Wednesday, September 28, 2011

GAME DAY- Dice Operations

This "game" can be used to help kids practice math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). Kids roll dice and then complete the operation with the 2 digits showing. Essentially, you can add just about any twist to this activity:
Give your child 2 dice and you have 2 dice. You both roll, complete the operation, and the person with the largest number gets a point.
Give your child 2 dice, roll, complete operation, and you they get that many points. For instance, they roll a 6 and 4. If they are working on multiplication they multiply the factors to get the product, 24. On their next round they add the next product to 24 and keep going until they get to 100. If you are doing subtraction or division have them start with 100 and subtract until they get to zero.
Give your child 4 dice. Have them roll, add 2 of the dice and then the other 2. For example, thy roll 7,3,4,1. Add 7 and 3 to get 10. Add 4 and 1 to get 5. Their numbers are now 10 and 5, which they will then add, subtract, multiply, or divide.

Dice are great ways to get kids excited about working on math! They are great for emerging learners because kids can use the dots on the dice to help them count. Also, when your little learners want to play with their big brother or sister give them dice and have them identify the numbers. They can also roll 2 dice and identify the bigger/smaller number.

Always encourage your child to make up their own game for practicing their math operations! You will be surprised at what they come up with. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

GAME DAY- Deck of Cards

When you tell kids they are playing a "game" it changes everything. I love seeing how much fun kids can have while playing and learning at the same time. I think many of us think that we need to go out and spend a lot of money on games and workbooks, in order to reinforce our child's learning at home. I am going to dedicate one day a week to a GAME DAY post where I will offer simple ways to reinforce learning at home. 
I am sure most of you have a deck of cards at home. There are so many great learning opportunities with a simple deck of cards, and they are easy to take on the road with you for when traveling becomes a little restless. I would love to here about ways that you and your kids use a deck a cards to play and learn at the same time. 
These ideas can easily be modified to fit your child's academic level. 
**Start by taking out the jacks, queens, kings, and jokers. 
1. War (or you can call it another name) :) split the cards among players, everyone flips over a card, the person with the highest card wins and collects all the cards played in that round *greater than/less than
2. Turn over 2 cards- add, subtract, or multiply the cards, the person who has the highest sum, difference, or product wins the cards in that round *addition, subtraction, multiplication
3. Deal the cards into 4 piles (face down), turn over the top card on each pile, try to pick up the cards that when added together make 10 *addition, sums of 10
4. Turn over cards and have child identify the number, you can then ask what comes before, what comes next *number recognition
5. Turn over between 2 and 9 cards (depending on their level) and have them say or write the number in standard form, word form, or expanded form *place value
                  Example- turn over 3 cards- numbers 6,5,4 -- That number in standard form would be 654, in word from "six hundred fifty-four", and in expanded form 600 + 50 + 4
                  You can then work with your child to determine the "value" of each number. 

Let me know if you need more ideas for your deck of cards GAMES! :) Have FUN!!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Getting Involved

Now that you are hopefully getting into the swing of things, it is a good time to ask yourself if you are investing as much as you should into your child's education? I believe the easiest way to invest is to simply get involved, and yes it is simple. Here are 5 ways to start:
READ WHAT COMES HOME- A lot of schools are trying to get away from sending so many papers and reminders home, but they do still come. Usually, these reminders have to do with volunteer opportunities, upcoming activities in the classroom, and other info. that will ensure you keep a grasp of what is going on in the classroom and school. I think it is great to set up some kind of routine for your child where they get out the papers or folder from their backpacks each night and put them in a place for you to look over them. I would not accept when my students gave the excuse that their parents didn't read the information or didn't sign the papers that were sent home. I told students that it was their responsibility to make sure the papers got home, their parents saw them, and they got back to school. Many of you would be surprised that kids as young as Kindergartners can learn these types of responsibilities, and it will make them feel "grown up". :) I would love to hear from any of you that have some kind of system like this already in place.
CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE-Many teachers and schools utilize a website to share important information. For example, spelling words, field trip information, upcoming events, and the list goes on. I challenge you to go onto your child's school website and check it out. Also, a great way to stay on top of looking at the website is to set a reminder, once a week, to check the website.
ATTEND-Schools work hard to provide useful resources for parents, but it is up to you to attend. The district that I worked for provided curriculum nights to discuss the specific areas that would be taught during the current year. They also provide parent coffees and brown bag lunches to highlight a specific area, such as standardized testing and internet safety.
JOIN PTA- The PTA offers great volunteer opportunities, and I promise you that it makes children so proud when their parents are volunteering in the school. Often there are various opportunities throughout the year during the school day, at night, and even on the weekends. No excuses...make the time!!! :)
HAVE LUNCH- Students LOVE when their parents, grandparents, siblings, or any other special person comes to school to have lunch with them. Check out the lunch policies at your child's school by looking on the internet, contacting their teacher, or the front office. One may be better to make it a surprise in case something comes up and you can't make it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


As I drive around I often see "26.2" stickers on the back of people's vehicles. I now know that this signifies the person's accomplishment of completing a marathon. I immediately think highly of the person in the vehicle! So much can be said of the commitment, perseverance, and determination it takes to complete all 26.2 miles.
Another type of marathon begins for so many tomorrow as we welcome the beginning of a new year. Much like in a marathon, we begin excited and ready for the new adventure, face tough moments throughout the race, and end proud of our accomplishments.
When I see the 26.2 stickers I tell myself that there is no way I could complete a marathon. However, this will be the first time in 23 years that I will not be beginning a new school year marathon, either as a student, teacher, or administrator. There are so many possibilities for the upcoming year, and I wish you all the best.

Enjoy the beginning of your new race! :)

Monday, August 15, 2011


I think it is important to be able to find daily bits of joy. Some days are definitely easier than others, but many times it is the small things that bring us the most joy. While other times we must get through the moment in order to find the joy waiting on the other side. 
Educators know first-hand about investing in the moment, in order to reap the benefits waiting on the other side. As teachers and administrators are working around the clock to get everything in place to meet their new group of students, they are ALL reminding themselves of the importance of setting up solid ROUTINES at the beginning of the year. Routines happen to be one aspect that can make or break a successful school year. Teachers attend workshops, read books, and scour the internet looking for the latest and greatest strategies for creating and successfully implementing routines.  Entire schools are set up according to creating the best routines: how will children enter and exit the building, hall routines, cafeteria routines, playground routines, and the list goes on and on! We then begin the task of teaching and modeling in the hopes that children can successfully learn each routine. 
As a teacher, I spent most of my time reflecting on my class and their ability to successfully follow school routines. I feel like I had a good understanding that the time spent going over procedures and routines would, ultimately, allow my room to run more smoothly, make my job easier, and help my students be more successful. Trust me, this was not always the easy! However, we would work together, and always get to where we needed to be. I felt like I had the whole routine thing down, as a teacher. Then, I became an administrator! I stationed myself to help with Kindergarten arrival, lunch, and dismissal for the first few weeks of school. WOW! Kindergarten teachers are angels! For many children, the first day they walk through the doors is the first day they have had to follow a routine. I watched teachers from all over the building embrace these little ones and love them from the moment they arrived. 
Not only do Kinder students need help with routines at the beginning of a new school year, students of all ages have to go through a transition period. From my experience in a school setting, I feel like students who are used to routines and procedures at home have an easier time learning new routines at school. Walk into a cafeteria and I believe you can tell a lot about routines by watching students eat and interact with their peers. 
If you are a parent already starting to feel the anxiety of a new school year, or possibly a first school year then I would suggest beginning your back-to-school routines this week. Talk to your kids about how things are going to look once they start back to school, and let them engage in the conversation. I think it is important to allow your children to give their input when setting up home routines, because it will increase their desire to buy-in to the procedures. This is one of the reasons that many teachers allow students to help create the "classroom procedures." You have to be comfortable with the decisions that you are allowing your child to contribute to. For instance, your child may not be old enough to pick out their clothes or make their own lunch, but they can tell you where they would like to put their backpack each day when they come home from school. This seems minor but having backpacks and lunch boxes put in a designated place will help save time getting out the door in the mornings. (If you want more strategies for saving time in the morning let me know.) :) Once you have discussed the routines and procedures it is time to begin practicing.
Routines in the home are similar to routines at may want to give up in the beginning, but if you stick with it you will see the rewards! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Box of Crayons

