Tag Archives: Motivation

When Your Child Starts to Fall Behind {a guideline for parents}

happy boy doing homeworkby Ria Clarke 

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As much as we, as parents, like to believe that we are on top of things, there are times when we let things slide. After all, life is stressful and filled with distractions and constant interruptions. Falling behind happens to the best of us.

But what happens when you begin to notice your student making low grades, or you get a note from the teacher that there’s an issue? What’s a parent to do? Here are some practical steps to get your child back on track.

1. Identify the problem if possible. Make a mental checklist and ask yourself important questions: Have you created a dedicated learning space at home that is free from noise and distraction? Is your child getting enough sleep? Is your child over-scheduled? Have they had a recent eye or hearing test? Are they too engrossed in gadgets or television? Rule out overlooked easy-to-resolve issues, first. 

2. Communicate with the teacher. Don’t wait for the problem to mushroom. My son’s second grade teacher has after-school tutoring for children that are falling behind. During these sessions, she gives them the personalized attention that may be impossible during the regular class period. Regular communication with your child’s teacher will help nip problems in the bud before they get out of control.

Asian Mom Daughter3. Make the necessary adjustments. If you have identified that your child is over-scheduled or is not getting enough sleep, take the necessary steps to ensure that your child cuts back on extra-curricular activities or nighttime television so that he or she is well rested. Make sure your child has all the supplies and essentials handy in their homework center and make sure that distractions are kept to a minimum. And, keep yourself in the loop on their progress by checking over your child’s homework so you catch any errors or missed problems before assignments are handed in and graded.

4. Review the material. Not all teachers offer after-school tutoring, but you can help your child by spending the time to go over concepts at home. Visit your local teacher store and purchase homework helpers and various learning aids to reinforce what your child has been doing at school. Make the review sessions short but meaningful so your child doesn’t get resentful or frustrated.

5. Consider professional help. Ask your child’s teacher for references, or check your local library or go online to search for homework help or private tutors. Investigate established places like LearningRx, Omega Learning Centers, Appleton Learning, Huntington Learning Center, or Kumon for extra help.

SonKissingMom High ResIt is also important to recognize that each child is different and learns differently. Work with your child’s teacher to help your child unlock the potential that may be locked inside. It may be frustrating at first but stick with it. Remember that practice makes perfect.

Ria Clarke is the proud parent of a second grader and a toddler. She’s also a SAHM and freelance writer of various lifestyle and educational issues. When she’s not actively involved in projects and homework or chasing down a toddler, she can be found in the kitchen baking or curled up with a good book.

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Filed under Assessments, Behavior Management, brain training, Extracurricular, Organization, Parenting, Uncategorized

Silly National Holidays {and how to use them in the classroom}

chocolate covered bacon!

Anyone want to celebrate Chocolate Covered Anything Day?

by Diane Burdick, Ed.S

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Thanksgiving and Christmas may be over, but that’s just fine by me because I recently discovered a new favorite holiday. And although I’ve been celebrating the spirit of this day for many (many) years, I didn’t know there was an “official” holiday for it until recently. It can be summed up in one glorious word: CHOCOLATE.

That’s right, December 16 is “National Chocolate Covered Anything Day.” So of course I celebrated it with gusto this past month. And it got me thinking: what other lesser-known holidays are out there languishing without celebration?

A little digging led me to discover the answer: quite a few! Many of these holidays are silly, most are funny, and almost all are downright perfect for a teachable moment. Here are a few lesson ideas, based on January’s wacky holidays:

January 10: “Peculiar People Day”

Look up the word “peculiar” in the dictionary. Have students copy the definition and then write their own definition in their own words below it. Younger students can then draw a peculiar person, and older students can create a description of a peculiar person.

