Month: September 2012

Why Field Trips Are Important







Did you know that field trips can have powerful cognitive effects? They actually contribute to the learning process. Visiting places outside of school or having special people visit the school motivates children to learn from new experiences. Environmental awareness also occurs as children see, hear and feel new things.

As I child, I loved field trips! It was always so much fun to ride the school bus to place that I had never been before. Many years later, I can still remember every field trip that I went on-the memories are that strong! You can probably think of a fun place that you visited too! Because field trips can be so powerful, we can promote them in many ways. Even, if schools do not take the children anywhere-fun “trips” can still happen. These days, many schools lack the funding to take children to even a museum or zoo. Some schools are overcoming this by having the field trip come to them. Here are some ideas of ones that I have experienced with my students:

  • A Petting Zoo and Farmer visited and set up his mini-zoo outside of the school. The children were encouraged and allowed to hold the baby chicks, brush the hair of lambs and pick up the rabbits.
  • Colgate sent their Dentist in a mini-bus. Children were able to have the Dentist give them a quick check-up and then they each received a toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Beach Day was an outdoor event that was set up outside of the school. Parent volunteers helped fill up kiddie pools, slip-n-slides, bubble tables and sprinklers. The kids wore their swimsuits and sunglasses. Afterwards, they sat on beach towels and had a snack.
  • Snow Day was also outside. The PTA raised money to rent a snow blowing truck. It simply made a l0x10 section of fake snow. The children wore their winter coats and mittens to school and were able to build snowmen in the snow.
  • Rodeo Day took place with ponies to ride, pretend cows to rope and line dancing in the gym. The children came to school dressed like cowboys and cowgirls.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Grocery Store visits can be arranged with a local grocer. One of the workers simply gives a tour of each section of the store and explains what types of healthy foods are available. Students can even sample fruit and veggies.
  • A Local Textile or Bottling Factory is another place where children can see how things are made.
  • Picking Berries or Local Veggies is a great way to show children in person, where things come from.
  • Having a X-Ray Technician bring real x-rays to school is a fun way for children to see what doctor’s really use.
  • Visit a Radio Station! Children can hear how the DJ speaks carefully and clearly. Maybe they can get a chance to be on the radio also!


clipart via



Should Our Children “Work”?

Should children HAVE money?

As a mom I say “yes”, but under specific conditions. Merely giving children money for the sake of it is not a good idea. This is how the “money growing on trees” ideas get started. I say this, because I have done it before and now I regret just giving my kids money. If you are not interested in giving monetary rewards…keep reading…I have non-monetary prize suggestions, also!

Should children EARN money, then?

Again, I say “yes.” Why? Well, when it all comes down to it, parents DO provide for their children. They are the ones who buy them their clothing, food and entertainment. So, why not let them earn these things? Dave Ramsey also promotes the idea of requiring children to work for what they get. I agree to a point. Young children of course should not have to earn rent money to live at their own home and they most certainly should not earn money to buy their own basic clothing. Fancy clothing-yes! Extra shoes-sure! I am sure you are getting my point here. I think that a child should earn money to buy their own toys, tasty treats and other fun stuff that is not necessary to survive.

Earning Opportunities:

They can engage in simple household tasks, like:

  • Taking out the garbage
  • Putting away their laundry
  • Making their bed
  • Helping clear the table after meals
  • Helping put clean dishes away
  • Taking care of a pets needs: filling the water bowl, taking them for a walk

Children can also earn money for things that they already have to do, like:

  • Going to bed on time
  • Brushing their teeth before bedtime and before school
  • Packing up their backpack and getting things ready for school
  • Eating breakfast
  • Doing their homework

The above are tasks that have to be done anyway. They are tasks that mom usually does by herself and then she’s so exhausted and frustrated because no one is helping, right?!! So, by enlisting the rest of the family, everything that needs to get done, will get done and the kids will earn stuff they want, in the process.

What if I don’t want to give my child MONEY? What else can I give them?

