A Valuable Chapter of My Life - Revisited

In the late 80s, I found a master's program that was a perfect match for me.
I found a master's program where I could get a degree in Creative Arts in Learning.  

As I've always been a big fan of the performing arts, I leaped at the chance, enrolled, and was accepted.

One of the very cool things about this program, is that it didn't take place at a college, but in a rustic seminar house in southern New Hampshire.  One weekend a month several teachers would get together to learn about connecting the arts to our classrooms. 

I have so many delightful memories of these 2 years.  Not only did my teaching become enhanced by all the wonderful things I was learning, I made some fabulous friendships.  It was a great chapter in my life, and I cherish the changes in me as a teacher and as a person I developed during those years. Years later, I still value what I learned during those two years and apply it in my teaching every day.

Yesterday I went back to visit because the man who ran the program and taught some of the classes was retiring, and there was an open house in his honor. 

I went back to Walnut Hill Seminar House for the first time in many years. (It was over 25 years ago that I got my Master's degree, and I think I visited once in the 90s.)  Magically, my mind went back to the late 80s and I was reliving all those times I'd driven up that driveway and walked into that rustic building that was my home one weekend a month for a two year period.  It was like coming home. I was filled with the warm feelings of friendship and camaraderie that I felt all those years ago.

Although I didn't see anyone else there from my day, there were many who went through the same program more recently, and clearly had the same sort of experiences I had so many years ago. We chatted, remembered, and smiled.  

The retiring teacher chose to have all his old teacher books up for grabs.  He has been involved in education for even longer than I have, and his collection spanned all the ages in between!

It was absolutely fascinating.  I saw books that were my manuals when I got my undergraduate degree in the 70s.  I looked through them, thinking I'd find outdated data, but what I saw in those books was good teaching practices that are still used today.  I wanted to bring several of the books home and re-read them this many years later, but I know I just don't have any room in my home for them. However, I couldn't resist this one:

I owned this book many years ago, and used it often back in the 70s and 80s.  I breezed through it and saw many activities that I would proudly use in my classroom today!  There were counting and patterning activities that are perfect for little ones learning about numbers.  They include movement and song.  

I've been studying brain based learning for the last few years, and I realize that many activities that integrate the arts are the same ones we did way back then, but now they have research to back them up. We always knew they were valuable activities that helped children learn!  

Teaching has changed in many, many ways during the 35+ years of my career, but some things just don't change.  Good teaching practices: Children still love playing games, singing songs, getting physically active, playing pretend, and using visual arts.

An  updated version of the Mathematics Their Way book is available at Amazon. (Just click the image above.)

Sometimes You Just Need Something Quick!

Sometimes you just need something quick.  You know, something that's fun for the kids, but doesn't interrupt any unit you're working on.  Something that's a valuable activity, but doesn't take a lot of prep.

Sometimes You Just Need Something Quick! This post includes a Thanksgiving No Prep Freebie as well as other "quick" resources with a Thanksgiving Theme.

These activities don't require any cutting, laminating, or tracing.  Just print and go!  They are designed to give a meaningful experience with minimal instruction, and won't interfere with any units you're working on.  Yet, they're fun opportunities to practice important skills you don't want the little ones to forget!

There are plenty of reasons you might choose these activities for your students:
  1. You're out sick.
  2. Your kid is sick.
  3. You're out for professional development.
  4. You have an important meeting during the day and someone has to cover your class.
  5. You've been too busy (meetings, conferences, report cards, etc) to plan!
  6. The kids are getting antsy and you need a little something fun.
  7. Your kid was up sick last night and you need an easy activity.
  8. You have laryngitis.
  9. I'll bet you can think of plenty of other reasons to grab something quick!
In case you're still curious, I just happen to have a little freebie sample for you. Check these out by clicking the link below.  If you're looking for more activities like this, click the image above for the full set! 
Sometimes You Just Need Something Quick! This post includes a Thanksgiving No Prep Freebie as well as other "quick" resources with a Thanksgiving Theme.

Making Friends is an Art!

Making Friends is an Art - This delightful story by Julia cook helps children understand the value of friendship and everyone doing his part. This post comes with an Art related freebie!
Julia Cook has written a number of children's books dealing with sensitive issues. In her books, she has amazing ways of dealing with tough subjects in a child friendly, fun way!  Learn more about this author and her books at her website HERE.

I read Making Friends Is an Art!  to my class the other day, and I'm so glad I did! (Click image for affiliate link to Amazon.)

The story is about the brown pencil in a box of colored pencils.  It is jealous of the other colors because they get more use, and are well liked.  Red, especially, is so popular that it's been sharpened down to a stump!

Brown explores friendships with the other colors, and finds out that in order to have friends, one has to be a friend, and their first friend should be themselves!

As Brown explores himself, through the help of his color friends, he finds out he is the combination of all the other colors!

