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Band aid or Lasso?

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

Band aid or Lasso? Do your students put an apostrophe in every word that ends in s? Here are a couple of cute tricks to help the kiddos remember when to use apostrophes and when NOT to!

I remind my kids to think: does 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 the 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! If you listen closely, you can hear the letters giggling.

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. (or nearby, in the case of an adjective) 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. It has these two stories to help the children remember when to use apostrophes, and has 4 activities to practice contractions, plurals, and possessives.

Explore the image or here: 

Band-Aid or Lasso?


 How do you help your students remember when to use the apostrophe and when NOT to use it?

Band aid or Lasso? Do your students put an apostrophe in every word that ends in s? 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!

    10 Key Points About the Brain

    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. 
    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.

    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!
    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.

    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 veterans they know ans 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?

    Thank you Veterans! This blog post has several videos, resources, and ideas for teaching the importance of Veterans Day, including a freebie!

    Brain Facts

    I just love learning about the brain!  

    Here are a few interesting facts I've learned about the brain!
    Brain Facts: here are several interesting facts about the brain, including some ideas on how to keep the brain healthy.

    The brain weighs about 3 pounds. 

    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?  

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

    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!

    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

    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!

    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!

    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:

    A hero is someone we think of as special because of the good or brave things that person has done.

    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 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 Heroes 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!

    What I Learned on my First Day This Year

    Well, I survived and made it through the first day.  My classroom is put together, I made it through Open House and 2 days of teacher meetings. 

    Here's what I learned about my students:  I've learned they like to talk, except of course, when I ask them to talk. 

    I learned they like to repeat my name over and over and over.

    I learned they love to listen to stories, and ask lots of questions that show good predicting skills.  (I read Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.  Who doesn't love that?)

    I learned when the story gets long, the children get restless. I learned that some of the children don't follow directions until they have eye contact.

    I learned that the children believe me when I tell them they're the best class in the school.  I learned they enjoy each other and care about helping each other. 

    I learned they want to do well, and need to be told they're doing well.  I learned they love having a beanie baby on their desk.  They really love trying to earn a second beanie baby for their desk, and even a third.

    I learned they get tired by the end of the day, just like their teacher.

    In a way, they're like most other kids I've had.  In other ways, they're like no class I've ever met before. 

    I learned this is going to be another year that I love my job.

    What has your class taught you?

    The Brain, Memory, Emotions, and Hurricanes

    I've been in the mood to tell about my very first day of school. 

    Yes it was a very long time ago, but if you recall, the memory is connected to emotions, and I had some VERY strong emotions that day.

    The Brain, Memory, Emotions, and Hurricanes. Here's a story about my very first day of school, and how the brain is closely related to emotions.

    My mother was a teacher, my dad was the Phys Ed director in my town, and my older sister went to school. I had to stay home with the babysitter while everyone else in my family went to school. Needless to say, I wanted to go to school just like everyone else in my world. 

    I kept asking when I could go to school. My mother showed me on the calendar how many days had to go by before I could finally go. I counted, and counted, and finally, the day came.

    School was cancelled because of Hurricane Donna.

    The Brain, Memory, Emotions, and Hurricanes. Here's a story about my very first day of school, and how the brain is closely related to emotions.The Brain, Memory, Emotions, and Hurricanes. Here's a story about my very first day of school, and how the brain is closely related to emotions.
    "But you promised." I was inconsolable. I remember my mother bringing me out to the front porch, trying to convince me that they wouldn't let children go to school when the weather was that bad. 

    I must have gone to school the next day, but I really don't remember!

    The Brain, Memory, Emotions, and Hurricanes. Here's a story about my very first day of school, and how the brain is closely related to emotions.The Brain, Memory, Emotions, and Hurricanes. Here's a story about my very first day of school, and how the brain is closely related to emotions.
    It was the intense emotion that I remember to this day.  Yet another lesson on the brain and emotions.  And another hurricane story.
    Here are couple of videos about Hurricane Donna, if you're interested!

    Hurricane Donna Newsreel:

    This is pretty old, but interesting! Apparently Hurricane Donna caused a lot of damage because it hit so many different places and kept going! The newsreel does end rather abruptly... technology has improved a lot since then!

    Track of Hurricane Donna:

    This shows why Hurricane Donna caused so much damage: it hit Puerto Rico and several islands, the keys and up the coast of Florida, then the entire coast of the US through New England (where I lived.) Luckily, Hurricanes don't always follow that path!

    Click HERE for more information about Hurricane Donna. (This one contains a slide show if you find "please click here" near the bottom of the text. Very interesting stuff, if you're fascinated by weather, as I am!

    Do you remember your first day of school?

    The Brain, Memory, Emotions, and Hurricanes. Here's a story about my very first day of school, and how the brain is closely related to emotions.

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