Archive for the ‘Mid-Week Focus’ Category

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Conquering Worries

March 20, 2013
What's under the magic hat today? Tricks to help kids conquer worries.

What’s under the magic hat today? Tricks to help kids conquer worries.

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas.

Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S HELP CHILDREN (AND OURSELVES) CONQUER WORRIES!

In the school where I’m teaching this week, I’ve already seen sights that have brought me face to face once again with the reality that many children come to school burdened with all kinds of worries. Have you seen this too?

My experience tells me that kids’ carrying un – or -under-addressed worries in their minds and hearts are less able to stay focused on learning in school.

Enter another Attentionology trick…one specifically designed to catch kids’ attention with helpful steps that they can take to conquer their worries.

Oh yes…and teaching children how to manage worrisome feelings helps teachers as well…helps any adults that care for kids to manage our own worrisome feelings. Trust me; I know; I’m a working mother/teacher.

Remember this…Teaching is a great way to learn!

Let’s call the Attentionology trick “Size It Up!.”

Even proud lions sometimes feel worried.

Even proud lions sometimes feel worried.

If you like it, share it with your class.

Use my writing (see below) with a reminder to your class that even the proudest lion, like the one in my blog pic here, sometimes feels worried. (Post a picture of a lion in your classroom to help kids visualize this concept.)


Call it a problem; call it a challenge; call it whatever you want; when you have something difficult to deal with, it can seem totally overwhelming!

All kinds of unpleasant images may come to mind. You may picture yourself being eaten by a lion or swallowed down a drain. Maybe you imagine that you’re a mouse cowering at the foot of an elephant or a traveler stooped over with a too-heavy backpack as you gaze up a mountain that appears way to high to climb.

Wait a minute! Maybe if you calm down and size up the problem, you’ll see that after all, it’s one that you can solve! Then you can picture yourself in the winner’s circle!

Let’s get started with the following steps:

Step 1 – Size up the problem.

Okay, what’s the deal? Ask and answer the following questions: Is your problem really as big as if first seemed? Why is it a problem? Is the problem something that you can fix all by yourself or do you need help?

Step 2 – Break up your problem into pieces.

Problems are like puzzles. When your problem seems too big to fix in one fell swoop, break it up into pieces that you can work on one at a time. After you fix all of the pieces, the puzzle will come together.

Step 3 – Set goals.

When you have a problem to deal with, it’s helpful to set goals that you can reach. Depending on the size of the problem, you may need short-term and long-term goals. List some fairly quick steps you can take to get to a goal. Build confidence as your problem shrinks in size.

Step 4 – Reward yourself.

Give yourself a pat on the back each time you take a step toward solving your problem and each time you reach a goal. If adults are helping you deal with your problem, talk with them about other rewards that may spur you toward the finish line. Picture yourself in the winner’s circle!

Step 5 – Drop the negative attitude from the get-go.

A negative attitude blocks solutions. Surround yourself with positive people. Find a can-do attitude and keep it!

There’s an old-timey song about “smilers never losing and frowners never winning.” Life isn’t nearly that simple in today’s world – for children or adults – but positive “vibes” are still a powerful force for conquering worries.

We speed through our days together, don’t you think. The relentless pace and the escalation of change can result in uncertainty and worry that is sometimes left un-articulated in the rush of our lives.

That’s why teachers are well-advised to be on the lookout for worried children in school. Simple steps, like the ones outlined above, can pave the way to conquering focus-blockers, helping kids learn more and feel better about themselves and the world around them.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara The Lovable Poet


The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Heartfelt Greetings

March 13, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S ENCOURAGE KIDS TO INCLUDE HANDWRITTEN CARDS & LETTERS IN THEIR COMMUNICATIONS. 

A recent news feature about the letters of world-famous figures nudged me to focus this week on the magic of writing and sending greetings to special people in our lives.

Print greetings, handmade, hand-picked, handwritten, stamped and sent by “snail mail” seem to “come from the heart” more than do cards sent electronically, although many online options for creating and emailing cards exist.

KEEP THOSE CARDS A-COMIN’! – Have you noticed like I have that elementary school children love to make cards to send to family members celebrating a birthday or other occasion?

In my writing classes when time permits I often allow kids to draft poems for a special occasion and design a card in which to place the finished poem. You can offer your class this attention-grabbing activity, too.


Slip some Irish treasures inside handmade St. Patrick's Day cards!

Slip some Irish treasures inside handmade St. Patrick’s Day cards!

