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Hanukkah Game Board Freebie

Looking for a little something to help your kids celebrate Hanukkah. This game can be used in many ways in the classroom!
Hanukkah Game Board Freebie: Want to bring a bit of Hanukkah into your classroom? Download this freebie, which can be used to practice any skill!
Brain research tells us that frequent repetition helps bring information from the short term memory to the long term memory. (Rather than "Practice Makes Perfect", I prefer "Practice Makes Permanent"!)  
Hanukkah Game Board Freebie: Want to bring a bit of Hanukkah into your classroom? Download this freebie, which can be used to practice any skill!

I use board games like this to practice sight words, math facts, sentence fluency, task cards, or any skill that needs practicing! The children just roll one die, but before they can move their place marker that many spaces, they have to perform a task. I sometimes have a selection of cards the children can choose from, and sometimes I have a specific skill for them to practice.  

Just click this link to download your Hanukkah Game Board Freebie!

Illustrating to Build Reading Skills

Illustrating to Build Reading Skills: Visualization is an important skill for reading and illustrating is one of the best ways I know to encourage visualization. This post has several suggestions for connecting reading skills with illustrating.

Illustrating is a great way to build reading skills!

I often have my students do some illustrating when I want to make sure they really "get" a concept.  

It forces them to visualize what they're learning.  
Brain research tells us that visualizing helps the memory and deepens understanding. 
Brain research also tells us that adding an element of fun helps them remember as well... and don't kids love to draw? 

Add some classical music in the background, and the brain is more activated! 
Want to add a little more assurance that the kids are learning?  
Let them talk about what they're drawing and why!

I have several resources I use with my students that get the kiddos illustrating.

Figurative Language can be very tricky for little ones to learn! It takes a lot of conversation before they are ready to illustrate, but it's important that they "get" these confusing phrases. Once the instruction happens, the illustration really helps them to GET it!

There's this Mini-book about Healthy Habits.  
This resource is the result of much research on health and children. It has 10 pages written in child friendly language.

My own students have been working on this one this week, and have come up with some incredible ideas!

I also have a set of homophones for the children to illustrate.  These can be tricky for most kids, but in order to draw the different meanings, they have to deeply understand the different meanings.  

That involves a lot of conversation as well as thinking, but once they've got it, they've GOT it!  

As children are "social animals", they tend to remember not only their own pair of homophones, but the homophones their friends did as well!

I've got another set of word pairs for illustrating as well... these are homographs!  Just like the homophones, these are tricky, but once they've got them, they've GOT them!

Another advantage to these individual sheets that the children illustrate... they make great visual displays for bulletin boards!  I've had many compliments on the work of my students on these!

They also make awesome class books!

Another advantage?  These are great for the sub tub!  Just run off the set and leave it in the emergency sub folder!  Plus, they work for a variety of ages and levels.  (Fifth graders are NOT too old to draw, they love it!)

Of course, any illustrating is enhanced by music. May I suggest this one?  (Click image for a link to Amazon!)

Acts of Kindness Holiday Countdown

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!Ever notice that wonderful feeling that comes from doing something for others?  I suspect you know it well, since that's what teaching is all about!

I decided, instead of just a "Countdown to Christmas", I wanted to do a more special countdown.

I made this Acts of Kindness Holiday Countdown Set, which is a paper chain countdown with a twist - each link of the chain is an act of kindness to be done by the child, each day between now and Christmas!

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!
First, the children will choose a "topper".  There's a star, a tree, and a Christmas Bear.  The topper is mounted on a piece of construction paper or tagboard, and a slit is cut near the bottom to hold the first link.  Personally, I think this guy is going to need some glitter, and a big red bow at the top to tie him to a special countdown spot!
Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!
The "How Many Days" poem goes on the back.  I think this needs glitter, too!

Next, the children can put the individual strips into a chain, putting just the right amount so that one can be removed per day until Christmas.

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!
I have to admit, I'm excited about my new product, and can't wait to put them together with the kids!

Acts of Kindness Countdown:Here is a freebie and directions on making a different kind of countdown for the holidays!

My Favorite Holiday Activity

My Favorite Holiday Activity: Ever have one of those activities that are a "win-win"? It's fun, it's easy, and it's also educational? This is my favorite freebie
Ever have one of those activities that's a win-win?  It's something that works so well, you keep bringing it back year after year.

That's how I feel about this Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.  I've done this activity with second
graders for about 15 years now.

I've always loved the music from The Nutcracker.  When my daughter was 5, I figured she was old enough to go into Boston to see the Boston Ballet perform the classic.  We read a few versions of the story so she'd know what to expect, put on our very best holiday dresses, and drove into the city.

Since I knew the story so well, I brought the CD into school, and shared the story with my students.  I wrote this summary of the classic story, and played the music while the children visualized what it must look like, then illustrated the different parts of the story.

Every year, the children loved the activity, and it practiced some valuable skills:  visualizing, summarizing, and sequencing.  Plus, it gives them some exposure to classic holiday literature and classical music. Of course, you can't miss when the setting is called, The Kingdom of Sweets!

A couple of years after seeing the production in Boston, my daughter had the opportunity to audition for a production of The Nutcracker. She was in the youngest group, and the little ones had a very small part, but it was priceless.  She went on to perform in the Nutcracker 3 years in a row before life just got too busy with other performances.  However, the story of The Nutcracker will always be near and dear to my heart.

Enjoy this freebie: The Nutcracker story for Visualizing, Summarizing, and Illustration!  It's one of my favorites!

Exemplar Texts for the Common Core - Informational Text

Today I'm getting to my favorite category of Exemplar Texts:  The Informational Texts!

The Exemplar Texts are books that are recommended for this level because of the complexity and quality of the texts.  Children in these grades should be reading many books of this complexity and quality, these are just examples.

Here are links to the 12 Informational Texts recommended for grades 2 and 3.

I've always found that every class has a core of children who just love information books.  These kids  absolutely love learning stuff, and just can't get enough!

I love all books by Gail Gibbons (and have quite a collection of her stuff!)  She has a great way of explaining information to children in this age group, in a way they can understand.  From Seed to Plant is one of my favorites of her books!

Several of these books are new to me.  I am dying to read Where Do Polar Bears Live and Throw Your Tooth on the Roof:  Tooth Traditions Around the World.  I also think it's interesting that 2 of the 12 books are about Bats.

For more information about the Exemplar Texts for the Common Core at all levels see the Common Core for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/ Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Appendix B HERE.

Which of these books do you find interesting?  What other books do you know of for grades 2 and 3 that fit this level of complexity and quality?

Seasonal Brain Breaks

Brain research tells us that students need to move.  Experience tells us that students need to move.  Teachers have been working in Brain Breaks for years.  Now there is scientific evidence about how important these brain breaks are!

With little ones, I try to squeeze in frequent brain breaks, and I often try to make these breaks somehow connected to what's going on so the learning continues.

Then other times, I make the break a total change.

Yesterday, just to get them moving during a transition, I told them to walk like a turkey back to their seats.  I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, myself or the kids!  Of course, sound effects were included!

Later during the day, I had them move like Pilgrims, then Native Americans.  I was impressed with their responses, especially the lack of stereotypes for the Native Americans!  (We had just watched Scholastic's virtual tour of Plimouth Plantation, so they had some more realistic views of Pilgrims and Natives.)

After each brain break, they were focused and ready to get back to work.  That's just what you'd want from a brain break!  It doesn't hurt if there are a few giggles in there, too!

Brain Breaks are important for the kids several times a day.  I'm sure there are other ways to use seasonal events to help the children take a break during any time of year.  They could move like a groundhog, the Easter Bunny, or even related it to a unit of study... I'll bet they'd love moving as a molecule or a seed germinating into a plant!

For you Pinterest fans, I have a whole board of Brain Breaks HERE!

One of "Those" Days

Today was one of "those" days at school today.  One of the days where the children just don't tune in and focus to anything that's going on.  When it's time to work, they would just sort of sit there and stare.

I'm not sure why today was such a tough day for so many of my little ones.  The last couple of weeks haven't been easy due to a variety of schedule changes, but I'm not sure why today they had such a significantly difficult time focusing and completing work.

I used many of my brain based learning tips to try to get them involved in what I was teaching during math:

  • I played music for focusing.  (I love this CD set, and it usually helps! Click the image to the right to find out more.)
  • I had the children do some Yoga moves and some Brain Gym moves.
  • I got the children moving as part of the learning... using the math gestures we have that go with adding and subtracting.
  • I had them using their voices and repeating phrases after me.
  • I had them using manipulatives in Math.
  • I varied the sound of my voice. (My acting background comes in handy sometimes!)
  • I used visuals - one of the enVisions math movies.  (They typically love these!)
  • I had them "turn and talk" about what they were learning.
  • I used my Whole Brain Teaching scoreboard.
  • I even used bribery!  (When  you finish your independent work, you can play.)
They just were not in the mood for learning today.  They're really good kids.  They weren't trying to be naughty or avoid working.  They just couldn't focus. 

I've seen this happen to kids every so often.  I think they're kind of like sponges.   They have been absorbing information since September.  They're getting smarter and refining their skills.  But just like sponges, they become saturated and just can't hold any more.  Now if I could just "squeeze them out" and make room for more!

That's what vacations are about.  Luckily, we have the Thanksgiving break next week!

But after school today, I tried one trick that usually brings them back... I rearranged the furniture!

What do you do when your little ones can't focus?

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