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Let's Have Some Fun!

Anyone else feeling nervous/ scared/ overwhelmed/ excited/ confused/ distressed/ insecure, and downright STRESSED about going back to school?  

Well, you're not alone!

Research proves that a good way to release some stress is to LAUGH!

Here's how to participate in my Let's Have Some Fun Linky Party!

I'll start! Here's my funny story:

Last year, we had a very warm day for our field day. The kids were all spread into the different groups playing all sorts of games. I was working at the "Limbo" stations.  Every 10 minutes or so, the Phys Ed teacher would get on his bull horn and tell the kids to move to their next station.

At one of the changes, one of my little guys came to my station with a big smile, pouring water from his water bottle onto his head.  

He was saying, "I'm dying! I'm absolutely dying!"
Then he looked to the sky, raising his hands to the sky saying, 
"I can see heaven!"

Boy I miss these little guys! (Well, not too much, I'm still enjoying my summer vacation!)

Part 2: My Fun Product:

This one is hot off the press! 

The children work their way around the school supplies game board answering questions such as "What is your favorite book?" and "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It also has some brain break cards built in!

Here's what the set looks like: 

Of course, the kids will just think it's a Get to Know You activity, but I have ulterior motives: I plan to teach the GAME PROCEDURES such as taking turns, checking your partner's answers, saying kind words to your partner, and shaking hands at the end of the game.

I also plan on teaching them to state their answer in a full sentence, using words from the question.Yes, I have high hopes for my second graders, but they'll get it! Those oral language skills do matter, don't they?

It just so happens that this game and several other fun products will be on sale Monday and Tuesday at the Teachers Pay Teachers Blast off Back to School Sale! If you use the promo code, all my items will be 28% off! Click the image below for a link to my store!

The sale doesn't start until Monday, but it's not too soon to start moving items into your shopping cart!

Now it's time to link up! Don't forget to use the picture from the top of the page, and link back to this post!

Ten Brain Tricks for Learning Math Facts

I've been fascinated by the brain for years now. I've read about how the brain works, and the best ways to help children learn. I've applied this knowledge into my teaching and have had fabulous results!

Ten Brain Tricks for Learning Math Facts: These strategies are backed by science, and will help the kiddos with basic math facts!

These are some of the things I've learned about the brain!
Let's see how they relate to learning Math Facts!

We know that “Practice Makes Perfect” is a fallacy since we know if a child practices something incorrectly, he learns it incorrectly.  Whatever they practice needs to be accurate so the child learns it correctly.  (I’m sure you know how hard it is to break a bad habit!)  When practicing facts, it's important that the child practices the correct answer. Either have the correct answer on the back of flashcards, or have the child practice with someone who knows the answers!

This goes with the first idea: the kiddos need to know if they're getting the answer correct. If they are not, they need to know right away so they will practice it correctly.

Brains are much more likely to remember something if the learner uses more than one process.  If the children are looking at the fact, saying the fact out loud, and moving manipulatives on the tens frame, they are more likely to remember the information than if they just looked at it. Another idea, stating the fact while jumping on one foot, or while doing jumping jacks.

When children work together, they are keeping the brain happy.  Social interaction is HUGE when it comes to learning! This is one reason why games are great for learning math facts!

 A little healthy competition gets the blood moving, bringing oxygen to the brain and helping the memory do its thing. This is another reason why games are great for practicing facts!

When the kids practice facts, it's a good idea to put fact families together: 4+7=11   7+4=11   11-4=7   11-7=4   or  3x6=18  6x3=18  18÷6=3  18÷3=6 This really helps the kiddos make the connections in the brain!

If it's possible color code copies of facts by fact families. The brain really focuses on color, and helps make those connections!

This is why it's not a good idea to give the kiddos too many facts to study at a time. Start with just a couple of families, and build from there!

 It is suggested that children spend 5 minutes a day, every day, rather than a half hour once a week. It's actually less time, but it's more productive!

 It is recommended that background music is played during practice times. This is a good time for a piece of classic music, not rock music or anything with lyrics. 

Hope this list helps your kiddos learn their facts!

It just so happens I have a set of addition and subtraction facts to practice that follow almost all these brain rules, (you have to supply your own music) and even has a few brain breaks worked in! Click here if you're interested: Brain Friendly Addition and Subtraction: Fact Practice and Assessment

Update: Due to popular demand and success with the above set of addition and subtraction facts, I'm made a new version to practice and assess multiplication and division, which you can find here: Brain Friendly Multiplication and Division: Fact Practice and Assessents!

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!

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 music theme in my classroom, so I designed this Clip Chart System:

It has music pictures and music themed words like "Rhythmic Day", and the most desired level: "Symphonic 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. 

For children who struggle, there is a more private option.

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 have a version of the clip chart with a sports theme!

Click the image or click HERE to see this resource!

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!

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?

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!

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

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