Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Reading

I am thoroughly enjoying my summer break so far! I substituted for summer school this year which meant I got  to choose which days and where I wanted to work. It was kind of interesting to see how different schools do things.

I have been to several PD's and spent time working on putting together leveled readers and recording stories for my listening centers. I've also caught up on some episodes by binge-watching some Netflix. One of my big goals was decluttering my house and getting more organized before someone submits my name to Hoarders. I have definitely made some progress on that front as well.

Reading is something that I try to catch up on during summer break. I have read several books but am kind of in a slump right now. I have a huge stack from the library I just need to get motivated to read them.

Here are some that I read so far this summer:

I love when an author can write about flawed characters but still make you care about them. This is the story of a boy who was abandoned by his mother when he was little and his journey to find his identity. At the same time there is a parallel story about what happened to his mother.

This was an incredibly well-written book! There was a sentence on each page that I found profound or clever. It is a long book-I didn't know how long when I put it on hold at the library. It's over 500 pages, so it took me a while to read it. It's the story of a boy and his mother, love and grief. People just trying to get through the day to day.

I read a list of suspenseful books and was reminded of this story. Now I never saw the movie, but I knew the story. This book was written in the late 50's and I think it was very salacious for a book written in that time. Yes, there's the story of a child with psychopathic tendencies and her mother debating whether to help her (she is a mother after all) or stop her. But there is also the story of the mother herself remembering a past that she believes may be the cause of the daughter's affliction. Much better than I thought it would be.

I had read great things about this book and I have to admit I thought the premise was very creative. It's the story of a woman who marries the former husband of a woman who was convicted of murdering his children. For me though this book missed the mark. It bounced back and forth between character's perspectives and time to a point where I'd have to say who is this now? I also am one of those readers who likes the mysteries solved, who likes everything tied up in a bow by the end and this ending was not that for me. Wouldn't recommend this one.

I do like mystery stories and this one was a very cliched mystery. A girl tracing her past to see what really happened to her mother and her grandmother. I was intrigued enough to finish it and see what happens but really just mediocre.

I had read great reviews of this book in several different places. I feel like it's a hipster effort at artistic vision. These characters where truly flawed but in this story I didn't really care about them very much. It was hard to get through.

Are you reading anything exciting this summer?

Pin It!

Sunday, June 18, 2017


I know moms are often the parent we deal with most often when it comes to our students. But I think it's important to consciously include our dads in classroom activities. Even though we are not in school for Father's Day, we do a Dad's Rock Celebration where the students read either a biography they wrote about their father or a poem. I tried to get my colleagues to participate in this as well but they said their dads won't come. I had 24 out of 25 families represented this year. Sometimes it was a grandparent stepping in, but that student was represented. You don't know until you invite them! And even if 2 dads show up-that's 2 dads that can share in their child's classroom experiences.

We also take a field trip to a local baseball park-they have tours where you can sit in the dugout, press box, VIP area-we usually get several dads who want to chaperone that trip. :) 

Some of my favorite books about Dads:

Shopping trip with dad turns into a bit of an adventure.

 If I were you and you were me.....Dad and his little girl ruminate about what it would be like to be in each other's shoes. This is on Tumblebooks if you have an account with your public library you can access it with you library card.

A classic and a pretty easy read for your beginning readers.

Is there anything Dads can't do? :) This is a really cute story.

LOVE this beautiful book by Eric Carle about a little girl who asks her dad for the moon and he gets it for her.

Based on the song-Just the Two of Us building castles in the sky.

And if you need a chapter book:

Dad takes a little too long when he goes out to get milk so he weaves an unbelievable tale of why he took so long.

Pin It!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Beaded Number Lines

I know I don't post math ideas very often. I guess I just feel like most of us probably do a lot of the same things already in math. It's also never been my strongest subject area. Especially with the little ones-half the year our objectives are counting and number recognition-I run out of ideas for creative ways to teach those things.

Anyway, I try to knock out professional development hours over the summer-no sub plans necessary. :) And I learned about this idea that I had an opportunity to try with my summer school kiddos; it worked really well! It's a beaded number line. I ordered all the supplies from Amazon for a little over $20 total. I got one bag each of 1,000 red and 1,000 white beads. I also ordered shoelaces that I ended up cutting in half. You tie the end without the aglet, put on 20 beads alternating 5 at a time in different colors. It looks like this:

(I know one has the colors backwards-I need to fix that one).

So how do you use it. I had the students make a circle in whole group so I could assess everyone's work by looking around. With my Kinders I asked them to just count out a number and they moved the beads to the opposite side. We went around the circle and each student chose a number for the class to make 1-20. Even the week I had this group there were students who were catching on to the fact they could use 5 at a time instead of counting individually-that's a big skill with the littles.

With older students you could have them put it on a piece of paper and label one number say 11 and then ask them to show where 17 would be. Or they could draw the representation of numbers with the red and white.

An easy tool that I can't wait to use regularly in my math talks with my class next year.

Now on to making Rekenreks with my leftover beads! :)

Pin It!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Words Matter

I try not to get up on my soapbox too often. :) But today is going to be one of those days.

I read a book several years ago-I wish I could remember which one it was, I think maybe Todd Whitaker. But the author was talking about how our choice of words can convey either a positive or negative outlook. And especially in schools, we are going for the positive outlook. Last year I worked in a school with a very toxic climate. On Monday morning when I would ask anyone--from the cafeteria staff to the principal herself "how was your weekend?" the answer would ALWAYS be "not long enough". On Fridays when you ask someone "how are you?" the response ALWAYS was "at least it's Friday and I don't have to come to school tomorrow". This made for a very negative environment. I was always very conscious of how I would answer even those casual, small talk questions. I wanted to stay positive in my responses.

I am subbing this summer I've been subbing for summer school at different campuses and I am just so shocked at how some of these teachers and aides talk in front of the children. At dismissal one day there were a handful of students left and one of the aides asked a boy how he was doing in summer school. Then she and the other teachers starting saying things like "it's not like he's going to pass anyway", "he never listens", "I think he needs medication, his brother took it". Oh my goodness! Not only in front of the child, but in front of other students as well! This is happening at so many different campuses.

Especially working with little ones, they are so cognizant of how you respond to problem students. If I show any type of dislike for a student, they will echo those actions in their interactions with them. I have had very challenging students in my class over the years. One year I had a student ask me "Miss Trayers, do you like Johnny (one of the class boogerbears)?" I answered, "of course I like him!" Johnny was watching that whole time. Can you imagine if I had made a negative comment, what that would have done to his self-esteem?

I worked with a colleague years ago who had a difficult student. He was gifted and awkward. His tapping the pencil and lack of social skills she took as a personal affront and would always talk about how disrespectful he was. She told me one day that she let the kids tell him "I hate you" and "shut up" because she wished she could say those things to him. One day he was acting up for a sub and they put him in my class. I told my class before he came that we were going to treat him as part of our community. We were doing a group activity and he suggested a solution to the problem and a student turned to him and said "you are so smart!". The look on his face! He was so proud. They moved him to my class and whenever we would go anywhere some staff member would inevitably say "oh you have him now, I'm so sorry for you." I would always respond "why, we love having him as part of our class!"

Words matter. I still remember a college professor (this was 20 years ago) in a statistics class who asked me the answer to the problem. I gave the correct answer and she said "well, I know if YOU got it"-meaning I was not good in that class and if I understood then everyone understood and she could move on. I think sometimes we forget how much our students look up to us and mirror our interactions. If everyone on a campus tries to say only positive things-imagine how great that school culture would be! Not only would teachers be more excited to come to work-the students would be more excited to come to school!

Pin It!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Unique Unit Themes

I am a bit of a rebel in the classroom. I don't like to do things just because it's the way we've always done it or because it's what everyone else is doing. I like teaching with theme units because it helps me guide my read-alouds and songs/poems we use to practice fluency. Many Kindergarten teachers do units on apples in the fall and plants in the spring. And there is nothing wrong with using units like that. Many students have done those units in pre-k and I want to give them exposure to different experiences.

So I wanted to share some of the units I do that I think are a little more off-the-beaten path.

Wordless Books

1) Write from the perspective of a wordless book--"If I were a wordless book, I would...."-does it feel different to have no words, etc.?
2) Why do authors write wordless books?
3) Make an argument that wordless books are just as good as regular books.
4) Write your own wordless book
5) Create math problems to go along with the illustrations.

The Moon-I was looking for a specific moon-related book on my library site a few years ago and was blown away by how many moon books there are out there!

1) Comparing the perspective of the moon and the sun.
2) Science-phases of the moon
3) Writing a letter to the moon from one of the stars.
4) Is it right or wrong that we can't see the moon during the day.
5) Rules for being the moon-what is always true about ti.


1. Making pancakes of course! You can put the instructions out with pictures to follow directions on how to mix their own pancake and cook them on a plug-in griddle. There is such pride in their faces as they are eating the pancake they made themselves!

2. Inventing a new way to make pancakes or a new flavor of pancakes.

3. I like to ask them to write a recipe for pancakes before we make them-they come out pretty funny!

4. Language of the disciplines-how does a chef look at a pancake compared to an artist.

5. Explore trends in pancakes over the years.


(I found this book at my library last year. I read the reviews on Amazon and because this is about an immigrant crossing the border there were people who were offended by the plot. I personally, think it's an issue that many of my students are familiar with because they have family members in the same situation. Plus, it's a timely subject in politics today-I see nothing wrong with sharing the journey of people who have come to our country that way).

1. What will the shoes of the future look like? Invent a new kind of shoe.
2. Why do we wear different kinds of shoes for different things. Why do girls wear high heels? Why not wear comfortable shoes all the time?
3. Empathy-walking in other people's shoes to feel how they feel. You can actually demonstrate this with shoes of different jobs.
4. Language of the disciplines-matching shoes to the job.
5. How would our lives be different if we didn't wear shoes?

Pin It!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Videos to Use with Your Students

We all know we have pockets in our day-5 minutes until we get ready for lunch, 10 minutes before it's time to go home. And because I believe in using every minute of the day, one way I like to fill that time is by using video clips. Animated clips can be used to teach making inferences, others just to educate about science or math applications in real world settings.

I wanted to share my favorite places to find video clips: -lots of different videos to choose from-some are more exciting to the kids than others-my students love the domino challenges. You can sign up for their weekly e-mails to see what is coming out new each week.

If you don't follow Terri at Engage Their Minds you really should! She is the best at finding videos to use with the kids. This is one post where she shares clips that have become staples in my classroom:

Ted Talks for Kids: - obviously you should always screen and make sure it's appropriate and relevant for your kiddos. My students loved the one on using digital photography to photograph the minute things in the scientific world-including mites that live on your eyelashes! They were also impressed with the 12 year old who created a very popular app all by himself.

Tumblebooks-most public libraries give members access to this site-you just have to enter in your ID number. We watch the Robert Munsch stories over and over again.

There was a time when showing "movies"in class was frowned upon and YouTube was even blocked in our district. Luckily, the times have changed and there is wisdom in using video clips to add some flavor to our lessons.

Pin It!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Digital Stories-If I Were an Author....

I am a big fan of giving students different ways to apply what they are learning. We talk about what an author is the first day of school. We do author studies and I love to see them come back from the library and say "look Ms. Trayers-it's an Eric Carle book!"--because we did an author study on him. I call them authors in our writing workshop, they sit in our Author's Chair to share their work.

So one year I asked my students to write about what they would do if they were an author. They wrote digital stories with their answers (I use the program Pixie). I think they had some really great ideas:






Can you tell that they know what an author does? :) 

Pin It!