Posts Tagged ‘Fall’

Attentionology Power Play – Launch or Update Your Website – PLUS NEWS

March 22, 2013
Use Attentionology Power Plays to get what you want!

Use Attentionology Power Plays to get what you want!

It’s Barbara here, The Lovable Poet, a “wordsmith” ready to help you…

What’s your goal?

Trying to “sell” kids on staying focused and on task in class?

Working to advance your career?

Strategizing to boost sales of a product or service in a field other than education?

Whatever you’re aiming to achieve, you need to catch and keep people’s attention! In a world full of distractions you need the benefit of extra tools and tricks to get and stay noticed.

Put today’s Attentionology Power Play to work for you…


It’s no secret that more and more communication is via electronic options.

Websites have become standard to most organizations in every corner of the world with access to “technological highways.”

Information seekers and senders, shoppers and storekeepers of every description post and pull data from websites.

Do you manage or contribute to a website? If so, visual and verbal updates are proven attention-grabbers. Websites are important to your “brand.”

In School? In an Office? Look at your website, pretending that you’ve NEVER seen it before. What catches your eye and why? Is the information current, useful, inviting, easy to navigate? Does it need a “makeover?” 

If you don’t have a website yet, consider launching one to attract your market.

Speaking of launches and updates…BIG NEWS HERE…Attentionology is launching a brand new website on Monday, March 25!

The new and improved promises a more user-friendly Homepage, more content, brighter images, free resources, new options for readers…all with a commitment to serve as a valuable resource as we enter our fourth year online.

We’re looking to catch and keep more readers attention, too, so if you like the site, please comment. Your response matters to us; your suggestions are welcome. Stay tuned for the launch of on Monday (please update your bookmarks!) and follow us on Twitter @attentionology. The new site will also offer new ways to share Attentionology with your associates and friends that can also benefit from all that we offer. Let’s grow together!

Keep my Attentionology Power Plays “in your pocket” every day!

Barbara The Lovable Poet


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

Third Anniversary Wishes

March 18, 2013

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

Attentionology is celebrating its third anniversary this month as an international education and enterprise blog. Thanks for visiting.

I like to think of myself and my Attentionology readers as a “global family” of educators and enterprising women and men in more than 115 countries that recognize the impact of increasing distractions on our lives and the lives of those we’re entrusted to serve.

In preparation for “celebrating” Attentionology’s third anniversary with some BIG news coming soon, I was reading through some answers that I offered in 2010 about the development of this blog – answers to a set of questions that some educators I was working with at the time asked about why I created Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers.

"My wish is that Attentionology serves as a creative and timely resource for you."

“My wish is that Attentionology serves as a creative and timely resource for you.”

I’ve decided to share those Q’s and A’s with you now because they reaffirm the “mission” of Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers to serve as a creative and timely resource for elementary school educators.

That’s my wish, shown in my pic here, as the blog enters its fourth year.

Q to me: What have you noticed about attention spans decreasing in students?

A: Over the ten years that I’ve been teaching in Wake County, NC  schools, the sixteenth largest school system in the US, I’ve personally observed children’s attention spans diminishing more each year. That’s what motivated me to begin writing my blog.

But, I wanted to know what other teachers were thinking and seeing in their classrooms. So I started a survey that I’ve taken into schools where I teach writing skills through poetry and narrative writing.

Teachers and support staff like assistant teachers, media center specialists, and so on, basically have been seeing the same thing…decreasing attention spans. A lot of educators suggest that it’s a combination of factors that are causing this…exposure to constant information, distractions and constant animation on media outlets, including hand-held devices and TV.

A lot of educators agree that kids and adults, as well, expect to be entertained 24/7, and they expect to be served – whatever that means – including in school teaching – instantly!

That makes a teacher’s job tougher than ever…my thinking with the Attentionology tools and tricks that I’ve designed is that you use strategies that are proven attention-getters to get kids’ attention and then get them focused on learning.

I’ve been compelled, really, to create tools and tricks to catch and keep K – 5 kids’ attention because when I’m scheduled to teach for only one week in a school, I’m under pressure to get a lot done in short order. Schools have invited me back from year to year because I help them reach their goals – improved academic and personal success for children –  in a small amount of time. The reason…I use my Attentionology tools and tricks.

Q: What are some of the attention-getting tools and tricks you’ve used?

A: I vary them to suit different grade levels. There’s obviously a big difference between children in early, middle and upper elementary grades. When I write my blog I work to show how different attention-getting strategies can be adapted to different grade levels. I like to offer a lot of variety so that teachers can pick and choose what will work best for them.

