Sunday, October 27, 2013

Math Fishing & Pick Up Ducks!

Students love learning using our inflatable pool! In a multi-age classroom, it's hard to find an activity that everyone can play with a format that is visually similar. I've created an activity that is perfect for differentiated fun!


Pick Up Ducks

I got this duck pond on (see link below). I fill it with an inch or so of water so it doesn't make a mess. I put weighted ducks in it. Non-weighted rubber ducks topple over. Learned that the hard way!

On the bottom of each duck, I write a math fact with permanent marker. Students pick up the duck and solve the fact.

Here's a picture of the exact duck pond and ducks we use, from Amazon.

Get the duck pond and ducks here:


Fishing to Learn

I also laminate fish and have students go fishing. I have a strong laminator, so I can actually put the laminated fish in water, damage-free! Test it out with an extra paper to see if it works!

I made fishing poles by tying strings to wooden poles and attaching a magnet to the bottom of the string. I put metal paper clips on each fish's mouth to attract the magnets. Students love to "fish" for math facts!

I put together a Fishing to Learn Math Bundle that contains fish for number recognition, number word, addition facts, subtraction facts, and multiplication facts. Get it here!


 Each set is also available individually. Get them here:

  Number Recognition Fish

 Number Word Fish


 Addition Facts Fish

 Subtraction Facts Fish


Multiplication Facts Fish

Do you use any fun activities like picking up ducks or fishing with your students? Share in the comments below!

Happy fishing!

A Peach for the Teach

Saturday, October 26, 2013

ADHD and Anxiety - The Vicious Circle

Nearly every building in a city has an important purpose, and streets connect busy workers from one key location to another.  Each of these systems ensures that the city operates effectively, and a disruption may have serious implications for one particular function of the city, or worse-- for all of the city.  The human brain is much like a busy city, with multiple processes working simultaneously to effectively carry out brain function, making important connections across the brain. 

What happens in the brain of a child with ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disability of the brain that is characterized by difficulty with attention, focus, impulsivity, and over-activity. There are three types of ADHD.

Predominately hyperactive-impulsive type:
difficulty with controlling behavior, over-activity, and impulsivity. 

Predominately inattentive type:
difficulty with maintaining attention and focus. 

Predominately hyperactive-impulsive-inattentive type:
difficulty with attention, focus, controlling behavior, and over-activity

(National Resource Center on ADHD, 2011)

Anxiety refers to students' negative feelings of worry, unease,
or nervousness, or a learner's perceived threat to danger.

Learning involves focused processing
that requires simultaneous brain function
and may cause anxiety for students with ADHD.

It's a “vicious circle.” Here's why.   
In some inservices I've taught, I've presented a simulation that gives an idea of what this feels like. Try it with yourself and your colleagues!

I gave most of the teachers in the room Prompt #1 below, and they were able to answer it fairly quickly. I distributed Writing Prompt #2 to a select few individuals, who took much longer. While they struggled to finish (and a few even gave up!) I prodded them with statements like, "If you don't hurry up, you'll miss recess," "Maybe I need to call your parents," and "Focus!" -- You know, the typical things said to students who seem to be taking forever to finish an assignment and appear off-task.

After the simulation, everyone discussed their anxiety levels, embarrassment, and apathy. It's interesting to see how something that looks like defiance is just simply defeat.

Small adjustments to assignments can be made to level the playing field for our students with ADHD and anxiety related disorders. Here are a few!
  • Divide questions with two parts into two individual questions. This will reduce the anxiety caused by short term memory needs.
  • Test orally, or scribe for students. This will reduce the last two levels of brain processing (i.e., processed question - processed answer - processed verbalization of answer - processed plan for written answer - process of writing answer).
  • Provide an uncluttered test format.
  • Cover questions to display only one at a time.
  • Provide a location free of distractions for testing.
  • Allow for retesting when the student is not displaying heightened anxiety.
What types of things do you implement in your classroom to reduce anxiety? Share in the comments below!


A Peach for the Teach

Thursday, October 17, 2013

23 FREEBIES at the Facebook Frenzy October 18-21 - Starts Oct 18 at 8 AM!

A Peach for the Teach is participating in today's Facebook Frenzy!

Beginning at 8:00 AM on October 18, the October Facebook Frenzy begins! Download fall freebies exclusively offered on our Facebook fan pages from the 18th through the 21st!

Simply "like" a page, download your freebie, like the next page, download that freebie, and so on.

You'll get 23 AWESOME freebies!

Please remember to click through all 23 pages.

Look at the pages where you'll get the 23 awesome freebies:

Here's a preview to my freebie-- just one of the 23 freebies you could grab over the next couple days!

Get started on your "liking" frenzy HERE (after 8 AM on Oct 18)!

Happy liking,

A Peach for the Teach

Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Handle Meltdowns, Storms, Rages, or Tantrums

Imagine you get a phone call from your best friend saying she needs you to pick her up at work right away. She is working on a high-stress legal case. She had an impossible day at work and simply cannot focus anymore. She is choosing to leave a half hour early and come in early to finish her work the next day when she is better able to focus. She just needs to go home and relax tonight. Would you lecture her about her responsibilities, threaten her with punishment, force her to go back into work this instant, or remind her about how she was having such a great week until this? Or would you take her home? Needless to say, we would pick her up and try to make her feel better on the drive home.

But what if you have a student in a difficult reading class who is working on a high-stress assignment? He had an impossible day at school and simply cannot focus anymore. He is choosing to leave the classroom and make up the work tomorrow during homeroom, when he is better able to focus. He just wants to go to the resource room and relax. Would you allow him to do that?

"All the other children don't get to leave the classroom when they get frustrated."

We hear that all the time. But the truth is that all the other kids don't need to leave the classroom. You can either let him leave the room in a rehearsed and controlled manner-- or he will plead, refuse, or engage in a rage or attack and be escorted out of the classroom. Either way he is going to escape the situation. Why not let him save face, learn that using his words will better gain his access to wants/needs than tantruming, and finish it tomorrow?

Isn't the point of assessments and assignments to teach and assess what students have learned? The child isn't going to show an accurate picture of what he knows in this moment, and he certainly isn't going to learn anything. I can't even begin to tell you how many Monday spelling tests had scribbles, Xs, or rips, but received 100% scores when retested on Tuesday-- when the child was no longer escalated and was better able to focus.

The argument, "All the other kids in here don't get to..." is a bit flawed. All the other kids in the class also don't get wheelchairs or glasses just because one student does. Why not provide the needed accommodations/modifications for children with more "invisible disabilities," such as Tourette Syndrome, Autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, mood disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, etc.?


Ask yourself: Is My Approach Working?


When analyzing the antecedent events and function of student behavior, we need to consider what causes the child's meltdowns. Then, we need to adjust the environment. Too often, teachers try to change the students. While we want to shape behavior, we simply need to ask ourselves, "Is what we have been trying working?" Teachers can say until they're blue in the face that he needs more discipline and consequences-- but has been giving him discipline and consequences (and treating him like all the other kids) been working? It may be time to try a different approach.

Rick Lavoie explains that consequences and punishments typically only work when the fear of consequences and punishment exist. They don't allow for generalization across contexts. For example, drivers slow down near the spots where they see police cars but speed back up when they've passed. Students act differently in different classes. It's all the same, really. We can spend all our time teaching students what not to do-- in a way that will guarantee a storm, meltdown, or rage. Instead, we should teach them what to do in a way that promotes problem-solving and avoiding rages.

If the ultimate goal is to teach the child not to have a rage, then our practices should shift toward teaching problem solving in a way that doesn't cause rages.

Teach, Rehearse, Practice, and Praise


We need to teach escape procedures and protocol, and we need to involve the child in the process. Help him identify known triggers and plans for action. Develop an escape plan that will only be used when he really needs it. Some students may overuse the escape plan, so set realistic limits. Explain why these limits must be set.

