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Gotta Get a Gimmick!

There is a song from the Broadway show Gypsy called Gotta Get a Gimmick! Many of you may know I'm a big fan of musical theatre, and have performed in many, many productions of theatrical shows. 
 
In fact, I tend to be rather theatrical in my classroom, too. 
(You might have guessed this from my profile picture.)
 
Sometimes a silly gimmick can grab the kids attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting. I'm sure you've done it. Here are some examples.

This post has nothing to do with that show.

But, seriously, have you ever noticed how a silly little gimmick can grab the kids' attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting! I'm sure you've done it! 

Here are some gimmicks I've used!

Sometimes a silly gimmick can grab the kids attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting. I'm sure you've done it. Here are some examples
 
Giant Dice: I'm sure you've seen these! I could have given these little guys a worksheet to practice adding 3 addends, but the giant dice and the whiteboards made them forget they were practicing a skill!
 
Sometimes a silly gimmick can grab the kids attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting. I'm sure you've done it. Here are some examples.

M&Ms! This lovely lady found the M&Ms a fun way to make sure she was leaving spaces between words!

Sometimes a silly gimmick can grab the kids attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting. I'm sure you've done it. Here are some examples.

Brain Breaks! These two cuties are doing wall push ups. The kids absolutely love this stuff! Plus, they need it! These two are playing a game that has the Brain Breaks build right in, but they don't need to be "built in". Brain Breaks should be a big part of every day! It's amazing what a small amount of movement or a change of pace can do for learning!

Sometimes a silly gimmick can grab the kids attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting. I'm sure you've done it. Here are some examples

Mini Cards! These young gentlemen are practicing addition with 2 digit numbers. This is another case where a worksheet would be sufficient, but these little mini cards just make it so much more fun for the little guys! They love these!

Sometimes a silly gimmick can grab the kids attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting. I'm sure you've done it. Here are some examples.

Bracelets! These bracelets are simply beads (from any craft store) and pipe cleaners. This particular one was made for the new year, and was a chance for the children to practice facts that add up to 14. They can manipulate the beads to make 8+6 or 9+5 or other combinations.  My students love these bracelets so much, they even make them at indoor recess!

I have plenty more, and I'll bet you do too!


I don't believe in ALWAYS using a gimmick. Sometimes they just have to work. But sometimes they need a little something extra to get them going!

If you like what you see here on Elementary Matters, please join me on social media HERE.
 
Sometimes a silly gimmick can grab the kids attention and turn a mundane task into something exciting. I'm sure you've done it. Here are some examples.

For more Bright Ideas from lots of fabulous bloggers, browse through the link up below. You'll be amazed by the bright ideas!


I Won Big in Vegas!

I won big in Vegas! No, not THAT way, but I did spend $6.00 to come home with this:
Yes, that says 24 cents. I could have cashed it in, but I thought the voucher was a much more entertaining souvenir!

So the gold I came back with wasn't cash, it was far more valuable. It was knowledge!

Honestly, many of these things I knew, but this was reinforced by my 4 days in Vegas with teachers!

The Golden Nuggets from Vegas:

1. Collaboration! There is strength in numbers. When teachers (or anyone) share ideas and work together, supporting each others efforts, everyone wins! This concept was truly evident this week. I saw  many cases of teachers giving "shout outs" suggestions, advice, and encouragement to other teachers, and it warms my heart. I've never been much of a competitive person. I'd much prefer that we all get along and work together, which I've always found to work best!

2. Work With Good People! The above picture is a great example of what I mean by "Good People"! The person on the right is Paul Edelman, the man who created Teachers Pay Teachers. He gave the Keynote address at the Teachers Pay Teachers conference and made it clear he has gone out of his way to hire "good people". He clearly has, and there's no question that he is one himself! (I showed him a picture of my lovely daughter, whose college career is a reality because of TpT! We had a great conversation!)
On the left is Deanna Jump, the #1 seller of Teachers Pay Teachers. I'm lucky to have met Deanna at last year's get together, and was sitting right up front for her part of the Keynote address. She told her story, and it was clear to all that she is a good person! She's humble, genuine, and down to earth. I met many people over the last few days that met that description! 

