Sunday, July 29, 2012

Teacher Definition: Autumn - Autumn: that season when denim jumpers, spangled sweaters, crazy ties and sensible shoes move to the front of teachers' closets.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Help! Dear Daughter is Heading to College...

Click on this link to be taken to my dear daughter's Dress Your Dorm Vera Bradley giveaway entry, and bookmark it so you can vote daily, through August 9! She was thrilled to make it into the Top 20, and at present is in 3rd place. She'd love to win a dorm room makeover as she starts school at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas this fall.

grad girl and mom

You will *~not~* be required to sign up for any offers or share any information about yourself, thanks to Vera Bradley and Brickfish- way cool for a contest, don't you think?  If you're so inclined, look to the right of her entry, below the "vote for this entry" button and you'll see options to share the page on your own Facebook page, Pinterest, Twitter or other online social networking site.  

Your votes help greatly, but taking a few extra seconds to click and share really help bump her score up.

Thanks for all of your help!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Staple Board Facelift

My reading table is directly in front of my desk.  I can reach the phone, my calendar, computer, stapler, tape, and all sorts of other necessities if I have to, which means it's quite possible for me to be forced to look at a mess often throughout my day.

I'm a tchotchke type of person: I love to have photos, sparklies, and inspirational sayings in not only my personal but professional spaces.  My students love to sneak a peek at everything when they're called to my desk too!


This year I'm using a lot of black and white gingham print border/trimmer with solid white on my bulletin boards, but the pinning surface by my desk isn't very wide.  Not wanting to fill up the surface with border alone, I carefully utilized ye olde paper cutter to make it thinner:



Much better!

Now, staple up the trim:


Add some special photos:


Put everything in its place:


...and don't forget this:




Talk about an improvement!


I've shuffled and rearranged some centers in the classroom this year, and have relocated and reorganized my reading materials.  I'll share photos with you soon!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

800th Post Giveaway Winner (and HELP!)

Thank you so much to all who entered, shared, Tweeted and followed this past week! The winner of the Happy Birthday Bunting Set is:

Zulema Fontanes!

I'm emailing you now Zulema, but if you don't receive the message (it might hop to your spam/junk folder), you can contact me at:



I'm back to work next week, so check in for a sneak peek at what this year's Super Stars will be enjoying!



Thanks for your daily votes at Circle of Moms (up there, the button to left of my posts)!


My daughter has moved on to the final round of the Vera Bradley Dress Your Dorm giveaway contest! Our nationally ranked powerlifter would LOVE to win a girlie-girl makeover for her dorm room (she'll attend college here in Oz in the fall) and all she needs is a bit of help by way of daily voting and sharing: you can see and vote for her entry here, and then if you're so inclined, share her entry via Twitter, Facebook, email, Pinterest, or your other social networking sites.

The nice part? You don't have to sign up for membership to any sites or share anyone else's information- talk about a fabulous contest!

Thanks for your help!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

800th Blog Post ~Giveaway Time!~

If you've been following Kindergarten's 3 R's for a while, you're already aware of a few things:

~ I love to share my classroom with you:


~ I enjoy helping you save a bit of time with quick photos and slideshows of projects you might like to use with your own students:

~ I not only love using products such as store-bought bulletin board trimmer, tabletop laminators and Sharpie markers, but I like to make my own classroom decor and center tags:




~ I can get off on a rant:

..... about unbalanced collegiality between administrators and teachers...

...... my experiences as a bicultural person...

..... and certainly about discipline.


Though the school year can be busy, I enjoy visiting your blogs and answering your questions during the weekends, breaks from school, and nights when Mr. Insomnia visits.  I've found sharing quick links much easier via Twitter and the Facebook page for Kindergarten's 3 R's, so please do consider following me in one or both places if you'd like to know what I'm thinking and reading about education, creativity, and early childhood.

One more thing you probably already know... I love to host giveaways!

To celebrate my 800th blog post, I made a mini-bunting set for your birthday bulletin board display:


Of course I had to use colorful paper and sparkly star punches...


... the letters are silver foil...


The bunting is two pieces, one ribbon laced with "Happy" and the other with "Birthday."  They aren't terribly large (see the ruler for scale) as I wanted to give you more options for display.




To enter the giveaway, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below.  There are multiple ways to earn entries, and some of them are worth more than one chance to win the mini-bunting for yourself or your students.  A winner will be chosen next week, so check back in.  Don't forget: I'll need a way to contact you if you're the winner.  If you comment without a link to your own blog or your profile is private, please leave your email address with your post.

Thank you again for reading, commenting, and sharing!  I hope you're enjoying a restful summer so you can return to your classroom this fall recharged and ready for your students.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back to School Lunch and Snack Tips

Here's an update to a post I blogged two years ago.  Teachers, you might consider sharing the following tips with your students' families:


(Eco lunch boxes found here)

Parents, do you have a kindergartner gearing up for his or her first day of school?  It's not just time to think about tracking down school supply lists and new clothes, but to prepare for new schedules and routines that will quickly be put into place regarding snack and lunch times too.  

*Soggy sandwiches aren't fun to eat, so try coating both pieces of bread with peanut butter with some jelly in the middle to avoid jelly-soak-through.

*Orange chips stain clothes. Yes, kids still wipe their hands all over their shirts and pants, ignoring the cute napkin you included in their lunchbox. Lunch time is a social time so kids are too busy chatting, visiting, and listening in on conversations to remember the good manners you taught them.

*While packing lunch, check to see if there's a slit cut into the straw wrapper for your child's drink.  If there isn't, make one so that your child doesn't resort to ripping it apart with his or her teeth.  Juice boxes tend to be easier to punch straws into than the pouch style drinks.

*Though teachers and lunch aides discourage it, food bartering/swapping still takes place at lunch or snack time. Please remember that some students have food allergies, occasionally severe. It's important that your child knows being a good friend doesn't require the sharing of food or offering "just a taste" of some other treat with classmates.

*If your child likes to save leftovers for a snack later in the day, please practice fastening those plastic storage lids or baggies now, or be prepared for very messy spills and mountains of crumbs coming home to you in backpacks or lunch sacks.

*If you send a thermos with lunch, make sure your child knows which way is "up" and how the lid should be level when twisted back on.  Leaks and spills are messy, especially if your child shares a locker or cubby with a classmate.

*Not every classroom has a refrigerator available, so if you live in a hot climate, plan on skipping the mayo and milk.

*Snack packaging (the wrappers on cookies, chips, graham crackers, trail mix, fruit snacks, etc.) isn't always easy for little hands to open. Cut a small slit in the top of each to help ease your child's frustration. The same goes for the tips of bananas, or the peels on oranges. BTW, few teachers, lunch aides and custodians will appreciate it if Dad insists on teaching your kindergartner how to "pop" chip bags open.

*We're happy to help your young ones learn how to open milk cartons and lunch wrappers, but children feel such a sense of accomplishment, independence and helpfulness when they can do it on their own and teach their friends the tricks of the trade as well.  Small milk cartons are available at most grocery stores if your kindergartner would like to practice before school starts.

*Not every child knows that you'd rather not open a lunchbox full of wrappers, banana peels, or used juice straws at the end of every day. Additionally, kids don't always know that you might want their plastic containers returned home! Decide and discuss which food wrappers or containers are disposable trash, and which aren't. You'll keep a lot of your Tupperware collection intact if you address this sooner rather than later. Ditto for silverware!

*Make sure you write your child's name on that lunch box or lunch sack, because there's always at least one classmate who will have the same one, or one similar looking enough that mix-ups will occur.

*If your child will purchase lunch at school each day, make sure you find out the routine in advance and see if you can prepay so your child won't panic or experience a meltdown if lunch money has been lost on the playground.  Prepaying also enables the lunch lines to move more quickly.

*The teacher might ask that all students bring a snack (or two) each day or might ask parents to sign up to provide snacks for the entire class one day each month.  Make sure to ask if there are any food items that cannot be shared due to allergies or cultural food preferences before preparing snacks for your child or classmates.


*Eating surfaces are also learning surfaces in classrooms, so your child will need to clean crumbs and spills before beginning a new activity.  To many children, "cleaning" means brushing crumbs from the tabletop to the floor or soaking up spills with sleeves or shirt hems. Thank you for teaching your child how to wipe down and dry a surface and to throw wrappers away in the trashcan.


Do you have any tips or helpful hints on how to handle lunch and snack time at school?  Please share by commenting~

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

School on the Brain

Though I still have about twenty days left of summer vacation, I have school on the brain.

I ~thought~ I was just going to play with my new pennant-shaped paper punch when I went downstairs to the crafty nook today, but oh no, the other materials I grabbed got me thinking about a particular spot in my classroom.


I have a stapleboard surface above part of my teacher's desk, a spot perfect for displaying photos, cards, reminders, atta-girls, schedules, and our district directory.  Though I've always trimmed bulletin board displays throughout the room, for some reason I've always ignored this particular location.

No longer.

I'll share photos of the finished display after I return to my classroom and start setting up in earnest, but here's a peek at how the creative process worked itself out as I cut, layered, folded and glued paper, ribbon, buttons, embroidery thread, Scrabble tiles and glitter:








header copy

How much of your summer vacation passes before you feel ready to face the new school year?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Six Years of Versatile Blogging

I've been blogging for six years as of this upcoming September.

Six years of writing evolution, six years of resizing photos and playing with bells and whistles to accompany tips, ideas and rants, and six years of "meeting" other wonderful child advocates, early childhood specialists and teachers.  I've been given various awards from fellow edubloggers, and enjoy following up on the memes that accompany them.


ver·sa·tile  (vûrs-tl, -tl)
1. Capable of doing many things competently.

Jennifer over at Teaching With Grace recently shared the Versatile Blogger Award with me (thank you, thank you Jennifer!), one of my favorites to receive because it includes wonderful rules based on sharing a bit about yourself while you also share the love by linking to other bloggers.  I love to build my professional learning community: blogging allows us to reach out, meet, learn from, and share and commiserate with one another.  The rules are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Include a link to his or her site.
3. Include the award image in your post and/or blog.
4. Share seven facts about yourself.
5. Nominate other bloggers for the award, linking 

    to their sites. 
6. Let those bloggers know they have been nominated. 

"Easy peasy" as my Super Stars would say!  As I've already finished the first three, it's time to share some info about myself with you:

~ I'm a sporadic crocheter.  I'll go for years without picking up a hook and yarn, and then *boom*, I'll see the perfect skein or encounter the perfect weather (cold) and I'm compelled to nest on the couch for three or four days, completing a project.  My family 
gives me my space.  They don't want to lose an eye.


~ I'm the Cookie Fairy at my school.  At the beginning and end of every year and once each quarter, I bake massive amounts of cookies to leave in the teachers' lounge.  I don't get to visit with many of my colleagues regularly, and frankly if the only ways I can support them are by a) staying out of their way, b) not creating any drama and c) providing them with homemade goodness, then people, that's exactly what I'll do.  Get the butter up to room temperature, will you?

~ I'm unsure how best to propose that the Common Core be interpreted as a guide and not just a mandated curriculum, at least as far as kindergarten is concerned.  With many standards prefaced "With guidance and support from adults..." (which does not indicate mastery) I know parents, teachers and administrators still want to know exactly what skills should be mastered by the end of the school year, and want to know if it's right to send students on to the first grade if they're not-yet-proficient on skills that didn't begin with that preface.  

I've previewed assessment packets that include all of the common core standards and have been amazed at their producers' (many of them teachers) complete and utter avoidance of the obvious: you'll either have time to assess your students, or you'll have time to teach them.  You won't have both.  Children require exposure to and experience with concepts and materials, lots of exploration and practice, and must create connections in order to comprehend relevance and to develop new skills with purpose.  Use the Core as a guide for instruction and experience, but don't add every single standard to an itemized list that must be checked off and graded each quarter.  Data hounds may want the checklist, but your students need time well spent in a developmentally appropriate learning environment.  

Children learn at their own pace in their own time, so differentiation is a logical tool to use to meet their needs.  Differentiation is not the appropriate tool to satisfy the adult need of being able to claim that every child reads at the same level on any given day by May.   It's difficult and frustrating to not find many authentic and well-informed advocates for our students.

~ New visitors to my blog, I get off on a rant from time to time.  See above.


~ Though my students know I love sparkly things, coffee, and mani-pedi's, they don't know my favorite bird is the hummingbird.  Unless their parents Google me, and in this day and age, they probably will.


~ Though I've worn Opium and Gautier perfumes for over a decade, my students still tell their parents I smell like cookies and coffee.  E-v-e-r-y year my scent comes up during parent teacher conferences or in an email.  Thankfully no one ever gives me bath gel or soap as teacher appreciation gifts, so I figure they're not dropping hints at my hygiene. 

~ I discover new-to-me-yet-well-established-to-everyone-else music regularly.  It's like my ears are in some sort of time distortion when it comes to Top 40.  Case in point: Kings of Leon have been rockin' for some time now.  This summer my auditory filters finally allowed me to hear them and I ended up shopping for iTunes over the course of an afternoon immersing myself in their sound.  My family gave me my space though I swear I wasn't dancing around the house with a crochet hook in my hand.


Who would I recommend you visit?  Most certainly:

~ Mrs. Lundquist's Superlative Science Blog (check out her lab pets!)

~ Susan at Kindergarten is the Best: she's full of enthusiasm as she shares links, ideas, and products she's created for the classroom.  She's a binder queen like I am too!

~ ...and don't miss Mrs. Poulin's Blog and subscribe to her Kindergarten! online magazine for links to informative, helpful and entertaining posts from the wide world of early childhood!

Happy blogging! 

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Essential Three

Communicating with my Super Star Families and their children is a blend of mostly professional information with some getting-to-know-you glimpses of personal interests and topics.  I believe being a friendly and authentic person/teacher is what builds the best bonds with students as they decide whether or not to trust me, and with parents as they work through the process of loosening or cutting their apron strings.

Relationship-building matters.  I share information about myself with humor, and with appropriate boundaries in place.  Because I'm now the same age as (or older than) many of my students' parents, I understand and can commiserate with them, instead of spending my time worrying about whether or not they approve of me or consider me an expert. Because I'm a mom, and even more affirming, the mom of a first grader, my Stars find me credible and are quick to take ownership of me.

For almost a decade I've carried a camera with me.  Fun photo apps on my cell phone and iPad have contributed to my point-and-shoot tendencies too, and I love using pictures I've taken as I develop lessons, introduce concepts, or share a bit of myself with my students. While I photograph my Stars and their day-to-day activities, I also like to share photos of what I encounter away from school.

As any experienced early childhood professional can tell you, it's usually the connections to their teacher that will determine what stories about school and learning children will remember and share again once at home.  For example:

mantis final

Major cool points! Sure, it's awesome because it's a mantis.  It's green, some of my students' favorite color.  But what is it climbing on?  Why it's one of Mrs. Sommerville's porch chairs!  "Mom, Dad, did you know Mrs. Sommerville found a green mantis on her porch chair?"

Of course the porch chairs aren't the only places I find cool creatures at our house.  One morning I went out to water our garden, and noticed what I thought was a rock left by the first grader on our porch step.  Wondering why he left only one rock, I took a closer look and guess what?  The rock blinked at me!

toad final

You can almost hear what students will relay to their parents, can't you?

How about my new neighbors?  They live in a house attached to MY house!

babybirds 1

How many do you see?  What do you think they are?  Here's what they look like now:

birds 2

The mother bird built her nest up high in the eaves in the shade under the porch.  Though the mother usually flies out first to distract us from her nest, sometimes she ends up dive-bombing Dear Daughter's hair if she feels that too much time has been spent by us in the doorway.

Mm is for mantis.  Tt is for toad.  Nn is for nest, Bb is for bird.

Mrs. Sommerville has a lot of animals living at her house Mom!

Connections, bonding, relationship-building.  The essential three.


Have you visited Mrs. Stanford's Class yet?  She's hosting a *fabulous* giveaway!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Cutesy Over Content: Create Your Classroom's Visual Template Carefully

Though I've been out of the classroom for a month now, many of you have just begun your vacation.  Whether you take an honest to goodness break from all things school (like I try to do every other summer), or you immediately immerse yourself into summer coursework, PD, and planning for next year, it's likely that one day (or even one night in a dream) you'll start thinking about your classroom's theme, decor, and/or arrangement for the upcoming year.

Maybe you'll be changing grades, buildings, or even districts, or you'll be staying right where you are, but you want to freshen things up a bit.  Perhaps your school is being renovated requiring a temporary move to another room with an expected mid-year return to your original once improvements are complete.  Possibly you've been told that a student requires room modifications to allow wheelchair access, a visually calmer environment for behavior management, or frankly you're just not pleased with how a center was underutilized during the previous year.

Change happens.

Like many of you I've loved the eye candy and visually inspiring pins to be found on many teachers' Pinterest boards and pages.  Ideas for storage and organization, bulletin boards, guided reading, instruction via manipulatives, links to TpT products, and colorful art projects have all found themselves re-pinned by yours truly onto my own "Teacher Tips" and "Cute Crafts for Kiddos" boards. But when it comes to classroom decor, my professional bias prevents me from pinning much of what I find on Pinterest or kindergarten blogs.

You've seen my classroom over the years:

classroom example 1

classroom example 2

Bright yet unifying color on the wall, display and learning areas labeled, lower shelf storage covered by neutral curtains on tension rods, and decor that changes each month to accommodate concepts, themes, and seasons:

Though anchor charts, student artwork and theme displays change throughout the year, their general locations and unifying backgrounds do not, which becomes an expected visual template that my Super Stars utilize.  Math concepts and work can be found in our math corner which contains a learning center, bulletin board display and manipulatives.  Our word wall is a dominant feature of the room, and patterning/sorting/classifying elements (or student artwork) are displayed above the students' desks.


Now imagine my room if we added multiple borders of polka dots, neon animal stripes, feathered boas (don't worry, I love Fancy Nancy too) seven different patterns of fabric for wall displays, seating cushions, beanbags and seat sacks, a word wall backed by twenty-six different pieces of scrapbook paper and my shelves full of supplies (in clear tubs) were uncovered.  For a final touch, imagine all of these displays in a room half the size of mine, with floor to ceiling staple boards, every inch of them covered.


I understand wanting to have an inviting, educational, visually appealing and inspiring classroom.  I appreciate textural elements and the use of color, but: too much of a good thing is ~not~ a good thing when it comes to setting the tone, feel, and efficacy of a kindergarten classroom.  Sure, polka dots and neon animal stripes are cute, and I certainly indulge in my own match-y match-yness as I create center tags, utilize pocket charts and select trim for my boards, but there comes a point when the cutesy factor competes for attention with the concepts being taught, and *that*, my dears, is when the line has been crossed.

Your Poem of the Week chart is awfully cute with three different layers of colored/patterned borders, and you've used an additional textural element on top of that (oh, the boas are big this year according to Pinterest), but now your math display isn't as "eye-catching," so you're having to add a row of jingle bells onto your pointer for students to use as they work with the 100 chart.  Oh wait, now THAT's too distracting and students find the book center "boring" because you didn't create four stand-up Chicka Chicka Boom Boom trees surrounded by beanbag chairs that you turned into "coconuts" by purchasing brown fabric with which to cover them.

Congratulations, you're stuck in the gimmick that has become your students' learning environment and it's my guess that your students are expecting their room to be more entertaining than experiential. 

Your classroom is a place for all students, even the easily over-stimulated or distractible ones, to feel welcome, safe, and engaged.  Accosting their visual, auditory, even olfactory senses because you've decided that your classroom should look like a child's birthday theme party on steroids isn't appropriate, no matter how cute you think it might be.   How many boys want to be surrounded for nine or ten months by Fancy Nancy?  Girls Ninjago?

B-a-l-a-n-c-e dear colleagues, balance.  You were provided with a classroom not for the purpose of indulging your inner Decor-Fairy, but to educate, enable, and facilitate your students' learning.  Their academic, behavioral and social needs come before yours.


In case you're worried, I'm no boa-hater.  I find a green one essential every March.