Posts Tagged ‘multi-disciplinary’

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


A Show of Hands

March 11, 2013

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

In my corner of the world Daylight Savings Time has just begun, marking the near start of spring. I love the resulting longer hours of sun in the afternoon – more time to spend outdoors digging in dirt to plant flowers.

Kids and adults alike “dig” digging in every season, don’t you think? In the spring, we dig to plant vegetables as well as flowers; in the summer heat, there’s digging in sand; in the fall gardeners dig to plant bulbs for the next spring; winter snow makes for digging out, at least for many.

Digging with my hands yesterday got me thinking about the awesome tools that our hands are – all of our hands – adults and children in every nation.

Digging plants seeds and builds foundations, and those thoughts of hands at work made me remember a visit last fall with a special group of first graders.

Their HAND-i-work offers a cool attentionology trick that you can use too…

A Tree of Seasons Bulletin Board is a "show of hands!"

A Trees of Seasons Bulletin Board is a “show of hands!”


Look at the row of beautiful trees in my blog pic here and you’ll see a show of hands.

This is easy-to-make art work, perfect for students in early grades.

  • Start the activity by inviting your class to raise their hands high with their fingers spread wide apart.
  • Ask them to note how their hands look like the branches of a tree.
  • Pass out large sheets of construction paper and instruct the kids to place one hand towards the top of the sheet and trace around their hand with a crayon or marker. NOTE: The teacher whose bulletin board is shown above had the kids dip their hands in poster paint and print the treetops – another option for you.
  • Pass out brown paper and have students cut long tree trunks to glue below the handmade branches.
  • Invite kids to choose which season they want their trees to be in and give them art supplies that they can cut and glue to the branches to suit their chosen seasons.
  • Post the finished Trees of Seasons on a bulletin board with a header.
  • Optional: Use the “visual feast” as a prompt for a writing activity related to trees and/or seasons.


"Our hands are amazing tools! Let's make them dig."

“Our hands are amazing tools! Let’s make them dig.”

Look at the teacher in my blog pic here.

She’s engaging the class in an attention-getting  HANDS-on activity that helps kids explore the amazing tools that hands are.

The teacher and students are acting out the process of digging.

This activity is leading into a discussion about the many ways we use our hands.

Think of it! The curriculum connections between hands at work and subjects in elementary education are endless and wonderful.

"Let's sort through these books to find something special for each of you."

“Let’s sort through these books to find something special for each of you.”


Are there any hands busier than those of a teacher?

Look at the teacher in my blog pic here, helping her students find books in the school library.

Have you and your students ever talked about the power of hands?

Throughout history, strong hands have created communities, cared for people, animals and the land itself, carved spectacular works of art, crafted communication devices…the list goes on and on.

Teachers and parents know, too, that one of the best things that hands can do with arms extended is give hugs. No doubt about it…hugging always catches and keeps attention!

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

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 Attentionology Traveler – Finding Enterprising Kids

March 1, 2013
a world of ideas at your fingertips!

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

Hi! The Attentionology Traveler’s been on the road again…

found an elementary school that hosts an annual Enterprise Day to help fourth grade students put into practice what they’ve learned in a study unit on basic economics.

In an increasingly complex global economy, many educators support the introduction of economics education as early as in elementary school. Does your school curriculum include economics for upper elementary grades?

Enterprise Day at the school I visited was a behavior-reward celebration – an attention-grabbing one at that!

Visitors to the Sugar and Spice Cafe gobbled up cupcakes and cookies on sale, like the cookies in my blog pic below.

Elementary Economics - "Let's sell cookies and count the profits."

Elementary Economics – “Let’s sell cookies and count the profits.”

The sweets table was managed by a trio of girls dressed in bright red aprons with chefs hats atop their heads.

Smiling sales clerks served hungry customers – all well satisfied.

Organizing teachers reported that the students will be allowed to use their profits from Enterprise Day to win prizes.

When the kids at Enterprise Day where I visited are in the “big leagues,” profits will be the prize – for offering market-driven products and services, cupcakes and cookies included!

Traveling on…

Barbara The 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

Attentionology Power Play – Personalize Communications

February 26, 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…


What’s better? Personalized “care” from service providers or impersonal responses to your needs?

The answer’s a “no-brainer!” Just think of totally automated phone systems.  Yuk!

On the phone, online Skyping, talking in person – whatever the method used – the most productive, enduring, motivating and rewarding communications between people are personalized.

Personalized communications foster permanent, positive connections with customers – a key factor in setting goals and getting what you want.

In School? Your students are your primary “customers,” even though we usually don’t use that term in educational communities.

When working with a student one-on-one or with the whole class, offer this personal expression of interest…Say “I thought of you ___________ (fill in when – yesterday, early this morning, etc.) because I ________________________________________” (fill in the action that occurred, causing your thought(s) about the person(s). For example, you  could say, “I saw a new book about Space Travel and I know you love “stuff” about Space” or you could say, “I found a cool new book about Space that I think we’ll enjoy including in our upcoming Science Unit. I like new discoveries!”

In an Office? Surprise co-workers at the start of a meeting by saying, “I thought of you yesterday at the market when I saw the new chocolate candy we were chatting about at lunch. Yes, I ‘caved;’ I bought a bag; it’s here. Let’s pass it around right now before we pick up the agenda.” 

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

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

Go from So-So to Super!

February 25, 2013

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

Parents need sitters; teachers need subs (substitute teachers)…on call to care for their children or students when circumstances require time away from home or school.

Kim Hopkins, a substitute teacher, standing in an elementary school gym office

Kim Hopkins, a substitute teacher, standing in an elementary school gym office

Meet Kim Hopkins, shown in my blog pic here.

Kim subbed for the P.E. (physical education) teacher at a school where I recently taught.

I asked Kim if she liked substitute teaching.

Her reply – the best part is the flexible schedule. Said Kim, “It suits me because I have two children of my own and I like to get home in the afternoon to be available to them.”

Ever served as a substitute teacher? As a popular American comedian once said in similar grammatically incorrect words…Often, “they don’t get NO (or at least, very little) RESPECT!” 

I’ve noticed over time that the first words that “regular” staff members offer to school visitors, usually in a teacher’s lounge (a common meeting place), isn’t “Hello! What’s your name? Can I help you?” It’s “Who are you subbing for?” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been first assumed to be a substitute teacher at schools where I’ve worked as a writer-in-residence, I’d be rich!

Has your experience been like mine – subs sometimes seem to lack their own identity at school, at least in others’ eyes? This dilemma can make it difficult for subs to catch anyone’s attention, let alone go from so-so to super by exceeding expectations for their “performance” in class.

Maybe some subs like life this way because “low-profile” does have some benefits; but maybe not.

How can substitute teachers make on-the-job days go from so-so to super, benefiting not only themselves but also the students they reach and are charged to teach? Answer: Pack portable attentionology tools and tricks! 

Read on and remember – catchy portable resources work for anyone seeking to keeps kids on task…

1) Rocks – Tuck a pack of small decorative landscaping rocks in your school bag (recommended for students in grades 3 – 5).

When you first write your name on the board in the class where you’re subbing, tap the board with marker or chalk and tell the kids to remember your name.

Announce that you have a surprise for “rock-solid” students – those who pay attention during study time – before the end of the day or period.

Just before dismissal, walk around the room and pass out one decorative rock to each deserving kid. Tell each one that you appreciate his or her “rock-solid” school work with you.

On the day I talked with Kim Hopkins, the sub shown in the blog pic above, she was planning to use another cool (but less portable)

Kim Hopkins demonstrates rock climbing in a physical education class for kids

Kim Hopkins demonstrates rock climbing in a physical education class for kids.

attentionology tool in her P.E. classes – a rock climbing wall (shown in my blog pic here).

Safety rules and liability coverage in place, it would be awesome to have access to an eye-catching ready-to-climb wall in any instructional setting.

Teachers could use such a resource to:

  • promote physical fitness.
  • help students develop critical thinking skills, figuring out the best climbing route.
  • build self-confidence in kids.
  • motivate children, using climbing time as a reward.

Teachers can also use rock climbing walls that can be installed in instructional settings to inspire interest in exploration. Google rock climbing walls and mountain climbing for information and virtual travel sites.

2) Giant Letters – Slip a giant letter E (or the correct letter in your alphabet) into your school bag. When you introduce yourself as the substitute teacher for the day whip out your giant letter E, like you see

"Does this big E stand for E - A - S - Y?  No!"

“Does this big E stand for E – A – S – Y? No!”

me doing in my blog pic here.

Hold up the E for all to see; ask the class to guess what E stands for, adding, “Is E for E-A-S-Y?” “Say NO – NO – NO!” “E is for E-F-F-O-R-T!”

Note how totally focused the class is on you.

Close your “giant letter E presentation,”  by announcing your expectations for the day, saying, “Please don’t think for a minute that because you have a substitute teacher for the day, effort is on vacation. I’m counting on good work so that I can give a good report to __________________” (the teacher you’re subbing for).

3) Small Puppets and Stuffed Animals – Wrap a little hand puppet or soft toy, like the little lamb you see in my blog pic here,

A little lamb can be a substitute teacher's best friend!

A little lamb can be a substitute teacher’s best friend!

in a piece of fabric or inside a book for the early grades to take to school.

Young children (grades pre – K – 2) especially love stuffed animals and puppets, and they’ll be delighted with you when you tell them that you’ve brought a “little animal friend” along for the time you’re going to be the class’ substitute teacher.

You can lead into teaching time and score BIG motivation for listening and learning by telling the class that your “friend” is taking “a nap” – something young children easily understand – and suggest that you all get some good work done – the math lesson, reading, etc. that the teacher you’re subbing for has left with her/his instructions before “meeting” your “friend.” Call the toy animal by an endearing name, like “Sunshine.”

It’s common knowledge that young children find security with familiar people, places and schedules in school. Having a substitute teacher breaks their regular pattern. Watch kids in early grades quickly warm up to you when you tell them that you’d really appreciate them helping your “friend, Sunshine,” feel comfortable in class by speaking nicely to the little animal when it “wakes up” from its nap.

Score more classroom management success with this trick. Young kids will gladly keep their voices down if a little animal is “sleeping” nearby, pretend or not.

Bottom line…of course subs need to follow the guidelines spelled out by the teachers that have hired them, but there’s no rule saying that substitute teachers can’t bring their own strategies to school.

Subs can enrich class time for themselves and their students by using portable attentionology tools and tricks to make school days go from so-so to super!

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


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