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Fun Classroom Exercises For A Quick Energy Boost

This is a guest post by Rachel Jacquest

Image by Earl53

Every teacher has, at some point, stood up in front of a class and been greeted with a plethora of sighs, but that doesn’t mean you’re boring your pupils! School is very demanding, and children do not have the stamina of adults, so they may well flag. If you see this happen to your students, don’t panic! Their attention can easily be brought back with a few short exercises to get them energised. Here are some examples: 

Copying Games

There are two basic forms of copying games. One is to do an action and ask your pupils to repeat it back to you; it works well to go around the class asking everyone to come up with an action to be repeated, making sure everyone has a go. Try to use actions that involve the whole body.

The other is a classic: Simon Says. The leader (I would suggest the teacher leads, as you will judge fairly) states, “Simon says sit down”, and the children sit. But if a command is given without saying “Simon says”, for example, “stand up”, pupils must ignore the command. If anyone stands up, they’re out! This is great for getting children to concentrate and obey your commands.

Stretches and Jumps

When anyone has been sitting in the same position for too long, they get very uncomfortable and stiff, so some jumps and stretches will loosen up your students. Full body stretches are great, starting with the neck and stretching each part of the body individually down to the ankles. If you want a quicker version, get your pupils to do some star jumps, and then do a concentration exercise, so that they don’t get silly. Perhaps ask them to try to pat their heads and rub their stomachs at the same time – it is really quite tricky!

Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

A quick game of heads, shoulders, knees and toes will energise your class and increase their concentration. It can also be used for educational purposes, which is a massive bonus! Try translating the lyrics to a foreign language (if your pupils are learning one), or use medical terminology like “cranium, scapula, patella, phalanges” for a fun way to teach. Make sure you don’t try to teach your students anything above their skill level, though, as it will confuse them and they may well lose focus.

Heads Down, Thumbs Up

This game is a bit of fun and is great for stress relief if pupils have been working hard. Pick a few people from the class to stand at the front and ask the remaining children to close their eyes, put their heads on the desk and place their hands by their sides, thumbs up. The students at the front each have to put down the thumbs of one person, as quietly as possible. When everyone has finished, the people who had their thumbs moved must guess who it was who did it. After a couple of rounds of this, your class should be relaxed and ready to work again!

Keep these exercises in mind – when you see your students starting to struggle, you know what to do! The most important thing is to keep them motivated, perhaps with some pupil rewards, and maintain their concentration levels so that they learn loads! Do you have any exercises that work well with your class? Go ahead and leave a comment!

 

Rachel Jacquest is a blogger who has a lot of experience in the education of children and plans to become a teacher. She hates nothing more than seeing a struggling pupil! She writes for School Stickers.

The Calculator: An instrument of math destruction?

This is a guest post from Joshua Foster, one of my speech students this past year. He originally presented this as a speech and I really liked what he had to say and asked him to turn it into a blog post. Enjoy!

In an age where technology can be found everywhere, it is not hard to find useful applications of technological advances. However, not all of these changes are for the better. Integration of calculators into classroom settings has been one major challenge facing the world, and more directly, the United States. When is the proper time to introduce children to calculators?

The answer can be derived easier through the use of an analogy.

When a child is taught to walk, he is placed on his feet and shown how to take his first steps. Then, given that there are not any disabilities, he continues practicing until he has both mastered walking and is able to extend it into running. It is not until much later that he is given a tool to make mobility easier. These tools come in the form of bikes and cars. If the child were to be given a car before he could walk, it would severely limit both his mobility and his access to various locations, since he would only be able to travel main roads.

Similarly, a student is taught first to count. When he is able to count fluently he then learns to add and subtract these numbers. These basics must be drilled, and each set of problems memorized before he can progress further.

Once adding and subtracting have been mastered, he can be taught sequences of adding called multiplication and then, inversely, division. Once multiplication and division are mastered, the child is given a tool to enhance their capability and make the processes easier and faster. Unless these fundamentals are taught in order and in proper depth, though, the child will be severely impaired when trying to apply these basics to more advanced thinking and problem solving.

David Gelernter  (see footnote for article referenced) quotes the principal from a school in Kentucky, saying “Drilling addition and subtraction in an age of calculators is a waste of time”. This school’s scores on computation tests have subsequently dropped ten percent.

Gelernter then continues to quote a Japanese professor “Calculators are not used in elementary or junior high school because the primary emphasis is on helping students develop their mental abilities.”  Is it purely coincidental then that Japan’s 4th and 8th grade test scores are among the highest in the world (Brunette)? The different test results are derived from different teaching styles. Japanese students master fundamentals and then are taught to apply them in various forms, whereas American students are given a calculator and expected to figure out application themselves.

If this is the case, then is it strategic to ban usage of calculators from school in general? According to Waylon Brunette, “Calculators should only be allowed on a regular basis in elementary schools after the student has mastered the basics”.

Elementary school might still be early for students to use calculators, however. Calculators may serve better if they are only used during situations requiring integration of the basics in a more advanced scenario.  If a student is in the middle of a complex algebra problem and finds himself needing to accomplish long division, he would have to break his thought process, complete the calculation, and then attempt to regain his thought-process. This is where a calculator can reach its full potential. It allows a student to apply a concept he has already mastered into a problem much faster and more precise than he could have originally. This enables the student to progress further and faster than without the calculator.

Since calculators are a very useful tool in advanced math, why is it that they are so harmful when learning the basics? Brunette explains this phenomena in great detail: “Students become dependent on their calculators and have difficulty doing math problems when they don’t have a calculator available… students leave as much as work as possible for the calculator… skills learned through practice in the lower grades are no longer being carried through by the student into college level math. This makes math more challenging for students later on because they do not possess the natural intuition and skills needed to approach a hard symbolic problem.”

These hard symbolic problems require more than the answers to addition or multiplication problems. They require an understanding of the basics and an ability to integrate those basics into more complex scenarios. It would be equivalent to showing a child a video of a virtuoso pianist, and then expecting that child to be able to play the same piece the same way. This expectation is completely unrealistic and embarrassing. In order to succeed at anything, whether mathematics or the piano, one must first understand the basics and drill them.

Every student is different, and from these differences a difficulty in finding teaching patterns arises. There is no way to create a course that is perfect for every student that will take it. Calculators have served to inflame this problem further. With the integration of calculators into grade schools to replace the basics, the teacher has not only attempted to bring every student’s mathematical thinking and competency in the class to the same level, but also that of every student in every grade using calculators.

If this trend is allowed to continue, it could bring about disastrous results as the next generations grow older, mentally unprepared.

Works Cited:

Waylon Brunette’s article “Computers in Education”

Gelernter, David. “Computers Cannot Teach Children Basic Skills.” in The Bedford Guide for College Writers. Ed. X. J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Marcia F. Muth.

Science Fair Projects: Tips to do your best

Today we have a guest blogger, Madeline Binder, who has years of experience with science fairs. If your children have taken part in one, please share their experiences in the comments below.

There is a lot of pressure on today’s kids to be the best, whether it is the best in sports, the best in academics or the best in some other skill. While this demand for being the best can be overwhelming to many students and deplete their enjoyment of their school years, science fair projects can be used to give kids the chance to develop their science skills and their desire to be the best scientist that they can be in a very fun way. To help students do well in a science fair a few simple concepts need to be integrated into their project.

Innovation

One of the most important characteristics that science fair judges look for in winning science fair projects is innovation. Innovation is important in science fair projects because it is the driving force behind the science industry. Innovation in science fair projects can be demonstrated through unique takes on common science fair project topics, through unusual project topics and through creative experiment designs. Think out of the box!

Topical

Another important characteristic that science fair judges want is a topical project. To be topical a science fair project has to explore something that is relevant to today’s issues. Projects that explore out-dated or overworked science topics that have little impact on modern life are not going to be scored as well as projects that explore topics and science concepts that have a large impact on modern life. Example: global warming, global water supply, energy conservation.

Valuable

The value of the science fair project will also impact the score that a project receives from science fair judges. Value can be based on a number of factors including relevance to modern problems, the discoveries that were made by the student and the implications that are drawn from the project. To get the best score possible students need to make sure that their project contributes something to some field within the science community.

Complete

While all of the above characteristics will improve a student’s chances creating a winning project, your project must include all the 6-steps of the scientific method. A complete science fair project will have a well defined hypothesis, an experiment design that tests specifically for the variables identified in the hypothesis, results will need to be collected and analyzed and conclusions will need to be drawn. Furthermore, the project will need a well designed display board that clearly details the progression and findings of your experiment.

The Step-by-Step Infographic Cheat Sheet outlines every step you will need to do a winning project.

Conclusion

Winning at the science fair may not provide students with an automatic get into college free pass, however, it provides them with a prize that is far more valuable. Just doing a science fair project will teach you a process that you will be able to incorporate throughout your life: encouragement to continue the development of your science skills, spurs on your thirst for knowledge, ignites your competitive nature and it provides you with the confidence required to reach for their dreams.

Madeline Binder, often referred to as the SciFairLady, has been helping kids complete a successful science fair project since 2004.

Main Photo by C.C. from Flickr courtesy of terren in Virginia 

Desperate Crossing: A Great Thanksgiving Movie

Mayflower Movie

Today my 12 year old, Amy, makes her debut as a guest blogger on FundaFunda. She recently watched a DVD on the Mayflower with family friends, and I asked her to review it here:

Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower is about the Puritans who left England because their religion was illegal. It starts with them trying to sneak out of England, and ends with them at the first Thanksgiving.

The movie was filmed with characters acting the story out, and historians telling us more about the story. After each scene, historians told us some background information about what was going on. Scenes were short, usually a minute or two, sometimes more, while the historians sometimes talked for at least 5 minutes. Commentary was done either by the actors or the historians.

It was very historically accurate, especially with the historians telling us more about what was going on in that time period.

This is a good movie for middle school and high school, anyone younger than that will have a hard time sitting through it. I suggest 7th grade and up.

There wasn’t much information that they told us that I didn’t already know, due to having studied this time period a lot, but I did learn a couple new things. I didn’t know that they went to Holland before they went to the New World, and their first attempt to escape failed.

This movie would be a great Thanksgiving movie to watch in a classroom around Thanksgiving Day, but it is a long movie, 143 minutes. (By the way, Amazon’s run time is incorrect, it is not 180 minutes) But, you could break it up into sessions – 5 half hour sessions would mean you could watch it a school week, one session per day.

I think this was a very informative movie, and I learned quite a few new things about the pilgrims. It would be a fun movie to watch around the time of Thanksgiving with family and/or friends, like I did. It was definitely an excellent Thanksgiving movie that goes beyond the basics of the traditional Thanksgiving story.

** A study guide for this movie is also available from The History Channel.

Post written by Amy van der Merwe

 

Fuzzy Logic: A great app to teach thinking skills

Fuzzy Logic is a great puzzle app that will teach children critical thinking skills. It will challenge adults too!

This is an easy game to understand – clear the screen of all the “fuzzies” to move on to the next level. And to do that you just need to get two fuzzies of the same color to bump into each other. Some fuzzies change color when they bump into fuzzies of a different color eg red and white merge to become a new pink fuzzy.

If this all sounds easy – well, the first few levels are. Then you have to really think and plan and strategize. My 12 year old is much better at this than I am, but with perseverance (and sometimes her help) I can eventually clear each level.

Highly recommended.

Available for iPad, iPod, iPhone and Android. A free version is also available.

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