Achieve the Core: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

So, far be it from me to rain on my own parade, but I was introduced to a website that will REALLY benefit teachers who are in CCSS; especially those that have adopted the PARCC as the state testing tool. I am currently in the process of creating something very similar to what this website has already done (it is in partnership with PARCC/Pearson), and I had anticipated having different versions tailored to the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment), the PARCC, and Smarter Balance tests, but now I may not have to do the PARCC ones. We’ll see. I have yet to explore this site fully, but what I have seen from it is very helpful. It does a great job of going through and showing teachers types of questions that would be considered “old” style, and how they compare to the “new” CCSS-style questions. They also have a nice section where they explain WHY the new questions align to the new standards and why the old ones don’t. Of course, these are based on the interpretations of the Pearson/PARCC people and states with different assessments may have different interpretations (Lord knows I don’t agree with all the things I’m seeing put out by Florida and the FSA…), but it is definitely a good place to start. They have ELA resources as well as Math. I haven’t explored any of the Math section yet, but the ELA should be very useful for teachers grades 3-11 in both reading comprehension (multiple choice, open, and extended response questions) and writing. I hope this site gives you ample resources to use in your classroom. I also hope that if you use what they have and are looking for more, that you will come to my store and check out my line. I’m running a little behind on the products because…well, if you’ve never created lessons, you won’t fully appreciate this, but any teacher worth his/her salt will: it just takes so much more time than you think it will when you envision it in your head. I’m still hoping to have most of my 6th grade CIM (Continuous Improvement Model) lessons up and available before the New Year, but it will probably be a few months before the 7th, 8th, and 9-10th grade lessons are ready. Also, I’m still going to try and get at least 2 full practice tests up and ready for each grade level before testing season starts (which in most states is mid-April). I’m also still trying to find time to work on a text-based Writer’s Workshop to have a tool more closely aligned to the new CCSS-style writing students are seeing, rather than the old, typical, prompt-based writing. Lofty goals, I know, but I’m really working on it. Anyway, here are some images from the Achieve the Core site, and of course, the link:

AtC 2

AtC 3

AtC 1


Football freebie – 12/9/14

WOW! I mean, WOW. Congratulations to the 2014 football BIG TEN Champions, The Ohio State University Buckeyes! In an unbelievable display of dominance, the Buckeyes – with their 3rd (yes, 3rd!) string quarterback, Cardale Jones – showed no mercy to the Wisconsin Badgers as they shut them out 59-0. Now, of course, we have been selected to play against #1-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. (Don’t let me get started on the bizarre-o rationale of the selection committee…) So at least for several weeks, this will be the last football freebie for you, so take advantage!

In light of this monumental win, I have created a freebie unlike anything in my entire store! It is a completely new and unique product! There is a TON of research and science behind using song as a memory tool. There’s a reason people make millions of dollars to come up with jingles – they work. Well, if the advertising companies can capitalize on our brains’ ability to remember things when put to music, why can’t teachers?

When I first began teaching 10 years ago in Tucson, AZ, I began as a math teacher. For 3 years I taught Algebra I Honors to 7th and 8th graders. Somewhere along the way, I picked up (from a stellar colleague, although I don’t remember who, sadly) a tool to help students remember the quadratic formula. Now, I’m not sure if you’re the type of teacher who mandates that students memorize the quadratic formula or not, but when I taught, my students didn’t get formula sheets on their tests/quizzes, so they had to know their stuff. For lots of students, the quadratic formula was so new and had so much going on in it, it was nearly impossible to memorize correctly. As a result, when I heard this little ditty from a colleague of mine, I thought I’d give it a try (even though, to be perfectly honest, as a new teacher I didn’t think it would work…).

The quadratic formula song is set to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” The words are simply the formula: “x equals negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus four a c all over two a.” When I sang it for my students, they all scoffed at me and told me (not for the first time) that I was a complete and total dork. However, the first test after I taught them the song, I’ll be darned if I didn’t hear little voices across the room throughout the entire day all softly humming the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” In fact, the first time I heard it, I think I said, “Ah hah! Gotcha!” Out loud, or something to that effect. To which I am almost sure I received plenty of eye rolls.

Now, I know that you may not be a singer. Or you may be, but you just can’t figure out quite how to get the formula to sync up with the tune. To this end, I have provided for you, for free, a recording of me singing the quadratic formula song. I’m reasonably sure it’s not going to win any Grammys, but I’m all right with that. Also, this tune is in the public domain, so no worries about copyright. I will say as a caveat that I have had a cold for a week and my voice is still kinda phlegm-y and hoarse. So, yeah, take that for what it’s worth. I hope you and your students benefit from my little song!

quadratic formula song

Cheer hard for the Buckeyes to beat the Tide on January 1, 2015!

Time to Stock Up!

My first year teaching was really hard. I mean, it’s hard for everyone, but of course, I didn’t know it at the time. I was lucky, however, to have 2 classes of Algebra I Honors students who were just fabulous. They were funny, bright, and eager to learn. Throughout the first semester, I struggled to challenge them, so over winter break, I came up with a semester-long project for the entire class. I wanted it to be something that was related to real life; something they could actually use in the future that would be authentic. Looking back, I’m not sure how I decided on this – I might have gotten inspiration from my (then-boyfriend) husband or from my dad. I don’t think I came up with it entirely on my own, because I’m not a stock market person and I don’t really know a whole lot about that kind of stuff. But I decided to do an investment project. I knew enough about buying and selling stock that I could give a brief tutorial on the major markets (I think I limited the project to the DOW and NASDAQ…or maybe just even one of those), the company abbreviations, and the other major abbreviations in the paper (including the up and down arrows). Basically, I taught my kids enough that they could muddle their way through the stock section of the Wall Street Journal. Now, back in the day when I did this, I was at a school where we didn’t have a computer lab (or if we did, I certainly didn’t have on-demand access to it), so I signed up for newspapers to be delivered to my classroom a few times a week. Most major cities have agreements with local school districts so teachers can get deliveries for free. Then, I explained to my students that we were going to engage in a semester-long investment project.

