be working next. (Again, you can pay for more detailed stats – but the basics are free.)


Here’s a look at the page where students will start off  when they play. This is my avatar:)


sumdog math website




 Here’s a look at the “Shop”.

sumdog 3


There’s tons more that I could tell you, but you should check out the site yourself. You can set up challenges, lessons and activities. There are contests and competition options.

I know that my neighbors to the South will be happy to know that you do have the option of having students answer questions aligned with the Common Core State Standards (grades 1-6)! There’s also the classic version which is what my students are using.

If you teach math, make it your homework to at least have a look at the site by the weekend. Try some of the games. Then next week, make some time to get your class set up, and students’ logins created. That’s the only thing. You have to plan to take your kids to the site. They can play as “guest”, but it makes more sense for them to have their own account to start earning coins!

Sumdog has been motivating to my students and so I hope it’ll be motivating to yours too!

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Using Picture Books to Teach Literary Elements in Middle School – A Great Find and CCSS Aligned

I’m super excited about the book that I just got Using Picture Books to Teach 8 Essential Literary Elements: An Annotated Bibliography of More Than 100 Books With Model Lessons to Deepen Students’ Comprehension. What a mouthful!

The book covers:


~Point of view






~Figurative language

 It’s for grades 4-8 and contains 2 lessons for each of the 8  literary elements above, using suggested titles. Each lesson is based on a model text – a picture book! The title, author and brief plot summary are included for each model text. Each lesson begins with a critical question based on the literary element and the materials required for the lesson are listed. A step by step explanation follows, as well as black line masters if applicable, and a wrap-up. Beyond the 16 lessons, there are  “More Books for Teaching…” each of the 8 literary elements. Along with the additional title suggestions, are teaching ideas and interdisciplinary connections for each.  Over 100 titles are included in all and this book is aligned to the Common Core – which is a bonus! There is a two page spread at the beginning of the book listing which standards are addressed.

One of the lessons that I can’t wait to use is a Point of View Improv activity. The group that I have this year will love it! Most of them love an audience and thrive on acting silly! There are 10 cut-apart scenarios that willing students will draw from a basket, each putting them into a unique situation by giving them a specific point of view to speak from. For example, “You are a cheeseburger. You see a big mouth coming towards you. What do you call out?” I mean, come on!  What a unique idea! There are only 10 cards included, but it would be easy to come up with some others. Students could also create their own “point of view improv” card and the cards could be added to a class set.

I just love when I buy a book that I can see so many uses for! I already own 5 titles that are included in this book and I’ll be looking at gathering more!

Picture books are so powerful and I think that sometimes we forget that in the middle and upper grade levels – I know I do. However, so many picture books are extremely versatile and could address multiple teaching points. I don’t mean for you to run out and purchase this book – although I do think it’s a good buy! What I’m suggesting is to have a look at your library, or the class libraries of teachers of other grade levels. Most picture books will offer opportunities for teaching literary elements – it’s just to find the time to read through some good ones and to make those connections. That’s what I love about this particular book – all the connections and titles are there for me! 

Do you have any titles of picture books that you use to teach particular literary elements?

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