Sunday, July 27, 2014

Using Brain Research the First Week!


I've been fascinated by the recent research that's been done on the brain, and how it relates to kids and learning.

I'm linking up with some of my teacher/ blogging friends with 
Two Stars and a Wish: 
Two tips and one idea for improvement!

Here are a few ways I use what I learn in the classroom.

Brain research teaches us that students can only hold 2-4 chunks of information at a time. With all the procedures and routines that need to be taught, there will have to be plenty of built in breaks! Breaks can be anything from a quick stretch, vigorous exercise, or just a change of pace. Try this Back to School Brain Breaks freebie to help out with the need for breaks while teaching all that important information!


Brain Research also teaches us that students will "buy in" to procedures and rules if they have part of the decision making process. 
I have managed to type up my class rules before school starts, and convince the kids they came up with them! Check out this freebie- Class Rules: Building as a Community to see how I do this!


One of the toughest things for my little ones to master is those basic Math facts.

I have been on the search for the "perfect" way to help the kiddos learn their basic addition and subtraction facts, and I think I'm getting close.

Brain Research tells us that making connections to prior knowledge helps students remember information. It also teaches us that brains remember best using color, movement, and visuals.

I've used these Addition and Subtraction Practice and Assessments in the past, and found this system to be the most successful way to approach learning facts.

The facts are taught one concept at a time, in fact families. 

There are 8 different color coded concept sets, each introduced one at a time. Each set has cute visuals to match fact families.

The practice sets and assessments can be easily differentiated, as most children learn at a different pace. Each color set can be further broken down so no child has too much to learn at once.

I have added one new component that I think will put the finishing touches on this set of practice cards and assessments: brain breaks!

If you are interested in Addition and Subtraction Practice and Assessment With Brain Breaks, you're in luck. I'll be giving two away today (Sunday) on my facebook page, and I've got it at 25% off until Wednesday!


If you are interested in learning more about the results of recent brain research, follow me on  Facebook Twitter or Pinterest. 



Friday, July 25, 2014

Five for Loyalty

It's Friday, and I'm sharing 5 random things from my week. The most amazing is #1 about loyalty!

Do you know why these thousands of people have assembled? A local grocery business is causing quite the stir these days. Their beloved leader and CEO was fired last week by the board of directors. Now, in this day and age, most people don't even know the CEO, never mind take the risks these people have taken to fight for his job. Last Sunday, I went into my local market with my daughter to get her a case of water before bringing her back to Boston. (It's hard for city kids to buy something that heavy, since they would have to carry it back to their apartment!) When we went inside, there was hardly any water left. Out of curiosity, we took a little walk and were amazed at how the shelves were NOT stocked, and the produce section was completely empty! Protests and boycotts have continued all week, more people have been fired, a lot of people have refused to go to work, and have spent their time protesting and urging people to shop elsewhere until this issue is resolved. Why are they so upset? Their former leader was apparently the kind of leader who cares about his employees and his customers. He has managed to learn the names of all his employees in a number of stores, and has treated them like family. He has also managed to keep the prices well below those of competing grocery store chains. 
There is a lesson to be learned here, about leadership!  

Take a look at this local town video and check out the loyalty of the employees and customers!


I was busy this week making a freebie for back to school. You can check it out HERE.

I've also been working on a new game for the beginning of the year to work on taking turns, interacting politely, and sharing ideas. Stay tuned for this one!

I've used a clip chart in my classroom for a few years now, and I love it! Apparently not everyone does! Read my blog post about it HERE. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion! :)

On the other hand, my latest post for the Bright Ideas Blog Hop has been very successful. Come see several gimmicks to motivate and engage students HERE.

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another Five for Friday! Be sure to stop by for loads of other Five for Friday ideas!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Clip Charts, Yay or Nay?


Many teachers use a clip chart for behavior management in their classrooms. I know of many parents and teachers who have strong feelings about these clip charts. 
Here are some of the arguments against the clip charts:
1.  It's too public.

2. It upsets children when their clip is moved down.
3. They don't change behavior.
4. It's negative.

Well, despite all these beliefs, I use a clip chart in my classroom, and I love it!  Here's why:
1. It holds the students accountable for their actions.
2. It gives the children a chance to change things around.
3. It motivates the children to want to do well.
4. It's positive and honest.

Does it sound like some of my reasons for using it are conflicting with some of the reasons some have for not using it?

Well, I think the difference lies in the execution. 

I find the clip chart to be a positive experience because I make sure it is a positive experience. 

Most of the time, most of my students end the day well above green, and very rarely does a student end the day below green. 

If they do end below green, then they must have needed that communication. 

Do you know who else needs that communication? 

The other students in the class. They see the inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. It makes them feel insecure and sometimes scared if the child isn't held accountable for their actions. When they see that the teacher does something about inappropriate behavior, it makes them feel more secure. 


When I have to move a clip down, I make it clear that the child made a bad decision and is NOT a bad child. Then I repeat one of my famous phrases, "You have the power to change this!"


Then I make a point to find them doing something well, and make sure that clip gets moved in the right direction.  

It's all about positive execution! 

The teacher has the power to make it a positive experience or a negative experience. I choose to make it positive.

I have a sports theme in my classroom, so I designed this Clip Chart System:

It has sports pictures and sports themed words like "Winning Day", and the most desired level: "Championship Day". It's tough to get to that top level, but I make sure it happens, and I make sure even the most challenging kids find their way to the top level. 
Each day, the children record where they end the day. Each week, they do a self evaluation and choose a goal for the week.   Sometimes they do need a little help coming up with appropriate goals, but sometimes I am amazed at how insightful these goals can be!


There is also another incentive built into my clip chart system:


Beanie Babies!


Depending on where they end up at the end of the day on the clip chart, they'll get to start the next day with a certain amount of beanies on their desk! It may seem like a little thing, but this is HUGE with my second graders! Those beanie babies are like trophies to those little guys!
I've been using beanie babies as rewards for years now, and I've never had a class that didn't love them. Yes, they play with them at first, but they don't want to lose the privilege of the beanie, so they learn real fast to leave it alone.

All in all, I love the clip chart system, but it is indeed a lot of work to make it work in a positive manner. 

If you're interested in the Clip Chart System I use, click the image below or THIS LINK. (The beanie component is optional.)

I also use other methods of classroom management such as the scoreboard from Whole Brain Teaching but I believe in the Clip Chart because I make it work!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

You'll Tell Your Grandchildren About This!

Sunday marked 45 years since man first walked on the moon. I hate to admit it, but I was not only alive, I was a teenager!

I remember being with the group of neighborhood teens, looking for a place to hang out and watch the world's first moon walk, where we wouldn't be invaded with parents. Finally we found a place. (I think we talked one set of parents into watching it with another set of parents, to free up the house!)

I don't remember all the details, but I remember one of the teenaged boys repeating over and over, "You're going to tell your grandchildren about this!"

As I look back, that was one smart teenaged boy! 

Although I don't have any grandchildren yet, I certainly have told my daughter as well as my students about watching the first moon walk. 

I've also told them about my memories of Kennedy being shot, Martin Luther King being shot, and my first computer where I had to change the 5 inch floppy disc in order to change the program after start up.

I've told of my first experiences with the Internet, color TV, and have told many stories about back in the old days when you had to get up to change the channel on the TV, (back when we only had 3 channels.)

I tell about the days before video games where we used to go outside and run around, making up our own games with the neighborhood kids.

I tell about the days when one neighborhood parent would stuff all the neighborhood kids into the back of their station wagon ( we called it "the WAY back") and take us all out for ice cream.

Boy, those were the days! It's scary to think about what today's kids will be telling their grandchildren, isn't it?


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Gotta Get a Gimmick!

There is a song from the Broadway show Gypsy called Gotta Get a Gimmick! Many of you may know I'm a big fan of musical theatre, and have performed in many, many productions of theatrical shows. 
In fact, I tend to be rather theatrical in my classroom, too. 
(You might have guessed this from my profile picture.)

This post has nothing to do with that show.

This is a Bright Ideas post!


But, seriously, have you ever noticed how a silly little gimmick can grab the kids' attention and turn an mundane task into something exciting! I'm sure you've done it! 

Here are some gimmicks I've used!


Giant Dice: I'm sure you've seen these! I could have given these little guys a worksheet to practice adding 3 addends, but the giant dice and the whiteboards made them forget they were practicing a skill!


M&Ms! This lovely lady found the M&Ms a fun way to make sure she was leaving spaces between words!


Brain Breaks! These two cuties are doing wall push ups. The kids absolutely love this stuff! Plus, they need it! These two are playing a game that has the Brain Breaks build right in, but they don't need to be "built in". Brain Breaks should be a big part of every day! It's amazing what a small amount of movement or a change of pace can do for learning!


Mini Cards! These young gentlemen are practicing addition with 2 digit numbers. This is another case where a worksheet would be sufficient, but these little mini cards just make it so much more fun for the little guys! They love these!


Bracelets! These bracelets are simply beads (from any craft store) and pipe cleaners. This particular one was made for the new year, and was a chance for the children to practice facts that add up to 14. They can manipulate the beads to make 8+6 or 9+5 or other combinations.  My students love these bracelets so much, they even make them at indoor recess!

I have plenty more, and I'll bet you do too!

I don't believe in ALWAYS using a gimmick. Sometimes they just have to work. But sometimes they need a little something extra to get them going!

If you like what you see here on Elementary Matters, please join me on facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!

For more Bright Ideas from lots of fabulous bloggers, browse through the link up below. You'll be amazed by the bright ideas!


Friday, July 18, 2014

5 Reasons to Celebrate!


Today is my birthday and I have a whole lot to celebrate! 

1. A Birthday Freebie! I have a freebie for you to help you celebrate birthdays in your classroom!

Just click the image to download this freebie! Click HERE to see more about how I use these!

2. The Vegas Glow! Even though it's been almost a week since I was in Vegas, I'm still feeling the "glow". I'm still thinking of all the wonderful people I talked to there and all the great things I learned! Plus, I admit, I'm having trouble letting go of that "Vegas Glow". I haven't had the heart to take my nametag off my purse yet!
(Click HERE to see what I learned in Vegas!)


3. The Best Daughter! I have absolutely the best daughter in the world! This is what she posted on facebook today!

4. Sweet Follower! I also have sweet followers!  
This is a message I received today from my Elementary Matters facebook page! This made my day!
(If you don't already follow my page, I'd love if you clicked HERE and liked my page!)

5. Celebrate 39! As I celebrate turning "39" (ahem) I've been having some great memories of all those years. I've looked back at all the chapters of my life: from my own family, to my high school friends, college, people I've worked with, people I've done theatre with, friends of my daughter and their families, and of course, all the wonderful teachers I've met through my blog! 

I've been very busy updating several of my products on Teachers pay Teachers, and I've decided to celebrate by putting many of my updated and favorite products on sale for multiples of 39! Yes, some of these items are $0.39! Some others are $3.90! There's a whole bunch of items that have been marked down, not just what's in the image!

Stop by my store and look to see which items are selling for multiples of 39! The "39" Sale is good through Wednesday 7/23/14

What?  You don't believe I'm 39? Well, seeing how I have been teaching for 36 years, it's not very likely, but I believe in fairy tales, don't you?

Be sure to stop by Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!




Freebie Fridays

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tools For Learning

I've been busy updating one of my favorite back to school products: The Everything Tool Kit! I originally made this set because I loved those nametags that have extra references for the kids, (like this one)

but I just couldn't find any that had the reference tools I wanted!
So I made the tool folders. I love using these in the classroom! I use a different colored folder for each subject, and have the children cut out the parts, and glue them right onto the folder. Once I laminate the folders, the kids can use their white board markers to write on the different tools. They love them, and use them a lot!

To save on printing, there are only a few pages that I print in color, like the color coded number grid. Everything else I print in b&w.

If you're interested in this sampler set, click HERE or click the image. It will take you to the product page. If you download the preview, you've got the sampler freebie!


As I was updating my materials, I was thinking... maybe some teachers don't want all the parts! I decided to break up the sets and put them in my store as separate products. Click the image that interests you!

Math Tools for Learning

Writing Tools for Learning

Reading Tools for Learning

Social Studies Tools for Learning

Science Tools for Learning

Of course, if you're interested in all the tools, the combined packages is the best value! Individually, all 5 sets would cost $6.50.  The full set is only $5.00.






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