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.

WHAT THE TEACHER CAN DO :
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.

WHAT THE TEACHER CAN DO :
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?

WHAT THE TEACHER CAN DO :
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.

WHAT THE TEACHER CAN DO :
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:
http://ripplekindness.org/community-project-for-kids/how-you-can-make-a-difference/
There are ideas here for the whole class.
http://www.parenting.com/gallery/kids-who-make-a-difference
Stories about 8 kids who made a difference
http://www.kidscanmakeadifference.org/index.php/teacher-guide
Finding solutions to hunger
http://www.more4kids.info/1203/kids-can-make-a-difference-the-girl-who-silenced-the-world
a student takes her case to the United Nations
http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/responsible-living/photos/8-amazing-kids-who-have-changed-the-world
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.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Thinking-Challenges
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.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Jigsaw-Putting-it-all-together-3549379


CLUE COUNTDOWN : What am I?
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Clue-Countdown-Guess-what-I-am-3782278

H.O.T. Challenges for Juniors: Counting
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/HOT-Challenges-for-juniors-Counting-2810424

What do you see?
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/What-do-you-see-2841593

Picture Reading
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Picture-Reading-Practice-3686122
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Picture-Reading-Strategies-that-work-3686114
   

FOR OLDER STUDENTS:
Mysteries to start the term off with a bang.
Monday Mayhem
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Monday-Mayhem-2799808

The Vacant Vegetable plot
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Vacant-Vegetable-Plot-Thinking-Challenge-2788523


The Jewel Heist
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Jewel-Heist-Thinking-Challenge-2787719

The Puppy Snatcher
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Puppy-Snatcher-Thinking-Challenge-2787717

Problem solving task cards
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Math-Problem-Solving-task-cards-T-Shirt-Talk-368989

Reading Task Cards
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reading-Task-cards-2841584

Topic Talk
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Topic-Talk-3520125

Activities for Fluent Readers
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Activities-for-Fluent-Readers-3545718






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.

SWITCH AND SHARE.
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.

NAME SEARCH
This activity requires a little preparation from the teacher with the help of www.puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com
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.

CLASSROOM ALPHABET
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.



FIND 10
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.


TOY MINGLE FOR JUNIORS
(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.


 FLIP IT.
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…

 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 -
http://time.com/5027069/what-makes-a-genius/



Monday, October 23, 2017

Lessons from Matilda Wormwood, the teacher.

My musings here were published by Good Teacher magazine.

The world belongs to those who read

Roald Dahl knew that keeping the questioning spirit alive is an important key to success in life, and his book characters reflect the magic that is all around us in the world if we take the time to look. Matilda shows us that it is never too late to learn about the world though the magic of stories.
Matilda notices that although there are people all around her and they are talking, she doesn’t hear their words when she is engrossed in a book.

It is quiet and I am warm. Like I’ve sailed into the eye of a storm
From Matilda, the musical

 Did you know that there are more than 300 public libraries in New Zealand? And that more than 100,000 people visit a public library every day?  Did you use your local library card during the school holidays? Are you aware which of the students in your class have library cards?  Have you encouraged those who haven’t yet, to join up? 

‘A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.’
Lilian Jackson Braun

  

The need for access to knowledge is as essential for us today as it was for Roald Dahl’s Matilda, but access is not evenly distributed in society and our school libraries are in danger of being seen as a poor relation when it comes to funding when forced to compete with technology. Matilda reminds us that the physical space a library occupies is needed as learning transitions from analogue to digital, from institutions of collectors and keepers of the knowledge to institutions that share and preserve society through digital archiving.  We have a duty to support our local library spaces to ensure that the gap between the haves and the have- nots in our society does not become progressively wider and more divisive.

The Wormwood family is exclusively hooked on television. Matilda teaches us that reading can give us ways to understand and to be understood by those we are in contact with, thus expanding our knowledge of the world we live in. It all adds up. If you read for just 15 minutes every day then in a year you will have read more than a million words. To precis the words of Roald Dahl… All the words you have rhttps://www.goodreads.com/list/show/94837.Matilda_Wormwood_Reading_Listead will give you a view of the world that non-readers don’t have.
And there is the added advantage of no commercials to have to suffer first!
Matilda’s booklist can be found at
Check them out. They are great classics to share with a class.

1.     Questions are really important.
‘Did you know,’ said Matilda suddenly, ’that the heart of a mouse beats at the rate of six hundred and fifty times a second?’
‘I did not,’ said Miss Honey, smiling. ‘How absolutely fascinating. Where did you read that?’
‘In a book from the library,’ Matilda said. ‘And it means that it goes so fast you can’t even hear the separate beats. It must sound like a buzz.’
‘It must,’ Miss Honey said.
From the book ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl.
Children are constantly attempting to make sense of their place in the world and the world around them and good books are invaluable. 

‘The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’
Roald Dahl. 


One way that teachers can build on the issues raised in books is to ask questions that are open to enquiry and lead to further questioning and are not easily answered. Questions about meaning, truth, value, knowledge and reality. Thinking about and making distinctions between concepts helps students develop verbal reasoning. Good questions are ones that are difficult to answer.
Here’s a couple to be going on with…
Of all the things that you are learning, what do you think will be the most useful to you when you are an adult?  Why do you think that?
What’s the difference between pretending and lying?
Is there a difference between wanting and needing?
                                    
For a list of questions for juniors with a free printable
For older students there is a great online portal
The more opportunities that students have to discuss why things are as they are and to think about possible choices and consequences, the better prepared they are when they meet with difficulties and challenges.

To stimulate a philosophical discussion from a book that you are reading to the class…
Read part of the story then ask is there anything strange or interesting or puzzling to you?
(Have one or two big questions of your own ready to contribute just in case it takes a while to get going)
Collect the questions that the students ask and use them as a focus for in depth discussion.
Sophisticated picture books are great to use as a basis for this. Three to get you started…
The Red Tree by Sean Tan  ISBN 9780734411372
How to live forever by Colin Thompson   ISBN 9780099461814
Little Mouse’s big book of Fears by Emily Gravett   ISBN9780330503976



1.     Be confident and have faith in yourself. 

I always said to myself that if a little pocket calculator could do that, then why shoudn't I?
Matilda, Roald Dahl.

Don’t be afraid to highlight your strengths. None of the main characters in Dahl’s books fit in with the crowd, and have to take matters into their own hands in order to find happiness. Matilda reminds us that we need to be able to take responsibility for our own outcomes and we can use our brain power to triumph over stupidity. Mistakes are valuable as long as you learn from them. We all respect inspirational teachers. What are your strengths? If you are not sure what you are good at then ask the students! They will know!

1.     Age is irrelevant.

‘Just because you find that life’s not fair, it doesn’t mean that you have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change.
Even if you’re little you can do a lot.
You mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.
Matilda, the musical.
Lyrics by Tim Minchkin

Have you read ‘The Ripple Effect’ by Tony Ryan? It is a powerful proponent of the idea that anyone can make a difference with their everyday actions. We all have the power within ourselves to create change or to inspire others to make a difference, but ideas only work if they are translated into action. Tony Ryan’s book is full of ideas just waiting for the reader to start a ripple.
Or as Matilda would put it… Even if you are little, you can do a lot.  
Believe in your personal power and be the change that you would like to see in the world around you. Who knows where they might end?



And a final thought from me about Matilda, motivated by an article by Dr Susan Rennie, chief editor of the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary who discusses Roald Dahl’s use of creative language. The names that Dahl uses hint at the nature of his characters. Matilda’s school, Crunchem Hall suggests what is in store for the students faced with Miss Trunchbull, who would like to ‘crunch them.’ I feel sure that he must have been aware that the name Matilda is of German origin and means ‘mighty in battle.’
How appropriate!
The full article can be found at