Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games

Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research, on why students should be playing games in the classroom.


I have been fascinated with the brain and how it works for years now. I do a whole lot of reading about the brain. I have a ton of books about the brain and learning. I follow several online journals and newsletters and make note of any articles that have something to do with the brain and how it works. 

HERE's a link to my Pinterest collection of Brain Research

Here are some of the things I've learned about the brain:

1. Practice Makes Permanent! 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!)  
2. Practice with Feedback is even better!  As the children work in pairs or small groups, the teacher or the partner should immediately say the correct answer if it’s not given.  That feedback is essential!
3. The Brain is a Parallel Processor! 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 making gestures or moving manipulatives on the tens frame, they are more likely to remember the information than if they just looked at it.
4. Brains Need Social Interaction!  When children work together, they are keeping the brain happy.  Social interaction is HUGE when it comes to learning!
5. Emotions play a big role in memory! A little healthy competition gets the blood moving, bringing oxygen to the brain and helping the memory do its thing.   
6. Brains remember patterns! If you organize information by patterns, it helps! An example might be learning math facts by fact family or sight words by word family.
7. Brains remember colors!  Seriously! Using color helps the kiddos remember!
8. The Working Memory can hold 2 to 4 chunks of information at a time! This is why I suggest starting many games with just some of the cards, not all the cards at once!
9. A little bit each day is more productive than a lot, once a week! I like to spend 5 minutes a day practicing math facts, 5 minutes a day practicing sight words, etc. This is so much more valuable than a half hour once a week!
10.       Music helps the brain organize data! It is recommended that appropriate background music is played during practice times.

Doesn't this make you want to play games?

Friday, June 27, 2014

My First Week of Vacation!


I have officially been on vacation for a week! My life is starting to slow down, as is my blood pressure. There's still a ways to go on the slowing down, but I've enjoyed the first week!  Here's what's been going on!

1.  Old Friends/ New Friends! My college had an alumni weekend, and a friend of mine talked me into going up for Saturday night. We saw some friends from "back in the day", and made a few new friends as well. It was a fun night. I didn't even get home until 1:30 am! I can't remember the last time I stayed out that late!

2.  Marketing Project - I've been working on a marketing project that myself and several other sellers from Teachers Pay Teachers are part of that will be part of the whole Las Vegas extravaganza. We will be giving out "goodie bags" to let teachers know about our stores. Well, these goodie bag items needed to be packed and sent to Vegas this week, so I worked all day Sunday finishing things up so I could put them in the mail Monday morning. Yes, I stayed up until 3:00 am finishing those up. (Am I becoming a wild woman, staying up this late two nights in a row?) They went out in the mail first thing Monday morning, and luckily they arrived on time Thursday. 
If you're going to be in Vegas for the SDE conventions July 7th -10th, be sure to drop by the TpT table! Grab a goodie bag and check out our stuff! (I hate to admit, but I'm glad I'm not going to be the one sorting through these boxes!)

3. Dreadful first official day! Monday was my first official day of vacation, and once I got those boxes in the mail, I had another appointment:  for a root canal!  I can't think of many things to do on one's first day of vacation that would be more dreadful than having a root canal done! The most painful part by far was the bill. 

My teeth have had quite the adventure this spring. For more, see THIS post!  Hopefully, my tooth problems are over, other than needing a new crown for the newly "root canalled" tooth, which will be done in August.
4. Yearly Bath! If you follow my blog, you know I use Beanie Babies regularly in my class, along with plenty of cute pillows for Independent Reading time. Well, they were well overdue for their yearly bath, so I loaded them up and took them to the laundromat. Every year I get strange looks when I bring them out! Yes, those are the 50 pound machines they're in. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt them at all! In fact, if you listen closely while they're in the dryer, you can hear the beanies saying, "Wheeeeeeee!"

5.  Shopping! The best way I know to make one feel better is to go shopping! I have this trip to Las Vegas coming up, and of course I need new clothes! I went to the mall, which I hadn't done in ages, and spent far too much money.  I'm still not sure what I'll be wearing in Vegas, but I got some good stuff!


I'll be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

Be sure to drop by and see what the other bloggers are up to!



Saturday, June 21, 2014

Quick, Easy, and Honest Feedback!

Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!


Brain research tells us that honest feedback is essential in order for learning to happen. Common sense also tells us that children need to know if they're on track.

I make a point to give honest feedback whenever I can.

On written work, I use 4 highlighters: red (or pink), yellow, green, and purple.
Here's how it works:
If I highlight the child's name in green, that means they're doing just what's expected, they're right on track!

If the child's name is highlighted in yellow, that means he's on track, but needs to be careful about something. (I usually write a little note to let them know.)

If the child's name is highlighted in red (or pink), that means stop! There's a problem here. (We usually have a little conversation.)

But there's one more: if a child's name is highlighted in purple, that means his work is above and beyond expectations. Purple represents royalty, so I'll often bow to these children! 

For most papers, like homework, the only mark I make is the highlight at the top of the paper. Sometimes I'll focus on a specific skill, and make a note and highlight about that topic or skill. In the spelling papers below, I focused on the correct formation of the lower case m.
Then, of course, I'll find a little something spectacular that a child has done, and I'll make a point to make a purple star right on that part of the paper. 

I often hold up these papers for the children to see.  The next day, many children are doing the same thing on their papers. It's amazing how happy it makes the children to get a little positive attention!

On the paper below, I've made purple stars for children showing their work in math. 

Well, there you go! It's easy to remember. It cuts back on my correcting time AND it gives the children the honest feedback they need! 
I hope you find this bright idea helpful!

If you like this idea, please consider following me on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter for more great ideas!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Five Things to Be Happy About

I certainly have a lot to be happy about! I'm finally getting a chance to relax a bit and reflect on a fabulous last day of school!

Here are my five things to be happy about today!

1.  My favorite game!  Although most of my room was packed away, I kept out a few things for the kids to do on their last day of school. We had  stations, and the "work with teacher" station was my favorite game to play with the kids: Apples to Apples! This game always brings loads of giggles, and there's no better sound than that on the last day of school. My favorite was when the category was "weird" and one of the kids put down the card that said "my teacher". We all had a good chuckle over that one!

2. End of year slideshow! I saved all the pictures I took all year, which was a lot, and put them into a slideshow for the kids. We also brainstormed our favorite memories, and an awesome list of things to do during the summer.
I
3. Ice cream Sundaes! It's a tradition on the last day of school for the PTA to serve ice cream sundaes to the school community. What a great treat on the last day of school!


4. Farewell to the 5th graders! Here's another last day of school tradition: All the students and staff line the hallways. Then the fifth grade classes take their last walk down the hall to cheers, waves, and high fives. It chokes me up every year to see my former students take their last walk.


5. Goodbye to the busloads of kids! After the final walk, all the teachers walk their kids to the buses (which are always there on time on the last day!) and the kids board. Instead of each bus leaving separately. on the last day all the buses drive away together, with the bus drivers beeping the horns, the kids all waving goodbye in the windows and the teachers all standing around waving as well.


Of course, some of our teachers have another tradition on the last day of school! 
I'll be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Five Random Things From Another Busy Week

I've survived another week. One of these days I'm going to have a week where I do more than "survive". I'll guess it will be in another week: we have 5 days left!

Here are five random things about my week:

1. My daughter goes viral:  that sounds dreadful, but have you seen this picture on Facebook? My daughter took it and posted it a couple of weeks ago.  Rumor has it, it's had 800,000 views! I wish I got that kind of traffic! Check THIS LINK to see where she originally posted it on Reddit.

2. Summer Vacation Theme: Our summer vacation theme has been going well. The kids love pretending to be at the beach or out camping in the woods. Independent reading time has been the most fun part of the day! (As it should be!). As we still have five more days, we'll keep it going a couple more days.

