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John Helgeson, Ph.D. | @dr_helgeson

John Helgeson, Ph.D. | @dr_helgeson

John Helgeson is a Secondary ELA Curriculum Specialist in the Northshore School District in Bothell, Washington. John has been in education for 18 years teaching middle school and junior high students English, Social Studies, and Drama. He has experience teaching in low-income settings, co-teaching with special education colleagues, and teaching pre-AP/IB honors classes. He has enjoyed teaching in Minnesota, Washington, and Japan. 

John has presented at several local and national conferences including WERA/OSPI Annual Conference, AMLE Annual Conference for Middle Level Educators, ASCD Annual Conference, and the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education Biennial Convocation. Topics have included using physical movement in the classroom; effective reading, vocabulary, and writing instruction strategies; flipping the ELA classroom; and exploring literature circles in a mixed-grade/mixed-ability setting. In addition to presenting these topics, John has written several articles on literacy instruction and physical movement in the classroom. John currently sits on the Executive Council for Kappa Delta Pi. 

In his free time, John enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, reading a good book, running and participating in triathlons. 

Posted by on in Student Engagement

 Starbucks cupI love this time of year.  The fall season feels like an extended holiday season regardless of the holidays each person celebrates:  Halloween and Thanksgiving followed by the Winter Break holidays. Students, administration, teachers, and parents love giving and receiving  gifts.  With the recent reveal of the 2016 Starbucks Holiday Cups, it is a time to embrace the current season and the holidays to come.

Starbucks has become commonplace to represent coffee around the U.S and the world. Students at all levels are able to identify with the company, logo, and the coffee it serves. In many cities, rural and urban, students have indulged themselves with frappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, and steamed milk. Teachers frequent Starbucks this time of year with Peppermint Mochas and Egg Nog Lattes. Admin. teams  and PTA groups often donate carafes of coffee to the teachers' lounge. Parents and students enjoy peppering teachers with Starbucks gift cards which teachers graciously accept adding to their holiday cheer.

Adding gimmicks to a lesson provides creativity, engages the mind, and increases student motivation. Gimmicks also help students connect interests to content. Utilizing physical movement along with gimmicks adds more intrigue and fosters increased brain activity encouraging synaptic connections.

For this activity, Starbucks, movement, and reading have been combined to provide a stimulating experience.

Items You Will Need:

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Posted by on in Literacy


October is one of my favorite months of the year. Halloween with my kids is one of the reasons despite the loads of candy they receive. This is why I love Costco and the small containers of Play-Doh they offer so parents have an alternative to candy and what they offer to trick-or-treaters. There is another reason I love those small containers of Play-Doh....

Reading nonfiction texts may not be the most exciting task for middle school students. Add to this task long periods of silently seated work and repetitive highlighting and annotating, and teachers will find students at all levels of reading fleeing away from reading engagement. Of course, there are times when reading silently is necessary. And, there are times when highlighting and annotations are important. In fact, I have led several workshops on close reading and effective highlighting reading strategies. However, if the process becomes stagnant, readers, especially reluctant readers, will become complacent and reading gains may be limited.

I recently shared a reading strategy that involves tactile movement performed during reading of a nonfiction text. Adding movement activities to lessons does not always entail having students get out of their seats. Some teachers shy away from having students stand and move due to time constraints or interruptions to the flow of a lesson.

For this activity, I chose a nonfiction text that could be easily chunked. Since this text was meant to involve close reading strategies, the text was limited to two pages. The text features included subheadings, which were clearly marked and placed for a natural stopping point for students. I handed out Play-Doh to each participant and gave them specific instructions as to what to do and what not to do with it. Since this was the first time using Play-Doh, class routines had to be set and taught. The amount of emphasis needed for routine instruction depends on the needs of the students .

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

Movement and Routine

The start of the school year is one of the most exciting times of the year for teachers, students, and parents.  While some may argue that point, as a teacher I am filled with elation, nervous energy, and satisfaction in my chosen profession.  

The start of the school year is filled with preparation, and teacher after teacher will tell you how important it is to set-up the classroom in such a way, to greet students, to establish relationships, to build a positive learning climate, and to establish routines and rules. How individual teachers and classrooms go through this process varies.  

Utilizing movement in the classroom is essential, and starting the year off by frequently using movement helps teachers and students get acclimated to the process and helps establish a practice that becomes ingrained in the daily/weekly activity of the classroom procedures.

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

My kids started school this week, and the first day of school report was filled with excitement.  Through the retelling of the day’s activities, two takeaways thrilled me the most.  My kindergartener was practicing moves and songs referencing brain breaks and GoNoodle (www.gonoodle.com) videos.  He talked about the importance of getting up to move and reducing the butterfly jitters some kids were feeling.  I felt so proud of how grown-up he seemed while also feeling sentimental of my youngest heading off to school!   

My fourth grader was also ecstatic after her first day.  She talked nonstop about the day’s adventures.  At one point she mentioned how her class went on a walk. We drilled her with questions:  Where did you go?  Did it occur just because it was the first day? Did you tour the school?  She mentioned that her teacher said it was important for them to get outside and walk every day.   

In these times  when schools are cutting recess time to fill the day with academics and other mandated activities, the direction these two teachers, at different schools, were taking was thrilling.  I’m excited for my kids to experience what these teachers have to offer.  Of course academics are important.  Of course, social and emotional learning is important.  However, all three are positively impacted through movement activities, large and small.   

Teachers at all levels have different comfort level with using movement.  Brain breaks can involve songs and silly movements, but also can be as simple as having students get up out of their seats and moving to a different location or stretching at their desks. Movement can be intense or it can be a stress-free experience of simply taking a short walk around campus. The comfort level teachers have changes as teachers continue to practice and incorporate movement weekly and daily.   

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Posted by on in Professional Development

rainy weather by kadeddy d5jbciy

I woke up today to cloudy, rainy weather.  While this is not necessarily unusual in the Pacific Northwest, it isn't the norm during the Summer months. The cool, crisp morning forced me to realize that summer is coming to a close.  Luckily, for me, the next school year doesn't officially start until after Labor Day, but I know some students in some states are already back in the classroom, and thousands are preparing for the journies that are awaiting them. 

Regardless if students will be pounding on the door tomorrow, next week, or next month, a majority of teachers are constantly thinking of the new school year. For some, they will be entering the profession for the first time. For others, they will be embracing a new content area, grade level, school, or district position.  And for others, they are inching toward retirement. Each teacher is vital to our educational system, and each teacher needs adequate support.  It is easy to feel isolated.  It is easy to feel restrained by a mindset or a building culture. It is also easy to seek new perspectives.  And, it is easy to educate oneself on current topics and practices.  

As the school year approaches, my renewal notices for professional memberships are appearing in my inbox and my mailbox. As teachers seek to meet the demands of schools, districts, states, they can feel mounted pressure and a level of discouragement can creep into their mindsets as they continue to move through their teaching careers. The level of support in the professional world for educators is something that teachers should be aware of and take advantage of. Educators can search for organizations via the internet, peruse educational pamphlets or newsletters in their school mailboxes, join edchats on Twitter, or talk to colleagues about resources to support their educational interests.  

I have found value in joining professional organizations as a way to network, learn, communicate, and receive support from educational experts and colleagues.  In my conversations with educators, only half are members of professional organizations, and the other half are consistently looking for ways to receive more education and more support. As the school year approaches, I challenge educators, or future educators, to find one educational organization to join. I also challenge educators to embrace the organization and interact with the resources of the organization.  This may entail reading journal articles the organization publishes, participating in a webinar, engaging in a Twitter conversation, or joining a special interest group.  I know educators often feel the pinch of time, but if they can take a few minutes each week, their professional learning will blossom, and the level of support they feel will grow exponentially. 

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