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Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: A Teacher’s Review

October 19th, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar is definitely a very worthwhile, unique find.   I have used it in my classroom in many different ways since it serves multiple purposes.  My students, primarily 5th graders, have absolutely loved the crazy challenges found on the cards.

 

This game comes with 101 small cards in a plastic jar and a die.  There are four categories: Make a Melody, Show Me Your Moves, 20-Second Challenge, and Wild Cards.  The 20- second challenges are my favorite.  These cards are great for when students need a quick break from long stretches of learning, yet I do not want to lose valuable instructional time.  Many of these cards include debates, like arguing whether texting or face-to-face conversation is more important.  Others include telling a story about a time the teller was brave, or acting out a scene from a movie.  With these cards, I usually give one to each of my six groups, and each person in the group gets to go around and do it.  Because each student only has 20 seconds, the groups get done at the same time, making it easy to resume the lesson.

 

The Make a Melody cards were my students’ favorite.  They elicited hilarious responses, such as singing a song using a cat or a dog voice (woof-woof or meow-meow), and seeing if the group could tell what it was.  The only problem with these is that when multiple groups are doing this category at once, the room gets pretty noisy! I ended up using these with the whole group, and would have one representative from each group perform them, and then they would rotate. This solution worked well.

 

Most of the Show Me Your Move cards require movement in the classroom, so they are great when I had to have indoor activity time.  Some of them include making up dance moves, completing stretches, and doing short relay races.

 

Wild Cards can be any mixture of the following, but most of them include writing and discussing.  My favorite ones are those that have students share information about themselves with each other, like their favorite hobbies.  The card also tells them to roll the die to determine how many things they share about that hobby with the group.  These really help students get along better in my classroom as they make stronger connections with each other.

 

I highly recommend choosing the cards that students receive. The one factor that I am always concerned about is time. It was very important for me to pre-select the cards, as some of them can be more time-consuming than others.  I also factor in noise level of the cards occasionally, depending on how I use the cards that day.  Selecting them matters as well because some of them need materials, like tape, balls, and various other objects.

 

Students do always have the choice to pass if they feel too uncomfortable doing the activities.  On the first day we tried the cards, I had a handful of students who did not want to participate.  However, once they realized how much fun the other students were having who did participate, everyone engaged with them from then on.

 

Ways that I utilize them in my classroom:

  •  Short brain breaks for students during long periods of work time (like essay writing)
  • Icebreakers/getting to know you activities when students are placed in new groups
  • During indoor activity time
  • As tie-breakers following review games (especially the 20-second challenges)
  • At the beginning of the year as students simply get used to group rotations
  • As bellwork when the card coincides with the lesson (debate cards, for example)

 

There are many other ways that the cards can be used, I am sure! I am very pleased with them, and I definitely plan on using them in my classroom again this year.  Overall, this is a great product, and it certainly deserves two-thumbs up!

- Bethany Riggs Weeks, Fifth Grade Language Arts & Volleyball Coach

Sycamore Middle School

 Jar_3d

 

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: On Tour with 4-H

October 12th, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor has been making its debute”tour” since its inception in April.  This summer found it making a pro-longed stop to engage youth with the 4-H program.  Here’s what one “fan” had to say about the experience:

“Brain Boosters for groups in a jar is PERFECT for my needs! In my role with the 4-H program, I work with teens who are in leadership roles. Working with teens can already be challenging so this resource is ideal! This jar is chock full of quick, meaningful and engaging activities! Yet another outstanding product from Ann and Susan!”

– Justin Crowe, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development, University of Tennessee Extension

Review originally posted on his FB page:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9434499&fref=nf

4-H is one of Brain Boosters for Groups biggest fans.  Thank you, 4-H!

 

Jar_3d

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

5 Ways to Make “Make a Difference Day” a Family Tradition

October 7th, 2016

By: Susan Ragsdale

originally published at www.parentfurther.com

Mahatma Gandhi taught us to Be the change we wish to see in the world. National Make a Difference Day is a celebration of the change that people make. It is also a reminder that everyone has power. Everyone has gifts. Everyone can make a difference by showing up and making the choice to care about others and the world. We have power. We just have to use it.

This year, Make a Difference Day falls on October 27, 2012. Why not take a cue from Ghandi and make this day a part of your family fabric? Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • At home, talk about the importance of making a difference, and as a family go do something! Commit!
  • Find a need or concern in your community. Are you concerned about a neighbor next door? Is the fact that grandma moved into a nursing home upsetting to you? Are you concerned about the environment (trash in your neighborhood)?

  • Find an agency that works around that concern. If you don’t know of one, ask friends and neighbors, call local nonprofit organizations and ask if they are participating in Make a Difference Day, or do a web search (try www.volunteermatch.org) and see if you can find a project that matches up with your family’s interests.
  • Celebrate what you did together. Talk about what you learned and what you experienced: the funny moments, the scary moments, the “it felt so good to help” moments.
  • If you want an even BIGGER challenge, register your project at the Make A Difference website and recruit others to join you in your project.

Download: Tips to Help You Reflect on Your Family Volunteering Experience

Here are 5 service ideas to help you get started!

This summer my youth organization worked with 13 girls in a service camp to make a difference. Perhaps one of these memories from our own experiences will spark an idea for how your family might volunteer together.

1. Volunteer at the Humane Society – Popular with young and old alike, volunteer opportunities include walking dogs, bagging up pet snacks (we did 57 in one hour), making treats, making and decorating bandanas for pets who will be going home to wear, updating photos on the website, and cleaning cages. At our site, anyone under the age of 14 had to be accompanied in a one-to-two adult to child ratio.

2. Volunteer at Feed the Children – Our volunteer work was done assembly line fashion. Adults cut open boxes, and youth helped fill, tape up and stack the boxes. Bonus: Standing side-by-side gives families lots of time to chat while working. Want a goal? Fifteen of us packed 571 boxes (that’s 571 families impacted by our behind-the-scenes service) in 2 hours. What can your family of 3 or 5 do?

3. Volunteer at a retirement center – Here, visits are never overrated. Put on a smile, a happy heart, and simply share the gift of yourself (and your time) with others. Visit, play games, sing, gather around the piano, give manicures, do arts and crafts . . . There is almost nothing you can’t come up with to bring life and happiness to residents in a retirement center. In one day, our group made and distributed 130 bookmarks and engaged in games and conversations with 11 residents by the end of the day. The interactions and mutual exchange of learning and sharing were simply priceless in value.

Our girls’ favorite part of this experience was hearing the women’s life stories and sharing in their passions. One powerful woman, age 93, was a dance instructor until the age of 85. She gathered a small group of us around her table and gave us a quick belly-dancing lesson! One camper took the initiative to teach two women how to play scrabble. She was a self-proclaimed “not so good speller” but she didn’t shy from sharing what she knew with two women who had never played.

4. Volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House – Making brownies, cooking a meal, collecting soda can tabs, writing notes of encouragement for guests, bringing in comic books, movies, toys, or books–these are all things that families can do to help brighten a day for worried families and sick children. In one day, our group decorated 40 doors with cut out paper dolls and words of encouragement. We made 20 necklaces to be distributed to teenage girls and 35 encouragement stones that people could put on their desks.

5. Volunteer at Mobile Loaves and Fishes – Work in the garden, chop veggies, decorate lunch bags, make cookies, make sandwiches to distribute, ride the mobile food van, and distribute meals to others – these are some of the possibilities when working with agencies that are dedicated to getting fresh produce into “food deserts.” Our girls went to work and decorated over 100 lunch bags and made 71 cookies.

I just shared various ways that we made a difference in one-to-two hour time slots during a five day week. What can your family do? I want to challenge you to use your power! BE THE CHANGE and make a difference. What will you do this National Make a Difference Day?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________For more ideas for family volunteering visit:

1. Family Volunteering

2. Reasons to Volunteer

2. National Days of Service, a calendar of various service-oriented days

3. National Family Volunteer Day, coming up in November

4. Image via Yukari on Flickr.

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: The Tour Begins

October 5th, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor has been making its debute”tour” engaging with youth across the country.  Here’s what one teacher had to say about Brain Boosters after using them in her school at end of the 2016 school year:

Brain Boosters has been a lifesaver for me this semester. My school leadership council has been having a hard time connecting with one another as well as being motivated to participate in the group. I use Brain Boosters For Groups in a Jar with them everyday now and they LOVE it! I use it at the start of our meetings to get their thinking and enthusiasm going and sometimes at the end as a fun way to close our meetings. I have also recommended it to other teachers at my school because it is so quick and easy to grab and go! We have an advisory period each week and Brain Boosters has been an awesome way to connect and have fun with our advisory groups. I love that there are over 100 activities, it is fast and easy, and most of all TONS of fun! It is so much better than having to look up different games and icebreakers online and sifting through all of them to find what I want. ALL of the activities included in the jar are age-appropriate, easy to understand, and take just a few minutes to do. They are all different, unique, and don’t take any planning. I have even used these activities at Professional Development with my co-workers. I highly recommend Brain Boosters to any one working with groups both teens and adults!”

- Ashley Parker, Cameron, A Lead Public School

See what Ashley’s class did to help promote the jar:

 

Jar_3d  Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

 

National Service Dates for October

October 1st, 2016

Make A Difference Day (October 24)

 

Plan a project that will make a difference!

http://www.pointsoflight.org/signature-events/make-difference-day

Meditation on Tough Questions

September 30th, 2016

“Stay with the question. The more it troubles you, the more it has to teach you.”

Remind yourself not to run from the hard questions in life. Train yourself to sit still. Listen to your heart as it struggles.  And challenge those that you care about to do the same!

Technology and Life

September 27th, 2016

An anonymously shared story:
I had spent an hour in the bank with my Uncle, as he had to transfer some money. I couldn’t resist myself & asked…

”Uncle, why don’t we activate your internet banking?”

”Why would I do that?” he asked…

”Well, then you wont have to spend an hour here for things like transfer.  You can even do your shopping online. Everything will be so easy!”

I was so excited about initiating him into the world of Net banking.

He asked ”If I do that, I wont have to step out of the house?”

”Yes, yes”! I said. I told him how even grocery can be delivered at door now and how amazon delivers everything!

His answer left me tongue-tied.

He said, ”Since I entered this bank today, I have met four of my friends, I have chatted a while with the staff who know me very well by now.  You know I’m alone… this is the company that I need. I like to get ready and come to the bank. I have enough time, it is the physical touch that I crave.

“Two years back I got sick. The store owner from whom I buy fruits, came to see me and sat by my bedside and cried.  My wife fell down few days back while on her morning walk. My local grocer saw her and immediately got his car to rush her home as he knows where I live.

“Would I have that ‘human’ touch if everything became online?  Why would I want everything delivered to me and force me to interact with just my computer?  I like to know the person that I’m dealing with and not just the ‘seller’ . It creates bonds. Relationships.  Does Amazon deliver all this as well?”’

The writer ended the story with this forwarded message from their inbox:
Technology isn’t life .. Spend time with people .. Not with devices…

Your Student Leaders Want More

September 16th, 2016

Taryn Seemann riginally published this article at https://www.leadertreks.org.  She was writing about youth interns in church youth ministry, but I think the advice crosses over to student leadership in general.  See how her principles might work for you as you engage youth as leaders…

Fed Up Female Intern Fetching Coffee In Office

Several years ago, AT&T ran a series of commercials in which comedian Back Bennett sat with a focus group of elementary school kids. In one of these ads, he asked this curious panel if they preferred having more or less. A sweet, logical girl responds, “We want more, we want more … like, [if] you really like it, you want more.” Your youth ministry interns want the same. They took the internship because they care about youth ministry. They want more than just a good experience; they want to be developed.

This summer your interactions with your interns should be motivated by a commitment to raise up the next generation of church leaders. Every youth worker has the opportunity to develop skills, character traits, and habits in their interns and to equip them to become more effective servants in God’s kingdom. With that purpose in mind, here are threeDon’ts and three Dos for your summer internship program. I pray you’ll avoid the disappointments and frustrations associated with the Don’ts and pursue the long-term growth and impact that can result from the Dos.

Don’t just delegate the parts of the job you don’t like.

Do give interns a variety of experiences to help them discover their gifts.

Don’t give too much freedom or too many restrictions.

Do set clear expectations with defined responsibilities.

Don’t make experience the only teacher.

Do create a growth plan for your intern.

Read the full article, where the author talks more about each of these do’s and don’ts here.

National Service Dates for September

September 5th, 2016

National Preparedness Month

Congressional Recess Ends (September 5)

15th anniversary of 9/11 honored on September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance

Happy Birthday GTCC!

September 1st, 2016

Happy 2nd Birthday to our thickest book:  “Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth“!!

This book is comprised of blood, sweat and tears; and it’s stamped with great love.  When the publisher asked us to write a handbook for people that work with youth, it was a little daunting.  I mean, YIKES!, capture everything we have learned about working with youth AND make it appealing to youth workers and educators???!!!

As we started wrestling with the project, we realized that we were hooked.  We had a lot of experience to share and a strong faith in the value of positive youth development, and more importantly, we have always honored the many educators, youth workers and researchers we know.  That practice continued in this book as we interviewed others to gather their best practices and incorporate them with our own.  The result – a hands on workbook to empower people that love youth!

Happy Birthday GTCC!

Experiential Stuffed Animal Writing Idea For Kids

August 29th, 2016

Originally published by  at http://imaginationsoup.net/

Get your imaginations ready for a fun experiential writing adventure! You’ll be taking your best friend (aka. favorite stuffed animal) for a walk and narrating the story as it might happen if your friend were real.

This kind of doing and writing is great for young writers for many reasons such as:

  • SENSORY DETAILS: Descriptions can include the sensory details easily because you’re experiencing them while writing. The hot sun, the wet grass, the singing birds . . .
  • SEQUENCING: Young writers are doing the story in the sequential order that they will write down. Beginning, middle, and end becomes much more clear.

Supplies:

stuffed animal
pencil, colored pencils
blank book
backpack or bag to hold everything

 

Read the directions here:  http://imaginationsoup.net/2016/05/09/stuffed-animal-writing-idea-kids/

 

Meditation on Success

August 26th, 2016
Be you. Live your own truth. Be the best YOU you can be… that is to have succeeded.

how can you preach this truth to your soul?  to your family?  to the young people around you?  to your friends?

 

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour

August 24th, 2016

We asked different agencies who work with youth (both in school and after-school) to take Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar, test it out and tell us what they think.  Today’s review comes from a teacher at Cameron, a Lead Public School.

 

Brain Boosters has been a lifesaver for me this semester. My school leadership council has been having a hard time connecting with one another as well as being motivated to participate in the group. I use Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® with them everyday now and they LOVE it! I use it at the start of our meetings to get their thinking and enthusiasm going and sometimes at the end as a fun way to close our meetings.

 

I have also recommended it to other teachers at my school because it is so quick and easy to grab and go! We have an advisory period each week and Brain Boosters has been an awesome way to connect and have fun with our advisory groups. I love that there are over 100 activities, it is fast and easy, and most of all TONS of fun! It is so much better than having to look up different games and icebreakers online and sifting through all of them to find what I want. ALL of the activities included in the jar are age-appropriate, easy to understand, and take just a few minutes to do. They are all different, unique, and don’t take any planning. I have even used these activities at Professional Development with my co-workers. I highly recommend Brain Boosters to any one working with groups both teens and adults!

– Ashley Parker, Cameron, A Lead Public School

See a sample of Brain Boosters in action below (the leadership council assisted in the making of the video):

 

jar2

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

More Happy Songs

August 22nd, 2016

One of my high school students wants to see more happy songs in the world, so Emily wrote her on song!

https://youtu.be/u_PBTWvkOiY

Managing Chaos: Tips for Parent Coaches and Volunteers

August 19th, 2016

Originaly published by Becky Post at www.parentfurther.com

If you have a child in an out-of-school-time sport or club, you may have been recruited to coach or lead that activity. If you have stepped up and taken on a volunteer leadership role, good for you! You are modeling great skills for your kids—and you are contributing to your community.

Many parents are happy to pitch in and teach religion classes or lead scout troops, but the challenges quickly become apparent. One of the biggest challenges can be what teachers call “classroom management.” If you are not a professional educator, you might call it “chaos.”

Managing the chaos is important, for many reasons. Disruptive young people can easily dominate the situation, ruining the experience for other kids and derailing your activity plans.

Setting behavior norms for your group depends on you taking charge, according to youth development experts Ann Saylor and Susan Ragsdale, authors of Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.

They recommend establishing a four-step process:

  • State norms in a simple, positive manner. For example, “Respect the personal space of others,” instead of “Don’t touch others.” Or, “Listen while the leader speaks,” instead of “Don’t whisper to your neighbor.”
  • Refer to the norms and use them consistently.
  • Post the norms where all can see them.
  • Most importantly, develop the norms together.

Saylor and Ragsdale’s book is packed with guidance and tips to help you take ownership of your class or group, while channeling young people’s positive energy and ideas. Using games—like the following—can be a great way to establish norms that the kids can truly own.

In and Out Game

Ask the group the following: How are you expected to behave? What rules and expectations are “in” and what rules are “out”? Break your group into two teams: the “In” group and the “Out” group. Give each team five minutes to list the various behaviors expected for their assigned word (in or out). For example, the In group might say that an “in” behavior is to respect their elders while the Out group might say an “out” rule is whining for what you want. Invite the groups to share their rules out loud. Record their ideas and then, as a group, review and determine the rules and expectations that should be in place for this program and this group.

Consequences

Ragsdale and Saylor also recommend that your group come up with consequences when norms aren’t followed. They write, “Establish high expectations (You can do it!). But in setting high expectations and consequences, make sure the consequences match the violation and aren’t a ploy for attempting perfection.”

They recommend the following sequence for dealing with challenged norms:

  • When norms are challenged, walk over to where norms are posted and tap the norm in violation.
  • Ask the group what needs to happen next.
  • Do what is necessary (perhaps the simple tap on the norms will get things quiet or you’ll need to follow through on a consequence).
  • Ask if they’re ready to move on and continue to live by the guidelines they’ve created.
  • Move on.

Image via Tom Williams on Flickr.