# Learning the times tables: not always fun, but necessary

The other day, my teenage kids admitted to me that I was right.

Trust me, this doesn’t happen often! So it warrants a quick post.

My kids admitted to me that it turns out that knowing your times tables does really help you in whatever math class you’re taking. That’s because after you learn your times tables, most (if not all) other mathematical concepts use the knowledge of times tables in order to solve problems. It’s not critical to know that seven times eight is fifty-six; you can figure that out when you’re working on a math problem that requires that information. However, knowing how to solve multiplication equations efficiently and correctly will vastly speed up the time it takes to solve almost any math problem. This is not only important in math class, but it’s also important when taking standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT… you know the drill. It also comes in handy in physics and other science classes.

So if you’re teaching young kids, make sure that they’re comfortable with numbers, and even though it’s a slog, have them memorize those times tables. Come up with fun ways to do it that don’t simply involve rote memorization (though the rote memorization is also important). Once they can solve multiplication problems in there head, it will help them solve more complex math problems in the future.

# Teaching Tolerance through Teaching about Religion and Cultures

In today’s world everything is constantly changing. We as teachers have to ability to teach tolerance through teaching about different cultures and teaching about different religions. It’s not about trying to convert anyone, of course. It’s about to understand the differences between people’s religion. Many religions do have common threads and with these common threads we can teach tolerance and empathy to our students.

I know when I was young, I didn’t know anything about any other religions and just a little about a few different cultures in Europe and Mexico (I lived in Texas). I really didn’t learn much about these things until I went to the University of Texas in Austin. I learned some through the classes I took, but most from the people I met. I took lots of foreign languages because I was so interested in learning more about these neat cultures. I took Malayalam, Japanese, Russian, French, Czech and Latin. I guess you could say I was a little bit obsessed. I embraced learning about the differences.

Today with the dawning of the internet, we can teach our children so much earlier when their minds are open to learn about new cultures and religions. One of my favorite things to make for my students and Teachers pay Teachers are units on different countries, religions and ancient civilizations. I hope you can use some of these products in your classroom to help teach about tolerance! We all can help make the world a better place to live together!

# Five Ways to Use Interactive Notebooks in Your Classroom

What is an Interactive Notebook?
I’m sure you’ve heard about Interactive Notebooks by now, but let’s just review a bit in case you haven’t heard about them yet. Interactive Notebooks are a way that your students can interact with the subjects you are teaching them. They can cut, paste, draw, expand and really experience the subject they are learning. No two interactive notebooks are created equally. Some may say they are interactive, but they aren’t. Some may have too much cutting and pasting, which will interrupt your lesson plans. The best way to judge them is to look at previews and read all of the details before you purchase one.

Five Ways to Use Interactive Notebooks
1. Review and Test Prep – A lot of the reasons I started making and using interactive notebooks is because if you have a printable you use with your students, the students finish it and toss it into folder never to look at it again. With my interactive notebooks, the activities are designed to have the students come back and review what they’ve just learned. There are flaps, envelopes, yarn, brads and more all specifically used to help your students redo activities for test prep and to show their parents what they’ve learned.

2. Confidence Booster – Using an interactive notebook, your students can keep all of the things they’ve learned throughout the year in one place. Students can look through all of the different things they’ve learned and feel achieved.

3. Introducing New Topics – You can use the activities in an interactive notebook to help students learn new topics. Sometimes students are scared about learning new things. A fun activity will help relax them and allow them to learn new topics (especially fractions which can be frustrating for students).

4. Assessments – You can use the activities to finish up a unit. Instead of or in addition to a quiz, you can have students do an interactive activity to make sure they understand the concepts that you taught in the lessons.

5. Spice Up Lessons – If your students get bored with a topic (you know it’s bound to happen), you can pull out an interactive activity and use a little art and interactiveness to spice up your lessons.

If you’re interested in looking at my interactive notebooks, you can find them here. They have the perfect combination of low prep and high interactiveness.

Here are a few of my best sellers, you can click on the picture to see more information and a preview about each:

# Learning about the American Revolution

History is really interesting to me, but I know some students get bored in history classes. My kids really enjoy learning about history with interactive notebooks. It combines history with hands-on activities and a bit of art.

Here are few picture of my American Revolution Interactive notebook in use.

I think it’s great to actually get the students excited about History and present it in a different format than they are used to. If you’d like more information you can check out my American Revolution Interactive Notebook on TPT.

# Viewing a rocket launch

If you live in Central Florida, or if you ever find yourself in the area, you might consider taking your kids or students to see a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. It’d say “It’s a blast!”, but then you’d probably send me hate mail and unfriend me on Facebook.

Last week I visited the Kennedy Space Center with some friends. My friends live and work in the United Kingdom, and as such had not checked out the Kennedy Space Center before. Our family got annual passes some years ago and been to the center several times, but it is always interesting to visit the complex, especially (for me at least) the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. On this particular day our kids did not accompany me to visit the center – they had school that day.

When we arrived we learned that there was to be a launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket later that evening. We decided we would take the shuttle to watch the launch. None of us had seen a rocket launch before – they don’t get that sort of thing in the UK, and while I do live here in Florida I had never gotten around to doing it. Maybe it was one of those “it’s always there if I ever want to do it, so no hurry” sorts of things. So after exploring the center we took the shuttle to the special viewing area and sat in the bleachers to watch the launch.

