Monday, July 8, 2019

Superhero Teachers!

I woke up at 4:30 today and turned on my local news.  There was a terrible story about an abusive teacher.  Heartbreaking.  It's now 11:43 and I've read 2 additional negative stories about educators.  Makes me sad but I know there are so many uplifting stories out there and since I heard 3 negative, I'm bringing you 3 positive!  Enjoy!

(Imagine the impact this teacher has had on these kids for them to gift him with Broadway tickets!)

I love reading about Superhero Teachers and it reminds me once again that not all superheroes wear capes!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

John's Journal (3 Books About Apollo 11)

Guest Post: John is a K-5 Media Specialist, history buff, author, and my oh-so-sweet husband. He's going to post weekly book reviews/finds here. 

Fifty years ago this July, I was in the living room of a rented beach house in Belmar, NJ watching the spectacular events of the first moon landing and moon walk unfold on a small flickering black and white TV across the room as was millions of other people around the country and the world. Yet somehow, I was watching history being made – alone! 

Even as a six year old I couldn't believe that I was the only one who seemed interested at the time. Where was everyone?! The beach? Porch? Backyard? Gone fishing??  I still don’t know! I did know that is was cool – and it fascinated me for years to come. I collected anything that I could about the Apollo program – newspaper articles, toys, plastic model kits, and of course, books. 

There are numerous books that have been published and many stories told over the years, and of course as the Apollo 11 mission celebrates fifty years, there are many new ones to honor and commemorate the event. I’m familiar with several wonderful editions about the Apollo program for young readers, but the three above stand out as favorites.

Earthrise is my favorite of the three...

To see more illustrations from the talented Christy Lundy, visit this page. 

Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone with Illustrations by Christy Lundy is one of my favorite picture books of the past year. It tells the story of one of the most iconic and famous photographs ever taken – the Earth from the viewpoint of the Apollo 8 astronauts orbiting the moon. 1968 was a time of tremendous unrest and turmoil in the world - wars, political uncertainty and racial strife. The photograph taken by astronaut ----- as the spacecraft was probing the surface of the moon showed the Earth from far away – a planet not with maps or borderlines, but a place where all humans lived as one. The story is told with clear and concise text; there are not technical and scientific details, instead the story is focused on the astronauts traveling to explore the moon and then being able to take the photograph. The illustrations use muted tones and colors and a style that is reminiscent of the late 60’s. I also noted that many of the illustrations that showed gatherings of people watching the mission on TV contained many people of color which adds to the significance of the period in time.  As a read aloud this books can operate on many levels – it tells a story that was significant to mankind and was a prelude to further amazing feats in the space program; for older children, it can be a lesson on artistic style and symbolism for a spectacular scientific event in a turbulent period in human history. 

Visit this section of Brian's website to see more of his art from the book.  

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca is a visually stunning and great narrative of the first landing on the moon and the process it took to plan and carry out the historic mission. The author is also a Caldecott-winning artist (Locomotive). The illustrations carry the story along – even for the earliest readers, but the book is also an excellent  read-aloud story for all ages as the narrative builds throughout – similar it an actual countdown before lift-off. All three Apollo 11 astronauts are treated as main characters – as well as they should considering the dangerous and daring mission that they completed. This is a great example of narrative nonfiction that reads like an adventure story. For readers who want to know more, there is adequate space at the end of the book that contains facts and figures related to the entire Apollo program.

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh – In all of human history, the NASA space missions are all to be considered the true example of teamwork. The astronauts were naturally the focal points and the “stars” of the missions, but it took thousands and thousands of dedicated and talented people from varied walks of life all working towards the same goal to actually make it happen. The Apollo 11 mission exemplified the ultimate goal and in this book: landing on the moon – we learn about contributions from  seamstresses (who carefully sewed layers and layers of fabric to make the space suits), engineers, scientists, photographers, navigation experts, telescope designers, and of course members of mission control who all demonstrated expertise in their field to get the astronauts to the moon and back – an amazing accomplishment still do this day. Team Moon is an attractive non-fiction book for all ages as it contains an abundance of photographs, however I feel that this would be more suitable for middle grade students – it works well as narrative non-fiction and is perfect for a book talk – about the Apollo 11 mission of course, but also as an example of the true meaning of teamwork.
This was published in 2006 with a recent reprinting.

Read on!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Simplified Job Board

When I started teaching, I had the cutest job board for my First Graders.  It was a large tool kit with names on wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, etc.  I loved it. The kids loved it.

For about two seconds.

The problem for ME?

1. Organization. I never rotated it like I should have and kids would keep same jobs forever.  I'm pretty organized but I just never had the time to put into maintaining it.

2. I often had to create jobs that pretty much weren't that good or needed to be done just occasionally just so everyone would have one.

The problem for my students? They complained.  A lot.  "When do I get to be line leader?" "When can I be the messenger?" "No fair."  "I never ever get to sharpen the pencils."

I know it's a small problem to have in life but it honestly stressed me out. My sister, who teaches Kindergarten, introduced me to ONE or TWO helpers a day!  My problems were over.


I prefer two helpers a day...My Cool Cats!  They do EVERYTHING needed that day.  This way, they pretty much get to experience all the cool jobs every 10-12 days depending how many kids are in your class.  (They take turns being line leader/caboose each time we leave room.)

In the beginning of the year, I go over the rules and have them color in a cat after I type names in.  In my packet, you can have kids color cats or print out ones ready to go.  At the end of the day, I let the kids take a certificate and use special crayons or markers to color in.  Just another way parents can see what their children are up to in school that day.

An added bonus: this takes up so much less space in my teeny tiny room!

For those of you that can have a rotating job board and maintain it...hats off to you!  For the rest of you, I feel your pain!

Have a great day!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Would You Want Your Child To Go Into Teaching?

Didn't I just post a picture of Sarah getting accepted into Syracuse?  Seems like yesterday!  Last month, she graduated and started working less than a week later at a PR Firm in NYC.  Already been living there a month!!  A very proud mama! (Leave it to Sarah to find a graduation dress that had oranges on it!  She's posing with Otto the of the cutest mascots out there!)

She's pictured with her best friend.  Happy to say that he's already accepted an awesome teaching position!  A true asset to our profession!  Don't they look like babies when they got accepted? Proud of BOTH of them!  (Both had jobs before graduating, too!  Yahoo!)

I'm excited for her friend because he has such a passion for teaching and I know will be dedicated and truly make a difference in the lives of so many. 

My husband and I have been teaching for over 55 combined years.  We have loved it.  Most of it...

Yet, I am relieved neither of my own children have picked the profession.  Eek...Hard to believe I'm saying that.  Yes, there are many rewards but at the same time, so many obstacles/stresses and it seems like a constant uphill battle these days with less and less support.

New teachers in NJ are now set to retire at 65 and soon may be 67. 


In my case, I'm not new but guess what?  Even though I have over 25 years and will be 55 in two years, I am not allowed to retire.

Say what?

When I started teaching, that was what I was told.  I believed it.  I took off for four years and returned back to teaching in 2011.  Our Governor back then - Chris Christie (not a friend of teachers!) changed some laws and suddenly, I am now Tier 5 and can no longer retire until I'm 65 if I want my full pension benefits that were supposed to be mine at 55.  (For the record, I never thought I'd retire at 55...I really love teaching.  But that was always an option.)

I has no idea that laws changed and when I tell fellow teachers, they say, "At least you're grandfathered in."  Nope.  Not true.

So, I will be teaching over 40 years by the time I'm allowed to retire?  Hmmm...can you imagine how top heavy the profession in NJ will be?  And the changes have been way more than that.  The 65 rule (soon to be 67) is just one of the terrible changes that affect me.)

My brother and I were talking last year about some mutual friends.  Many had cancer/health problems and he said, "Once you hit 55, so many more health issues creep up on you."

Yep.  True.  I just had cancer.  I need a knee replacement due to getting hit by a car when I was nine.  (I've had dozens and dozens of operations so the fact that it wasn't replaced earlier is amazing.) 

I just can't see how it's a win-win for the future generations to be taught by 67 year old teachers who will be teaching for 45 or 46 years by the time they retire?  What is the average burnout rate?  Pretty alarming.  Take a look at this Psychology Today article.  Forty-one percent of teachers leave the profession within five years?!?!  If you are a teacher, is it really surprising?

I'm not bashing older teachers...I am one!  But do we want a slew of almost 70 year old teachers teaching our young kids?  I don't think so. 

Getting older is hard!  I never thought I'd retire at 55 but I bet I would have now if I could due to my health issues.

To say I'm bitter the rules have changed is an understatement.

So, yes, teaching is rewarding but so are many other professions that pay much, much, better and have better benefits, and are way less stressful. 

What do you think?  Would you want your child to follow you into the profession?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Latest Binge-Worthy Shows

Happy Summer!  Today was my last day!  Time to relax and unwind!

When I was home for six weeks recovering, I had lots of time (too much?) to watch TV.  Here are some shows I discovered and LOVED!  Maybe you'll find a gem here for you, too!

This is my favorite of the bunch.  However, I don't love the trailer and it doesn't do the show justice. I seriously cannot express my love of this show enough.  My daughter discovered it and she is the target age...not me!  But I just love the strong female characters and I so love the fact that the head of Scarlet Magazine (JAN!!! From The Office!) is NICE and boss from hell here!   A boss I'd want my own daughter to have. Lots of layers and depth to this show.  Three seasons (10 episodes each) have me waiting impatiently for a fourth. On ABC Family.  I watched on Freeform on my iPad.

From Freeform:  A glimpse into the outrageous lives of Jane, Kat and Sutton, who are working at the nation's top women's magazine, Scarlet, while navigating their careers, identities and individual voices. This next generation of unapologetically fierce working women is primed to take on the world and smash the patriarchy — one selfie at a time.

Everyone seems to have watched this!  On Lifetime but streamed on Netflix a few months later.  From Lifetime: Starring Penn Badgley, “YOU” is a 21st century love story that asks, “What would you do for love?” When a brilliant bookstore manager crosses paths with an aspiring writer, his answer becomes clear: anything. Using the internet and social media as his tools to gather the most intimate of details and get close to her, a charming and awkward crush quickly becomes obsession as he quietly and strategically removes every obstacle – and person – in his way. The series also stars Elizabeth Lail, Luca Padovan, Zach Cherry, and Shay Mitchell, with a special guest appearance by John Stamos.  Season 2 will only stream on Netflix.

From Netflix: Jen's husband recently died in a hit-and-run, and the sardonic widow is determined to solve the crime. Optimistic free spirit Judy has recently suffered a tragic loss of her own. The ladies meet at a support group and, despite their polar-opposite personalities, become unlikely friends. A dark comedy.

From Hulu: From Executive Producers Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks comes Shrill, a comedy series starring Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) as Annie, a fat young woman who wants to change her life — but not her body. Annie is trying to start her career while juggling bad boyfriends, a sick parent, and a perfectionist boss.

A kinder, gentler reality show!  To be honest, this is the only thing my hair salon/nail place has playing so I watch it when I'm there and really enjoy it.  I have watched a few on Netflix and it is strangely calming for me.  I think I've been watching the oldest episodes.  I just love the way it's shot and the spirit of the show.

Would love some recommendations if you have them!

Happy watching and an even HAPPIER SUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Puppy Pal Likes (Quick Review Game!)

Here's an easy game I play often at Morning Meeting.  It's a typical review game but my goodness...ever since I added a puppy or another stuffed animal friend, the kids love it!

How to play My Puppy Pal Likes...

1. I hold a stuffed animal puppy and say, "My puppy pal like words that have a short vowel in them." or "My puppy pal likes odd numbers."  You get the idea!  Any subject/area of review works.

2. I then give an example to model for them.  "My puppy pal likes the number 7."

3. If answer correct (odd numbers here), the class gives a bark.  (NOTE: Because it's supposed to be quick, ONE bark that you practice together is best.)  If answer given was an even number such as 202, no one would bark and child tries again.

4. Then I pass the puppy pal to the next person and we continue until everyone has a turn.

Easy and fun, right?  An easy game but really gives you helpful information.  Answers that are 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 are as telling as those who come up with 1003, 28,287, etc.

To change it up, we play with various stuffed animals...usually one bought at Kohls.

Grab the certificates if you feel it would help generate conversation at home.  For this game, everyone would get winners here!


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Four Corners Game

This is a favorite of my First Graders.  Have you played with your students?  If you've never heard of it, here it is in a nutshell.

1. One person is the counter.  Can be teacher.
2. Point out all four corners in classroom. 
3. As you cover eyes/put head down, count to 10 as kids go to one of the corners,
4. After counting to 10, counter says, "Corner, ___"
5. Those kids in that corner are out and you start again until one student left.
(When down to last two-four, I tell them that they all must be in a different corner.)

It's that simple.  The kids really go wild over it and they ask to play it often.  A fun Morning Meeting Activity, great ice-breaker, fun brain break.

Grab the certificate above if you'd like.  Just another way to generate discussion at home!

Updated POP Post to include certificate if you'd like it.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Sparkle, Sparkle, Poof! (Spelling Game)

Am I the only one that JUST learned this game?  One of my Firsties taught it to me two weeks ago.  How did I miss this game?  What a fantastic way to reinforce spelling/sight words. Although late to the game, we've been having fun playing it to review our sight words before summer break.

The version I was taught:

1. Have kids stand in a circle.
2. I shout out one of our sight words.
3. The first person says first letter, second person says second letter, etc.
4. When word is spelled, the next player says SPARKLE.
5. The person after them says SPARKLE too.
6. The next player says POOF and is out.  They sit down.
7. Repeat with new word until only one child left.

Isn't that easy?  Fun?  But you probably already knew that! Feel free to grab the certificate by clicking picture above.  I like to send these home just so parents can have another talking point with kids.  Especially those kiddos who don't share any details about their day.

Have a good day!


Sunday, June 16, 2019

PSA: See Something? Say Something!

In my case, it isn't the NY Subway commercial I'm talking about...Nope.  This has to do with the big C.  Cancer.  After not having my period for two years, one night, it magically reappeared for a few days.  It was exactly one month after my mom passed away and my first split second thought was to blame it on the stress I had been dealing with for six months. 

Since it was the most stressful time in my life, it made sense.  But I also Googled three seconds later and read that it was the Number 1 sign of Uterine Cancer.  However, in the next sentence, it did say that 90% of cases turned out to be non-cancerous.  I was hoping I was in the 90%.  Nope.

I had surgery (Full hysterectomy) on April 9th and a week later, I found out that I was cancer-free!  No chemo or radiation needed.  Going into the surgery I did know that there are TWO types of Uterine cancer and I did have the "better" one.  Coming out of surgery, I also knew that my sentinel node was clear. So I was expecting good news with fingers crossed. 

Anyway, two things:

1. I am shocked how many people I've shared this story with that have bled from time to time long after periods have stopped and didn't get it checked out.  Don't be that person.  Go.  Chances are, it's a polyp.  I'm glad I made an immediate appointment.  My oncologist said that Uterine cancer gives signs/warnings unlike Ovarian.  My ONLY sign was the above and two weeks later spotting one night.

2. If in the NJ area and you find yourself in a similar situation, let me know and I'll help you out in any way I can starting with sharing my Drs. name who trained at Sloan. She was an oncologist/surgeon which is n't that common and her staff was top-notch! Within 45 minutes, I had to appointments books for consultations and I already knew I'd be going with her.  (When I called, I was crying and in such shock, I couldn't speak.  The receptionist kept saying: "Take your time,  I have all day.  We got this.  This is why people come to us.  Breathe."  It took me EIGHT minutes to get out my name and phone number.  Seriously.  Know someone having a hysterectomy? Give them this GREAT SITE: Hystersisters.  Seriously.  Who knew?

After six weeks recovering at home, I went back to school and my Firsties on May 23.  I feel good.  Tired.  Very tired but it is the end of the year.

Here's wishing YOU good health and remember: If you see something, say something and get thee to a doctor! STAT!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Freebie and Updated Products

I know there are so many I Have, Who Has products out there but I just have to say how much I LOVE my long and short vowel games.  They come with the game and a Read the Room Activity. I updated all of my packets with new clip art and fonts and I love them even more.  I used to get so frustrated playing the game but not this old blog post to see how the execution finally is 100% perfect!


Would you like the above Long U packet for your sweet students?  
Leave your email here and I'll gladly send it to you!  Isn't the clip art adorable?

Each pack is $3.00 but I have a great bundle to check out if interested. There is a short vowel bundle and a long vowel bundle (for $12 each so it's getting ONE free in each packet!) and then one with all of them that I'm showing you below.  At $21, that makes each one only $2.10.  You're getting 
3 packets for FREE in this mega bundle!

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch (My Favorite Valentine's Day Book!)

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is my all-time favorite Valentine's Day book! It's written by the wonderful Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz.  Have you read it?  If not, enjoy the video!  Seriously, The. Best. Ever!  It's a lovely book about friendship and the the power one has when reaching out to someone.  It's a quieter book that I simply adore.  Any book that can my little ones make an audible, collective, GASP, is proof enough to me that it's worth sharing over and over again.  I'm lucky to own the book but that doesn't stop me from showing the video as well.  It's so nice, you must read it twice! :)

This book is SO PERFECT, that the conversations/discussions that follow your reading are all you need.  Honest!  But if looking for a little something to extend the book, you may want to check this out.  I KNOW you'll love the book as much as I do!  ENJOY!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Valentine Day Poems Freebie

Here are a few poems I wrote for Valentine's Day.  Feel free to grab them!  A bit geeky but I like geeky! :)

Another Freebie for Valentine's Day here in case you missed it! 
Only 4 more days until the big day!  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall: Caldecott Winner!

Have you read this book yet?  It truly is beautifully illustrated!  I read it to my class the other day and it got two thumbs up!  I'm sure you'll want to read it to your class and linger over the illustrations but at least you can take a sneak peak here!

Here's the illustration that generated the most buzz with my little ones:

Two of my all-time favorite books about lighthouses:

My students love the suspense of this book.  An excellent read aloud!


I always thought the Sea Chest should have won the Caldecott Award.  I had the author, Toni Buzzeo, at my school for an author visit.  If you are looking for an awesome author that teachers and kids will ADORE, she's the one!  

And if you are looking for a little something to support Hello Lighthouse with your class, you may want to check out:

Have a  lovely day!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Thinking Ahead: Valentine Box Letter

Want to make your life a whole lot easier this year?  Have your students make their Valentine Boxes at home.  It saves you so much time and with my editable freebie, it's a snap for the kids and the parents.  HONEST!  It's always a blast when they bring in the boxes for the big reveal and you get to see their personalities in full bloom!

Try'll like it! PROMISE!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Thoughts on this Kindergarten Classroom?

TED Talks inspire me.  Make me want to do better.  Be better.  I honestly could watch them all day.  Doesn't matter the topic.  They fascinate me.  I recently watched this one and I would love to know your thoughts.  I'm digging it.

Totally.  I'm all in.  Isn't this how Kindergarten should be?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Battle of the Vowels Game (Freebie!)

Battle of the Vowels came about one day at Morning Meeting when I wanted a different activity to reinforce long and short vowel sounds that would be QUICK and FUN! It was impromptu and I just used plain paper.  That’s honestly all you need. However, I made up these recording sheets to make it easier/neater for the kids. Having two pictures up top helped reinforce the beginning /middle vowel sound the second time we played! 

To play is simple, and again, you certainly don't need this download to play...just wanted to make it easier for kids...

1.Divide students  into equal groups that have a good mixture 

2.Give each group the same or different vowel.  Up to you!  The
first time I did this I gave each group (4 kids in each group)
a different short vowel.  The second time?  All the same.  Kind of 
wish I did that the first time out.

3.I assigned a student to record answers but explained that 
EVERYONE contributes.

Here is one group at work:

4. Set timer to see which group or individual can get the most words in allotted time.

Here are the winners the first time we played without the above sheets.  (I'll post pic of latest winners using these sheets when I can locate them.)

Think of all the variations you can play with this game!  As the year progresses, I'll hold kids accountable for spelling of words IF we learned all the sounds associated with the word.  (Example: -igh in fight.)  The first time we played, if they read off the word correctly, I counted it like you see in the pics above.

Download here.  

Let the battle begin!  ENJOY!