Since peculiar people aren’t boring in the least, be sure to brainstorm a list of colorful synonyms and adjectives to describe peculiar people. For example, you could ask children to consider what would make a basketball player peculiar from his teammates (height, or lack thereof), or what might make a ballerina peculiar (clumsiness, huge feet, a mohawk, etc.). They can write a “peculiar person paragraph” and illustrate it. Or, better yet: have them trade paragraphs with a classmate and illustrate each other’s based on the descriptions! 

January 15: “Hat Day”

Provide magazines and have students search for hat pictures, cut them out, and make a “wacky hat” collage. Older students could research styles and fashions of different eras and see what types of hats were popular in each era. What was the purpose of each type of hat? For example, why are cowboy hats so different from baseball caps? Why did women used to wear hats to church? Why are Kentucky Derby attendees famous for wearing hats? Or add in a little math: What’s the average hat size in your classroom?

January 23: “National Handwriting Day”Girl writing with colored pencil

Practice using your best handwriting to write thank-you notes to people in the school. Brainstorm a list of seldom-thanked staff members (media specialist, janitor, cafeteria workers, front desk receptionist, etc.) who might appreciate a well-penned note.

January 25: “Opposite Day” 

Have fun with this one! Students can practice talking in opposites, or you can give instructions in opposites (“Stand up,” “Put your books away,” “Don’t write this down”). Give a sticker or small prize to the student who most successfully figures out and follows the correct instructions all day.

Here are some other wacky January holidays to get your creative juices flowing!

January 1: First Foot Day and Z Day

January 2: Run Up the Flagpole and See if Anybody Salutes It Day

January 3: Festival of Sleep Day

January 4: Trivia Day

January 5: Bird Day

January 6: Bean Day

January 7: Old Rock Day

January 8: National JoyGerm Day and Man Watcher’s Day

January 9: Play God Day

January 10: Peculiar People Day

January 11: National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day

January 12: Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day (couldn’t find a good explanation of this one…but it sounds fascinating)

January 13: Make Your Dream Come True Day (love this!)

January 14: National Dress Up Your Pet Day

January 15: Hat Day

January 16: Hot and Spicy Food International Day

January 17: Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral Day

January 18: Winnie the Pooh Day

January 19: National Popcorn Day

January 20: National Buttercrunch Day

January 21: National Hugging Day (awww)

January 22: National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day (bizarre-o!) and National Blonde Brownie Day

January 23: National Handwriting Day, National Pie Day, and Measure Your Feet Day

January 24: Eskimo Pie Patent Day

January 25: Opposite Day

January 26: Australia Day

January 27: Punch the Clock Day

January 28: Rattle Snake Round-Up Day

January 29: National Cornchip Day

January 30: Escape Day

January 31: National Popcorn Day (just in case you missed it on the 19th! :)

Whichever holiday you choose to celebrate and integrate into the classroom, we’ll be excited to hear about it! Leave a comment about what you’ve already celebrated, or the holiday you plan on bringing into your classroom in the new year.

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Filed under Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Crafts, History, Holidays, Multicultural Community, Uncategorized

Part 2: {Secret} signs of a cognitive weakness

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

This is part two in a four-part series on cognitive weaknesses. Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card.

Kristen Thompson, brain training expert. Photo by Jen Harris Photography

Most parents and teachers know the typical warning signs of a learning problem: declining grades, apathy, noticeable shifts in mood. “But for many children, like Jenny (featured in part one of this series), the signs that something’s amiss are much more subtle,” shares LearningRx owner and former Cobb County, Georgia, teacher Kristen Thompson.

Here, Kristen shares some lesser-known telltales of cognitive weaknesses: 

  • Completing homework is a struggle and takes an inordinate amount of time.
  • Looking several times at something while copying is necessary.
  • Remembering and independently following multi-step directions is a challenge.
  • Solving math word problems causes frustration. (Math skills are directly connected to cognitive skills.)
  • Responding with, “I don’t get this!” or “What should I do first?” is common.
  • Reading comprehension is weak; the “big picture” is often missed.
  • At test-time, recalling facts and remembering what was studied is difficult.
  • Asking for things to be repeated is a regular occurrence.
  • The student’s sense of direction and map-reading skills are weak.
  • The ability to readily “get” jokes or understand others’ senses of humor seems hindered.
  • Jigsaw puzzles are avoided or deemed “too hard.”
  • Organization of materials and time is elusive.

“The good news, however, is that the brain can be trained to overcome any cognitive weaknesses that might be causing these behaviors,” shares Kristen.

The first step, according to Kristen, is identifying exactly which cognitive skills are being impacted by a weaknesses. For more information on each of these different cognitive areas, stay tuned for part three in this series.

Click here to take a quick online quiz to determine if your child is displaying these warning signs.

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Filed under Academic Success, brain training, cognitive weakness, Critical Thinking, Home Schooling, reluctant readers, School Readiness

teaching kids (and yourself!) how to excel at public speaking

by Jessica Reynolds and Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

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Did you know that when polled, Americans consistently rank public speaking as their number one fear, even above death (which is number two)? Why all the willies? Well, lots of reasons: fears of freezing up, going blank, being the center of attention, losing face….

So, when teaching our youngsters how to speak in front of others, we need to minimize fears and bolster confidence. Here’s how:

1. Pick an engaging topic. 

Whenever you are asked to speak, the organizer of the event will likely assign you a general topic to talk about, but you can present a clever or creative perspective or angle. Just because they tell you to talk about gardening, for example, doesn’t mean you have to give a step by step tutorial. Most people know how to plant a garden, but fewer people know secrets of fertilizing or the different fertilizing options. Maybe talk about starting a neighborhood share program where participants bring their fruits of their labor and mix up what is there, each taking a portion of what everyone contributes.

Opting for a creative approach will make you feel more confident in your material, and will also result in a highly engaged audience. 

2. Write out a plan. 

Put your speech into writing, even if you plan to talk off-the-cuff without reading your notes. Here’s how to start your plan:

Come up with a catchy beginning:

The beginning can be something like a joke, ice breaker or anecdote. In order to gain the audience’s attention, you need to make an impression in under one minute or people will begin to tune you out. Grab them early on and hold their attention for the duration!

Put the meat in the middle:

The middle of your speech should be the meat and potatoes of what you have to say. Use strong word imagery to connect with your audience. Visual aids can help you stay on point, like posters or PowerPoint. But, don’t write your speech entirely using these aids, or you will end up reading from your slides…a sure snooze-alert! Know your stuff, and present it communicatively with enthusiasm and animation. It’s also a good idea to make sure your visuals are easy to read at a distance.

Leave an impact with your ending:

Your conclusion should make an impact. It should touch the emotions of people in some way that they will always remember what you told them.

If you are speaking on gardening and composting, you can end with a story about how you learned to garden from your late grandmother, for example. Ending with a personal story makes what you have to say special and full of thought. Then, when people leave, they’ll take your knowledge with them–both because you presented it expertly and because you inspired them with a memory of your own. 

3. Prepare for all variables. 

As with anything, be prepared for the unpredictable. Think about all the variables that could hinder you from giving your speech. Technical glitches usually rank among the top snafus, so have a back-up plan just in case there are electronic malfunctions. You worked hard on this! Your words need to be spoken!

Then, dress for the occasion and be confident. Speak up! No one wants to struggle to hear you, nor do they want to look at a messy messenger. A crisp, clean appearance and well enunciated words will make you all the more successful.

And afterwards, celebrate! Congratulate yourself on a job well done. 

Jessica Reynolds loves spending time with her family and living life through photography and art. She has spent considerable time running her own businesses while raising her kids. Currently, she blogs for postersession.com.

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Filed under Academic Success, Reading, technology

teacher self-care {take a minute for you}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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The hardest thing for me about back-to-school time is transitioning from summer relaxation to high-energy fall schedules. As teachers, we look forward to meeting our new classes, and there’s a certain unmatched energy about starting a new year with a new group. It’s fun! (Okay, most of it :).

