Saturday, September 20, 2014


Most of you know that I am a gym rat. I love to go to the fitness center and move with my friends. I’ve been to a lot of different gyms and have sampled many different instructors.  And when it comes to being a student, I’m not that different from the kiddles in your classroom who are 60 years younger than me. I truly believe that every little child is doing the very best they can! Just like me, they want to please and they want to get it right. I’ll never be an Olympic athlete, but I can have fun learning and feel good about what I do. 

So, here is what I’ve learned as a student: 

Challenge - but don’t make it too hard that we can’t participate and give up 

Fast pace – keep it moving because kids have short attention spans and I do, too 

Music factor – music makes anything more fun 

Novelty - keep us distracted with new things so we don’t chit chat 

Encourage everybody – “great work class,” “awesome,” “you’re all doing a fantastic job,” “I know you’re trying” 

Push – “just a little bit more,” “you’re almost there,” “you can do it” 

Positive redirection (instead of criticizing) – “You might want to…” “Try it this way…” “I like to ….” 

Model, model, model – model the skill or behavior and point out students who are doing the correct thing so others will know what to do – “look at….” 

Social factor – My husband has enough will power that he can go to the gym and work out alone. Not me! I need INTENTIONAL TEACHING! And it’s so much more fun with friends. Just like children enjoy learning with their friends at school. 

A student is a student is a student – no matter the age or content. And a teacher is a teacher is a teacher. A teacher plans and has a purpose, is encouraging, and has the magic touch for each child in the class!!

Special thanks to Lauren, Melissa, Susan, and Kelly - my teachers!!!

Friday, September 19, 2014


I’m going to share my idea for what I call brain beads, but you can “harvest” this idea and use it in any way that works for you. It’s a hands-on way to learn and keep little fingers busy.
You’ll need pipe cleaners and pony beads to make these for your students. (You’ll have to do this for the little ones, but the older kids could make their own.) Place one bead on the pipe cleaner and knot it at the end. Insert 10 other beads. Knot a bead at the other end to keep them from sliding off.

Math- Hold the pipe cleaner horizontally and slide the beads from left to right as you count 1-10. Flip it over and count 11-20. Keep flipping and counting.
*Hold the pipe cleaner vertically and slide the beads up and down as you count.
*Call out numbers and have children make that set with their beads.
*Have children use their beads to solve addition and subtraction problems.
*If you are familiar with rekenrek you could use these in a similar way by using five beads of each color.

Words – Count the words in a sentence as you slide the beads.

Syllables – Use the beads to represent syllables in a word.

Phonemes – Count the sounds in a word with the beads and then slide them together to blend the sounds and say the word.

Recall – After reading a non-fiction book or having a lesson tell the children to use their beads to show what they learned. Challenge them to try and remember at least 3 details.

Self Control – Explain that if they are worried or frustrated they can use their beads to help relax. Breath deeply in and out as they slowly slide their beads to the opposite side.

Can you think of other ways to use these beads?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

T. G. I. F.

Yeah! I know it's just Thursday today, but I found two blogs from the past that seemed appropriate for today and tomorrow. 

Someone commented this week that you should do what “they” tell you to do the first four days of the week and Friday you should shut your door and teach the way you want to. That’s pretty good advice, don’t you think?

Here are some other ways to celebrate Friday!

The Friday Dance
Come on, everybody and take a chance. (Step back and forth as
It’s time to do the Friday dance. you snap your fingers.)
Everyone get up on your feet.
Clap and get the Friday beat! (Clap hands.)
It’s Friday! It’s Friday! It’s Friday! Yeah! (Hands in the air and dance.)                                                              
Friday Free Time
The last 15 minutes on Friday let the kids take off their shoes and do whatever they want!

Game Day
Invite children to bring board games (NOT video games) or card games from home and play the last 30 minutes of the day.

Sit Where You Want
Friday afternoon let children switch places and sit wherever they want.

Chew and Write
To encourage writing about what they learned during the week give each student sugar free gum to chew. They can chew the gum as long as they are writing.

Get together with another class or all the children on your grade level and sing! A different class could be in charge of this event every week.

SHUT YOUR DOOR and have some fun tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Ready or not, it's time for parent conferences!  Today you'll find a few tips that will make the experience more meaningful for you as well as for your families.

     Sit beside the parent at a table, rather than behind a desk.
     Keep the conversation focused on the child.
     Have samples of the child’s work to share with the parents. Focus on the total child, including intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development.
     If there is a problem, brainstorm solutions and develop a plan for action.
     End the conference on a positive note by reassuring the parents and thanking them for their support.
     Provide an interpreter for parents who do not speak English.
     Follow-up with the parents after the conference.

Below is a questionnaire that I used to help parents share information about their child and to guide the conference. I asked the children, “Would you like me to give your parents some homework? Well, here is something they need to fill out and bring to our conference next week.”
Note! If parents show up without the form, simply smile and say, “I’ll give you a few minutes to fill this out before we get started.”


