When Readers Become Distracted...

This happens to me.  I'll be reading something (or I think I'm reading something), when suddenly I realize I have no idea what I've been reading.  My mind was totally someplace else.  

It happens to kids, too... even young readers.  And they need to be aware of it.  They need to know WHY this happens to readers and then WHAT to do about it.  This post doesn't have a chart about why readers get distracted, but I think that would be a great discussion.  In fact, I think it's critical.  Share some of the reasons you've personally experienced and then ask the children to share some of their ideas... they'll surprise you with their own background knowledge on this topic.  These are some I've heard in the past:

• I'm tired.
• The book is boring.
• The book is too hard.  I don't understand it.
• I don't like it.
• I was thinking about a fight I had with a friend this morning. 
• I'm really cold.
• I have a big soccer game tonight.
• The lights are so bright.
• The person next to me is humming.  (or clicking or flipping... LOL)

* Sometimes the reasons are personal or emotional.  But sometimes, they point to an environmental issue, like temperature, lighting, sound, and physical comfort.  Small changes in the setting can make a difference for many distracted readers.

Once you've had this discussion, plan lessons around one (or all) of these next anchor charts.  They teach children active strategies to use when they notice their mind has wandered away from the book they're reading. They're good for about 1-2 weeks of really thoughtful reading work. Follow up after a few days and ask the children how it's going.  "How have the strategies helped you?"  "Do you notice a difference in your attention?"  "Why is this important?"

Happy teaching!  :) 

Game Time with Telestrations

About a week before Christmas, I was running errands... listening to the radio... thinking about how I needed a few more gifts... when the DJs started talking about this fun game everyone was playing in the studio.

Remember the old telephone game... where you and your friends sat in a circle and one person whispered a secret message to the person next to them?  Then it secretly went around the circle until the last person blurted out a version that was nothing like the original sentence? 

That's Telestrations, except with drawing... no talking.  And it's really fun.

One thing I like about this game is that everyone gets to participate at the same time, so nobody is ever sitting idly, just waiting.  And it's simple.  Each player starts out with a different word and illustration for the group to figure out.  Then the sketchbooks are passed around as the other players try to guess and draw the original word.  Here's my son's sample from a game we just played:


David's word was bathing suit.  On the first page of his sketchbook, he wrote bathing suit.  And on the second page, he drew a bathing suit. Then he passed it to the next player who can only look at the drawing, not the word.  


Player Two was me.  But when I got David's sketchbook, I thought it was a bib (and maybe a plate of noodles).  So I wrote down bib.  Then I passed it to the next player, my daughter.


Haley drew a pretty good bib, I think.  I mean, she even drew three arrows to it.  


But when it go to the next player (my husband), he thought it was a... Hot Dog Burp.  Really?  

Like hot dog burp would actually be something on a game card.  

But it was funny and we all laughed at the end of the round when David shared each page.    Bathing suit ... bib ... hot dog burp.  Yeah, that makes sense. 

So, occupational hazard #87, I started thinking Wouldn't this game be fun in a classroom? How could I tie it into the curriculum?  What are the educational benefits... you know, in case an administrator walks in? 

If you play a few rounds of this game and really think about your thinking, you'll notice you're using strategies that support larger subjects like:

• reading
• writing
• art

... and skills that strengthen:

• visualization
• context clues
• vocabulary
• key details
• critical thinking
• problem solving
• questioning
• inferring
• fine motor skills 

And tying it to your curricular standards is easy if you make your own cards.  (Older students can even contribute by making cards.  That's a fun way to assess how much they've learned about a particular topic of study. And it's engaging test-review, too!)  For example: 

If you've been studying parts of speech, you can make a set of cards for nouns and another set for verbs.

After concluding a unit of study, make a set of cards with key vocabulary words such as weather, thermometer, evaporation, condensation, hurricane, meteorologist, hail, forecast, arid, barometer, cumulus clouds, the water cycle, etc. 

Help the children remember Presidents' Day with words like Lincoln, Washington, president, White House, log cabin, penny, dollar bill, leader, beard, speech, and so on.

The game doesn't have to be limited to academic standards only. Familiarize your students with their new surroundings by using things found in your classroom... clock, flag, sink, desk, table, computer, ruler, paper clips, clipboard, stapler, and rug, for example.  Want to make it a little more challenging for older students?  Expand that deck of cards to the whole school... cafeteria, secretary, bus, elevator, swings, patrol, basketball court, library, etc.


• a deck of cards with your desired words
• a minute timer


• a stapled and laminated 6-page booklet of plain of white paper
• a thin dry erase marker
• a tissue (for erasing)

* Note on Student Booklet:  The easiest way to make a student booklet is to laminate one 12x18 piece of white construction paper and then cut it into six 6x6 squares.  Stack them and secure them on one side with staples or metal rings so the pages flip like a book.

1.  Play in teams of 4.  Each player has their own booklet, marker, and eraser.

2.  Each player writes their own name on the front of the booklet.

3.  To begin, each player draws a card from the deck and writes that word on their next page (the 2nd page).  Then, they illustrate their own word on the next page (the 3rd page).  They have one minute to finish their illustration.

4.  Each player passes their booklet to the player on their left and then looks at only the drawing on the 3rd page, trying to figure out what it is.  (They can't look back at other pages... only the one before it.)  They write their guess on the 4th page, then pass the booklets to the left again.

5.  Now each player looks at the word on the 4th page of the booklet they received.  They flip to the blank 5th page and sketch an illustration for that word.  Again, they have one minute to draw.

6.  The booklets are passed to the left again.  Each player looks at the final illustration in the booklet they received, writing a final word on the last page.  Then the booklets are returned to their original player.

7.  Students take turns sharing their booklets from beginning to end.  Was the word the same or did it change as it made its way around the group?

So... ready for some game time?  Have fun...

And happy teaching!

Why Lap Books?

Why not?

There's really no middle ground here, though.  You're either a lap-book-loving teacher or you're not.  I've heard, "I LOVE them!" and "I HATE them!" but never "Yeah, they're kind of okay, I guess."  

I think the teachers on the hate-side cringe at the thought of lap books because they seem tedious and labor intensive, like scrapbooking.  (I totally get the scrapbooking thing... that's way too much work.  I have bins and bins of unused scrapbooking supplies if anyone's interested, BTW.)

But what if they didn't have to be tedious?  What if they weren't labor intensive because the kids were doing all the work of researching and designing and creating?  You could walk around and coach and guide and marvel at all the awesomeness going on.  Okay, that last part might be a bit dramatic, but you get the point.  (And that could happen.)

I love lap books.  They're...

• hands-on, open-ended, and creative

• like small themed notebooks, subject or topic specific, fiction or nonfiction

• ongoing projects where kids can collect notes and explain their thinking

• similar to scrapbooking so they appeal to kids with artistic and spatial strengths

• multi-dimensional with pop-ups, flaps, wheels, accordions, tabbed books, etc.

• interactive if they include games, flash cards, word searches, maps, sticky notes, study tools, etc.

• useful for test review and as unit assessments

• able (usually) to stand on their own to display... great for a "gallery walk" where other students can see their peers' work and interact with the book features

So for all the haters out there, I just finished putting together a set of open-ended lap book templates.  They have multiple uses and will work with any topic your students are studying.  You can either decide which templates the children will use (based on their developmental needs and fine motor skills) or you can leave the design options open to them... especially for older students.  Letting the children choose their own templates to represent their learning is a great way to allow for individual creativity.  

I'm giving away 5 of these sets.  Want one?  Just be one of the first five teachers to comment below.  Tell us if you're a lap book lover or a hater and why.  (No judgement... I get it.)  Then leave your email address and I'll send it on over.  

If you don't respond in time, you can check it out here...

Thanks for reading!  

And consider becoming a FOLLOWER of this blog.  It's the best way to receive timely notifications of new content and giveaways! 

Happy teaching!  :)

Inside the Inauguration

For most primary children, this year's presidential inauguration will be the first one they're old enough to experience and understand.  But picture books for young children on this topic are very sparse and it's hard to find resources that are age-appropriate for children in the primary grades.

I did run across a website tonight, though, that had several fun and engaging ideas for bringing the inauguration to life in your own classroom. The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance has created an Inauguration Celebration Kit to help kids learn more about this event. It includes:

• nonfiction articles explaining the oath of office, the inaugural parade, and the reason the ceremony is always held on January 20th

• games and ideas for hands-on activities such as designing your own parade float and hosting an inaugural luncheon and ball ... this sounds so fun!

• discussion questions that promote critical thinking

• presidential and first lady fact files... and more.

You can check it out HERE.

Unfortunately, there is also very little on YouTube that I think will hold the attention of most primary children, but I did find this brief video from TFK Reporter Bridget Bernardo (TIME for Kids).  She's so cute and the kids she interviews do a great job of sharing their own thoughts about President Obama's inauguration.  I think the kids will be able to relate to them.    

So... I started doing my own research and created this set of materials for young readers. 

It includes and focuses on:

• a 9-page student book
• related key words such as address, cast, oath, incumbent, tallied, and inauguration
• student sheets to record prior knowledge, questions, and answers
• text-based comprehension questions, both literal and higher-level
• a template for drafting original inaugural speeches

YOUR TURN:  How do you plan on addressing the inauguration in your classroom?  Do you have other ideas or resources you're using?  Share in the comments below.  :) 

Happy teaching!

School's First Day of School

This story is adorable!  It's new from author Adam Rex and I just found it in Barnes & Noble the other day.  Have you seen it?

The school is actually the main character (which is an unexpected point of view).  He befriends a sweet man he calls "Janitor" who tries to help him understand what it means to be a school.  

School is nervous when Janitor tells him children will be arriving soon.  He isn't so sure he's going to like children, but he's willing to give them a chance.  And at first, as expected, School doesn't really like the kids.  They're loud and messy and sometimes grumpy.  But as the day goes on, School's feelings and opinions begin to change.  He visits with Janitor after the end of the first day and asks him if he'll invite all the children to come back the next day.  

Janitor nodded.  "I'll see what I can do."

I love the ending.  It's a feel-good teachery ending that will remind you that you have a special job in a special place. 

"In the beginning I didn't know what I was," said the school.  "I thought I was your house."

"Nope," said Janitor.

"I... I suppose some other place gets to be your house," the school added.

Janitor nodded.  "That's true.  But you get to be a school.  That's lucky."

Happy teaching!  :)

Mother's Day SPA Science!

Just when you thought I couldn't connect one more holiday to science... 

Mother's Day is just a few short weeks away.  It's time to make flowers from hand prints and little cards with pictures of mom (that in no way reflect how she really looks).  My own children used to draw me with the most ridiculous bangs and a circle tummy.  They drew other people with rectangle bodies, but not me... circle tummy.  Funny how a card like that can send you screaming straight to the gym.  

And the hairdresser. 

As much as I have always loved the circle-tummy cards, what mom doesn't love a little pampering now and then, too?  If you've never made homemade spa treatments, think about doing a few this year with your own students.  Things like sugar scrubs, facial wipes, and bath salts are very easy to make and really work!  You can simply make them and give them as gifts OR you can turn it into a science lab and make it educational, too. 

I just finished putting together a science set to go along with our favorite homemade items... peach sugar scrub, peppermint facial wipes, and lavender fizzy bath salts.  It includes:

• teacher notes and directions
• student recording sheets
• scientific explanations
• sequential anchor charts
• and gift tags

I'm giving one of these sets away to one of my blog followers on FRIDAY! To be eligible to win (and in the spirit of Mother's Day), leave a comment below with:

• a special memory you recall with your own mom
• and your email address

A winner will be randomly chosen and announced this Friday... good luck!

And happy teaching!  :)

BUMP! An Engaging, Kinesthetic Tool for Learning

My sweet friend Cara Gingras, from Kindergarten Boom Boom, sent me this video of her children playing one of my sight word BUMP! games. These games are such a fun way to practice reading and math skills with primary children.  They're basically a set of electronic flash cards... with a kinesthetic twist.  Randomly placed throughout the slides are action words like wiggle, snap, and clap.  The children stay engaged in the activity because they're waiting for the action words to come up on the screen.  When it says STOMP, they stomp.  When it says WIGGLE, they wiggle.  :)    

As the teacher, you can circulate or join in on the fun because a student can advance the slides from your computer... and trust me, they LOVE to be chosen to do this.  They feel like the teacher!  

{These children are snapping as they see the word SNAP! come up on the screen.}

{In this picture, you can see one of Cara's student "being the teacher," as she controls the slides.}

If you'd like to try out this set in your own classroom, be one of the FIRST FIVE teachers to leave a comment below and I'll send it to you.  Don't forget to leave me your email address so I know where to send it!  :)

If your children like this activity, you can find more than a dozen more in my online store... there are several choices for literacy and math practice.  Just search for BUMP and take a look!

Happy teaching!  :)

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