Front Row

I’m always on the look out for new effective, engaging teaching and learning tools that I can use in my teaching practice. I’m especially interested in finding teaching tools to help me differentiate instruction to meet the specific needs of students and that will encourage students to take charge of their own learning. Front Row is a new math app for the ipad and Chrome browser that does just that.

I really like Front Row as a math teaching, learning tool and administration. I like the fact that Front Row’s 15 000 math questions are aligned to the common core, but I love the fact that Front Row provides over 500 videos students can view when they get stuck on a question. I’ve found that students are often too embarrassed to admit that they don’t get a specific math question and choose to save face and not ask for help. Even though I always encourage my students to ask questions by telling them there are no stupid questions and that I love answering questions, some students will still not choose to ask for help because they don’t wish to appear stupid in front of their peers. Front Row enables students to ask for and get  help privately and save face when they’re stuck by viewing the over 500 videos that explain things to them. Front Row enables students to share their successes publicly and get help privately–a win/win situation.

I asked little Katie who is in grade 3 to review Front Row for me. At present Front Row is aligned to the common core up to grade five, but I’m told soon it will be available for students to the end of grade eight. I could see myself using Front Row when it’s offered at the grade seven and eight level for math remediation for those students who come to grade nine with weak math skills.

Little  Katie loved using Front Row from the first moment she opened the app. In fact, both times she came to visit since I got the Front Row app, she asked to “play” the math game. Katie finds it difficult to sit still for any length of time, yet she spent over an hour playing the math game each time she played it. I was impressed. She loved the fact that she could do the questions on the ipad screen using her finger. She likes seeing her thinking. Katie also found Front Row’s scaffolding videos engaging and watched some of them more than once before she got it. She also appreciated the positive reinforcement she got when she got the questions correct. She just had come and  share her success with me.

I can see setting up a work station of ipads or computers with Chrome as their browsers. Students who love math as well as students who dislike math could benefit from using Front Row. Katie would be asking to go to the Front Row station all the time.

Front Row is not only an excellent teaching and learning tool, it’s also a useful admin tool. I can easily track my students’ progress using Front Row. Given Front Row is aligned to the common core, I can easily track my students’ progress in a very comprehensive manner. Since I am not a fan of all the administrative tasks I have to do as a teacher, I welcome any tool that makes administrative tasks easier.

Let me  say here that I am not affiliated with Front Row in any way, but when Sidharth Kakkar from Front Row introduced me to Front Row and I had a chance to play around with it I wanted to share it with other teachers, students, and parents. If you would like a free licence to Front Row just use my email address as the referrer when you go to the site and you will get full access. Hurry though, I only have 250 free licences to give away. Please let me know what you think about Front Row.

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It’s difficult not to think about setting goals as the new year approaches. I don’t know about you, but  I’m a very goal orientated person. I actually get anxious when I don’t have a goal. I seem to need something to work toward.  Having a goal seems to ground me.

While  I was still teaching, I set lots of goals for my teaching practice. I hadn’t realized before I retired how much space my teaching practice took up in my life.  Now that I’ve retired from classroom teaching, I’m having to rethink my goal setting practice.  I must confess, I didn’t set many non-work related goals while I was still teaching.  Oh yes, getting my perennial garden whipped into shape was always a non-work related goal. I came to accept that getting my perennial garden whipped into shape was going to be a perennial goal.  If you are a gardener, you’ll know what I mean. I didn’t really have too many non-work related  goals.  I grew up in a family that mainly focused on work, so I’m used to thinking in terms work related  goals. So now that I’m no longer working, I have no work related goals to set. I find I’m a bit anxious about that, but only a bit!

I’m very happy in retirement and do not regret that I’m no longer setting work-related goals. But, I kind of miss the excitement of setting work-related goals and trying to meet them. I loved the challenge.

After much thought, I’ve decided to change the focus of my goal setting.   I’ve decided to set goals with my mind, body and spirit in mind. I now realize, I really didn’t do much of that  that during my 30 year teaching practice. It might have been a good idea if I had done that. A more balanced set of goals might have been a good thing.  In fact, a more balanced set of goals would have been the smart thing to do. Ah, hindsight is wonderful.

I’m just reading an article about goal setting that goes beyond SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goal setting. Tomorrow is New Years Day and my first goal of 2014 is to set goals for mind, body and spirit. I invite you to do the same.

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Five grade nine girls in Denmark have created quite a stir with their science project. The girls began to question the role their cell phones played in their sleeping and concentration difficulties. Lea Nielson, one of the girls in the group, explained “We all thought we experienced concentration problems in school if we slept with our mobile phones at the bedside, and sometimes we also found it difficult sleeping”. Their school didn’t have the  equipment to enable the girls to test the hypothesis that cell phones at the bedside cause concentration and sleeping problems, so the girls chose to explore the effect cell phone radiation has on plant life, specifically  the effect cell phone radiation has cress seeds.

The girls divided 400  cress seeds into 12 trays and placed 6 trays into two  rooms. Both rooms had the same temperature and received the same sunlight. All trays received the same amount of water.  In one room, the girls placed  two routers that emitted approximately the same type of radiation as an ordinary cell phone next to six trays of cress seeds, and  in the other  room the girls didn’t  expose the last six trays of cress seeds to any radiation from routers. Twelve days later, the girls observed, measured, weighed and took photos of the results. The results were amazing: the cress seeds not exposed to radiation from the routers thrived; but, the cress seeds next to the routers and exposed to radiation  didn’t grow at all. In fact, some of the cress seeds mutated and others died.  Nielson noted,  “It’s really frightening that there is such a big effect, and we were really struck by the results”.

It doesn’t follow that just because radiation from cell phones negatively affected the cress seeds in the girls’ experiment, that radiation from cell phones at the bedside would negatively affect people’s concentration and sleeping habits. But, the fact that the cell phone radiation had such a negative impact on the cress seeds, does give one cause to ponder. After conducting the cress seed experiment, Neilson notes, “None of us sleep with our mobile phones at our bedside any more. Either we keep them at a distance or in another room. And we always turn off the computer”.

Research needs to be conducted into the effects of cell phone radiation on concentration and sleeping habits. But just in case, I’m not keeping my cell phone at my bedside any longer. I have problems sleeping soundly through the night. Perhaps all the wifi routers are exacerbating my sleeping problems.


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sight wordsHi everyone! Elona invited me to be a guest blogger, and I jumped at the chance! My name is Heather Rice, and  I write sight word songs. What’s a sight word song? It’s a song that spells out a sight word. I began writing sight word songs to help my daughter Sarah, who has Autism and moderate mental impairment.

Sarah was really struggling to learn her sight words. She was so frustrated that she began to pick at her skin with anxiety the minute the sight word cards came out.  I knew I needed a different approach. But what else could I try? When I thought about it, it occurred to me that the one thing she was good at remembering were the words to songs!  That’s when I began writing songs to spell out sight words.

I write my songs to the tunes of well known children’s songs, like “Row, row, row, your boat.”  I keep each song short, and I repeat the spelling of the sight word. Also, all of songs have a “hook.” Either the song is funny, or it tells a story. (Actually, most of my songs do both).

To help Sarah learn the song, I began making Power Point slides and worksheets to go with each song. Each song uses clipart to illustrate the song, and a great deal of the clipart was ordered especially to fit the song. Each song comes with 3-5 worksheets. Every CD also comes with a Power Point presentation that includes a slide for each song. I don’t charge extra for either the worksheets or the power point presentation that comes with each CD.

I hope you’ll listen to the sample  Sight Word SongsI have three different CD’s available. One for pre-k. One for kindergarten, and one for Ist grade. Each CD is $15.00, and has between 20-23 songs on it. You can purchase a sight word CD at:
Thanks for listening!

Heather Rice


Comment by Elona Hartjes


Thanks for agreeing to be a guest writer on my blog.  

 Necessity is the mother of invention. Heather was inspired by necessity to create her sight word songs, Power Point  presentations, and the work sheets.  I’m delighted that Heather wrote me to tell me about her experience trying to teach her daughter sight words. the sight word songs she wrote, and the fact she is making her sight word songs  and supporting materials available to us  at the teachers- pay- teachers site. I believe in  differentiating instruction to honour students’ interests and strengths and that Heather’s CD’s and accompanying materials would be a valuable teaching tool to this end.

 I find Heather’s Sight Word Songs  very engaging. Just today, I heard an interview on the radio that talked about what a powerful teaching and learning tool songs can be for students of all ages. Using songs as an instructional tool is an excellent  way to differentiate instruction and honour a student’ s strengths.  In Sarah’s case, Heather honoured her daughter’s strength of remembering words to songs to help Sarah learn to read sight words.  I’m glad Heather has made her CD’s and support materials available to us at the teachers-pay-teachers online store. Teachers need to support one another.





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