Friday, November 21, 2014

Math In Motion


So I have figured out another way to remain active without even trying.  It's the math classes I teach which the kids have named Math In Motion.  You see, I don't let them sit down during math class!  I have discovered that there are a number of motion techniques that can assist kids in learning rote facts like their multiplication tables and other math facts.

I got this idea a few months ago, cogitated on it for a while, then came up with my plan.  I am on A MISSION to prevent kids from counting on their fingers.  I can't stand it!  I especially can't stand it when they are trying to figure out a multiplication problem by counting on their fingers.  It just can't be done - well, certainly not in an efficient or timely manner.  They might eventually come up with the right answer, but just as often they will give up since they don't have those basic math facts under their belts.

So, I purchased a few inexpensive toys, printed off a multiplication grid for each kid, and began pulling small groups of kids out of their regular classes to work on math.  Originally, I called them Mathaletes or Mathamagicians or Matheists.  None of that stuck.  Finally, one kid complained that I never let them sit down (for say, oh, 12 whole minutes) and out of my mouth came the words, "No, you'll learn better if you remain in motion."  Math In Motion was born.

So, in addition to standing to work on their math facts and doing work on the blackboard, they also do push ups, sit ups, toe touches, claps, snaps, running in place, marching - anything they want to have fun and make math easier.  I don't think that all of school is or should be 'fun'.  I think that kids can do hard things - hard work, learn hard facts.  I know they can.  The key part is convincing them of that.

Moving while learning is a good way to pull this off.  These kids are in grades 3 through 6 so there are a number of absolutes:
1. they love getting out of regular class
2. they love attention
3. they love showing off
4. they love learning - even when they don't know it
5. they take pride in learning - and demonstrating - new skills
6. they love moving.

Is that enough for you?  Six reasons to move while learning math.  One day, I happened to be near the office where kids were dismissed for the day as parents signed them out.  I saw one of 'my' kids and asked her if she'd told her mom what her math homework was.  She told her mom it was her threes.  Her mom got right on board with that, stating they'd have to get out the flashcards.  I told mom that flashcards were great but that Jordan had to do them standing on one leg.  Mom gave me the strangest look.  So, I gave her the short version, knowing that Jordan would fill her in.  I said I didn't care how she practiced the threes so long as she was moving while she did it - standing on one leg, tossing a ball, clapping her hands - since that would engage all her learning skills.  Mom said okay.

So far, Math In Motion has been a great success.  We started off focusing on multiplication, only to learn that they needed their addition and subtraction facts too.  Wow!  Lots to learn.  But, they are engaged and, when the kids set their own homework - say the threes - for when I return the following week (Tuesday or Wednesday), they'll have those facts down pat.  So far, the kids have not let me down.  They are proud to demonstrate their mastery of their newest facts.  Hooray!

Now, I'm planning to set up some sort of Math-olympics for later in the year so I can acknowledge and let them show off their skills - and give prizes.  For now, their prizes are oatmeal cookies from the dollar store and my attention and praise.

And, what am I getting out of it.  As a teacher, I'm, of course, gratified that this technique is working.  But, I'm also getting some great exercise.  You see, I stand up all day, walk up and down about a million stairs in the two 100 year old school buildings, and demonstrate the physical activity I want the kids to do.  I'm tired when the afternoons are done!

PS - I'm certain I'm not the first person to come up with this learning technique.  And, I won't be copyrighting it or anything. 




*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter Moves In, We Move On




Today was our first real snow.  It didn't stick much on the roads, but the trees and grass were well coated.  There was about 2 inches of total snow fall on my husband's car and all the trees at the park looked like someone had dusted them with powdered sugar.

Despite the grayness and the damp snow, the temperature wasn't too bad.  Kris and I decided to drive to Castlewood to walk a bit.  As we left the under-trees trail and entered this open area, Kris was taken with the beauty of the snow against the trees and grass.  It doesn't show particularly well in the picture, sadly.  But, Lizzie had a nice frosting on her black fur and the air was completely full of snow flakes.  We met only a few other walkers and a single biker.  It was really nice to be in the woods almost alone.

On the trail we often walk, we had not realized how very close we come to the edge overlooking the river.  It's a pretty long fall down.  Should have taken a picture.  The normal undergrowth covers just how close we walk to the edge of the precipice.

The river was lovely but far too low.  It has been a dry year and the number of fallen trees in the park speaks to the drought.  Still, the park is a gem and we are delighted to have it so close to home.


Written Sunday, November 16, 2014


*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Back To The Mall






With the advent of rotten weather in these parts, it's back to the mall many days if we want to get in a walk.  Life has been especially harsh the past two weeks - only had dance class once each week rather than twice.  I mean, one must have her priorities and I just don't think the dance class should be cancelled because of the room being a polling place.  Those darn voters could just dance around us.  I had to dance through the rain drops to cast my vote!

But, with all that - and the arrival of Santa way too early at one of the malls - I am grateful that we have malls to walk in.  The strollers, toddlers, and those silly people who use the mall for actual shopping are in the way of us walkers, but we persevere.

