Monday, September 22, 2014

Crash Course Week 3: Magic and Courage

This week we are discussing two chapters, "Magic" and "Courage." Wow, Kim is creative and certainly makes her classroom a magical place! The House of Ing! Use your imagination to come up with ways to add magic to your classroom. Share those ideas or ways you already use magic in your classroom.

Jumping into the chapter on courage, I like the quote, "It is okay to be introverted, but every child must be able to communicate effectively." Share how you can support your students in overcoming the fears that are holding them back.

Next week we will read and discuss the next two chapters, "Play" and "Recovery." Have a great week!

80 comments:

  1. When I taught middle school I decided to do an interactive activity with my students on the Holocaust. As each class entered they became a real life victim in the Holocaust. They were assigned a number and a seat. I was also a victim and played the role the entire class period. They had to memorize their numbers along with numerous other things about themselves. It was an intense class period, but when those kids left I could tell they really learned a lot from the experience.

    In my classroom we have a brown paper bag, and in my first two years of teaching I used it as a sort of "tattle tale" bag for after recess. Kids would come in, write down what happened at recess, and put it in the bag it. I would handle all those issues on Friday (unless it was dire and then I would handle it immediately). Now this bag it has become a useful tool to help my students communicate with me, especially about their fears and needs. Also, after we have writing workshop (4 days a week) we have writer's chair. They come up to the chair and sit at the front of the room and get to read their piece of work. The kids really love it, and I have seen a lot of kids opening up because of this experience. I still have several children who are too scared to share aloud, so after writing time I walk around and we get to have a one on one read aloud. I have noticed after I do this some children then want to share after I praise them for wonderful writing.


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  2. When I taught reading, some students were very concerned about reading in front of anyone - especially strangers who were observing. I kept a large bottle of very watered down cologne in my desk and I called it my magic potion. When students were hesitant to read or tackle a math reading problem, I would sprinkle just a little on top of his/her head and tell them that it protected them from embarrassing themselves by missing a word. Only the two of us would recognize a mispronounced word - everyone else would hear exactly what was on the page.

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  3. My first year of teaching, while the kids were at music, I dressed up as Johnny Appleseed. I was sitting against the wall in jeans, flannel shirt and a pan on my head when the students walked into the classroom. I started my monologue about my adeventures as Johnny Appleseed and the students played right along. It was a lesson that I know they will remember. Before reading this chapter, I planned my lessons for my first graders who are reading the book, "Rain". I planned to have students close their eyes as I play sounds of rain on the computer to guess what they will be reading about. We often, as Title One teachers, have a mystery bag of props that we use to introduce a book to peek the students' interest.
    The second chapter for this week hit close to home. Sorry, but I don't think I will ever get rid of my fear of spiders!!! I often did not try new activities as a teen because I feared I would not be good at it or that I would embarass myself. After asking myself "What's the worst that could happen?", I am no longer afraid to go bowling or try new things. Now, I embarass my kids instead! I understand about students being afraid to read in front of others. I like to use plays to boost the confidence of the students who don't like to read out loud. It helps when it is a familiar story and they can read their part with confidence.

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  4. Each spring my seventh grade students enter the "speech" giving season. It is this time that they are met with 2-3 public speaking opportunities that gradually increase in length and complexity. For a majority of the students they are shaking in their boots at the thought of having to present in front of their classmates and teacher...they finally die once they hear I have invited administrators from our corporation and community members as well to listen to their speeches. Given the high stakes of the assignment and the crowd we do several "practice" runs. The magic comes when the students and I participate in a "student/teacher speak-off" before their assigned due date. Often times students think assignments are handed to them that seem daunting and impossible...something that even the teacher would not be capable of doing. This speak-off is a time for me to prove the validity to the assignment and engage with the students on a whole different level. I have students who have come to my room over the years and reflected on the fun nature of that day and what it taught them in terms of an effective speech delivery.

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  5. I always taught speech and public speaking as part of my ELA curriculum and had broken down good speaking skills into parts. Each skill is broken down and taught separately. Erik Palmer has a great book called "Well Spoken" that does a good job of isolating each part and assess it before putting it back into a whole presentation. I also put similar lessons in my book.
    Our students culminated their 8th grade year by turning their research paper into a speech and competing against each other in a speech competition. We worked throughout the year by giving formal and informal presentations to build to that final competition.
    However, about 3 years ago, I wanted to do a 20 Time project (which is one more way to help students take on their fears) along with my students, so I took an improv class. Not only did I improve my own skills, I came across a ton of improv games that can be used to teach all kinds of skills. After I started using improv regularly in my class, the classroom community really changed and students became much more comfortable sharing their ideas and taking risks. I taught storytelling, speaking skills, discussion skills, collaboration skills and more with improv games.

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  6. I teach in a Life Skills class so we are creating magic everyday! It is SO important to create a safe, magical environment for these students to feel that they can be who they are without fear. These two chapters went together so way in that respect. We use common characters (Elsa and Anna, Spiderman, etc) to redirect and create "magic" to get through certain tasks the students may not want to complete. I liked the "House of Ing" idea as well.
    Our students are often fearful of many things. Some of our students are fearful of simple everyday tasks such as walking down the hall alone or even simple hygiene tasks. By creating a magical, safe environment we can enable them move pass these fears to succeed.

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  7. I agree that adding magic and making the lesson entertaining is very important. However, I do find it hard to incorporate it into my classroom like I wish I could. I have my students for fifty minutes each day. By the time I go over homework, teach the lesson, and do example problems, there is not much time left. Any remaining time I like to let the students start on the homework so they can ask questions if they need help. I'm only in my second year of teaching, and my arsenal of jaw dropping lesson plans if pretty slim. I hope to really expand and create some more magical math experiences through research and trying new items over the next couple of years.
    I know that when it comes to math, a lot of students are afraid to makes mistakes or do a problem wrong. I always encourage them to try a problem. I want them to give it an honest attempt even if they get it wrong. I reaffirm that we all makes mistakes and it is just part of the learning process. Whenever I make a mistake on the board, I also make a point to state that even I make mistakes. None of us are perfect, we just need to take our time and make sure to recheck our work. Sometimes I even make mistakes on purpose so the students can correct me. It gives them a confident boost because they did something right and I didn't, and I like the reiterate that making mistakes is okay. There is nothing to be afraid of. We just have to make sure that we learn from our errors, and that makes them better students.

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    1. I am also in my second year of teaching. I found that once I got into the swing of things during my first year was when I was able to really make some exciting lesson plans but they were still few and far. My goal this year is (of course once I find myself really in the groove of things) that I start creating more entertaining and magical things. One way I would love to make this happen is to come up with review games / activities to do between chapters to review or introduce. I have seen some mentor teachers do this and I hope and I can too!

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    2. I love pointing out your own mistakes! Sometimes students often think we are experts on our content, when they really need to just see us as human. I think that helps them build a connection with us as well, showing them that everyone makes mistakes, and it's nothing to be embarrassed about.

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    3. I think it is also important to realize that magical moments don't have to happen every day - it makes them more special and memorable when kids are least expecting it. I had a student once say, "I never know what you are going to have us do next!" I love that. It keeps them on their toes and it keeps me looking for ways to create the magical moments. I have as much fun as my students as I plan the activity that I just know they are going to love!

      I also so agree about the mistakes. Making mistakes are part of the learning process. I tell my students it is their job to catch mine and then we can talk about them. They always feel so proud of themselves when they realize I made a mistake...of course, I go out of my way to congratulate them. They really love it when it happens later in the day and I say that no one else caught it. I hope that when they realize I make mistakes and it isn't a big deal, they feel when they make a mistake it won't be a big deal and we will all learn from it and move on. It really helps the class room community.

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  8. As a counselor in a school with several first generation college students and a low socioeconomic status, I can’t take for granted what students know/don’t know when I am discussing college and career information. I always take a group to a local college fair and the first year I was disappointed by the low turnout. As we were leaving the fair, one student commented, “This isn’t what I expected. It was much better!” After talking with her some, I realized that she thought a college fair was similar to a county fair. The students didn’t know what a college fair was, so they weren’t going to sign up to attend. They weren’t going to ask- especially in a roomful of their peers. Now when I advertise the college fair with the students, I use humor and tell them that a college fair does not have smelly farm animals, scary rides, or cotton candy. I then go on to describe what a college fair truly is. They laugh at my initial description, but seem to feel more comfortable. The numbers of students attending has increased over the years, in part because I explain what a college fair is and in part (the bigger part) because the word of mouth of the students talking about the fair. I use humor and student word of mouth as my “magic” to give the students “courage” to try new things.

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  10. The beginning of each year so many students are reluctant to raise their hand to volunteer answers, ideas, or ask questions. Even open discussion and talks leave them sitting quietly listening to others. That all changes when I use VTS ( Visualizing Thinking Strategies.) When students realize what they see or notice is validated and accepted they become more open to telling more, as well as explaining what they see that makes them say that. Art is the most universal interest in my room this year. So I use as many terms, art work, paintings, and images that I can in order to help students make connections and develop deep thinking. Four weeks into this kind of discussion and I am having a hard time getting in all the sharing and partner talk.

    I still have fond memories of my own teachers who dressed to enrich a lesson. Students like it when I play talk show host. They soon all desire to be interviewed. They learn that being a good listener during the lesson is a must before they can become a guest to be interviewed. It is fun for me as some of those clever ones throw in some ad-lib lines of their own.
    Another helpful idea, shared by a teacher years ago, is to play comprehension/ sequence relay. It is repetitive, engaging, and fun. You basically need two rows of the same items or props to represent the main characters or events of the story.( 5-7 works best) I demonstrate how each prop needs to be used, by either telling about it, acting with it, or talking like the character about it as I walk through that story's relay. Each person goes through the relay story until the whole team is finished. I always place those students who are shy about acting or who really need this type of repetition towards the back of each relay line. By the time they watch it 8 times or so, they are ready to go!

    FEAR
    means
    Fear Everything And Run.....or Face Everything And Rise
    I'm often reminding myself of these as life throws me curve balls and new fears arise.

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    1. I love the FEAR saying. It is one of the two ways, isn't it? Face Everything And Rise. I have a lot of fear when it comes to teaching and it usually comes in the form of "I could never pull that off" or "the kids will think that is ridiculous" and talk myself out of things.I"m going to put this new mantra "Face Everything And Rise" on my computer and hopefully motivate myself to try new things in my room. Thank you for sharing!

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  11. It sure can cultivate amazing learning experiences to create the sort of "magic" lessons described in the chapter. With 6 unique classes each day, I don't think it is quite as feasible on that same grand scale for my particular situation (middle school). However, moments exist for smaller magical experiences to enhance student learning experiences. For example, today one of my classes was learning about traditional music of Hawaii. We read in our text, listened to some recordings, and watched a video example to go along with our class discussion. But how much more memorable would it have been if I took a quick trip to our local party store, picked up some discount "grass" skirts, leis or other simple decorations, and really created a tropical oasis to set the scene? The students would have had a better experience while practicing hula dance steps while wearing traditional garb. It doesn't all have to be as elaborate as the lessons in the book to make a magical moment for the students.

    As far as courage, I ask my students to show their courage many times throughout the year. Every time we perform a concert, for example, some kids are so nervous. We prepare by rehearsing our music so many times that they have no doubt they can play it well. And on the several occasions we have individual playing tests within the class, there are always students too shy to play their instruments alone. I let them know that there are no excuses but that we are a helpful and welcoming audience in our classes. We just want to help all the students improve and get better. Once the students understand the encouraging environment, they are less afraid to try and to show off their skills to others.

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    1. You are spot on in revealing that we have to weigh the time and money that we invest in the magic vs. the gains that it will bring in the classroom. This was very apparent to me during the years that I had 5 or 6 different preps. It is not physically or mentally possible for a teacher to keep this up hour after hour. Motivational quips and well-distributed surprises can be just as effective. Students already expect to be entertained, catering to this is not reflective of the real world. Some of my students think they are going to lead entertaining lives: we will see what the job market offers them.

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    2. I agree with Katherine and Tammy so much. Along with different preps, most teachers wear many other hats during the day. I am currently finding it difficult to keep everything going. Between planning, designing my own digital textbooks this year, grading, volunteering at Study Tables, Friday Schools, and ballgames, working on "extra" administrative assignments (vertical alignment and developing an argumentative presentation for my colleagues), keeping up with my daughter's athletic and extra-curricular schedules, hosting an exchange student for the school year, and oh, yes, also remembering I have a husband, four pets, and a household to run, , , , , most of the current magic I do is trying to keep myself sane and healthy and keep juggling all of this. That said, I will continue to look for ways to change up what I currently do to add more engagement to my lessons.

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    3. I agree with everyone's previous comments. It's hard to find the time to make lessons magical in a high school setting. I love the Hawaiin theme idea though. Just this past week, my freshmen finished reading The Odyssey. On the day they presented their final projects, I brought in Greek foods (mainly hummus and pita chips) for them to sample. I know the money spent came out of my own pocket, but I think it was worth it to see kids that had never heard of hummus give it a try, as well as celebrate the great job they did while reading this sometimes difficult epic poem.

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  12. This is only my second year teaching Geometry and I'm struggling to find "magical" ways to get the students motivated to learn and excited to come to class. I have done lessons in the past where they have to leave the room to locate geometric related pictures, examples, etc. I would love to get creative and have ideas that make class fun and teach at the same time! Most of my kids have low self esteem and don't like to do anything outside the norm but I think if I started small they may come around and get more comfortable. Any ideas would be great!!

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  13. Music has been my magical power in every subject that I have taught. It has been my hidden 'go to' trick in spite of not being particularly talented in any musical way; but I enjoy teaching content through music (or asking students to do this) and the musical value is secondary to the practice or content learning that students gain from it. Because an abundance of material has already been set to music available on youtube, I try to be selective and choose a theme song for each unit. For example, I currently am teaching graphing in 8th grade math, so the following song is the selection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmIhlc1bJuA (Rise Up Run Out). It can get annoying after a few days, but junior high students are receptive to this; bottom line: I need something to catch their attention and remember the principles (lyrics) not necessarily the musical quality. If the students want to produce something better, I welcome it! All of this brings me to the courage element. As I began, I am not gifted musically: this is quickly revealed to my students. However, I enjoy providing an alternative learning style, and it demonstrates to students that we all need to move beyond what comes easiest to us in order to learn.

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    1. Tammy, I also use music as part of my "magic". From cheesy content songs like the Latitude & Longitude Rap or the Mesopotamians to playing music in the background when they come in the room (like Manic Monday or Friday from Glee, Grease when we study ancient Greece, Roam by the B-52s when we study ancient Rome), it livens up the room. We sometimes sing together- I had a decent voice when I started teaching, but the longer I teach, the worse my singing voice gets- so we laugh together and it's OK to croak like a frog as long as you try to sing along. We drum on our desks, clap along to the beat, make up chants. I've been inspired by movies like "Renaissance Man" where they make a rap/chant about Shakespeare- kids of all ages respond to the magic of music. I hear there is a song about Pompeii that the kids know- that's my next quest, to find the lyrics and see if it's appropriate to include when we explode Mt. Vesuvius tomorrow (and watch an archaeology video about it). I do better with connections for "oldies" like 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s (which I don't consider the 80s old but whatever) than their contemporary tunes. But I'm working on that.

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    2. I love that you are both using music to help students learn and remember content. Thank goodness for youtube - imagine if everyone had to make up and sing their own songs?

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  14. I have a few spots during the school year where 'magic' as Kim Bearden would define it. Other times, I try to trick students into believing something is real or connected to what we are learning. I am trying to make it fun for them and they always ask if it was real but I never reveal the truth.

    As for developing in students the courage to rise above their comfort zone and express themselves in class, I find it is a gradual process for most students. After identifying those with shyness I engage them in conversations in front of the class that I know they enjoy or can speak about freely. Then I will switch gears and and ask them a content-related question when their guard is down. Then I shower them with praise for anything I can. I also make a fool of myself a lot and talk often about not taking ourselves too seriously. This approach may not work for every student. If I can't get a kid to improve in this area I will talk with him/her privately then relay some great idea I heard them say and give them full credit in front of the class.

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  15. US History is full of story-telling opportunities and I tried to make the most of them! But over the last few years, I've noticed a change in the interest level while listening to stories. Students are so visually stimulated today that we need to include active participation in those tales to keep our kids engaged and motivated. Music is a great way to set the stage for a story or a writing activity. I would play classical composers to help students relate to time periods, and Native American music during tribal research projects. I knew that I needed to create more physical connections to my stories and the lessons in general. Prior to teaching the Civil War, I would have students make paper quilts using the various patterns that held clues for runaway slaves. I based this activity on the book, "Hidden in Plain View." We displayed these pieces of art for several days in the hallway and in the classroom. Looking back, I could have done so much more, but time and resources can be limited when you teach multiple preps or have a young family! Now that my children are grown and I have more time, I'm not in a classroom...

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  16. While reading, sometimes I incorporate magic into the lesson. One of my students favorite is finding the "magic" word hidden in the text. For some reason they always love doing this and seem to focus more on what they are reading in hopes of finding my word. While this works best with younger students, my 5th grade class still enjoys this. On the topic of courage, I have one student in my class who is very sheltered and hasn't had a lot of life experiences. We are going on a camping trip in a few weeks and she is very scared to go. I keep encouraging her and letting her know what a fun experience this will be. She seems more willing to go, but still talks about it daily. I asked all her fellow peers to help her become more excited for the trip and that also seems to work. I think it's fair to let the students who need help finding courage have extra treatment. I will allow her to choose one lesson I will teach while we are out there so she feels more connected to the camping trip.

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  17. My new magic element for last year was food. I made medieval pottage (vegetable stew) for the class (one big crockpot- they each got a few bites in a dixie cup), and it was a HUGE hit. You could smell it simmering up and down the hall. Kids were so psyched to eat their vegetables (cooked in chicken broth with herbs- what else but parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme). It created the atmosphere that this unit was special, and that I cared enough to get up early to cook for them. Other food days included Mayan Monday, with foods indigenous to the Mayan empire in Mexico (brought in by volunteers) as refreshments while we watched a video about Mayan pyramids. I'm also learning to use props more to create magic- last year, we did a feudalism simulation with Burger King crowns and foam swords, WWI trenches with brown paper covering desks and star garland wrapped at the top to simulate barbed wire, and I'm collecting hats for different lessons that I can wear to set a mood. I agree with some others- it's exhausting and expensive to find and purchase all of our magic tricks- I don't do it every day- but I try to find even a small way to create a magical memory each day if I can as a "hook". It's also hard to find space to store all of my "junk" (as my principal puts it) when it's not in use- I'm going to need my own props department or closet!

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  18. When I used to teach at a Montessori school I taught a Poetry unit and some of my students were amazingly talented at it because they were able to open up and explore things and put those feelings on paper. Others struggled to write simple poems and even fill in the blank poems. I used the STAR poem format and told them to close their eyes and imagine they were anywhere in the world. Then write 5 statements (one for each sense) sight, smell, taste, hear and feel. I worked it into a poem with them and when I read it to them, with feeling, (we did have to add some more adjectives afterwards) they didn't believe they wrote it. They thought it sounded so good. After the poems had been written, we created invitations and mailed them to the students families and friends and invited them to our "Poetry Cafe." We found a recipe for homemade biscotti online and turned that into a math lesson using fractions and doubling the recipe. We also served hot chocolate and had to measure the correct amount of water into our coffee pots. When the time came, and all family and friends were set to arrive we set the lights on low, turned on some quiet jazz music and got ready. I still had some students that weren't ready to share their work yet so we decided that they could choose a poem written by either a classmate or a famous author to read aloud. After each student read their poem, they were surrounded by snapping rather than clapping, in true poetry form. They kids as well as our guests all had an amazing time. It wasn't a classroom anymore but a true jazz cafe with open mic for poetry. Amazing.
    The other time I think a lesson has stuck with my students was our "Stone Soup" skit that we worked on for fluency. For the skit the kids put on old costumes to dress as peasants/townspeople and when our wandering wise man came to the village for our skit all of the students had actual vegetables the students had brought in. We peeled the veggies together and they used plastic knives to cut them up into bite size pieces. After our wise man dropped in a polished stone (that I had scrubbed) we filled the pot with water and started adding our veggies as the skit said. One student even asked if she could bring some fresh herbs from her garden. After the skit was over I took the kettle to the kitchen where, with a little help from the kitchen staff, some chicken broth, salt and pepper, it turned into the best soup ever. Those kids LOVED that soup and remembered that story for several years.
    Now I am teaching computer lab and I am having a little more trouble finding "Magic" to create but after reading this chapter, I am considering creating a research project where the kids are scientists and have to research a topic before _____ happens. The wheels are turning, now I just need to fine tune what exactly I want them to research. Ideas? Suggestions?

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  19. The most valuable magic I offer my students is to connect content material to their lives through current events. With a minor in social studies, it tends to be how I view any subject area, and I have noticed my minister also does this with the sermons he delivers. He also finds a way to make his message relatable through current events. I think most students are more engaged because of these connections, and it doesn't hurt to expose them to what is happening in national and world news.

    On the courage front, my career has presented me with several opportunities to take a stand about a variety of issues: parental leave in our contract, dealing with attempted censorship of classroom and library materials, and other situations that seem unjust in some way. Currently, my life is presenting me plenty of challenges parenting a student from another country. Her values and belief systems are sometimes in conflict with our own. We have hosted an exchange student one other time, but we did not find it as difficult as it has been this time around. We are modeling courage to our biological daughter, and she has done the same for us through this experience.

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  20. My "magic" in the Digital Citizenship class is food! We use skittles to chart the different colors in their sample handful I give them. Upon reading this chapter, I hope to look for more opportunities to create more magic in all of my classes. I think with high school we worry or think these out of the box ideas are too cheesy. But, kids would probably even appreciate the extra effort and the passion it took to put something above and beyond together for them.

    In terms of feeling safe, I try to tell kids my story. I have lots of them as I bounced around in multiple business fields after college trying to find my way until I found teaching. I am real with the kids, telling them stories and experiences that relate to content regarding my failures and successes. The most influential people who ever lived failed many times before having their breakthroughs!

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  21. This "Magic" chapter really made me think; Could I really do this as a Title 1 teacher? I may not have my own classroom but I teach many students each day that would greatly benefit from connecting to material through imagination. With my reading students I can preview stories and come up with a theme. Then plan fun ways to introduce, read, and then review the stories. They could also act out stories to help them with speaking/acting in front of others (this might be easier for them in our small group).
    On to the courage chapter. Most of my students have fears, in and out of school. I try my best to support and encourage each of them. Finding their strong points and encouraging them and guiding them through the more difficult areas as they develop more confidence. I always encourage them to try, that is so important! I need to make sure that I am a positive mirror for them.

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  22. Magic: I teach basic English 10 and 11. I am always trying to come up with novel ways to get my students interested in the class. When we read Lord of the Flies, I set up a jungle like atmosphere in the classroom. I have a pig's mask that gets put on a stake. We build a fire. I play tribal music in the classroom. The students also get into tribes and make them their own. The students seem to really enjoy this. For 12 Angry Men, I have had my para lie down on the floor, and I create a "tape" death scene around her body. When the students come in, they see the outline of the "dead" body, along with a crime scene. The students are always fascinated by this. I get questions every day about the crime scene, as we are reading the book. The students love when I set up the classroom. Other classes will come in and say, "Why don't we get to do something like that?"
    Courage: Every human has some type of fear. My students have their own special set. I always share with them my fears to let them know that it is ok to be fearful of something, but life has to go on. I try to make my students feel as comfortable as possible in the classroom. When the students give presentations in class, you can always pick out the two or three who are very scared of the situation. They are given options about how they want to proceed. I never force a student to do something that they are absolutely scared of, like public speaking. I talk to the students, and we figure out a plan.

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    1. I love your activities for Lord of the Flies! This sounds like an amazing leaning environment for the students. I bet every class looks forward to reading the book so they can experience all that goes with it. Great way to get the kids excited about reading :-)

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    2. Love your LOF activities! I might just have to borrow some of those props next Spring :)

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  23. We celebrate National Library Week every April by hosting a variety of activities. One of my favorite days is “Dress like your Favorite Book Character or Author.” I really enjoy this day because it seems to transform many of the kids into someone they never thought they could be. It’s magical the way they take on the total persona of the character/author they are portraying. We also never seem to be lacking in the creativity area either! One year I had a student dress like Theodore Geisel and explain to students he was the real Dr. Seuss while speaking the entire day in rhymes. It was classic. This was a student who barely said two words all semester so his courage that day was off the charts!
    Again, as a librarian, I don’t have frequent opportunities to be too creative and magical with the students due to such limited time with them. I have taken the opportunity while I was at an elementary school to act out books, help the students make puppets out of lunch bags and reenact a favorite story, and transform my room into a “haunted library” while reading “spooky” Halloween books. I found the kids loved it all. I think it was just something different and away from the everyday routine they enjoyed the most.
    Kids seem to have a hidden creative/magic side if they are just encouraged to show it. I find it hard to bring high school students out of that shell easily. Acting out a scene from Shakespeare or impersonating a famous person seems to be a stretch for most kids but I find after the protests and giggles, most kids are proud of their accomplishment and finding the courage to get through the uncomfortable task.

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  24. Creating magic in the classroom is definitely something I struggle with. I am a seventh grade Literacy Connections teacher who is in search of ways to bring magic to my 50 minute class period, so please send ideas! I fear that I am too nervous about the Indiana Assessment and devote most of the time to my standards. I realize I can teach standards and ad a level of fantasy too it, I just need some guidance!
    I agree with the quote "It is okay to be introverted, but every child must be able to communicate effectively." Every year I share with my students that I have a fear of public speaking and while I am comfortable speaking to a room of middle schoolers, I am a mess when I have to talk to their parents at open house. By showing them I have fears in communicating, they realize that their fear isn't irrational and it's something they can conquer. I tell them how I practice what I am going to say, have a safety note card on hand, as well as strategies to use when public speaking.

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  25. MAGIC today in Social Studies 6- did a very simple eruption of a volcano to introduce our study of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. Very simple Science explanation to connect to our STEM theme at school, but kids loved it! Then an archaeology video exploring the ancient city and volcano, followed tomorrow by a practice ISTEP reading and writing prompt over the topic. One of the kids favorite parts of Rome!

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  26. I often use literature as a jumping off point when trying to inspire students to use their imaginations in my first grade. We always begin the year with Dr. Seuss, a good example since he doesn't hesitate to create creatures, places, and even words to fuel his stories! The other day I gave each of my students some 'oobleck' (homemade playdoh colored green) to explore with their fingers as I read them the story of Bartholomew and King Derwin of Didd. I then challenged them to write and draw what they would do if they were caught in the oobleck storm. In the future, I can ask them to use their 'Dr. Seuss imaginations' whenever I want them to know the sky is the limit! As far as letting my children know they shouldn't be afraid to try, we have a saying in my class, 'It's OK to make a mistake in Room 1B.' My class hears that often whenever someone is hesitant to give an answer for fear of getting it wrong.

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  27. Teaching Spanish is full of magical moments: skits, dialogs, oral presentations, crafts, fiestas, music, food, games, and more. I am lucky to teach a subject that has so many of these moments.
    The magic begins in the first few weeks of Spanish I. Students usually come to me knowing a limited amount of Spanish. Within the first few weeks, the magic happens. Students are eager to show off their newly acquired skill.
    At the end of semester, when students are taking their semester exam, I pass out a package of Magical Smarties to each student. When they do not know an answer to a question, they should pop a Smartie in their mouth and a magical ring appears around the right answer! It’s not real magic, but the students relax a bit and proceed to take the test. A few students joke saying that they could probably use several packages! One year, I forgot to give an upper level class their Smarties and after the test the comment was made that they sure could have used their magical Smarties!

    Generally language students’ fears are fear of speaking out loud in class and the fear of making mistakes. I try to encourage them to speak loud and proud and if mistakes are made…learn from them and go on.

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  28. One of the reasons that I love teaching kindergarten is that kindergarten kiddos think that EVERYTHING their teacher does is magic. I have magic "pick me sticks" so that everyone gets a turn, I have magic abc sprinkles to help us learn our letters and learn to read, magic butter sticks (highlighthers) to "butter up" sightwords, magic monster fingers to help us track words while we read, magic songs to help us do our best... Turning everyday activities into magic doesn't have to expensive, it just takes a little imagination on my part. I would love to create magic on a larger scale...whole classroom transformations for units or themes that we're working on, but time, money ,and pressure to get standards mastered always interfere with my big plans!
    As for courage, there are many fears in kindergarten. I never know on a given day what fear I'll be helping a little one face. Today, it was bees...one of my little ones had a dream that bees were attacking her and no one helped. The first thing she told me when she came into school was that she didn't want to go to recess because she was afraid of the bees. She was in tears. I told her recess was part of our day, and we'd all be going out, but I also gave her ways to cope...what to do if a bee got close, how to walk away, who to go to for help, even what to do if she DID get stung. She went to recess, and came back in smiling. She was still afraid of bees, but she knew how to handle it. I know bees aren't the same thing as public speaking, but all fears can be faced if we just help our students devise a plan to face them, and then give them a controlled opportunity to do so.

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    1. Teresa, I totally agree that planning can be so helpful to confronting fears!

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  29. As a Spanish teacher, I like to incorporate 'magic' while teaching cultural lessons...my favorite one involves May 5 and talking about how General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the massive and very well trained French army with a rag-tag group of farmers with some weapons and some pitch-forks...I believe that it really helps the students remember parts of the holiday...
    As for introverted students, as a Spanish teacher it is very important that the students practice 'speaking' in Spanish, so I have a lot of 'partner' speaking activities which allows: 1. all students to speak every day, 2. me to walk around and help them with their pronunciation without every one knowing that they made a mistake, 3. it gives them more confidence when I call on students to go over the same activity but this time for the whole class...I have found this really helps those introverted or shy students speak with the whole class listening.

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  30. Reading the chapter on Magic, it really reminded me of some of the examples in the book Teach Like a Pirate. "Creating magic for others is worth the effort that it takes." This brought me back to my teaching days when we would share our published works of writing. The kids knew how much I loved my Starbucks, so I created a café atmosphere for them to share out and celebrate the hard work they had put into their creations. Low lighting, soft music, a fake microphone, chairs in a circle...and of course hot chocolate! It was so fun...for me and them! In this instance, my interests/loves and theirs aligned. I did appreciate how the author shared how important it is to know your audience and their interests to best prepare for magical experiences!

    The Courage chapter reminded me of the advice of Dale Carnegie, Understand and confront the worst thing that can happen and accept it...this will help rid you of worry and crippling fear. I have a fear of height and speed...not a fan of roller coasters. Recently I tried a Zipline course with my five year old...he had to give me a pep talk! It was so worth the experience of doing that with my son and while I might not conquer a roller coaster any time soon, I was thankful for him and my husband who supported me through one of my paralyzing fears!

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  31. There's a lot of magic in the library just by the fact that it's full of books. Having a variety of technology also makes it magical. I do contests and displays occasionally to hopefully inspire students. When they say things like, "Find me a book like this one that I didn't want to end," or "I want to read the book before I see the movie." Too me, that shows the magical world of reading.
    Showing students that I'm not worried by what they think about me while I'm doing book talks might inspire their courage. I always think that I'm a pretty funny person until I get in front of a group of freshmen who are stone faced at my "jokes." I keep going because I just laugh at myself and hope that maybe they get something from that.

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  32. Magic in the classroom.... This year might prove to be somewhat more "magical," as we have moved to a 90 minute block of Humanities. With this flexibility, comes the opportunity to build wonderment in the classroom. One of the most interesting points in this chapter, is the fact that as adults, we don't tend to take chances often enough. We need to be human! We need to exercise our imagination, regardless of the age level in which we teach. With the opportunity of incorporating U.S. History this year, I'm hoping to integrate creative methods of imagination, magic, and wonder. Next week, we begin the colonist acts following the French & Indian War. I'd like to incorporate the "magic" into these lessons. I don't have the plan yet, but I would love to hear ideas that others might have on this topic, as this is my first year integrating U.S. History content with language arts. I believe humanities lends itself to engaging imaginative thinking through art and music specifically based on the time periods.

    Student fears at the middle school level, tend to revolve around public speaking. Many students are stifled at the thought of speaking in front of their classmates. For this reason, I incorporate group collaboration from day one. Many are still reluctant to speak with even a small number of students. Additionally, I incorporate individual presentations almost the third week of school. This year, I had one student in particular, that was so nervous and scared, she developed hives during the class. In an effort to assist her, I suggested that the two of us would present together. We stood up front together and conducted the presentation by speaking together. Sometimes she'd skip speaking during a whole slide, but by the end, she had participated more than she thought she ever could. She even told me afterwards that it wasn't as bad as she had thought. By understanding and sharing her fear, we got through it together.

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  33. Imagination is an integral part of band class. After the notes and the rhythms are learned it is time to breathe life into the music. As a music instructor I have to come up with creative ways to help students play expressively. I have used a multiple of examples throughout my career; the sillier they are the better they seem to work. “This part is very light, just use one taste bud when you tongue,” or “that note is too high, think low thoughts like dirt and earthworms.” As a director you can also translate music expression with motions. I have been known to skip when music is light and make big sweeping motions and very serious faces when the music is intense. When music is played with expression, it is magical.

    Beginning band students have many fears to overcome as they take on the task of learning to play a new instrument. After rehearsing a song as a class, I ask each student to play in front of the class. The first time can be overwhelming. Many students are eager to “show what they know,” but others are terrified. To assuage their fears, we first discuss proper audience/listening etiquette. We talk about encouraging one another, because in band, when one person succeeds the entire band succeeds. I find smiling helps puts the students at ease, as well as being a little bit silly. If a student has difficulty starting or is reluctant to play, I just have them start with the first note and then move on to the next. If they are still having trouble, I go to their stand, point to their notes, and show them their fingerings, all in an encouraging manner. When each student is finished playing, and the applause has faded, I always give the student positive comments and then follow-up with ways to improve. The first “public” performance is always the hardest. By the end of the year they are more confident and relaxed.

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    1. I completely relate to your comments regarding beginning band students. So many kids get stage fright and need gentle encouragement to perform for others. Once they get over the nerves, they can play with confidence and show off those growing skills!

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  34. I would love to be in Mrs. Bearden's class! What an imagination she has to bring the magic of learning to her students. It is refreshing to hear that the entire school built this community of wonder. Although I can't say that I've ever done anything as involved as a fog machine, I do try to make my lessons as engaging as I can. Music, videos, and games are things I regularly use to keep my students' attention. A really good hook can get your students on board to even the most mundane topic.

    I really strive to build a community of learners where my students feel safe to take risks. At fourth grade the kiddos are becoming more socially aware and can feel a little awkward when they make a mistake in front of their peers. By developing a caring and supportive team with in the classroom, it is easier for them to try new things and share their thoughts and opinions. In the past I've done weekly speeches. At first some students are really nervous to get up in front of the class. As the year goes on and everyone sees how kind and encouraging the other students are to each other, it becomes easier to stand tall and speak clearly.

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  35. As I was reading “Magic” I felt saddened because there is such a loss of creativity in high school students. Getting them to do what I would describe as “magical” and fun activities, is often like pulling teeth. I’m excited to see what other secondary teachers do to inspire and add magic!

    One thing I would love to incorporate is after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, after students complete their character analysis, they are invited to “Tea with Mrs. Reed.” They must bring an item with them their character would have, talk as if they are that character, and interact with other “characters” in my room, while having tea. Students need to be prepared to discuss their feelings toward the major events in the novel, as well as what they are up to now, after the end of the novel. I saw this idea online a few years ago and have been saving it, but something always happens where we don’t have enough time to do it.

    In the past I have had students do a poetry slam, which seems to build a lot of students’ confidence in their writing abilities. They are always at first moaning that they have to write original poetry and share it aloud with the class. However, once they complete their poems and they get such positive responses from other students, I can tell they feel very proud of themselves and learn that they are capable of breaking through scary situations and coming out on top. I think this starts with providing a safe and positive learning environment, where students feel comfortable with each other, and are willing to offer praise rather than degrade each other. These expectations have to start early in the year, and I expect them to be maintained throughout the semester.

