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Take Time to Enjoy Them!

Teaching can be crazy busy! 
In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days.
Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!

Here's my best advice:

If you're anything like me, the kids are the reason you went into teaching to begin with. 
It wasn't to go to meetings. 
It wasn't to analyze test data. 
It wasn't to impress the administration. 
It was the kids.
It's always been about the kids.

Once in a while, I have a "game day." 
I kind of sneak it in, pretending it's a reward for being good, but it's really giving them a way to appreciate the skills they have learned and my way of enjoying the kiddos. 

As I'm sure you're aware, most board games practice many academic skills and social skills the children need to work on: counting, reading, taking turns, listening to directions, showing kindness, and plenty more! I have a few favorites I'd like to share with you. 

Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!
On a typical game day, I'll have a number of stations for the children, including a "work with teacher" station. That's when I pull out "Apples to Apples." (Click link to see game at Amazon. It's an affiliate link. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you a thing. Promise!) Apples to Apples brings in important skills such as reading, categorizing, and respecting another's opinion. (If you know the game, the judge's opinion is law!)
Another reason I love this? It always includes loads of giggles! (I'll never forget the time one of my little guys put down the "my teacher" card for the category, "ugly." I knew something was up when he couldn't stop laughing as he put down the card... he promised me it wasn't really true!)

Here are a few more recommendations: (Also links to Amazon, I promise it doesn't cost you a thing!)

Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!

Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!
Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!
Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!

Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!
A couple of games are great for practicing specific math skills. Yahtzee is a classic, plus it's addicting, so they'll play it again and again!
Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!

There are a gazillion games that can be played with a regular deck of playing cards! I often give the children a deck of their own as a gift, or I'll buy a bunch for the whole class to share.

Teaching can be crazy busy! In fact, it's easy to get discouraged by all the extra meetings and expectations for teachers these days. Here's my best advice: Take time to enjoy them! Here's how!
I'm sure you know plenty of card games to teach the kiddos, and you don't, make some up! Even just putting the cards in order is great for those little minds developing Number sense!

Here's a game I absolutely LOVE. I didn't make it up, I found it on Shelley Gray's blog. It's called Salute. (That's NOT an affiliate link, it's just a link to Shelley's blog.)

The children work in groups of three. Two of the children place a card on their forehead, facing out so that everyone can see it but them. (The move is almost like a "salute," hence the name.)

The third person, whom I call the captain, tells the other two the sum of their 2 cards. Then they figure out what their own card is. (It's like missing addends, isn't it?)

Salute can also be played to practice multiplication skills. The "captain" tells the product of the two cards, otherwise, it works the same way!

What things do you do to enjoy them?


Laughter is Truly the Best Medicine!

Did you realize that laughter is not only fun, but actually healthy for you?  



Here are some of the benefits of laughter:

1. Laughter releases good hormones - the kind of hormones that fight the stress hormones. We all know that children these days have a great deal of stress in their lives! (Can we say TESTING?)
2. Laughter boosts the immune system - those same hormones that fight stress help your body fight germs!
3. It lowers the blood pressure.
4. It relaxes your muscles.
5. According to a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, laughter during instruction increases test stores. (I don't know anything about this study other than seeing this information in several different places including THIS link. I want to learn more about this study!)
6. Humor can help erase negative emotions. Seriously, how angry can you feel while laughing?
7. Laughter provides a workout for many muscles including your abs.
8. Laughter is contagious, and builds social bonds.
9. Laughter is free!
10. I may be biased on this one, but I think there are few sounds more pleasant than the sound of children laughing.

I do make a point to include humor in my classroom every day. Luckily, second graders have fairly simple senses of humor.



In a writing lesson a couple of weeks ago, (about including things to get the reader's attention) I told them there were two words that are guaranteed to make children giggle:  bellybutton and underwear. (Of course I was very dramatic when telling this, with that dramatic pause after each word so that I got two sets of giggles!) Try it on your kids, it works!




One thing I love about teaching little ones... they always laugh at my jokes... no matter how many times I say it!  I've been known to wear out many a joke, yet still get laughs! Yesterday, when we cleaned out desks, I told them to take home their Christopher Columbus booklets, since "That ship has sailed".  Those booklets kept showing up for the rest of the day (yes, we're working on organizational skills) and I kept repeating... "because that ship has sailed". I got a laugh every time!




But it's almost November, when I get to use one of my favorite jokes to wear out:




Question:  If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

Answer:  Pilgrims!



Sometimes it takes some explanation, but that's half the fun!




What jokes do you share with your students?

Laughter is truly the best medicine: This post contains evidence that laughter is healthy AND helps learning happen! Plus, there are a few suggestions on squeezing a few laughs into the classroom.

Where Will the Pendulum Swing Next?

So many teachers I know are frustrated. Report cards, meetings, data, conferences, planning, reports, IEPs, and so on! There is far too much to do in the little time we have. The children are needier than ever, and we don't dare stop pushing the curriculum to see to their needs.

I've been in education for a very long time. I've seen that pendulum swing in every direction!
The educational pendulum has swung out of control. Read about some of the educational fads as well as ideas for the ideal school!

I've seen Whole Language, phonics based reading, language experience, basal readers, invented spelling, standard spelling, Math Their Way, computer learning labs (Waterford in the 90s!), The Writing Process, 6 Traits, individualized reading, whole group learning, worksheets, seat work, round robin reading, time-on-task, lecturing, teacher centered classrooms, student centered classrooms, technology centered classrooms, reading across the curriculum, phonemic awareness, think-pair-share, cross-curriculum units, collaborative learning, differentiated learning, learning styles, multiple intelligences, activity based learning, STEM, STEAM, flipped classroom, developmental learning, problem based learning, regimented classrooms, open classrooms, teachers as knowledge dispensers, teachers as facilitators, rubrics, hands-on learning, posting learning objectives, PLCs, Values Clarification, Precision Teaching, textbooks, trade books, sitting in rows, sitting in circles, sitting in groups, Brain Gym, Bloom's Taxonomy, Madeline Hunter's lesson design, Smartboards, ipads, Chromebooks, mainstreaming, inclusion, prior knowledge, peer tutoring, learning centers, left-brain and right-brain, portfolios, authentic assessment, creative thinking, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, gifted education, integrated curriculum, standards based, self-esteem building, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top.

Wow, no wonder I'm so tired! If you recognize all the fads above, I'll bet you're as old as I am! I'm sure I've missed a bunch as well, but I think this list will bring back lots of memories, if not nightmares!

I've used all of the above teaching strategies. I'm not claiming to like or dislike these methods, but I can honestly say I've learned something from each! And I can honestly say I've seen many of these forced upon teachers until they were proved ineffective, or until something "better" came along.

There are many good things happening today in education. Yet, today's kids are stressed out more than ever before. Teachers are losing confidence and determination, and are leaving the profession.

Something is not right. Something has to change.

And I predict it will. Why? Because that's how education works!

I read this article this morning:

It really got me thinking... if I were to design my own school, not based on data or test results, but based on the needs of children, school would look quite differently.

😊Teachers would have more respect. They would know what their students need, and would offer lessons along those lines. 

😊Classrooms would have far less structure and a whole lot more fun. 

😊Focus would be on learning to work with others, not doing well on tests.

😊Basic skills, such as reading, math, spelling and handwriting, would be taught when the children are ready to learn them.

😊Class numbers would be smaller, more flexible, and teachers would be encouraged to co-teach.

😊Children would have recess several times a day.

😊Art, Music, and Physical Education would be offered daily.

This has been rather therapeutic! Many of my ideas are based on things I've read, but this sure was fun! 

Give it a try! It doesn't have to be realistic, but what would your ideal school look like? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!

The educational pendulum has swung out of control. Read about some of the educational fads as well as ideas for the ideal school!

In the meantime, if you're feeling crazy, exhausted, and/ or frustrated, you are not along. It won't last forever.



Brainy Kinesthetic Vowels Sounds

The English Language has 18 vowel sounds, but only 5 actual vowels. (I know, "sometimes Y", but Y doesn't have its own sound, it borrows from E and I.)  

Where do we start?  With the short vowel sounds! Why? Because close to 50% of the times those vowels are used, they make the short vowel sound. 

Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.


Unfortunately, the short vowel sounds are tough for the little ones to remember. The difference between the short e and the short i are pretty minuscule, but essential for encoding and decoding words.



I'm a teacher who needs to get the kids moving. I have all sorts of little tricks for the children to do to help them remember certain things, including vowel sounds.



When we practice short a, the children turn their body into an A shape, then "take off" saying ăăăăstronaut.

Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.

When practicing the short e sound, they turn into an E and say  ĕĕĕxercise!
Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.


The key word for the short i sound is insect.  The kids are always very creative hopping around the room as the letter I, saying  ĭ ĭ ĭnsect!
Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.



You guessed it, short o's key word is octopus.  Can you picture the little ones running around saying  ŏŏŏctoopus?  There's lots of giggling involved.
Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.


Finally, the short u sound is remembered when the children make the shape of a u, while holding an ŭŭŭmbrella.



Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.



I'm combining many of the ways that research shows brains remember: Getting involved physically, combining the physical with the auditory, and, of course, making it fun.  It takes some practice, but the little ones learn to identify those 5 sounds with those 5 letters.

Enjoy these brainy vowel sounds!

Brainy Kinesthetic Vowel Sounds: Here are some movement tricks to help the children remember the short vowel sounds.


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