Posts Tagged ‘Learning by doing’

Make Teaching Magic with Magnifyers

March 4, 2013

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

Are you familiar with the English expression, “Sometimes big things come in little packages?” I’m thinking that may be true for gifts of jewelry, but for teachers giving the gift of a good education, making things bigger is often better.

Magnification helps children and adults see more clearly. Making magic with different kinds of magnifyers is a classroom-tested attention-getting trick for teachers.

In children’s hands magnifyers become instructive devices that are fun to use. Holding a magnifying glass in hand is an active way to look closely at something. Sight is the result, but the ACT of looking helps the learning process.

"Okay great, boys and girls, now we can see the pictures much better!"

“Okay great, boys and girls, now we can see the pictures much better!”

Any teacher that uses a document camera or a computer to project images on a screen or SmartBoard, (like the teacher in my blog pic here) is working with magnification.

Today’s Attentionology post offers a few tricks to try using the magic of magnification.

Play I Spy a Good Listener Hold up a magnifying glass – a large toy one available in many “dollar stores,” (at least in the US) or in toy stores.

In your best “detective voice” announce that you’re looking to spy good listeners.

Move around the classroom as you look into the magnifying glass and lean towards students who readily respond to you in a positive way. Kids will get a “kick” out of your easy “theatrics.”

If you want to take this activity a step further, single out kids that are showing excellent looking and listening skills. For example, you can note to the class the Jorge and Isabel are paying close attention by following you around the room.

Test students’ listening skills further by asking them to repeat a short math equation, if you’re using this trick as part of a math lesson, or to repeat a short rhyme, for example, if the magnification trick is part of a language arts activity.

Let’s Look More Closely at Words The magnifying glass I’m holding in my blog pic here is an antique; it belonged to my great-grandfather.

"Let's look more closely at the words we choose to use."

“Let’s look more closely at the words we choose to use.”

I’ve shown this decorative glass to students as a lead-in to writing time. “Let’s look more closely at the words we choose to use,” I’ll say, explaining that many of the words we use in English and other languages of the world come from an ancient language called Latin.

I’ve found that kids love learning bits and pieces of Latin; word origins fascinate them.

"Who wants to come up with the magnifying glass and focus in on this number?"

“Who wants to come up with the magnifying glass and focus in on this number?”

What Time Is It?Draw young children’s attention to a teaching clock, like the one in my blog pic here, by letting kids take turns “zeroing in” on one number at a time with a magnifying glass.

Tell the class that it’s important to be able to keep track of time, like detectives keep track of leads on a case!

Track Back in TimeInvite students in grades 3 – 5 to use magnifying glasses to study maps of earlier civilizations in Social Studies.

Simply showing your class a magnifying glass sets up a mini-history lesson, an opportunity to track back in time to the origin of magnifying glasses themselves…

Many historians agree that it was the Romans (back to Latin!) 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.

Score a Science Connection Hold up a toy or real magnifying glass and ask your class if they know how it works. Answer: modern magnifying glasses are double convex lenses that make objects appear larger than they are. Explain the difference between convex and concave, showing convex with the magnifying glass.

Tell students that magnifying glasses have been key to scientific and medical discoveries. How? Early magnifying glasses led to modern-day microscopes.

Get to the Heart of ArtSome museum educators use magnifying glasses to help kids understand the concept of studying – not just looking at – paintings and other works of art. Museum visitors are not permitted to actually get too close to pieces on display, but a magnifying glass symbolizes investigation.

In school you can enrich the art curriculum by introducing art prints or

"What do you 'spy' that these Egyptian figures are doing in this painting?"

“What do you ‘spy’ that these Egyptian figures are doing in this painting?”

framed copies of art work, like the Egyptian parchment painting shown in my blog pic here.

Invite students to take on age-appropriate challenges, using a magnifying glass to look for subject, color, placement, lighting, etc. in the work of art.

If you like these teaching tricks, let your students know that you’ll offer more opportunities to use a magnification glass in class.

In fact, eventually you may catch and keep kids’ attention 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 students.

Using tools of magnification – cameras, computers, glasses – models curiosity and critical thinking. Getting a closer look aids understanding and mastery of skills.

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

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet


International Festival of Attention-Getters – Alaska, US

December 5, 2011

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

Wish I’d had to travel to Alaska to meet Jennifer Lynch (I’ve been wanting to experience Alaska for years!) but our paths crossed in the southeastern part of the United States where we both now teach. Jennifer is a Media Center Specialist in an elementary school that also serves a Pre-K population.

Ms. Lynch shows books about Alaska.

Jennifer was born and raised around Anchorage. She attended Fire Lake Elementary School (I love that name!) from Kindergarten, when Jennifer first knew that she wanted to be a teacher, to Grade 6. Alaska, she says, is just now converting to the middle school structure of grades 6 – 8 that is used in most states.

When I asked Jennifer to recall tools and tricks that any of her K – 5 teachers used effectively to catch and keep her attention she first mentioned the rhythmic clapping of Mrs. Kincaid in Kindergarten. A smile spreading across her face, Jennifer quickly added that her mother was amazed at how well Mrs. Kincaid commanded attention with such a simple strategy! As a parent, Jennifer’s mother obviously felt good about leaving her daughter in Mrs. Kincaid’s hands. NOTE to teachers…maybe an obvious one, but we all get so busy that we can sometimes forget this…it’s good to put yourself in the shoes of parents and your students as you make your classroom plans.

Teachers also put themselves in the shoes of teachers who serve as role models – educators that have made a positive impact on their lives. One of Jennifer’s models was her fifth grade teacher, Bob Petit. He had success in his classroom, as does Jennifer in her media center, with students working in small groups. Jennifer uses small group instruction when she’s teaching technology, reading-related and library skills. “I remember how engaged we all were in small group work with Mr. Petit,” she says. “During a unit on geography, for example, he’d have us in peer discussions using raised relief maps (pre-cursor to Google Earth)

Ms. Lynch demonstrates learning by doing.

so that we could learn by touching and discussing. It was literally hands on.” Jennifer demonstrates this teaching technique in my blog pic here.

Pulling from her own elementary school experience, Jennifer uses a quick rhythmic command – “One, two…” to which students reply…”Eyes on you!” from the same ballpark as Mrs. Kincaid to catch her students’ attention. To keep kids focused on learning, Jennifer draws from Mr. Petit’s teaching tricks. She says, “I try not to be the focus for the whole lesson. I want the students to be actively learning, doing some kind of activity in small groups so they can talk with each other, learn from each other, and learn how to work with people, even those with whom they might not get along.”

Mapping out strategies to help children prepare for the global marketplace – maps –  raised relief and other kinds – are some of the coolest tools. I recently read about Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the founding editor of National Geographic magazine. He’s credited with saying, “A map is the greatest of all epic poems. Its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams.” Maps today come in so many different versions – print, 3-d, online and interactive – great opportunities for your students to explore the world.

Jennifer pointed to Alaska on the world map during our conversation. I pictured myself there as she described her childhood winters. Families that live near Anchorage enjoy five to six hours of daylight as the calendar inches towards the Equinox. Elementary school buildings are constructed of concrete and wood, not brick, because brick cracks in the bitter cold. Recess is outside unless the temperature hits 10 degrees or below. “Kids come knowing they need snow gear,” explains Jennifer, “and everybody goes outside – no excuses.” “If a kid forgets gloves, he or she is told to borrow some from lost and found, ” she continues. “When I was a kid, I went to school in the dark each morning and I came home at dusk. Children played outdoors after school in the dark.” 

Hummm…an Alaska native living and teaching in the southeastern US. Do you suppose that one of Jennifer’s best tricks has been her relocation to warmer climes?

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

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet