Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Favorite exercise book

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite exercise books!

In our classroom, we have a two minute exercise break every day at 9:50. The students can also let me know if they need to move at other times during the day. We get a ton done during these two minute breaks. I got the idea for breaks from this book, which mainly focuses on becoming stronger.

I have two different routines I do with students. My first routine is the one we do most frequently. That is the interval routine.

  • Jump in place for 20 seconds
  • Rest while standing for 10 seconds
  • Run in place for 20 seconds
  • Rest while standing for 10 seconds
  • Repeat the first four steps for a second minute
The routine just takes 2 minutes and gets everyone moving!

My second routine is for strength. For that routine (which is talked about in the book 90 Second Fitness Solution) we do the plank position for 30 seconds (slowly moving up to 90 seconds) and then a wall sit for 30 seconds ( also moving up to 90 seconds.) After moving, my students are focused and ready to learn again!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Engaging Your Daydreamers!

Sometimes when I am talking to my students (especially at the end of the day), I feel like they are not listening. I also have a few constant daydreamers that are always trying to check out. And a few ADD students who have a hard time focusing for more than a minute or two at a time. At the end of the day, though they can really start to zone out.  So, I've started something new, called "Mirroring."

When I have something important that I am going to say, I say to my students, "Mirror!" What this means is that they need to place there hands up in front of them, as I place my hands up in front of me. Then, whatever actions I make with my hands, they also make. I make motions that relate to what I am talking about.

I think the kinesthetic engagement really helps out all of my students. If nothing else, they have to be paying attention to my movements, which keeps them more engaged. When I do this, it is easy to look around the classroom and "see" who is paying attention. I can also gently remind those that are daydreaming that they need to check in and focus!

Other times, I'll ask the students to do a think/pair/share using the mirror technique, summarizing what I just said. If I use this for summarizing, I should see some similar movements. I can now easily monitor on-task behavior. It is easy to SEE who is talking about the topic.

Thank you for Whole Brain Teaching for teaching me about this technique!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Floating and relaxation

Between teaching and being the mom of three young children, I feel like my body and mind are always going. I am thinking about what we are going to do this afternoon, what I will teach my students. I'm running after Rosie who just put a grape in her mouth.

I am "on" when I am teaching, and when I get home from school I am "on" again with the kids. My spouse is amazing about letting me take a nap sometimes, but this is just the nature of life at this stage. And it is wonderful. I wouldn't trade this for anything else.

At the same time, sometimes I need a total rest and break. Sometimes I've gotten massages. I really enjoy going to the chiropractor. Now I have a new favorite activity: Floating. (I went to a place called The Float Shoppe, which I highly recommend if you live near Portland.)

Never heard of it? Well, I hadn't either about 1 month ago. On a date night,my spouse  and I picked up this alternative weekly newspaper and the front article happened to be on this thing called floating. The basic gist is you go into a room that is completely pitch black and get into very salty water which causes you to float. The water is at the same temperature as your skin and the air, so you eventually relax and loose track of where you start and end physically.

What a relaxing, amazing experience. I really can't describe it. Some people say that it has a spiritually component for them. For me, though, I was able to let go of all of the tension I hold in my neck and back and just relax. My mind was busy for the first 60 minutes of my float, and then towards the end, I just was able to breathe, relax and be at peace.

After the float, I felt energized and ready to be with the kids. I was full of ideas for how to connect with more teachers at school, recommitted to eating healthy and physically relaxed. What more could you want?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Charge yourself up for the afternoon

Do you ever feel like the afternoon drags on? Sometimes, when I have had a long night the previous day (I have a 1 years old, a 3 year old and a 5 year old), I take a power nap during lunch. I know that taking 10 minutes out of my 30 minute "duty free" lunch break is a challenge, but it makes the rest of my day so much better.

Here are my tips for a 10 minute power nap:

  1. Bring a blanket to school. You can put it in a drawer or a shelf. You'll feel much more comfortable with it around. (If you really want to relax, you might even want a light blocking eye mask or a small travel pillow.)
  2. Lock the door. You really don't want a student or another person walking into the classroom when you are taking a nice 10 minute power nap.
  3. Set an alarm! Clearly, you can't go for more than 10 minutes during lunch time.
  4. Drink a cup of black tea first. This has made a big difference for me. I get to rest, and then when the timer goes off, the caffeine helps me wake up and be ready to go.
  5. Put on some relaxing music or a progressive relaxation CD. I found an amazing progressive relaxation download for 99 cents at the itunes store. This helps me relax during my 10 minute break.
  6. Relax! If you have guilty thoughts, let go of them. It is your duty free lunch break. When you take care of yourself, you have more to give to your family and your students!
If you have never tried a 10 minute lunch power nap, try one sometime this week. You'll be amazed by the difference it can make! 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Solutions for chatterboxes

This year I have a group of talkers. On top of that, I have 5 students with emotional/behavioral issues and special plans. These 5 students all have issues with outbursts, yelling, arguing and loud disruptive behavior.

The rest of my students just love to talk. This is great when they are talking about work and on task, but not so great if they are getting off topic or not raising their hands. They talk all the time . . . and it has been quite the challenge at times. I've tried a bunch of different techniques, but have finally found something that really makes a difference.

Before implementing the technique, I was easily having 19 interruptions of students shouting out in ten minutes. (I know this is a really bad number. I was a bit dismayed when I took the data, but I guess there was no where to go but up!)I realized, that was every 30 seconds someone was saying something!

After using this new technique, that number is down to 3! That is what I call an improvement.

The idea came from Whole Brain Teaching. I now have my students rehearse the rule in the morning. (It is rule #2).

I say: "Rule #2"
Students say: "Rule 2 - Raise your hand for permission to speak."

Now, when a student talks out of turn, instead of nagging or reminding, I say "Rule #2." This means that the whole class should say, "Rule 2 - Raise your hand for permission to speak." (Now, if the class does not say the rule, or is weak in how they say it, I earn a point. If they do a good job, they earn a point. The points are not for anything in particular - just to keep them motivated.)

The first day we did this, I think the class must have said the rule 50 times! But, by day 2, the number of talk outs decreased dramatically. Now that the class is not talking out so much, it is much more fun for everyone.

Online classes I offer for teachers through

FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life