Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fabulous Freebies: Interventions at the High School Level

There is so much focus on teaching students the basics at the elementary level.  Sadly, there are so many high school students who have missed some of the basics.  Here are some of the common misunderstandings that I've seen high school students repeatedly struggle with, along with some intervention resources.

#1: Fractions...So many students who struggle with math are not able to visualize or conceptualize what it means that there are wholes and parts of a whole.  Therefore, being able to use fractions--or decimals and percents--to manipulate and calculate is a struggle.  Here are a few resources that I've seen used that do not appear babyish to high schoolers...

Common Core practice worksheets that are leveled and come with answer keys.
Skittles Lab that practices fractions, ratios, percents, and decimals.
Free online lessons and activities that are connected to various math skills

#2: Comprehending nonfiction....One of the skills that students struggle with is pulling the main idea and details out of nonfiction texts.  Unlike fiction, struggling readers often do not realize that nonfiction texts use a variety of structures (spatial, compare & contrast, cause & effect, etc.).  If they did, they would become more strategic readers and successful at comprehension.  Here are a few resources I've used...

Text structure printable worksheets and answer keys
Guides to reading in the content areas

I'll be posting more upper level intervention strategies and lessons as the year goes along.  Let me know if there is something in particular you'd like One Less Headache to address and we'll do our best to help provide ideas and offer resources.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Review: "Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid"

Recently I read "Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid" by Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian. If you are looking for an entertaining and enlightening book about children with disabilities and their parents, this is it.

"Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid" is written from the point of view of two parents, Patty and Gina, who are each raising children with special needs. Patty and Gina provide solutions for difficulties parents often encounter including meeting with teachers, friends and meeting strangers. They stress how frustrating it is to hear about the "perfect" kids of others. One of the funniest points in the book is a section in which Patty and Gina compare what parents of some students may say and compare that to what they might say about their special needs kid. For example, "They say - My kid got the perfect attendance award." "We say - I'm just happy Johnny went to school!"

Although this book is written mostly towards parents of special needs students, as a teacher, it also gave me some good ideas on ways to make parents of special needs students feel more comforted and assured when I talk to them and gave tips that I can pass along to parents in need. It also was interesting to read about conferences and IEP meetings from the point of view of a parent and had ways to make parents feel more comfortable at a meeting.

Some of the best tips from the book include to say meaningful positive things about your students. Susie may have a beautiful pencil case but think of a compliment that goes beyond the surface. Gina and Patty also stressed asking parents about their children since the parents are an expert! Include them as part of a team in meetings, not sitting with all the staff across from them at a table.

The humor in the book makes it an easy read but the YouTube videos will really explain their point of view. I highly recommend them. I shared these videos with our entire staff and the whole room was filled with laughter.!

Have you ever read this book? What did you think about it?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Beowulf Quiz

I've created a 20 question quiz on the plot of Beowulf.  It was designed to assess whether or not students read the story and whether or not they comprehended key points.  It was also designed so that students reading a synopsis prior to close readings of excerpts could be assessed on their comprehension of the overview.  Questions cover characters and major conflicts.

The quiz is just $1, and comes with an answer key.  If you teach British Literature, you should check it out.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fabulous Teacher Freebies to Fill Your Mailbox - Part 2!

If you enjoyed Fabulous Teacher Freebies to Fill Your Mailbox Part I, here is part 2!  Here are some more teacher freebies that you can enjoy as they arrive in the mail. I love getting free things, especially directly to my own home.

Get a free ocean book cover that contains information about the 7 things you should know most about the ocean. Supplies are limited! Email your requests through this link.

Apply for a free, one year subscription to Yes! Magazine. This free deal is only available to middle and high school teachers, librarians and home schoolers. 

Get free Learning catalogs and DVD's by the Education Center. Free lesson plans are on most DVD's and other fun things to use in your classroom. offers a set of free posters and DVD to help teach values to your students. This freebie is available to schools and non-profit organizations.

The EPA offers a free "Make a Difference" middle school kit to help your students learn about how they can help the environment.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Essay Contest on Necessity vs. Desire

Yes! magazine is sponsoring an essay contest.  Here is the gist:

Who: All students from middle school through college are invited to participate.

When: Registration closes October 18.  Essays must be submitted by November 22, 2013.

What: Students must read an article about need vs. want and write an essay where they imagine what their life would be like--as well as the rest of society--if people only consumed what they needed.  The winners will have their essays published online.

Why:  Why not?  The prompt is engaging.  What's more, writing for a purpose beyond getting a grade from the teacher is absolutely critical if we are to turn our students into real writers.


1) Teachers register their class.
2) Students read an article published by Yes! magazine and write a response of no more than 700 words.
3) Each teacher selects the three best essays and submits them by the November deadline.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fabulous Freebies: Get Organized!

One of my constant goals is to stay organized and beat back the mountain of papers that come along with teaching.  Every time a pick up a stack to sort through it, I seem to find papers that are as old as my teaching career.  I could just throw everything in the trash, but I have this problem where I feel the need to know what I'm pitching.  Then there are the papers I copy for every class and the papers I get back to grade and the papers I get from weekly meetings and the papers with my lists of things to do and so on and so forth.  Sound familiar?