Starting in the early grades, one of the most popular tools I’ve created is called “Listen Star.” Listen Star is simple to make or buy. I’ve seen some stars on wands, like you see in my blog pic below,

"Listen Star" has "magical listening abilities."

“Listen Star” has “magical listening abilities.”

in dollar stores and toy departments of “big box” stores. Inexpensive teaching tools are best!

Listen Star is a star shape with a face of some sort on a wand. The one I use has bells that jingle when I make the star “fly across the classroom sky.”

As an attention tool I introduce Listen Star as a “friend” who’s joined me in class. I tell the kids that when they see and hear Listen Star “fly” that’s a signal for them to hush – just for a moment – and listen to me.

Works like magic! I’ve had teachers write me and tell me how well Listen Star has worked for them.

In the middle elementary grades I like to invite kids to “travel through their imaginations.” I use an image of a train.

I ask kids to raise their hands if they’ve ever been on a train. Some do. I tell the class that we’re about to “board a train to travel to the wonderful world of words” when I teach writing. Then we “zoom off” to our private quiet writing zones. This approach also works pretending to travel to a “science station” or a “math market” or whatever suits your curriculum.

For the upper elementary grades, like fifth grade, I’ve had a lot of success with a theatrical technique of acting like I’m on the phone when a student calls out in distress over a homework assignment. “Oh, hold that thought,” I’ll say to the student, “got a call, wait a minute, nope, the complaint line isn’t open!” Enough said.

Q: What are some other tips you have for the beginning of a school term?

A: One of my most popular blog posts is a Cornucopia of Attention-Getters.

When fall is around the corner, teachers can invite students to give thanks for the opportunity to learn by choosing from a cornucopia full of extra credit activity apples in their classrooms. The extra credit option gets kids’ attention (and is suitable for any time of the year with an appropriate symbolic container for apples, such as a basket in the spring.)

This is a tool that teachers can advise their classes to be on the lookout for…creating anticipation is one of the keys to Attentionology.

In a world that puts a premium on entertainment, teachers have to use entertaining tools and tricks to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention.

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

Talk with you again soon, and please share comments any time so that we can better serve Attentionology’s “global family” of readers.

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

Focus on Character Education

July 19, 2010

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

I recently came across an old copy of The Grade Teacher, a publication of the Educational Publishing Corporation, Darien, Connecticut, US, at an antique show I attended. The dog-eared issue, dated April, 1942, was on sale for considerably more than its original 30 cents price. Thumbing through this aged “Professional Magazine for Classroom Teachers of All Grades,” I found an article titled, “The City of Refuge” with a subtitle: Foundations of Character Education, by Henry Turner Bailey.

This decades old analysis of character education by Bailey struck a connecting chord in my mind with Attention-ology for K – 5 teachers. For one thing, isn’t showing RESPECT, as in listening attentively when someone else is speaking, a key trait of what is widely perceived as “good character”?

In his article, Bailey makes the case for building foundations of character education by leading the way to the joys of learning. His writing may sound antiquated to modern ears. He defines “Real Teaching” as methods by which “all school topics should be taught that through them the children may catch visions of what is beyond.”

Bailey acknowledges the challenges that teachers in America (and likely elsewhere) faced during the turbulent years of World War II, leading the way “into the land of delights” (his definition of the rewards of solid character education).

The war wasn’t all to overcome. Bailey wrote about creating a new vision for education free of the restraints of earlier teaching methods. He said, “Those who occupied our places in the past did not always serve with gladness, nor lead forth their flock with joy. When they forced children to learn verses by heart, as a punishment for some offense, they placed stumbling blocks in the path and almost closed one of the gates – perhaps the chief and most accessible.”

Bailey characterized teaching as a privilege “to free the spirit” of children. “To be able to give freedom to many is something worth the effort of a lifetime,” he wrote. “What satisfaction may be ours!”

No doubt, satisfaction for teachers in our turbulent 21st century will come when students are able to stay focused on the tasks at hand and “catch visions of what is beyond.”

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

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

I Spy a Good Listener!

July 12, 2010

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

You may have heard the old Chinese proverb that roughly translates in English to, “We hear and we forget; we see and we remember; we do and we understand.” I’m of  a mind that this proverb has merit for teaching, especially if one considers that DOING almost always includes hearing and seeing.

I Spy a Good Listener is an activity you can try in your instructional setting that focuses on sight, but the attention-getting aspect of this trick is all about the ACT of looking to find students who are paying attention to you, the teacher.

If you teach children in grades K – 2 and like this idea, I recommend using a large magnifying glass on a long handle to “ACT-centuate” your “spying.” (Many “dollar stores,” at least in the U.S., sell inexpensive plastic magnifying glasses designed for use with children.)