3. Take Risks! Yep, I always knew that taking risks is important, but I was way out of my comfort zone for a lot of this week. I'm basically an introvert, and I'm often shy, especially around people I don't know well. Wednesday night was the blogger meet up. There were several hundred teachers, all talking at once, most of whom I'd never met. My natural instinct is to run away when it comes to large groups, but I bit the bullet and started chatting and circulating! I'm so glad I did! I talked to people that I've "known" for years online through blogs and facebook, but I finally met them face to face! There were others I wasn't familiar with, and I'm glad that has changed! I forced myself to go right up to strangers, introduce myself, ask them about themselves, and pushed myself to keep circulating. I'm so glad I did!


4. Have something Memorable! Despite Rachel Lynette's suggestion to keep profile pictures "professional", I'm glad I have used the picture I have, which is far from professional looking! (Rachel DID give her disclaimer: "If something is working for you, keep doing it!) I've used my silly pose as my profile picture for a while, and more people recognized my picture than remembered my name or my logo. That taught me I needed to keep using this picture, because I want to be remembered! I suspected this was the case, so I made nametags with that picture on it, and wore them most of the time in Vegas! 
I have to admit, that silly picture represents me as a teacher. I'm pretty animated, energetic, and fun. I've even been known to tap dance on a table to hold the kids' attention!
I also made a point to include my maiden name on my nametag, since I chat with many teachers on facebook, and that's the name I use. Most people are visual, so even if they can't remember it, they'd recognize it!

5. The Best Form of Professional Development is Talking to Other Teachers! I doubt there are any teachers who don't agree with this one! I went to 4 valuable sessions sponsored by Teachers Pay Teachers on Friday. I learned a lot from those sessions. I can honestly say I learned even more from the times I got together with other teachers. We had the blogger get together on Wednesday (which I met a lot of people, but actual conversations were tough because it was crowded and LOUD!) We had the Happy Hour on Friday, plus, many of us got together for meals and activities. We had some amazing conversations at these get togethers. Topics included our classrooms,  Whole Brain Teaching, blogging, facebook, TpT ideas, Instagram, and even a few non-teaching ideas, such as weddings, divorces, our children, and the men in our lives! Honestly, those get togethers are the times I'll remember the most, and were the most valuable to me professionally.


6. Leave Room for Swag! What you see in the above right picture is only part of what I brought home with me! Yes, I somehow managed to get that suitcase closed, but it was a real struggle! My roommate, Heather from HoJo's Teaching Adventures managed to have a good chuckle while I sat on my bag and struggled to zip it!

7. There's No Place Like Home! I've always felt the best part of any trip is coming home. I had 4 fabulous days in Vegas with hundreds of AMAZING teachers, but it sure was good to be home! Even though it's all over, no one can ever take those memories away from me.  

One more piece of advice: if you're like me and find it impossible to sleep on a plane, don't take the "red eye". At some point I may get enough rest and start feeling human again, but I don't think that will be this week!

Show Your Patriotism!

I'm sitting here watching the annual 4th of July Boston Pops Concert and swelling with pride for my country. It seems these concerts just keep getting better and better! Back in the old days, we used to drive down to Boston, spend all day saving our spots on the Esplande, then watch the concert live. The traffic and crowds never bothered us, it was always worth it! 

Happy Independence Day! This post has a patriotic brain breaks freebie that can be used for any USA holiday!



Nowadays I sit in my living room and watch on TV. It's not quite as exciting as watching it live, but it sure ois mre convenient!

In honor of the holiday, I've created some brain breaks with a patriotic theme.

I do love to include anything the kids are learning as brain breaks. I usually manage to include seasonal or holiday brain breaks when I can. These Patriotic Brain Breaks can be used for any Patriotic holiday: Constitution Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, or Independence Day!
 
 

See the image or see here to download your freebie: Patriotic Brain Breaks!


Happy Independence Day! This post has a patriotic brain breaks freebie that can be used for any USA holiday!

Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games

I have been fascinated with the brain and how it works for years now. 
 
I do a whole lot of reading about the brain. I have a ton of books about the brain and learning. I follow several online journals and newsletters, and make note of any articles that have something to do with the brain and how it works.
   
Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.


Here are some of the things I've learned about the brain:



Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

1. Practice Makes Permanent! We know that “Practice Makes Perfect” is a fallacy since we know if a child practices something incorrectly, he learns it incorrectly.  Whatever they practice needs to be accurate so the child learns it correctly. (I’m sure you know how hard it is to break a bad habit!) Games can be played over and over, giving the children plenty of opportunities for practice! 


Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

2. Practice with Feedback is even better!  As the 
children work in pairs or small groups, the teacher or the partner should immediately say the correct answer if it’s not given. That feedback is essential! I emphasize partners checking answers during game playing.


Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

3.  The Brain is a Parallel Processor! Brains are 
much more likely to remember something if the learner 
uses more than one process.  If the children are 
looking at the fact, saying the fact out loud, and making gestures or moving manipulatives on the tens frame, 
they are more likely to remember the information than if they just looked at it. I expect my students to say say facts out loud during game play.


Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

4. Brains Need Social Interaction!  When children work together, they are keeping the brain happy. Social interaction is HUGE when it comes to learning! 

Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.
5. Emotions play a big role in memory! A little healthy competition gets the blood moving, bringing oxygen to the brain and helping the memory do its thing. They sure love to win! (But make sure they know how to lose as well!)

Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

6. Brains remember patterns! If you organize information 
by patterns, it helps! An example might be learning math facts by fact family or sight words by word family. These two fact fluency sets are based on patterns.  Brain Friendly Addition and Subtraction Fact Fluency and Brain Friendly Multiplication and Division Fact Fluency


Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

7. Brains remember colors!  Seriously! Using color 
helps the kiddos remember! The above fact fluency systems are color coded for better learning!


Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

8. The Working Memory can hold 2 to 4 chunks of information at a time! This is why I suggest starting many games with just some of the cards, not all the cards at once!


Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.


9. A little bit each day is more productive than a lot, 
once a week! I like to spend 5 minutes a day with 
math facts games, 5 minutes a day practicing sight words games, etc. This is so much more valuable than a half hour once a week!


Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

10. Music helps the brain organize data! It is recommended that appropriate background music is played during practice times. When possible, play music during game time! It really makes a difference!

Some other blog posts about games:

Ten Easy Learning Games -  Here are some easy ways to make learning fun, and all you need are some games you probably have on hand!


Playing Math Games to Strengthen Important Skills: This post tells why it's important to play math games, and has some suggestions on how to teach them and what to play!

Practice Makes Permanent and Games Make it Fun! Sometimes kids just need to drill something until they've got it. This blog post describes a fun game that makes practice more fun! (Plus a freebie!)

A Fun Way to Review Basic Information: This is a great end-of-the-year, beginning of the year, or anytime game, with suggestions on how to use it.


Strengthen Math Skills - Some information about how games strengthen math skills, and ideas for games, including 2 freebies!



Doesn't this make you want to play games?




Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.




Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games - This post gives reasons based on brain research on why students should be playing games in the classroom.

Quick, Easy, and Honest Feedback!

Brain research tells us that honest feedback is essential in order for learning to happen. Common sense also tells us that children need to know if they're on track.
 
 
Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will save time in the classroom, make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!
 

I make a point to give honest feedback whenever I can.


On written work, I use 4 highlighters: red (or pink), yellow, green, and purple.
Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will save time in the classroom, make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!

Here's how it works:

 
If I highlight the child's name in green, that means they're doing just what's expected, they're right on track!

If the child's name is highlighted in yellow, that means he's on track, but needs to be careful about something. (I usually write a little note to let them know.)

If the child's name is highlighted in red (or pink), that means stop! There's a problem here. (We usually have a little conversation.)

But there's one more: if a child's name is highlighted in purple, that means his work is above and beyond expectations. Purple represents royalty, so I'll often bow to these children! 
Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will save time in the classroom, make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!

