Mathematics Archive
BreakoutEDU Review
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Hi everyone!  It’s been a long summer since I’ve written, but it’s been so busy around these parts!  The Teacher Anchor has been flying out of my office and into the hands of teachers who are ready to have their best year yet!  As of right now, we have less than 100 left until we are sold out for the fourth year in a row!  Yahoo!

Also this summer, I taught my 9th course at the collegiate level.  I taught Integrated Literacy at a local university within their pre-service/in-service teachers education program.  Over the four years that I’ve been teaching in higher education, I’ve continued to try to introduce my students to new ideas, new resources, and new ways to build community and present content within their classroom.

Earlier this summer, a colleague told me about BreakoutEDU.  It’s like the Escape Game, but for the classroom!  “Breakout EDU games teach critical thinking, teamwork, complex problem solving, and can be used in all content areas.”  I just knew that I had to introduce it to my students who teach every subject and every grade from kindergarten through 8th.  So, here’s what you need to know before trying it in your classroom:

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BreakoutEDU provides two ways to get your hands on a kit.  1. You can buy directly from their website  2. You can order everything individually off of Amazon.  When I priced out both options (and yes, I have Amazon Prime, so that helped), I found that the open source option came in at $20 cheaper, strictly because I didn’t have to pay $20 for shipping.  Otherwise, the cost of the kit and the cost of the supplies were almost identical.

Once you have your kit, you find a game that matches your age level, group size, and content area.  The idea is for students to use their research skills to learn more about a topic in order to unlock various locks throughout the game.  Once all of the locks (usually 3-4) have been opened, they have “escaped”.  The catch is that there is a 45 minute time limit, so it’s a race against the clock!  Here are an example of some of the games.  My class played Time Warp (we had 12 students).

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So, once you have all of the supplies that you need to play the game*, you can literally play ANY game!  This was the biggest benefit that I presented to my students.  As a teacher, we are so strapped for funds and supplies.  It’s nice to know that once you have all of the materials for one game, you have materials for them all.

*You must sign up for a Beta account in order to gain access to the password to unlock the games.  But I’ll preview Time Warp here!

Time Warp Game

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As you can see, you get a brief synopsis of the game.  I read this “story” to my students before starting.  Also included once you choose a game, is how to set up the room (see below… FYI this is not the full instructions, just a sample).

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I liked how explicit they were.  Not to mention, it was so quick to set up!  The entire process took me less than 30 minutes to prepare the room before my students arrived.  Also included with each game is an overview video.  This specifically walks you through the entire process and allows for you to visually see how the game will work.  I’m a visual person, so this was so awesome.  I probably watched it three times!

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Once the room was set up, I let my students come in.  I gave them a brief preview of what exactly BreakoutEDU was (since this was a teacher education course) and then I turned them loose!  I left out 8 hint cards and let them know that they had the option to use them if they got stuck.  Unlike the Escape Game that we play here in Nashville, there is no time penalty for asking for a hint.  For our students, they should be encouraged to ask for help during times when they are at an impasse and I really stressed that it wasn’t punitive.  Another great thing I love about this game!

My students ended up breaking out with 9 minutes to spare!  Afterwards we had a discussion from both an educator and student perspective.  What went wrong, what could they do next time, what was hard/easy, how would we use this in our classrooms, when would we use this during the year, etc.

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A few notes:

  1. My students did NOT communicate enough.  I think this was a breakdown in the sense of community in the classroom.  I had two different groups of grad students in class (pre-service and TFA) and they gravitated towards their own cohort and didn’t intermingle with each other, despite this being the 8th week of class. 
  2. Because their communication was poor, they spent a lot of time on mundane tasks in the game.  So when they asked for a hint, the one I gave was to “TALK TO EACH OTHER!” 
  3. Students need to have access to technology for this to work.  Elements of the game included Google searching, emailing, and can even include a digital lock option (should you choose).  In classrooms where tech is limited, you may have to allow them to use your own personal smart device(s). 
  4. Reading comprehension also needs to be high for some of the tasks.  My students were reading a lot of advanced web pages and Wikipedia pages, which we know have higher reading comprehension.  Although there are games for elementary, I’m sure all of them include some type of reading/researching.  This would be a great culmination of a research unit where you taught appropriate research skills and activities to your students.
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Overall, I LOVED this.  I plan on introducing it to my next class at the beginning, instead of the end.  I think that will help build a sense of community and encourage more communication.

I hope you’ll think about incorporating BreakoutEDU into your classroom!  What a great way to allow students to control their learning opportunities and increase collaboration and fun!

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Empowering Our Girls
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*This is the second of a two part blog post.

 

It’s not a big secret that diversity in the world of children’s literature could certainly be better.  For years now, teachers, parents, and librarians have said that we need more mirror and window books in our schools and homes.  “Window” and “mirror” books are those that we can see characters like ourselves (mirror) in but also take a peek into the lives of other genders, races, and ethnicities (window).  There are lots of research and articles surrounding this cause and even a campaign entitled #WeNeedDiverseBooks that has launched on the internet and social media. I have a passion for this cause and wrote my graduate thesis on gender roles in award winning children’s lit.  And while female characters may have increased slightly, there is still a serious drought for multicultural books.  My last post shared 10 new releases to celebrate powerful and strong African-Americans (and most were about women!) but there’s more for you and your students!  Let’s break it down.

Taking down the gender stereotype, one book at a time!

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I was already a HUGE fan of Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty.  Rosie Revere is the story of a young female engineer a la Rosie the Riveter, who inspires young females to follow their passion and their love for creating (the engineering field is also lacking female representation… but that’s another post for another day).  But this September, Beaty will do it again with Ada Twist, Scientist, a curious African-American girl who embarks on a fact-finding mission while conducting scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery!  “Like her classmates Iggy and Rosie, Ada has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose?  When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. But, this time, her experiments lead to trouble.”

Not only do I love to see strong female characters in literature, but I also love to see the “typical male” careers being portrayed by young girls!  We need more girls in the fields of math, science, and technology and allowing them to read these mirror books will surely plant that seed!

 

#SquadGoals

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I hope you are familiar with GoldieBlox, the construction sets that allow girls to tap into their spatial skills by giving them the tools to create and invent on their own!  “In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math, girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8.  Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys’ toys.” GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. We aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.”  Goldie even has her own collection of children’s lit that aims towards encouraging girls to enter into STEM careers.

GoldieBlox herself is a wild-eyed blonde inventor and engineer who embraces her quirky side, but now she has a new best friend in tow.  Ruby Rails is a spirited programmer and software engineer (and prize-winning photographer) who can write code faster than you can say “computer”.  She was released in 2015 and is “more than just a sidekick“.  She is the strong African-American protagonist that is helping solve the representation problem.

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“In the hundreds of action movies that hit theaters every year, we see the same type of person saving the day: a big, buff, scowling man.  In movies across the board – G-rated, family films included – male speaking characters outnumber female speaking characters three to one.  It’s been almost twenty-five years since we’ve had a top grossing live action film that was led by woman of color. Our girls deserve action heroes with flowing hair and combat boots. Our girls deserve to see themselves onscreen as well as calling the shots behind the scenes. Our girls deserve more. #playlikeahero  Click here to watch the full campaign.

And yes, GoldieBlox also has a male friend too!  His name is Li and he’s a risk-taker and physicist.  You can read all about him and the rest of Goldies squad here.

 

#1000BlackGirlBooks

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Marley Dias is a pretty cool girl (pictured above in red).  As an 11 year old, she realized that she was unable to connect with the books that her teacher was giving her to read.  She said that most books were about “white boys and their dogs”, and it was extremely frustrating for her.  So she started the book drive #1000BlackGirlBooks in order to collect 1,000 books with positive black female protagonists!  She then plans to donate them to Retreat Primary and Junior School and Library in Jamaica, where her mother grew up.  Pretty awesome, huh?

Click here to see her full news segment and to see how you can participate and donate to her cause!

 

So, there you have it!  I hope that this combination of resources and literature will help encourage you to give your students the best opportunities to see all stereotypes squashed and representation of all cultures and genders in your classroom!  Your girls need it to start with YOU!

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10 Common Core Aligned Texts To Use For Black History Month
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*This is the first of a two part blog-post.  Come back Thursday for more!

I always loved February in the classroom.  I felt like the entire month was full of ways could celebrate love in the most purest of ways, especially during Black History Month. The teaching opportunities and stories of empowerment, bravery, and accomplishment are so rich and what better way to tell these stories than through the latest children’s literature!

