Creative Thinking Tools

Creative thinking tools enable kids to think creatively.
Creative thinking tools enable kids to think creatively.

When I was a teacher in the TAG (Talented and Gifted) program I had to administer a creativity test to all 3rd grade students in the district as part of admission into program.  That test, along with achievement and cognitive tests, were equal components in the program admission.

I loved administering the creativity test and so did the kids!  The test asked students to draw a series of pictures using only partial shapes; adding details and identifying what they drew.  Every year, there were always a few students who asked if they could do the test again.  They just knew they could do it better!  This realization showed us that teaching kids to think creatively was not only important for learning but could also be fun. Working with classroom teachers, my partner and I created lessons and programs that allowed students to be creative.

We started by teaching kids the tools needed to be creative thinkers. Creative thinking builds on the concept that a single question can have multiple answers. It doesn’t focus on right or wrong answers but on the importance of giving students the opportunity to express their ideas. This idea was especially liberating for our student with special needs, quiet, anxious and ELL students.  Being allowed to give non-ordinary responses, especially in a group activity, allows ALL students to participate.

How to Teach Creative Thinking

Once the TAG admission tests were completed, we used a similar Creativity activity to show kids the “tricks” or “creative thinking tools” to be creative.  We taught them 5 creative thinking tools; the SAME 5 components of good writing: fluency, flexibility, originality, elaboration and evaluation.  

  • Fluency – Being able to think of lots of responses to a single question or response.
  • Flexibility – Being able to shift thinking from one way of thinking to another. 
  • Originality – Trying to come up with answers that are clever and unique.
  • Elaboration – Adding details to a basic idea to make it more interesting and complete.
  • Evaluation –Teaching kids how to weigh alternative ideas.  This was especially important when kids were working on team projects.   

Once the kids understood the basic components of creative thinking the LEARNING really began. 

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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April Trivia Questions for Kids & Adults

April Trivia questions can help your memory.
April Trivia questions can help your memory.

April Trivia questions can be fun for kids and adults.  Last month we looked at some questions to try on your family and friends. This month we head to the category of movies. Check them out. Do you think they are easy or not-so-easy? Don’t forget trivia players that sometimes trivia answers can be about information in the other part of the question. Example: In question 1 the question asks “Which movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009”? However, another way of asking the question could be “In what year did the movie The Hurt Locker win the Academy Award for Best Picture? Would you know it was 2009? Enjoy the fun!

For my Wizard teammates, I’ve highlighted in yellow those questions that I remember being asked. However, I don’t remember if we answered them correctly.  Oh, my memory!

April Trivia “At the Movies”

  1. Which war movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009? The Hurt Locker
  2. What was the name of the second Indiana Jones movie, released in 1984?Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  3. Which actor starred in the 1961 movie The Hustler? Paul Newman
  4. In which year were the Academy Awards, or “Oscars”, first presented? 1929
  5. “After all, tomorrow is another day!” is the last line from which movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1939? Gone with the Wind
  6. Which movie features Bruce Willis as John McClain, a New York police officer, taking on a gang of criminals in a Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas Eve? Die Hard
  7. What is the name of the hobbit played by Elijah Wood in the Lord of the Rings movies?  Frodo Baggins
  8. Which actress plays Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies? Jennifer Lawrence
  9. Judy Garland starred as Dorothy Gale in which classic movie? The Wizard of Oz
  10. What is the name of the kingdom where the 2013 animated movie Frozen is set? Arendelle
  11. Which 1997 science fiction movie starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones tells the story of a secret agency that polices alien refugees who are living on earth disguised as humans? Men in Black
  12. Which English actor won the 2014 Academy Award for best actor for his role in The Theory of Everything? Eddie Redmayne
  13. In which 1984 science fiction movie did Linda Hamilton play the role of Sarah Connor? The Terminator
  14. Which classic thriller movie stars Roy Schnieder as the police chief Martin Brody? Jaws
  15. Which 1952 musical comedy tells the story of three performers making the transition from silent movies to “talkies”? Singin’ in the Rain
  16. Which English director was responsible for the epic movie Gladiator in 2000? Ridley Scott
  17. In which movie did Julia Roberts play a kind-hearted prostitute called Vivian Ward? Pretty Woman
  18. Who played Jack Dawson in the 1997 epic Titanic? Leonardo DiCaprio
  19. Which Tom Hanks movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1994? Forrest Gump
  20. Who directed the epic historical drama Schindler’s List in 1993? Steven Spielberg
  21. Who was the first African American actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor? Sidney Poitier for his role in Lilies of the Field in 1963.

