Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I will be traveling during the winter break.  We will be going from Los Angeles to Boston for the holidays.  I will try to blog from there, but it might get a little busy.

I can't wait to see my family and friends.  There is always something exciting going on when you have a large family.  I know one thing... I am grateful for my family.  They are the best! The calendar will be quite full and laughter will be shared.

My son, Ciaran, will be showered with love and he feels the same about his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends back in Boston.  He is over the moon about his trip.  He packed his robot bag a week ago with all his favorite toys.

I got to see my son's Holiday performance this week.  I couldn't be more proud of him.  His class sang "Frosty", "Rudolph", "My Favorite Things" and "All I Want for Christmas."  They ROCKED!

We are so thankful for his amazing teacher. We appreciate her hard work and dedication. She truly is one gifted teacher who inspires our son every single day!

Do you have any special plans for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Area Lesson Follow Up

I have posted some recent math lessons that have been quite helpful for my class.   I'm trying to keep the students engaged in all things mathematics. The students seem to understand the math concepts through multiple approaches such as exciting math games, CGI strategies, Number Talks, mental math questions, exploring number patterns, higher level thinking questions and the use of tool kits. I truly believe we are on our way to a deeper level of understanding.

A student who showed multiple ways of solving a problem.

One of my favorite things to teach is writing.  Well... it is part of my Blog name.  Every year I try to develop the best writers any teacher could ask for in his/her class. Teaching writing takes time and a lot of patience, especially at the third grade level.  Students have so many unique ways of saying things orally, but if you ask them to write it down, it doesn't always translate into what they really mean.   Believe it or not, this is the part of the job that I enjoy the most!  

There is a bulletin board section in my room reserved for writing.  Each student has writing pieces that are pinned monthly. By the end of the year, you can see the growth within each student. The writing samples are placed from most recent to beginning of the year.

I hope you visit my blog from time to time because I am going to offer a plethora of writing strategies that have benefited my students for years. I try my best to create students who develop a lifelong passion for writing.  

I am always open to feedback and comments.  If you have lessons that have been effective in your own class, then I would love to hear about them.

PS- As a follow up to yesterday's area lesson I asked students to play the game (with the deck of cards or dice) with someone at home.  Here is a picture of what one student did with his dad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Finding Area in Fun Ways

We are flying through the year and the class is doing an amazing job.  Room 18 has been trying new ideas from a variety of educational resources. Maybe some of you use Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, TpT, etc., regardless, the resources are are out there.  World wide teacher collaboration rocks! There are so many teachers offering great lessons.

I got this cool idea from Pinterest. Hats off to the creator of this math strategy! We tried it out and the kids were asking to play again.

  • A game for 2-3 players
  • Each player chooses a color pencil, crayon, or marker they will use
  • Players take turns rolling the dice, using the numbers that they rolled to draw the perimeter of a rectangle/square and writing the area in the middle of the shape
  • Game ends when players run out of room to draw
  • Winner is the player who has used the largest area/most squares
In addition to this idea, we have been using math grids for other reasons as well.  I'll call out a number and the students have to find the area, as many ways as possible, while using different shapes.  For example, if I call for the number 24, then the students cover the area of 24 in as many different ways as they can.  Color coding helps a lot to show differentiation.

Here is another idea I have used in my classroom.  You can ask students to make a complex figure and total the area of the figure.  Check out this great blog post here.

This week we changed up the dice game.  I had students play an area game with a deck of cards
  • Students will need a deck of cards and graph paper
  • Students draw two random cards from the deck
  • The first card may represent the length and the second card can represent the width or vice-versa  
  • Students will need to use different colors if playing against an opponent
  • Explain the formula- (area = l x w ) or review strategies that you have taught for finding area
  • Students graph the area of the cards drawn  
  • If students draw a 9 and 4, then the student would color or outline 36 square units 
  • Students can complete this activity alone or in partners
  • Students might want to be clever and strategically place their square units
  • Winner is the player who has used the largest area/most squares

We played this game in my class and here is what our learning looked like!

What creative ideas do you have for teaching area?

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Blog Design

I have a new look to my blog and I can't thank Kassie Garlock from Designs by Kassie enough for her work.  Kassie worked at lightening speeds and always responded when I had any questions.  She was able to achieve just the look I was going for in my blog.  I strongly recommend her as a blog designer for any occasion.  She knows what she is doing!  Kassie is a true professional at every level.  Her diligence and attention to detail blew me away.

Thanks so much for everything you did.  I truly appreciate your efforts and hard work!  I couldn't be happier!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Few Teacher Tips That Save Classroom Instructional Time

Are there times when you wish you had more instructional time in the day?  It always seems like we can use more time.  Imagine if we could buy time!  Well… I know we can’t, but I like when I am able to get through planned assignments each day. 

There’s nothing like a class running on all cylinders.  The students know the routine and all expectations are understood.  If you can minimize the distractions, then the learning time will probably increase.

