Try a Top Ten Writing Activity

Have you tried having your students write Top Ten Lists yet? Top  I love Top Ten lists for several reasons:

Use for Critical Thinking
Top Ten Lists require higher level thinking as students must evaluate different options, weighing one against another to decide not only what to include, but also the order of the items they do choose. You can also extend the activity by asking students to justify their top choices.

Use Across the CurriculumThey can be used in a variety of ways across the curriculum. Here are just a few examples:

Free End of the Year Top 10
  • A Top Ten Facts About...activity could apply to many different subjects - animals, countries, people etc. It might also make a nice add-on activity for a report on the subject. 
  • If you are reading a book with many characters, such a The Hunger Games, you could have students list their ten favorite characters. 
  • If you are studying inventors, why not ask students to list what they consider to be the ten most important inventions ever. 
  • How about using Top Ten Lists at the end of the year? Addie Williams of Teacher Talk has a terrific Top Ten freebie for the end of the year that you can download on her excellent blog.
Use in Different Ways
Top Ten Lists can enhance your curriculum in many different ways. Try some of these ideas:
  • Create a Top Ten Center. Change the topic each week. 
  • Use as bell work, for fast finishers, or enrichment homework.
  • Have your students work in pairs or small groups to complete their lists. 
  • Have students create their lists poster style, decorating with a colorful headline, border and pictures.
  • Have students create their lists on the computer, using fun fonts, borders and all the other bells and whistles.
  • Record your students reading their lists in David Letterman style. 
  • Create Top Ten Books and have students create a different list in their books each week, perhaps as bell work. This could also be good handwriting practice
  • Create a Top Ten Class book in which each student contributes one page. This could be a "Best of" book in which each student chooses his or her favorite page to include or you could choose one topic and include everyone's list on that topic.
  • Discuss, discuss, discuss! Top ten lists make terrific discussion prompts. Ask students to explain their choices. You could also extend  the activity by having them write about their top choices. 
Use to Motivate Reluctant Writers
Even reluctant writers enjoy creating Top Ten Lists. Sometimes it is those reluctant writers who come up with the most interesting and creative lists!

It is easy to create Top Ten Lists yourself. All you need is an idea and a piece of paper. However, if you would like a set of 50 Ready-to-Use Top Ten Lists, you can find them here.

Fun End of the School Year Ideas


Last week I asked the amazing teachers on my facebook page what how they liked to celebrate the end of the school year. Here are their terrific ideas: 

I love having students vote on class awards. I always make enough categories so that every student gets an award. Some categories include: Math Whiz, Class Clown, Most Helpful, etc.
-Jenifer Phillips

We take our first graders to visit 2nd grade. They do a walk through tour, and then we buddy them up with a 2nd grader to conduct "interviews." It is SUPER adorable! They have a blast coming up with the questions! Also, this year in math, we're doing Math Olympics where homerooms compete. We're playing fast facts baseball, and other fun games! Should be a blast!!!
-A Year of Many "Firsts"

Read-In!!! Kids bring pillow, something to lay on, lots of books, something to drink and eat of their choice. We do a 1/2 hour of reading with a 10 minute break after the reading. Repeat all day! The kids love it and it is time for me to do paperwork, etc.!
-Julie Slocum Santello

I have a great book of 'fractured faerie tales. We split the class into groups and they have a week to prepare for a presentation. They love it. It's like Reader's Theatre so no lines to learn.
-Betsy Lutz Brown

My kids were very rowdy one day, so I decided to have them write a letter to the Kindergarten bunch about what to expect in 1st grade. They loved it! Many of them made a graphic organizer before they wrote with 2 columns, one with a smiley face and one with a frowny face. There were some cute sayings about what "would make Mrs. Totty mad". lol
-Sherrie Hood Totty

A class scrapbook. I just saw that Laura Candler has directions for one on her page so I'll integrate some of her ideas with mine. I also let my students paint wooden picture frames and put a class picture inside. Oh, and I do a book swap for summer reading.
-Chen Po

I love passing out portfolios and having my kids examine how much they have grown (academically and physically!) since the beginning of the year!
-Mrs. Lirette's Learning Detectives

This is my first year teaching. I had my 6th grade crew write letters to themselves during the first wk of school. They reflected on these when writing to the upcoming 6th graders. It was great to watch them realize how far they'd come.
-Carrie Elizabeth

