Teaching Tools for Boggled Minds

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

Does your mind ever get so full that it feels empty? That happens to me sometimes; I think it’s a sign of the times. I know for certain that information overload contributes to difficulties in paying attention. See if you agree that a 24-hour news cycle worldwide can, unchecked, offer up a quick dose of information overload! But, some stories are just too gripping to ignore and this past week has offered up one for the books – so much so that it has prompted a change in my blog focus this week. (As if that matters in the world’s scheme of things – not!)

I don’t know about you, but the earthquake that has rocked Japan and the Pacific region of the world this week has been mind-boggling to me. Talk about attention-ology – world news is focused on the devastation wrought in this island nation by Mother Nature. One would hope that “Mother” Nature would be gentler, more nurturing, but no – not now – her fury has gripped our eyes and ears and it has rendered our minds incapable of grasping her true power – at least my mind.

This all brings me to an idea – it’s an image, really – for capturing and keeping students’ attention in class. The image: a blank white board, one small enough for a teacher to hold in both hands as she/he stands in front of the class.

The attention-ology trick: A simple two-part question posed to the class with a brief preface that might sound something like this…Your mind is like this blank board in some ways. It still has parts that are blank, with room to add important information and ideas as you grow. Here’s the question for you, my students…What would you like to learn today? What would you like to fill the blank spaces of your mind?

Listen for students’ answers and if you choose to, you can jot their responses on the blank board in a dark marker. As the teacher, you can always add learning goals during the class discussion, goals that are based on your curriculum plan for the day. Depending on that plan, you may set aside time to address what the students have indicated they actually want to learn. If you can do this, I suggest that you save time at the end of the school day to bring out the now-no-longer-blank-board again in front of your class and review the class “checklist for learning.” Invite individual students to come up front and “check off” what they wanted to learn and believe they’ve successfully done that day, one item at a time. This will offer the class a sense of “ownership” in their accomplishments.

Blank boards may sometimes be the result of information overload and mind-boggling news, but they can also be useful teaching tools.

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

Talk with you next week,

Barbara The 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.
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Solution: Show toy airplanes, pretending to make them "take off" across notebook paper. Explain to the class that stories, like airplanes, require clear "flight paths."

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