Posts Tagged ‘teachers modeling curiosity’

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


The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Encouraging Curiosity

January 9, 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.


What’s under the magic hat today?

Surprises…for your students and for you! Read on…

One of the best ways to encourage curiosity in children is to model this important characteristic.

Beth Schetter, a fourth/fifth grade teacher shown in my blog pic below, is a curious teacher. She’s always looking for ways to enhance her instructional techniques and assist students with academic challenges.

As you can see, Beth has posted the words curious and smart on the whiteboard behind her desk.

The words "curious" and "smart" appear in bright marker on the board behind Beth Schetter.

The words “curious” and “smart” appear in bright marker on the board behind Beth Schetter.

Posting word prompts is a simple but effective attentionology trick.

Beth uses these and other prominently posted words to:

1) encourage students to be curious…to read MORE, write MORE, investigate and discover MORE in every subject they study.

2) help students make the connection between being curious and becoming smart.

Quick questions catch kids’ attention and encourage curiosity. I’m guessing that you use quick questions like I do.

"What's wacky about gorillas?"

“What’s wacky about gorillas?”

For example, I’m planning to begin an upcoming writing lesson by holding the stuffed animal with the book you see in my blog pic here. I’ll ask the class, “What’s wacky about gorillas?”

Hands will fly with answers and more questions.

Curiosity will be off and running, leading to a writing activity about the students’ favorite wacky animals they know.

Encouraging curiosity also helps spark student interest in research. About those wacky animals…I’ll suggest to the class that we read MORE about wacky wildlife.

Ever thought about this…WORDS themselves are wacky, too.

Have you discovered like I have that kids love to learn the origin of words? For example, my students are delighted when I tell them that the English word cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje.

I briefly elaborate on the word origin, explaining that Dutch settlers in New York (US) introduced koekje into the English language. The spelling has evolved to the present word, cookie.

Quick little pickups on word derivations can lead to snap history lessons…an effective attentionology trick.

Speaking of word derivations, I got curious about where the English word, cool came from, so I did a little research and the results are your surprise under the magic hat today.  Hope you enjoy the writing…

Forever Cool!

Swell has slipped away. Hip took a hop into history. Groovy lost its edge. Marvy isn’t marvelous anymore. Fab’s become foreign. Far out is way out and neat is in the bin with sweet. Phat is no longer that. Awesome is aged (but still popular). Da bombe has hit the dirt BUT cool remains forever cool.

Cool is the real deal. It’s an amazing word. As a verb in formal English, cool means to become less warm, as in take a dip to cool off.

As a noun and an adjective, cool is a description of temperature, as in the cool of early morning or a coolish day.

Cool as an idiom or slang word has behind it an entire evolution revolution!

  • The slang word, cool, can be traced as far back as Beowulf’s middle English meaning of cool as a description of someone calm, unexcited or unemotional.
  • The older English meaning of cool was sometimes a negative expression. To be unemotional could mean to be withdrawn, depressed, lacking in warmth or unenthusiastic, as in giving or getting a cool reception.
  • In the 18th century, cool as slang assumed the meaning of calm or unexcited, as in, “He’s as cool as a cucumber.”
  • In the 19th century, cool continued to refer to someone who was self-assured, even impudent, as expressed in phrases such as “He’s a cool fish.”
  • In the American “gangster era” of the 1920s, cooling someone off meant icing the guy, “bye-bye,” as in “He was headed for the cooler…permanently!
  • As American business began to boom after World War I, cool became a slang word associated with making big bucks, as in, “That deal was worth a cool million.”
  • Cool changed its tone in African-American English in the 1930s when cool became slang for something bad or wicked.
  • In the 1940s, with the growing popularity of jazz in America, cool became a lasting description of something exciting, enjoyable, even exceptional as in “Man, listen to the cool beat.” Jazz great, Charlie Parker, wrote “Cool Blues” in 1947.
  • Beginning in the late 1940s cool was also used to refer to something being merely satisfactory or acceptable as in “That’s cool with me,” a use that continues today.
  • In the 1950s, stay cool meant be cautious, in control, unemotional. This meaning also continues today with expressions like keeping a cool head.
  • In the 1960s, stay cool was written into the lyrics of the American classic, West Side Story.
  • Since the 1960s people all over the world have continued to use the word cool. It has staying power. It’s an attentionology tool; cool continues to rule!

What are you curious about? What do your students tell you they’d like to know? Sometimes the shortest questions can lead to long, interesting, attention-sustaining answers…and a whole lot of learning!

Talk with you again soon,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet