Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Make Stuart Smalley Proud and FAIL Like a PRO!

"I'm good enough.  I'm smart enough.  And gosh-darn it--I won't quit."

Stuart Smalley was a good man.  He knew how to fail and overcome his sadness by working hard and facing facts.  Sadly, his time has passed and many students (and adults, teachers, professionals) don't know how fail properly.

I'm dealing with it every single day with my students.  For some, work is hard and they're afraid of messing up.  For other's they're afraid of hard work.  And then I've got a few that will never admit to a mistake they've made.

FAILURE is tough.  Failure is also natural, but for so many its' seen as the end.  Whereas it should truly be seen as the beginning.

I just put together the poster set How to Fail Like a Pro because I wanted my students to look at all the alternatives to quitting.  Here's what it looks like on my bulletin board.

These are the three posters included below.

School is tough and we have tons of students that are tiny little perfectionists.  BUT they don't know (or have) the coping skills around when the chips are down.

I've found that I normally have to physically walk students through the process of not quitting, figuring out why they failed, and then making adjustments.

This year seems to be about the social/emotional learning and teaching for me.  More than any other year, I have kids that need to build these skills.  Sometimes though, these are my favorite lessons to teach because your building skills that can carryover for the rest of their lives.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

De-escalation Strategy With A Coffee Cup

Call it an old wive's tale or an untested scientific hypothesis, but bringing a coffee cup to situations with upset students can assist in de-escalating situations with students who are upset.  I know, call me crazy, but this is a theory I can get behind because it is all about a student's own perception.

Just a simple coffee cup.  You don't even need coffee in it.

There was a teacher/administrator who always brought an empty cup of coffee whenever they knew they were entering a tense situation involving students.  There didn't have to be anything in the coffee cup either because the cups normally from Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts and covered with a top.  He'd grab the cup before he left his office, just so he could walk into the situation nonchalantly and without escalating the situation.  

Someone drinking a cup of coffee just looks relaxed; enjoying the taste of finely ground beans, all while the aroma awakens the senses and the caffeine grabs hold of your receptors.

The idea behind this involved student perception.  If students see teachers enter situations with a calm approach (and a cup of coffee) it can immediately change the the entire outlook of the situation.  Students pick up on everything.  They see, hear, and watch everything.  They react to how we interact.

I take my coffee with me everywhere in the building all day long.  I've actually used it in situations like this before too.  Now there's no scientific proof it works, but the idea behind it is brilliant.  Change perception to create a more inviting and positive environment.

Many of you might never have to deal with these situations, but for many this is a weekly occurrence.    And one of the most important elements is de-escalating the situation so students can cope and use strategies to be successful.

So have a cup of coffee. It can be good for everyone.

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out this Bright Idea.  There are over 100 other wonderful ideas that you should continue to check out, so make sure you see all the links below.  

If you've enjoyed this post (even a little bit) feel free to follow me on FacebookTPT, or even here.  Here at Digital: Divide & Conquer you'll find a mix of everything educational from tech to SpEd to pop culture and 80's movie references.  It's a little of everything, kind of like me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Let's Go FarFaria Away...and Read!

Independent reading can be tough.  Teaching kids to be independent readers can be even tougher.  One of the more difficult aspects of school is building a kid's reading stamina in the classroom.  Plus, there's not a worse feeling than seeing a struggling reader become frustrated during independent reading time.  But I think I've found a solution in FarFaria (a reading app for iOS and Google Play).

Full Disclosure: A little while ago I was contacted by FarFaria to take a test drive of their app.   They also wanted me to review and give my thoughts on the app.  With that said, consider me impressed.  FarFaria does exactly what I need it to do for (and with) my students:  It makes them want to read!

So, what I figured I'd do is turn this in to a FAQ.  I'll ask the frequently asked questions that many of you might be wanting to know about this app and how it can be used in the classroom or at home.

What is it?  It's an reading app filled with digital books/stories that can be read or can read to students.  Users have the choice of turning the reading voices on and off for each story with a single touch.

What age groups can use this?  Anyone from elementary and below (that's pre-K to fifth for me).  I've had all my students, at all grade levels, use this app for reading books.  FaraFaria recommends using it for students up to fourth, but even my older kids enjoy it. 

How many books are we talking about?  Currently there are over 700 stories to read  AND the library continues to grow each week.  

What do the stories/books look like?  Below are some screenshots, take a peek.



What kind of books does it have?  There are hundreds of stories at multiple levels on unlimited ideas (fantasy, animals, humor, sports, history).  Students can scroll through different sections of the app to find what they like.  Plus, they're always adding in new books.

Is this Nexflix for reading?  It works a lot like it (which I really like) and looks like it too.  This makes it easy to navigate, find your recently read stories, see new additions, and the newest themes.

The home page looks and feels similar to Netflix.  Consider this a plus.

How simple is the app to use?  Well, my five-year is a pro at it.  She loves to find new books everyday and can navigate in and out of screens with ease.  Your students will pick it up faster than you (which is a good thing).

Why would I want this?  Why wouldn't you you want this?  The chance to put read aloud books into the hands of students is crucial to create readers.  Remember, I teach special education and have a lot of reluctant readers.  We try to build stamina, but it's tough when you get frustrated--I've never seen my students so quiet when they can just sit and read.  It. Is. Wonderful.

Tell me about the reading levels.  Each book has a little number next to it.  These numbers allow users to quickly gauge the text complexity.  It allows emerging readers to try reading a 1 or 2 level themselves, but then they can listen to a level 4 book read out loud.

Are there books on red pandas?  Yes, which is really cool.  That was the first book I read with my own kids.

I heard there are sing-alongs?  Yup.  Many classics are sung page by page.  Some even have a whole group of people singing.  It is quite jolly.

Does the reading voice sound like a robot?  No.  The reading voices are excellent.  Here is a sample from one on their YouTube page:

What about the cost?  The app is a free download.  BUT you have to buy memberships to get all the books.  There are different options, but one of the most cost-effective seems to be the lifetime membership ($49.99).  If that's too expensive you could try a month-to-month subscription ($3.99) (which is definitely worth it just to give it a spin).

How do you use this in the classroom?  It's hard to give a definitive answer because it can be used in multiple ways.  We've been using it 1:1, but I've also let small groups of students read together.  Ultimately the how you integrate this app is up to you.

I'm not a teacher, would I still want this?  If you've got readers in your house this is a great app.  Books, stories, reading--it's all good and easy to use.  Kids will have a blast with it.

Overall, this app is a great inclusion to my classroom and for my students.  I've had quite a few students ask if they can read the stories (Yes!), which is what I'm looking for!  The kids are engaged in the stories and they've been excited to see reoccurring characters too.  

I know the lifetime subscription might seem a little scary, but when you break it down the cost equals that of buying one extra-large mocha-cappa-frappa-chino a month for a year.

My advice, take a second and download the app then try out a free book.  Check it out for yourself and then let you kids take it for a spin.  You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Remind Students to Be Something! Positive Posters for the Class

Creative. Self-Confident.  Optimistic.  Courageous.  These are all traits we wish for our students (and even ourselves).  Class posters seem to be the theme for me this year which is why I've just created set of Be Something!  Positive Posters for Student Growth & Awareness.  

We ask students to display and show positive character traits in and out of school settings, but do we specifically tell them what those are?  There are thousands of traits beside "being good".  It's time students start to focus on what those are and why they're so important.

Is positive thinking a cliche?  Possibily--but I don't care.  That's because school (and life) is a little more interesting when the glass is half-full.

You can grab the FREE version with five posters HERE (or click on the image)

The full set has two versions; one full color and the 
other without the background (ink friendly).

Thanks for stopping by and checking this out.  If you've got a trait or something you think a student should BE let me know...maybe I'll add it in.

for more positivity...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Morning Work Without the Paperwork

On Friday morning my "official" Bright Idea post completely changed because I walked into a third grade room and saw the coolest way to complete morning work.  One by one the students were putting away their things and then walking to the front of the class and answering questions on the whiteboard.  It was so calm and cool.

Students answered the questions, which were based on learning targets from previous lessons, then circled and initialed their answers.  I just thought this was such a great way for them to demonstrate knowledge of concepts and also use as a form of assessment.

I spoke with the team for a couple of minutes (and they even offered me a little pizza) and they said it was going great having the students do it this way.  Plus it was a great way to cut down on the craziness of paperwork in the morning.

I mean, look at all the way students came up with how to represent 15.  And it wasn't just the board work..some of the interactions between students looking at each others work was very interesting to see.  And it let's us peek into how each student learns (and/or solves problems).

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out this Bright Idea.  There are over 100 other wonderful ideas that you should continue to check out, so make sure you see all the links below.  

If you've enjoyed this post (even a little bit) feel free to follow me on FacebookTPT, or even here.  Here at Digital: Divide & Conquer you'll find a mix of everything educational from tech to SpEd to pop culture and 80's movie references.  It's a little of everything, kind of like me.

Friday, August 29, 2014

How to RELAX. Coping Strategies for Frustration

Self-regulation rules in elementary-land.  One of the key components to being a successful student is knowing how to RELAX when frustrated and making sound decisions.  This isn't just a special education initiative--this is every student (at just about every level too).  

We work really hard on teaching strategies so students can begin to understand their feelings and emotions...and then make positive choices.  This can be such a difficult skill for students (and teachers--ha!) to master.  These are strategies/skills are always worth reviewing.

Here's a set of posters giving five strategies/coping skills using my RELAX method.  
It's even green, for those of you that teach Zones of Regulation.

I've got them up in my room and now you can too.

This is how I want to relax.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How To Be a FRIEND

More and more I've found myself working with students on social/emotional strategies to make them successful.  For kids, knowing how to be a good friend such a crucial life skill that will carry them on all through elementary, middle, and high school then into the real world.

It is just awesome when you see students use those strategies and be successful in their own friendships with one another.  And I was lucky enough to see it happen with a few students last year (success!!!).

I just put together a set of classroom posters on HOW to be a FRIEND.  Jump over and grab your own classroom copy.  Hopefully it can make a positive impact on you students (or even yourself).

                       The free poster set is here:  HOW TO BE A FRIEND
-Each poster is a single page (total of 8 including the title).

There's also a full version that is accompanied with worksheets, an interactive  journal/booklet, bookmarks, and class cards.  There includes two versions (primary and intermediate) of each printable.  

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