I don't quite understand people who don't get a little giddy or nostalgic when they smell a
 new box of crayons. 
One of the best parts of a new school year is the enjoyment of brand new, never been used, folders, pencils, journals, and for those of us who grew up in the 80's...a new trapper keeper! I think one of the first signs that I may have just been destined to be a teacher was my pure fascination of school supplies, pretty classrooms, and pretty much the whole essence of school.
Each new school year brought with it my mom and my school supply shopping trip! We would go to Target, by our usual popcorn and coke to snack on while we shopped, and hit the school supply section. I always think back to shopping trips as a kid, and instead of wanting to go to the toy section I went straight for the school supply/stationary aisles. So my mom and I spend the new couple of hours picking out the BEST they have to offer and we head home. Once we get home the real fun begins, because I then start opening everything and making sure I got it just how I wanted for the 1st day of school.
While reliving these most amazing memories and walking through the school supply section at Target, (praying that my son doesn't begin screaming...I am still new at this mom thing) I can's stop thinking about 2 things:
1. I need to share how the whole school supply thing works in a lot of classrooms today (especially for new Kindergarten parents), AND
2. I need to donate school supplies to the kids who don't get to have that "mom and daughter shopping trip" or who walk into school on the 1st day not knowing IF they will have any new school supplies.
I am going back to #1 and then I will leave you with my thoughts on #2.
In many of today's classrooms school supplies are handled a little differently. For one, parents can now pre-purchase school supply sets that will be waiting for your child when they walk into their classroom for the first time. This is for those of you who don't share my love for new school supplies. You may also be a little smarter than me, because it makes so much sense and I am sure it is nice to not have to worry about getting all the supplies on the list. Whether you pre-purchased supplies for your child or you spent the hours and hours rounding up everything on the list, once you get to your child's classroom most supplies are distributed around the class. Most teachers will have designated areas for supplies, such as crayons, markers, scissors and paper. Like I said earlier, in a lot of today's classrooms supplies are all taken up and then used, as necessary. I would not have enjoyed this as a child, because I wanted my own supplies kept in my own "very cool" supply box. I share this to keep in mind while you and your little one/ones are out searching for the best of the best of each item on your list.
My second lightbulb moment in the school supply aisles of Target was that I needed to find some place to accept my donated supplies. As I drove home, about as excited I could be, to research where to donate school supplies, a Kroger commercial interrupted my thinking. Kroger has a program where you can buy a pre-packaged supply kit (I know this goes against my grain) and put it in a box for Kroger to donate. I also was able to find countless websites to assist with my search for a place to donate.
My challenge today is to join me in donating school supplies. This could be a great learning moment for your children, as they experience the intrinsic value of doing good. :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One Thing For Certain

We are experiencing so much uncertainty in our world, and it impacts all of us on both a local and global level. Even in the world of education, we are facing very real uncertainty- how will budget cuts effect us this year, will we be losing any staff members, how do we prepare for this new standardized test being implemented by politicians.
However, one thing for certain, in a couple weeks the bells will ring and doors will open for another year of your child's education. When I think about the essence of a new school year I think of the quote by Theodore Roosevelt, kind of "a mantra" for school's all around the world, "People don't care about what you know until they know how much you care." The only difference in the land of education is we change the word "people" to CHILD.
Does your child know how much you care? Do an experiment tonight. Don't immediately think about all the stuff you need to get done, and how there is no way you have time. While you are eating dinner tonight (I don't care if it is a bag of fast-food in the car) tell your family that you will be having a "Question of the Night." Let them know that they are going to think about each other's favorite things to do, and you will have to share what you think is everyone's favorite things. Not only will this experiment give you a great reflection piece to gain insight into the eyes of your children, it will also give you a really fun game to play with your family. Once your family gets the hang of it let your kids start asking questions.
Ok, so you heard what your children...and spouse believe is each person's favorite thing. This is where my challenge comes in, make yourself a goal. The beginning of a school year is symbolic for new goals, new promises, and optimism for the exciting year ahead. Maybe your goal will be to read to your child every night or to show that one of your favorite things is helping them each night with homework. Whatever your goal is, I hope that the upcoming school year offers you plenty of opportunities to show your child how much you care.