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Celebrating Kwanzaa

What do you know about Kwanzaa?
Celebrate Kwanzaa: This blog post shares information, traditions, and resources to learn about how Kwanzaa is celebrated.
Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966 as a way for African Americans to celebrate their African heritage.

Kwanzaa starts on December 26th and continues until January 1st. Each of the 7 days is dedicated to a principle:
Day 1: unity
Day 2: self-determination
Day 3: collective work or responsibility
Day 4: cooperative economics
Day 5: purpose
Day 6: creativity
Day 7: faith

On each of the 7 days, those celebrating Kwanzaa light a candle on a special wooden candelabra called a Kinara. (Image is a link to Amazon.)

Celebrate Kwanzaa: This blog post shares information, traditions, and resources to learn about how Kwanzaa is celebrated.
Here are some books to help your students learn more about the celebration of Kwanzaa: (Each image is a link to Amazon for more information.)

                                  

Since Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration, it's important to include music as part of the celebration! Here are some examples of music that celebrate the culture of Kwanzaa! 

                       

Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their homes with homemade arts and crafts, and focus on the three colors of Kwanzaa: red, green, and black.

Food is also an important component of any cultural celebration! Typically a feast happens on the sixth evening of Kwanzaa. Typical foods served might include collard greens, corn, sweet potato pie, fried okra, catfish, jerk chicken, yams, and bananas.
Celebrate Kwanzaa: This blog post shares information, traditions, and resources to learn about how Kwanzaa is celebrated.
Another tradition that comes with Kwanzaa is the passing of the unity cup. Celebrants each take a sip from the cup and wish for unity and togetherness.

Although the holiday was created for African Americans to celebrate their African culture, one does not have to be African American to celebrate the concepts of unity and togetherness!


Celebrate Kwanzaa: This blog post shares information, traditions, and resources to learn about how Kwanzaa is celebrated.

Three Things to Do When a Student Gets Frustrated

School can be very frustrating. 
Some children find school frustrating once in a while, 
and others find school frustrating quite often.

Three Things to Do When a Student Gets Frustrated: students can get frustrated over many things from math problems to social issues. Here are three things teachers can do to help frustrated students.

Frustration happens often with math concepts, but it can happen in many areas of the curriculum as well in social issues. No matter what causes the frustration, here are a few things a teacher can do if a child becomes frustrated.
Three Things to Do When a Student Gets Frustrated: students can get frustrated over many things from math problems to social issues. Here are three things teachers can do to help frustrated students.
1. Show some empathy! 

Seriously, we've all been there!

I'll bet you could easily name at least 5 things that you found frustrating in your past. Here are a few of mine: sports, (That should count as 5 by itself!) making friends, (I was painfully shy as a child.) teaching, (As much as I love it, we all know it has its frustrating moments!) parenting, (Who really knows all the answers?) and relationships! I often told students about how I was expected to play sports, but was horrible, no matter how I tried. 

It's pretty tough for children to feel frustrated in school. It matters to them that we care. It might also help to remind them of times when they had successes after working hard on something!

Three Things to Do When a Student Gets Frustrated: students can get frustrated over many things from math problems to social issues. Here are three things teachers can do to help frustrated students.

2. Practice stress relief strategies! 

When something is causing stress, the kiddos need to release that stress! 

Here are some of my favorites for children:
-deep breathing
-exercise (Don't you love Go Noodle?)
-music
-a snack
-coloring
-laughter

Three Things to Do When a Student Gets Frustrated: students can get frustrated over many things from math problems to social issues. Here are three things teachers can do to help frustrated students.

3. Put it to the side. 

If something is frustrating you, or a child, it's not always best to keep drilling that concept at that moment. The brain often works better by putting it aside. 

If possible, leave it until the next day. A good night's sleep will give the brain the chance to process the information and make sense of it all. More often than not, a quick review will bring those favorite words of a teacher, "Oh, now I get it!"

The brain really does go to work when the body sleeps, and often works things out by the next day!



Three Things to Do When a Student Gets Frustrated: students can get frustrated over many things from math problems to social issues. Here are three things teachers can do to help frustrated students.


Ten Classroom Management Tips with the Brain in Mind

Science has done a whole lot of research lately, and I'm absolutely fascinated by it all. Most important, scientists have been coming to conclusions that most teachers already knew about. Now there's evidence to back it up!
Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!

Here are some brain based ideas to help keep them learning in your classroom:

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
1. Pick your battles!  Many kids struggle to behave at school. If we call them on every one of those misbehaviors, learning would never happen! It's important to choose which behaviors are most important to correct so that learning will happen.


Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
2. Encourage failure! It's hard for so many kids, but as we know, failure is part of growing. It's important to make failure an every day part of the classroom. It's important that children see us fail, and we need to model what to do when failure happens. I often say things to my students such as, "Thank you for making that mistake! Now we all know how to work around this challenge!" (See this post: The Importance of Failure!)

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
3. Take care of your own needs! If you've ever gone on a plane, you've heard the "put your own oxygen mask on first, then assist children," speech. We can't help children if our own needs are compromised. Take care of yourself!

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
4. Model respectful, kind behavior! The best way to teach children to be respectful is to show them how to be respectful. When you are respectful and kind to children, you build a rapport with them, which makes them more likely to listen to what you have to say, and learn from you!

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!

5. Be firm and consistent! Being respectful doesn't mean let them get away with inappropriate behaviors! It's important to speak firmly when unwanted behaviors happen, and remind them each time the unwanted behaviors return. No need to be nasty about it, but acknowledge it.

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
6. Be clear about expectations! As mentioned above, communicating appropriate behaviors is essential! If you don't communicate what you expect, they won't know what to do, and might show a variety of unexpected behaviors! See this post: Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback!)

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
7. Make sure you're working at the student's level! If the work is too hard for the child, the child will become frustrated and act out. If the work is too easy for the child, the child won't be learning a whole lot and could become restless. As teachers, we know what a balancing act it is to work all students at their own levels, but with a lot of tricks up your sleeve, it can be done!

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
8. Keep a sense of humor! Keeping a sense of humor in the classroom helps to keep a good rapport between teacher and student, and keeps them interested in what's going on in class. Plus, laughter is a great stress reliever! (See this post: Laughter is Truly the Best Medicine!)

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
9. Keep your lessons engaging!  No matter how smart the kiddos are, or how clever the materials might be, if you don't portray a positive energy for the subject matter, you'll be wasting your time! Teachers need to be entertainers, in addition to everything else they do!

Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!
10. Integrate the Arts! I can't even begin to tell you how much I've read about the connections between the arts and learning! I'm not just talking about letting them draw.(Although that's a good start!) Including music, movement, as well as the visual arts will help the learning happen in the classroom!


Ten Classroom Management Tips with The Brain in Mind: These tips are research based, and will help teachers manage their classrooms and ensure learning will happen!

Five things I've learned about teaching by being a learner

Teachers can learn so much about teaching by putting themselves in a position of a learner!

Five things I've learned about teaching by being a learner: here are some ways that being a learner can help a person learn about teaching.

I've recently taken up Tai Chi, and have put myself in the position of learner again.

There are a whole lot of things I'm loving about learning Tai Chi, but that's not really what this post is about.

This post is about what I've been experiencing as a learner.

The Tai Chi instructors use a 3-3-3 method of teaching.

1. First the instructors demonstrate a move 3 times. They do it slowly and talk it through, drawing attention to specific parts. (Tai Chi is VERY detailed! Every muscle of the body is facing a certain direction and performing a specific function!)

2. Then, they do the move with us, guiding us, talking us through it as we do it.

3. Finally, after practicing together, we do the move without the teacher. Even then, since there are several levels of experience in the group, and most of us watch out of the corner of our eye to make sure we're doing the right thing.

Some things I really love about this:

1. We get plenty of opportunity to see what the move should look like.

2. We get to practice with help. (Teachers know this as Guided Reading.)

3. When we practice without the instructor, (s)he watches us to see if we're getting it, and if we're not, (s)he goes over what we're not getting. 

4. We  help and support each other. 

Five things I've learned about teaching by being a learner:

1. It's helpful to have different people explain something to you. Each instructor says things in a slightly different way, and one of those ways will be the way you'll learn it! 

2. As I get toward the end of the class, I start to lose the ability to focus. No matter how great the teaching is, (which is always wonderful) I usually need some "re-teaching" at the next session.

3. I need lots of repetition before something really sinks in for good.

4. Talking to other people that are learning the same thing really helps!

5. Working together and leaning on each other helps the whole group get better.

The form of Tai Chi that I've been learning is Taoist Tai Chi.

Recently, the New York Times published these articles about Tai Chi:


Five things I've learned about teaching by being a learner: here are some ways that being a learner can help a person learn about teaching.

Partner Standing Challenge: Learning to Work Together!

Here's a fun way to encourage children (or adults) to work together!

Partner Standing Challenge: Learning to work together! Here's a fun challenge that won't take up too much time, but will help children or adults learn to work together.


This is a relatively quick one, but it really emphasizes the need for each partner to do his/ her part!

Participants will need a partner.