These are a few things I do to allow for more instructional time:

  • Whenever we are leaving the class for some sort of break, the students must get the next lesson’s materials ready before we leave.  If we just finished math, they need to get all things language arts ready before they leave the class. 
  • You can always clock the transitional time and see if they can beat the previous record.  You can do this with any subject area.
  • You can use a musical prompt and students have to be ready to go by the end of the song.
  • Appoint a student as the time- keeper for lessons.  This student can give you a nonverbal or verbal cue to wrap up the lesson if needed.
  • Hand signals always seem to cut down on tangents or off topic discussions.  Have you ever asked a question and a student starts going off topic by talking about his grandmother visiting? The response has nothing to do with the question asked.  The domino theory ensues and the other students jump in with other comments.  My Dad can do a mean Donald Duck Impression.  My sister found a penny in our driveway.  My neighbor bought a pogo stick.  Before long, you have no idea what you asked in the first place.  We’ve all had these days. They are kids and this is what they do from time to time.  In most cases, it’s grade level appropriate. 
  • Through the years I’ve picked up some ideas to ease the off topic comments.  We use hand signals to stop the barrage.  The hang loose sign means I need to use the restroom.  The formation of a C in your hand means I have a comment and a clenched fist means my pencil broke.  The number one sign means quiet time. 
  • When I hold up the 1,2,3 counting hand signal, they know to get ready.  One means to sit up straight. Two means all eyes are on me. Three means you need to be in a great listening position with no distractions.

Please feel free to share any ideas.  I’d love to hear your great strategies.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Words and Music

Are you a music fan?  Is there a certain music style or group you like?  I enjoy Bob Seger’s music immensely.  I think it’s impossible not to tap your foot to “Old Time Rock and Roll” when it is played.  It’s one of those songs you have to turn the volume up a little bit more than the norm.  I usually shake my head a few times, tap my feet and hit my knees to the beat.  The one line that always jumps out at me is: reminisce about the days of old.  I believe we all reminisce every day.  It might be a memory from years ago or something more recent. 

I’m reminiscing about this past week as I sit here hunting and pecking on the keyboard.  I’m not the fastest person on the keyboard, but I can get around and navigate at a decent speed. I’m always amazed when people type faster than an auctioneer speaks. How did they get that good?

How was your week?  Did anything exciting happen?  I got my first dose of what an ear infection feels like.  I’m not talking about an earache from a concert or loud stadium event but an authentic ear infection.  A dose of antibiotics has helped ease the pain.  My ear still has the muffled just got off an airplane feeling coupled with what seems to be water in there as well.

Did you ever see the movie “What About Bob” from years ago?  It’s kind of like Bill Murray in “What About Bob” through the eyes of Richard Dryfuss.  He was hoping Bill Murray never came back.  I felt the same about the earache as Richard Dreyfuss did about Bill Murray and I hope it never comes back.  Good riddance!

Are you a sports person? I am a sports fanatic. There were some crazy college football games on this weekend. The final four teams were announced and it looks like its ‘Bama vs. Ohio State and Florida State vs. Oregon. It should make for a great football playoff.  I feel for Baylor and TCU fans.  They played outstanding football all year long.

My wife’s Wolverines had an off year but she is still a diehard fan.   They’ll be back with a vengeance!  I guess my alma mater, Suffolk University, is still undefeated after all these years!  Ok…so we don’t have a team, but if we did, they would be awesome. Go Rams!

Right now you have college hoops & football, NFL, NBA, NHL and some of those other sports on ESPN at 3 am that I never knew existed.  For example, I saw about 18,000 people in Great Britain screaming and going nuts over a dart game last week.  No offense…I love darts… but I didn’t know that many people in one place would be so passionate. The fans were into every throw by singing chants and cheering on the players.  Hats off to them!  I’m lucky if I hit the board with all three darts.  Hitting the bulls-eye is usually a fluke for me.

We put our Christmas Tree up and we are pleased with the way it looks.  Ciaran was quite excited! There’s nothing like a kid’s excitement during the Christmas Season. His Elf on the Shelf, Oodle, has been watching quite closely. 

Until next time…


Monday, December 8, 2014

Science Journals

Hello out there,

If you are looking for a science journal, then you have come to the right place.  Christy has created a quick and simple science journal for all your scientific method needs.  The journal has variations of covers, steps to the methods, labels and printable sheets.  Feel free to check it out by here.



Next Generation Science Standard topics listed by grade level

Choice of covers

Choice of Scientific Method posters

Full journal pages or label sheets for each step


Sean & Christy

Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Writing Curriculum

Hello out there,

One of my favorites parts of the day is writing time.  Personally, I teach writing as a systematic approach.  In fact, I enjoy writing so much that I created my own writing curriculum which I use every day.

My curriculum is an up-to-date, comprehensive writing manual designed to help elementary school teachers implement effective writing in grades three through five.  The book contains a ten-month pacing plan (optional) for a 180-day school calendar.  The beginning of this book shares my own writing theory and gives an explanation of why I do the things I do.  The main purpose is to assist you in teaching your students to write well using a step-by-step process, beginning in September and ending in June.  (Alternate schedule if you are year-round).  I'll share some anonymous writing samples throughout the year as well.

This book teaches various areas of writing, independent of each other, and educates students to synthesize information and create writing pieces with style and flare.  Nonfiction and fiction can both be addressed in several of the topics that are covered in this manual.

Students will be writing for the rest of their lives.  If you build a strong writing foundation early on, students can only improve year after year.  In today's technological society, communication via email may be the norm, but good writing is still crucial.

Please be sure to follow my blog, as I will introduce sections of my book.  In addition, I'll post free resources as well.

Thank you,