Friday, November 29, 2013

'Tis the season of giving...

In this season of giving, I want to share about a special gift that has been given to my classroom.  DonorsChoose is a website dedicated to helping teachers get needed resources.  (If you've never checked them out before, run over there - as soon as you finish reading this, of course! - and check them out!)  Several of my co-workers have recently submitted projects and I decided to jump on the bandwagon.

My project was to get a class set of calculators.  Now I know what you're thinking...why would a math teacher want calculators?  Shouldn't the students be performing calculations?  Real math gets messy.  If we truly want to do real-world math, then we need students to see math as it is...messy.  The problem with messy math is that the calculations get in the way and students spend so much time working through the calculations that they really lose sight of the math involved.

Enter the calculators.  If I can eliminate the need for my students to labor over the calculations, maybe, just maybe, they could "get" the math.  Alas, our supply of calculators was more than a little inadequate.  They were old, not quite abacus old, but old nonetheless.  Every time we got them out to use them, there were two or three more that needed to be thrown away because they no longer worked.

I turned my frustration into action and decided that I would submit a project of my own on DonorsChoose.  I would, I decided, try to get new calculators for my classroom.  I submitted my project on November 4th.  By November 22nd, my project was completely funded!  (In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that both my parents and my husband gave generously to my project and they gave at a time when their donations were doubled.)  My calculators were ordered the same day the project funded and they shipped two days later.

I also became part of the Caring Classrooms Community on Donors Choose, which is administered by Laura Candler.  To join Caring Classrooms you must donate to at least one of the projects featured on Caring Classrooms.  By doing so, you can submit a project of your own for consideration.  My project was selected to be featured by Caring Classrooms and within a week, my project was completed funded!  How's that for the power of community!?

My story doesn't stop there, however, and here's where it gets exciting.  The last donation to my project (one that was over $100), was made by a teacher in Ohio who had her students collect pennies.  She and her teaching partner agreed to double the amount collected by their students and they choose my project to donate to!  I am so honored to belong to a profession full of great people!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Are you ready for the big sale?

Have you heard the news?  TpT is having a Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale.  All products in my store will be 20% off and you can get an additional 10% off by using the promo code CYBER for a total savings of 28%.

What are you waiting for?  Go get your wish list ready!

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's About More Than the Math (or whatever other subject you teach!)

A family friend is a NASA astronaut.  Back in September, he left to spend 6 months living aboard the International Space Station (yes, I know someone on the ISS!).  He has been tweeting from space (@astroillini) and has shared some amazing photos!  He has also done numerous interviews from the ISS, and my husband even got to talk to him on the phone!

So where am I going with this, you ask?  Well, I've been sharing all of this (mostly via Edmodo) with my students.  (To 12 year olds, astronauts are like rockstars!)  I've uploaded the tweets (sometimes just the photos, sometimes the whole tweet) to Edmodo and we have had a really good time discussing them.  Sometimes I've posted a photo of a major landform and asked my students if they knew what it was (it happened to be the Grand Canyon).  Sometimes I've taken 5 minutes and played one of his interviews.

So why do I do this?  We all have reluctant learners.  Students who are difficult to engage in our subject matter.  Students who try to stay invisible.  I am hoping that by sharing about Mike's adventures I can engage those students.  I can show them that, while I do care about them learning the mathematics that I teach, I also care about them being engaged with the world around them, because what they don't realize is that there's an awful lot of math involved in what Mike does (and what he had to do to get where he is today!).  My efforts have created connections between me and my students beyond the mathematics that happen in the classroom.  I am hopeful that these connections will reap rewards in the classroom!

Do you engage your students in something outside your subject area?  I'd love to hear what you do and how your students respond!