Welcome To A Teacher In Your Corner

Before I began teaching,I spent my evenings tutoring my son who had a learning disability. I had no teaching material and so learned to use things out of my kitchen to teach the concept. When I began teaching,I continued to use household items to illustrate the lesson. This site will give you ideas on how to use everyday items to help your child master a difficult concept.

Whether you are home-schooling or just helping your child complete homework, this site will be helpful.

Show the Characters

Metaphor of linked stick people symbolizing teamworkSeveral years ago I was teaching fifth grade reading.  We were studying a book call Quest For Courage, a novel about an Indian boy who is sent out to find his courage.  He rode away from the tribe, over many mountains, to find a herd of wild horses.  The main character was the thirteen year old Indian.  The minor characters were the horses which included Medicine Hat Stallion, Black Mare, Medicine Hat colt,White Stallion and the rest of the herd.

My students were completely confused.  They were unable to keep the horses straight in their minds.  Over the weekend, I had a revelation.  I'd make horse paper dolls to represent the different horses.  So I cut out a large spotted horse, a small spotted horse, a black horse, a brown horse and a white horse.  On Monday I 'introduced' the horses to the classes.  Everything went great until 6th period.  I went through my usual introduction.  As I introduced each horse, I laid it down on my desk.  I did the same thing 6th period, putting each horse down until I was left with the black horse and white horse in my hand.  I heard a student say, "I wonder which one is the black mare."  Another student said, "Duh?"  Now that was not allowed in my class.  We did not put other students down, but that one was deserved.  

If your students are becoming confused about characters, consider paper dolls to represent each character. 

Living History II

My apologies to my readers.  Two weeks ago I posted about facilitating Living History day for first graders.  I told you that last week I'd tell you about how I modified the activity for fifth grade.  I posted last week without checking the previous week.  So now I'll tell you about fifth grade.

There was no way I'd bring elderly people in to talk to fifth grade students.  I have more respect for older people than that.  I gave the assignment for each student to interview an older person and write a two page report on their life.  

Oh, did I hear the complaints.  "I don't know any older people."  "I don't know what to ask?"  (Although I had given them questions.)  "I don't like talking to older people."  After I had heard the complaints several times, I unleashed my anger.  By the time I was finished they knew that not doing the assignment was not an option.

There were still students who chose not to do it--and paid the price.  But the ones that did complete it thanked me.  More than one said, "I didn't know that about my grandmother.  Thanks for having us do this."  

I highly recommend that every student interview a senior citizen.  My husband's grandmother used to say that she had lived from the horse and buggy days to the jet age.  Think about how much the world has changed in the last one hundred years.  Do we want to lose that history?  Please take time to educate our children on recent history.  It is important.

A Small Tool For Teachers

There are lots of resources and products for teachers and parents who are home-schooling.  Some are cheap and deliver few rewards.  Some are very expensive and deliver few to many rewards.  Meaning some are worth what you pay for it and others not so much.

Most of the time I believe you get what you pay for, but there is one small, cheap tool or resource that very versatile and worth far more than you pay for it.  It is small enough to put in your pocket, doesn't require batteries or special training, and can be applied for behavioral or academic learning.  What is it?

View detailsA deck of cards from the dollar store.  What?  I said, a deck of cards from the dollar store.  Well how do you use it?  Here are some ways I have used the cards:
  • For behaviorally challenged students--allow the children to draw a card from the deck every time they are on task, polite, quiet, or whatever the desired behavior.  When the cards in their hand total 200, they will receive a reward such as free time, permission to refuse one assignment, or whatever works for that child.  Now this is not 200 cards.  It is 200 points.  How does he know it is 200?  He has to add the points himself.  (OMG, that means he will be practicing his math skills.)  Yes, and how many times do you think he will add his points?  Most of the students will add every time he draws a card.
  • Stop bickering about who is first by allowing students to draw cards.  The highest card is first working down to the lowest.
  • Teach math facts by allowing student to draw two cards and then using an application to discover the answer.  What is the difference in this and using a paper with the math facts on it?  Nothing, but don't tell the students.  They think they are playing a game and having fun. 
  • Teach writing by allowing students to draw cards then creating a story from the cards.  Say the student draws a queen, a two, a seven, and a three.  You might give the prompt:  The queen was riding along in her carriage pulled by two magnificent horses.  Suddenly three ________ jumped out from behind a tree.  Then seven....
Please add to the list for other educators or parents pulling their hair out attempting to teach.

Living History Dat

View detailsWhen I was teaching first grade, I mentioned to the students that I enjoyed listening to the stories my grandparents told about growing up.  The students looked at me like I was crazy.   I asked, "Don't your grandparents tell you about when they were growing up?"  They all shook their heads.  I was appalled.  These children were growing up believing their grandparents' childhood was the same as their own.  That was unacceptable to me.  Our history is important and every child should know what happened.  NOT memorize dates.  They should be able to tell you what life was like during a specific time period.

I decided that I had to rectify this situation.  Now how do you teach first grade students about history?  I decided to bring in 'grandparents' and let them tell their own stories.  This took a lot of preparation, but it was worth it.  Every first grade teacher asked four senior citizens to visit their class on 'Living History Day'.  We sat each 'grandparent' in a corner with four or five first graders around them.  Some of the 'grandparents' brought pictures of themselves as a child and their report card.  We rotated the children about every 15 minutes or so.  This allowed them to hear from four 'grandparents'.  The teachers of other grade levels--many of them with children in first grade--brought lunch for our guests.  After lunch we returned to the classroom for a few more minutes of questions.  By 1:00 the 'grandparents' went home and we continued our day.  The next day we asked the students to write a thank you note to the 'grandparents'.  Now first graders don't write very well, but I had each student read their note to me and I translated it at the bottom of the page.  Notes went out similar to this:
       Thank you for coming to my skool.  I'm sory you din't have lectrisity.
      Thank you for coming to my school.  I'm sorry you didn't have electricity. 

I'm not sure who enjoyed the day more, the students or the 'grandparents'.  Either way it was extremely successful.  

Next week I'll tell you how I taught it in fifth grade.