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Laughter is Truly the Best Medicine!


Did you realize that laughter is not only fun, but actually healthy for you?  
Laughter is truly the best medicine: This post contains evidence that laughter is healthy AND helps learning happen! Plus, there are a few suggestions on squeezing a few laughs into the classroom.
Here are some of the benefits of laughter:

1. Laughter releases good hormones - the kind of hormones that fight the stress hormones.  We all know that children these days have a great deal of stress in their lives!  (Can we say TESTING?)
2. Laughter boosts the immune system - those same hormones that fight stress help your body fight germs!
3. It lowers the blood pressure.
4. It relaxes your muscles.
5. According to a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, laughter during instruction increases test stores. (I don't know anything about this study other than seeing this information in several different places including THIS link.  I want to learn more about this study!)
6. Humor can help erase negative emotions.  Seriously, how angry can you feel while laughing?
7. Laughter provides a workout for many muscles including your abs.
8. Laughter is contagious, and builds social bonds.
9. Laughter is free!
10. I may be biased on this one, but I think there are few sounds more pleasant than the sound of children laughing.

I do make a point to include humor in my classroom every day.  Luckily, second graders have fairly simple senses of humor.


In a writing lesson a couple of weeks ago, (about including things to get the reader's attention) I told them there were two words that are guaranteed to make children giggle:  bellybutton and underwear.  (Of course I was very dramatic when telling this, with that dramatic pause after each word so that I got two sets of giggles!)  Try it on your kids, it works!



One thing I love about teaching little ones... they always laugh at my jokes... no matter how many times I say it!  I've been known to wear out many a joke, yet still get laughs!  Yesterday, when we cleaned out desks, I told them to take home their Christopher Columbus booklets, since "That ship has sailed".  Those booklets kept showing up for the rest of the day (yes, we're working on organizational skills) and I kept repeating... "because that ship has sailed".  I got a laugh every time!



But it's almost November, when I get to use one of my favorite jokes to wear out:



Question:  If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

Answer:  Pilgrims!


Sometimes it takes some explanation, but that's half the fun!
Laughter is truly the best medicine: This post contains evidence that laughter is healthy AND helps learning happen! Plus, there are a few suggestions on squeezing a few laughs into the classroom.



What jokes do you share with your students?

Where Will the Pendulum Swing Next?

So many teachers I know are frustrated. Report cards, meetings, data, conferences, planning, reports, IEPs, and so on! There is far too much to do in the little time we have. The children are needier than ever, and we don't dare stop pushing the curriculum to see to their needs.

I've been in education for a very long time. I've seen that pendulum swing in every direction!
The educational pendulum has swung out of control. Read about some of the educational fads as well as ideas for the ideal school!

I've seen Whole Language, phonics based reading, language experience, basal readers, invented spelling, standard spelling, Math Their Way, computer learning labs (Waterford in the 90s!), The Writing Process, 6 Traits, individualized reading, whole group learning, worksheets, seat work, round robin reading, time-on-task, lecturing, teacher centered classrooms, student centered classrooms, technology centered classrooms, reading across the curriculum, phonemic awareness, think-pair-share, cross-curriculum units, collaborative learning, differentiated learning, learning styles, multiple intelligences, activity based learning, STEM, STEAM, flipped classroom, developmental learning, problem based learning, regimented classrooms, open classrooms, teachers as knowledge dispensers, teachers as facilitators, rubrics, hands-on learning, posting learning objectives, PLCs, Values Clarification, Precision Teaching, textbooks, trade books, sitting in rows, sitting in circles, sitting in groups, Brain Gym, Bloom's Taxonomy, Madeline Hunter's lesson design, Smartboards, ipads, Chromebooks, mainstreaming, inclusion, prior knowledge, peer tutoring, learning centers, left-brain and right-brain, portfolios, authentic assessment, creative thinking, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, gifted education, integrated curriculum, standards based, self-esteem building, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top.

Wow, no wonder I'm so tired! If you recognize all the fads above, I'll bet you're as old as I am! I'm sure I've missed a bunch as well, but I think this list will bring back lots of memories, if not nightmares!

I've used all of the above teaching strategies. I'm not claiming to like or dislike these methods, but I can honestly say I've learned something from each! And I can honestly say I've seen many of these forced upon teachers until they were proved ineffective, or until something "better" came along.