But I find that if I don’t take a little time for self-care, I feel burned out come October. (Or September. Or August 30. :) Am I alone here, or can I get an Amen?

Here are some ideas for us educators who need a little R & R– even after our swimsuits have long ago dried and the sand is long gone from our flip-flops. These ideas don’t take long, but they provide a bit of happy in the midst of all the busy.

1. Get Social!

Fill the “off-hours” time in your calendar (evenings, weekends, Friday nights) with activities you authentically look forward to. Plan fun outings, girl’s nights out, date nights, or just solo trips to the coffee shop. Having these fun times planned and scheduled on the calendar gives you something to look forward to even on your longest days. At least you’ll know that a break is coming!

2. Just Say No.

In order to have space in your calendar (and mind) for things you enjoy doing, you may have to say “no” to invitations and activities that come your way…and that’s okay. Learning to say no is crucial to self-care. If you’re bad at it, here’s an article on how to do it well.

3. Play Music.

When you’re in your classroom during breaks or after school, put on some favorite music. It really is an endorphin booster! Here’s a play list of relaxing tunes. How pretty is Bella’s Lullaby??

4. Leave Work on Time. 

Sometimes you have to stay late at school (parent meetings, faculty meetings, PTA meetings, meetings meetings meetings). But, let’s be honest– sometimes it’s just a bad habit or a choice. Make a pact with yourself to leave on time at least three afternoons a week. It’s much more relaxing to grade papers at home with your fuzzy slippers kicked up in a recliner than with your aching feet still stuck underneath your metal teacher desk.

5. Get Physical. 

Exercise is a great stress reducer– this is no secret. But with newly packed schedules, it may be hard to find time to hit the gym or treadmill this fall. If so, try to at least get outside and take a walk, look up at the sky, notice the world around you. Even if it’s just a quick walk after dinner, getting out and moving is grounding and re-centering. 

6. Stay Inspired.

And finally, remember why you became a teacher to begin with. It wasn’t for the glory. And it sho wasn’t for the salary. It was to make a difference in the lives of children. Here’s an inspiring website that shares the stories of famous celebs and their favorite teachers. And here’s a video to remind us why we wipe down our boards, plan our lessons, grade those papers, put on a smile, and reach out and care.

Happy August! Let’s remember to invest in ourselves as we invest in our students. We’ll all be happier this month…and beyond. ♥

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Filed under Motivation, Teacher Appreciation, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

Four Timely Reminders for all Educators

 by Mary Jane Downs

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Are you creating a teaching legacy for future generations? What wisdom can you pass down from your experiences?

My daughter graduated as an education major from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, this past spring. As she is hunting for a teaching position and awaiting her first solo flight, I want to give her some sage advice to ponder as she anticipates the future. Here are four tips from my teaching experience that I will be sharing with my daughter, which are, perhaps, a good reminder for all of us teachers…both young and not-so-young. 

Healthy Fear

A little ‘healthy fear’ at the beginning of each year can be a good thing. You do not have all the answers yet because every class has a different make up. This keeps you willing to seek for the answers…and it can also foster a mutual respect from your students. Don’t fear the fear; embrace it as an opportunity to learn.

The Truth Behind Discipline

Discipline has a lot to do with who you are and how you present yourself. It also has to do with honesty, fairness, your example and what you expect of each student. Bad attitudes and criticism will only aggravate the challenges. Finding the good in each student and telling them so can begin to change even the most hardcore children.

Each New Day is a New Day

Let everyone have a new start each day. Don’t hold grudges against students. It will only bring more friction to a classroom. We all have bad moments, days and periods of time when our behavior reeks. Forgive and move on. Try to find out if there is a reason for a student’s behavior. Then, work to help your student learn to overcome their problems in a more positive way.

Teachable Spirit

The best teachers keep a teachable spirit throughout their career. They never think they have arrived at fully knowing everything. They continually search for the best ways to enhance their students’ learning environment. Then, when all is said and done, your students will honor and respect you for helping them learn to succeed under your watch.

Teaching is a challenge no matter how you look at it. However, starting out with the right kind of wisdom will help you build a rewarding career…and a living legacy.

Mary Jane Downs is an author, speaker and teacher who lives in the foothills of the Asheville Mountains. She loves long walks with her camera in hand, reading, hand quilting, and cooking for friends. Mary Jane has been published in Awe Magazine, Inspiredmoms.com, as well as a guest blogger. Mary Jane has found her writing and love of quilting to work well together. Quilting gives her time to think and gain insight for story ideas, and writing helps her to express those ideas and thoughts to others. Read more by Mary Jane at www.maryjanewrites.com.

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Filed under Academic Success, Behavior Management, Motivation, School Readiness, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

The “Write” Way in Middle School

by S. Parbhoo

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Kids– even middle schoolers– love to write about themselves. Not convinced? Simply look at social media. Young teens spend hours “writing” about themselves through texts, Facebook, Twitter and the myriad of other technologies they interact with daily.

But, when faced with writing in the classroom, many of these same students shut down. Why? They anticipate boredom and don’t see the skills as relevant to their lives. The antidote? Creative writing. Here are some great ideas for middle school creative writing activities that are guaranteed to get them writing with a smile (or at least without as much eye-rolling).

Journaling

A journal is the first tool for fostering a love for writing. Kids can use the journal to explore writing in an informal way without all the pressure of a formal writing assignment. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes for journal writing before any other activities. Routine journaling gets those words on the paper which is so important. You may choose to provide or prompt, or students can free write. Journals are a fun place for even the most insecure writers to learn to love writing–especially when no “grades” are attached to the writing.

Becoming a TV star

Another fun way to get kids writing is to have them write a new, original episode for their favorite TV show, starring themselves. Kids choose how they can fit into the existing cast of characters and write about how they would all interact. Once finished, the script can be read aloud or the students can work in groups to act out the episode. This activity is so fun, it won’t even register as writing!

Discovering my Name

Middle school kids are at an age where they are discovering who they are. A great way to do that and stimulate writing skills at the same time is to have them write a story about their name. The story could be based on their family history of their name. Who in your family named you and why? What are some memories they have associated with their name? Do they share their name with a celebrity? Once the ball gets rolling with this assignment, there will be no stopping it.

Becoming a Character

Writing in context with literature is an excellent way for kids to increase reading comprehension and jog their creativity. Using a book that the student is already reading, have them become a character from that book. There are several options for this activity:

  1. First, with a partner, write an interview with the character. One person is the interviewer and the other person uses what they know about the book character to answer the questions.
  2. Second, write a journal entry as the character.
  3. Third, write a letter to someone as the character.

All of these activities are opportunities for kids to use their creative writing skills in an entertaining way. It may be hard to compete with Facebook, but we can at least get close!

For great journaling ideas and prompts, click here.

 

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Filed under Academic Success, creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Writing

Making Homework Fun! (really)

by Kate Wilson and Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Okay, so you will be hard pressed to find a child who loves doing homework. So, it is expected that children might fuss a bit when it’s time to unzip that book bag and buckle down. Enter: you. The parent. As a parent, it’s up to you to set the right tone, provide the right support and create a positive atmosphere for homework time. Here’s how:

1. Put on your empathy hat.

First, step into your child’s shoes and feel what they feel for a moment. Children have been at school, under the scrutiny and rules of someone else, all day. Now that they’re home, homework, in their minds, deprives them of playing, socializing and just being–all the things that they have been waiting to do all day.

So, don’t fuss back. Don’t scold. Don’t slap. Tell your child that you understand homework isn’t what they want to do at the moment, but assure them that you are going to help them get it done well, quickly, and maybe even with a little fun thrown in. Then calmly follow the next steps….

