Track Cat On Duty

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Smart teachers are not only beggars (meaning that we secure free or low-cost classroom supplies whenever possible), we are also borrowers.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) the world is full of commercial images and information that can be adapted for teaching in a wide variety of curriculum areas.  I’m always on the lookout for practical and/or promotional materials that, with a new twist, can be turned into effective tools to catch and keep students’ attention.

Here’s an example of the creative thinking that’s involved with this adaptation process: A few weeks ago, my daughter dropped an Appointment Reminder card on the kitchen table for our two dogs at the animal clinic we use. I glanced at the appointment date and time, written in thick black ink, but my eye was also drawn to two small illustrations inside different colored boxes at the bottom of the card. A beagle and a calico cat stood side by side with tails up and smiles wide.

Looking more closely at the colorful dog in the box with the blue background, I was reminded of “Tracker,” a dog that a local television station uses as a weather tracker mascot.

Not wanting to copy the TV station exactly, another thought came to mind. Why not turn the colorful cat in the box with the green background into “Track Cat.”  “That’s it,” I mused, “Track Cat on Duty can help students monitor their progress staying on task in class; Track Cat can be a mascot for paying attention!”

So that’s how “Track Cat” was born – something borrowed and tweaked from the commercial world – something gained for education, at absolutely no out-of-pocket cost to me, a teacher. It just took a little time, lookout eyes and a creative mind for me to see new possibilities in a cute illustration on a card.

I plan to create simple “Track Cat” cards on my computer (all kinds of software applications are available for designing and printing your own cards). My cards will likely feature a clip art cat with a headline, “Track Cat on Duty” and a short reminder to the effect: “Track Cat has noticed that you need to focus more on your work during ________ time.” I’ll write  the appropriate curriculum area, such as Math or Reading in the blank space I print out on my cards. When students need a “Track Cat” message, I’ll drop a card on their desks while they’re seated and maybe even add a soft “Meow” as I do so. My cards will also include a thank you from “Track Cat” for good future work, to soften the admonition.

If you think a more directly positive approach with the main message would work better for your class, you can design your “Track Cat” cards to say that “Track Cat on Duty thanks you (student’s name) for doing a good job staying on task in class.”

However you decide to introduce “Track Cat” to your class, this easy- to-make-and-use tool can give students PAWS to pay better attention.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Young students are getting noisy while you’re trying to teach.

Solution: Hold up "Listen Star," a toy magic wand that you’ve designated to be a cue for quiet. Tell the class, "When you see our friend, 'Listen Star' dance across the classroom sky, that’s your signal to HUSH for a moment."

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