When I was a little girl I wanted to be an airline stewardess so I could travel all over the world. As it turned out, I became an elementary teacher with travel limited to summers and books, where I can let my imagination take me away. I’ve had incredible trips to England, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, Canada and Mexico. My husband was stationed in Turkey during his time in the Air Force. He still longs to return. I have a former student in Germany and it’s on my bucket list to surprise her one day. I love learning about cultures and customs. I especially love meeting people who take the time to talk about their life. I have had serendipitous moments like the time that my husband and I were in an airport and saw a former student, or the time we were in a cafe and the waitress overheard me tell my husband that I had never eaten fried green tomatoes. She told the cook and he brought out a platter of them for me to try. In France my husband wanted to surf and the owner of a surf shop loaned him a brand new surfboard for the day. The world is filled with friends I haven’t met yet.
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This year I decided to join my daughter’s family in Wales for Christmas. Yes, during a pandemic, with a new variant waiting for its next host. I am triple dosed with the vaccine, have a pile of masks and will do may best to avoid crowds (in an airport?) I decided to reframe my thinking, kick my fears to the curb, and join in a joyous celebration with my granddaughters. My daughter really gets into the holiday spirit. She sent me pictures of the snow falling on her yard. I can’t wait to tromp around in the snow with my fun-loving granddaughters. The girls have a love of books that I like to think they inherited from me. The journey will be long so I have saved books on my phone as well as a book of puzzles.
Wales is a magical place that stole my heart on my first visit. Mind you, I ended up in Zurich overnight due to a snowstorm. Even that detour was filled with adventure. So I have made my Mind Mapof the journey and I am counting down the “sleeps” until I leave.
Use Think-Pair-Share at any point in the lesson to structure meaningful conversation:
•Before introducing new material to tap into prior knowledge
•After watching a film clip to gauge a reaction
•After reading a short text to begin a discussion
•Before students begin an assignment, such as an essay or a set of word problems, to gather ideas or formalize procedures
Ask a question. Be aware that open-ended questions are more likely to generate more discussion and higher order thinking. A think-pair-share can take as little as three minutes or can be longer, depending on the question or task and the class size.
Some holidays are difficult. Especially now that my kids are grown and off living their lives. The house is quiet, too quiet, and there doesn’t seem to be any point in cooking a big feast, or even a little one. It’s those times when thoughts of the past seem to hold me in a vacuum. Thoughts of my grandmother’s kitchen remind me of the smells of freshly made tortillas and lentil soup bubbling on the stove. With my eyes closed I can see her wiping her hands on her apron while she makes sure everyone has a full plate. Then I think of people in line to receive food from a food bank, hopeful there will be enough to last a few days. I have a stocked kitchen. I can hear my grandmother saying it’s time to take that turkey breast out and make a meal. Gratitude covers me like an old quilt. As my grandmother would say, “Cuega ahi, mijita.” Hang in there.
Rote memorization is not an effective way to learn and remember. How many kids forget their spelling words as soon as they finish the test?
We need to give kids an active role.
Just a handful of kids’ needs are met when the entire class has the same word list!
NOT FAIR NOT GOOD TEACHING
There is another way– Use WORDS THEIR WAY
The Primary Spelling Inventory, or PSI, can be used in kindergarten through third grade. The Upper-Level Spelling Inventory, or USI, can be used in upper elementary, middle school, high school, and postsecondary classrooms. If a school system wants to use the same inventory across all elementary grades, they can use the Elementary Spelling Inventory, or ESI.
ASSESS First, then FORM GROUPS based on needs, TEACH needed skills, ASSESS
Stages of Spelling Development
Pre-Phonetic(Before a child learns letter/sound combination they will try to write letters they have seen)
Phonetic (child is learning letter/sound and will try to sound out words).
Making Learning new spelling words FUN and MULTI-SENSORY
Remember that the fun activities are NOT in place of direct instruction of a skill. They are meant to make the learning enjoyable so it is stored in longterm memory.
**We learn through experiences
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I need to remind myself that I don’t need to take on more than I can handle. I see stress on the faces of people everywhere. Rushing here and there to get things done. Always haunted by a mental list of what they must do to be whole. To be satisfied.
Worry lines seep into skin and leave a reminder of their power. I tell myself to enjoy every moment, but to do that means to actively pause what I have deemed the do or die tasks that wait for me. I choose to replace thoughts of procrastination with thoughts of peace. I will enjoy a peaceful day and get to my task list tomorrow. Ahh, it feels better already.
A child’s imagination is unlimited and should be encouraged and celebrated. Reading to children and asking questions like, “I wonder what will happen next,” allows them to construct their own scenarios. Children learn through repetition and exposure to a variety of experiences.
Books that become familiar are like the foundation of a house. Once a child finds a book that sparks their imagination, they see wonderful possibilities that didn’t exist before.
I was hunting in my closet for something to wear. At one point in time my closet was organized so all clothing of a particular color were together. It has now returned to a multi-colored mess. As I reached for a white blouse I thought, “No, it’s past Labor Day, I can’t wear white.” Who made that rule and why?
I have very long blonde hair that I am told should be short because I am older. A teacher I worked with actually said, “When are you going to get a hairstyle? You should cut your hair. You wear it up anyway.” I have no idea who made her the hair police, but I actually like my hair and wear it up because working with second graders means I lean over to help them with their work. Why do I need to explain? In retrospect, a simple, “I don’t want to cut my hair” might shut down all judging. What happened to, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything?
For six years I have taught an online course for a university. I enjoy staying connected to education by instructing teachers who are earning a Master’s Degree. So far I have only taught one course on Literacy and Reading and enjoy it very much. Today I was asked to teach an additional course on The Art and Craft of teaching. The university’s confidence in my abilities mean a great deal to me.
I am grateful for the additional course and the opportunity to instruct undergraduates. I genuinely hope I can continue to be a part of guiding future teachers.
It’s good to take an inventory of how you’re doing physically, mentally, and emotionally. Taking time to rest is an opportunity to recharge our batteries. If we don’t get enough sleep at night, we need to rest during the day. That’s a luxury that most people don’t have. It takes determination and commitment to stop all activity, turn off all devices, and go to sleep.
I discovered that apps like Headspace and Aura offer soothing music and meditations that assist in restorative sleep. The difference is remarkable.
I did it. I booked a flight to England to visit my granddaughters, daughter and son-in-law. I wrestled with the idea of flying during the pandemic, but felt that with two vaccines and a booster, I am as protected as I can be. The thought of being with family washes over me as I remember the laughter, silly jokes, heart-melting hugs, and general sense of wholeness. I love everything about the life my daughter has made in the UK. There is magic in the way she cooks for her family. Love in every serving. My son-in-law made it a way of life to include belly laughs with the banter that happens the moment he is home from work. My granddaughters share their day at school and everyone settles down for the evening in a very cosy family room.
The flight is my least favorite part of the journey. I try to make the most of it by listening to books on tape or writing in a journal. To truly unplug, I generally prefer not engaging in conversation with strangers. Books and journaling help me pass the hours. I think about places in Wales that I have been shown that literally took my breath away. If fairies exist, surely they live in Wales. The times I have been there have always given me a sense of peace. I so need that. I need to come back home with a renewed hope for happier days. I will have made new memories to hold onto.
I got to spend time with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters from Wales. It’s been years since we were together. My husband took our 10 year old out to the beach to teach her to surf.The little ones played in the sand and got their feet went in the ocean. I couldn’t wait to see the cousins meet for the first time. To hear my son and his youngest sister laugh took me back to when they were children. We kayaked, took walks, saw sunsets together and watched their children play. Our otherwise quiet home was filled with sounds of love and joy. These moments are what is important.
I said goodbye to my family from Wales. They came for a short visit as we have not seen them in years. I stood in line at the airport waiting for their turn to put their bags on the scale and show their passports. I looked at how much my granddaughters have grown since I last saw them. The tears came with intensity. Their presence brought life, laughter and love to my otherwise lonely, quiet house. I prefer a messy house full of love and life to being alone in a quiet, tidy house.
They divided their time in California to accommodate divorced parents. The stark contrast in climate and lifestyle was quite dramatic. They saw the high desert and the beach on their visit. We learned that time spent in a car to travel to any attraction is not worth our time. It was a unanimous decision (after the fact) that enjoying our beach town offered all the excitement that we could ask for. We made the long journey to Big Sur, and it is breathtaking, but being together at home was a much better use of time. The oldest grandchild learned to surf.
I can still hear their laughter. Cousins meeting for the first time is magical. I have a greeting card that says, ” She said she usually cries each day, not because she is sad, but because the world is so beautiful and life is so short.”
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.
Guided reading is an instructional practice or approach where teachers support a small group of students to read a text independently.
You select books that students can read with about 90 to 94 percent accuracy. Students can understand and enjoy the story because it’s accessible to them through their own strategies, supported by your introduction.
They focus on meaning but also use problem-solving strategies to figure out words they don’t know, deal with difficult sentence structure, and understand concepts or ideas they have never before encountered in print.
You should choose Guided Reading Program books for students that:
Match their knowledge base
Help them take the next step in learning to read
Are interesting to them
Offer just enough challenge to support problem solving while still supporting fluency and meaning
You work with a small group of students with similar needs.
You provide introductions to the text that support students’ later attempts at problem solving.
Each student reads the whole text or a unified part of the text.
Readers figure out new words while reading for meaning.
You prompt, encourage, and confirm students’ attempts at problem solving.
You and your students engage in meaningful conversations about what they are reading.
You and your student revisit the text to demonstrate and use a range of comprehension strategies.
I’ve been putting up daily reminders to focus on the importance of a healthy attitude based on my values. Reframing negative thoughts is becoming part of my daily practice.
Today I am in my upstairs bedroom while installers are putting in new flooring. I learned that my daily practice is working. I called my son to tell him what progress is being made on the massive flooring project. I mentioned that I was told not to walk on the stairs until morning. He said, “So you’re basically trapped upstairs.” I told him ,”I prefer to think of it differently because I have a bed, bathroom, and kitchen , so I have everything I need for now.” I also told him that sometimes having alone time is great.
It really helps to begin each day with the intention of feeding the mind a healthy diet .
I never get tired of seeing this view. Today it is foggy and there isn’t much chance of sunshine to make a stunning sunset, but most of the time the treat at the end of the day is the colors on the horizon.
My fourth and fifth graders loved experiments. This was a fun way for them to get a close-up view of germination. We planted sunflower seeds by pressing them onto a moistened cotton ball. We used clear plastic gloves and taped them to the windows. The students documented the progress in their science journals. Great fun!
When we studied bones we got a bit creative and used qtips.
After a light rain, I thought about walking on the beach to look for seagrass. I identify with seaglass. I have been broken, beaten against rocks, swept away by winds, and over time my sharp edges have been smoothed by the battering of the elements. I have emerged triumphant and reformed.
I am bombarded with thoughts, a steady stream of reactions, opinions, and what ifs. Some are helpful, some are not. After I read Emotional Agility by Susan David, I realized that what I needed was to be aware of how the negative thoughts do not serve me or align with my values. How did I get to my age and not internalize this? My runaway thoughts have caused misunderstandings, mistakes, and regret.
One of my favorite quotes from her book is, “Who is in control; the thinker or the thought?” Such a simple question, but it has the power to pull me into the present moment with a keener insight into how my thoughts can effect my actions. Another quote that I love is, “Don’t believe everything you think.” After I read her book, I subscribed to her newsletter (free). Every so often I will receive a bit of wisdom that reminds me to keep in check. I take a look at my values, what I cherish, the beliefs I hold. It has helped me get centered. In a world that seems upside-down at times, this book was just what I needed.
So many tourists visit our little town, and not just during the summer. The cooler ocean air brings many people from the valley to our area to escape the heat.
The roughed coast of California offers sights that visitors from other areas seldom, if ever, see. I live in a place that is an escape for many. Being a desirable vacation destination means it gets unusually crowded with tourists on holidays. The rest of the time it is peaceful and quiet.
Up the coast we have a viewing site for elephant seals, and if you look up into the nearby hills, you will see Hearst Castle, where zebras, cows and llamas roam the area. The sunsets cause drivers to pull over and to stare in awe. I’m grateful that I live in this beautiful, peaceful place.
Having lived in the high desert for too long, the 23 years I have been on the Central Coast have given me a firm belief that being near the ocean restores body and mind. I am grateful to be lulled to sleep by the waves. Some nights I can hear the seals on the rocks.