The launch went according to plan (well, okay, it was one minute late) and it was amazing. At first the flames appear, then the clouds of smoke start to billow beneath the rocket. The rocket slowly lifts into the sky, gradually picking up speed as it climbs. Then the noise hits you – a thunderous bass that shakes the bleachers even from far away (which is a good thing – being too close to a rocket launch will result in incineration or death by, believe it or not, ridiculously loud noise). As the rocket pierces the atmosphere it leaves behind a little wisp of cloud before it continues upward into space.

I’m hoping to take our own kids to the Kennedy Space Center to see a rocket launch someday soon. I think it is fascinating to see science in action, and the immense power of a space rocket in flight is breathtaking to experience. It also demonstrates how amazing we as a species have become at manipulating the materials of our world into amazing technology like space rockets, space shuttles, satellites, and telescopes to explore our universe. It also makes me think about STEM teaching, and of finding ways to introduce kids to different technologies by actually experiencing them – like exploring the insides of a computer, riding a high speed train, or watching something being manufactured at a plant. If you can think of any good ideas of this nature, please let me know!

P.S. One interesting site that a tour guide told us about at the Kennedy Space Center is Spaceflight Now. On this site you can see the various rocket launches that are scheduled throughout the world.

# 3 Reasons Why You Should Use Interactive Notebooks with Higher Level Math Classes

Some people might think interactive notebooks are only for younger students. Some people believe that learning pre-algebra, geometry and algebra should be taught through worksheets and videos and other means. I think that Interactive Notebooks have their place with these upper grade classes as well. Here are my three reasons why I think you should use higher level math subjects.

1. Many students today are young when they take pre-algebra, algebra and geometry. When I was in school students didn’t take algebra until they were in high school. Today, students start take algebra as young as 11 and 12 years old. They are still young and would enjoy learning in a fun and interactive way.

2. Even students in high school are still young at heart and would just love some school work outside of the norm. Sure, there might be some students that might roll their eyes at the work, but they probaly would roll their eyes at anything.

3. It gives students a sense of accomplishment. Students can reflect on what they’ve learn and can also study for test using their interactive notebook.

Here are some of my own Interactive Math Notebooks for higher level math classes:
Pre-Algebra
Algebra
Geometry

# French Interactive Notebook

The other day, I mentioned that I have a new Spanish Interactive Notebook. What I didn’t mention is that I have a new French Interactive Notebook too.

I think interactive notebooks are even more important for learning a new language than for math or reading because so much of learning a new language is repetition. Also hands-on activities make it easier to remember new vocabulary words and grammar points. Here are few pictures from my New French Interactive Notebook:

# Interactive Spanish Notebook

I love interactive notebooks as much as the next teacher. I think they give students a lot of great information to reflect on when studying for a test, as well as when they look back on what they learned for the year. It’s also great to show parents and administors as well. But, more importantly, interactive notebooks are great for keeping students involved in the lessons!

I was looking for a good interactive spanish notebook for my friend for her daughter that she homeschools, but I couldn’t find any. I decided to make one myself. Growing up in Texas, we always spoke Spanish. My mother was fluent in Spanish and made sure we all knew how to speak it. She felt, like I do, that learning new languages is really important, as well as fulfilling.

Here are a few of the pages from my new Interactive Spanish Notebook:

# Easter STEM

What’s better than STEM? Easter-themed STEM! Easter is a bit later this year and I like it because it’s not too close to St. Patrick’s Day so there is a lot of time to fully celebrate both holidays! I’m super excited with my new Easter STEM packet because my own children had so much fun making these challenges.

The first challenge is a Rocket Egg challenge. It’s really neat to see how innovated students can be when given a list of materials they can use and provided with a task.

Creating an Easter Egg Tower is so much more difficult than you can imagine. I tried building a few and although I did have some successful ones, I had a lot of disasters too which made us all laugh. Here’s one my son built.

Sewing in itself isn’t STEM, but it is when you try to create geometric designs in the design. And to tell you the truth, my daughter knew how to sew before this activity, but my son didn’t know. Now he does! So it’s really a win because he can sew his own buttons on his clothes when they fall off now. Believe it or not, but he really enjoyed sewing too and creating the designs. It also makes STEM more STEAM! Which is what I prefer!

The last challenge in my April STEM packet is a windmill. It’s really cute and I’ve included some printables that your students can use with their designs to help them have a more realistic looking windmill if they want to use them.

# St. Patrick’s Day STEM

One of my favorite holidays is St. Patrick’s Day. I think it’s because I love Ireland and I love the color green. It’s also a great holiday in the middle of a span with not much going on, especially when Easter falls in April, like it will for the next few years.

I’d like to show you my new St. Patrick’s Day STEM unit. There are four activities: 2 activities for St. Patrick’s Day, 1 for National Quilting Day and 1 for Johnny Appleseed Day.

Here’s one activity that is sure to amuse your students. They must build a trap for a Leprechaun. You know how sneaky those Leprechauns can be, so they need to think about how to lure them and trick them.

Have you ever heard of National Quilting Day? It falls in March (the third Saturday to be exact) and it’s a great time to use a little duct tape to create their own quilted item. I think it’s a great time to explain what patchwork and quilting is since a lot of students aren’t exposed to these types of crafts.