The other day I had a student come up to me in tears. I mean those big, huge crocodile tears. No matter what I did, I couldn't calm her down. Do know what set her off? She was worried about her spelling quiz. I don't even count spelling as a test grade! It's just a daily grade! But for some reason, one of my favorite students was having a complete melt down.
Eventually, I was able to calm her fears. We talked about it and we both realized that I had a "Worry Wart" on our hands. The next day I invited my student, with a few others I could tell were just like her, to my classroom for a friendly lunch. We talked about what was going on in our lives and if anyone had anything that was "stressing them out." Did I mention I teach fourth grade? I gave them some advice on how to handle stress and what they can do next time they start to feel the anxiety coming up. We decided that we could start doing a monthly lunch group where we can just talk about everything from school, to home, and friends.
This encounter with my sweet child had me really thinking about all of the other "Worry Warts" out there. My son is definitely one. He can make straight A's on all of his assignments, but as soon as he hears the word quiz or test? It's all over. His teachers always tell me that my kid freaks out in class because he is so worried about how his grade will be affected if he does bad. And then he bombs the test!!
So, I decided to share with you a few tips I have learned over the years to help out with your "Worry Warts."
Provide a Calendar
I know it sounds silly to provide a student with a calendar of dates for tests, but it really has helped my students. It takes the scariness out of the not-knowing when a test is coming. They feel they are prepared and it doesn't just "sneak up on them." I usually include tests dates, tutorial times, field trips, and any activities going on at the school.
This one is my favorite by far. I love getting my "Worry Warts" together for lunch in my classroom. I just let them lay out all of their worries on the table and I can see the relief pouring out of them. Not only am I there to help provide support for them, but it also makes them feel better to see that other students are feeling the same way. Sometimes I just sit there with my lunch and they run the whole thing. It's a safe environment for them to let all of their worries go.
Provide a Calming Atmosphere
I know that I'm the most stressed and worried when my house looks like a disaster. I hate coming home to having dishes in my sink, socks all over the living room floor, and dirty laundry piled up on the bathroom floor. Your "Worry Warts" feel the same way. If things aren't where they're supposed to be, that's all they can focus on! I try really hard to make my classroom a welcoming place for my students. I include pictures of my own family in picture frames, I have comfortable pillows and rugs, and I love having lamps around the room. If you asked my students what their favorite part of my room is...they would have to say the couch. They love relaxing on the couch while reading a good book.
A few years ago I was introduced to a website called Go Noodle. I was teaching a group of second graders and we couldn't go outside for recess because it was storming. "Put on Go Noodle!" they all chanted. Guys, if you haven't been on this website, you should totally check it out. There was a section that I loved to put on where the students, second graders mind you, did yoga. Yep, you heard me. Yoga. It was so awesome to see their little bodies and faces just release all of their tension when I put on the yoga sessions. It created such a calming atmosphere for the rest of the day. I eventually started to put these yoga sessions on right after we got back from recess or PE, just to get their minds back in focus.
I hope that you were able to get a few new ways that you can help your "Worry Warts." I know there are a tons more things I could write on here, but that would be a really long post!
Comment below if you have any strategies you like to use in class. We would love to hear them!
Every teacher has them...even if we don't want to admit it all the time! It happens when you least expect it and sometimes you aren't sure if it actually happened, or you question if you're in the twilight zone. You know what I'm talking about...that "aha" moment that students get, but it's actually you, not them. This was me the other day in class with my 4th graders.
Because I believe in backwards design, I knew that my 4th grade students would need to understand why poets include repetition in a poem. It was going to be a question on our upcoming unit assessment, so I planned to read a poem that had that in it. I decided to read "Boa Constrictor" by Shel Silverstein because it was funny and involved repetition. I already had the answer in my mind when I asked why Silverstein had repeated the line "Boa constrictor, Boa constrictor, Boa constrictor." Honestly, I was only using that to point out that it had been repeated, but even I couldn't figure out why it repeated. I mean, the answer I was looking for is that he was trying to draw attention to something because it was important, but that may not be the real reason why he did it. I've never asked him myself!
So, when I presented this sentence stem: Shel Silverstein repeated these lines in his poem because.... I was shocked by the responses I got! One student replied that it could be read like he's scared of the snake coming closer to him and even read it in a shaky, scared voice. Another student said that he could be talking to someone else and then she read it like, "A Boa constrictor. A Boa constrictor? A Boa constrictor." I even had another student say that it even sounded like an echo response. Like maybe this guy is an a room that echos. My final student said that the guy could be yelling it out to warn others around him.
Ya'll...I was blown away!! That was not the response I was looking for...or was it? I really had an "aha" moment right there in front of my students. Did I need them to know that sometimes poets repeat words or phrases to draw attention to something important? Yep. But isn't that kind of what they were saying, just in their own way? Yep!
