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Thinking Day

Photo Credit: Jesper Sehested from Flickr

Upon first glance, you might think this day is one that requires some deep thinking, something very intellectual and brainy. However, you might be surprised to find out that it may be a little more closely related to the heart than the mind. While your thoughts may lead to educational innovations and leading-edge technology, this day is meant for thinking of others and what we can do to help them.

The History of World Thinking Day

In 1926, the Girl Scouts of the United States held their fourth Girl Guide/Girl Scout International Conference. It was decided that they needed a day to highlight important international issues and make an extra effort to bring awareness and support to those issues. It was called “Thinking Day.

Originally, the date, February 22nd, was chosen to honor the birthdays of Scouting and Guiding founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell and his wife, Lady Olave Baden-Powell. However, it is much more than a birthday celebration, although it does typically involve parties and “gifts”.

At the seventh World Conference, delegates agreed verbal support would not always be enough and therefore, created the Thinking Day Fund. The movement asks that every member of the association donate at least one penny in support. These funds go directly to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS) to contribute to the spreading of their organization and worldwide causes.

The 30th World Conference, the name of the day and its fund was changed to World Thinking Day as a way to point out the need for global effort. Since then Guides, Scouts, their sister and even brother organizations around the world seek to change the world for the better by thinking of others and their needs, as well as giving monetary and time donations.

How to Celebrate World Thinking Day

School Children

Photo Credit: Dan Wright from Flickr

On a global scale, the organization selects a theme each year for the day. The theme for 2019 is Leadership. An activity guide and many events worldwide are then organized to go along with that theme and bring support to issues that affect over 10 million young women in over 150 countries.

Many local Guide and Scout branches hold parties and events to aid in this effort and to celebrate their organization and its history. They may find ways to connect with “sisters” overseas through radio, video chat, etc. or they may raise funds for community projects. In Auckland, New Zealand, girls hike to the top of Maungawhau (Mount Eden) where they make camp, hoist the Guide World Flag, and watch the sunrise while singing the World Song. They also make a point to discuss big and important issues and what they can do make a positive change.

Many Guides and Scouts hold a tradition of sending postcards to sisters around the world with the purpose to let them know they are not alone and are positively thought of. Another tradition is to light a candle in their window at dusk that evening. This is to remind them that they can be a positive light and bring change to the darkness in the world.

For those not directly involved in Girl Guides/Scouts, today is a good day to show your support. Offer a donation to their organization or local chapter. Buy some cookies or find a way to volunteer your time for a great cause. We can all help make a difference in the world, we just have to be willing to think of others.

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School Students Education Teaching

Photo Credit: KasparLunt from Pixabay

To determine if this is an efficient and effective learning process, we first must understand just what it is and how it does or doesn’t work.

What is TPS?

TPS is a collaborative learning strategy where students work together to solve a problem or answer a question. This requires students to:

  • Firstly, students are asked to think through the problem or topic individually. This may include answering a specific question or coming up with an example or prompt.
  • Secondly, students will pair up or join a small group of their peers to discuss their thoughts and work through the problem more in depth.
  • Lastly, each group or pair of students will present or share their findings with the class and/or a larger group.

What is So Special About it?

Idea innovation imagination

Photo Credit: KasparLunt from Pixabay

Recent studies have found that students are able to learn more when they are allowed to discuss ideas and elaborate on them through communication with others. Think, Pair, Share enables those opportunities to talk in an environment that encourages learning and requires participation from all class members and not just those who are typically more outspoken.

This type of learning also helps to build confidence in students that may feel a little uncomfortable talking or presenting to large groups or classes. When they are able to be supported by a partner or several of them, they are much more at ease and willing to share their real thoughts and opinions.

With the use of TPS, students learn to collaborate with others and to value each other’s opinions on a wide variety of topics. They can begin to think of their peers as resources with a wealth of knowledge. Students, as a result, come to respect each other more and can understand ideas and concepts that may be far from the norm given their background or upbringing.

How to Use it?

The process is easy to use in just about any classroom setting and for all ages. PreK through Kindergarten students, for example, can’t be expected to write their thoughts or answers as well as older students. However, they can draw out their ideas and still discuss them with other students and the class.

Some of the most common ways this valuable tool is used is to gauge students’ reactions and thoughts about a certain lesson or material, such a film you just watched or a text that was recently read. You can also use this as an introduction to new materials or assignments. Doing this before a new lesson allows students to tap into any prior knowledge of the topic or to gather ideas and get a game plan together for a new project or assignment.

You can also use this to strengthen your classes listening skills. During the “share” portion, each student can be asked to present their partner’s ideas instead of their own.

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Girl Student using Cell phone and studying

As technology rapidly changes, classrooms are changing too. It has become common for students to use laptops, iPads, and other technologies as part of the normal school day. In addition to new computing tools, students have all sorts of new cultural tools to help them process the world. For teachers, this presents exciting opportunities to incorporate new music, news, and events to support the standard classroom curriculum.

One of the broadest opportunities to use popular culture in the classroom is to incorporate internet trends and memes in everyday instruction. This can happen in a number of ways. One possibility is to allow students to find images and video online to use as part of a lesson. Students can search YouTube, Google Images, or other popular sites for easily accessible images to illustrate important points from the days’ lessons. Maybe there’s a funny clip about American History that someone can bring into a history class. Or perhaps there’s a comedic clip about grammar that a student can use to help introduce a writing lesson. By allowing students to select and contribute media that they enjoy, teachers can create an environment where students come into the classroom more invested in the day’s lesson.

Another way to use popular culture to enhance the educational mission is to incorporate students’ love of social media. This is an especially engaging form of incorporation because it requires students to engage with their lessons beyond the classroom. In some instances, teachers establish a class Instagram account and assign students a theme with an attached hashtag. Then, for the duration of the lesson, a few days or a week, students will post and tag things that they see that are related to that lesson. So if students are studying world geography, they can post pictures and video of commercials, billboards, magazine articles, t-shirt slogans, and other things that are relevant to that topic. In this scenario, students receive credit for the lesson by posting and participating in the social media exchange.

Finally, teachers can find ways to welcome students’ stories and interest in popular culture into the classroom by opening up time for students to share whatever is interesting to them that day. An instructor might use the first five minutes of class to let students make announcements or talk about stories they’ve heard in the news that week. Then other students can chime in. By allowing students to set just a small part of the itinerary for the day, we can teach them to feel at home in the classroom.

There are of course dozens of other ways to incorporate popular culture into an active and engaged classroom. By being open-minded and proactive, teachers can take advantage of these opportunities to create a classroom where all students energetically participate in the day’s lesson.

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Building an Inclusive Classroom

As America becomes increasingly diverse, one of the first places that students encounter that diversity is in their classrooms. This is an incredible opportunity for teachers to introduce students to the principles of inclusivity and mutual respect that will make them active and productive citizens later on.

One of the first ways to practice inclusivity is to be open about the differences that students bring into the classroom. For instance, just because all of the students have families that live in Cleveland now, doesn’t mean that everyone’s family is originally from Cleveland. One exercise that teachers can do to begin to recognize and celebrate differences is to have students ask their parents where their families are from. Then the students can report back. There will be some students whose families have been in the same place for generations. Others will report that their families are from Mexico or Nigeria or India. During the exercise, you can have each student place a pin in a map to show where they are from. The map can then represent all the cool places that students come from and the various cultures that they bring with them into the classroom.

Another way to build an inclusive classroom is by using content that represents lots of different people. Children are used to reading stories that include magic and animals and challenge their imaginations. But it is also important that they encounter stories about the real people they’ll meet in the world. Books are powerful tools for helping people learn to empathize with others. Children can read books about people from different backgrounds, who speak different languages, have different challenges, and who have different strengths. Encountering these characters in the classroom and talking about them with their peers can help students to understand that the world is full of different people who are interesting and smart and have valuable things to offer.

Finally, it is important that students feel that their own experiences are equally valued by their teachers and mentors. This means that when students have an experience that is different from their peers, they are not left out of conversations in the classroom or made to feel odd because of their differences. Teachers have a vital role in accomplishing this. One thing teachers can do is to agree with students who are in the minority. So if students are talking and one of them has a different opinion or experience than the others, a thoughtful teacher can point out how that student’s answer is accurate or valuable. Another way that teachers can support students is by giving an example of someone students know who has a similar experience. Students will know lots of actors, musicians, athletes and authors whose experiences may differ from their own. By pointing out that the people students admire also have these diverse experiences, we can teach them to value difference from a young age.

Ultimately, we all have a range of encounters with people whose languages, religions, and families are different than ours. Teachers are in a unique position to teach children early on that these differences make us stronger and should be valued.

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Lynne Featherstone Interrviewed about youth issues by Hornsey School Girl students

Photo Credit: Lynn Featherstone from Flickr

Oral history is the use of narratives, personal experiences, and storytelling from historical and everyday people to share about certain topics and time periods. These experiences are most often videotaped or audio recorded, but they can also be written down as a result of an interview or conversation. Many museums use this type of instruction to educate their visitors about all sorts of events and topics. It offers people from all walks of life the opportunity to learn from someone else’s point of view just by listening. But how can it be brought to life in the classroom?

Instead of reading about WWII in a book and doing a worksheet about it, oral histories allow students to personally connect with those who experienced it firsthand. They hear the emotion in the voices they listen to, see expressions on their faces, and are, therefore, far more moved. These stories and experiences let them feel as though they are part of the story somehow and, in turn, may put life into a different perspective.

More than just allowing students to hear about these experiences, many teachers have found that getting them to conduct their own oral history research forms a far greater connection to the subject. In the classroom, teachers can give each student a specific topic for which they must conduct research for. This research is gathered in the form of interviews and conversations with members of their family and community, as well as their peers, about experience or point of view based on that topic.

The key is to make the topic something that is interesting to the student, something that is important to them or that they know someone who has an opinion about it. This allows them to become even more interested and learn to care about other’s experiences.

Indian Youth

Photo Credit: David Brewer from Flickr

However, don’t limit this type of instruction to just history class. Oral history can be used in just about any type of classroom and for any age group. For example, in math class, a teacher could ask students to interview members of their family or community about how they use math on a daily basis. This can help those students relate to the subject a bit more, realizing its importance and its use in their lives now and in the future.

Younger children can also learn to participate in such projects, though on a much lesser scale of course. While second and third graders may not be up to the challenge of writing a paper about their oral history research, they can certainly be sent home with the homework to ask their family members or even close neighbors about certain experiences or topics. Even just one question or two could suffice. You would be surprised at how a child’s opinion or connection to learning could be influenced just by participating in oral histories.

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Girl Studying a Book

Photo Credit: The Benefits of Literacy Circles

Few classroom instructions are as impactful as a literacy circle. These small groups of students reading together and discussing their text offer experiences for children that are not only educational but extremely beneficial to emotional development and their overall success. The main reason for this success is that literacy circles get kids to talk. Let’s see how this is done.

Student Choice

Choice is often something few students have when it comes to their education. However, in literacy circles, students are typically given the choice of what books they read as well as what other students are in their group. While these choices may seem small, giving children just a little bit of say in their education makes them connect to it more. They suddenly seem to have more intrinsic motivation and a deeper engagement with what they are learning. They are more willing to get involved with conversation as a result.

Teaches Cooperative Learning

As kids sit in a group of their peers and discuss characters, plots, and the meaning of their texts, students learn to hear other opinions and to make sense of them. Lit circles teach students to help each other figure it out and be taught by one another. They learn to value this help from their peers and see others as resources of knowledge, all while making independent choices.

Fun and Social

Boy Student Studying a book

Photo Credit: Fun and Social

Most of a child’s day is spent listening to instruction or completing projects and assignments where they are expected to remain, for the most part, quiet. Literacy circles, on the other hand, require each student to speak their mind, to voice their opinions, and to even argue those ideas. They allow students to be social and talk a lot, bringing their own experiences with the text to life and making reading fun.

This in turn, helps them feel more connected, not only to their peers, but to the school itself. They begin to associate school and reading with joy and fun. This has a huge impact on the drop out rates in most schools. Kids tend to disengage when they don’t feel connected, whether it’s with the people, place, or their education. Lit circles allow all three to be touched in a positive way and reinforce a personal connection.

Opportunities for Struggling Readers

Because they are fun experiences that allow for cooperative learning and students to make choices, these circles often provide the most opportunities for those who may be a little more reluctant when it comes to reading. This type of instruction allows for children to be grouped at different levels and then to choose reading selections based on that level, instead of having to read the same book as the rest of the class and not always being able to understand it.

Students should also be allowed to choose from a wide variety of genres and topics. Not all books need to be fiction. In fact, many struggling readers prefer to read non-fiction, as it often can be related to real life more.

For more ways to involve your students in reading click here.

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martin-luther-king-jr-day

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture by Flickr

The third Monday of every January in the United States is Martin Luther King Jr Day. This year it falls on the 21st of January. The day is meant to celebrate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout most of his adult life, he fought for the rights and equality of African Americans in the U.S. His methods for freedom and peace throughout the nation consisted of peaceful protests and the service of his communities. He has often been compared to Gandhi, as they both had a profound impact on their people and the struggle to gain equality and freedom.

History of Martin Luther King Jr Day

This national holiday was officially created by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. It marks the day and a memorial of the life and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. However, it was not until 2000 that it became a nationally recognized holiday and celebrated in every state. This is due to the fact that many of the struggles and issues that Martin Luther King Jr. sought to destroy were still very much in play at the time of his assassination and nearly twenty years later when the holiday was created.

Movements are being made to make the day an official federal holiday, requiring that government offices would be closed to celebrate the day. However, because Martin Luther King Jr. never held an official public office, as is the usual requirement for such a day, many would say that this shouldn’t be allowed.

How to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day

martin luther king jr

Photo Credit: The Library of Congress by Flickr

As we are honoring a man who served his community and helped his fellow man at every turn and in so many different ways, we think that continuing his legacy is the best way to celebrate him and his life. Find ways that you and your children can serve your local community and neighborhood. There are many events held monthly, weekly, and even daily that facilitate change our nation for the better, making it a place where everyone is equal and peace abounds.

Many communities hold parades and festivals in honor of this man who lived for others. Attend one and learn more about how he made dreams a reality. Visit a museum and see first hand what he accomplished. Or you could simply read one of the hundreds of books written on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. No matter your station, background, lineage, or even the place where you live, we all deserve freedom and a chance to live out our dreams. Today is the day to celebrate and honor that.

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Kid Inventors’ Day

Every January 17th we have the opportunity to celebrate the children in our lives and the accomplishments they have and will make. This includes inventions and extraordinary innovations. Children, unlike adults, have a unique ability to look at the world differently. They do not understand many aspects of life and the difficulty it holds.

Some would believe this makes them ineligible for such tasks. On the contrary, the fact that they are not bogged down by life’s complexities and hardships most often allows them to create without limitations or boundaries. They are able to see solutions on a different level than most adults.

There are many things we use on a daily basis that were, in fact, created by children or teenagers, such as the trampoline, popsicles, ear muffs.

The History of Kid Inventors’ Day

One of the first known child inventors was Benjamin Franklin. Most of us are familiar with his creations of all sorts of useful items such as bifocals, the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and the glass harmonica just to name a few. However, he started inventing when he was just a child. At age 12 he created the first swim flippers. It for this reason that we celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day on his birthday, January 17th.

History continues to prove that children can and do invent some very impressive and helpful things. Some are born from mere accidents, such as the popsicle, while others take several years to create and are much more complex. One of the most extensive creations of a child is the language of the blind, yes, Braille. It was created by a French child in Paris named Louis Braille after he was involved in a serious accident that took his sight from him.

American Sign Language also has a great contribution made by a child. Ryan Patterson, a teenager, invented special gloves with sensors to translate hand motions of ASL into written words for children and adults alike with various disabilities.

Kid Inventors’ Day

Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images by Flickr

How to Celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day

This day is proof that children of any age are living, breathing inventors with extraordinary minds. Never take those precious thoughts for granted, even if they seem a little unsophisticated and silly to you. after all, these children are our future. Today is a day for no limits, to believe the impossible. Sometimes that is what it takes to makes dreams and inventions of the future come to life.

Take a child to a museum, a park, or even the kitchen. Create an environment where they can learn about inventions from the past and experience inspiration. It can come from just about anywhere, from simple crafts and games to large airplanes and spaceships. No matter what you do, make sure to encourage their dreams, even if seems outrageous and impossible. You never know when the next Benjamin Franklin could be sitting in your living room.

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Trivial Pursuit

Photo Credit: Letica Ayuso from Flickr

You know all that seemingly useless information in your head that never gets used or you think no one else cares about? Today is the day to finally use it. January 4th is Trivia Day. They may be silly insignificant facts, little-known oddities, or just random information but on Trivia day they can be used to impress your family and friends and possibly even cause a few laughs.

The History of Trivia Day

The history of Trivia Day begins with a few missing pieces to a scrabble board game. In Montreal, Canada in 1979, friends Scott Abbott and Chris Haney were getting frustrated with their scrabble game that had some missing pieces. However, it did not stop them from having a bit of fun.

These two fellows decided to create a new game with the pieces they had. The game became an instantaneous hit and its popularity is spread worldwide. The game is Trivial Pursuit and it is thought to have sparked a seemingly endless fascination with odd or little-known facts on a wide variety of topics.

Since that day, many more trivia inspired games have been dreamed up and made their way into homes throughout the world. This day was created to remember that day and the efforts of the two men determined to have some fun. It’s also a day to make use of that random information in your head that usually has no specific purpose.

Trivial Pursuit Game

Photo Credit: Paolo Soro from Flickr

How to Celebrate Trivia Day

Trivia Day is best spent playing trivia games with your favorite comrades and family. There are a great number of trivia games to choose from in this day and age. Some are comprised of large boards, many pieces, and quite a few complex rules, whiles others are much simpler and can be played on a computer or smartphone. The subjects these tidbits of knowledge come from span every concept imaginable from the shoes on your feet to the stars in the sky. If you can think of it, there is a question about it.

However, don’t assume that prior knowledge of these subjects is required. Half of the fun is not knowing and learning tons of new information and trivia along the way. These are games young kids and adults alike can really get into. And if you don’t have any trivia games at home or the place you will be spending most of today, try making up your own. Continue the legacy of this day by having some fun and using all that knowledge in your head to make the world a happier place.

Here are a few random trivia facts to get you in the mood:

  • On Venus, it snows metal.
  • Spain means “the land of rabbits.”
  • Only female mosquitoes bite.
  • Saudi Arabia has no rivers.
  • The only Caribbean island with a railroad is Cuba.

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