How Can Conversation Stems Motivate and Inspire Discussion?

With the popularity of Number Talks by Sherry Parrish and other resources that discuss higher order questioning as a strategy to increase complexity in our classrooms, question stems and discussion stems have become a necessity to helping younger children begin to understand these types of higher level thinking skills. A great deal of modeling and reflection goes into helping younger children understand the difference between a trivial question and a question that requires more in-depth thinking. Having question stems from which to choose from can guide students to ask more complex questions.

Sentence starters and Question Stems are perfect for math talks and engaging conversations in reading and writing workshop, as well as science and social studies. Question stems allow children to experience higher order thinking and are a powerful tool to use in the elementary classroom.

I would start out with 3-4 to get started. Model how to use each question stem to take the conversation further. Share with your students how you would determine which question stem would work for the situation. Allow students to practice with partners and teams. Make this a regular activity in your classroom, and watch how the conversations take a more meaningful turn.

I have also created sentence starters that help students respond to some of the question choices. Sentence starters give kids a jumping off point and allow reluctant responders an opportunity to share their thinking, as well.

This packet contains 52 question stems/conversation starters, and 14 sentence stems for initiating conversation. Each set comes in a smaller (4 to a page) set that can be laminated and put on a ring for students to have at a team or in their desk. Each set also includes a larger version that is great for bulletin boards, flip charts, or pocket charts. There are many many choices from which to choose. You might want to start with a few at a time to get started and gradually increase the use as students begin to demonstrate understanding. Some conversation starters are geared towards math talks, but many of them can be used for all subjects. (Strategy talk works well in decoding conversations, too.)

Let me know how you are increasing meaningful discussion in your classroom?

Until next time,

Happy Teaching and Learning

Grab a sample set FREE by clicking the link below.

Close Reading: How to Engage Students in Literature

Close Reading: How to Engage Students in Literature

The idea of close reading seemed silly to me when I heard about it over a decade ago. I literally thought it meant you looked closely at the words. LOL

Sometimes the words we use in education can grate on your nerves. We rarely call things what they are. Why not say a more in-depth look at literature or information. Why do you have to call it close reading? Either way, I have since stopped laughing. I believe a deeper dive into text can be and is a truly magical experience. (I’m still not a fan of the title close reading, but I love the idea behind the words.)

5 Revolutionary Benefits of Yoga for Kids

5 Revolutionary Benefits of Yoga for Kids

In the past several months I have been working on getting my yoga certification. It has been an intense training complete with an anatomy class, lectures about the benefits, and work on bettering my practice. It has been transformative and revolutionary.

Yoga taught me several things. It taught me to get out of my own head, to listen to my body, to focus on the healing, and to learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. Amazing.

After I experienced such a revolutionary transformation, t thought about offering that to others. So that’s when my yoga teacher training began. As I have traveled down this road, my mind often goes back to my sweet, sweet children that I I had the privilege of teaching. I think a lot about what I could have done differently. What I could have done better. My 2nd episode of One Tired Teacher with Melanie Redden comes to mind, as well. I think about the calming corner she described and the celebration of success that is a natural part of her day. I think I did some powerful things for kids, but I would have loved to have added more celebrations of success and a calming corner. I recently made a product to be used for a calming corner. {I've added a yoga card freebie below from this product.} This product was created after my conversation with Melanie and during my current yoga teacher training. My daughter, Emily, who is currently a nanny for a sweet family of 2 girls came home and was talking about one of the girls who have some difficulty with sensory issues. The calming corner kit was born!

In the cool down kit, one of the strategies kids can choose from is yoga cards. The Yoga cards are included with steps for getting into and out of the pose. Some poses are great for deep breathing and calming effects. Other poses help strengthen muscles and help with heavy work types of impact.

Let me talk about the yoga cards because yoga is such a powerful way for kids to learn to be in tune with their body, to self-regulate and to calm the mind.

School-based yoga programs are sweeping the nation, and studies show that students of all ages are reaping significant benefits.