I had students put themselves into groups of 2-4 (I think…it may have been 3-4). Then, I gave each group $1000 virtual investment dollars. Students had time to research different companies they were interested in and then they got to choose up to five companies in which to invest their funds in whatever way they saw fit. They logged all their investments (number of shares they bought from which companies, price of shares, etc.). Throughout the semester, they would check the stocks at least once a week and record any profits or losses. They were allowed to buy and sell stocks, but only within their original group of companies (I encouraged students to pick the max of five so they’d have more flexibility throughout the semester). At the end of the semester, they had scores of data and they made different displays and did a presentation on their investments. They also wrote an essay analyzing their findings. It was a LOT of work and it was intense, but my students absolutely LOVED it. And they got SO much out of it! They got real-life exposure to a variety of numerical concepts, including graphing. I had kids that were so into the project they’d check stocks every night and beg me to let them buy or sell outside the set days. I had groups who made well over $10,000 by the end of the semester. It was really cool.

If this sounds like something you and/or your students would be interested in, I have created a basic version of the project. It has all the spreadsheets (complete with formulas, so kids can enter the data electronically and even make their charts in Excel) and other necessary information to begin the project. It would be most convenient if you had regular access to a computer lab so students could check their stocks electronically and get the most up-to-date information, but if you don’t, the newspaper stock section will work just fine.

I did this successfully with 7th and 8th graders, but I am sure it would be a hit with 9th or even 10th graders as well. In fact, if you’re really into the stock market, you could probably do an amped up version of this with an AP Stats class or an Econ (or even AP Econ) class. Plus, it’s a GREAT way to incorporate reading and writing into your math content, which is necessary now, with the Common Core. And your English teachers will love you for it! They might even be willing to do a cross-curricular lesson with the writing portion! Bonus points from Administration on that one!

I hope this intrigues you and you check it out!

stock market project

Oh, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the football freebie to celebrate Ohio State’s Big Ten Championship victory! I’ve done ELA freebies for the last few weeks, but tomorrow, you’ll get something for math! Yay!

Football Freebie 12/2/14

Go Buckeyes! That’s right, The Ohio State University Buckeyes continued their dominance over that “team up north” this past Saturday and secured the victory in “The Game.” Back-to-back years of 40+ point games. It makes my Buckeye heart sing! I’ve already created and posted the football freebie for this week’s win. It’s the answer key to my popular product, 100 Content Questions for the novel, Tangerine, by Edward Bloor. It’s got answers to the 51 questions that have a single (or a few possible) “right” answers. I’ve received feedback from people who purchased this product that they would really like an answer key, so I decided to create one. If you teach Tangerine, you could always just download the answer key and have your students create the questions from the answers, Jeopardy-style. It does not include answers for the questions that are short-answer/extended-response or discussion.

Tangerine answer key


Oh, and don’t forget there are still a few hours left for the Cyber Monday (& Tuesday!) sale on Teachers Pay Teachers! Stop on by and check it out!


Visit my store today for extra savings!


Cyber Monday Madness!

Happy Cyber Monday! Yes, it’s the new-age off-shoot of Black Friday (after, of course, the creation of “Small Business Saturday”); the day where everyone finds time during the work day to surf the internet for great online deals. Well, fear not, for I have Cyber Monday Madness to share with you! Teachers Pay Teachers is running their annual Cyber Monday sale today (December 1, 2014) and tomorrow (December 2, 2014). The entire site will be up to 28% off! Stop the madness! Everything in my store specifically will be 28% off the regular price. This is the perfect time to drop by and see the resources I have!


Visit my store today!

I’ve also finished (and posted) the second CIM (Continuous Improvement Model) lesson for the grade 6 RL.2 CCSS practice. It uses Poe’s poem, “Annabel Lee” and is designed to take 3-5 days at 7-10 minutes each. It is an “I do,” “We do,” “You do,” model that teaches and assesses the three main aspects of the RL.2 standard: determining theme, finding details that convey the theme, and summarizing the text. If it sounds intriguing, I’ve got a free one for RL.1 you can check out first. I’m excited to be rolling out this line of CIMs. This one for grade 6 RL.2 is just the second of a long list of these CIM products. There will be a CIM for every standard (RL1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and RI1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) for grades 6, 7, 8, 9-10, and 11. The line will conclude with 2 versions of a practice assessment (similar to the PARCC, Smarter-Balance, or FSA) for each grade level (6-11). I continue to appreciate feedback on the products in this line so I can tailor them to teachers’ and students’ specific needs.

6th grade FCIM RL2

6th grade FCIM RL1 freebie

Well, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you’re in a country that celebrates it!) with your family (whether blood or chosen). The holiday season is in full swing, so be safe as you travel and try not to get too stressed out!

And don’t forget to cheer on the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game this weekend against Wisconsin. With our 2nd Heisman-candidate quarterback out, we’ll need everyone to rally behind Cardale Jones!