If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to get your elementary students to become better spellers. Weekly tests don’t work — the learning doesn’t “stick”, and for many of the students, the words are too easy or hard anyway. This has bothered me for years.
I’ve tried bringing in parent volunteers to test students individually and create personalized lists for each child. I’ve tried abandoning spelling tests altogether, focusing on mini-lessons and then checking students’ writing for proper spelling of the patterns I had taught. I’ve examined all of the spelling websites and apps out there, and I’ve tried most of them, to minimal effect.
What I want is an elementary spelling website that I can use to support my minilessons on word patterns, but which students can also use to move forward at their own pace. I want the site to include high-frequency words in addition to pattern-based words. I want the site to be gamified enough to hook in my students while also still spending the vast majority of the students’ time on actual spelling. I want the site to show me my students’ results at a glance in real time.
That site doesn’t exist. So I decided to make it.
And with that, it’s time for me to unveil my next big project: RocketSpelling.com. Rocket Spelling is going to be a differentiated spelling website designed for students in 1st-5th grades. It will include 1,200 high-frequency and pattern-based words, gamified learning with instant feedback for students, and live results at a glance for teachers. It will be the spelling site I’ve wanted to use for the past 5+ years.
Rocket Spelling will go live in the spring of 2017. If you’d like the chance to have your students beta-test the site for free yet this spring, please sign up now at rocketspelling.com. We’re going to accept a limited number of classrooms for this special free offer. (Normally, the site will charge an annual subscription fee, but early signups will get full access to the site for free throughout the spring and summer of 2017.)
If you, like me, are frustrated with what’s been out there in the area of spelling, sign up now! Something better is on the way.
Sometimes I’ll be getting ready to teach a math lesson, when suddenly I’ll think, “I wish I could find a good game that teaches this content in a more exciting way than just plain practice problems can.” Sometimes I manage to find the perfect game to use, but often I can’t find a game that does exactly what I’m looking for.
That’s where custommathgames.com comes in. This amazing website will make the perfect math game for you, designed exactly to your specifications. I couldn’t find a fun online game to measure fractions on a number line, so I had this game created for me. Want a math game that uses your school’s colors or has other fun personalized elements to it like that? Custom Math Games will do that for you as well. Once the game is created, Custom Math Games will also host your game and allow you to have an unlimited number of students play the game as well.
The next time you can’t find the perfect math game, I seriously urge you to have Custom Math Games create that game for you!
This short, powerful video shows how my colleagues and I use a Math Team experience to build school camaraderie and get elementary students to love mathematics. Check it out!
If you teach third through eighth grade, no matter what subject, have I got a recommendation for you: check out Flocabulary! Flocabulary is a subscription-based website that offers you and your students access to incredibly engaging music videos (often hip-hop, but it varies) in a wide variety of concepts. Students can learn about everything from verbs to fractions to Martin Luther King, Jr. through Flocabulary’s extensive collection. Social Studies teachers in particular will love Flocabulary’s “Week in Rap” videos that bring current events into the classroom in a fun way.
To get a taste of what Flocabulary’s videos are like, check out their Youtube Channel. Or, for a quick taste, watch the video below, which focuses on figurative language. Is it just me, or is virtually every line of that song pure genius in terms of how it explains and then immediately demonstrates various writing techniques?
Each year at this time, I introduce the concept of fractions to my three classes of third graders. In past years, one of the trickiest parts of teaching fractions for me has been helping students to understand the relative positions of fractions on a number line.
This year, I’ve found an excellent new resource to help me in that endeavor: The FracTrack. This sturdy, colorful manipulative is designed specifically to give students a hands-on representation of fractions on a number line. To differentiate for more advanced students who are ready to work with improper fractions and mixed numbers, there’s also a FracTrack Plus.
When using the FracTrack or FracTrack Plus to work with fractions on a number line, students randomly select a fraction card and then attempt to approximate that fraction’s location on an unmarked number line. To check their estimates, students can simply flip over their FracTrack to see how close their estimates actually came on a labeled number line.
FracTrack devices could be used in a one-on-one situation, in a small group or center, or in a whole-class environment. In addition to the game I’ve described above, an instruction booklet that comes with the FracTrack contains several other game ideas that teach topics like comparing fractions, finding equivalent fractions, and working with decimals.
As a teacher who has sometimes struggled in the past with students’ misconceptions about the relative sizes of various fractions and where they would fall on a number line, I’m excited for my third graders to get to use the FracTrack!
To see a brief example of the FracTrack in action, please watch the video below:
If you teach elementary math and employ paper/pencil timed tests, you’ve got to check out www.themathfacts.com. TheMathFacts.com offers online timed tests that are automatically scored and differentiate easily to meet a wide range of students’ needs. Instead of giving all of your students the same mad minute or 5-minute timed test on paper, then wasting precious classroom time (or your evening) scoring them, you can have your students working precisely at their ability level and receiving instant feedback about their progress. There is also a virtual trophy case that celebrates both students’ efforts and their accomplishments. Check it out!
As a third-grade math and language arts teacher in Michigan, I’m always on the lookout for innovative Common Core-aligned resources that will help my students to excel, particularly in the areas of problem solving, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. I recently found an excellent program, Mentoring Minds, which does all of that. Mentoring Minds consists of a blend of online and print resources in the areas of reading, math, and vocabulary which are designed to enable a teacher to track student progress in real time, allowing for responsive instruction that can adapt immediately to students’ needs.
Mentoring Minds materials help teachers instruct, allow for practice, and evaluate progress in each of the Common Core standards much more effectively and efficiently than ever before. This system allows teachers to quickly identify which students have mastered specific standards, what learning goals should come next for each student, and which students require more in-depth interventions to meet the standard(s) being assessed.
In addition to helping teachers to more effectively recognize individual students’ strengths and weaknesses, Mentoring Minds is designed to help schools and even entire districts to recognize trends in terms of which standards students are stronger or weaker at among entire schools, grade levels, and classes.
Mentoring Minds will help you as a teacher to be more effective, all while helping your students to stimulate their higher-level thinking skills and master content rapidly in whichever mode — online or in print — they prefer. I highly recommend this excellent resource!