Posts Tagged ‘The Attentionology Traveler’

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 Attentionology Traveler – Most Beautiful Place

February 11, 2013

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

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

The Attentionology Traveler is packed and ready to go with new trips and teaching tricks to share with you in 2013.

One of my most favorite, classroom-tested, attention-getting activities for inspiring kids to write stories and/or poems is a travel adventure itself…

…I invite students to name and focus their writing on the “most beautiful place in the world!”

It’s “Travel Time.” Kids LOVE this activity! Here’s how it unfolds…

I hold up a small plastic (place mat) world map, like you see in my blog pics above and below. I tell the class – with a big smile on my face – “when the world is only this big, I can carry it with me wherever I go.”  

"We'll visit this country here; is it the most beautiful place?"

“We’ll visit this country here; is it the most beautiful place?”

I ask for a show of hands from students that have “ever traveled somewhere special to you.”

Hands fly; I call on a few students to say where they’ve been.

(It’s interesting to note that in many classes, the teacher whose room I’m visiting has never asked about her/his students’ travel experiences, and she/he seems surprised by the information I uncover about the students with this learning process.)

Engaging students and teachers in my role of The Attentionology Traveler, I mention that sharing travel experiences, like we’re doing together, is a great way to get to know someone of any age.

“Travel Time” also helps kids gain a greater appreciation of our world community.

Depending on your grade level, you can also use “Travel Time” to reinforce learning about spatial concepts. For example, I always ask, “Has anyone in this class ever traveled somewhere way far away?” Of course, distance is relative to kids’ personal experiences, but I can see the “wheels turning” in their minds as they think about the question. “Travel Time” keeps kids focused and on task.

Realizing that  some students, for any number of reasons, haven’t had the opportunity to travel, I always include another spatial concept during “Travel Time” – one that has strong emotional ties, too. Using a strong voice I say these words, “Sometimes the most beautiful place in the world is no further away than our very own space at home.” I continue this possibility, saying, “No matter how big or small that space may be, you might think that it’s the most beautiful place of all!”

Travel Time” doesn’t end with this concept. I often continue  preparing the class for writing time by holding up a poster of a sunset, like you see in my blog pic below.

Where is this most beautiful place?

Where is this most beautiful place?

“Where was this sunset?” I ask the class.

“Was it in Belize?” I might add – offering kids a quick  “taste a country” (and a true or false option for older kids.*)

Teaching Goals:

1) Connect writing with world awareness, geography and science (explaining, for example, that Belize is a beautiful Central American country of 200 islands, bordered on the east by the Barrier Reef in the Caribbean Sea.)

2) Connect with other cultures, giving my classes potential pen pals via e-mail to develop writing and technology skills (explaining, again for example, that Belize is where some children go to La Isla Bonita (Spanish for The Beautiful Island) Elementary School  in San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island.)

So, when I ask kids where they think the sunset pic was taken, hands fly again and every student offers a different answer.

“Ah ha…that’s it!” I reply, and then I say, “Listen to this…If we all use the same title – The Most Beautiful Place – for our stories or poems, I bet we’ll find that everyone’s writing is different!” 

“Why?” I elaborate on my assertion. “Because, what’s the most beautiful place to you (I point in the direction of one side of the classroom) is different from what’s most beautiful to you.” (I point to the other side of the room).

By now the kids are totally motivated to start their stories or poems! We “travel” into our private quiet writing zones and the pencils begin to fly across papers. It’s very cool to see kids so excited about writing; Travel Time” is the ticket.

Teachers with a curriculum that includes helping students learn to differentiate between fact and opinion can use this writing activity to show opinion. “In my opinion, the most beautiful place in the world is __________________________________ and here’s why __________________________________ ” (defending opinion).

Note: Teachers of K – 2 kids can invite students to draw a picture of, instead of writing about, their most beautiful place and take turns showing it to the class, telling why it’s special.

When my classes and I have some minutes left after writing time I share bits of stories from different parts of the world.

One of my favorites is titled The Most Beautiful Place in the World by the American children’s author, Ann Cameron. (Alfred A. Knopf, New York) I tell the kids that this is a story about a boy named Juan who lives with his grandmother in a mountainous city, San Pablo, in Guatemala.

