Tuesday, September 30, 2014

KNOCK, KNOCK!


At Summer Camp a teacher shared how she posted 100 knock-knock jokes around the school for the 100th Day of School. What a clever idea!

Knock-knock jokes would be great to post in the hall where children have to wait. (Might be a good project for 3rd or 4th graders.) The more you tell jokes, the better the children will become at understanding the play on words. It’s funny, but even the kids who don’t really “get” them will pretend they do and laugh.


The world keeps on changing, but children still enjoy simple knock-knocks and riddles just like you did as a child! There are lots of free apps and websites where you can find knock-knock jokes and riddles. (Some of them are really corny, but the absurdity will stretch your brain.) You can save jokes on index cards, keep a riddle book on your desk, or use a knock-knock app to entertain children when you have a few extra minutes during the school day.
  
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Who.
Who who?
Are you an owl?

Knock knock!  
Who’s there?
Canoe.
Canoe, who?
Canoe come over and play?
                     
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Beets
Beets who?
Beets me!


Knock Knock!
Who’s there?
Olive
Olive who?
Olive you!

Knock Knock!
Who’s there?
Cargo
Cargo who?
Cargo beep beep!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Boo
Boo who?
I didn’t mean to make you cry.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Lettuce
Lettuce who?
Lettuce in, it’s cold out here.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Justin
Justin who?
Just in time for dinner!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Little old lady
Little old lady who?
I didn’t know you could yodel!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you glad you visited my blog today?

Monday, September 29, 2014

SCHOOL IS A JOKE!


One of K.J.’s favorite things about his teacher last year was that Mr. D had a joke each day for his students. It gave the children something to anticipate and put a smile on their faces. Telling jokes and riddles is good for oral language, but jokes also develop vocabulary and creative thinking. 


How could you use riddles?

Write a riddle on the board each morning. Read over the riddle at morning meeting. Ask the children to smile if they “get” it. Encourage students to “think out loud” and explain the joke.
*You could also let the children discuss the joke with a partner.

Have a “joke” show and tell. Ask each student to have their parents help them learn a joke at home. Use a play microphone to let them stand up and perform their joke for their classmates.

Make riddle books for the students by folding paper in half and stapling. After reading the riddle each day, have them draw or write the answer in their books. Discuss their answers.

                       
How about a class book? Write a riddle at the top of an 8½” x 11” sheet of paper . Tape a rectangular piece of construction paper 5” x 6” under the riddle as shown. Let children draw or write the answer to the riddle under the flap. Put the pages together to make a class book.
 
                                                                Here are a few school jokes that I found at http://jokes-for-kids.com/index.html.

Who is your best friend at school?
Your princi-pal.

Why was 6 afraid of 7?
Because 7 8 9!

What is the only class you can plant a flower in?
A kindergarten!

What flies around the school at night?
The alpha-bat!

Why don’t you see giraffes in elementary school?
Because they are all in high school!




Sunday, September 28, 2014

THE RETURN OF RECESS!

I was a lucky little girl. I grew up in the 50’s when recess was a fundamental part of the school day. It was considered as important as lunch and reading…seriously! Over the years recess has become a “dirty” word in many school districts, but the good news is that the pendulum might be swinging back.

In “Give Students Time to Play” Debbie Rhea explains:

Kids are built to move. Having more time for unstructured outdoor play is like handing them a reset button. It not only helps to break up their day, but it also allows them to blow off steam, while giving them an opportunity to move and redirect their energy to something more meaningful once they return to the classroom.

When a human sits for longer than about 20 minutes, the physiology of the brain and body changes. Gravity begins to pool blood into the hamstrings, robbing the brain of needed oxygen and glucose, or brain fuel. The brain essentially just falls asleep when we sit for too long. Moving and being active stimulates the neurons that fire in the brain. When you are sitting, those neurons don't fire.


www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/26/22rhea.h33.html

In another article I found that Anthony Pellegrini, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, emphasizes that the new science of recess says that recess isn’t a waste of time at all:


Having recess is much, much, much better than not having recess…That’s unequivocal, I feel. That’s a no-brainer.

Pellegrini says, “because attacking recess has got this sort of intuitive feel: If you give kids more time doing something, they’ll do better in school. When in fact the opposite is probably the case.” Repeated studies have shown that when recess is delayed, children pay less and less attention. They are more focused on days when they have recess. A major study in Pediatrics found that children with more than 15 minutes of recess a day were far better behaved in class than children who had shorter recess breaks or none at all.

http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Recess_Elementary/ 

                                 
                                
One more fascinating article I found was “Get Tech out of Schools.”   Researcher Patricia Greenfield argues that:

Precisely because young people spend so much time with digital media outside of school, schools must offer them a very different kind of education in order to even the cognitive scales. In Greenfield’s view, this means reading copious amounts of old-fashioned literature—just what young people are not doing (according to research) on their own time…. schools could also strive to provide more of the face-to-face contact, the in-person social interaction, that has been largely displaced by young people’s use of Facebook, Twitter, and texting in their off-hours.

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/08/technology_in_the_classr

Now, if you’re still reading my blog at this point, I must admit that you can find anything on the internet that supports your point of view. I’m obviously a believer in play, recess, and hands-on learning, and you must be as well if you follow my blog. You might want to share these articles with your parents and administrators. It’s good food for thought!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

POETRY POWER

I get by with a little help from my friends - for real! While I'm speaking at the International Early Educator's Conference in (don't hate me!) Hawaii this week I've invited two special friends to be guest bloggers. I'm sure Lesley's blogs tickled your interest and you'll all be "baking" plastic cups this weekend. Well, here's another treat from my friend Sam Williams. Sam is a kindergarten teacher extraordinaire in Hillsborough County, Florida. The majority of his children do not speak English when they enter his classroom, but with his enthusiasm, positive energy, and motivation they are "reading" in a few weeks. It's nothing short of a miracle, but I'll let him tell you about it....
Hello Friends of Dr. Jean. I am so thrilled and honored that Jean asked me to do a post for her on poetry and nursery rhymes and how important they are to our young ones. 

Tim Rasinski says, “Fluency is the centerpiece of reading. It is the bridge that connects the words to comprehension. Without fluency you can’t have comprehension.” So maybe fluency isn’t one of the first things we worry about in kindergarten – but I believe it will have a very strong impact on all areas of reading.

Here’s what I do in my class:

First, I introduce one new poem a day. Right now we are using Alphafriends poems for the first 26 days of school. There is a poem based on a letter of the alphabet for every day. They are only a couple of lines long and are set to music. I make a copy for every student. On Monday we read the poem and sing the poem. We add them to our poetry journal and then my students will use a red crayon to circle the focus letter of this poem. Example: reading Sammy Seal they circle the letter “S” throughout the poem.

On Monday, I also introduce a new nursery rhyme. I use Dr. Jean’s Rhyming Readers Nursery Rhymes; it comes with 10 nursery rhyme books, song charts, and the audio files of each song (you can get it right here on Dr. Jean’s site). So for the first 10 weeks of school we will use these nursery rhymes. On the first day we sing the song and read along on the song chart. Each student gets a copy of the nursery rhyme for their poetry journal.

Tuesday, we introduce a new poem. When the students put the new poem in their poetry journals we also go back to previous poems and with a different crayon color we circle all the rhyming words. We may also choose another color and underline the sight words we know. I choose a couple students to select a poem in our journal that we can practice together, so we read and/or sing a couple of our previous poems. We always read and sing our new nursery rhyme every day.

We repeat the same steps on Wednesday and Thursday. We also use our poetry journals every day during independent reading. This gives students the opportunity to be successful readers during independent reading because they know how to read these poems. On Friday, each student gets a copy of the nursery rhyme book that we have been practicing (included in the nursery rhyme set above). They get to color the book and of course, we practice reading this. They will take these books home and their homework for the weekend is to read the books to anyone and everyone they can find. I make it a little competition to see who can read the book to the most people. I also let them read to their pets – because I tell them I read to my dogs all the time.

Here’s what I know about using poetry every day in my class: My students are experts at directionality, one-to-one correspondence, return sweep, they are learning punctuation, sequencing a story, and they are great at retelling, the first big step in reading comprehension. My students are also demonstrating prosody – reading with expression, understanding rhythm and rhyme in reading. This is all happening in the first 20 days of school. Of course, I am excited that my kids are demonstrating such great reading skills and strategies, but even more important than that – we are singing and having fun. My kids look forward to new poems every day! Don’t you just love seeing a child smile about something they are learning in school?
                            

