How To Follow Educational Topics on Pinterest

I love Pinterest.  I use it every day, mostly for teaching ideas.  I love to have school links saved in an orderly and logical fashion - maybe because in my home life I'm not so good at this!  But lately my news feed has changed, and I'm not seeing the kind of pins that I'm looking for.  I know that I can use the search bar, but honestly, I don't always know exactly what I'm looking for.

So here is something I just found out about Pinterest, and I'm so excited to share it with you!  We all follow other pinners, or other boards, but did you know... you can follow other TOPICS?  Maybe I'm the last to know, but I am so excited about this that I had to share! 
How To Follow Educational Topics on Pinterest - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

So here's a picture of the topics that I have started following.  I may have gone a little bit WAY overboard here.  My husband just looked at my list and did the dreaded eye roll - the one that means he knows me too well.  I can't help it - I love Pinterest, and I that I am seeing things I haven't seen before.  In summer, when I have time to look at them!

How To Follow Educational Topics on Pinterest - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
It took me a while to find these... some are quite a few levels down.  So I made some links for you.  Check them out and let me know what you think.  Did you all know this already?!?


Instructional Strategies

Teaching Strategies

Art Education

Common Core Standards 

Guided Reading

Reading Workshop

Close Reading

Close Reading Strategies

Vocabulary Strategies

English Language Learners

Common Core Math

Math Notebooks

Math Journals

Guided Math

Math Centers

Multiplication Strategies

Educational Technology

Technology Integration

Google Drive

QR Codes

Augmented Reality


Happy Pinterest Perusing,

TpT Seller Challenge: Week 1

As a teacher I am always on the lookout for great ideas for my classroom.  Handouts, printables, flip books, homework, games... Often, I would find something that was close to what I wanted, but not quite right.  So I would make it for myself.  At first, the pages were awful not terribly attractive (remember Comic Sans?  It was my favorite), but they worked!  Over time, got a little better at it, and I started sharing things with the teachers at my school.  It was then that I discovered Teachers Pay Teachers 

Oh.  My.  Word.  So many products to choose from, from other teachers just like me!  And a lot of them were FREE.  Woo-hoo!  I went a little bit crazy downloading free clip art (did I tell you I LOVE clip art?), and then I started BUYING things.  Like all the time.  I couldn't stop myself.  It got so bad I had to hide it from my husband.  How was I going to pay for my habit?!  Well, why not sell my creations on TpT?

So I made myself a store and uploaded a free product.  It was a school year calendar that I made to put in my teacher planning binder.  With bright colors and polka-dots.  I thought maybe a few teachers could use it, and that made me happy.  
Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog - 1025-2016 School Year Calendar - FREE

A year later, I have updated it for the 2015-2016 school year, and as of today, it has been downloaded 19,422  23,355 times.  Seriously.  Something that I made has made a lot of teachers' lives just a little bit easier.  How cool is that?

I've also made some other products.  Things that I use in my own classroom.  I charge a little bit of money for them.  Not a lot.  And here's the good news: I am now breaking even!  I figure that if I can earn as much as I spend on TpT... it all helps our kiddos, right?

So, enough background info, and on to the Challenge part of this post!  Last week I joined the TpT Seller Challenge started by four amazing teacher-bloggers.  I was to go back to one of my first products and update the covers with new fonts and clip art.  

I chose my 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice:
Light Bulbs and Laughter - TpT Seller Challenge: Week 1 - Makeover Madness
What do you think?  My style has definitely changed in a year!  I like them, but my husband prefers the originals and he's a teacher, too.  If you click HERE, it will take you to my store to look over these babies and see for yourself.  I would love to know what you think, so please leave a comment!


Teaching Kids to Give

Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Before I became a teacher I thought teachers taught subjects.  Like reading, writing, math, science, and music.  Boy, was I wrong.  

Teachers teach kids.  

And we don't just teach them the usual stuff.  Some of the subjects are highly specialized!  Here's a list of a few of the things I have taught my third graders this year:

  • not to run around screaming if a bee flies into the classroom
  • not to whack people on the head with _______ (insert any noun imaginable)
  • where to sit under the tree outside our classroom to avoid getting bird droppings on you
  • how to chew with your mouth closed
  • what it means to be respectful
  • not to pick your nose and rub it on your desk
  • where the giant Symphony chocolate bars can be found at Walmart
  • to give money to a good cause
This last one is my focus in this blog post.  My little K-8 country school has about 440 students.  When one of our staff came to us saying that she was raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Coins for a Cure, we decided to sponsor her as a school.  We needed to raise $2000.  That's a lot of money!
Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

Each class decorated a big tin can and asked students to bring in spare coins from home.  The money trickled in slowly.  We are talking S-L-O-W-L-Y.  It takes a lot of coins to get to two thousand dollars.  Some of my students live in such poverty that they have no coins to give.  Others simply hadn't been taught the concept or the importance of giving and expecting nothing in return.  (I referred to the concept of tithes - giving away ten percent of your income - and not one of my students had any idea what I was talking about!)

One day, I was looking at the older model iPad that my sister had donated to my class (she's amazing that way) and realized that I needed to make the giving more personal for my students.  You see, my sister has leukemia.  After dealing with months and months of hospital stays and chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she is in remission.  So I told my kids her story.  And they went home and told their families her story.  And guess what??
Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

The parents caught the enthusiasm!  The students wrote letters to their parents, asking if they could do chores over spring break to earn coins for a cure.  I heard stories of washing cars, dishes, and even dogs.  I heard about vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, and raking.  (One student claims he was paid to stay in his room and leave his brother alone, but I haven't confirmed that story.)  

The results were amazing.

Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
By the time the fundraiser ended, our little school had raised $3,522.34, and almost $400 of that came from our classroom of 24 students.  My students were so happy and proud of this accomplishment!  My favorite response to the whole thing came from a kiddo who said, "Now your sister never has to have leukemia again!"  I hope and pray that he is right.

So here is my formula for teaching kids to give:
  1. find a worthy cause
  2. make it real - tell a story
  3. ask parents for help
  4. encourage kids to EARN their contribution
  5. add a silly school-wide incentive if it seems appropriate (yes, our principal has to kiss a pig because we reached our goal, and the kids love this!)
A terrific side benefit of this whole process is that kids get lots of practice handling and counting coins, a very important math skill!

Happy Teaching About Giving,

Free Multiplication Practice Game - For Bigger Numbers

A few months ago I made a fun multiplication partner practice game for my students.  It uses two regular dice, which means that students are only practicing from 1x1 to 6x6.  They loved it!  I posted it as a freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers, thinking that I would soon figure out how to make one for bigger numbers.  Then life became super busy, as it always does...

Then last week I had a TpT customer ask a question... would I please make one for 7x7 to 12x12?  This teacher already had some dice to use.  Befuddled, I had to think about that for a while (in my defense, it was parent - teacher conference week, and I was distracted).  Where was I going to get dice like that?  Then I went rummaging through my classroom cabinets and came up with these!!
I grabbed my favorite new Sharpie (it clicks open and closed!!) and started writing on them.
And voila!  There you have it.  Dice to use for the bigger multiplication numbers.  Another way to make these is to put small stickers over regular dice, and write on the stickers.

So I made several copies of the new game, threw them into page protectors, and tried them out in my classroom.  The game was a hit, as you can see.
Some students prefer playing with game tokens (these came with our old math curriculum).
Other students prefer using dry erase markers.  Each player is allowed to choose his or her own color from my white board marker stash, which makes this quite popular.

So I must say thank you to Cyndy, who have me the figurative kick in the pants that I needed to get this done!  We are getting close to testing season, and activities like these are perfect for centers when I am working with a small group.  Yay!

Happy multiplication practice,

Multiplication and Division Fact Families

Multiplication and Division Fact Family Practice Book from Light Bulbs and Laughter
My third graders have been working on multiplication and division for months!  First, we focused on understanding what multiplication is.  After the conceptual understanding was in place, we began to memorize our facts so that we can use them with fluency.  (For my blog post about this, click HERE.)  

We have now moved on to division in our lessons, but will continue to do timed tests and memorization for a few more weeks.  About a third of the class has completed their ice cream sundaes (See the picture below; they have memorized their facts through the twelves), and moved on to division timed tests. 

Multiplication Ice Cream Shop - Light Bulbs and Laughter

Yesterday, one of my students came to me before the timed test and said, "I don't know how to do the division threes."  She had just passed the ones and twos, but was completely convinced that she did not know the answer to the threes.  (Remember, she had learned ALL of her multiplication facts through the twelves!)  

We were in our first week back from Christmas vacation, during which each student completed review homework that looked like this (including a page for each set of fact families from the ones through the twelves):
Multiplication and Division Fact Family Practice Book Cover - Light Bulbs and LaughterMultiplication and Division Fact Family Practice Pack - Light Bulbs and Laughter

We went to check her homework, and she had completed the whole thing.  Perfectly.  All twelve pages.  We talked about the idea that if you know your multiplication facts, you know your division facts, also.  This is because they are in the same fact family.  I could not get her to believe me until I showed her the division sentences that she had written!  Her "light bulb moment" was a joy to see.  Her smile lit up the room when she realized that she already knew every answer.

Sometimes I assume that students understand the big picture behind something, because they are able to do the specific task that I assign.  But how do I know for sure?  I guess I actually have to talk to them.  Individually.  If she hadn't approached me to let me know her dilemma, I would not have known there was a problem.  It's also possible that they might forget what something means.  After all, I forget things all the time!!  (Where did I put my keys?)

I'm a little embarrassed to admit all of this... sometimes I focus so much on the students who are obviously struggling that I don't see what's happening with my "on grade level" kids.  When I pull a small group to work with, these kids are usually not part of it.  So here's a resolution for the new year: I will try to meet with each student individually, once per week, to talk about where they are in their math journey.  (It seems much easier to do this for language arts, between reading with students and doing fluency testing, etc.) 

This week, I plan to show each student their completed fact family practice book and ask for an explanation of how it works.  It should be interesting!
Multiplication and Division Fact Family Practice Pack - Light Bulbs and Laughter

Multiplication and Division Fact Family Practice Pack Covers- Light Bulbs and Laughter

If you are interested in my Multiplication and Division Fact Family Practice Pack, you can find it in my TpT store.

Happy Teaching with Fact Families,

Intro To Multiplication: Things That (Always) Come in Groups

Word problems are a HUGE part of teaching elementary math!  The best way that I have found to get students excited about word problems is to have them write their own.  When it comes to addition and subtraction, my third graders do pretty well.

First, we work together as a class.  I choose a student to help me.  This students gets to say where we are going (Walmart is a favorite), and what we are purchasing (video games and candy top the list).  They decide what each item costs, and we put it together like this:

Ana went to _____________.  She bought one _________ for $_____ and two ___________s for $_______.  

Next, we decide whether we want to add or subtract.  If we add, the final sentence would be something like, "How much did Ana spend altogether?"

If we subtract, we might use the sentence, "How much more did the ________ cost than the _______?"

Finally, I have the students do the problem on white boards, either individually or in groups, and we discuss our answers.  When we have mastered this, I have students write their own word problem and share it with a partner who must solve it. 

Multiplication word problems should be easy after this, right?  Well.   Sort of.  We had a bit of a problem with this earlier in the year.  I started us off with the idea of rows of desks.  I chose a student who decided how many rows, and how many desks in each row.  Easy.  We followed the same pattern of working whole class, then working with partners. 

This is when things got tricky.  See, I did what I always do.  I changed the lesson in the middle.  It seemed like a great idea to leave one of the numbers out of the equation and ask this question: "How many days are there in eight weeks?"  Instead of answers, I got a lot of blank stares.  Then I tried, "How many horseshoes do I need for nine horses?"  This time they did a little better.  

What I realized is this.  My students were so used to being given two numbers to multiply that they couldn't seem to think beyond this to figure out one of the numbers for themselves.  So I got a large sheet of paper and made a 3x3 grid.  I labeled each box with the numbers from two through ten.  And I asked my students, "What comes in twos?"

I was shocked by their answers, which were as follows: desks, candy bars, apples, and books.  What?!  I tried again, putting emphasis on a particular word.  "No, what COMES in twos?"  They continued to give me answers such as pencils, rulers, magnets, and desks.  I was stumped.  Then I realized what was happening.  They were so used to making groups of objects to multiply that in their minds anything could come in groups of any number.  I was not asking the right question!

I tried again, adding the word ALWAYS, and gave them a clue.  "What always comes in groups of two?  Think about your brains."  I pointed to my head and watched the understanding dawn on their faces as most of them raised their hands to answer the question, "Hemispheres!"  (We talk about our brains a lot.)  Of course I had to ask for a complete sentence, and we finally heard, "Hemispheres always come in groups of two!"  Whew.

Now we were cooking with gas.  We started filling up the chart with things that always come in groups of a particular number.  Some were a lot more difficult than others!  Here's a picture of our (not terribly attractive) chart.
Equal Groups Poster - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

We didn't do very well with some of the numbers, so I added more later!  I have to mention two particular students here.  The first just wasn't understanding, and kept blurting "desks!" every time I asked, "What always comes in..."  The second student questioned most of the answers with words like these, "What if you accidentally cut off your finger?" and "What if I step on the spider and half his legs fall off?"  Arrrgh.

Somehow we made it through our lesson, and I think that we are better for it.  We did some good thinking about numbers and groups and multiplication, and we had a lively debate about changing the word always to usually, because of the potential to cut our fingers off and step on spiders - to which I say, ick.  (My word, always, won the debate.  This is one of the perks of being the teacher.)

Multiplication Equal Groups - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

Multiplication Equal Groups - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
So.  If you would like to have your students think about what (ALWAYS) comes in groups, I have a freebie for you.  Well, two, actually.  In case you would rather have the numbers spelled out.  Click on any picture in the post to go to my TpT store for the free download.

Happy Multiplication Word Problems,