Miss B.'s Classroom » Teaching critical thinking skills

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  • Welcome!

    Imagine the possibilities of developing a home environment that encourages and strengthens your child's creativity and innovation. Imagine a world where your child loves to think and explore, and you love providing him or her with effective and endless opportunities to do so.

    With 41 years of teaching experience and a sincere love of children, Miss Barbara, of Miss B.'s Classroom, wants to share tips and activities with you to help incorporate creative thinking skills into the daily lives of your children. You'll love the magic of thinking anywhere, anytime, anyplace!

Activities for Creating a ‘Tradition of Giving’

There’s just something about the Christmas Season that brings joy to the hearts of all of us. Last week I shared some thoughts about giving a gift to your children that will stay with them forever. That gift is: helping them to create a ’Tradition of Giving’. If you’re like my family, we have already begun the memory-making activities of giving to others.

This last Saturday, three of my grandchildren and I went shopping for Mommy, Daddy, Great G-Paw & G-Maw. We laughed our way through four stores, refueled at Starbucks with some hot chocolate, and then started back on the ‘hunt’ again. In each store, I loved that the kids were really thinking about the gifts they were wanting to buy. “Mommy loves this color.” “I know Daddy will use this all the time.” “Doesn’t Great G-Maw like to do puzzles?” (I’ll just say that getting ’The Three’ to come to an agreement on the gifts was my most memorable part of the trip.)  :)

Our last stop was at a dollar store to buy white gift boxes and plain colored gift bags. The grand kids had decided that they wanted to create their own wrappings for the presents. (It’s amazing how one small suggestion got their creative juices going.)

Here are a few last minute ideas that may help as you create a ‘giving’ atmosphere in your home. You will only need: white gift boxes, plain colored gift bags or wrapping paper, index cards, markers, crayons, colored pencils, creative minds and loving hearts. (Of course, your children can get as ‘fancy’ as they want by adding glitter, ribbon, bows, etc. to their designs.)

Your children can:

  • create a picture or design on the top of a gift box and write a special message to the one they are sending it to. I doubt if these box tops will end up in the trash.:)
  • design and color ‘one of a kind’ wrapping paper for their gifts. The wrapping itself will be ‘priceless’ to family and friends.
  • put a loving twist on a gift bag by drawing a picture of something special about the one receiving the gift. Special messages of love and appreciation can also be written. I don’t care if your child is two or twelve, the bag will be loved as much as the present!
  • make their own ‘gift tags’ using index cards. Cut out a designed shape or simply cut the card in half, then have your child draw a picture on one side and a message on the other. Punch a hole in the card and connect with a ribbon. The tags can later be used as treasured bookmarks.

As Winnie the Pooh said:

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

I hope you have a blessed Christmas Season as you thinkimagine…and create the traditions of giving in your home.

Miss B.


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Creating a ‘Tradition of Giving’

After substituting is a 4th grade class this week, I was reminded again of just how excited children get whenever they think about giving to others. We were talking about the meaning of the word volunteer, and after a lot of enthusiastic discussion, the class came up with their own definition, which was: To do something for others because you want to, not because you’re going to be paid for doing it.

Since they had been so creative with their ideas, I decided to extend the activity and asked them this question, “Can you think of some ways that you could volunteer to help someone during this Christmas Season?”

Oh my goodness! This was a brainstorming session on steroids.:)The enthusiasm and creativity of their responses made my day. Again and again, I was reminded of just how giving children really are. Some of their ideas may not have been the most practical (‘I could bake cakes for everyone in my neighborhood.’) or cost effective (‘I could buy a new collar and leash for every dog at the humane society and then take them for a walk.’) - BUT - they were all meant from the heart.

That got me thinking. As parents and teachers, we have such a wonderful opportunity during this season of the year to give a lasting gift to our children. We can help them to develop a tradition of giving by surrounding them with activities that will encourage them to share their creativity and love with others. You can help them to create positive memories about the joys of giving!

Giving isn’t complicated. It can be as simple as baking some cookies for a friend or helping a neighbor rake up their leaves. True giving just comes from a willing heart. I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie recently and one of the characters said, “It’s not the presents that come wrapped in ribbons and bows that count as much as the ones that come from the heart.” YES, I do watch every Christmas Movie I can, and YES, I am a dedicated Softie; but, what a great concept for our children to grasp – heartfelt gifts count!

Sometimes what may seem like the smallest of gifts can bring lasting joy to the one who receives it. A personal example of one of those gifts is a ‘whale bookmark’ that my granddaughter made for me when she was three. It doesn’t resemble a whale in any form or fashion and it’s drawn and cut out from a piece of notebook paper; but, I have treasured it for over four years.:)In giving, it really is ‘the thought that counts’.

An easy and effective way to help your children begin to think creatively about giving to others is by asking them some brainstorming questions such as:

  • “Can you think of some ways we could help one of our neighbors this Christmas Season?”
  • “What could we do to show your teacher how much we appreciate him/her?”
  • “Think of something that we could make for Grandpa and Grandma that would show them how much we love them.”

Of course, you’ll probably want to fill in the underlined parts with your families (or classrooms) suggestions. Then, after choosing some of the ideas, work with your children to help them give to others. Remember, not only do you get to spend quality family-time together, but  you’re helping your children to create a ‘Tradition of Giving’.

Celebrate together as you think…imagine…create,

Miss B.

p.s.  To help you with ‘creating a tradition of giving’, some great projects for friends, family and holiday meal settings are coming soon!


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Turkey-Time Thinking Fun (part 2)

Did you know that listening to and telling jokes and riddles with your children will promote and strengthen their thinking abilities? Problem solving, predicting, visual imagining, analyzing and evaluating are just a few of the thinking skills that you will be encouraging.  In his book, Kids Who Laugh, Dr. Louis R. Franzini wrote, ”A child who enjoys and remembers a joke or riddle and passes it on to others feel an enormous personal accomplishment. Making others laugh is extremely rewarding to children.”

Who knew that a thinking activity that was so enjoyable, was actually a valuable tool that would help you stimulate the intellectual growth of your children? PLUS, sharing them is just plain family fun!:)

Here are a few jokes and riddles to enjoy together as you ‘meet and eat’ with friends and family this season. Your children will love sharing them. (I’ve included some for our younger thinkers to tell also.)

1. You throw away the outside and cook the inside. Then you eat the outside and throw away the inside. What is it? (an ear of corn)

2. How are a turkey, a donkey, and a monkey the same? (They all have keys.)

3. If the Pilgrims were still alive today, what would they be famous for? (Their age!)

4. What sound does a turkey’s phone make? (Wing! Wing!)

5. What do you call a bunch of turkey’s playing football? (Fowl play)

6. The selfish pilgrims came to America on what ship? (The Me-Me-Me Flower)

7. What’s the difference between a turkey and an owl? (The turkey doesn’t give a hoot.)

8. What do arithmetic teachers do on Thanksgiving? (Count their blessings.)

9. If twenty Thanksgiving turkeys told terrible tales, how many “t’s” would there be in all. (The answer is “O”. There are no “t’s” in all.)

Enjoy your time together with your children, extended family and friends as you thinkimagine… and create treasured memories.

Miss B.


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Turkey-time Thinking Fun (part 1)

Here are three easy, fun and exciting ways to will encourage your “Little Turkeys” to use their imaginations. These activities are a great way to bring imaginative thinking into the themes of November. Your kids will absolutely love doing them, and at the same time, they’ll be developing and practicing these important critical and creative thinking skills: imagine, create, design, invent, perceive, hypothesize, analyze and problem-solve. (See post: Two Ways to Think About Thinking.)

Be an Inventor! Think about, imagine, and then create a design for your own robot that could cook your entire Thanksgiving dinner. You are allowed to be the assistant chef, but your robot will do all the cooking. Draw a picture of your helpful robot and then explain to your family how it’s different parts work. (i.e. One arm has a big spoon on it to stir the vegetables.) With a robot like this, your family will really get to relax on Thanksgiving day. Oh, by the way, does your robot clean up too? You might want to build in a broom.:)

Be a costume designer! “It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Super Turkey!” He’s the world’s newest and most amazing super-hero. He can fly faster than a rocket ship and his claws are sharper than a sword. He has one big problem though – - – Super Turkey doesn’t have a costume to wear!:( Could you design an original, fantastic costume that our mighty hero would be proud to wear? After you have created his costume, it would be fun to make up some exciting adventures about how Super Turkey rescued some animals on a farm or at the zoo.  You could even draw an illustration of each of your different stories and then make them into a book to share with your friends and family. What fun!

Be a Detective! Oh no! You just got a phone call that all of the pumpkin pies at the Yummy- Yummy Bakery have been stolen.:( Mr. and Mrs. Yummy have asked if you can help them find their pies! Make up a story about how you solved this case and then share about your great detective work with your family.  (This is a easy way to creatively fill those hours in the car when your driving ‘over the river and through the woods’. Your family will have fun thinking up many different ’cases’ that need to be solved. For example: All the turkeys at the Nelson’s Farm have suddenly disappeared from the barn. Can you figure out what happened?)

I know that these three activities will capture the imaginations of you and your children as you thinkimagine…and create together.

Miss B.

p.s. Turkey-time Thinking Fun (part 2) is coming soon!

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Brainstorming 101/ Jump-start Your Child’s Thinking

When I asked one of my 2nd grade classes if they knew what brainstorming was, Amy came up with this definition:

“The fun activity where you get to share lots of ideas without being afraid you’ll get laughed at.”

Amy hit the nail-on-the-head, so to speak. Brainstorming is a process that will literally jump-start your children’s thinking skills into high gear; because, it gives them the confidence to express their unique and imaginative ideas without any fear of rejection.  It is the seriously fun and creative part of any problem-solving activity. Merriam-Webster Word Central defines brainstorming as: “a technique used to solve problems and encourage creativity in which members of a group share their ideas about a subject.” This skill plays an extremely important role in both the critical and creative thinking processes.

This skill plays an extremely important role in both the critical and creative thinking processes. That’s because it builds on the knowledge and experiences that your children already have and then encourages them to come up with a variety of new and unique ideas. This then enables them to solve their own problems more independently. Brainstorming helps your children become innovators, not imitators!

As adults, we have to consider a wide variety of options (brainstorm) all the time. For example, we might talk and dream about the all the places we want to visit on vacation next year; or, we try to figure out how we can possibly get all three kids to their different activities at 4:00 this afternoon. Fast forward twenty years. Your daughter, Sally, has her first job in a major toy company. The managers have put her on a team that’s in charge of developing a new interactive video game. With the brainstorming skills you’ve taught her, she will be able to play a vital part in the creation of this new product. Tommy, your son, has just figured out how to bring more people into his small business by using the same skills of brainstorming that he practiced at home. It is a valuable problem-solving technique for your children now and in the future!

 The guidelines for the brainstorming activities in Miss B.’s Classroom are simple:

  • First, someone asks a question or states a problem. For example, ”Grandma’s birthday is next week. What can we do to make it special for her?”
  • You encourage the responses to flow. The more the merrier! (i.e. “Good idea! Can you think of another way?” “Wow! What else?”)
  • Every idea, no matter how unique or zany, is accepted. Creativity thrives in your acceptance! :)
  • It’s ‘fair game’ to build onto someone else’s suggestions. If one child suggests making a card and another wants to draw a picture of flowers, then you can combine the ideas and create a beautiful card to give Grandma. (This is especially helpful for younger thinkers.)
  • The whole family, from 2 to 102, has an opportunity to express their own creative opinions and ideas.

Some of the rewards for you and your children are:

  • Your child will discover the fun of looking at a problem or puzzle from many different angles.
  • Learning and practicing this skill will give your child a brighter future by giving him/her a valuable problem-solving tool.
  • The bond your family will experience, by thinking together and sharing ideas, will be amazing. Being able to share ideas freely, without being made fun of (like my student Amy said) really does develop trust and confidence!

Most of the brainstorming activities found on Miss B.’s Classroom will be focused on fun, imagination, and creativity; however, the skills that are learned can be used to solve many of the problems, academic or real-life, that your child might face now or in the future. The practical made fun as you think . . . imagine . . . create!

Miss B.



MissB - Thanks for your comments, Chris. I’m so new at the ‘blogging business’ that I forget that every word counts! You are right! We don’t want to suggest that one idea is good and another bad. My intent was to encourage the responses to keep the ideas flowing. Perhaps I should have suggested some others phrases such as: ‘You’re thinking’ or ‘Keep it up.” It also could be that we have different styles in dealing with our students. I’m an old softie. :)

Chris McNaught - I’m enjoying your site, even though I’m not a teacher or even in public education any more. I used to be a school counselor working at the elementary and middle school levels.

My comments is about your possible responses to the brainstorming activity, ie., “Good idea!” When I had students participate in brainstorming activities, I avoided the use of praise, and reminded them, “While we’re brainstorming there are no good or bad ideas – just ideas.”

My response was more often, “That’s one idea. Do we have anymore?”

Just a thought for you.