2. Make homework inspiring!

Novel idea: What if you tried to make homework actually inspiring? Impossible, you say? Well, let’s unpack this idea a bit. If you freak out at your child and use coercion and/or monkey torture to force him to do his homework, you are starting a battle that, I promise, will likely become a daily struggle (not to mention a waste of perfectly good monkeys).

Try this easy tip instead: Write (or print) a different joke or riddle at your child’s homework place before they begin each day. For an array of fun kid-friendly jokes and riddles, check out: http://101kidz.com/jokes/. You can print some, cut them out, and leave them to be discovered by your child.

Starting homework time with a giggle sets a positive tone and creates associations that homework can actually be (gasp!) fun…and, dare we say, inspiring?

3. Have a snack ready.

It’s yum-o time. Set out a fun snack that your children get to munch while they work. Something yummy that also doubles as good “brain food” is ideal: peanut butter on graham crackers, carrot sticks and ranch, tortilla chips and salsa, apples and caramel dip, crackers and cheese, a sandwich, trail mix, a bowl of cereal with milk.

Then, every once in a while, surprise them with a plate of cookies or a favorite “splurge” treat…something to make them feel rewarded for sitting down without fuss to do their homework. And, if you’re worried about peanut butter smudges on their papers, get over it. Completed homework that smells like ranch is better than pristine blank homework any day.

Stay tuned….we’ll be back soon with three more tips for surefire homework success in Part II of this Making Homework Fun series!

Kate Wilson is a professional blogger who enjoys writing about child development issues. She is also a cook, avid reader, and environmental enthusiast

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Academic Success, Parenting

Classroom Makeover Part I: Print-Rich Environment

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series will share a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!

 

Creating a Print-Rich Environment

It’s a researched fact: children exposed to high-quality print in abundance are better readers. But, kids are just like adults: they want things (like books) to be nice, pretty and attractive before they pick them up. So, if your class library is a little less than attractive (read: tattered hand-me-downs wedged onto a spare shelf), check out these tips for creating an effective reading corner that will lure children into literacy.

First: Place Books With Covers Outward

Reading guru Jim Trelease makes the point that grocery stores arrange products with the fronts of packaging–not the spines–facing outward. Why? To attract buyers. But, how do we usually shelve books for children? Like this:


photo from www.trelease-on-reading.com

The solution? Face covers outward. Here are two ways to do just that.

TIP ONE: Install rain gutters!

This one would take some approval (it involves drilling), but look how GREAT this is. Inexpensive rain gutters make incredible, inviting book holders. Jim Trelease shares many success stories on this method on his website. Here are two photos, to show you how cute this is:

TIP TWO: Book baskets

This idea is easier and even less expensive than the gutters. Simply snag a bunch of cheap baskets from your local big-box store. Then, create genre labels for each basket by printing genres (mysteries, historical fiction, picture books, sports books, adventures, etc.) on cardstock, cutting them into small rectangles, laminating them, and attaching the labels to the front of each basket. Place books in baskets, covers facing outward. The books in a basket will overlap and cover each other obviously, but the front cover will face outward invitingly. Line up baskets side-by-side on your shelves, and voila! A colorful, inviting, well-organized library that children will literally run to when they first walk in the door. (The baskets also teach children to search for book by genre…another good literary lesson.)

Second: Comfy seating

Any non-school-looking seating options make for a great reading corner: an old rug, a couple beanbag chairs, a slew of pillows, a stack of carpet squares, a hand-me-down love seat, a futon. My elementary school library even had an old ceramic bathtub filled will pillows! It was THE hot spot in the library, of course. Any way you can set this space apart as fun and different will create positive connotations with literacy for your students.

Third: Fun lighting

A couple small lamps on the top of a bookshelf add a warm, inviting ambiance to your reading corner. Again, it’s all about giving the corner that “Oooh!-effect” when students walk in.

Fourth: Kids’ book reviews

Post a bulletin board above your reading corner that says: “Books We Dig.” You can decorate the bulletin board with a paper bucket and some paper “dirt” at the bottom (coffee grounds glued onto brown construction or bulletin board paper are cute…and smell Starbucks-y :). Tie a real plastic shovel on as an accent. Then, put a stack of colorful note cards nearby, and tell your class that after they read a book in the class library, they can recommend it to their classmates by writing a review for it on a note card, which you can then staple or tack onto the bulletin board. Include a sample card on the board that looks something like this:

Title:

Author:

Genre:

Why Was It Good?

Two-Sentence Summary (no spoilers!):

Do a mini-lesson at the beginning of the year on how to write an effective book review, using this format. (“No spoilers” is a simple reminder not to give away the ending!)

Then, when your students say, “But I don’t know WHAT to read!”–tell them to read their classmates’ reviews and pick a book.

Fifth: Stock the shelves

To stock your library with children’s books, check out garage sales, ask for donations from parents, and create a Library Wish List to send home (or post at Open House), listing titles your kids are asking for. For a large selection of children’s books at really great prices, check out: www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx.

Another idea: If you have a budget to play with, check out this awesome two-sided library shelf from The School Box (LOVE that store!): double sided library shelf.

Now that your reading corner has been sufficiently spiffed up, give yourself a pat on the back. You just created an inviting print-rich environment!

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Reading, reluctant readers

Attention Grabbers (Keep students’ attention…even in May!)

by Bobbie Brownell

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Almost every teacher, whether they went to Yale or got their teaching degree online, thinks about using a big attention grabber to start class…especially in these final weeks of the school year when spring fever is rampant. Attention grabbers can range from a simple question to an elaborate demonstration. Either way, the message is clear: Wake up! Time to learn!

When to use an attention grabber:

  • Quiet a noisy room
  • Introduce a new topic
  • Motivate students
  • Demonstrate a theory or natural occurrence
  • Ward off summeritis

Have fun getting their attention, just be careful that the attention grabber does not take away from the overall meaning of the lesson. Try to keep their focus on the learning objectives. This benefits everyone in class and helps by taking away unnecessary distractions. We all know how easy it is to get the students’ minds off of the material. Daniel Willingham’s explanation on why students remember or forget material learned in class is linked to what the students are thinking about while new material is being introduced.

Questions to consider before using an attention grabber:

• Is the attention grabber relevant to the lesson?

• Could this be done in the middle of the lesson if students start to zone out?

• Will students be engaged and motivated to learn afterward?

• Will this continue to distract the students after the demonstration is over?

Tips to motivate:

• Timing is key - Try using relevant attention grabbers in the middle of the lesson. Students tend to mentally check out around the half-way point of class. This is a great time to reel them back in with something stimulating like a thought-provoking or a controversial question for them to discuss or write about.

• Give choices – If motivation is lacking, give the students a chance to have some input in what they are learning. Giving choices on what to read or research can be a huge motivator because it allows students to learn about something they are interested in. Have students come up with their own writing prompts; you’ll be surprised by all the brilliant ideas!

• Ask questions – Ask the students thought provoking questions to start a class discussion. Discussion is an invaluable tool since it invites the entire class to become involved with the lesson and with each other. Try something like, “Is murder ever justified?” or “What do you think would be different if this classroom was in Paris?” Use anything to get them thinking and talking.

• Relate concepts to the real world – Teachers sometimes forget that the best way to learn something is the simplest way. Ask yourself, “How did I learn this?” and “How does what we’re learning relate to the outside world?” Real-world examples work because students can relate to them. At any age, we learn by making connections from things we know to new ideas and experiences. Using examples that can be found or repeated at home can help deepen the understanding between the concept and the individual student.

Transitioning into new subjects is difficult for both teachers and students. Make it fun and be creative! Paying attention to transitions will make the change easier for everyone involved. Tricky Transitions…Made Easier! is a great example of thinking about transitions and how they can be used in a younger classroom environment.

Bobbie Brownell holds a bachelors degree in English and is currently in the NC Teach program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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Filed under Activities, Behavior Management, Critical Thinking, Discipline, Motivation