Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Six Books I Want to Read in 2016

It's that time of year when people start making resolutions or goals for the coming year. Many of these are quickly dropped or fall to the wayside, usually because the goal was too outlandish or not specific enough. I try not to set too many goals, but I almost always make a goal to read more books or to read more consistently each year.

With that in mind, here is a list of books that I intend to read in 2016. Most of these have been out for some time and I'm sure there will be other books that come out in the coming year, but these are books that have piqued my interest.

  • The Survivor by Kyle Mills. One of my favorite characters is Mitch Rapp. He is an intelligence agent for the government, but not exactly liked by everyone because of his choice of tactics. The books are crazy exciting. Mitch Rapp was created by Vince Flynn, but, sadly, Mr. Flynn lost his battle with cancer a few years ago. Kyle Mills was selected to continue the story and I am interested to see how he does.
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. I am currently reading this book and it is very interesting. I'm not much of a history reader, but I do enjoy a great story and Mr. McCullough is an excellent storyteller.
  • The Big Short by Michael Lewis. I got interested in this book because the movie looks fascinating. This is the third book by Mr. Lewis, who writes nonfiction, to be turned into a movie.
  • The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. This book has received many comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, both books that I read and found intriguing. I may not be the target demographic, but, as I said above, I am a sucker for a really good story.
  • Nightmares! by Jason Segel. I was surprised to find out that this book was written by Jason Segel, the guy from "How I Met Your Mother" and "The Muppets." Is there nothing this guy can't do? Anyway, my son read it and he absolutely loved it. I also did a book commercial for it at my school and it was one of the top selling items at the school's book fair. I've heard nothing but really good things. There is also a sequel called Nightmares!: The Sleepwalker Tonic that I'm certain will end up on this list as well.
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I know almost nothing about this book. It was first published in 2004, but has recently become popular because there is a Broadway musical called Hamilton! based on the book. My brother started to read it and it made me want to read it too. By the way, the music from the musical is pretty good as well.

These are just a few of the books that I hope to read in 2016. Do you have plans to read any books this year? If so, what books are on your list? Have you read any of the books listed above? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

By the way, each of the books listed above is linked to When you purchase a book from using the links above, I receive a small commission, which goes to help me pay off my student loans. Just thought you would want to know.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Three Incredible Ways to Strengthen Student-Teacher Relationships

One of the most important relationships in the life of a student is that of the student-teacher relationship. If you have strong relationships with your students, your year is much more likely to go smoothly. Rita Pierson, in her incredible TED Talk, discusses a fellow teacher who had a miserable year because, as she put it, wasn't "paid to like the students."

Here are three incredible ways to strengthen the relationships you have with your students. Following these three keys will help pave the way to a great year with your class.

  1. Have a 5 to 1 Ratio.
  2. What is a 5:1 Ratio? A 5:1 Ratio is the number of positive comments to negative comments that you give each of your students. You need to constantly be heaping praise on your students. Have you ever noticed that if someone gives you 1,000 positive comments and one negative comment, it is the negative comment that sticks with you? The same is true for your students. Be sure to tell your students how great they are doing, especially if they are prone to negative behavior. Remember the wonderful Mary Poppins? "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." Be certain you have a 5:1 Ratio.

  3. Use T.U.M.S.
  4. I am not referencing the heartburn medicine (although sometimes those are needed). T.U.M.S refers to the tone you set for your students in the morning and the connections you make with students as they come into the classroom in the morning.
    • Touch - greet your students with a handshake, high five, or knuckle bump.
    • Use His Name - make certain your student knows you know who he is. A name is a very powerful thing, especially when it is being used appropriately.
    • Make Eye Contact - look your student in the eye and convey a sense of excitement.
    • Smile - who doesn't love seeing a smile? A smile will instantly convey that everything is going to be alright.

  5. Be sure to say the Big Three.
  6. I call these sayings the "Big Three" because I think they are three of the most important things that a teacher can tell a student. I wrote a more in-depth blog post earlier this year.
    • "You're doing a great job!" - let your student know you appreciate the work he is doing.
    • "I'm proud of you!" - find something your student is doing and praise him for it, even if it something inconsequential or small.
    • "I love you." - students need to know that you love and care for them. It shouldn't be implied; they need to hear you say it and say it often.
I would love to guarantee that these three things would give you a smooth, drama-free year. They won't because we are dealing with children and children are people. However, I can promise that if you are consistently heaping praise, making connections, and showing that you care, your relationships will be that much better.

What do you do to help strengthen and build student-teacher relationship? Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Making Ends Meet - Using GymPact

The other day, I shared with you how you can earn gift cards by participating in Swagbucks. I want to suggest another way to help you earn a little extra money to help loosen your budget a little bit.
Everyone knows you are supposed to eat fruits and vegetables. We also know that we are supposed to exercise. What if there was a way that you could get paid for doing so? What if I told you there is? Gym Pact is the answer.

Gym Pact is an app for your smartphone. At the beginning of each week, you commit to eating a certain number of fruits and vegetables. Right now, my current number is 28. Each day, I eat my fruits and vegetables and take a picture of my serving with the phone's camera. The picture is uploaded to the app and other users vote on whether or not the picture will count. You can receive credit for up to 5 pictures each day. Most of the time the picture will count, but there are times when the community will decide that what you are eating is not actually a fruit or vegetable or that it is not a full serving. For this reason, it is best to take several extra pictures.

If you complete your pact for the week, you are paid a small amount for doing so. If you do not finish your pact (you don't eat all your vegetables), you are charged a fee for each one that you miss. This provides a great deal of incentive to make sure you are eating healthy.

In addition to eating fruits and veggies, you can also make a pact to exercise daily. The exercise pact requires that you complete an exercise session of 30 minutes or more. You can connect the Gym Pact app to a number of other apps, including RunKeeper. There is also a motion tracker that lets you use the Gym Pact app to record your exercise. I have mine connected to my FitBit, so my workout counts when I hit my goal of 10,000 steps for the day.

Using Gym Pact certainly won't make you rich, but every little penny helps, right? Currently, by completing 5 workouts and eating 28 vegetables, I earn about $3 each week. That's not a whole lot, but it keeps me motivated and has me eating as many vegetables and fruits as I can. I saved my Pact earnings for a number of weeks and was able to use it to pay for most of the parking fees we had on our trip to Walt Disney World this past summer. My wife has been saving hers and she just cashed our nearly $100! It all adds up.

I really hope that you if do sign up that the little bit of extra money you make is used to make your life just a little bit better.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Making Ends Meet - Using Swagbucks

It is no secret that most teachers are grossly underpaid. I am fortunate to work for a county that makes teacher salaries a priority, but even then, sometimes it can be hard to find extra money for birthday presents, Christmas, and just every day items. Fortunately, there are ways to make these things a little easier. My hope is that I can share some ideas with you to help you make a little extra money and, by doing so, make your life a little bit easier.

Today, I want to talk about Swagbucks.

Swagbucks is a website that will "pay" you to complete different activities online. There are videos to watch, polls to answer, and purchases to make. You can even earn Swagbucks by searching. Put in the terms that you are searching for and, periodically throughout the day, you will be awarded a number of Swagbucks for your search.

Swagbucks doesn't pay you in cash. Instead, you are rewarded Swagbucks, or SB. As you collect SB, you can then use them to purchase gift cards from a number of top retailers. My wife and I use our Swagbucks to purchase gift cards to, which we then use for birthday presents and Christmas gifts. You can also purchase gift cards from Kohls, Target, Best Buy, and There is also a gift card for PayPal, which is the same as cash. I used my SB earlier this year on our trip to Walt Disney World. I cashed in enough SB to receive $35 worth of gift cards to AMC theaters. We were able to take our entire family to the movies for about $12 because of the gift cards.

