MAT Blog

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

Preparing for Your First Parent-Teacher Meeting

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 9, 2014 1:18:38 PM

parent teacher meetingParent-teacher meetings can be nerve-racking, and for good reason: Unlike Back-to-School Night events, meetings are not informal meet-and-greets organized by the school. Usually they are the result of ongoing challenges with a student’s behavior or academic performance.

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever be excited to meet with parents under these circumstances, but with a little planning and a positive attitude, these get-togethers can be relatively painless and extremely productive.

To help you prepare for your first parent-teacher meeting, we’d like to share a few tips from Donna Tileston’s book, What Every Teacher Should Know About the Profession and Politics of Teaching.

Preparing for the parent-teacher meeting

  • Most parents and guardians work during the day, so you should plan on staying after school to meet with them. Avoid setting a rigid timeframe around your schedule and find a time that is convenient for parents. If parents are open to it, you might even offer to meet at their home.
  • Most of us like surprises, but not when we know the news is going to be unpleasant. Let parents know ahead of time what you wish to discuss and what your concerns are.
  • Ensure that all of your concerns can be verified. “I think” does not work well in parent conferences.
  • Gather data, records, notes, grades, test results, and any other information that applies to the conference.
  • If you plan to make recommendations for special services for the student, be sure to have the appropriate paperwork and guidelines. It would also be wise to invite the person in charge of special services. Again, be sure to inform the parents about your plans before the meeting happens.
  • Your student will eventually find out that you are meeting with his or her parents, so it’s best that s/he find out from you. Be brief and tactful.
  • If you are meeting in your classroom, make special accommodations for adults. Avoid having parents sit in tiny chairs or student desks.

Conducting the parent-teacher meeting

  • Most parents will be coming directly from work to this meeting. Offering them a beverage or small snack is a kind and welcoming gesture that may help take the edge off.
  • Avoid using teacher jargon—“an inch wide and a mile deep,” “depth of knowledge,” “building conceptual understanding,” and so on. This type of language is vague, esoteric, and means very little to parents.
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • You may see all the signs suggesting that your student has special needs, but avoid making any diagnosis. You’re a teacher, not a doctor.
  • Do not compare the child to his or her peers, even if you are praising the student.
  • Keep in mind that parents have a right to be skeptical. Do not get defensive if they ask you questions like, “How do you know?” or “That’s not what s/he told me!”
  • Collaborate with parents to come up with a plan of action and put it in writing.
  • Following the meeting, call or email your student’s parents to thank them for coming to the meeting. And don’t forget to continue giving them updates on your student’s progress.


Tags: parent partnerships, Parent Engagement, parent teacher meeting

School Circle: A Free App to Help Strengthen Parent Partnerships

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 5, 2014 2:36:55 PM

Schooowl-badgel Circle may be the answer to one of our biggest “teacherly” conundrums: simplifying communication and solidifying relationships with our students’ parents. Here’s how School Circle works:

After creating your free account, you can send out invites to parents and use your dashboard to visibly track who accepted your invitation. If parents’ email addresses change or stop working, you’ll know it because School Circle will send you a notification. With this complete, you now have the ability to send messages, set up events, and share photos and documents with anyone in your “circle.” Pretty cool, huh?

parent-teacher communication




Tags: parents, parent partnerships, Parent Engagement

The Best of the Week: Volume 14

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 5, 2014 2:27:53 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
5 Excuses Kids Give for Not Reading (and Ways to Respond)
Fairy Tales Gone Wild: 10 Creative Ways to Teach Fairy Tales
Lit Genius (an online community where you’ll find the work of scholars who have annotated anything from classic and contemporary literature, to spoken word and hip hop music)
Lincoln Elementary Turns Reluctant Boy Readers into Voracious Page Turners
The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories
Core Clicks
(a digital nonfiction program for K-5 students)
Newspaper Map (an interactive world map that allows users to click their way around the latest international news)

History and Social Studies
The Public Domain Review (excellent collection of public-domain artifacts)
HipHughs History (a YouTube channel that offers a series of upbeat history lessons)
A Global Guide to the First World War (an interactive documentary)
Made from History (an awesome collection of history-related videos, articles, and photos)
Some Things Never Change
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Photos From the Ruins
Today I Found Out (a collection of quick facts that explain anything from why Michael Jackson’s skin turned white, to how dry cleaning works)

Random Reads for Educators
The Complete List of 80 Teacher Discounts
15 Things We Did At School That Future Students Will Never Understand
A Thought-Provoking Infographic on Poverty and Education in the United States
Museum of New Zealand (collection of over 30,000 free images)

Distant Oasis (an infographic on Europa, the sixth-closest moon of the planet Jupiter)
Teach Math With Mondrian, Calder, Warhol and Others!
PhysicsGames.Net (nice collection of free physics games)

Tags: The Best of the Week

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