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Back to School… for me!

This past summer, I gave up my job as a preK teacher. I decided that teaching 4 year olds under the strain of Covid-19 was more than I wanted to take on at that time. I could not wrap my brain around how to teach the way I teach and keep myself, my family, my students and their families safe under the guidelines set forward. I am lucky in that I did not have to work.

Staying home was also beneficial as we decided that my two sons, 7th and 8th graders, would do this year full virtual. While they don’t need me hovering over them, it was nice to be here when things were needed. We chat during their lunch, I run between the printer and wherever they are working, and troubleshoot tech issues. Again, this isn’t the ideal schooling situation, but it is what worked for my family.

Around January, I was feeling not myself. I have my blogs (My Day in PreK and Lori-ize It!), but that wasn’t enough. I had been tutoring, but the family took a break from mid-Nov until the end of Feb so I wasn’t doing that. I was just in a funk. So, my husband and I started talking. I still wasn’t/am not ready to walk back into a classroom… as a teacher. But, maybe it was time to go back as a student?

I have my EdM in Elementary Education. I see myself as a primary teacher (preK, K, 1st grades), but I’ve had many people over the years tell me that I should work with special needs students. I can not think of a year of teaching that I did not have a variety of children with varying ability needs in my room. Over the years, I’ve had students moved into my room to help meet their individual needs.

So…. I am going back to school. My first class starts on Sunday. It is a fully asynchronous online Master of Arts in Special Education program. I take a new class every 8 weeks and will complete my degree in 1.5 years.

What does that mean for my blog… as of now, nothing! My goal is to continue to provide you with learning opportunities to complete with your child(ren). But, just know that there maybe times when I need to step away, as I do already, and focus on other part of my life.

story · teaching thoughts · topic

Never to late to read

Yesterday was Read Across America Day, this day celebrates children’s literature. Today I wanted to share a story about the wish and will to learn to read. Listen to the story The Oldest Student How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and watch a news clip from WRBC Chattanooga about Mary Walker.

Why share this story you ask? Children at this age are learning to read. They struggle to sound out words and think that it is just something that all adults do, but it’s not. There was a time when this skill was denied many American’s due to the color of their skin.

There was a time when people believed that some could never read or write because they struggled with learning issues. Were blind or deaf. Or too poor.

When we celebrate reading, we need to celebrate the changes that occurred. These changes view reading as a right. We work to educate all to read. We want to instill the love of reading as well as providing the functionality the this skill affords one’s life.

This story is a talking point. It is an opportunity to talk about the past, the present and the future. It is a chance to talk about hard work, dedication and tenacity that Mary Walker showed. It is a chance to learn.

art · story

Hats!

Today is Read Across America Day! March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and today is a day to celebrate how much his literature has helped children develop a love of learning.

I decided to focus on the Cat in the Hat’s hat! First, let’s read the story Who’s Hat is This? by Sharon Katz Cooper. This story shares many hats that are worn for different careers.

Now… let’s draw a hat that is easy to recognize… the Cat in the Hat’s hat! Follow along with Art for Kids Hub as they draw this famous hat! Or, make your own out of paper or markers or whatever creative materials you want! I made mine out of Lego.

Today is a great day to read. The best way to help your child to learn to read… is to read to your child!

math · teaching thoughts

Addition

Most kindergarten classes are taking on addition at this time in the year. Addition is more than just memorizing facts. Often times families help their child memorize facts and then the child does not want to do that work behind understanding addition concepts. While this is not a huge deal now, it might be later on.

Educators have recognized the need to teach mental math, that is what “new” math is in the early years… mental math on paper. We teach children to not just memorize, but think math. You will see there is a lot more story problems and very few facts sheets.

Now this does not mean that we do not want children to memorize math facts, but we want them to understand the thinking behind the facts too.

For example instead saying solve 4+5, teachers might say: There are 4 large books and 5 small books on the table. How many books are on the table? We want to see the children move from drawing 4 large books and 5 small books and counting each book to moving towards 4+5=9.

For this fact, they might say:

  • Put the big number in my head and count up from there 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • that they know that 4+4 is 8 and one more is 9
  • Or they may say that 5+5 is 10 and one less is 9.

While these steps might seem like a lot to teach and learn, it is actually how you do mental addition. Look at the numbers you have, determine a fact you know and manipulate the numbers from there. We talk about making the facts less messy. Later they will learn to break down numbers into 100s, 10s and 1s and then use this breakdown to add.

Ok… so what does that mean for me as a parent? I encourage you to get your child to manipulate math facts. Tell them number stories and help them illustrate the answer. Challenge them with multiple addends. Look at addition as anything that means more.

  • 6 birds are in the tree. 4 more land on the branch. How many birds are in the tree now?
  • There are some children in the room. 3 have on jackets and 7 have on sweaters. How many children are in the room?

They also will need to solve facts with missing addends

  • There are 4 pink candies and some yellow candies on a plate. There is enough candy for 9 children to each get one piece. How many of the candies were yellow? 4+__=9 (four pink and how many yellow makes 9 pieces is this fact)
  • 10 children line up to get a drink of water. Some have their own water bottles and 2 need to get a cup. How many have their own water bottle. 10= ____ + 2

Present facts as number sentences with the answer on either side of the = sign. Use symbols to represent the missing fact piece. Often you will see a box used, but try to use other signs too, this will help later when getting into harder algebraic equations.

story · topic

Purim

Let me start with a disclaimer… I’m learning about this holiday along with you. My goal is to share more varied holidays and traditions to enlighten us to the world greater than our own homes. Children love a celebration and teaching these often sparks an interest in learning more.

Last night was the start of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which continues until tonight.

Everyday Jewish Mom’s explains the history behind Purim here, this is more of an explanation for the adult.

A fun story for the kiddos. The Princess of Persia from BimBam

Here is a link to Everyday Jewish Mom where she shows some fun activities she did a home with her own little ones. a

Here is the link to the Hamantschen Dough that she uses to bake Hamantschen cookies with her children.

Today get out and celebrate Purim. Read the story, dress up in costume, make Hamantschen (even if it is just with play dough), learn something new.

family activity · story · teaching thoughts

Laundry Time

Did you know that even laundry time can be a learning opportunity? Have your child help you with the laundry, especially his/her own laundry. First let’s read Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash by Sarah Weeks. Now I’m sure you are not going to wash and hang up some of the crazy things Mrs McNosh washes and hangs up in her story, but it is a jumping off point.

Have your child draw a picture of rhyming things (s)he could hang up with Mrs. McNosh.

Have your child collect the laundry from around the house and help bring it to the washing machine (pushing a full laundry basket is great “heavy work” for young children). They can also help put the clothing into the machines.

When the laundry is done, they can help sort the clothes (put the shirts in this pile, the pants in that pile or put your clothes here and your brother’s there). Matching and rolling socks. Then help them put away their own clothes.

If you have clothes pins, these are great for fine motor practice. Your child can use them to pick up pompoms, beads, or other small items. Clip together pictures that match. Pop bubble wrap or so many other learning opportunities while working those fine motor skills.

Ok… let’s get to the laundry!

story · teaching thoughts

After the Fall

Yesterday I couldn’t decide what to write about, so I didn’t. I didn’t type anything yesterday. Some days life just gets to you more than you realize. I find that the more life is calm, the more I’m excited to sit down and blog. This morning I was reading some of the blogs that I follow and A Teacher’s Reflection, a blog written by a preschool teachers, mentioned the story After the Fall by Dan Santat.

I decided that this story is so important to hear right now. While the story is about Humpy Dumpty and how he copes after his fall, and about moving forward after and accident, we need to think about this in terms of the pandemic. What do we need to do to feel comfortable moving forward? How is your child coping and adapting to the changes that took place with the onset of Covid? How are they dealing with the change over time?

First thing you need to look at is how are YOU the adult dealing with these changes? The way you the adult are adapting and moving forward plays a huge impact on how your child deals with this. Are you talking about how unhappy you are with changes? Are you being positive about the world you are living in? Are you talking to your child about his/her feelings and listening to what they are saying?

As we get closer to having more and more people vaccinated, we need to see that there maybe some hesitation and concern still in children. You can’t see who is vaccinated. You can’t see who is safe. Children struggle to understand when big changes happen and when life begins to open back up again, we may see this struggle again.

How can we as adults help? Talk. Often times adults feel they need to shelter children from change and things that going on in life. We need to talk to children about what is going on. We need to express our concerns and listen to their concerns. We need to keep them in the loop. Using stories is a great way to start this conversation, this is why I shared this story with you today!

high frequency words · teaching thoughts · topic

Sight Word Work

Ok… today’s post will be a bit of a tangent for me. Typically I pick a story and then provide an activity or two to work on related to the story. But, over the weekend a friend asked me for help, so I’m going to share some of this advice with the rest of you.

Many primary teachers (K, 1, and 2… and sadly often even some preK teachers) expect children to master sight words. While I will not get into my opinion on this, I will provide you with an explanation of sight words AND some fun ways to practice.

Sight words, are words that your child read by sight, they master and never need to decode again. The reason mastering sight words is important is for reading fluency. When children have a mastery of sight words (a, the, in, it, is, look etc… ), then when they encounter these words in reading they just know the word and can move forward in reading harder words that (s)he may need to decode. Different schools use different sight word, or high frequency word, lists. Often times they are set by the reading program that the school uses.

Parents often ask, should my child learn to just read these words or do they need to know how to spell them too? While most teachers assess sight words by showing flash cards and having children read them, they often also assume that your child will also be able to use them in writing. My belief is that you should help your child learn to write the word. If you can write it, typically can read it. Just because I can read something does not mean I can spell it on my own.

