Friday, July 25, 2014

Math and Writing units on Sale! Christmas in July

Today is the last two days of our Christmas in July sale.  Can you believe it?  July is almost over!!

Click on the image above to see what's on sale then get out there and enjoy the sunshine!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Christmas in July Days 9 & 10

For Days 9 & 10 of my Christmas in July Sale I'm putting some of back to school items on sale.
Click on the image to see what's on sale.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday!

Hey Y'all!  Summer is almost over so I thought I'd share one of my favorite ocean themed books before the school craze sets in.   

My class loves this adorable rhyming book.

A little boy goes on an undersea adventure in his submarine...

and describes all of the animals he encounters using higher level vocabulary and rhyme.

All is well on his underwater adventure until he meets a SHARK!!!!!!

The kids made their own subs and ocean animal they would want to meet.
They had to create their animal and then use adjectives to describe it.
I love that all of their animals are completely unique. {NO Patterns and NO direction from me.  I just gave them construction paper and let them have a go at it}.
This made a super cute bulletin board display.

The sad news is that this book is out of print.  :(
Don't you just hate when that happens?  Gah!  That means crazy people are trying to sell a $12. book on Amazon for over $50.  What in the world!?

The good news is that this book is VERY similar to Rub a Dub Sub.  So if you don't have Rub a Dub Sub check you local library and if they don't have it then this one is a great alternative.

Alright, friends!  Enjoy the last little bit of Summer while you can because I hate to say it but it is almost over.  My grandbabies still live in Georgia and they go back to school NEXT week!  There is just something wrong about starting school when it is still July!  HELLO!?  I think schools go back earlier and earlier every year.  What happened to starting school after Labor Day?  

Christmas in July Days 7 & 8 Nonfiction Units

All of my nonfiction units are on sale today and tomorrow.
You can click on the calendar to see which units are on sale.
I'm in the process of going back and revising ALL of my older units so if you purchase one you'll want to make sure and keep an eye on it for the free updated revisions.
These are two of my newest units and they are my favorites! :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vegas Blogger Meet up Pics, Thank You's and a Giveaway!


Our Teacher Blogger Meet Up was a HUGE success!! It was loud, it was crazy, and it was a completely full house, but that didn't stop us from having an incredibly fun time.  It was so nice to see familiar faces again and it was really nice to meet new friends as well!

Natalie from What the Teacher Wants is a fabulous photographer and she took over 200 pictures of the event and there's no way to showcase them all, but here are a few snapshots of the night.

Seriously, how much talent can we pack into one room?! There were so many teachers from all over the country - we even had teachers from across the world!!
(Shout out to our friends from Spain and Australia!)

*To see more pictures from the meet up, visit the 

I love all of these wonderful ladies who made this meet up possible and helped us line up such amazing sponsors.

(Not pictured: Kathleen Pedersen)

Besides meeting such amazing bloggers and teachers, the best part of the meet up was all of the amazing prizes that were donated from our sponsors! 

Here are all of our generous friends who offered prizes for our meet up:


Thank you to everyone who came to this event! We appreciate everyone who was able to come and mingle with us. We're already thinking about next year's meet up, so start saving your money for next year's Vegas meet up!!

Feeling sad that you couldn't join us this year?  {There's always next year!}  Wishing you could win some of these fabulous surprises? 

Well... as a special treat, we are giving away two Erin Condren gift cards!! Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Christmas in July Sale Days 5 & 6 Chit Chat Morning Messages

These morning messages are my favorite way to start the day!  
They teach a wide variety of Phonemic Awareness, Phonics,  Concepts of Print and Grammar skills!
Click on the link to see the units and the money saving bundle.  You can also read the feedback 
to see what other teachers are saying about these messages.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Brain LOVES Novelty!

   Novelty & the Brain 
Tuesday   Christmas July
Click for the previous SECRET SESSION post!
I'm often asked why it is that the SECRET STORIES musical skill-manipulation exercises (on the CD that comes with Class Set) aren't in the form of actual "songs" (i.e. no musical/ instrumental accompaniment, repetitive lyrics, etc...).

If you have the classroom kit and are already using the Secrets, then you probably know what I'm talking about, and perhaps have even wondered the same thing!  

While it's true that the musical exercises on the SECRET STORIES CD are very different from traditional, skill-based 'sing-along' songs so often used in early grade classrooms, there's a reason!  As like everything else with the SECRET STORIES, it's always about getting the most 'instructional brain-BANG' for the buck!!!  
As teachers, we've all seen how easily and effortlessly students can sing through the daily array of familiar, skill-based songs... almost as if they're singing on "autopilot!"  The familiar, repetitive and 'skill-based' lyrics of these daily-ditties literally roll off the tongues of learners.  No thinking required! 

And that's a good thing, right?  
Not necessarily. 
It depends on the type of skill and how learners are going to use it.  

Familiar and repetitive songs work well for acquiring finite or sequential skill sets, like the days of the week, months of the year, names of the planets, fifty nifty states, etc...  

Skills like these can be easily acquired through traditional song, as they allow learners to store away the content sung in their muscle-memory, much like storing information on a 'read-only' disc, where they are easily retrievable for later use.  

Letters and sound skills, however, are a different story altogether!

Because letters and sounds are taught for the sole purpose of using them to read and write, learners must be able to put them together (for writing/ spelling) and take them apart (for reading) in a variety of ways, which makes these skills very different from those skill-sets mentioned above. 

For this reason, singing the letters in repetitive order (as in a song) does NOT equip learners to actually use them as reading and writing tools!  To do this would require an ability to manipulate them fluidly, in a free-form and flexible manner closely mimicking the decoding and encoding processes.  
The "unfamiliar" and the "unexpected" are the brain's BEST FRIENDS!

Singing through the virtually endless letter, pattern and sound combinations in a variety of constantly changing musical exercises is a great way to ensure that learning them remains a novel experience for learners!

And the brain LOVES Novelty!

Click for MORE 'Brain-Bits' for Teaching & Learning!

The following is taken from an article written by Belle Beth Cooper.
Why Getting New Things Makes Us Feel So Good: Novelty and the Brain 

We all like novelty!  In fact, our brains are made to be attracted to novelty. And it turns out that it could actually improve our memory and learning capacity.

It’s actually hardwired into my brain—and yours—to appreciate and seek out novelty. Anything that’s new, different or unusual... we can even be drawn to novelty without being conscious of it. Of course, this makes a lot of sense—we wouldn’t get much done if ordinary things captivated us constantly!
The cool thing about this is how intricately novelty seems to be associated with learning, which means we can use this knowledge to our advantage for learning new things and improving our memory. 

It’s been thought before that novelty was a reward in itself, but, like dopamine, it seems to be more related to motivation. Our Dopamine pathways become activated whenever we are exposed to novelty, and only completely new things will activate our midbrain area. 
Studies show that the plasticity of the hippocampus (the ability to create new connections between neurons) was increased by the influence of novelty—both during the process of exploring a novel environment or stimuli and for 15–30 minutes afterwards.  
As well as increasing our brain’s plasticity—and therefore potential for learning new concepts and facts—novelty has been shown to improve the memory of test subjects. 
Studies suggest that dopamine (a "reward" chemical in the brain) levels increase in the context of novelty.  Each new stimuli gives you a little rush of motivation to go further, to find more new stimuli that will generate more dopamine rewards.  

Here is a graph that shows activity in your brain on this:
novelty and the brain
 According to a study conducted by Dr. Emrah Duzel from University College in London:
Subjects performed best when new information was combined with familiar information during learning.  After a 20 minute delay, subjects’ memory for slightly familiar information (i.e. letters/ letter patterns & sounds) was boosted by 19 per cent if it had been mixed with something new (i.e. new combinations of constantly changing skill-content) during learning sessions.
This research suggests that we use the brain's increased plasticity wisely by setting aside time to learn right after novel stimuli, as learners' brains are more open to making new connections during and right after this time.  So why not take advantage!

Dr Düzel pointed out additional benefits that could come from his research:
“We hope that these findings will have an impact on those with poor memory. Current practice aims to improve memory through repeatedly exposing a person to information. This study shows that it's more effective if you mix something new with the old. You actually learn better, even though your brain is also tied up with new information. 
So what does this mean for teachers?  
It means that you can significantly improve knowledge retention and make new ideas and concepts stick by introducing novelty into the learning process.  And doing this is easier than you think!

Above is just one example of MANY research studies showing the significant impact that novelty has on the brain, and for purposes of teaching and learning, novelty can take many forms! 

Incorporating novel experiences into daily learning doesn't mean having to continually add on new skills and information to what you're already teaching!

Novelty can be easily achieved by simply framing 'slightly-familiar' content in new and unique ways. This causes our brains to notice and recognize it more easily because it's been offset by the new way in which it's being presented. 

If this sounds confusing, I promise, it isn't.... not once you see it in action! 

And it's not just the musical exercises in the SECRET STORIES that make use of this "novelty-effect," but the Secrets, themselves! Every time you share a Secret, learners are hearing a brand new story about already-familiar letters and sounds... and the higher the grade level, the more significant the "novelty-effect!"  

Intermediate-grade struggling readers who have "been there" and "done that" in their many failed attempts at acquiring these critical reading and writing skills, often have completed hundreds, if not thousands of remedial skill sheets and still "don't get it!"  

For these learners, framing these "all-too-familiar" skills as a novel Secret that explains WHY the letter patterns make the sounds that they do, re-ignites their interest and curiosity, motivating them to capture what they found previously unattainable.

The Secrets make letters and sounds novel!  It's that simple. 
So remember, whether a you're four or forty, "novelty is the key" to easier learning!  

The short video clips below show how easy infusing novelty into daily skill practice can be!
For more videos, subscribe FREE to my SECRET STORIES YouTube Channel.

And by the way, I have no explanation for my facial expressions below. 

                   Beethoven Blends & Beethoven Blends 'IN-REVERSE!'
The "Beethoven Blender" Pack" on TpT

Apples & Bananas to the EXTREME!

Singing the Letters "Every Which Way to Sunday!"
*This one we would also do backwards, as well as to different tunes (i.e. Star-Spangled Banner, Happy Birthday, etc...) while continually switching vowel sounds back and forth, from long to short... 
so many ways, so little time!

So have you noticed novelty affecting your memory or how you learn? 
If so, I would love to know your thoughts!  
Just post your comment or question for automatic entry in this month's drawing for a Free SECRET STORIES Classroom Set, and be sure to subscribe to my Secret Session Blog as well so that I have your contact info if you win!  

Until next time,
spelling word work anchor activities  tot store  phonics 
PS  You are also invited to follow me on any or ALL of the following for the best FREE brain-based teaching "tools & tricks" (plus LOTS of other fun teaching stuff!!! :)





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