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Reviewing for the Semester Exam and Christmas Break

By: Scotty Thompson of Calcustar

I teach five sections of algebra- One honors and four standard. Next week we have semester exams starting on Tuesday, and they go through Thursday. Monday is a regular day and the three exam days are half days (woohoo!).

Today we reviewed how to solve equations of all sorts, two-step equations where the final step is multiplication/division, as well as multi-step equations involving distributive property and where the whole side is a fraction.

I was proud that most of my students remembered how to perform the operations to solve for the variable, but there were a handful that just couldn’t get it. I don’t understand what makes these students click and what I can do to help them.

One-on-one with me, they can get it, but they can’t seem to retain the information down the road. It’s frustrating to me because I really believe that they all have the potential to understand the material, but there’s just some sort of block inhibiting them from doing so.

I had my students use personal white boards so that I could see their mistakes, if they made any. They really love using the whiteboards, and I love that they’re engaged and show their work. I think we will use whiteboards again tomorrow so that they are still engaged as much as possible. I know they’re in Christmas break mode, or are getting there quickly. Honestly, I am too!

Speaking of Christmas Break…..

I can’t wait for Christmas break. My lesson plan wasn’t spectacular today. I printed off sample questions to help them with their exam next week. The questions had more words than my kids are used to.

It made me realize how much I have been stressing skills over conceptual understanding. Fortunately, we are allowed to come up with our own grading system for the exam, so I can adjust for that little fact. Today was a wake up call.

My honors class did well overall with reading the questions and thinking through the answers. There were a few that I had to explain, but those will probably stick with them. My standard kids, on the other hand, did not want to read or think at all.

I think it’s partially because they are distracted by how close Christmas break is. I know I am. I loved school so I was never overly excited for breaks, but I did enjoy them. Now that I am a teacher I really look forward to breaks.

I’m thinking about creating video lessons for next semester. It will be a sort of flipped classroom, except the will use their smartphones to watch the lessons in class instead of at home. I guess that means it’s more of a blended learning classroom.

I’ll have to do more research on that, but it’s my idea for next year because I’ve noticed a lot of kids don’t pay attention at various points during the lesson. It’s almost like they take turns looking at the wall or ceiling or whatever else has paint on it.

I feel like a video lesson will retain their attention more efficiently, and they can always rewind, pause, or whatever else when they feel like they need to. I was thinking about having them grouped in pairs based on a diagnostic test they will be given when they come back from the break.

That way there’s technology and collaboration, and I will be a true facilitator which they say is what modern classrooms should look like. It’s an exciting but scary idea. I feel like it’s very risky but at the same time could bring a very large reward if it works- much like any other investment. I’ll have more on this to come.



Back to Basics


Sometimes you just need to get back to basics. No need for anything fancy or complicated just plain old hitting the ball. This is the theory behind the training schedule for our son this summer.  For the first time in four years he isn’t off to a tennis academy.

Instead he is at the summer lake house with the family for one last summer before he heads away to college. When analyzing his game and his mindset toward tennis this summer he decided he needed to be in control of his tennis himself.

No coach, no academy, no fellow junior players to train with, no parent setting up a practice schedule, just him, his tennis racket and whatever he felt like brining to the table. His first order of business was to regain some of the consistency he felt he had lost since his surgery.

The knowledge of how to play tennis, set up a point, hit against different styles of tennis players never leaves you, as he puts it, it is much like riding a bike, you never really forget, you just aren’t as balanced and fluid as you used to be.


In order to improve his consistency he decided to revisit his old friend the ball machine. You can’t get a better hitting partner than a great ball machine. You know a ball is coming back over the net to you every time.

I highly recommend that you also get a tennis ball machine! You can take a look at this best tennis ball machine – reviews and find out what’s the right for you.

He spent a good hour or two every day for two weeks just working with the ball machine, finding that consistent swing to put the ball where he wanted it every time.

Down the line forehands, cross court forehand, cross court backhand, down the line back hand, making sure the stroke was the same every time to get that elusive consistency. The lake house doesn’t provide a wide range of high level junior tennis players.

As a matter of fact, I am not sure if there are any in the area. For the past four years we have used this as the main reason to send him to a tennis academy for the summer.

This year it is more important to have a summer as a family one last time before he leaves to college than to find the perfect hitting partners. It is working out okay so far. It is not the quality of the opponent you are playing as much as what you are doing with your own game when you face an opponent.

He has brought an old tennis buddy with him to the lake for two weeks. It is a great balance of enjoying the lake and tennis. They water ski, wakeboard and wake skate during the day and head off to the courts in the evenings.

A gentlemen down the lake heard we had a tennis player in the family and stopped by yesterday to ask if he would hit after dinner. To my son’s surprise the man was a pretty good player. As he puts it,” he keeps the ball in play and has that nasty back hand slice that dies when it hits the court”.

Instead of complaining about the shot this time he decided it would be a good opportunity to learn how to do it himself. So it appears that the local “older” players may be excited to have a “young gun” in town and my son may have found a new group of hitting partners.

I see a new level of maturity in him and his game. Instead of complaining about the quality of hitting partners he has come to realize that an opportunity to hit is an opportunity to learn. It is far less about what your opponent does and more about what you do.

Perhaps it is just that his mother and coach are no longer telling him what to do, but I think I see him a little happier when he hits the court. Tennis is back to the basics and on his own terms.  I think it just might be the balance that will work for him.


Best Body Pillow For Pregnancy

pillow for pregnant women

What is the best body pillow for pregnant women?

This page covers a review or two on some of the body pillows for pregnant women. The only pillow I don’t have reviews for is the pillowband because it is practically brand new. Although I do have a comment from a chiropractor that recommends the pillowband for her clients.

This is what she said……. “What a great help for my patients! Loss of sleep because of pain is a major factor in delayed healing. My patients using the pillow band are finding a good night’s rest much more achievable because of the way the pillows can now put the support where they need it most. It supports the knees and hips, taking strain off of those areas and the lower back as well. I also appreciate its support with pregnant patients, as it alleviates torque on the uterus and hips. Overall, I am finding that using the pillow band supports the very structures we are trying to heal, which saves the patient time, money, and discomfort. What a great product!” – Rebecca Whittaker, D.C.Whittaker Chiropractic

Leachco a well known producer of pregnancy pillow is in the top of the chain. They are the makers of top selling pregnancy pillows in the market. Snoozer also has a following. They have done well in getting their products out into the marketplace. Alot of women like the snoozer with only a few complaints.

Other producers of pregnancy pillows include Dreamgenii, Theraline, and Boppy just to name a few. Even Walmart and Target have body pillows on the market. But a body pillow may not be all you need for a good night’s rest. You may want lower back support from behind also.

Leachco recently created a body pillow that offers this. I’m not pregnant, but this looks interesting. It’s called the Leachco Body Bumper Contoured Body System. So far I haven’t heard any reviews but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is considered to be the best body pillow by pregnant women.

It is kind of like the pillowband because you can lay between two pillows. The difference is the Body Bumper Contoured System comes with pillows already. By the photos I’ve seen it doesn’t look like you can seperate the pillows but you can readjust them. But if you can seperate them the strap that holds them together will only work for the pillows it comes with.

Also I’m not sure that when you lay between the two pillows if the pillows pull towards your body like the Pillowband or the Utterly Yours pillow does.

A Strange Thursday Morning


morningThis isn’t X-Files strange, just a day or so of oddness. And maybe that’s not really the right term. Let me put it this way, I am extremely predictable. I take the same route to work, watch the same shows on TV, I’ve even caught myself wearing the same shirt the same day every week.

When I started to think of it as my “Monday” shirt I, at least, put a stop to that. When I go to certain places to eat, I order the same thing. I get home about the same time every night, and save yard work for the weekends. That’s where the oddness starts. Tuesday night I got home at the usual time. Being summer, there was still plenty of daylight left and there were some bushes that needed a good haircut.

I got the loppers out and trimmed them back to decency. In the process I pulled something in my left shoulder. Yesterday morning there was a bit of a twinge, and still this morning I’m in a bit of pain if I lift my arm the wrong way.I mentioned yesterday that I was getting a new Smart Phone. That’s not really odd, but I’ve had the same phone for nearly three years. It came in while I was at work. It’s going to take me a week to get used to all the new capabilities.

Like I said, not really odd, but when I got home and went to activate the phone my carrier’s activation system was down. It was about two hours later that I was able to get the thing going. Earlier yesterday, on the way to work, I tried to use my debit card and it was declined even though there was more than enough balance to offset the small purchase I was trying to make.

I called customer support and they assured me I had plenty in that account and that some security feature had been triggered inadvertently. They also claimed that they had fixed it. They hadn’t, as I discovered when I went to lunch. Thankfully I had enough cash. Another call to customer support, a transfer to card security, several minutes of answering questions and confirming previous transaction and I was good to go.

This time they were right. I checked on the way home.Of course, when I got online last night one of the things I checked was the number of visitors to great american run. On a typical day I will get 250-500 visits, a number I’m always trying to increase. Last night that number was over 10000, ending the day at 14,946. What? What great bit of writing could have possibly brought in that many views?

Come to find out that it wasn’t my great writing, but a picture of Danica Patrick that I posted months ago that had moved up to the top of one of the search engines image listings. See? Not odd odd, but not typical either. I wonder what today will bring. I hope I can get my shirt on without help. My “Thursday” shirt is one of my favorites.

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