Archives for posts with tag: classroom climate

Today I decided to take advantage of the children’s creativity and curiosity. I am reinforcing math skills by developing a secret code. We sat in a circle with math manipulative s. I carved potato stampers with various numbers on them. I put up a chart. The accompanying letter for each number was placed on the chart.

Each child was asked a question. They would enter the center of the circle and solve the math problem. The majority of the children tackled this activity with great fervor. The thought of using the potato stampers caused the children to forget the mundane task of solving the math problem. It was seen as a game. As a math problem was solved, the children collected their secret potato stamp number that corresponded with the alpha answer. The thought of making secret codes with their coveted numbers caused an air of excitement in the room. Children are naturally curious. If a curriculum is developed with this curiosity factor taken into account the children naturally want to participate.

As is common in terms of my mode of thinking, this lesson had multiple goals, the children were learning how to use math manipulative s and problem solve. The use of the coveted potato  stampers merely served as a reward for their efforts. It was a carrot on a stick. If they reached and strive high enough they could earn the carrot. Once the math project was complete, the children used their potato stamper numbers to make code words. Obviously a literacy lesson had been secretly blended in. What we see is not what always meets the eye. This project possessed more depth than was visibly possible. A lesson in logical abstract thinking is present. In order to spell secret words, the children had to decipher the letter and numeric companion on the wall chart to comprehend its secret meaning. I wanted to boost class room climate and enthusiasm. The children wore homemade pirate hats and patches crafted from construction paper. The project seemed more exciting due to the environment that was present.

We ended the project with a treasure hunt for gold. (Foil covered chocolate coins) hidden about the classroom and playground. The children had developed a new skill. I had used a child’s natural curiosity to my benefit. Eureka, the day was a productive success!


Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

I sit here pondering what to do. I struggle to run a functional program.  I have had an epiphany. Education and personal life need to be separate entities. One can not personalize classroom experiences nor allow personal stress to color reactions with in the classroom. However, personal lives do intertwine into ones life as an educator in a positive way. We learn in the classroom via trial and error. If we attempt to connect with the children in a way that does not work, we go back to the drawing board and seek alternate plans. Far from bias, drawing on ones personal experience can assist in assimilating a struggling child into the classroom successfully.

My younger son struggled with undiagnosed learning disabilities for years. He was labeled as lazy, non-compliant, and received many other negative labels along the way. Those labels have carried all the way into his college experience. He struggles with negative self efficacy and anxiety. In retrospect, my personal experience with my son has provided me with a nonjudgmental persona of my young charges in my classroom. I personally have experienced the pain of feeling incompetent as a parent due to people who were quick to label my son and family. A result of this experience is my ability to not label other children. What I child displays on the surface usually hides a precipitant which hides right below the skin.

As an educator, my job is to find out what the precipitant is. I have a kindergarten child in my class who constantly has urine and bowel accidents. The mother is devastated as the child never did this in the past. Other teachers have said the child is “babyfied” by her family and needs to be reprimanded more. In dealing with the family, I find quite the opposite is true. The family wants to eradicate the problem. I assured the family that the child is quite bright and capable. She was enrolled in the private kindergarten at my facility because she missed the cut off date for public school. The little girl is the youngest five years old in the class. I reassure the parents that the little girl is still extremely young.

Rather that chastise the family, I remind them of the reality of the situation. Kindergarten is quite a transition for children. My belief is that transition has been extremely difficult for this child. In preschool, children are reminded to use the bathroom. In kindergarten, they are expected to do so independently. In pre school children are expected to attend to academics in much shorter time chunks. Kindergarten presents new academic challenges such as sitting at a table developing reading and math skills. We need to respect each child for the individual they are. They reach developmental mile stones at different speed. When the child is ready, the milestones occur.

I have observed, processed, and attempted to trouble shoot in the situation. Rather than punish, I reward. Rather than embarrass the child, I developed a system that keeps her peers oblivious to her dilemma. Every hour or so I privately go over to the child and say “You know what you need to do right”? The child nods her head and goes to the bathroom. This takes minimal effort on my side to give reminders. It saves the child embarrassment from peers. Accidents have dissipated. If the child has no accidents I find little tasks to reward her for her compliance. I allow her to be a helper, line leader, or another role that she might covet. I remind her that these are big girl roles that are only doled out for responsible behavior.

Some of the behavior modification techniques were learned in school. Others were learned from going to counseling with my son during his developmental years. Thus the writer hopes a parallel has been made towards what one learns in life having the ability to teach us just as much as we learn in the classroom.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE


Hello – I have been observing opinions of the public at large regarding the state of our educational system. I have decided to express my opinions regarding this topic. Some may like my opinions some may not. That is the perogative of human individuality. One thing I believe we can all universally agree on is that we need to discard our THEM AND US IDEOLOGY  AND CHANGE IT TO A WE. All societies are dependent on one another for successful existence. May we all become a united front and remember our ultimate goal – our childrens future! Merely a thought to Ponder.

Education reform has always been dictated by societal needs. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was born from a need for high tech, academically savvy Americans who can compete in our interglobal society. The next generation of capitalists must be trained. American corporations are interdependent on foreign trade to survive. Foreign countries experience financial growth through interactions with America. Land Rovers and Lexus have Toyota Engine parts. Chevrolet Geo has Suzuki engine parts. Gas hails from Arabian oil wells. Patients from other countries frequent our hospitals for high risk, state of the art surgery. American educators travel the world teaching English to foreigners. American icons such as McDonalds, Pepsi, and Spiked hair cuts are noted in foreign countries. These examples are a miniscule representation of the relations and dependency that countries have on each other. Prosperity is the ulterior motive of these relations.

The ideology of No Child Left Behind is not new. Expectations in education have been cyclical throughout history. The influx of immigrants in Horace Mann’s era necessitated a curriculum that focused on Americanization of immigrant children. The intent of Mann was not altruistic. It was the assimilation of immigrants into American society as positive contributors to our economy. During the cold war era, emphasis was based on academics. A similarity to modern day schools is noted. Gone was the emphasis on the whole child. Education was reformed to produce American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that could compete with the Russians. We had to build a bigger, better, space craft than our Russian neighbor’s.

In modern day America, as with our predecessors, molding and training students guarantees the survival of our country. In the fifties the economy depended on competing with other countries for prosperity. In modern day America, the goal is to be sought out by other countries. What deleterious effects does America’s preoccupation with growth and prosperity inflict on our society? “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” This phrase speaks a thousand words. The American ideal of survival of the fittest warrants focusing on the strongest members. The weak and assumed useless people are weeded out. Rather than find compensatory strategies that give all kids the same chance to succeed, each child is left to sink or swim. The ones who succeed will be our future leaders. The students who flounder will be left to languish in a hand to mouth existence with no skills. Children have become statistical data on an achievement graph.

Intelligence can’t be measured merely in academic form. A child may be musically inclined, athletically inclined, or artistic. A child’s learning may be impeded by learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, or a dysfunctional household. If compensatory strategies are taught the child will succeed. The standards used to assess a gifted child should differ from those for a learning disabled child. High expectations are non negotiable. However, what those expectations are differ from child to child. Challenges should be safe and individualized for each student. A challenge should create social and academic growth. If the challenge is too high, the child will shirk their academic responsibilities, and suffer irreparable damage to their self esteem.

Accommodations for individual children need to be in place in order for the academically challenged child to score within the median range on assessments. Unfortunately, accommodations cost money. In terms of education the basic mindset is less is best. A society, who will spend $150.00 on a ticket to a Football Game, yet will wage war at the threat of having real estate taxes raised for education. It is much easier to play the blame game. Blame the parents, society, teachers, and administrators. Taking personal responsibility for America’s educational dilemma would mean admitting that we all have a stake in children’s education. Not a comfortable idea for the majority of the population to ponder.

Teachers carry a huge weight upon their shoulders. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to achieve success. A teacher who has the threat of her job dangled in front of her like a carrot on a stick is not going to feel success. They will experience burn out and become less productive educators. A child who does not pass the M.C.A.S. repeatedly will experience a sense of failure that will haunt them through out life. Watching peers graduate will breed a sense of futility. In the scenarios above, the outcome is predictable. For educators and children alike, frustration leads to apathy, apathy leads to indifference. The end result is that everyone loses.

