Sunday, July 20, 2014

Statewide Convention of Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - Texas

Just arrived in beautiful San Antonio, Texas.  It was just a short drive for me, as I live in Austin, but many educators and parents are traveling from all over the state of Texas to attend this bi-yearly conference.  I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones, all in the name of quality education for deaf/hh students.  I will be publishing this blog entry in bits, as the conference goes along, so if you want to ask any questions or make comments along the way, please do!  The conference web site is:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I love whiteboards....interactive, really doesn't matter.  What is it about whiteboards that makes them so intriguing?

Individual white boards (the physical pieces of board students hold and write on with dry erase markers) - the best low- (really non-) technical items in my classroom.  Every student is engaged and working when they have the white boards in their hands.  (Except for the student drawing stick figures, but we are working on that).  Visually, I can easily see their work as I walk around the they understand the steps to find the median of a data set?  Can they solve for x in a one step equation?  I can see it in real time, and suggestion corrections if necessary.   This week some of my students got creative and started writing the final answer in words ("seven" instead of "7") or writing the numbers backwards or in mirror form - very clever!

Another great idea that is low tech, but involves bigger whiteboards, is found in a college classroom. My colleague Carol M. is an associate professor of statistics at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and her students work in cooperative learning groups on large whiteboards around the perimeter of the classroom.  Some of her students are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and some are hearing, and the white boards provide communication access for everyone.  Have a look here for more specifics on how her students work successfully to learn statistics on whiteboards.

Of course, on the technological side, I also love my ActivBoard - an interactive whiteboard that hooks up to the laptop and projector.  I use flipcharts I have made on the accompanying software, or flipcharts I can download from the website

One more kind of interactive whiteboard - my favorite app this year is "Explain Everything."  This is an app for the iPad that allows you to write math equations with steps (or whatever you want to write) along with video or photos to enhance the explanation.  The students enjoy the creativity in this kind of work, and it gives me a clear picture of whether they understand the concept at hand or not.  To see a student example of using the app "Explain Everything" click here. (Challenge:  find the mistake in the ASL, related to division :)

So, whiteboards abound!  Find one and try it out today...whatever your level of technological expertise!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Are the Zeros T00 Visual?

My wonderful 8th graders were recently studying scientific notation, and I noticed a few of them with the same misconception.  They looked confident in their knowledge (from past years' lessons) of how to do the usual "count" and put the decimal, then add "multiply by 10 with an exponent".  But, they were counting the zeros, not the places.  This does work in a few cases, but not always.  So I wondered why they were doing this....(I like to wonder about many things).

Looking at many lesson plans and activities that teachers use to teach scientific notation, there are always numbers with lots of zeros.  Visually, the zeros are very prominent in the numbers, whether they are very large or very small numbers.  Is this emphasis why my students were counting only the zeros?


Also, of course, the students had forgotten or did not realize that there should be a one-digit whole number (and only one, not two or three).  So, we had discussions about why exactly we should count the places and not just the zeros.  Plus some analysis of if you actually think about how the 10 to the exponent will result in the standard notation.

Just a thought, but the "visualness" of the zeros might trip some kids be on the lookout for students counting zeros.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Let's Convene at a Convention!

Looking for something to do on your summer vacation? (other than rest up for the fall, but let's not think about that now).   There will be a CAID conference, June 26-28, in Rochester NY at NTID/RIT (National Technical Institute for the Deaf/Rochester Institute of Technology).

If you are not familiar with CAID, and you teach deaf and hard-of-hearing students, you might want to learn more!  CAID is the "Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf".  This organization has been serving teachers of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing for over 160 years.  At the conference in June there will be sessions on various topics of interest to teachers of deaf/hh students, as well as exhibits, keynote speakers, etc.  What a great way to meet other teachers and get new ideas!

And even more exciting (OK, not more exciting, but it is about math, so I had to say that) - there will be a pre-conference before the conference (yeah I know) and the pre-conference is about mathematics!  There will be two days of sessions regarding best practices in mathematics teacher for deaf/hh students, including some cool ideas for language/vocabulary instruction, on-line mathematics videos, and active learning ideas in a mainstream (or other) setting.

So, if you are a teacher, and you teach any deaf/hh students, consider coming to this informative professional conference.  Have a look at  for more information.  I'll be there, and I look forward to meeting you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Manipulating Your Mind

Introducing my first guest blogger - Joey Vaughan!  She is a curriculum specialist at the Texas School for the Deaf.  Thanks Joey!  Way to REPRESENT!
A few months ago, I went to a workshop called "Manipulating Your Teaching Practices" where we focused on the use of manipulatives to enhance math instruction.

The training emphasized the importance of multiple representations of mathematical concepts.  Instruction needs move from the concrete to the visual to the abstract.

We were provided with a problem that we were tasked with solving without any paper or pencils, but we had a variety of manipulatives at our disposal.  (I chose to use linking cubes.) 

Once we solved the problem using whichever concrete models we preferred, we created a pictorial representation.  After that, we explained the process verbally and then numerically.

Here are some pictures showing the process:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Tickle Me Elmo

Ok, number one piece of educational equipment needed in a classroom for maximum visual access is.....a document camera!  If you do not already have one of these babies, please beg, borrow, or steal one as soon as you can.  But really, explain to your principal/administrator of choice how vital it is to have a document camera, especially if you have a deaf student in your class (but any student will do).

These cameras are sometimes known by the brand name "Elmo' (hence the title of this blog post), but the actual item is called a document camera.  Kind of like how we call tissue "Kleenex", or call the copy machine the "Xerox" machine...but I digress.  A document camera can cost anywhere from $300 upwards; oh yeah, you will need a projector as well, which involves more money, but is very worth it.

Why so worth it? you say....well, basically anything, and I do mean anything, you want to show to your students you can slap up on the Elmo and there it is for the world to see.  This could be documents, or math manipulatives, magazine articles, blueprints, cereal boxes, real-world items, or, or, creative.  Whatever your math lesson is for the day, you can present it visually.  And visual access is one of the keys to providing good math instruction.

Students discussing a math problem using a document camera & projector.

Good luck in your quest....after you get those items we can discuss getting an interactive display board such as an ActivBoard or SmartBoard, but we'll take it slowly...

50 Plus Ideas for Using Document Cameras in the Classroom