I asked my best book friend, Sarah, to help me cultivate some of these titles and I want to highlight them here in this post.  All have a 2015/2016 publication date and some are even un-released yet!  I hope you’ll be able to incorporate them throughout this month and the rest of your school year.  I’ve added some relevant Common Core standards to tie in with each book too, just for the ease of lesson planning!  Oh and catch me on Periscope, this Thursday (2/18) at 7CST or you can see it here if you missed it.

1. Poet, the Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate

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George Moses Horton was born into slavery in 1789.  He taught himself to read and began authoring poems before he even knew how to write.  He would recite them to local students at UNC Chapel Hill, becoming the first African-American poet in the South.  He eventually became a professional poet with a published anthology, funded by a politically-liberal journalist in 1829.

This book is inspiring for children and adults alike with beautiful illustrations and a poignant biography of a remarkable man.

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Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

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2. Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Blidner

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The true story about a New Orleans street sweeper, Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Sprit of New Orleans, is a beautiful story of resiliency.  When Hurricane Katrina hits Cornelius’ home, he was faced with the overwhelming task of cleaning up the beloved city with the other volunteers.  This book is filled with the spirit of New Orleans and is accompanied by happy and bright illustrations even in the midst of disaster.  See the book trailer here!  (Book trailers are the best way to get kids excited about upcoming literature you plan on sharing in class)

This book would be a great compliment to Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown (2015) and a good tie in to your social studies lessons that may surround the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina.

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Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

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3. I am Martin Luther King Jr. by Brad Meltzer

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Gosh, I love Brad Meltzer.  He writes for both adults and children, and I’ve yet to read anything bad from him!  His “I Am” series are some of my most favorite to share with my students and the Martin Luther King Jr. one is the latest addition, just releasing in early January 2016!  This book is no difference from the rest of the series of heroes and follows MLK Jr’s life in an appropriate and engaging way for young readers.  My students love the graphic novel style of this series and I think you will too.

It’s a must-add to your other Martin Luther King Jr. titles for this month and would be a great tie-in to writing workshop research projects surround MLK’s message and how it is poignant and relevant even today.

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Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

4. Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

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A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and a 2016 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book by a Caldecott Honored author… so, you know it’s going to be good!  “Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977.  Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats.” (Amazon)  She was famously quoted as saying:

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

“Told in the first person from Hamer’s own perspective, this lyrical text in verse emphasizes the activist’s perseverance and courage, as she let her booming voice be heard.” (School Library Journal)  The illustrations are finished as multimedia collages and would also be a nice compliment to your writing workshop as your students research Americans involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  I would have them use Ekua Holmes as their illustrator mentor and imitate this art form in their own research projects.

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Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

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5. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul

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Most of the titles that we accumulate in children’s literature for Black History Month, surround the topic of the Civil Rights Movement.  But it’s important to remember that we are studying all African-Americans who have made an impact on the betterment of our civilization.  And this story is a perfect example of that!

One Plastic Bag is a story set in Njau, Gambia, where people were littering an abundant amount of plastic bags.  They were accumulating on the side of the road and gathering water and attracting mosquitos, livestock were trying to eat them and choking, and they were strangling the local gardens.  Isatou Cessay was a woman determined to make a difference.  She began to crochet the bags into purses in order to recycle them.

This non-fictional story also comes with a timeline in the back and would be a great way to tie in to your study of timelines or even to revisit this book and the concept of recycling during the month of April, around Earth Day.  You could turn this into a PBL to encourage students to recycle something they see frequently littered into a reusable, functional piece.

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Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

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6. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

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This story was originally written as a story for young adults in 2012, but the paperback was just released in early 2016, so I included it in my list!  Also the novel has been re-written in picture book form (above) for your young readers to enjoy too!

When author William Kamkwamba was 14 years old, his village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops died.  William knew the answer to saving the crops was electricity, a luxury his village did not have, so he began to research how to bring this to his village.  William functioned a windmill out of recycled scraps (salvaged motor parts, a PVC pipe, his father’s broken bicycle, and anything else he could find) in order to harness the wind and generate electricity!  Talk about resourceful!  The windmill managed to light his family’s house, charge community cell phones for a small income, and pump irrigation water.

