June 27, 2020

Teaching Young Children Optimism and Resilience During Challenging Times

The last few months have been filled with fear, worry, sadness, grief, and violence. It's been stressful for adults, so I can only imagine how our children are doing during this time.  I do enjoy my time off in the summer, but I miss creating a safe space for students to discuss issues that are going on in the world.  It helps to process events when they are discussed openly and honestly.  Our children need to know that despite COVID-19 and acts of injustice, they can make a difference in their community.   

What can we do to help our students or children who feel like there is nothing they can offer?  Make sure you don't dismiss what concerns or worries a child is having.  Let them know that you hear what they have to say and understand how they're feeling.  Be honest!  

Sarah Lynne Reul wrote The Breaking News (affiliate link) from a child's perspective of what happens after a community receives terrible news.  It also lets the reader know that small things can bring about significant change.  Our children have seen a variety of events that leave us all uncomfortable, but we need to talk about it.

The story doesn't have a lot of text.  The illustrations tell more than the words on each page.  You can review some vocabulary words that relate to the story and give meaning to what's going on in the world. 

Discussion questions can be used to get a productive conversation going or as writing prompts. 

Children can talk about the emotions and feelings that are displayed in the story through the illustrations.  Naming feelings is the first step in helping kids learn to identify them.  We want our children to develop an emotional vocabulary so they can identify emotions in others.  Empathy is crucial during times like this.  Make correlations between how the characters feel in the story to how their families are feeling in real-life.

Having children identify their strengths will show them how they can help out the community or their families.  They will realize that they have something to offer and that they can contribute things that no one else can.  Identifying these strengths is crucial to a healthy self-identity.  

We can teach our children that they can make a difference in their community, and small gestures have a big impact.  

This story is a great ice breaker to get the conversation started. Leave a comment and let me know how you discussed what's going on in the world with your children. I would love to hear from you!

March 24, 2020

Using A Podcast for Listening and Speaking Skills

Podcasts are a great resource to use for listening and speaking skills. You can listen to the episode before the students to create a list of comprehension questions.  I like to use a graphic organizer while listening to the broadcast.  This does take practice and you will need to model how to do this with students.  My students enjoy listening to each episode!  I split the episode in half if it is longer than 25 minutes to make it a two-day activity.  Speaking skills come into play when we have discussions about the podcast. 

school house rap podcast lesson

This podcast has longer stories and I love the rich vocabulary!   

school house rap podcast lesson

I use this podcast with my fourth and fifth grade ESOL students at one of the schools I teach.  Most of the group enjoys sci-fi, so it was perfect. This serialized podcast tells the story of an 8-year old boy living on an interplanetary space station who explores the galaxy and solves mysteries with his friends.

We use a graphic organizer to help with remembering what we have heard during the podcast.  It has a few components to it.  We fill out new vocabulary words we hear.  We've talked about words that have meaning to us or our favorite words.  Students can pick new words or words that they like to use.  My students know I love the word "expeditiously" 😁.  They know the meaning of the word because I use it when it's time to transition...consistently.  

The notes section is for jotting down words or phrases that help identify the main idea and details of the episode.  It took some practice to do this because my students wanted to write complete sentences.  I told them to think of it as the brainstorm step of the writing process.  

 The connections portion of the organizer can be filled out during or after.  I let students know that they may need to jot down a few details to complete after the podcast is over.  

The remaining sections are filled out at the end of the podcast.  We ask questions about anything that is unclear.  This will be used when students share their organizers with each other.  Most of the time, they can answer each other's questions.

Students will also make predictions about the next episode.  We spend about 10 minutes discussing our predictions.  This is where you can help build schema or correct misinformation.

The last part of the organizer is the section where the students can draw a picture or doodle about the episode. 

Students can share their completed organizer with a classmate.  Partners discover new information that they may not have recognized while listening to the podcast.  

Printable Version
There is great value in sharing viewpoints and ideas.  This is an awesome activity to help improve the listening skills of any learner!

March 22, 2020

Moving Ahead with Distance Learning Days

Moving Ahead with Distance Learning Days

I believe one of the best ways to help our children right now is to maintain a schedule and some sense of routine.  Repetition has been shown to help in stressful situations.  It limits the amount of decision making we need throughout the day.  If you didn’t have a schedule in place last Monday, it’s okay, start today!
Let your children help make the schedule.  Plan a few days in advance but make adjustments along the way.  Children love being able to have a choice and feeling that what they think matters.  

Have an area set up in the house that is distraction-free, away from the TV. 

Incorporate movement and healthy snacks during the learning time as well.  No one learns when they’re hungry!

Talk about what went right and what needs improvement at the end of the “school” day.  Do you need to add more time to your math block?  Do you need more resources to help your child?  Debrief and adjust the plan for the next day of learning. 

Know that you have teachers across the country who are an email or direct message away, willing to help!

Stay healthy and keep going!

March 19, 2020

Too Much Screen Time???

Here are some activities you can do with your children that won’t involve a computer.  Incorporate a few non-screen activities you can do at home for fun while still learning.

Click for a printable copy

March 17, 2020

Tips for Parents Who are Homeschooling...Against Their Will

I know the thought of homeschooling your children may bring tears…and not tears of joy.  However, it doesn’t need to be stressful.  You just need a plan! Here are some tips that may help you and your child survive the long days ahead.

   1. Write out a daily schedule -This will help organize the materials needed and answer questions about upcoming assignments.  This will give you time to contact the teacher to clear up confusion about the activities.  I’m sure the teachers have given a list of assignments to complete during the time off.  Spread the assignments out if possible.  Here is an example of the schedule that I’m using with my granddaughter.  She loves pink, but I included a black and white version.

  Make sure to make a copy of the file before you start to edit.  

2.    Structure and Consistency-Your child has left an extremely structured environment and may need that structure in order to be successful with learning. Set up times for each subject area based on the length of the assignments.  Most students who have never had to self-pace their education will not learn automatically because we tell them to do so.  Once you find a schedule that works, keep with it. 

3.    Reflect and Debrief-Talk about the activities that were completed during the day.  Do you need to adjust the times for each subject area?  Do you NEED to contact the teacher for clarification? Do you need to supplement an activity with one of the many free programs that companies are offering? Discuss how the day went and what can be done tomorrow to make it better. 

4.    Plan for Breaks-Every moment of the day doesn’t need to be filled with work.  It’s okay to build in time for physical activity away from the computer. 

Stay healthy and enjoy these moments together!

January 26, 2020

December 17, 2019

Social-Emotional Activity Your Students Will Love!

This decade is almost in the books!  I like to create vision boards and make resolutions for the upcoming year and I also like for my students to do the same.  It’s important to me that I walk them through the process of what a goal is and how to achieve the goals they set.

 I discussed goal setting with my students and what character strengths we needed to develop in order to reach that goal.  This was the lead-in for them learning one word that would guide them throughout the goal making process.  

 You may be familiar with the One Word movement. The book One Word for Kids  (affiliate link) wasn't released until November, but I didn't want to wait.  You can read the book before completing any activities.  I will do this next school year!

The One Word movement is about picking one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. We put our one word on the bracelet so we could have a constant reminder of our vision or what we want to grow.   

  My Intent is another company that has a mission to support mindfulness and intention setting for students. I'm not an affiliate for the company, I just love the mission! 

They have an educator discount that’s 50% off the regular prices!  You submit an application and they will verify that you are an educator.  


My Intent Educator

 I have a wonderful aunt who donated money for me to buy supplies this year.  This was one of the purchases I made with the donation! 
(Thank you, Aunt Alexis!)

This activity involves quite a bit of discussion.  My Intent has a quiz you can have your students take to help them discover their word.  If you go through the quiz first, you can pull out words that your students may have a hard time understanding.  I made this my first lesson. We talked about what the words meant to help scaffold the learning.  We read picture books where the characters displayed certain traits. 

After discussing the words, the students took the quiz to help generate their word.  They made a list of five words from the final quiz. 

There is a page with a list of words as well if you just want your students to pick a word, but the vocabulary lesson is very beneficial. 
Word List

I told them they had to go home and sleep on their word before committing to One Word! 😊

The next day, we wrote all about our word…what it meant to us, why it’s important, and why we picked it.  I had my students type the rough draft in Google docs and share so we could work on editing and revising as they worked.  I like this process because some of my students give up if I keep sending them back to make more edits or revisions.  I also like enabling the speech-to-text feature on Google docs.  I tell my students that writing is just talking on paper.  Using this feature helps them to see that writing is easier than they think.  


The final copy is a handwritten piece.  They get practice with using the keyboard but also continuing to develop legible handwriting. 

After the final copy is completed, we watched a short video on how to make the bracelet.  This is an activity that takes time in order for the bracelets to look nice.  Since my students come to me for 50-minute segments, I scheduled two students each day to make a bracelet.  They knew who would make their bracelet each day so there was no rushing or mistakes because of the enthusiasm and they were excited!
Most of my students were extremely nervous because they didn’t want to make a mistake. 



I did this with fourth and fifth grade.  You can definitely complete the activity with 2nd or even 3rd graders, however, you may need to make the bracelet for them.