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    1. I was a little saddened too just thinking about some of the magic that has left our classrooms because of so much standardized testing. Teachers feel the pressure to cover the material so the students are ready for a test that some of the fun/creativity has been lost. Elementary students need magic, crave magic, and thrive with magic. They are easy to excite simply by doing anything a little different. If the teacher shows enthusiasm it is caught by the students. I've seen magic in lessons through books, plays, food, music, technology, props, wonder, special guests, projects, etc.

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  36. I agree with Steven that kids need to know that we make mistakes. I let my first graders know right away that I am not a good artist. Of course I show them that we need to try and that we do our personal best, but I also let them know that even I might need help or assistance from a 1st grader when I am trying to draw something! :) I teach them that we all have strengths and weaknesses because we are all unique and special.
    When we start our centers/work stations in September, each child has the duty of being the “leader” of their small group at least once a week. The leader is in charge of pointing at the Word Wall and the Poetry Corner. They are in charge of operating the cassette player at the Listening Center, and they choose their partner for Buddy Reading. I feel like this helps the children who are followers or who are extremely shy to come out of their shell, and it helps them to become more assertive and confident.
    Starting in January, I let one child read a day to our class during our Read-Aloud time. They must read a book at their level from their Guided Reading group so that this experience will be successful and enjoyable. They really look forward to this and also when they read a piece of their own writing from the Author’s Chair!
    Of course Show and Tell at this age and words of praise and encouragement, at any age, are great ways to support students in overcoming fears that hold them back. 


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  37. I really liked all the different ways she made her classroom magical. I think we tend to forget with all the testing and monitoring of the students that they are just kids and we need to foster their imaginations. I think it is a lot easier to keep the magic alive with Kindergarten kids. One way that I helped my students with their imagination last year was by reading the book “We’re going on a Lion Hunt.” We created the different scenes using different mediums – like blue cellophane for the water, pipe cleaners for sticks and yarn for grass. The students then acted out the story. I teach ESL, so this was a fantastic way to practice story retell. They had the most fun I think that they had all year and it helped stretch their imaginations.

    Since I do teacher ESL to Kindergartners, I really have to work on building a classroom that encourages students to take risks. It takes several weeks for my students to even talk to me for the first time sometimes. I help them by making them feel loved and respected in my group. I see them for only 30 minutes a day, so I have to make it count. I try to find things at the beginning that I know they will be successful at. Once they see that they are able to do the things I’m asking them to do and help build their confidence, I then encourage them to take risks.

    I personally was one of those students who never spoke in class. Even into college I would get very anxious if I had to speak in front of class. Put me in front of students and I’m all about speaking, but once I’m in front of my peers forget it. I wish that I had had someone who would have helped me to learn that I could take risks while I was in school. This is why I feel I can relate to these students and I can really help them in learning to take these risks and to have the courage to show others what they know.

    As others have said above, it is important for our students to know it is ok to make mistakes. When I taught 5th grade, I would make a mistake and I would say "Oops, but is that ok?" Then we would talk about how we could learn from this. I think it's important for them to see that I'm not perfect.

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  39. My subject lends itself to creating magic (7th grade science). We were studying the 3 types of rocks and how each is formed. My students were taking notes on metamorphic rocks and we discussed all the ways in our real life that heat and pressure can change something. In our discussion, cooking always came up (with a little guidance from me!). I got out the candles and we made s'mores! We looked at the individual pieces, where we added heat and pressure and how our "rock" changed. Students then wrote in the interactive science notebook about how making a s'more was similar to a metamorphic rock forming. We shared what we wrote, added to our writing and edited our work, then re-shared. It takes a lot of courage for students to share their writing...but in this case it was like we were all sitting around eating our "rocks" and discussing, sharing what happened. It was even better when other teachers stopped in to see what the smell was all about and my kids got to show off their knowledge. It was a magical moment for all my students but especially for the two boys that had never eaten a s'more and the one boy that had never made one before. Magical and informative!

    It can be really tough to keep that magic when you are changing classes every 50 minutes. It is a kid's nature to talk about what happened but that can take the element of surprise away from the kids coming into your room. One year I did a lesson that really depended on the surprise being kept secret. I made it until the last class with no one knowing. Carl knew...I could just tell and I was half waiting for him to ruin the surprise for everyone. He had a lot of looks and a few smirks but he never said anything. At the very end, I asked him if he knew ahead of time and he said yes that someone at his lunch table told him. He didn't say anything because he didn't want to spoil it for everyone else. I felt Carl and I had a moment - it was really cool and another reason I was glad I had worked hard to build a relationship with my students. So it is not always easy to create the magic but it is so worth it when you see their faces and hear them talking excitedly about your class. It also reminds me of what is really important in my class room...building excitement and magic for my subject and learning...test scores aren't everything.

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  40. I found these two chapters very helpful. So often I get more caught up in keeping my lessons organized rather than interesting or fun. I lack a certain level of creativity in planning lessons. We have so much material to cover every year I get caught up in my schedule rather than looking at my classroom from a student point of view. I think high school students get really tired of the monotony of their classes.

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  41. I think these two chapters remind me that I need to look at my classroom from the student's perspective and try to be more interesting and fun with the material. Just because you have a lot of material to cover doesn't mean lessons have to be boring. Taking risks is an important part of this. I find myself afraid of taking risks in my approach to lessons as I do not want to look stupid or incompetent.

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  42. Many of my students are afraid to speak in front of other students. So, I have added two math projects that students get to pick the topic. One project they have to plan a trip with a specified budget, create a graph for expenses and at least a 5 slide Power point presentation. I push them to pick a location where they think they would have the most fun and then plan the trip. I also require a 500 word essay about their trip. I love learning about them through their essays and their presentations. The students get low risk practice speaking about a trip that is interesting to them. The other project is a survey project where the students pick a topic and then write 5 questions to gather data from 60 individuals. An essay and Power points with graphs that analyze the data are required. Once again, I learn a lot about my students and most students find they are not afraid to present in front of the class. The two presentations days end up being really fun and interesting days for both myself and my students. To lighten the atmosphere, I encourage my students to bring a snack so we can all feel more relaxed.

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  43. As a PE teacher making the classroom creative is a little difficult since I share the gym as a cafeteria at lunch time. I do not have a lot of time to take down and put up displays. I do try to do activities that children may not experience. For example, we are presently doing Frisbee Golf. I use poles and make the tables vertical to make obstacles for the students to shoot around. During our dance segment we use videos such as Dancing to the Oldies where students have a dancing instructor other than myself.

    When students are afraid of something we take it in baby steps. For example, in doing Frisbee I had a first grader absolutely refuse to toss one. So I took him aside and gave a personal lesson. When he tossed one for the first time he found out it didn't hurt to throw and he didn't hit anyone. He was more assured on his second throw and with his third he got it in the hole.

    It goes back to the old saying "Know your students." Create an atmosphere of fun and learning will follow.

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  44. I believe that we have magic everyday in our preschool room because the students create it with their own imagination in learning! While I like using technology, I am careful not to use it a lot because these children need to use their imagination to create excitement and they do. They love Going On a Bear Hunt and they use their imaginations to create the environment of their own.
    I am also incorporating puppets more this year for creative learning in literacy, play and modeling behavior.

