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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.

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!

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!

### The Best Thing We Can Do

Many students have been learning remotely for a long time.

Many people are concerned about academic loss from not being physically in school.

No matter what the children have experienced for the last several months, it has most certainly NOT been a normal school year.

What can we do?

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!

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!)

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

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

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.

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!

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!

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!

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.

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

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

And, if they're totally stuck, here are 50 "no screen" ideas!

### Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Time

Lots of teachers have created digital online work for their students.
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?

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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

What are your "No Screen" ideas?