Saturday, October 6, 2018

Getting ready for the Christmas Season

The end of the year will soon be upon schools and a later finish to the term is an added incentive to find educational activities associated with the holiday season that will continue to challenge students to the end.
Here are some ideas that I have been working on from my teacherspayteachers website.
The mysteries are aimed at upper primary/ intermediate level.

1. 12 Days of Christmas for the classroom

On the first day of Christmas, my teacher gave to me 
A worksheet to complete for her to see. 
On the second day of Christmas my teacher gave to me,,, 
Instructions for a puzzle on a worksheet to complete for her to see. 

2.  The Tree of Christmas Kindness
An activity designed to encourage random acts of kindness for the Christmas season. Only preparation required is to print pages for student use and provide access to scissors and glue.
3. Who is the Secret Santa? A new Christmas Mystery to solve

Mrs Scott was surprised to find that someone had left her a Secret Santa parcel on her desk when she arrived at school on Friday morning. She opened it to find a bag of chocolate candy.  Use the clues to find out who the Secret Santa could be.
4. Other Christmas mysteries to try...

Who stole Rudolph's nose?

Who pinched the Christmas pudding? 

These thinking challenges are part of a series of mysteries for students to solve either individually or as a group challenge. The clues are based on mathematical codes and ciphers and as each clue is solved it eliminates a number of suspects until there is just one possibility left. Answers are included.
In my own teaching practice students are given the booklets to solve at the beginning of the week and I do not debrief with answers until three or four days later. This challenges the students to work on the puzzles at their own rate and to think about possible strategies. It also encourages collaboration. Each mystery includes a range of problem difficulty. 
No prep. Just print and go. 

And an idea for a surprise for a teaching colleague:
Are you looking for a gift for a teacher? 
Here's an easy idea to put together for teacher colleagues or your child's class teacher that will make them smile. 
Included is a label for a gift for each of the 12 days of Christmas and all you need to do is print it out and add the small gift that it refers to, or one of your own ideas to fit. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Anxiety Taming in the Classroom.

Gifted children and anxiety often seem to go together like bread and butter. It is natural for all children to have some worries and fears as they are growing up, but for children who already have a heightened awareness of what is going on in the world around them and what the future might hold, the worries can be magnified out of all proportion.

Issues such as acceptance, perfectionistic tendencies and not being able to live up to perceived and/or real expectations can cause anxiety as the child strives for independence and a sense of self. Teachers are not qualified to treat the anxiety of a gifted child if it is causing concern, but if we are able to understand the worry and fear and then empathise rather than trivialise it, then we can avoid increasing the problem at school.

My focus is on helping gifted kids to cope with anxiety as distinct from fear or phobia. Fear is felt when faced with immediate danger' That's where the danger IS. There is a direct cause for the emotion being felt and fear is the reaction to being afraid of being harmed. A phobia is much stronger than simply being afraid of being harmed. It is an intense unreasonable reaction to something that interferes with everyday life.  Anxiety can be defined as the worry that is felt when thinking about what might happen. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all combined in such a way as to make the brain's survival response centre (the amygdala) react instinctively by increasing heart rate, tightening muscles ready for flight and causing rapid breathing. it ranges from general uneasiness to panic. the reaction of others can make all the difference because everyone perceives things differently.

Many able students can be intensely worried about things that their imaginations conjure up, but dismissing them out of hand is not helpful because it will make them not prepared to tell you about them.

Talk to students about how worries can impact on performance and discuss how these might be alleviated so that you help them to gain confidence in their own ability to cope. Practise active listening and don't try to 'fix it' by appearing to have all the answers, but give information if it is asked for. Encourage students to check their ... what if? thinking as a way to identify wht can be controlled and what can't. Positive thinking leads to positive outcomes.

Some gifted students are reluctant to take part in activities in which they are afraid of failure. Failures are inevitable in our lives but they are not final. If you don't fail then you don't learn. It is how we react to the anxiety that will make the difference.

Focus on the process rather than the outcome and provide regular, constructive feedback for the student to review so that anxiety is overcome by taking smaller steps and builds into success when the task is completed. Encourage calculated risk taking. Talk about situations where you have taken risks yourself and how you dealt with them.

I'm not as smart as they think I am. What if I can't do it? 
Tomorrow I have to present my work to the class. What if they laugh at me?
Each student is more talented in some areas than others. Don't trivialise the issue by brushing it off  with comments such as ... you will be fine., don't worry about it. Such comments do nothing to alleviate the anxiety because children like to succeed and their worries are real to them.Modelling can be a positive motivator for summoning up courage. Talk about how you felt on your first day in front of a class of students and how you dealt with the butterflies in your interaction with the students. Give encouragement and praise for attempting to comply rather than judgment or interpretation when the student tries to resolve the anxiety with action.

What if I never find anyone who thinks like me?
Is there something wrong with me?

Encourage students to read books with kids solving issues that they can relate to in their own quests for understanding about life. The following three books by Stephanie Tolan as personal favourites of mine. She writes about issues affecting gifted young people.
Surviving the Applewhites. Published by Harper Collins (2002). Jake has been expelled from a number of schools and finds himself with a highly talented, creative family where the children are home schooled and fans of 'The Sound of Music.'
Listen! Published by Harper Collins (2006). Charley has to deal with the emotional pain of losing her mother at aged 12 and the physical pain she is left with following an accident.
Welcome to the Ark.  Published by Morrow. New Yok. (1996) In a world of increasing violence, four people brought together in a residential treatment centre have the potential to change the world. Issues of allientaion, fear of what the future might hold, and heightened sensitivities strike a chord with middle school gifted students.

For the mathematically minded student, here is an old book that also has a place on my bookshelf.
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, published by Viking, New York.  (1995)
Mrs Fibonacci, the math teacher, is convinced that nearly everything can be thought of as a math problem. There are little math jokes amongst a world of math predicaments.

And two sophisticated picture books that I highly recommend are :
Little Mouse's Big book of Fears. by Emily Gravett (2007) Published by MacMillan, London
Life from the point of view of a mouse is cleverly written and illustrated and allows for lots of discussion opportunities.
The Rabbit problem also by Emily Gravett and a lot of rabbits (2009) MacMillan, London.
A pop up book in the style of a Fibonacci explosion of rabits.  I love the ideas introduced via a monthly calendar.

Many gifted students feel deeply about social justice issues. They worry about things such as global warming, poverty, war and the plight of refugees. They feel helplessness in the face of such huge problems.

Look for ways for students to make a difference with their actions through social action. Discuss how it is possible to make a difference by starting with something small and supporting student efforts. Encourage your students to see this kind of worrying as a motivator for action based on real needs and help them to find ways to accomplish this, If a child expresses concern over something such as the plight of refugees and the response is ...'you are too young to worry about things like that'... then it reinforces the child's feeling of helplessness and can lead to a more serious outcome. There is ample support for the notion that groups of gifted students working together on projects can really make a difference. (The Future Problem Solving Programme is a great example.) Teachers can help by facilitating for students to identify community needs and find ways to develop actions as extensions of classroom experiences recognising a need that they are able to fill as a group or as individuals, thus providing opportunities to take a leadership role and make a differece.
Here are some projects worth reading about:
There are ideas here for the whole class.
Stories about 8 kids who made a difference
Finding solutions to hunger
a student takes her case to the United Nations
Students who have used social media to make a difference.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Life Lessons from a Spider

If Little Miss Muffit had not been in such a hurry to run away from the spider who sat down beside her, then she might have been privvy to some pearls of wisdom to help her in the future because we can learn a lot from spiders. Did you know that spiders can construct their webs in zero gravity?
What an example of adaptability is that!
I looked out of the window this morning to see a beautiful example of a spider web that had appeared on my clothesline over night. Since there was no sign of the spider I figured a photograph was in order and it set me to thinking further... How might that be an analogy to help gifted students in their own lives?

 Success only happens with action. Great ideas will not come to fruition unless they are followed up and acted on.  The spider only sits back and waits for its prey when it  has overcome the obstacles involved in building its web. It knows how imperative it is to get started if it wants to eat. 
Persevere with your dreams. Be persistent in your efforts and they will pay off. 
The spider doesn't give up when faced with obstacles.
Imagine the result you are after and keep your focus on getting there even when the going gets tough. Spiders will build and rebuild their webs to attain their goal.
Don't seek approval from those who don't understand or worry about what others think- they are looking through a different lens and the focus is not the same. Just as we do not see the world as the spider does.
Explore new challenges and be prepared to start again if necessary. The spider travels on silken threads and adapts to changing circumstances when faced with forces that it has no control over.  Understand your non negotiable foundation (your silken thread) and be prepared to adapt.
Reshape and rework if necessary to take advantage of changing environments. Have you read the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider?  
Widen your horizons. Think big. Create your own web  and make connections. 
Embrace mistakes and see obstacles as sources of new learning. Spiders don"t give up!
Believe in yourself.  Just as the spider can spin a web that is a resulting miracle of creativity  and design, so can you. Who knows how far your influence will travel?
Every success worth striving for starts with just one action.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Teachers Pay Teachers May sale.
All my resources are 20% off for the two days
Happy browsing.
Elaine 😊

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Teacher Timesavers for the new term.

For Juniors:
A classroom Jigsaw.


H.O.T. Challenges for Juniors: Counting

What do you see?

Picture Reading

Mysteries to start the term off with a bang.
Monday Mayhem

The Vacant Vegetable plot

The Jewel Heist

The Puppy Snatcher

Problem solving task cards

Reading Task Cards

Topic Talk

Activities for Fluent Readers

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Start of the year: Getting to Know you activities

 Every class has a few students who want to belong to the class community and fit in, but find connecting with others to be a challenge and need a bit of help. They may be shy, or just unsure of how to communicate with others, especially after the long holiday break where some have not had a lot of interaction with others outside the family. They may be gifted or different in some way and uncertain of how they will be accepted by their classmates and the new teacher. Everyone needs a sense of belonging in order to be effective in their working environment and the teacher has a big part to play in the world of the student. The classroom is a community but I believe that it is important to provide reasons for wanting to be part of that community rather than telling students what not to do. The activities outlined here are a collection of ideas for teachers to use at the beginning of the year to help everyone in the class to get to know each other. Seeing how the students react to various situations can provide useful insights for later.

The start of the year brings anticipation and a degree of nervousness for many students moving classes, while others who have already formed strong friendship bonds are eager to share their holiday stories. Switch and Share is a game that can help to meet the needs of both and can be played either indoors or outdoors. Since it is 2018 there are 18 caller statements but you can easily add your own or change them to suit your students.
How to play:
Define the playing area. All you need is a line down the middle.
Students stand on either side of the line, facing the caller. (teacher)
Caller starts the game. Each time you switch sides then your job is to talk to the person closest to you. 
Switch to the other side if…
·        You have a pet. If you switched sides then tell the person nearest to you what pet you have and its name.
·        You went to the beach in the holidays. If you switched then share three things that you did there.
·        You went to a barbecue in the holidays. Tell the person next to you what your favourite barbecue food is.
·        You are the oldest kid in your family. Share your sister’s /brother’s names with a partner.
·        You like to sing. Sing a song to the person next to you.
·        You have ever been in hospital. Tell why.
·        You have ever been to a zoo. Share the name of your favourite animal.
·        You did jobs at home this morning before school. Share what you did.
·        You like fruit more than vegetables. Share the name of your favourite fruit. If you didn’t switch then tell the person next to you why not.
·        Your first name starts with a letter that comes after M in the alphabet. Share.
·        Your first name has more than four letters in it. Share the number.
·        You play a musical instrument. Share what it is and how long you have been playing it.
·        You love to read. What is your favourite book? Share.
·        You have an Xbox or PlayStation. Share the name of your favourite game.
·        You like to dance. Share a dance step with your neighbour.
·        You like math time. Share why.
·        You like to play sport. Talk about your favourite sport.
·        You didn’t walk to school this morning. Share how you got here.

This activity requires a little preparation from the teacher with the help of
Go to the website and type in a list of all the student’s first names into the word search creator to create a classroom specific name search.
Challenge your year 3 /4 students to find their own name and to share that with others in the class to complete the search. The aim is to make sure that everyone completes the puzzle and gets a chance to talk to others rather than to be the first finished. Instead of names you could use holiday activities and ask students to find an activity that they participated in during the holidays. A google search will generate a list of verbs to choose from. The task then is to find others who did the same activity to share with. If the word has not been chosen by anyone else then the student shares with the teacher.

A walk around the school with cameras or iPads to take photos can help you and your young students to become familiar with the surroundings and you can use the photos to create a wonderful personalised alphabet for the classroom.
This activity is an ideal opportunity to identify students who are creative thinkers. Provide opportunities for students to talk to each other about phonetic sounds and to make decisions about which pictures to use. You might be surprised at what you can learn from the side line if you listen in.

Older able students might like the challenge of creating an alphabet with a difference following the ideas from one of these fun alphabet books…
Tomorrow’s Alphabet by
George Shannon. Illustrated by Donald Crews.
ISBN :978-0-688-13504-1
This book is for those who know the alphabet well enough to want to play with it a bit. You have to think ahead!
A is for seed. Tomorrow’s apple.
B is for eggs. Tomorrow’s birds.
C is for milk. Tomorrow’s cheese etc.

Alphabet Squabble by
Isaac Drought and Jenny Cooper.
ISBN : 978-1-77543-124-4
Everyone in Alphabet Land knows that As, Es, Cs and Ps are popular letters, but what about the Xs,Ys and Zs?  Do they matter? Read about the rowdy alphabet squabble to gain recognition.

Another activity involving the teacher in some preparation is to take 10 close up photos of things in the room then challenge the students to work with each other to identify them. Photos are numbered. Best done as a small group activity, it ensures that all the students know where things are kept and can put them back after use without teacher having to nag. An alternative to close up photos is to use the photocopy machine to enlarge just a small area of a photo and to use that as the search picture.

(Thanks to Shelly Terrell for this idea). Each student is given a toy. Pair the students up. Give them one minute to play with each other before ringing the timer. Each student then finds another peer to pay with for a minute.

This game is over and done with very quickly but is popular and a great interactive before settling down to work or getting ready for a break. Students who find it a challenge to sit still after a learning session will love this activity.
How to play:
1.   Start with everyone standing. At the signal 3.2.1 FREEZE. Everyone chooses either hands on heads or hands on bottoms to represent the heads or tails of a coin toss.

2.   Caller tosses the coin. 
3.   All those who are doing the action that mimics the coin call remain standing. The rest sit down .No changing of position after the call of FREEZE is allowed. Infringers have to sit down.
4.   Repeat until there is a winner who becomes the next caller or some other appropriate action designated by the teacher.

And finally, an activity for Valentine’s day…

February 14 is a special day for me and my family. It is the day that my daughter was born. Feel free to visit my Thinking Challenges website and download the Valentine’s Day riddle and leave feedback or become a follower. Not into riddles? There are other Valentine’s Day activities available to suit different class levels.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Interesting article.

Talent hits a target that no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer.

What Makes a Genius? The World's Greatest Minds Have One Thing in Common -