I feel like I should sit in Santa's lap and ask him to bring me a private mall for Christmas.  What could be wrong with that?  It should be temperature controlled, have lots of windows, covered parking, and be free.  Further, its use would be limited to me and my walking buddies, including the four legged one.  She would not be a bother to anyone as she only does her 'business' in her own back yard and loves to walk more than she loves her food or treats.

So, what's wrong with joining a gym again this winter?  Nothing except that I just cannot get over my dislike of the gym and I'm not fond of treadmills either.  This winter, I will focus on finding more dance opportunities, dancing and walking in front of the TV, and being really kind to all the stroller mom's at the mall.  I've been a stroller mom and I know that time in a mom's life has its own set of challenges.

BTW, there is this ancient couple who walk at the mall and they are an object case in the benefits of walking as well as the benefit of having a spouse who is long lived.  The woman uses a walker and she's pretty bent over.  Her sweet husband puts his hand over hers on one side of the walker so they are holding hands as they stroll the mall.  They get lots of encouragement from other walkers as we are all in awe of their relationship and their devotion to walking.  I need to take a picture.



*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Like Minds Make Good Walkers




Kathryn Vercillo is an online crochet friend of mine.  She has written a great book about the healing benefits of crochet.  She firmly believes, and I concur, that crocheting can actually save lives.  I know that walking can!  And has!

Now, Kathryn has written a blog post, referring to this blog among other resources, about the health benefits of both crocheting and walking.  It's kind of her to recognize my blog.  I've had a hard time breaking out of my little corner of the internet to reach a broader audience.  I'd love to be able to spread the word to more people about the benefits of walking (and crocheting) and how easy it is.

So, please read Kathryn's article - and consider reading her book if you want to learn more about the benefits of simple, repetitive, positive activities.  It's amazing how such small activities and changes can result in such large benefits!



*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Trudging Through The Rain







Because I'm probably crazy, I volunteer two afternoons a week at an inner city Catholic School.  I facilitate reading circles of 3-5 kids on Wednesdays and teach small groups of students in grades 1 through 6 math facts - Math In Motion - named by the kids themselves.

The Math In Motion is physically demanding.  I'm standing for hours, keeping the kids moving around while learning multiplication, addition, and subtraction.  In addition, this school is almost 100 years old so it has very high ceilings and thus very long staircases.  Up and down I go, from class to class, pulling out my small groups of kids every 20 minutes or so, toting my huge bag full of small toys, books, math grids, and lots of treats.  It's fun but taxing.

On Wednesdays, I facilitate several reading circles.  So, I have homework (gotta read those books), practice crowd control, and try to show the enthusiasm I have for reading by attempting to bring the stories to life with words and some physical activities.

And - AND - the school has 2 buildings that are across the street from each other.  Most days, the 100 yard dash between buildings, across a street, through two playgrounds, and up more stairs, is not very challenging.  On days like we have here so often in the Fall, walking between buildings in drizzle, rain, downpours is NOT FUN!  It's the one time I really don't want to take a walk.  Who would?  Only my dog and some ducks.

But, trudge across that street I do.  I'm on a mission.  At first I thought my mission was to help with reading.  But after almost 3 semesters at this school, it has become clear that my mission is to work with kids on their math skills - and to be a resource for teachers with kids that need to leave their classrooms because of behavior problems.  I love it!

This is another case of baby steps.  I have to start slow to assess the kids' levels of competency AND I have to earn their trust because I'm going to be helping them with things that are hard for them and they just simply do not want to do.

There's magic here!  When we move the kids out of their desks to learn their multiplication tables both their attitudes and their mastery improve.  I was calling them Math-letes and Math Stars when they began calling my little classes Math In Motion.  I love that name.  It embodies two major elements they require to become successful at math.

Further, the lead classroom teachers seem receptive to this idea.  Now, instead of making a kid sit out if s/he misbehaves, they are more likely to have the kid to jumping jacks or push ups!  It really works.  Get that Serotonin pumping in their brains.  Give them an alternative to sitting down most of the day.  The kids are taking it well - viewing it less as punishment and more as a logical consequence of not paying attention or not doing their work.



One day, I shared an article I had read about a smart gal who put an exercise bike and a treadmill in her office to make her feel better and keep her on track with her plan to lose weight.  A light bulb went off in my head so I am now seeking permission to freecycle some of that exercise equipment in each classroom for the kids to de-stress and give themselves attitude adjustments in a mere few minutes of biking or walking.  I know this will be a good idea and there is plenty of room in those huge old classrooms for several pieces of exercise equipment.  The lead teacher I was originally assigned to also likes the idea and will float it to the principal.

Can I help kids from underprivileged neighborhoods learn better, work harder, be more positive and enthusiastic about school?  I'm no Pollyanna.  That road is a steep uphill incline that goes on and on.  But, if I can make it better for a couple of kids, I'll have done my job.

Consider using such equipment in your own home for yourself and for your family members, especially kids.  Include such activities as a normal part of life.  Make life easier for them and yourself by allowing natural activity to enhance their ability to learn and grow emotionally.  It's a small thing.  Baby steps can change lives.

The top picture is fantastic Ms.Hogan teaching her second grade class last year.  The other photo is one I ran across on line - a dream that might be fulfilled!


*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lifting The Fog




So, last night, I did not sleep much.  And, I had to get up early to get an MRI of my hip as it's been causing me quite a bit of pain - either another gluteal tear or bursitis.  I'm hoping for bursitis since the 'fix' for that is an injection.

I moved around and drove around in a fog.  The MRI was unpleasant, to say the least.  But, it had to be done.  All I wanted was to get home so I could take a nap.  However, I know the pattern here.  Often, if I'm pretty sleepy from a bad night, I can't nap and the negative sleep cycle begins anew.  Who woulda thought that taking a 20 minute nap in the afternoon would result in better sleep at night?  It's counter intuitive but in my experience, it's how my body/mind works.

On the way home, the weather was lovely.  My dog hadn't been for a walk in several days due to cold, damp, windy weather.  So, I decided I would take her for a walk before attempting a nap.  Forget the other million things I should be doing today - housework, paying bills, cleaning up the flower pots out front.  But, all that will wait.

Lizzie and I went for a walk of about 1.5 miles, a short one for us.  About half way through the walk, I felt the fog lifting from my mind and my body feeling better!  I KNOW this happens.  Why do I forget it??

I also know I've written about it before.  It's better than any pill.  Now, if I'm really lucky today, I'll get the ecstasy of a brief nap......

See that happy black dog up top?




*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.

Life's A Beach?




"There is nothing better for sorting out dilemma's than a quiet, reflective walk. It is a very good time to meditate...although one must keep an eye out for Conch shells on your path. "  Bill T.


My buddy Bill wrote this in the Comments of my blog a long time ago.  I just reread it and it got me to thinking.  He's so right!  Now, if we all had access to what sounds like a stunning beach in Belize like Bill does for much of the year, we'd all be more motivated to walk, if only to hunt for sea shells.  I know I would.

Bill and I went to high school together.  Not that long ago we celebrated our 40th reunion!!  Forty years since high school.  Now, more than that.  But, back in those days - before ice was invented, as I tell my kids - walking was what everyone did.  Each family in our suburban community had only one car and Dad got that to drive to work.  No matter how far from school we lived, we all walked.  For some kids, that was maybe 3 miles.  For me, it was a mile.  In all kinds of weather.  Uphill both ways.  Well, uphill getting to school.  But, I digress.

Walking was the only way most of us had to get around.  Some kids lived on a bus line but most of us just walked - from those earliest grades through high school.  The school district owned no school buses (now, they do) so we hoofed it.

University City, Missouri was a wonderful place to walk.  In Summer, we walked 3 miles to Heman Park to swim all day then drag ourselves home all sunburnt and worn out.  We walked to the ice cream store, the grocery store, the drug store.  We rode our bikes to the park, to visit friends, and sometimes to school, although that was discouraged for some reason.  I was a fairly solitary child, so I used to bike all the way to the Art Museum in Forest Park to see the mummy's toe sticking out of the sarcophagus and the other wonders there - until my Mom found out about it.  It was probably a 5 miles trip each way, across several major streets, and I was 10.

To my point, walking was natural, normal, and a requirement.  No one thought anything about it.  That still goes in many parts of the U.S. and around the world, but it is not the case for the St. Louis area today.  Everyone drives everywhere.  School buses drive kids who live even a few blocks from school.  And, we'd never think of allowing a 10 year old to drive 5 miles alone - anywhere!

We have lost the ability to remain naturally fit and agile.  We have replaced a very natural activity with the 4 wheels of an automobile.  There's an irony there that does not escape me.  I live within 5 miles of my former place of employment and there is absolutely no safe way to walk or bike there.  No legal way.  Sometimes I see pedestrians or cyclists on the divided highway - but they are breaking the law - and placing themselves in physical jeopardy.

There is probably no solution to this dilemma - but there are some actions we can take to offset the lack of naturally occurring (and required) physical activity.  We can take our kids to the park and walk around.  We can take our kids to trails near our home and point out the wonders of our local ecology on a walk.  We can take a cart or wagon and walk to the grocery store.  We can walk around our block and meet our neighbors.  We can play in the yard, building snowmen in winter and jumping through the sprinkler in summer, raking piles of leaves and jumping in them.  We can let our kids build simple PVC and 2X4 'rails' to skateboard on.  We can unplug and tune in to our real lives.

Are you in?  My friend Kris and I comment often, especially this time of year when the weather is often wet and cold, how much easier it is to walk 3 miles on a trail than at the mall.  Bill got it right with his words about sorting out dilemmas on a walk.  This is a gift we can give our kids.  It's free, fits any size or age, and keeps on giving throughout life.  Go ahead and get some for yourself and your kids (and other family members).  You have nothing to lose but stress and fatigue - and much to gain.


*************************** Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.