Here’s how to begin the I Spy trick: Hold up the magnifying glass and in your best detective voice announce, “Boys and girls, I’m looking to spy a good listener.” Move around the classroom as you look into the magnifier and lean toward students who readily respond to you in a positive way.

If you want to take this activity a step further, single out the students who are showing excellent listening skills. For example, you can note to the class that Sean and Maria are paying close attention by following your movement around the classroom. Test students’ listening skills by asking them to repeat a short rhyme, for example, if you’re using this trick as part of a language arts activity.

Let your class know that there will be other opportunties to “play” I Spy a Good Listener! In fact, on another day, you may catch and keep your students’ attention just before you begin a lesson simply by holding up your magnifying glass for all to see and repeating your goal of spotting good listeners. The magnifying glass can become an attention-getting signal for your students.

One of the reasons this teaching trick has a high success rate is that magnifying glasses are magical to children (as well as to some adults). They are one of the oldest devices used to improve sight. Many historians agree that it was the Romans who discovered magnifying glass in the first century, A.D. Research suggests that the Romans found that glass that was thicker in the center and thinner around the outer edges magnified an object being observed. Modern magnifying glasses are double convex lenses that make objects appear larger than they are. If you’d like to tie this teaching trick to an early years science lesson, you may want to explain to your class that early magnifying glasses led to modern-day microscopes.

For older students, the concept of getting a closer look at something through magnification may lead nicely into an activity that focuses on critical thinking – a much-needed skill for all 21st century students.

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

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

Attention Crisis for Young and Old

June 28, 2010

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

Here’s a frightening thought…if children in grades K – 5 today have trouble paying attention in elementary school now, imagine the challenges they will face as they age into higher grades and adulthood later.

Attention problems are not limited to children in elementary classrooms. Loss of focus now plagues people over 50 years old as well, and the concerns are not limited to those who have been “officially” diagnosed with attention deficit disorders.

According to a recent article in AARP, a publication of the American Association of Retired People, what many call “information overload” has become an “attention crisis.”  Some call this phenomenon the “culture of distraction” and “information-fatigue syndrome.” Call it what you like, the root cause of the “attention crisis” is almost always identified as technology-based stimuli that come in droves and can scramble the best brains.

In the AARP article, author Katy Read quotes Maggie Jackson who has written Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Says Jackson, “we’re facing the limit of human ability to cope with stimuli in our environment.”

Children’s capacity to multi-task is less hindered than that of people over 50 because, as Read explains it, aging causes “brain changes including small blockages to the brain’s blood supply and a drop in nerve-signaling chemicals (which) can make it harder to tune out distractions.” Read goes on to cite research conducted recently at the University of California – San Diego showing that, “on average, Americans hear, see, or read 34 gigabytes worth of information a day – about 100,000 words – from TV, the Internet, books, radio, newspapers, and other sources.”  The trend in information consumption that will impact children currently in grades K – 5 is upward – “more than 5 percent annually since 1980,” according to UC’s research.

In her article, Read also introduces readers to Linda Stone, a former Microsoft executive, who writes a blog titled The Attention Project. Stone describes the attention crisis we all face as paying “continuous partial attention.” Those three words don’t bode well for children rising from grade to grade. For one thing, “partial attention” does not forecast good test results.

Looks like we not only need to keep developing tools and tricks to catch and keep students’ attention; we must also help children learn to control their participation in the culture of distraction – a tall order!

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

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

Bouncing Balls

June 21, 2010

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

If you’ve been following the World Cup Games in South Africa recently you know the passion that people around the world have for a simple round ball.

Spheres made of leather and manmade materials have challenged and amused people for generations. Throwing, serving, hitting, passing, kicking, dribbling and bouncing balls are actions that play key roles in a host of popular games.

Why not put the passion for balls to work in elementary classrooms to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention!

I knew a teacher years ago who taught third grade students their multiplication tables with a pink tennis-size rubber ball. Ms. Gregory was ahead of her time. She would announce that every member of the class who was prepared to sit up, look up and listen up would get a turn at bouncing the ball to math tables. Ms. Gregory would begin the activity with a ball bouncing demonstration and cheer. “Two, four, six, eight…what do we appreciate?”  “Multiplication! Multiplication!”  The class would reply with mounting excitement.

Any kid in Ms. Gregory’s class who kept the ball bouncing and the math answers correct got to keep possession – a prize in itself!  This gifted teacher would start with easy sequences, counting by two’s. When the class was ready she advanced everyone to counting by three’s and so on. She got good results.

The trick to the bouncing multiplication ball was connecting spoken math answers with the action of bouncing the ball and the repeated sound that the ball made hitting the classroom floor. In American style football you could call it an “action play” for learning.

Did I mention the word fun yet? It’s a “no-brainer” that elementary children jump at any chance to play while they learn. Like I said, Ms. Gregory was ahead of her time.

If you like this teaching trick, you’ll be pleased to know that it works just as well with other activities as it does with helping children master multiplication. Check out future posts on Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers for more ideas on bouncing balls inside elementary classrooms.

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

Talk with you next week,

Barbara The Lovable Poet

Try the Flip Trick

May 24, 2010

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

I successfully tested an effective attention-getting trick at a family workshop I recently led on a sunny spring Saturday at the State Museum of Art. The workshop theme was “Inside and Out,” an abstract concept that challenged my planning skills.

Whenever I prepare materials for teaching or presenting a program in any venue – a classroom, art studio, retirement community center, auditorium, media center, outdoor recreation area – you name it – I always include an attention-getting tool or trick. Experience has taught me to never assume that my audience of children and/or adults will be all eyes and ears on me automatically!

I’ve discovered that the best attention-getting tools and tricks are auditory as well as visual. When I’m leading an art workshop I show my attention tool or trick when I welcome the participants and introduce the theme for the day.  I announce that what I’ve brought is a signal for participants to please pause in their work and get quiet for a moment whenever they see and hear it.

Playing with the concept of “Inside and Out” I thought of the Flip Trick. Here’s how it works:

Flip Trick

  • Select a large sheet of paper with one blank side and one printed side. I use 12″ x 12″ art paper which is card stock. The blank side is white and the print sides come in a wonderful variety of patterns and colors.
  • Hold the paper sheet up high for all to see and tell the group that the paper has an inside and an outside. The inside is the blank side; the outside is the patterned side. Usually the participants will nod their heads in agreement.
  • Ask the group to watch as you flip the paper sheet from the inside to the outside. As you say the word “FLIP!” in a dramatic voice, twist your hand so that the paper sheet turns around. The card stock will make a slight noise when you flip it; that adds to its attention-getting quality.
  • Repeat the flip process and ask the group to tell you which is the inside and which is the outside. If they’ve been paying attention, and they usually do, they’ll reply correctly.

Sometimes attention-getting tools and tricks are deceptively simple. The key is to use creativity in your design and/or selection and choose devices that are easy to make and/or manage.

Trying the Flip Trick is a reminder to me that good teachers are dreamers and schemers. We dream about helping our students master skills, information, and most of all, a love of learning. Our schemes are benign; they are the clever materials and methods we use for classroom management.

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

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

On your mark, get set, GO!

May 17, 2010

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

I was talking recently with an associate, Alice Osborn, a talented multi-tasking independent contract writer and teacher who works under the umbrella: Write From the Inside Out. Alice manages a website – and blog – and began serving as a writer-in-residence with North Carolina’s Triangle area schools in 2009.

We were discussing effective ways for K – 5 teachers to catch and keep students’ attention. Alice shared some tricks she’s used in the upper elementary grades for me to pass along:

  • Writing Prompts and Timed Writing Exercises – Create handouts ahead of time that present the writing prompt or prompts that students will use as story-starters. Be sure that students have adequate notebook paper and pencils at hand before you announce that the timed writing exercise is about to begin. Set a kitchen timer on the number of minutes you plan to allow for writing (Alice usually goes for 10 minutes) and then cue the class with a dramatic voice, “On your mark, get set, GO!” Pencils poised with purpose, students will begin to write furiously to finish a good start before the timer buzzes. As Alice reports, “The kids love the structure (as do the teachers) of the countdown clock.”
  • Multi-Media Exploration of Subject – Supplement writing lessons with music, video and reading materials that relate to the subject of the prompt you plan for students to use as story-starters. For example, if your prompt invites students to write a fictional story about traveling to an unknown place, you might show a clip of the movie, “Up” and open a discussion on where flight may take us. Related reading materials might include portions of a biography about the Wright Brothers and their first  flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Alice adds, “For the reading material, I read a portion and have the students read another segment so that they stay involved.” When you have helped students immerse themselves in the concept and experience of (in this example) flight, they will be better prepared to write about a journey of their own. This “trick” involves cross-curricular teaching because it incorporates learning through popular culture, social studies and reading to prepare students for writing. Engaging students in writing by using a cross-curricular approach to the planning and pre-writing parts of the process may help draw in reluctant writers. That’s a big benefit to this trick!

Your use of timed exercises and multi-media exploration is by no means limited to teaching writing. These tricks can be applied to many areas of the intermediate elementary school curriculum.

Catching anyone’s attention with a kitchen timer is a sure bet if the minutes are ticking because cookies are baking in the oven. It’s time to eat!

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

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet