Suggested Resource: Flocabulary

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?

Suggested Resource: FracTrack

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 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.

Make It Stick

In the midst of an era of education filled with reforms which are based primarily on money and polarized politics, Make It Stick is a welcome relief.  This new release builds on the work of others (Dweck, Kahneman, etc.) to delineate a clear, scientific approach to making teaching and learning more effective than ever before. 

Make-it-stickThe practices it supports — such as interspersing the retrieval of information over a period of time, forcing students to try to answer a problem before teaching it to them, using mnemonics — are all free to implement, and they work no matter whether you’re teaching to the Common Core or not, for any age level, and in any setting.

I highly recommend this book to all K-12 teachers and administrators.

Resource: Food Fights, Puzzles, and Hideouts

As my home state of Michigan sifts through its political gridlock toward full acceptance of the Common Core State Standards, it’s clear that math instruction in Michigan needs to make a major shift.  We are moving from a very low-level standardized math assessment (the MEAP test) to one that will be much more focused on having students apply their knowledge in complex situations (the Smarter Balanced test).  I personally am scrambling for fun new Common Core-aligned games, simulations, and real-world problems for my third graders.

Enter the book Food Fights, Puzzles, and Hideouts: Mixing in Math.  This 77-page book is jam-packed with a variety of Common Core-aligned games, activities, and problems for elementary students.  Whether you’re looking for activities for a math center or looking to find whole-class games to stimulate mathematical thought in your elementary students, this book is for you.

For folks in other states who made the switch to Common Core a while back, what other valuable Common Core math resources have you been using?

Resource: Scratch 2.0

Interested in getting upper elementary or middle-school students excited about computer programming?  Start by showing them this video about coding being “a superpower!”  This is a great introductory hook.

Next, have your students create accounts on Scratch over at  Scratch is a kid-friendly, accessible way to introduce students to the basics of coding.  By allowing students to use an easy, color-coded system of blocks to do many of the things most commonly done in computer programming, students can begin to think like programmers without needing to actually learn an entire programming language.  Last week, Scratch released a new version (Scratch 2.0) that allows students to work with Scratch online without needing to download anything, making Scratch more accessible than ever.