Friday, September 26, 2014

FRISBEE PHONICS

Here are some more fun phonics ideas from Lesley!

Frisbee Phonics
This is excellent as an outside game. Write a letter on one side of the disc. Put a picture that begins with that letter on the other side. Draw letters on the ground. Tell your students to look at the picture, say the word, and toss the disc to the letter that the word begins with. The letters you wrote on the other side can be hints or self-checking.

Playing with Patterns
These discs are easy to manipulate and fun to touch. Put multiple colors in your math center. Your students will have a ball creating and revising patterns. 

                          
Word Building and Word Families
If you have letter stickers these are great activities to use them with. If not, a permanent marker works beautifully! But, after your initial preparation, remove the permanent marker and only provide a dry-erase marker to your students.
· Write or stick individual letters on each disc. Students can build a word like “mop” and then slide the discs around to create new words like “map” or “cap” or “cop.”
· Write or stick a rime on a disc. Students can use a dry-erase marker to write the onset and create the word family.
· Write or stick an initial letter on a disc. Students can use a dry-erase marker to write all the words they can think of that begin with that letter.




Thursday, September 25, 2014

LETTER PEOPLE AND THEIR FRIEND LESLEY



I met Lesley Fields and her mother Judy at a workshop years ago. It’s amazing how our paths have continued to cross through the years. Lesley now works at Abrams Learning Trends with those adorable Letter People.  At Summer Camp Lesley heard me talk about melting plastic cups and using them for letters, shapes, numbers, etc. 

To make these plastic discs you preheat the oven to 350. Turn the cups upside down on a cookie sheet and just stand there and watch them melt. It doesn't take long, so don't walk away! 

Lesley took that idea and has come up with a brilliant learning tool. I’ll let her tell you about it….

                   
As many of you know, anytime you attend a Dr. Jean seminar you come away with not only a zillion new ideas but also excitement to get creative for your classroom. I rushed home and immediately melted all the cups I could find in my house and at the office. It was like reliving my childhood with Shrinky Dinks! 
  
Once they had cooled off, I discovered that not only were they a cool texture and fun to handle they could also be mini-dry erase boards. I remember how hard it was for my little kindergartners to manipulate lap boards and space was always an issue. I would have loved to use these kinder-sized dry erase discs.

When my brother-in-law discovered they could be mini-Frisbees I knew these discs had major possibilities and my mind went wild with more ideas. I hope you and your students enjoy them too!

Flippin’ for Letters and Numbers
Use a permanent marker, pictures, and/or stickers to create a matching game with letters and sounds or numbers and quantities. Simply decide what the 2 things (letters and sounds, numbers and quantities, capital and lower case, etc.) you want your students to match and then write or stick each thing on each side of a disc. Your students could:

· Identify a letter on one side and flip the disc to find its capital or lower case counterpart.

· Identify a number on one side and flip the disc to find its quantity.

· Name a picture and flip the disc to find the letter that makes its initial sound.

And, that's not all, folks!  Lesley has more ideas for tomorrow!  Plus, you can visit this blog for lots of other great ideas:
https://www.abramslearningtrends.com/blog 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SCARECROWS AND SQUIRRELS

Do you ever feel like the scarecrow - if I only had a brain! There's always been something charming to me about those little fellows made of hay. Hay and gray rhyme, so I'll give you a song for gray squirrel today as well.

Class Scarecrow – Some old clothes, newspaper, and paper grocery sack will work just fine for a classroom scarecrow. Stuff newspaper in the sack and gather the bottom with a rubber band to make a head. Add a face. Let the children wad up newspaper and stuff the clothes. Sit it up in a chair and prop up the head with a dowel rod. Have the children bring in gloves, a hat, boots, etc. from home to complete the scarecrow. Write stories about the scarecrow. What would you do if you were a scarecrow?

Scarecrow Picture Talk- Download a picture of a scarecrow from the internet. Discuss what a scarecrow does. How many details can children notice about the scarecrow? Draw lines to label their descriptions.
                          
Scarecrow Collage – Give children fabric scraps, construction paper, straw, etc. and invite them to create a scarecrow. What is their scarecrow’s name?

Scarecrow Sandwich – Cut a circle out of a piece of bread. Tint cream cheese yellow with food coloring and spread it on the circle. Grate carrots and use for the hair. Raisins can be added for eyes and a mouth. Add a candy corn for a nose and enjoy!