If you enjoyed these trivia questions, be sure to check out next month’s questions and answers on HISTORY TRIVIA

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COVID – 19 Tip: ABC’s of Active Reading

Active Reading starts with the ABCs of questions
Active Reading starts with the ABCs of questions

Many parents are helping their children with schoolwork during the COVID-19 pandemic.  What I’m hearing from them is that they don’t know what to ask their child after he/she has completing the home assignments.  A good strategy to use that if often used in schools is to steer the conversations around the ABC’s of active reading. This method will engage your child through Asking questions, Building vocabulary and Connecting with the world.  This strategy helps to keep both you and your child focused and on track.

Check out the common questions listed below to get your started.  All of them can be adjusted to meet your needs. 

Ask questions

  • What happened in the story?
  • Can you tell the events in order from the beginning to the end?
  • How does the main character feel in the beginning of the story?
  • What does the character do or say to make you think this way?
  • How does the author organize the book and why was it organized this way?

Build Vocabulary

  • Identify the words that were familiar?
  • What part of the text helped you to figure out what the word meant?
  • Besides the words the author uses, what are other words you can use to describe the character’s actions for feelings?
  • Why did you choose these words?

Connect with the world

  • Write about how this problem exists in the real world and how it is solved or is trying to be solved?
  • What is the big problem that is at the heart of this story?
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Math Enrichment Problems for Primary: April

To strengthen thinking skills challenge kids with math enrichment problems.

To strengthen thinking skills challenge kids with math enrichment problems.

Math Enrichment activities should teach kids to solve problems using strategies that promote thinking. These activities are perfect for those kids that need math problems that go beyond calculation skills.  For those kids we need to nurture a love of math while challenging them to deepen their mathematical understanding and thinking skills.  Try some of the problems this month to challenge their thinking.

Don’t forget to use 1 of your 6 problem solving strategies

  • Draw a picture
  • Guess and Check
  • Use a table or list
  • Find a pattern
  • Logical reasoning
  • Draw a picture Working backwards (try a simpler version first)

Math Enrichment Problems:

  1. 8 adults, 6 children and 4 dogs went to a concert.  Tickets cost $7 for adults, $5 for children and $3 for dogs.  What was the cost for everyone to go to the concert?
  2. Abby went on a picnic with her sisters.  She bought 7 apples for $1.25 each, 7 sandwiches for $3.75 each, and 7 desserts for $1.95 each.  How much did Abby spend on the picnic?
  3. Meghan bought 12 boxes of donuts that each had 12 donuts.  How many donuts did Meghan buy?
  4. Emmy bought 12 mice for $1.02 each.  How much did Emmy spend on mice?
  5. Teagan earned $2 helping her mom fold the laundry.  If she earned $2 every day, how much would she earn in a year.  (HINT: There are 365 days in a year)
  6. If 12 people each weigh 100 pounds.  What is there total weight?


  • $98.00
  • $48.65
  • 144 donuts
  • $12.24 total
  • $730.00
  • 1200 pounds

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1000 Books Before Kindergarten: YES!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten
1000 Books Before Kindergarten

Reading 1000 Books to a child before Kindergarten? We’ve all heard about the importance of reading to young children. But, 1000 before kindergarten? It sounds like a lot, but if you read just one book a day that’s a little less than 3 years. Or, reading just 2 books a week, is another way to get to a 1000 by the time your child is 5. It certainly is possible if you start to keep track.

So, why is it important? Research shows that as many as one in five children have trouble learning to read and reading has been linked to academic success. With formal schooling not usually starting until ages 5-6, exposing your child to reading before kindergarten makes a lot of sense.

This gives the role of teacher for the first years of a child’s life to parents, caregivers, and preschool teachers. These are the people that spend countless hours with our kids, so recruit them into the counting process. Join the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge and give your child a good head start in learning.

So, maybe you don’t read 1000 books, but you get the idea. The more books you read to your child before kindergarten the better it is for your child.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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COVID-19 Social Studies Learning Newsletter

COVID-19 Social Studies
COVID-19 Social Studies

A COVID-19 Social Studies newsletter? Wasn’t even a thought 30 short day ago. However, here we are with schools closed and millions of kids home. Parents are stepping up to “homeschool” their children and are using home packets and online resources. For many this is unfamiliar territory and an added element to their already full plates.

Many parents are scouring the internet to find school activities to support schoolwork or looking for additional activities. To help shorten your search I’m reposting some past posts from my blog to get you started. This newsletter is focused on Social Studies resources. Keep checking back for additional posts.

COVID -19 Social Studies

Learning occurs in day to day activities. So, look for and create learning opportunities throughout your day. Stay safe and be well.

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Knowledge of Resources in Lesson Plans

Knowledge of Resources in Lesson Plans is VIP
Knowledge of Resources in Lesson Plans is VIP

Demonstrating a Knowledge of Resources is always a discussion in End of Year (EOY) evaluations. This topic now comes up quite often with Student Teachers when I’m evaluating lesson plans. The key word in this area is Demonstrates.  Most teachers use many resources but when they’re asked to list them, they sometimes get stuck.  Usually, with some reminders they can name many and get scored Highly Effective.  Occasionally, however, I found that some teachers did not use a variety of resources.  Sometimes it was a lack of awareness but often they used resources that were familiar and successful. Don’t we all like to use things that make us comfortable? For novice teachers and student teachers it is essential that they are aware of a variety of resources and use them in lesson planning.

Teacher observations/evaluations are supposed to be objective.  But we all know that there is also a degree of subjectivity. So, to make it easier on teachers and administrators in the evaluation process, check out the list below and include some of them in your lesson plans.  A good way to track your progress is to add the list to your plan book and color code the different resources. This simple year-round organizational tool will also help to make your end of the year Accomplishment List just a little bit easier.

13 Strategies to Demonstrate Knowledge of Resources

  • Uses varied resources (same content/different reading levels, instructional aides) that match student’s various skills.
  • Makes direct contact with resources or liaisons to determine availability to students to extend and enrich lessons i.e. guest speaker, field trip
  • Uses multidisciplinary resources to enhance learning.
  • Appropriately incorporate the use of the Internet.
  • Uses resources from professional organizations to support learning.
  • Incorporates technology into lessons (media center, computer lab, Instructional Technology (IT) specialist).
  • Uses hands-on resources (technology, science materials, models etc.)
  • Uses multiple approaches to deepen content knowledge.
  • Explores district offerings that enhance content knowledge or pedagogical knowledge.
  • Works with colleagues (lesson study, PLC, books study, team meetings, etc.) to share ideas to deepen professional knowledge.
  • Explores content knowledge through colleges/ universities and professional organizations.
  • Incorporates community resources into lessons and shares resources with colleagues.
  • Suggests resources available to students outside of schools especially over vacations and breaks (libraries, museums, etc.)
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April: Smile With Some Jokes

Jokes Make Us Smile
Jokes Make Us Smile

If ever there was a time that we all need to smile, it certainly is now. When kids learn about jokes they often tell some really “corny” jokes and sometimes you just have to laugh because THEY THINK they are REALLY FUNNY!    A smile or a laugh could do us all some good!

What time is it when the clock strikes 13?
Answer: Time to get a new clock. HINT: Can a clock strike 13?

What musical instrument is found in the bathroom?
Answer: A tuba toothpaste. HINT: What do you use to brush your teeth?

Why can’t Elsa from Frozen have a balloon?
Answer: Because she will “let it go, let it go.” HINT: What is the famous song from the movie “Frozen”?

What did one volcano say to the other?
Answer: I lava you. HINT: Use the word that comes out of the volcano in your answer.

How do you get a squirrel to like you?
Answer: Act like a nut. HINT: What do squirrels eat?

How are false teeth like stars?
Answer: They come out at night. HINT: What do people do with their false teeth when they go to sleep?

What building in your town has the most stories?
Answer The public library. HINT: Stories can be levels or books

What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?
Answer: Finding half a worm. HINT: Something about the worm.

How do we know that the ocean is friendly?
Answer: It waves. HINT: How does the ocean move?

What is a tornado’s favorite game to play?
Answer: Twister. HINT: How does a tornado move?

How do you talk to a giant?
Answer: Use big words. HINT: the size of the giant

What animal is always at a baseball game?
Answer: A bat. HINT: A piece of baseball equipment

What falls in winter but never gets hurt?
Answer: Snow. HINT: A type of weather

Why did the cookie go to the hospital?
Answer: Because he felt crummy. HINT: It’s what cookies look like when cookies get squashed.

What kind of water can’t freeze?
Answer: Hot water. HINT: temperature of water

What kind of tree fits in your hand?
Answer: A palm tree. HINT: part of your hand

What do you call a dinosaur that is sleeping?
Answer: A dino-snore. HINT: What noise do some people make when they sleep?

What do you say to a rabbit on its birthday?
Answer: Hoppy Birthday. HINT: How do rabbits move?

What’s the one thing will you get every year on your birthday, guaranteed?
Answer: A year older. HINT: How you are different between the day of your birthday and the day before your birthday.

Why do candles always go on the top of cakes?
Answer: Because it’s hard to light them from the bottom. HINT:  Where you put the candles

What do cakes and baseball teams have in common?
Answer: They both need a good batter. HINT: same name for a baseball player and part of a cake before baked

What goes up but never comes down?
Answer: Your age. HINT:  Happens on your birthday.

Why are fish so smart? Answer: Because they live in schools. HINT:  What is a group of fish called?

Why did the girl throw her clock out the window? Answer: She wanted to see time fly. HINT: what does a clock do?

Why was Cinderella bad at soccer? Answer: Because she was always running away from the ball. HINT: Something about the soccer “ball”.

Where do cows go on Friday nights? They go to the MOO-vies! HINT: What sound do cows make?

If a seagull flies over the sea, what flies over the bay? Answer: bagel. HINT: Same type of bird over a different type of water.

What animal can you always find at a baseball game? Answer: A bat.   HINT: A piece of baseball equipment.

What does every birthday end with? Answer: The letter Y. HINT: Look at the word birthday

I hope one of the jokes brought a smile to your world!

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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National Zoo Day: April 8th

April 8th is National Zoo Lovers Day
April 8th is National Zoo Lovers Day

April 8th is National Zoo Lovers Day and although COVID-19  has most of us staying home, there are many zoos and aquariums to discover online. I’ve posted about zoos and encouraged webcam watching.  Unfortunately, the animals aren’t always doing something when the kids stop by to view!  So, here’s a few more zoo links that might have animals doing something fun when you “drop by” to see them.

National Zoo Day Facts

  • The first public zoo in the United States was the Central Park Zoo in New York which opened in 1874.
  • The oldest zoo is the Vienna Zoo and was opened in 1765. 
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom has had almost 10 million visitors.

Zoo and Aquarium Live Cams

  • Atlanta Zoo– Along with the panda webcam, the zoo also has a large collection of “At Home” lessons.  Lessons are easy-to-use and include a wide variety of activities for kids of all ages. Check out the Panda Cam
  • Houston Webcams:  Check out the webcams that watch 7 different animals that call the Houston Zoo home. Kids will love seeing chimpanzees, giraffes, flamingos, rhinos, chimps, elephants, gorillas and ants.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium:  Explore the wonders of the ocean through the lens of ten live cams.
  • National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland has a live cam of jellyfish and the Blacktip Reef and Pacific Coral Reef.  I like that they include photos of fish to look for while you are viewing the webcam.

Zoo Trivia

  • A group of deer is called a? Herd
  • How many legs does a spider have?  8
  • Which animal has the highest blood pressure? Giraffe
  • The largest mammal in the world? Blue whale
  • Name the only animal which cannot jump?  Elephant
  • How many heart chambers does a cockroach have?  12
  • Which bird is a universal symbol of peace?  Dove
  • The fingerprints of which animal most resemble a human’s? A koala
  • A mandrill is what kind of animal? A monkey
  • A snail can sleep for how many years?  Three
  • All six legs of an ant are attached to what part of the body?   thorax
  • A group of lions is called a?  Pride
  • Name the slowest animal in the world? Three-toed sloth
  • Dogs only have sweat glands in their? Paws
  • Which animal never sleeps?  Bullfrog
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COVID-19 Organizing Learning

COVID-19 Learning
COVID-19 Learning

COVID-19 learning is our new reality and it has created a new kind of teaching for everyone.  But for parents, who are now taking on this responsibility, the question of where do we start is major.

COVID-19 Learning Tools

  • Keep a log of learning – Learning can occur anywhere, so take a few minutes, to get your child to write down what they’ve worked on. 
  • 24/7 Fieldtrip– Think of the time at home as a 24/7 field trip.  Look at family life as learning opportunities. It doesn’t have to be “worksheet learning”.  Ask your child to alphabetize the pantry or a book collection.  Take those same books and have them make a domino track and get them to fall down. In schools, teachers plan for the entire class.  Look for activities for YOUR CHILD to learn. They don’t have to be teacher-assigned. Use your log to track the learning.
  • Take Breaks – Kids and teachers have down time when they go to other teachers.  So be sure to include them in your schedule.   
  • Set routinesKids may not admit it but they like routine.  They like to know what’s next and with the uncertainty around COVID-19, a routine will be comforting for your child.   Schools revolve around routine.  So do your best to create a routine that works best for YOUR family. Maybe it’s blocks of time, early/late morning or even days of the week that work best.  Make the schedule one that you can ALL live with and CHANGE IT if it’s not working.  
  • Talk, Talk, Talk – Kids learn best when asking and answering questions.  Take cues from them.  And it’s OK if you don’t know all the answers to their questions.  A perfect learning opportunity is researching the answer. This is a great opportunity to build independence, too.
  • Read, Read, Read – Support reading by reading everything possible. Books, cereal boxes and even closed captions to anyone that will listen (dolls, pets, Facetime audiences, siblings). Follow up activities can include writing about what they’ve read or writing letters or sending drawings of their reading adventures. All these activities are literacy based and can be a few words, few sentences or a few paragraphs based on your child’s age.  
  • Project-based learningEngaging kids in a project that they want to do will make teaching SO much easier.  Help them identify a project and watch them be creative.  Two of my granddaughters created a lending library of their books that kept them involved for over 3 hours!

We don’t know how long these uncertain times will last.  But it may be a marathon friends, so pacing is important. Remember to keep in mind that perfection is not required.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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COVID-19 Is Making Educating Kids Tough

Education reforms have often been described as “building the airplane while it’s in the air”.  Yep, I’ve used the phrase, but it can’t be any more accurate that what we are going through right now.  Today, COVID-19 has us building fleets of airplanes to support millions of kids.  

Some districts had created an infrastructure that had teachers ready to go and made remote teaching somewhat seamless for kids and parents.  For other districts, their planes were in various stages of development. However, regardless of the status, teachers, parents and kids have assumed responsibility, took ownership and we are all working collectively towards shared goals.  Yes, this certainly wasn’t planned but we are all going to get through it together.

COVID-19 is our new reality and it has created a new kind of teaching for everyone.  For teachers, they are assigning activities and hoping that kids and parents will work on them and kids will learn.  In education, on-going assessment of material is critical to adjust lessons to support learning. Although lessons may be completed, whether kids learned may not be known for a while.  All of us are working hard and hoping for the best.

Kudos to the millions of parents that have been dealt a major assignment.  They are acting as both teacher and parents and, in many cases, continue their employment from home. Juggling at the finest. 

Next Post: COVID-19 Organizing Learning

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Forever Young

Perhaps it’s returning from the store and not being able to find a simple thing like a thermometer to check my temperature. Or, the many hours of extra reflection due to social distancing. Or, the ongoing news stories of the pandemic. All of this along with the fact that my entire family is 700 miles away in or very near the epicenter of the virus, I’m posting on a Tuesday. I’m also embedding a video for the first time. Hope it works.

I’ve been a big fan of the Canadian Tenors for year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Enjoy the 3:43 minutes of calm.


Forever Young The Tenors

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others, let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the sky, climb on every rung
And may you stay, forever young

May you grow up to be righteous, may grown up to be true
May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you
May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong
May you stay, forever young Forever young, (echo)
Forever young, (echo)
May you stay, (echo)

May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation, with no winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful, your song always be sung
And may you stay, forever young Forever young, (echo)
Forever young, (echo)
May you stay, (echo)
Forever young, (echo)
And may you stay, (echo)

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes always come true
And may you stay, forever young

Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Bob Dylan March Posts

 March Posts from
March Posts from

Last year my 2019 Blog resolution was to be sure that I posted a newsletter on time each month. Resolution Success! This year I weighed whether to continue the blog or to spend the majority of my time with a larger writing project. After much deliberation and support from family and blog followers, I’ve decided to continue blogging for another year. So, my 2020 Blog resolution is to continue writing the Threeringsconnections blog AND still getting the newsletter out on time each month. Let the balancing of efforts begin! 3 newsletters down and 9 to go. Other “writing” started, yeah! 

This month was a whirlwind for everyone!  So many unanswered questions and worries have become part of everyday life.  I created my blog 2 years ago to help parents and teachers have resources to support kids.  I never thought my posts would be used to help provide resources for the millions of kids that are being taught at home because of COVID-19.  I hope you will find some resources to help you support your kids during these tough times.  

Be well, my friends and take care of each other. 

March’s Posts

COVID-19 Newsletters: New Posts and Reposts by Subject Area- 2018-present

March’s Most Popular Posts

My Favorite March Posts

I choose my favorites each month for different reasons. Sometimes it’s timeliness, a hot education topic, student teacher needs or as a family and friends resource. Sometimes, it’s just, BECAUSE. Enjoy!

2020 Archives

2019 Archives

2018 Archives

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?