Activities to help learn sight words:

  • write the words!: pencils, crayons, markers, chalk, paint, water, any medium you can
  • build the words: magnetic letters, play dough, letter blocks, other letter toys
  • play games with the words: bingo, matching
  • Candyland sight words: assign a sight word for each of the colors on the board, have your child draw a card and then read or write the word that matches the color before moving along the path
  • Bang- create flashcards with the sight words include in the stack 2 or 3 “bang” cards. When your child(ren) go through the stack, have him/her read the card they draw. If they get it correct, they keep the card, if they get it wrong it goes back in the pile. If they draw a bang card, they put all of their cards back. The person with the most cards at the end wins
  • Flashlight find- put the words on post-it notes and hang them around the room. turn the lights off and use a flashlight to find the words. Have your child spell and say the word or use it in a sentence.
  • Magazine hunt: provide your child with magazine and have him/her search through the pages to find the sight words. Cut the words out and make sentences on flashcards. Then use these sentences to review the sight words
  • Highlighter reading: Copy a page or two from a favorite story. Provide a highlighter and have your child find the sight words in the text. Show him/her how to use the highlighter to highlight the sight words.
  • Cloze sentences: write sentences with a sight words missing. Have your child read the sentence and determine what sight word belongs. _____ dog ran fast. Simon likes ____ play _____ Lego blocks.
  • Sight word Twister, Hopscotch, Mazes: create “game boards” with chalk, tape or items. Use the sight words on the spaces or as part of the movement in these games.

Here is the key… MAKE IT FUN! While flashcards are simple and yes they work… they aren’t fun and do not make a lot of connections. Children need to see the word in text to make the connection to the reading AND they need to do something with the word to make additional connections. The more you do with the words, the stronger the connections will be.. the faster they will not only learn the word for the assessment, but also master it for ownership in reading.

teaching thoughts

Brain Breaks

Ok… What are brain breaks and why are they so popular in school? A brain break is an opportunity for teachers and students to change gears. During the school day, children and adults are often hyper focused on the learning at hand. But, we know that this isn’t the best way to learn. You need to stop and change gears for your brain to process the information at hand. So, that is when you need a brain break. Teachers in the younger grades often use music and movement as a brain break. This gives your child the opportunity to move and change gears! We recognize the movement is a critical piece in learning. While many primary teachers (and some secondary teachers) allow and often encourage and provide opportunities for movement during learning it isn’t always possible. We need to get up out of those chairs and move around.

The addition of music also triggers additional parts of the brain to work. There are many wants to take these brain breaks and make them educational and fun! Many children’s musicians are seeing the need for this and creating learning based songs with movements. This connection helps our auditory and kinesthetic learners create additional learning connections through music and movement.

There are other ways to use brain breaks such as yoga, breathing exercises, classroom games and more. The key to a good brain break is change! A change from whatever you are doing at the time. So if you have been super active and need a brain break, then use breathing exercises to slowwwww down. If you have been sitting too long, get up and jump around.

Some brain breaks:

  • Go Noodle, Jack Hartmann, Dr Jean, Laurie Berkner Band, Raffi, Ella Jenkins for songs
  • head shoulders knees and toes– switch up body parts, change pacing of the movements, make it fun
  • freeze dance– put on music and then everyone freezes when the music stops
  • high knees/marching
  • show me how you: walk like a penguin, gallop like a horse, float like a snowflake etc.
  • blow bubbles
  • simon says
  • coloring
  • breathing exercises – Go Noodle, The Mental Heath Teacher
  • build with blocks
  • play with play dough
  • and so much more!

The key to brain breaks is to use them BEFORE your brain is ready to shut down. These should last 1-3 minutes (longer with younger children). Remember it is an opportunity change gears and refocus!

art · story · topic

Jazz on a Saturday Night

Today we will read the story Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon. I have to say that I not only enjoyed this story, but the teacher who is sharing this book extends the learning to explain a bit about the musicians in the story.

The first activity today is to listen to Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Mood. While you listen to this song, draw. Drawing to music is a great way to express feelings. There is no right or wrong way to draw to music and just as Thelonious Monk believed in adding dissonance to his music, encourage your child to add things that look a bit “off” to their art. When I draw to music, I tend to just like to draw in the abstract, but many children find inspiration to more true to life drawings.

Next, listen to Eboni Ramm and the band explore the various types of jazz combining the story Kayla and Eli Discover Jazz by Steven Earl and samples of the types of music. (click here for the link to SC Jazz Festival’s exploration of this story and music). While listening to this story and music, do not sit and watch the video, get up and move! Listen to the different styles of jazz. How can you move your body to match the different jazz styles? Some music types might make you want to move your whole body and others just your head, toes or fingers. There is not a right way… the goal is to move. Which type of jazz did you like best? Did you like the jazz that gets you moving a lot or the ones that make you just want to sway?