Learn to Love Subtraction!

When a teacher brings up, “Subtraction,” he is bound to hear a lot of groans.  Many students find subtraction confusing and because of this they dislike it. Students often struggle with subtraction, more specifically subtraction with regrouping, because they don’t have a strong conceptual understanding of place value.

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, we’d like to challenge you to learn to LOVE subtraction. In order to help you, we have made this handy video playlist of Subtraction Strategies that span the grades. Check the playlist out, try the strategies out, and let us know how else we can help you learn to LOVE SUBTRACTION!


Learn How to Find the Theme of a Story

Determining the theme a text can be really challenging for upper grade students because they  don’t know what it is or how to find it.  In this video, Ms. Goldstick teaches students how to determine the theme of a story by asking themselves 3 questions:

  1. What has the character learned?
  2. What does this teach me about life?
  3. What is my evidence?

In the tutorial, Ms. Goldstick references the short film, “Piper.” Please take a moment to watch it before watching the tutorial to better understand her lesson. Click here to see it.

Enjoy and please let us know what you think in the comment section of the video! Click the image to watch the tutorial.

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Snow Day Activities for Kids

Hey PS11, happy SNOW DAY! Below are some fun and easy activities you can do with your kids today from Care.com.

They also have a great list of 101 Snow Games and Activities for Kids like a simple Avalanche Project with real snow and a template to make Snowflake Ballerinas.


  1. Create Snow Art
    Bring some color into the outdoor fun. Deanna Garretson, a mom who blogs at Domestic Chicky, recommends filling empty spray bottles or liquid dishwasher bottles with food coloring and water, then letting the kids unleash their inner winter wonderland artist! As Garretson says, “adding color to the snow is so much fun and really allows them the chance to be creative and do something different than the typical outdoor, snowy activities.” Kids can design rainbows, flowers or self-portraits or even add color to snowmen.
  2. Build a Living Room Campsite
    Kids love when their parents flip normal household routines upside down. Creating a campsite in the living room is the perfect way to take them by surprise! Turn out the lights, wear PJs, bust out the sleeping bags and sit around telling stories. If you don’t have a tent, be creative and build a fort using blankets, couch cushions and pillows. Hide marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers in the pantry for snow day s’mores. Check out these fun twists on the classic camp food.
  3. Schedule a Neighborhood Play Date
    For New Yorker Denise Albert, co-founder of the Moms, snow days are all about neighbors. Living in a big, urban building makes for instant play dates when friends are just down the hall or a floor above or below. Albert suggests, “at the beginning of each school year, make a snow day roster with neighbors who want to participate in the same building or, for parents in suburban areas, on the same block. When the snow hits, play dates are already lined up!” Make rotating shifts throughout the day, allowing each parent a little peace and quiet to catch up on their own tasks as well.
  4. Make Magazine Mosaics
    Use old magazines in creative, artistic ways. Have kids cut out different colors from the pages into small squares. Next, sketch a design on a paper plate. Then use glue and a paint brush to make a colorful mosaic. You can make designs using different shades of one color or lots of different colors. Or download free color-by-number printables and fill them in with the paper squares instead of crayons.
  5. Bake, Bake, Bake
    If it’s too cold to enjoy the snow outside, bring the fun into the kitchen. Make some yummy treats that everyone will enjoy. According to Carrie, who blogs at Making Lemonade, “Oreo snowballs are the perfect treat to make with stir-crazy snowbound kiddos because there is no baking involved. They’re also great for partnering with hot chocolate after a morning spent sledding.” Get the simple recipe here.
  6. Craft an Indoor Snowman
    You don’t always have to freeze outside to build a snowman — be creative and make one using marshmallows. Outline a snowman on construction paper and trace glue around each circle. Place mini marshmallows onto the glue. Add details with other materials from around the house. Grab scraps of felt for his hat or yarn for his scarf and color in his face with markers or dried food products. When he’s dry, the kids can name and hang him up in the house. Don’t have mini marshmallows? Use cotton balls for a fluffier snowman.
  7. Make Homemade Play Dough
    On her site, Skip to my Lou, blogger Cindy Hopper gives a step-by-step tutorial on how to make colorful play dough from basic household baking ingredients. Follow her simple instructions and the kids will be kneading and rolling their play dough all day long to create fun designs.
  8. Whip up Snow Cones
    After playing in the snow with the kids, gather up clean, freshly fallen snow and bring it inside. Divide it into cups and pour lemon juice and a little sugar or frozen juice concentrate over each and you and the kids can enjoy some scrumptious homemade snow cones. Get more detailed instructions here.

Learn How to Write Happy New Year in Chinese with 5th Grader, Olivia

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, one of our PS11 students made a video to teach you how to write Happy New Year in Chinese! Check it out! GO OLIVIA! Click the image below to watch!

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For the step-by-step instructions Olivia reference, click here.

A Morning with Dr. Clarence B. Jones

“At the end of the day, it’s all about love. It’s all about getting along. It’s all about coming together like we are in this auditorium today.” – Dr. Clarence B. Jones

This was one of the many takeaways from the assembly this morning, when grades 3-5 were given the great opportunity to see Dr. Clarence B. Jones speak.

Dr. Jones was personal counsel, advisor, speech writer and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is a scholar, author, lawyer, professor at two prestigious universities in California, and the grandfather of two PS11 students. And if that isn’t enough to make your jaw drop, he actually penned the first several paragraphs ofDr. Martin Luther Kings, “I Have a Dream,” speech.

Ask your kids about him tonight, and to learn more about Dr. Jones click here.

January’s Book of the Month

January’s Book of the Month is a classic tale by Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches.

The Sneetches is about two types of creatures, separated by having or not having stars on their bellies. The Star-Belly Sneetches think they are the best, and look down upon Sneetches without stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches are really sad about this and are kept from associating with their star-bellied counterparts, until Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes along with his Star-on and Star-off machines.  Sylvester begins to give stars to the Plain-Belly Sneetches, and soon they are happy, for they look like their elite counterparts. The original Star-Belly Sneetches are angry at no longer being different and special, so they get Sylvester to remove all their stars. This continues back and forth until no one can remember which Sneetches were originally what, and an epiphany strikes them all at once…read to find out what the lesson is.


Read the text:

  1. Here is a printable version of the Sneetches.
  2. Here is an animated version of the story.
  3. Here is the story being read aloud.


Pre-K & K:

All Grades:

Below you will find discussion questions for the text that you could use at home. They are taken from Center for Civic Reflection and Teaching Children Philosophy.

  1. What are the differences between the Star-Belly Sneetches and the Plain-Belly Sneetches?
  2. How do these differences influence how the Star-Belly and Plain-Belly Sneetches treat each other?
  3. What does Sylvester McMonkey McBean offer the Plain-Belly Sneetches? What could this offering mean for them?
  4. Why do the Star-Belly Sneetches enjoy having the power of “being the only ones”? What does that power give them that full equality does not?
  5. Where does the Star-Belly Sneetches’ power come from? Is this power natural or created?
  6. Why do you think the Star-Belly Sneetches ultimately give up their power? Do you buy the ending of this piece? Why?
  7. How do you know you’re the same as someone else? How do you know that you’re different?
  8. Who is this story more about – the Star-Belly Sneetches or the Plain-Belly Sneetches and why?
  9. Which is more important – proving that we’re “all the same” at our core or gaining respect for our individual differences? Why?
  10. Have you ever been a Star-Belly Sneetch or a Plain-Belly Sneetch? In what context(s)? How did you relate to the other group?


  1. What makes the Sneetches different from one another?
  2. How do the Sneetches treat those who are different from them?
  3. Do you think it is all right to treat those who look different than you differently? What about those who act differently?


  1. What makes a Sneetch a Sneetch – what makes it different from other animals or things?
  2. How do you know one thing is different from another thing? Is it based on things you can see, things you cannot see, or both?
  3. Based on the qualities we chose for deciding what makes something different, are the Star-Bellied Sneetches and the Plain-Bellied Sneetches the same or different?
  4. Are there things that make people different from one another? Do any of these things make certain people better than others? (Think about physical differences and personality/characteristic differences.)
  5. Are there any situations in which it is okay to treat two things differently because they are different?

After the Plain-Bellied Sneetches go through the machine the first time and come out with stars, the Star-Bellied Sneetches say, “We’re still he best Sneetches and they are the worst.” 

  1. What makes the Star-Bellied Sneetches think that there is still something different about the Plain-Bellied Sneetches since they now have stars on their bellies?
  2. If there was something that made the Sneetches different, other than their appearance, would it be okay for them to treat each other differently? Are there any qualities that would make that okay?
  3. Is there a rule we can apply to determine when it is okay to treat others differently and when it is not? How does this rule apply to the Sneetches? Based on the rule you develop, is it okay for the Star-Bellied Sneetches to treat the Plain-Bellied Sneetches differently?