Friday, December 11, 2009

Dancing to the Music (In their Heads)

What better way to spend a few hours than trying to describe things that can divert attention?

Today I woke up with one goal in mind. To finish up a project I've been working on for weeks - scratch that - two months. To not get distracted by household chores, I decided to visit my local bookstore to get some work done. seems that the distractions that I left at home were soon replaced with newer ones. Ones that I carry in my pocket, literally.

So how do we deal with distractions...or to put this in context, how do we help our students cope with distractions that we ourselves sometimes deal with? I've thought about this for all of about 5 minutes but I think that if I can brainstorm for a few minutes and write...that I will soon be able to concentrate on what I need to...if only for an hour. So here's my suggestion to how to talk to students about distractions and how to help them cope. Feel free to add your own thoughts.

1) Teach children to identify their distractions. This should be an easy thing to do. Set aside some time on a Friday afternoon to ask students what they are thinking about. Ask them if they know what distraction and procrastination stands for. Have them jot notes about what dissuades them from making plans, doing work, chores, studying. Is it music? the Internet? Email? Texts? Video games? Other computer devices? Boys? Girls? Sports? Ask.

2) Next ask children to explain why they believe they are distracted when they need to do something. This can be written in a personal journal or in a blog. The goal is to have students think about why they feel they are distracted. Is something going on at home? Are they bored, not challenged? Overchallenged? Writing in a personal blog is fine but give them the option. Some may feel better sharing their thoughts with others and some might be timid. Let them choose the vehicle of delivery but get them to think and put those thoughts on paper. Remember this is not an assignment that should be graded. It is simply a process to help them think about the things they do and why they do them.

3) Ask students to select one priority item to work on over the weekend. Ask them to write down all the steps that need to be taken for the project to be completed. A term paper may need a final rewrite. A bibliography for a paper might be due. A bedroom needs to be cleaned up. It can be anything, personal or education related. Children as young as 5 can state putting toys away as a goal.

4) Ask students to write down what they will need to accomplish their task. Is it a reminder from a parent or a friend? Do post it notes help? Alarm messages on phones?

5) Have students write down a reward for when they accomplish their task. For the most part, celebrations are a good enough reason to get something done. Celebrate with a movie, or an hour RockBand session. Whatever the incentive, ask students to think about what excites them and have them set up a reward.

6) Have students put their notes away and tell them they are done. Don't give them a task to do...let them know you are just trying to get them to think about goals and things they know they need to do but haven't done. Having them wonder about why you don't give them the assignment is the surprise element. Let them think about it.

On Monday spend a few minutes and ask them how their weekend was. Find out whether they thought about accomplishing their tasks at all. Have them talk about additional distractions they noticed over the weekend. Ask students to write them down and add them to their journal or blog or paper.

And then get back to the daily routine as usual. After all, distractions disguised as lessons are still distractions, aren't they?

I've got work to do but thanks for reading.



Federal Reserve Education has plenty of resources dealing with money and planning.


LD Online

Teacher Lesson

Goal Setting Ladder (PK-3)

Cedar Rapids Community School (Goal setting project)

Google Calendar - to document daily activity and improve time management skills

Monday, October 19, 2009

Looking for MATH? Turn to the Comics Section.

Today I read an interesting article in one of my favorite educational magazines, Edutopia. Edutopia was started years ago by man you might know...George Lucas. His goal was to create a multimedia library of videos and case studies depicting effective teaching strategies. One of stories I came across today was the story of Mr. Yang.

Mr. Gene Yang is a math teacher in Oakland, California. His Masters in Education project focused on the use of Comics to help students learn math. His website: Comics in Education, states his strong opinion (and more than one fact) about the benefits of using comics to engage students in learning. Of course, using Comics and comic-like characters is not a new concept - we've seen it before. Think BrainPop.

I'm adding another resource to my list...another creative way to engage that hard to reach student in a new learning experience.

Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (NY)

Comics in Education (some dead links but overall good set)

Diamond Comics
Thinkfinity: Comics

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Love Lucy! In Times Square...

As someone who grew up with reruns of the I Love Lucy show, I was somewhat surprised with the t-shirts being sold after a most spectacular display of Lucy, or Dinkinesh as coined by an Ethiopian dignitary. The "I love Lucy" t-shirts didn't refer to the beloved redhead who married her Cuban counterpart in the 60s, but to Lucy, who up to a few weeks ago was the oldest and most complete skeleton of a human ancestor ever found. Discovered in the country of Ethiopia in 1974, her exhibit, "Lucy's Legacy" came to NYC this past June.

Today I had the good fortune of visiting the exhibit. What a treat! I LOVE LUCY, and Ida, and all the other pieces of our human evolution on display in this one of a kind display. An education in Ethiopian culture and history awaits!

What struck me most about the exhibit? The fact that it was truly a multi-media experience. I listened to audio, watched videos, peered through windows and glass at tools, skulls, bones and more. The ultimate experience was a room that displayed a magnificent mural depicting the last 6 million years of human evolution as seen in a 24 hour time span (dawn to dusk). Truly amazing.

I now feel like I know more than I ever did about human evolution and this...all in 2 hours. A treat for families, school children and adults alike. Here's more info and the MST. Educators will enjoy the related activities under the "More to Xplore" section of the Houston Museum of National History web page.

Houston Museum of Natural Science: Lucy's Exhibit Info

Discovery Times Square Exposition

Teacher Lessons
Lucy Exhibition

Saturday, October 17, 2009

There's a STAT for THAT

Tonight, as I watch a very well played World Series Playoff game, I realize how every moment on TV can be turned into a teachable - er change that - statistical moment. Ever wonder how to entice that very uninterested 6th grader in a game of statistics? Easy, have them compare stats on two playoff baseball teams and predict the results. Have them find and compare the best two hitters on opposing teams. The lowest % hitters, the best hitters, pitchers with the lowest ERA, define ERA. Listen you might even find you're educating a child or two.

Have younger children note every time the television throws a statistic on the bottom of the screen. Have them count the number of players that come up to bat during an inning. Have them average the number of players per inning in one game. Five games. An entire season.

Do this and you just may be able to increase the number of hours on average per week that a child spends with their parents! :)

Along with every posting I'll try and find 3 additional resources that you can explore. I call this the MST review. M for Museum, S for webSite and T for teacher lesson. Hope you enjoy!

National Baseball Hall of Fame: Math: Batter Up
MLB: Major League Baseball
Illuminations Search Term: Baseball