Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to Win a Penny Wars Fundraiser Competition With Your Class (For Teachers)


Is your school holding a penny war fundraiser?  Then you know the basics of this easy fundraiser are to get as many pennies into your bucket as possible, and to put nickels, dimes, pennies, and bills into others’ buckets because although they raise money for your cause too, they count for negative points in this competition.  Since the amount of points earned by each class is announced at the end of each day, you will know who’s ahead and who’s behind. It goes by fast since you only have 3 minutes per day for 3 days, but after the first year of doing this fundraiser, classes start to get more competitive and develop strategies.   So if you’d like to raise money for a worthy cause and increase your chance of winning the prize for the most points at the end of the penny wars, read on!
Put some “silver” in all the other class’s buckets, since it counts against them in a penny war fundraiser.  You don’t need much this first day; you just need to do enough to stay competitive.  Do NOT put pennies in your own class bucket today.  The reason for this is you don’t want to be ahead at the end of day 1.  The other classes go after the fundraisers winner on day 2 with a vengeance.  Save all your pennies in a communal jar that you keep hidden in the classroom. 

Knock out the top two classes with silver on day 2.  Tell kids to save half the silver money they plan to donate, however.  Since all the other classes will also go after the winners, you need to be poised to take out the Day 2 winners tomorrow.  Again, don’t put pennies in your own class bucket, because you don’t want to look like you’re coming out ahead.

Go after the new top two classes on day 3 with the rest of the dimes, nickels, and pennies they have brought for the fundraiser. 

Wait until the last 30 seconds, then dump all the pennies the kids have brought into the bucket.  Your competitors will not have time to make an organized, concentrated effort against you if you wait until the last minute.  Due to the competitive nature of many kids, they’ll probably have used up all their “silver” coins in the first 2 minutes, so it will be too late for them to stop you.

Take pride in knowing you’ve raised all that money for a worthy cause.  Whether your school uses the money for supplies, or gives it to charity, it’s a fun competition that gets kids excited about donating, teaches about positive and negative numbers, and fosters problem solving strategies.  Have fun!  

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Photo Credit: 
penny wars fundraiser photo courtesy of r-z

Monday, May 9, 2011

How to Have an Easy School Fundraiser with 100 Percent Profit (For Parents)

Are you a PTO member, interested in holding an easy school fundraiser? Would you like to know about a fundraiser that gets kids excited AND lets you keep 100% of all the funds brought in? The PTO parents at the school where I teach have done this, and we call it "Penny Wars." Read on to find out how to host your easy school fundraiser at your child's school.   

Create hype. After getting the green light from the principal for the fundraiser, post signs telling the kids to save their pennies and spare change. Send notices to families about how this easy school fundraiser will work. Give the 3 consecutive dates when the Penny Wars will take place. Tell them that the winners will earn a pizza party.

Give instructions for the point system this easy school fundraiser uses. During the Penny War, each penny collected by a classroom earns 1 point. Each nickel in a classroom bucket is NEGATIVE 5 points. Dimes are negative 10, and so on.  In other words, the kids in my class bring in pennies to put in OUR bucket. They bring "silver" coins (nickels, dimes and quarters) and even dollars to put in the OTHER classrooms' buckets in order to take points away from them.

Set time and safety limits that make sense for your school. This is going to depend on the size and layout of your building. Our school has the young children on the first floor and older children on the second. For safety reasons, the 6 classrooms with older children must stay upstairs; they do not compete with the younger children. For a school of this size, 3 minutes works well. Since the 2 floors compete in this easy school fundraiser separately, each floor has a winner at the end of the 3 days. 

Set out a bucket in front of each room minutes before the start (we do ours first thing in the morning so that money doesn't go missing as the day goes on). Collect the buckets right after the time limit is up for the day. Having several PTO members to collect the buckets works well to keep things fair. Working with a bank for this easy school fundraiser to help count the change helps a lot! This way you can post the totals by the end of the day. 

Keep up the hype leading up to the Penny Wars, and during! The teachers can strategize with the students and even foster problem solving and concepts of negative numbers. Classes will get more savvy the second year when it comes to strategizing for this easy school fundraiser because the numbers may not turn out how you think at the end of day 2...but I don't want to give away ALL our secrets. The surprise it more exciting anyway. I will say though, that in a school of about 250 children, we raised a few thousand dollars last year during those 9 minutes (3 minutes a day for 3 days). I hope it works for your school too. Good luck!


Tips & Warnings
•    Teachers stand in the hallway outside their door to supervise children in their area.
•    Emphasize that children should not run during the three minutes.
•    Avoid having children go up and down stairs, since they're more likely to get excited and trip.
•    Children and teachers are not allowed to physically block their bucket, or verbally intimidate children away from their bucket.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How to Teach Your Child to Read Books They'll Like (For Parents)

Do you want to teach your child to read books they'll like? Are you frustrated with your child's reading habits? There can be several reasons why your child doesn't like to read. The books may be too hard, too easy, or the topics might not be of high interest to them. Teaching your child how to choose his or her own book is empowering, and enforces that reading is something that isn't imposed on them, but something they have some control over. So if you want to teach your child how to read books that will interest them and will get them hooked, read on.

