Helping Kids Learn How to PAY ATTENTION- and Other Important Social Skills!

There are many things that keep children from paying attention, and sometimes the distractions come from within the child himself!  So in order to help children learn to identify their own behaviors that make learning harder, and hopefully help them learn to avoid them or stop doing them altogether, I have written a brand new book called Wiggles Learns to Pay Attention!  This book is a sequel to my first Wiggles book, called Wiggles Learns the Rules at School.

We read one of these Wiggles books nearly every day as a way of teaching and reviewing the procedures and rules.

Introducing a NEW sequel to the first  Wiggles book:  Wiggles Learns to Pay Attention!

I introduced this book to my class a few weeks ago, and the children LOVED it!  I love it because it helps me address all of those little bad habits that kids sometimes have that prevent them from paying attention to lessons, such as:  picking at yourself or your clothing, spinning around in circles on the carpet, rolling around on the carpet, wandering around during a lesson, attention getting behaviors, asking or telling unrelated questions or stories, talking to other students in the middle of a lesson, interrupting, and asking to take care of restroom needs in the middle of a lesson.

In short, all of the little things that the children did continually during the first two or three weeks of school when they were supposed to be paying attention (but weren't!) found their way into this book!  Teaching school turned out to be a really fun and inspirational way to brainstorm the idea for a new book!  Take a look at the video below to see how it turned out.

I find this book to be a wonderful, non-threatening way to address behavior issues with children because it takes the focus off of individual children that may be misbehaving and focuses it on the dog in the story instead.  When I tell the story, I always use a soft hand puppet and have that puppet act out the story, and as he fidgets and gets distracted, I talk to him about why his behavior is prevents him from learning, and what he should do instead.

This photo shows an old "home-bound" preview copy of our book "Wiggles Learns to Pay Attention" in black and white. It is now in color.

Books that teach children skills like this are often referred to as "Social Stories."  In social stories, there is usually a child that learns to deal with a social situation in a positive way.  In this case, we are using a cute little dog that children can relate to instead of a child, and teaching children about behaviors that will help them be more successful in school.

Once children understand why these behaviors are important and beneficial, it is more likely that they will be willing to cooperate with adults that remind them to, for example, look at the reader in the eye when he is speaking, or to sit in one place rather than spin around in circles while listening to a story.

One great thing about using a puppet to help teach social skills is that when a child is having behavior issues, you can always talk to the puppet about the misbehavior rather than the child if necessary, especially in cases in which the child simply will not listen.  For example, one little boy had a hard time at recess.  Apparently, he had been seen throwing rocks by more than one adult and several children, and had to come in for a chat- but each time I began the conversation he kept yelling denials about throwing rocks.

So I decided to let him calm down for a few moments and then talk to the puppet instead after the children came back inside after recess.  My thought was that if I did it this way, the entire class could benefit from this teachable moment, and I could avoid lavishing any negative attention on the child, which could actually backfire and reinforce the very behavior I was trying to eliminate.

It worked!  In fact, as I tried to talk to Wiggles about the bad behavior, the child in question kept trying to interrupt my conversation with the puppet and insist that he did not do this or that.  I just reminded the child that I was not talking to him, but the dog puppet instead!  Thankfully, the child in question gave up after two or three tries to redirect attention to himself, and simply listened to my conversation with the Wiggles puppet instead of argue with me and try to get the class to focus their attention back on him.  In the end, he gave up on the behavior I wanted to eliminate, so it must have worked!

The other good thing was that I never had to actually sit down and confront the child on his obvious lie, (which sometimes leads to difficult confrontations with parents who want to support their children that insist they are telling the truth.)  He still heard all of the reasons why he should not be throwing rocks (when I talked to the puppet.)  He still heard the entire conversation about the issues with the class, and he sat out during that time, but we didn't have to pursue it any further than that.  (Thankfully, he didn't hit anyone with the rocks!)

On a side note, last week one day after school during my tutoring group, the classroom door opened, and in trotted a small dog that someone had evidently let in.  Wouldn’t you know that the dog was a dead ringer for Wiggles, LOL!  (Well okay- he was a white mutt with black spots, which was close enough for us!)

The kids in the group all started yelling, “WIGGLES, WIGGLES!!!!!” as if a real live celebrity had just walked into our room!  It was hilarious!  It turned out that the dog had been sniffing at our door after school and one of the children from another class that had gone to the restroom had seen him there, and decided to let him in, assuming that he belonged to us!  Not long after that, the dog’s owner came looking for him.  Luckily, he was a friendly little hound!  You can see a picture of our furry little visitor at the right.  :)

2.  A NEW Wiggles Game: Where’s Wiggles? Sight Word Game

Where's Wiggles?  Here he is!

