CE Introduction

The CE folks wanted me to submit an introduction about myself, so here’s what I sent their way:

Shannon Houghton is thrilled to bring her experience in China back to her students and colleagues at Wildwood Elementary School in Federal Way. Shannon, who received the St. Ignatius award in Seattle University’s Master in Teaching program, is finishing her second year teaching and coaching track at Wildwood.

A Michigan native, Shannon came to Washington in 2005 to join Federal Way’s AmeriCorps team, which changed her life’s path from newspaper reporting to teaching. This year, with fellow teachers Siobhan Chan and James Brown, Shannon started Wildwood’s Math Team, which has a proud and devoted following of 3rd-5th grade students.

Shannon is the 2009 Wildwood Teacher of the Year, and thrives on finding innovative ways to inspire student achievement. When she’s not at school, Shannon loves to do Pilates, play board games, softball, and volleyball, and go on adventures in Seattle.

To follow Shannon and her class, visit She will update the site throughout her preparations and trip. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Here’s the photo I included:

Ms. Houghton
Ms. Houghton

I don’t think I fully realize the enormity of what I’ve gotten myself into. I met up with some fellow SU teachers tonight, and they were all thrilled and supportive (honestly, where would I be without them?), but I just can’t believe I’ll actually be going to China in less than four months! My parents are excited, but nervous, as they always are before I travel. Mom and I have been diffusing this anxiety by discussing important pre-trip purchases, such as shoes, cameras, and moisture-wicking clothing. :)


2004 Mixes: Blast from the Past

As we were moving into our new apartment, I discovered a few mix CDs from the end of my junior year of college at Michigan State. It was fun to listen to them and compare them to what’s on my mind now. These were made for my trip out to Colorado Springs to work at The Gazette as a cops and courts reporting intern.

This is what I looked like then:

Me at the Dinosaur Resource Center, July 2004
Me at the Dinosaur Resource Center, July 2004

More recent mixes to come later!

Shannon’s “Well, I’m On My Way” Mix, May 2004
1. “On Love, In Sadness,” Jason Mraz
2. “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” Paul Simon
3. “Two Points for Honesty,” Guster
4. “Follow the Light,” Travis
5. “If I Ever Feel Better,” Phoenix
6. “Fast as You Can,” Fiona Apple
7. “The Sound of Violence,” Cassius
8. “Don’t Give Up,” Chicane
9. “Good Life,” Inner City
10. “Vehicle,” Ides of March
11. “Good Luck,” Basement Jaxx
12. “Just a Little More Love,” David Guetta
13. “One Sign,” Galleo
14. “Are You Ready for Love,” Elton John
15. “Face to Face,” Daft Punk
16. “Breathe In,” Frou Frou
17. “Remind Me,” Royksopp
18. “Wine,” Blue Six

Shannon’s “The Line is Thinly Drawn ‘tween Joy and Sorrow” Mix, May 2004
1. “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From,” Kings of Convenience
2. “Breathe,” Telepopmusik
3. “Cigarettes Will Kill You,” Ben Lee
4. “Thinking of you,” Magnolia (now known as Reidar… the song that’s playing when you first arrive at the site was remixed by Toby!)
5. “But Not For Me,” Chet Baker
6. “Country Road,” Maynard Ferguson
7. “Brother, Where are You?” Oscar Brown Jr.
8. “Waltz for Koop,” Koop
9. “We Will Become Silhouettes,” The Postal Service
10. “Window,” Guster
11. “Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall,” Simon & Garfunkel
12. “Possession,” Sarah McLachlan
13. “Jane,” Ben Folds Five
14. “Very Good Friends,” Blue Six
15. “Before Today,” Everything But the Girl
16. “Sweetest Day,” Control Freq
17. “Protection,” Massive Attack
18. “Novio,” Moby



I received word this morning that I’ve been chosen as one of three teachers to participate in the Cultural Exploration of Greater China program!!! I couldn’t be more delighted! I will probably be speaking in exclamation points all day!

I am so grateful to the folks with the CE foundation, who took great care in getting to know me, in clarifying with me what my goals are, and in ensuring that we were a good match for each other. I’m glad we are, and I can’t wait to get started on this journey!

