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Categorical Thinking

The brain automatically wants to sort ideas into patterns and categories. This helps the brain organize and remember information.


When we encourage children to think of categories and patterns, we can increase their ability to make logical connections, draw conclusions, and make predictions.

Categorizing helps children process information. By sorting items into categories, we are helping them develop deeper meanings and understandings.

Even toddlers start to sort their toys! Sorting by color, shape or size are popular activities for the younger set. As they get older, they start to sort more items to help understand their life: numbers, letters, foods, books, and even trash. 

Categorical Thinking: The brain automatically wants to sort ideas into patterns and categories. We can help children strengthen these skills.

Once they're in school, they're learning a whole lot more categories in all the different subject areas: math (shapes, numerical systems) science (animals, plants, systems) social studies (countries, history, geography) writing (narrative, expository, persuasive)

And, of course, we all know about the Dewey Decimal system!
Categorical Thinking: The brain automatically wants to sort ideas into patterns and categories. We can help children strengthen these skills.

As we get older, categories help us keep track of our lives, both pleasure and business! Think of the categories involved in sports, TV shows and movies!

And of course, our daily budgets are in categories.


 So, it's pretty clear that our brains need to be able to sort our lives in to categories. Yes, this is a life skill!

How can we help children develop these skills? Well, here are a few suggestions:

1. Be a role model!  When you are organizing something, not only let them watch you, but also let them hear your reasoning. As you're picking up, talk about what you're doing...I'm going to put this paper on these shelves because this is where the writing materials go, or I'll put this book with the other informational books. 

2. Let them join in! At home, let them help you sort laundry, put dishes away or tidy up the playroom. At school, let them suggest ways to organize the books or the math materials. Get them thinking, and value their ideas. It's amazing what they can come up with!

3.  Let them practice sorting! Attribute blocks are a great way to sort by attribute, since each block has several attributes!

The image below has an affiliate link to Amazon (I get a few cents, it doesn't cost you a thing!) 

One of my favorite activities for the kids with these blocks is the "Attribute Train." It works like this:
  • The first person puts down any block.
  • The second person puts a block next to it that is different in only one way.
  • Play continues, with players putting down blocks in a "train", with only one change per block.
  • Keep playing until no more blocks can be played.
The kiddos absolutely LOVE this game, and will play it over and over, keeping them thinking!

Want another way to get them thinking about sorting and categorizing, and think about important vocabulary as well? Try some of these Boom Learning Digital Task Cards!


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Distance-Learning-Country-Science-Tool-or-Sandwich-BOOM-Digital-Task-Cards-5497983?utm_source=Categorizing%20blog%20post&utm_campaign=country%2C%20science%20tool%2C%20or%20sandwich


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Distance-Learning-Animal-Plant-or-Mineral-BOOM-Digital-Task-Cards-5509409?utm_source=categoriical%20thinking%20blog%20post&utm_campaign=Animal%20plant%20or%20mineral


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Distance-Learning-Matter-Solid-Liquid-or-Gas-BOOM-Cards-3344045?utm_source=Categorizing%20Blog%20Post&utm_campaign=matter%20boom


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Distance-Learning-Canada-USA-or-Both-BOOM-Cards-3829372?utm_source=Categorizing%20blog%20post&utm_campaign=Canada%20USA%20or%20both

The Best Thing We Can Do

Many schools are out for the rest of the school year.

Many teachers are worried about the "summer slide" being much greater than normal.

Because of the current situation, some children are learning online, some are practicing skills with "at home" packets, and some children aren't able to do any of this.

What can we do?
The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

Yes, there will be a big slide this year. Far bigger than the typical summer slide. But as teachers we know that we need to take our students from where they are, and bring them as far as we can bring them. Some students lose less than others. Some lose a lot. It happens. But we do the best we can.

There's not much we can do right now to prevent that slide, especially when we're not in the same room as the children.

But what can we do? 
 Brain research tells us that when children go for a long period of time without practicing skills, they won't remember what they've already learned. Therefore, we need to do a lot of review right now. Give them plenty of practice with the skills they have developed this year. But it's important to make it as fun as possible!

One of my favorite platforms for reviewing skills: Boom Learning! These digital task cards can be used on any device, and gives immediate feedback to the students. The teacher can see exactly what the students have been doing, and they can repeat each task over and over again for frequent review.

One of my favorite collections of Boom Learning Cards:

Here's a link to many more!

Here are some more review activities that are perfect for "end of year" or "summer review."

It's also important that children read frequently, and use their written skills often. I recommend a daily journal (with a gratitude element) and writing letters and emails to loved ones as well as friends. Board games and cooking experiences will give them math practice too!  Squeeze it in when you can, but in a fun way! 


The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

I'm sure you already know how crazy things are, and how many people are dealing with heavy duty anxiety right now. Children are scared. Parents are frustrated. Teachers are trying to learn a whole new job without training and are trying to make it work. It's definitely not a good time to push them academically. They are experiencing history, that's enough! Their brains are overloaded. Don't push, just review! (I'll bet your instincts were saying this, too!)
The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

This is probably the most important thing teachers and parents can do right now: let them know you care.

Elementary teachers know how much they are missed, and how reaching out to the little ones will make their day. Search for ways to make personal contact with each child. Email, call, drive by, or if your district allows, video conference. 

We know those personal connections are what really makes teaching work, and what makes online learning so tough.

But it's also what makes teaching worth it. 


Want to know something that might make you feel a little better? When this is all over, they'll be older. When they're older and emotionally ready to learn, they pick things up quickly. They'll be ok. They'll be more than ok!

Want more information? Here's an informational brochure for parents: Parent Communication Brochure: Social Distancing Edition


The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

Let Them Get BORED!

Do your children complain about being bored?
What do you do about it?

Well, studies show that the best thing we can do for the children is let them be bored!

Let Them Get BORED! There is much scientific research that tells us that it's not such a bad thing to let children get bored, but it's actually good for them!

Teachers know children are quick to say, "I'm bored," when what they mean is, "I don't feel like doing this work." These words can have a lot of power, and need to be taken in stride. Don't let "This is boring!" become an excuse to get out of work, or a way of getting someone to provide them with entertainment. 

Once you determine they are truly bored, here's some interesting information.

Let Them Get BORED! There is much scientific research that tells us that it's not such a bad thing to let children get bored, but it's actually good for them!
Yes, it's true. There is a whole lot of scientific evidence to prove that creative thinking happens when children (and adults) do their best thinking when they are bored.  Let them get bored and enjoy watching how creative they can get!

Let Them Get BORED! There is much scientific research that tells us that it's not such a bad thing to let children get bored, but it's actually good for them!
I know what you're thinking: how can boredom build confidence? Well, when children learn to entertain themselves without another person telling them what to do, they gain confidence in themselves. They realize they can do it! They have the power!

Let Them Get BORED! There is much scientific research that tells us that it's not such a bad thing to let children get bored, but it's actually good for them!
This makes sense, doesn't it? Boredom is the problem. Children think of creative ways to solve that problem, as long as no one interferes to entertain them. You'll be amazed at how many problems children can solve when given the opportunity! Then, of course, their confidence will continue to grow!

Let Them Get BORED! There is much scientific research that tells us that it's not such a bad thing to let children get bored, but it's actually good for them!
Admit it, these times are quite stressful! Please don't add the pressure to constantly entertain your children. Take some time for yourself, and let the children entertain themselves. They'll come up with something! They'll be fine. Make sure you are fine as well. 

Let Them Get BORED! There is much scientific research that tells us that it's not such a bad thing to let children get bored, but it's actually good for them!
They are still kids! If they're not used to having to entertain themselves, expect a major whine fest! It will take some time before they've figured it all out, but it's important that they do figure this out! 

In the meantime, wean them slowly into the world of creativity! Provide art materials, give them some hints of what's available and what they could do. 

But watch them closely! Boredom can also be a sign of clinical depression. That's a serious situation. 
Special needs children may also need more guidance.

Honestly, you know your children best. Watch them closely, give them plenty of love, and encourage them to be creative.

