Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is all about love...
...a beautiful, powerful love.

Mother's Day is a time to celebrate all those moments of love, giving, and sharing.  That's why I like to express it with a homemade card.  A child puts effort into crafting it, and so captures a bit of that love on paper.
A splash of flowers--the more the better--is a perfect symbol for Mom.  I created this printable Mother's Day card for kids to add more flowers and a message to Mom on the flower pot.  I also added a page of flower line drawings so kids could hone their drawing skills.
Mom will be amazed at how sophisticated--and generous--their little baby's become.
I hope you all have a warm and wonderful Mother's Day!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Earth Day Beach Ball Fun

It's Earth Day Beach Ball fun time!
I've got my Earth Day medallion and my Earth Day poster.  What more could I want?
Earth Day beach ball fun, of course.
I know how to reduce, reuse and recycle...and how to plant a tree and clean up litter.  And when I catch the Earth Day beach ball I can tell a fact about the planet Earth, or about a way to help the Earth.
Or, I can just giggle and enjoy holding the Earth in my hands. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tech Tips For Teachers

Would you like a free E Book filled with superb, cutting-edge tech tips for teachers?

It's here!

I'm honored to be included in this generous E Book, where you'll find many ways to incorporate tech into the classroom, including:
  •   Use an ipad to snap a picture of the whiteboard, and allow students to study it at their own pace.
  •   Use safeshare.tv. to copy YouTube links and convert them into watchable videos in the class.
  •   Use gmail's "translate message" to send notes to parents in a different language.

And my own tip on how to relax in the 21st century:

When a child needs time out, lead them gently to the "cloud" where they can put on headphones and click on the MP3 icon on a desktop.

Let them float away to the sound of a soothing voice counting, with a relaxing instrumental and hypnotic beatThey will return refreshed and ready...and knowing their numbers.

Also, open a desktop folder of each child's favorite photos, including photos of themselves smiling and focused, and let them scroll through for inspiration.

That, and much more.  Enjoy!

And thanks to the team from Teacherspayteachers.com who helped put the TEACHER TECH EBOOK together: Laurah J, Andrea Crawford, Utah Roots, Stacey Lloyd, and Amy...as well as all the creative contributors.

Communal Class Poem on a Skunk

My class wrote a communal poem on a...skunk:

Great stuff!  Here’s how we got there.

Earlier in the day, we’d read a Scholastic News Magazine about skunks, and other animals that warn predators to stay away.

All month, we’ve been writing free verse poems.  So the kids know how to put out a “word splash” of ideas.  They know about using sensory language and simile, single fun words, and twisty final lines.

At the end of every day, if we have a few extra minutes, I’ll throw out a topic and we talk.  One kid adds to the conversation, and then calls on the next kid.

On Thursday, I said, "Let's make up a poem about skunks!"  I scribbled down their answers and typed it up.

Looking at it objectively, I think, yes we’ve arrived.  For us kindergarteners, all the world’s a poem.

P.S. For the record, tomato juice does not remove skunk smell.  You need a wash of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and soap.  But the myth is funny, and so...very poetic!


3-Letter Sight Words

Sight words are hard to learn.  That’s why I make them fun…

…and easy!

Let’s face it, sight word drills are not the most fun thing in the world.  But I’ve noticed that when you add an action or physical response, kids really get into it.

When they color the words on this sight word car, they’re also internalizing the spelling.  And when they’re done cutting and gluing, and the car stands upright, kids are downright enthralled.  They’ll own those words.

When they place letter tiles to match a sight words chart, the action of moving the tiles is exciting.  Kids love it—for short periods of time.  Who said they have to love it for longer?  Short bursts of activity mixed with variety can be quite effective.

Do your kids like to learn by singing?  Mine do—and so do I.  In fact it's on my top 5 list.  That’s why I made a 3-Letter Sight Word Song.  It's easy to memorize, because I sing families of related words in clusters.   

My sight word song also works as a lullaby.  Children can rest and listen and still learn, because the song spells each word before saying it. 

Or, my favorite, kids can stretch and dance to the song and internalize word work as they move.

3-letter sight words are tricky.  Some of them follow the standard CVC rules—consonant, short vowel, consonant; like cat.  But others are complex.  You can explain to a child that the letter r at the end of a CVC word changes the vowel sound.  So we say “car” not “cah-r.”

A sight word song bypasses explanations.  Song sung, words learned—period.  Love it!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sight Words: Where to Begin?

Some kids struggle with sight words.  That’s a fact.

Whether dyslexia, ADHD, maturational un-readiness, or some other factor is involved, sight words can be difficult to learn and remember.

And no other single skill is more helpful in beginning reading.  If kids know even a few sight words, those words will pop off the page. 

Combined with picture clues, repeated phrases, and basic decoding, kids can begin to read.

Classic sight word lists can confuse some children.  Most sight word lists mix 1-letter words like I and a, with 2-letter words and 3-letter words that have different vowel sounds, like we and get.  Throw in 4-letter words like—well, like, and it can be a bit overwhelming.

Some kids learn better if you start with the easy words—2-letter sight words.

That’s why I created a kit that includes ONLY 2-letter sight words.  Children match words with letter tiles, trace words, write simple sentences with matching pictures, and make a heart-shaped necklace craft with art words.

Some kids learn best through song.  My kit includes a lullaby-sounding 2-letter sight words song.  It's an MP3 that kids love singing and dancing to.  Learning 2-letter sight words then becomes easy and fun. 
That's how I'd like to learn--and teach--sight words!
If you want to take the next step, I also created a kid-friendly kit with 3-letter sight words, and a Bundle: 2-Letter and 3-Letter Sight Words. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

1,000 Earth Poems

If each of your students wrote an Earth poem, no two would be the same. 

That’s because you showed them how to tap into their inner poet.

Step by step, you brainstormed lists and charts for each poetic device: sensory detail, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, simile, invented words, and author’s voice.

The kids could reference those charts, and add to them to create their own unique visions.

Then you’d see the Earth—and everything else in the universe—through fresh eyes. 

And you might think that poetry writing is heaven.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Earth Day Celebration

Earth is a beautiful thing.

On Earth Day we’ll create Earth Medallions.  It reminds us that Earth is beautiful—like a work of art, a poem, a cool jewel.

This medallion is geographically correct, and tracing the land shapes gets us thinking about geography, continental drift, geology, history and different places and cultures.  

We use Earth Day task cards to stir up creativity.

We make art posters with memorable slogans, just like the Lorax!

With slogans like:
  • The One and Only Earth
  • Earth is Art
  • Earth Loves You, Too!
  • I Speak for the Trees! (Just like the Lorax)


Big highlight: we play Earth Day Action Games, like Beach Ball Planet and NIMBY War, so kids will always remember that Earth is F-U-N!!!

And all day long, we sing a fun and easy Earth Day song--as a round.  Earth is always singing, you know; just stop and listen.

I like to google “Earth from Space” on our SMARTboard, so the kids can see we’re really a ball floating in space.  It’s a revelation.  Some kids don’t know we’ve been to the moon.

 Earth Day Activities

…or what the sun really looks like.  I google the sun, too.

Then we take a google trip through our galaxy, with 100 million stars…and then through the 100 million galaxies.

 Earth Day Activities

It puts Earth in perspective.

Then we go outside to the apple trees and smell the blossoms and soil, and listen to the birds tweet incessantly.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Write Similes that Punch!

It’s Poetry Month!  Everyone’s dusting off their similes.  So come on, let’s shine one up:

Earth is like a boat…

…because they’re both floating, they’re both alone, traveling across long distances, carrying people.

But a ship is not the first simile to come to mind. 

When you ask a kid, at first they might say:  Earth is like a…planet.

No, you say, Earth is a planet.  Tell me something different that Earth is like.  It can be the same color, shape, size, texture, or action as Earth—but otherwise very different.

OK, Earth is like an apple because they’re both round.

That’s good.  Now let’s go deeper.  What’s the same color AND shape?  Earth is like a blueberry.  They are both blue and round.  And besides that they are both fragile and easily destroyed.

Very good!  What else?  Earth is like an eye.  An eye can be green and blue, and, like the people on Earth, it sees stuff.  You can even ask of the Earth, “What have you seen?”

So, which simile packs the most emotional punch?

That depends.   What else do you want to say about the Earth?  Is it crowded—like a zoo?  Is it big and lonely—like a blue whale?
Is it alive—like a garden?  Or desolate—like a desert?

Simile isn’t just a matter of finding something similar.  It’s finding the thing that’s the most similar to how you feel about your object.

Go deeper…

Pack an emotional punch…


Once you get the hang of similes, you can’t stop noticing connections and associations.  An iguana is like a pickle, because they’re both green, bumpy and strange.  A spider is like a robber because they’re both creeping and frightening.  A sea shell is like a cave, because they both have deep, dark spaces.  A flower is like a soldier, because they both stand tall and weather a storm.

If you teach your kids to write spectacular poems with similes that “punch,” they’ll never see the world the same.  Because then, all of life will be like a poem!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Poetry Writing: EVERYONE is Creative!

April is poetry month.  But...

I love teaching my 5-year-olds that they can see the world through a poet’s eyes ALL the time—not just in April!

My favorite poetry is free verse.  It’s modern and creative, free-wheeling and spontaneous; a little like jazz.

Together the whole class brainstorms lists of poetic devices.  Then each child can tap into that energy to write an exquisite poem.  That's the beauty of it--ANYONE CAN DO IT! 

The beginning writers and English Language Learners might select choice words from our imaginative lists.  And advanced or gifted writers will expand on our communal lists, add more ideas, free associations, memories and emotional punch.

The results are stunning!  Every child is able to create a dazzling keepsake piece.

I’ve put together my recipe for these Free Verse Poems, complete with meticulous step-by-step lessons, long brainstorm lists, and lovely paper to write it on. 

I’d really love it if you posted some of your students’ poems here--because, to me, there’s nothing more delightful and surprising than living in a world filled with poetry!