Intelligence is genetic. However, it is manipulated by the environment. A bright child who receives no stimulation will underachieve. A learning disabled child who is safely challenged will rise beyond expectations. The chance of success can be increased in the right educational setting. Introduce safe challenges that a child is sure to succeed at. A domino effect will occur. Once the taste of success is felt the child will not be adverse to more challenges. Experiencing failure can cause even the brightest child to recoil from academics. Nurture can beat nature. It merely takes the right environment, realistic expectations, and an appreciation of each child’s individuality and learning styles. We all have a function to fill in society as an adult. In our democratic society, the government and stake holders should not decide what that function will be. Accept each child for who they are, and they will be accepting of themselves. No child should be left behind!

This is merely my opinion.

Stay well

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

1)  Ballon Bounce:  Have two children stand at the starting line. Provide one balloon. The goal of this game is to get to the end point without dropping the balloon. If the balloon lands on the ground, the kids must go to the starting line and try again. I attempt to avoid telling children they are “out” for dropping the baloon if I am working with an inclusive group. By letting children go back to the starting line and repeatedly try the activity again, self esteem is boosted. Children who struggle with competitive sports due to emotional, social, young age, or neurodevelopmental issues are given a chance to hone their skills through a safe challenge. Use your judgment. If your group is capable of handling a competitive edge this game can be adapted according to the childrens skill and capability level.

This game appears easy – appearences can be deceiving. :-0) The balloon is extremely light, thus difficult to keep airborne. This game provides honing team work skills through working together to keep the balloon moving. It provides eye hand coordination development through watching a teammates movements in order to swat the balloon back to them. Last but not least, it provides some good old fashioned excercise with classmates or friends.

2) Starburst race: Position children in two lines with a bowl of starburst candy beside each line.Place two buckets at the other end of the room or playground. Provide eac child in both starting lines with a glove. The child wears the glove, grabs a starburst candy and runs to the finish line, standing by the empty bucket. The goal is to unwrap their starburst candy with the gloves on. Upon succeeding, drop the unwrapped candy in the team bucket, run back to the starting line and give gloves to the next participant. The goal is to unwrap as many pieces of candy per team as possible.

This game provides excercise, teamwork, and a good activity for honing fine motor skills

This game can be adapted for younger children, or children with motor skill challenges by having the child walk to the finish line carrying a marshmallow on a spoon without dropping it and leaving out the competitive factor.

3) Wipe that smile off your face: This is a great rainy day activity. Encourage children to sit in a circle. Choose one child to sit in the middle. The child in the middle can walk up to chosen children and make funny faces at them. The other children attempt to maintain a poker face. The goal is for the chosen child to make other children laugh with their silly faces.Upon doing so, the chosen child will WIPE THAT SMILE OFF THEIR FACE :-0) and hand it to the next child who will take their place in the center of the circle and continue the game.This game inevitably ends with children doubled over in contageous laughter.

4) Music and movement: Children can make musical maracas by placing rice in two disposable cups and securely taping them together with duct tape. Have children personalize their maracas with markers and scraps. Guitars can be created by placing rubber bands over empty tissue boxes. Next, pump up the music and here comes the band!!!!!!!

Perhaps children who do not wish to play instruments could accompany the little musicians in a silly dance contest. The sillier the dance moves, the better:-0)

5) Elephant feet: Provide children with brown paper bags. The children can color elephant toes on the bags, wear them, play music, and stomp till they drop:-0) I did this activity after a field trip to the zoo, as the children had just seen elephants. Hence, they could equate the animal to the activity.

6) Feed the zoo animals: Children can toss roll wads of  food (PAPER) into a pail. Adjust throwing distance according to the child’s capabilities. This game can be played with no scorkeeping. If children are capable of handling the competitive edge, you may attempt to score the most wins.

Always remember – what sems like a simple activity can assist children in honing many skills. A book does not always look like the cover.

Have a great day

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

“Imagine spending several hours everyday in a place where you felt like a nobody.”   What a powerful statement.  The primary responsibility of an educator should be to assure that no child ever feels like they are not worthy contributors in their classroom.  Each child must feel a sense of belonging within the classroom. Learning is not merely the absorption of material by a student. It isa combination of many factors. Class room layout, a child centered class room, positive behavior management techniques, mutual trust, a safe learning environment, lack of bias, cultural sensitivity, and the ability to draw out each child’s special talent to make them feel like worthy contributors.

A class room must have a positive climate. The children must feel a sense of security. The atmosphere must be conducive to taking safe challenges with out fear of ridicule.  A positive environment is the building block in developing a child with the positive self efficacy to take safe challenges. If a child fears shame and ridicule from peers and teachers, they will avoid taking risks to protect themselves from embarrassment. Within my classroom, the environment is structured to encourage positive self concepts. A piece of mirrored paper is placed at a child’s eye level on the wall. Above the mirror is a simple piece of paper that says, “Look in here to see the coolest person in the world”. The children love to stare in that mirror. The intent behind the statement I wrote for the mirror is to remind all the children that look in it that they are valued members of my room. The mirror was decorated by all the children to give them a feeling of ownership. A poster with six classroom rules is displayed on the wall. Below my poster sits rules developed and handwritten by the children. Again, the intent was to have student involvement in rule setting and give the children a feeling of ownership. The learning environment is the most important lens in a classroom.

The learning environment will dictate how well or poorly a child will learn. A major factor in the learning environment is the teacher’s role. Teachers must take their position as a role model seriously.   Through observing role models, children hone skills that well assist their successful assimilation into society. A class room that lacks a teacher that exhibits quiet control will see behavioral issues exacerbate. The outcome will be deleterious.  Structuring a classroom so positive teacher student relationships develop will have a trickle down effect. Positive behavior will appear in venues such as the playground, parental interaction, and socialization with other children. My teaching style is direct. Supply the children with a warm and trusting class room environment. Explain the why, how, and where. Don’t simply order children and respond with “because I said so”. A teacher should be a guide, and fade into the background. The ultimate role should be a coach, not a dictator. I would like to use the development of baby birds as an analogy. The baby bird doesn’t know it is capable of flying until the mother bird pushes it out of the nest. The baby bird is nurtured, taught life skills, and than pushed out of the nest. The bird’s wings flutter. It eventually succeeds in spreading its wings in flight. The mother bird watches from the nest. She doesn’t physically intervene. The mother bird is present, and available if needed.

Mother bird wishes her baby to experience the taste of independence. The baby bird is enabled if the mother bird hovers over her offspring. Figuratively speaking, children learn through the same methods. My classroom is proactive not reactive. Every strategy I employ, from token reward systems, to earning special privileges are developed in the hope of developing internalized self control, and enhancement of individual and group development. Being reactive merely exacerbates behavior problems. Proactive strategies assist the child in evolving into autonomous and mature individuals. I am a facilitator. I have gradually eased responsibility to the children. Reactive and authoritarian behavior breeds a hostile environment. Autonomy is non existent if the teacher attempts to portray a dictator. Power trips have no place in a classroom. In positive structured environment children develop internalized behavior mechanisms. In the fall, a class begins as a teacher lead environment. A good educator should ease into a child centered environment within a couple of months. The path should gravitate from teacher lead, to a classroom of students who are self starters. Children should be involved in decision making processes. These should include but not be limited to, student input in classroom policies, themes for academic units, and roles students will play in development of school projects. Involving children in the choice making process is essential in creating an autonomous class room environment. Prevention is a key component in creating a positive classroom environment that is void of behavior issues.  Build positive attributes, not negative self efficacy.

Developing class room rules as a team, using inclusive social activities, and developing problem solving activities have proven to be an asset to avoiding behavior issues in my class. My classroom is predictable and structured. I follow a rhythm of the day. The children know what to expect. I am open to feed back. Although structured, my curriculum has wavered by taking a class vote occasionally. Respect for individual learning styles, and personalities are nonnegotiable in my class. I demand respect. I model respect, and expect each child in the room to emulate my respectful behavior. Consequences for behavioral infractions are swiftly enforced. As an educator in a multiage classroom, a middle ground was developed. All age groups must benefit. Behavior management must be carried out in a form that the Kindergarten children can comprehend.  Older children must not find my management system demeaning. Management of transition times has been learned through trial and error. Cleaning between activities is rarely an issue.

Through child and error a method was developed. I told the children I was closing my eyes and giving them one minute to clean the room. When I opened my eyes the room was spotless. The children were hiding. I heard sounds of quiet laughter emanating from various areas of the room. All the children were in view. I pretended I could not see them. I pretended to look for them in the toilet, complete with flushing. I looked for them in the sink. I turned the water on and mentioned out loud that I did not see children falling out of the drain. This caused a bundle of distant giggling. I continued my trek through silly areas that would be impossibility for the children to hide in. Hiding spots I searched were cubbies, cups, crayon boxes and more. I finally found my young charges by sneaking up with a loud “boo”. This one time game turned into a ritual. When I tell the children we must clean up in order to move on I am always asked if we can play “the hiding game at the end”. This enforces the idea that many behavior management techniques do not come from a book. They come from taking our students individual personalities into account.

Children learn from educators and educators learn from the students. Observing the children can result in squelching behaviors before they become issues. Accomodations and restructuring the class room environment can squelch further outbursts. If a child resorts to attention getting behavior, giving the child a sense of power can make all the difference. I give the children special chores. They hold clip boards, carry my phone, carry my first aid kit, even help me do a head count. These small chores have given the children a feeling of ownership. That has made a world of difference. Brainstorming during group time enhances decision skills. Each child is given a question to answer. Each child offers a resolution. An example would be why we don’t run in class. I pair older kids with younger ones during this exercise. This creates equality. If the younger child struggles with the question, the older child can assist with the answer.

The main goal is teaching the art of self monitoring behavior. Self monitoring allows the children to evaluate, record, reflect on their own behavior. Discipline is used in my program. I wish to reinforce that discipline is different than punishment. Punishment controls a child. It does not teach how to modify behavior. Discipline is individualized for each personality. Discipline teaches how to identify behaviors, and how to modify them in the future.  An example of punishment is time out. Time out temporarily stops a child in their tracks. This punishment is merely temporary. Taking time to point out how a behavior affected another human being teaches empathy. Consequences for future infractions are discussed during discipline. I always make consequences clear and concise so a child knows what is expected in the future. Discipline should always fit the crime. If a child damages a project others have worked on, I expect them to repair that project. If a child has abused my personal body space rule, the repercussion would me more severe. Tokens and beloved privileges are taken away.  Children are not mini adults.

We need to be the role models who act in a proactive manner. Children are controlled by their emotions. They don’t think of consequences until later. Educators must provide a safe environment where children can hone their skills. My job is to have a part in development of future self sufficient adults, the future leaders of our country.   I must model proper self control for the children to emulate. Children rely on me to show them the way. My mistakes are permanent. White out will not erase my errors.

A thought to ponder:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

Hello There :-0)

I have included some fun ideas to increase fine motor skill development, sensory awareness, literacy skills, and more. On the surface, these activities may look like mere fun. AHHHHHHH but one cannot always tell a book by its cover, can we?  Include a high fun factor in the learning and children will maintain the engagement in the project. The more engaged the child is, the more that child will recall and practice what they have learned.

1) Rutti Tutti Water Colors: This is an excellent way to explore colors,sense of smell, and occasionally taste, as an occasional child attempts to “taste” the paint. (do not worry, the paint is totally non toxic sugar-free jello) :-0)

Drop two boxes of sugar-free Jello in a bowl. This project works best when you use four or five flavors in separate bowls. i.e. orange jello for orange cherry jello for the color red, lime jello for the color green, etc. Drop tablespoons of water into the bowl of jello and stir. This must be done slowly as the intent is to create a pasty consistency. If too much water is added the jello will be watery, thus losing its texturized appearence when the children paint with it.

Attempt to include the children by allowing them turns stirring the jello and adding water. This encourages independence and a sense of team work in the kids. This project may be adapted by adding Q. TIPS, sponges, even potato stamps that the children create, as alternate ways to paint. This is an excellent way to explore and think outside the box.

You may want to encourage the children to provide you with their impression of what each flavor of jello smells like, and broach a discussion. i.e. You can talk about the orange jello and display an orange for visual reinforcement, etc.

2)  Make Marbles and chopsticks: This game enhances eye hand coordination and fine motor skills. Have the children place colored marbles on a plate. Provide them with straws to use as chopsticks. The chopsticks are the only instrument that can be used to move marbles from one plate to another. This can be made into a team game. You can encourage the children to compete and see who can pick up the most marbles. Use judgment as applying the competitive edge depends on the childs social and emotional development. You can also provide a basic math activity by counting the marbles on the plate.

3) Chalk fun: The children have the opportunity to stand in a line and draw a line with chalk. The next child adds to the first childs line, (or drawing) with the intent of creating a group art project. No scribbles allowed in this one. The intent is to think ahead towards an ultimate creation. This is a fun way to reinforce taking turns, reciprocity, and plain old team work. :-0)

4) Spud Knockers : This is a great game for children who have social emotional challenges, or are merely not developmentally ready for team games. They merely compete against themselves. In this game, they will reinforce coordination, gross motor skills and more.

Two potatoes are placed in a panty hose leg. The pantyhose is lightly tied around the childs leg. Another potato is placed on the ground. The child hits the potato on the ground by swinging their leg that has the other potato in the pantyhose. The ultimate goal is to move the potato that is on the ground across the room with the other potato.

5: Snake Dance: This is played like follow the leader except in a Conga Line style. Children in line imitate the movements of the leader of the line while music plays in the background. This game encourages awareness and listening skill, as the children must stay in line and focus on what the lead child is doing.

I call out the child at the end of the line to go and lead every thirty seconds or so. As the child at the end goes to the front of the line the leader goes to the back. The intent here, is that ALL children get a chance to be the leader. You will have to prompt them to change places.

This game has a high fun factor. The children are welcome to move about anyway they wish when they are the leader. (As long as they stay in the snake line)

Warning be prepared for a high silly and giggle factor:-0)

Most of all, HAVE FUN!! :-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

1) Alphabet Soup: This creation that is disguised as a craft project enhances literacy skills and is just plain fun. Children can cut colorful construction paper into small squares. Provide the children with alphabet cereal letters. The children glue the alphabet cereal letters on the small squares of paper. Provide each child with a disposable bowl, (Never use glass bowls to prevent injury!)

Whoolah – Alphabet soup!!!!!!!!!!

2) Homemade colored glue:  Provide each child with a small disposable bowl, glue, a spoon, and several drops of food coloring. For younger children, you may ask them which colors they choose and squeeze the drops in their bowl. But do let even the littlest kids stir the gluey mixture independently. They gain pride from this.  (I am a strong proponent of letting the kids do projects as independently as possible) The messier the better!! Mess means fun.

Stir the white glue and food coloring together. You can be inventive by adding glitter, etc. Provide alphabet stencils and encourage the children to trace names, stop signs, etc. Fill in the letters with the colored glue creation. Decorate with yarn, macaroni, the kids are only limited by their imagination.  Let the crafting begin!!!!!!!

3) Treasure map: Have children cut the edges of a piece of paper. Soak in black tea for a couple of hours. Remove from tea solution and let the paper dry overnight. When completely dry, the children can draw a treasure map on their pirate map.  The may hide items for other children to find and switch maps for lost Bounty. (provide stickers, erasers, etc. for the children to hide according to where X marks the spot on their map: As fun as this seems, it enhances spatial relations, sequencing, and processing skills. The children are hard at play but hard at work as they must process the maps to hide and find their coveted  bounty.

4) Shaving cream spelling bags: Assist the children in inserting a minute amount of shaving cream in a ziplock baggie Make sure to fill the bag with shaving cream no more than a third. Put several drops of food coloring in the baggie. ALWAYS MAKE THE FOOD COLORING CHOICES THE CHILDS. This provides them with positive self-esteem and gives them a sense of ownership when they are consulted on their project. After all, it is THEIR project not ours. We merely coach and assist.

Seal the baggie and place a second baggie over the first sealed one. Then seal the bags edges with duct tape. This reinforces the bag and guards against leaks and tears.

Place bags on a table and encourage children to trace their name, letters, words, etc. with their finger on the outside of the bag. If the bag was not overfilled children will be able to see their letters on the bag.

Have fun and more tomorrow :-0)

Mari N.  M.Ed.