Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 7 {Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs & Models}

I'm linking up with Deanna Jump over at Mrs. Jump's Class to talk about Chapter 7! I love this chapter!  I love it so much because I think had I been taught this way I would have done a MUCH better job in school! {One of the reasons I became a teacher}

Strategy 7:
Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs and Models

The chapter started off with a story about the author's daughter doing very well in her chemistry labs but not very well on the paper/pencil tests.  


Okay...I'm having a Twilight Zone moment....

Just today, we were dealing with this as a family.  My son, who is in 7th grade, found out he received a C- on his final in Art class.  He received A's all along on every other project - but since this final exam counts for 30 percent of his grade - he'll receive a B in the class.
I know - a B is fine - it's not the letter grade that we are most concerned with - it's the message that was sent to our 7th grader - grades aren't always fair and definitely aren't always reflective of your hard work and your skills.

Marcia Tate said "...when is the last time a chemist walked into a laboratory, sat down, and completed a worksheet or took a paper and pencil test?"

...and I can say the same for artists.

In his teacher's defense - I'm going to guess she wishes she didn't have to give grades like this either.

Moving on...{I will not send her an email, I will not send her an email}

We use manipulatives a TON!  I wouldn't know how to teach without them. 

These letters are from TouchTronic 

One of our math workshop stations - pattern block reflections

Bins are loaded with manipulatives for math workshop

Learning about shapes - using....shapes!

What better way to learn about plants then to plant some grass?
"When students use manipulatives over a long period, they make gains in verbalizing their thinking, discussing ideas, taking ownership, and gaining confidence in independently finding answers to problems.} {Sebesta & Martin, 2004}


On my Pinterest Math Wizard board I pinned a few manipulative finds that I really liked because many of them are DIY - we all know those manips can be expensive!

Sources: Learn, Play, Imagine
Rachel K Tutoring Blog

Where I need to improve is having them out year round so they are just part of what we do and how we roll - like an appendage.  

I found these awesome "math action cards" that I'm thinking about purchasing.  I think constant use of these manipulatives can only increase their learning value and help students understand that they can be used for any learning situation THEY deem them necessary.

Do you use manipulatives?
Which ones are your favorites?

Visit Mrs. Jump's Class to see what others are saying about this strategy and join in the conversation!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 6 {Humor }

I'm linking up with Amanda over at One Extra Degree to discuss chapter 6!  
Before I go on...I'm happy to admit we did a graphic organizer together, just yesterday, for one of our guided reading group books!  I've gotta tell you, it really solidified what we were reading. It really helped us organize our thinking!

Oh, gracious, she 'aint pretty - but I did 'er!
And doggone it - some little critter erased my "can, have, are"!
Strategy 6:

"Research shows that jokes, riddles, celebrations, and other forms of positive interaction not only create a positive learning environment but may also facilitate learning itself." {Allen, 2008; Jensen, 2007}

This chapter is RIGHT up my alley!  I don't know where I'd be without humor!!!! {probably curled up in a ball crying for my mommy}

You've seen this little guy on my blog before - it's meant to keep an eye on me.
I might be known to pull a prank or two at school.  I do have some accomplices though!  

 "Effective classrooms are alive with positive emotion, anticipation of novel experiences, the excitement of discovery, and celebrations of success." {Allen, 2008}

I have two boys of my own and as they outgrow Halloween costumes they make their way into my classroom.  You just never know when one might come out in the middle of a lesson.  I sort of feel like Superman - I dig deep in my closet and come out with something like this.  I realize this might not be your shtick - but I tell you; you put a beard on and they are putty in your hands!

I've used the magic hat, wand and beard to teach my students how to listen for those "magic words" in number stories {i.e. how many are left, how many in all, etc.}, I've threatened to turn them into goons if they didn't turn on their listening ears - you name it, and this get-up WORKS!

"What we learn with pleasure, we never forget." {Allen, 2008}

I've got a bin FULL of goodies!
Turkey, Firefighter, Old Man, Pom Poms
Capes, Hulk, Ninjas, Soccer Ball Hat

Who doesn't love a good joke, riddle or funny book!?

"Having laughter breaks in class increases the flow of positive neurotransmitters, which are necessary for alertness and memory." {Jensen, 2007}

I've got a stockpile of joke books - but I tell you, if you haven't allowed your little ones to make up their own - you have been missing out.  Sometimes we'll take a little break and read from my wide array of books - but other times, we just do an open mic kinda deal - and holy moly, I might laugh louder than my first graders! 

Of course there's GoNoodle - specifically KooKoo Kangaroo - those guys make me giggle like no other!  We like to switch up our brain breaks with a little song/dance and some jokes, riddles - both are great for those noggins and really buy you some time in the learning/teaching department.  Consider it an investment!

