How Fast Do You Learn a New Skill?

imageHow long does it take you to learn a new skill? I recently got a little folding my iphone and when I started using it, despite my excitement, I made horrendous mistakes and it wasn’t a bit comfortable. I kept at it, typing on it a few days and now, it’s very natural and I see what a great device it is! Note that it took a lot of time for me to see that. Now imagine your students. All the skills they are required to learn in a year can feel overwhelming, especially if they don’t have the pre-requisite foundation. Remember that it will take time and repetition for them to get the feel for new skills, just like it takes adults time to learn their new gadgets and skills. Why would you expect it to be any different? Continue reading “How Fast Do You Learn a New Skill?”

Power of a Recital

I teach guitar to a group of about 40 kids nearly every weekday. It is a great feeling sharing the art of guitar. My students are all different but most all doubt their ability to excel at the beginning. Tonight’s recital proved to them they were finally guitarists. They played two songs: Jingle Bells and This Land is Your Land. Perhaps there is someway to do a “recital” with my academic groups in the day. The energy is powerful and get get encouragement from their family, friends, and peers. If this stuff could be bottled, one could easily become a billionaire.

Kids always want family approval. If a child gets praise from playing guitar, they will undoubtedly continue in the discipline. If she/he is ignored or even put down for the pursuit, that child will probably drop out or fail to put forth a decent effort. Playing guitar for me was an identity. I became “the kid who played guitar.” It wasn’t enough to be the GATE kid, or the kid who spelled well. I found my true identity in the instrument. Now the kids I teach hardly know what their identities will be. Their feeble fingers reach and strain to form new chords. As they practice, often through pain, I see them gain strength. They get understanding of how chords inter-relate. They learn how to tune an instrument. These are life skills but so much more the stuff of identity that nowadays so many of our students seem to be lacking.

A groan grasps the peanut near the offending anthology.

Random Non-Volunteer Success Today

I used the cards today as usual but something different happened. I think a few kids actually finally “got it” that they have a good chance of being called on. I noticed the who class was more alert when I said, “Here’s the question now have an answer ready because I’m calling names from my random cards pile.” After a few blank stares, the whole class appeared to be on the edge of their seat when I’d ask a question. When 3 or 4 had no clue about the answer, I used pair share as a strategy. This takes the affect filter down quite a few notches. It also produced the correct answer several times.

At the end of the day, I played some of our favorite classroom songs: This Land is Your Land, The Rainbow Connection, The Candy Man, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad to name a few. I think it’s great when the kids can relax with me in some songs. It helps me as their teacher gain trust with them so they can take more risks answering things in class. Plus, music is relaxing and by the end of a long day of learning, their heads are tight and tired. Nothing like a song for that.

Teaching Responsibility and Patience with Marbles

100_4838In our middle to lower class majority, one rarely sees someone buy a large item like a car with cash. Kids don’t have a concept of what it means to “make payments.” Furthermore, most don’t remember what layaway is and all have a hard time deferring gratification and saving for a large ticket item. One way to teach these things is through marbles in jars. Each jar can be labeled the item or reward they get when it’s filled. If it’s an expensive one for me, I make it a large jar. When the kids do something well and receive a reward, the class can vote or one person who earned the marbles can decide what reward to save for. By making payments to that jar, they invest in that reward. Continue reading “Teaching Responsibility and Patience with Marbles”

Teacher as Coach

star-badgeBefore I start talking about a sports analogy, let me inform you I am not a big sports fan. I ran x-country and track in high school. I learned the value of a each back then. Having said that, I do not watch organized sports much in the year. Okay, now that I hopefully have avoiding alienating those who don’t like sports, I want to talk to you about the teacher as “coach,” and expert on student motivation. We have a group of kids we are to “model” the lessons for and then foster their ability to do it as independent practice. I sometimes forget about my role coaching kids. For over 13 years I have set clear goals for my class and we have worked tirelessly to achieve them. Sometimes my class meets the goals, sometimes they fall short. Every year they have a goal and I coach them toward it. One year we were shooting for a percentage of proficient kids in the class. We ended up missing the goal but scoring highest in the district for my grade level. That was extremely gratifying to me professionally. So much so that I set higher goals for the next year’s kids. That didn’t work out quite as well. I saw my kids getting burned out when I’d say I wanted 20 students advanced on a test and we ended up with 18 for example. The “proficient only” ones sort of got ignored. Continue reading “Teacher as Coach”

Throw a Little Guitar in There

Guitar as Academic Teaching ToolOk, so the kids aren’t paying attention. It’s been 5 hours of the same old academics with mixed results across the board. How about this? Throw a little guitar in there. It could be my personal standby old reliable This Land is Your Land of any number of a million others you have ready for them. Trust me, I’ve had a guitar in my classroom as an antidote for burnout, both teacher and child, and it works like gangbusters every time. If guitar isn’t your thing, try something else to break up the monotony once in a while. You’ll be encouraged because you’ll experience your kids in a new way, a restful, laid back way. Later, this may even translate into higher academics because they feel more comfortable taking risks. Continue reading “Throw a Little Guitar in There”

Resource for Creating Sub Lesson Plans

This week I have to be out for a training. I started surfing around for some ideas for the sub and came across this great website resource. Listen to what the first paragraphs say:

There are days when you have conferences, workshops or scheduled doctor appointments planned and you know you will be out of the classroom. There are days when you are feeling under the weather and suspect you will be out the next day. Then there are days when you are unable to attend school with little or no warning at all.

Once upon a time I was sitting in my living room feeling fine. Within minutes I was in the worst pain of my life thinking I was in labor and wanting to die. (In my defense, I was 8.5 months pregnant so labor was a possibility). Turns out it was a kidney stone and I was completely useless for about 7 hours.

In case you were wondering, they do not give epidurals for kidney stones…though I think the should.

Food poisoning, car accidents, family emergencies and toddlers who decide to projectile vomit their breakfast as you are set to drop them off at daycare are just a few other examples of times when you have every intention of being in class and have no notice or ability to prepare for your sudden absence.

This week we are going to put together a sub binder and resource center that will make it easy for you to be out of the classroom without the added stress of worrying about what will happen to your class for that day.

We will be able to put the majority of this project together right now. It will be a work in progress because some of the items that need to be included will come into play once school starts.

We are going to start today by “gathering” activities that can be used on any day of the year for each subject area. Today you need to gather at least 5 activities for reading, writing, word study/spelling and math. I have spent the past few days creating some activities for each of those subjects using the guidelines below. You can purchase the ones I made through my store, gather them from other resources or create your own.

The preceding passage is via Clutter-Free Classroom: How to Prepare for a Sub {w/ FREE PRINTABLES}. Please visit and read the whole article.

Absorbing Common Core

3-kitchen-sponges-lgn-86344707Common Core is the innocuous name of a set of standards yet people treat it as if it were a religion. There are people for and against it and I think, as is true with religion, a middle ground is preferable. Of course I mean no respect to zealous religious folk, I just don’t live that way. Okay, hopefully my introduction has offended those to which I could never communicate with, now for my point.

ccss-sbacCommon Core is perplexing to some because it uses a multi-cognitive approach to lessons. While comedians and civilians will make fun of the approach, it really is neither better nor worse than what we teachers have been ordered to teach with snce as far back as 1997. We are given uniform state standards, materials and curriculum, and expected to show mastery of these standards in our student data. Common Core simply combines what was once 7-8 (say for instance) standards into one Common Core standard. We have to teach a concept to incorporate multiple standards from before. There is nothing more difficult in this. It does require imagination and creativity but hasn’t teaching always required that?

20130110-123237.jpgAs I move into the third week of lessons with my 4th graders currently, I find myself increasingly absorbing Common Core. It’s like a snowball effect. My hope is that this year on the blog I can bring more understanding to the public including teachers out there doing the same. How about we hear from you? How are you doing with internalizing the Common Core. If you are a blogging teacher, or a blogger in general, please feel free to leave a trackback or link to this post so I can help spread your ideas on the subject. Onward!

3 Offbeat Tips From My Classroom

These are offbeat tips that may or may not work for you. I offer them freely to you. All teachers in California as most of the country now are learning to teach with the “Common Core.” This is exciting to me but we shouldn’t lose sight of the timeless things that work with whatever curriculum you use. These are three offbeat things that I have tried and that have worked to foster literacy and meet academic goals in my classroom. Maybe these things are powerful or maybe it’s the intent behind them that seeks to reach human in the child and awaken her/his sense of wonder.

12506845744_0120be8609Kids are just like us only smaller. There is a reason music is a multi-billion dollar industry, people are inspired by it. Kids get burned out after hours of academic stuff. Occasionally I will pass out age-appropriate lyric packets and we sing together. The relieved look on some of their faces says to me that music heals and fosters. MY favorite song to do with kids so far is “The Rainbow Connection.”

9847439604_8e8a1b40f7When I graduated, I paid 50 bucks to have both my degrees mounted on wood. This was a great decision because it allows my kids to pass them around and look closely at them. I want my students to see a diploma and know they can do it just like their teacher did. At the very least, post your diplomas. Your kids are watching.

13015781444_c483b14fd5Puppets are the weirdest things adults can do, that’s why we should use them! Kids are so freaked out by puppets that they just might listen. I have said some things through a puppet that are outside my personality type. Kids respond too. I’ve had better conversations with kids during “Say no to drugs” with my pig puppet than any teacher talk could ever generate. I highly recommend getting puppets in your room. You never know when one will come in handy. Like music, they are a temporary escape from the required rigor. In my opinion, music and opinion have the potential to teach just as much as the most rigorous of lesson plans. It’s all in how you incorporate them. Those are my three things to share. What are yours? I’d love to read about them and they don’t have to be as offbeat as mine.

Dr. Jim and Bob’s Entertaining Medical Topics

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of © Blue Shield of California for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

PhotobucketHealth should be a focus in all our lives. It's great to have a family doctor and even better when they can make housecalls. But unfortunately for many of us, a doctor visit isn't always convenient. In that situation, many people turn to the internet. This can be a good choice as long as the website you use is credible and trustworthy.

There's a new online doctor in town: Dr. Jim and Bob's Fun & Helpful Health Advice Check out a video I watched recently that he made:

Dr. Jim and Bob are medical experts who entertain but also lead you toward medical solutions. I have them bookmarked for when I need guidance on issues like: sunburn, insomnia, snoring, hiccups, etc. They are on Facebook and that includes all their free videos. One member of my family has a cold sore right now and we both laughed as we watch the above video on that ailment. Bob is a crack-up and appears to be part of the videos for comic relief. It's effective.

Dr. Jim and Bob are a product of Blue Shield, a non profit company. They have been an excellent access point to alternative care like chiropractors and acupuncture. They are a portal to great doctors and they offer a wide range of affordable health plans. As I am getting older I find myself more interested in issues of blood level like cholesterol. Blue Shield is an excellent source of information for that. I have Dr. Jim and Bob "Liked" on my Facebook and I look forward to getting tips and laughs from them in the future.

 

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