In that split second looking at my student's smiling faces, I had a decision to make. Do I break their little hearts and tell them that these were not the answers I was looking for, or do I tell them my answer and applaud them for being so creative? I thought back to my junior year of high school. I will not mention any names, but my English teacher had us reading from a book, can't remember which one, and she said that the tree in the very first pages symbolized Jesus on the cross. Now, being the wonderful and diligent student I was, I decided to not agree with her. I told the class that I felt there wasn't any symbolism at all and it was just a pretty tree. Can you guess what she did next? Yep! She chastised me in front of everyone! I was wrong and she was right! There was no reason to continue the conversation. Ya'll...almost twenty years later and I still think about that stupid tree.
So, I had a decision to make...do I behave like my junior English teacher? Or do I praise them for being so clever? My "aha" moment was to praise them in all of their glory. What smart kiddos I have!! I learned that day that teachers have so much pull in how students look at education. Are they worried about being told they are wrong in front of the whole class? Or are they praised for thinking "outside of the multiple choice questions?"
Have you ever had an "aha" moment in your classroom? If so, let me know in the comment below!!
If you were to ask my mother, who is a math genius by the way, if I was good at math growing up, she would have a mixed reaction. She would start off to say that I am not too bad at math because I struggled a lot after about sixth grade (fractions are the devil). But then she would continue to say that I claim to be horrible at math even though I am great at teaching someone to do math. She always pushed me to be a math teacher because I was that kid who struggled and had to overcome a lot of insecurities. I always got such a rush when I was helping her students during tutorials because I could see that "light-bulb" moment when they finally figured out how to compare fractions (again with the fractions). Maybe that's why I eventually became a teacher.
It's so important for your students to think of themselves as "Math Ninjas." I am in my mid thirties (man I feel old) and I still have insecurities about math. Think about how your students are feeling right now sitting in your class. Do they feel like they are "bad at math" or are they ninjas?
Here are a few suggestions I have found over the past few years:
1. Make it something they can relate to- How can your students see this math problem or concept in the real-world? Do they bake with their parents? Do they buy clothing out of the clearance section? I know I do! I always try and explain how careers they might have when they grow up could use a specific concept.
2. Break it up- Maybe just showing them a portion of the problem instead of everything at once will help them not freak out.
3. Add a manipulative- The best thing my mom did for me was breaking out a bag of fun-size Skittles. Who would have thought a yummy candy would help me remember fractions (Yep, fractions again).
4. Ask your students for help- Even just by asking your struggling students to help you because you don't understand something can change their whole outlook on something. Being the "teacher" is a great strategy because it makes your students have to think about how to solve a problem. Plus, you as a teacher get to see where they are having difficulty without them even knowing it!
5. Make goals- Everything is all about goal setting right now. It's like the new trend. However, If I have a goal to do something better, I usually try and accomplish it. The say we shouldn't reward students for reaching goals because they aren't trying to get better at the subject, they are just trying to get a reward. I'm sorry, but I think that is not true for everyone. I always reward myself with a manicure and pedicure when I do something good and I'm not doing it just for the reward...well...maybe...
I hope some of these suggestions will help you plan some stellar math lessons. I also hope you think of me and those stupid fractions when you plan as well. How can I teach those Laura's out there that would rather have her teeth pulled than do word problems?
If you have any other suggestions that could help out math teachers, just drop them below in the comments!!
Teaching on a budget? Tired of buying overpriced items, just to have your students destroy them faster than it took you to click Buy-Now on Amazon?
This will be the first post in a monthly series providing tips and tricks on how to incorporate everyday items you find at the grocery store, even the Dollar Store, that your students will find engaging and it won't break the bank!
Our first player up to bat is something that can be used in any grade level and any subject: the paper plate. Now, I'm not talking about the expensive Dixie plates with all of the decorations to make it look like you aren't eating off something you eventually throw away. No, I'm talking about the 200 count for less than $2.00 paper plates. They are way better to use in the classroom because they are easy to fold and the kids can write on them easier.
Here are some suggestions on how to use paper plates in the various subjects you may teach:
Math: Studying multiplication? Have students divide the plate into four sections. Next, have them write four multiplication facts, one in each section. Then, use it as a Frisbee and fly it to someone else for them to answer the multiplication fact. Repeat until all sections are filled out!
Writing: Put a prompt on the board. Have the students divide the plate into however many sections you would like. The students will then have to provide opening sentences that will "hook" their reader in for as many spots you had them make. Then, they will Frisbee the paper plate to someone else, the student will then read the hook, and on the back provide peer feedback on the sentence they read!
Science: Introducing vocabulary? Have the students write the word on the front of the plate and the definitions on the back. Again, Frisbee the plate to a classmate and they will have to draw the picture on their friend's plate!
The possibilities are endless when it comes to paper plates!! If you have used them in your classroom, The Learning Tree Studio would love to hear from you!! Leave a comment below with your favorite use!!