Wednesday, July 31, 2013

FREEBIE Brainbreak!

We have all been there before as adults, where you have been sitting an hour, maybe more, listening to a speaker and feel yourself getting sleepy, your brain starting to wander. You begin to think about what color you want to paint your office... "Perhaps that lagoon blue, no the summer sky blue would be better. What would go with the lamp shade the best? Yes, definitely the summer sky blue. I could really go for some breakfast right now. Chocolate chip pancakes, with maple syrup, yum. Oh, and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice..." And then there are those things on your to do list that you would really like to get done. What did the presenter just say??

We should not be shocked then that the same is true of our students when they sit for a while. They begin to lose steam. I actually went to this workshop on incorporating movement into learning, and it was fascinating to learn about the physical changes that take place in our bodies such as chemical releases when we have been sitting for a period of time. Your body is literally telling you to start relaxing and move towards sleep. The opportunity to move and reenergize is necessary then for high-focused learning, but how do we incorporate brain breaks into a day that is also very much an environment of “time on task?” I believe that “time on task” happens most effectively when there IS an opportunity for physical activity.

Brain breaks thus are great when they allow your students to get out energy AND are educational. That is exactly why I created "Line 'Em Up!" This brain break takes 3-5 minutes, and it is great because it is engaging and educational while giving the students an opportunity to move around and refresh for our next focused activity. It also gives the students an opportunity to work together as a team and collaborate positively. This is a game I like to play during the first week of school to establish brain break procedures as well as help build a strong classroom community. By the middle of the year, students know the drill of the game and look forward to figuring out what the pattern will be! It helps them practice counting skills and recognizing numerical patterns.

Here's how it works:

Goal: The goal of the game is for the students to line themselves up from least to greatest in a straight line without talking! Then, they see if they can figure out the pattern. 

  1. Explain the goal of the game to your class and designate a particular spot in the classroom where students will line up to form their line from least to greatest. Make sure to establish where the lowest number should line up versus where the highest number should be. If this is the first time playing ”Line 'Em Up” model how to communicate with someone about movement without talking. Once the game has been played, review the rules as needed.
  2. Pass out 1 card to each student. The students can look at their card but are to keep the number side hidden until the “Line 'Em Up” process actually starts!
  3. Once all the cards are passed out, students place their card on their forehead with the number side showing. Then, students stand up and walk around the room looking at the other cards on their classmates’ foreheads.
  4. Students must form a line in order from least to greatest. Once the line is established, students have to figure out the pattern.
  5. Call on a student to identify the pattern.
That's it! To download your FREE copy of Line 'Em Up! with 15 different card sets, click on the link below.

Now time to go make something to eat, all that breakfast food talk got me thinking about pancakes! :)

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Friday, July 12, 2013

I Like to Prove It, Prove It!

Opinion writing is one of my favorite types of writing to teach each year.  When students get choice in what they are writing about and have to prove their stance, this high student engagement results in high quality AND quantity of writing.

To introduce opinion writing, I like to use the topic of "The Best Pet." This seems to be a great topic for all kids even if they don't actually have a pet at home. And I have to say, I have learned about some interesting pets over the years as well (Have you ever heard of a degu? I know all about one now thanks to a very convincing paper from one of my third graders about why the DEGU is the best pet!).

It is also important to give students a framework for how to express their opinion. We use the phrase, "Prove it!" a lot in class. For example, if you say a dog is the best pet because it is playful, well prove it! What does the dog do that shows it is playful? You say a fish is the best pet because it is quiet, go ahead and prove it. Why is it useful that a fish is quiet? (ahem, homework time?)  This is where the OREO graphic organizer comes in handy. It guides students into proving their opinion with reasons and then proving their reasons with specific evidence. Of course I have to bring in actual Oreos the day I introduce this graphic organizer, but truthfully, the Oreos not only satisfy my students' sweet tooth but also make the lesson very memorable so that it sticks in their schema for opinion writing. Check out the OREO graphic organizer I created below.

Once students are chomping at the bit to tell you why their chosen pet is the best pet, this is the perfect time to introduce transition words if you have not already done so.

Your students will be off and running in no time! If you are interested in the materials I created for this Common Core State Standard aligned 3 week writing unit for grades 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, click on the picture below to be taken to the product at my store.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blogging Beginnings: An Introduction

Greetings all! I am excited to make my first official "Hello" into blogging territory. My name is Katie Crystal, and I am in my fourth year of teaching. Starting my own blog is something I have been wanting to do for a while now. Laughing out loud at your witty anecdotes that I could oh-so-much relate to and drooling over your colorful backgrounds and eye-catching products, I have been an active follower of all of you educator bloggers out there. However, TIME is always an issue. After going for a run, doing a load laundry, making dinner, reading a book in bed and deciding to stay up a little later to finish just one or two or three more chapters the entire page-turner of a book, I kept telling myself that I simply didn't have the minutes and hours to do so. Don't you just wish you could add more hours to a day sometimes? Seriously. But as I analyzed my time management over the past few years, I realized the more I had to do, the more I got done. Somehow two summers ago I successfully trained for and ran my very first marathon, finished my final project for my master's degree, and planned a wedding! How did I do all that??? This year, I had none of these huge tasks to tackle, yet I still hadn't gotten my blog up and running. That's when I realized I had very few no excuses left. It was just a matter of moving "Starting a Blog" to the tippy-top of my priority list. That was key. 

So here it is folks. My first blog is launched. All I need now is a giant pair of scissors and a piece of bright red ribbon to cut. But like opening a store, I do believe that starting my blog is truly just the beginning. It is now time to commit to being an active blogger. The important word here being active. :) I do see the power in it because I have grown so much not only as a teacher but as a person from what you share in your blogs! So thank you for your time, candor, and talent. I inspire to make an impact as you all have.

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