This may sound like a lot of work and, to be honest, it does take a little bit of effort to accumulate enough SB to get a gift card. Right now, you can get a $3 gift card for 300 SB or a $25 for 2,200 SB. One of the easiest ways to earn SB is to make use of the SBTV app available for your smartphone (just do a search in your smartphone's app store). I have it on my iPhone and use it every day. This is a really simple app. You simply make certain you are connected to WiFi, turn on the app, and let it run. During the day at school, I will set the app to run and leave it on my desk. Simply by running the app, I earn about 30 SB each day. I think my wife and I have earned a couple of hundred dollars in gift cards through this program.

If Swagbucks sounds like it might be helpful to you, you can sign up by clicking here. Please note, this is an referral link and I will receive a bonus because you signed up. You will also receive a 150 SB bonus for signing up, so it is win-win for both of us.

I hope that by joining Swagbucks, the little bit of money that you save from purchasing the gift cards will help make your budget a little bit easier.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Your Job Is To Protect the Students

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across this status from Jon Acuff.

Yesterday on my flight, a 13 year old boy who was traveling alone sat next to me. Before we took off he lowered the tray table in front of him, put his head in his arms and started sobbing. Big tears covered the tray as he wept in his seat.

I asked him, "Are you alright buddy?" He told me he had spent 3 months with his mother for the summer and was flying back to another state to live with his dad.

Sometimes the frequency of divorce makes us forget the heartache of it. It's such an ordinary thing these days that we tend to rush right by the extraordinary pain it causes.

As an adult, I have had friends that have dealt with divorce. Sadly, it seems like an almost daily occurrence when my wife tells me that a friend of hers is going through a divorce. It is heartbreaking to know that a relationship that was supposed to last forever is coming to an end.

The even sadder reality is that this is an all-too-common occurrence in our classrooms. There are children who deal with the heartbreak and devastation of a divorce on a daily basis. Sometimes, Mom and Dad get along great after the divorce and sometimes it is nasty between them. Regardless, there is pain for the children. I am thankful that my parents are still together. It was a bit dicey at times, but they are still together.

We think we were hired to teach children and that is true. More importantly, we were hired to protect the students, to keep them safe, and to help them understand the world around them. It is pretty scary being an adult; it is even scarier being a kid. Love your students, make sure they know you are a safe harbor in their chaotic world, and teach them to love and protect each other. That is your job, the most important job you have when you enter the school building each day.

Your job is protect to the students.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Currently for the Month of July

It's summer, so my blog will be temporarily resuscitated (well, I hope so anyway). To kick things off, I am participating in the July Currently (hosted by Oh' Boy 4th Grade).

Listening - I am currently listening to the Jimmy Buffett station on Pandora. I am by no means a Parrothead, but Mr. Buffett's music has a very special place in my heart. My wife and I (back before we had 5 kids) had the privilege of traveling to Las Vegas on our honeymoon and to Orlando to celebrate a few of our anniversaries. At each of those places, we ate dinner at Margaritaville. It was a fantastic time and a great place to eat. So listening to Jimmy Buffett, Zac Brown, etc. reminds us of those trips. Needless to say, this station is on quite a bit.

Loving - Summer school started today! I know a lot of teachers really look forward to having summer vacation so they can relax at home, but I love teaching and I love being with students. Our county offers summer school most summers and I have taught in many of the sessions. This year I am in my own building, in my own classroom, so it feels awesome. I am looking forward to a great couple of weeks. Plus, as I mentioned, my wife and I have 5 kids, so the extra money goes a long way to help pay for new school clothes, shoes, and school supplies.

Thinking - I am thinking that I need to get started on my summer projects. I really want to make some new bow ties. I have two Teachers Pay Teachers activities that I need to make (fractions on a number line using mixed numbers and a set of graphing task cards for picture graphs). And, most importantly, I need to start making the videos for my flipped classroom idea. I have about 7 weeks, so I need to get cracking!

