Friday, November 28, 2014

Teacher Tips: How to use Simon Says in the Classroom

Classroom management is a living entity of sorts that evolves with both the teacher and their students as the term progresses. Class rules, seating charts, character development programs, etc., are good starting points, but in the absence of established teacher-student relationships, engagement is key in maintaining a safe, healthy, and productive learning environment.

Using games such as Simon Says in the early education classroom is a simple method for re-focusing students, keeping things light, and bringing an element of fun into the learning environment. The following article was previously published in the education channel on the Helium publishing web site in November of 2009.

How to Play Simon Says

Primary school aged children love to play Simon Says and the game is a great way to hold their attention and keep them from being restless during periods where they have to sit still and wait for several minutes. But the game is useful to teachers in many other ways as well.
Almost everyone understands how to play Simon Says. The leader says "Simon says touch your nose," and the group does it. After a couple of other tasks the leader says "clap your hands." Because he or she didn't say "Simon says clap your hands" any child who clapped is now out of the game.
Simon Says in the classroom teaches children to pay attention and follow directions while having fun. They see remaining in the game as not getting tricked by the teacher into doing something. This means that the teacher leading the game has to be quick on the draw with the "Simon says do this" tasks. If there is any lag in the game it allows children to think about what you have said before they respond.
A rapid fire of Simon Says commands that are repetitive followed by one that doesn't include the words "Simon says..." is the key to keeping the game moving and tricking up crafty students who think they won't make a mistake and respond to the wrong task.
Here is an example:
Simon Says touch your nose.
Simon Says put both hands on your hips.
Simon Says put your hands on your head.
Simon Says put your hands or your hips.
Simon Says put your hands on your head
Put your hands on your hips.
When dealing with hyper kids Simon Says is an opportunity to move around a bit and get rid of some of their nervous energy before getting back to the academic lesson. The game is also a good idea for days when the weather prevents children from enjoying recess outdoors. Because the game allows children to move around you can use Simon Says as a means to low scale physical education.
Here is an example:
Simon Says reach for the sky
Simon Says touch your toes.
Simon Says stand up.
Now touch your nose.
Simon Says look to the right.
Simon Says look to the left
Simon Says point to the sky
Point to the floor.
The idea is to use Simon Says to allow your students to get a little exercise without knowing that is what they are doing. When they burn up a little energy playing the game over five or ten minutes they are more likely to sit calmly, pay attention and stay on task.
Simon Says can also be used to get children to transition from one activity to another or from working to lining up. In this instance, you are not trying to "trick" them or catch them off guard. You are getting them to respond positively to being asked to do what you want them to such as standing, pushing in their chairs and walking to the door to lineup. Of course, you can always spend a minute or two just playing the game for fun first.
Using games with active play like Simon Says with your students helps keep coming to school interesting and fun when mixed in between periods of academic learning. Kids have a hard time sitting still in their seats for long periods of time so the game also gives them an opportunity to move around a little and get the fidgets out of their system.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Family Genealogy Activities for Thanksgiving

Holidays are the one time of year where families are almost certainly guaranteed to get together as a group under one roof. Busy schedules, distance, and a variety of miscellaneous obligations that normally interfere in
the success of gatherings, are less of an issue when the entire country gets time off for food, football and all around family fun.

Thanksgiving, perhaps above all other holidays, presents an unique opportunity for both learning and teaching moments, and for the documenting of family history. The following article, originally published in November of 2011 via Helium, highlights genealogy activities families can undertake to record, celebrate and preserve their heritage.

Genealogy Activities for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time to engage in genealogy activities. With multiple generations of family members gathered in one location, the holiday gives younger relatives an opportunity to collect stories from older ones, as well as additional information from extended family members who are on hand especially for the occasion.
In general, compiling information on family origins begins with birth and death records. Gathering these could mean a trip to a county office, local library (dates only), or sending off for the information through the mail. When starting out though, interviewing family members is the most basic and reliable genealogy activity there is. There are a number of forms designed for gathering information that can help to organize the mounds of data that accumulates during family fact finding, such as those found at
Getting children involved in genealogy activities early helps to ensure there will continue to be family historians archiving and collecting information for generations to come. A simple genealogy activity for Thanksgiving that kids can do is to fill out Scholastic’s family tree worksheet. The free printable, available in .pdf form, allows kids to enter their own names as well as those of their parents, siblings, grandparents and great grandparents.
Collecting oral histories from older family members is a genealogy activity that provides insight into the lives of previous generations as well as specific information on individual family members. Kids can interview older family members about their childhood, educational experiences, professions, and/or the major events of their lives and look at how their relatives’ experiences are similar or different from their own. Capturing these interviews via audio or video recording is a good way to preserve them, and kids can use the footage to create their own family documentary after the holiday.
Scrapbooking is another great genealogy activity for Thanksgiving. Page layouts can encompass anything from individual family member histories to accounts of various activities from the holiday. Plan ahead by asking family members to bring copies of photos to share, or if possible, use a digital camera and photo printer to scrap memories as they are created. Ask family members to create journal entries such as “I remember,” or “when I was a kid,” that can be included in the scrapbook. Alternatively, or additionally, allow family members to create their own mini scrapbooks to take home at the end of the day.
Genealogy activities for Thanksgiving are a great opportunity for family bonding. They provide a window into the past while reinforcing the connections of the present. Involving multiple family members in the activities keeps the burden of maintaining the family’s history – a huge task—off just one person.