Posts Tagged ‘Using magnifying glasses to teach’

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


Magnifying Attention Skills

November 21, 2011

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

I just read some disturbing news about an elementary school in Dallas, Texas that achieved “exemplary” status with math and reading scores by teaching only math and reading to their third grade students for an entire school year! No science, no social studies, no music or art at this school in 2010-2011 AND no voluntary disclosure of this major curriculum revision to parents! The school district discovered this stellar-score-seeking-strategy when investigators uncovered numerous cases of falsified grades at the same school during that year.

What’s the connection with attention-ology? I can’t help but think that teachers who manage to catch and keep K – 5 kids’ attention are less apt to feel so overwhelmed by pressure to achieve a certain status, like the teachers and administrators in this school obviously felt, that they would create such a scenario as was reported in the news.

The whole story is sad, isn’t it, and on many levels. It underscores the demands that K – 5 teachers face in the world today and it reminds me that the attention-getting tools and tricks I share on my blog can be more helpful to educators with each passing year.

My experience tells me that the best attention-ology tools and tricks are flexible to suit different teachers’ and students’ needs. They need to also be suitable for application in different areas of the elementary school curriculum. Here’s a new trick for you to try…

Introduce The Curious Glass to your class, one like you see in my blog pic below.

Let’s use “The Curious Glass!”

Okay, some smart students will call out that it’s (nothing but) a magnifying glass. Nod your head and agree but explain that you have plans for turning the magnifier into The Curious Glass. How? Give the magnifying glass “special status” in your class and loan it out to students, one student at a time, who want to do some investigative work for extra class credit. NOTE: For this activity I recommend buying a small supply of plastic (cheap) magnifying glasses, like those available at dollar stores. This in case any students lose The Curious Glass while it’s on their watch.

Set up a weekly schedule for The Curious Glass. The student who has possession that week signs the glass out on Monday and is responsible for returning it on Thursday with a report on what they chose to investigate. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for learning. You can ask for written reports on the investigated subject; you can invite kids to create mini-presentations to the class; plan what works best for you and your students.

Magnifying glasses are often associated with scientific study. I’ve always loved looking at rocks, sometimes under a magnifying glass. (Yes, I know the American joke about rocks in one’s head!) I love the cool feeling of rocks, the striations and colors in rocks and the incredible diversity of rocks’ shapes and sizes – like people you might add – when you invite your students to play a game I picked up at a jewelry show that included lovely pieces made with semi-precious stones…Tumble Rocks. 

Check out my blog pics below and you’ll see how easy it is to play Tumble Rocks.

Let the rocks tumble out onto paper.

Place a piece of white paper or colored paper on an otherwise clear desk. Put a collection of small rocks (or sea glass) in a bag and allow each player to grab a handful and let the rocks tumble out onto the paper. Let each player tumble rocks twice, observing the different patterns that the rocks form each time they tumble.

The rocks form different patterns each time they tumble.

This activity develops creative thinking skills in K – 5 students.

Tumble Rocks can also attract younger students’ attention at the beginning of math time. Reward a good listener or worker by designating her or him as the “Tumble Rock Master” for the day. Quickly set up the Tumble Rock game (see above) and invite the student you’ve selected to come up in front of the class, tumble out some rocks and count them out loud. Encourage applause for the correct number!

Magnifying attention skills is an ongoing challenge for teachers. Modeling curiosity and critical thinking by showing how you use an actual magnifying glass, demonstrating creative thinking by turning an ordinary magnifying glass into “The Curious Glass” and motivating students to patiently wait their turn to tumble rocks into different designs are all effective ways to develop children’s capacities to stay focused and on task.

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

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet