Monday, September 28, 2015

And The Winner Is...

A BIG thank you to all those who entered my $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!  Congratulations to Amy M.!  She will have fun shopping today! Have a happy day!!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Keeping the Honeymoon Alive!

Ahhh...the honeymoon period of school!  Most of us have now been in school and back to work for at least two weeks. How is YOUR honeymoon coming along? Usually, teachers experience a lovely first few days of school with well-behaved students eager to learn and please.  As time goes on, the euphoria of those first few days starts to fade away, replaced by a classroom filled with students less likely to be excited about their new teacher, the new rules, new learning, new expectations, and everything else that was once new and good. So how do you keep the honeymoon alive and well?  Here are a few suggestions.

Smile and Remain Calm
Your attitude has more of an influence on your students than you can imagine. Students are like sponges and will drink in the positive or negative vibes you give off. They will reflect the energy they feel, creating a positive and healthy environment, or a hotbed of resentment and anger. Remain calm in trying and difficult situations. Take a breath! Sometimes it is wise to pick your battles, or at least put the conflict on hold until you are ready to address it.

Review Your Expectations

Review your expectations not only with your students but with yourself. This is your classroom. You have the right to expect those invited to be a part of your world for the next nine months to behave in the manner you need and want for maximum growth and development. Allow the students to be involved with what the class should look like, feel like, and sound like. Brainstorm and create a few rules together and add those to your list of non-negotiables.

Practice Procedures
Just the other day, I walked into a 4th grade classroom and witnessed a teacher having her students practice the procedures of daily life in her classroom. What a smart thing to do!  The 10-15 minutes spent each day on practicing procedures will save you hours of behavior issues throughout the year. Practice makes perfect!  Remember the golden rules of discipline:  Be fair, be firm, and be friendly. These simple, yet powerful words can make a teacher's life much easier.

Engage and Encourage
You can't rely solely on a syllabus or basal reader or textbook to engage your students. I know of some teachers that have taught the same lesson the same way for years! There has to be more that you bring to the table.  If you are bored with the lessons, so are your students.  Try using art and music to take your instructional design to the next level. Edutopia has a wonderful article that discusses using the arts to enhance the Common Core.
Use online resources, guest speakers, and projects to tear down the doors and walls of your classroom and open the minds of your students to the world. One of my favorite online resources is Ted Ed.

This wonderful site provides an easy platform for teachers to learn innovative ways to flip the classroom instruction, as well as choose from many ready-to-use videos submitted from other teachers.

EdPuzzle is another intriguing website!  With EdPuzzle, you can enhance a video with teacher-created questions, reflections, polls, audio overlays, and more in a quick and easy way. This is something that I am excited to use this year with my students.  I think videos are great as long as there is a way to measure understanding and accountability.  EdPuzzle does just that! I've included a link to a YouTube video for your convenience.  It is a tutorial that will explain the basics an what the site has to offer. It could be the best 8 minutes of your life!


Celebrate Success

Success comes in all different sizes, and is rarely a "one fit..fits all" type of situation.  Teach your students that they will all experience success this year, but probably at different times.  When one student in your class is successful, be sure to celebrate that achievement as a class.  My sister teaches third grade and makes it a point to have those crucial conversations with her students about individual achievements and how exciting even the smallest measure of success can be. Her students celebrate each other's successes every day.  There is no malice or jealousy involved, just pure excitement!

I wish you all great success and an extended and happy honeymoon!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

End of Year Testing! Here We Go...!!

It's that time of year again when pencils are sharpened or keyboards are cleaned in order to test the living life out of our students! Wait! That sounds a bit negative, right? Testing season! Here are some of my tips and tricks to not only surviving but thriving during this time of the year.

1. Have a positive attitude! Your students are like sponges. They constantly draw upon the energy you release, whether it be positive or negative. Be excited about the tests! Even if you don't agree with the tests, they are coming and there is nothing you can do about it. Why not make a rough situation better? I like to offer incentives for my students that will help them stay on task and have a great attitude.
2. The word "test" is sometimes enough to put anyone over the edge. Instead, try calling the test the "Show What You Know" test. This is truly what these tests are all about, right? It's not so much answering every question correctly, but answering a few more correct than what they would have at the beginning of the year.
3. Be physically active! There is A LOT of sitting around during testing season. You and your students need to get the wiggles out before...during...and after the test. Try taking a walk around the playground, dancing to a "Go Noodle" segment, or even standing up/sitting down a few times in the classroom. Stretch! This simple physical action will release oxygen to the brain and get those thinking caps ready to go.
4. Have something for your fast finishers. This one is tricky! You definitely don't want your students to just become "click monsters" or "bubble artists" just so that they can get to those fun, fast finisher activities. Have a conversation with your students about the importance of them doing all they can to do their very best. If it takes longer than some of the other students, it's okay! They are just showing MORE of what they know. >5. Keep it all in perspective! Be kind and understanding to your students during testing season. High-stakes testing can bring out the worst in us all, so be aware of your actions. The stress you are feeling is also being felt by the majority of your students.

5.  Put the FUN back into test reviews! No one likes to study for a test, but if you add an element of fun and excitement, it can make a world of difference.  I have a terrific test prep bundle available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store called exactly that..."Terrific Test Prep Bundle".  In the bundle, you will find interactive PowerPoint game boards, award certificates, posters, and activities!  Feel free to check it out.  I would also encourage you to explore Kahoot!  This is a super fun way to engage your students in test review.  Believe me!  Your students will NOT want to stop playing.
6. Smile! If the whole world just smiled a little would be a much nicer place to live!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Critical and Creative Thinking in the Elementary Classroom

Life is full of adventures! You never know what wonderful twists or turns lie ahead.  A few weeks ago, I had applied to be a guest writer on Rachel Lynette's blog, Minds in Bloom. With so many other applicants, I never thought I would even be considered! I was absolutely floored when I received an email from Maggie, Rachel's assistant, letting me know that they were ready for me to submit my post! Whaaat??  So cool!  So, here I am...writing as a guest blogger for Rachel Lynette!  

One of my greatest passions, as a teacher, is to create an excitement...a buzz...a quest for
learning in students.  There is nothing more exciting than to see that "AHA" moment in a child's eyes; the realization that he/she "gets it" and now knows how to share it with others.  Thinking critically and creatively enables the student to better understand the world around them.  The concepts taught, combined with different kinds of thinking strategies can create a fabulous feast for the mind, while training the brain to have the know-how to fearlessly meet real-world problems head on!

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical Thinking requires fluidity!  It is divergent AND convergent. It is finding a solution to a problem; a solution that works best for that particular situation, time, and experience.  Critical thinking is active, not passive.  It engages the student in complex thinking, wherein they are forced to make choices, defend their choices, and harder yet, change their choices, as needed, when better or more complete information is found and understood.  Critical Thinking is essential for solving complex problems as logic and reasoning skills are put to the test.

What is Creative Thinking?

Creative Thinking is very similar to Critical Thinking in that it also requires fluidity and is essential for problem solving.  Creative Thinking can be taught with practice and typically produces something unique, original, and fresh.  SCAMPER is a mnemonic device I use quite frequently with my students and stands for substitute, combine, adapt, minify/modify/magnify, put to other uses, eliminate, and rearrange. SCAMPER is a great way to help a student understand what is needed to spark creativity from within.

How to Teach Your Students to Think…About Thinking

Just so you know…I get it!  I really do!  There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to teach this kind of thinking!  Right?   Testing is sucking the very life out of us all!  I know…I get it!  But, WAIT! Maimonides, the ancient philosopher once said, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  The same could be said about thinking!  If we teach our students how to be critical and creative thinkers, we teach them how to be successful far longer than just till the end of the school year. do we do this AND complete the curriculum for math, reading, language arts, science, social studies, history, etc...????  I believe the trick is not seeing these thinking skills as something MORE to teach...but merely as a different WAY to teach that enhances the curriculum already being taught in your classroom. Here are a few ideas:
Teaching with Webb's Depth of Knowledge

Ask Good Questions 

Using Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge higher-level question stems, students can better understand and eventually master inquiry-based questioning skills.  Incorporate these kinds of questions stems when discussing a wide variety of concepts with your students. 

Questioning Activities:  Try them out!

1.  Bubble Gum vs. Cotton Candy Questioning Grabber
Treat your students to a ‘taste” of questions!  Give each student a piece of gum and a serving of cotton candy.  Talk about the properties of each and how they relate to questioning strategies.  Cotton candy questions are lower level thinking questions and can usually be answered with a "yes" or a "no."  On the other hand, bubble gum questions require the student to consider different kinds of answers; a mulling or “chewing” of answers.  These questions simply require more work! Just as your jaws get tired from chewing gum, your brain gets a workout when using just the right kind of questions!
2.  Mystery Objects
Bring a “mystery” object for the class to see, feel, smell.  Students ask questions about the object and try to identify what the object is, where it came from, how it is made, how it is used, etc…  I had a friend bring a piece of sea glass to class one day.  Being from Utah, we don’t get a lot of sea glass, so this was something I had never seen or felt.  Believe me, I had a lot of questions about this object. Really fun!!

Tips, Tricks and Ideas

The following list of ideas can be used across the curriculum, as well as with team or class building.  Try just a couple of these in one of your lessons and see how it goes!

Go Noodle

The Learning Station

Be Physically Active

Get your students moving around the classroom when working on projects.  Have them take a break and stretch or move to pre-made workouts found on different websites like  The Learning Station and Go Noodle.

Brainstorm/List Ideas

Take time to have your students generate solutions, ideas, reasons, etc...  Be careful not to judge!  Accept everything, then have your students apply what fits or works for the given situation.

Make Connections...Create Extensions...Welcome Challenges

Encourage your students to make connections to the topic.  They should always be looking for how the conversation, topic, concept affects them personally.  Create learning environments that extend their thinking.  Have them interview, create, decide, judge, combine, research, examine, re-examine, tweak!  Empower the students to welcome challenges with an "I GOT THIS!" type of attitude.  No wimps allowed!!

Consider the Opinion of Others

Lost at Sea!  A Critical Thinking Adventure
Students can be very territorial of their opinions and answers to a question.  It's important that they learn to consider what others are saying, as well.  One of my favorite activities to practice this skill is called "Lost at Sea!  A Critical Thinking Adventure".  Students are given the task of choosing 20 items to take with them as they swim to a deserted island for safety.  Once they choose, they must compare their list with their partner's list. If the items match, great! If they don't match, students must try to convince each other why their choice is better for the situation at hand, or they must change their mind and agree with their partner's choice. FREEBIE ALERT!!  I love this activity, so... it is my gift to you!  This resource will be free for you to download until August 1st, 2015.  Yay!!  Prizes!!

Establish a Positive Classroom Community

Students will be more likely to participate in discussions, class projects, activities and assignments if they feel they play an active role and are an important element in their classroom.  Team building and class building activities are essential!  

Communicate and Collaborate

I have yet to meet someone who is a master of everything! But, I have met several who are masters of at least something! Communication and collaboration will spur on critical and creative thinking.  Students are more successful by sharing their ideas and talents with a group.  Give your students time to work together.  Encourage them to find the solution to a problem a team of workers.  There is nothing better than a classroom involved in "controlled chaos".

Invite Students to Question their Thinking and Reflect Often on Their Learning

Einstein thought questioning and curiosity were the key elements to learning.  He constantly questioned his own thinking and was eager to find those cracks, those mistakes in his theories because it was one step closer to proving what didn't work and finding the solution for what did.  Students should  question their thinking often; welcome the mistakes and celebrate the successes.  Find time for critical, reflective learning moments.  Take time for students to soak in learning, as well as recognize what still needs to be done better.

Help Students Learn How to Justify Beliefs, or Be Willing to Change Them

The way we think, including how we think, is largely based upon our personal experience.  It stems from the environment in which we live.  Guide students to recognize their beliefs and whether or not those beliefs are based on facts or emotions.  Students need to understand that it is okay to change their minds about previously held notions.  To think critically and creatively requires great flexibility.

Activities to Enhance Critical and Creative Thinking

Here are a few sites and activities I've used with my students to increase and enhance critical and creative thinking skills.  Although these activities may not align exactly to your curriculum, they are fabulous for teaching these important skills to your students! I hope you find them very helpful!!
Hour or Code
Teach Critical and Creative Thinking
Skills with Coding Activities
Actively Learn
Add your own questions to enhance
your student's reading experience!

Graphite from Common Sense
One of my favorite sites...ever!  Great
for finding lesson plans, apps,
sites, and game-based activities
perfect for developing
critical and creative thinking.

Pamela Moeai is an Educational Technology Specialist, a Trainer, a Coach, a Teacher, a Mom, Grammy Pammy, and a Baker of Pies!  She is passionate about critical and creative thinking and loves to bring out the very best in students and teachers.  She received her B.A. in Elementary Education, and her M.Ed in Instructional Technology.

Connect with Pamela... 

TpT Store Logo for
Pamela Moeai's Grow Wise Store

For more resources by Pamela Moeai,

please visit her Teachers Pay Teachers Store
Grow Wise with Pamela Moeai.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I've Lost My Mind!

I really think I have lost my mind!  I started this blog back in August of 2014, made one initial post, and then got busy getting back to school.  With teaching, training, creating products, meeting new teachers and students, learning new programs, cleaning out messy...really messy offices, moving equipment, setting up equipment, etc...  I TOTALLY forgot I had made a blog!  It's actually quite a nice little blog...just very neglected!

Time to end the neglect!  Time to get busy with this "blogging thing" and share a few fun things.  One of which is a very cute e-card that one of my sweet daughter-in-laws sent to me:

Funny, right? true.  It is now my personal mantra on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store Front.

Here's another little sweetheart that has filled my days with love, laughter, joy and amazement! This is Iris.  I know...unbelievably cute!!  She is my sweet little angel of a grand daughter and I love the fact that I get to hold her everyday!!  How lucky can you get?

School?  How is that going?  Well, let me tell you that I have never worked so hard in my entire life!  I love my job...most of the time, and I look forward to what the second half of the year will bring.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  What an amazing man.  I've been working on Civil Rights projects and am always dumbfounded that our country went through such a horrendous time historically.  I am so grateful to those who worked tirelessly, sacrificed much, and never surrendered to so many injustices that were an everyday occurrence.  I hope we all find time to honor their memory by giving back tomorrow (January 19th) on the nation's Day of Service.  Click HERE for some ideas!
Here are two of my latest Civil Rights Projects.  I hope you find them useful and an effective way to introduce your students to the topics presented.

"Who Am I?" is a PowerPoint presentation.  The slides contain clues about prominent civil/human rights historical characters.  Students work together to be the first to name the character.

Martin Luther King, Jr. NO PREP Packet contains ten critical thinking activities that will engage your students.  QR codes, Posters, KWLS Charts, and much more are included!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Back to School...Here's to Us!

Ahh...August!  Hot days.  Cool nights.  The smells of paper, pencils, crayons, markers.  The sounds of crickets, end-of-summer cannonballs, football drills,  laughter, and for some...crying!  It is back to school time and all that comes with it!  Shopping, making lists, sleepless nights, anxiety, excitement, more shopping, interviews, classroom overhauls, lesson plans, staff meetings, and did I mention shopping?
I am a 30 year veteran of back to school and I never tire of the excitement it brings.  This blog will be dedicated to making a teacher's life a bit easier.  I hope to record my thoughts, successes, failures, and "do-overs".  We are not in this alone.  We are a consortium of professionals, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, trainers, students, entertainers, Jack of ALL trades...and possibly Masters of SOME.  Here's to all of us!  May we start strong, support one another, and finish enthusiastically exhausted.  Here's to nine months of finding the best in our times a difficult task...but always...ALWAYS...rewarding.  When they realize we won't EVER give up on them...they won't give up on us.