Monthly Archives: November 2011

Attention & Initiation in the Classroom

Attention & Initiation in Class
“Monica” is a fantastic teacher and I am lucky to not only know her professionally, but to be her good friend as well.
As teachers we work very closely together (even though we aren’t at the same school) and often bounce ideas off of one another.
Yesterday Monica called me to talk about a child in her class, “Jane”.
“Jane” is a fantastic, conscientious child. She’s social and popular. She’s responsible, dependable and polite. Jane is always eager to take on additional responsibilities in the classroom, and is always asking whether there is “anything else (she) can do to help in the classroom today”.
Once engaged she follows directions and stays with short tasks until they are completed.

Jane’s always thinking — the difficulty here is that she’s not always thinking about the tasks at hand, and she often becomes lost in her own thoughts. She wanders mentally, and seems to “zone out”.  She “distracts herself” and has difficulty attending to the speaker …. whoever that may be. Instructions and ideas need to be repeated and she has difficulty initiating tasks. This is a problem, and of course Monica really wants to do whatever she can help Jane get the most out of her school day and be the best that she can be on a daily basis.

So yesterday we came up with a plan.
We created a list of ideas outlining our approach.
I further suggested that Monica share this list openly and honestly with Jane.
We’ll see how it goes!


Ideas & Strategies to Share With Jane
Attention in the Classroom

  • Be open and honest. Jane needs to truly understand her strengths as well as her needs.
  • Be open and honest. What’s the behaviour that we are targeting? What does it look like? Sound like? Feel like? Talk about this … and talk a lot! Have her draw it, act it out, read picture books about it, etc.
  • Establish a goal: e.g. “Sit up straight with a positive attitude and an open mind, and face the speaker.”
  • Keep a diary: Write, draw or doodle about the day’s experiences: Focus on the “goal”. Decorate the diary … have fun with it.
  • Establish a private, clear focussing signal which means: “You’re great! Please listen.” (Non-verbal cuing)
  • Move closer to the Jane if you feel that she is starting to lose focus.
  • Include visuals with oral instructions, presentations. Give her something else/interesting to look.
  • Break tasks in manageable chunks. Check in with Jane after each step/activity as been completed before moving on to the next.
  • Monitor Jane closely for understanding.
  • Whenever possible use cooperative learning techniques. Require that she be actively involved and engaged.
  • Make certain that we have created a supportive, encouraging, structured environment where the expectations are clear.
  • Allow Jane to take short breaks (e.g. have her take a note to the office, pass out some papers, give her some sort of special job – she loves this! etc.)
  • Finally, Jane should engage in some kind of daily self-assessments with regard to the behaviour that we have targeted.


Singing to Teach Reading: Decoding, Fluency & Expression

Reading & Singing in Grade 5

If you were a fly on my classroom wall this week you would have heard my students singing the Go’s-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” … and yes, it was for academic purposes 😉

For the past few weeks I have been searching for fun ways to practice oral reading (decoding as well as reading/modeling fluency, proper phrasing and expression). Well, the other day I was googling Fun Boy Three’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” and noticed that one of the videos on YouTube was “lyrics only”. As I read (& sung!) along it dawned on me: Why not have the kids practise reading with fluency, appropriate phrasing, etc. by showing them the video (see below) on the SmartBoard and having read/sing along?

The song’s message is a good one too. It provided a great springboard for a Class Meeting discussion about rumours, gossip and strategies (e.g. the power of silence & confidence).

Well, the students loved the lesson and have asked to do more of the same. So now I am on the hunt for fun songs … with appropriate lyrics!

Anyway, just thought I’d share!



Our Lips Are Sealed
1. Go-Go’s video:
2. Fun Boy Three performance (my fav!)
3. For a contemporary spin: Hilary and Haylie Duff’s cover
4. Lyrics:

Another current favourite has turned out to be songs by “Owl City”:|