Scarecrow
(Tune: “Skip to My Lou”)
Children stand up and stretch out their arms like a scarecrow.
They repeat each line as they make the appropriate movements.
Can you turn around? I can turn around.
Can you touch the ground? I can touch the ground.
Can you wiggle your nose?
Can you touch your toes?
Can you wave up high?
Can you let your arms fly?
Can you give a clap?
Can you give a snap?
Can you jump, jump, jump?
Can you thump, thump, thump?
Can you wiggle your knees?
Can you sit down, please? Yes, yes, indeed! (Children sit down.)
*Note! You can either sing or say this chant.

Gray Squirrel
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, (Hold hands close to chest like paws.)
Swish your bushy tail. (Wiggle your bottom.)
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail. (Wiggle your bottom.)
Wrinkle up your little nose, (Wrinkle nose.)
Hide a nut between your toes. (Pretend to hold a nut in your paws.)
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail.
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, (Hold hands close to chest like paws.)
Swish your bushy tail. (Wiggle your bottom.)
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail. (Wiggle your bottom.)
Climb up in the tallest tree. (Arms climb up above head.)
Let your tail blow in the breeze. (Wiggle bottom.)
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail.
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, (Hold hands close like paws.)
Swish your bushy tail. (Wiggle your bottom.)
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail. (Wiggle your bottom.)
If you’ll be a friend of mine, (Point to self and then a friend.)
I will be a friend of yours.
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel,
Swish your bushy tail.

                                         
Note! Visit drjean.org and search “Gray Squirrel.” You will be able to download an adorable book that Martha Sheehan created to go with this song. The song is on disk one of my CD “Happy Everything.”

Gray Squirrel – Have children draw the body of a squirrel on a gray sheet of paper and cut out it out. Staple the squirrel to a straw to make a puppet. Staple a piece of felt or fake fur to the squirrel for a bushy tail.
*Trace around children's feet and attach with a brad to make a squirrel.

*Do an internet search to find out about different types of squirrels and their colors.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LEAVE IT TO LEAFS

Deciduous Trees  (Sandra Kelley)
Tune:  "Do Your Ears Hang Low?"
Do your leaves fall down?
Do they tumble to the ground?
Do you lose your leaves in the fall?
Then you are deciduous that we know
because in the fall your leaves all go!
*What's the difference between deciduous trees and evergreen trees?  Take a nature walk and ask children to identify both types of trees.

Leaf Hunt - Give each child a lunch sack and let them collect 2 or 3 leaves from the ground. Bring these back in the classroom and sort by shape, color, etc. You could also graph the leaves by shape. (Whenever you collect items outside emphasize the importance of taking things from the ground. Return the objects to where you found them after exploring with them in the classroom.)

Research – Check out a leaf identification book from the library. Can children match up their leaves with those in the book to identify which tree they came from.


Leaf Rubbings - Lay a sheet of paper on top of a leaf. Remove the paper from an old crayon and rub the side over the leaf to make a print.Hint! Use rubber cement to glue the leaf to the table. It will be easier for the children to make a rubbing, and you can just rub off the rubber cement after the activity.
                           
Leaf Book - Let each child find a "favorite" leaf. To preserve, place the leaf in a sheet of newspaper and put a book on top. Place the leaf in a zip baggie. Encourage children to dictate or write a sentence about their leaf. Put the baggies together to make a class book.

I Wonder Why? - Brainstorm why leaves turn colors and fall off trees in the fall. Have children go home and do a little research with their parents and report results in class the following day.


Monday, September 22, 2014

HAPPY FALL, YA'LL!

The first day of fall is Wednesday, September 23rd. Here some activities to celebrate this week!

Leaves Are Falling
(Tune: “Where Is Thumbkin?”)
Leaves are falling (Echo song. Children repeat each line.)
Leaves are falling (Flutter fingers down.)
To the ground. (Touch the ground.)
To the ground.
Red, orange, and yellow (Flutter fingers.)
Red, orange, and yellow
Falling down. (Touch the ground.)
Falling down.
*Let children dramatize being leaves and dancing in the wind. As the song ends they fall quietly to the ground.

*What happens to leaves after they fall from the trees? Later in the fall when there are lots of leaves on the ground demonstrate how to pick up a handful of leaves and crumple them in your hands. Explain how those leaves will decay and turn into soil.

It’s Fall
(Tune: “It’s Raining”)
It’s fall, it’s fall,
The best season of all.
Pumpkins, scarecrows,
Football, too.
A special time for me and you.

Fall
Why do you think they call this season “fall”? What’s another name for fall?
What season comes before fall? What season comes after fall? Fall is a cool off time between hot summer and cold winter.

Signs of Fall
Brainstorm signs of fall and write them on the board. What kind of clothes do we wear in fall? What’s the weather like in the fall? Are there any special seasonal foods we eat? What kind of sports are popular in fall? What holidays do we celebrate in the fall? What do animals do to get ready for winter? What do plants do in the fall?
*Let children make an attribute web and label it with pictures or words of things that remind them of fall.

Nature Walk
Go on a nature walk and look for signs of fall. Provide children with tablets, paper, and pencils so they can record their “observations” on the walk.

I Like Autumn Language Experience Chart
Let children dictate sentences about why they like autumn. Older children could write their own original stories about, “Fall, Fall, Best of All!”

Acrostic Poem
Write the words “fall” or “autumn” vertically down the side of a sheet of paper. Children think of a word that starts with each letter that relates to fall.

Paper Bag Tree
Tear (or cut) four strips from the top of the bag to the flap. Open. Squeeze the middle of the bag and twist. Let the children tear red, orange, and yellow paper and glue it to the tree.
*What fruits and nuts grow on trees? Let children make their favorite fruit tree.
*Make a spooky tree by adding bats and owls.

Bonus!
If you have a special party or event this fall, use a grocery bag to make the arrangement below. Scatter leaves and small pumpkins at the bottom and you'll amaze your guests!
                          

Sunday, September 21, 2014

BEAUTIFUL OOPS!


When I visited Kentucky last week they gave me a book called BEAUTIFUL OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg. It really is a delightful book that reminds everyone that we can learn from our mistakes and make something good out of "oops!"

If children learn to experience failure in the classroom, they will be much better equipped to handle it in real life and the work force. The important thing is to “allow” children the freedom to learn from their mistakes without punishment or ridicule. Losing a game, making a mistake when you read, or running down the hall are all opportunities where children can learn and be challenged to try something different the next time. Trusting children to deal with natural consequences and then try again can develop independence and the executive function.

I make mistakes, you make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes. You’ll find many mistakes on my CDs or videos. Use that as a “teachable” moment to point out the correct thing and remind the children that nobody’s perfect. I really do try my best and beat myself up when people point out my mistakes. It reminds me to be careful not to shame children or others for mistakes!  I believe Alexander Pope said, “To err is human; to forgive divine.”

I made up this little ditty to the tune of “This Old Man.”

It’s O.K. to make mistakes
Mistakes are always O.K. to make.
You can say, “Ooops!” and try it again.
It will be fine in the end.

Moms and dads, teachers, too,
We all make mistakes, it’s true.
Say, “Oh, well!” and try something new.
Use mistakes to learn what to do.

Here’s an art project that builds on the BEAUTIFUL OOPS! book. Cut holes out of paper and challenge children to create something out of their hole.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

WHAT A STUDENT WANTS!

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

BRAIN BEADS

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.

                           
Jamboree
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

PARENT CONFERENCES ARE AROUND THE CORNER!

                                  
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.”

CONFERENCE QUESTIONNAIRE

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

ROCKHOUNDS

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.


WE ROCKED!
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

PLAY DOUGH DAY IS TOMORROW!

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

MAKE A HAT DAY IS COMING!

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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

BE WARY!!

This is your mother talking to you today!

I’ve been around this rodeo a LONG time and there’s one thing I must warn you about! There are people in our profession who think it’s THEIR way or NO WAY. They think there is only ONE way to teach phonics, writing, math, etcetera, etcetera. They are very authoritarian and think they have the magic formula. You need to do it their way or you are wrong!!

Well, guess what? There is no one correct way to teach children to read or write or do math. Take a look at who’s running our country right now. Most of them learned with Sally, Dick, and Jane, some learned with phonics, and some learned with whole language, but they all figured it out. In the “old days” when we taught “writing” we meant penmanship. The kids copied off the board and we never asked them to express their thoughts. Yet somehow those adults figured out how to write.

I’ve had teachers tell me, “We are not allowed to sing your songs because you make the sound too many times. Children can’t sound out words that way.” That’s just plain silly!

Another teacher mentioned that they weren’t suppose to do math without a ten frame. Isn’t it interesting that children have been adding and subtracting for hundreds of years using their fingers?

Oh, here’s another one. A teacher was told that crossing the midline was a waste of time. Brain experts Ratey, Jensen, Hannaford, Schiller, Wolf and hundreds of occupational therapists promote cross-lateral activities with successful results.

There are also people who truly believe the world is flat.

I don’t know where some of these “experts” get their ideas. When you hear something suspicious you need to say, “Do you have scientific research studies to support that?” (You see, sometimes people do research with such a small sample and in such a controlled study they can skew the results. People wanting you to buy their product are often guilty of this.)

Many years ago I was fortunate to hear William Perry speak about cognitive and ethical development. It’s a useful framework to consider when talking about teaching strategies, approaches to learning, politics, and life.

Phase I – Dualism – Right/Wrong – Good/Bad
            This is right so that must be wrong.
            This is the good way to do it and that’s the bad way.

Phase II – Relativism – Well, it depends.
            Maybe this is right and maybe it’s wrong?
            It could be this, or it could be that?


Phase III – Personal Commitment
            This is what I believe.
            This is what I know from my personal experiences.
            You can believe what you want, but this is what I believe.

I will end with chocolate chip cookies. We were discussing approaches to reading and one teacher commented, “You know, there are many ways to make chocolate chip cookies…and they all taste yummy!” Whatever we do we need to remember to make it “tasty” for our little learners!
There is no one correct way to teach all children. 
The only magic ingredient that I know about is the TEACHER!

Friday, September 12, 2014

THE SPOT

I’ve been so busy giving you ideas for intentional teaching lately that I haven’t been giving enough LOVE to art. Here are a few ideas for what I call “smart art” - or reinforcing skills through art media. 
Note! I titled this blog “The Spot” because a teacher told me she called her art center “The Spot.” I thought that was rather clever and perfect for these simple, open-ended activities.
*Remember, it’s the process and not the product. Children will be using problem-solving and small motor skills as they do these projects.

Pop Up Scene
Skills: comprehension, setting
Materials: construction paper, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, scrap box
Directions: Prepare pop-ups ahead of time by folding the construction paper in half. Cut two slits from the fold 3 ½” from each side and 2 ½” down as shown. Bend the tab in so when you open there will be a 3-dimensional tab. Have children close their eyes and make a picture from a book you have read in their brain. Have them draw the setting of the scene on the inside of the pop-up. Finally, have them draw the main character and glue it to the pop-up.
*Pop ups are perfect for habitat studies or scenes from history.
  

Collage
Skills: letters, color, shapes, parts of speech, seasons, senses, etc.
Materials: paper plates, scissors, glue, catalogs, magazines, markers
Directions: Choose a theme for the collage that relates to a skill – letter, shape, color, noun, etc. Children cut out pictures and glue them on the paper plate. They can also draw pictures or decorate the rim of the plate.
                      
Pipe Cleaner People
Skills: book characters, famous people, retelling a story
Materials: pipe cleaners, scrap box, cloth, scissors, glue
Directions: Demonstrate how to make a stick person from two pipe cleaners. Children can then add a face, clothing, and other details. Let them retell a story with their pipe cleaner people.
*Lunch bags are also perfect for creating puppets of characters from books.
 

Sculptures
Skills: geometric shapes
Materials: toothpicks, clay, Styrofoam
Directions: Children can use clay or Styrofoam to connect toothpicks and make sculptures. Encourage them to name their sculptures.
*If your school allows food then it’s fun to make sculptures with pretzel sticks and miniature marshmallows.

Dot to Dot
Skills: cardinality, counting
Materials: 2 dice, paper, crayons
Directions: Children roll the dice and add up the dots. They take a black crayon and make that number of dots randomly on a sheet of paper. Can they connect the dots and create something out of it?
*Have children make dots and then exchange papers with a friend.

Camouflage
Skills: shapes, numerals, letters
Materials: paper, crayons, markers
Directions: Draw a shape or glue a shape in the middle of each sheet of paper. The children choose a shape and then try to create something out of it. Encourage them to fill in the whole page to “camouflage” their shape.
*You could do something similar with letters or numerals.