The Lost Art of Reading for Pleasure

Guest blog for National Reading Day (March 2nd)

IMG_1677Brenda St John Brown, Author

For me, very few things are better than getting lost in a good book – although a day on the beach and really good guacamole are definitely high on my list. A day at the beach with snacks AND a really good book? Heaven.

So, when I had a child, fostering a love of reading was super important to me. My husband and I worked hard to make sure our son (aka The Boy) had not only support to learn to read, but also access to different types of reading material. Because, honestly, you never know what’s going to click and when.

For The Boy, it was The Beano, a British comic book that comes out weekly and features a kid and his friends who like to play pranks and tell cringe-worthy jokes. (E.g., Why didn’t the strawberry save his friends? He got stuck in a jam.) We started buying it occasionally when we stopped at the local convenience store and then got him a subscription for his birthday.

Beano stamp (United Kingdom)

Beano stamp (United Kingdom)

It was a HUGE hit. The magazine would come through the mail slot on a Saturday morning and sometimes The Boy wouldn’t even make it out of the hallway. He’d just lie down on the floor right there and tear into it, never to be heard from again until he’d read every word. For two working parents, that hour of Saturday morning quiet was a gift.

But, the bigger gift was hearing him giggle and seeing him so completely absorbed that the sky could have fallen and he wouldn’t have noticed. Reading The Beano was pure pleasure. There was no thought about reading levels or curriculum standards, critical thinking or comprehension. It was all about the book – or, the comic book, as the case may be.

In our achievement-focused society, it’s easy to overlook the importance of encouraging kids to read for pleasure, but if we make reading goal-oriented only, it becomes another thing they HAVE to do, another box to tick on their way to doing what they’d rather do. It never becomes a journey in and of itself and, oh what a journey it can be!

Do you remember the first time you read a book that kept you up half the night? The first time words on a page made you cry? Do you remember the last time? Do you remember the last book you read that made you feel like maybe you’d never read anything that perfect again?

Don’t you want the same thing for your child?

The Boy is still young and, to my complete amazement, he hasn’t figured out the flashlight under the covers trick yet to keep reading. But he begs to finish his chapter almost every night and we have The Beano all over the house. Still. He reads what’s required for school, but that’s not what keeps him reading. What keeps him turning the pages are those books and comic books he chooses – regardless of what they actually teach him. Or don’t.

10 Time-Saving (and Free) Math Worksheets for Grades 6-8

wroksheet multiplying-decimals-worksheet-horizontal

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

As teachers, we never have enough time for everything we need to accomplish in janetpic_preferred_croppeda day, whether it be lesson planning or grading. Here’s a secret you can share with other teachers: Curriki offers more than 59,000 free, high quality resources that you can download, customize and share.

Why not take a short cut and try out a few of these classroom-tested math worksheets? Here are just a few of the many worksheets available for middle school math students.

(Similarly, you can use the Curriki Advanced Search feature to find games, videos, webquests, lesson plans and much more on any subject and any grade level.)

If you know a math teacher (or interested parent or student), please share this with them!

  1. Solve the questions about Probability Problems in this worksheet.
  2. Math worksheet on Supplementary Angles.
  3. Exponents Worksheet Generator – customizable and printable! math
  4. Multiplying Decimals Worksheet – customizable and printable!
  5. Pythagorean Theorem discovery worksheet.
  6. Worksheet on Factoring Quadratic equations and difference of squares.
  7. Use this worksheet for practice with Volume Formulas.
  8. This Characteristics of Quadratics worksheet gives practice problems for finding the vertex and the y-intercept of a quadratic function.
  9. Worksheet: Converting Fractions to Decimals to Percents help students remember how to convert a fraction into a decimal and then into a percent.
  10. Calculator Lesson Homework Worksheet. math-80x80

Increasing Student Engagement in the History Classroom


By Curriki Guest Blogger Amy Scheuer

Amy Scheuer, Social Studies Content Curator, Curriki

Amy Scheuer, Social Studies Content Curator, Curriki

Teachers are often faced with the challenge of making teaching and learning history more engaging. Here are some techniques to increase engagement in the history classroom, paired with resource suggestions from a newly curated American History collection on Curriki that is comprised of materials spanning from colonial America to the modern era!

1. Treat history as the opportunity to tell a greater story and convey a narrative, rather than the relaying of disjointed names, dates, and events. The use of media can be a great mechanism for accomplishing this goal, and the CrashCourse video collection provides an entertaining and educational method of exploring major topics in history. The videos sequentially focus on issues, events, or developments, considering causes, effects, and key players in relation to the greater American History narrative.

2. Allow students to become a part of the historical narrative by carrying out simulations, role-playing activities, and enacting historically accurate discussions or debates. The EDSITEment collection includes extremely detailed American History lessons, ranging from the colonial period to modern America.   Every lesson has a unique makeup, possibly including activities, primary source analysis, simulations, and discussion/debate topics, providing endless opportunities for students to jump into an historical time period for in depth exploration.

3. Utilize art and imagery to appeal to visual learners in your classroom and provide students with a snapshot of the past. The National Archives provides an excellent place for teachers to search for primary sources. Teachers can access thousands of images, photos, speeches, letters, and other primary sources, and can then build interactive activities while learning how to best utilize historical documents in the classroom!

4. Incorporate music to help students understand the cultural context of a certain time period. Throughout history, many musicians have composed songs that reflect conflicts, changing attitudes, or cultural developments around the world, and students can engage in historical analysis by listening to these songs and interpreting the lyrics. This comprehensive list of songs at Curriki can be used as a great guide for incorporating music into the classroom.

5. Differentiate instruction between teacher-facing, student-facing, group, and individual activities. The Digital History collection is a gold mine for teachers, as it allows one to search by era, topic, resource, or reference, with the ability to make use of the full textbook, online exhibitions, learning modules, and primary sources. Digital History is a great tool to aid teachers in planning creative lessons such as jigsaws, problem-based learning projects, webquests, visual or audio activities, or engaging lectures.

6. Leave ample time in the curriculum to delve into modern topics, allowing students to contemplate the varying and continually changing perspectives surrounding political, economic, religious, and cultural trends and occurrences of the era. This content is often particularly relevant and interesting to students, and can be a great opportunity for oral history or experiential projects, as students are able to ask parents, grandparents, and community members about their experiences living through a particular event or time period. The United States History: 1945 – Present curriculum guide provides a great outline of important topics of the last half-century in American History, and is segmented into units by decade, each with sample lessons.

For more lessons and supplemental materials be sure to visit Curriki and explore an entire collection of 11 American History units here!

Amy is a graduate of Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education and taught History and Psychology at the high school level before joining up with Curriki to promote educational access at the global level.


Education of Women: A Global Overview

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

There is a wonderful infographic summarizing the status of education around the world for women. It was published by UNWomen at the beginning of this month. It is shown below, and you can find it at this URL:


Here are some key points made in the infographic:

Adult literacy rates are 89% for men and 80% for women across the world. In developed countries the literacy rates are 99% for both sexes, while in developing countries, men’s rates are higher at 86% vs. 75% for women.

In the least developed, poorest countries, the gap is greater, with 2/3 of males literate, but just 1/2 of the female population.

Primary education has improved significantly over the past 25 years, with 90% of children of both genders having access to primary school. However only 23% of poor, rural girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete primary education, so challenges remain. At the lower secondary school level, 44% of countries do not yet have gender parity in access to education.

Why does education for girls matter? One reason is because it improves children’s health and decreases deaths during childbirth. It reduces violence experienced by women. And it contributes to the education of the next generation. If a mother has a higher level of education, then so do her children, statistically speaking.

Some of the barriers that girls face are poverty, distance to the nearest school, customs that promote education for boys to a greater extent than for girls, and child marriage. Find out more about these issues at

Nearly 60,000 free and open educational resources are available at to educators around the world. These can improve outcomes for girls, especially in developing countries with limited education budgets. Please encourage other educators to look at what Curriki has to offer.

Computers or Cursive? – What would You do?

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

In 2012 I wrote this:janetpic_preferred_cropped

“Cursive versus typing?  

Is cursive writing part of a 21st century skill set? With touch screens, cell phones and tablets, the future of cursive writing seems uncertain. So we used the polling game Wayin to ask our community:  “Should schools still teach cursive writing?” The votes were overwhelmingly in favor of continuing cursive, yet the opponents were much more vocal. While not a statistically valid poll, 83 percent said “Yes,” we should continue with cursive, while 17 percent answered “No.” “

Yes, cursive writing is “warm”, yet, many of those of us who are a bit older know that we can’t even ourselves read much of our own cursive writing. Pity the person we write to! To communicate warmth we now have other technology, like this :-) .


And in 2013, I wrote this:

“An article in Mashable asks the question: Has technology killed cursive writing? Is penmanship still important in an age where we can efficeintly tap everything out on a keyboard? According to the article, the nation’s Common Core State Standards took out the requirement for cursive instruction in K through 12 schools. However, it’s up to each individual state to decide whether cursive is important enough to teach its own students. Recently, North Carolina legislators approved a bill to require its students to learn cursive in elementary school, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. North Carolina joins states like California, Massachusetts and Georgia, which have already added a cursive writing requirement.”

But what if we reframe the question. Life, and school days, require tradeoffs. Suppose we pose it as:

Should the time that would otherwise be spent on learning cursive handwriting, be spent instead on an introduction to the underlying technology of computers and how to program them?

Cursive handwriting was originally in the curriculum to prepare students for a world that had no typewriters, and later, had typewriters, but no computers, or mobile devices. Today, the vast majority of students in the world have access to these. The value of touch typing on a computer is  much greater than the value of good cursive handwriting today.

We may bemoan the loss of horses and buggies as a dominant form of transportation, but the world changes around us whether we are ready or not. Most of the people at the time of that transition were glad to be free of the horse’s waste products on city streets.

IH_Img26.png6Image from

There is so much practical value in learning how to use computers and mobile devices – and in using computers and mobile devices for learning – that a modern life is almost unthinkable for most people without these tools. Learning to program a computer or device is a skill in very high demand, and should continue to be, into the foreseeable future.

According to this article at Business2community, jobs in Information Technology (IT) are growing at twice the national average rate of job growth. But very few students study computer science, even at the college and university level. Only 2% of STEM (Science, TEchnology and Mathematics) students get degrees in computer science.

But a full  60% of the available STEM jobs are in the IT field! By 2020 the gap will have grown to over 3 jobs per graduating computer science nerd (we use the nerd word with a positive connotation). These are well paid jobs with higher than average salaries.

So it would be very valuable for students, and for society, to provide them with exposure to the inner workings of computers, including programming, during the K-12 years.

That’s the tradeoff. Don’t say both, you have to choose. If posed as handwriting or computer technology/programming, which one should be more prominent in K-12 education?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment.

Do I HAVE to Read a Book?

A young boy sits sad and lonely

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Why aren’t kids reading more today? Are they too busy with their electronic gadgets and games? National Reading Day (Friday, January 23) is an annual event which encourages reading by younger children and is celebrated in thousands of schools all around the United States.

Brenda St. John Brown, author of Swimming to Tokyo,  writes engaging stories that she hopes will inspire young adults to read! She recently wrote a great post with some practical tips and advice on getting reluctant readers to read. Definitely worth checking out!

Here are some ideas to encourage reading (we’ve included books for all age groups here):

  • Great book suggestions for all ages, interests, and genders from StorySnoops
StorySnoops allows you to search by age, gender and interests.

StorySnoops allows you to search by age, gender and interests.

Good Reads 2015

Good Reads 2015

So many books, so little time! If you have a book suggestion, please share it with our community.

Curriki’s Most Popular Teaching Resources in 2014


By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki janetpic_preferred_cropped

Here is a list of the most popular Curriki resources and collections in 2014. A few of these keep popping up on our top lists (timeless appeal), so it’s worth a quick read. (If you do, your job will be much easier and you’ll save hours on prep and research!)

Drum roll, please…


Most downloaded resource in 2014: The Art of Triangles TE and SE from Curriki Geometry

Most Popular collection: English 10 Full Course Contributed by Sarah Lornston

Hottest eTextbook: Mathematics etextbook by Free High School Science Texts


Top STEM Resources

Top STEM resource: Math Simulations Collection

Best Science Video Collection: AP Chemistry Video Collection

Top Computer Science Resource: Oracle Academy’s Getting Started with Java Using Alice

Special Collection Selection: One Million Lights Solar Energy Curriculum- High School

Most Interactive Resources for AHA Moments: The Concord Consortium Interactives

Top Science Resource: Open Source CA Textbook – Earth Science Grades 9-10

Top Mathematics Resource: Curriki Geometry Project Based Learning


Top English Language Arts and Social Sciences Resources

Top Social Studies Resource: High School American History Curated Collections

Top English Language Arts Game: Word Search Games and other Fun English Language Activities

Top Literature Study Unit: Tuck Everlasting Novel Study contributed by Holly Mercado and consistently ranked in our Top 10 resources!


TOP Health, Art and World Languages Resources

Top Health Resource: Fitness for Life contributed by Kathy Furka

Top Art resource: New Media for Social Commentary contributed by Adam Kenner

Top World Languages Resource: Spanish Verbs with Spelling Changes Worksheet


Newest Collection: Our Lives, Our Words: Improving Student Writing through Digital Photography – First Grade Projects

This is a handy list that everyone can benefit from – teachers, students, parents, educators, or anyone who’s interested in learning. Please pass this on to your friends and colleagues.  Thank you!