Monday, May 25, 2015


It is right and it is good to take a moment today and discuss Memorial Day and what it means. If I didn’t write this blog I wouldn’t know that Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving, and Veterans Day celebrates all U.S. military veterans.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because people decorated the gravesites of those who died during the Civil War. Many cities and towns claim the birthplace of Memorial Day, but I’d like to share the story from Charleston.

During the Civil War Union soldiers who were prisoners were held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston. Over 250 prisoners died and were buried in unmarked graves. The freedmen cleaned up the burial ground and added an arch that said “Martyrs of the Race Course.” On May 1, 1865, some 10,000 black residents of Charleston, along with teachers and white missionaries from the north, gathered to commemorate the war dead. The parade was led by three thousand black school children, followed by women with baskets of flowers and wreaths and men marching in cadence. The children sang “We'll Rally around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and other gospel songs. Many stayed at the park for picnics and fellowship.
Inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael wrote her own poem in 1915:
            We cherish too, the Poppy red

            That grows on fields where valor led,

            It seems to signal to the skies
            That blood of heroes never dies.
Moina Michael was the first to wear a red poppy to honor those who died during war. She sold them to her friends and co-workers to raise money to benefit servicemen. The tradition has spread around the world.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

And, thanks for taking a moment with me today as we count our blessings and say, “I’M PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!”

Sunday, May 24, 2015


This should be called Carolyn Kisloski's "Reading Recipes" instead of Dr. Jean's because she contributed the most to this book. If you've been to Carolyn's blog (Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together you already know how talented and refreshing her ideas are. I just feel so blessed to have met her and had the opportunity to collaborate with her on this project. The photographs Carolyn took of the children in her class are "proof of the pudding." Yes, you can take your standards and turn them into activities children enjoy doing!

Our goal was to give you quick, easy ideas that would make standards "taste" better. We wanted to share some tried and true activities for large group, small group, and centers that would turn "work" into "play." Our categories are:

Speaking and Listening
The Sounds of Speech
Print Connections
Fun Phonics
Lifetime Words
Vocabulary Builders
I'm Reading!
I'm Writing!

Our editor, Tom Schiele, is a master producer - like a nice Gordon Ramsey. We are so pleased with the way he fused our ideas and has created a culinary buffet. Here's a link where you can check it out.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Summertime isn’t official until June 21st, but if you ask me Memorial Day should be the first day of summer. Summer always brings lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and it’s time to start grillin’! If you’re looking for ideas for your classroom today, you need to turn off your computer and PLAY! Come back tomorrow for teacher talk, but today I'd like to  share some of my favorite summer recipes. These are good for a cook out, potluck, or a family treat. 

Around holidays I like to remember what most nutritionists advocate: ALL THINGS IN MODERATION! Splurge a little this weekend and then get back to the rabbit food on Tuesday. 

Bon appetite!

P.S. I LOVE to try out new recipes, so if you have a favorite summer dish please send it to me.

Mac and Cheese from Heaven
(Yeah, I know everybody thinks their mac and cheese recipe is the best, but this rivals anything I’ve ever tasted.)
1 16 oz. box rigatoni noodles
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack
4 oz. grated fresh Parmesan
2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Season with salt (til’ it tastes like sea water). Add the pasta and cook until just tender - about 12 minutes. Drain well in a colander without rinsing.

Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Add half the cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan, reserving the remaining half of the cheeses for the top. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the noodle mixture to a medium gratin dish or casserole. Sprinkle remaining cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan on top. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 30 – 45 minutes.

Brownie Pie
(This is so yummy and simple, and it’s made with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. It’s really good served warm with a scoop of ice cream on top. Or, if you want to send someone into a coma, drizzle hot chocolate sauce on top of the ice cream.)

1 cup sugar
1 stick butter (softened)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Bake a deep dish pie crust at 350 for 6-7 minutes.
Mix ingredients together. Pour into the pie crust. Bake about 30 minutes.
(The original recipe said 30 minutes, but it takes a lot longer than that in my oven. You can tell when it’s done with the toothpick trick.) 
Vidalia Onion Pie
(Vidalia onions are the best, but you can use other sweet onions.)
1 ¼ cup cracker crumbs (Ritz)
6 TB. melted butter
2 cups Vidalia onions thinly sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup milk
¾ tsp. salt – dash of pepper
½ cup mild cheddar cheese, grated

Mix together crumbs and 4 TB of butter and press into an 8” pie plate. Chill. Saute onions in 2 TB of butter. Spoon into the crust. Mix the eggs and milk with the spices. Pour over the onions. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. (Sprinkle with cheese for the last 10 minutes.)

Cowboy Beans
1 16 oz. can pork and beans
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 large onion chopped
1 small pepper chopped
½ cup barbeque sauce
¼ brown cup sugar
1 TB Worcestershire sauce, 1 TB mustard
1 lb. ground beef, browned

Mix all together. Bake at 350 for an hour or for 6-7 hours in a crock pot.          

Friday, May 22, 2015


Alex May, my webmaster, created this little video to go with my “Elephant Song.”

Here’s a simple puppet you can make or the children could bring an old sock from home and make their own. This project ties in well with HORTON HEARS A WHO or SEVEN BLIND MICE. 

Materials: 1 white paper plate, 1 old sock, crayons, 2 brad fasteners, 1 gray sheet construction paper

Directions: Cut 2 ears out of gray construction paper. Cut a circle large enough for your hand out of the middle of the paper plate. (Color the plate gray if you desire.) Draw a face on the plate as shown. Attach the 2 ears to the sides of the plate with brad fasteners. Insert your hand in the sock, and then stick the sock through the back of the plate to create the elephant's nose.

Elephants walk like this and that.

They're terribly big and terribly fat. 

They have no hands, they have no toes.

But, goodness, gracious, what a nose!

Think about it! Why do elephants have long noses? How do they use their noses? What would you do with a long nose? (These could be prompts for a discussion or writing assignment.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015


It’s almost summer, and that means the planes will be full of some happy children, some screaming children, some bored children, and some entertained children! I’m writing this blog in hopes that teachers can share these ideas with families of children they teach. You can put this on your class website, blog, or send it home with a summer fun packet.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you travel with children. And if you’ll read these tips, I bet your fellow passengers will thank you for being on top of the game! Take advantage of the one-on-one time with your child by giving them 100% of your attention. After all, isn’t family time the best part of any vacation?

Planning Ahead
Several days before the trip start talking about your adventure and give details about what is going to happen. Have children close their eyes as you describe the trip – checking in at the airport - going through security - waiting for your flight to be called – getting on the plane and fastening your seatbelt – taking off – looking out the window – landing – how much fun you’ll have on your vacation, etc. Explain that there are many other people who will be sharing a small space on the plane and that everyone needs to be respectful and use their best manners and quiet voices. The pilots and flight attendants are there to keep everybody safe, so you will have to listen carefully to them.

Let your child pack a bag full of special objects that they want to carry on the plane. (You’ll have to give some guidelines for this so they don’t try and bring their entire collection of stuffed animals.) A few books, a tablet and markers, a card game, a bedtime buddy or blanket, and some healthy snacks should do the trick. You might also suggest a change of clothes, tissues, and bandaids in case of emergencies.
Note! I did not suggest a computer or IPad. Parents, you can pack this in your bag and save it for emergencies. Too often children play with these while waiting for their flights to take off and then they are bored by the time they get on the plane.

After going through security, walk around and look out the windows at the other planes. Look at all the passengers and guess where they might be going. Talk about special things that your child hopes to do on the trip. If the flight is delayed you can play “I Spy,” “Tic Tac Toe,” “Hangman” or another quiet game. Oh, and don’t forget a last minute stop in the restroom!

Taking Off
When boarding a plane, you’ll find most pilots enthusiastic about meeting children and letting them take a “peek” inside the cockpit. Can your child find her own seat? Once seated, encourage your child to explore her space. (It’s fine to open and shut the window shade a few times, look in the seat pocket, talk about the airsick bag, etc.) Playing with the flight attendant call button is NOT ALLOWED! When the boarding door has closed, then everyone must buckle up!

