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A Teacher's Perspective: Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

A guest post by Ashley Porter 7th-grade math teacher, Webster Groves School District, Missouri Imagine Learning now publishes monthly guest posts in order to stimulate conversations about K12 education across the country. Opinions expressed herein are those of the individual author and may not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Imagine Learning.   Think back to the college years when you were choosing your major. Education? Check. As to age group, you would have noted four basic categories: early childhood, elementary, middle, or high school students. Each had its merits, but you could only pick one. Check. I chose the math path--middle school first, followed by high school math later. I decided on math because it was in my comfort zone. That's what most middle school and high school teachers do; they choose the area they're most comfortable with. Yay! No more science, world studies, or English for me, right? My first teaching assignment was at a high school, teaching all levels of algebra. There was a big push, as there should be, to get students to graduate on time. Some teachers were assigned as "graduation coaches," and I was one of them. It was my job to work with students, build a relationship, help them catch up, and get them to a timely graduation. These students were struggling, behind on credits, and risked not graduating at all (or certainly not on time). So, as a graduation coach, I was encouraged to help students in all their areas of struggle. At this point, I received some of the best advice I ever got as an educator.
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Literary Halloween Costumes for Every Book Lover

Halloween time is here. Is your costume ready to go? If you're a book lover, you can answer that question in the affirmative, thanks to our book-inspired Halloween costumes! Costumes from Childhood Books When seeking inspiration for a literary Halloween costume, no need to look further than the books you loved as a child. Here are a few basics: Fairytales (Jack and the Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and so on) Dr. Seuss (Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who) Roald Dahl (Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach) Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, etc.)
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5 Principles of Cognitive Growth

In a 2011 Scientific American article, behavioral therapist Andrea Kuszewski reinforced a concept that continues to gain traction today--namely, that it's possible to improve one's native intelligence. In the past, even respected scientists assumed that intelligence was purely genetic and unlikely to change over time. Nowadays, neuroscientists and cognitive therapists recognize that fluid intelligence (e.g., the capacity to learn and process new information) is the reality. More importantly, people can boost their fluid intelligence by improving their working memory. But how? Five Principles According to Kuszewski, you don't have to be a genius to improve cognition. Even those with low IQs can grow in fluid intelligence. To quote the author, "what doesn't kill you (will make) you smarter."
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Universal Design for individualized learning

Peeked inside a typical classroom lately? If so, you're likely to see one teacher surrounded by an increasingly diverse group of students--each with unique learning needs. What's more, that 'typical' classroom is filled with students who are anything but typical. For one thing, there's really no such thing as an average student. Each class might contain students who struggle with reading or math, students who don't yet speak English, and students with disabilities. On the other end of the spectrum are the gifted students who may need more challenges to stay engaged. How on earth can one teacher meet the needs of all these diverse learners?
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How to Bring the World into Math Class

A guest post by Lori Breyfogle K-6 Elementary Math Specialist in Missouri Imagine Learning now publishes monthly guest posts in order to stimulate conversations about K12 education across the country. Opinions expressed herein are those of the individual author and may not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Imagine Learning.     When you were a student in math class, how many times did you ask yourself, "When will I ever use this?" And how often do you ask the same question about the math you are teaching now?
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Bring on the Smiles at "Shoes for School"

Kids tour helicopter at Franklin Elementary (Provo, UT) It's a common scenario each year: teachers use money from their own wallets to purchase school supplies for their classroom. Of course, even when school budgets cover the purchase of school supplies, too many families still can't afford to buy new school clothing, shoes, backpacks, and school supplies for their children. Enter the annual "Shoes for School" campaign. What Is "Shoes for School"? Each year in America, too many underprivileged kids will return to school without even the most basic of school supplies.
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How To Evaluate Educational Software Games

Math video game characters Do you know how most people evaluate educational games? Quite simply--they don't. For example, consider Dragon Box, an affordable, highly engaging, and extremely educational math video game on algebra. If Dragon Box were a car, it would probably be named Car of the Year. So what percentage of algebra teachers or parents do you think will be adding it to their toolbox this year? At a rough guess: probably less than one percent. ST Math, Dreambox, and Big Brainz are three other great programs that can make a significant impact on children's education. Yet how many math teachers or principals have even heard of these programs? And how many have taken steps to evaluate them to see if they're truly helpful?
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Imagine Learning Gives Back--in a Flash

FreePik   If you had to raise over $20,000 in just two and a half hours, could you do it? During a recent flash fundraiser held on July 11, 2016, Imagine Learning employees did just that, benefitting four noteworthy charities in the process. The four beneficiaries chosen by Imagine Learning employees were:  St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®, Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), Habitat for Humanity - Utah County, and the Imagine Kids Foundation. All four organizations were chosen for their ability to help children and families throughout the world.
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A Guide to Math Picture Books in the Classroom

If you're an elementary teacher, you've probably seen these two kinds of students in your classroom: Students who understand and enjoy math. Students who are frustrated by math because they don't understand it. It's your job to help those in the second group find their way into the first group. Luckily, picture books about math can really help. The 'Why' of Math Picture Books It's human nature to enjoy stories. By relating to a character who feels the way they do, students can gain the confidence to move through their own challenges--both in and outside the classroom. Even more importantly, there's a tangible link between reading and math. It stands to reason that doing one can help the other. When teachers use picture books containing math themes (either implicit or explicit), they offer students a contextualized experience with mathematics generally. Plus, a good story can comfort the heart of any student who's afraid of math.
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Myth or Truth? Accepting Cultural Differences for a Global Mindset

A guest post by Deborah Cochran ESOL Teacher for grades K-5 at Craig Elementary School, Parkway School District in St. Louis, MO Imagine Learning now publishes monthly guest posts in order to stimulate conversations about K12 education across the country. Opinions expressed herein are those of the individual author and may not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Imagine Learning. *The following article is an updated version of a prior post by the author.   Multiculturalism is a hot topic in education today; just ask any teacher. As more multicultural students enter the classroom, educators have to continually challenge old ways of thinking about culture. But where to start? Like it or not, most assumptions about other cultures arise from cultural stereotypes or complete myths. And debunking those myths is an important first step when entering the pathway to a global mindset.
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