Wanting - I really want a MacBook Pro. I mean, I really want a MacBook Pro. There are so many cool features and apps on a MacBook that just aren't available on my current PC. I listened to a podcast on making iBooks. I need to make iBooks. I watched a video on using iMovie. I need to make movies on iMovie. One of my favorite YouTube channels is called Film Riot and they use a program called Final Cut. I need to use Final Cut. However...a MacBook Pro costs about $1,000, give or take. That is definitely not in the budget. My wife needs a new laptop and we need to replace the tile flooring in our kitchen. So, yeah, I guess I need to keep wanting. That is unless someone wants to bestow a wonderful gift upon me. (Either that or visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store and check out the awesome math products I have available.)

Needing - I need to get some motivation. We just got back from vacation last week. It was an awesome time, but I haven't really accomplished anything since we got home. It didn't help that it took nearly two hours to get home today because of all of the road construction, but I still need to get my butt in gear if I am going to accomplish all of the things I listed above.

All Star - I love the fact that my fellow teachers come to me to ask tech advice. I really love technology and look for ways to add technology to my lessons and teaching. I'm not the most technical person, but I do enjoy looking for new ideas and coming up with ways to make my lessons more engaging by implementing technology into them. I also love sharing those ideas and techniques with others. Our Technology Resource Teacher decided to pursue another adventure at the end of this school year. There were a lot of teachers who approached me to pursue the job. Sadly, I don't have a degree in technology or I might have considered it.

So that is where I'm at on this, the first day of July. Tomorrow is my wife's birthday and July 4 is my son's birthday. July 31 is our 11th anniversary. Life is good. And, to show you how good life is, I will leave you with some pictures from our vacation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Three Favorite Things - My Favorite Read Alouds

Even though I am a math/science teacher, I still love to read books to my students. Most of the time, I read books to my students that are related to a math concept or something associated with our current science unit. For example, when we were working through a unit on time, I read Game Time by Stuart Murphy.

However, sometimes I just like to read stories my students just because I love to read and I love to share my favorite stories with them. For this month's Favorite Things list, I want to share three of my favorite read alouds.

  1. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. Jon Scieszka is a genius. I really can't think of another word to describe him. My first exposure to the writings of Mr. Scieszka was during my freshman speech class in college. My professor read the story of "The Stinky Cheese Man" and I was hooked. Each year, I read the same story to my students and it is always a highlight of the school year. If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is the adventures of a man made of stinky cheese. Sound familiar? This story, however, ends in a rather unique way. Give it a try. I promise you will love it. You can also try The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

  2. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I have read this book at least 4 times and I am still discovering new elements of the story. For those of you who may not know the story, it is the tale of Miranda, a girl growing up in 1970s New York City and dealing with what it means to be a teenager. Add to this the homeless guy who lives on the corner, the peculiar boy from her school who punched her best friend for no apparent reason, and some rather strange notes that appear to be coming from the future and you have just a taste of the story When You Reach Me. This is seriously one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. My students are on the edge of their seats the entire time we read the story and it is very difficult for me not to cry when we reach the climax of the story and the mystery is solved. I know exactly what is going to happen and I get choked up anyway. When you read it (see what I did there?), you will not be the least bit surprised that it was awarded the Newbery Award. If you like this book, Mrs. Stead's other novel, Liar and Spy is just as good. My wife and I listened to both books on our drive home from Disney Word a few years back.

  3. Weslandia by Paul Fleischman. Weslandia is the story of a boy named Wesley who doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the people in his town, including his own parents. To solve this problem, Wesley creates his own civilization, including his own food, clothing, games, and written language. The civilization, called Weslandia, becomes quite popular and Wesley become the town hero.