I use the word journey because from the start, this has been more than simply a trip or, goodness forbid, a vacation. This will be a powerful opportunity for my students and colleagues to travel across the globe with me. I am so proud to be an ambassador of Wildwood Elementary School, and, by extension, of Seattle University’s MIT program and AmeriCorps.

This will be a whirlwind ride. One of the CE interview questions that stuck with me the most was “How do you know you won’t get burnt out?” It’s a completely valid question, because it’s one people have been asking me since I was 13 years old. I recognize that I’m an extremely busy person. However, my time in AmeriCorps and at Seattle University has helped develop my ability to reflect. I know when I’m overbooked. I know when I’m misusing my energy on something I’m not passionate about. I know when I need to take a break. I’m even working on saying “no,” and I believe I’m much improved.

I owe tremendous thank yous to all the folks at the CE foundation. They are an extremely focused, well-organized group of people, and their dedication to their program is very apparent. I also need to thank Jenna Brown and Barb Burn, who gave insights to the CE members as to who I am as a person and as an educator. And of course, I need to thank my 24 third graders, who have been keeping their fingers crossed for the past month or so. I’m so excited! Let’s travel together!


Lines, Line Segments, and Rays

Today’s our last day before Spring Break, and we’re taking our Unit 6 assessment on geometry so we don’t have to worry about it after break. Here’s one of the songs we came up with for remembering the difference between lines, line segments, and rays:

Lines, Line Segments, and Rays
To the tune of “Silent Night”

A line is straight
Goes on forever
Add two points
Still a line? Never!
Now it’s a line seggggment
One point is a ray

Lines, line segments, and rayyyyyyys!
Lines, line segments, and rays!

We have gestures that go along with the dance too. One of these days I’m going to figure out how to get a halfway decent audio or video recording, and rest assured that as soon as I do I will post it promptly!


Polygon Song

I can’t claim to have come up with this delightful tune, which my students use to help remember the different types of polygons. I do need to create one for the different types of quadrilaterals, which always seems to be a problem spot for kids 2nd grade on up.

When we sing our version of this song, we usually go up a half-step in pitch at each new verse, just to change things up.Wait, There’s More Sides!
To the Tune of “Alice the Camel”

Polygons with three sides, triangle
Polygons with four sides, quadrilateral
Polygons with five sides, pentagon
But wait! There’s more sides!

Polygons with six sides, hexagon
Polygons with seven sides, heptagon
Polygons with eight sides, octagon
But wait! There’s more sides!

Polygons with nine sides, nonagon
Polygons with ten sides, decagon
Polygons with two sides, just an angle
And now we are done!

We also love reading Marilyn Burns’ The Greedy Triangle during this unit.


Operations Song

We just finished a unit on multi-digit addition and subtraction. I thought I was going to tear my hair out reviewing and re-reviewing the four main operations. We use our arms to gesture addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, so as I call out “Sum! Difference! Product! Quotient!” it winds up turning into a dance of sorts.

But we still couldn’t get consistent answers. We kept mixing up sum and difference. So I turned once more to a song. I’m looking for a catchier title…

To the Tune of “Ode to Joy”

Pro-duct answ-ers mul-tipli-ca-tion     (X)
Sum is act-ually a-ddition               (+)
Quo-tient is div-i-sion a-nd              (/)
Diffe-rence is sub-tra-ction            (-)

I attempted to put in the rhythmic breakdowns so you could see how I wound up singing it. I’ve had a few people ask me to record my songs, but although I can sing just fine, my voice sounds miserable when it’s recorded. I’m trying to figure out how to recruit my kids to help me out. I’ll definitely keep you posted!

Copyright 2009 Shannon Houghton


Gallon Man

Here is a song our class uses to remember the units of US capacity. We hope it’s useful to you, and we would appreciate it if you leave us a comment if you use it in your class!

If You Need a Gallon Man
To the Tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

If you need a Gallon Man, you need 4 quarts
If you need a Gallon Man, you need 8 pints
If you need a Gallon Man, 16 cups can be your plan
If you need a Gallon Man, you need 4 quarts.

Because a gallon, don’t you know, equals 4 quarts
And a quart, don’t you know, equals 2 pints
And if a pint is where you stand, then 2 cups can be your plan
‘Cause if you need a Gallon Man, you need 4 quarts

Copyright 2009 Shannon Houghton