MAT Blog

The Best of the Week: Volume 17

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 26, 2014 2:25:34 PM


There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

History and Social Studies
Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You Do
Underwater City Ruins: 7 Submerged Wonders of the World
Deathbed Quotes and Epitaphs
11 Historical Myths We Need to Stop Believing
5 Medical Innovations of the Civil War
World War I Photos: Introduction
Back to the Future (an infographic about the amount of income controlled by the top 1 percent)

Random Reads
What to Do With That Awkward 5 or 10 Minutes of Class You Have Left
5 Simple Tricks to Invigorate Learning in Your Classroom Today
Teacher Helpline: Cheap (or Free!) Virtual Field Trips
10 Rejection Letters Sent to Famous People
Global Poverty (an interactive lesson on, you guessed it, global poverty)
Your Teacher Was Right (an infographic)
The Vault (a coffee shop in North Dakota that runs on an “honor system”)

Random Apps
5 Good Educational iPad Apps that Have Gone Free
Class Messenger (a new app that helps connect parents and teachers)

You Are Here (a photo taken by the Spirit Rover that puts “it all” into perspective)
Meteor Over Canada (video taken from a patrol car that captures a falling meteor)
Apollo 11 Launch (video taken at 500 frames per second)
Visible Body (nice collection of anatomy apps)
Tons of Free Textbooks and Interactive Simulations for Physics and Science Teachers

Reading and Language Arts
12 Old Words that Survived by Getting Fossilized in Idioms
Habits of the Common Bookworm
21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever
How a Struggling Reader’s Brain Works Differently
Six Alternatives to Book Reports

Tags: Best of the Week, The Best of the Week

Burying the Report: 3 Book Report Alternatives

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 26, 2014 9:54:58 AM

book_report_alternatives-1There are only so many book reports one teacher can read in a lifetime! We’ve offered a few book report alternatives in the past, but thanks to Christine Boardman Moen’s book, Better Than Book Reports, here are a few more.

Burying the Report: 3 Book Report Alternatives

Create a Culture Kit
One of our favorite things about reading is that it allows us to travel all over the world and experience different cultures all from the comfort of our favorite reading space. One way to enhance this cultural experience is by having students create a Culture Kit.

To create a Culture Kit, students should follow these steps:

  1. Choose and read a nonfiction book about a family or person from a culture other than your own.
  2. Choose six items to put into your Culture Kit box.
  3. On a sheet of paper, list each item and explain why it is important in the culture you read about.
  4. Be prepared to give a short speech to your classmates about the things in your Culture Kit box. Practice picking each item out of the box and explaining its importance.
  5. Decorate the Culture Kit box. For example, you may want to color it or decorate it to look like the country’s flag.

Grow a Story Tree
The Story Tree is another book report alternative that aims to helps students focus on the basic book report alternativesliterary elements of plot, character, and setting while encouraging them to use exact language to share their book with others.

To introduce this project, you may want to first read aloud a story. Then, as a group, complete a Story Tree that you have copied onto an overhead transparency or on the white board. The statements used to make a Story Tree are listed below.


1. The name of the main character
2. Two words that describe the main character
3. Three words that describe where the story takes place (setting)
4. Four words telling what the main character wanted in the story
5. Five words telling what happened that almost stopped the main character from getting what s/he wanted
6. Six words telling how the main character got what s/he wanted
7. Seven words that describe the best part of the book
8. Eight words that explain why you would or would not tell a friend to read this book.

You can download the Story Tree template here.

A Recipe for a Good Book
Like a master chef who adds the perfect combination of ingredients together to produce a tasty meal, authors also use their own ingredients—plot, theme, setting, mood, dialogue, pace—to concoct an engaging story that holds our attention, surprises, and delights us.

In this book report alternative, students will select and read a book, then create a “book recipe” that lists all of the ingredients that were mixed together to make their book “good enough to eat!”

These are the ingredients students should include in their “book recipe”:

Plot: Tell what happens in the story.
Theme: Tell the message of the story.
Setting: Tell where the story takes place.
Mood: Tell if they story is happy, sad, scary, silly, etc.
Characters: Tell the names of the main characters and if they are good, bad, helpful, mean, funny, etc.

Here’s what your recipe card might look like:

book report alternatives

Tags: book report alternatives, reading instruction, writing fluency, writing skills

5 Websites to Help You Enhance Your Science Curriculum

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 25, 2014 11:05:07 AM


There’s no doubt about it, the Web is brimming with resources to help teachers enhance their science curriculum. But sorting through the clutter and finding the best websites, can be tedious and time consuming. That’s why I’d like to share five science websites that I personally check on a regular basis.

Some of these sites tackle the “serious” side of science; others may push students to rethink their presuppositions about technology, or simply answer wild and wacky questions they have about science.

5 Websites to Help You Enhance Your Science Curriculum

science curriculumI’d probably file How Stuff Works under the wild-and-wacky umbrella. Ever wonder why octopus blood is blue, how NASCAR got its start, or why men have nipples? No problem, the writers, editors, podcasters, and video hosts of How Stuff Works have the answers.

science curriculumLow-Tech Magazine is a website run by Kris De Decker and Deva Lee, a creative duo who write about often-forgotten knowledge and technologies with the idea that not every problem necessitates a high-tech solution.

On Low-Tech, students will find thought-provoking articles about sustainable energy solutions: How to generate power directly from the water tap; why it makes more sense to heat your clothes and not your home; how to heat cities without fossil fuels; and countless other articles that will pique your students’ interest and enhance your science curriculum.
science curriculum
Science Friday began over two decades ago as a radio show, but since then, they’ve developed into a heck of a lot more. Here, you’ll find award-winning videos and articles covering everything from octopus camouflage to cooking on Mars.

science curriculumNova is the highest rated science series on television; it’s also the most watched documentary series on public television. To supplement their television programming, Nova created a website to host their ever-expanding library of science shows, articles and videos that cover anything from Tsunamis and Sasquatch, to planet hunting and stabilizing vaccines with silk.

science curriculumInstructables is a one-stop shop for any do-it-yourself project you can—and can’t—think of. All of the tutorials on the site are user-created, which gives students the opportunity to not only try building other users’ projects, but also take a shot at helping others build their projects.

Photo credit: Amy Loves Yah / Foter / CC BY


Tags: STEM careers, STEM curriculum, science teachers, science curriculum, science and engineering education

The Best of the Week: Volume 16

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 19, 2014 9:58:00 AM


There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

Reading and Language Arts
10 Questions Students Should Never Ask Their English Teacher
21 Charts to Help You Teach Close Reading
The New Teachers' Aides: Superman and Iron Man
(interesting article from The Atlantic on comic books in the classroom)
Dream Reader (free online English reading practice for students)
If Edgar Allan Poe Were a Teacher (hilarious article from Buzzfeed)

History and Social Studies
Mr. Betts Class (a comedic and informative YouTube channel that covers all-things social studies)
What Does Scottish Independence Mean? (video)
The Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England Explained (video)
Schiphol Destination Unknown (interactive geography game that uses Instagram)

Random Reads / Random Apps
Arts Integration: Resource Roundup (nice collection of arts integration resources from Edutopia)
Power My Learning (thousands of FREE games, videos, and interactives in all major K-12 subjects and aligned to the Common Core)
How to Make the Most of Your 10 Minutes with Teacher
Free Photo Site, Pixabay, Makes It Easier to Find Quality Public Domain Images
One Teacher’s Sixth Sense: I See Dead Dogs (hilarious article by one of my favorite bloggers)
22 Ways Teachers and Students Aren’t That Different After All
93 Real-Life Thoughts I Had During Back-to-School Night
Rethinking a Fall Classic: The Parent-Teacher Conference
Q&A: Dana Goldstein, Author, The Teacher Wars
“A” is for Apps: Teachers Share Top Digital Tolls of the Trade

NRICH (free math resources for students and teachers from University of Cambridge)
Save the Apples (math game to help students practice addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication)

Tags: Best of the Week

Pearltrees Makes Organizing Your Favorite Websites Simple and Orderly

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 18, 2014 10:03:35 AM

logoPearltrees2What do you do when you come across a useful website and want to bookmark it? You probably hit control + b and add the page to your Internet browser’s bookmark tool. I used to do this, but after getting tired of never being able to find what I was looking for, I switched over to Pearltrees and it’s made my life a whole lot easier.

