Saturday, July 21, 2018

Dream Big: A True Story of Courage and Determination- Dave McGillivray's Marathon Story

Dave McGillivray is and endurance sports icon throughout New England. Currently he is best known for being the race director of the Boston Marathon. There is more to his story, however. In 1978, I first heard about Dave during his 3000 mile run across the United States for the Jimmy Fund Charity that finished in Fenway Park before a Red Sox game. In 1983 he introduced Ironman triathlons to athletes in New England and put on the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon. I was one of the athletes who dreamed to take on this new challenge and pioneered the sport of triathlon in New England. If you look at Dave being interviewed right before the race begins in this video of the race, you will see a real skinny guy standing next to him. That is me! Dave became a tremendous race director which eventually led to him becoming the race director of the world famous Boston Marathon.

Dave has told his story many times and you can read about the many challenges he has overcome in his book The Last Pick: The Boston Marathon's Race Director's Road to Success. When Dave titles his book "The Last Pick" he is referencing a most difficult part of his childhood.  You see, Dave was a great athlete who dreamed of being a professional athlete some day, however he had one problem, he was too small. He was always the last pick for pickup games at recess and coaches didn't want such a small player on his team.

Dave tells this story for children in his new book Dream Big: A True Story of Courage and Determination. He tells about his dream to be a professional athlete and his dismay at being too short to play on teams. He eventually decides to try running and finds out that he is good at it. His grandfather encourages him in his endeavors, but dies before ever seeing Dave finish the Boston Marathon. Dave started a streak of running Boston for many years before becoming its race director. He couldn't run the race once he was in charge of everything about it, so he decided to run the race later at night after all the runners were finished and his race directing duties were over. He calls it the Midnight Run. He continues with this streak every year till this day. I know, I ran it with him in the year 2000, when my school district would not let me take a personal day to run the marathon which I had qualified for. You can see us finish in this news video.

Dave just finished with his race directing duties for the 2000 Boston Marathon
 and I just finished a full day of teaching as we shook hands before starting out
on the Boston Marathon Midnight Run.

Dave's new book is a picture book for kids and I wasn't sure how if would go over with my fifth graders this year when I decided to read it to them. They did not know my history with Dave McGillivray either, but they did know about the marathon and one of my many boy's fathers  had run the race in the past (last year I had 14 boys and 5 girls in my class). When I started reading the first page and Dave wrote, "I dreamed of being an athlete, a professional athlete. I'd shoot hoops for the Celtics, play second base for the Red Sox and score touchdowns for the Patriots," the boys in my class started shouting out, "That's me...that's what I want to do!" I knew right away they were thoroughly hooked on the story. They enjoyed hearing about Dave's determination and his love for his grandfather and the fact that he is buried at a spot near the 21 mile mark of the race. When Dave passes the spot each year, he smiles and gives a wave to his grandfather. At that point, I tell them I know this is true,because that is exactly what he did when I ran the Midnight Run with him! My kids were even more excited to hear that I knew Dave and had run with him.

This was a great book to read to my fifth graders as it talks about following your passion, doing the hard work, and having the determination to reach your goals. My students felt that Dave was once a child like them that faces problems that they can't fully control, but he turned into a hero, by finding his own way to fulfill his dreams.

I recently produced a 20 card Boom Learning  review activity for this story. Teachers can use these to monitor the understanding of students who read the book. Students enjoy using the Boom Cards to practice their reading comprehension. You can find them here:  
Dream Big: A True Story of Courage and Determination no prep Digital BOOM CARDS.

Here is more information on Dave's other achievements.

One thing that I appreciated about this book is the call to action at the end. Young readers are encouraged to pursue their own "Dream Big" Marathon. They can run 26 miles in smaller workouts, read 26 books, or produce 26 acts of kindness. Here is the website for the challenge. Children who complete all three challenges can even get a medal from Dave.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Boom Learning Cards: Teaching Grade 5 Eureka Engage NY Math Unit 1

I have had a lot of fun creating digital Boom Learning cards for my fifth grade students to supplement the Eureka Engage NY math Unit 1 program. Boom Cards have a great future for classroom learning as students can work on digital task cards on their browsers, whether on a phone, iPad, computer, or Chromebook. The Boom Cards are self-checking and students can repeat a deck repeatedly for more practice or to gain mastery. Each time a student plays, 20 Boom Cards are randomized from an assigned deck. Students get instant feedback as they play. Teachers can check the student responses for each play unless they are playing FastPlay in which students can just practice without scoring.

I created 15 different Boom Card decks to go along with Eurekak Math Unit one. They can be practiced at anytime throughout the year to reinforce skills. Each of the decks relate to the concept of place value in some way. These are problems similar to the problems in Eureka Math, but they are not limited to it. They can be used with any math program studying place value. My students showed greatly improved mastery of concepts after working with these Boom Cards.

To make the Boom Decks fun. Each deck is centered on capturing a monster. There is a random card that pops up in each deck identifying the monster, but I have included printable reward cards for each monster. I give my students the reward card after they have answered all 20 questions correctly (teachers can check on the Boom Learning website. This provide motivation to master a deck. My fifth graders love collecting the cards and coloring them in. Some have set up books to in order to collect and organize them.  Others even make their own monster cards.

You can purchase each deck separately or you can purchase the whole bundle of 15 Boom Card decks at a greatly reduced cost.

I am giving away one deck  on Metric Conversions for free. You can try out this deck as well as play a short preview of each deck by clicking on the Teacher Pay Teachers preview for each of the decks.

Here are the TPT links to the 15 Individual Products in this bundle. Each link has a product preview.

Check out all the different reward cards!

Boom Cards play on modern browsers (released in the last three years) on interactive whiteboards, computers and tablets. Boom Cards apps are also available. Not sure your browser is modern enough? Try a free Boom Cards deck first. When you redeem your purchase, Boom Learning opens an account for you if you do not already have one. For TPT customers new to Boom Cards, Boom Learning will give you, for one year, a free account that lets you track student progress for up to 80 students. At the end of that year, you may renew or choose not to renew. If you do not renew, you will be able to continue using Boom Cards with the Fast Play feature. Fast Play does not track individual progress.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Shang Ya! Friendship Oath

Have your students use this ancient oath of friendship from China to write a friendship poem.

I have used this poem to inspire my class towards writing friendship poems for years, however for the past two weeks, I have had a university student from Xi'an China observing my fifth grade classroom as part of her studies. I decided to create easy to use templates for writing this poem, so that we can write the poems while she is still visiting our class. Usually, I do this for Valentine's Day, but we are doing it a bit earlier this year.

Shang Ya! Oath of Friendship Poetry Writing

Here is some examples of Friendship poems written by girls from the Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi, Kenya. On my third trip to Kenya in 2014, I taught a variety of poems for students in grades 5-12. I taught Shang Ya! to this group of girls. They also made the Chinese style artwork. I then photographed their artwork and used a green screen to record them reciting their poem in front of their art. I did a whole class in about two hours. It was very busy, but fun!

Some day I will publish the directions for making the Chinese inspired art work.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Shipwreck of the Thomas W. Lawson on Friday the 13th

The Thomas W. Lawson was the only seven masted schooner ever made. It was the world's first supertanker and it caused the world's first major oil spill when in sank off the coast of England during a storm in 1907. The day is sank was a Friday the 13th. The Thomas W. Lawson was named for one of the richest Americans of his day, who had previously written a fiction book titled "Friday the 13th" about a man who purposely sank the stock market on that day. He was quite an interesting man and you can see a video here that highlights, his life, his "Dreamworld" estate, and the boat bearing his name.

I became aware and interested in the Thomas W. Lawson after my dad built a wooden chest with a painting he did of the boat on the top for my son. Inside was a card with the story of the boat and the mention that my great-grandfather did the rigging of the Lawson at the Fore River Shipbuilding yard in Quincy, Ma.


I decided to research and write a story about the Thomas W. Lawson for my fifth grade class. After my 30 plus years of teaching, it was the first time I wrote such an article for a class. You can find my article with vocabulary, close reading questions, and writing topics at Teachers Pay Teachers here. For a short time you can get it for 75% off (only $1). It is geared for students in 5th -7th grade.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Win a TPT Gift Card

Here is your opportunity to win a Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card. The gift card was given to me to promote the two day Teachers Pay Teachers sale happening on November 28-28. Everything in my Teachers Pay Teachers store will be 20% off, plus Teachers Pay Teachers will take another 10% off that price.