Everyone knows that you don’t have to be Irish (I do have a wee bit o’ the Irish in me, though) to participate in the wearin’ o’ the green on March 17!

You and your class still have time to whip up St. Patrick’s Day cards for the kids to take home at the end of the week. Or you may save this plan for next year.

  • Fold white copy paper twice to make small standard-size cards that will fit into inexpensive small white envelopes (available in “big box” and office supply stores).
  • Invite students to design, yes design their cards before making them. NOTE: Making cards is a cool way to introduce basic design to young students. Explain that a designer has to plan the whole work before starting to draw, color, etc. What will be on the card cover, the inside and back? What words will be in the poem and the greeting?
  • Set time for students to draw, color, write their cards.
  • Distribute the envelopes.

Here’s a quick clever trick for the card-making…give students short shamrock bookmarks cut from Paddy’s Day napkins and a few good luck coins, like you see in my blog pic above. Suggest that they slip the little treasures inside their cards. It’s fun to open cards that include treasure!

I’ve observed, and you may have too, that kids get into the art part of card making with ease, but benefit from encouragement to write a well-developed poem and greeting that is appropriate for their grade level.

"I can't wait to make a card with this poem inside it!"

“I can’t wait to make a card with this poem inside it!”


Look at the students writing in my blog pic here; you can feel the emotion that they’re pouring into their work!

Offering opportunities to children to write cards and letters is a great way to:

  1. develop strong student writing skills.
  2. help students learn and master basic letter writing formats.
  3. encourage self-expression, noting that for some it’s easier to share feelings in print than it is out loud.
  4. create a sense of community within your school. For example, you can ask your class to write thank you letters to your custodial staff for their daily service or to your PTA for sponsoring a special program.
A display of letters expressing, "We're lucky all year long!"

A display of letters expressing, “We’re lucky all year long!”


Here’s another attentionology trick to try…

Invite students to write letters that show appreciation for all that your school offers them.

Young kids may get a kick out of writing their letters to your school mascot or, for St. Patrick’s Day, to a leprechaun!

You may display the class letters on a bulletin board like you see in my blog pic here, featuring letters with leprechaun illustrations.

Older students can accept the challenge of writing their letters to the principal who will cherish them, don’t you think.

Quick and easy magical tricks to help kids learn; that’s what’s in store each week under the magic hat!

What's under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

Talk with you again soon,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Coaching Themes for Teachers

March 6, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S USE PROVEN COACHING TECHNIQUES TO GET KIDS IN THE GAME OF LEARNING!

In the US, March Madness in basketball’s NCAA is coming soon. Watching how coaches, including “Coach K,” Duke University’s world-famous basketball coach, work with players has gotten me thinking that some of the tools and tricks they use to command attention can work for teachers too. 

SURPRISE PLAYS – Want to catch your students’ attention and make them laugh to start a school day in an upbeat mode?

Try this…Pull out a baseball cap from under your classroom magic hat, shown in

What's under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

my blog pic here.

Slip the cap on your head and call out, “Okay team, let’s get ready to play the game of learning!”

All eyes on you now, continue your coaching theme to lead into a math lesson, for example, with these words…“I’m going to pitch you some math problems (not a baseball) and I need you to be ready to hit the answers out of the park.” (meaning give correct answers)

At this point, you can transition into a more standard teaching mode to complete your math lesson as you need to.

Most kids love sports, as do many adults, including teachers. The variety of sports played around the world offers unlimited possibilities for linking popular sports with coaching themes that teachers can apply to teaching.

WINNING ATTITUDES – Help kids made the connection between the importance of positive attitudes in winning at sports as well as winning in life.

Try this…Ask sports-lovers in your class to raise their hands. When hands fly, invite a few students to name their favorite sports.

Find out if they like to play that sport or watch it as a fan, or both. NOTE: I’ve used this activity to lead into writing time, inviting kids to write stories with sports as the focus.

"Does a good attitude help us win in sports and in life?"

“Does a good attitude help us win in sports and in life?”

Hold up a poster about Attitude, like you see in my blog pic here.

Open up an age-appropriate discussion about what attitude has to do with winning, winning in sports, winning in life.

Discuss what you and your students think is a good attitude. Ask what winning means to them. Offer other examples that connect winning with the importance of working hard, staying focused and on task.

If you introduce this coaching-themed activity at the beginning of a school term, offer this to the class, “Let’s have a winning season!” (meaning a school term with good learning results)

THE LANGUAGES OF SPORTS – Use sports “lingo” to draw kids into lessons and activities. 

Try this…Call your “team” together at the start of a day to review your schedule. Describe each planned activity as a “PLAY OF THE DAY.”

Get students excited about the plans by making sports connections with different subjects. For example, as you point to the time slot for reading, mention how Sam and Julia have improved their reading skills in the last weeks, becoming stronger members of your class’ reading “team.”

Teachers that use coaching themes show students an added level of care. Kids relate. Result: they’re more motivated.

"Just look at that bowling score!" Bragging rights are for teachers, too.

“Just look at that bowling score!” Bragging rights are for teachers, too.

MAKE PERSONAL SPORTS CONNECTIONS – Engage your class by showing them pictures of you playing sports or games that you enjoy.

Post shots on your class website, for example, or bring photos to class, like I’ve done to get kids’ attention with coaching and sports themes.

In my blog pic here, I’m grinning about a high score, showing off for fun after a bowling game.

MODEL AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE – News about the health risks of inactive adults and children is on the rise. Not surprisingly, the alarm bells are sounding in communities where there’s a concurrent increase in the amount of time that kids spend indoors with electronic devices.

Try this…Surprise your class one day by NOT dropping them off at the

Teachers who occasionally join in gym time model an active lifestyle...and get kids attention!

Teachers who occasionally join in gym time model an active lifestyle…and get kids attention!

gym for P.E. (physical education). Stay for a day and get in the game, following the gym teacher’s lead, like the teacher in my blog pic here.

COACH, TEACH, REACH – Engage reluctant learners by offering sports-related incentives in class.

Try this…Set up a small basketball net in your classroom.

At designated times, reward students for correct answers, effort, attentiveness, showing respect – whatever you choose – by allowing them to take a shot at the net with a small toy basketball, like you see in my blog pic below.

Offer coaching-themed and personal words of encouragement, like “Way to go Alexi!” (wearing a red shirt that day) “The star player on Red Team scores BIG!”

Chances to shoot to win with focused "Hot Shot Kids" make a good reward for K - 5 students.

Chances to shoot to win with focused “Hot Shot Kids” make a good reward for K – 5 students.

Successful coaches command attention by forming strong emotional bonds with their players as they guide them with specific strategies to win games.

Winning teachers can do the same, generating excitement about the learning process to achieve academic goals.

Talk with you again soon,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Special Needs Kids

February 27, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S GET EVEN MORE CREATIVE ABOUT HELPING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS SUCCEED!

Every time I encounter the words, special needs, usually with reference to children in K – 5 classes, I find myself thinking this…we all have special needs. We’re all different, but none of us lesser than others.

At least that’s the ideal. Just ask Temple Grandin who I had the honor of meeting last year. (Read the post I published about her, Meet the Master for Teaching Children with Autism, on 08/20/12.)

What's under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

Temple works a special kind of magic every day!

Autism, as well as a wide spectrum of other developmental and physical disabilities, presents a huge challenge to teachers and parents.

If you’ve worked with children and families navigating life and learning with special needs, then you know that the ideal is often far from the reality of it…all the more reason to reach for more creative ways to help children with special needs enjoy success in school.

Browse under the Magic Hat for special tools designed especially for special kids…Read on…

TOOLS FOR GETTING ALONG – Trick for Grades K – 2

  1. Bury plastic toy tools in a sandbox on your playground, like you see in my blog pic below.

    Can you find the toy tools buried in the sand?

    Can you find the toy tools buried in the sand?

  2. Schedule time outdoors when the weather is expected to be sunny.
  3. Announce to your class that you’re going on a dig (opportunity to introduce the basics of archaeology if that fits your curriculum) to find special tools.
  4. Ask kids to name tools, such as a hammer or saw.
  5. Take the class outdoors and invite kids to take turns digging in the sandbox for toy tools, being sure to involve children with special needs. (Assign assistant diggers to kids with physical disabilities.)
  6. On your return to class, ask the children to hold up and name, if they can, the tools they’ve found.
  7. Open a discussion about how tools help people do things, such as building toy boxes.
  8. Explain that some tools come in different forms, not hammers or saws, but tools that help us make friends and get along in school and elsewhere.
  9. Offer examples of these “different tools,” such as shaking hands when meeting someone for the first time, smiling, looking directly at someone when speaking with them, etc.
  10. Read the poem, Getting Along, printed below. NOTE: I wrote this poem as part of a collection for children with special needs.

Getting Along

How will I get along in this world?

For some, the learning is easier.

The pleases, thank-yous and how-do-you-dos,

Covering your nose when you’ve sneezed, “Ah-choos!”

Understanding a joke, knowing when to laugh out,

Controlling your feelings when you’re out and about.

For me, there’s confusion, where do I fit? 

Frustrations add up; I can’t find the tools I need in my kit.

My mind works differently from most of my friends,

I struggle to fit in, goals can turn into dead-ends.

Teach me, please, but let me be me.

I’ll try to fit in; I must also be free!


TAKE IT OUTDOORS! – Trick for Grades K – 5

Speaking of being free, as I’ve written in the last line of my poem above, have you discovered like I have that children with special needs function much better when daily schedules allow “down time?”

"I'll try to fit in but I must also be free!"

“I’ll try to fit in but I must also be free!”

What better place to enjoy free time – time to “just be me” – than outdoors on a sunny day.

Playgrounds are where children can literally jump for joy, like the boy in my blog pic here.

Students with physical disabilities love playground time, too. Invite a child in a wheelchair to throw a ball up in the air with volunteer runners on standby to retrieve the ball.

I liken the life of many special needs students to that of people faced with living in a world where others speak a different language.

It’s an ongoing struggle for children with certain kinds of special needs to understand what’s being presented in class and also to learn effective and appropriate means of self-expression.

Creative attention-getting tools and tricks work triple-duty with “special populations”…

  1. help teachers teach
  2. help children learn
  3. show love and care for children’s welfare

Check out these related previously published Attentionology posts for more ideas: Helping Kids Cope (11/21/12); Prevent Bullying (08/01/12); Tricks to Manage Moodiness (07/16/12); Contract to Worry Less (09/19/11) and Re-focus Attention with Loneliness Busters (08/29/11).

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Catchy Communications

February 20, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S ALL – TEACHERS AND PARENTS – KEEP COMMUNICATION LINES OPEN TO HELP CHILDREN GET THE BEST EDUCATION POSSIBLE.

Eileen Batson, communications guru

Eileen Batson, communications guru

Meet a communications expert, Eileen Batson, shown in my blog pic here.

I first introduced Eileen to readers last November (11/28/12). She has graciously agreed to serve again as a guest blogger on Attentionology, offering us a second set of “tricks” to achieve effective online communications.

Eileen works with individuals – educators and parents, business owners, authors and artists – to help them reach desired audiences, including elementary school students.

More about Eileen’s good work in a while. First let’s check out the new pointers she shares below.

According to Eileen, one of the most valuable actions that parents and teachers can take to ensure a good education and overall well-being of children is this…keep the link between classroom and home strong throughout the school year by using attention-getting communication tools and tricks.

Eileen is aware that creating and maintaining these “links” may seem like a daunting task, especially considering school breaks, the track system, and the number of students a teacher has in her/his class(es).

But, it’s doable, she believes. Eileen offers the following Parent Teacher Communication Tips to try, using technology whenever possible, and other resources such as the “good old telephone.”

1. Contact parents with good news regularly with calls or emails.

As most teachers know, the most important thing to remember when creating rapport with a parent at the beginning of a school term or initially at any time is to make the first phone call a positive one.

Getting in touch with a few students’ families or guardians per week is likely manageable during a planning period or after school. I suggest that you put the names you select to contact each week in your planner; you’re more likely to follow through with this strategy.

2. Create a Web Site for Yourself and/or Your Class.

A Web Site doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. I suggest that you design or get assistance designing a basic Web site that includes the following:

  • important contact numbers
  • your email address
  • a short biography and picture of you and maybe you interacting with students
  • an overall explanation of your “yearly mission” as a teacher
  • an outline of what you will be teaching
  • a brief statement about the importance of students using notebooks and an agenda
  • your homework policy
  • your grading system
  • tutoring (if any) you or other staff members offer after school
  • a recommended student supply list
  • your expectations and goals for the term/year
  • suggestions for parents on how they can reinforce student learning in language arts and reading using pictures and helpful Web sites

You can set up your site using WordPress or Blogger.

3. Publish a Pamphlet.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not able to manage

Color catches attention; no doubt about it!

Color catches attention; no doubt about it!

a Web site, there’s huge value in distributing a  traditional newsletter or pamphlet to parents during Open Houses or when you conference with them about their students.

Microsoft Publisher can help you design and print an attractive, informative newsletter or pamphlet (with a colorful cover like you see in the blog pic above).

4. Set up a social network on or where students and parents can message their teacher and each other.

This creates a sense of community and belonging.

What is Gaggle’s communication suite enables educators, students and parents to communicate anytime and anywhere. Gaggle ( is dedicated to providing safe email accounts for students. The tools that Gaggle provides allow schools to feel secure when giving their students email access.

On the Gaggle Network, teachers control what can be written and who can correspond with the students. Messages with inappropriate words are automatically re-routed to the teacher’s account. This allows the teacher to decide whether or not the student gets to see the message.

Check out the awesome communication features of the Gaggle Network:

  • Gaggle Email: Allows safe electronic communication for schools and students.
  • Web-based service for access anywhere with constant filtering and control of student accounts.
  • Gaggle Blogs: Provide a place where students can share their thoughts, ideas, and creativity in a secure environment. Teacher blogs can be shared with parents for easy home-school communication.
  • Discussion Boards: Support curriculum and extend learning with ongoing classroom discussions. Teachers can create boards restricted to specified students and classes, with all of Gaggle’s filtering in place.
  • Parent Accounts: Provide accounts for parents to easily communicate with teachers and their own children, but prohibit contact with other students. Parents can access and review their child’s email messages, locker files, and blogs.
  • Gaggle SMS Texting: Provides safe teacher and student mobile texting, with all incoming and outgoing text messages filtered and logged thru the Gaggle SMS Gateway. By utilizing the Gateway, individual cell numbers are protected with only Gaggle’s number displayed.

Great information, Eileen; thank you! 

As a publicist and owner of Batson Group Marketing and PR for 25+ years, Eileen Batson consults, holds workshops, and speaks on public relations, social networking, marketing and blogging.

She is currently on the Board of Directors for Women’s Power Networking and Co-Organizer for their Crabtree Chapter in Raleigh, NC (US). Martin Brossman and Anora McGaha selected her chapter on public relations for inclusion in their book Social Media for Business. Eileen lives in Raleigh with her husband, award-winning author and publisher Jon Batson. Visit Eileen at

What will be under the magic hat in coming weeks?

YOU can help decide by scrolling down and leaving a comment about topics you’d like The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus to address.

Check back with Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Creating Visual Feasts

February 13, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

What's under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S CREATE “VISUAL FEASTS” TO ADD “PIZZAZZ” TO OUR DAILY SCHOOL SCHEDULES. 

“Visual Feasts” are under the magic hat today.

I still laugh every time I think about my fifth grade teacher; the one who gently “burst our young bubbles,explaining in class on the day before spring break that “kids think that vacations are for them. Well they are, and I hope you have fun on break, but I got news…teachers need vacations too!”

It’s no news that we can’t be out of school as much as we might like, but we can enjoy mini-vacations – or call them little celebrations – that sustain us through “same old” routines by creating visual “feasts.”

Browse below for ways to jazz up your educational corner of the world, catching kids’ attention in the process.

SEIZE YOUR FAVORITE SEASON – Love the fall of the year?

Watch kids' eyes grow big when you throw a pile of fall leaves in the air!

Watch kids’ eyes grow big when you throw a pile of fall leaves in the air!

Start a school day by “throwing caution to the wind.”

Grab hold of a pile of colorful real or silk leaves, like you see in my blog pic here.

If fall isn’t coming soon for you, tell your class that you know it’s _________________ (current season), but you just can’t wait for fall!

Surprise! Surprise! Throw the leaves in the air and offer this quick rhyme as they drop to the floor…

Falling leaves float by,

Orange, red, yellow, green,

Falling leaves in autumn,

What a lovely scene!

Depending on how much time you have to wrap up this attentionology trick, you can…

  • ask for volunteers to “hand-rake up” the leaves, keeping count of each pile, reporting the number when the cleanup is complete.
  • quickly sweep the leaves to the side of the room so that no one will slip on them.
  • read another nature poem from a book or online resource using a SmartBoard. (Google “poems about ___________ (the season)”

LOOK WHAT POPPED UP IN CLASS! – Masterpiece paintings are “visual feasts.” Can’t get to museums or galleries as much as you’d like?

Georgia O’Keefe, A Sunflower from Maggie, 1937, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfred Stieglitz Collection-Bequest of Georgia O’Keefe, © 2007 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Photograph © 2012 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfred Steiglitz Collection - Bequest of Georgia O'Keefe, C 2007, Photograph C, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Georgia O’Keefe, A Sunflower from Maggie, 1937, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfred Stieglitz Collection-Bequest of Georgia O’Keefe, © 2007 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Photograph © 2012 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Bring the art in and brighten up your day!

Find an easel to keep in your classroom.

One afternoon, after students leave for the day, set up the easel in a prominent place and display a print on it of an eye-catching painting, like the one in my blog pic here.

(This painting and other masterpieces are featured in my 12/03/12 post.)

Select a print that appeals to you and opens up learning opportunities for your students. You can…

  • ask the class as you prepare to take attendance if they notice anything that’s popped up in class since yesterday, then feign surprise when they point to the print.
  • begin the day walking to the easel, announcing your mini-museum. Build observation skills by advising students to “be on the lookout” for new art, coming soon. 
  • use the title of the print to spark creative thinking. For example, the sunflower in the painting above is “from Maggie.” “Who might Maggie be?” you ask, then, “why do you think that?”
  • invite kids to write a story based on what they see in the painting.
  • take the class on an age-appropriate virtual tour of the museum that has the painting you’re displaying in its collection.
  • allow time for students to draw and color their own “fun flowers,” (a “take-off” on sunflowers) if the art work is of flowers.

IT’S MAKE A WISH DAY! – Valentine’s Day will be celebrated tomorrow in many parts of the world, but the balloon in my blog pic

"It's Make A Wish Day!"

“It’s Make A Wish Day!”

here has a heart for turning any day into Make A Wish Day! 

Set a colorful balloon like this one on your desk. You can…

  • tell students that “today is Make A Wish Day” and ask what they wish for (“No homework tonight!”)
  • tie in the Make a Wish balloon to a charity event currently on in your school or community, like raising funds for The Make A Wish Foundation (US) that sends children with serious illnesses on vacations or to special events.
  • use the Make A Wish balloon as a “friendly reminder” if your class needs to focus better during study time or improve test scores, etc. Present the balloon as your way of saying, “I wish that you would ___________________________.”
  • celebrate a birthday. For example, you might bring a Make A Wish balloon to class on March 4, birthday of Dr. Seuss, beloved American children’s author. After the class sings “Happy Birthday” to Dr. Seuss, ask who wishes to hear one of his stories.

“Visual feasts” are fun and filling, like the edible kind, but without the calories! All you need: a few clever ideas; a little money and some minutes to create eye-catchers that will brighten any day.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥  The Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Maximizing Transition Times

February 6, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S MAKE THE MOST OF TRANSITION TIMES!

What's under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

Fast-action games that will help you prevent lost time in class and maximize the value of transition times.

This year’s Super Bowl (US) is history, but you and your class can continue to enjoy a super bowl full of quick games that will help you catch and keep their attention and build skills.

Play Minute Games to:

 boost students’ mental powers.

 refresh tired minds.

 keep the class focused on you.

lead into specific subject study times, such as reading, math, etc.

The game descriptions below are as brief as the minutes it will take you and your class to play them…

GUESS WHO – Famous people from all eras and every corner of the world can be the “superstars” in this educational game.

How to play…

As the name of the game implies, you “throw out” the question and call on students with raised hands eager to answer.

For example, you might say, “Guess who couldn’t read until he turned age twelve.”

Answer: Thomas Edison, inventor

Quickly play again, especially if you want to further engage kids that have difficulty in school. “Guess who struggled with words (like the boy in my blog pic here), and

Guess who couldn't read until he turned age twelve.

Guess who struggled with words; someone famous!

found math to be difficult, and had a terrible time writing, even as an adult.”

Answer: Albert Einstein, mathematician and physicist

Reward Guess Who game winners with whatever you choose.

WHAT’S HOT, WHAT’S NOT!  – Let’s say that you’re directing your class to transition quietly after P.E. (physical education) as they prepare to head to lunch in the cafeteria. You’ve noticed that two of the kids were teasing a classmate with a learning disability when the class returned to your room from the gym.

You seize the moment by announcing a minute’s play of What’s Hot? What’s Not!

How to play…

This is a snap of a round robin. You start the play by calling out, “What’s Hot?” Student’s hands fly, ready with an answer like, “_______________, (a “front page” celebrity in your country) is hot!”

You continue the minute game, asking, “What’s Not?” Then you answer your own question with words to the effect that bullying is NOT HOT!

If you have time, call on a volunteer student to “shout out” what else is not hot.

Close the game, saying, “Time for lunch class…let’s get ready.”

COUNT THE HEARTS – In the season of Valentine’s, this is a fun minute game to play between lessons. Count the Hearts connects with math and helps kids develop strong observation skills.

Get ready to play by

How many hearts can you count in our classroom?

How many hearts can you count in our classroom?

posting a certain number of hearts around your classroom in various places (heart cut-outs on bulletin boards, a heart-decorated piggy bank on your desk, for example, like the one shown in my blog pic here.)

How to play…

When you tell your class, for example, that it’s time to end chapter book reading and get ready for math, explain what students need to do and THEN say, “Those who put your book away and get your math work out first get an extra minute to play Count The Hearts.” 

You continue by saying, “I know the total count of hearts in our classroom today. The students that make a good guess will win a prize.”

WRAP IT UP – This is a minute game that builds self-awareness in students. It offers an opportunity for you and your class to end a day on a positive note.

A few minutes before you announce that it’s time to prepare for dismissal, you tell the class that you’re pleased with their hard work (if that’s true) and want to see what students think of the day.

You announce that you’ve saved a few minutes to close class with a quick game of Wrap It Up.

How to play…

Start the game by asking for students to raise their hands if they’d like to finish the statement, “I like the way I _______________________ today in school.”

It’s amazing what teachers and students can accomplish in a few minutes time when fun meets functional with minute games to play!

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara The Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Attention-Grabbing Games

January 30, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S CAPITALIZE ON CHILDREN’S LOVE OF GAMES, USING GAMES TO HELP KIDS LEARN!

What’s under the magic hat today?

What''s under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

A pocketful of attention-grabbing games to pick out and play with your class.

Some of the games I’m presenting today are as easy as counting from 1 to 3.

Others require a little more time.

Some of the games are played with simple, inexpensive materials like a deck of cards. I’m guessing that you already have what you need in your classroom.

Choose what’s age-appropriate for your students, or modify the games as needed, and connect what’s best with your curriculum. Ready to play? START HERE…

WHAT COLOR ARE YOU TODAY? This is a game that can become a new bulletin board because it can be played all year-long. In fact, I got the idea for this game when I was reading a bulletin board outside the psychologist’s office in a school where I recently taught.

Playing What Color Are You Today is a great way to start the school day. It can help kids (and you) get in touch with their feelings so that you can better anticipate student behavior and adjust accordingly.

Here’s how to play:

What color are you today?

What color are you today?

♣ Announce to the class that you’re ready to play What Color Are You Today?

♣ You can stand near a rainbow-colored “Dr. Seuss” hat like the one in my blog pic here or another graphic that shows a range of colors and begin the game.

♣ If you’re playing the game, either with a color graphic or by voice only, you’ll need to ask leading questions.

You’ll also need to ask for raised hand responses with this command repeated after each color, Raise your hand if you’re __________ (color) today:

Are you yellow like the sun, feeling happy inside? 

Are you as red as a stop sign today because you feel frustrated or upset? 

Are you orange today, loud and messy, like paint splashed on a wall?

Are you blue today, feeling sad or a bit lonely?

Maybe, you’re purple, bright and happy like a butterfly in the sky?

Are you soft gray today, like the ocean when it’s calm and as flat as glass?

You could be green; are you green and chirping with joy like a cricket singing its song?

Oh, wait, are you a rainbow today, with ALL of the colors of the world inside you?

♣ Depending on the time you have to play What Color Are You Today, choose colors that offer kids a range of feelings to express.

♣ If you play this game in grades 3 – 5 before your transition into Language Arts, you have the option of citing the similes in the color-related questions you asked; for example, yellow like the sun.

♣ The bulletin board I mentioned above is decorated with a big color circle of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple (I added soft gray), with large letters spelling each color. A rainbow reaches across the board above the circle. The header reads in large letters: I AM. Next to each color in smaller print, the similes above describe “being” each color, in short statements, not as questions like I’ve posed for the game.


"Pick a card, let's play; you won an activity to do today!"

“Pick a card, let’s play; you won an activity to do today!”

Card players get ready; this is a fast-paced fun game, best suited for kids in grades 3 – 5.

I got the idea for this game from a trainer at my gym.

She uses it to direct and motivate clients to perform various exercises.**

I watched her work and created an application for teachers.

This game needs a little bit of preparation before you introduce it to your class.

Here’s how to prepare & play:

♠ Before you introduce the game, get a deck of playing cards and plan an activity that corresponds to each suit. For example, you might make:

hearts = spell a word

clubs = guess the name of a country’s capital

diamonds = add to numbers aloud

spades = sing a line of a favorite song

** Like the trainer at my gym, you may decide to plan physical activities, like jumping jacks, and play this game in your classroom on a rainy day when recess is cancelled.

♠ Announce to the class that you’re ready to play Pick a Card, Win an Activity!