Please fill out this form and bring it to your conference on __________________at _________________.

Child’s name__________________________

1. My child’s favorite activity at school is________________

2. My child expresses concern about_____________________

3. My child’s strong qualities are__________________________
4. Areas I feel my child needs to work on are_____________

Something I would like to see my child do at school is _______

6. Is there any special information about your child that you think we should know about?

Cheers and Goals
Here’s another idea for conference time. Ask parents to write down three things positive (cheers) about their child and three goals that they have for their child. This will give the teacher insight as to what is important to parents. It will also provide the teacher with the opportunity to say, “This is what I can do at school to help your child accomplish these goals. What can you do to help at home?”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Believe it or not, there actually is a “Collect Rocks Day.” It’s September 16, the same day as Play Dough Day, but several sources claimed it could be celebrated any day in September. So here are some ideas for collecting rocks today or any day. Rocks are everywhere and are a perfect spark for scientific investigations.

When you collect rocks or look at rocks, explain that scientists who study rocks are called geologists. Remind the children that they can be geologists, too!

Take a nature walk and invite each child to pick up ONE rock. You might need to limit the size to a rock that will fit in their hand. Take the rocks to the classroom and ask the children to observe their rock for one minute without talking. Go around the room and ask each child to make one statement about their rock. Encourage them to use descriptive words.
*Ask older children to write descriptions about their rocks.
*Place the rocks in a basket. Gently shake the rocks and then pass the basket around the class to see if each child can find his rock.
*Let the children sort the rocks. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way?
*Check out a book on rocks from the library. Place it in the science center along with a magnifying glass. Ask the children to do research and identify the different rocks they collected.  (Remind the children to return the rocks to nature after they have finished investigating them.)
*Are rocks older than you or younger than you?
*Make a list of all the things that rocks are used for.
*Let children paint rocks or use other art media to make paperweights. 

*Place rocks in the math center for children to explore with the balance scale.
*For homework, ask families to take a walk and look for different kinds of rocks in their neighborhood.
*Encourage children to start their own rock collection with this idea. Cut an egg crate in half. Attach a pipe cleaner handle and use it to collect little rocks and pebbles.

And, speaking of rocks, we rocked at the NC AEYC Conference in Raleigh last Friday!  PLAY was the theme, and we reaffirmed that adults even learn more through play!

Thanks for all your comments about my blog a few days ago called “Be Wary!” This is what Linda Nelson @ Primary Inspiration sent:
So well said! Keep your teaching flexible, focused, and fun, and they will learn, regardless of what the experts-of-the-day happen to be promoting.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Tomorrow is “National Play Dough Day,” and you know how much I love play dough because it’s multi-sensory and great for building up those little muscles. If you go to a dollar store you can get enough play dough for every child in your class for less than a fancy coffee drink. 

It’s great to just put out play dough and let children create whatever they want. Scissors, cookie cutters, craft sticks, rolling pin (aka cylinder block), cup cake liners, birthday cake candles, lids, and other textured objects offer lots of exploration. It’s helpful to use lunchroom trays, cookie sheets, or vinyl placemats to give children a defined space.
Hint! Make sure children wash their hands before and after playing with dough. 

You can also tie play dough into “intentional teaching.” (You’re going to get tired of hearing me say that word. We have always done intentional teaching in early childhood, but some people don’t “get” that purposeful play is how children learn!) Beginning sounds, letters, rhymes, story characters, sets, measuring, addition…   

How can you substitute screen time or a worksheet with play dough in your classroom tomorrow?

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Yeah, I love holidays and I love to celebrate. Holidays give children something to look forward to, but many schools discourage celebrating religious holidays. So, I’ve decided to focus on some wacky holidays each month. I’m a little late for September, but I’ll try to do better in the future. 

I posted a blog about “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” which is coming up this Friday, September 19. But did you know that September 15 is “Make a Hat Day”? That’s Monday! Kids love to make hats, so here is an easy one you can make on Monday. Yes, you could tie the hat in with a theme or any skill you are working on.

Sentence Strip Hat
Materials: sentence strips or heavy paper cut in 2 ½” x 24”, markers, crayons, stickers
Directions: Let children decorate the sentence strip and then fit to their head and staple or tape in place.

Children can write letters, numerals, or vocabulary words on the headband. Sure beats doing a worksheet and accomplishes the same thing! 
Children can add ears or other details to create an animal from a story. Let them wear their hats to retell the story. 

How about an “all about me” headband?
Children can make an autograph hat with friends’ names.
If you cut a zig zag line on one side every child can be king or queen for the day! 
Hint! Two brad fasteners and a rubber band will make the hat easier to adjust to the head, but it’s a lot more trouble. 
Tuesday, September 16 is National Play Dough Day, so come back tomorrow to learn some play dough learning activites.