Blogging A to Z April Challenge: F 04/07/2020

Foldables and why they work

Foldables are easy to make and need minimal supplies. You can make them with construction paper to make them colorful, but if you don’t have that at home, regular white paper will work just as well. As an educator, I have used foldables with all grades up to seniors in high school. Why not make them? They do nothing but enhance learning and encourage students to be active learners.  

What is a foldable?  

Foldable is a three-dimensional, interactive graphic organizer based upon a skill. Making a Foldable gives students a fast, kinesthetic activity that helps them organize and retain information either before, during, or after reading. Foldables are best effective if constructed by the learner.  

How do I make a foldable?  

There are a lot of websites to show you how to make a foldable. One type of foldable can be used in multiple ways and for multiple subjects. Try a site like this: 

There is a woman Dinah Zike who has put together a book on making foldables. I will attach a link here. 

Why do foldables work? 

  1. They keep information organized. No more flipping through notebook pages or back and forth in a textbook.  
  1. They reduce boredom. Tactile activities, like making a foldable, enhance learning and get students active in their own learning.  
  1. Any age can use them. Foldables aren’t for just the little kids. They can be excellent study guides. Just the act of making a foldable is supplementing the actual information and leads to better learning.  
  1. Use them to take notes, to organize notes, or to study notes. A foldable can be used at any point in learning.  

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: 04/06/2020: D

D: Diary Entries

I guess I am what you would call “middle aged”. When I was young the big thing to do, at least as a girl, was to keep a diary. The little diary I had was the one with the tiny lock and key, you know, the key that you always lost and just had to stick a bobby-pin into the lock to open. The idea of keeping a diary is a great idea but many people don’t do it.  

When kids are in public schools, many of them are required to keep daily journals. This is a sort of diary, just named something else. In many of the schools I have taught there has been a set time to journal. Students are asked to write either about a prompt or about their day. Maybe calling it a journal is more up to date than a diary.  

One of the pieces of a diary is to have a place to write your thoughts and get them out of your head. I have often heard people say that they write in their diary but rip it out days later because they never want to read it again! That is okay too. The point is to process the thoughts in your head, not keep them bottled up.  

So, what is my point about diary entries? Well, for one thing, during this pandemic it would be very useful for students of any age to write their thoughts about what is going on. Yes, we will remember most of it in ten years or 15 years but if it is written, nothing is left out. As time goes on, we forget the little things. We forget that on this date New York still had the most cases of COVID-19. We might forget the name of our favorite news anchor. What about the shows you watch to get your mind OFF COVID-19? 

The one nice thing about diaries or journaling is that spelling is not checked, and grammar isn’t necessarily an issue. You write what is in your head, period. This takes a lot of pressure off reluctant writers. They can vow to keep their pages private, in which case they may write even more than others. If possible, explain to students that you may go back and reread something and it may seem silly now that you’re not mad, for example, but if you just keep that page it is a reminder later in life about yourself.  

As an educator I push writing. Not because it is somehow the most important thing to do, but it is the only way to keep a record of our past. Imagine if Anne Frank never kept a diary! How would we have ever known that Captain Scott wanted to reach the North Pole in the early 1900’s if he hadn’t kept a journal?   

Finally, journaling or writing in a diary should be fun and relaxing. That is why we don’t go back and check our spelling or grammar. It is like a best friend to talk to or some other confidante. You can buy a journal or make one yourself. Making a journal with your own cover can be a fun way to personalize your belonging. On one hand it is to talk about what you are holding in your head, but it can also just be a talking place. Keep it casual and write your own history! 

©2020 CBialczak Education

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: E 04/07/2020

Exercise gives energy for learning 

With children home from school now, many are much more sedentary than they usually are. We all know this is an issue, with the increase in technology there has a been a decrease in physical activity in young people. There have been many studies on physical activity and how it affects learning and memory. Through many of these studies there is proof that physical activity does improve learning.  

In a study by KAREN POSTAL PH.D., ABPP-CN, It was shown that exercise does in fact increase memory and retention. 

As an educator I understand the difficulty in motivating children to study and sit down long enough to learn what needs to be learned in a day. If your child is having trouble, try some exercises. It doesn’t mean you have to commit a long amount of time. You can do a few sets of different exercises to wake the brain up and then get to work. If need be, you can do sets of exercises throughout the day to keep yourself and your child awake and alert.  

Here are some great ideas: 

Once you have done a few sets move onto an educational task. Taking breaks is okay and a good thing! When young people are at school, they get breaks, sometimes only three to five minutes, between classes. Everyone needs a break. Movement is the best break to wake up a tired mind! Keep it fun, keep it relaxed, learning will happen in a positive environment.  

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge: 04/03/2020 “C”

C Copying Written Text 

What is writing all about? I’m sure if you asked a school full of educators you would get a lot of different answers. My background is in Special Education, so my ideas are sometimes a bit different than teachers certified to teach Language Arts and writing. But, when it comes to writing, if kids won’t do it, it’s not a thing anyhow! 

There are many children, of all ages, who are reluctant writers. This reluctance can result from multiple reasons. One reason may be that they physically find it difficult. A second reason may be that they don’t know what to write about. A third, but I’m sure not the last reason, may be because they don’t know how to write “acceptable” work. By acceptable work, I refer to work that can be handed in to a teacher, or shared with someone, with pride.  

Writing can be physically difficult. This is very hard for many people to understand. When we all learn to write, we may not be aware of it, but we put different pressure when using different writing utensils. Obviously, if you press too hard with a pencil, the point breaks. If you press too lightly with a pen, you may not see all the characters. If it wasn’t addressed when you were little you may still find that your hand gets tired or achy after writing for a bit. Kids seem to unintentionally press very hard with their writing utensils. Perhaps they think the harder they write the better the work, sort of like a hand and mind disconnect. Whatever the reason, if their hands get tired and achy, they won’t write.  

Writing might also be difficult because children don’t know what to write. Even given a topic, there is still a lot that goes into writing. For example, if you tell a third-grade student they must write about their favorite vacation, they could do that in one sentence. What they don’t know is how to expand the idea to write enough about it. Helping children write an outline, they now have a visual reference of what information is appropriate for their topic. By showing students that ideas don’t always just flow like a written book, they may be less reluctant to try. Sometimes kids, especially the younger ones, think writing should be like what they see in a book. They don’t understand that professional writers also have professional editors!  

This leads to the third reason I provided, that students don’t want to write if it is going to come back and be “all wrong”. Writing is graded in schools on different categories. If the teacher is looking for mechanics, then there may be marks showing a student all the commas they missed, or the fragment sentences they produced. If the teacher is looking for information in their writing, then there may be remarks that they don’t have enough information, or they need to “expand that idea”. This is very frustrating to students who don’t understand that writing isn’t done in one draft. With all my students I have always said that you will have more than one draft, no matter what. But the thing I emphasize is that you don’t have to change your writing, just add to it. That is a big relief for students. Sometimes when they are told to write a second draft, they believe they must write a whole new copy. That is a lot of work! Ease their minds by letting them know that the drafts after the first are for fixing and adding, not changing and taking away. Yes, there will be some things that have to be omitted or changed, but at the onset of an assignment, if a student thinks they will have to write the same thing multiple times, you’ve just lost them!  

So, what do I mean by copying text? When kids are little and don’t know how to write complete sentences, encourage them to “rewrite” their favorite books. Copying the text is something that doesn’t seem “too hard” and seems almost like a “legal cheat”. I’m not saying they should copy text and call it their own! No, I mean copying text just as practice. Another way to encourage children to write is to have them narrate to you, you write it, then they copy it. If you write it in their words exactly, then it is still their writing! The best thing is you just took out the task of writing and thinking at the same time!  

These little things can make a big difference in getting kids to love writing. Do you write at home? Sometimes one of the best lessons is watching a parent or sibling do the task. When I taught elementary school kids if it was time to write in journals, we all did it! Yes, the teachers and aides! This shows students that writing is important and is enjoyable.  

With the technology that is available, teaching kids to type and write on a keyboard are important, but it is always important to write using a pen and paper! Nothing will ever take the place of conventional writing! 

Blogging A to Z April Challenge: 04/02/2020 “B”

B Books Spark Interest 

Does your child groan when you suggest picking up a good book? Do they say the hate to read? Maybe you have a child that loves to read! If you do, this article might not be as useful, but hopefully you can still pull something useful from it.  

There are multiple reasons why children grow up “hating” to read. The biggest reason is they haven’t found something they love to read. The second biggest reason is it’s hard. Finally, reading takes time, time away from gaming and television. Who would want to put down the game controller to pick up a book?  Most kids don’t.  

So, how do we change this viewpoint? First, ask yourself, do you like to read? If you say no, that might be part of the problem. Our interests inadvertently affect our kids. If you don’t love to read, find a magazine to read or read catalogs; anything in print is reading! By showing your child that you like to read something, you are now promoting reading.  

The second thing to do is to ask your child what they would want to read about. If they say “nothing” or “I don’t know” then offer suggestions. Maybe they would like crime fiction, maybe realistic fiction, how about science fiction? Children are told what kind of books are out there but when it comes to naming one, they don’t realize how many different topics there really are! If your little one loves stuffed animals, find a book about stuffed animals! If your child loves baking, find books on baking! Get them interested in reading. Once they find interest, they will increase their reading time, which will help improve the ability to read. Being able to read easily is the product of practicing all the time!  

So, you’ve tried all these things, and nothing works! Well, turn to the house and the things in the house. Start asking kids to read packaging. Ask students to read labels on everything; cans, shampoo, juice…You can even ask your child to read the instructions to their favorite video game! Yes, this is reading! Anything that students read increases reading time which then provides practice and consequently, makes reading easier and more enjoyable. One important point I would make is that children love to reread their favorite books. This is okay! It is still practice. But if they get stuck and won’t move on, ask your local or school librarian to find a very similar book. When kids realize there is more than one good book, reading grows.  

Now there will be the child that doesn’t want to read no matter what the incentive. They don’t like comic books, they won’t try a chapter book, and they think reading labels is lame. Try audio books! Yes, listening to books is just like reading them yourself. The thing is, listening and reading provide you with what you want kids to get; better word use, expanded vocabulary, and joy of learning. There are websites that have free books and most public libraries have books on tape and CD.  

Finally, a great Language Arts activity for all ages is labeling. Give your child a package of sticky notes and a pencil and let them label the house. This is useful for improving spelling and vocabulary. In turn, every time they reread their labels, they are practicing reading. Reading can be fun. Reading comes in so many forms. It might take time but keep a positive outlook that they will all find something they love to read.  

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge: 04/01/2020 “A”

Activating Prior Knowledge to Promote Engagement 

What does this mean? Simply, help students remember what they know so they want to know more.  

Teaching students of all ages is difficult in the sense that they don’t necessarily recall knowledge the same way adults do. They need some sort of reference to help recall information and possibly a connection to turn to. What does this mean for the parent? It means to stay engaged in your child’s education, knowing what they are learning and connecting it somehow to life at home, as this can be a critical aspect in their success. By making connections you are making them a part of their learning, considered active learning.  

Often, we believe that students have the knowledge and experience, of going to school, to support their memory and recall. The truth is, children are so overwhelmed by educational and social expectations, that a lot of what we believe they should remember, they haven’t. This isn’t to say that they do so intentionally. Quite the contrary. Children and teenagers are learning new things all the time and this new learning overwhelms their heads, whether they are showing interest or not. The best defense is to openly get them engaged in their learning. 

What does it mean to activate prior knowledge? Simply put, help students recall what they have learned. What is the benefit? The benefit is showing students that they DO have knowledge of many things they don’t even realize. Trying to “jog” their memory shows them that the knowledge is there, it is just a matter of finding a technique to recall the information when it is needed. Teaching children that it is sometimes a lot of work to remember something, takes away that “adults know everything, and I know nothing” outlook.  

How does this promote engagement? It promotes engagement because it boosts self-esteem and shows them that they are smarter than they know. Often, children have the idea that adults just know everything. Almost every parent has heard this from a child at least once. “That’s because you know that already!” If they only knew that it isn’t the fact that adults hold information in a better brain, it means they have better memory and recall of that memory.  

What does this look like at different ages? Let’s look. 

Kindergarten to 2nd Grade: These students are learning about writing and using basic math. They know what they want to say, they just don’t have all the skills yet to get it from their brain onto paper. This is mostly because they don’t have the writing skills. Writing for young students is work, a lot of work!  Promoting writing is not easy for young or reluctant writers. A great way to get students to become writers, who like to write, is to show them what they can construct. Here are some great steps to do this: 

  1. Ask the student or the teacher what they are learning about in other subjects, most specifically science and social studies.  
  1. Talk to your student about what they might already know about the topic.  
  1. Tell the student what you know about the topic.  
  1. If you both have enough information to write a summary, do it together. The student tells the parent what to write and can also ask the parent questions. When it is written the way, they can say it to you, they see what their own thoughts are able to create.  
  1. If you both have only a limited knowledge of the topic, make a list together stating where you could look to find the information. It is okay to show students that you don’t know everything.  

By doing this kind of learning, not only are you learning together, you are constructing a situation that helps students to recall information. Let’s say a few years later that same topic comes up, you can say to the student, “Hey, we wrote a summary on that topic, remember when you were in 1st grade?” After saying this, go back and find that information. You have just activated prior knowledge. Even if you never got around to writing a summary, just the conversation can assist in recall. “Remember that time we were driving, and we were talking about that?” Students recall information much more easily and quickly if they can make a connection to it.  

3rd Grade to 5th Grade: These students are learning not only concepts; they are learning more of the details around the concepts. They are learning to write in a proper form and working more complex math. In science they are starting to not only conduct experiments, but also write lab reports about what they observe. As with the younger kids, show interest in what they are learning, let them know you don’t know everything about each topic, and allow them to see that you enjoy learning too.  

As students get older, they may be more reluctant to talk to parents about what they are learning. Why is this? One reason is they believe that adults know everything and that if a conversation begins, it will turn into a lecture with you as teacher, them as students. This isn’t any fun, especially when they just spent the day listening to multiple teachers. Instead, don’t monopolize the conversation. Listen to what they know, ask a lot of questions, and acknowledge their knowledge. Another reason is they might not know enough to make a real conversation. Let them know it is okay to not know a lot about every topic. Let them know that everyone acquires knowledge in different subjects to different depths. For example, you may know more about math but less about US History. That is normal for everyone. No one is an expert in everything.  

6th Grade to 8th Grade: Middle school students are learning independence. They want to be teenagers, even when they still act like children. What do you do with this age group? Make memories. Find out topics they are learning and have discussions or talk about a movie that might relate. Figure out places to go to together where you might learn more. “I wonder where we could learn more about this. Where do you think we could learn more about it?” They will say “I don’t know” but they do have good ideas, impress this on them.  

Highschool: This age group is typically independent in their learning. The teachers should be helping them with the resources. Conversations can still occur but may not be as effective as with the younger kids. Don’t ever stop trying to make connections! One way to promote their learning is to ask them about something you really don’t know. Let them find the information and teach you! Empower them.  

Making learning positive and making connections is huge in learning. Not only does it promote a healthy learning environment, it allows students to go back and recall the positive situation, which will allow them to recall more of the information that has been tucked away. Let students know that everyone must “think back” to remember things. There is too much knowledge in our world to know everything about every topic going back to all aspects of history. This is okay. Let students know this is normal.  

©2020 CBialczak Education