“Listen for the writing,” I advise, “but listen too for how different Juan’s life may be than your own.” “The following excerpt describes Juan’s home city,” I tell the class, and then I read aloud from Cameron’s book…

The only time people aren’t carrying things is at night, when they go out just to stroll around town and have fun and tell stories and talk to their friends. Everybody walks in the street, more or less straight down the middle, and if a car comes while somebody’s having a good conversation or telling a good story, the car has to wait till the story finishes before people will move out of the way. Stories are important here, cars aren’t.

Traveling is important to every child’s education, through stories like Cameron’s, and through other resources. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, virtual trips around the world can now be at our fingertips.

(*The sunset pic above, by the way, was not taken in Belize, although it might have been, as beautiful as Belize and many other places are; it was taken over the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach, California, US. Photo: Don Haudenschild)

The Attentionology Traveler will travel on to share more tools and tricks to catch and keep kids’ attention, helping K – 5 students achieve success.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

Spotlight on Learning with The Attentionology Traveler

January 14, 2013

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

Here we go; another school/work week’s begun. Is January flying by for you like it is for me? Just since last Monday, The Attentionology Traveler has

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

been trekking again, on the lookout for more ideas to share with educators challenged with catching and keeping kids’ attention.


I was recently digging through some of my mother’s things in a very old dark closet.

I paused to “fetch” a flashlight for much improved vision and another attentionology trick flashed in my mind…

Spotlight on Learning – How cool it would be to bring a flashlight to class and shine the handy tool on students’ excellent work, I thought.

I can picture myself (and maybe you) walking around the room while kids are busy writing or doing math, or completing a spelling test, or…whatever you like.

Suddenly, (at an appropriate time, so as not to hinder rather than help

"Spotlight on good work!"

“Spotlight on good work!”

the learning process) I’d turn on the flashlight and spot it on a student’s paper, like you see in my blog pic here.

Then I’d shout out  “Spotlight on good work! Well done _______________(student’s name here).” 

I’d quickly turn the flashlight, still on, towards the classroom clock and announce, “Spot on the clock, we still have ____ minutes more for this activity. Let’s all get back to work.”

Obviously, a flashlight’s yellowish glow shows up best in the dark, but you can still draw attention to a spot with a flashlight in a room that is fairly well-lit. Try it!


Let’s keep the spotlight on learning with my second discovery, the poster you see in my blog pic below that I found on a wall of a fourth grade classroom.

A poster with smart advice discovered by The Attentionology Traveler

A poster with smart advice discovered by The Attentionology Traveler

Learn To Think…Think To Learn.

Help students internalize the importance of this process by making personal posters with the same advice to hang up at home.

Invite kids to add more color to the poster with print and/or images that connect to the message.

Suggest that students post this learning prompt on a wall near where they do homework.

Home and school…how can teachers make stronger connections between the two, benefiting everyone in a school community? Read on…


I reread the pledge (see below) this past week when I revisited the fifth grade teacher’s class where I first found it.

Strengthen your connection between your school and students’ homes by sending home copies of this pledge or one you use. Send along a note to parents showing your appreciation of their child’s pledge and a request that they contact you to confirm that they’ve read the pledge (and hopefully discussed it with their child.)

I first published the pledge, Students’ Pledge – Help Me! in my Attentionology post of 08/29/12. I’ve revised the title in today’s post. (Note that the first line of the pledge features curiosity, the focus of last Wednesday’s Attentionology The Magic Hat post.)


Help me to be curious about the world around me.

Help me to be prepared for the challenges I face today.

Help me to be open to difficult tasks.

Help me to be determined to complete my work.

Help me to be responsible in all I do.

Help me to accept people’s differences.

Help me to be kind in my thoughts and words.

Help me to be aware of my talents.

Help me to be myself and be the best that I can be!

The 08/29/12 post includes a suggestion to design a bulletin board with the Students’ Pledge at the center. Got some new tricks for you today…

…Help students live into the promise of the pledge.