There are many good things happening today in education. Yet, today's kids are stressed out more than ever before. Teachers are losing confidence and determination, and are leaving the profession.

Something is not right. Something has to change.

And I predict it will. Why? Because that's how education works!

I read this article this morning:

It really got me thinking... if I were to design my own school, not based on data or test results, but based on the needs of children, school would look quite differently.

😊Teachers would have more respect. They would know what their students need, and would offer lessons along those lines. 

😊Classrooms would have far less structure and a whole lot more fun. 

😊Focus would be on learning to work with others, not doing well on tests.

😊Basic skills, such as reading, math, spelling and handwriting, would be taught when the children are ready to learn them.

😊Class numbers would be smaller, more flexible, and teachers would be encouraged to co-teach.

😊Children would have recess several times a day.

😊Art, Music, and Physical Education would be offered daily.

This has been rather therapeutic! Many of my ideas are based on things I've read, but this sure was fun! 

Give it a try! It doesn't have to be realistic, but what would your ideal school look like? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!

The educational pendulum has swung out of control. Read about some of the educational fads as well as ideas for the ideal school!

In the meantime, if you're feeling crazy, exhausted, and/ or frustrated, you are not along. It won't last forever.



Brainy Kinesthetic Vowels Sounds

The English Language has 18 vowel sounds, but only 5 actual vowels. (I know, "sometimes Y", but Y doesn't have its own sound, it borrows from E and I.)  
Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.

Where do we start?  With the short vowel sounds! Why? Because close to 50% of the times those vowels are used, they make the short vowel sound. 



Unfortunately, the short vowel sounds are tough for the little ones to remember. The difference between the short e and the short i are pretty minuscule, but essential for encoding and decoding words.



I'm a teacher who needs to get the kids moving. I have all sorts of little tricks for the children to do to help them remember certain things, including vowel sounds.



When we practice short a, the children turn their body into an A shape, then "take off" saying ăăăăstronaut.

Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.

When practicing the short e sound, they turn into an E and say  ĕĕĕxercise!
Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.


The key word for the short i sound is insect.  The kids are always very creative hopping around the room as the letter I, saying  ĭ ĭ ĭnsect!
Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.



You guessed it, short o's key word is octopus.  Can you picture the little ones running around saying  ŏŏŏctoopus?  There's lots of giggling involved.
Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.


Finally, the short u sound is remembered when the children make the shape of a u, while holding an ŭŭŭmbrella.



Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.


I'm combining many of the ways that research shows brains remember: Getting involved physically, combining the physical with the auditory, and, of course, making it fun.  It takes some practice, but the little ones learn to identify those 5 sounds with those 5 letters.


Enjoy these brainy vowel sounds!

Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.

Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum

Of course I have always wanted my students to be successful in their school experiences. But I've always wanted more than that. I've wanted my students to be successful in life!
Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games

I recently did a search for skills needed for success in life. Most of the skills mentioned in each article overlapped. These are the ones that came up most often:
Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games

There is so much we must teach in our classrooms these days. How could we possibly squeeze in these important skills as well?

It just so happens in my studies of brain research, I've been focused on numerous Team Building activities, and I've got some ideas on how we can squeeze these activities into our curriculum. (After all, brain research tells us that FUN is an element that helps a brain remember things!)

Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games

Countdown is a game the kiddos love, and there are many ways to tie some curriculum into the game! You can find a freebie download of this game here: How to Play Countdown.
(You'll have to scroll down for the freebie.) In "Countdown," all you need is a sequence. In second grade, I often play the game with skip counting, since that's something they need to hear and practice over and over. Other ideas for a sequence could be: seasons, states of matter, types of communities, types of rock formations, names of presidents, or countries in Europe. 
Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games

Speed Chatting is a Team Building activity that gives the children a chance to talk... a LOT! All you have to do to include an area of the curriculum is to give them a topic to discuss! It might be: books you've read, facts about weather, interesting words you know, a country in South America, or whatever you happen to be studying at the time! Plus, talking about what they're learning enhances the learning!
You can see more about this activity here: Speed Chatting.
Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games
Paper Bag Dramatics is another fun Team Building activity. It involves creating skits with the props in a bag. This can easily be connected to the curriculum by putting things in each bag that are connected to an area of the curriculum. If you're studying the 5 senses, you can put things (or pictures, or word cards) that can be smelled or tasted. If you're studying plants, you can put some plant types (or pictures, or word cards) that show the parts of plants. Get it? You can find more about paper bag dramatics here: Paper Bag Dramatics.

Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games

Pass the Clap is a favorite for the kiddos! Now I'm having a hard time trying to think of a way to include curriculum ideas for this one, since it really doesn't include verbal communication. However, if you look at the list of important skills above, we've got #2 and #8 covered! If you can think of a way to include curriculum with this one, please leave it in the comments below. But in the meantime, squeeze this one in somewhere, since these are important skills. (It only takes a couple of minutes, and it's a great warm-up activity during Morning Meeting!) To read more about this game, see here: Pass the Clap.
Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games
High-Low is an activity I always play with students at the end of the day. However, it doesn't have to be at the end of the day. It could be at the end of a certain subject in school. The children could discuss the high and low of their math lesson, the book they're reading, a science experiment, a country they've been studying, and so on. As we know, talking about a lesson reinforces learning. Plus, they LOVE to talk about themselves! To learn more about this activity see here: High-Low.
Six Ways to Integrate Team Building into Your Curriculum: this post lists 6 different Team Building Activities and ideas on fitting curriculum ideas into these games
Party Talk is super fun and a great culmination activity! I was introduced to this when I was taking my masters program in Creative Arts in Learning. In my Music Integration class, we were to do research on a composer. I chose to research Steven Sondheim, who composes a lot of music for the theatre. (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, FolliesCompany, etc.) Instead of having us get up and just talk about our composer, the instructor gave us "Hello My Name is" badges and we had a "cocktail party." We went around, with our (non-alcoholic) drinks, and introduced ourselves and talked about our lives. It was so much fun! Many years later, I was teaching 5th grade Social Studies. The children were researching famous people in the revolutionary war era. Of course I couldn't have a "cocktail party" with 5th graders, but we could have a "Boston Tea Party!" In this case, the kids were drinking tea, not dumping tea into the harbor. Again, we made "Hello My Name is" badges, served tea and "crumpets" and we had ourselves a tea party! Many of the kids even dressed up colonial style! I'm sure you can think of many other ways of having a "Party Talk."

Still looking for ideas to squeeze these important into your day? Be sure to check out this resource: 60 Team Building Games and Activities.

Music: a Key to the Brain!

Brain research tells us that listening to music actually helps the brain. 

Music: a Key to the Brain! This post lists some of the advantages to using music in the classroom, and a couple of great sources of free music!

There are many ways to use music in the classroom, and here are a few to get you going!

Music: a Key to the Brain! This post lists some of the advantages to using music in the classroom, and a couple of great sources of free music!
Did you know that music boosts brain organization? It affects our moods and emotions. Playing music in the classroom really makes a difference. Different kinds of music work at different times. Playing slow, classical music helps kids focus and concentrate. Fun, upbeat music helps them find energy during those sleepy times of day (after lunch?) or just plain makes the kids feel good. Putting important information to a familiar tune helps them remember things. There is no end to the possibilities of music in the classroom.

Music: a Key to the Brain! This post lists some of the advantages to using music in the classroom, and a couple of great sources of free music!
Although I have a huge collection of music for the classroom that I've downloaded or bought in CD form, (See THIS link, and THIS link.) there are other sources for music that are much more appropriate for a teacher's salary!

1. Free downloads! I found THIS collection today. It's a collection of free downloads connected to brain based learning. A couple of them are not really music, so check before you download. (Have some fun with that search box at the top. I also found some happy music, Irish music, silly music, and romantic music. It's not just for school!😉)

2.  You-Tube! Just search You-Tube for the kind of music you want, and you'll see several options pop up! As long as I don't need my classroom projection system for something else, I'll find a long video and let it go on in the background to help the kiddos focus. Here's one I found when I searched "Calming Music for Kids"


Then I searched "Happy Music for Kids" and got this. This is great music for kids to hear when they're entering the class in the morning, because it makes them feel good!


Here's one I played often at the end of the school year, especially when we had our "seacoast week." I searched "Ocean Sounds with music." (This one is 8 hours long!)

I searched this one for Cinco de Mayo. ("Mexican music")



and, of course for St. Patrick's Day I might play this one! ("Irish Music")


Honestly, you can find just about anything on You-Tube, but be careful to check it ahead of time. As you know, there are things you DON'T want to share with the children! (For example, the Irish music category has plenty of Irish drinking songs!)

Music: a Key to the Brain! This post lists some of the advantages to using music in the classroom, and a couple of great sources of free music!

Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences

Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.

Just when you think you've finally got the routine down, it's suddenly time for Parent-Teacher Conferences!

Honestly, I have a "love-hate" relationship for Parent-Teacher Conferences.  Why? Well, they certainly are a whole lot of work, along with late nights, which is the "hate" part. But sitting and chatting about little ones you care about with other people who care about that little one can be very enlightening, and very satisfying. 

Most parents I've worked with are really, really nice people! I particularly love it when I've already had a member of the family, and I get to "hang out" with parents I already know. (Of course, the down side to this, is that it's even harder at the end of the year to say goodbye to a family with whom you've had a 2 year relationship!)

Conferences shouldn't be the first communication you've had with a parent. Newsletters, personal notes and phone calls should have already happened so parents already know who you are.

I find being super prepared helps the conferences go more smoothly. I start sending home notifications requesting conference dates and times, and I send home this form for parents to fill out and send back before the conference.
Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.
Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.
I find this form gives me a lot of information. Once I get the form back, I can start preparing my paperwork for Conference night:
Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.
Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.
I've left this form a bit more flexible, since the kids and their needs are all so very different. The "strengths" and "need to improve" sections can be filled out ahead of time, and any questions from parents on the questionnaire can go into the "things to think about" section. Most of my notes on this sheet are behavioral notes, since 

As behaviors or struggles appear during the week before conferences, I'll be sure to run to my pile of conference notes and jot things down, so things will be fresh in my mind.

Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.
1.  Keep a couple of bottles of water nearby. (I get very dry from all that talking!)
2. Post a schedule outside your door so parents are aware of your limited time.
3. Slip in a couple of extra meetings ("meeting with principal") or "meeting with Mrs. Smith")  These are your bathroom/ snack breaks. (See step 1... water!)
4. Keep a couple of chairs outside your door along with things for parents and siblings to do. I usually keep the children's writing folders in the hall, along with some books and blocks for the kiddos to use. Some people keep some mints outside as well. (Keep a few for yourself, too!)
5. Dress comfortably. Yes, it's important to look professional, but it's not "date night."  I keep a little extra makeup, brush, comb, and a toothbrush in my desk to freshen up, but being neat and professional looking is most important.
6. Don't hesitate to ask an administrator to sit in during a conference if you think there may be some challenges.  They're usually glad to sit in, and often learn a lot about your teaching and your students. Just warn the parents ahead of time.
7. Be sure to invite others who also work with the child, when appropriate: Title I, OT, PT, Sped, SLP, and even Art, Music, or Phys. Ed. 

Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.
1. Smile and say hello. Show everyone involved where to sit.
2. Start by saying something positive about the child. That shouldn't be too tough, but it's important to start on a positive note.
3. One of the most valuable phrases I learned in my teaching experience was this: "he's working on..." If a child doesn't already have a skill, he's certainly working on it. It sounds so much better than "he's not good at..."
4. It's a good idea to have work samples nearby, especially if the child is struggling in some area.
5. Make sure you say something personal that has nothing to do with school. "David has such a nice friendship with Paul."
6. End the meeting by repeating something positive about the child. 
7. The following day, make a copy of your conference notes to share with parents. File your own copy where you can check it frequently.

Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.
Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.

Tips to Prepare for Parent Conferences: This blog post lists several ideas to help you be prepared and help those conferences run smoothly.




Young Teachers or Old Teachers?

Young Teachers or Old Teachers? This post addresses the qualities of new teachers and veteran teachers, as well as some qualities that truly make a great teacher!

Who is actually better at teaching, the young teachers, or the old teachers. 

First of all, I've taught for 40 years, so I prefer to use the term "Veteran" teacher! 

Here are a few of the stereotypical comments I hear about younger teachers:
Young Teachers or Old Teachers? This post addresses the qualities of new teachers and veteran teachers, as well as some qualities that truly make a great teacher!

*Young teachers are enthusiastic and energetic.
*Young teachers have new ideas.
*Young teachers are better at computers and technology.
*Young teachers are closer to the age of the students, therefore relate more to their students.
*Young teachers are more eager to learn more about teaching.
*Young teachers have better fashion sense, and are more attractive.
*Young teachers are more flexible with changes.
*Young teachers are less reliable.
*Young teachers are less loyal. They are more than willing to leave a school district for a better paying job.

I'm sure you could add to this list!

Now here are some stereotypes about "Veteran" teachers.
Young Teachers or Old Teachers? This post addresses the qualities of new teachers and veteran teachers, as well as some qualities that truly make a great teacher!
*Older teachers are less flexible and set in their ways.
*Old teachers are just waiting until they can retire and don't really care anymore.
*Older teachers prefer older methods, like chalkboards and worksheets.
*Older teachers have trouble with computers and technology.
*Older teachers are burned out.
*Older teachers are more experienced, and can boost test scores due to their experience.
*Older teachers have a lot of tricks up their sleeves.
*Older teachers should be given the more challenging students, because they can handle them.
*Older teachers have proved their loyalty to their school by staying as long as they have.
*Older teachers know the history of the school.

I'm sure you could add to this list, too!

So which is better?
Young Teachers or Old Teachers? This post addresses the qualities of new teachers and veteran teachers, as well as some qualities that truly make a great teacher!
I'm sure you know teachers who fit these descriptions, and I'm sure you know teachers who don't. How many of these stereotypes are true, and how many are not?

I'll suspect you know this: it depends on the individual teacher! 

*I've known young teachers who have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, and I've known veteran teachers who are enthusiastic and energetic!
*I've known young teachers who can handle the challenging students and veteran teachers who are flexible and can relate well with the students.
*I've known young teachers who struggle with technology, and I've known veteran teachers who are quick to find a better paying job elsewhere.

Honestly, these are the qualities I've seen in teachers of all ages that make them great teachers:

*A passion for teaching
*A love for children
*A strong work ethic
*A team player
*A role model
*A desire to keep getting better
*High expectations
*A good communicator
*A good listener
*Kindness
*A sense of humor

Honestly, I find school work best with a balance of young teachers and veteran teachers who have the above qualities. 

What would you add to the list above?



Have You Heard About Boom Digital Task Cards?


Have You Heard About Boom Digital Task Cards? If you haven't, here's a great chance to try them out!

If you haven't tried Boom Learning Digital Task Cards, you need to get on this, they are amazing!

Here's a quick video with an overview on what these cards are all about.


Here's another quick video, explaining a little more.


This second video was created by Melissa of I HEART 4th Grade. (She did a nice job explaining it, didn't she?)

What do I like most about Boom Digital Task Cards?

1. The kids LOVE them!

2. They are very easy for teachers to assign and differentiate, and check in on how the children are performing.

3. They can be used on ANY device: laptops, desktops, SMARTboards, ipads, tablets, and phones. (You can grab the app HERE!)

4. That means they can use them at home!  They can practice their task cards on mom's phone while waiting for sister to finish her gymnastics class or brother to finish his soccer game!

5. Children get immediate feedback, which is so important for learning! If they work hard, they earn badges and gems!

6. No printing, cutting, or laminating! 

Want to try some? I have a couple of freebies for you: 

Have You Heard About Boom Digital Task Cards? If you haven't, here's a great chance to try them out!

Have You Heard About Boom Digital Task Cards? If you haven't, here's a great chance to try them out!

I've been having so much fun making these, I've made a whole addition and subtraction bundle for all 8 brain based levels, plus 2 extra reviews. 
Have You Heard About Boom Digital Task Cards? If you haven't, here's a great chance to try them out!


But that's not all! I've added ALL TEN BOOM Task Cards to the collection of Brain Friendly Addition and Subtraction Fact Practice and Assessment.

If bought individually at full price, it would cost you $32.25.  I'm going to keep the Practice and Assessment cost at $12 for the rest of this week. On Sunday August 27th, I will raise the price to $24.00.  (If you already own it, just re-download and you'll get the upgrade for free!)
It just so happens I'm working on another set for Multiplication and Division. If you buy the Practice and Assessment Set now, you'll be able to upgrade to the set including BOOM task cards bundle for no extra cost!

Have You Heard About Boom Digital Task Cards? If you haven't, here's a great chance to try them out!



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