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Band aid or Lasso?


Band aid or Lasso? Here are a couple of cute tricks to help the kiddos remember when to use apostrophes and when NOT to!


Do you have students who use apostrophes for everything that ends in s?




I remind my kids to think if the apostrophe works as a band aid or a lasso. If it doesn't, it's not needed.




I don't claim the band aid story. My students gave it to me, but it sure is clever! They told me the apostrophe is like a band aid in contractions. Since the two words were squashed into one, some of the letters popped out, and the band aid is needed to heal the spot where the letters popped out. Of course, this story has evolved, and now I tell them certain letters were "surgically removed". They really enjoy saying "surgically removed", so I enhance the story to keep their attention! I also mention that the surgery doesn't hurt at all, in fact, it tickles!




I do claim the lasso story as my own. When teaching possessives, I make sure the kids know the word "possess" means to own or have something. I'll get into stories of rodeos, telling them how cowboys throw their lasso and claim their cattle. I show them pictures I've googled of cowboys and lassos. In a possessive, the noun with the 's owns the following item. I even get into turning the apostrophe into a lasso and circling the next word.  They practice this on their whiteboards (I'm a whiteboard fanatic!) and love to draw the lassos. 




Naturally, if the word they're thinking about doesn't need a band aid or a lasso, they shouldn't be using an apostrophe. 




We know how these little stories help the children remember.  After 35+ years of teaching, I have lots of little stories and "tricks up my sleeve". Recent brain research shows us these little stories help make the connections in the brain so the children can build their knowledge. Plus, it's fun!




One of my favorite resources has this Band-Aid/ Lasso theme. Click the image or click here: Band-Aid or Lasso? 

Band aid or Lasso? Here are a couple of cute tricks to help the kiddos remember when to use apostrophes and when NOT to!


Band aid or Lasso? Here are a couple of cute tricks to help the kiddos remember when to use apostrophes and when NOT to!

Dabbling in DIBELS

Last week I went to a two day training period for DIBELS Next.  DIBELS Next is an assessment program for early readers.  It stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. 

We learned how to deliver every part of the test for every level.  Typically the assessment is given 3 times a year:  the beginning, the middle, and the end.  Different levels are given different parts of the test.   Teachers are able to Progress Monitor children who don't meet benchmarks.  The best part?  All the materials are available online for free.

The tough part?  It takes about 10 minutes per child at my level.  The tests are given individually.  The tricky part is finding time to do this while keeping up with all our classroom responsibilities. 

But it's a wealth of information!  This is the first time in years our school district has used any kind of assessment that is standardized.  The older children have the state mandated tests, starting in third grade, and we've had the unit tests from the reading program we use.  DIBELS will be giving us specific information concerning what our students know (or don't know) about reading.

Why is this good?  Because it tells us specifically what we need to teach the children!  (I suspect you already knew this!)  With all the testing we've been forced to do over the past few years, it's a pleasure to have an assessment tool that helps us figure out what we need to do. 

DIBELS doesn't necessarily tell us what to do to raise the scores, but there are tons of resources,  many of which we explored through the 2 day training. 

So, I've started Dabbling in DIBELS.  During the last couple of days, I've Dibbled 4 of my students.  It's a little late for the beginning of the year baseline, and a little early for the midyear assessment, but I'm just practicing giving the test.  (And getting information about my kids!)  Honestly, there's not really anything I didn't already know about these kids, but it's valid information that I can bring up at meetings and share with parents. 

So far I'm happy dabbling in DIBELS!  Whatever keeps them reading!


Reflecting Upon the Brain Workshop

I'm a naturally reflective person.  As a teacher, I reflect upon every lesson I teach, constantly thinking about how it could have gone better.  That's usually a good thing, but sometimes I make myself crazy thinking about things.  And I do tend to be hard on myself.  That's one of the harder things about being a perfectionist. 

I presented a workshop yesterday on Brain Based Learning to other teachers in my district. It was kind of a rushed day, since I was at DIBELS training at another school in the district earlier in the day. We got out with plenty of time, but I didn't want to get back too early since I din't want to interrupt the substitute. Since the workshop was due to start in my classroom at 3:30, I needed to be in my classroom by 3:10 to set up on time. Unfortunately, several kids are still there at that time, waiting for their bus, so I had no choice but to enter the classroom with all my workshop stuff. 


Of course, the kids that were left gave me a wonderful greeting.  (You'd think I hadn't seen them in years!) Then I needed to chat with the sub, who was also going to be there the next day while I went to the rest of the training. (I was glad about that, she's great!) Needless to say, I was barely ready when the other teachers arrived. 

It was a small group, just 5 teachers. Most of them I knew, and they were from all levels. I had snacks, water bottles, handouts, a selection of books about brain research, and, of course, several copies of my Elementary Matters business cards.


The presentation went very well. The other teachers liked the material (who wouldn't, it's fascinating stuff!) and particularly seemed to like my "Brain Jeopardy". (Based on THIS fascinating article!)


Of course, being a reflective person, there are a few things I'd do to make it better:

  1. I like to have music on when people enter. (I do this for my students often, too.) The kind of music that makes you feel good. Upbeat, with a bounce to it. I had planned to have one of my bouncy Christmas CDs on, but just didn't get to it.
  2. I had snacks, but didn't have anything to put the snacks in. I dug up some cups in the classroom, so they could put Cheese Its into plastic cups. Next time I'll have nice bowls or containers for the snacks, and napkins!
  3. As I do often in class, I had too much material, and didn't finish it all. Of course, it's such a wide topic, and there's so much I want to share. Next time, I'll just pick the most important parts and go into more detail. 
But, all in all, it went well. I got this email this afternoon:


This afternoon a HS teacher came into my office to tell me what an excellent workshop you ran yesterday. She wished more teachers (especially from the HS) had come. She used some of what she learned already today in her classes. Great job!

So, I guess I'm happy about that!

    My Favorite Holiday Literature

    I brought my box of holiday books down from the attic this weekend, and now I'm getting excited about sharing some of my favorite holiday books with my students. Reading to the children is my very favorite thing to do as a teacher, and this is a great time of year for it!


    Nutcracker Noel by Kate McMullen is one I can't read without getting choked up.  The story itself isn't that emotional, it's just the special connection I have. When my daughter was little (6 years old), she had a role in a professional production of The Nutcracker. The role that Noel has is pretty much the same. I get choked every time Noel steps onto the stage with the fog and the snow and becomes part of the magic.  It gets me every time.

    Speaking of The Nutcracker, I found this version of the story by Susan Jeffers to be a beautiful picture book version of the famous story.  The story is somewhat simplified, but contains the key elements that make this story such a classic. The illustrations are gorgeous, and you can't miss with a story setting called The Kingdom of Sweets! 


    Peef the Christmas Bear is a heartwarming story about a special bear that Santa made who accompanies Santa once a year on his special trip.  As we all know, the true desire of any bear is to be loved by a boy or girl, so Peef has a difficult decision to make.  The look on the children's faces as I read make this book priceless. 

    I make a point to read The Night Before Christmas on the last school day before the holiday.  Jan Brett's illustrations are as beautiful as Clement C. Moore's famous words. You just don't hear descriptive language like this anymore!  ("The moon on the breast of the newfallen snow gave a luster of midday to objects below."  When I explain to the children that's about the moon reflecting on the snow, their eyes lighten up with the visual!)

    Of course, I don't actually read this book.  I don't need to look at the words anymore, I can recite the whole thing by heart, I've read it so many times!

    What are your favorite holiday read alouds?

    10 Key Points About the Brain

    10 Key Points About the Brain: Here are ten key points from my research on brain based learning that have helped me as a teacher in the classroom.
    As I've mentioned on previous blogs, I'm fascinated by how the brain works, and have done a lot of reading about brain based learning. 

    I'm giving  a workshop to my peers on Thursday, and I'm going over my notes. These are some of my key points:
    1. Students can only take in 2 - 4 chunks of information per sitting. These sittings should never last more than 4 - 8 minutes.
    2. Students need frequent review and reflection time for these chunks to become part of the long term memory.
    3. The brain is a parallel processor. That means the brain needs to have more than one process happening at a time, such as seeing and hearing, or talking and moving. If only one thing is happening, the brain becomes bored and seeks other stimulation, such as daydreaming.
    4. The brain needs to make associations and find patterns. We need to help students use prior knowledge in order to remember what they are learning.
    5. Engaging emotions will help learning along. Emotions are key to memory.
    6. Engaging the students socially will also help the brain. There should be a variety of large group, small group, and pairs. Independent work should take up less than 50% of the child's time in school.
    7. Engaging students physically is another hook to learning. Finding ways to connect the learning to moving will ensure learning.
    8. Music is magical. It connects us emotionally and helps the memory.
    9. Practice does not make perfect, but good practice makes better. Practice can make learning harder if the practice is inaccurate.  Feedback is essential. The best feedback is real, honest feedback.
    10. Exercise and movement are essential to learning. Phys Ed, recess, and other forms of exercise ensure the brain will get sufficient oxygen.   

    Thanks for helping me organize my thoughts! Wish me luck on Thursday!




    Thank you. Veterans!



    Wow, I am so grateful for out veterans!  They preserve our freedom and protect our country.  I've been looking for the perfect activity to help the children appreciate those brave men and women.  I've spent the afternoon searching videos, and have several I want to show!  I've narrowed it down to a couple:



    The one above gives a nice collection of pictures of various soldiers performing various duties, accompanied by a powerful song.



    This one is a good one, as it uses voices of children.  It has good visuals, and lyrics on the screen so the children can sing along.

    The lyrics are in a language the children can understand.  Very child friendly!



    If I can get through this song without crying, this video gives a nice connection of visuals of soldiers and the USA.




    Speaking of "can't get through it without crying," I thought I'd read my favorite book for Veterans Day.  I've read this every year, and I am amazed every year by the look on the children's faces as I read.  It definitely touches their emotions!



    This freebie is a chance for the children to write to the veterans they know and thank them for all they do. You can find it HERE.



    HERE's a fun activity to help the children figure out who could be a veteran. Don't tell the kids, but ALL these describe what a veteran could be!



    Americans, what are your plans to celebrate our Veterans?

    Brain Facts

    I just love learning about the brain!  Here are a few interesting facts I've learned from this site:

    The brain weighs about 3 pounds. 
    Brain Facts: here are several interesting facts about the brain, including some ideas on how to keep the brain healthy.

    Reading aloud to a child promotes brain development.

    The capacity for many emotions is present at birth.

    The brain uses 20% of the body's oxygen.

    Stress has been known to alter brain cells and brain function.

    Memory is formed by associations, so if you want help remembering things, create associations for yourself.

    Lack of sleep may hurt your ability to make memories.

    Music lessons have shown to considerably boost brain organization and ability in both children and adults.

    Isn't this stuff fascinating?  There's a lot more at this site, which is where I got these facts.

    What does all this mean to us as teachers?  Well, it means that children need enough sleep and plenty of oxygen. (That means exercise!)  It means we may need to work at creating associations for the children to remember what we're teaching them.  It means that music lessons help the children learn. 

    We probably already knew most of this, but it sure is great stuff!

    When Fun Is Allowed

    Yesterday, I read an article, Solutions When Recess and Play Aren’t Allowed from The Cornerstone Blog.  It was about children going without recess and play time.  Interestingly enough, yesterday was the day for our class Halloween Parties. (Yes, we're still allowed to have them!) 

    Since it was an exciting day, as well as the first snow here in New England, I knew the kids would be wild.

    Of course, I've been teaching a long time, and I know just how to handle kids the day of a party:  you convince them they have to earn the party!

    All day long, they'd talk about the party... how much longer?  Where will we have the party?  What will we do?

    Every time I saw something non-educational, I'd remind them they had to EARN the party.  They pulled themselves together and gave me their very best!

    Every single child completed their written math work on time for the first time this year.

    I went out of my way to make sure the party was worth working for.  We had healthy food, games, music, and lots of laughter.  Lots of happy children!

    I was thinking back to the article I read before school from The Cornerstone.  In the article, they managed to squeeze in recess time while increasing test scores.  Those who know brain research know that the brain needs oxygen to function.  Exercise helps that oxygen get to the brain.  And we also know that fun is a much greater motivator than test scores!

    I was thinking, I wish we had a party every day!  It certainly has a lot of power!

    Favorite Read Alouds

    I just can't resist a good "linky party", and reading to my students is my very favorite thing to do as a teacher.  So when Swimming Into Second was sponsoring a  Favorite Read Aloud Linky Party, I couldn't resist.
    The hard part was deciding on the Read Aloud.  I've read so many wonderful books to my students over the years, how could I possibly decide on just one.  Well, I hope no one minds, but I'm picking a few.

    Jubal's Wish by Audrey Wood is a beautiful story about a frog named Jubal who goes looking for a picnic with friends on a beautiful day.  It has beautiful, vivid pictures by Don Wood, and a story line that will grab your heart and leave you feeling positive for the rest of the day.  It's one I could read over and over, and you can hear a pin drop when the children are listening to this one!

    Who doesn't love a Patricia Polacco story?  For the Love of Autumn is about a lovable kitten named Autumn, and her owner, a young schoolteacher named Danielle, who loves her students almost as much as she loves her pet.  Clearly Patricia Polacco has had cats, her descriptions are perfect!  It's a charming story, and another one where the faces of the children listening are priceless.
    I always read Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli around Valentine's Day, since the story is focused on Mr. Hatch accidentally getting a box of candy on Valentine's Day.  When he thinks someone loves him, timid Mr. Hatch comes out of his shell and becomes quite lovable. This heartwarming story has a nice lesson for children about earning friendships, and usually leaves me a little "sniffly" when I'm done reading.  Don't wait until Valentine's Day to read it!

    Oh, I could go on forever, there are so many good ones. Be sure to head on over to Swimming Into Second's Linky Party to see some more great read alouds!

    Who Was Christopher Columbus?

    Who Was Christopher Columbus: Here's a little information and some suggestions for resources and video to teach the children why we have this day off!
    We have a day off tomorrow, thanks to Christopher Columbus, but with everything we have to do at school, it's been tough to find the time to even tell the kids about him. 



    I just can't go through October 12th without mentioning this explorer, so I made up a little booklet about him. Feel free to download this booklet on Teachers Pay Teachers.



    I also show a video.  Here are a few I found on You tube:






    They give a bit of kid-friendly information.  The cartoon is a little corny, and dated, but cute.



    I also add a little of what I've learned about the how the brain remembers.  I have the children act out the Voyage of Columbus.  I put some children the Nina, the Pinta, ad the Santa Maria. Then we set sail, waving goodbye to our loved ones. Naturally, the seas will get a little rough.  Some of the sailors might even get seasick!  Kids do remember when they hear what the sailors had to eat for those 90 days, especially when they hear the sailors drank beer instead of water!  And boy, do they remember the sailors went that long without showers or flushing toilets!



    With second graders, I typically teach the basics of Columbus' impact on history and exploration, but I don't go into much about the controversy of how he treated the natives. I think this book gives a nice introduction to this controversy, but not too much for the little ones. But it definitely gets them thinking! Click the image for a link to Amazon.


    How are you celebrating Christopher Columbus and our day off?

    Finding the Carrot

    I've taught many grades.  I've had a lot of students.  I've had my share of challenging students.  As different as they all are, I've found one thing in common.  They all want something. 

    Some children only want to be noticed.  Luckily, there are many students who want to do the right thing.  Some want to have fun.  Some want to do nothing.  Some want to antagonize their teacher.  In many ways teaching is all about finding that thing they want.  It's about finding that thing that will motivate them.  It's about finding the carrot to dangle.

    I really learned this lesson many years ago when I was a young teacher who would do anything for some work experience to get me closer to a real job.  Although most of my training and experience was in the early childhood years, I took a job teaching Language Arts in a summer school program with 8th graders.  I was so very much out of my league, but it didn't take me long to figure out what these kids wanted.  They wanted to pass my class so they could move onto High School.

    It was a shock for the boys.  (Yes, it was a group of 8 boys.)  Everyone was taller than I was, and they were certainly tough kids.  They thought all they had to do was show up for the class.  They were quite shocked to find out that they actually had to do work and participate in class!  But I frequently reminded them that they were expected to do the work I gave them, and reluctantly, they did it.  After a while they softened a little and almost started to enjoy themselves. 

    The second graders I've had these past few years have been somewhat easier to please.  The thing that works for most of them:  beanie babies!  I have a huge collection of them, and if someone does something well, they get to keep a beanie on their desk for the rest of the day. 

    It all started a few years back in a moment of desperation.  I had several beanies around the room as decorations.  The class was restless that day, and I was searching for someone who was doing things right and a way to reward that student.  Finally I found a kid who was focused and working, so I grabbed one of the beanies and plopped it on the student's desk.  That child was so thrilled, that I managed to find a few others who "got the hint" and started to work, so I put beanies on their desks, too.  It was such a hit that I kept it going and it still goes on today.

    Sure, the kids want to play with the beanies.  I often remind them, if they play with it, they lose it.  ("It's not a toy, it's a tool to remind you to be good.")  And I have to take them every so often to the laundromat for their "bath".  But it's been a hit.

    Who wouldn't want an adorable little beanie on their desk to keep them company?

    Giving Feedback

    I find it is important to give honest feedback to children.  
    I won't tell a child he's doing a good job, unless I honestly feel it is a good job.  
    I tell the truth.
    How do you give feedback? This post explains the importance of giving honest feedback, and how it can be done quickly and easily.



    I choose to be honest with children. They know how they're doing. If they're not putting in much effort, and you tell them they're doing a good job, isn't that giving them the wrong message? Isn't that telling them they don't need to try?




    I've often found the best way to build self esteem is to give opportunities for the child to work. I'm sure most people, after completing a very difficult project, are beaming with pride. I remember caressing the cover of certain reports in college, simply because it was the result of a whole lot of hard work, and I felt proud that it was completed.




    In every day work, I use a simple system. Since I work with young ones, they need feedback within a day if possible.  Since many are non readers or beginning readers, I need to make it simple to understand. I use highlighters and a traffic light system.



    How do you give feedback? This post explains the importance of giving honest feedback, and how it can be done quickly and easily.
    I'll highlight the child's name in one of these colors:




    Green: Go! You're doing just what's expected of a second grader.




    Yellow: Caution: There are some things you need to be careful about




    Red: Stop! There's a problem here.




    There is one more color I use: purple. Purple means "above and beyond the expectations of a second grader." Purple means they are royalty.




    I'm very stingy with purple. They really have to go "above and beyond" to get it. And they should be extremely proud when they earn it.




    These are the papers I usually show off to the whole class.  Not only do they get the feedback they need, they are now role models for the others. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that I bow to them, and refer to them as "kings and queens".)




    And what about the kids who gets yellow or red?  Does this destroy their self esteem? Of course not! They know that if they didn't put in any effort, they won't get much in return.  They also know if they don't like what they got, they have the power to change that. I often remind them:  when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

    Once in a while, I have to give myself a "red." 

    If a good portion of the class aren't giving me what I want, that's a teacher problem! I tell them honestly that I goofed, apologize for not getting the ideas to them properly, and I promise to do better. (Being a role model matters!) 

    I have another post about giving feedback here:


    Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!

    How do you give feedback?

    How do you give feedback? This post explains the importance of giving honest feedback, and how it can be done quickly and easily.

    Speaking of Heroes

    I had the most incredible morning. The town where I grew up dedicated a road in the name of my dad. 

    My dad was a legendary football coach and Phys. Ed. director in my home town. He not only coached many successful seasons, he established a sports program in the town which has been in place since 1953. 

    As I walked from my car to the spot for the ceremony, I noticed several sports teams playing on different parts of the field, cheerleaders stretching in preparation for the upcoming game, and an impromptu basketball game. There were signs and banners rooting for the home team. 

    I realized, this scene was very similar to the scene I would have seen 40 years ago when I was one of those cheerleaders stretching in preparation for the game. This was the program my dad established all those many years ago. 

    Several people spoke about the strong influence he had on the town's sports program, and quoted his incredible record. Former players and colleagues spoke of the way he had with his football players, and called him a great motivator. He truly coached the kids on and off the field. One of his favorite sayings came out today:  "I can, and I will!"

    The program ended with my brother unveiling the new street sign.  We all posed for pictures under the sign, and talked to people we hadn't seen in a very long time.  Somehow I managed to keep from crying during the ceremony, but I did shed a few on the car ride home.

    It's hard to believe that I could have a lot in common with a man who coached football. Me, with zilch athletic ability.  Me, who prefers to sing or tap dance or teach small children.

    But we both have a common theme:  We both would do everything within our power to get young people to be the best that they can be.  We are both motivators.  We are both passionate people who care about kids being successful.  The man has been gone for 9 years, and yet he is with me every day.  He is my hero.

    How appropriate for this weekend, the 10th anniversary of 9-11.  A time to celebrate the heroes in our lives.  We certainly celebrated a hero today!

    Who is your hero?

    Some links:
    Bondelevitch Way Open for Travel

    Big Blue Football Continues the Bondelevitch Winning Way

    David Bondelevitch's blog: I Can and I Will

    David Bondelevitch's blog:  Father's Day



    Here's my dad (center) with his staff and captains back in the early 1970s.



    Celebrate Heroes

    Celebrate Heroes: September 11th is a tough day to honor with little ones, but this discussion and writing prompt has been a success in my classroom. It includes a freebie!
    We had a great lesson today.   My alternative to a full fledged "9-11" Lesson turned into a lesson on heroes, and it couldn't have been more successful!

    I modeled looking up the word heroes in 3 different dictionaries and led a delightful discussion on what heroes are and what heroes aren't.  The best "child friendly" definition came from Macmillian First Dictionary (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990)  Here it is:

    Celebrate Heroes: September 11th is a tough day to honor with little ones, but this discussion and writing prompt has been a success in my classroom. It includes a freebie!
    A hero is someone we think of as special because of the good or brave things that person has done.

    We discussed what heroes are and why they're not superheroes. We talked about heroes in our families, in our school, and in our town.  Then I told them about my hero, my dad.  I told them why he's my hero.  (because he taught me to inspire kids to be the best they can be.)  I told them to think about who their own hero might be, and why that person fits the definition of hero.

    While they were at lunch, I typed up Heros Writing Prompt, available here (or click the image) for free!  It has the child friendly definition of heroes, and a lead for the children to write about their heroes.  When writing time came, they were ready to write.  This was the most focused I'd seen this group of children yet this year.  They were so focused, that I actually had a chance to sit down with the children and write about my dad.  We ended up with a variety of heroes.  Lots of moms and dads, but children also picked neighbors, siblings, teachers, and, of course, firefighters and police officers.  Some of their explanations were quite touching!  It was the first time we had enough writing for a sharing session, and the children were truly interested in each others' work.   I was quite proud of them!

    Celebrate Heroes: September 11th is a tough day to honor with little ones, but this discussion and writing prompt has been a success in my classroom. It includes a freebie!

    American Heroes

    I've decided what I'm going to do with my second graders to honor September 11th. I feel that the 10 year anniversary is far too important to ignore, but I'm concerned about sharing such painful events with young children.

    Since they're way too young to discuss such frightening events that took place 10 years ago, I've decided to focus on heroes. 

    The dictionary defines "hero" as "a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities" or "a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities"

    Of course, technically "hero" is the male form of this person and "heroine" is the female form. We'll simplify things for my little ones by using the male form for both genders.

    We might even bring up that the word hero also can describe a main character of a story. 

    We'll have a discussion about what that means, and name some heroes in our school, community, and country. Then we'll do some pictures of the heroes in our lives while listening to patriotic music.

    I'll probably cry. Patriotic music does that to me. 

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