I remember one year, I did yoga with my class. It was the year we had an increase in physical fitness minutes. And the classroom teacher was responsible for making up the time. So I did yoga and Tae Bo, and Jillian Michaels videos with my kids. It was so fun. And what a difference it made with the class as a whole and for individual students. Some didn't love it. LoL, But overall it really made an impact. So I want to share 5 benefits to incorporating yoga into your classroom, as well.

5 Revolutionary Benefits of Yoga for Kids

1 Reduces Stress and Teaches Self-Regulation

In today’s fast-moving world, kids who struggle with self-regulation and or sensory overload, have a difficult time self- regulating. Cool down spots and yoga can be just the place and activity for monitoring, recharging, and preparing children for reentry. Your goal is for kids to re-enter as quickly as they can. It is essential to allow each child to take the necessary time to regulate, and this time is different for each child.

When kids (and adults) are stressed, it manifests physically through tension, usually in the lower back or neck. As yoga relieves tension in the body, it also releases stress in the mind.

These already revolutionary benefits are associated with self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to recognize and manage your thoughts and emotions. Through yoga, children listen inward to their minds and bodies.

In this way, children learn to reflect on, recognize, and manage their emotions. Yoga also teaches calming techniques like deep breathing. When children can acknowledge and calm their feelings, they can respond effectively rather than reacting negatively.

So, if a child recognizes that she’s feeling frustrated about an assignment, she can take deep breaths, self-soothe, and find a healthy way to handle the situation like asking for help rather than throwing a tantrum right in the middle of class.

2 Increases Concentration

As they practice poses, children are encouraged to clear their minds and focus on the effort each pose requires. To achieve the pose or stay balanced, children must maintain a singular focus. That is one of the greatest gifts of yoga. At least for me. It gets me out of my own head. And that can feel like a true vacation!

When children practice focusing, they get better at the skill. And focusing is a skill, one in which we can all improve upon.

3 Improves Self-Esteem

Any time we are working on our bodies and being mindful of how we move and breath, we are working on feeling better about ourselves. We are learning to be kinder to ourselves, as well. That’s the beauty of yoga.

In kids’ yoga, children can move at their own pace. They do what feels natural and comfortable to them. It’s not about competing with other children, it’s about personal improvement through practice. As children learn to stand in stillness, touch their toes, or master increasingly advanced poses, their confidence grows.

4 Improves Self-Awareness

The metacognitive benefits of yoga are compelling. When a child learns how to better understand their thinking, they can work through any challenge life throws their way.

When children feel peaceful and aware of their thoughts, feelings, and actions, they’re able to act with compassion and courage, and they aren’t weighed down with worries about the past or the future. This is another beautiful thing about yoga. You learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. Self-awareness is a powerful type of mindfulness.

5 Improves Behavior

As you can see the benefits of yoga are revolutionary. It isn’t surprising that it’s linked to improved behavior and academic performance.

Yoga improves awareness, mood, and focus while reducing stress and anxiety. It teaches children to cope with big emotions in healthier ways. Ultimately, this translates to better behavior and performance in school.

A child who is angry, anxious, or unfocused isn’t ready to learn. When children feel less stressed, more confident, and can tap into and manage their emotions, learning comes easier.

My daughter Emily came home one day telling me that one of her girls had asked to use the calming corner. She wanted to share how she felt. She's only 4! Emily has already seen an improvement in how this sweet child responds to things that upset her. For me, that is a huge win.

If you want to hear more on this topic, come visit episode 10 of One Tired Teacher. For now, I think we should all grab our mats, stand in mountain pose, and let the healing begin!

7 Sensational Halloween Books Every Kid Will Love

7 Sensational Halloween Books Every Kid Will Love

It's that time of year again- Halloween! Even though we have seen decorations since August, most teachers and parents aren't really ready for Halloween until around October 25th! LOL {I'm actually guilty of not even putting up decorations yet, and I might skip them altogether this year. Don't judge! My kids are 14 and 18. I promise I will decorate for Thanksgiving.}

3 Mind-Blowing Solutions for Teaching It All

3 Mind-Blowing Solutions for Teaching It All

3 Mind-Blowing Solutions to Teaching It All

As a former second-grade teacher,  I know how difficult teaching all of the subjects can be. Honestly, the first subjects to go were science and social studies. I just couldn't get it all in, especially when mandates to the schedule were enforced.