It is almost August...did I really just say that? it seems like summer just started... and, if you teach on the east coast, you are probably beginning to think about how you would like to set up your classroom for your new students who will walk through your classroom doors in a few weeks.

Perhaps you are thinking about some new ideas to try! Now, this year I am really not thinking about my classroom since I am now, as they say, "a woman of leisure," but I need to face the facts I will NEVER be that!!!  My mind is always churning and coming up with ideas!  So, when my daughter said,"Mom, I am so excited that you are retired! Now, you can help me set up MY classroom!" I said,"Yes!" So, as i write this I am thinking day and night of all those pinteresty ideas that I can use to help my daughter set up her classroom!

Although I can't come and help you... (I really wish I could because I always loved the create side of teaching)  I can and will share a few tips that I have used over the years to build relationships with students and parents.

So here you go:  A few tips for you as you begin your journey back into the classroom: 

Remember to allow your students to take ownership of their classroom by saving some activities, decorations and ideas that they will create with your support to be used in the classroom.  This will make them feel like it IS their classroom.  

🍎Children can create their own name tags to use on lockers or cubbies. 

🍎They may also like to make "people" ( I have done this for years) where they decorate a blank child template to look like them. 

After the templates are run off on card stock and decorated, they can be laminated.  

Hot glue a clothespin on the center with the child's initial or a themed foam sticker and you can use these to display work all year long!

🍎Another Important Tip That can Start the First Day of School and Continued Throughout the Year: 

Greet each child at your classroom door everyday.  I used different greetings; such as, hello songs, high fives, elbow shakes, fist bumps, smile, dance moves or any quick signal from me to each student.

🍎As they walk into the classroom, think of something positive to say to each child.  YOU will see positive behavior changes if you try to do this every day!  

A smile and compliment can go a long way!  Saying  "good-bye" to each child with an "elbow shake" or high five is also an important part of teaching!  This makes each child feel special!

🍎The Last Tip for Today 

Try to make a positive phone call home
within the first 2 weeks of school. I know that this can be a difficult task with all that needs to be done, but this WILL make a difference! 
Think of yourself as a parent: you are nervous about your child going to first grade and just think how "little Jimmy or Doris" feels. 

Receiving a positive phone call and I emphasize phone call NOT e-mail can set the tone for the rest of the year and it will make it much easier when you have to call for other reasons. 

I also call to EACH child the night before the first day of school to say "hi" and welcome them to my classroom. I tell each child how excited I am to have him or her in my classroom and to make sure they bring their smile to school tomorrow!

So I hope you are excited to start the year and to get your mind in gear...afterall it is almost that time of year!!!

I would LOVE to hear your ideas!  Please share them in the comments!

Ready or not…here I come!

With more work and less play in kindergarten, it is more important than ever to make sure your child is ready to learn before entering school.

To many, kindergarten is the “new first grade” and what was learned in first grade is now taught in kindergarten.

 So, just what does your pre-kindergartener need to know before the big day arrives?

Here are some important readiness skills that your child should have in place to be certain he or she is ready for school.

 1. Have an Interest in Learning: 

Is your child interested in learning?

If your child is interested in counting objects or toys, listening to books and engaging in conversations about books and his or her world, then you are ahead of the game.

Interest in learning is key when starting kindergarten. 

 2. Communicate Personal Needs: 

Can your child communicate his/her needs effectively?

Does your little one ask to go to the bathroom and handle it independently, tell someone if he or she is not feeling well and have short conversations with adults as well as peers?

YES?  Then he or she is ready to roll.   

3. Positive Social and Emotional Skills: 

Does your child interact positively with peers? It is so important for children to be able to take turns or wait patiently for a turn and to share with peers.

Although many of these skills will eventually fall into place and by no means should your child be perfect with this, but kindergarten-aged children should have a beginning understanding of how to get along with others, be aware of personal feelings and the feelings of others. 

If you notice positive interactions with others, then that is another plus! 

4. Attention to Task: 

Can your child sit still long enough to follow directions or listen to a story without interrupting? Now I am not talking about sitting through a 3-hour ballet performance, but rather sit still or sit in one spot long enough to follow 2-step directions or listen to a 15-minute teacher read aloud without disrupting. Learning involves following directions and listening throughout the school day. If you child can do this, then he or she is ready to learn! 

5. Independence: 

Can your child work or play independently for 15-20 minutes?

Kindergarten requires children to work with puzzles, matching games, play with blocks, complete an easy activity without adult support and to feel confident when tending to easy tasks independently.

With these skills in place, your child is kindergarten ready. 

6. Academics: 

Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills: Does your child have important academic, fine motor and gross motor skills in place?

Your child does not have to be reading or be an artist or even an Olympian to enter kindergarten, but it is important that some or most of these skills are in place before the start of kindergarten. 

 Your child should be able to: 

• Recognize some letters and be able to recite the alphabet.
• Count to at least 10 and identify numbers 1-5 
• Hold a pencil somewhat correctly to write or draw 
• Write first name with an uppercase or capital for the first letter 
• Color, not necessarily in the lines, but a close proximity. 
• Hold a pair of scissors to cut. 

                                             • Run, jump and throw a ball.     

It is also important to remember, some districts have specific readiness skills expectations and age requirements that need to be in place before entering their kindergarten. 

You might want to observe your child with this list to see exactly where he or she is developing. BUT remember this is just a guide to support your decisions about Kindergarten 

 If you have concerns about kindergarten readiness, talk to your child’s pre-school teacher or pediatrician.

Most importantly, please remember and recognize that every child develops at his or her own pace and has varied strengths as well as learning styles!

Here are 2 BUNDLE you may be interested in:  Kindergarten Readiness BUNDLE

Numbers Everywhere Numbers 1-50


I thought it might be time to share a few more ways to encourage reading in school or at home.

When you have taught as long as I have, you always have a few tricks up your sleeve to motivate kids to read!

So, without further ado, here are 5  MORE tried and true ideas for encouraging your child or students to read and to make reading more fun and engaging!

1.  Magnifying Glass Reading:

Have you ever given your kiddos magnifying glasses to read books?
This can be done with partner reading or independent reading. Big sister reading to little brother or kids reading to their pets. 

It really doesn't matter who they are reading to as long as they are reading and the detective approach using a magnifying glass just adds to the fun of reading!

The more you read, the better you read!

2.  Reading Buddies: 

When I taught first grade, we had "Reading Buddies" hanging out in our reading area and also one very large pet dog who has since gone to my daughter's kindergarten class for a permanent home. The first graders loved cuddling up with a reading buddy and loved when we had bring your "Reading Buddy to School" days.       
 The kiddos always loved when their classroom job was "Station Janitor" because they loved straightening up our reading area and LOVED to line up all our "Reading Buddies' on the bench.  Five Below for the score on these cute "pet pillows" AKA "Reading Buddies".

AND..."BOOMER" our "class pet" always sat patiently waiting for a "Reading Buddy". In my classroom, he sat by the door, which led to the "bump out" reading area.  In my daughter's classroom, he sits right in the reading area.

3.  Volunteer Reading or, in my room...Miss Mary Reading: 

Miss Mary was almost like having a classroom grandmother!  

She was a retired librarian from a local university and she came every Tuesday and sometimes Tuesday and Thursday to read with my kiddos.  She even shared some history with the class when we learned about school long ago. She was a dream come true.  She did not have any children and was never married so these little cherubs were hers for a few hours every week! 

I would give her a list of students to with whom to work and she would even take notes on sticky notes jotting down little things she noticed about each student's reading.  The kids LOVED reading with her so I would rotate the students to make sure she read with every student within a certain timeframe.  SHE WAS THE BEST! She stayed with us for about 10+ years reading with children. 

The takeaway is...if you can find a retired teacher, librarian, or any retired person to volunteer with reading to your students...EVERYONE benefits!  If you are at home bring in the neighbors and relatives for a reading party!! 

In my Teaching career, we had Miss Mary, Mrs. Mauze ( a retired Comedian, who was on Vaudeville and wrote jokes for Joan Rivers) and  Dr.  Winters, a retired Superintendent, who was so understanding and fabulous with the kids and they all took notes that were so helpful!

Yes...this was a fun way to support reading with my students, but they also learned many life lessons that only this experience encourages.  When Miss Mary had knee surgery, she came in with a walker and it filled my heart to see these little children ask if she needed help and telling her to just sit and they would come to her!!!

4.  Read the Pictures, Then the Words:  BUDDY READING with a TWIST! 

Have you ever used this chart in your classroom: 3 Ways to Read a Book:  Read the Pictures, Read the Words and Retell the story?  I had a poster like this set up in my reading area. (This is introduced in Daily 5™, by Gail Boushley) 

So my idea is to have partners read or buddy read with a friend and JUST look at the pictures and "read the pictures" using words that the student can determine from the the pictures as if the book were wordless.( they can cover the words with a piece of paper if necessary) The partners can take turns reading each picture on a page or simply each take a turn "reading" with a different book.  

There are some really fabulous books out there that are only pictures that would work as well.  Here is my favorite one:

After they read the pictures, they can then read the words and compare and contrast their ideas about the book.  This works best with picture books that have less words per page.

They can determine if the book tells the whole story through the pictures or if the words are important to gain meaning from the text. Were their ideas on target or not?  
If you ask your kiddos to read a wordless book, they can add words on sticky notes.
Actually a great idea would be to have multiple wordless books available and have partners write words to go along with the pictures and then have partner groups share their ideas.  What was the same or different and why do you think that happen or why did you write different words to explain the pictures?(meaning different individuals can read or look at the same book and come up with different ideas...Schema!)
I am willing to bet that you can come up with so many creative ways to make this work during your reading block.  Oh...don't forget that you can have them retell the story to each other after they read together or after an independent read and then partner to retell (Beginning, Middle and the End of the story) and chat about it!

5.  Student Guest Readers: 

This idea evolved one day when 4 children wanted to read a book for our "Student Guest Reader" time. So, as was always our practice, we had a class meeting or discussion about this dilemma.  The outcome was that each week, up to 4 students could read a book to the class..."now that would take a really long time" they all decided so what we did was divide the class into to small groups around the room and each reader read to a small group of students. They all decided that they could choose a helper to sit with them that would not tell them the words but rather give them strategies to figure out the "tricky" words.  This worked beautifully.

So each week different children would sign up to read through the week and on Friday afternoon toward the end of the day, we would use our "picking sticks" to choose groups for each reader.  After the reader completed the book, if there was more time, they could ask the students questions or simply discuss the story.
On a beautiful warm, sunny day, you might even want to take them outside to read!

The benefits of these reading groups were priceless. It built confidence, supported decoding not to mention fluency and also built classroom community in that everyone worked together to support each other. Even my early readers would volunteer to read to a small group. Sometimes i recommended a Guided reading book that was more on their level. The class recognized each individual for who they was truly a family of learners.  As a side note, one of my most difficult students was a great reader. When he took a turn reading to a group of peers, they were amazed and began to go to him for help during stations or simply to help read a word. Talk about building confidence...well that was evident!!!

FYI: before our Student Guest Readers came to fruition, we had parent guest readers, who would sign up to read on Friday afternoons before the end of the day.  So...that's another idea to tuck away.

I would love to here some ideas that you have used at home or in school to encourage reading in a fun way!  

Please leave your ideas in the comments below! AND....Happy Reading!

As a retired teacher I am well aware of the burn out that all teachers feel. Whether at the beginning of the school year, during conferences, the week before Winter or even Spring break as well as the end of the year aaaannnnnnddddd let's not forget SUMMER...Summer you question??? YES Summer! Do Teacher really relax or are the spending their summer thinking about a new class of kiddos...YOU DECIDE...I know the answer...been there...done that and every vacation seems to disappear like magic...POOF and it is time to teach!!!

Well...I am a firm believer that YOU need to take care of yourself every chance you get or you will burn out before you even start...
Who's with me...think of this...Have you ever felt like September comes and you never had a BREAK!

So Here are 5 tried and true Ideas that I have used, when I taught...WELL actually still use, to make sure my engine is running in top notch condition:

🌻Surround Yourself with Positivities:

That means:  Read positive quotes:
Post a positive or inspirational quote in your classroom, office or anywhere you can see it everyday...Remember there will be days that are harder than others.

Make a list of everything you love about everyone and everything around you. I have kept a small journal and take a few minutes every so often to count my blessings and think about what I love about each of member of my family.

Take a minute and jot down a positive moment or an accomplishment...Little or Big that made you feel blessed to be present with your family.  I love this idea of a gratitude or blessing jar. It is quick and simple to create...add a little of your personality and personal notes, then on New year's Eve or a designated day, sit and read the notes in the jar.

It may bring some tears, but happy tears are always good for the soul!!

🌻Take Time for Yourself and I MEAN ALONE TIME:

MOMs.. Eat lunch or take a coffee break or even an afternoon snack by yourself once a week or once a month.

I used to take these breaks in my classroom during a prep time or even during my lunch break just to regroup and have a bit of thinking time. 

I had a friend who used to ride the school elevator to gain a minute or 2 of quiet time and destress!! Not a bad idea if you have an elevator in your building!

🌻Get Rid of that STRESS! 

The list of Ideas to destress and relax is have to try one to get started. Find what works best for you and your schedule and JUST DO IT!!!

Here are some Ideas that I have tried and they might also work for YOU!
  • Yoga:  Every Morning rise a bit earlier and simply do about 7 minutes of yoga poses. Check the internet or have a book handy.  You can always sign up for a class, but 7 minutes a day will make a world of difference!! 
  • Walk at lunch time with a friend, colleague or alone. It is even better when it is cool out! When I taught full-time(I'm retired now!) we used to walk around the school neighborhood about 2-3 days a week. It was one of the best activities I did and made a world of difference for how I faced the rest of the day.  
  • I also used to walk with a friend to school everyday...sometimes even in the friend and i would solve all the school issues as we walked and felt great even if the problems did not go away, we still chatted about it and got it off our minds. We lived about a mile and half away from school and would meet on the corner.  We were assigned the title:"The Walking teachers" and i would even see someone in a supermarket who would say, "Don't i see you walking everyday to work?"
  • Go to the gym (exercise) and bring the kids. I know our YMCA allows kids to walk the track with an adult or they have a Kids Room with Kids Activities.
  • Play with the kiddos. play hide and seek, catch outside, a board game, anything you know will take your mind of off school and bring you back to where you the present!
  • Read a non educational book. 
  • Get a massage, facial, nails done or a pedicure once a month or so!
  • That's right PAMPER yourself...don't wait for someone else to do it!!! might not happen. You are in charge of YOU!!

Now...please note...I am not saying to do all of these...I would have more stress to life than you had before you started!!!

Simply pick one or two to try for a while and see if it makes a difference in your daily life!

🌻Prioritize or Set Priorities:

  • Make a list of Have To's or Must Do's, Can DO's or Can Say No To's and start to listen to your list and cross off and prioritize that list. 
  • Make a list each week perhaps Sunday night or a night that works for you and write everything that you have that week.  Then evaluate each item on your list.  Add a key something like this:  Green is MUST Do or Have To; Yellow is Can Do and Red is I can say no to or can postpone to another time. 
Download this list and Print.

🌻 Eat as Healthy as you Can:

I say as healthy as you can because I know how crazy hectic life can be.
For example; make one change. Something like I am going to switch to breadless sandwiches this week and stick to it. Plan that type of lunch for the week and make it each night or ahead of time. Add all the ingredients except for the heavy bread. Add a light bressing and that change will come naturally the more you do it.

Here is an idea to get you started on your healthy journey:

Another idea might be to start your morning off with a healthy fruit or vegetable smoothie each morning or even bring it to school for break or lunch.

Check these out to get you started:

I am sure there are many small changes you can make in your diet that will make a difference in your life.
The last one that you NEED to absolutely add to your diet is water!

Just remember every day is a new beginning with new possibilities. If at first you don't succeed, just simply start again and again...Remember: you might not be there YET...but you will!!
Try your best to focus on the Blessings you have not what your neighbor has...Positivity is a choice...a choice you have to make every single DAY!  If you feed your brain positive thoughts, you brain will be reconditioned to think that way, which will lead to a less stressful life.

Allow yourself to make a few mistakes because we learn life long lessons from our mistakes and PLEASE, PLEASE, don't be hard on yourself...NO ONE IS PERFECT!

They say if you can do something for 30 days straight, then it will become a habit or second nature!! 

Let me know how you do...I'll be waiting!!