Archive for July, 2010

5 Tips to get Back to School Ready ~ Teacher’s Edition

by: Jennifer Perez

I can hardly believe that in two short weeks, summer vacation will officially come to an end and I will once again be back in my classroom!  Knowing this day was quickly approaching, I have been preparing for going ‘Back to School’ for several weeks and wanted to share my 5 Tips to get Back to School Ready with my fellow educators! (Order of Tips does not signify order of importance.

1. Classroom Library ~ For me, having an impressive classroom library is crucial!  I enjoy scouting bargain books anywhere I can: Goodwill, garage sales, Thrift Stores and book fairs held by Scholastic.  I do my best to collect a variety of genres that will peak interests in my students.  At our school, the library is typically closed the 1st few weeks of school in order for Library Orientations to take place.  I don’t want the Library closure to be an excuse for my students to not have books to read.  Instead, I load up my library and make it as inviting and comfortable as possible with:

  • A lamp from home to give the library corner a ‘glow’
  • Pillows for relaxation
  • Reading quotes to provoke meaningful thoughts (and conversation with appropriate!)
  • Reading Glasses-these are old glasses with the lens popped out.  My students LOVE these and they LOVE wearing them while they read!

Summer time is the perfect time to start looking for books to build your classroom library AND collect items to place in your library to make it enjoyable.

2.  Building your Classroom Community ~ This is a piece where I spend a lot of my ‘thinking time.’  Building your classroom community is an extremely instrumental piece that AL teachers should consider doing at the beginning of the school year.  Building your classroom community will allow you students to:

  • Get to know their peers
  • Become familiar with their teacher-the rules, procedures and expectations
  • Feel at home in the classroom.  After all, your students may feel that their classroom is their 2nd home since they spend so much of their time there.  If they feel at ‘home’ then they most likely feel comfortable which is GREAT!  Feeling comfortable and at ease in the classroom is critical in promoting a ‘risk free’ learning environment.  The more learning risks your students are willing to make – the more opportunities they will have to learn!

3.Letter to Parents ~ Each school year, I draft a letter to the parents/guardians of my students.  I make sure to include:

  • Information about me: Name, brief background in my profession, contact information
  • Class Rules
  • Class Procedures ~ Homework, being tardy, etc…
  • Expectations I have for my students
  • Parent /teacher communication

Once I am sure the letter has everything I want my parents/guardians to know, I print out enough for each student and send home on the FIRST day of school.   In my experience, this has proven very beneficial because from Day 1,  to all stakeholders were made of aware of how the classroom runs and expectations for all students!  I make sure I reiterate to all parents/guardians that communication is extremely important.   I do my very best to make myself available before/after school, respond to emails same day and hold conferences once per 9 weeks period.  I truly believe that as educators we must do our best to work as a team with our student’s parents!

4. Post Cards ~ Over the summer, I write post cards to all of my future students.  I introduce myself as their teacher, tell them how thrilled I am to meet them and try to plant some excitement for the upcoming school year.  My purpose in doing this is to let my students know that I care about them and their learning …because I do!  Writing out the post cards will take less than an hour, but I promise it will be a memory that your student will hold near for a long time!  For me, seeing a my new 3rd grade student standing at the entryway to our room with the postcard in their hand is enough for me to continue this tradition each year!

5. State Standards ~ Review of your state’s academic standards is typically done once all teachers have returned back to work.  Sometimes, training will be conducted to show teachers how the standards have changed, been updated and what resources are available to you in order to teach the standards.  Woo – Hoo!

Knowing this, I still make it a point to review the standards over the summer so I have an opportunity to read over everything at my own pace.  If I have questions, I write them down and return to school with them to have them answered.  Knowing your state standards ahead of time will really make planning your lessons much easier since you will already know what MUST be taught vs. not!!

There you have it!! 5 Tips to get Back to School Ready ~ Teacher’s Edition!

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer vacation and get ready to change the life of a child!!

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/30/10

July 30, 2010 at 1:23 PM 4 comments

Teach the Teacher

by: Jennifer Perez

I was so thrilled when I was asked by our school’s Math/Science Resource Teacher to attend a “Math-Teach the Teacher” training with her over the summer!  A few reasons for my extreme excitement included:

  • Attending a Professional Development Training where I KNEW I would learn valuable information.
  • Having the opportunity to learn more about the new Math Textbooks adopted by our District.
  • Getting back into the “swing” of things after taking a year off to stay home with my daughter!
  • Being able to share what we learned with our co-workers about the Math Resource materials.  With this knowledge, we all will be capable of using the materials correctly in order to benefit our students!

Throughout my four years of teaching, I have attended over 75 Professional Development Trainings!  These trainings all have been extremely beneficial for me AND for my students.  I truly enjoy learning new ways of presenting content materials to my students. I have the training presenters and the District of Hillsborough County to Thank for all of that!

Now, I have the opportunity to teach my co-workers information that will be of value to them AND for their students!  My hope is that I can be as effective as the trainers in which I’ve had in the past!  I plan on reflecting on that experience when it happens in a few weeks and sharing my thoughts on the entire experience!

Wish me luck!

© Jennifer Perez 7/29 /10

July 29, 2010 at 7:35 PM Leave a comment

Alphabetizing Books

by: Jennifer Perez

Ever since I was a child I have loved books!  I love reading them, holding them, shopping for them and talking about them.  It really isn’t surprising to anyone who knows us that Peyton, my daughter, also has a love for books! Several times a day, Peyton will walk over to her book collection, choose a book that interests her and ask me to read it.  I especially love how she will then take the book and sift through the pages on her own, pointing out familiar items and calling them by name!  It just warms my heart to see her evolving into a young reader!

The Alphabetizing begins

Due to the amount of books Peyton owns, her books are stored in two places: in a shelf in her bedroom upstairs and in two baskets downstairs in the living room.  As our afternoon activity, I decided to take Peyton to her bookshelf upstairs and alphabetize her books.  Now, my daughter is a little too young to alphabetize her books on her own, she is 21 months old! However, it was a wonderful opportunity to practice the alphabet, organize her books and spend some quality time together!

Alphabetizing ~ Children 0 to 4

  1. Gather all of your child/children’s books and spread them out onto the floor.
  2. Explain to your child what you are doing, “here are all of your wonderful books!  As a way to organize your books, we are going to work together to put them in ABC order. ABC order is also called Alphabetical order.”
  3. Since your little ones are still too young to alphabetize themselves, stimulate their minds by singing the alphabet while sorting the books into the correct ‘alpha’ pile.  Ex. Books by author’s whose names begin with A in one pile, B’s in another pile, etc…
  4. Change things up a bit by asking your child to repeat the letters after you as you continue to sort and stack books.
  5. Feel accomplished!  When all is said and done, you have organized your child’s books alphabetically, given them additional practice with their alphabet AND spent quality family time together!

Alphabetizing ~ Children 5 and up

  1. Follow Steps 1 & 2 from above.
  2. Before beginning to sort, have your child sing the alphabet out loud as a warm up to their task.
  3. Begin by modeling how to search for books whose author’s names begin with the Letter A and pull those books to the side.
  4. In order to ensure your child understands the task, ask your child to begin sorting an creating a pile for the Letter B.
  5. If your child has a great grasp on the task, encourage them to continue sorting by letter until all of the books are in the appropriate pile. If they need more practice with the alphabetizing, work on sorting the next few letters together or until your child is ready to attempt on their own!
  6. Feel accomplished!  When all is said and done, you helped your child organize their books alphabetically, given them additional practice with their alphabet AND spent quality family time together!!  Not bad for an afternoon activity 😉

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/28/10

July 28, 2010 at 6:33 PM Leave a comment

When Teachers Get Confused…

by: Jennifer Perez

Yes, you heard correctly…teachers do, at times, get confused!  I was inspired to write this piece after attending a Math Training provided by my school district.  The Training was created to teach teachers NEW and engaging ways to teach our students how to “learn” Multiplication and Division. I entered the classroom armed with my brand new sharpened pencils and legal pad-eagerly waiting to take notes that would change my student’s lives! I cannot be more thrilled with the information learned at this training!  Not only did I learn some neat strategies to teach my students to use with Multiplication and Division, but I learned something about myself as well.

The scenario…

Once the content was presented to the teachers, we were numbered off into groups.  Our groups then circulated through a variety of Math Games that can/could be used with our students for enforcement of Multiplication and Division.  My partner and I reached our 1st destination….Multiplication Football.  It seemed like a really cutting edge concept~Football+Multiplication=Learning!? Or so we thought!

Excitedly, we took our manila folder to our seat and emptied the contents onto the desk’s surface.  Once all of the materials were organized in distinct piles, we began reading the directions for Multiplication Football.  After my 1st reading of the directions, I was completely lost!  Embarrassed to admit my confusion, I looked at my partner who glanced up at me with a look that said, “Huh?”  Knowing I wasn’t alone, I told my partner I had NO clue what the directions were asking.  We then re-read the directions for clarity… no such luck!  How could this be possible?  How could two teachers with a combined total of 14 years of teaching, not be able to understand the directions for Multiplication Football??  I still do not have the answer to this question!

The solution

My partner and I decided since we could not decipher the directions, we would go ahead and play the game how we ‘thought’ it should have been played!  The game, played our way, was enjoyable.  We both agreed it would be a benefit to our students to, but with a set of directions that would be student friendly!

Teachers getting confused….it happens!

I walked into this Professional Training hoping to learn valuable information that would benefit my students and I did!  What I wasn’t expecting was to learn that, “You know what?  I may not understand everything ALL the time and that’s ok!” As teachers, we have a tendency to believe we need to have the answers to everything.  This is a personal struggle of mine that was put to the test.

I plan on using this personal experience with my students this year to let them know that it’s ok to be confused at times!  It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with them.  Maybe the directions just weren’t clear enough, as in my scenario.  Maybe the directions need to be read once more OR maybe as their teachers/parents we can provide a bit of clarification to avoid further frustration!

There you have it!  My name is Jennifer Perez….I am a teacher….and YES! Sometimes I get confused!!

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/27/10

July 27, 2010 at 12:10 PM Leave a comment

Pennies Add Up

by: Jennifer Perez

This is an activity I present to my students each year and they LOVE it!  With each new set of students that reach my classroom each year, I see a trend.  My students have zero to no concept of money because our society has moved toward using debit cards and credit cards instead of using cash.  Gone are the days when you can give your child $5 to go shopping and hope they not only make a wise purchase, but also have some change to spare!

Lesson Objective:

Not only will this activity help your child become more aware of ‘physical’ money, but it will also help them keep track of their money using a check register and raise their money awareness.

What you need:

  • Assorted Bills~ $1, $5, $10, $20
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Blank check registry

Let’s begin:

1. Begin the lesson by giving your child/student a blank check registry and imaginary beginning balance.

2. After you have given them their monthly balance make them aware they now have to begin paying monthly bills.  (Create bills that will add up to approximately 50% of their total balance)

3. Using the check registry, model for your child/student how to subtract the monthly bills from their beginning balance.  (Encourage using a pencil in case mistakes are made in the registry!)

4. After the mandatory bills are paid ask, “What else would you like to buy?”  Work with them to realize, after looking at their end balance, that some of the “stuff” they might want -they may not be able to afford.

5.Try to get your child/student to come to the conclusion that they will need to be disciplined with their purchases and will need to save their money in order to make particular purchases.

6.  Before they become frustrated, remind them that they get a monthly allowance!  I would say something like, “ I know it’s frustrating not having much money after the bills have been paid, but remember, you will receive another $100 allowance at the beginning of the month for doing your chores!  Let’s go ahead and credit your account with your $100 allowance so you can see how much money you will have at the beginning of next month. See? Keep saving your money and soon you’’ be able to purchase the new Xbox video game. “  (Crediting the account was just for an example.  Be sure to erase the credit and reapply until the allowance has actually been given.)

Below is a sample of the numbers used:

Monthly  allowance ~ $100

Bills: Taxes $10, Insurance $15, Rent $20, Cable $5

Birthday Money: $50

You can take this lesson as far as you would like!  This lesson is to help your child/student learn the concept of money, use a check registry and learn the value of a dollar.  As long as they are engaged from the start, I have no doubts it will be a lesson that will not that will carry on for some time!

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/22/10

July 23, 2010 at 9:03 AM Leave a comment

LMNOP

by: Jennifer Perez

We all know the song~let’s sing it shall we? A-B-C-D-E-F-G, H-I-J-K-elomenop, Q-R-S, T-U-V, W-X-Y and Z. Now we know our ABC’s….but do THEY?

This is exactly what I heard when tutoring a student recently.

Little A

This student, I will call her A, was very strategically trying to write her compound words in alphabetical order when I began to watch ever-so closely.  A had written the 1st two words in the correct alphabetical sequence, but the 3rd however; was not.

Noticing this, I asked my student if she needed a brain break before continuing and she said, “No.”  I then asked if she was confused with the task and she said, “No.”  At this point, I knew something was wrong and I was trying to plan the next questions to ask that wouldn’t make A feel self-conscious.  I asked A if she needed to brush-up on their alphabet, in which the response was a nod…”yes!”

Here we go~ “ABCDEFGHIJK elomenop QRG????”   Imagine the complete shock I was in when I heard this!  How can A not know the Alphabet?  She will be going to 3rd grade in just a few weeks!  How did this go on for so long?  Why didn’t A’s three previous teachers catch on to this discovery?

Learning Opportunity for Little A

In a few short seconds, I realized that answers to those questions did not matter to Little A.  I needed to teach the Alphabet and FAST!  According to A, she “tried learning the ABC’s in Kindergarten, but someone was talking to her so she couldn’t hear the teacher.”  All I have to say about that is …  😦

I quickly wrote down the alphabet into her composition notebook and then closed it.  I decided to sing the ABC song to A so she could hear each and EVERY letter.  When I reach the  “LMNOP” sequence I slowed down a bit and clapped one syllable for each of those five letters. Little A then told me she wanted to try so I encouraged her to use the clapping method.  Did it work???  Not on the first try, but I admire my student’s determination in figuring out the “elomenop” cluster.  Realizing she didn’t get it correct the 1st time around, A looked at me to see what I would say.  I gave her a nod and a BIG smile~ translation: “You can do this!  I believe in you so try it again.” Little A understood the translation perfectly…

Did it work the 2nd time???  YES!!  A decided for the 2nd attempt that she would clap each individual letter.  Once she reached the LMNOP sequence, her rhythm slowed as she carefully said each individual letter ~looking at me with approving eyes.  As soon as she was finished, I gave her our “double high five.” (The double high fives are saved for HUGE accomplishments.)

A’s demeanor completely changed once she realized for herself this was a task and learning opportunity in which she was able to complete herself and learn from.  I could see her self-confidence begin to increase as I told her that she could, “do anything with hard work and determination!” Little A understood what I meant which made my heart smile.

Learning Opportunity for ME

Even though this was a HUGE learning opportunity for A, this was also a HUGE learning opportunity for me as well.  Being that A was about to enter 3rd grade, I automatically assumed she knew her alphabet.  Never again will I do this.  What I learned from this experience is every student has/had different learning experiences in school.  Just because a certain skill or concept was ‘taught’ it doesn’t necessarily mean the skill/concept was actually “learned.”  In my excitement to begin reading and digging deeper into text with A, I didn’t give her a chance to show me what she still needed to know-what I needed to know.  I thank Little A for this valuable lesson.  Not only did I learn from this experience, but it has also made me a better person.  “elomenop” will now have a new meaning for me.

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/22/10

July 22, 2010 at 7:15 AM Leave a comment

Acrostic Poem

by: Jennifer Perez

I just love creating Acrostic Poems!!  I must admit, I tend to create one with my class for nearly every holiday, but I cannot help myself!  My students really get involved and bring a lot of unique ideas to the table when creating our Acrostic Poems.

What is an Acrostic Poem?

An Acrostic Poem simply requires the writer to choose a word in which they would like to write about and turn in into a vertical acronym.  Each letter will then have a describing word that stems horizontally from it.

In order to ‘hook’ your children, try creating an Acrostic Poem with their name.

Examples:

Joyful

Energetic

Nifty

From the 4th of July Pride Placemat~

Peace

Revolution

Independent

Determined

Excitement

There are NO LIMITS as to WHAT you and your child can turn into an Acrostic Poem!  Just brainstorm together and let the writing begin!

Happy Learning!

© Jennifer Perez 7/19/10

July 21, 2010 at 7:05 AM Leave a comment

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