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Tools for Learning

I always like to start the year with lots of learning tools for my students. 
Tools for Learning! Here are several tools for children to learn to help them with the learning process. Plus, there's a freebie sample!

I've often bought those fancy name tags for the children's desks that have extra pictures and tools for the children to use. I keep looking for the perfect name tags, and I can't find them. Last year I made name tags with plenty of tools. It was kind of a pain, but I made all the parts and cut them all out and put them on the name tags.  

I've always given the children a 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 card with the Handwriting Without Tears alphabet on one side, and a number grid from 0 - 120 on the other side. Those cards were incredibly handy! I'll make those cards again, but I have also made the ultimate tool kit with just about everything I could think of!  

I started with Math. I made a color coded chart from 0 - 120, number lines, tens frames, a place value grid, references for money, clocks, and shapes, key words and tables for addition and subtraction facts. See the image or see here: Math Tools for Learning
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Math-Tools-for-Learning-1328013?utm_source=59b&utm_campaign=math%20tools




There are 5 pages of Writing tools: An overview of the 6 Traits of Writing, a word bank, a writing poster, short and long vowel references, and a proofreading guide. See the image or see here: Writing Tools for Learning.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writing-Tools-for-Learning-1328048?utm_source=59b&utm_campaign=writing%20tools


For Reading, there is a reference for long and short vowels, a list of reading genres, a list of questions to ask while reading a selection, a list of reading skills, a list of reading strategies, suggestions on choosing books and reading fluently. See the image or see here: Reading Tools for Learning

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reading-Tools-for-Learning-1328100?utm_source=59b&utm_campaign=reading%20tools
For Social Studies, there's a map of North America, directional symbols, lists for days of the week, months of the year, continents, and oceans. See the image or see here: Social Studies Tools for Learning

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Social-Studies-Tools-for-Learning-1328126?utm_source=59b&utm_campaign=SS%20tools


There are 7 pages of Science tools: 2 pages of Science Vocabulary, a list of science skills, the 5 senses, the planets, Science and Engineering Practices, the Engineering Design Process, Typical S.T.E.M. elements,and a list of healthy habits. See the image or see here: Science Tools for Learning




I've put together a sampling of these materials as a freebie.You can download this freebie (as shown above) through the image or here: The Learning Tool Kit Sampler

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1duvVkQ7NPyIQSL4dzeau1iQZh36CqiG5/view?usp=sharing


It took forever to complete all these parts, but it's going to be soooooo worth it! I'm going to have the children cut out the parts and paste them onto individual folders, one for each subject, then I'll laminate them so they can use these tools all year. 

I want the children to put them together themselves so they'll be more familiar with the materials and will have some ownership on how they are designed. 

I'm thinking I'll color code the folders, so it will be easy to find the tool they need. For example, when they're working on writing, they'll pull out the red folder.  

These tools are available individually, but are also available as a bundle. (Save HUGE with the bundle!) The Learning Tool Kit Bundle

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Tools-for-Learning-Bundle-285346?utm_source=59b&utm_campaign=Science%20tools


I hope you're as excited about these tools as I am. 

Tools for Learning! Here are several tools for children to learn to help them with the learning process. Plus, there's a freebie sample


Learning About Learning from Teaching Golf

I helped out my gentleman friend with his golf camp this week. 
Learning About Learning from Teaching Golf: Isn't it amazing how we become better teachers through something that has nothing to do with what we teach? This blog post has several points about teaching that apply to many subjects, even golf!


Yes, that really says golf camp, but don't faint, I didn't actually teaching golf. I know better than that!  I just helped with crowd control.
I really don't know anything about golf. I've always been terrible at sports, and really don't have any desire to go there. But I enjoyed watching my guy in action, and it got me thinking about teaching and learning.  

In a way, I'm envious. What he teaches is far less complicated than what I teach. He has far less students, and only has to teach a few different skills, that just keep getting practiced for the rest of the week. I'm also a bit envious because the kids that are learning golf have far greater attention spans than the kids I work with! These kids are ages 9 - 16.  My second graders are 7.
Learning About Learning from Teaching Golf: Isn't it amazing how we become better teachers through something that has nothing to do with what we teach? This blog post has several points about teaching that apply to many subjects, even golf!

I found myself comparing my job to his job. I guess teachers always make those connections, it's who we are!

These are some things I noticed happening at golf camp, that also happen in the classroom:
  • Feedback is essential. In golf, the ball gives the feedback. If it goes where you wanted it to, you're doing it right. If it doesn't go where you want it, you need to adjust.
  • There is a lot of repetition on important points. These guys worked all week on the basic strokes, and they often were quizzed... "How is chipping different from pitching?"
  • The vocabulary is used over and over until it flows naturally. Yes, I really do know what chipping and pitching are!
  • Even golfers need a break to let their learning settle before they hear something new.  
  • It's important to practice correctly. Practicing incorrectly could create a bad habit. Those bad habits are harder to correct than learning to do it right to begin with!  (Accuracy has more value than speed in reading!)
  • Talking about it helps! Those conversations about what you're learning helps you understand what you're learning.
  • Movement helps the learning. In golf, that's easy! Once they get the feel for each stroke, they can focus on the details, it's all about moving. It's not so easy to include movement in the teaching of reading, but it helps!
  • Making connections helps the brain remember information. When the golfers were taught each stroke, they heard connections to other sports and other movements, particularly when it came to the "follow through" of each stroke. Readers make connections to the books they read. The brain needs these connections!
  • The use of humor is necessary and appreciated. Brain research tells us that emotions help the learning stick. My guy tends to slip jokes into his demonstrations, even though a few of them were over the heads of the kids. I admit, I tend to do that in the classroom, too. If they kids aren't entertained, at least I am!
  • Even golfers have assessments! On the last day, the boys were asked to "teach" something they had learned to the others. It was very impressive! They were a little quiet about it, but they used the right vocabulary, and described the details of the different strokes! My gentleman friend got the feedback he needed on his teaching skills.

Interestingly enough, most of the above items go right along with what brain research has taught us about how the brain learns! Isn't it amazing how much teaching golf has to do with teaching reading? or math? or social studies? or science?

The other day I was inspired to make this Par 3 Math game:


 You can find a smaller, free version of this same game here: Par 3 Math Freebie
 

It was so well received, that I was inspired to make another golf themed game! I made this phonics game.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Short-Vowel-Sounds-Golf-Themed-BINGO-Game-278505?utm_source=post%2058b&utm_campaign=Par%203%20short%20vowels

 It also works like a Bingo game, and works with dice. There are enough game boards so it can be played with a whole reading group.
Learning About Learning from Teaching Golf: Isn't it amazing how we become better teachers through something that has nothing to do with what we teach? This blog post has several points about teaching that apply to many subjects, even golf!

Moments of Courage

This post is about courage. When I think about all the difficult days I've had in my life, and all the incredible obstacles I've had to overcome in my life and in my teaching career, that would be a long, long, story.  
Moments of Courage: This post tells about an experience that showed me what I have worked for mattered in the life of a young lady.

The most difficult obstacle I've ever had to overcome was when my husband left me. I had to pull myself and my 2 1/2 year old daughter together and forge ahead. I'd tell the details about that, but it's far too personal to post online. All I can say is that I buried myself into my job and into being a mom, and I'm still here.  


I could tell about my stroke, but I've already done that.  (See When Bad Things Happen, Make Lemonade.) Instead, I wanted to tell you about a lesson I had, when I really knew the importance of making it through every day in the classroom, and giving each child everything you can.

I've been teaching long enough to see many of my students grow up to become adults, even wives, husbands, and parents. 