It would be fascinating to have your students compare the tales of William Kamkwamba and Isatou Cessay (previous book) in order to see how they compare and contrast in both of their perilous situations and hardships that they had to overcome.

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Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

7. Gaither Sister Series by Rita Williams-Garcia

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This book series is the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. One Crazy Summer was published in 2011, with P.S Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama releasing in 2015.  One Crazy Summer won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award Finalist.  This young adult series raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity, personal responsibility, race, gender, and identity.

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Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

8. Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince

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This is the memoir of ballerina Michaela DePrince, “a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.

Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.  At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is now the youngest principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.”

This story is a great “overcoming the odds” tale and would be great for your middle grade readers.

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Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

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9. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

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*This book was published in 2003, however, I thought it would be a compliment to the previous book for your K-2 set.

For your younger readers who may also be interested in ballet, Dancing in the Wings is a sweet story authored by actress/choreographer Debbie Allen.  This is a story about Sassy, a young dancer who is told her legs are too long and her feet are too big.  Although she never gives up her dream of becoming a dancer and ultimately her persistence and passion for dance pays off!

This book could be used in the early grades to infer how Sassy is feeling as she is being treated unfairly by others.  There is certainly a teaching point here for being kind to those who are different than ourselves.

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Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

[Another sweet story that you could also use for your “ballerinas” in class would be Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock – being released in late February 2016]

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10. Booked by Kwame Alexander

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You probably know poet Kwame Alexander for his 2015 Newbery award winner and Coretta Scott King honor book, The Crossover.  But this April, he’s releasing the followup, titled Booked.  The story is about “twelve-year-old Nick who learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.”

This captivating novel is written in free verse and will certainly be one of this years hottest releases.  And it will be available just in time for National Poetry Month and will be a great edition to your classroom library/poetry unit.  A poet/author study of Kwame Alexander would also be a great activity during this time.  He recently penned a poem, available on Scholastic about his love of reading and books.

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Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

 

So that’s the round-up!  I’ll be back on Thursday with my favorite new release for later this year, and some powerful African-American girls who are making a difference in our classroom libraries and the world of children’s literature!  Stay tuned!

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[All images seen in this post are Copyrighted by the author and illustrator.  All rights reserved.]

Grant Writing 101
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I’ve written a lot of grants throughout  my years in the classroom.  Some were successfully funded and others weren’t.  It took a few years, but I think I nailed down a formula that seems to help me get grants funded every single time.  And I’m here to share!

In my absence of blogging (sorry guys) I thought about things that teachers can really use.  I’ve always wanted this blog to be a space for me to share personal and professional tools, tricks, and suggestions.  And one thing I constantly hear from teachers is, “that’s such a great idea, but I don’t have _____” (fill in the blank with supplies, technology, materials, a SMARTBoard, etc).  I don’t want you to be discouraged by things that you don’t have and in turn, your students can’t have.  So let’s get to writing!

Where to find a grant?

I’m sure your district or area has local grants and those are the best ones to apply for.  They are smaller grants and really have an emphasis on providing supplies locally, so you have a better chance of getting your project funded.  I’m not saying don’t go for the national ones, but your odds are just better when you stay local or even state-wide.

Once you find a grant you want to apply for, thoroughly check out the guidelines.  Make sure you are eligible for the grant and that it fits the need for what you want.  I’ve seen teachers want SMARTBoards so badly that they apply for one in every grant opportunity.  I hate to tell you this, but an organization that wants to fund science projects is not going to buy you a SMARTBoard, no matter how much you try to convince them that it will benefit your science instruction.  So find a technology grant and go for it.  Otherwise, hold off.

I have a good idea.  Now what?

So you have something that you really want for your classroom.  Now what?  Well you have to do a little research on the front end first.  Let me use myself as an example:

In the spring of 2010, I wanted to purchase Simple Machine LEGO kits to help my students with their “forces of motion” unit.  Problem was, the kits were $115 each and I needed at least 4.  Our district had a business partnership grant where local businesses would fund grants for the schools in the district.  This was perfect!  I could find a business that encouraged elementary engineering and teamwork in the classroom and appeal to them.  But I needed to think about the total cost of this project, including the kits plus shipping and handling.  I also had to think about how many students this would impact.  We all know how sturdy LEGOs are, which means they will last for a long while.  Ultimately, I could meet the needs of 2,600 students over the life of these supplies!  Wow!  That’s a lot better investment than supplies that just meet the needs of 20 students in one classroom for one year.  As business owners, I knew they would see the value in that number and really appreciate the quality of these supplies.

This brings me to my next point… know your audience.

Most people who read grants aren’t teachers.  They are usually members of a company who don’t know education lingo and terms.  Also they don’t have a lot of time to read some long and drawn out explanation about all of the facets about how this will help your classroom.  They want to get straight to the point, know how much it will cost, and see a good reason why they will fund it.  Period. 

So if you know that those people are your audience, you can easily write a grant that will target your audience.  Take off your teacher hat when you write your grant.  Pretend you’re in the marketing division of a large company and you are trying to market your idea to the CEO.  And as much as you want to put in a little history of Common Core or list out every single center you can use with these supplies, don’t.  They’ll stop reading before they get to the good stuff and you won’t get your money!

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So what do I need to include in my grant?

Well each grant is different.  You need to review the guidelines for your specific one.  But I’ve found that you need a few key components in every grant to make it appealing to the reader, which is how you’ll find success.

1. Goal – what do you want to do with these supplies?  Sounds like a simple question but I’ve read lots of fellow teacher’s grants and when I get finished, I have no idea why they want these materials.  (SMARTBoard example… just because it’s “cool” doesn’t mean it will best benefit your students)  So really think about why you need these materials or this technology.  And make a case for it in the first paragraph or two of your grant.

2. CCSS Correlation – obviously your materials must connect to the standards.  Common Core is a big buzzword right now and you need to connect them to your grant.  I wouldn’t go into tremendous detail, but you need to highlight how your idea will encompass these standards in your classroom.  Keep it short and to the point, but make sure they’re in there.

3. Budget – probably the most important part of your grant.  As I said before, these business men and women who read your proposal want to know one thing: how much will this cost?  So get right to it.  List out all of the costs up front and don’t leave anything out.  Also it may be helpful to break down the cost per student.  Often when we see this number it can make a big impact on someone reading your grant.  For example, a SMARTBoard is on average $1400.  If you use it for 180 days, that’s around $7 per day.  And if you divide that by 20 students who will use it, that’s 38 cents a student.  If I was the investor, I would think that I’d be getting my money’s worth when I look at all of the benefits of this piece of technology for only $7 a day.

4. Maximum Participation – like I said in the LEGO example, you want to reach the maximum amount of students possible.  So if you are applying for a consumable product that can only be used for one year or only one time, you probably won’t get it funded.  Because that isn’t a good investment.  But if you can find something that will reach the maximum students each year and will last several years, that’s a much better investment.  So do this research and spell it out.  With the LEGO’s, I planned on sharing the kits with the other three first grade classes.  So that’s 80 students total in first grade that would use it each year.  Plus we could partner up with the kindergarten and second grades, since they have similar learning objectives about force and motion.  So that’s an additional 160 students.  Then if you think of the life expectancy of a LEGO kit being 5-10 years, we have the potential to service 2,400 students over the life span of this project.  That’s a pretty powerful statistic.

5. Summary – finally summarize your project one last time.  Think of it as the abstract for your total grant proposal.  It should be one paragraph that really describes the impact this idea will have on your classroom and classrooms to come.  Also I think it’s important to mention how the students needs aren’t being met without these materials.  That way the investors have one final reason to fund your grant.

So to sum it up, here’s a quick checklist.

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As I said, you may have more things you need to include like a timeline of the project or demographics of your school, so make sure you read the fine print.  And if you don’t have a lot of grant opportunities in your area, you can follow these same guidelines to present a project on DonorsChoose.org.  You are still trying to appeal to people who will want to invest in your project, so the same rules apply.

And finally, before you submit your grant have another educator AND also a non-educator look over it.  While teachers can give you clarity on the project details, they aren’t the ones who will be reading it (usually).  My husband would read my grants and give me feedback because he is a business guy.  So if there’s something in the grant proposal that was too “education-y” or confusing, he could point it out.  Then I could avoid the actual grant readers from being confused when I submitted it.

Please feel free to let me know what questions you have in the grant writing process and don’t hesitate to apply.  You have nothing to lose!  And practice makes perfect.  So the more you enter, the better you’ll get at writing them.  Good luck!

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Mathematical Poetry

I haven’t written about math much on this blog, but today will be different!  It’s no secret that I’m a literacy gal and I use books in all of my lessons, regardless of the subject.  The following books are mathematical poems and riddles that are sure to capture your students attention.  The best thing about all three of these books?  They can all serve as examples for your students to write their own math poetry.  I think these are appropriate for late 2nd-5th grade (but I know I had some first graders who would’ve been able to solve many of these as well).  It would be really neat to see the types of math poems your students could create and would really give them the ability to tap into those higher level thinking skills.  Enjoy my reviews below!

[All images are © copyrighted by the authors and illustrators mentioned below.  All rights reserved.]

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First up, Edgar Allen Poe’s Pie.  Authored by J. Patrick Lewis (awarded the title in 2011 of U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and an Ohio guy – Go Buckeyes!) this has quickly become one of my new favorites in poetry since it’s release last year.  You can read a great interview with Lewis about his work, poetic influences, and future plans here.  He also authors a lot of other great titles you should check out this month as well.  Here’s a quick summary from Barnes and Noble:

Is this poetry? Math? A brainteaser? Yes! It’s all that and more. The poet J. Patrick Lewis has reimagined classic poems—such as Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Langston Hughes’s “April Rain Song”—and added a dash of math. Between the silly parodies and the wonderfully wacky art, kids will have so much fun figuring out the puzzles,
they won’t guess they’re learning! Answers appear unobtrusively on each page, and engaging information about the original poets is included. Math games and concepts, poetry and poet biographies—it’s all so cleverly put together. This funny book is a treat for fans of words and numbers alike.

Each page features a re-worked poem from a famous poet with a mathematical twist.  The answer appears at the bottom the the page (make sure your students don’t peek).

PoePie

The poems range from easy to hard, so they can be used at a variety of age and proficiency levels.

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The best part of this book, for me though, is the short biographies Lewis included at the end of the book.  Each poet is highlighted for the students to gather a bit more information from.  I think this would be a great tie-in to a biography study you could do in connection with poems AND math.  Three topics in one – hooray!!!

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Next up…

Mathematickles

Mathematickles by Betsy Franco is a story of a girl and her cat as they travel through math filled landscapes.  Franco uses addition and subtraction, multiplication and division of words to illustrate her point (see below).  I had this book in my classroom and my students really loved the story and the illustrations.  This is a bit more poetry, less math than Lewis’ story, but still fits into this genre.

Your students would need to have a concept of how math works as well as a comprehension level to understand what Franco is trying to point out.  As you see in the first illustration below, you could tie in a simile and metaphor mini-lesson with this text.  Students could start with a metaphor, for example, and then could build their poem around it, using illustrations to further get their point across.

Mathematickles2 Mathematickles3 Mathematickles4

And finally, I couldn’t write about math literature without mentioning Greg Tang, right?  Although he has lots of great math literature, I think the following would be the one that fits best into the “poetry” study.

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This book is the most appropriate to use with your youngest students.  The riddles are manageable and if you’ve had Greg Tang’s books out in your classroom before, they’ll be familiar with his work.  Much like Lewis’ book, Math for all Seasons is a book full of math riddles for your students to follow.  The answers are at the back of the book, so you can hide them from your students better.  Plus Tang gives visuals for the students to use as they read.  That’s particularly helpful for kindergarten or first grade students.  Also these visuals allow for students to use one-to-one correspondence to find their answer.  I think you could utilize this book in a small group with your students so that you are able to see their thinking as they work through each page.

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You could also use this book to discuss how extra information is sometimes given and it isn’t needed.  Students can see through Tang’s highlighting and different print color, what he’s asking you to solve.  But you could type each page up and project them to have students find the question and eliminate that unnecessary information.  Also in the back, where the answers are, Tang offers a worded explanation with an accompanying number sentence.

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I hope these books help you reach other content areas through this genre of poetry.  By having your students write some of their own mathematical poetry, you may be able to reach your more literal learners.  Students who have a hard time writing fictional stories in writing workshop, may enjoy this style of writing a lot better!  Check back tomorrow when I share some great books to use while teaching haiku poems for National Poetry Month.

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