Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Magic Phrases.....

Here is another tidbit from Dr. Jane Bluestein to use with children.  Please enjoy.  As always you can click on the blog title (The Magic Phrases in this case) and it will take you to the website that we found the information.

"Magic" Sentences for Avoiding Conflict and for Negotiating
Getting What You Want
By Jane Bluestein, Ph.D.

"Magic Sentences" (or key phrases) are simply practical ways to use language to prevent, minimize or de-escalate conflicts with kids.  Different sentences will be useful in different situations.  These examples represent a win-win approach to relationships with young people and can be equally effective in interactions with other adults.

"Great first draft."
Use when kids turn in work that is incomplete, illegible or incorrect.  Invites kids to redo, complete, clean up or self-correct their work.

"We'll try again later"
For times when you withdraw a positive consequence (ask kids to sit somewhere else, stop reading a story).  This keeps the door open for kids to try again and make better choices at a later time.

"This isn't working"
An excellent way to interrupt disruptive or off-task behavior without attacking or criticizing.

"I know  you wish you could..."
Validates a child's desire to do something (not go to a particular class, go to the nurse or go home, hit a classmate, not take a test, etc.) when that option is not available or not negotiable.

"That won't work for me."
A simple, non-attacking way to reject a student's suggestion when it proposes something inappropriate or inadequate for your objectives.  You can validate the worth of the proposal ("Interesting idea" or "Oh, that does sound like it would be fun") and, if appropriate, even offer to look for opportunities to offer that suggestion at another time.

"Think of a solution that will work for both of us."
Transfers responsibility to a dissatisfied student to find a solution that will work for him and for you (and not become a problem for anyone else).

"Can you live with that?"
Affirming commitment after coming to an agreement.

"Tell me what you just agreed to (do)."
Confirms the student's understanding of an agreement, making sure you and the student are on the same page.

"Humor me"
When you ask for something that seems unreasonable, ask for something just because it's important to you, or when you have to give seemingly needless instructions, for example.  This works best when mutually-respectful relationships have been established.

"Because we're all different and we all get to succeed."
When questioned about why different students are on different pages, have different assignments or different requirements; or to be taught in different ways.

"Equally appropriately challenged"
A 21st-century definition of "fair" (as opposed to "fair" meaning "same"); allows different kids to be on different pages, have different assignments or different requirements; or to be taught in different ways.

"We don't say that here"
Non-attacking response to student's hurtful or offensive language.

"My door is open"
An invitation to come and talk.  Indicates an awareness of a troubled student's situation without being nosy or invasive.  Most effective in a high-trust relationship and emotionally-safe environment.

"We don't need to talk about that."
A way to disengage from gossip or toxic interchanges.  Also "That's none of my business" or "I appreciate your concern."  Change the subject immediately to make it clear that you do not wish to continue the discussion.  (More likely to be used with other adults.)

Note:  Consider negotiating with kids (getting their input and ideas) because:
It's a great way to communicate your limits. (It's not giving in!  Honest!)
It's a great way to secure a commitment.
It's a great way to be sure they understand both what you want and what they can expect  (positive consequences) if they follow through on their end.
It's a great way to accommodate kids' needs for power and autonomy without compromising your own authority.

Sometimes they can come up with better solutions and ideas than we can!

Excerpted and adapted from The Win-Win Classroom, revised edition, by Jane Bluestein, Ph.D. Copywrite 2008, Corwin Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Basic Brain Gym Exercises

As promised, I am adding some tips from the Jane Bluestein training that I attended.  Today's topic is "Basic Brain Gym Exercises".  I have shared these exercises with several colleagues and they have been excited to see that they really make a difference!  The following information came from page 116 of the manual Practical Strategies for Working Successfully with Difficult Students.  

  1. Drinking water:  Water allows the body and brain to communicate.  It gives the brain an instant boost and strengthens the immune system.  Water also increases alertness, coordination, improves concentration and ability to focus, and improves academic performance and behavior.
  2. Cross Crawl:  Brain integration of left and right.  The right hand (or elbow) crosses over to the left side of the body to touch left knee.  Left hand (or elbow) crosses over to right side of body to touch right knee.  
  3. Brain Buttons:  Brain integration of front and back.  Thumb and second (or third) finger massage pressure points on either side of the breastbone.  Points are located between collarbone and first rib.  Place opposite h and on belly button.
  4. Hook Ups (for adolescents could be called Twister):  Brain integration of top and bottom.  Place hands back to back, with thumbs pointing downward.  Hold one hand steady and cross the other so that your palms are facing, thumbs still pointing down.  Link your fingers and turn your clasped hands down and in toward your body.  Cross your legs or your feet.  ALSO:  touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Working with the difficult student

I was lucky enough to attend a training titled "Working With the Difficult Student" with Dr. Jane Bluestein this week. Dr. Bluestein has written several books including "The Win-Win Classroom". She spoke energetically about this topic and turned my thinking on it's side about how to approach students in a way that lets both the teacher and the child win. What a fantastic idea! Her premise is about preventing the difficulties before they ever begin. I hope to share over the next few days several of the ideas that I took away from this training that can be used both in the classroom and at home.

I will share this: I used one of the strategies this morning on my 5 year old. He had gotten up this morning and turned on the tv. When I tried to get him to get dressed and eat breakfast this became a battle. You see, you can't see the tv from his room or the kitchen. He kept saying "one more minute!" and never got dressed or ate. I finally became irate at him for ignoring my directions and he became irate with me for insisting on following them. Typically I would have turned off the tv and told him "No more tv until you are dressed and have eaten!". This time I said "Hey, I'm going to help you. After you have gotten dressed and have eaten breakfast, I'm going to let you watch a few minutes of tv until we leave for school. What do you think of that?". The 5 year old loved it! The tears dried up and he became excited because I told him I would help him. The great thing is, I didn't change the core of my message: those two tasks were going to be completed before he could watch tv. I just changed how I presented it to him and we were both winners in the situation.

So keep checking back over the next few days for strategies and ideas. If you get a chance head on over to and look at the free items. There is a lot to choose from.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Response to Intervention Tips for Parents

RTI Suggestions for Parents 

  • If your child wants to read to you, listen attentively.  If your child stumbles over a word from time to time, simply say the word. 
  • When your child reads aloud to you, don't try to use teaching techniques, such as "sounding out" words.  Instead, enjoy the story together, laugh over it, discuss the plot, praise your child for reading especially well, or for figuring out a word.
  • Give your child extra opportunities to read.  Let your child read the directions for a new game or the back of a cereal box.  Ask your child to "help" by reading a cookie recipe or traffic signs.
  • Introduce the public library.  Let your child choose books of interest, rather than choosing books you feel should be read.  Start a home library.
  • Let your child see you reading frequently, sharing choice passages with others, referring to books for answers.
  • Have a daily family reading time.
  • Take turns reading out loud every day.
  • Talk about family and community events.
  • Show your child how to listen, watch, and take turns while speaking.
  • Give books and magazine subscriptions as gifts. 
Thank you for being our partner in working with your child to improve their reading skills.  These tips were gathered from  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Words Their Way Stages Characteristics

Their Way spelling strategies by stage

  1. Emergent stage

    1. Read to students and encourage oral language activities

    2. Model writing using dictation and charts

    3. Encourage pretend reading and writing

    4. Develop oral language with concepts sorts

    5. Play with speech sounds to develop phonological awareness

    6. Plan activities to learn the alphabet

    7. Sort pictures by beginning sound

    8. Encourage fingerpoint memory of rhymes, dictations, and simple pattern books

    9. Encourage invented spelling

  1. Early Letter Name-Alphabet Stage

    1. Read to students and encourage oral language activities

    2. Secure concept of word by plenty of reading in predictable books, dictations, and
      simple rhymes

    3. Record and reread individual dictations

    4. Label pictures and write in journals regularly

    5. Collect known words for word bank

    6. Sort pictures and words by beginning sounds

    7. Study word families that share a common vowel

    8. Study beginning consonant blends and digraphs

    9. Encourage invented spelling

  1. Middle to Late Letter Name-Alphabetic Stage

    1. Read to students

    2. Encourage invented spellings in independent writing, but hold students
      accountable for features and words they have studied

    3. Collect two to three paragraph dictations that are reread regularly

    4. Encourage more expansive writing and consider some simple editing procedures for
      punctuation and high-frequency words

    5. Sort pictures and words by different short vowel word families

    6. Sort pictures and words by short vowel sounds and CVC patterns

    7. Continue to examine more difficult consonant blends with pictures and words

    8. Study preconsonantal nasals and digraphs at the end of words

    9. Sort pictures comparing short and long vowel sounds

    10. Collect known words for word bank (up to 200)

  1. Within Word Pattern Stage

    1. Continue to read aloud to students

    2. Guide silent reading of simple chapter books

    3. Write each day, writer’s workshops, conferencing, and publication

    4. Complete daily activities in word study notebook

    5. Sort words by long and short vowel sounds and by common long vowel patterns

    6. Compare words with r-influenced vowels

    7. Explore less common vowels, diphthongs (oi, oy), and other ambiguous vowels

    8. Examine triple blends and complex consonant units such as thr, str, dge, tch, ck

    9. Explore homographs and homophones

Words Their Way strategies from Words Their Way by Bear et al., pages 22-23

Words Their Way checklist

Words Their Way: Developmental Stages and Characteristics

  1. Emergent Stage

a. Scribbles letters and numbers……..........................……... yes____ no____

b. Lacks concept of word………...……………. .........................yes____ no____

c. Lacks letter/sound correspondence…… ......................... yes____ no____

d. Pretends to read and write………………… .........................yes____ no____

  1. Early Letter Name/Alphabetic Stage

a. Represents beginning/ending sounds… .........................yes____ no____

b. Uses letter names to invent spellings…...........................yes____ no____

c. Has rudimentary/functional concept of word………........yes____ no____

d. Reads word by word in beginning reading materials……yes____ no____

  1. Middle/Late Letter Name-Alphabetic Stage

a. Correctly spells initial/final consonants, some blends/digraphs


b. Uses letter names to spell vowel sounds………………..... yes____ no____

c. Spells phonetically…………………………………............…… yes____ no____

d. Omits most silent letters/preconsonantal nasals……… yes____ no____

e. Fingerpoints accurately/self corrects when off track…... yes____ no____

f. Reads aloud slowly, word-by-word manner…………….. yes____ no____

  1. Within Word Pattern Stage

a. Spells most single-syllable, short vowel words…………... yes____ no____

b. Spells most beginning consonant digraphs………....……. yes____ no____

c. Spells most two-letter consonant blends………………...... yes____ no____

d. Attempts to use silent long vowel markers………...…….. yes____ no____

e. Reads silently/with more fluency and expression……… yes____ no____

f. Writes more fluently and in extended fashion…………....yes____ no____

g. Can revise and edit…………………………............…………… yes____ no____

Stages from Words
Their Way
by Bear et al., chapter 1, pages 22-23

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thanks for joining us!

We would like to thank everyone for stopping by as we start this new little adventure.  Several of the team members have mentioned in meetings and in conversations, "Oh did you read about...." or "Did you see this website....".  We thought it would be great to gather all of those wonderful resources and more together into one spot and share them with parents and teachers.  If you have a suggestion for a topic please email us at  We will be happy to look into it and post about the topic in a future article if possible.  

Academic 911 Team