Here's a blog post I wrote years ago that's very appropriate for this situation:  Lessons Learned

https://www.elementarymatters.com/2012/01/lessons-learned.html

Here's another related blog post that I wrote this week: Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Time!

https://www.elementarymatters.com/2020/03/avoiding-too-much-screen-time.html

And, if they're totally stuck, here are 50 "no screen" ideas!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Social-Distancing-No-Screen-Ideas-5354786?utm_source=bored%20blog%20post&utm_campaign=Social%20Distancing%20ideas


Let Them Get BORED! There is much scientific research that tells us that it's not such a bad thing to let children get bored, but it's actually good for them!

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Time

Lots of teachers have created digital online work for their students.
People are reading books online.
People are binge watching movies and shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus.
This is all great stuff, but isn't this TOO MUCH screen time?


Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.


Technology is fabulous! Thanks to technology, our children can continue learning during the pandemic. They can go to interesting sites and have great fun interacting with friends online.

But enough is enough!

Studies show too much screen time can create posture problems, vision issues, mood swings, sleep disorders, and possible social dysfunction. Because they spend so much time sitting in one place, children show lack of muscular development and often obesity. Kids (and adults) who are stagnant for too long show signs of sleepiness, crankiness and lethargy. That's a big clue to shut the screens off!

Here are some things they can do once their online lessons are done!

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.
Board games are such fun for all involved. Plus, they involve important skills children need!  Skills like communication, strategy, patience, and problem solving may not be taught in schools, but they are certainly are needed in life! Plus, most games require a little reading and math, too!

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.
I'm not talking about books online, (although those are also fun) I'm talking about real books! The kind you can pick up, open, read, read again, then read it to your little sister. Maybe even read to the dog! There's nothing like a real book to escape all the madness that is going on in the world like that!

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.
Children need to have their social needs met, and that just can't happen in the "regular way" these days. True, they can use phones and computers to stay in touch on line, which is great, but who doesn't love getting a real letter!  

Here's a letter writing freebie to help you out!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Letter-Writing-Template-5166035?utm_source=blog%20post%20non%20screen&utm_campaign=Classy%20mail




Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.

Do you realize how many skills are involved in cooking? Well, first of all, there's reading the recipe. Then there's all that measuring, counting, and fractions. Many recipes involve learning vocabulary, and even noticing some scientific chemistry changes! We all know that following directions is a skill that kiddos just can't get enough of! 

Another thing about cooking... it has its own reward when you do it well! Children are more likely to try new foods when they cook them. Plus, there's that rewarding happiness when they serve their meal to their loved ones. 

Plus, it usually leads to some fun family time. We all need that!


Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.
Children need an opportunity to create. 
Getting away from the computer and creating is very healthy. 
What sort of creation are they passion about?  Music? Dance? Drawing? Painting? Fashion? All of the above?  There are many ways to create. Give them the materials and the time, and be sure to give them an appreciative audience!

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.
Children may be assigned projects from school, or can create some of their own. Or perhaps, the family can work on projects together! Family crafts are fun for all involved. Or, if you want to be more productive: clean out the attic, paint the bathroom, rearrange the living room furniture or plant a garden!

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.
Yes, you read that right, let them get bored! It's actually good for them, for one thing, it encourages them to be independent and solve their own problems. Plus, scientists say boredom leads to creativity! 

So, if they run out of schoolwork, get them off the screens and let them go! Watch your geniuses at work!


Here's another blog post, giving more information about the advantages of letting children be bored:

https://www.elementarymatters.com/2020/03/let-them-get-bored.html

Here's a freebie list of 50 things children can do that don't use screens: Social Distancing "No Screen" Ideas

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Social-Distancing-No-Screen-Ideas-5354786?utm_source=blog%20post%20on%20no%20screen%20time&utm_campaign=no%20screen%20ideas

What are your "No Screen" ideas?

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline.



Surviving "Social Distancing"

Are your children home?
Are you working from home?
Are you trying to keep the children from driving you crazy while you try to work from home?
Are you going stir crazy?
Welcome to our tribe!