3. Family Day: Thursday was good and bad. Good because I got to see family. Bad because it was about burying my stepmother. She actually passed away last July, but the burial wasn't until this week. So finally we had some closure, but it brought back some tough feelings we had to deal with all over again.

4. Sub Plans: It's so hard to leave the kids for a day so late in the school year. They have a tough time focusing even when I'm there.  I used my Camping No Prep Printables and they seemed to have a pretty good day! They enjoyed the fun activities, and had some great end-of-the-year review. I've never been good at tooting my own horn, but these came in VERY handy! If you're interested in a freebie set, click HERE. If you're interested in the full set, click HERE.

5. Wax Museum:  It's been a tradition for the third graders in our school to study biographies and dress up like the person they studied. It has evolved into a "Wax Museum", where the children pose like their character, and when museum guests "press a button", they come alive and tell about their famous life. It's always a hit, and years later, it's one of those things the kids remember! The lovely lady above studied Amelia Earhart. I took this cutie's picture for 2 reasons: 1 - She was my student a year ago. and 2- When my daughter was in third grade, she also studied Amelia Earhart.

I must admit, this mom did a much better job creating the famous Amelia Earhart hat! 

My students loved the Wax Museum, and have already started to think about next year, when it will be their turn!  

A couple of comments I heard:
"Ms. DeCost, Martin Luther King is over there!"
"Hey, I didn't see Michelle Obama this year!"
"I signed Walt Disney's autograph book!"

These kids are priceless!

Want to see more random pieces of the weeks of teacher bloggers? Go on over to Doodle Bugs Teaching!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Five Ways to Survive the Last Two Weeks

Report cards, end-of-year assessments, record keeping, end-of-year reviewing, packing up, squirmy children, lack of sleep, hot days, your battery is running low, and can you believe there's even a full moon on Friday? Welcome to the end of the school year!
End of Year

Honestly, my little guys are constantly bickering over little things that don't matter ("He looked at me!") and just can't focus on anything anymore, so it's time to pull all the stops out!  Yes, bribery and deception will be an everyday part of my life for the next 10 days!

Luckily, we've finished up the "have tos" this week, so it's time for the fun stuff!

1.  Theme Incentives! Next week my students will be bringing in beach towels and sleeping bags. Why? to make reading time more fun! We're going to pretend we're already on vacation, and are reading at the beach, or reading under the stars!  (Do you see the subliminal "reading during the summer is fun" theme?) Last year I gave a whole week to the beach, and a whole week to camping, but the schedule didn't work out quite the same this year. (See this post, this post, this post, and this post for pics and ideas for Seashore Week and Camping Week!

2.  Breathe! Find excuses to slow down! I play a lot of music in my classroom, but this time of year I let the music continue even when the kids are gone. It really does help calm my nerves! The image below is a link to Amazon, doesn't it sound delightful? 

Relax

3. Brain Breaks!  Keep plenty of brain breaks built into the schedule! The kids love them, and truly need them. My kids love Go Noodle (free)! These little cuties are doing wall pushups, which are part of  THIS GAME


reading game

4. Fun Learning! Keep working, of course, but save the favorite projects for this time of year! Every morning my little sweeties can't wait to see if their plants have grown! In fact, it's tough to get them to their other morning responsibilities or activities like Baseball Geography because they're so excited about their plants!

plant study

5. Make them work for it! Yes, teachers are quite deceptive: we say things like this:  "If you work really hard to learn your addition and subtraction facts, I'll let you work on your multiplication facts!" I've changed my scoreboard to bring out a little healthy competition. (See Whole Brain Teaching for more about the Scoreboard.) Whatever group has the most happy points at the end of the day gets to keep a plant on their desk the next day. Sometimes I let them put flags. too. Of course, since I control the scoreboard, I make sure that different teams win, and make sure there are plenty of ties so everyone gets to participate and see the joys of working hard, and the joys of helping their classmates. (Don't you love the creative names they chose for their groups?)
Whole Brain Teaching

If you're still in school like me, good luck!
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