Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Squeeze in Social Studies and Science

Teaching is harder than ever these days!

I'm about to start my 39th year teaching. Honestly, it's a lot harder now than it was back in the 70s when I started! Luckily, experience has taught me a whole lot, and I have a repertoire of tricks up my sleeve.

Nowadays we have to individualize everything! We have to keep evidence folders, and post learning targets based on Common Core or College and Career Ready standards.  We have to pre-test, post test, follow a prescribed program, teach specific subjects at specific times, and somehow get these kids to learn! We need to make sure we are on the same page (literally!) as the others who teach our grade, and now somehow,we are evaluated based on the tests, no matter what kids we get or what subjects we teach! Many of us lack support from administration, parents, and the government! Phys. Ed, Music, and recess are being taken out of the day, and more kids than ever have learning problems and behavioral challenges.

Yet, believe it or not, there are many of us who still choose to teach.

I find Social Studies and Science are the toughest areas to find time to teach. Finding time squeeze it in is difficult, and finding time to prepare materials is close to impossible. 

I'm here to make your job a tiny bit easier!

If you follow my blog, you know that I've studied brain research, and l have become very focused on how the brain learns. 

Here are some fun ways to "sneak in" those subjects that the children love, but hardly get to participate in because of the demands of the beginning of the year:

1. Morning Meeting! Squeeze in a social studies topic into Morning Meeting. "On your turn, name something you'd see in an urban community." or "Name one of the planets."

2. Lining Up! Line them up with a fact.  "Before you get into line for lunch, stop and tell a friend the 4 stages in the life cycle of a honeybee." or "Tell a friend the name of one of the oceans."

3. Brain Breaks! Take a brain break with a purpose. "You are a Coastguards man guarding our border along the Atlantic Ocean and need to check out an incoming boat. Speed your ship over and greet the visitors." or "Imagine you are a honeybee in the pupa stage, trying to get out of your cell."

4. Connect to Something Bigger! When developing the rules for your classroom: "The Constitution of the United States is a set of rules developed by citizens of the country. You are citizens of this classroom. What rules should we have for our citizens?" (Of course, when you decide on rules, you can make a copy for the class and have them sign it with a fancy pen!) or "I wonder if farmers measure their plant growth like we do."

5. Calendar Time! Mention upcoming Social Studies or Science days during calendar time. "How many days until the Autumnal Equinox?" or "On what day of the week is Constitution Day?"

6. Read Aloud! Read books about your Science and Social Studies topics (fiction and non-fiction), then stop and chat about them! "Do all spiders have an egg sack like Charlotte did?" or "In what sort of community does Noel live? What were your clues?"

7. Keep maps and globes handy! Whenever any place is mentioned in a book, video, or just in passing, I'll grab the map or globe and find it! "Your dad is on business in Singapore? Let's find it on the map. Wow, that's on the other side of the earth! They must be sleeping now!" As the year progresses, whenever a place is mentioned, the kids will call out, "Get the globe!" (It's also a good idea to leave maps and globes available for the kids to browse. I've heard some awesome conversations about places around the world while kids are waiting for the bus at the end of the day!)

I've been very busy working on a resource for my own students that will help me through the beginning of the year, and I'm ready to share it with you!

It's got 9 different "ready to go" activities for Social Studies and Science for the beginning of the school year! Click image or click HERE for link.
I also have a freebie sample available HERE.

Want to win a copy? I'm giving out three on this rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Getting Parents to Read Your Notes

I'm sure we've all been there: a note gets sent home, and it's never seen!

Parents are incredibly busy. It's a tough job. But somehow we've got to get them to read those notes!

Here are a few tricks:

I send home a newsletter once a week in my classroom. I always write a personal note to each parent on each newsletter. It goes home on Friday, and I ask them to sign them and return them on Monday.

Sound crazy?  They are quick notes, and it's a definite investment in time: it pays off... it establishes a line of communication!  

How do I entice them to get in the habit of reading those weekly notes?

How to get the kids involved? 

I make sure I write a positive note about that child, and make sure the child knows about it! They'll go home and beg their parents to read it!

Here are a few examples:
Once you get the parents in the habit of checking the newsletter each week, they'll look forward to the notes. 

Of course, the notes are ALMOST always positive, but if something comes up during the week, you can be reasonably sure that note will be noticed, because you established the routine right away!

I hope you enjoyed this bright idea! Feel free to follow me on these social media:


And be sure to check out the links below for more awesome bright ideas!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Winning Big in Vegas!

I just got home from the Vegas trip very late last night. 

As I was drinking my coffee this morning (out of my BRAND NEW mug) I was reflecting on all that I won the last few days.

No, I didn't win any of the giveaways all week. I didn't do any gambling either. But it was definitely a winning week!

The amazing Rachel Lynette was not only our featured keynote speaker, but I attended 2 of her sessions as well! She was inspiring, knowledgeable, and touching. Here's one of my favorite things Rachel had to say:
It's pretty clear that Rachel feels strongly about supporting other educators and helping others! I couldn't agree more!

Adam had this to share:

The week was, indeed like summer camp for grown ups! There were so many teachers and bloggers swarming the hotel, it was one big party! Although there were over 1000 teachers there, I looked for those red or black lanyards, and smiled at anyone who had them! There was a bond between us all. We shared something very special!

A few other quotes from the trip?

This was from Laura Candler of Teaching Resources. This is pretty important to most teachers!

Another one:

This was from Paul, the founder of Teachers Pay Teachers. 

I do have to say, the very best part of this trip was getting together with so many incredible educators! We had amazing conversations! We had amazing food! We shared amazing thoughts!

I've met several of these same teachers at various times. This was my third Teacher/ Blogger Meet Up in Vegas. You can read about the other Meet ups here:
I went to several get togethers with the New England Blogger group. Here's the first time I met with them:
Our group keeps growing. I never did a blog post on the last couple of get togethers, but we're growing! Here's what we looked like last month:
teachers pay teachers
(This same picture was featured on one of the slides used at the Keynote address this week:  
Not a great shot, but if you look closely, you can see it on the bottom left.)

 Plus, I took a trip to New York last fall with some other bloggers. 
Then I took a trip to Atlanta in February!

Every time I get together with teacher bloggers, I am totally inspired and proud to be a teacher! 
It was nice seeing many familiar faces and getting reacquainted with friends, but it was equally as awesome getting to know more teachers. 
We are truly a fascinating bunch!

A few things I learned:
1. I need to get to these conferences a day or two early so I can do the initial "hellos" before the actual business starts. Plus, I need the time to adjust to the time change and settle in!
2. As much as I LOVE this group, I'm glad I got a single room. I was able to get back to the quiet a couple of times and let my head clear a bit before going back to constant conversation!
3. I need to stay a day or two after the conference to relax and enjoy Vegas, as well as enjoy conversations about it all! 
4. I need to get outside! From Wednesday through Saturday, the only time I was outside was to and from the airport, and about 45 minutes by the pool before the shuttle picked me up for the airport. That's a little bit crazy!
5. There are plenty of people as passionate as I am about making education better and doing it all for the kiddos. Vegas was fun, but it really is all about the kids, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Want to hear more about the Vegas trip? Check out the linky at the Elementary Entourage!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Another Vacation Week Gone Already?

How can more than 2 weeks of vacation be already gone?

It seems like all I've done is sleep, but I guess I've done a few things. Here are 5 of them:

My daughter went back to her old dance studio and danced in their recital! The studio was celebrating their 25th anniversary, and invited alumni to come back and dance. They learned the dance from a video online, came back and danced it! You may be able to tell from the costumes, the dance had a 70s theme! My daughter danced at this studio from the time she was 3 until she was 16. I went to many, many, many dance competitions and recitals, and even did some dancing myself. (I'm a tapper from waaay back!) I hadn't seen any of their recitals for the last 5 years, but watched this one, and it was fabulous! This studio doesn't just let the kiddos dance, they put on quite a show! Lots of good memories!

Yes, that doesn't look like a health picture, but I've been going to acupuncture since I had a stroke 5 years ago. It helps me keep my energy going, and build my immune system, two things that have been compromised since the stroke. My acupuncturist is fabulous, and VERY helpful! My energy has been WAY down since school got out, and I don't seem to be bouncing back very well this year. She reminded me that my health issues make it harder to bounce back, and my age doesn't make it any easier! She treated me and advised me, and I'm slowly getting my "limited" energy back.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I use beanie babies and cute pillows a lot in my classroom. Well, every summer they go to the laundromat for a "bath" and then hibernate for the rest of the summer. This year it took 2 weeks to get them all washed. (I was just too tired to carry those heavy bags!) As usual, I got lots of interesting looks at the laundromat!

I'm leaving for Vegas on Wednesday, and found it a great excuse to buy clothes! Most of the teachers who go to Vegas wear adorable dresses. Well, I'm just not a dress person, so I bought some new shorts and tops. I won't be the most adorable teacher in Vegas, but I'll be comfortable!

I've spent most of the last couple of weeks working on this baby! It's all research based, brain-friendly, color coded and fact-family coordinated! I already have a set for addition and subtraction that you can see HERE.  Although most of my second grade students don't quite reach multiplication, it's a great incentive for those over achievers! "If you master these, I'll let you work on multiplication!" Every second grader I know is motivated by those words! 

I finally posted my new product this morning, and you can find it on this link: Brain Friendly Multiplication and Division Facts and Assessments.

I'm linking up with these ladies for the "Make Your Masterpiece" Challenge. You can find more masterpieces HERE!
I'll also be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday! Be sure to stop by to see what other Teacher/ Bloggers are up to!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Currently for July!

Wow, how could it be July already?

I just barely got out of school, and I'm still in the "recovery" mode of summer. I'm still sleeping A LOT, and not very motivated to do housework or go anywhere. Experience tells me this will change soon, but right now, I'm still dragging. I guess I really did push myself too hard those last couple weeks of school, and my body is still fighting back!

But it's time for July's Currently!

Listening: I watch The View faithfully during the summer!
Loving: I love my summer mornings! I'm not a morning person, so I get up later, sip coffee while checking email and watching mindless daytime TV, and stay in my jammies until noon!
Thinking: I have to start getting organized for my trip to Vegas. One week from right now, I'll be there! I need to decide what to wear, run off a lot of stuff to bring, and get my head organized! I'm nervous AND excited!
Wanting: I went to the beach once last week. I need another good weather day so I can sit with my feet in the sand, and a book in my hand! That's how I relax! (I need to get away from the laptop!)

Needing: As I mentioned above, I need to get organized for Vegas! I need to decide what to do for clothes! I'm not really a dress person, but that's what a lot of people wear. I may have to pave my own path and wear dress shorts and shirts. I just don't like my look in dresses!
All Star: Ok, I'm not really an All Star at Brain Based Learning, but it's something I have a passion about and I've read a lot about recent research. Here are some links to some blog posts I've written on the topic:

Here are many of the articles I've read about brain research that I've saved:

If this stuff seems interesting to you, be sure to check out some books by the REAL experts on Brain Based Learning:

And be sure to stop by Farley's page to see more Currently in July posts!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Book Club and Giveaway: Unshakeable!

It's a tough time to be a teacher! Expectations are getting tougher, and there seems to be less and less time to do all the work expected! Yet, somehow, we go on! 

Here's a chance to win a book that will help you continue to ENJOY being a teacher!
My blogging friend, Angela Watson from The Cornerstone has published her third book, Unshakable!

To make this even more fun, you can join in on a summer book club featuring Angela and her book by visiting HERE. It doesn't cost a thing! It's a closed facebook group, and it's going to be awesome! (You'll find me there!)

Are you excited yet? Well, here's a little "sneak preview" of what's coming:

Here's the best part: you might actually win an e-copy of this awesome book! Just enter the Rafflecopter below!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Fun and Linkies!

One thing I love about summer is the chance to blog hop! I spend time each morning relaxing with my coffee, watching mindless daytime TV, and reading the blogs of other teachers. Since so many of us finally get the time to blog, we're joining forces to blog about a variety of topics! (Some have NOTHING to do with teaching, which is a nice break!)
Molly from Classroom Confections is having a link up this week about our favorite mugs!

I couldn't decide between the two mugs shown above. It would be like trying to decide between my students and my cat! The mug on the left was given to me by one of my sweet students. The one on the right, I bought for myself because the cat on the mug had the same coloring as my cat, Mia. I love them both. 

What's in them? Coffee! Nothing fancy, just straight caffeine. I don't like sweeteners or cream or anything in my coffee. Just the real thing. I make my own coffee each morning, because I need to be sipping coffee while I get dressed or I'd never be awake enough to drive! If I'm buying coffee on the run, it's got to be Dunkin Donuts! Sorry, Starbucks lovers, I'm from Boston!

Diana from My Day in K is also having a linky party: The Teacher Bucket list!

Yes, I know it's Thursday, but I've been thinking about this one since Tuesday. I hope that counts!

Relax: This is #1 priority for my summer! I've been off for a week now, and my blood pressure is slowly starting to come down. I need a few more days doing this before I start to feel human again!

Work on S.T.E.A.M. Stuff: In my district, we have a whole lot of newness coming this fall, and the only way we will fit it all in is to combine subjects! S.T.E.A.M. is the perfect way to combine the new Science curriculum, the new Math curriculum, Technology, Engineering (two necessary skills for the 21st century) and the Arts, which connects the learning to the hearts of the learners. (I got a master's degree in Creative Arts in Learning over 20 years ago, and everything I learned back then is directly related to everything I've learned about how children learn through recent brain research! I'm excited to sit down with the new curriculums and combine them in ways that will work with the kiddos!

Friends: Yes, I definitely have plans to spend time with friends, including many of my blogging friends in Vegas in a couple of weeks!

One more linky: My dreams! I'm sure you've seen this one floating around, if you follow social media.

Develop S.T.E.A.M. materials! See the comments from the bucket list linky above.

Read more about how the brain learns! I love to read about how the brain learns! There is so much available online, and so many fabulous books out there, I plan to spend some time each day reading about the brain. Sound crazy? Well, it's an interest of mine! I consider myself knowledgeable about the brain. I'd love to be considered an expert on how the brain works. Ah, it's nice to dream!

Continue to develop materials based on how students learn! So much of what I develop is directly connected to how the brain works. I have so many things I want to make. If I only had all the time in the world, I could do it!

Someday: retire (shudder) The thought of retirement terrifies me. It also intrigues me. I've been donating to my retirement fund for close to 40 years now, but we all know it's not really enough to live on. Once upon a time I had some savings. Then I got divorced and ended up spending it all on bringing up my daughter by myself, including putting her through college. I will be completely dependent on what my state provides for retired teachers. (shudder!) There's going to have to be some major downsizing! 

It's also scary to think about NOT going to school every day. It's been such an important part of my life for so long, I don't know what I'd do with myself!

However, I do like the idea of actually having time to do some of those other things I enjoy!

Follow THIS LINK to see the dreams of more teacher bloggers!

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