Friday, November 26, 2010

Fun Brain - The Grammar Gorillas

Fun brain is a site with many educational games for kids. It is a free site so doesn't have any bells and whistles.
The Grammar Gorillas asks kids to determine which part of speech a word is. I like that it has a beginner level and an advanced level. I also like that it asks them to find the part of speech in a sentence, not in a list of words. This way kids can see how the words are used in the 10 sentences they are given. Some words can be a noun when used one way, and a verb when used another. It makes them think a little bit harder and asks them to use their vocabulary knowledge as well as their part of speech knowledge. I also like that it has a list of helps so if you forget what a preposition or conjunction is you have the definition and examples right under where the question is.
I don't like the fact that the questions are so small and that there is really no positive feed back other than a number on a scoreboard. Kids will become board with this game quickly unless they are working toward some carrot. This is an easy fix. Parents have to provide the carrot by saying "If you get ________ questions right, then you can play ________." (for my son the carrot is a game of his choice on the internet for 15 to 20 minutes.) Make sure it is something they like. The other problem I see is the child picks the level. My son is FAMOUS for picking the easiest level that he has already mastered because it is easy and he doesn't have to think. This is why I have the computer in the kitchen and why computer time is when I am cooking or doing dishes. I'm also not a fan of the ads on the page, but that is how they make the games free.

Beginner Level

Wrong Answer -
I like that it teaches them what they did wrong up in the left corner. I just don't think that many kids will notice this unless someone points it out to them the first time it happens.

After they have answered the 10 questions they receive this certificate.

I recommend the beginner level for 1st and 2nd graders and the advanced level for 3rd and 4th graders. This game would be a great review game for 5th and 6th graders.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Buyer Beware!!

As this Christmas season approaches I have been researching toys for my kids. I am a BIG fan of educational toys and my kids really love learning. I was looking into the new Leapfrog learning systems and found that another blogger had written a review on the didj, their system for kids 5-10. I was excited because my son picks up on things pretty fast and I wanted a system that would grow with him. I don't mind buying him new games, I just don't want to buy a new system. They are expensive!
This blogger said that her child has one and she was disappointed because the older kid games were more like the Nintendo DS games, and didn't have a lot of education in them. Man. How sad. Why can't we make learning more fun for our older kids, not just our younger kids. Sure it is easier to have them jump along a given path with their ABC's then to create a program where they find the value of x or use a digital protractor to determine which triangles are right angles before they can go through the castle door to slay the dragon after answering his questions about a passage they read earlier.
Many games claim to be educational but really aren't. Talk to someone before you buy the game or look closely at what you are getting before you spend the money.
Here are some truly educational board games that I used in my classroom.

Totally Tut- This is a game that can be played with children as young as 8 but can be challenging for adults too. Your goal is to make every line in your pyramid equal to the number at the top. Younger kids use addition and subtraction, older kids use multiplication and division.

Doubles Wild - My second graders LOVED this game. They all fought over who would get to play it. This game teaches grid coordinates, and for older kids multiplication facts (which are very important to memorize!!!)

Bananagrams - This is game is just like Scrabble. It just doesn't have a board. Anyone can play. This would also be an easy game to make with your computer by just putting letters in boxes and cutting them out. Make their spelling words worth extra points!

Timing it Right - This game helps kids learn to tell time. You first role the dice, move your piece, make the clock show that time and then read what you get to do from the book. This is great for second graders. This is a difficult concept for them!!

Bike Racers - This great game helps build reading comprehension skills. It's works for up to 15 people and is a lot of fun.

Around the Garden - This is kind of like sorry. You have to guess the vocabulary word with the clues given. The less clues you use the more spaces you get to move. I had a parent make cards for this game so it fit with my students vocabulary words. It was great.

I found the last two games on the Lakeshore Learning site. I only wrote about the games I have played from this site but the others look great too.

Remember educational is a loosely used term to get people to buy something. It is easy to say the game is educational because it teaches strategy. While this is important it's not always what you are looking for. Make sure you do your homework so you aren't disappointed when you open that game for the first time and find out the education the game is teaching is colors for your 10 year old.

What educational games have you found that have helped your child learn something? What games have you found that claim to be educational but really weren't?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I found this as an ad on facebook. See it pays to look at those ads once in a while. You have to register for this site and give your child a name and password. The site was created by Dr. Martin Fletcher, a graduate from Michigan's School for Professional Psychology. He has created a fun world of brain-boosting games that help young kids get excited about learning.
This site teaches the reading basics. My son and I had fun exploring the free sections. There are two other sections that we weren't able to get into because we didn't pay the fee. What we did see was pretty neat though.

Kabongo begins by having a parent help register the child. This way the games cansee what they have mastered and can make the activities more difficult.

My son was excited to play and earn the rewards. I loved that the first reward was immediate. After the game is explained the child then gets that chance to prove they know what they are doing. As soon as they do it right they receive a reward ( a sticker for their comic book, a section of their skate park).

My son really enjoyed these games. I also found the subscription very cheep. They are doing a deal where you can unlock galaxy garden for just 7.95. You pay once and play forever.

I haven't seen how difficult this site gets yet but I recommend this site for Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st. Some second graders would also benefit reviewing with these games.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Squanky the Tooth Taker Tooth Tally

My son and I found this game on the Game Goo site. It helps kids identify synonyms using a character that many of them know. The "Tooth Fairy." Each one of the Goo Games begins with a little story to get the kids interested. They then teach them what they want them to do and show them how to do it. This is great because they can be independent and so that Parents aren't guessing while their kids wait patiently (whining) as Mom figures it out so she can show them what to do.

Squanky the Tooth Taker Tooth Tally starts with a story of the tooth fairy coming to get the tooth of a group of children camping that have just lost some teeth. The goal of the game is to get as many teeth as you can for the tooth fairy without the kids seeing him. If the child picks the wrong word on the tooth the game teaches them what the answer should have been.

Kids need to have a basic understanding of vocabulary to play this game so they can they also need to be able to read fairly well.
The game has 2 different levels and in each game to make sure the child knows what they are talking about they have added antonyms in as one of the choices so the child has to think "Does this word mean the same as the word in the box or is it the opposite?" At the end of each level the child gets to put the 5 teeth they collected in a beavers mouth. To find out what happens once his mouth is full you will just have to play it yourself. I will tell you that it is pretty funny.

I love that this game is educational, free, and that it it entertaining. I don't like that there are so few words in their word bank that it is easy for kids to just memorize the answers so they can get the reward. If they would add more words and levels that became more challenging as thy went on this game would be amazing.

I recommend this game for an advanced 1st grader, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade. Some 4th graders might even enjoy just playing and reviewing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I just saw this article on KSL and thought it was very appropriate. It is very important that we volunteer and help out in our children's or even local elementary schools. The kids need us.
Due to the fact that more and more parents are being forced to work outside the home due to financial strain schools are shouldering the burden of raising the kids in many situations. This puts teachers in difficult positions as they try to mass raise children who will be able to contribute to society. We need to help more. I do not currently have children in school but I help out where I can. I can't go in because I come with little ones and from a teacher's stand point that generally is not a good thing. It's too much of a distraction to the kids who need to be learning. I have however told the teachers at the local school that I am willing to help them from home by cutting and preparing things for them so they will have more time to work with and teach the kids.
My local school has even asked for grandparents to come and read with the kids. You don't have to have a child in the schools to help out. Remember it's your community and you make it what you want it to be. The more you help and contribute the better off it will be.

Local PTA asks for more help
October 20th, 2010 @ 9:15am
By Mary Richards

DAVIS COUNTY -- A Davis County PTA is begging parents to step up. It says it's in danger of losing valuable programs for schools.

The Davis Central Council PTA has eight schools in the Layton and Kaysville area. But the dues are down considerably because there isn't a high enough percentage of PTA membership at some of those schools. That means it may lose its standing with the national PTA organization.

Those dues go to great programs like Red and Green Ribbon weeks, Battle of the Bands, and Reflections, says Nicole Miller, the president of the Central Council PTA.

"I know our Legislature often can't find enough money for arts and education, and I think it's great that the PTA can bring this to children," says Miller about Reflections.

She says Red Ribbon Week teaches valuable information about drugs.

"Sometimes we as a society leave it up to others to teach the dangers of drugs and alcohol. What a wonderful thing to come to the school and discuss it for a whole week," she says.

That's why she's worried about the situation. Miller says she knows it's hard for many families to pay even just $5 in dues right now, so it is asking for volunteers too.

"If that's all parents can afford right now is time, we'd love the gift of time," she says. "Sometimes that's even more precious than the money."

It is asking for three hours over a school year, which could mean 15 minutes here and there helping with a booth or reading in a classroom.

She hopes this is also a call for parents and grandparents anywhere in Utah to help out at their schools too.

"I would love for you to come out in swarms, and even if you've already paid dues maybe you can pay an extra $5 to sponsor a family that can't afford it. If you can't do that, then give of your time," says Miller.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Food Pyramid

Eating healthy is important but not always an easy thing to convince your kids to do. I somehow got lucky. My kids favorite vegetable is broccoli. Many of my friends didn't though. My son's friend won't eat anything unless it is one of 5 things, and not many of them are fruits and vegetables.
I found this neat website with a game that teaches kids what happens when they eat healthy. If they do it right their rocket blasts off to a planet where they can print off a certificate saying that they know how to eat healthy. It plans their meals for the day and lets them choose what they would like to eat. It's pretty fun. It won't entertain them for a long time but it will help start a discussion on health eating or reinforce what was taught.

Launch Game

Grade: B
Ages: K-3

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Parent Teacher Conference

I wanted to post this last week because I know that Parent Teacher Conferences are coming up but we have been dealing with sick children. We love cold and flu season. Send extra tissues and hand sanitizer with your kids for the next few months. Teacher burn through these like crazy this time of year.
Parent teacher conferences is a stressful yet fun time. The kids never know what the teachers are going to say, the teachers have to spent HOURS preparing, and then there are the parents nerves wondering what they are going to tell you about your child.
Let me start by saying the teacher generally sees a very different child in school than you see at home. When I talk to parents and tell them I have a hard time getting their child to answer questions at school they looked shocked because I have the child that is never quiet at home. This is normal. Kids act different in different situations. Just make sure their behavior isn't a problem.

When I was a new teacher I had a principal tell me that parent teacher conference was a time to celebrate the child and their accomplishments which is what I strived to do with each child. We saved important papers to show parents and just had fun. We also addressed minor problems in the goals that we set.

It's also a chance to talk about their grades. Most schools send home the grades either before the conference or ask you to look at them on-line. I suggest you do this weekly not just at the end of the term. By the end of the term it's too late to fix the problems like missing work or poorly completed projects. I really wish they would hold these conferences at mid-term, not the end of the term. So many problems could be avoided.

When I was student teaching a child had gone from all 4's (or A's) in 4th grade to 2's (or D's) in 5th. It wasn't because she didn't understand the work but because everything was late and the teacher I was working with had a strict late policy. If it was late they received half credit. The parent's were not pleased. Make sure you know the teacher and the school's policies to avoid this problem. It wasn't pretty for me or the teacher.

Remember be kind to the teacher. They are in for a LONG, LONG week because not only do they have kids all day (or half the day) they also have to be at the school until 7:00 at night then go home and take care of their own families. If there is a major problem schedule a different time to discus it. Maybe the teacher made a mistake (Yes, this does happen. I have made many on grades as I attempted to get everything in quickly sometimes something get missed.). Give them time to fix or look up these problems. You are your child's advocate but that doesn't mean you can abuse and yell at the teacher.

Which brings me to my next point. Be kind and respectful to the teacher!!!! Do not tell your student how stupid the teacher is, how horrible they are when they make a mistake or do something you don't agree with in front of the teacher or in front of the student. Everyone needs to vent. Vent to another adult not your child!!!! If you say it to your child it gives them a reason not to listen or respect the teacher which ultimately will hurt your child because if they aren't listening, they aren't learning. If you have a problem with the way the teacher is doing something, first talk to them, if that doesn't work take it to the principal.
I understand that not all teachers are perfect. I have worked with teachers and said to my husband that my child will never be in their class. I also know that for some people I was that teacher because they didn't like how I did things. That's just life. You can't please everyone.

Finally, listen to the teacher. If they are bring up something like "they like to talk to their neighbor" or "we are having a problem with name calling" it is a BIG problem. Teacher's know that kids need to be kids and don't normally bring up the little things. All kids talk to their neighbor, all kids call names, and all kids hit once in a while. If the teacher brings it up at parent teacher conference it's a big problem and it's time to get involved with your child at home. There are easy ways to do this. You can start by asking your child how much of a problem it really is and then set a goal to work on it. It helps to have a relationship with your child where they feel comfortable telling you the truth so don't yell at them. If it's something that needs a consequence do so but tell them it's to help them remember not to do it again. Ask them about their goal daily. Put a note in the car or by the door to remind you to ask them about it each day. Don't try to fix it for them make them own the problem and have them be responsible for fixing it (with your help and guidance of course). Discuss how they did each day and how they can do better. This works with any goals that will be made at parent teacher conference. Why make a goal if you aren't going to work on it?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Website Review - Game Goo

I found this site with my son as I was looking for a phonic site that he could play on. This site makes lots of weird noises that or course my little boy just loves. It is full of fun educational games. I love the fact that it has different levels that challenge the kids. It goes from basic matching capital and lowercase letters to spelling words that they hear. It has funny creatures that go with teach game. The best part is there are NO AD's on this site so there aren't any crazy things for them to click on that will take them to a different site without you knowing.
I wish I could pull over a picture of the site but my computer did an update and it won't let me do that anymore so until I figure out how to take screen shots on a mac you will just have to view them for yourself.
Ages: pre-K - 2
Grade: A+
Cost: Nothing

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Word lists

I have been looking on-line for word lists and found some really good ones that I like. I have put them together so all you have to do is print them out. The one I have today is for a Pre-Primer reader. A pre-primer reader is a child that knows all their letter names and their sounds. They have also begun to put the sounds together to make one sound. It's kind of hard to give an example in writing but I will try. C A T (they are just saying the sounds) A pre-primer reader begins to put those sounds together slowly C A T and then they get faster so it comes out as one sound CAT.

Pre-Primer words from and a 1st grade teacher





























































The other document I have posted is a memory math game. I was working with my 4 year old and boy do we have a huge hole in his learning. He doesn't know what the number symbols are after 10 (he doesn't know 11 on up). He can almost count to 100 but man did I miss a major part of his math learning. This is a memory game that shows the numbers in the 3 forms we use, number words, symbols (4, 5, 9) and in an amount. I used a 10 grid to for the number amount because that is how we commonly see amounts in school. Teachers really want kids to be able to look at a group in an organized manner (like a 10 grid) an know exactly how many items are there. It's kind of like looking at the dots on dice but this works all the way to 10 not just 6.

Memory Game






































Monday, September 27, 2010

Parts of Speech

Nouns, Verbs, Pronouns, Adjectives
Can you remember and define each of these or do you run to the internet each time your child comes home with an assignment where they have to locate these in a sentence?
I wanted a fun way to teach parts of speech so I searched the internet and found some fun ways.
First of all I love to use Mad libs.
Mad libs can be done either on-line or on paper. When kids understand (usually late 2nd grade, early 3rd grade). I like to give them a passage from their Reading book or from an encyclopedia and have them create their own mad libs for their friends.
Here's one that I made up.
You always make a list of the parts of speech first. It's not as much fun to fill in the blank with something that makes sense. It's more fun to make crazy sentences.
Noun __________
Temperature __________
Verb ___________
Adjective __________
Adjective _____________
Direction _____________
Verb _______________
Noun ______________
Fill these in first. Don't cheat! Then scroll down to the passage and fill in your answers for a funny mad lib.

You make _____1_____ on ______2______ days without even knowing it. When you ________3______out warm, _______4____ air, it _____5_____
in front of you and briefly ______6_____ a little _______7_______.

Here's the real passage. I got this from my "Science Is" book that is full of fun science experiments.

You make clouds on cold days without even knowing it. When you breathe out warm, moist air, it cools in front of you and briefly forms a little "cloud".

Here are some sites that I found that have mad libs. I have not checked all the mad libs on these sites so make sure you do these with your child so you can make sure they are age appropriate. - I really like this site. They have a huge variety of age appropriate mad libs and the kids have to do all the thinking. - This one is better for older kids. Parent caution needed! - This site gives you a list of words that fit the part of speech or you can type in an answer.
Printable Mad libs - These would be lots of fun to do on long car trips

You can also purchase mad lib books from scholastic book orders. They have one or a packet or 5 for pretty cheep. This is how I got mine. I don't let my kids write in them. We do them on another piece of paper or use a dry erase marker and small whiteboard. We then share them with our family.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


My husband and I have a big decision to make concerning our 4 year old. Our son turns 4 tomorrow. He is quite the smarty pants. He has known all his letter names since he was 2, learned all the letter sounds around 2 1/2 and at 3 1/2 he began to read small words and short books with help. He can count to 100 with someone reminding him of what 10 comes next and is learning to add numbers together. He can count backwards from 10 and possibly 20. We haven't really tried that. So what do you do with a child like this.

Teacher - From a teachers stand point I would love a classroom full of this child. He loves to learn and go, go, go. He does shut down when things get to be too difficult but that is something that a little confidence will help with. I would not however want one or two of these kids in a classroom with kids that are on or below grade level because you don't know what to do with them. They are ready before the other kids and you constantly have to keep them going with new activities. An activity that should take the class 20 minutes could take him 5. You defiantly have to have an "I'm done now what" kit for these kids. I also would use these kids to help other kids complete projects or pass out papers. I know full well that I'm not helping them meet their full potential but because I have 28-30 kids in one room that I am responsible for I have to concentrate there. Those kids are smart and will make it.
Parent - As his mom I don't want him to become a behavior problem because he is bored in school, I don't want him to be the teacher's helper and pass out papers or help other students when he is done, and I don't want him being punished with extra work because he finishes faster than the other kids. I don't agree with kids skipping grades. It does too much damage socially. He is also ready for Kindergarten right now and can't go for 2 more years. I don't want him to lose that love of learning by holding him back but I don't want him to be bored in school.

Possible solutions
1. We start doing the kindergarten curriculum now after testing him with the local school's Kindergarten test to make sure he is ready and I homeschool him for Math and Reading until we can get him into a spectrum program (which usually starts at 3rd grade.)
2. We wait and hope he doesn't lose that love of learning or get too frustrated when things become difficult and just send him with his peers.
3. We find a school that levels for math and reading and cross our fingers that in 2 years when we put his name on the list and hope we get in.

It frustrates me that schools aren't better equipped to deal with kids like my son. As a teacher I always heard about children with disabilities and how I needed to make sure I made accommodations for them so they could reach their full potential. What about those that are gifted and learn quickly? Do we assign them "busy work" so they begin to hate finishing quickly so we can keep them working? We need to come up with a better system that meets all the needs of the students.
I don't agree with moving kids to another grade because academically they can handle it. What about socially? Last year I was a part of a team that was deciding if a first grader could move to second grade. She had the smarts but socially she couldn't handle it. The first grade teacher and I told the parents it wasn't a good idea. They did it anyways. The child was a major behavior problem the rest of the year.
We need another option. We are slowly failing our kids with the system we have now and exhausting out teachers as they try to meet the individual needs of 30+ students. What if we grouped kids by their ability level. Now I know this has been done before and that many people will be upset if we do it again, but honestly I would rather have my slower child (and yes I have one of those) in a classroom with less children and a teacher that has the time to give them the attention that they need then in a classroom where they are going to continually fall behind because the teacher doesn't have the time to help them. This way I don't have to force a child that struggles and doesn't like school to suffer through 4 hours of homework because they didn't know how to do it at school. I know it is hard hearing that your child struggles. I'd even compare it to hearing that your child has some disease. Once you know your child is sick you can then begin to do everything possible to treat it. It's the same with education. Once you know there is a problem you can do something about it and your child can learn. Not every child learns the same way and not every teacher teaches the same way. Let's start matching up our kids with the teacher that will help them reach their full potential. Let's have them keep that teacher longer than a year so they can get to know the child well enough to know how they learn and can help them through their primary education. Let's make a change.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Germs - Science experiment

My family and I have really gotten into Mythbusters lately. It's this crazy show where the hosts try out the myths. The one we watched today showed them trying to beat a policeman's radar gun. Nothing worked just in case you were wondering.
They did one a little while ago about how colds spread. It was very creative. I have seen and taught this using glitter before (the janitors loved me the day we did this :) I put glitter on my hands and went around touching kids just like normal. Then we talked about how germs spread and looked at all the glitter around the classroom. I told the kids that it was germs and that they could now all get sick. It was fun but part way through the activity the kids began to wonder why there was glitter all over the classroom.
Mythbusters used a solution ( like black light paint) that only shows up in a black light. They rigged up a runny nose then hosted a party. 3 people at the party knew what was going on and were trying to not get the "germs" and 3 didn't so they just acted normal. They ended the party after about 30 minutes and told everyone what was going on and turned on the black light. They then hosted another party where the host avoided contact with his guests by having others pass out the supplies. The results were amazing but you'll have to try it to find out what happens.
I was thinking that you could do this with black light paint. It would be difficult to make an automatic runny nose so try applying it to you hands every once in a while and watch the germs spread. Host a small party and see what happens. Make sure you do everything else the same in both parties. If you have the cups stacked in one, have them stacked in the second. This is the control and will help you determine if it limiting contact with others when you are sick helps stop the spread of germs. Take pictures and record your results.
Do you think you could stop the germs from spreading if you avoid contact with others or are the germs going to spread no matter what?
Glow sticks might also work. Just remember don't stick your hands in or near your mouth. This stuff is not good to eat!! This is an older kids science experiment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chocolate Math

I had to post this one too. It was just too funny.
Chocolate Math
et's sum it up: I cannot add.
Finding a difference drives me mad.
I hate remainders and it's true,
Multiplication makes me blue.

Those plastic sticks just don't do it.
Who thought that up really blew it.
We'll do well with a new device,
These M&Ms will be real nice.

This subject now will be a treat
As Chocolate Math is really sweet!
I'll be an adder who never misses
While adding piles of chocolate kisses.

Here's a device found at the store:
Ten Tootsie Rolls, and I'll eat four.
Then I'll say, "I still have six."
With Chocolate Subtraction Tricks.

Now division can be done in haste
When it's done with a little taste.
With remainders I'll have a ball,
I'll pick them up and eat them all.

To multiply we will be able
To put some chocolate on the table.
Two candy bars times four are eight. (ate)
That product we'll assimilate.

If teachers would not preach and nag
But assign our homework from a bag,
All students could be math fanatics
By using Chocolate Mathematics.

—Grandpa Tucker
Copyright ©1998 Bob Tucker


Poems can be a fun way to practice handwriting. I once had a one of my professors tell me that we should never have kids practice their handwriting and have them create something on their own. I agree. It is too difficult for them to think about what to write and how to write. I have some great writing tips from a Spalding course that I took that I will post as soon as I find them. They are safe in a file somewhere.
I really like Grandpa Tucker's poems. They are fun to read. Most have jokes toward the end and many have to do with topics that the kids are learning about. The best part is they are free. I see that you can now purchase them in a book from amazon as well.

I like this poem. It would be fun to have your kids practice the "Best handwriting" with this poem then give it to their teacher to say thanks for all they are doing.

You can find this poem and more like it at

A Thank You Hiss

Sammy Snake says, "No one's so dear
As a dedicated volunteer.
The ones who come to school each day,
Who work for love and not for pay.

They do so many different tasks,
Most anything our teacher asks.
Like help us write and cut and stuff
And then in math when it gets tough!

They help us do the bulletin board,
A smile from us is their reward.
For they do know, for goodness sake,
It's hard to be a student snake.

We hand them homework every day.
They type and file our things away.
Then sort the mail for everyone
To take back home when day is done.

We're glad they're here, they're really great!
We little snakes appreciate
The ones who spend their time like this.
We hope they like our thank you hissss."

-Grandpa Tucker
Copyright ©2000 by Bob Tucker


Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Did you know that it is now a Utah law that you can't use sweets (candy, cupcakes, brownies yummy) in Utah classrooms? Most teachers don't really follow this rule. Some still reward their students with candy. When I was first told that I couldn't use food in my classroom without getting the parents to sign a note I was nervous. I didn't use food too much. Well except for my Super way cool Hersey bar fraction bar demonstration. I'll have to tell you about that some day. It worked VERY well!!
I survived. I used other rewards with my students. They survived. We teach our kids to be healthy then feed them junk. Now I am not against junk food. My kids get their fair share (and sneak more from their secret stashes then I know about). As I have said before all things in moderation. Too much of a good this is still too much.
I have thought of a few different ways you can celebrate your child's birthday without using food in the classroom. Last year I had a parent pay for an assembly for the whole second grade. She asked me what we were learning about, found something that correlated and set it all up.
The kids loved it. We happened to be learning about animals at the time so she contacted a group called scales and tails that brought in snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. It was so neat. This can become pretty expensive but if a room mom got all the parents together, everyone could spend what they would normally spend on cupcakes for everyone and the kid would get a wonderful learning experience.
You could also come in and teach something for the class. Teach them a neat art project, about a far off place that you have been too, donate a game or book to the class, or teach them a fun game to get them moving. There are many other things that you could do to celebrate your child's birthday at school. Just be creative. If you need more ideas let me know and I will do some research and see what I can find.

Monday, September 13, 2010


We are going to talk about food for a minute. My family likes to eat spaghetti for dinner every once in a while and I'm just not very good at it. I either add too much spice, or too little. I'm not a huge fan the tomato taste in spaghetti and I have to work to get the balance just right so we can taste the spice but it doesn't over power us (or others) when we eat.
Now lets talk about school assemblies and parties. I like to think of this as the spice of the school. Kids are going to get the reading, math, science, social studies, ect. everyday. They spend around 6 hours in their desks learning, writing, creating, sharing, and problem solving. Assemblies offer a brake from normal routine. Unfortunately many schools, and parents, no longer see this as a need. I have heard parents complain about their child having too many assemblies in the school year and when I ask how many they have had they say something like 2 in the past 3 months. I have worked at 3 schools and we never had too many assemblies. Ok well maybe during the Christmas season and the end of the year but it's so hard to get kids to learn when they are excited about those things. I could count the number of assemblies that we went to on 1 hand at the last school I worked at. Assemblies also give the teacher something to hangover their students' head so they will accomplish a project.
I understand that these can be costly but I know of many places that will come and do things for free or at a discount for schools like high schools. I have seen many great assemblies on bullying and other social skill topics from high school students.
Just like spice these can become excessive. One a week is probably too many unless they are all learning assemblies like the assemblies that teach kids how to be drug free, and about stranger danger. These are great assemblies especially when the teacher talks with the class about it afterwards. Choirs are fun and can be educational if they teach a little about music, or if the teacher teaches about beat, rhythm, or other musical aspects before they come.
Parties can be educational if they are centered around a concept or topic the kids just learned about.
We also need to let kids be kids and just have fun. Yes, school needs to be fun. I know many adults can't sit day after day in a small space only with their 2, 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch without taking a few minutes to make a phone call, get on facebook, or play an online game to boost their moral. We need to break things up a little bit and give kids that same opportunity. This will decrease behavior problems and help kids enjoy school again.
Remember assemblies are the spice of education and we need to find that balance. Taking them away completely or doing them all the time are not good options but having 1 or 2 a month would be helpful and is someways more educational.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekend Website Review - Starfall

I love This is a great site and I give it the credit for teaching my oldest how to read at 3 years old.

ABC's Let's get ready to read
The site starts out by introducing the alphabet. The kids click on a letter where they see the capital and lowercase letter. As the letters come up they hear the sound the letter makes. They are then given pictures and words that start with that letter. The final screen is something fun like a video of cats singing the ABC's or a little game.
Learn to Read
This section concentrates and 4 letter words that follow a pattern like the an family. Kids are given a picture and asked to fill in the first letter according to the sound they hear when they say the word. They are also given fun videos and books to read. The videos teach about the rules of english like "Y can be a Vowel." The books use the words they just learned in the exercise.
It's Fun to Read
This section helps them improve their reading vocabulary by letting them create something in it's environment. My son likes the "All About Me!" section. Her he can learn words about our house. He also gets to make a picture of himself. He likes to make himself look silly.

I'm Reading
Finally there's the I'm Reading section. Kids can pick a section from the library and read a book on-line. If they get stuck they can just click on the word and the computer will help them out. They are also given a list of words that will help them read the book so they go into the book prepared.

This site has many resources like a download center where you can print off reading and writing journals along with other printables. They also just released their own kindergarten curriculum if you choose to homeschool your child.

I give this site an A+ and recommend it for kids 8 and younger.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lunch Time

As I was making lunch for my kids I began to think about school lunch. Did you know that most of your child's school lunch is either traded, or thrown away? It's true. I've watched it happen many times. As my second graders would walk down the hall to the lunchroom I would hear the whispers of "I have grapes and I'll trade you for the twinki." The kids that were the best traders could end up with all junk food for lunch if they played their cards right. Most schools have a lunchroom monitor that is suppose to be watching for this, but with all the budget cuts many have done away with it to save money or only have 1 or 2 in a huge lunchroom with up to 3 or 4 hundred kids. You can help. Go have lunch with your child. Your son or daughter will love it. You can then help with the monitoring process and make sure everyone eats their own lunch.

**With all the allergies that kids have trading lunches can be dangerous for some kids. If your child does have an allergy make sure they know what they can and can't eat and how important it is that they don't trade their food with other kids.**

If you can't go eat lunch with you student for whatever reason they are some other tricks you can do to help make sure your child eats all their lunch. Even the healthy stuff.

1. Ask them what they ate for lunch - Talking about it is a great way to open the door. Make sure they understand what you expect of them. If you don't mind that they trade their sandwich for another one let them know that. They will be more open if they know what you expect.

2. Let them help with the whole lunch making process from picking what will be in their lunch box at the store to making it the night before. They will be more likely to eat it when they have a choice in what goes in it.

3. Hide something special in their lunch - This can be a note, hide a banana in their peanut butter sandwich. When they get home ask them if they had anything strange in their lunch that day. If they tell you then you will know they at least ate some of their food. If they say no you can remind them where you stand on trading food and throwing food away and the importance of eating healthy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Public vs. Charter Schools

I have hear about this debate each time a new charter school opens, or when a new school year begins. I thought I would put in my 2 cents. I have worked for a school district and for 2 different charter schools.


Content - what is taught. The public schools follow the state standards. IF the teacher has time they can throw in something else like a dinosaur unit, art, extra Science. This is a big IF. Most teachers don't have extra time because they are trying to just finish what the state requires, and help catch up those that have missed something along the way. Charter schools have a speciality like Spanish, Art and Music, Core Knowledge, Science, or something else. This means that they put special emphasis on that subject and teach more of it. So instead of the teacher coming up with other things to teach when they have finished the state curriculum the charter tells you what you will teach, and generally it is emphasized through out the year. Teachers have to be more creative with their time and combine subjects. For example I had my students draw a picture of their animal in the appropriate habitat. They had to use their best drawing and coloring skills and it had to be accurate, not just a monkey living in the desert. This was an art and science lesson.

Volunteering - Charter schools require a certain amount of volunteer hours each school year. This is generally on a per family basis not per child. Parents can volunteer either from home or by coming into the classroom. Public schools ask for help but don't require it. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. From the teacher's perspective I have had parents coming in my classroom and telling me how to do my job. That is frustrating. It was also a nice thing because I knew that all of my parents needed to complete 30 hours of service to the school, so I could ask any of them for help. Most of the time they were ready to jump. I was able to have parents come in and read with kids giving them the one-on-one time they needed to succeed. If I didn’t have those volunteers they wouldn’t have gotten that. From a parent's perspective - I like to be involved in what my children are learning. I also like to know the teachers so when my child comes home with a wild story about how their teacher called them dumb I know the teacher's personality and will know wether it was in fun, or intentional. (I have heard stories of this happening believe it or not.) I once knew a teacher that said I won't believe everything I hear at school, if you won't believe everything you hear at home.

Distance - Charter schools are usually a lot farther away from your house then the public school.


Kids - You will still get a mix of good kids, and bad kids, smart kids and kids that need extra help.

Teachers - You will still get good teachers that you love, and teacher you would rather not have.

Administration - You will still get an administration that is either great to work with or horrible to work with.

So the decision really comes down to what you think is best for your child and what you want them to learn so they will have the tools they need to succeed in life. I have horror stories from each school I worked at. Remember that was 1 public school and 2 charter schools.

The biggest problem I am seeing with the charter school movement is a division between parents. Some parents think their child is "better" then those that go to regular school. I have even had a parent call me a traitor because I had decided to teach at a charter school instead of the public school. Having seen both sides of the debate I don't know what I will choose for my kids. It depends on the child. Who knows maybe all 3 will go to different schools that fit their needs or maybe all 3 will go to the local school by my house. An education is what you make of it. Others play a big role in that, but it's still up to you and your child. Just remember you will encounter the same girl fights, mean kids, name calling, ect. no matter where your kids go to school.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weekend Website Review

I wanted to have this up yesterday, but it just wasn't my day. Too many kids running around my house all day so I couldn't get to it. That's what happens when we have play dates :)
I have decided to highlight UEN's website (Utah Education Network). This is a great site for teachers, parents, and students. It has something for everyone. Teachers can find educational materials, videos, lesson plans, ect. that go along with the Utah curriculum.
Parents can look at the core curriculum (This answers the question what should my child be learning in ___ grade) and make sure your kids are on track and help them catch up if they are missing any concepts.

Kids. This is a great site for kids. There are educational games for every grade on this site. They are so fun. My kids love them. There are also resources that can be used to research topics for papers. My favorites are the Student interactives
K-2 Interactives
3-6 Interactives
7-12 Interactives

I give this site an A+ and recommend it. It is user friendly and has something for everyone.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homework Blues

I was talking to a couple of parents at my husbands work yesterday and they were talking about homework troubles. Both of them were sharing horror stories about trying to get their kids to do homework. I use to work with kids that would do the same thing. My kids are not in school yet and out of the 3 of them I think my little girl will give me the most problems. My first piece of advise is be consistent. Set a time and have a routine so they know what is going to happen and when. Remember they have just spent hours at school doing assignments and generally shouldn't be spending more than 10 minutes per grade level on homework (ex: if they are in 3rd grade they should only be spending about 30 minutes, 4th grade 40 minutes ect.) I don't include their 20 minutes of reading in this time. Some kids may have to spend more time on homework. If my students chose to play at school they had to do their work at home or at recess depending on when they decided to stop working. If they are spending more then this consistently then you should talk to their teacher. I believe that homework isn't to teach them a new concept, its to review what they already know, and to spark up a discussion between the child and the parent about what they are learning.
I remember that when I was in school we came home, had a snack, then got the homework done. If we didn't get the homework done we didn't get to go play with friends.
I have dealt with some pretty stubborn kids. This gets very frustrating because you want to go get your things done. One child I worked with refused to do anything. Wouldn't do their work, wouldn't talk to me, nothing. I made it very clear that I was ready and willing to help but I wasn't going to let them waste my time. When they wanted to talk and work I would be there but until they were ready I was going to get other things done. I told the child that they had to stay at the table until their work was done, then left to do another task still keeping the child in my sight so they couldn't sneak away. This gives them time to think about their choices without me trying to force them to do it. One thing I have learned is that you can't force a child to do something they don't want to do. You can however manipulate the situation so they will choose to get their work done. It's hard but you have to stick to it. The child eventually decided to complete the task and didn't need any help in doing so. She did however decided to sit and waste 10 minutes. We always talk about it afterwords so they can learn from their mistakes and hopefully things will get better later on. It took a little while of teaching the child that I wasn't going to budge just because she refused to do it. She did learn and was great at doing her homework from then on.
I was also talking to my grandma yesterday about kids as well. She is helping some family members out right now and has kids living in her house. She made the comment that when the kids' mom is there, they don't clean up and they fight, but when their mom is at work they put their dishes in the sink and are kind to each other. That's the same thing these parents said about getting their kids to do homework. Other's could help them but when mom came to help it was World War III. Many parents have this problem.
I have this problem. I can't get my little girl to do anything when she gets in a mood. She won't let me help, she won't listen, and she won't complete the assigned task. Many fits are thrown. But if her uncle asks, just once, she jumps up and does it. Sometimes the parent just has to step back and have someone else help for a little while. Just to maintain their own sanity. Both of these mom's are talking about hiring a tutor which is another option. If you don't/can't do that then remember to do what you think is best to handle the situation. I recommend setting a routine, don't give in to the stubbornness, and it should eventually (hopefully) work out to be a nice time to discuss what your child is learning.