I just finished my second bundle of "Capture the Monster" scavenger hunts and this one is for grades 3-4.

This one is a different set of games than my "Capture the Monster" scavenger hunts for grades 4-6.

I have a free version of one game for grades 3-4 here.

I have a free version of one game for grades 4-6 here.

Each bundle has 15 games and upon completion of each game, a student can earn a monster reward card. These have been a hit in my classroom!  There are 15 monster cards to collect.

Here are the 15 monsters that kids can collect. Which is your favorite?

There are four easy ways to enter. You may enter here. The contest closes on November 20 at 12 am.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Student Notes

I usually don't get notes from my students, although sometimes I find them on the floor like this one that I found last year!

The Friday before Halloween, I did two new things in my classroom to celebrate. I used these Silly and Sweet Reward Cards that I created to have some fun throughout the day and in the afternoon I had my class make "Pumpkin Shooters" as a STEM challenge.

On Monday, I got two notes from different students. I thought they might have enjoyed the afternoon shooting candy corn pumpkins across the room. No, they enjoyed the reward coupons.

OK, we are going to work on spelling my name
and other words!
I had a blast with the reward coupons, too. In fact, I had made a set of Thanksgiving Reward Coupons before I had made the Halloween ones. I can't wait to use these next week. I am looking forward to kids talking like pilgrims, strutting like turkeys, and shaking their tail feathers! I am going to hand them out when each students finishes the Thanksgiving Math Scavenger Hunt that I made. Then I hope things get a bit comical for the rest of the day!

Scavenger Hunt Reward Card Bundle
Sweet and Silly Classroom Reward Coupons
Thanksgiving Math Scavenger Hunt

I did say that I rarely get notes from my student's, but I often get letters from the students in the Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi, Kenya that I have visited with three times now and help sponsor. One boy, Gregory, sent me a picture he drew of me riding my ElliptiGO. This week, ElliptiGO did a feature article on my ride up Mt. Washington and my work in Kenya, including Gregory in the article.You can read it here: So Much Depends Upon... You can read more about the poems I used in while Kenya here: Storytelling through poetry writing modeled after "The Red Wheelbarrow."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Teaching The Constitution and The Bill of Rights

A new fifth grade year is off to a start and like most recent years, there is a lack of materials to teach the new standards developed by my district. We have starting using Engage NY for math, but so far I have not been given my materials more than one month into the new school year. I am also on my own for finding and making social studies and science materials for my students. It is hard work, but I do enjoy creating better learning experiences for my students.

I wanted to improve the way that I have been teaching the unit on the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I had resorted to assorted reading passages, worksheets, and interactive notebooks that I had purchased on Teachers pay Teachers in the previous year.

On thing, that my district did do this year is purchase about 15 books related to social studies content for each classroom. Two of the books were by Norman Pearl with illustrations by Matthew Skeens. One was on The Constitution and the other was on The Bill of Rights. Both books were great introductions to these two important documents that can be hard for students to understand. They covered the basics in an easy to understand way without being too cumbersome for my fifth graders.

With only one copy of each book for my entire class, I needed to something to do with my students besides just using them as read-alouds. I created a review "I Have, Who Has?" game for each book: The Constitution, "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz and The Bill of Rights "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz. After reading and discussing each book, we played the corresponding "I Have, Who Has" game. Each game has 24 questions related to each document and facts surrounding the documents. My class enjoyed doing the game, because it kept them thinking and involved. We played the game a couple of times together as a class for the repetition of facts and for the reading practice. I then had them play the game again a couple of times in small groups of four the next day.

Along with each game, I included a 10 question quiz. Some students wanted more practice with the game before the quiz, so I let them take a set of cards home.

I found this to be an effective way to introduce my students to these documents and they enjoyed the activities.

The Constitution, "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz

The Bill of Rights "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz

I also found other ways to keep the class interested, such as these videos:

Actors reading The Declaration of Independence:

Two songs on The Bill of Rights (I had to remind my students about the Point of View of the first video):

I also created a similar game for The Declaration of Independence.