Unfortunately, I've been around long enough to see a few pass on.
By far, the worst, was a beautiful young lady with a 6 month old son, who was shot in front of the child by the child's father. I had Crystal when she was in 5th grade.  She wasn't a brilliant scholar, but she was a good kid who loved to read. Like many, math didn't come easily, but she worked hard. She was a very social 10 year old girl, and didn't hesitate to write to me in her journal about which boys she thought were cute and her frequent crushes. I always wrote back. I honestly don't even remember what I wrote, but I made sure she knew I cared.

Crystal went off to middle school and high school, and I never really heard from her, but I thought about her from time to time, especially when I'd heard she had a baby.

Then... the horrible news. I saw the story on the news and read about it in the paper. I knew I had to go to the wake, although it was tough. I remember seeing photographs of Crystal, several were taken around the time I had her in class. 

I'll never forget the look in her mother's eyes when I shook her hand at the wake and reminded her I was Crystal's teacher in 5th grade. I also remember how the mother clung to my hand, and wondering if she'd let it go.  

Finally, I left of the wake and started walking back to my car. A girl about the same age came running over to me saying, "Ms. DeCost, I'm so glad you came! You were Crystal's favorite teacher!"

I can still see her running over to me and saying those words. It's moments like this that remind me that everything we do may matter in the life of some child. I'm glad I gave Crystal everything I could. I really hope I made a difference in her life.
Moments of Courage: This post tells about an experience that showed me what I have worked for mattered in the life of a young lady.
 

Classy Mail

Ever have one of those days where you just can't come up with a writing mini-lesson, or just don't have the time to put it together? 

Classy Mail.  This is a tried and true writing activity that can be used over and over again, and it's great for the sub tub! (There's a freebie!)

Maybe it's near report card time, or you are pulled for a meeting and need to leave something easy for an Assistant. Or maybe you're going to be out and need something to leave for a substitute! 
Classy Mail.  This is a tried and true writing activity that can be used over and over again, and it's great for the sub tub! (There's a freebie!)


This activity is one I always keep in my "sub tub"! Run off the letter and envelope back to back, and you'll have a letter on one side, and the other side can be folded into an envelope. (See HERE or see the image for the link to this freebie.)

Classy Mail.  This is a tried and true writing activity that can be used over and over again, and it's great for the sub tub! (There's a freebie!)

I like to start off by having each student fold and address an envelope to himself/ herself. We have the "Wee Deliver" program in my school, where children mail their letters in a "real" mailbox, and once a week, students work with a parent volunteer to process and deliver that mail. Everyone in the school has an "address" according to their classroom. (My street is "Broadway", as I'm a big musical theater fan!) Even if you don't have this program, you can assign a "class address" for each child, since using home addresses might not be recommended for privacy purposes.

For younger students, the envelopes can be pre-addressed. My second graders struggle to remember all the parts of an address, so I make several copies for each child and keep them for "those days". (Another advantage to this activity... it can be repeated over and over!)

Once the envelopes are addressed, the teacher collects them, and shuffles them. Then the children choose one of the envelopes (making sure they don't get their own) and write a letter to that person.

With younger students, I spend some time making sure the children have ideas for letter writing. We brainstorm a list, which I keep in the view of the children. I'll spell key words for them, and make sure they have plenty of ideas.

If someone is absent, I'll have early finishers write to them, or even better, I write to them myself. 

I find this activity to be rewarding for all involved: it's easy on the teacher's valuable planning time, the children enjoy interacting with each other, and it has "built in feedback"! When the children get the letters, they respond! If they enjoy the letter, that's feedback! If they have trouble reading the letter, that's feedback, too. Honestly, when the children have a captive audience of a classmate or friend, they tend to focus on writing so their audience will enjoy it!  
Brain research tells us that authentic feedback is the best feedback of all. It also tells us that interaction with others and activities with true meaning are motivating to children. What's more motivating than passing notes in class... writing letters to classmates?
Classy Mail.  This is a tried and true writing activity that can be used over and over again, and it's great for the sub tub! (There's a freebie!)

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