For most papers, like homework, the only mark I make is the highlight at the top of the paper. Sometimes I'll focus on a specific skill, and make a note and highlight about that topic or skill. In the spelling papers below, I focused on the correct formation of the lower case m.
 
Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will save time in the classroom, make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!
Then, of course, I'll find a little something spectacular that a child has done, and I'll make a point to make a purple star right on that part of the paper. 

I often hold up these papers for the children to see. The next day, many children are doing the same thing on their papers. It's amazing how happy it makes the children to get a little positive attention!

On the paper below, I've made purple stars for children showing their work in math. 
Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will save time in the classroom, make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!

Well, there you go! It's easy to remember. It cuts back on my correcting time AND it gives the children the honest feedback they need! 
 

I hope you find this bright idea helpful!


Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will save time in the classroom, make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!


Do I Add or Subtract?

Brain research suggests adding movement with words in order to help the memory.

Do I Add or Subtract? This post includes some brain based ideas for adding movement and gestures to help children figure out whether to add and subtract when solving math story problems.
Many children struggle to remember when to add or subtract when they read math story problems. I decided to add some movement to help the kids remember when to add or subtract.

When we talk about an addition story, I have the children gesture one arm out and reference the first set. Then they gesture the second arm out and reference the second set. Then while we ask the question, we swoop our arms together into a plus sign, and say "How many all together?" or "How many in all?" The motion of bringing both arms together into a plus sign while saying the words really helps!

Do I Add or Subtract? This post includes some brain based ideas for adding movement and gestures to help children figure out whether to add and subtract when solving math story problems.
 
For subtraction, we start by gesturing a set in one arm. Then the second arm swoops away part of that set, making a minus sign with the arms.

Do I Add or Subtract? This post includes some brain based ideas for adding movement and gestures to help children figure out whether to add and subtract when solving math story problems.

Finally, for a subtraction comparison story, we gesture being a scale, balancing a set on each hand while saying, "How many more?" or "How many less?"

Do I Add or Subtract? This post includes some brain based ideas for adding movement and gestures to help children figure out whether to add and subtract when solving math story problems.

These gestures seem rather simple, yet with a few repetitions, the children remember them when they are doing word problems. In fact, I've had children come back to me long after they left my class and tell me how glad they are I taught them these gestures!

 It helps if you have fun math stories for the children to practice with. Here are a few themed math story problems to make the practice a little more fun!

 
Do I Add or Subtract? This post includes some brain based ideas for adding movement and gestures to help children figure out whether to add and subtract when solving math story problems.

Learning About New Hampshire!


What better way to learn about your home state (and the nearby states) than reading in a fun book?

I've joined up with a group of bloggers for Booking Across the USA!
I was lucky enough to be involved in this project last year (See THIS blog post) and I couldn't wait to do it again!

For more about the Booking Across the USA Project, click the image below or click HERE:


This year is particularly cool, since we got to use these books, thanks to Blue Apple Books!
I shared Travelin' the Northeast with my class, and it's adorable! Each book represents a section of the United States, and has a page about each state, along with facts about that state. The best part? There's this cute little dog named Charlie that's on every page, and they absolutely LOVE searching through each state for Charlie!

Here are some of the facts we learned about New Hampshire from this book:

  • The first free public library was established in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
  • Tupperware was invented in New Hampshire.
  • The alarm clock was invented by Levi Hutchins in Concord, New Hampshire in 1787.
  • Alan Shepard, the first US Astronaut in space, was born in Derry, New Hampshire November 23, 1923.
  • Plus, there are some cool pictures on the map page of New Hampshire that give us more information about the state!
  • Brain research tells us making connections to the arts help children remember.
  • Most teachers have these around their classrooms:

If not, they're easy to find!
How about these?
Pipe cleaners are easy to find! If you put these two
materials together, you can make something like this:

Here's how it works:  Each time a child can share a fact about one of the states they've learned, they get a new bead for their bracelet. As they build up beads, they can go through the beads, remembering each of the facts they have learned. The beads are helping the memory!

Another way to use the beads: Attach another bead to the bracelet for each state the children can find on the map!


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