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## One of the hardest things for little mathematicians is figuring out how to solve word problems in math.

I have a little strategy that helps in many cases: get them to visualize the situation.

The other day, my students were doing a word problem that included measuring a ribbon, and comparing it to another ribbon.

They looked a little confused, so I suggested they pictured the story problem in their minds. Then I started asking questions...

Then I kept going.

Then I worked on getting them to visualize the story.

And a little more directed questioning...

This pretty much wrapped it up! (pardon the "ribbon" pun!) They were able to use the picture in their minds to solve the number problem.

## This strategy helps in many cases!

In fact, after a while, they start to ask themselves these questions and can solve the problems by themselves!

Of course, independence is our goal, but we have to lead them there, don't we?

## I've been fascinated by the brain for years now. I have been reading quite a bit about how the brain works and the best ways to help children learn.

There are basically two types of words for the children to learn. One kind is based on letter sound relationships and letter patterns. In other words, they can be "sounded out." The other kind of word can't be "sounded out" and must be learned by the way it looks: by sight! These suggestions are to help with sight words.

Here are some brain strategies that are easy to implement into the classroom to help the kiddos remember those important sight words.

Practice makes permanent! When the children practice a little bit each day, it will help them remember. It's also a good idea to introduce small amounts at a time. If they need to know the first 100 Sight Words, only give them 10 at a time, then slowly adding on as they master those. Going through their pile of sight words for 5 minutes every day is more valuable than once a week for 30 minutes. Remember when you were in college and cramming for an exam? It didn't work so well, did it. (But somehow we got through it!)

Exercise brings oxygen to the brain, and helps the brain become more receptive to learning. We all know that sitting still for too long makes for cranky, wiggly children (and adults!) Experts say bodies to move every 20 minutes. Bodies of children need to move more frequently than that! A quick walk, a little yoga, or a nice stretch are perfect Brain Breaks for little learners.

Emotions play a big role in memory. If you make it fun, they're more likely to remember. Games make learning fun! A little healthy competition gets the pulse moving and the emotions rolling. It really makes a difference!

Brains are visual! Brains remember colors and other visuals, like cute little pictures. Use color when making word lists or word cards. You can use a variety of colors, but make sure they can be easily read. Make sure the words are appealing for the children.

Experts recommend sight words be practiced in phrases rather than in isolation. Words in isolation don't have much meaning to the children, and brains need meaning. Three or four words in phrases have a lot more meaning and are more likely remembered by growing brains.

## There are color coded word cards, if desired, with "cute pictures."

There are plenty of color coded phrase cards, again with "cute pictures." The different colors on the borders correspond to the Fry Sight Word level.

There's also a game that can be used to practice the words or phrases! The pictures correspond to the pictures on the individual cards. Each level of words is compatible with the game board, so it's easy to differentiate.

The game board and cards are easily stored in ziplocks!

## I'm not a big fan of rewards.

I feel rewards teach children to expect a payoff every time they put effort into something. Rewards often lead to a sense of entitlement, which isn't what the real world is about.

HERE is a blog post I wrote a while ago that goes into details about WHY I don't like rewards.

I know what you're thinking...
but how do we motivate children to complete work?

## How do we motivate children to learn?

Well, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
The idea is to get children to take pride in their accomplishments.
It just so happens I've had a gazillion beanies in my basement from when my daughter was younger. She was just at the right age when they became popular, and people kept giving them to her! (If you ask around, I'm sure you could find someone who has a ton of these that they'd love to get rid of!)

No, they don't get to keep the beanies, but they get to keep them on their desk for the day! I'll bet you're thinking...don't the kiddos play with them all day?

Well, no, because I'm pretty strict about that.
If they play with the beanies, they lose the beanies.

Every morning the children are invited to put a beanie on their desk to keep them company for the day. They can earn more throughout the day by asking thoughtful questions, showing perseverance, helping classmates, and a variety of "above and beyond" behaviors that I want to emphasize.

Since it's not a thing they get to keep, it's not about greed.

I also have a collection of flags, including many from different countries. I admit, the American flags are the most popular, but once they figure out the other countries, those become popular, too! The flags are rewards, similar to the beanies, but on a higher level. I'll give flags for effort, success on math facts, handwriting awards, or remembering to show their work in math.  Again, they don't get to keep the flags, but it is a source of pride.

Kids do need to play. Personally, I'd love to see them get a whole lot more recess, but that's not something I can control. But if the group gets their work done in a reasonable amount of time, and they put effort into that work, they can earn some play time. One of their favorites is time to play with the math manipulatives! They also enjoy time with clay, painting, and we even spent some time making paper airplanes! These group rewards serve several purposes: they encourage the children to work as a team, and they get along amazingly well at these times! When it's time to pick up, they're good sports because they know they want to earn this "play time" again! Another thing... giving them specific play time with manipulatives helps them NOT play with them when using them as math tools.

