Saturday, August 24, 2013

Make Learning FUN, ASCD, Best Practices - Part 2

     Our last  discussion of Best Practices was a partial article from ASCD, Mark Barnes. Let's continue this discussion...
     "Perhaps you think that the in-class activities you assign are not worksheets. The challenge now is to decide if what you select is a worksheet. The following questions make up my worksheet litmus test:
  1. Does the activity come from a source with the word workbook or lesson on it?
  2. Was the activity copied from a textbook?
  3. Does the activity look like a multiple-choice quiz?
  4. Does the activity require students to fill in a blank space by copying information found in a textbook?
  5. Do you currently or have you ever called the activity a worksheet?
     If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you have a worksheet on your hands, and you need to take serious action. I'm attempting to inject a little levity here, but the message is a serious one. Students do, in fact, hate worksheets. Worksheets, workbooks, practice tests, or any other canned assignments—pretending to be something other than worksheets—bore students and make them hate learning. These assignments turn average teachers into weak ones and undermine the efforts of potentially brilliant teachers. Worksheets are crutches, used primarily as tools to teach to a test, and this creates a vicious cycle of bad education.
     A typical bell curve shows that 20 percent receive A's (because they know the system), 20 percent fail (because they didn't complete the worksheets or review for the test), and 60 percent land somewhere in the middle (because they know how to do just enough to get by). What hasn't happened here is real learning."   Mark Barnes

  In summary, worksheets can be replaced with hands-on activities and small group instruction. Real learning takes place here. Something to keep in mind....If a child can do a worksheet, then why do it? (What are they learning? That's the bell curve of 20% who receive A's.)  If a child can NOT do a worksheet, then why do it? (What are they learning? That's the 20% who fail.)  Sooooooo...why do a worksheet? 

 Head to our store for this FUN FREE hands-on activity packet!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School Organization

     Many of you weren't with us when we first started our blog. We posted some really great pictures and information about centers back then and we would like to repost to perhaps help new teachers with ideas or help spark some new excitement for "seasoned" teachers. Enjoy! If you have any questions or if we can help you in any way, please be sure to email us at
by Graphics From the Pond

Here are some pictures of the Classroom Library. To make it a little cozier, we added a rug, pillows and a small lamp in our library. Of course the kids love it, but we wanted it to be a place where they could work with words and stories as well as "read" their favorite books. Here are a few of our ideas.

 We attached a pocket chart with a flannel top to the board in the library so we could retell nursery rhymes and stories.

This activity is a rebus version of Hickory Dickory Dock. The poem is placed in the top 2 rows as a model for the kids, then they put the sentences together and fill in the blanks with the pictures. The kiddos need lots of practice with rhyming (especially at the beginning of the school year) so this activity comes in real handy.

Other activities that help the children retell favorite fairy tales are
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Students place the pictures of Goldilocks and the Three Bears on a numbered grid in the order of the sequence of events in the story, then write something about the story.

The Three Little Pigs

With The Three Little Pigs, the kids place the pictures on beginning, middle and ending sorting mats. We use a lot of fairy tale activities because the children are familiar with the stories and can analyze the parts easier.

To see these two fairy tale activities and many many more that we use visit The Fun Factory on TpT by clicking the picture below.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School Super Sale!

  We ALL love a good sale, right? Well, the FUN girls at The FUN Factory want to help you have FUN shopping for some FUN back to school bargains for your classroom. We have many items to keep those kiddos busy (but still learning) at the beginning of the year. Not only are there products with FUN activities, we also have products to help organize and decorate your room. Take a look at some of the products below.It's time to clean out those WISH LISTS!!  Use the promo code BTS13  Here are some of our products

    Be sure to also check out some of our Pinterest boards for more ideas. Most importantly, HAVE FUN !!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

All Sorts of Sorts

Hi Y'all!  We are so sad gearing up for school to start again!  We have been setting up the classrooms and unpacking all of our "stuff".  Every year when we unpack we find treasures that can be repurposed for our students.  This year we found our plastic divided dish from the dollar store sorting tray and came up with a few ways to use it.
As you can see we added tongs for the children to use as they manipulate the various items that we will put in the sorting tray.  By using the tongs (or a strawberry huller) they are developing and strengthening their pincher muscles that will lead to a better pencil grasp and legible handwriting.

 The first item for sorting are colored pom poms (from the dollar store of course).  The children sort the pom poms by color or size or texture.

The next  item are the ever popular unifix cubes (we have sacks of these!)  We put a colored dot in each section to denote the color that goes in it.

We kept thinking of different kinds of sorts and came up with an adaptation of the sort our kids like best - letters.  You can see that we added sticky notes to each section - one section for letters with vertical lines, one section for diagonal lines, one section for curved lines and the last section for letters with circles.

We're really on a roll now and decided to see about sorting by shapes - but what do we have that comes in different shapes and can fit in the sorting tray?  Erasers!  (again from our favorite shopping hangout - the dollar store).  Triangles, circles, ovals and stars - those are shapes - right?

Ok, we are now so confident we branch out to a content related sort - living and nonliving.  Our bag of erasers is being stretched to the limit.  Can you see the different plants and animals?  We wrote the words living and nonliving on the tray with a dry erase marker and they wipe off nicely when we're done.

Finally our brains were out of ideas (and we were out of erasers).  So it's on to unpacking the rest of our boxes to see what other treasures we can find.

Friday, August 2, 2013

We Think Learning Should Be FUN, ASCD, Putting Students at the Center, Letting Go of Homework and Worksheets


    Here at The Fun Factory, our goal is to make learning FUN. By studying the research on the young child's brain, we design lessons to incorporate Best Practices.  Best Practices simply means we take what science has proven to be the most effective ways to move information from short term to long term memory and design our instruction around that information. This means learning information in the fastest way possible and retaining it longer. In the pictures, you will notice the children using hands-on activities constructed for that purpose.

     Recently, I came across this article from ASCD and thought it gave some very good guidelines about what children perceive as NOT FUN. If you would like to read the complete article, see the information at the end.

For a free hands-on activity, click on the picture below. This will take you to our TpT store for the free product.
Letting Go of Homework and Worksheets

     "I stopped using the word worksheet years ago while I was still hammering students with pointless assignments. I simply didn't like the implication of the word, and I was constantly trying to convince students that it wasn't work. Of course, they knew it definitely was work.
     A successful results-only classroom is free from worksheets and the harm they cause. Among other things, worksheets have been proven to waste valuable class time and focus on teaching only rote skills (Volante, 2004). Most important, though, is that worksheets make students hate learning. If you don't believe me, simply ask your students, "Hey, do you guys like this worksheet? Do you think it helps you learn the material?"  I'm sure you know in your heart what the answer will be even before you ask."
Mark Barnes
February 28, 2013 | Volume 8 | Issue 11