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Saturday, October 26, 2013

New(ish) Product :: Brain Breaks

Brain Breaks

This week was one of those weeks for me! Regardless of how hard I tried to sit and write IEP goals, do my medicaid billing, or lesson plan for next week, I just couldn't! Now granted, this week was our parent-teacher conference week, which meant we were at work until 7 (and I couldn't go home in between school and conferences because I live 45 minutes away), but still. My attention was definitely not what I wanted it to be this week.

Instead, I found myself wanting doing other "less cognitively demanding" things instead: delivering forms for students to have parents sign and return, checking in with a few teachers regarding my student progress, laminating and cutting out some new TpT things, etc. Throughout this week, I couldn't help but think several times how we as adults have a ton of different options for clearing our heads during the day, but many of our students don't have many of those options!

Brain Breaks

As adults, we can get up and walk to the bathroom if we need a minute or two to give ourselves a break. We can also decide to procrastinate or rearrange the order of our tasks during the day depending what we're in the mood for. We can even listen to music, send a friend a message about dinner plans or, heaven forbid, take a quick look at Facebook). Our students can't! It's no wondering problems with work completion, following directions, or paying attention are the most common things I have teachers asking me for help with!

In college, I took a class that talked a lot about neurological research and how to improve memory. And one of the things my professor mentioned was that people always remember the first and last thing they learn in a given segment of time. So...if you're teaching a class for 35 minutes, chances are they'll remember about the first and last 3 minutes. However, if you teach a class for 10 minutes, break for 2, teach for 10, break for 3, teach for 10, they'll remember the first and last 3 minutes of EACH of the teaching segments.

Brain BreaksSo when teachers need help with a student who struggles to focus,  one of the first things I do is talk about brain breaks. I've heard all kinds of statistics about how long students of various ages can pay attention, but the bottom line is that it's MUCH MUCH shorter than you'd think. The purpose of brain breaks is to provide some type of physical and/or mental time-out so that students can return refreshed to their tasks a few minutes later. Many are physical in nature (do 10 jumping jacks, crab walk, etc.), but they can be mental as well (say the alphabet backwards as fast as you can, summarize what I just said to your partner, etc.). Ultimately, anything that gives your students a chance to do something DIFFERENT for a few minutes will work. And while It doesn't last more than 2 or 3 minutes, I'm always amazed how much of a difference it makes when I use them in my room!

Recently, I put a brain breaks card pack in my TpT Store, which you can get hereI thought I'd already written a post about it, but I hadn't, so I'm sorry about that! It contains 33 different ideas (in color and in printer-friendly black and white) for helping your kids get out of their seats and move around. They're presented in Powerpoint format so you can print them out many different sizes to fit your needs!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sale :: 100,000 TpT Facebook Followers!


In celebration of TeachersPayTeachers hitting 100,000 Facebook followers, they're offering 10% off everything on their site (including my store!) until 11:59 tomorrow night (October 13). Just enter the code, "FB100K" and you're good to go! So go clear off all those things you've been keeping in your wishlist and save yourself tons of time on planning this week :)

Enjoy and Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review :: Superflex Social Thinking Curriculum

Superflex Curriculum

Each year, every teacher at my school receives a $50 purchase order to spend on supplies, curriculum, or materials for our classrooms. It's definitely not much, but I was so happy with my purchase this year that I wanted to share it with you!

Normally, I'll buy colored card stock (for making my numerous visual schedules, break cards, and the like), a few books discussing bullying, divorce, or other issues, or school supplies. This year, however, I decided that I needed some new curriculum! Sure, I have binders upon binders of worksheets and other things, but I'm getting so BORED with them...and so are my kids.

I'd heard really good things about the Superflex Curriculum and read a few good reviews online, so I decided to give it a try. It's a Superhero comic book-based curriculum for students in grades 2-5 to help teach social skills and behavior regulation. If nothing else, I thought that since it featured superheroes and villains in a comic book format, it'd be my best shot to compete with the video games, movies, and TV shows my kids are interested in! And lucky for me, the starter set came in at just under $50! Perfect :)

If you aren't familiar with the curriculum, I invite you to take a look at the Social Thinking Website first! After several weeks of using it, here's what I've found:

Things I Love:
- The comic books are super colorful and grab my students' attention.

Superflex Curriculum Review

- Teacher guide includes prompting questions and really good lesson plans for organizing your instruction
- Each villain (called "Unthinkables") has a cute name that is really easy for my kids to remember and addresses many of the social difficulties my kids have.
- Some of the books come with a CD that has all the printable pages. No more need to squish my teacher guide in to the copier and deal with crooked copies! I can just print one from my computer and make pretty copies!

Superflex Curriculum Review

Things I Wish Were Different:
Brain Stress Ball- I know it's an educational curriculum, but it makes me sad that it has to be priced like one. I have a hard time coughing out $20-$30 for a book! Also, the store sells squishy flexible brain stress balls, but I got them for super cheaper on Office Playground.
- The only "comic books" available at this time are for defeating the first 3 (out of 14) villains (Unthinkables). The teacher guide provides other books that can be used to explain the remaining 11, but my kids keep wanting more of the original comic books, not random other books that I can pull in to describe the Unthinkables! I believe more are coming though.
- My original Superflex book started coming apart at the binding after only 2 weeks of use. I'm the only one who holds the book and the staples holding it together started ripping through the pages. It's already taped up, which makes me sad!

So far, I've used it with students with Autism, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Developmental Delays and it has worked very well for those students. A few of my kids with more severe Cognitive Impairments get distracted by all the action in the comic books (I have to show only 1 page at a time and keep portions of it covered) and have a hard time understanding the concept of "fictional characters," which the teacher's guide warns about.

Superflex Curriculum Review

Even despite a few negatives, I love this curriculum! My planning time has been SO reduced, which is wonderful. I'm still getting used to the layout of all the lessons, but my students have been paying attention, contributing appropriately to conversations about social thinking, and even using Superflex vocabulary outside my office!! "Rock Brain got in my head yesterday when I didn't want to let my sister use the TV." I have to say, THAT is pretty awesome! So if you've got some grant money, unspent purchase orders, or extra TpT earnings laying around, I highly recommend Superflex!

Note: None of the images in this post are mine. They are all from Social Thinking and Office Playground. Also, I was not compensated in any way for this review. It's just something I wanted to share!