Some group members may choose not to participate, if they are uncomfortable with touching others. That's OK. Our goal is NOT to make anyone feel uncomfortable. They can work as "coaches."

The job of each partnership: Partners sit back to back with arms interlocked.  While pushing gently against each other, they help each other stand up.

The job of the coaches: It's important for coaches to observe first, without saying anything. The coaches should notice what the partnerships are doing that's working, and notice what's not working. If a partnership is successful, the coach needs to point that out. If a partnership is not successful, the coach needs to be kind, point out what they're doing correctly, and if needed, give hints.

When a partnership has completed the challenge: Try it again with a different partner!

Extra challenge: Try with groups of 4!

Don't forget: The most important part of a challenge like this is the discussion afterward. Be sure to ask questions such as... What did you and your partner do that worked? What did you and your partner do that didn't work? What did you learn about working together?

Partner Standing Challenge: Learning to work together! Here's a fun challenge that won't take up too much time, but will help children or adults learn to work together.

Helping Parents Help their Children Be Successful!

Communicating with parents can be tricky, especially when it comes to giving them advice! There's a fine line between "helping" and "making them feel inadequate." 

Helping Parents Help their Children be Successful: Here are some ideas to help keep communication open and share information with parents. Plus, there's a freebie!

So how do we help parents help their children?

We know that parents aren't experts, but we know they are experts about their own children! 

Plus, we know they love those children unconditionally, and would do anything to help them!

When giving suggestions, it's important that one doesn't put them on the defense. I prefer to use phrases like "experts say," or "recent research shows."

Another idea?  Pass the buck!

Have someone else give them the advice!

That's just what I've been working on: brochures to help parents help their children be successful! 

My first issue is the back to school edition, and it's free!

Helping Parents Help their Children be Successful: Here are some ideas to help keep communication open and share information with parents. Plus, there's a freebie!
It comes with ideas and suggestions for use, and can be printed in color or in black and white.

Helping Parents Help their Children be Successful: Here are some ideas to help keep communication open and share information with parents. Plus, there's a freebie!
Printing in black and white on colored paper is awesome!

Helping Parents Help their Children be Successful: Here are some ideas to help keep communication open and share information with parents. Plus, there's a freebie!

It might be a good idea NOT to send this home the first week of school when parents are overwhelmed with paperwork. It will be more likely to be noticed the second week of school!

I'd love to see what you think of these brochures... I'm working on the next edition and I'd love to hear your ideas!


These brochures are in a bundle, available here: Parent Communication:  Monthly Brochures for the Whole Year!


Helping Parents Help their Children be Successful: Here are some ideas to help keep communication open and share information with parents. Plus, there's a freebie!

5 Summer "Must Dos" for Teachers

Summer Vacation! 

Some of you have been on vacation for quite a while!

Others just barely started vacation.

Wherever you are in your vacation, it's well deserved, and I hope you're enjoying it!

But there are a few things to accomplish before the summer is over:






5 Summer "Must Dos" for Teachers: Here are five things that teachers should do in order to make the summer complete.
Once you've caught your breath, be sure to reflect on the past year. 

Think about your successes! What made them successes? What made them successes? What could make them even better? Will you try these next year?

Think about the things that didn't work this year. Why didn't they work? What could you have done to make them work? Will you try these next year?

What was the best part of the year?

5 Summer "Must Dos" for Teachers: Here are five things that teachers should do in order to make the summer complete.
You've worked hard and deserve to relax. Give yourself some down time where you don't have to think about anything!

One of my favorite ways to relax is to sit by a body of water and read, with my feet in the sand and a book in my hand! There are plenty of other ways to relax, too! What's your favorite?

5 Summer "Must Dos" for Teachers: Here are five things that teachers should do in order to make the summer complete.
It's quite possible that this can overlap with #2, but having fun is essential when you've spent the last 10 months dealing with a stressful job! Lunch with friends, dinner with the husband, or a water park with the family. Whatever is fun for you, it's the time to do it!

Be sure to include something that makes you laugh... it's healthy!

Summer is really the only time of year I can escape into a book. During the school year, I'm reading books to improve my craft, or some other work related non-fiction. If I try to read for fun, I fall asleep!  It's time to escape into a book. I'd love to know about your favorite summer reads!

5 Summer "Must Dos" for Teachers: Here are five things that teachers should do in order to make the summer complete.

Yes, it's not too early to start thinking about the next school year. Maybe not too much yet, but start thinking about what you might expect this coming year. Since you already reflected about this year with #1, it won't be too much trouble to start thinking about the future. 


5 Summer "Must Dos" for Teachers: Here are five things that teachers should do in order to make the summer complete.

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