Category Archives: Teacher Tips


Try Brain Breaks if your student has trouble focusing on homework or at school.

Try Brain Breaks

If you have ever been told to get up and stretch your legs while working, just to get the blood flowing again, you have heard about brain breaks.

Our brains are only naturally meant to focus on one thing for 30 an hour at a time, depending on the person. Some kids can only handle about 20 min. of intense focus. Sure when watching a movie, reading a good book, or playing a video game you may feel like you are having no trouble intensely focusing, but the truth is your level of concentration and ability to remember what is going on are depleting the longer you are at a task. You may notice you miss important things in the book or movie, or that you start having a lot more trouble beating a particular level in the game.

Well the same thing applies (probably more so) to learning. When students are in class or working on homework, their level of focus needs to be kept consistently high. The easiest way to do this is by allowing them brain breaks.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Student works on a task for anywhere from 20-45 min. This depends on the age and attention span of the student (or you) It is best to set a timer so that they remember to stop. You can use this at work, or while playing video games too!
  2. When the timer goes off they can wrap up the sentence, or problem they are on, then take a 1-3 min. brain break. Again using a timer for this is helpful so that they don’t take too long of a break.
  3. Brain Breaks should involve some kind of movement. Most of the time when we are working or studying we are doing a limited amount of movement. This is not how the human body was originally created to function. Our bodies need kinesthetic stimulation to keep at their highest level.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 as needed for the whole day, homework time, or while you are at work.

Pointer for adults, if you try this yourself see if you are more productive throughout your day, by using a task timer like Toggle.

Suggestions for choosing activities during brain breaks:

For many kids just choosing what to do for their brain break may be difficult, and you may not have the time to watch over them the entire time. An easy way around this is to create a brain break wheel or dice, or another style of decision making tool.

  1. You can do this by using a “decision making app” such as Decision Wheel (for Windows), or Roundom (for Apple)
  2. You can create your own wheel out of a circle cut out of paper, a pencil, and a paperclip (to use as the spinner). Decisionwheel
  3. There is also a great free dice cut out at I Heart Naptime” that has several activities listed out, along with a dice to roll the amount of time to spend on each one. Kids can roll the activity dice and the timer dice to decide what to do during their break. You do have to cut out and put the dice together, but this is pretty easy. You could always create your own for this as well by using hers as a template.

Brain Break Ideas

Here are some great brain break ideas. For more check out our brain breaks board on Pinterest or our Facebook Page. We put lots of ideas up in January during our Brain Break theme. (these are in no particular order)

  1. Dancing-There are a ton of brain break dance videos on youtube or they can just dance around the house.
  2. Yoga or other stretching-Here is a link to some great kid friendly yoga poses. You can also look up kid friendly yoga and stretching exercises on youtube.
  3. Quick short exercises such as: jumping jacks, cat kicks, toe touches, frog hops, bunny hops, push ups, squats, standing on tip toes, lunges, jogging in place, marching in place, high knees, crunches, etc. You can look up short exercises for kids on Google or youtube for more ideas.
  4. Going outside (this may need 4-5 min.) and doing one of the following:
    1. running around the house as many times as they can in 3 min.
    2. doing sprints up and down the driveway or sidewalk
    3. shooting as many baskets as they can in 3 min. (requires basketball goal, an empty bucket, or an empty trashcan, and a ball)
    4. Playing on a playground set if you have one for 3 min.
    5. Figure eights or hopscotch (for figure eights you would create obstacles for them to run around. You would need sidewalk chalk for hopscotch)
    6. Jump rope for 3 min.

These are just a few general ideas to get you started. There are so many wonderful break ideas out there. Do you have any great brain break ideas? Share them in the comments below.
Don’t have any of your own? Brainstorm some ideas with your kids and come back and share your favorites with us!!!!

Thanks for reading 🙂
Amanda Avery


Summer Updates and Fun Resources


Happy Summer to ALL!