Directly teach the student appropriate ways to exit situations. Teach him how to identify that feeling he gets when he escalates. Teach him when he needs to escape, the person he needs to signal, and where he needs to go. Rehearse this plan-- mentally and physically-- and practice it repeatedly when the child is calm.

Establish a safe spot in the school. Discuss favored coping skills to use in that safe spot. Teach the student how to identify what calm feels like, looks like, and sounds like-- and how to recognize when he calm enough to return to the original task.

Think of the escape rehearsals like a fire drill. We practice those at least once a month, right? We know that in a fire, students would know exactly how to respond, where to go, and what to do to stay safe. We need this type of repeated practice and rehearsal while modifying behavior and easing anxiety.


What to Do During a Meltdown, Rage, or Storm


First, abandon whatever was frustrating the student, and focus solely on de-escalation. For example, if a writing assignment was frustrating the student, worry about the writing assignment later-- after the student is fully de-escalated.

I like to think of escalation like a bell curve. When a child is escalating up the curve, it is easier to bring the child back down to calmness. If the child gets to the peak of full escalation, it's going to need to be ridden out, and the child is going to slide down the right side of the curve-- shut down, crying, sleeping, etc.

Try using humor and distraction. These can really go a long way, and they can get the brain to produce "happy" endorphins. Sensory and physical activities can help students to channel their feelings or aggression appropriately. Art, music, or expressive activities may help other students. Some students benefit from simple quiet-- which is challenging for many teachers, who want to talk students through meltdowns. Breathing, yoga, or meditation help some students. When coping skills are taught ahead of time, teachers know how to intervene for specific students.

Get the student involved in self-monitoring his progress. Be ready to coach the student through some rages. Have a procedure in place in your classroom for other students to do in this event (e.g., "When the teacher is busy helping someone, take out a good choice. A good choice is a book, independent work journal, practice book, etc.")

Even with repeated practice, the student may have a tough time escaping appropriately when escalated. The thinking becomes clouded, unclear, and sometimes irrational during escalation. Keep that in mind. Also consider how many times you fell off your bike before you were able to ride without training wheels.

As with anything else in school, this is a learning process for some of our students with invisible disabilities, and even for some who simply never learned this in their home environments.

In a power struggle with a child, neither the teacher nor the child wins. When we get on the same page and on the same team, we can experience lessened anxiety and more peace.

For more information, check out Treatment of Rage Attacks by Leslie E. Packer, Ph.D.

Happy de-escalating,

A Peach for the Teach

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Peach for the Teach is Featured on the Teachers Pay Teachers blog!

This is a great blog post from Teachers Pay Teachers! A Peach for the Teach, is featured-- along with a lot of other great stores and ideas! Pick up some great ideas, products, a resources to help students with learning disabilities.

 Check out the blog post here!

Happy October,

A Peach for the Teach

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Show Your Support for Bullying Prevention by Wearing Orange for Unity Day, 10/9/13!

My students and I will be wearing orange to show my support for bullying prevention.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 is Unity Day- National Bullying Prevention Day.

What a great opportunity to spread awareness, tolerance, and support.

Do you have any activities that you use to prevent bullying? Share them in the comments below!

This week I'll be reading and discussing the book Confessions of a Former Bully. It's a great story written from the perspective of a person who used to bully others. It describes bullying in a way that clearly identifies bullying as wrong without making bullies out to be villains. In previous years I've heard students come to the realization that they had participated in bullying. They had originally thought that bullying was only what we called severe/physical cases. This book gently explains why bullying happens and how students can handle being bullied. It also explains what students who bully can do to stop. I love how it takes a different perspective than most bullying books out there. Check it out!

Happy supporting,

A Peach for the Teach

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Learned Helplessness, Learned Helpfulness, and Differential Diagnoses

My dad's really good at fixing computers. Me, not so much. My computer broke, and although I do own a book that could teach me how to fix it, I just had my dad do it.

My dad joked that I was too lazy to fix it myself. "You have a master's degree," he said. "I think you could figure it out!" But that's really not why I asked him to do it. Life has taught me time and time again that I'm just not great at fixing computers. The last time I tried to fix my computer I broke it permanently and lost all of my important work. I was afraid to attempt it this time.  

Does this ever happen in your classroom? Do you have students that could solve a problem if they really tried, but they just won't? Do certain problems make them shut down? Are they constantly asking for help or putting forth minimal effort?  

Your students aren't lazy. They're learned helpless in some areas. Here's how it works.

Educational Consultant Rick Lavoie described something called "Differential Diagnosis." A doctor sees two patients for headache symptoms. He determines that one patient needs brain surgery, and the other has allergies. They both are prescribed very different treatments. Doctors are skilled in differential diagnoses. Conversely, a teacher sees five students with their heads on their desks and assumes that they are all lazy. We've got to get better at differential diagnoses. One student may have been up all night helping a sick parent, while another may be suffering from learned helplessness in reading. This child has learned from experience that each time he attempts to read, he is unable and feels frustrated and embarrassed.

Brain Based Learning theorist Eric Jensen described common learned helpless behaviors and provided ideas for replacing them with learned helpful behaviors.

Learned helpless behaviors
  • apathy
  • sabotage positive outcomes
  • give up before they have started
  • refuse to follow directions
  • engage in passivity rather than activity
  • adhere to limits that they have set upon themselves
  • believe that things will happen regardless of their input
  • enjoy humor that is hostile
  • argumentative
  • avoid learning activities
  • feign illnesses
  • engage in “class clown” type behaviors
  • express a “Why try?" mentality 

What educators can do to replace with learned helpfulness
  •  engaging students in community service
  • giving students activist roles
  •  encouraging active hobbies
  •  implementing physical activity
  •  practicing personal skills
  •  encouraging students to begin making contributions to family
  •  redirecting negative states in class
  • enhancing positive states in class
  •  giving students choices
  • providing plenty of opportunities to increase self-worth
  •  utilizing confidence-building activities
  •  thanking students for something they've done
  •  helping students increase feelings of inclusion and ownership
  •  giving specific positive praise and encouragement

Rick Lavoie compared learned helplessness to an elephant at the zoo. A baby elephant was tied to a post in a zoo and tried to pull away, but no matter how much the elephant tried, the chain wouldn't budge. Eventually, the elephant stopped trying. After a few years, the elephant was full grown and strong enough to tear that tiny post right out of the ground and break free-- yet the elephant had been trained to stay put. Students with learned helplessness are a lot like this elephant and should be encouraged to "give the chain a tug."

Lavoie tells the story better than I do. Watch him here! (The whole video is awesome. Fast forward to 3:31 into the video for the learned helplessness information)

Buy the whole video Motivation Breakthrough by Rick Lavoie here:

Do you have any students who exhibit learned helplessness? Do you have any strategies that help? Share in the comments below!

Happy helping,

A Peach for the Teach

Cold Reads and Hot Reads: Reading Fluency Chart FREEBIE!

Cold reads and hot reads are super important for reading fluency practice and progress monitoring. Use these cold and hot reads charts to monitor reading fluency progress.

Research has proven that repeated readings of familiar texts increases students' oral reading fluency. Use these charts to help improve reading fluency and show the students their progress.

1. Time a student reading aloud a new text for one minute. Count the number of words read correctly. Using a blue crayon, marker, or colored pencil, chart this number as the “Cold Read.”

2. Allow the student to practice re-reading the text.

3. Time the student re-reading the text for one minute. Count the number of words read correctly. Using a red crayon, marker, or colored pencil, chart this number as the “Hot Read.”

Available in color and black and white for copying ease.

Download for FREE here!

Happy reading,

A Peach for the Teach

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Inspiring Words

I came across this quote at An Apple a Day in First Grade and had to share it. It really hit me. I'll think about it during my next challenging teacher moment.

Do you have any thoughts that help you through a challenging teacher or parenting moment? Share in the comments below!

Cheesy-fully yours,

A Peach for the Teach