We stopped to chat several times throughout the book to discuss the different personality traits.  "Yellow always does what's right, do you know anyone like that?"  Yes, they did!  "Who do you know that's like Pink, and always listens?"  They had plenty of answers (including their teacher!)  The one that really made me smile was their response to Purple, who has hopes and dreams... they all said themselves!  (Don't you love kids?) My favorite part was that they included all the kids in the class in their comments, not just the "more popular" children.

After realizing that Brown was the combination of all the other colors, I simply had to give the kids some time to explore with paint so they could see for themselves!

Don't you love kids and paint?  I did happen to notice that most of the children included some BROWN in their pictures!

In Making Friends is an Art! Julia Cook personifies colored pencils with human characteristics.  I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get children to think about the character traits of their classmates.

Going along with the ART theme, I've designed a Friendship Palette for the children to take the character traits that Julia Cook gives the colored pencils in the book, and find classroom friends with the same character traits.

It was a great opportunity to look for the best in their classmates!

I made two versions of the Friendship Palette, one in color, and one that's more "printer ink" friendly, where the children can color the individual backgrounds themselves.

There are two options for sharing classmates:  The children can draw their classmates in the ovals, or the teacher can provide photographs.  I chose to use photographs, and I chose to go a little crazy in order to avoid popularity contests or children being left out.  Since I have 17 students, I made 17 different collections of photographs and rotated the faces so there were 11 per page, and each page was different.  (I'd show you, but I don't post my students' faces in public!)

It was totally worth the extra effort for me, as the children had no trouble fitting their 10 random classmates into all the spaces on the friendship palette.  Of course, their own picture went into the center for brown!
The children had fun, and spent time thinking about their friends and character traits!
Plus, I'm really glad I chose this book!  It was just perfect for my class!
Click the image or click HERE for your freebie!

Can you believe how many great books she has?  
You can buy this book and several others at her website HERE!


Do you have one book in your classroom that is loved so much you have trouble keeping it on the shelf? You know, the one that's so "loved" it's falling apart?

Here's mine:
It's called Gross Out:  Animals That Do Disgusting Things.  Kind of a catchy title, isn't it?  Trust me, it lives up to its name!  When I saw the book, I suspected it would be popular, so I bought a couple of copies.  I guess teaching for about a gazillion years has taught me about kids, because I was totally right about that.  Those two copies have been loved so much, that there's more tape than book now!  The kids actually argue about whose turn it is next with "the book".

As you probably guessed, it's particularly popular with the boys.  It is an information book about several unusual animals including such loved animals as vampire bats, leeches, and the dung beetle.

I might just pick up a few more copies as a holiday gift for the class.

Here are a few other books that are wearing down real fast:

All the above images are links to Amazon to find out more about these books.  

What are the favorite books of your students?


5 Patriotic Options for Veterans Day or Any Patriotic Holiday

Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!
We spent a lot of time the last couple of days talking about what a veteran is, and why it's important to honor them. (I always like my kids to know WHY we get a day off!) True, they're due for a break (as well as the teachers! We survived a marathon day of teaching and parent teacher conferences this week, we deserve a day off to recover!)

1.  First of all, there are books! I absolutely love to introduce concepts to the children through quality literature! I admit. The Wall gets me choked up every time I read it. As I read it yesterday, the children were totally silent. (My group is NEVER totally silent!)  It affected them deeply.


All these books will click to a direct link to Amazon to learn more about the book! I already own most of them, but the story Night Catch really caught my eye.  It might just be my next purchase!

2.  Next, I like to show some videos. I try to time it so we watch a video on Thursday during snack time, since Thursday is popcorn day in our school. It just seems appropriate! Here are some patriotic videos that are great, and the kids really take to them!


3.  I play music frequently through the school day. I make sure I have music playing in the morning as the children arrive, but I also make sure they hear music at different times of the day. Sometimes it's soft background music, and sometimes it's lively, fun music. Both kinds of music have their place. Here are a couple that I love!


Click each image for a link to Amazon to find out more.
Yes, I really do Karaoke with my students!

4.  I did this Veterans True or False activity with my students on Thursday, and it was awesome! Interestingly, our assistant principal came in while we were playing the game, and told the students he was a veteran. My students broke out into applause!  (I was so proud!) Of course, most of my little boys went nuts when they found out he drove a tank! Click the image or click HERE for the link!

Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!

Got active students? After the kiddos have read this text, they can have a blast moving around to answer the questions to Reading Comprehension for Active Learners: Freedom isn't Free!

Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!

5.  Here's a freebie that I did with my students on Friday.  They wrote thank you letters to Veterans! Their notes were heartwarming and proud to me they really understood how lucky we are to be Americans, and have these wonderful people risking their lives for our freedom!
Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day! 

Don't forget the brain breaks! Here's a freebie that might come in handy!
Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!

Five Patriotic Options for Veterans Day (or any Patriotic Holiday): Books, videos, music, and other resources to help students learn about Veterans Day!
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