Yes, you read that right! When my class brainstormed ideas for things they could earn with good behavior and hard work, science experiments was one of the first things on the list! (Don't tell the kids, most of these science experiments are things I'd do with the children anyway, but when it's used "as  a reward", it's very motivational!)
Lego Abe has been an important part of my classroom for several years now. I think he was part of a "Happy Meal" toy or something like that, but he's been a big hit!

Every day, Lego Abe gets to sit on the desk of one of my cherubs. It's announced in my daily morning letter, and he always goes to someone who has been a good role model or showed exceptional effort or perseverance. This is clearly stated in the "morning letter announcement." At the end of the day, Lego Abe takes his "Gettysburg Address" back to his "log cabin" to sleep for the night.

You may not have your own Lego Abe, but I'm sure you've got something the children might cherish as much as mine cherish Lego Abe.

Have you noticed a theme? NONE of these rewards are given for being "smart" or "talented." They are given for effort and hard work! Plus, NONE of these rewards are things the children get to keep. They are simply a recognition for a job well done, and encourage children to take pride in what they do.

These rewards don't encourage entitlement, they encourage children to work. Isn't that what we want?

### I'm so glad to see the calendar finally turning to April!

March has always been a long month, but April has a whole lot of fun learning to be had!

### Here are links to blog posts for many of the events happening in April!

I've got plenty of April Fool's fun ideas in THIS blog post!
Looking for Science and Social Studies ideas for April?
Easter is right around the corner. Here are a couple of blog posts to help you out! nd An Easter Warning and an Easter Tradition.

Don't forget spring! Although we have snow predicted for this weekend here in New England, spring truly is trying to work it's way through this nasty weather! Be sure to check out these Spring Resources!

Plus, baseball season is starting up! If you have any baseball fans in your classroom, you'll have to checkout Baseball Fun!

For ideas and resources for Earth Day, see THIS link.

Many of my friends and coworkers agree, March was a very long month, but it's April, and there's a whole lot to look forward to! Maybe you can start the month winning some great stuff!

## Individual Whiteboards are incredibly handy for many purposes! I find them very handy to practice a number of skills.

I have a good supply of individual whiteboards in my classroom, and the children have their own whiteboard markers. I have enough erasers so that each pair can share an eraser.

I've also seen children bring an old sock to class to use as an eraser. They love to "wear" the sock on their non-writing hand, which makes it very quick and easy for erasing. These socks are also very handy for holding extra markers!

One of my favorite thing about the individual white boards is that they are VERY forgiving! The children can practice a skill, get it wrong a few times, and no one will ever know!

Another thing I like about them? The kids love using them!

## Here are a few ways I use whiteboards in my second grade classroom:

1. Practice spelling words - Often I'll have the kiddos warm up for their word work by practicing their words on the white boards. The kiddos love to use the boards, and end  up writing their words over and over again! Here's a tip: have the children say the letters aloud while they write - it helps the memory! Quite often, after a warm up, I'll have them put a star beside their best handwriting, or a heart beside their favorite word, or maybe an exclamation point next to the toughest word to remember.  All these strategies are great for getting the children to self-evaluate, which leads to more learning!

2. Practice sentences from dictation - Writing sentences from dictation is one step away from writing sentences the children create themselves. Dictation models good grammar, vocabulary, and spelling skills. The sentences themselves can be models for the children to use in their own writing. Dictation helps the children develop the ability to hold some words in their heads while writing words. It is practice with spelling, handwriting, punctuation, and memory. Plus, the whiteboards are very forgiving when they make a mistake!

3. Practicing important math skills - Some skills just need to be practiced over and over again, and white boards are the perfect place to do it! The picture above shows my students adding three digit numbers using a couple of different strategies. To make it a little more fun, we use dice to choose our numbers, and they earn tiles for accurate answers. (When we're done, I give them a couple of minutes to create a design with their tiles. All that hard work deserves a little fun, doesn't it?)

## Do you have the luck of the Irish?

St. Patrick's Day will be here before you know it, and here are some resources to get you ready!

And, of course, a nice sample of one of those things Ireland is famous for: Irish Step Dancing!

Check these discounted resources out! (They're two-dollar treats!)

This bundle contains the above resources, plus a few other resources at a HUGE discount!

I always make sure the children recognize the Irish Flag.

And listen to Irish music.

And, of course, books!

And books by some favorite authors:

I'll be celebrating St. Patrick's Week right after Read Across America Week!  I  just can't spend a day on any of these fabulous holidays! There is too much fun learning to be had!

## March includes plenty of activity, including Read Across America Day, St. Patrick's Day, the return of Daylight Saving Time, maple syrup season, and the first day of spring!

It just so happens I have a couple of resources to help you out with these special days! Check out Social Studies and Science for March

Looking for more ideas for March?

### Here are a few links for you!

Celebrate the King of Nonsense: Links for celebrating Dr. Seuss!

Spring Resources: Videos, books, and resources for teaching about spring