Friday, August 29, 2014

Monsters, Relationships, Technology, and Tales

It's FIVE for FRIDAY... and as I write this late Thursday night, there's only FIVE more mornings before kidpeople march in the door for the new school year! I'm psyched! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs to highlight some of the things I'm thinking about, and I have more goodies in the Building Relationships Series.

1. Okay, my daughter thinks these are creepy, but I think the kids are going to love counting by fives using these mini-hand finger puppets.  There are all sorts of useful goofy things at Archie McPhee– just click on the photo to find!  5.. 10.. 15.. 20...

2.  Arrggghh. Ever feel you are a slave to technology? All district teachers got new computers about a month ago now. I was very happy to get mine. It really is the next best thing to a second brain. New technology does not come without frustrations, though. I worked and worked to get all my mail into the mail app... only to be foiled again and again. I finally asked my daughter to lend a hand. I don't know whether it's because she's in the engineering school, or whether she's of the generation that just naturally "gets" technology faster, but within seconds, she had it working! And how? you ask... she simply closed the app, then opened it again... arrrggh.  I know to do that, but I sure didn't think to do that!

I wonder if it works like this... hope somebody remembers better than I do :)

3. To get over my wasted evening working on email, I clicked on a favorite song video. By now most teachers know this Minion video version of Happy by Pharrell Williams, but if you don't, now is the time to check it out. It never fails to bring a smile to my face. It is a great song that sets an upbeat mood. I use it in the classroom as a brain break and a clean up song. For easy, fast access to all my brain breaks, dance music, and kid vids I pin videos to my Pinterest boards then go there for fast viewing on the screen with my kiddos. You can visit my Pinterest Boards by clicking here

When you find good videos on You Tube and you want to have fast and easy access in the classroom, click "share" down below where the video plays, then click the P for Pinterest and you can pin it to your boards from there.

4. I don't have one particular theme for my entire classroom, but I do give our math activities a monster bent. I use these little guys to designate which math stations kids should go to.

If you click on the image you'll go to Oriental Trading's Monster search. I just shopping carted (can you use that as a verb...) some colorable monster magnets for kidpeople to keep math references handy on their fridge... and I think I need that Sully hat...

I also use this book the first week to launch our math discussions for the year. The monsters are adorable and there's lots of counting! Click to have a look inside.

5. Here is this week's Parent Relationship Builder Idea.

Each year, either before school starts or during the first week, I have a Work and Mingle Night.

Parents come to cut, tape, glue, staple, and assemble materials that the kiddos will use all year. This evening serves several purposes. First of all it really helps me get a lot done. If you do the math, ten parents, working for two hours each, equals twenty hours of my time saved! It also helps kindergarten parents, often new to our school community, get to know each other. And it allows parents to get to know me and why I do things. Parents ask lots of questions and I try to give lots of answers. I also use my time to describe all the ways parents can help the classroom all year by coming in, and by doing work outside of the classroom. We play music, munch, and generally have a great time!

If you think you'd like to try this, I've made it easy by posting my flyer for you to download. It might give you ideas on wording.

And here's my list of Parent Jobs. Over the years I've gotten pretty creative with ways to get parents involved with classroom life. Do you have these jobs?

Parent Center Helpers- for both literacy in the morning, and math in the afternoon

First Fifteen Parents- parents who come in with the bell and do some fast extra practice with kids

D.E.A.R. Parents- one day a week a parent reads aloud instead of our independent D.E.A.R. time

And for parents who can't come in:

Communication Parent- a parent who sends out reminder emails, most importantly to our weekly fresh produce parents. If you don't know how we get fresh produce for snacks click here.

Monthly Play Dough Maker- sends in a fresh batch of play dough the first week of every month

Book Club Parent- sorts and bags up to send home purchased books

Party Suppliers- I send out a list of stuff we need a few times a year and they bring it in

Field Trippers- parents sign up for specific field trips, but these folks are my in-a-pinch go-tos

Book Doctor- I send home a roll of tape and books to repair as they land in our BooBoo Book Bin

Now of course I don't always get someone in all of these categories every year, but I come close. Handing out the list and discussing it on Curriculum Night let's parents know they are really wanted. Parent involvement not only helps me– research shows kids who see their parents with a role in school DO better in school. It's all about the learning!

Last but not least, here is this week's Funny Kid Friday tale.

With this story I move Funny Kid Fridays from weekly to monthly. I'm just too busy during the school year to commit to weekly posts. Look for a tale on the first Friday of the month now. This week's is another from the first day of school.

One year I had this little guy who looked at me earnestly when I finished our very first read aloud on the first day of school and asked, "Are we going to do that again?"

"Well, yes," I said, delighted that he was having such a grand time as he subtly pointed out to everyone else that reading was a GREAT activity.

After art, he asked me again, and after snack, and recess... in the course of the day he asked me a dozen more times! Never doubt routines are important! He finally stopped asking when he realized that he could rely on regular, on-going fun in kindergarten every day! Isn't life grand!

Link-up below with your tale. You can link up all month now. Don't forget to grab my button up there to link back. And, of course, feel free to share your tale in the comment section below, too... in fact, readers out there in blog land, I'd love for you to share ANY love you have in the comments :)

Special thanks to Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday, thee place to go for great blog reading. Click to find more!

Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Super Goodies and Some Freebies!

This is my MOST LOADED POST yet! News, tips, freebies, funnies, links... it has it ALL! Read, Read, Read! Thanks Doodle Bugs and Teaching Blog Addict for help spreading the news!

1.  Closer... closer... we are just ten, ten, ten days away from the launch of Lilybell magazine. This is the new magazine app for kids which is featuring my short story series The Shenanigans of Bean and Boggin. The stories are based on my chapter book manuscript The Fairies Come In. This is my editor Sara.

What do you think about an editor who works with a chicken on her shoulder??

And this is Jonathan's illustration for the launch issue.

That's Boggin...Jonathan captured him perfectly. I love him... Boggin that is. (Well, Jonathan, too, of course.) Is it weird to be in love with a fairy that comes from your imagination?... better call me weird! You can check out Lilybell's facebook page by clicking on either of those photos up there... and, of course... more will be found right here on this little blog soon!

2. 'Tis the Season to share reveals and classroom set-up tips. My room is not anywhere near ready as I've been focused on some district work for the last couple weeks, but I will share with you this little tip. Standard magnetic letter boxes fit per-fect-ly into Sterlite drawers!!!!

See this box by clicking on the picture!

I have several of these sectioned boxes of magnetic letters which I keep in my carpet area for whole group instruction, and in my reading group area, too. I think these boxes are actually sold as tackle boxes, but they have twenty four little compartments which house magnetic letters beautifully when you double up the 'w' with the "x,' and the 'y' with the 'z.' The lid of one of my boxes had a broken hinge. The lid still fit, but not right, and it bugged me. I considered throwing it away... for about two seconds... before starting to think of how I could make it work better. I had these sets of drawers in my guided reading area, and the box without the lid was an exact fit! All I have to do now is slide the drawer out, take the letters I need, and slide it back in. YESSS. I love when necessity is the mother of invention.

3. Like those of us on the edge of a new school year, I've been thinking of room updates and rummaging through old school stuff. I came upon some old boxes in storage and remembered when I used them in the classroom as private D.E.A.R. spaces.

I got my hands on them when our district got new computers years ago... never put such prize "junk" in front of a kindergarten teacher! They were a great size and super sturdy, and they stored flat, which is why I still have them. The kids LOVED them. D.E.A.R. was never so popular, or quiet! They would throw in a cushion, grab a half dozen books and spend as much time in their cozy reading nooks as I'd allow. I don't really have enough space in my new room, but I share this because they worked so well. If you can get your hands on some big boxes you might give it a try. And, hey, maybe I'll find a way to use them again.

4. Freebies Ahead! The first two in a series of Parent Relations Forms are available for free download on today's post. Each year before school starts I send home an information card that is just for me. This is separate from the card found in the school enrollment pack. Over the years my cards have become invaluable to me and I carry them around in my school bag all year.

Unlike a general student information card, my card prompts parents to share with me the name the child goes by and the name the child is to write– as we all know after making the name tags for the classroom, a student might be named William, go by Buddy, and write Bud! Better to know student and parent preferences soon. My card also prompts parents to let me know about unique family situations such as when students live in two households, eat vegetarian, or any number of details that will in some way affect my interactions with them.

I send my student info card home to parents before school starts and I ask them to bring them to our Meet and Greet Event that is held the week before school starts, or to get them to the office before the first day. The cards could also be sent home once school starts as this information is useful all year long.

You can download my completely editable student info card. When you go to download it it will look like it was made in a really cute font, but it is just good old Chalkboard, a standard font on most computers. Each card is run front and back, and two cards fit on one sheet of paper, so the finished size  of each card is 8.5 by 5.5. I suggest you run them on card stock for durability, and I use bright green card stock, so I can refer to them as my green info card when talking to parents. Again, these are completely editable, though I hope you won't have to do anything except add your name.  Click on the thumbnail to get this little Freebie. Be forewarned– when you view it on dropbox the line spacing might look funky, but when you download it, it turns out right.

AND that's not all. I am also making available right now my "Wild Waver Student Letter." This personalized letter goes home to students before school starts to set the stage for a great year.  It is also completely editable in Word. In fact you have to edit– you don't want your students receiving a wildly waving Mrs. Wright! This is just a simple idea share and you can easily do it all on your own, but it makes it easier if you start with mine.  Both of these forms have become popular in my own district for building teacher-family relationships.  I hope you enjoy them... would love to hear your thoughts and get some love in the comments! Click on thumbnail to download.

5. And NOW, since it is Friday after all, it's time for Funny Kid Friday.

Today's story is directly related to my Mad Waver Student Card that I've sent home for years.

One year a little punkin had received hers and was pretty thrilled. As she came in my classroom door on her very first day of school with a beaming smile, she greeted me with, "You're on my fridge!"

Fame doesn't get any better than that! About the time this little one graduated to middle school her mom told me that my smiling face had graced their fridge door for years. Ai-yi-yi! Hope you can handle this celebrity status when you end up on refrigerators!

Be sure to link up your funny school story below, and grab my button up there to link back from your post... or just leave word in comments. Sorry for the late link-up, but it has been just one crazy week! Remember you can post another day and link up all week. As you know, Five for Friday and Freebie Friday posts get more reads than others.

Special thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching for one of our favorite linkys! Click for more bloggers!

And thanks to Teaching Blog Addict for another favorite linky. Click here for more FREEBIES!

NEWS FLASH BONUS!  Check out this Great, Funny back-to-school parody and tribute to teachers! JUST found it! Thanks Holderness Family! Teachers love you xoxox

Friday, August 15, 2014

Funny Kid Friday– Polly Put the Kettle On

Time for Funny Kid Friday! Hope you'll share yours after I share mine.

I was in the classroom setting up the other day and got out the pocket chart easel on which I display our weekly poem for shared reading. I choose a poem or song each week which features our word wall words of the week. I think it is important to learn new words in context. I was reminded of a story...

One particular week I chose the classic song "Polly Put the Kettle On." After reading it a few times– I always start off reading, even when it is a song- and started to talk about this song. I told the kidpeople it was a very old nursery rhyme that had been around a long time, and probably their grandparents knew it (I mean, if your GRANDparents know it, it is REALLY old!) I also discussed how to make tea and what might have been going on when this song was first sung.

One little guy looked at me and said, "Mrs Wright, we should sing, Polly put the video game on, Polly put the video game on..."

Little person number two piped up with, "Yeah, we like video games a lot more than tea!"

And of course we sang it that way... and lots of other ways, too!

It's so good when they apply what they learn to their life... I can't sing the song now without thinking of video games :)

I hope you got a chuckle and I hope you have a kid tale to share. Just grab the button up top and link your story. Remember it can be a quick post any time this week– readers do go back in the archives for a chuckle. Feel free to share in the comments as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meet Teacher Blogger... Me

Well, this is an extra friendly post because I'm linking up with Falling into First's linky party.  What a great idea, Stephanie!

I'm Kathleen Wright and I've been a teacher of pre-K, Kindergarten, and even a little First, for a long time. I am married to Jonathan, who is my partner in most crimes, and I have two beautiful, pretty much grown up daughters in college. We have a rather large Yorkie named Popeye... but she's a girl Popeye... long story. The questions ahead pretty much cover everything else. Let the interview begin! I had a little fun with it... surprise!


Talking with my kids. Spending fun time with Jonathan. Sitting on the deck with friends in wonderful weather. Reading. Writing. Chocolate cake. Taking a vacation. Children's books. The Christmas holidays. Snow days. Campfires. A really good movie. Little kids. Doing something new to the house. Waking up with nothing to do. Actually having a few of my favorite things...


Are you kidding me?? 
I could be a million things–
writer- published!
interior designer- of living spaces
antique-gift-toy-gallery-bakery-boutique owner- hmm... that spot would be fun
maker- I have a looong list already
comedian- humor is one of our greatest blessings
philanthropist- oh, if I had the money to fund what needs to be funded...
politician- yep, I'd make a few changes
and I AM doing all these things a wee bit...
Lucky I'm a teacher!


Industrious. Ingenious. Vivacious. Loquacious. 

okay... so I got on a roll with that... ever realize how many words end with -ious?
I left off luscious, delicious, and bodacious... hee. 


"I really believe in giving standardized, computerized tests to kindergartners..."
said no teacher EVER!!"

I'd have a quiet, intimate party with good food, great conversation and
Maurice Sendak, Theodore Geisel, and Jo Rowling
around the table.


 Lot Going On 

 It would be the power to "UNDO." 
With one little twitch of my nose (Like in Bewitched... remember Samantha?), 
I could put back or undo what had been done.  
I'd love to learn from hindsight and then be able to do it again... 
and imagine how useful it would be after you made a big mess!


"There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle"
-- Albert Einstein

When I run around declaring, "It's a miracle!" Jonathan says, " of the lesser ones..."
It's one way I remember to be grateful to the Big Guy Upstairs for all that I have. 


This was a tough one... I sing along with decades of songs on the radio.. for today I'll say
Happy by Pharrell Williams
How can anybody not sing along with that?


I'm SUCH a Morning Person. I leap out of bed (most) mornings with a million things on my to-do list and drop like a stone at night.  Once I crash into that bedtime wall, nothing productive is going to happen. 


HA! TPT is a joint venture with my husband-illustrator-designer-guy, and a million other projects get in our way, so we have very little on TPT... though that's not to say I don't have a favorite. Our freebies have been downloaded quite a bit, considering we are rather unknown, but the April Showers Pack is my current fav. It is a cross-curricular unit on Springtime June Bugs that combines poetry, art, and science. It was a lot of work to put together but has a LOT of fun pieces to it, at a come-and-check-us-out price, so I hope people will just click on that cover button to see it.  AND we DO have more in the works :)... sigh.


Mr. Rogers held my daughter Samuelina when she was just a baby. 
Gotta love Mr. Rogers. Gotta love NAEYC conferences!

Now click on back there and take a peek into some other teacher lives!

The post Meet Teacher Blogger... Me first appeared on

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fruit Snack Everyday? Yes, Way!

Oh, I am so grateful to have Fourth Grade Frolics' Monday Made It! linky to help spread the news about this system I developed to get GREAT healthy snacks into our class! You really gotta know about this! And this post holds a helpful Freebie, too!

In my classroom we eat community style snack, morning and afternoon, with everyone eating the same snack all together.

Did everyone get their squirt of hand gel first?
As both parent and teacher, I wanted to stay away from the cupcakes, chips, and candy that come into class when kids bring in daily snacks from home. We now know much more about how sugar is not good for our bodies and not good for learning. And we know how peer pressure from friends eating junk food trickles into families, even as they strive to eat in healthy ways. So I have parents supply two big boxes of shelf-stable, pantry items like crackers and cereals, about four times a year. The list that goes home includes only healthier choices to pick from.

But it gets better than that! You might wonder how it can be that parents only send in crackers four times a year to cover snack. Well, in this snack system parents supply fresh fruit and veggies for snack, too! And each family is only on the schedule four or five times in the year!

Three families send in fresh produce each week. I ask for what amounts to one serving of snack for each child in the group–  a small bag of apples, a bag of baby carrots, half the number of bananas as kids, three cucumbers... you get the idea. I found over the years, though, that many parents happily send in more than this, easily supplying two class snacks per contribution. This means HALF OR MORE of our DAILY SNACKS are FRESH FRUIT AND VEGGIES. It's TERRIFIC!

Parents LOVE our snack system. When compared to packing two snacks every day, they save money and time by sending in class snacks less than ten times in the year. And both parents and I are happy that kids eat better overall... kids usually dig into fruit and veggies faster when their friends are happily munching beside them.

Sooo Good!
Here are the details that make it work:

Family participation is not mandatory in any way and I say that clearly to parents. However, over the ten years I've been doing this, I have come across very few families, as in maybe two, who never sent in produce at least some of the time. And, regardless, each student still got regular fresh snack as planned.

My school has a wide range of diverse families. One of the most striking things I discovered is that a household's economic means is neither a predictor of who will participate, nor how much produce will be sent in. Families who don't shop at fundraisers or book sales, for example, participate in supplying fruit. And my experience says that these very families are often the ones who show up at the classroom door with a whole grocery bag of produce!

If you teach at a school with extreme poverty, than this system might not work as described here. I encourage you to consider the benefits and think about ways that it could be tweaked so your students get more fruits and veggies, and healthier snacks in general. As a teacher, I've lived the adage where there's a will, there's a way. Before I developed this system in which all families to participate, I found three families who sent in enough fruit for each child once a week– one of them was not a parent at our school! In all my years of public school teaching we have had fresh produce... the will, the way.

Cukes become our favorite every year... Who knew?

It is not a hassle for me as a teacher. With all we have to do in our full days, I simply couldn't do it if that were not the case. I ask that parents wash the produce, but that's all. I've set up a space and routine for serving, and I've become a fast-as-a-TV-chef chopper... well, almost. Serving snack takes less minutes than everyone going to their backpacks to get and open snacks. Honest. And while I dole out and chop, we sing, do brain quizzes (like minute math), and talk to our friends. So although you could use your planning time to ready the snacks, you don't have to.

I make the schedule that parents follow by looking over the school calendar for the entire year. I list all the weeks we're in school and ask families to send in the goods on Monday or Tuesday of their week. Each week I assign three families to bring in produce. If it is a four day or less week, or there are days when we won't be having regular snack for some reason, I assign fewer families.

I discuss our snack system on Curriculum Night, and send home a letter explaining how it works. Although I like to discuss it at our meeting, this is not crucial to the system. The year I began serving fruits and veggies, I started midyear and it took off just fine. Also, there are always some families who miss Curriculum Night, and they come on board through the letter I send home.

As a help to parents, and to keep the snack program running smoothly, my Communication Parent (CP) sends home email reminders. My CP is a classroom parent who can't come in to help during the school day, but does have internet access. He/she emails a reminder to the parents of the upcoming week on the Friday afternoon before.

Quick FAQS:
- Crowds? This works in my classes of 18-22 students before needing any tweaking of amounts.

- Cleanliness? Each child gets a squirt of sanitizer hand gel directly before eating. We also practice "taking the first one our fingers touch." Bowls are cleaned after each use. My physician parents have had no issue with hand gel or community snack. With all the contact the kiddos have all day, snacking is probably one of our cleaner periods, because our germ awareness goes up with our healthy practices.

- Hungry? Kids always have the choice to eat or not. Even when they don't eat much, they go just another hour or so before having the chance to eat again. I encourage a "tooth bite," which is sticking one corner of one tooth into the selection. Funny how it's usually not as bad as they think.

- Yucky? Kids are permitted to say, "I don't care for this" one time. They are not allowed to say it more than that because it would be rude to the kids in our classroom community who like the food. The few kids who say this often say it right before they munch it all down :)

Snack was out on the veranda this spring day.

To make this all easier for you to see and use, I have a FREEBIE download for you to mull over. I include:
– a sample snack blurb to distribute to families describing our community fruit/veggie snack plan
– a sample nut-free, pantry snack list. This is the list I ask parents to choose from when they send in their boxes of snack for our pantry cupboard. Sometimes teachers don't want to have community style snack because they worry about kids with nut allergies. With community snack, I'm the gatekeeper doling out what everyone is eating, which makes our snacks more safe for allergy kids to be around. And the allergy families are happy, too.
– a sample parent schedule for bringing in produce throughout the year, which gives suggestions for produce to try.
– a sample email message that is sent to families by our CP.

Click on our basket of bounty to get to the FREE DOWNLOADS.

I would sure LIKE it if you would follow me! Various tips, tidbits and downloadables like this appear here. And we do believe in freebies :) Also, to my blogger friends, I'd love if you'd spread the word about this way of snacking and send readers on over to check it out. I think kids will benefit tons!

If you already have ways to get less junk and healthier snacks into your classroom, please share in the comments! If you're inspired to give it a try, I'd love to hear that, too. And even more terrific would be if you come back and let us know after it becomes your norm, or if you're a blogger, blog away. When you stumble upon something that works for you and your kiddos, you can't help but want to spread the word.

I say with great enthusiasm– try it, you'll like it!

Be sure to ask any questions you have below, too-- I'll get back to you! My hope is you'll put this healthy snack system in place for your kiddos.

Now click to head on back to more good ideas! Thanks, Tara!

The post Fruit Snack Everyday? Yes, Way! first appeared on

Friday, August 8, 2014

Funny Kid Friday and Five

Hello Folks! I have four sound bites and the weekly Funny Kid Friday for my Five for Friday this week.

1. O.M.Gosh. SO busy now... I sometimes wish I could just give up sleep all together. In addition to a ton of school stuff, I am putting big work into getting ready to share my class snack system with you all. It will be my Monday Made It's post. If you are sick of junk food coming to your class snack times, check back MONDAY... and there will be FREEBIES!

2. I'm also working on cleaning up a set of parent and kid handouts that are super useful for the start of the year. They are going to be EDITABLE and I am going to make them FREE downloads from the blog... but only for a short time.  After that you'll have to buy 'em. Keep your eyes open.

3. I was at the dollar store the other day and remembered to pick up another color of paper hot/cold cups. These make the best containers for pulling magnetic letters for guided reading groups. I use a set of one color to pull all the letters the students will need to practice particular word building on their white boards. The letters lay on the bottom of the cup, allowing enough room for the cups to be stacked easily. Then when my groups come up, each student gets a cup of letters and is ready to learn in three seconds. A set of these cups are CHEAP at six for a buck, and they are quite hardy.

4. A friend of mine said she loves catching up on all her favorite shows over the summer. That makes perfect sense, but I somehow never find the time to do that, either in the summer or the school year. I watch basically only two shows all year... Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. I do love that if I happen to miss the broadcast, I can always watch on-line within a few days for free, so I'm never behind. Have you seen this FUNNY parody of Call the Midwife done by the actual actors from the show?? HILARIOUS! It makes me almost wish it was school season again so I could watch this season's Midwife.... then again, it will come soon enough :)

5. And speaking of watching TV... that brings me to this week's Funny Kid Friday.

A long time ago, in the time of the dinosaurs when schools didn't have any of the fancy techno stuff that we have now, there was the trusty old overhead projector.  One fall, I pulled it out and introduced it to the kids, showing off allllll it could do with projector sheets.  Woot. 

After the lesson, one little guy, with eyes as big as saucers, declared:

"I'm gonna save up all my money and buy me one of those!"

He probably has a theatre room complete with flatscreen TV and wireless connections to sense-around sound now! Ha.

Your turn.  Post your funny kid story... they really make fun additions to Five-for-Friday posts... and link up here so you get a two for one link up!  Link up below with the HTML to your exact post, and grab the Funny Kid Friday button up above and link back. If you're going to share, I'd do it quick– Funny Kid Friday will run weekly through August and then once a month for the school year.

Then click right here on Doodle Bugs' Five for Friday and see what's up with everybody else.

And don't forget to come back here Monday for a new way to think about snacks!!! THANKS for stopping by!

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