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Your Fantastic Elastic Brain!

 Your Fantastic Elastic Brain! A great book for starting the school year, along with ideas and a freebie to accompany the book.
Some of my blogging friends and I wanted to get together and celebrate Back to School books! 

Please don't cringe at those words Back to School. People in my neck of the woods don't have to even think about setting up our classrooms for a couple more weeks, but there are people out there who are actually ALREADY back at school! The school schedules all over the world are quite different, but it's all ok. If you're not ready for Back to School, just bookmark (or pin) this post until you're ready.
Click the book image for a link to Amazon!

For my Back to School book, I have chosen Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. It's appropriate for kids K-3.

If you've ever read my blog before, you'll know that I am absolutely fascinated by the brain and how it works. 

This book explains how the brain works in kid-friendly language! 
It tells the specific parts of the brain and the specific jobs they have, and how each brain is different, which makes us all uniquely different. 

I particularly love the part that discusses things that kids have learned, such as playing soccer, that were hard at first, but with practice, got easier! They might have even made mistakes, but the mistakes helped them learn!

If that's all it were about, this book could be used any time of year. The reason this makes a great beginning of the year book is because it tells the reader they can stretch their own brain

Who wouldn't want to stretch their brain? 

Isn't that our job as teachers? To stretch their brains?
(I refuse to believe that our job is to have the kiddos score well on tests!)

I feel it's our job as teachers to teach the children to be better learners,  and to stretch their brains as much as they can!  

That leads me to this freebie, based on this awesome book.

It has some activities to let the children tell what's already in their brain, plus a chance to challenge their brains a bit more! Click the image or click HERE for the link to the freebie! Enjoy!

If you like this post, be sure to join in with my blogging friends below to see more Back to School books, along with freebies to go with them!

How to Squeeze in Social Studies and Science

Teaching is harder than ever these days!

How to Squeeze in Science and Social Studies: Suggestions for primary grades to fit these important (and fun) subjects into the day with an overscheduled classroom.

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 to 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 globe. 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 got a little freebie for you here, to make science and social studies a bit easier for you at the beginning of the school year! Just click the image or click HERE!

How to Squeeze in Science and Social Studies: Suggestions for primary grades to fit these important (and fun) subjects into the day with an overscheduled classroom.
What are your ideas to find time for these valuable subjects?

How to Squeeze in Science and Social Studies: Suggestions for primary grades to fit these important (and fun) subjects into the day with an overscheduled classroom.

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!

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!

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