    At the end of each year, after we have finished our state testing, our grade level does a project based on this book. The students are tasked with creating a civilization from scratch. They create a language, describe the foods, design the flag and government, and even describe the climate. It is a great review of all of the concepts taught throughout the school year. I am always amazed at the incredible projects that are produced by my students. If you are interested in finding out more about this project, called "My New Civilization," it can be purchased from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

So, there you go, three of my favorite read alouds. I actually put together a longer list, so if you are interested, you can read "My Seven Favorite Read Aloud Books." What are your favorite books to read aloud to your students? Please leave your favorites in the comments below.

This post was part of the monthly Favorite Things link up, hosted by The Teaching Trio. Please check out what some other great teachers are sharing this month.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Graphing Task Cards and a Freebie

*****You can download the free sample of the Bar Graph Posters by clicking here!*****

I have a deep seated hatred of worksheets. I loathe worksheets. This year, I have done my very best to eliminate as many worksheets from my math class as possible. Yes, there are times when we do worksheets, particularly for homework, but, for the most part, worksheets are extinct in Room 19.

That brought me to a sticking point when it came to graphing. I could not figure out how to have my students practice graphing without giving them a worksheet. Then it hit me...task cards! I could make task cards to teach graphing. This way my students could practice reading and analyzing different types of graphs without using a worksheet.

 photo bar graph picture.jpgI made six different full-sized graphs. Each graph was printed on a single sheet of paper. For each graph, I created four questions. Each question was put on its own task card. This made for a total of 24 different questions. I cut out the cards and taped them to the wall under each of the graphs. Small groups of students went into the hall to answer the questions, writing the answers on the recording sheet.

To this point, we have practiced line plots and bar graphs. We will also be working on picture graphs shortly and I will follow the same format. My students really enjoy being able to get up and move around instead of simply staying in their seats.

So you can see what we are doing in my class, I created a free sample of the Bar Graph Posters for you to download. Simply click on the picture below to download your free sample.

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If you are interested in the full sets of either the Line Plot Posters or the Bar Graph Posters, they are available for purchase in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

 photo Line Plots 6 Posters.jpg         photo Bar Graph Posters.jpg

As always, thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to leave a comment below, especially with examples of how you are using the activities with your students.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Three Things I Try to Tell My Students Every Day

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For anyone who is a teacher, you know that it is game on from the moment the bell rings in the morning until the last student gets on the bus at the end of the day. It is crazy and hectic and there are days I forget that I need to drink water and go to the bathroom. I forget to sign papers and one time I even forgot to send home report cards. Trust me, the parents and students didn't let me forget the next day. I think I am still answering emails about that.

However, even with all of the craziness that is a day in a third grade classroom, there are three things I try to tell my students every day. I can't say that it happens 100% of the time, but I do make an effort to let them know these things every day.

  1. "You are doing a great job!" I want my students to know that I think they are doing a great job and that the work they are doing is being noticed. I want my students to work hard and I want them to be recognized for that fact. I tell them this even if they have only completed half of the activity because, for some students, they are working to the best of their abilities. Sometimes, as teachers, we tend to focus on the students who complete all the work and answer all the questions. I'm guilty of that very thing. I want to make sure that my students know that I see what they are doing and I think it is great.
  2. "I'm proud of you!" I tell my students I am proud of them all the time. When a student completes a multiplication problem he has struggled with for several minutes, I let him know how I feel. When a student has had a bad day and does something remarkable, I let her know how I feel.
  3. "I love you." The first time I told my students I loved them, most of them gave me strange looks. "Did our boy teacher really just say that?" I tell my students I love them every day. Sometimes it is "I love you very much, but you all are driving me crazy at the moment," but I want them to know how special they are to me. I know it is cliche, but I may be the only one who tells them "I love you" in any given day. I pray that this isn't the case, but it might be. I say "I love you" to my class so often that, as I was leaving the other day for an appointment, as I walked out the door, one of the girls called out, "Mr. Pearson, aren't you forgetting to tell us something?"