We are officially in full summer program swing. We have had two weeks of camp and are gearing up for our workshops and learning activities.
We have a few updates for you and I also wanted to tag on a couple of resources that the kids have been enjoying this summer. Everything from Math resources, to making icecream in a ziploc bag 🙂

Updates and Resources:

1. NEW GOATS! We just brought home three new Nigerian Dwarf goats to join our other two ladies. One of them is even in milk, so the kids this week are getting a kick out of watching me milk a goat (trust me it is quite entertaining for everyone but me!)
We will be updating our website with their pictures and some information about how they are going to become an integral part of our agriculture and sustainability programs (coming soon!). Some of our fall workshops will include making goat cheese and a demonstration of making goat milk soap, which is fantastic for your skin!

2. Workshop Changes: After taking a look at the registration grade levels, and concept review needs of the attendees we have so far, we decided to rearrange some of our workshop days. Here are the updates:

  • Tuesday Keeping Skills Sharp workshops on July 21st, July 28th, August 4th, and August 11th will be for rising 5th-7th graders. We have 6 spots left open as of the time of this email. See below for the Reading and Math topics that will be covered.
  • Wednesday Keeping Skills Sharp workshops on July 22nd, July 29th, August 5th, and August 12th will be for rising 8th and 9th graders. We have 5 spots left open.
  • Details of topics for Keeping Skills Sharp workshops. **All programs are adjusted in difficulty and specific concepts depending on grade level. These are just overall themes.
    • 1st week: Reading is in the AM and Math is in the PM. We will be covering Comic Book story writing based in literary terms, and Number Sense such as decimals, fractions, integers, and ratios.
    • 2nd week: Math is in the AM and Reading is in the PM. We will be covering “Close Reading: Thinking like a scientist”, and Probability and Statistics. We will be incorporating graphing into this one and the next two workshops.
    • 3rd week: Reading is in the AM and Math is in the PM. We will be covering “What are the thoughts and questions that occur when reading and writing” and Algebraic Thinking and Reasoning.
    • 4th week: Math is in the AM and Reading is in the PM. We will be covering academic reading and writing, as well as Geometry concepts and a review of the other Math topics covered in the other three weeks.
  • Friday Outdoor Science and Math Workshops. We are definitely having our workshop on Friday July 31st (we have 7 spots open). Pending final count we may also have one on July 24th, August 7th, and August 14th
  • Friday Loving the Arts workshops. These are all pending final count. We have Visual Arts scheduled for Friday July 24th, and August 14th. We have Theatre on July 31st, and Music on August 7th.

Please contact us to register for workshops. You can also find more information here.

3. Summer Resources:

  • Wonderful Middle School Math website for summer review of concepts:
  • Math games for all grade levels to review concepts over the summer
  • Math Playground games for grades 1-6 (7th and 8th graders can do the 6th grade games to review base skills)
  • Fun Reading site for Elementary students. Three levels to decide between depending on what your reader needs to work on.
  • Fun Activities we tried in Science and Math Camp (these are the top four):
  1. Ziploc Bag Icecream
  2. Balloon Rocket Races (we did graphing and  data tables with these)
  3. Building Bridges out of household materials (we used Popsicle sticks, straws, rulers, some styrofoam blocks, and tape). All the bridges held at least a 3 lb. free weight
  4. Candy fractions. We used candy such as skittles, sour patch kids and jelly beans, to create ratios, fractions of colors to whole, and we will be using this in another workshop for proportions.

Hope you are having as great of a summer as we are! We are continuing to make improvements at our location to create the best environment for our workshops and activities. We look forward to seeing some of you in the next few weeks. Call or email with any questions about registration or resources.

Happy Summer 🙂

Contact information:
Phone: 919-973-0702 or 919-578-6990


What Do You Do When Positive Thinking Isn’t Working?? (especially before a big test)

Lightbulb Cartoon

Think Positive!

What if I can’t?!

As we pull into the last few weeks of the traditional school year, many kids have either taken their EOGs, or are getting started on some form of standardized testing. One of the top test taking skills we can teach is to think positive.  But what if that isn’t the best answer.

So many kids and adults have dealt with difficulties in learning, remembering material, and test taking for so long, that thinking positive feels impossible. When you have worked your tail off studying, practicing, and reading over material, only to sit down to a huge test and have your mind completely blank, positive thinking just seems ridiculous.

However, there is some real science behind the idea that positive thinking can make a difference. When we allow negative thoughts, or self defeating ideas to overtake our brains, we condition ourselves to expect the worst and we often get it.

So what if I proposed to you a middle ground?

Positive thinking is the end goal. We want kids to be able to picture themselves being successful, remembering the material that has been studied, and succeeding on the exam. But there is a lot of pressure out there for these tests, and for a child that struggles, or who has experienced failure on a test before, positive thinking is almost impossible.  Instead we can suggest for them to start with not thinking negatively.

Even if the student who has fought an uphill battle all year in Math, can’t reasonably say to himself that he is a Math expert and he is going to pass the Math EOG (especially if it will be one of the only Math tests he will have passed all year). He CAN stop saying he is bad at Math, or that he is bad at taking tests. The negative thoughts aren’t necessary even if the student can’t bring themselves to say something positive because it feels false.

For the student that struggles with reading, she may not be able to say positive things about reading, or think that the stories she reads on the EOGs are going to be interesting. She CAN stop saying she hates reading, and that writing is awful. She can instead focus on doing her best and using the strategies that her teacher taught her this year.

What is the real goal?

Essentially the goal is not so much to create false positive thinking, because it often gets us nowhere. If we can’t truly believe those positive thoughts, the negative ones are always waiting in the shadows to remind us of our failures when we feel stressed. Instead we stop putting our energy into the negative, and focus on our next steps to a reasonable goal.

Sit down with your child before the big test and discuss reasonable goals for the test. This could be making sure to make notes next to what they are reading, underline key words in the questions, trying to come up with some kind of answer or information before looking at the answer choices, and really checking back over their work (not just seeing if they filled in all the bubbles). The goal shouldn’t be to pass (although this is definitely a hope!). The goal should be a tangible thing they can do, a step they can take in a positive direction. It needs to be something they can take action on. “Passing” is not tangible and it is not a step towards success. It is a score that is assigned based on a percentage of correct responses. Passing is a result not an action.

When you and your student are dealing with negative thoughts, and trying to turn them positive (or at least not think them at all), you need a tangible goal that starts you in the right direction. This goal can be built upon later. Don’t focus on the score. Trust me they are very aware of what it means if they pass or fail. Focus on the success of achieving the tangible goal they set, and eventually the little goals will add up to the achievement of the bigger result. This can be applied to so many things, and I will talk more soon about using the smaller achievements to build motivation, overcome anxiety, and build self-esteem in kids that have lost hope in academics.

But for now, during this stressful time, just help them set that first goal and to end negative thinking, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to do the positive thinking yet. You can even set up a reward that they can give themselves/get at the end of the day if they complete their smaller goal during the test. This could be their favorite dinner or dessert, or even extra time outside or on their favorite video game. You know your child or your students best. Come up with something together to work towards as a goal and a reward, and you just might see a little more positive thinking as a side benefit. 🙂

For more test taking tips check out this page on our website:


I wish the best of luck to all of your students in achieving their smaller goals and switching off the negative voices in their head. Who knows maybe if we all tried cutting out the negativity and setting small achievable goals, it would help us adults to head in a more positive direction too!

We would love to hear any stories of how this helps your student (or you) in the comment section.  Or if you come up with any helpful hints to others as they are trying this, please leave those comments as well!


Amanda Avery 🙂



Love These Resources!!!!

Boy with Math Book and Symbols

Well January jumped off with a bang for us here at Avery Learning Lab! Lots of new wonderful clients, a great blog post on Lifelong Learning, partnership in the works with Carolina Biological for some awesome science and math kits, two successful family communication workshops at the local libraries, and the unveiling of our new Learning Evaluation. Not to mention all the great work with our new and continuing Learning Program and tutoring students!

Along the way we found and created some great resources. I want to use this blog as a time to share 10 of our favorites with you! (these are in no particular order)


  • Our Learning Evaluation:

The Learning Evaluation is perfect for getting a better understanding of how your student thinks, learns, and what sparks their interest. We use 3 assessments with student, parent, and teacher participation to compile a report about your students learning style, multiple intelligences, and neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses. We then take that report and create a plan complete with strategies for how to help your student become a successful independent learner.

  • Online Learning Success Program:

This program is similar to ours and based in some of the same principles and research. However, it is one that parents can implement at home with or without the addition of extra help from a professional. This is a great option for parents that want to try to make changes on their own, or who want to use it in combination with tutoring to see faster results. They also have great resources for students with Dyslexia (reading) or Dyscalculia (math).

  • Teachers Pay Teachers Store (great place for parents to get resources too)

This is where we post our paid products. We will be developing our own online store, but for right now this is a great place to go to find our latest products. You can also check out all the other resources that other teachers put on here. The teachers get a percentage of all your purchases, so its a great way to support educators.

  • K5 Education

This website has great paid and free resources for leveled readings, phonics, and math. This link is going to send you to the main page for free worksheets. The documents listed for each grade are free. They also have options for you to purchase their fair priced Leveled Reading books (2-3 dollars each with at least 10 stories with questions), and other paid resources and programs for reading, math, writing, and phonics. I love that they have free options available, and that you can pick and choose if you decide to buy items from them as well.

  • Study Stack

Fantastic online studying resource for Vocabulary words, review questions, and more. Create a login and your first stack, then play games with your questions or words! They have flash cards, matching, quizzes, tests, a bug game similar to “snake” that we used to play when we were younger, and more! Not to mention its FREE. Enjoy!

  • Multiplication Practice Site:

This one is self explanatory whether looking for practice, games, or lessons on multiplication, this is the place to go. They also have games for addition, subtraction, and division!

  • Reading Assessments to see what grade level your child is at

There are directions on the site for where to start and how to proceed depending on the results. I wouldn’t suggest doing more than one test every couple of days. This is a great resource to figure out what level your child is at, and what they need to be able to do at their appropriate grade level.

  • All Kinds of Minds Parent Toolkit

This is a wonderful guideline of strategies to help with specific learning concerns in areas such as Attention, Math, Reading, and Writing. This is on the website for All Kinds of Minds, a revolutionary group started by Dr. Mel Levine that focuses on the 8 main neurodevelopmental functions. Many of their ideas are included in our own evaluations. Their program helps teachers to identify specific learning areas that students need help with. This particular resource is geared towards parents. Take a minute to explore the rest of their website as well.

  • Fun Clipart for kids and teachers

Looking for some fun free pics to use on projects, classroom posters, or your own documents. Here are some good websites for that

  •  PDF converter:

A free resource for converting word docs, jpg, powerpoints, and excel docs to pdf form. You can also convert from pdf to jpg, compress your pdfs, and even merge pdf docs. Absolutely fantastic, easy to use, and free. You have the option of donating to them through Paypal as you like, which I do because I have used them so many times and find it a resource I can’t do without.


I hope you enjoy these. We are still refining the free resource for when people sign up for our email list (and will send it out to those of you already on the list). The free resource is called “7 Ways to Motivate Your Student and Jump Start Their Love of Learning”. We are doing extra research to make sure we are including the best and most up to date findings of what is proven to work. Currently I am reading  a book that has inspired me, and with further research we will be expanding the number of ways to motivate, to 10!

We are committed to helping families achieve growth and a love of learning. We want that to be evident in everything we provide you. Including our free email list resource, our blog, our Learning Evaluation and Program, and our workshops, activities, and the upcoming summer camps.

For more information on any of these things contact us or check out the links provided in this post.

Have a great day!

Amanda Avery 🙂

P.S. If you haven’t already take a moment to sign up for our email list here. I can promise that the emails you get will have meaningful content!