Kids learn to read books on subjects that interest them
Bring your child to a bookstore or library. You want to have a wide selection of books for your child. Of course the advantage of the library is the books are free, whereas the advantage of the bookstore is all the books are new, which appeal more to some kids learning to read.

Teach your child to read books with pictures they like
Teach your child to browse books by looking at the cover art. As kids learn to read, even a reluctant reader will usually look at pictures without much of a struggle. Play up this habit by teaching your child that they can learn about the topic of the book by what's shown on the cover.

Kids learning to read can be hooked on stories from movies
Model for your child that after a picture grabs their attention, the next step is to read the title and author. Help children learn that the title can give a hint about what the book is about, or it might sound familiar. To make this more concrete, find a book that's currently being made into a movie that they have seen, or that they've seen commercials for on TV. Often as kids learn to read if they know there's a movie version, or has seen the movie already, they are less intimidated about reading it than a whole book with no background knowledge about what's going to happen in it.

Teach your child to read books that are an appropriate length
Help children learn that they need to check the length of books. If the book looks and feels thinner or fatter than they are used to reading, this is an indication that the book is too easy or too hard. Depending on the child's age and reading level, they can forget what happens in a book that is too long for them.

Kids learning to read need to be shown the summaries
Model reading the back of the book aloud to your child. Not every book has a synopsis on the back cover, but those that do help children learn if the book is really what they were hoping for when they saw the cover art and they picked it out.

Help children learn the 5 finger rule to gain independence
Help children learn the "5 finger rule" test to see if the book is too easy or hard. First have the child open to a page in the middle of the book. Have them read one entire page, counting on their fingers how many mistakes or times they get stuck on a word. If they make 2 or 3 mistakes this book is likely at the appropriate reading level for him or her. Teach your child to read books that fall into this category. Any less and it may be too easy; any more and it may be too hard.

Good luck helping your children learn to read
Provide encouragement. Not all kids like to read, and not all children learn to read at the same pace. Let your child know you're proud of him or her when they do choose a book to read, even if it's not the quality literature you may be hoping for. They'll get there. Good luck!

Final tips: 
If giving your child free reign in the bookstore is too overwhelming, limit his or her choices. Select a pile of books that you think are topics he or she is interested in. Having some variation in the length and difficulty is a good learning experience in helping your child choose what's appropriate.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Best Study Tips for any Course: For Students

I was always a good student in school, and now I'm a teacher. Here are study skills to get good grades in school, and advise my students to do as well.



Show up for class.
Of all study tips this is most important. It is easier to study when you know what the professor has taught each day!

Listen and take notes in class.
If you use tutoring programs they can help you go through your notes. You need to pay close attention to what is said to know what is important to study. Also, you need notes in order to have something to study later. This is easier than trying to study the whole textbook.

Ask your teachers questions if you don't understand something.
You need to have the right answers to study. Tutoring programs will help you learn content. But only your teacher can give you insight into her expectations.

Use study tips for your learning style
Provided you follow those 3 prerequisite study tips, you should have the information you need to study. Decide what type of learner you are. Good tutoring programs help you figure this out and capitalize on it. Do you learn better by listening, writing, reading, or moving around? Are you very musical, social, or quiet? Narrow this list to a few possibilities, since most learn through more than one modality.
*If you learn best by listening, tutoring programs would suggest that you read your notes aloud or get your books on tape.
*If you learn best by reading, read your notes over.
*To learn by writing, underline parts of your book (assuming you own it!) and write your thoughts in the margins. If you don't own the book, make photocopies to annotate. Or, stick Post Its in the pages.
*If you're energetic, you read aloud while walking around, or listen to books/lectures on tape while you clean. This might sound contrary to many study tips that say you need to be still to focus. But for some it works!
*If you're musical, make up chants to go with lists of notes you need to memorize.
*If you're a social person, join or organize a study group. Just make sure the sessions are really focused on studying.
*Alternatively, if you're a quiet person, study somewhere alone.
Try one or more of these study tips. If they don't work, try others. If you're still struggling, repeat step 3 and ask more questions, because you might be misunderstanding the material. Look into tutoring programs for personalized help. If you'd like more ideas on how to study, I've included resource links on this page. Good luck and try your best!

Final Thoughts:
Do NOT watch TV when you study. Instrumental music is fine for some people because they can read their notes with background noise. But you can't see your notes and the TV at the same time, plus the conversations only interrupt the words on your page. It's distracting.
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