Monthly Archives: December 2012

Check It Out: Teaching Channel

{edit: Alright, so I’m not exactly sure what is going wrong but I can’t get these videos to imbed here. But the links all work so go check out these awesome videos on this great site}

Celebrating Great Teaching

First of all, how I am just finding out about Teaching Channel is beyond me! I love this site. Above is an overview of what the site is about and below I will post a few great finds. I just love being able to watch teaching in action. It somehow makes it so much easier to see myself doing it. Plus this site has videos on just about every topic.

Hope everybody has a safe and happy end of the week. We are in the home stretch to vacation.

See you Saturday!

My Best Advice

Caring and Control Create A Safe, Positive Classroom


Supporting Students

I have a pit in my stomach over the thought of returning to school tomorrow and facing the questions and concerns my students may have. I am feeling so grateful to have a class to go back to tomorrow and I want to make sure I am as prepared as possible to support my kids as they try to comprehend this illogical event.

My mom’s school district has compiled the following tips for teachers. She was thoughtful enough to share it with me and I wanted to share it with you.

Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
from the
National Association of School Psychologists ( )

**Italics – Additional Suggestions from Central Office Administration

High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.

1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.

​While school shootings do occur, they are very rare events. Adults are doing everything they can to make sure it does not happen here. In Wallingford, we do several things to increase safety:
• we lock our school doors
• visitors must press a buzzer and be let into the building
• we practice safety drills (fire, lock down)

2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.

Time to process students’ questions may be necessary in the coming days and weeks, but returning to a sense of normalcy is also important to healing. Unless you believe the entire class needs to process their questions, do not hold class-wide discussions or special lessons devoted to the topic. Try to continue classroom routines and school schedules.

3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.

• Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.

Only answer questions asked. Young students process information at varying rates and may not be ready for more information. Young students can become overwhelmed by too much information.

• Upper elementary school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.

Emphasizing the rarity of events such as that at Sandy Hook Elementary School may be ​reassuring to students. Reiterating safety procedures and drills and the importance of
​reporting suspicions to school staff would be appropriate if persistent questions come up.

4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.

Wait for guidance on safety drills from your administrator. It makes sense to review routine classroom safety procedures with students this week.

5. Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.

​It is essential that teachers, administrators, and mental health staff have open communication during the days and weeks to come. A general rule of thumb in reporting concerns is: If your concerns for a student will worry you overnight or keep you from sleeping well, REPORT IT! Immediately contact parents about your concerns. This applies to teachers, administrators, and mental health staff. Err on the side of caution!

6. Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.

If you have conversations with parents in the coming days, encourage them to turn the TV news off when children are in the room. As always, please be mindful of adult conversations that can be overheard by students.

7. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

Reinforce the advice in tip #7 with parents. In school, time to process students’ questions may be necessary in the coming days and weeks, but returning to a sense of normalcy is also important to healing. Try to continue classroom routines and school schedules.

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children

• Schools are safe places. School staff work with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.

• The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).

• We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.

• There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.

• Don’t dwell on the worst possibilities. Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the probability that it will affect our school.

• Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.

• Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, faith leaders) work very hard to get those people help and keep them from hurting others. It is important for all of us to know how to get help if we feel really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

• Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.

• Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

A step away…

I am feeling very personally saddened and touched by the events in Newtown, Ct today. It is simply beyond reason. And while we are all taking a moment to soak in the reality and mourn the nonsensical loss of life, I will be taking a step away from this space tomorrow.

Tonight, however, I would like to take a moment to commemorate and recognize the brave acts, in the face of what must have been terrifying circumstances, that the teachers of Newtown took to protect students as best they could.

My heart goes out to the families who are suffering now. I only wish that they are able to find some comfort in their long road to recovery from their terrible losses.


Check it out: Whole Brain Teaching

Hello again!

On Saturday Kate mentioned her use of Whole Brain Teaching techniques. I have been following these videos online for a few years now. I really love the way these techniques energize the kids. I don’t go full out with the program but I have started using a handful of the techniques during my math block, which is in the afternoon and usually when my kids start to fade a bit. It is so nice to see me kids pumped up and focused on the lesson. They are really big fans of Teach-okay.

The man you see in the video above is Chris Biffle who is the face of Whole Brain Teaching. But I am also going to post a few other videos below of other people doing this in their classrooms.

So take a look and tell me what you think…

This Week’s Feature: Transition Leader

Hello again! Saturday snuck up on me this week. That probably has something to do with the fact that between being sick and professional development I was only actually in my classroom for 2 1/2 days. What a strange week!

Today’s feature comes from Kate Condon. And luckily, even though the day surprised me, Kate was ready! Kate is in her first year of teaching but it sounds like she is already doing an awesome job. So happy reading!

Kate Condon
2nd Grade
Worcester, MA

Tell us about what is working in your classroom?

A big emphasis in my classroom is safe appropriate transitions. To help make them as smooth as possible, one of my classroom jobs is the transition leader! The child’s job is to literally leader the transition, from our seats, to the rug, to the line, they do it all! The student starts the transition by saying “I am waiting for ___ (number) of friends to show me they are ready.” The room needs to be totally silent and bodies still in order for the next step. Once the classroom is silent and bodies are still, the transition leader says “will everybody please stand up.” Again, the expectation is that the room is silent and everyone is on their feet. If the transition leader hears chatting, they say “can everybody please sit back down.” This doesn’t happen often anymore because of the all the practice, however on days where my friends are extra wiggly, we sometimes have to sit back down. Finally, the child says “can everyone please transition to _______ (where ever we need to be, our seats, the rug, the line, etc)” We have a scoreboard on the white board, a happy face and a sad face. If the transition is safe and appropriate, the transition leader gives the class a happy point. If the transition was poor, they give the class a sad point. If the class receives a sad point, the transition leader states what went wrong, and how we can fix it.

Why do you think this practice is working?

Since jobs change every week, all students have the opportunity to be the transition leader. I think since everyone gets the chance to be in charge, the students all see and experience at least one poor transition. In my opinion, it makes them more aware of how they transition. Also, the transition leader is the one rating the transition, one of their peers, so they become more independent and student lead!

How did you set this practice up in your classroom?

The first week and ½ of school, my principal made it clear that she wanted her teachers to hold off on beginning curriculum, but to really take the time to review and model expectations, procedures, and routines. It was so nice to take this time. At this point in the school year, that first week and a half is really paying off.

I have seen transition leaders in other classrooms, typically upper grades, and just added my own twist with the score board. I wanted to try it and see how it went, keeping in the back of my mind that my kids are 6 and 7. I modeled over and over again how I expected this to be done. The first few students were students who are role models in my classroom. I can now say with confidence that any child in my room could lead an appropriate transition!

Can you suggest any resources (links/books/articles) that would help someone else set this practice up?

Whole brain teaching was where I got the scoreboard idea. This website also offers other classroom management techniques that we use in my room.

I think this is a great idea that has it’s foundation in pure consistency. It sounds like having this very structured, predictable and routine procedure for transitions means that there is very little actual management that needs to be done once it is set up. This is what great teachers do! I have never met a teacher whose classroom ran smoothly that didn’t tell me about the painstaking work and time they put in at the beginning of the year setting up procedures, routines and expectations. I love the added element of putting students in the role of managing themselves and their peers. It gives so much ownership to the kids. Also, I would imagine kids want to behave for the transition leader because they know it will be their turn to be in charge soon enough and they will want people to behave for them. What a great detail in the development of student leadership and classroom community!

Also, make sure you check back in on Wednesday because I have a great Whole Brain Teaching video to share with you!

Thanks for visiting!

Check It Out: Worcester Children’s Author

I am absolutely beyond excited to share this video with you today! I had not heard of Jarrett J Krosoczka until about a week ago when a thoughtful friend (Casey Starr) sent me a link to this TED talk. So I casually sat down to watch this video and was immediately drawn in. First of all, I am just in love with the way he talks about his own teachers and the influences they had on him. I think that every person who goes into teaching dreams that one day they can have this kind of lasting effect on a kid… Not every kid, but maybe just one kid.

I am also enamored with the idea that this man comes from the very city I teach in. In a large district that services many children with challenging lives outside of school it is always inspiring to hear about the kids who not only found success but are also doing so much to pay it forward.Immediately an author study began to grow in my mind. I mean, how could it not! This man and his love of writing and art feel infectious. So I ran to amazon and ordered every book of his that I could get. They should be here soon.

I am dreaming of getting him into my classroom because I have some truly talented budding writers in my midst and I want to do anything I can to inspire them the way Jarrett’s teachers inspired him!

So I hope you enjoyed and that you are as inspired by Jarrett as I am.

As always, I would like to state that this image and the video do not belong to me. The image is property of Jarrett J. Krosoczka and the video is property of  .

Do you have a story of a teacher who inspired you? If so, please comment so we can all revel in how awesome teachers can be!

See you Saturday!

This Week’s Feature: A Magical Line Up!

This week’s feature comes from yet another dear friend (I have the best friends!). Brie Goldberg is a teacher here in Worcester, Ma. I can only imagine how much fun it is to be in her classroom. In addition to being an incredibly dedicated educator, she has one of the most joyful personalities I have ever been fortunate enough to encounter. The piece she has to share today only goes to illustrate what a creative management style she has. I am very excited to share her tip with all of you this week so please enjoy and let me know if you try this out or if you do something similar by leaving a comment. 

Brie Goldberg
Grade 1
Worcester, MA
Tell us about what is working in your classroom?
I like to use positive and fun strategies to get my students lined up efficiently. This is pretty easy with first graders. One of these strategies involves a “magic wand.” I tell my students in the beginning of the year that we have magic in our classroom. I show them the magic wand (I use one of the glass wands with the glitter and confetti inside) and tell them that when I say the magic words, a perfect line forms, single file and silent. Then I wave the wand, say the magic words, “Abracadabra, one, two, three,” I turn around once with my eyes closed, “Voila,” I open my eyes and they have magically lined up.

Why do you think this practice is working?
It’s silly, but kindergartners through 2nd graders respond well to these silly types of strategies.

How did you set this practice up in your classroom?
I teach it in the beginning of the year, day 1. Then I invite other teachers to watch our “magic trick,” the students like showing off.



I just love this idea because it taps into the sweet innocence that already exists within younger children. I have to say I think my third graders might just love this and I can’t wait to give it a go with them! I think it is easy to forget how much kids really want to believe in magic. Tapping into this desire and the fact that this technique inherently creates a classroom culture in which imagination is encouraged and accepted as the norm is truly powerful. Plus I would put money on this really working like magic to get your kids into a straight and quiet line. 

I have also heard about some other uses for magic wands in classrooms. I have seen people use them for reading the room and as part of special classroom occasions. One of my co-workers even uses a wand for adding words to her word wall- she becomes the Word Fairy! 

Do you use any kind of magic in your classroom?

I am also including images from an adorable(!!) tutorial for making your very own DIY magic wand! This tutorial and the images come to you courtesy of Heartmade


Thanks for stopping in! See you a little later this week!