Sunday, January 31, 2016

Heart Shaped Sight Word Craft

 I heart sight words!
 I heart Valentine’s Day!
I heart learning!

I heart life!

That’s what this Heart-Shaped Sight Words Craft says, loud and clear.

Kids color, cut, stuff with folded tissues and glue.  Wool necklace is optional.  Kids can also attach a magnet for the fridge.

In any case they will ooh and ahh when they see this, and they will always remember their first love--of their 2-letter sight words:

me, my, to, in, so, go, is, it, on, up, we, be

...and how they wore their love on their sleeves, and how they strutted around happily.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and please spread the learning and the love!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Back Health for Teachers

Chronic back pain is common, and teachers can be extra vulnerable.
Sitting for long periods of time is terrible for your back.  So is bending over at the waist.  I used to do this all the time, to check kids’ work, or to correct their penmanship.  Now I bend at the knees.  No matter how silly it looks, I know it’s the right thing for my back health.

Here are some devices that have helped my back stay healthy and pain-free.

1)       This is the TENS system I bought about 5 years ago.  It's right up there as one of the best purchases I ever made.

It is exactly like the professional machine a physical therapist or chiropractor would use (except the pro model costs $3000).  One or two sessions completely dissolve any lower back pain.

You have to know how to use it.  If you don't, I recommend seeing a professional therapist first.  The rules include: don't let the pads touch, don't place the pads directly on your spine or near your heart.  Place them in the 2 or 4 spots of most pain, and use for approximately 1 hour a day as needed.  Always, always...turn off the electrical device before placing or removing the pads.

One important feature is a timer, so it turns off automatically if you fall asleep with it on.  Another must-have feature is a variety of electric pulses.


2)      My second best tip is to use a lumbar pillow.  I rarely sit without one, as nothing beats preventing pain.  My favorite back pillow is a half-cylinder memory foam shape. The Tempur-Pedic brand is hands-down the best, and for back health, I splurged.  I layer 2 pillows on my deep-set chair.  I put the lumbar pillow arched against my lower back.  

I carry my pillow in a thin burlap bag on those days when we sit all day at professional development.  I simply place the bag against a chair for comfort.

3)     I also use these 2 foam rollers.  They're used to massage legs, hips, back, etc.

And they work wonders!  As you roll slowly back and forth, you get a deep tissue massage.  For the lower back, I place one under the lumbar area and one under the shoulders.  Then I roll over both at the same time.  

A word of warning: your first sessions may be painful, veeeery painful.  That’s good.  It means all your tight muscles are loosening up.  After a week, it’s a pure pleasure. 

4)    An herbal heat pack creates a total home spa experience.  I got this on impulse, and it was one of the great gifts I recommend to anyone for that "ahhhh" feeling at the end of a long day—spent in a classroom or elsewhere.

For back health, I make sure to stretch daily and I have my kids do it, too—even if it’s only for a few seconds between lessons.  I hope I’m instilling a lifetime habit of health.

Of course, if you have chronic back pain, please see a professional first.  Find out the root cause, which may involve posture, muscles, arthritis, or spinal discs.  

And treat your back like royalty.  It is.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chinese New Year Dancing Dragons

What's the most fun you can have on Chinese New Year?  
Well, I'm biased!  I like to make a Chinese Dancing Dragon and take it for a spin. 

Maybe it's the big arm motions, spinning round and round or up and zig-zagging down--that gets your whole body in flight. 

Maybe it's the festive music, with crashing cymbals, simple flute melodies, and drums that thump in your chest.

Or maybe it's the sound of the dragon's tissue-paper tail fluttering like a spinning whip in figure eights.

I love to dance with a Chinese dragon, and I love to do it with 25 kids smiling all zany and comically.  It only happens once a year, on the night of the new moon...

If you'd like some fun Chinese New Year Music to dance to, this is exhilarating, and it goes on forever (for over an hour).  Perfect for dancing in place, or for sashaying around the room in a line dance.  You may have to convert it to an MP4 to play on your computer or SMARTboard, as many schools block YouTube.

Gung Hay Fat Choy, everybody!  Enjoy the day!!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Australian Kindergarten Teachers, Welcome...

Australian Kindergarten Teachers, welcome and join the club!

The school New Year’s starting, down under.  How exciting--and a little scary!

Over twenty years ago, when I first started teaching, my colleagues showed me the ropes.  They showed me the kindergarten routines, they gave me materials, and tips for coping.   

Then we each shut our doors and were left to our own devices.

Looking back, I’ve often thought how great it would be if I’d had an angel whispering in my ear, saying do this, do that—no, not that!  But that only happens in the movies, right?

Well, no.  That’s why I created this guide for kindergarten teachers.  It includes my step by step advice and scripts.  It’s like I’m right there, murmuring in your ear.   

You know, I actually study and memorize my own scripts at the start of the school year, to help me feel calm and confident.  It’s like I’m an actor preparing for the role of a lifetime.  It really is life-changing when teaching simply flows.  And while it takes years to become a true master, every tip helps.

I also review these materials after each little holiday, so my routines will be sharp.  I pull out some of the behavior charts to review with my kids, so they stay fresh as well.

I’ve found that it’s never too late to start behavior management routines.  You can begin at any time of the year, and kids will respond.  

You’ll find lots of helpful material in this First Days of Kindergarten BundleWe go through the first week of school— with classroom set-up, scripts for exactly what to say, and what to do on your first day of kindergarten.  Also, posters, charts, awards, parent letters, forms, writing activities, and tons of tips.  Then I point you in the right direction for the next few weeks of kindergarten.

It includes the Teacher's Kit, combined with a School Rules and Bathroom Rules pack.  Each of these three can be purchased separately.
If you'd like an even more comprehensive Kindergarten Back to School Mega-Bundle, it's here.  It includes all of the above, as well as printables for reading and writing, and materials for math and behavior management that you can use all year.
You have my very best wishes—and I’ll be thinking of you on your first day of kinder!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Teacher Resource Sale

Did you resolve to save money in the New Year?  Check out the TeachersPayTeachers sale. 

With an additional 20% off my entire store, you will get up to 28% off at checkout!

New Year’s isn’t over till it’s over—you’re still celebrating resolutions, fresh starts, and good intentions, right?  Here's a HUGE bargain:  It's a ton of New Year’s Fun including an 11-page keepsake book of resolutions…

PLUS a special bonus: my
Chinese New Year PackNo, you haven’t really lived till you’ve danced with a flying Chinese Dragon (instructions included)!  And yes, you can dance with your dragon any day of the year.  It’s an unforgettable thrill to hear the dragon tail fluttering as it whirls and zigzags around your head.  Chinese New Year is February 8th, so you’re good to go.

Martin Luther King’s birthday is still fresh on our minds.  It’s not too late to shop for deep conversation starters about brotherhood and kindness—and create a gorgeous display with photo montages of Dr. King and students’ drawings.  It’s a great segue into black history month, too.

The first days of school are long past.  Still, you may want to review this best-selling refresher course on lessons, classroom set-up and behavior management.  The reference guide includes step-by-step teacher scripts, and will serve you well for years to come, no matter what grade you teach.

Got attitude and pizzazz?  Get some more, with 100th Day Masks and super creative activities.

President’s Day is beyond charming with these crafts: Paper bag puppets, Lincoln’s Log Cabin that stands upright, and president masks that will delight and inspire.

If you want something practical, How to Draw will help kick up your K - 1 kids' narrative writing to the next level.

TeachersPayTeachers is a treasure trove of great resources at reasonable prices.  If you’re looking for me, I’ll be there—and my shopping bags will be full, too.

Many thanks to Jillian Starr for her eye-popping sales banner at the top of this page!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

100th Day of School Cool Stuff

Here’s the 100th Day of School Cool Stuff, starting with the 100th Day Super Hero Mask.  Full stop.
We make 100th Day Masks, and my kids wear them with bursting pride and some serious fun ensues!  Kids can pull them up to wear as a visor, when the academics kick in.
One of my favorite activities is to say One Hundred in different languages.  We say them in a call and response style, to a rock beat at my piano center.   It’s so interesting to compare and contrast the languages. 

I play my Counting to 100 MP3, and kids strike 100 poses (using the low, medium, and high spaces around us).  During the day, we play that counting song again.  We make 100 faces (I have a character traits poster for inspiration), we jump 100 times, and we feel our wrist pulse and slow it down to the beat of the song—great for behavior management.


If you’d like the template for the 100th Day Super Hero Mask, as well as super-creative activities in math, reading, writing, social studies and science (which, of course, you can enjoy all year), along with the Counting MP3, please stop by and take a look.

I’m wishing you a wonderful and memorable 100th Day of school!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Martin Luther King Art Display

Here's our Martin Luther King art display:
It's full of friendship and fun, color and design, stencil art and talking bubbles, Martin Luther King photo montages and love.

It's Martin Luther King for the next generation.  If you'd like these Martin Luther King printables for a beautiful display, here they are.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Martin Luther King and the Deeper Questions

Martin Luther King inspires beautiful display pieces about kindness and brotherhood…

Martin Luther King Writing - Renee Dawn
…and sometimes an unexpected depth.

Keep in mind, I teach kindergarten, 5-year-olds.  Yesterday something memorable happened, something rare in an age of prepackaged lessons with a timer ticking on the mini-lesson, planned questioning techniques and differentiated responses.

It’s called a teachable moment, and this was a classic.   After a brief look at the calendar, we launched into an impromptu discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr., to explain why we celebrate his birthday.  I wasn’t planning to get into the details of how he died--not just then--but someone asked and I told the story briefly.   I told it with raw emotions to a rapt audience.

Then the questions came. 

·         Why did that man shoot him?

·         Was he (the shooter) born like that? 

·         Where is Martin Luther King now?

·         Is he still on the balcony?

·         Can he see us? 

·         Why did Martin want to help people?

…and to most of those questions, my answer was a thoughtful and quiet: I don’t know; it’s a mystery.   Others chimed in with their hypotheses, as I’ve taught my kids to call on classmates and ask, “What do you think?” but the atmosphere was thick with wonder.

I told the kids that we might not always get answers, but that those are really, really great questions.

Deep questions feel like a journey without an end.  And a reminder that powerful moments can arise from organically generated questions that blossom from genuine emotions.   

I'm wishing you many teachable moments, and many questions without clear answers.

If you’d like to create beautiful photo montage display pieces about Martin Luther King, and also spark discussions on kindness and brotherhood, please take a look:

 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Printables

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

100th Day of School Super Hero

Here’s the 100th Day of School Super Hero: 
100th Day of School Super Hero Mask and Activities - Teacher Ink
O.M.G.  So cute.

Honestly, I thought that I looked pretty darn cute in my 100th day mask…but it really does belong on a kid.

It’s all about the kids.  They’re 100 days smarter, wiser, kinder, and richer in humanity (thanks to their 100 days of school).  The 100th day mask is a fun way for them to feel even deeper; the pride, the power and the glory of a great education.  

OK, teachers, we deserve one, too!

In my class, we make these masks first thing on the 100th day.  That way the kids can enjoy wearing them.  They can enjoy laughing for hours at how cool they—and their friends—all look. 

They flip 'em up like a visor for our serious academic activities (smile).  And yes, they do smile, big time—for as long as those masks are on.

I want my kids to feel super-special, so I put a lot of thought into creating the masks, and even made a photo tutorial to help kids make them just right.

If you’d like the template for this 100th day super hero mask, and a blizzard of super-creative activities to celebrate your 100th day of school, and for many days afterwards, it’s here.  I hope you have a wonderful 100th day!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

5 Exercises for Kids - And Why They Should Do Them

Kids need more exercise.  I hope some of your kids have made a New Year’s Resolution  to exercise more!
Here are 5 great exercises for kids, and some reasons why kids might love them.  When kids think about exercise, they’ll do it more often.  Let's help kids think it through...

1)       Dance:  Dance is fun.  It doesn’t feel like a chore.  My body, mind and spirit all dance at the same time.  Learning a new dance is hard, but so much fun when I really get it!

2)      Karate:  Karate is cool.   I can wear uniform that’s comfortable and stylish.  I can make big motions with my body and still be in control.  I can feel strong and safe.

3)      Sports:  Sports games are thrilling.  I can practice and get better.  I can play some games with my friends.  I can learn how to win, and also how to be a good sport if I don’t win a game.

4)      Yoga:  Yoga is relaxing.  It’s slow and easy.  It feels good to stretch, and it feels great to breathe deeply.  Breathing deeply is important for my body and mind health.

5)      Walking:  Walking is easy.   I can walk a lot.   I can walk and talk to a friend.  I can walk and think.  It helps me think clearly.   I can even walk in one place while I watch TV.

Let’s help Generation Z to get up and move more.   And let’s get up and move right along with them!

If you’d like this New Year’s Keepsake Book of Resolutions—which encourages kids to think about each resolution and why it’s so important, and then write about it in a beautiful book to display and cherish—here it is.

Friday, January 1, 2016

20 Resolutions for Kids

Happy New Year!  Your list of resolutions is a mile long isn't it?   Well, I think it's a tradition we should teach our kids, too.
Here's why: the first day back from winter vacation is like the first day of school.  Every teacher knows you've got to review rules, expectations, and best practices for coping with a long school day.

New Year's resolutions are a great way to personalize this.  Rules are not there to frustrate us, but to make our lives safer--and better.

I like to brainstorm common resolutions, and ask my kids which is their favorite and why.  This genuine discussion helps kids to internalize their promises.  And its more likely they'll work on them.

Besides, the New Year's Bells make for an eye-catching, up-to-the minute display piece.

Here are 20 Great Resolutions for Kids:

  1.  I will be kinder!
  2.  I will exercise more!
  3.  I will eat healthier foods!
  4.  I will drink more water!
  5.  I will breathe deeply and relax!
  6.  I will stand tall like a super-hero!
  7.  I will be positive!
  8.  I will be more mindful!
  9.  I will do my best in school!
  10.   I will learn something new!
  11.   I will improve on my strongest skills!
  12.   I  will be a better listener!
  13.   I will teach a friend something I know!
  14.   I will find new ways to show respect!
  15.   I will consider others’ feelings more often!
  16.   I will say more kind words!
  17.   I will share with friends!
  18.   I will look for ways to help people!
  19.   I will help my parents more!
  20.   I will save money for something special!  
What would you add to this list?  Let's put together the biggest, best wish list--yes, it's the list we hope our kids like, too!

If you'd like this New Year's Bell template with writing lines, as well as a list of 20 Resolutions for Kids (to print as a poster or to open on your SMARTboard)'s right here.  You'll also find a goldmine of printables to celebrate your few first weeks after the break--and make it easy to get back into the groove (which is my own New Year's Resolution).