Posts Tagged ‘school as community’

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


Principals Catch Attention, Too

December 17, 2012

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

In the aftermath of the tragedy last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (US), I was reminded of something obvious in K – 5 education, but it’s something I’ve not yet written about on this blog, and that is…effective principals catch kids’ attention right along with the teachers in elementary schools.

Principals like Dawn Hochsprung, only 47 years old when she was killed as she rushed towards a terrible intruder outside her office.

In the few days since the horrific event, Hochsprung has been described as an engaged leader at Sandy Hook ES, with an awesome ability to engage other teachers and most especially the young students in her school.

She’s said to have worn eye-catching costumes to entertain students. I can picture Hochsprung wearing a “Dr. Seuss hat,” like you see in my

Costume attire that a wonderful principal, like Dawn Hochsprung, might have worn

Costume attire that a wonderful principal, like Dawn Hochsprung, might have worn

blog pic here, on March 4 each year to celebrate the birthday of one of America’s most beloved authors.

She might have even tucked a little soft toy, like the baby hippo hiding in the blog pic, under the hat so that it would fall out when she pulled the hat off her head to…you guessed it…catch young kids’ attention!

Reading about Hochsprung clarified the power of attentionology tools and tricks in another way for me, too. I hope this simple concept helps you…educators that catch kids’ attention with fun, functional strategies, like Hochsprung used, relate to children  better. Strong relationships build trust. Trusting children open themselves up to learning and growing. 

Hochsprung, I’ve read, also hosted what she called “appy hours”  – events where her teachers would gather around a table at school, like the educators in my blog pic below,

"There's an app for that!" "Let's look at information about how we can use technologies to help students prepare for the future."

“There’s an app for that!” “Let’s look at information about how we can use technologies to help students prepare for the future.”


  • learn new “apps” to use in helping kids master skills.
  • swap ideas about the best technologies for K – 5 classroom application.
  • brainstorm about ways for school and community to work together.
  • get to know each other better.

I can’t help but think that teachers and children in schools and communities in parts of the world that have been affected by all-too-frequent violence might benefit from a clean sweep now – before, not after the new year. We won’t forget the past, of course, but we’re required to forge ahead.

If theater is practice for living, then you can help your kids make their own clean sweep – brushing away sadness and disappointments of the past and ushering in new plans for 2013 – by inviting them to join in a BRUSH OUT – BRUSH IN class event.

There’s comfort in traditions, isn’t there. Explain to your class that teachers in the earliest English schools, hundreds of years ago, literally made a clean sweep – they brushed the soot off the hearth before lighting a winter fire to warm the class, waving goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one. The expression, “starting with a clean slate,” comes from that English tradition.

The only tools you need for BRUSH OUT – BRUSH IN are a small

"Let's learn from the past, but sweep it aside to make new plans for the coming year!"

“Let’s learn from the past, but sweep it aside to make new plans for the coming year!”

dustpan, a brush, and a now-old 2012 calendar (substituted for the 2011 calendar shown in my blog pic here).

There are lots of ways to host this attention – getting event.

For example, you can simply tuck a 2012 calendar inside a large colorful bag along with a small dustpan and brush.

1) Set the bag with the small dustpan and brush in it on a table in front of the class.

2) Announce to your students that it’s time to get a jump on sweeping away sadness and disappointments of the year to make way for new plans in 2013.

3) Invite a volunteer to come up and pull out one item from the bag, then another and a third.

4) Ask the three students to stand by to help you make a clean sweep. Give each of them a chance to demonstrate brushing away the 2012 calendar. Expect laughter – a good thing! Note how well your class pays attention.

5) Explain next that the real fun (aka school work) is ahead (recommended for grades 2 – 5). Distribute notebook paper, ask your students to draw a line down the middle of the page to make two columns with headings. Demonstrate what you mean and write OLD above the left column, NEW above the right column.

6) Instruct the kids to write one list in one column of what they’d like to sweep away from this year, then a second list of what they’d like the new year to bring. Help younger children express themselves, as necessary, possibly making the activity a class “lesson” and using the board to note the ideas that your students offer.

Let’s not wait until new years eve to toast in hopes for 2013. Let’s express ourselves now. Let’s help our students express what is in their minds and hearts as they look back and forward, and let’s model positive behaviors like Dawn Hochsprung did, with the hope that the violence will end.

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

Talk with you again soon ,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet