5 Fun Ways to Get Kids to Line Up

I don’t know what the deal is, but kids ALWAYS want to be first in line. Without a procedure, as soon as you say “Line Up!” kids invariably race to the door. Here are a few ways to stop the crowd:

1. By Color: This is especially effective for PreK and K, because it will take them a few seconds to think about what color they are wearing. Even if they are all wearing magenta, this will work.

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Ways to Build Employee Loyalty

This post is near and dear to my heart. I have worked with a lot of people during my career in education. I have had great bosses and some I could not wait to leave. I have had employees who I immediately connected with, some that I grew to love, and others who unfortunately had to be let go.

I can honestly say that I love my staff. I would contribute this loyalty to the positive and supportive environment we have created as a team. Here is how you can do the same:

1. Say “Thank You”. This is simple, and yet it is first on my list, because it cannot be emphasized enough. My Assistant Principal is amazing at this. I remember her deliviering cookies to all the staff with a sweet note, and I could not appreciate it more. Your efforts do not need to be as extravagant, but a thank you goes a long way.

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5 Pipe Cleaner Activities for Fine Motor Skills

One of my favorite skills to work on with PreK students are fine motor skills. These activities hone skills are used for handwriting later on. This is a category that has endless possibilities. Think pinching, grasping, or pulling. Pipe Cleaners are the perfect manipulative for working on fine motor skills.

Colander In-and-Out: use a colander and have students  poke them in and out of the holes.

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The No School Blues

The kids have the day off! They are overjoyed, but you are worried about the destruction they will cause being left to their own devices all day. Have no fear! Here are a list of fun things to do on their day off.

Activities Outside of the House:

1. Go to your local zoo. In my town, we have a FANTASTIC zoo. You can feed the giraffes, which the kids get a kick out of. They have long black tongs, which I personally find hilarious. You can also feed the stingrays, which is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. The zoo can get pricey (I think mine is $17 a ticket), but you can spend the whole day, which is about the cost of a movie these days.

2. Movies. Speaking of the movies, this one is always a kid favorite. I think the production companies pay each other to rotate, becasue there is alwasy some big movie that the kids are clamoring to see. Make a day out of it by getting food first and ice cream after. That way you can also avoid the ridiculously expensive movie snacks (although you may want to cave for a small popcorn to amp up the experience).

3. Library. The local library is one of my personal favorite haunts. This one is absolutely free (yay!). There are also tons of events that the children’s section puts on including crafts, author visits, and interactive readings.

4. Go to a local park. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it is worth mentioning. I have had trouble finding nice parks in my area that I would actually consider sending kiddos to. I would look online for state parks in your area, as these are typically well kept. Bring a picnic and a football, and you have yourself a busy day.

Fun with LeTtErS

One of the main objectives of preschool and kindergarten is to learn letters, and there are so many creative ways to accomplish this. With so many resources at your fingertips, boring old worksheets are a thing of the past. Below, you will find a wide variety of activities to help the kiddos in your life learn their letters.

Song and Dance: One of the best ways students learn is through moving their bodies. Youtube has hundreds of great songs that are interactive for youngsters. I love “The Letter D” song, and there are similar songs for each letter. I love that the songs are repetitive, which is perfect for memorization. The songs use movement, having the students draw the letters in the air. Also, the songs emphasize upper case, lower case, and letter sounds.

Sensory: This is another category with endless possibilities. I love using Playdoh to teach letters. I have the students use letter cookie cutters or shape the letters themselves. Shaving cream is another favorite. It is easier to clean than Playdoh (try cleaning mashed Playdoh out of the carpet), and does double-duty by cleaning their desks or tables. Floam (sticky foam beads with the consistency of Playdoh) is a similar option and is cleaner and easier than both, although this option can get expensive.

Manipulatives: Magnetic letters are a personal favorite in this category. I use these as a center in the classroom, as it is difficult and expensive to keep track of 20 sets of magnetic letters. However, if you have the resources, magnetic letters on small magnetic boards are the perfect way to practice sight words. Another resource is magnetic boards. They have an attached pen that is a magnet and acts like a pen by bringing tiny iron filaments to the surface. These are fairly inexpensive, but work well for a center as class sets can get expensive. Marker boards are another, cheaper alternative.

Art: I know several teachers who use water colors when learning letters. Print large bubble letters on watercolor paper, and let the creative juices flow! Do-a-dot pens are also an amazing resource, especially for 2 and 3-year-olds. These pens are great, because they allow students to begin with letter shapes while practicing holding a pen. Stamps work well for letter-learning, as well. I use multiple sized stamps and colors and let the students stamp away. Students can practice making sight words, picking out certain letters, or just have fun with letters. I bought an alphabet set of punches and use them similarly.

Hopefully these ideas will spark some creativity and add a little bit of fun to your students’ letter learning!


5 Activities to Engage Middle Schoolers

We’ve all been there. You scour Pinterest for ideas for the most creative, engaging project. You are so excited to introduce it to your middle school students, and when you build up the excitement and finally announce this earth-shakingly amazingly creative project, they groan. No standing ovation, no shouts of “Thank you!” in recognition of the time you have spent planning and organizing. Groans! Welcome to middle school.

Middle school

Of course, once you start going, they are having a ball. And learning! Well done teacher!

Here are some ideas to help you in your endeavors to get the creative juices flowing, and to encourage your middle schoolers to have fun (GASP!) while learning.

  1. Make your own category game: Think Scategories© but for world geography, or whatever your subject may be. In the game, one side is a letter, and one side is a topic. Use this game for a fun break, or make your own category cards to study for an exam. For example, in an English class categories could include an alliteration, an idiom, a simile, etc. Then students would have to come up with an example that begins with the letter drawn. The game is best played in a small group, but this could be adapted as a whole-class learning opportunity if divided into teams or with the use of class buzzers.
  2. Have a party! Not literally,  unless you have endless amounts of time in class amidst the endless interruptions, assemblies, and testing. This game is a drama game in which two or more students are “guests’ to the party and one student is the “host.” The guests are each given a character to play, and the host must guess who they are while acting out a party. This activity would be perfect for a social studies class, in which each guest is given a historical figure to portray.
  3. Charades. This is an oldie, but a goody. Charades has a wide variety of possibilities for classroom use. You could have students act out vocabulary words, historical figures, or science terms.
  4. Board races. Middle schoolers love competition. These students are eager to prove their smarts, and a board race is the perfect opportunity. This activity could be used for any subject, but it especially lends itself to math. Who doesn’t love a speed algebra problem?
  5. Class Jeopardy. There are amazing websites for customizable Jeopardy games online. Also, there are pre-populated Jeopardy boards. Google your subject, and a lot of boards for quick use in your classroom. This is especially useful if you have a smartboard. If not, write the categories and point values on your board, and use corresponding notecards to ask the questions. If you have an especially nervous student, ask them to be the scorekeeper. This student will still be actively engaged and learning, but it takes the pressure off.

Note: These games are mainly focused on group interaction. While fun and great for learning, you have to have a positive classroom culture in order for them to work. Without a positive culture, students may be reluctant to participate, as they may fear being made fun of by classmates. You can take charge as the leader of the classroom. Cheer students on and quickly end any negative comments. Encourage the students to do the same, and you will quickly have a positive learning environment with engaging learning activities!

Help! My potty-trained child is having accidents!

One of the major problems I have experienced are potty-trained students who enter Pre-K4 and begin having accidents again. Parents are freaking out, children are embarrassed, and teachers are explaining away the incidents.

First off, these accidents are NORMAL! No, your student is not relapsing to the days of 30 bathroom trips in one day. No, the teachers are not being neglectful of your little one. And no, you did not fail at potty-training while suffering through countless loads of pee ridden laundry.

That being said, it is not something to be ignored. While children of this age are fairly oblivious, the other students will begin to notice that your child is always wet. The teachers will become frustrated at having to change your child 15 times a day. And I know parents don’t want to have to soak sneakers in vinegar for the upteenth time.


Why it is happening…

Imagine PK4 or Kindergarten from a little one’s perspective. This is a time for new transitions. There is work to be completed, desks to keep clean, and new toys to explore. Needless to say, there is a lot going on in your little one’s world. If they are attending a new school, there are a thousand things to take in. Even if they are not, they have a new teacher, a new classroom, and new rules.

The problem could be as simple as your child is afraid of the sound of the toilet flushing. They could be so busy playing with the new toys and friends that they forget to stop to go to the bathroom. Or they could be telling you that they are stressed out about the transition. It is important to talk to the student about why this is happening. Keep in mind, these little guys are just learning how to vocalize their feelings. You will need to ask these direct questions, but in a non-threatening way. Try asking the child what was happening surrounding the accident. It will be very telling if your child says he was on the playground laughing and playing (he didn’t want to stop playing to go to the bathroom), or they were working in class on a paper (he may be afraid of the bathroom).

And how to fix it…

  1. Do not embarrass the child. Unless there is an underlying behavioral issue, children do not enjoy being wet. This is a process that will take time, and it will be harder if the child feels terrible about his accidents everyday.
  2. Set up a bathroom schedule. This will require some help from teachers and staff members working with your child. Children should be prompted to go to the bathroom more often than we would go as adults. A good rule of thumb would be every 2-3 hours. Work with the teacher to get a good schedule going. Preschool and Kindergarten teachers typically already have a good schedule. For example, they may have students use the bathroom before lunch or before they go on the playground. Work with the teacher’s schedule, and kindly ask if the teacher will make sure that your child actually uses the bathroom. Be patient, however. Teachers have a million and one things to remember on a daily basis, and it may take some time for the teacher to get on a schedule, as well.
  3. Set up a positive reward system. Just like the good old potty-training days, your child will need some motivation. It is important to focus on the positive and build up your child’s self esteem. I have used something as cheap and simple as stickers to reward the child for each day without an accident. It is amazing that the positive words and a sticker will do the trick. If your student is a little more stubborn, link the days they are dry to a bigger reward. For example, an ice cream date would be a fun reward for 10 days without an accident. This also gives you an opportunity to bond with your child, and who doesn’t love a little extra time with mommy or daddy?

So take heart! There are solutions. Just be patient and positive, and your little guy (or lady) will come around.

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