Might I suggest an accent?  This book is fun to "round up the rhymes" with.  It's full of rhyming words that you can record on chart paper and then look at spelling patterns {or notice that not all words that rhyme have the same spelling pattern}.  I like to read this one with a southern accent...which I do REALLY badly!!!  But you can't round up the rhymes without sounding like yer a cowboy, y'all!

And my "smart glasses" - We can't forget zee smart glassees...complete with accent.
Trust me when I say, you will get through a whole lesson with your students hanging on
to your every last word if you do it with an accent.  These glasses help for some reason - Dollar Tree!

I've got a confession.  I think I'm pretty funny.  Sometimes I think I'm as funny as Ellen.  Like, I will giggle at myself and sometimes wish there was a hidden camera in my classroom - because Ellen
would invite me on her show if there were.  

Humor can come at the least expected of times -and honestly, if it's not in your nature to be silly/funny, I have to tell you - I'm not sure you can stick it in your lesson plans and pre-plan it. Maybe you can.  I can't...usually the mood just strikes. 

Like here...

I bought this little arm/hand thingy at the dollar store.  It has a magnet on it and it's a spinner.  Thought that guy would be mighty handy - except it doesn't work {on an upright surface}.  Every time you spin it, it lands in the same place. choose the word, say a fill in the blank sentence, spin the spinner...

Mrs. W. is ________________ {awesome}

Learning is ________________ {awesome}

The other day our word of choice was "macaroni".

Math is {spin the spinner}...MACARONI - oh the laughter!

Even if you aren't a stand-up comedian...anything silly you do or say, your kids will LOVE!

Ever drop a pencil? Giggles.
Write the wrong date? Laughter!
Forget something? All out chuckles!!

It doesn't take much, people.

And there's Yurtle - how can you not smile at a turtle tent?

My take away?  I'd like to find more ways to incorporate humor into our actual learning activities.

 Where are you in the humor department?  Deserve your own show? 
 Or are you the more sweet and quiet type?

Go visit One Extra Degree to join the linky and see what others have to say about humor in the classroom!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 5 {Graphic Organizers}

Today I'm linking up with Michelle Oaks over at Fabulous in First to talk about chapter 5!  

Can you tell that I am REALLY enjoying this book? Like I said before, I read and find myself nodding my head vigorously because I'm already doing so much of it.  But can I just tell you that feels GOOOOOOD!?!!?  Remarkable, as a matter of fact. Have you ever reached that point where you say "I can't do ONE MORE NEW THING" "Leave me alone!!!!!!"  

Okay, first let me just say I try many, MANY new things every single year.  I just can't imagine sticking with the same 'ol same 'ol - but....I've reached my cap this year.  With the newness of a school-wide WIG {wildly important goal}, data notebooks, math workshop, Marzano, and other odds and ends...this brain couldn't hold one more new, this book has been a perfect pat on the back and brought some oldies but goodies to the forefront of my thinking - gotta love that!

Strategy 5:
Graphic Organizers, Semantic Maps, and Word Webs

"They address both the left and the right hemispheres of students, so they are beneficial to all.  The students strong in the left-hemisphere can supply the verbage, and the right-hemisphere students have the option of showing what they know pictorially." {Marcia Tate}

Who doesn't like the sound of that?  Are you like me?  I go through hills and valleys with things. I use something a ton, and then for some reason, something else takes their place and I temporarily forget about that other thing I used to do.  That's me with graphic organizers.  I was using them a ton.  I've purchased several awesome packs of them on Teachers Pay Teachers! I also try really hard to make my own on chart paper....mind you, I don't have an artistic bone in my body!

After reading this chapter, I just know I have to incorporate them into my teaching more than I currently am....why?

"Because the brain remembers images more easily than just words, graphic organizers are one of the tools that are effective for organizing patterns." {Feinstein, 2004}


My brain is not wired for graphic organizers.  I don't know - is there another hemisphere?  They have never helped me and as a matter of fact, sometimes I get so caught up in understanding how a particular one works and what it's trying to teach me - that the concept has been lost for me.  

Having said that...I do realize they work for most!

A goal of mine, after reading this chapter, is to not only use them more than I have been in my classroom - but have my students create their own!

"Having students create a mind or concept map is a meaningful strategy for helping them make sense  of and learn vast amount of new content" {Budd, 2004}

Do you use graphic organizers in your classroom?  Do you use them across the content areas or do you find that you use them more in one area than another?  Is there anybody out there like me, that doesn't find them particularly helpful in their own learning? {I know, I could be completely alone here - wouldn't be the first time - HA!}

Head on over to Michelle's blog to visit other bloggers who shared their thinking on this same topic!  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 4 {Games}

I'm linking up with one of my favorites, Katie, from Queen of the First Grade Jungle, to talk about chapter 4!  This chapter is, by far, one of my personal favorites!  

Strategy 4:

"When students develop a game's content as well as play the game, the amount of time they are exposed to and involved with the content is doubled." {Allen, 2008}

What I like about that quote is it really targets our primary students as well as our upper elementary, middle and high school students.  I mentioned in my discussion of chapter 1 that sometimes the use of these strategies wains as our students progress through the years.  The use of games can be so powerful - both in the creation of them as well as the actual playing.  I can envision middle school students creating games for their peers just as easily as I can see my little first graders enjoying the games they play on a daily basis.  Games are where it's at, people!

Kahoot is digital game-based learning

My middle school son loves when his social studies teacher has him create quizzes for whatever they are working on/reviewing.  He loves it even more when his Kahoot is chosen to use for a class review.  I love that his middle school teacher understands the value of games in the middle school classroom!

"Games are not only perfect for raising the level of feel-good amines in the brain but also, in the correct amounts, games can also increase cognition and working memory." {Jensen, 2007}

{Amine, in this case = dopamine}

Reading this chapter came at just the right time.  I received an email from a parent who told me that her child is experiencing anxiety over memorizing her math facts. {Math fact fluency in first grade is a whole 'nother ball of wax and blog topic - oy} My teacher-heart was so sad to read this.  It's nothing new, every year I have a parent express concern over this and rightfully so. My automatic teacher go-to was to remind her to keep it fun in order to eliminate the stress factor.  Play games, grab the sidewalk chalk and write some math facts on the sidewalk {once the snow clears}, give her some problems in the tub and have her write the answers with tub crayons, play giant step where you hold up a flash card and have her and her sister take a giant step forward each time they get a fact right  - first.  The first person to reach the person holding the flash cards - wins! 

Cortisol - BAD
Dopamine - GOOD!

This chapter gives TONS of great games that a teacher/parent can play with their students/children!
One of those ideas was bringing in a Nerf ball and tossing it to children as they answer questions which made me think of this...

Wouldn't this be fun to incorporate into your day?  
*Read all of your word wall words?  Take 3 shots!
*Read with awesome fluency/expression?  Take 5 shots!
*Figured out a tricky math problem?  Take 10 shots!
*Helped a friend pick up a dropped crayon box? Take 5 shots!

In a nutshell, games engage student brains!

And don't you just love hearing...

You have really hit the nail on the head when they don't even realize they are learning!

Want to read more thoughts about this chapter?  Go visit Katie's blog and join the linky party!

Care to share any fun & simple games that are a fan favorite!? Leave a comment below!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapter 3 {Field Trips}

Hi All,

I'm linking up with Mrs. Will's Kindergarten for our blogger book study!

It's time for chapter 3 of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites!!!


Strategy 3:
Field Trips

"The purpose of the brain is not to make good grades or to score high on standardized tests.  The brain has one purpose - survival in the real world."

Can somebody, anybody PLEASE get this through the thick skulls of our legislators?  I'm seeing more and more teachers feeling more and more compelled to teach to the test - focusing their efforts on test prep rather than STELLAR teaching.  I'm not at all, not even a little bit, saying I blame them. I completely understand their plight - I recently purchased a test prep pack myself and I would have NEVER thought I'd feel compelled to do that.  

What do I always say?  BALANCE & MODERATION people...that's where it's at!

Marcia Tate goes on to say..."Is it any wonder that the places that you travel to in the real world are long remembered? This would make the strategy of field trips one to be remembered."

We are finishing up our learning of plants in science.  We culminate this unit by going to a local metropark where the students get to see everything we've been learning in its natural setting.  It's no surprise that I have third and fourth graders and even high school students come back to me and ask if I remember the time we tapped maple trees and made pancakes back at school?  Of course I remember, it was snowing and FREEZING...HA!

Aside from remembering the experience they remember the content.  Isn't that what this whole book is about?  Providing as many experiences as we can for our students to cultivate those dendrites...we want them to make connections to their learning in such a way that they won't easily forget their meaning.  

What I think I appreciate most about this chapter is that Marcia Tate acknowledges the fact that we might not all be able to take field trips - they can be costly.  That shouldn't stop you from giving your students a change of scenery.  I know sometimes I get stuck inside the confines of the four walls of my classroom  - but once I remember to think outside of that physical box my imagination can create experiences for my students that closely resemble that of an actual field trip.

Some other ways you can change the scenery:

*Take a walk around the inside of the school - clipboard in hand - looking for writing ideas
*Visit another classroom in your school - buddies
*Skype/FaceTime with other classrooms around your district, country, world

Some Virtual Websites to Consider:

While you and I knew their importance and significance in a child's learning - isn't it nice to have research to back it?

"Field trips, including those that are virtual, enable teachers to create as many authentic, experiential experiences as possible.  These spatial memories are embedded in the brain and need no rehearsal." {Fogarty, 2001}

How do you incorporate field trips into your instruction?  
Do you go on more than one field trip each year?
If you aren't able to go on field trips - what are some ideas you've done instead?

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