Don't get me wrong, papers have not swallowed my classroom whole....yet, but beating back the prolific paper piles is a constant job.  Keeping organized so that the most important papers don't get tossed out with the excess takes time, attention and planning.  So, what do I do?  Here are a few things that I use--and a few things that I should start using--to help me be better organized.

1) I keep a small calendar with me at all times to record meetings and due dates throughout the year.  Free templates can be found at WinCalendar.

2) There are several places where you can save papers online.  Of course there is Google Drive, but there is also Evernote.  Both places allow you to save documents, notes and images.

3) Three must-have binders: plans and calendars, student information and substitute materials.  Check out this blog for more details.

4) I always have daily and weekly to-do lists.  I start each week by laying out the things that I need to accomplish.  I keep my to-do lists in a notebook, but there are also cute online templates.

5) The Adventures of Room 83 has a great blog entry about organizing papers, with ideas for how to categorize supplies and files.

6) Want dividers to categorize your important files?  Check out these cute binder covers.

7) And, my favorite...Scholastic has 100 organizing tips for arranging your classroom without paying a cents.

If reading over this blog for 30 minutes saves you five minutes a day throughout the coming school year, then it is time well spent.

Happy organizing!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Do it Yourself - Play memory with your students!

As you might know if you read our blog, I love playing games in class. Today I wanted to share a game that my students love and I played with them at the beginning of the school year with you. It is memory! I teach art to students in my K-12 school and I played it with every level - elementary, middle and high school and it was a hit with each class. I highly recommend you play this in your classroom!

I set up my homemade memory game on my whiteboard but really all you need is some wall space. I prefer things even so I marked little dots five across and five down to set up my board. You can use as many pieces as you want but I decided to use 25. Then, on each dot I wrote down terms, definitions and class procedures. If you are using a wall and not a board you can use Post-It notes to accomplish this. Since I had an uneven number of spaces I had one square that was blank that did not match to anything. I drew a sad face on that one - it was sad it didn't have a partner!

You can use anything for memory so it is perfect for every subject area. Instead of putting down things that match exactly, however, use two things that go together. You can do this with vocabulary and definitions, completing a sentence, or even math problems. On my game I used some vocabulary to gauge their knowledge of art and some class procedures. For example, when they lifted one area it showed "2-D" which matched with "Flat artwork such as drawing or painting." Procedures helped them learn the routing for my classroom. "Pick up folder and sit quietly," matched with, "Do when you enter the classroom." Math problems would be great to pair problems with answers. History or geography have great possibilities as well for the game.

After I wrote my definitions, I covered them up. You can use any type of paper to create the memory cards to cover your words and terms. I cut pieces of copy paper in half and taped them over each word & definition. I could still see through after doing this, however, so I put a Post-It note to cover the center so the words could stay hidden.

When students go up to the board they lift up two sheets of paper during their turn and if they match they remove them from the board. I divided them into teams and had students take turns. I allowed them to have help from their team if their team knew where a match was.

This game didn't take long to set up and it was fun to see them so excited to play. Let me know if you end up trying or have tried this in your classroom!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Analogy Packet on Sale!

Students build their vocabulary through making word associations. They build their logic skills through analyzing analogies. So, word analogies are exactly the type of critical thinking skills we should have students engaging in on a regular basis. Included in my analogy packet are six word analogy centers around subjects including: U.S. geography, math, art, measurements, opposites, and word parts. Use these during a unit on one of the subjects above or have them available as extra credit stations for students to finish when they have a little extra time. They will surely be useful handouts to have in your bag of high quality activities to fill a few extra minutes here and there.

The last person to review it said, "Great for Daily 5!" 

It's on sale from the 10th through the 12th of September. For just $1.00 (down from $1.50) you can have a 4 star activity to make your students think!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fabulous Freebies: Freebies with a Facebook Theme!

This week I'm posting about some freebies that have a Facebook theme. I know my students love Facebook and so why not embrace it and add some Facebook elements into your own classroom?

I love these Facebook 'like' comment notes! They can really bring out the positive thinking in your students and help them notice the positive things others do in class. You could also have students 'like' the favorite things about the day's lesson.

This Facebook style getting to know you sheet is a great activity for the beginning of the school year. It has plenty of areas for students to customize their own page and looks very authentic to real Facebook pages!

These Classbook status printables are a fun way for students to update their status during class. You could also use these on a bulletin board for students to post about your class or lesson's status.

This Facebook bulletin board idea I saw is super cute and looked fairly easy to put together. The Facebook post it notes section is a great interactive idea.

This fun Facebook bulletin board theme is a great idea to make an educational bulletin board on a theme. This could be adapted to any subject area!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Human Rights Contest

The Kemper Human Rights Education Foundation was started in remembrance of Richard Kemper, a lieutenant who was "killed defending his country and its ideals in World War II."  It was founded by two people who I know personally to be great scholars and humanitarians.  Its purpose is to "inspire students to search for ways to create a just and peaceful world."  

Therefore, for the past thirteen years the foundation has sponsored an essay writing contest for students.  This year your students can participate in a pre-contest contest.  KHREF will award $100 to the student who submits the question that is chosen for the 2014 essay contest by November 30, 2013.  Just visit their site to find the entry form.  There are winning questions and essays from past contests to give your students as examples/exemplars.  

This is definitely worth looking at more closely.
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