Month: August 2011

9 Favorite Quotes-Do you see your favorite?

Albert Einstein
Image via Wikipedia

Please add your favorite quote, if you don’t see it on my list. Thanks! If you don’t have a favorite that resonates with you, then sit back and be inspired!

  • “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” -Chinese proverb
  • “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” -Socrates
  • “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” -Aristotle
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” -Albert Einstein
  • “The only thing that interferes with my learning, is my education.” -Albert Einstein
  • “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” -Albert Einstein
  • “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain
  • “You must be the change that you want to see in the world.” -Gandhi
  • “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

Sid the Science Kid encourages Critical Thinking and Collaboration

Have you seen Sid the Science kid, yet? The first time I saw my six year old watch this show on PBS, I saw how involved she became. The characters are interactive and when I watch the show, I learn something new about Science. It is amazing to see these students in the classroom and home setting. In the classroom, the teacher shows the children the steps of the scientific method: “Observe! Compare! Contrast! Describe!” Scientific journals are also used in Sid’s classroom. I get some great teaching ideas from Sid. I am grateful that PBS has created such a wonderful learning experience for our youngest scientists!

The best part of this show is that you can show students each episode, from your computer-at school! I project it onto the screen in my classroom and then my students take part in many of the activities afterwards. For teacher resources, you can visit this link: Also, I discovered a blog, where a mom and her boys, test out experiments from various episodes. How amazing! Here is that link:

These are some of the topics that Sid teaches:

  • Exploring habitats
  • Little creatures in a forest
  • Sid and his mom talk about air pollution
  • Force, inertia and elasticity
  • Friction, light, and shadows
  • Ways to make less trash
  • Internet Safety
  • Recycling

There are even games that go along with each topic. I just played the weather game. I had fun spinning the weather wheel and then dressing up the character with appropriate clothing! You can even sing 1-2 minute video song clips about his Science topics. What I like the most is that this program and interactive website meets children where they are at. It encourages critical thinking by asking higher level questions, like why? and how? Sid models collaboration as he engages in problem solving discussions. The children are engaged as they learn from Sid! Most of the games on this site can be played on the interactive whiteboard as well.

Sid has an “Investigations” clip video where a real class makes applesauce. Our class viewed the short clip from and watched how the students figured out the best way to use heat to make applesauce. We then decided that we needed ingredients and a recipe. So, for shared writing, I wrote what they children shared!

Then, I had each student then cut up about ten apples. They did it with plastic knives and has so much fun! They then added them to the crock pot along with sugar, water and cinnamon. We cooked it from 10am to 2:30pm on high heat. At 2:00, I let them each stir and mash the cooking apples. Then when the applesauce was ready, I scooped it into a cup, gave them each a fork-and they enjoyed. Every single student enjoyed eating it! I can’t wait to do it again next year!


This is what the apples looked like at 2:00.


Yum! This is how we enjoyed eating our applesauce!


Here is our shared writing poster.

Brain Pop Jr. is a great online tool for teaching!

                             images from google

If you have never used brain pop jr. or brain pop…you have to try it! Educators and parents can use brainpop jr. It is appropriate for younger students (I would say up to first grade). However, brainpop ,is for older kids. There is a cute little robot named Moby that guides the lessons and his friend does all the talking and explaining. It has such great content and depth, but is at the children’s level. One of my favorite lessons is about story characters. Moby gets dressed up with a Goldilocks wig and re-enacts the story. Hearing my students laugh and learn, at the same time, is such a wonderful thing to see! Some of my other favorite topics on brainpopjr. are: recycling, animal habitats, space, rocks & minerals, holidays, bike safety, family and so much more! Their website is:

Here is a link at the educator’s section that shows how a teacher uses brain pop in her classroom and in the computer lab:

So, there is a catch. Daily video’s are free. To view everything, you must subscribe. I never had to pay a dime because our PTO paid for it. You may even could write a grant to cover the costs. It is worth every penny, though. If my school ever stopped paying, I would do it myself. I cannot imagine teaching Science or Social Studies without brainpop jr.!

Book boxes for “The Daily 5”


These are cereal boxes that I cut, and I plan to use them for my book boxes in my classroom. “The Daily 5” book is a great teacher resource, that gives simple ideas about how to instill more reading into your classroom routine. I have only used “The Daily 5” for one year, but I love it and am excited to use it even better this school year. Last year, I used magazine file boxes, that had been given to me-brand new. They did end up falling apart, and I had to tape the bottoms up with book tape. But they lasted for the school year. However, I did not want to go through the same thing again and decided to make my own book boxes-for free. I just need at least 15 more boxes to start out the school year. My parents and family have been instructed to save them up for me!

So, what is “The Daily 5”? Authors, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser have created these five components to encourage daily reading in the classroom:

1. Read to Self– This is silent reading time. Last year, I began the first 15-20 minutes of the day with silent reading. The students used their book boxes to read. Every book in the box was on the students’ reading level, with nothing too hard or too easy. I allowed students to change books out every few weeks.

2. Read to Someone- This can be buddy reading or reading with a partner. I incorporate this step into my Reading Center, where there are usually 2-3 students at a time. I think that the more students read, the better readers that they will become, as a result.

3. Listen to Reading– I incorporated this into my daily read-alouds. Since I love reading and I love reading to children, I usually read about 2-3 books a day to students. I believe that when children hear more reading, they enjoy more reading.

4. Work on Writing– I this into my Writing Center, where I have pre-stapled books available for students to write and illustrate their own “little books.” Last year, this was the most popular station in my classroom! Writing develops reading skills too!

5. Word Work- I also make this a Center station. I change the activity every 1-2 weeks. This is where I include activities for the phonics skill, which I work on during Guided Reading groups. So, if the skill is -at words, th- words or beginning sounds-I place an activity about it here.

I am excited to use The Daily 5 again this year!

20110919-062136.jpg Here are the boxes-filled with books!

Great Books for Back to School

I absolutely love books! I always teach my students that books are like money-so treat them well. As a child, I always enjoyed reading as a hobby, but I developed a love for books because of my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Dalyrymple. She was always bringing in a new book to read, that she had just bought at a second hand book store. I don’t even remember any of the books that she read, but I do remember her excitement and joy that came from reading a book aloud.

As a teacher and mom, I can’t help but do the same thing. Books excite me-especially when I find one for less than a dollar at the Goodwill store. I hope that I awaken a love for books and learning, within my students too!

Here are some of my favorite books, that I love to read at the start of a new school year!

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School

This is my newest favorite. It is such a cute story about how the classroom of students made a gingerbread man and then went out to recess. When they came back-he was gone. Now, they must search the school to find him. Along the way, he is out searching and meets the staff a the school (the nurse, principal, librarian, coach). It also comes with a poster of the cute gingerbread man from the book, which has a black and white copy to reproduce for your kiddos!

mouse_to_schoolI want to use props this year to let students help me act out the story (lunchbox, sandwich, mouse stuffed animal). I think it will be very interactive this way.

   miss-bindergartenI like to think-aloud as I read this lovely story, and have the students help me compare the Kindergarten classroom in the story (full of animals) to our classroom.

Back to School Classroom Pictures


This is the Reading Station. Each basket is sorted by theme based on the books that I own (fairy tales, Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Jan Brett, animals, insects, ABC and numbers. I also have animals and hats for role playing.



I traced some puzzle pieces (floor puzzle) to make this bulletin board. Once I get my student roster, I will be writing each child's name on each puzzle piece!


These cute ABC kids signs are from Lakeshore Learning store. I will be ticky-tacking the sight words under each letter, as I introduce them.


This is the Hitachi interactive whiteboard that I have for student use. Check out the cool laptop cart, to go along with it (complete with projector)!


This is the Guided Reading group table-where all the phonics magic of reading will happen!


I got these cute Center/Workstation labels from Teacher Heaven. I plan to assign 2 students per station, to minimize behavior problems.


My new easel arrived! It is magnetic. I plan to use it for my morning message that I write to the students each morning. The rules poster will be completed as a class together. Then each student will sign on the bottom.


My school bought these nice letter/sound tubs from Lakeshore Learning. They have cute little objects inside, for each letter. The tree you see was made out of a Pringles can, felt leaves that I cut out and glitter sticker letters that I got from Wal-Mart.


I ran out of shelves, so I placed my puzzle center under the Calendar area board. The students will be making the puzzles on the floor anyways!


I will be hanging student work here!


My big book station is tucked nicely on a shelf with the books laid flat.



Thinking Maps

I just viewed an amazing (10 min.) video about Thinking Maps. Pat Wolfe, an educational brain researcher, explained how the 8 Thinking Maps help our brain add visualizations to our learning, so that our brain can remember better. She asserts that thinking maps allow the freedom for higher order thinking to occur naturally and not necessarily with teacher scaffolding. Each thinking map is used specifically for certain types of thinking. I received some training from my school district last year and was amazed at the power of thinking maps. Before, I had consistently used other visual maps including Venn Diagrams and T-charts.

Below are some snip-it’s that I gathered at:

A bubble map is used for describing and using adjectives (like writing all the characteristics of a favorite animal).

A tree map is used for classification (like classifying sight words containing 2, 3 or 4 letters).