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  45. I found these chapters very inspiring and hope they serve as a reminder to be creative in my classroom. As a high school teacher, it is a little hard to equate what she is doing in a fifth grade classroom to what I do. Teenagers can be very jaded, but I also think they secretly appreciate it when there is an attempt to make things more interesting. It all goes back to the first chapter on developing relationships and connections with our kids. If we are able to do that successfully, then the students will respond with more enthusiasm when we try to be creative with our lesson planning. That then carries on to her advice about courage -- creative lesson planning takes courage and a willingness to put ourselves out there and maybe make a fool of ourselves in front of our students. But, if we have taken the time to develop positive relationships with our kids, they will respond. The main problem I run into is time -- isn't that true for everyone?? Creative lesson planning takes time and it always feels like there is never enough.

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  46. Being an introvert is different than being socially awkward. It is our job as educators to see the difference and work with children as we needed. In my position as a special education teacher, I feel I have more of an opportunity to see the differences to work with each child I am given. The general population has more of a struggle in this, I believe.

    I have found that many times the magic happens because of what the kids bring into the discussion or activity. It is my job to be the facilitator and not the controller. The lesson may not go as planned on some occasions,but I have found magic in the middle of it. For me, it has always been in the little moments where I find magic in the classroom, not in the big planned out, extravagant lessons.

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  47. The part that stuck out most to me in this chapter was the part where the technology specialist went out and bought the remaining chopsticks that Kim Bearden needed for her magical lesson. I am sure he was plenty busy with other things he had to do, but he went out of his way to help this teacher and ultimately the students.
    I find I am very lucky to work at a school where all the teachers work very well together. I teach 4 sections of our lower geometry course and I work with many special education teachers, aides and other math teachers. Everyone is extremely helpful and willing to share ideas and strategies. I find the "magic" starts to happen later in the semester when the students realize they really can do these types of problems and they start putting all the pieces together.

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  48. I teach MS/HS reading, so a lot of times it's difficult to incorporate the type of magic that the students really need to bring the concepts to life. One of my favorite lessons was teaching dystopian literature. I walked into the classroom, immediately commanded everyone to stand up, and started grouping students based on different things. I had prearranged with another teacher that I would be sending 4 students into her classroom for about 15 minutes and she was ok with that! I seated the kids in new seats and immediately began going over the "new" rules, which included that students will now receive grades based on different things, there was no more discussion allowed, etc. Students were flabbergasted. They thought it was true.
    After about 20 minutes, I introduced the concept of dystopias. Instantly the students made connections. They always referred back to that lesson when trying to remember what dystopias were.
    While I'm not always able to make magic like the author, I did take some inspiration from the fact that you absolutely have to try to find the magic where you can.

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  49. I am so glad someone has finally brought up the “magic” that is learning. When I read this it reminded me of exactly why I wanted to be a teacher so very long ago but seemed to have lost the zeal these past 5 years. This chapter is exactly what I needed to restart the engines! I’m already thinking about how to bring authentic learning back into my classroom with “magic”! The children will learn more, think deeper, and apply!
    I was also thinking about courage and how I help children to be courageous in the classroom. Keeping the classroom safe and teaching respect are ways to help children feel less threatened. Younger children are often more than ready to share but you always have the shy ones who need that chance to grow and shine.
    So far this book has been the best read yet!

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  50. Bringing the magic is something I strive for, that I want to bring. There are times when I know it is just not happening though. I often have ideas, but due to various reasons, I just cannot seem to make it happen. All too often the issue is time - teaching six different classes over three grade levels, taking 6 grad hours, serving as eLearning coach, and a dad to two great kids doesn't leave much time to plan and do some of my ideas that I have. Getting that out of the way, teaching science allows for quite a bit of "magic" to happen, it is always great for kids to see a quick demo or do an experiment or investigation and be amazed by what is happening. Who would have thought that a pipette in a bottle with a nut attached would amaze kids as it did this week? We were learning about density and I showed them "squiddie", which goes up and down in the bottle when squeezed, and they were amazed. Until they were able to figure out how I could control him, they were amazed, some even after they figured it out!

    I hope to build the courage of my students, I try to encourage them to step-out of their comfort zone by doing so myself. It is so easy to stay in our little box and not be willing to leave its borders, I've been there and I have to fight the natural tendency to be comfortable. I try to make myself uncomfortable to extend my box. I also think that allowing students to see this and speaking honestly about it helps students to do the same.

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  51. My sophomores and I are currently studying “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I like to do this unit at the send of September and into October because there are Frankenstein-monster images in all the stores at this time of year. The image is on candy packages, costumes, and decorations for Halloween. The students are visually reminded of the story every time they go into a store. The “magical” part of this is that stores ,like Walmart, have gummy body parts candy. I buy this each year to give to the students when we read the chapter in which the monster is created. It is fun and a little bit gross. The students love it.

    Just a side note: I also buy enough of these to give to my seniors when we read the witches’ cauldron speech during “Macbeth”.

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  52. In my classroom, I taught students with moderate disabilities. They all enjoyed books and stories, especially when I could make the books come more "alive" and interactive with difference character voices and props. My class, like most others, preferred activities and lessons that were much more interactive and student centered. Trying to come up with those ideas to cover various topics was a challenge at times, but the kids were much more engaged and seemed to enjoy the day more when I could do that.

    Concerning overcoming fears, I made sure that my students knew that my classroom was a safe place. This kind of thing happened much more often in my reading class. The students knew that there expected level of sharing/participating in front of the class increased as the year went on. However, they also knew from talks I had with them about the expectations when their peers shared or were in front of the room that everyone was expected to be respectful. As the year(s) went on the students shared their stories with less fear and stage fright and became more comfortable and more willing to be the first to volunteer.

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  53. I loved the chapter about Magic especially. I teach high school, and I sometimes feel like there is absolutely none. I guess it goes right along with the next chapter about getting over fears. I think that I am afraid to try certain things for fear of how a high school aged kid will react. Even they need to use their imaginations and look beyond just what they have to do to get by. This is something I really want to work on!

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  54. I was amazed by the creativity Kim Bearden demonstrates in her classroom. It makes me think about how I can bring more creativity to my own classroom. One of the things I do in my room that I think does allow students to suspend belief, is my cooperating teacher and I hold a trial near the end of the year. Our students place significant people from the Holocaust and Civil War on trial for crimes against humanity. The students write the scripts and the create the trials for their classmates who act as the jury.

    Helping students to face their fears is very difficult. I try and help my students to understand that trying and failing is part of the learning experience. Also, my co-teacher is an English teacher, so we ask our students to stand and present their material very often. At first , they visibly fight nerves, but by the end of the year, the transformation is incredible.

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  55. The first lesson in Geometry is about measurement. Instead of just teaching the lesson from the textbook, I introduced the students to the Idea of measurement. I tell the students about a MIT student named Oliver Smoot who was pledging a fraternity. As a prank, his fraternity brothers used Oliver to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge. This prank has become widely known and Google Maps and Google Earth lists Smoots as an option for a unit of measurement instead of using miles or kilometers. We then created our own units of measurement using our own students. So we measured the length of the classroom as 11 Kaitlyns. The width of the hallway was 2 ½ Mikes, etc.

    I believe that courage is something that you can teach to students. The main lesson is that being wrong is not the end of the road. I give students the opportunity to try an idea out. If it doesn’t work, we talk about what could have been done to improve upon the first attempt. Then the students get a chance to try again. I also give students second chances on quizzes. I group students according to what they had difficulty with on the quiz. Each group then completes a review assignment that concentrates on what they need help with. Almost all students do better on the quiz the second try.

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  56. An example of having courage and creating magic was the night I created the "Twilight Night, Read and Feed." With the help of a few colleagues, we transformed the entire library into the meadow scene from Stephenie Meyer's books. We then had a trivia game, viewing of the first movie, food, and prizes. It took some time, money, and help from others, but I'm sure it was a night students have not forgotten.

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  57. As an elementary librarian who sees 910 students a week (each class for 30 minutes at a time while at least 10 minutes of that time is allowed for checking out books) finding time to make magic happen is not always easy. But, libraries are made up of stories and stories in themselves are magic. :)

    When I teach my 1st graders how to use shelf markers, I always read The Shelf Elf to them and when they ask if the Shelf Elf is real, of course I say, Yes! One year I had a child come and tell me that the Shelf Elf had bit them! Lol! I also use a Romanian accent when reading Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots to the 2nd graders. They are convinced that Mrs.Jeepers is a real vampire! For kindergartners, I use flannelboard stories, songs, rhymes, puppets, stuffed animals and my favorite draw and tell story called Bingo which they ask me to do over and over after finishing. I read aloud Sideways Stories of Wayside School to fourth graders which is a special kind of magic in itself.

    As far as courage goes, I start out every year reading the 2nd graders the story Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco because this is a true story of how a little girl struggled to learn to read until a special teacher came along and helped her learn to read. She was also severely bullied so we talk about the courage it took to overcome being bullied and the difficulties she had learning to read and how she grew up to be a successful children's author and illustrator. I always read this story to give hope to those children who might be struggling to learn how to read themselves.

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  58. The magic chapter was difficult for me. I found myself thinking over and over again, "Who has time to go in and set up their classroom like that" , "how long did that take her", or "how much did that cost her". I had to remind myself several times to stop having such a negative attitude toward that. As the mother of 3 very busy middle/high school aged kids, I am often at odds with myself about whether I'm more needed at home to help with homework or attend a sporting event or making dinner, or washing uniforms, or if I'm more needed in my classroom until the evening hours doing more for my students. I think time, money, and my lack of creative abilities keep me from being able to incorporate this "magic" into my 8th grade classroom. It is an area of weakness of mine, and I found that reading this chapter in particular, I turn that aversion to artistic things into negativity. It is an area I need to focus on and improve in.

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    1. I liked how you were very honest in this post. I felt this way also at times during the chapter. It is difficult to be creative and find that magic on a regular basis.

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    2. I also love your honesty that you have in your post! I am also a mother of three busy children under the age of 7 and I struggle with this daily. I feel that when I give more at work to create that "magic," then something lacks at home. If I give more of myself at home, then I feel some of the "magic" suffers in my classroom. It is truly hard for me to find that balance of both. I want to do well in all areas and at times to give that 100% in all places is difficult. It is good to hear that I am not alone in this.

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    3. I have to be completely honest, I was relieved to read your post. It's good to know I am not the only person thinking,"wow! That's amazing, but how do you have the time and how much did that cost." Negative attitude- not really! Just in awe of the lesson immersion and have a lot of questions on how you pull all that together! I guess- magic!

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  59. I sometimes feel as though I need magic every day to keep my students engaged. I am a Special Education teacher who works with 5th graders. I followed the students from 4th grade so I have a good relationship with most of them. My magic comes in smaller forms. A large majority of what I do is testing and progress monitoring. I feel as though I can’t always make things as magical as I want. Recently, I went to a small workshop on clickers in the classroom. I think this would add to the fun. Although it may not seem very magical, to my kids it is a new form of fun. By using these clickers, I will be able to let the program do all of my grading and I can quickly assess who needs redirection promptly. This, I hope, will allow me more time to create magical lessons.
    We are currently reading a book that has a mysterious pumpkin elf. The students love the book thus far because I am creating scenes from the book as we read them. I am taking the book and making it come alive. One thing that I have done so far was create a small note on a pumpkin. I signed it from the pumpkin elf and made sure to mimic what the elf had said in the book. When the students realized it was similar to what was happening they really got into the book. Now, if you ask any of my kids, they would tell you not to tell me that the elf is not real. They know it’s not; however, they believe that I believe it is and that’s what is keeping them engaged. They are finding ways to act out scenes and play along with what is going on. I have seen very creative avenues from this.

    Like others, I hope to build the courage of my students. Many of my students work very hard but find it difficult to see that even small gains are great gains. By building courage and confidence, my students would be able to further themselves and their own education.

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  60. I enjoyed reading about how the author created magic in her classroom. It encourages me to continue to think of ways that I can create magic in my classroom. I know that it will take time and it is an on going process, but it will be worth it. This is my first year teaching resource English. (English for non diploma students.) Hopefully over time I can add in things that help my students use their imaginations. One thing I have started to do is use Rory story cubes (Dice with pictures on them to guide in telling a story) with my students as a group and we create a story together. We have had fun with that.
    I hope that in my classes that I am able to encourage students to do their best and for them to feel that they are in a safe environment in which they can ask for help and an environment that everyone can communicate. It is important for students to be able to communicate their needs, wants, feeling, and dreams. Sometimes this takes a while and sometimes you need to let the student communicate things one on one before they feel able to do it in a small group or a larger one. But students need to be able to communicate with one another and eventually with those who they do not know. It is a life skill that everyone needs to have.

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  61. What a "magical chapter"! I had so much fun reading how immersed her students were in these lessons as well as how willing they were to imagine and "believe"! It parallels the innocence of young children in their beliefs of Santa, fairy tales, a Disney World etc. It truly is amazing to witness such imagination and innocence when teaching kindergarteners and my own children! I am reminded of the many years the leprechaun visited our room- wreaking havoc and leaving behind over turned chairs, scattered art supplies, books throughout the room, water running, and gold flecks! It didn't cost me anything and only took a few minutes to create a lasting memory for both students and the parents (relaying what the heard upon dismissal that day!). It was magical because they let their imagination run free and allowed themselves to wonder!
    Wow! To be a fly on the wall in her classroom--awesome!! Through teaching, I have found it important to always acknowledge a students fear, and begin by talking about it. Everyone feels vulnerable at different times and I always try to draw on my own experiences, fears, and stories to model that vulnerability and fear are normal feelings/ road blocks that can be overcome!

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  62. I taught a moderate disabilities life skills class. My students' attention spans varied so greatly that a concept like "House of Ing" would have been too much for them. But I did create mini magic moments in the classroom on a daily basis, whether it was reading a chosen picture book during story time and using my reading voices (which the kids loved) or the magic of a simple science experiment where they were completely hands-on.

    Helping students conquer fears, I allowed them to acknowledge their fears and then we slowly worked towards making them more comfortable. For example, most of the students in my reading classes were so shy at the beginning of the school year. They did not want to read aloud and just talking about sharing projects in front of the class made them look away from me when I talked about it. By the end of the year, most had made huge improvements and volunteered to share or read aloud.

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  63. I enjoy reading about how she interacts with her students. She gets them engaged and that can be a very difficult task. The students I struggle with most are the ones who just don't care. I have tried different activities with my vocabulary lessons and the kids seem more engaged but I don't know how well it is working for retention long term. I like her creativity and wish I had more of it. For reading aloud I have started standing right next to them and modeled it then had them read with me right there to quietly assist with difficult words. I also let them know that everyone makes errors including me and that it's perfectly acceptable. That has worked with all but one kiddo.

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