Wow, think about the power of that challenge…it means that we as teachers are asking students to not just write a pledge or say it aloud, we want them to fulfill it, to live it!

I’m reminded of the connection between this challenge and the English expression, “Actions speak louder than words.” Ever use a similar sentence with your kids? I have, as a teacher and a parent.

Helping students live into the nine lines of the pledge above, all of which require staying focused and on task, obviously takes way more time than simply posting the pledge on a bulletin board, as valuable as that can be. What to do? Structure your plan to suit your curriculum over a set time period. Follow this basic outline:

  1. Introduce the Students’ Pledge and post it in your classroom.
  2. Ask students to make the pledge aloud and/or sign the posted pledge.
  3. Identify, with your class’ input, the skills that are required to fulfill each “line item” of the pledge.
  4. Take nothing for granted. Facilitate class discussions about what it takes to be curious; be prepared for challenges; be open to difficult tasks; complete work; be responsible; accept people’s differences; be kind; be aware of personal talents; be the best possible.
  5. Help students personalize the pledge by building the skills, including computer literacy, that relate to their interests and goals to live into the promises they’ve made.


What does it take to build skills to live into a students' pledge?

What does it take to build skills to live into a students’ pledge?

When your students have access to supervised computer use, like the children in my blog pic here, invite them to Google Search the key words in each of the nine lines of the Students’ Pledge, one at a time.

For example, a search of the words be responsible resulted in how-to tips on developing responsibility, and bumble bee graphics suitable for a classroom bulletin board about responsibility.

Another attentionology idea jackpot! – Catch kids’ attention by assigning students to use online resources related to the Students’ Pledge to design a series of bulletin boards, like one with the header, Bee Responsible.

If you work with younger kids, you may prefer to create your own bulletin boards. You can adjust the language in the Students’ Pledge to be grade-level appropriate to your students.

Shining the spotlight on learning puts teachers at center stage, conducting classes like a maestro with an orchestra. Motivated kids will glow in the light and learn to live into their Students’ Pledge.

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

Tidbits from The Attentionology Traveler

December 10, 2012

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

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

What in the world! I’m mixing up the publication of Attentionology features, posting The Attentionology Traveler on a Monday – what’s up?

What’s up is that new mixes and new matches are time-tested attention-getters.

Most kids enjoy mix-ups. Mix-ups are memorable. Ever taken a family trip when the car got a flat tire or broke down? Do the kids remember the sightseeing? No! They remember the vacation mix-up.

Today’s post features tidbits for teachers that I’ve discovered in my travels since last week. See if you can find a tidbit or two, turned into attentionology tricks and tools, that will work for you…

One Happy Classroom – Last Saturday I walked by a parked car from the Caribbean Island of Aruba; it had a license plate above the front bumper that read One Happy Island – Aruba. “What a simple but powerful expression is that!” I thought to myself. Modified for school, how about greeting students at the beginning of a term with this…Welcome to one happy classroom!” Tell the class, “That’s what we are and will be this term.” Happy is good.

Hang up a big surprise – A giant butterfly,

How did this butterfly get to be so BIG?

How did this butterfly get to be so BIG?

the one you see in my blog pic here, graces the wall of a classroom where I recently taught. The butterfly’s size and color are instant attention-grabbers, but what else could this giant do, I wondered?

Here’s an idea…If you can find a BIG something, like this decorative insect, to hang up in your classroom as a surprise, try using it as a writing prompt. Simple lead Q: “How did the _________________ (fill in an appropriate description) get to be so big?” Students will engage in some fantastic writing.

Been there, done that…NO! – I asked a gym acquaintance recently, an older man who is retired from work in law enforcement, if he was enjoying the holiday season. His quick reply…“No, not really, been there, done that.” I nodded out of courtesy, but as I continued race-walking around the track, I felt a little sadness, not for myself, but for people like this man who have grown weary of annual traditions, like those that we celebrate during holidays.

A moment later I pulled out of my funk with the knowledge that teachers of elementary school children can ward off the sense of “been there, done that” because we’re able to see the joy of holidays and other special occasions through the eyes of children for whom the world is still unfolding.

Attentionology Q to ask kids: “Name something you do that you think you could do even better.” Teachers can plant seeds of positive attitudes in children with challenges like this Q that advise, in so many words…please don’t grow into someone who goes around saying, “Been there, done that.”

Send Thank You Poems – As 2012 draws to a close, it’s a good time to encourage children to express appreciation for special people in their lives, especially those (in addition to you) that have helped them this year!

Thank You Poems are delightful attention-getting tools. Let’s say, for example, that you and your class decide to give Thank You Poems (or one collective class poem)

Thank you, Mr. Cortes, for teaching us Spanish this year!

Thank you, Mr. Cortes, for teaching us Spanish this year!

to your school’s Spanish teacher, like Luis Cortes, shown in my blog pic here.

Teachers like Mr. Cortes will never forget your gifts…bi-lingual poem(s), translated from your language into Spanish, with the help of Google Translation, if you need it.

You may decide to invite your class to write Thank You Poems to family members or best friends.

If it suits your grade level, share my poem, Special People, (printed below) with your students to jump-start their writing.

Younger kids can write just a few lines to express thanks.

Special People

Too many to mention, special people we know;

they may be our best friends, or a funny cast of actors

on a favorite TV show.

Special people are all around us; what do special people do?

They add joy to our lives,

offering help and understanding when we feel blue.

Each family has someone or two who are by far

the most special people, the ones we like to talk and be with;

we know who they are.

You’re very special to me, _________________(insert name).

Thank you for being there; you’re a star!

If you find yourself feeling weary as December flies by, take heart in this…the most powerful way to catch and keep kids’ attention may be as simple as saying thank you…thank you for being such special students.

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

Talk with you again soon, and THANK YOU for visiting Attentionology this year.

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

The Attentionology Traveler

October 6, 2012

a world of ideas at your fingertips!

Hi! I reunited with another attention catcher – keeper. See if you could use this tool too…

Show me THE BIG E! (You may need to substitute “E” for the first letter of your alphabet that begins the word energy in your language.) Read on…

My heart ached for  many of the children I taught last week, a new (to me) group of tired-looking, tired-acting third grade students.

I walked into what I call “Slouch City” the first day. There before me, children with circles under their eyes, very few smiles, downcast-looking, many with vacant expressions.

Has this been your experience? Other teachers I’ve discussed this experience with have said that they’ve seen this sad state too. Children seem to be exhausted even at the start of the school day. They also seem to be feeling a huge amount of pressure to perform to test standards these days (ring a bell for our own situation as teachers?)

Of course I felt for the kids, but my mind elbowed me with a reminder that my job in the classroom is not to evaluate the educational system; it’s to “get the class in gear” encouraging them to the make the most of our week together.

What did I do to wake up the sleepyheads? I explained that I needed them to SHOW ME THE BIG E!

This attentionology trick is absolutely classroom-tested. Try it! You’ll like it; I promise!

Kids in every grade, K – 5, LOVE THE BIG E. The name alone sounds so friendly. Here’s how I bring THE BIG E into the class’ consciousness:

I outline our day/week ahead and as we talk together, I say this,” When you see me come through the door, I want you to think of THE BIG E. I need you to show me ENERGY!” “We have to pull it up and out from within ourselves.” I continue. “We have to use self-discipline.”

I explain to the class that it takes ENERGY to get good work done. “When we write, ________________________ (add in any task that suits your instructional needs) we take what is in our minds and our hearts, and with our hands, we get the work done.” I point to my head, my heart and I hold my hands out in front of me to add emphasis to the message.

I tell the class that I have THE BIG E with me,

THE BIG E loves kids that show energy to get good work done!

like you see in my blog pic here.

I reach into my teaching bag and dramatically pull out a giant blue letter E. Sometimes the kids clap for it, seriously!

As the week goes along, some students ask me to show them THE BIG E again; the large blue letter becomes a friend to them. Even when I don’t show it, I can refer to THE BIG E any time I need to remind kids to stay out of “Slouch City.”

Ask me if the 100 students I worked with last week had fun AND got a lot of good work done. Yes they did, and I think a big reason why is my introduction and application of THE BIG E!

Traveling on…

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet