Teach STEM (and every other content area) with Passion

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RP7207KBill Nye the Science Guy is back to make science popular. He’s always been a firm believer that science is engaging and fun. You get to use props and you get to design, create, and blow things up! What other content area gets to have that much fun? But Bill is a firm believer that science is fun because the teachers are passionate about it. The passion is what makes students interested in STEM and other areas. Bill Nye tells teachers “let your passion come through.” That’s what makes an impact with students. Read more about Bill Nye’s approach in this article from Education World.

In the meantime, check out Rourke’s science books to support your curriculum and engage your students!




Diversity in Books

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Diversity in books has been a constant topic in publishing for several years now. Diversity in characters. Diversity in authors. Diversity in photographs and illustrations. Why is diversity so important?

It doesn’t matter if students are reading for pleasure or for school. If that student cannot connect to the text then it makes it an obstacle, a task, rather than a journey or adventure. Students need to read things that they can relate to. They want and need to see themselves in the characters and photographs in the book.

This year at BookCon, a panel of authors discussed diversity in books. They talked about what’s been right, wrong, and still needs improvement. You can read the article here. Be sure to check out our Pinterest post tomorrow on Facebook. We will have lists of diverse books for you to use next school year. Follow us on Pinterest and Facebook for more ideas!

Math Memorization: Is it working? Free PD!

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Colleens Classroom

With summer around the corner, many educators are closing up classrooms, but not their minds. Many teachers will be seeking out professional development. Whether it is through a university program, book, or reading up on the latest trends online, the learning never stops when you’re a teacher.

Math, especially Common Core math, has been under fire for quite some time. Why? It’s different. It’s different from what parents were taught. It’s different from what teachers were taught. Change makes people uncomfortable. But it doesn’t have to.

Many adults remember timed math tests. You had to try and solve an entire page of multiplication problems in 60 seconds or less. It was all about memorizing. Really no skill involved. Stanford professor, Jo Boaler, has been analyzing data and found out that students in the United States are memorizing math rather than understanding math. This is much higher than most countries. It also adds to the dislike of math students have. The article on Education Week further explains that we have “produced a generation of students who are procedurally competent but cannot think their way out of a box.” Common Core math standards are about conceptual understanding, not memorization. Professor Boaler believes this new way of teaching is what will create a new generation of problem solvers who think “slowly, deeply, and creatively.”

She understands the change. She realizes that need for understanding. She has created a FREE lesson workshop that is geared for grades 3-9 to help educators with the change in math and offer inquiry based lessons to use with students next school year.

Add this to your professional development list over the summer. With change needs to come understanding. Seeking out free professional development will deepen your understanding and make you more valuable to the students you teach.


Read Aloud Strategies in the Age of Common Core

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Reading aloud isn’t a new idea. There have been numerous studies describing the benefits of reading aloud to students of all ages from birth to high school. But has reading aloud changed with the shift in educational standards? Reading a book many times and with a new look supports the new standards and higher order thinking skills for students of all ages.

But what about informational text? One of the most noticeable shifts in the Common Core for English Language Arts is the requirement to add much more informational text in the classroom. How often to you read informational texts aloud? What strategies do you use when reading?

When reading aloud an informational text, use the same strategies you would with fiction. To address visualization, ask students what words the author used to help create a clear picture in their minds. To address connecting the text to reader, ask students if they had any experiences with what the book discussed. There are many ways students can connect with “real” information found in informational texts.

This article from Education Week highlights what reading aloud looks like in a kindergarten classroom today. Is this different from what you do in your classroom?


Colleen’s Classroom: Lessons Learned

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Colleens ClassroomThe month of May always brings about the hurried pace of wrapping up lessons, scheduling end of the year field days, finishing up final report cards, and putting away supplies for the summer. Each event marks its place on the calendar with an equal sense of urgency. While reflecting upon this past school year, I couldn’t help but notice how the sense of urgency had seemed to permeate its way through every month. The pace of each school day seemed unusually frantic.

As educators, we are familiar with implementing new mandates, new curriculum, evaluations, and testing. We are pretty good at catching and juggling the many balls that are thrown our way. This year however, I dropped more balls than I care to admit. As the year progressed, I just couldn’t seem to maintain the rhythm I needed to juggle successfully.

It was toward the end of February when the balls in my juggling act collectively fell out of the air and tumbled down out of my reach. I was handing out one of the umpteenth mandated practice tests –yes I am aware that umpteenth isn’t a word- when a very sweet mannered student looked me straight in the eye and said, “Not again. What are you trying to do…kill us?”

Good question. What was I trying to do? I was trying to be a good soldier. I was trying to be compliant. I was trying to do what I had been told needed to be done to make my students successful on the spring test.

As my juggling act came crashing down around me, it suddenly  became very clear to me that if I was going to save my students from remembering their third grade year as the year their teacher tried to do them in with practice tests, I had better change my act.

Within the following week, I gathered together my favorite books for literature circles and resurrected the writing workshop. We returned to going outside for mindful walks so we could think about what we were going to write. We took time to play community building games and we researched science topics so we could write books. New homework assignments came to life when choices were given on ways they could be completed. In turn, kids delivered their homework on power points or as animated picture streams on iPads. It didn’t take long before my students were engaged and excited about learning again. It didn’t take long before I was successfully juggling all the balls in the air with the same enthusiasm they were exhibiting. Smiles and laughter soon took the place of moans and groans.

Years ago, my mother had advised me to always be true to myself. Those are simple enough words, but not so simple to do. When I tried to teach in a way that made no sense to me I was not being true to myself…or my students. As long as I am in the classroom, I will continue juggling. As long as I stay true to myself, I will have the rhythm and stamina to keep the balls in the air. Well, most of them anyway. Next year there will be new balls, new challenges and new students. One thing that will stay the same however, is my ability to be true to myself. I won’t forget my mother’s advice again.

Next year I will be leaving third grade and returning to first grade. I have missed the curiosity and wonderment of the little ones. I know my first grade students will provide me with plenty to write about next year. I look forward to a relaxing summer with a pace less hectic than this past year. Summer always recharges my batteries and creativity, and of course, provides so many hours of joyful reading.

I hope all of you have a great summer. Please take time to read, reflect, and recharge. In closing, I would like to share some lines I pulled from my students’ May metaphor poems. My students never cease to amaze me.

 A memory is a wolf,

Guarding feelings,

Hunting for thoughts to be remembered.


Sadness is a boomerang.

You try to forget,

But it comes right back to you,

Bringing you more sadness.


Love is honey,

Sweet as sugar,

Gooey as a kiss,

The color of sunshine.



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