Basically, Pearltrees is a visual bookmarking tool that makes organizing your webpage shortcuts intuitive and orderly. So instead of having to sort through Firefox’s clunky bookmarking tool that looks like this:


You get a sleek, well-organized collection of folders that looks like this:


When you download the free application, Pearltrees will add a little icon to the top of your Internet browser. If you want to bookmark a website for later, simply click on the icon and select the folder you’d like to drop the site into.

Pearltrees also allows you to sync your account with Facebook, Twitter, email, or your own personal blog. This is ideal for collaborative learning projects; it’s also useful for teachers who want to share course content with their students.


Tags: apps for educators, apps for teachers

Brain Under Construction: The Biology of a Teen's Brain Development

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 17, 2014 1:06:00 PM

amy_williamsToday we are featuring an article and infographic by guest blogger, Amy Williams.  Amy is a freelance journalist, a mother of two, and a former-social worker based in Southern California. Enjoy!

Brain Under Construction: The Biology of a Teen's Brain Development

If the varied function of the human brain wasn't already a mystery, studying the developing brains of teenagers would provide years of scientific exploration. While teenagers appear to be simply mini versions of adults, neuroscientists have discovered that the teenager’s brain development continues into adulthood and can help explain some of their mystifying behaviors.

Disconnect in the Teenage Brain
Scientific studies over the last ten years have discovered that the brains of teenagers develop from the back to the front over several years. The lobes of the brains called the occipital, temporal, and parietal all develop before the frontal lobe, which is the area of the brain that allows humans to practice judgment, planning, and self-control. The rest of the brain isn’t connecting with the frontal lobe as quickly in a teenager as in an adult of 25 years of age and older.

A teenage brain is, in fact, only 80% developed compared to the brain of a mature adult, as connections between parts of the brain are still progressing well into adulthood. This disconnect--and not necessarily hormones--can make for unpleasant communication between the teenager and adults. The teenage brain has a hard time reading emotion and formulating appropriate responses, leading to easy misunderstandings with friends and adults.

A Study in Contradiction
The prefrontal cortex is part of the frontal lobe, and is therefore also underdeveloped in the teenage brain. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that considers the consequences and weighs the risks versus the benefits of specific actions.

This might help explain why a teen who maintains good grades, play sports and works a part-time job on the weekends may get involved with "the wrong crowd" and be susceptible to drinking or drug use. Or why a teenager might go shopping for a new outfit but come back with a new cell phone. The brain power required for impulse control simply isn’t there, along with the challenge of understanding why this behavior isn’t acceptable to the adults who support him or her.

Rest and the Teenage Brain
The teenage brain is working all the time, soaking up information and learning at an astonishing rate during its development. This rate of growth and activity in the brain is exhausting to teens, in addition to the external stimulus that washes over them on a daily basis. It is essential for teens to get more than the “average” number of hours required for a full grown adult to achieve an acceptable amount of sleep.

Help teens relax by limiting their amount of time on their electronic devices can help them maximize time used best for sleeping. This will allow the teenage brain to incorporate information they learned throughout the day and get the rest they need to support the major amount of growth happening during this time in life.

Helping a Teenager With Brain Development
Just because teenagers act like they don’t need adults doesn’t mean that they can handle life’s challenges on their own. Even though they push back, it’s important for adults to stay involved in the lives of teenagers, setting boundaries and keeping the lines of communication open. Intervening in teenagers’ decision-making processes can help promote positive growth in the teenage brain.

The following infographic, “Judgment Call: Maturity, Emotions and the Teenage Brain,” presents the realities of the the development of the teenage brain and how adults can respond to promote responsibility and clear thinking.


TestTube: A New Digital Current Events Station

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 16, 2014 12:36:32 PM

news for kidsWe’re always looking for ways to make news and current events stories exciting and digestible for students, so we were pleased to come across a cool new website called TestTube.

On TestTube, you’ll find a hefty collection of articles, videos, and programs that answer convoluted questions like Does the U.S. Jobs Report Even Matter?, Could ISIS Terrorists Attack the US?, and What the Heck is 3D Printing? in an engaging and accessible way.

A word of caution for teachers: While most of the content on TestTube is student-friendly, you may want to screen the videos first before presenting them to your students.



Tags: news sites for students, news for kids, current events for students

The Best of the Week: Volume 15

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 12, 2014 1:47:44 PM


There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

Reading and Language Arts

Super Corny Thesaurus Joke
My Storybook (nice app to help students create digital stories)

History and Social Studies
10 Reasons Why Russians Don’t Smile Much
Ferguson: The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching It
José vs Joe: Who Gets A Job? (A must-see YouTube video)
100 Years of Unrest (interactive map that shows the history of protests, uprisings, rebellions and revolts)

Photogrammar (awesome collection of historical photos)
Fasten Seat Belts (a light-hearted guide to help you avoid misunderstandings when traveling)
Overlap Maps (a nice country-comparison tool)

Random Reads / Random Apps for Educators

The National Honesty Index
Teacher Asks Students To Split Into 2 Groups To Simulate Ideal Class Size (hilarious, but completely true article from The Onion)
Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding
Heganoo (an app to help you create your own interactive maps)
Foldify (an app that allows you to draw, create, print and fold beautiful 3D figures)

A Visualization of an Asteroid's Path of Orbit Which Nearly Collided with the Earth and Moon in 2003
Outer Space (The footage from this video was captured by NASA's Cassini and Voyager missions)
Low-Tech Magazine: Doubts on Progress and Technology
World’s Oldest Light Bulb Still Works
The 20 Best Science Fiction Books of the Decade
50 Best Science Sites for the Average Joe
This Impressive Tower Creates Water from the Air
The Kid Should See This (cool videos for curious students)
18 GIFs That Prove Science Is The Coolest Subject Ever


Tags: The Best of the Week

Randomly select students with these free classroom management apps

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 11, 2014 10:57:24 AM

If you’ve ever had a student protest that you’ve called on him or her too many times or favor so and so, take yourself entirely out of the equation and blame it on one of these three random name selection apps!

classroom management appsRandom Student is available for Apple and Android devices. Once you input the student names in each class, you can do typical things, like track behavior, but you can also track things like the number of correct/incorrect answers a student gives when called upon. You can use the Random Student feature and have the app speak the students' names so that it's truly random. It can also assign random groups from 2-6 students to take the load off you!

classroom management offers three free randomized name selection games including a Typewriter, which unscrambles names, a Wheel of Fortune, and Slot Machine.

classroom_management_apps-7In addition to randomly selecting students, Stick Pick offers a variety of question starters (based on Bloom’s taxonomy) and records how well students respond during classroom discussions. Let’s say that Jenny consistently scores high on the questions; simply change the difficulty of the questions to ensure that she stays challenged and engaged!


If you’re looking for a hefty collection of classroom management apps, check out our free downloadable guide, 15 Indispensable Classroom Management Apps for Educators.


Tags: classroom management, apps for educators, apps for teachers, classroom management apps

Newsela Now Featuring Articles & Sports News for Kids

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 10, 2014 1:41:03 PM

news for kidsNewsela is one of my favorite places to find current events and news for kids. I especially appreciate that every article on Newsela comes in four different versions—so if one article is too difficult for students, an easier version of the same article is just a click away.

I’ve already written about all of Newsela’s cool features before, but this morning I just found out that the site is now featuring a Sports section! While your sports-crazed students won't find last night's box scores on the site, they will find articles that connect sports to important global issues.

In one article, students might read about an Orioles minor leaguer's harrowing escape from Cuba and the push to change the Redskins' name. In another readers will find out how math can be used to improve basketball defenses, or how athletes are pushing for more research into concussions and brain health.

news for kids

Tags: news sites for students, news for kids

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