Why do I do say these things? Well, there are lots of reasons, but, mostly, I want to build relationships with my students. I want them to know I care about them and they are more important to me than tests scores and reading data graphs. I want them to trust me and to know that I am there to protect them, even on those occasions when I am upset with them because of their behavior. It makes it so much easier and more effective when I tell a student, "Hey, you are out of control and you need to settle down," if they know it is coming from a person who loves them and wants the best for them.

Do you say these things to your students? What are some things you tell your students every day? Please share in the Comments!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Making and Using Videos in My Classroom

The other day I had a scheduled day off. It wasn't necessarily a fun day, but I had to be at the Admin Building for some training for committee that I help facilitate at our school. On the day I was to be off, my students were going to begin learning (and/or reviewing) how to tell time on a clock to the nearest minute.

As a literature tie-in to the lesson, I decided to read Game Time by Stuart Murphy. This is a great book that talks about units of time and how they work on a clock, all set in the context of students playing a soccer game. I knew my students were going to love it.

The only problem was that I wasn't going to be there to read it to them. Obviously, I could leave the book for the substitute to read, but I didn't want to for some reason. So, I decided to make a video of my reading the book. It's not a particularly well-polished video, but it achieved the purposed.

If you are interested in the video, I posted it below.

The best of part of this story is this: When I returned to school the next day, I asked my students what they thought about the video. I figured they would say they liked it, but one student had a really great answer. She said, "I liked the video because it's like you are here with us, Mr. Pearson, even when you aren't in the classroom. We miss you when you aren't here. Well, at least I miss you."

So, yeah, that's why I make videos, even if they aren't always the best.

To subscribe to my YouTube channel, please follow this link to get signed up.

Do you make videos for your classroom? How do you use them?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Three Things We are Doing Differently on our Next Disney Trip

If you have been following me (either through my blog or through Facebook), you know that I love all things Disney. My family loves Disney movies, we love Disney music, and, most importantly, we love Walt Disney World.

Two years ago, my wife and I took our four boys on a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. She and I have been several times, but this was the first time as a family. We were able to find a great deal on a two-bedroom condo, bought tickets through a special broker, and rented a van to drive to Florida. IT WAS AWESOME!

We are going to be taking another trip this coming summer, just as soon as school is done for the summer. However, we are going to be doing some things just a little bit differently this time.

  1. We are flying to Disney instead of driving. As I mentioned, last time we drove to Orlando. We rented a van, loaded all of things into the van, and made the 2-day drive. This was fine last time. We were able to put the two bigger boys in the back seat, our toddler in one of the bucket seats and the baby in the other. This time, we have five children. That means that there will be three boy in the back seat. We can barely make it to Chick-fil-a without a fight. So, this trip we are going to be flying. Yes, it is a huge expense, especially when you have to purchase 6 tickets. My wife and I just decided that it was worth the cost to save on the potential arguing and fatigue that comes from making such a long drive.
  2. We are renting a house. So many folks rave about the Disney experience of staying on property. It is something we would love to do, but the size of our family makes that a bit more difficult (and a lot more expensive). We found a 4-bedroom house very close to the parks for an incredible price. This is perfect for us because we can cook our own meals, there are enough rooms for everyone to sleep comfortably, and it has its own private pool. The boys are especially excited about this part.
  3. We are only going to parks for 4 days. We will be in Orlando from a Sunday until Saturday. Last time we went down, we tried to go to the parks every day and there were a lot of meltdowns. This time, we are only planning to go four out of the five days we are there. We have purposely scheduled a day off in the middle of the week so that we can spend time at the pool, visit Downtown Disney, and just relax. Hopefully this will help all of us to stay refreshed and to get more enjoyment out of our trip.

Every trip to Disney is full of magic and memories. Our hope is that by making these changes, even changes that will cost us a bit more, we can enjoy our trip all that much more.