  • Children can earn points. You can even keep track of their points on a new website called “Chore Monster” (it’s free!)
  • You can download a simple “chore chart” online and keep track of what they accomplish. When the chart is complete-they can earn a desired toy or prize.
  • Print out or buy tickets or coupons that they earn. After they have earned a certain amount, they can trade them in for a prize or sweet treat.

What does Research Say?

  • Research shows that children learn responsibility and independence by engaging in housework (and also homework).
  • When children earn money, they also learn about saving, giving to those less fortunate and spending their money wisely.
  • As children get older, they can learn about investing their money. As a result they can start saving up for a larger and more expensive item, like a video game, toy or even a new bicycle.
  • By earning money, as opposed to “being given money,” children will learn that hard work pays off!

What do you think? What has worked for you and your children? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions!


The Writing and Reading Connection

As an educator and Master teacher, I always knew that writing and reading were inter-connected. Actually there are so many things that us educators already “know.” Over the past decade, though, research proves that so many of the things that we already “knew” are actually true. Here is some research to back up the fact that by becoming a better writer, you will become better at reading.

1. Writing forces a child to focus on forming letters correctly.
2. When children are learning and practicing writing words, messages and stories, they are also learning to read those words in their own writing and in books.
3. Writing left to right instills that practice and knowledge of reading left to right.
4. As simple as it sounds – reading and writing mutually reinforce each other!
5. Paraphrasing things on paper, like vocabulary word definitions or what was just read, actually helps increase Reading Comprehension!
6. When a child sounds out words when he writes, he is actually developing phonemic awareness at the same time. Phonemic awareness is a pre-reading skill!


Bad Handwriting?







For the past 12 years of my teaching career, I have worked with many children who struggled with their handwriting. Some of them had existing disabilities, such as down’s syndrome, autism and speech impairments. Others did not. Fortunately, an Occupational Therapist visited my classroom often and worked with these children (between the ages of 4-6). I was able to witness and borrow many of her techniques.

Sloppy handwriting is hard to read, messy and is just not pretty to look at. It can be frustrating for the child because no one can read and understand what he is writing about. A parent becomes discouraged because she knows the potential of her child. A teacher may get irritated by “bad handwriting” because she can’t grade the child adequately.

Why are we so Worried?

To be honest, some educators are not, because of the increase in testing and influx of technology. However, good handwriting is important. There is actually evidence that indicates that children who write better and faster, get better grades. But don’t be fooled-superb handwriting is not an indicator of success. There are many intelligent and successful people who have horrible handwriting!

What Causes Good and Bad Writing?

  • Investigate to see if the problem is cognitive or physical. If a child can’t remember how to write a letter or shape or they take too long, then the problem is cognitive. If they have trouble forming the letter, then it is likely physical.
  • Be aware that a pre-requisite to good handwriting is developing the fine motor muscles in the hand, wrist and fingers.
  • If a child’s fine motor muscles have never been “worked out” or used often, then they will most likely struggle with holding a pencil or crayon correctly.
  • Holding a pencil correctly is another pre-requisite to good handwriting.
  • Some children’s problem may be from an existing or “not-yet diagnosed” disability. Having an evaluation from an Occupational Therapist is a good idea.

What Can I Do to Help?

  • Check that the child is holding the pencil correctly.
  • Be sure that when writing, the child’s feet are touching the floor and the table/desk is below chest level. He may need a shorter table or chair.
  • Check that his posture is tall and straight. Slouching and laying on the table does not help handwriting!
  • Be sure that his vision is not impeding his writing (Is it possible that he may need glasses?)
  • Encourage him to play with his food. That’s right! Here are some fun food activities: Pull grapes off the stems, cut strawberries, spread peanut butter on bread or help with mixing and stirring in the kitchen. These activities make the hands strong enough to write better!
  • You can also ask an OT yourself at:
  • Encourage typing. That’s right. It builds up fine motor muscles, too!
  • Increase their physical activity through gross motor fun. Try these muscle developing activities: throwing a ball back and forth, playing “wheel-barrow,” crawling, climbing
  • Play outdoor games like baseball, tennis, jacks, marbles, clapping songs
  • Enforce the use of silverware at dinner time. Grasping a utensil increases fine motor strength.
  • Provide various writing tools like thin, short or fat markers and crayons, golf pencils, chalk, gel pens, paint brushes.
  • Bring out the play-dough and clay! This fun is disguised a muscle building.
  • Encourage your child to button and zip his own clothing and shoes.
  • Rake leaves and wash the car
  • Sort laundry
  • Write letters on the table with shaving cream or finger write on the shower door or wall
  • Encourage block play, snap cubes and snap beads as well as necklace beading.
  • Provide handwriting letter stamps for your child to stamp and then trace

The Benefits of Learning Another Language!

As an educator, I am asked all the time by parents “what can make my child smarter?” This is how I am going to answer this question from now on…have your child learn another language!

How does learning another language help a child “get smarter” you ask?  This is what recent research reveals about bilingualism and dual language learning.

Current Research about Learning Two Languages:

  • A child’s thinking and cognition is improved by learning another language.
  • Children who know two languages are better problem-solvers!
  • Their brain works differently.
  • Knowledge of a second language affects how you read in your native tongue-sometimes faster.
  • It alters grey matter – the area of the brain which processes information, just like exercising builds muscle.
  • It improves skills in the native language.
  • Regardless of race and socioeconomic status, children with dual languages, did better on standardized tests.
  • Higher creativity in story-telling occurs.
  • In terms of language-semantic development, they were ahead by 2-3 years.
  • It exercises the brain, as it is a cognitivly-challenging task.

 Old Myths about Dual language Learning:

(Keep in mind, these are beliefs that are not backed up by research. Some children did experience these obstacles, but some of those children also had prior learning/speech disorders in their native language)

  • It confuses children.
  • Learning another language takes brain power away from learning the native language.
  • The native language worsens as a result.
  • Test scores decrease.

Future Benefits of Knowing Two or more Language:

  • The opportunity for getting a better job, which requires bilingualism.
  • The chance to travel to other countries for that job!
  • Improved tolerance and awareness of other cultures.
  • Increases social skills with those of other culutures.

Isnt’ this all amazing! I am so excited to learn what this new research proves about bilingualism! I would love to hear your experiences with children learning two languages!


The Positives of Having a Pet







Psychological research has actually been conducted to determine the effects that pets have on people of all ages. Recent research reveals that by having a pet, a child’s social skills can improve! A pet can also help children learn about responsibility, friendship, love and trust. For adults and the elderly, owning a pet can actually ward of depression, lowers blood pressure, decreases anxiety and boosts the immune system!

Many people believe that furry pets will cause allergies in children. However, research gives us insight that those exposed to animals will actually have a lesser risk of developing allergies.

In addition, “playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.” Quite simply-animals make people calm and happy!

If having a pet is not an option, then you can instill these skills and health benefits by visiting a petting zoo or a farm or even by “pet-sitting” for a friend.














Why is Homework Important?

Do I have to do my Homework?

This is the common question that I here from children. I even remember hating homework. Although it is not normally fun, it is very important for a child’s brain! It actually helps improve a child’s thinking and memory. The more a child “practices” what he is learning at school, the more permanent his learning will be. Homework is like brain exercise where thinking is being trained and “worked-out.”

According to there are many important reasons why Homework is valuable:

  1. It helps develop positive study skills and habits are developed.
  2. It encourages good time management.
  3. It teaches children to work independently.
  4. Homework allows a child to take responsibility for his or her own work.
  5. It allows children to review and practice what has been covered in class.
  6. It helps your child to prepare their mind for the next day’s class.
  7. Homework helps a child learn to use resources, such as libraries, reference materials, and computer Web sites to find information.
  8. It encourages a child to explore subjects more fully than classroom time permits.
  9. It allows children to extend learning by applying skills to new situations.
  10. Howework helps parents learn more about what their child is learning in school.

So now, you are prepared with the proper answers to the question “Why do I have to do my homework?”

How much is too much homework?

“According to the National PTA and the National Education Association (NEA), the following amounts of homework are recommended:

  • From kindergarten to third grade, no more than 20 minutes per day.
  • From fourth to sixth grade, 20 to 40 minutes per day.
  • From seventh to twelfth grade, the recommended amount of time varies according to the type and number of subjects a student is taking. In general, college-bound students receive lengthier and more involved homework than students preparing to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.” (

How can I encourage my child actually DO his homework?

  • Agree on and establish a special “homework time.” For example, right when your child gets home from school, or right after dinner time.
  • Monitor and limit t.v, computer and video games. Allow him to play only after his homework is complete.
  • Together, choose the best location for doing homework: a desk in his room, the kitchen table, etc… (on the couch in front of the t.v is not the best place)
  • Give him a mini-reward when he is finished with his homework. For example, more video game time or an ice-cream treat!
  • Be available to assist him, so that when he becomes frustrated he does not just give up.
  • Enlist an older sibling or family member to help –or- hire a homework tutor!
  • Allow your child to shop for some writing tools that are used only for homework, like colorful pencils, mechanical pencils. Then buy a special supply box to put them in.

All in all, having a child do his homework, teaches us as parents a great deal of responsibility as well. Together, we can tackle it!

 Related articles

My Top 10 Most Favorite Children’s Books

We all have our favorite books. Here are mine! The reason that I love them…because my students and my own children love them. Reading and books somehow open the imagination and funny bone!

1. “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Felicia Bond is a well loved children’s book by many teachers. Why? It is a story that goes around and around and it shows what happens when you do something-anything! The little mouse is also reminded of his family in this story. This is a great story to read with your child as you enjoy some family time!









2. “Go Dog, Go” by PD Eastman. – This is one of the first books that my Pre-K son learned to read and loved to read at bedtime. It has many 3-letter words and lots of rhyme, which makes it fun to read!










3. Skippy Jon Jones by Judy Schachner is such a funny book. When, I read it, I change my voice into a Mexican accent. The kids laugh and end up reading along with me!








4. “Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister – This book teacher such simple and important concepts – sharing, social skills and making friends.











5. “Jake Starts School” by Michael Wright – This book shows a silly kid who insists that his parents stay at school with him all day. It helps children become more at ease with school as they watch the mom and dad on the playground and in the kiddie chairs!










6. “Go Away Big Green Monster” by Ed Emberly – This book “tricks” children into reading along. Its also a great book to read before nap or bedtime. I love how it is a simple story line that emphasizes color words and facial features, as well.












7. “Bad Kitty” by Nick Bruel is such a funny book about a really bad cat that constantly is getting into trouble!













8. “Elmer” by David McKee teaches about uniqueness and how everyone is special.












9. “Alice the Fairy” by David Shannon, shows a how little girls imagination can come to life!










10. “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” by Mo Willems – A cute little bird sneaks into the driver seat and has so much fun!









There you have it!



Using Colorful Books to Capture a Child’s Curiosity…..A Color of His Own by Leo Leoni

Colorful books capture children’s curiosity! Even adults are led to choose books based on thier cover. Literally-judge a book by its cover! It’s ok-go ahead and choose a book to read based on what you see. I teach my students that when they write and make illustrations, they should keep in mind that someone else will be reading their work. This encourages them to work harder and more carefully, instead of quickly. Did you know that most people’s strongest sense is thier sight? What we see leads us to investigate. Investigations lead to learning. Learning leads to creating and creative thinking leads to new ideas! Isn’t that amazing-a book has the power to open up our imagination and creative thinking! I love books for this reason.

Even fictional characters portray creative thinking. The chameleon in the story, “A Color of His Own” by Leo Leoni lets his curiosity lead him to colorful transformations. After reading this story to your students, have then create their own chameleon.

Download this color matching activity sheet at: