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Critical Thinking Strategies for Practical Writing Ideas

Blog_Picture_11.pngWriting Workshop is a strategic approach that provides students opportunities to use critical thinking through the steps in the writing process. Expressly, students think critically about what they are actually writing through a planned process. Big Universe offers a variety of lesson plans that include a story from the library, and a plan for writing with a critical thinking component.

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Motivating Reluctant Readers

iStock_000000279695Small.jpgWe have all encountered students that proclaim they hate reading. Sometimes, students will even act out behaviorally to resist reading. Many teachers become distressed over this issue. You have to understand that it is not personal. It is not necessarily your teaching that causes them to be unengaged with the reading.  Many teachers read for pleasure. It is difficult to grasp how someone could not enjoy reading. I was surprised the first time a student described that they did not see stories become “alive” while they read. It has been just words to them. I think this is an important difference in how people perceive reading. Some of us do enjoy reading for pleasure, but not all.  Everyone does, however, read for information. It is a critical skill to have as an adult. I teach my students that knowledge is power. I would love for them to be experts in their choice of matter, but more importantly, they need to know to read and understand application procedures, legal documents, and other materials required to become a productive citizen of society. How do you solve that problem?  

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Engaging Reading Activities: Classroom Elections

Screen_Shot_2016-10-09_at_9.56.45_PM.pngHave you considered holding your own 2016 Election in your classroom, but don’t know where to start? You will be pleased how the upcoming elections can motivate learning in your classroom. 

First, find resources on Big Universe to help provide background knowledge on the United States Government and the Election process. Then, have them discover past presidents. As a final activity, hold your own classroom elections!

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Celebrate Make a Difference Day!

recycling-704504_1920.jpgAs a classroom teacher, I often shared with the children one of the biggest things I enjoy the most–making a difference in the lives of others.  This was central to my teaching philosophy, and when schools foster the spirit of servant leadership within their students–whether they are in school, home, or the community, they become productive citizens who make positive and meaningful contributions.  Although Make a Difference Day is typically celebrated on the fourth Saturday of October, here are several ways to connect your curriculum and servant leadership in a meaningful way for your students:

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Easy & Eye-Popping Student Work Displays

bulletin_board_024.jpgYou’ve already kicked off the year with inspiring and rigorous learning activities, now it’s time to show off some awesome student work!

With Back-to-School Nights, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and Halloween/Harvest Parties looming on the calendar, it’s the perfect time to put together some water-cooler worthy student work displays.

And since eye-popping, not time-consuming, is the name of our game, below are 4 strategies to hook you up with minimal effort:

1. Informal & Student-Selected Work Displays:

This is where you put the onus where it belongs- what have your students done that they are proud of? Not only does this exercise self-reflection, but it cleans up clogged backpacks and lockers everywhere by displaying, rather than crumpling, that poem or math paper. These examples are designed to be informal. Let it be!

               A. Graffiti Wall- Used for any Subject
B.The Fridge- Students Select What to Display

               C. Thought Bubbles- Student Pictures and Open-Ended Answers or Displayed Work

2. Quick & Creative Design

Want “Fix It & Forget It” – but also want something beyond the stapler and the cork board? These ideas capitalize on space and can be switched out all year long. Even better, they are deceptively elaborate.

None of us went to college to design bulletin boards, but we also fully recognize the power of a good ‘Wow!’ on conference night.

               A. Ceiling Displays- Go Natural!
B. Outside the Box- Just Use Page Protectors for Easy Switching! C. Hanging Frames with        Clothespins

3. Surf The Trends

Teachers know when to steal, and how not to reinvent the wheel. Want caregivers to remember the relevancy of your lesson design? These strategies use the potency of a well-placed image, 144-character poem, or bit of technology to catch the eye and showcase work product.

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Four Keys to Jump-starting Digital Book Clubs in Your Classroom


Imagine students so engrossed in a topic that nothing stops them from reading, discussing, and thinking about it. Tablets, smartphones, or notebook computers in tow, students discuss the assigned readings they completed beforehand and exchange ideas or opinions about each section read. The digital book club is a 21st-century twist on its traditional predecessor, and have the potential to be an effective tool for student learning. These are five keys you want to consider when forming your clubs this year:

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School to Home Communication

People Together-8.jpgCommunication with parents or guardians is a key cornerstone to behavior management. It is something that generally isn’t covered thoroughly in teacher preparation programs, but it IS something that you will be doing. This is the one expectation that staff and parents have, but no one tells you EXACTLY how do it. Here are three tips to assist you:

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