A circle map is for defining a subject in context (like brainstorming what you know about Poetry).

A double bubble map is used for comaparing and contrasting (spiders/insects) It can be used instead of a Venn Diagram.

A flow map is used for sequencing (ex: listing the sequence of a story, ordinal positions in line) It starts at the left and flows to the right.

A multi-flow map is used for organizing and thinking about cause and effect (why is it raining, what are the effects of rain?).

A brace map is used for organizing whole to part relationships (the parts of an ant: head, thorax, abdomen) and then listing details about each.

A bridge map is used for analogies (I have not used this one in Kindergarten yet!)

Thinking maps are definitely worth your time! I as a visual learner have started using them myself, because I am always itching to organize something!






No More Letter of the Week?

For more than five years, I taught a letter per week and sometimes every other week. That is just what we did at my former campus, and so did all the other Pre-K classrooms across that school district. I taught letter “Mm” and read stories about monsters, moose, mice and we made crafts based on the “Mm” words we were learning. The students tasted muffins and they decorated letter Mm. This is the letter of the week method. Well, it turns out that this is not the best way to teach children the letter names and sounds. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to use the book “No More Letter of the Week” in my Kindergarten classroom. After using this program for teaching letters, for only one school year, I am sold! I love this method so much and it is more fun for both me and my students. Recently, I began searching for the reasons and research behind the effectiveness of “No More Letter of the Week.”

Stock Image

I came across many articles found at a fellow teacher’s blog: turns out that she embarked on her own research as well. Here is the amazing research:

“Arguments for Moving Away From LOTW

  • Fluent letter recognition is one of the (if not THE) predictors of reading success (Adams, 1990).
  • Removing letters from their meaningful context removes the meaning and purpose from the letter.
  • Children who are taught letters in isolation have difficulty placing that information into literacy activities (Wood and McLeMore, 2001).
  • It is more meaningful to introduce letters as they become meaningful to the students.
  • Just because you and I were taught with the LOTW many years ago does not mean it is the BEST way to teach letters. Remember the Virginia Slims saying “We’ve come a long way baby”? Well, we have come a long way in education and current research supports teaching letters in context and not in isolation.
  • Teaching with LOTW slows readers down, yet it’s too fast for others, it doesn’t meet the needs of all learners and there is no room for differentiation.
  • The students who struggle the most with learning the letters are the ones who are least helped by teaching letters in isolation. They need something to help them make connections – isolating letters doesn’t do that.”

Teaching letters without focusing on a different letter each week

NMLOTW (No More Letter of the Week) teaches the sounds of letters within context of rhymes and motions. Children are selected to be a “Letter Expert” for each letter of the alphabet. The letter expert reads a book from her teacher, which is on her reading level, but contains words with the “special letter.” The letter expert practices the book at home and then reads it to the class. A sentence from the book is then written on pieces of sentence strips and the class works together to put the sentence back together again. The special letter is emphasized while the student teaches everyone about her expert letter. She brings in items beginning with her letter and she also brings in a large letter that is decorated with print and cut-outs from magazines that contain words beginning with the special letter. A special bulletin board or wall is set up by the teacher to display each letter. If the wall is at student level, it can be utilized by the children to reread the sentences using pointers. Their book can also be placed in the letter square. This is a great center, as the letter’s continue being added.

This is a very informative article, that is well worth reading: “N is for Nonsensical” by Dr. Susan B. Neuman

20110815-113628.jpg This is the “Reading Wall.” This is the set-up part, before the student use it. I used painters tape on my second white board, to section off the 26 sections (plus 1). When each letter is introduced in the curriculum, one child will be the “Letter Expert,” and take home a large cut-out letter, an emergent reader book (I use little books from the Pearson Reading Street curriculum). Also, inside of the take home bag is a sentence from the book that contains a word beginning with the letter expert letter.

Here is the parent letter that I send home in the take-home bag: Letter expert parent letter




What do you miss about being a child?

Child 1

Image by Tony Trần via Flickr

What was your favorite thing about childhood? I recall catching fireflies, making mudpies, spinning on the tire swing, the smell of fresh cut crass and making forts inside with my older brother. Even though we are adults now, that child is still deep down inside of us, just beggin to have fun!

If you haven’t felt like a kid in awhile, just read the attached list and pick something. The suggestions do not involve money or planning. I promise, you will have fun-and, you will feel like a kid again. So, go out and feed some ducks, play in the rain or pick any of the 48 other ideas. Recently on Linkedin, I met a new author, Helena Harper. She created a list of 50 ways to discover your inner child. Thank you Helena for sharing your ideas that are both simple and fun!