If you've been developing a whole new respect for teachers and learning how challenging "home schooling" really is,
I definitely don't have all the answers, but I do have some ideas for survival! 

Surviving "Social Distancing" This blog post has suggestions and strategies for parents trying to deal with "home schooling" and having to help their children through a difficult time.
 Yes, we're all stuck at home, but the kiddos need to understand this is a totally new experience: Everyone in the country has to stay 6 feet or more away from each other. This is unexplored territory! Teachers are desperately trying to figure out how to do "distant learning" and "remote learning" and parents and caretakers are trying to make it all happen. Talk to them, let them know it's all OK, and we're all learning how to do it. Mistakes will happen, and we will deal the best we can.  

They're going to have a great story to tell their grandchildren someday! (I've heard this referred to this generation's "walked two miles to school in a snowstorm" story!)

Surviving "Social Distancing" This blog post has suggestions and strategies for parents trying to deal with "home schooling" and having to help their children through a difficult time.
This is probably the most important thing to do in order to maintain you own sanity and help the children survive. It wouldn't hurt to write out the schedule and post it where the children can see it.

Things to schedule: meals, getting showered and dressed, school work, outdoor time, down time, social time (phone or skype), reading, exercise, and special projects. I'm sure you can think of more. Children need predictability. They also need novelty, which can seem conflicting, but necessary. Once in a while, it's ok to break the schedule, but only with the understanding that it's a special case. For example, maybe you can pick one day of the week to hang out in jammies all day!

Surviving "Social Distancing" This blog post has suggestions and strategies for parents trying to deal with "home schooling" and having to help their children through a difficult time.
This one is going to be a tough one! Between so many distance learning programs coming from schools, activities that the children love online, games, movies, TV, and let's admit it, sometimes the best way to get anything done is to place them in front of the screen. These are all going to happen, but remember, it's not in their best interest to do this too often. Set strict guidelines for their screen time into the daily schedule, and be firm! There are plenty of things they can do that don't involve a screen! (Hint: help with housework and meals!)

This is baffling to children. They can't see many of the people they care about (teachers, friends, extended family) and they deserve to understand why. 
A good start might be to brainstorm how many things they touch during the day, followed by a conversation about how germs travel. If they seem anxious about the virus, acknowledge their feelings, but assure them that we will stop the virus by staying apart for a while until the virus dies out. Then we can see our friends again.

It's not easy to talk about it, especially if you have anxiety about the virus as well, but be strong, they need you! 

If you're trying to work from home, it's important to communicate this. Typically, "mom or dad at home" means fun time, but they need to know you need your uninterrupted time. 

Depending on how young the kiddos are, make sure there are times you ARE available to give them attention, and that they respect those times you are not available.

Surviving "Social Distancing" This blog post has suggestions and strategies for parents trying to deal with "home schooling" and having to help their children through a difficult time.
You may feel you need to keep them entertained, or that you're failing if they get bored, but science tell us that creativity happens when children get bored! If they have nothing to do, they have to create something to do! Be sure they have supplies that lead to creativity, such as paper, pencils, glue, scissors, and even paint. Of course, anything in the recycling bin is free game! 

You may be pleasantly surprised with their solution to boredom! 

Just a reminder: boredom is NOT an excuse to avoid schoolwork!

I know how hard it is to remain positive when you're frustrated and exhausted! But you're the adult. You can scream and cry (or other, more socially acceptable means of letting off steam) when they're asleep, but while they are watching you, it's important that you continue to smile and be positive in front of them. 

Be firm when they need to do school work, and be there for them when they need it. 

I know, it's hard, but they need you to be positive.

Surviving "Social Distancing" This blog post has suggestions and strategies for parents trying to deal with "home schooling" and having to help their children through a difficult time.
 Your children are precious. This may seem like a terrible burden, and a terrifying situation. 

But it's also a gift. It's extra time with your children. 
Enjoy them!

Here's an informational brochure with lots of information: 
 
Surviving "Social Distancing" This blog post has suggestions and strategies for parents trying to deal with "home schooling" and having to help their children through a difficult time.



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