After starting our year with First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg (first story in our reading books) we finished with the read aloud, Last Day Blues (same characters).
-Monica Horn

Checkers tournament, movie day, (different rooms show different movies, kids pick which they want to see like at theaters) game day ( bring your favorite game)-Gina Smith Robinson

I have done tee shirts. The children bring in white shirts and we get fabric markers. The children design the shirts highlighting the year. Then they have their classmates sign the shirt. -Renee Manzi

I had all of my kids sit in a circle with a bouncy ball. They had to shut their eyes and roll the ball. Then they had to say something nice about the person who caught the ball. It was so sweet.
-Holly Jeanette Hanson

My kids made kites. We used  this site, where they have a video tutorial. Super easy, and then we flew them outside as a reward after testing week!
-Brittany Ledbetter Neal

I have had kids do a class scrapbook. Each student gets an 8 and 1/2 by 11 piece of scrapbook paper and they refelct on their school year. They are allowed to use any arts and craft materials that are availalbe in the room or that they bring from home. I encourage them to include a picture and quotes from the year. It is really interesting to see what memories they will leave the 6th grade with.
-Rebecca Helms McKnight

I have the students do ABC books on how to survive in my class. Then the next years class gets to read them on the first day if class. They can be really creative on what gets them in trouble and what they can do to stay in my good side.
-Heather Wilzbacher Barrow

I have my 6th graders write letters to next year's new 6th graders. It's so hard to change to middle school. My new students love hearing their advise about changing classes, connection classes, lockers, staying organized and doing homework. This year I even made a survey for students to reflect on my abilities as a teacher. It was very eye-opening as they were sweet to think that I was a great teacher. I did learn that I don't let students know their progress as much as they'd like. It's my goal for next year.
-Emily Watts McGrady

I have each child write a positive comment about their classmates. Then I type up the comments and give them to the kids on the last day of school. We brainstorm a few lists as well... memories, good things about our school, ideas on things to do during the summer.
-Elementary Matters

We have fun day with 10 stations.the fab this year was a funnoodle javelin throw. I made 2 stations by making circles from the noodles. And using colored duck tape put them on larger noodles.they looked like Olympic rings between 2 posts. The kids were divided into 2 teams to throw through the circle. 5th graders had so much fun...great to see kiddos being kids.
-Susan Heneka 

I have my fifth graders (who are graduating and moving to a new school) take a Memory Walk around the school and say good-bye to teachers and think about special memories that have made. We make a Memory Mat of favorite memories...friends, teachers, events...and we write letters to favorite teachers.
-Chris Thompson

Do you have more to add? Please comment with your ideas!

End of the Year Freebies

I know many of you are already out for summer, but for those of you still teaching, here are a few fun freebies to use with your students.

Here are 20 fun Would You Rather Questions that all have to do with the end of the school year or summer. Use as discussion starters or writing prompts!

This ABC nature walk would work well on a field trip to a natural area, or as a summertime activity for scout groups, summer camp, or even just for fun with your own children. 

Now that testing is over, try these fun Creative and Critical Thinking Activities. They will make sure that your student's brains don't go to sleep at the end of the year.

And finally, for the younger set, here is a graphic recipe for making a single serving of baggie ice cream. This could be used in a mini-unit about ice cream (write poems, make up flavors, do math story problems etc.) or would be fun for scout and camp groups. 

Wishing you a great end of the year and a terrific summer!

FREE Interpreting Remainders Handout and Posters

Division is the trickiest of the four basic operations. Word problems are also quite difficult for many students. Throw in interpreting remainders and you have a Trifecta of Confusion in Elementary Mathland. That is unfortunate, because interpreting remainders is an important skill, and it is also part of the Common Core Standards.

The trick to interpreting remainders is to really understand the problem and what is needed for the answer. It also helps to realize that there are only three choices:
  • Round it (add one more to the answer so that there are no leftovers)
  • Drop it (ignore the remainder - it is not part of the answer at all)
  • Share it (divide the remainder evenly and report it is as a fraction or decimal)
You can help your students to fully understand these choices and how to apply them with this free set of interpreting remainders posters and handout

If you want more practice with this concept, you may also want to purchase this set of Division with Remainders Task Cards.

20 Teacher End of the Year Reflection Questions

Last week, I posted 20 End of the Year Reflection Questions for Students. This week, the focus is on teachers. Here are 20 questions to ask yourself about your school year. Some of these would also make good discussion questions for a staff debriefing or for student teachers/interns.
  1. What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?

  2. What is something you tried in your classroom this year for the first time? How did it go?

  3. What is something you found particularly frustrating this year?

  4. Which student in your class do you think showed the most improvement? Why do you think this student did so well?

  5. What is something you would change about this year if you could?

  6. What is one way that you grew professionally this year?

  7. Who amongst your colleagues was the most helpful to you?

  8. What has caused you the most stress this year?

  9. When was a time this year when you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?

  10. What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?

  11. In what ways were you helpful to your colleagues this year?

  12. What was the most valuable thing you learned this year?

  13. What was the biggest mistake you made this year? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?

  14. What is something you did this year that went better than you thought it would?

  15. What part of the school day is your favorite? Why?

  16. What were your biggest organizational challenges this year?

  17. Who was your most challenging student? Why?

  18. In what ways did you change the lives of your students this year?

  19. Pretend that you get to set your own salary for this past year based on the job that you did. How much do you feel that you earned (the number you come up with should be in no way based on your current salary - rather, come up with a number that truly reflects how you should be compensated for your work this year)?

  20. Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to be a teacher if you could go back in time and make the choice again? If the answer is "no,"  is there a way for you to choose a different path now?
Want to share your reflections or have more to add? Please comment!

Identifying and Helping Students with Sensory Integration Issues


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 final post in a series 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!

This is the last post in the series and I want to thank Rachel and her fantastic website, Minds in Bloom, for giving me the opportunity to share what occupational therapy has to offer the children who are struggling in their classrooms. Thanks also to Heidi at Pediastaff, who suggested the collaboration.
For this last post, I want to help teachers identify who in their classrooms could use some extra assistance from a sensory integration therapist and give them some suggestions for what they can do to help. Very often people don't know about occupational therapy and how it can help, so I am starting by defining who we are and what we do.
What is Sensory Integration/Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy assists people who for various reasons cannot meet their responsibilities and are not functioning at their highest potential.  A child who is not succeeding in school and can’t meet the grownup's expectations falls into this category.
Sensory integration based occupational therapy can be very helpful to a child who is struggling in the classroom by strengthening his body, correcting delays in his neurological maturation, improving the way his senses take in and respond to his environment, and helping him become more emotionally flexible.  School based therapists also work on helping the child with his hand eye and fine motor coordination, handwriting, social skills, and anything else a child needs to succeed in the classroom.
What Does Sensory integration Mean?
Sensory integration refers to the ability to take in, perceive, and act on sensory information in an accurate way.  Our behavior is based on our perceptions of the world around us.  If a child cannot correctly perceive and interpret what goes on around him, or if his balance is off and his coordination is poor, his behavior and actions are going to reflect that.  
  • Children who could benefit from sensory integration therapy are notable for being unable to meet the expectations of the grownups.  They are “out of synch” in the classroom.An “out of synch” child may have some of these issues:
  • Can’t maintain focus in a noisy classroom
  • Can’t sit still
  • Has a hard time internalizing and following the unspoken expectations and routines of the classroom and acts as if every day is the first day of school
  • Has continual difficulty controlling impulses
  • Lashes out when others come into his personal space
  • Refuses to interact with classroom materials such as paint, chalk, clay or glue
  • Has difficulty transitioning between activities
  • Is emotionally rigid, can’t roll with the punches, needs to be in control, has difficulty socializing in an age appropriate way
  • Has a tough time modulating behavior; can go from zero to 60 in a second; his responses are often not appropriate to the situation
  • Slumps over his desk; rubs his eyes; his handwriting is painful, illegible, and slow, with a poor grasp; he may use too much force and break his pencil frequently; he has difficulty organizing his work on the page
  • Appears to not understand what is said to him; can’t pick out teacher’s voice over other noise in classroom; can’t recall or follow long strings of instructions
  • Is easily distractible; looks up at every ambient sound or movement and then has a hard time refocusing
  • Is clumsy, trips and falls frequently, holds onto the handrail and uses step to step gait pattern on the stairs, can’t do what the other children do in gym or on the playground
  • Behaves in unexpected or inappropriate ways in noisy or chaotic environment
  • Is frequently tuned out, not present
  • Requires constant redirection and guidance from adults; takes up more than his fair share of attention
  • Does not like to play in groups, mostly chooses to play alone
  • Sits with a frozen expression in class, especially when it’s noisy
  • Is obviously bright but can’t get his work done on time; poorly organized
  • Does not have a flexible attention span; he is either unable to focus at all, or he is so hyper-focused that he is in his own world
  • Has a short attention span, poor frustration tolerance, is unable to self soothe or self regulate in an age appropriate manner
  • Is anxious, needs constant reassurance, seems lost and can’t follow directions.
If you have a child who is struggling in your classroom with any of these issues, a referral for an occupational therapy evaluation is in order.
How Can I Help a Child With Sensory Issues?
Here are some easy things you can do to help a child who is struggling:
  • Children who are easily distracted do best when they are sitting with their backs covered.  Providing a child who is bothered  by people walking by with a chair tucked into a corner can lower anxiety levels and allow the child to focus.  

  • Children who are very sensitive to noise don’t do well in noisy classrooms.  Some things that might help: providing him with a quiet corner to do his work, providing him with earplugs that dampen but don’t block out sound, allowing headphones that play soft music or cancel noise during busy times, providing the child with something to chew (chewing dampens sound by activating the muscles that protect the eardrums). 

  • A child with visual issues needs to sit close to the board and would probably have an easier time reading with his work placed vertically in front of him.  This reduces visual distortion and helps the child sit more easily by allowing him to keep his head upright.   An inexpensive slant board can be rigged up by taping together several old fashioned ring binders. 

  • Gum, candy, and fidget toys may be the bane of a teacher’s existence, but for a child who has a hard time sitting still or staying alert, they are a necessity.  Chewing is grounding, calming, and organizing.  Sucking pulls the eyes in close together which makes it easier to see close work.  Sucking on a strongly flavored candy like a Warhead or a Tearjerker is especially arousing and alerting.  

  • An object to manipulate, and busy hands makes sitting still infinitely easier, which anyone who has made a chain of paper clips, folded a gum wrapper into an origami shape, doodled a cartoon, or systematically torn the label off of a soda bottle during a long meeting knows only too well.  

  • I send a little ziploc bag of toys to school at the beginning of every school year for the teacher to hand out to my little friends when appropriate.  Stretchy frogs, Bucky Balls, and miniature transformer toys are excellent for discreetly keeping hands busy and minds alert.  If none of those things are available, there are always drinking straws and paper clips. 

  • If there is room in your classroom, a large cardboard box, like the kind a washing machine comes in, can be a very handy place for any child who is overwhelmed by the busyness and noise in the classroom to regroup.  Put a few cushions in there and leave the flaps on so the child can have some privacy when he needs it.  No following him in there and forcing him to do his lessons while he’s hiding; let him come out when he’s ready. 

  • Many children with visual issues can’t copy from the board, so an email home with the assignments would be helpful, or he can be assigned a buddy who can make sure he’s copied everything down correctly.

A Final Thought
In order for children to feel safe and secure and to trust the grownups, they have to know that the grownups are strong, wise, and can keep them safe. Don’t be afraid to have high standards, clear expectations, and strong boundaries in your classroom.  Your children will love you for it. 

If you have been following this series (or even if this is the first post you have read) we would love to hear your thoughts in a comment!
Want to read more from Loren? Here are the other posts in this series:

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   Her writing has been featured on, 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.

20 End of the Year Reflection Questions

Here are 20 questions to help you and your students reflect on the school year. You could use these informally for discussion when you have a few minutes or for a more personal reflection experience, take a few of your favorites to use for a survey or as writing/journal prompts. There is also a list of reflection questions for teachers here.

  1. What is something we did this year that you think you will remember for the rest of your life?

  2. What is something you accomplished this year that you are proud of?

  3. What was the nicest thing someone in our class did for you this year?

  4. What was the most challenging part of this year for you?

  5. Where is your favorite place in our classroom (or school)? Why?

  6. If you could change one thing that happened this year, what would it be?

  7. What are three things you did this year to help your classmates?

  8. What are the three most important things you learned this year?

  9. What is something that was hard for you at the start of the year, but is easy now?

  10. In what area do you feel you made your biggest improvements?

  11. What is your favorite part of the day in our class? Why?

  12. What is something you taught your teacher or classmates this year?

  13. Of the books you read this year, which was your favorite? Why?

  14. What was the best piece of writing that you did this year? Why do you think it is your best?

  15. What person at our school has made the biggest impact in your life this year? Why?

  16. What is something the teacher could have done to make this year better?

  17. What are six adjectives that best describe this school year?

  18. Knowing what you know now, if you could write a letter to yourself that would travel back in time so that you would receive it at the start of the school year, what advice would you give your younger self?

  19. When you consider the rest of your life, what percentage of what you learned this year do you think will be useful to you?

  20. What advice would you give students who will be in this class next year?
UPDATE: May 2015: I just made these questions into task cards! Get them for FREE right here

I recently found out that Laura Candler of Corkbord Connections has posted this terrific freebie called School Year Reflections that could easily be used with the questions on this post. I just love those fluffy clouds! Hop on over to her site to download this fun printable!

Looking for more open-ended questions to ask your students? You can find 200 of them in easy-to-use card format right here.

Have more to add? Please share with a comment!

Cooperative Math Problem Solving

Today I am trading blogs with Laura Candler of Corkboard Connections!  You can read her insightful post about cooperative math problem solving right here and then hop on over to Corkboard Connections to read my post about Task Cards. 

Cooperative learning can transform a classroom, but it does take a bit of trial and error to be successful. When I was first trained , I used cooperative learning every day, in every subject, and my students and I were having a terrific time! But then came the big state test! Oops! I discovered that as a result of working together all the time, my students lacked confidence in their ability to work on their own. It was an eye-opening experience for me, and I had to step back and reevaluate my teaching methods.
I realized that the missing piece of the puzzle was providing time for students to work alone before working with a partner. This step was especially critical in math because the process of struggling with a problem and trying different strategies can lead to new insights and understandings. If we ask students to immediately turn and talk to a partner, we’re depriving them of the chance to figure it out on their own.
To address this need, I developed the Cooperative Problem Solving (CPS) strategy, which has four important steps. If you use CPS more than once on a given day, it occurs in a cycle.

Steps of Cooperative Problem Solving
  1. Teacher Presents the Problem - Display a math problem on the board, hand out a worksheet, or ask students to turn to a problem in the math book. Read the problem aloud or ask them to read it silently. You’ll find free Daily Math Puzzler worksheets on my Problem Solving page that would work well for this activity. Have students begin with the first problem on the worksheet.
  2. Students Work Alone - Ask students to work the problem alone, preferably on dry-erase boards so they can easily erase their work and try different strategies. They turn their boards face down when they have a preliminary answer or you tell them that time is up.
  3. Students Work Together - Students compare and discuss answers with a partner or with a team. I generally prefer partner work in math, but if the problem is really challenging, I allow the entire team to talk it over and work it out together. If students realize that their answer was wrong, they may change it, but they must show the work to go with their new solution. They don't all have to agree, but each person should be prepared to explain his or her answer.
  4. Class Discusses Solutions - Reveal the answer to the class and call on students to share how they solved the problem. Instead of focusing on a single "right" way, challenge your class to come up with as many ways to solve it as possible. Allow different students to hold up their dry erase boards or place them under a document camera as they explain their solutions. If students are required to record an answer in a journal or on a worksheet, allow time to do this now, without talking to anyone.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 - If time allows, complete the entire sequence with another math word problem.

Independent Assessments

Even if your students record the answers on a worksheet, the answers are not a true assessment of their skills. You still need to assign independent math problems on a regular basis. Doing so holds students accountable, not only for completing the work, but for learning the skill.
For more problem-solving strategies and information, read my blog post on this topic on Corkboard Connections. You'll find a link there to a free webinar on Daily Math Problem Solving. 
Do you use cooperative learning in your math class? What are your favorite strategies? Do you think it's possible to do too much cooperative learning? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Laura Candler is the creator of the Teaching Resources website and the author of the Corkboard Connections blog. She's written over a dozen print books and ebooks for educators including Mastering Math Facts, Math Stations for Middle Grades, and the Daily Math Puzzler series. 

Why Some Children Pay Better Attention Than Others

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 fifth 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!

Even though this example Loren uses is set in a kindergarten classroom, the information in the post applies to all grades and will really help you to better understand what is happening in your classroom. 

Scene: A typical kindergarten classroom. Children are working independently and in small groups.  The room is busy and noisy.  Scents from the cafeteria are wafting up because it’s close to lunch time.  Now let’s focus in on three children as they go about their school day:

Child A walks aimlessly around the perimeter of the room.  He is occasionally instructed to pick an activity from the shelves and get started on it, or to join other students as they work at one of the small tables coloring and cutting.  He picks up a random item and attempts to comply, but as soon as the teacher’s back is turned, he resumes wandering.
Child B has chosen as his activity a picture book.  He is sequestered in the corner, turning the pages, and does not appear to be aware of anything around him.  When the teacher calls the children to attention by clapping her hands sharply, he doesn’t look up. 
Child C is sitting at one of the tables working on a puzzle with several of his classmates.  While they figure out where to put the pieces, they chat about what they did over the weekend and compare various sports figures.  When the teacher comes over to the table to check on their progress, they look up briefly, nod when she tells them they have a few more minutes before lunch, then get right back to work.  When the puzzle is completed, child C sweeps it into the box, gets up, and puts it on the shelf.  He then gathers up his lunchbox and his catcher’s mitt in preparation for recess.

Of the three children in this scenario, which one do you think will have the most chance of succeeding in school?
Child A could not focus in the noise and chaos of the classroom and so could not engage in goal oriented behavior. 
Child B was able to concentrate on his solitary activity, but only by completely shutting out everything around him to the extent that he was not able to hear the teacher when she called the class back to order. 
Child C demonstrated the highest level of attention.  Despite the noise and chaos in the room, he was easily able to do several high level tasks at once while retaining a conscious awareness of everything else that was going on around him, filtering out what was not relevant to him and responding appropriately when it was.
This type of attention is called joint or flexible attention.  It is the ability to concentrate on some things to the relative exclusion of others. The ability to maintain sufficient alertness and arousal to be available for learning and  to attend to what is important and filter out what is not while shifting between several tasks at once is a complex, high level skill. 
What is required for a child to be able to sit for long periods, work in a noisy atmosphere, curb impulses, and focus on challenging tasks? 
  • A strong, stable body that supports him effortlessly against gravity. 

  • Good vision.  Many children have undetected visual issues.  A child who rubs his eyes, can’t copy from the board, slumps down over his work, habitually sits at his desk with his head resting on his hand and turned to the side, reverses letters after the age of seven, flinches when a ball is tossed to him, has a short attention span for tabletop activities, and is resistant to doing written work may be having difficulty with close vision.  

  • Adequate nutrition. Why is it that people know very well that putting second rate fuel in their cars will cause them to run badly, but then routinely feed their children bad food?  Second rate fuel in a child’s body will have exactly the same effect.  It will cause him to function poorly.  A child cannot be at his best on a diet of salty, sugary, chemical laden, highly processed food. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provide the nutrition necessary for the body’s ability to support learning, and to grow and develop.  Sugary breakfast cereals, artificial juice drinks, frozen pizza, and toaster waffles do not.

    A classroom of children who have breakfasted on Froot Loops, been fed a midmorning snack of blue gummi bears and Hawaiian Punch, and then eaten chicken nuggets and fries for lunch, are not being provided with the necessary fuel to focus, attend, solve problems, and curb their impulses. Healthy snacks, and nutritious breakfasts and lunches, along with frequent drinks of water, are essential to the child’s ability to learn.

  •  Good respiration.  Shallow breathers and children who are chronically stuffy and have a hard time concentrating because their brains are starved for oxygen. 

  • Sufficient exercise, to develop and strengthen their nervous systems and promote healthy digestion and elimination, and for the manufacture of neurotransmitters that support learning.

  • Efficient, reliable sensory processing.  Sensory processing refers to the way the nervous system takes in and perceives environmental information gathered by the senses.  If the child’s nervous system does not adequately filter and discriminate, he is going to have difficulty maintaining his focus because everything is bothering or distracting him.  If his nervous system is misinterpreting what is happening around him, his behavior is going to reflect that.
A child who habitually wanders around when it’s noisy, tunes everything out, slumps at his desk, and can’t keep up because he can’t pay attention, is living in a body that does not support learning.

Want to read more from Loren? Here are the other posts in this series:

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   Her writing has been featured on, 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.

Teacher Appreciation Jackpot!

The Jackpot has come to an end and the product below has been returned to its regular price of $5.00. Big thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you were able to download many great products to use with your students....and most of all, I hope you feel appreciated!

The Jackpot may be over, but the Teacher Appreciation Sale continues through Tuesday! Use coupon code TAD12 at checkout to get 10 percent off of everything you purchase.My entire store 20% off which means a total savings of 28% off for you (I know it seems like it should be 30% but it isn't for some reason I don't quite understand)! You might want to look at all those freebies you got and consider purchasing more from the seller's who created the ones you really love while the prices are low.

Teaching Resources

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