Posts Tagged ‘attention-getting surprises for children’

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


Re-focus Attention with Loneliness Busters!

August 29, 2011

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

When you welcome students back at the beginning of a new school year, after a vacation, or following an extended time away from class due to any reason, including natural or man-made disasters, you have an opportunity to catch and keep kids’ attention by introducing what I call loneliness busters.

Let’s face it…the world can be a scary or lonely place at times. Most adults have developed strategies for managing feelings of loneliness, but many of us still need “a shoulder to lean on” sometimes. Experienced educators know that children are less skilled at dealing with negative feelings. They benefit from guidance we can offer, including the admission that we sometimes feel lonely too. Loneliness knows no age limit.

When teachers creatively break through the barrier that negative feelings, like loneliness, can create between adults and children, we create communication lines that can help students gain a more positive sense of themselves and the world around them. In the process, teachers help children re-focus on learning in school so that they can be successful.

It’s usually – not always, but usually – easy to spot kids who are struggling with difficult feelings – shyness, loneliness, anger, frustration. I’ve had success with a loneliness buster that helps students in grades 3 – 5 get past bad feelings by writing about them. I invite them to write on a computer, like the student in my blog pic below, when one is available, or with pencil and paper.

Focused writing helps students

To introduce this activity I read a poem about loneliness that I’ve written (see below) and I read it aloud as a surprise – almost always on a day when my students seem a bit downhearted or more distracted than usual.

When I introduce this poem I tell the class that the title asks a question. We talk for a minute or two about why questions attract attention. Everyone knows the answer…a question needs an answer – that’s why! Then I ask them to listen for the question and think about their answer to it as they hear my poem…

Am I The ONLY One?

Am I the only one

Who sometimes feels lonely?


You feel lonely, too?

You do?

Then, that makes two who feel blue.

It’s not always easy to say

What makes me feel this way.

What exactly spoils your day?

People who don’t seem to care?

People too busy to stop and see

How lonely you may be?

At least now I know

That I am not the only one

Who feels I miss out

On some of the fun.

Thanks for telling me

That I’m not the only one.

Maybe it will help

For us to learn

How to better share what we feel.


Finding ways to be happier,

Now, that’s a BIG deal!

After I finish reading Am I The ONLY One? aloud I offer the class a choice...we can talk more together to see what answers students have to the title question (strictly on a voluntary basis – I never force students to share personal feelings in front of the class) or we can “climb into our private, quiet zones” and write individual poems about loneliness to share later.

At the close of class, I challenge the students to think of loneliness busters in addition to writing and to – what else – write them down!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet