Ever since I was a child I have loved books. I found the joy of traveling in my mind to exotic places where I could experience adventure, and become someone else. I could be a scientist, an explorer, a hero or a villain. Each book brought new possibilities.
Everywhere I went I would be sure to bring a book. Being called a bookworm was not offensive to me. I preferred reading to interacting with those who didn’t share my fascination with books. I can only assume that a person who doesn’t enjoy reading has not found the right book that captures their interest. To this day I carry a book with me (sometimes on the Kindle app on my phone).
I like to explore various genres to broaden my choices and gather information. There is much to be gained by selecting a book on a topic that has been on your mind. I knew I liked pictures of New Zealand, but reading about it and learning customs, culture and history has increased my knowledge base substantially. When discussing a topic it is always better to have facts from reliable sources. I never realized how much I would enjoy nonfiction books, but the information enhances my vocabulary while strengthening my knowledge base. A real win!
Historical fiction and thrillers are the latest genres that appeal to me. I have had the pleasure of joining two online book clubs and have engaged in discussions with a few authors. It opens up an entire world once your mind is open to learning from an author’s perspective. It’s often surprising when I find myself challenging my own long held beliefs. In that way books are helping me grow my mind.
I like to think that even if you did not have the opportunity to grow up in a loving, nurturing, healthy home, you can still create that kind of home for your own children. It is never too late to start building the kind of life you want. I am blessed with great kids and like to think I am much wiser as a grandma than I was as a mother. Time and experiences along the way helped to shape my priorities. I know how much laughter, forgiveness and feeling confident are essential elements in every day life.
My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters are visiting here from Wales. Every second with them is a treasure. Sitting at the dining room table as I listened to my daughter, I thought of how proud I am of her and her capacity to love. My oldest granddaughter helped me in the kitchen. The little one celebrated her 5th birthday here, in the US, complete with a unicorn theme. These moments are precious. There aren’t enough of them. All I want to do is make memories that they will cherish and pass on to their children one day.
I was in the grocery store to pick up a few items. I wore my mask and assumed that others would also. Not so. I pushed my cart through the produce section and a very large man yelled at me, “You don’t need a damn mask!” He scared me. I got out of the store quickly. The sign on the entrance said, “Masks required.” About half the people I saw were not wearing masks. I am fully vaccinated, and even got a booster shot. I am protecting others, as well as myself. What if I had a kidney transplant? What if I had a compromised immune system? The what ifs are endless. I should not have to respond to such an unfiltered verbal assault, and to be honest, I was too frightened so I did not respond.
The cases of Covid are going up in our little area. I am being responsible and this is a public health emergency. Hopefully we can all see that. We will all die someday, but if you know there is a vaccine that will provide some protection, why not take it? I watched my mother die gasping for air, and I imagine that being on a ventilator isn’t much fun. I lost an aunt and an uncle to covid. I hope that we all make it through this horrible virus. I hope we care about our fellow citizens enough to do what will help them survive.
Children need to practice reading skills by reading aloud. This helps them develop fluency. A child can read to a sibling, a pet, their toys, and even plants. Their reading becomes enjoyable when they have someone or something to share in the experience.
When I taught second grade I set up an experiment. My hypothesis was that plants that are read to do better than those that aren’t. I had the same type of plant (pathos) in opposite sides of the classroom. One plant was read to daily and one was not. Students clamored to be the reader. They kept a notebook of their discoveries. It may have been happenstance, but the plant that was read to flourished in contrast to the plant that did not have a child read to it. I’m not a scientist, but I am a reading teacher with a creative mind. My experiment was a success! It got students reading and writing.
I imagine that a sibling or a pet would love the attention. Anything that encourages reading is a good thing.
It’s good medicine to laugh. It’s even better to have a belly laugh. This is a great way to begin the day, a meeting, the school year. According to Psychology Today, “A hearty chuckle releases endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters and endorphins are part of the reason laughing is so contagious. Laughing also has many health benefits such as increasing blood flow and improving mental and physical resilience. In fact, it’s not unlike a vigorous workout session.”
“The eminent psychologist on laughter, Robert Provine, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland, agrees that laughter isn’t really about humor. He contends that it’s more about relationships. Cutting-edge humor straight out of Comedy Central is great, but people actually laugh more in conversation and through interaction. Provine has unearthed a few facts on laughter including:
I began searching the internet for resources to give my online students who are in a Masters level course to earn their teaching credential. I have weekly resources for them that coincide with the week’s topic. I took a look at a topic that generally has them confused, the difference between phonemic awareness and phonics. I wanted the clearest information that would be easy to understand. Boy, did I go down a rabbit hole!
I could tell students a thousand times how important it is to know the sounds that make up words, and they always refer to phonics instruction. Most students are able to learn both the letter and the corresponding sound, but for some, the two skills do not stick. That is why it is important to teach sounds first. A child who can recite the alphabet but doesn’t have knowledge of the sounds, will not be able to read. There are important distinctions between phonemic awareness and phonics.
Phonemic awareness refers to the sounds in words. Not the letters, the sounds. The word cat has three phonemes: /c/a/t/. You can practice phonemic awareness in the dark because it does not include sight, just sound.
Phonics is awareness of both the letters and their sounds.
If child cannot read, you must go back and teach sounds. It is the only way they will be able to decode.
I spent part of the day with my grandson. It was just the two of us. When it was time to take a nap I asked him to select two books that I would read to him. He ran into his room and brought back two of his favorites. I always say, “Be sure you are comfortable so you can enjoy the story.” He got a pillow and put it right near me. We looked at the pictures first and found things we liked. We talked about what the story might be about. He snuggled next to me as I read to him. When I finished, I told him that I was very tired and needed to rest my body. He looked at me and said, ” You’re a good grandma and I love you.” He put his arm around me and fell asleep that way. I think I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I thought about how good it is to be alive to witness those kind of moments. In spite of all the bad times, events that make me want to disappear, there are moments that are precious beyond words. I am grateful that I lived to have moments like this; to see that there are sparkling moments in life that are just around the corner.
We all know when someone cares about us. Students come to school hoping they will be liked and accepted. A teacher that takes the time to know each student creates a solid foundation of trust. Learning is often connected to experiences and emotions. When a child feels secure, learning can move into long term memory.
From the start of the school year find out what your students are interested in. What do they want to know more about? Use an interest inventory. Share your hobbies, favorite sports, songs, movies. Take time to establish an atmosphere of security and respect.
Class meetings are a good way to teach social skills, establish community and foster open communication. Regularly check the status of the class. Encourage problem-solving with teacher guidance.
Give sincere compliments. Model how to show appreciation.
Teachers, I hope you have a safe, productive, positive school year!
Always tap into a student’s prior knowledge, building on what they know. Help them make connections by using visuals, engaging in partner share, review previous lesson. Moving forward to new subject matter requires assessment to determine if there is a need to reteach.
Know your students! Some can take leaps while others require review and rehearsal. There is much to be gained by assessing exactly where your students are.
Students flourish when they are recognized and appreciated. There are so many ways to help a student feel great about their success. I like to honor each improvement with a visual representation of their accomplishment. When done selectively, this is a way to boost self-esteem in students, particularly those who don’t generally get recognized.
A medal that a student can wear on the playground lets other children know of successes. It can be worn home so parents can also acknowledge improvement.
This book should be on every teacher’s desk as a resource for promoting an inclusive classroom. It is important to remember that dependent does not mean deficit. We want all students to work to their full potential. Here is just one sampling of the valuable guidance from acclaimed author, Jaretta Hammond:
Relies on the teacher to carry the cognitive load most of the time
Unsure how to tackle a new task
Needs scaffolds to complete a task
Sits passively until teacher intervenes
Poor retention of information
“I don’t get it.”
Relies on the teacher to carry some of the load temporarily
Uses strategies and processes for tackling a new task
Will attempt new tasks without scaffolds
Has a way to get unstuck
Has learned how to retrieve information from long-term memory
Children learn phonological skills from infancy. Phonological awareness involves a continuum of skills that develop over time and are crucial for reading and spelling success, because they are central to learning to decode and spell printed words.
Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of sentences and words. Examples include being able to identify words that rhyme, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, identifying the syllables in a word, and blending and segmenting onset-rimes.
***Remember that Phonological Awareness is an umbrella term that covers sub skills. It deals with SOUNDS, not letters. When students know sounds, you can then introduce letters. PHONICS combines sounds and letters.
After you teach a lesson, even a mini-lesson, always make sure you scan your group to insure they have a clear understanding of what you have taught. Moving on without a check does a disservice to students. Form a small group to reteach the lesson. The hand method is a good visual that goes a step further than “thumbs up, thumbs down.”
Check For Understanding Strategy
3‐2‐1/ Fist to Five/ Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
4‐3‐2‐1 Scoring Scale
Students communicate their level of understanding to teacher using their fingers
Students should get in groups of four where one student is A, the n next is B, etc. Each student will be asked to reflect on a concept and draw a visua l of his/her interpretation. Then they will share their answer with each other in a zigzag pattern within their group.
The capacity matrix is a charting technique used to break down topic areas into steps for achieving a specific result. It identifies tasks, knowledge levels, and understanding of the topic area.
Circle, Triangle, Square
(Circle) Something that is still going around in your head, (Triangle) Something pointed that stood out in your mind, (Square) Something that “Squared” or agreed with your thinking.
Electronic surveying devices that give instant feedback and data
Decisions, Decisions (Philosophical Chairs)
Given a prompt, class goes to the side that corresponds to their opinion on the topic, side share out reasoning, and students are allowed to change sides after discussion
Each student will be given a ticket to complete before leaving the room answering: What is the most important thing I learned today? What questions do I still have? These tickets can be given to the teacher when exiting the room or upon entering the next day. The teacher uses this information to guide the instruction.
Every Pupil Response
Each student receives a pink and yellow card. Each color represents a specific response. Students raise the card to provide the correct response to a teacher directed question.
Given a concept, students sort or write various examples/non‐examples
Given examples/non‐examples, students determine concept
Fill In Your Thoughts
Written check for understanding strategy where students fill the blank.
Check For Understanding Strategy
Flag It Function Aerobics
Handprint Human Graph Interlocking Paper Plates
Students use this strategy to help them remember information that is important to them. They will “flag” their ideas on a sticky note or flag die cut…
Students demonstrate their knowledge of transformations of functions by physically moving their arms and body
Draw your handprint. In each finger, write one thing you learned today.
A kinesthetic activity where students in the class physically move to create a histogram, where each student represents a data point rating their view .
Give One, Get One
Cooperative activity where the students write response to a prompt, meet up with another student and share ideas so that each leaves with something to add to their list
Students form an inner and outer circle facing a partner. The teacher asks a question and the students are given time to respond to their partner. Next, the inner circle rotates one person to the left. The teacher asks another question and the cycle repeats itself.
Pop It (Bubble Wrap)
Students write what they want to know about a topic on a dot sticker. Place each sticker on the bubble wrap. When a topic is covered, the student pops the bubble.
Project Study Group
Analyzing incorrect responses in multiple choice questions
Quick Writes Rubric Say Something
Student Data Notebooks
A timed writing in response to a question or prompt (can be used before, during, or after instruction)
A scoring guide using subjective assessments that is generally composed of dimensions for judging student performance.
Students take turns leading discussions in a cooperative group on sections of a reading or video
Students are divided into two teams to identify correct answers to questions given by the teacher. Students use a fly swatter to slap the correct response posted on the wall.
Check For Understanding Strategy
Timed Pair Share
Triangular Prism (Red, Yellow, Green)
Given a prompt, students pair up and share their perspective for a given amount of time, taking turns (A talks, B listens, then B talks, A listens)
Students give feedback to teacher by displaying the color that corresponds to their level of understanding
Given a set of vocabulary terms, students sort in to given categories or create their own categories for sorting
Take and Pass
Cooperative group activity used to share or collect information from each member of the group; students write a response, then pass to the right, add their response to next paper, continue until they get their paper back, then group debriefs.
Teacher poses a question and students list three items. All students stand. Teacher randomly calls students to share , if their topic is called they sit. Teacher continues til all students are sitting.
Today was the perfect day to take out our kayaks. My son, daughter-in-law and grandkids joined us on this sunny day. I paddled with them out to dunes to let the kids explore the dunes. They are no strangers to the area as their home is very close to the bay. We were treated to otters and seals who seemed to greet us. There were lots of families who had the same idea on this gorgeous day. The kids love to climb the hills and slide down. They both love to wade near the shore, and there were a few tears when it was time to leave. Such a lovely way to spend a Saturday.
Buy a Grandma Kayaker a coffee
My blog is fueled by coffee and active grandkids. If you would like to treat me to a coffee, it is
appreciated. Thank you!!
My husband treated me to dinner at a very nice restaurant recently. What did I do the moment I sat down? I pulled my phone from my purse and checked emails and Facebook. It’s become a habit, even though I know it’s not only rude, it robs me of being completely in the moment. I have been making an effort to stow my cell phone in another room before I go to bed. It’s not a coincidence that I am sleeping better. I made a list of things I could do rather than checking my phone:
Write a letter to the person or business that you appreciate or are concerned about. It could be a family member or a friend you haven’t heard from in awhile. Write a compliment to a business that is doing good job during a pandemic. Make their day.
Read a book that you have been meaning to get to (not during dinner).
Go through your closet and drawers and donate items you do not wear. Put the bundle in your car to remind you to drop it off.
Clean out your refrigerator and make sure you dump outdated food.
Clean window ledges, and your windows while you’re there.
Plan out your next vacation. List possibilities.
Go to dinner without your cell phone. Leave it in your car. Enjoy precious time.
When I taught a Special Day Class there were children in my classroom with a variety of differences. I think back on my time with fondness and deep appreciation because I learned that growth is not always measured by a test. I learned so much about patience, acceptance, compassion and inclusion from my exceptional students. They showed me what determination is and how to keep going when the going gets tough. I remember the way they cheered each other on when their classmate’s effort resulted in improvement. They smiled easily and didn’t shy away from taking a risk because they celebrated all effort. They taught me to do the same.
I learned not to limit them, because they had large imaginations that never ceased to amaze me. . They loved being exposed to possibilities. When I saw that the previous teacher used scripted copies of black and white text, I asked for real books. I was told that is was, “subject to debate.” I incurred the wrath of my principal when I asked to be on the “debate” team. I simply wanted my students to have access to the same books that other students were getting. Here is my favorite quote on inclusion:
My youngest daughter lives in the UK. I live in California. When she shared the news of her pregnancy, I began a series of Letters to My Granddaughter. I felt the urgent need to capture all my emotions and keep a living record of my joy and hope for the future. I wanted my words to wrap her in love, and assure her that I will always be grateful for her life. This tiny girl reminds me of her mama; so sweet. As I held her I thought about how love is limitless. She is in my heart wherever I am.
Here are a few letters I wrote before she was born;
December 31, 2011
Right now you are preparing for your entry into the world. We are all very glad that you got this far and we are anxious to meet you. Your mom and dad smile when they talk about you. I got to see your movements across your mom’s belly via a wonderful invention called Skype. I knew that a baby in utero can hear sounds outside the womb, so every time I talk to your mom, I tell her to say that I love you. Soon I will get to say that myself. Your cradle is amazing, complete with fairy lights all around your room. You are so loved already. There are a billion things I want to show you! I live near the ocean and plan to show you tidepools and teach you what I know about the sea. Summers will be our time.
I love you,
January 2, 2012
It is New Year’s Eve and I don’t like to go out of my house on this day. Some people think that to celebrate you must drink and alter your mind. I think it is not a good idea to begin the new year with anything but a clear head full of hopes for the future. I hope you will have an easy birth. Our celebration will be clear-headed joy and we will be drinking in the moment. We are anxious to dance with you, sing to you, and hold you. Birth is the greatest celebration of all.
I love you,
January 12, 2012
2012 is the year you will be born, so it is already filled with hope. I have so many things I want to accomplish this year. I want to be the best grandma a child could ask for. It will be a year of changes for your parents because they will be on a new journey, one in which there is no guidebook. Being a parent will be their primary job. They are both busy professionals, but you will be their reason for living, and making a living. They don’t know it yet, but every single second they spend with you is worth more than any time doing anything else. It goes by so quickly. My hope for the new year is that I can get to see you as much as possible.
This picture brought to mind how my cousins and I would make do with whatever was handy to create our own environment for play. We didn’t need expensive toys or electronic devices to entertain us, our imaginations did the work. Our creativity flourished in our grandmother’s garage that housed boxes of old clothes that we used to put on plays. We draped a sheet across the wire that held the garage door and it instantly became a theater. We didn’t care if we had an audience or not. A refrigerator box became a puppet theater.
I remember learning about the lifecycle of frogs long before second grade. The little stream near our home was host to tadpoles, frogs and dragonflies. We were keen observers and had conversations about our discoveries. Holding a caterpillar or a snail was a science lesson. The lessons and experiences gained from outdoor play are stored in longterm memory. I think the most important aspect of outdoor play is that it supports children’s problem-solving skills and nurtures their creativity, as well as providing rich opportunities for their developing imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness.
Nature promotes the use of executive function skills.Executive function skills are the life skills we use at every age, and that help us stay organized and independent. With unstructured play in nature, children are using creativity to solve problems and working memory to make up stories. They work their flexible thinking skills by testing boundaries and learning how to stay safe while exploring, creating, and having fun. They are strengthening and challenging their own life skills just by playing!
I have put together a list of books for your child’s first day back at school. These books are best for ages 3-8. It’s a good idea to read aloud and discuss with your child their hopes and fears about a new school year. Be proactive and do this before school begins. The books I have on this post are useful, and I have used many myself in various classrooms. They are always a big hit with students. Parents, this is a good opportunity for you to prepare your child for school in the fall.
Another delightful Pigeon adventure from the wonderful author Mo Willems.
. Great for ages 3-5.
Little Critter is a bit nervous about starting school today. There’s a lot to be done before he can even get on the bus—he has to pick out his clothes, find his backpack, pack the perfect lunch, and say good-bye to Mom. Join Little Critter as he gets ready for this exciting day. Lift the flaps and find out what surprises are in store for Little Critter on his first day of school! Ages 3-6
With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen the class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher or parent, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family away from home. Great for Ages 4-7
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
(This book is also available in Spanish, as El Día En Que Descubres Quién Eres!) Ages 5-8
Lena doesn’t want to miss out on her first day of school, but she can’t go without her favorite shoes! How can she convince them to be brave? Ages 4-8
The first day of school is right around the corner! And everything is bigger for Bigfoot — especially back to school problems like getting a haircut, trying on new clothes, and finding new shoes that fit! Told from a giant (and very hairy) point of view, Back to School with Bigfoot deftly tackles the worries kids face as that first day of school draws closer, and ends on a colossal high note!
This is a humorous book that will calm the jitters of the first day. On the first day of school, new classmates are asked to share what they would most like to happen in the upcoming year. Some kids’ hopes are familiar while others are off-the-wall. Whether it’s looking good on picture day or skateboarding at school, everyone’s wishes are shown in humorously exaggerated illustrations. Ages 6-8
Miss Mingo, a flashy flamingo, starts off the year by inviting all creatures big and small to share something special about themselves. Did you know that Cricket hears with his legs, Snake smells with his tongue, and Frog enjoys eating his own skin? Visit this multi-species classroom for a nonfiction storybook filled with learning — and laughter.