Saturday, April 28, 2012

Attention Signal Ideas!

Awhile back I asked my facebook followers to share their favorite Attention Signals. They were, of course, awesome and shared a bunch of them. There are so many really great ideas, that I decided to post them here for more teachers to see. I hope you find something you can use with your students!


I like "eyes up" and the students repeat it back to you!
-Kristin Spade

When I say, "Class, class," the kids respond, "Yes, yes?" However I say it, they have to say it back the same way. High-pitched, sing-song, zombie voice, in a rap, whatever. I mix it up every day to keep it interesting! (from Whole Brain Teaching)
-Dallas Anne Thomspon

I use aboriginal clapping sticks and play a rhythm that they have to repeat.
-Kristie Griffiths

‎"3-2-1" or I use a timer
- Danielle Miller 

Whole Brain Teaching www.wholebrainteaching.com has some great strategies. Google "Class Yes" for some ideas I use often via WBT.
-Karen Keaton

I clap a pattern and the students repeat the clap back to me.
- Wolfelicious 

I say "Freeze, Please!" and everyone has to put their hand up, be silent, and give our quiet signal (school abbreviation "AACL" in sign language)
- Teresa Brown  

I got this idea after reading the Chugga Chugga Choo Choo book-I say, "Chugga Chugga" and the class says "Choo Choo". Then I say, "Whistle Blowing", and they say "Whoo-Whooo".
- Erika Hansing Gentry

I have a word for the day or week. When they hear it they know attention to me. The word matches a holiday or something w are learning, ie groundhog, butterfly.
- Bethany Thornton 

I have heard a teacher say "apple" and the kids freeze and say "sauce". I have also used "1, 2, 3...eyes on me!" The kids would respond with "1, 2...eyes on you!"
- Rachael N. Duke 

One that works at my school is saying "Match me" while patting your head, then "match me" while tapping your ears, then "match me" while placing a finger over your lips in silence. Our P.E. teacher uses it all the time, and the kids love it.
- Bessie Dietrich Goggins 


I say "hands on top" and students put their hand on their head and say "that means stop" or I say "peanut butter" and they say " jelly" then we all clap our hands together and say "sandwich".
- Amy Angle-Greiner 

I use lots of different ones...
clapping patterns that they have to repeat back to me
the whole brain class~yes response that has already been mentioned
I use pairs of things that go together...I say peanut butter they say jam etc,
I say 1,2,3 eyes on me and they reply 1,2 eyes on you
I say look like a scholar and they clap their hands twice and fold them on their desk, sit still and look at me.
I ask them to show me the fab five and they stop talking, sit still, cross their hands, look at me, and listen.
We have talked about what good listening looks like and sounds like...so I will ask them to show me now what good listening looks like and sounds like.
- Karen Dunning  


I say, "Hey! Hey! Listen up! Listen up!" and the students who hear me repeat the chant. If the students didn't hear me say it then they usually hear the other students say it. I then say it again and the students repeat again. The class knows that this means to freeze and listen. It works very well. I've used it during assemblies and it gets the attention of all the students...mine or not.
- Jodi Ruiz  

I count down "5-4-3-2-1" while holding up my hand and counting down with my fingers. I start loud on 5 and lower my voice as students start listening. I can vary the speed based on how quickly I need their attention.
- Caitlin Varley 

Teacher:Macaroni and cheese students: everybody freeze
Teacher: chicka chicka students: boom boom
Teacher: red robinnnn students: yummmm
Teacher: ba da ba ba ba students: I'm lovin it
Teacher: ready to rock students: ready to roll
Just to name a few. I make sure and set clear expectations that they have to freeze and put their eyes on me for further directions. The kids love it and it works like a charm!
- Meghan Kroupa 

Many of these above plus:
ringing a bell and they freeze;
a sing-song echo, "Stop, look and listen!" they repeat;
doing actions while saying, "If you're listening to me, touch your nose" (ear, etc);
action combinations (e.g. touch one hand...See more
- Melissa Lord 

I use a lot of the ones above, mostly the whole brain teaching "Class, class / yes, yes".. But my students' favorite is probably when I say "Tootsie Roll, Lollipop" and they say, "We've been talking now let's stop." It took a little practice but my fourth graders love it!
- Meghan Rackley 

I scream QUIET! YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY!...only kidding. One more idea: At school assemblies-our principal shouts out BELUGA! AND the students clap their hands and arc them out (like a whale's water spout) while saying Pssshhhh!
-Erika Hansing Gentry 

One that's funny for a one time use is...All the smart people look at me. :) An adult did that once at a presentation...all the good looking people look at me.
-Susan Graham 

Got more to add? Please tell us with a comment!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Get Those Kids Moving Link Up!

Are your students having trouble sitting still? Are the they restless or maybe having trouble staying awake for a whole lesson? It can often be challenging to keep students' attention during this time of year, which is why I am having this link up.

Recently, Minds in Bloom has featured several posts about getting kids moving during the day. These posts will tell you why it is important and give you some great ideas about how to incorporate movement into your day:

I know this is a hot topic, because with more than 20,000 page views each, these have been some of my most popular posts. So, I thought it would be fun to see what ideas other bloggers have for incorporating movement into the school day. If you would like to link up, please follow these guidelines:

  • Link up any blog post (new or older) that incorporates movement into learning. Please do not link up posts that are primarily promotional for paid products (freebies are fine!)

  • In the "Name" field, use the name of the post.

  • Please include a linkback to this post either in text format or by using the Move to Learn button above (just copy and paste it into your post and add the link). 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Teach Your Students the Right Way to Write



Guest blogger,  Loren Shlaes is a registered pediatric occupational therapist and regular contributor to the special needs blog at Pediastaff (where this post is also being published). This is the fourth in a series of post from Loren about how to help students who may be challenged with attention, sensory, or other issues be successful in the classroom. Most likely, you have at least a few students with these challenges every year, but even if you don't, the information in these posts are relevant to all teachers.

Did you know that those fat pencils and crayons actually don't help your students to learn to write? I didn't! I learned so much from reading this post and I know you will too!

When to Begin Handwriting
The ability to write is one of the very highest levels of human achievement. Learning to write requires a great degree of fine motor control and visual motor coordination, along with sufficient attention span and frustration tolerance.  Forcing a child to learn to write before these underlying skills are solidly in place is counterproductive.
 
In New York City, where I practice, children are expected to be able to write at the age of four. In my clinical opinion, this is two full years before they are developmentally ready, and does more harm than good.  If a child does not yet have the internal strength and stability to perform such a high level task, in order to comply with the grownups demands, he is going to have to manufacture it by straining and contorting his body in a very unnatural way.  This sets him up for a lifetime of poor posture and bad habits.
 
Why Formally Teach Handwriting?
Pretty much the entire point of an academic education is to enable a child to represent his ability to solve problems and to express his ideas easily and fluently in writing, yet the current educational trends seem to be drifting farther and farther away from actually teaching the child how to do so.  In order to be able to write articulately and effortlessly, you have to have internalized the rules and mechanics of writing so that they are completely automatic. Consider what this entails:
 
·         how to correctly hold the pencil
·         how to precisely form each individual letter 
·         how to spell words correctly
·         understanding what constitutes a coherent, grammatical sentence
·         understanding correct punctuation.
·         understanding how to organize your work on the page.
 
Handwriting, across the lifespan, is a necessary daily skill and a direct reflection of who we are, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different. Children who cannot write easily and legibly struggle in school.
 
Want to give your pupils the very best start to  their academic lives, give them confidence in themselves as scholars, and provide them the tools they need to succeed?  Teach them legible, rapid penmanship, so that they can write down their thoughts and do their schoolwork quickly and easily, and enable them to represent themselves and their abilities to their best advantage.
 
In order for a child to be able to write well, he must be formally taught how to do it. If the child is left to guess for himself how to write letters, the chances of him being able to write fast enough to keep up with his thoughts and to stay legible are poor
 
The only way to write both neatly and quickly are to start all of the letters from  the top and to have the hand traveling in the same direction.  If the child starts his letters from the bottom, or his hand is moving from right to left or he is taking many extra strokes, he can only write neatly if he writes very slowly.  When he speeds up, his writing falls apart.  So he can either write neatly or legibly, but not both at the same time.  Teach him the correct habits of letter formation and you’ve gone a long way to make sure that no one will ever have to force him to redo his homework because no one can read it.
 
If a child is required to produce written work while he is still struggling to remember how the individual letters are supposed to look or which way to turn the tail on the J, his mind will be so taken up with the mechanics of getting the letters down that he won’t have much mental energy left to formulate or express his ideas.  Wait until all the letters are formally taught and the children’s writing is automatic in nature before requiring them to write compositions or keep a journal.
 
Give Your Students a Great Start By Learning How To Teach Handwriting
If you don’t know how to teach handwriting, I highly recommend that you attend the one day “Handwriting Without Tears” class. If you go to their website, you can either find a class coming to your area, or, better yet, hire one of their instructors to come to your school or district and teach all of you. You will have all the tools you need to become a first rate handwriting instructor.  The teaching materials were developed by an occupational therapist who had a special needs son of her own.  Her methods are superb and get great results.
 
Handwriting Readiness Begins With the Ability to Hold a Pencil Correctly
How a child holds his pencil is critical to his comfort while writing for long periods and to his ability to control the strokes.  The most comfortable, efficient grasp is called a dynamic tripod. The thumb is bent, the forefinger and middle finger form an open ring, the arm and wrist stay still, and the fingers move in and out of the palm.
 
Being able to hold and use the pencil this way depends on the strength and stability of the trunk.   A strong, sturdy body provides the necessary foundation of support for the refined, controlled movements of the hands and fingers (this is one of the reasons it is so critical for children to exercise and to move their bodieswhen they are young; it develops the necessary internal balance and stability required for the fine motor coordination in the hands and eyes).
 
Teach the children how to hold a pencil correctly by having them curl up the last three fingers into the palm, pick up the pencil between the thumb and finger with the point facing up, twirl the pencil back into the thumb space with point down, then allow the middle finger to come rest behind.  Do this several times a day until it becomes automatic in nature
 
Preschool and kindergarten teachers can assist with acquiring good pencil grasp patterns by getting rid of all of the markers, fat crayons, giant paintbrushes, and sidewalk chalk, substituting them with one inch nubs of chalk and crayons, and cracking off the handles of the paintbrushes.  This way the children are forced to hold all of the drawing, painting, and writing materials in a strong, open pinch.  Don’t worry if they can’t manage them very well at first. Developing that strong pinch is far preferable in the long term than the child being able to draw you a nice picture with a fist around a fat crayon in the short term. 
 
Standing at easels to paint and draw strengthens and stabilizes the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.  Old fashioned chalk boards are an excellent way to practice letters and draw pictures.  The chalk provides plenty of traction, nobody minds broken chalk, and erasing the board in big sweeps is a great activity for little bodies.
 
Playing with Play-Doh and modeling clay is a wonderful way to strengthen little hands and fingers.  I also recommend that the children do lacing, beading, and make craft projects to train their hands and eyes to work together.
 
Help Children Keep Their Writing Organized by Giving Them Good Writing Paper
Small children have not yet developed the internal structure that allows them to organize their handwriting without lines to guide them, so providing them with lined paper is best.
 
One problem with conventional dotted paper is that it’s too busy.  There are so many lines that the child doesn't know which ones to follow, and so he ignores all of them.  The other problem is that the lines are often larger than the child’s finger excursion, so he is having to strain to make his letters as big as the paper is requiring. Blank paper doesn't help the child organize his work.
 
I like the plain double lined paper utilized in the Handwriting Without Tears program.  The child writes his letters within the double lines, which teaches correct sizing and keeps his work very neat and organized.  

Loren Shlaes is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration, handwriting remediation and school related issues. She is also a manual therapist and a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.  Her informative  site won the  "favorite resource for therapists" poll conducted by  yourtherapysource.com.   Her writing has been featured on Parents.com, and she is a regular contributor to the special needs blog at Pediastaff.   She is in private practice in Manhattan.

Minds in Bloom would also like to thankPediaStaff for collaborating with Loren to make this series possible. PediaStaff places pediatric therapists in schools, clinic, and hospitals throughout the country. In addition to their highly informative blog, they also have a huge Pinterest presence with over a hundred boards pertaining to education, child rearing, special needs, and various kinds of therapies. This post can also be viewed on the PediaStaff Blog.

Did you learn something new from Loren? Do you have ideas to add? Please comment.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Traveling Task Cards: A Fun Game for Multiple Choice Task Cards!

This game is perfect for the whole class and is great for this time of year because your students will be moving most of the time.

Here is what you need:
  • One set of multiple choice task cards with enough cards so that each student can have one card.
  • Prize globes, plastic eggs, snack-sized storage container, or other fun container. 
  • Signs for the answer choices (A, B, C etc.)
Here is how to set it up:
  • Designate a different section of the room for each  answer choice and place a sign there as a reminder. These will the the Answer Stations.
  • Put one task card in each container. 
Here is how to play:
  • Distribute containers with cards inside.
  • Have students chant: 5-4-3-2-1...Open for some Task Card Fun!
  • Each student opens his or her task card, reads it silently and walks to the correct Answer Station.
  • At the Answer Station, students trade cards with one other student to see if the other student agrees with their answer. Make sure students know it is okay to change Answer Stations at this point if they need to. 
  • Have students sit down, give a thumbs-up or do some other action to signify that they are ready to begin the next round. 
To Begin a New Round
  • Students put their cards back into the containers.
  • Students leave the Answer Stations and mill about the room, swapping containers with other students. Each student should swap several times. 
  • Teacher rings a bell, or gives some other signal. Students freeze where ever they are and once again chant:  5-4-3-2-1...Open for some Task Card Fun! 
  • Game continues until kids start to get repeat cards or you run out of time. 
If you want to add some excitement to the game, have students move differently during the milling time between rounds. For example, they could: hop on one foot, take only baby steps, walk backwards, crawl, pretend they are frightened etc. 

If you are looking for more ideas about how to use task cards, check out Totally Task Cards, a website devoted to these amazing teaching tools.

A small confession: I have not tried this game in a classroom. I came up with it today while lying in the sun on my back porch. If you try it with your students, I would love for you to comment and tell me how it went!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why Kids Need Recess and PE for Academic Success



Guest blogger,  Loren Shlaes is a registered pediatric occupational therapist and regular contributor to the special needs blog at Pediastaff (where this post is also being published). This is the third in a series of post from Loren about how to help students who may be challenged with attention, sensory, or other issues be successful in the classroom. Most likely, you have at least a few students with these challenges every year, but even if you don't, the information in these posts are relevant to all teachers.


PediaStaff on Pinterest!
I am SO excited about this post! Loren tells us exactly why why physical activity really is critical for learning! If you teach at one of those schools that is cutting recess and PE, try showing this to your principal!

Recess and Physical Education are Crucial to Academic Success 
Movement is what activates the brain and drives development forward.  For this reason, recess is just as important, if not more important, than anything else in the curriculum. Movement is essential to learning.  For the first six years of a child's life, his knowledge is based almost entirely  on his physical interactions with his environment.  His understanding of the world is based on his understanding of himself and his body in relation to gravity. Children need to move in order to develop and refine their balance, coordination, visual motor integration, endurance, and core strength, all of which directly affect their ability to function in school.  According to Jean Ayres, the occupation therapist who developed sensory integration therapy, if the brain develops the capacity to perceive, remember, and motor plan, this ability can be applied to towards mastery of all academic and other tasks, regardless of the specific contact.

In other words, preventing a small child from moving and forcing him to sit still for hours on end every day impedes his neurological development, interferes with his health, and impairs his ability to attend and learn.

Exercise and fresh air improve respiration and circulation, which supplies nutrients and oxygen to the brain, making it possible to concentrate.  Exercise also increases the body's levels of serotonin and dopamine. The importance of having a sufficient supply of these two neurotransmitters during class time cannot be overstated, since they directly affect the ability to function in school and to learn by allowing for cognitive and emotional flexibility and improving sustained attention to task, impulse control, and memory. 

If your district has decided that recess and PE are unnecessary, how can you mobilize your colleagues and the PTA to have them reinstated?  Many studies have shown regular exercise boosts students’ IQ’s, and improves report cards and test scores.  

Research has also shown that when children have their recess before they eat lunch, they eat more and do better in their classes during the afternoon.

Unfortunately many children are no longer going outside to play at all anymore, spending most of their down time after school and on weekends sitting in front of screens.  Parents must be educated on the importance of making sure children run around and play outside every single day.  When I can convince parents to take their little couch potatoes to the park on the weekends, they are inevitably thrilled and surprised by how well the children sleep on Sunday night, and how cheerful and easy to manage they are on Monday morning.

Never Cancel Recess! 
If you are having serious discipline problems in your classroom, and you are canceling recess as a consequence, you must find a different way to handle it.  Your students are acting out because they need to move more, not less!  The classrooms that I have visited over the years that have had the worst discipline problems are the ones in which the teachers either consistently overestimated the amount of time they could reasonably expect the children to sit still, or punished their students by keeping them in during recess.


Loren Shlaes is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration, handwriting remediation and school related issues. She is also a manual therapist and a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.  Her informative  site won the  "favorite resource for therapists" poll conducted by  yourtherapysource.com.   Her writing has been featured on Parents.com, and she is a regular contributor to the special needs blog at Pediastaff.   She is in private practice in Manhattan.

Minds in Bloom would also like to thankPediaStaff for collaborating with Loren to make this series possible. PediaStaff places pediatric therapists in schools, clinic, and hospitals throughout the country. In addition to their highly informative blog, they also have a huge Pinterest presence with over a hundred boards pertaining to education, child rearing, special needs, and various kinds of therapies. This post can also be viewed on the PediaStaff Blog.

Did you learn something new from Loren? Do you have ideas to add? Please comment.

20 Ways to Keep Your Students' Attention


As the end of the year approaches, it can be more and more challenging to keep your students' attention. Brain Breaks are important, but there are plenty of things you can do within a lesson to keep kids from day dreaming...or worse yet, nodding off. Here are some ideas:

  1. Desk Switch: Students have ten seconds (count down from ten) to find another desk to sit in that is in a different part of the room than his or her normal desk. Students stay in that desk for the rest of the lesson. Why? Two reasons, first switching desks gets them up and moving. Second, sitting in a different place in the classroom will give them a different perspective and wake up their brains a bit.

  2. Position Switch: Have students turn their chairs around and sit straddling the chair with their hands resting on the back (girls in dresses can sit side-saddle). While good sitting is important, a few minutes of sitting differently can keep kids alert. Another idea is to let kids sit on their desks with their feet on their chairs (which they will love!)

  3. Wander as you teach. If you don't need to be glued to the board, then wander throughout the classroom. Most kids will track you, which will keep them alert, and if you see someone having trouble focusing, you can stand right next to him or her for a quick perk-up. 

  4. Give each child a small ball of play dough to fidget with if you are doing a lecture-type lesson. 

  5. Throw students a foam ball when calling on them to answer a question. 

  6. Randomly and frequently ask students to repeat what you just said.

  7. Choose a fun word, such as "Shazam!" or "Bazinga!" Every time you say the word, students must use both hands to hit the tops of their desks two times and then clap two times. Say the word several times throughout the lesson. It will wake everyone up!

  8. If you have experience in theater, improv, or just like to have a little fun, teach a small portion of the lesson with an accent or imitating someone famous. 

  9. With younger students, teach with a puppet or give a voice to a stuffed animal.

  10. Throw in a joke every now and then.

  11. Use student volunteers. Any time you can call a few kids up to the front to be part of a demonstration, do it. It can be as simple as having them hold up signs (rather than displaying the same information on the document camera) or writing an answer on the board. Better yet just call on students to help rather than asking for volunteers. 

  12. If a lot of kids look sleepy, stop talking and write a simple command on the board such as: "Put both hands on your head." The silence should alert day dreamers that something is going on. Follow up with two more written commands. Make the last one something with sound just in case a few kids haven't caught on, such as, "Clap three times." Continue with your lesson. 

  13. Wear bright colored clothing. If you want to keep their attention, you should be the most interesting thing in the room. 

  14. Have students explain something they just learned in partners. 

  15. Require a response from everyone, rather than calling on one student by using individual white boards, or having students signal yes or no with sign-language. 

  16. Teach outside. This of course, could have the opposite effect with students being even more distracted, but on a beautiful day it could be a nice break for everyone to sit under a tree a tree with a clip board rather inside at a desk. 

  17. Animate those PowerPoints! If you don't have time or know how to do it yourself, you could probably find a helpful upper-grade student who could add some animation to a PowerPoint that already has the content. 

  18. Require students to take notes. Every so often, have them do a quick, related sketch in the margins. For example, if you are learning about Abraham Lincoln, give them 30 seconds to draw log cabin in the corner of the paper. 

  19. Throw in a higher level thinking question that is related to the lesson (but not part of your objective) and have a quick discussion. For example, if you are learning proper ways to use a comma, ask the students which punctuation mark they think is the most important and why. Questions like these are also fun to put at the bottom of a worksheet and have students answer on the back. 

  20. Let students know at the start of the lesson that they will need to write down three things they learned as their "ticket out the door."
This post was written in response to the Five-Star Blogger Challenge posted on The Organized Classroom Blog. Take a peek at the link up there to see more great Five-Star Blogs!



Did you get a new idea? Have one to add? Please let us know with a comment!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

7 FREE Creative and Critical Thinking Activities

Looking for some fun after-testing activities? Try these seven ready-to-use printables! This is actually a mini-sampler as each activity has been pulled from one of my other critical and creative thinking skills products. They all work fine as stand-alone activities and will give you a taste of some other great activities available in my TpT store


Friday, April 13, 2012

Totally Task Cards Giveaway



This Giveaway closed on April 18. Congratulations to these 60 Winners!
Winners were contacted by email and each given the prize of one set of Questioning Task Cards. I know there were only supposed to be 25 winners, but so many people entered that I increased the number of winners to 60. Thank you to EVERYONE who entered. I really appreciate you visiting Totally Task Cards and also the many, many positive comments you left. 

Last week I launched Totally Task Cards; a website devoted to task cards! In order to celebrate the launch, I am giving away 25 sets of my new Reading Strategy Questioning Task Cards.
To enter, just do the two things below:
One entry per person. Winners will be selected at random and announced by first name right here on Wednesday, April 18. Task Cards will be sent to the winners the same day.

For those of you who love to take pictures, I would love to have a few more for the website. If I use yours I will give you $10 of products from my TpT store as a small thank you. I will, of course, block out the students' faces before publishing. Please send pictures to reallyrachel@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Advice from the OT: Why Good Sitting = Good Learning


Minds in Bloom is once again honored to welcome guest blogger Loren Shlaes, a registered pediatric occupational therapist and regular contributor to the special needs blog at Pediastaff (where this post is also being published). This is the second in a series of post from Loren about how to help students who may be challenged with attention, sensory, or other issues be successful in the classroom. Most likely, you have at least a few students with these challenges every year, but even if you don't, the information in these posts are relevant to all teachers.

This second post is all about why is is so very important that children sit properly. It turns out there is much more to sitting than I had ever imagined!

Posture is Critical to Learning and Attention 
If you walked into your office  and saw that the top of your desk was so high that it came up to your chin, and your chair was so tall that your legs were dangling, you would immediately go to human resources and demand that it be fixed.  Sitting in such ill fitting furniture would prevent you from being able to work.  You wouldn’t be comfortable, you couldn’t rest your arms on your desk or your feet on the floor, and you couldn’t really see your computer or your books and papers. But I walk into classrooms all the time and see exactly that: children sitting with the tops of their work surfaces level with their chins, and their feet not touching the floor.  
If children are expected to sit still and pay attention for long periods, the furniture they sit in absolutely must fit!  Please, make sure that the table heights in your classroom are about at the height of the bottoms of the children’s ribcages.  When they are sitting, shoulders should be relaxed and forearms should be resting comfortably, with elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, on the tops of desks.  Chairs should allow feet to sit flatly and firmly on the floor with hips, knees, and ankles bent at 90 degrees.  
Tips For Helping Children Sit Up Straight
Sitting still, although it looks easy, is a complex, high level skill. The ability to extend the body effortlessly against gravity, curb impulses, filter out distractions, and focus on a challenging task  for long periods of time depends on a high degree of neurological maturity and physical strength and stability.
If a child’s trunk and spine are weak, and he is struggling just to sit up or to sit still, he is using his mental and physical resources in order to comply with the grownups’ demands, and not channeling them into learning his lessons.
There are several things we can do in school to help children maintain good posture and alignment, which will support the work of their hands, eyes, ears, and brains for learning:
  • Frequent movement breaks  Movement fires the nerve in the inner ear that tells the muscles to extend strongly against gravity, and the brain to alert itself to the environment.
  • Make sure the children’s feet are resting flat on the floor There is a mechanism that sends a postural signal to  the spine to extend upward when there is pressure on the bottom of the feet.
  • Teach children to make sure that their sitting bones are pointing straight down while they are in their chairs.  Do you know where your sitting bones are? Put your hand between yourself and the chair,  and feel the large, pointy bone in your pelvis that protrudes downwards.  When the feet are firmly touching the floor and the sitting bones are pointing directly downwards in the chair, a strong postural signal is sent up the spine. 
Unfortunately, many school chairs are designed and constructed so that the chairs are easy to stack and store, rather than  with the children’s comfort and posture as a first priority. It is  actually difficult to sit in these chairs correctly. Sometimes an easy fix to this is to stick a couple of paperback books under the chair’s hind legs.
You can have the children do some simple postural/alerting exercises before they begin doing handwriting by having them stomp their feet on the floor, lift their arms above their heads,out to the sides, push and pull, then shrug their shoulders up as high as they can, pull them back, and drop.
Managing Circle Time
Many children have a hard time with circle time. Sitting on the floor for extended periods is difficult.  Sitting in such close proximity to others without furniture to define personal space can feel threatening. Being forced to sit “criss cross applesauce” for more than a few minutes can be painful, and promotes bad posture. Children often do better sitting on their heels, or lying on their bellies with their elbows propped up, than with their legs crossed in front of them.
Don't let children W sit
If you see a child sitting with his legs straight in front of him and his arms propped up behind him, he is expending so much energy just to stay upright that he has little left over to attend to the lesson. He is sitting that way because his back isn’t strong enough to hold him up. W sitting is harmful to the joints and impedes the child’s development, and should be discouraged. Give the child a chair or have him lie on his belly or sit on his heels instead.
If there are a variety of seating options for circle time, like regular chairs, meditation cushions, and  floor chairs like the Nada Chair, the children can choose what will work best for them.  For a child who really can’t manage circle time, sitting next to a grown up, a little away from the other children, with his back supported, and a little fidget toy, or even a little activity like lacing or bead stringing to keep his hands busy, is best.
Circle time should be kept short and focused.  If you find yourself continually reprimanding the class for not being able to sit still during circle time, it is time to move.
For more valuable information about managing circle time, please see this post on Loren's blogIf you have a student who really struggles during circle time you may also want to check out, Why Can't My Child Behave During Circle Time? 

Loren Shlaes is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration, handwriting remediation and school related issues. She is also a manual therapist and a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.  Her informative  site won the  "favorite resource for therapists" poll conducted by  yourtherapysource.com.   Her writing has been featured on Parents.com, and she is a regular contributor to the special needs blog at Pediastaff.   She is in private practice in Manhattan.

Minds in Bloom would also like to thankPediaStaff for collaborating with Loren to make this series possible. PediaStaff places pediatric therapists in schools, clinic, and hospitals throughout the country. In addition to their highly informative blog, they also have a huge Pinterest presence with over a hundred boards pertaining to education, child rearing, special needs, and various kinds of therapies. This post can also be viewed on the PediaStaff Blog.

Did you learn something new from Loren? Do you have ideas to add? Please comment.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

FREE: 8 Reading Response Posters!

Use these bright and colorful, free reading strategy posters for centers or classroom decor.

Posters included:
  • Author's Purpose (using the PIE acronym)
  • Summarize It (Using a SUM acronym that I created)
  • Connecting (Text to self, Text to Text, Text to World) 
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Inference
  • Questioning
  • Visualizing
  • Predicting
UK/AU spellings are included at the end of the document. 

These will also go well with several of my reading strategy task card sets.

This post is part of the linky party at The Cornerstone, lots of great freebies there, take a peek!






It is also part of TBA's Freebie Linky party right here:


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Sunday, April 8, 2012

20 Three-Minute Brain Breaks

Wednesday's guest post about why kids need to move from pediatric occupational therapist Loren Shlaes was so popular that I decided to follow it up with a list of Brain Breaks you can use with your students. These are great to use anytime your students are feeling restless and are struggling to pay attention. Most of these will only take a few minutes, and then you can get back to the lesson with your students ready to focus on the lesson at hand.
  1. 5-4-3-2-1. In this simple game, students stand up and the teacher (or leader) has them do five different movements in descending order. For example the teacher would say: "Do fivejumping jacks, spin around four times, hop on one foot threetimes, walk all the way around the classroom two times, give your neighbor one high-five (pausing in between each task for students to do it).

  2. Trading Places Have students stand behind their pushed-in chairs. Call out a trait and everyone who has that trait must change places with someone else (students who do not have the trait stay where they are). Examples: "Everyone with curly hair." "Everyone who ate cereal for breakfast." Everyone who is wearing stripes." 

  3. Six Spots Number six spots around your room from 1-6. Have students each go to a spot of their choice. Choose a student to roll a die (if you can make a big one out of foam, it adds to the fun). All the students at the number rolled must go back to their seats. Students that are left go to a new spot and the die is rolled again. Continue until only a few students are left.

  4. Mingle, Mingle, Group! In this game students mill about the classroom saying, "mingle, mingle, mingle" in soft voices until the teacher says "Groups of 5," at which point the students must quickly group themselves into groups with the correct number of people. Students who are left over must do three jumping jacks before the next round starts. The teacher can call out any number for the group size. You can also add rules such as: as soon as a group is complete, all members must sit down in a line. 

  5. Dance Party! Put on some rockin' music and dance! If you can make the room semi-dark and have a black light or other special effect, your kids will love it! 

  6. Freeze Dance! Similar to Dance Party except that every so often the music stops and students must freeze and hold the position they are in until the music begins again. 

  7. Name Moves Students stand behind their chairs. In turn, each student says his or her name accompanied by a special movement. For example a student might say, "Kayla!" while dramatically dropping to one knee and doing Jazz Hands. After the student does his or her move, the rest of the class says the students name in unison and imitates the move. Then it is the next student's turn. 

  8. Keep it Up: Students must keep a beach ball from hitting the ground. Add two or three balls to make it even more fun.

  9. Simon Says An oldie but a goody! 

  10. Movement Songs Sing a song with whole-body movements such as, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, Father Abraham, Toe-Knee Chest-Nut, Shake Your Sillies Out (Raffie), Grand Old Duke of York, My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean etc. 

  11. Recorded Movement Songs Older students might enjoy a simple Zumba routine, YMCA, or the Macarena. Littler ones will love Sesame Street's A Very Simple Dance to Do.

  12. Animal Pretend Younger children will enjoy pretending to be various animals (or even objects such as lawn mowers or airplanes). Call out a few in sequence.

  13. Would You Rather Ask a would you rather question and have students show their choice by moving to one end of the room or the other. Have a few kids share why. Here are 20 free Would You Rather Questions to get you started. 

  14. Find it Fast  Call out a color or other trait (something round, something made of wood), and students must find an object in the room that fits the trait and get to it quickly. 

  15. Physical Challenges Challenge students to do something physically difficult such as standing on one foot with arms extended or this one: grab your nose with left hand and grab your left earlobe with your right hand,then quickly switch so that your right hand is on your nose and your left hand is grabbing your right earlobe. Yoga poses could also be a good variation. 

  16. Plates Give each student a paper plate. Students must walk around the room balancing the plates on their heads. If a student drops his or her plate, the student must freeze until another student picks it up and places it back on the student's head (while keep his or her own plate in place, of course). 

  17. Line Up! Have students line up using a specific criteria such as age (use day and month, not just year), height, alphabetically by middle name, hair length, etc.

  18. Limbo All you need is a long stick and a pair of kids to hold it. Music is nice too. 

  19. Human Knot Divide students into groups of about eight students. Have students each grab right hands with someone who is not directly next to them. Then do the same with left hands. The challenge is to untangle and become a circle without releasing hands. 

  20. Jump Skip Counting Have students count by twos, fives, tens etc. while jumping with each count. You could also practice spelling words this way. 
Please note that I did not come up with all of these out of my own head. Here are some of the sources I used:
Here is a nine-minute video about how to manage Brain Breaks in your classroom. Good ideas on how to quickly transition and group students. Try searching Brain Breaks on YouTube for ideas and dance routines you can use with your students. 
Looking for more Brain Breaks? You can get 60 of them in a convenient card format right here!



What works in your classroom? Please comment with your ideas!
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