♠ Explain the game, telling the class the activities you’ve planned for each suit. Explain further that the number on each card is the number of times a student has to repeat the activity (with new information). Note that a King, Queen, Jack or Ace = 1 (lucky!) Note further that a Joker allows the student to pick another kid to play the game.

♠ Invite kids to randomly choose a card, one at a time and play as long as your schedule allows.

If winners take all, your whole class will “rake it in” because they’ll be playing with you as their Game Master-Teacher!

♦ Look for more attention-grabbing games in upcoming posts.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara The Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Boosting Creativity

January 23, 2013

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S FIND WAYS TO BOOST OUR OWN AND OUR STUDENTS’ CREATIVITY!

What's under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

What’s under the magic hat today?

Eight great tricks to stoke the fires of creative thinking and learning.

1. Ask creative questions –  

For example, try leading into a Social Studies lesson with these two Qs: “How far can we go? How much can we know?”

2. Use short rhymes to catch kids’ attention and engage them in a creative learning process – Picking up on a sample Social Studies lesson, let’s say that your class is learning about the country of Portugal. Here’s a short rhyme that would work:

Pick a port in Portugal

we haven’t visited yet.

Listen to the sound of music

floating from ships’ decks.

I hear maracas shaking

like the ones I have in school.

Learning about new places

makes us world-smart. Cool!

3. Mix in music to pick up a creative beat – If, for example, your class is studying Portugal, you might add impact with the rhyme printed above by shaking some maracas

"I hear maracas shaking!"

“I hear maracas shaking!”

like you see me doing in my blog pic here, after you share the rhyme. Ask the class if they know the name of your instruments.

4. Integrate all of the arts into core curricula to boost creativity.

During your Social Studies lesson about Portugal, shake, shake, shake, go your maracas, an instrument popular in Portugal and many other countries.

NOTE: Maracas and other simple, easy-to-play instruments are available in toy stores, even dollar stores, as well as from music retailers in store and online.

Consider including visual art into your Social Studies lesson by inviting students, for example, to draw pictures of your maracas at an appropriate time.

5. Ask probing questions – Depending on the grade level you teach, you can boost students’ creative thinking skills by asking questions that require more thought.

For example, after you shake your maracas as part of your Social Studies lesson about Portugal, ask kids to guess what these “shakable” percussion instruments were first made from. Answer: hollow dried gourds. Then ask students to name other vegetables that might be turned into musical instruments and how?

6. Cash in on virtual tours through the magic of online resources –

Maps are great, and hands-on exploration is a way to learn by doing, like you LearningbyDoingsee in my blog pic here.

Life is a journey, not a destination, but virtual tours take a big step beyond maps, letting teachers take students to places around the world.

One visit can prompt creative thinking about the next tour and encourage exploration. Building global awareness and understanding of different people and cultures is key to education in the 21st century.

Make virtual visits seem real by encouraging kids to say…

– what they think they’d see in a place, like Portugal for example, if they ever get to enjoy an actual visit.

– what they’d like to see.

You can help them find answers online like the Lisbon Oceanarium and Maritime Museum. Visit

7. Brainstorm with students – Identify a problem that affects your class (such as the way some students distract others during academic study time) and ask for ideas on how to solve the problem.

– Write all of the ideas down on the board.

– Discuss the options for solving the problem.

– Take a vote about options to adopt for your “classroom code of conduct.”

– Post the new code of conduct in a prominent place in your classroom. Revisit it periodically to keep students focused on the results of their brainstorming.

8. Tell a joke at the beginning of the day and/or invite volunteers to share a joke with the class.

Laughing relaxes us and helps let creative ideas flow. Humor also reduces stress which is a creativity-killer.

Tell your students that boosting creativity is like building muscle strength. As Maya Angelou, the American poet, wrote, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

It’s good to get a boost!

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara The Lovable Poet

The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Games Research

January 16, 2013

Hats off to teachers and to research for my blog – time-consuming but well worth it!

I’m researching GAMES TEACHERS USE TO CATCH AND KEEP KIDS’ ATTENTION. My research will form a base for an upcoming Mid-Week Focus post.

If you play a favorite game with students in your classroom, please send a comment about it or a link that I can follow to enrich my writing. Or you can email me at

Remember, Attentionology reaches readers in 113 countries around the world. That’s a BIG educational community in which we can share ideas that help children learn and grow to be the best they can be.

If you send an idea, please let me know if you’d like me to credit you in the post that includes your idea. Thanks!

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara The Lovable Poet