Here's a new sight word game, with a Wiggles the Dog theme!  My kids absolutely LOVE this new little game, because they get to pretend to be dogs and do dog tricks!  I love it because I get to watch them do silly things like shake, sit, stay, roll over, speak, beg, and wag their “tails,”LOL!  So in the game, the children read a word and then pick up the card to see if Wiggles is hidden behind it.  If not, the whole group does the dog trick.  It’s as simple as that.  It can be played whole group or small group. My only complaint about it is that I only wish we had more time to play it!

In a small group, it works better if you seat them on the floor rather than around a table, since they constantly need to get up from the table to do their dog tricks, and that’s a bit of a pain.  So it is better to just push the table and chairs out of the way, I think.  As always, we included a page of blank word cards so that you could change the words to whatever you are working on, or even change them to numbers, etc.

When I tried the game out for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I had an incredibly fun morning, giggling the whole time as I watched them do their doggy tricks!  But I think that this game is a good cure for the blues.  Who could ever be sad while watching bunch of little kids roll over and beg, or wag their tails?  :)

We also sell the CUTE Wiggles puppet for only $10!!

P.S. Don't forget all our videos are available to STREAM on UScreen, FREE for the first 30 days! It's an awesome way to bring some EASY, active learning to your students during this time, and they can always cancel right before they are ever charged, like on day 29! Check out the info page on our website for more info!

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  1. Love the letter to parents! Wow! Now I need to make one to show parents how to correctly write D'nealian letters!

  2. To Mrs. King:
    That's a great idea! A letter about writing the alphabet! I don't have to teach D'nealian, though, thankfully!

  3. Wow, you guys are super strict about number writing :) I don't let my kids do the "7 type" 1s, snowman eights or triangle fours either, but I don't even think I have an overlap on my own 4s haha. No wonder parents don't know :) It's great that you tell them though, hopefully they do read it!

  4. Hi HEIDI,
    What a great conference tool for parents! Will you be creating one for the alphabet?? Thanks for sharing!

  5. You have such great ideas. Thank you for being willing to share so many things with us.

  6. I look forward to your blogs every week. You have such great ideas and a wealth of knowledge. Thank you so much for sharing so much with us!

  7. The back cover page in our first grade consummable
    handwriting book shows how to form letters. I am inspired now to write a parent letter and send that sample home!

  8. Thanks for the parent letter. Now I just need someone to translate it into spanish for me.

  9. Your ideas are awesome! Do you have to translate your parent letters? If you do, would you consider posting the translated version? Thanks so much!

  10. To Anonymous:
    I do sometimes translate my parent letters, but the sad truth is that this year, I only have one parent that needs it, and this is the child's second year in K since she is repeating kindergarten. I had her brother previously, too. Sadly, I have discovered that her parents really cannot read even what I translate into Spanish, and her mother comes to me for help reading something when she notices a place for a signature at the bottom of a note. She needs help reading it, even when it is in Spanish. So sad! So I don't translate anything except for homework cover sheets this year, since it is a wasted effort, unless it is a file that I have used in the past and it is already translated. But I will see if I can find the time to translate this one...

  11. Wow, you are welcome, everybody! I am actually surprised at the positive comments on the parent letter regarding the number formation! The teachers at my school didn't seem to care about that one at all, so I wondered if it was worth bothering to share. In fact, I think that nobody even wanted a copy. I'm glad I decided to share it, because it was a lot of work! :)

  12. I love your letter to the parents. I'm going to give a copy to them during our conferences. I have had to remind parents to PLEASE have their child use a pencil for their handwriting homework....I have some coming back in crayon and pen...really sloppy. I don't even think the parents looked at the work....very sad!

  13. To Miki:
    No kidding! It really drives me nuts when you send home a handwriting paper and it just comes back with no supervision whatsoever. But for many families, that is the norm.
    On the other hand, I have to remind myself that when you don't know where your next meal is coming from, or how you will pay your rent, you may not care very much how your child writes a number eight. And that is a fact of life for many children living in poverty. Their parents are stressed, and their lives are different than mine was when I was growing up. With a lot of these parents, it's not that they don't care, it's more that they have so much on their minds that they can't focus on these types of details. BUT, one thing that I have noticed is that if I can catch them at the door when they pick up their children, and ask them personally if they could find time to help their child, they often WILL. They just need me to ask them personally. So I try to remember to place the papers of the children in these situations right next to the door where I dismiss the children, and ask the parents if they can wait for a minute, and then ask them sweetly if they can help me out. It does work 80-90% of the time!

  14. Here is a great resource for the letter printing that I found - may save some time!
    She also has it in D'Nealian as well. :)

  15. Thank you for the letter for parents that I WILL be using at conference time. I am also going to save a piece of their homework done incorrectly to show them that they should be working on this correctly with their child. My kindergarten team is ready to give up on homework because if it comes back it is usually a mess. :(

  16. Cute post. I've taught K for 5 years and now am a parent of a K parent. Now a new fan and follower of your blog =)

    RE Translation. I have a real person help me write a short paragraph explaining that I am using a translator and to fogive me for any errors. Then, I put any and all conversations using a free online translating service.

  17. Dawn in Great FallsNovember 5, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    Thank you, thank you!!! This homework thing drives me nuts for kinders!!! Just no supervision in most cases! You are right, Heidi-----a lot of our students in poverty are dealing with issues we could/will never understand!

  18. Heidi, I LOVED your response to the teacher who said teaching K's was just like teaching adults!! If you could summon up your "hutzpah" and repeat it to the high school presenter, I think you'd get a round of applause!! Remember the Blueberry Story!! Teaching Kindergarten children how to write...compose sentences...while at the same time teaching them letters and letter sounds, is NOT the same as teaching any other grade. All Kindergarten teachers know that. At one time, in the not too distant past, it wasn't even a skill that was required for Kindergarten kids.

  19. LOVE your ideas, Heidi, and thanks for all the freebies you share. That's one thing I miss about others' blogs these days. I think I'm picky about handwriting, but the number page really surprised me about what the kids would get credit for! I don't accept snowman eights either, and would be sure to add starting the zeroes by the top instead of bottom-up zeroes. But triangle fours are still fours, and the sevens look like sevens, so I probably would accept those. Your district is pretty strict, and didn't you say some of your kids are still four coming into school? Wow!
    I completely agree about homework done in crayons/markers, and done "independently" (wrong), and how no one reads the letters! AHH! All we can do is try, right? :)

  20. To Anonymous:
    Yes, I am just going with what everyone in K at my school has agreed to "enforce" as proper number formation. I hadn't thought about starting the zero at the top, though. I figure that no matter where they start it, if it looks like a zero, it's a zero. The problem is that with 24 kids to watch, I can't watch them all start and finish it, unfortunately! And if I can't tell where it was started and finished and it looks like a zero, I figure it's okay.
    Yes, I have approximately 6-7 kids this year that were four years old when they started K this year. It is so hard for them! But the thing is that if they don't pass all of the numbers in Nov., they usually get it by March or June, so if they can't make a diagonal line in November, the 7 will be wrong, it's true. I paper that we use to test and practice their numbers has boxes rather than lines, so I tell them to draw a slide down to the corner of the box. That usually does the trick!
    I sometimes let a few of them numbers that are close "slide" and mark them correct when I know that they are not quite there, as long as I can see that they are on their way to getting there. My opinion is that if I don't keep my standards high, their standards will always be low, right?
    The little ones that are four when they start are always going to be a little behind until they catch up developmentally, and that goes for all subjects, really- not just number writing! They have trouble with rhyming and sorting, and all kinds of developmental skills. I try to be gentle and encouraging as much as possible. When they do get it, we all celebrate with the "Smarty Pants Dance!"

  21. I LOVE Wiggles Pays Attention, so cute!

    I hear your homework pain! You make a good point about students and families who are struggling. Here is the system we came up with at our school that really worked for our population which is all low-income, ESL: Homework Probably the most effective thing we did was the video and homework night event. Those two things alone pushed our test scores up. I also use sheets with the numbers and letters in the ABC arrow font like the picture of the name card at the link above, it's very helpful.

    We also had a lot of problems with incorrect letter and number formation because of our diverse population. Many other countries write their ones with the little hat and other little differences that caused their children difficulty.

  22. I also am strict about handwriting letters and numbers. I tell my parents that it is my job to teach them the correct way in the beginning and reinforce it for the year. If I let the sloppiness etc. go then I am reinforcing the incorrect way. BTW I teach my children "make an S, then don't wait, back to the top is number eight so it doesn't look like your correct way to print an 8 either.

  23. You are my mentor! I have been teaching for five years and I still look to your guidance and support. I am so glad to know that someone else is in love with kindergarten and continues to make it better for the kids each day. Thanks, Heidi!

    Scottsburg, Indiana


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