Thursday, August 21, 2014


"The primary purpose of being four is to enjoy being four—
of secondary importance is to prepare for being five.” 
Jim Trelease (Author of THE READ ALOUD HANDBOOK)

Doesn't that quote make you pause and think, WHY AM I DOING THIS?  Many of you are so busy assessing and collecting data that you don't have time to TEACH!  If I were in charge of the world I’d just give all children “A” for effort and say that they were performing at “99%” of their ability. But, I’m not in charge of the world, so here are some suggestions for gathering data that might help you this year.  

Magic Number – Assign each child in your classroom a number. Explain that it is their “magic number.” They will need to put their number on all of their work, as well as their school supplies. It’s easy to determine whose assignment you are missing, as well as to record data.

Weekly Folders
– Have a file box with a folder for each child. As they complete their work, they can file it behind their name. Send folders home on Friday for parents to check.

Thumb Drive – Ask each parent to send in a thumb drive where children can save their work.

Digital Cameral - Have a digital camera available so they can take photos of projects and hands-on activities.

Color Coded - This isn't as high tech as a thumb drive or computer assessment, but it's very visual and can be very meaningful.  Find an assessment with basic skills you will be focusing on during the year such as upper and lowercase letters, numerals, shapes, sight words, sounds, math facts, etc.  Each month assess children and color in the squares they have mastered with a different color of crayon.  For example, color what they know in September in red, October - orange, November - brown, etc.  It will give a "colorful" picture of the child's learning journey.

Portfolio – Individualize children’s growth by collecting samples of their work each month and saving them in a portfolio. You can use clasp envelopes or gallon zip bags and date each month. Collect a writing sample, self portrait, small motor activity, math page, etc.

Four Square Assessment – At the beginning of each month, have children fold a piece of paper into fourths. Ask them to write/draw the same thing in each square every month. You might have them draw a picture of themselves, write their name, write letters of the alphabet, numbers, shapes, write a story, etc. Adapt to your age level and standards. Date and save for a “reliable” picture of the child’s progress throughout the year.

Interest Inventory - In addition to saving writing samples and self-portraits in a “portfolio” each month, have children complete an “interest inventory” by filling in sentences similar to the ones below:
              I am good at______.
              I like to _____.
              I want to work on _____.
              My favorite book is _____.
              I wish _____.
Hint! Younger children could just dictate their responses to an adult.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Homework is kind of a love/hate thing. Kids “love” to “hate” homework. Homework can be valuable if it reinforces skills and provides meaningful practice. Homework can also help children develop responsibility and keep parents informed about what their children are learning at school. However, homework should NOT take over 30 minutes and should not cause conflict or frustration between a parent and her child. 

Think outside the box about homework. Instead of paper/pencil tasks, give interactive activities, such as reading together, playing a game, taking a walk, and so forth.
Here are a few suggestions for simplifying homework and making it a successful routine.

Homework Folders - You will need a pocket folder, crayons, and markers to make a homework folder. First, let children decorate the outside of their folders. Trace around their “left” hand on the left pocket. At the end of each day children put completed work in that pocket and it is “left” at home. Trace around their “right” hand on the right pocket. Use a homework sheet similar to the one below. Fill out assignments for the
whole week and place it in the “right” hand side of the child’s folder on Monday. On Friday, put homework sheets in each child’s folder and review at conferences.

            Sample Weekly Homework Sheet

Monday ________________              Tuesday ______________
            _______________________   ______________________
            _______________________   ______________________
            Parent Signature/Comments Parent Signature/Comments
            _______________________ ______________________

Wednesday______________            Thursday_______________  
            _______________________ _____________________
            _______________________ ______________________

            Parent Signature/Comments Parent Signature/Comments
            _______________________ ______________________

Tic Tac Toe Homework
Write 9 assignments in the grid. Children must complete at least three during the week and color them in. If children enjoy homework or parents want their child to do more at home they have that option.
*Nightly Five – If you do the Daily Five you might want to use the tic-tac-toe frame to do a “Nightly Five.”

Clipboard - Each child will need a clipboard that she can decorate with her name, stickers, etc. Each day clip the homework assignment to the children’s clipboards. Make sure parents know that their job is to look at the clipboard each night, help their child with the assignment, and send it back to school the next day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Here’s a simple idea that will save you time and encourage all those little “authors” and “illustrators” in your classroom. All you need is a file folder to make a display pocket for each child. Cut a 1 ¼” border around the top half of the file folder. Let children decorate it with their name and pictures. Open and laminate. Fold in half and staple to a bulletin board or tape to a wall. Children can display their own work by slipping drawings, stories, etc. in the pocket.

Here’s the “Writer’s Chant” to get them started. Children repeat each line to this chant as you open your arms wide and clap while stepping from side to side.
            Who knows the writing process?
            I know the writing process.

            First step. (Hold up one finger.)
            Brainstorm. (Hands on the side of your head and shake down.)
            Second step…(Hold up 2 fingers.)
            Write it down…(Pretend to write with index finger on palm.)
            Third step…(Hold up 3 fingers.)
            Edit your work…(Shake finger.)
            Fourth step…(Hold up 4 fingers.)
            Publish your work…(Brush hands together.)
            Oh, yeah! (Hands on hips with an attitude.)

Monday, August 18, 2014


It’s classroom management week, so each day you’ll find some tips and tricks for organizing your classroom.

Tape two file folders together for each child. Let them decorate the outside with markers, magazine pictures, trading cards, etc. Staple a copy of the word wall to the inside. When children write in their journals or do independent work, they can stand their “offices” up on their desks. Words they frequently spell will be right there for them if needed. Search “mini office” to download free printables for your grade level.
(Two great ones are and
*Make a reading office on one side and a math office with a hundreds chart, math mat, shapes, months, etc. on the other side.

*Use 2 pocket folders to make a mini-office. Children can insert papers they are working on in the left and work they have finished on the right.

*Did you see this math office that a teacher shared in Dallas last week. The counting beads at the top are brilliant!
Last week I was invited to speak in Oxford, MS, at Bramlett Elementary where "magic moments" happen. Oxford is the most beautiful town and is the home of the Ole Miss Rebels. It's also the home of these awesome teachers!

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Our son’s dog went to dog heaven today, so I feel a little kinder and gentler. I feel like telling you some stories that touched my heart.

Don’t Hurt Maggie
A teacher invited her children to adopt a tree on the playground. They chose a magnolia tree that they named “Maggie.” They would read stories under Maggie, sing songs, and draw pictures of her. Sometimes they’d hug her or when it was warm they would sponge her trunk with water. One day a child broke a branch off another tree. A classmate started to cry because, “They are hurting Maggie’s friend.”

Invisible Socks
A teacher was having the children go around the room and describe each other’s socks. One poor little fellow didn’t have any socks even though it was the middle of winter. The teacher said she could see the child getting anxious and so the teacher exclaimed, “Aren’t those the most beautiful invisible socks you ever saw?”

Wash and Blow Dry

One year I taught a little girl who had cancer and she didn’t have any hair. Each day she wore a hat and kept it tightly on her head. I put my ugly shoes in a big grocery bag (like the children do) for show and tell and told the story about how my feet hurt all the time. “I have these ugly shoes, but when I wear them my feet are so happy. I’d like to put them on, but I’m afraid you might laugh and make fun of me.” Of course, the children said, “No. We won’t make fun of you.” (I smile remembering how they would say, “I love your shoes. They are so pretty.”) The next day Lauren came to school without her hat. And she never wore it again. In fact, when we went on a field trip to the cosmetology school (we could do that in the old days) they asked Lauren what she would like to have done. She smiled and said, “I’ll have a wash and a blow dry.”

That’s why we do what we do! Some people might think we do what we do to improve test scores. The truth is that we tolerate assessments, standards, and observations because we really do love children.  We know that we touch young hearts in a special way…we give hope…we plant seeds of goodness…we give them a smile and a song. 

Childhood is fragile!
Where you are is where you are suppose to be.  At the end of the day you just might be the best thing that happens in a child’s life this year!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


I’m sooo excited that ACTIVE LEARNING is coming back through the revolving door! You can help parents and administrators value play and hands-on learning by posting these descriptions by your learning centers. 

Hint! Take photographs of children engaged in these centers or download center signs from the internet. ( has some great signs.)
  Dramatic Play
social skills; emotional skills; independence; oral language; imagination;
responsibility; collaboration; life skills; the executive function

motor skills; math concepts (number, size, shape, space); oral language; social skills; eye-hand coordination; self control; imagination

creativity; small motor skills; problem solving; sharing; cooperation;
independence; responsibility

oral language; social skills; small motor skills; concepts about quantity, shape, size, pattern; interest in math tools

alphabet knowledge; oral language; print knowledge; listening skills; eye-hand coordination; concepts about the word; motivation to read

curiosity about the world; sensory skills; problem solving; decision making; language skills; scientific process (observing, predicting, experimenting, recording, reporting)

Table Toys

small muscles; eye-hand coordination; attention span; social skills; concepts about size, shape, color pattern

Sensory Table
social skills; motor skills; oral language; math concepts; responsibility;
self control

eye-hand coordination; small motor skills; alphabet knowledge; self confidence; vocabulary; interest in print

Friday, August 15, 2014


I was visiting with a teacher this week and she mentioned that she had not done show and tell for several years but that she was going to do it again this year. I loved show and tell when I was little, my students loved it when I taught, and my grandchildren love it. It’s a tradition in early childhood that can nurture important speaking and listening skills. However, it can also become “bring, brag, and boring”! Here are some tips that might make this a more meaningful experience in your classroom this year. 
Skills and Standards - Focus show and tell on a specific theme you are studying. Have students bring in something of a particular color, letter, shape, science concept (sign of fall), etc.

All, Several, or One? Limit sharing time to one day a week, or assign several children to each day. You could also have a special “show and share” bag that goes home with one child each day.

Three Statements - The person sharing can make three statements about what they have brought. The class then gets to ask them three questions about it.
*You could also ask children to come up with three clues about what they have brought from home. (Parents could write these for younger students.) After giving the clues, friends try and guess what it is.

20 Questions - Let the class ask 20 questions about show and tell items. Tally their answers on the board.

Show What You Know - Try “show what you know” where children can demonstrate what they have learned about a theme. They could do an art project, make up a song, do a skit, make a video, etc.

Listening Share - Have children close their eyes as friends take turns sharing. Can everyone remember one thing at the end of sharing time?

Podium - Provide a child-size podium (old music stand) for children to stand behind when they speak.

Sharing Shelf – Instead of passing objects around the class, designate a special shelf or table in your classroom where students can place their show and tell objects for friends to look at later in the day.

And that’s my show and tell for the day!!!