Up in the Air
Once you are in the air, it’s time to open the backpack and read some books, play a game, draw some pictures, or eat a snack. If a beverage is served, show your child how to put down their tray and discuss their selection. Keep on talking and engaging your child.

O.K. Now, it’s time to get out the iPad or computer and watch a movie. Wait until the last possible moment to do this. This is like the 8th inning stretch on the plane. (I might also recommend a bag of M & M’s – for emergencies only!)

Before you know it you will hear those magic words, “Please fasten your seatbelts. We will be landing shortly.”

Remember, YOU are the parent and you are directing this event. With a happy, positive, attitude you’ll have a great flight and the other passengers will as well! How many opportunities do you have to give your child 100% of your attention? That may be the best part of your trip!

Wishing you safe and happy travels!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Have children bring in a plastic or cardboard can from icing, potato chips, or drink
mix. (Avoid tin cans because the edges can be sharp.) Write summer activities
so they can be cut in strips and placed in the can. Let children cover their cans
with paper and decorate with drawings, stickers, or collage materials. Put the
strips of summer fun in the can. Send the can home with a note encouraging the
parents to let their child select a strip each day and do the activity.
Hint! You can also use a plastic sand bucket or seasonal cup for this project.

You can also send home a summer calendar children will enjoy doing with their parents.

Here's a link where you can download the summer activities and calendar.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Make the last few days “sweet” ones to remember with lots of special days. You might want to celebrate “Wonderful Wednesdays” the last month of the school year or plan a little celebration every day the last week of school. What many adults forget is that children are happy with “plain vanilla.” Wearing a silly hat or a shirt from a favorite sports team can be as much fun as a fancy ball!

Sports Day – Enjoy the warm weather with a “Sports Day.” Children can wear t-shirts and hats from their favorite teams. Let them bring sports equipment to share with friends on the playground.

Book Party – Encourage children to dress up like their favorite book character. Play “Guess Who I Am?” or have children describe why they like a particular character. Let them bring favorite reading material (books, magazines) from home and sit or lay wherever they want for independent reading.

Talent Show
- One of my favorite memories is of a Talent Show we had at the end of the school year. I just invited all the children to think of a “talent” (song, dance, story, gymnastic stunt) they could do. We sat in a circle and they all got up and performed! We clapped and laughed and cheered!

Board Game Day – Let children bring board games from home. Set aside the last hour in the day to share games and play with friends.

Pajama Party – Have children wear pajamas and bring pillows and stuffed animals to class. Read books, watch a movie, and eat popcorn.

Career Day – Children come dressed for the career they’d like when they grow up. After sharing with friends, have each child draw a picture (or take a photograph) and make a class book.

Unbirthday Party – How about a birthday party when it’s everyone’s “unbirthday”? Play party games, sing, and decorate cupcakes. (This is also a great way to celebrate all those summer birthdays.)

Beach Party – Bring beach towels and wear sunglasses, shorts, and bathing suits. Set up sprinklers or other water activities on the playground. Play beach ball games, beach music, and have a “cool” snack like popsicles.

Teddy Bear Parade
– Children bring in a teddy bear or stuffed animal and parade around the classroom. Have them write stories and draw pictures of what they like to do with their bear. Have a “tea party” with your bears.

Hat Day – Ask children to wear their favorite hat to school, or challenge them to design a hat from a paper plate and art scraps.

Luau – Make grass skirts from draw string garbage bags. Cut straws in 1” pieces and alternate stringing with paper flowers on dental floss to create a lei. Hula, surf, and eat pineapple fruit kabobs for snack.

Toy Day – Children bring a favorite toy from home and share with their friends.

Wash Day – Wear old clothes and bring sponges, pails, and squirt bottles. Let children wash tables, desks, toys, etc. (You could tie this in with a water play day.)

Sock Hop – Children get to wear silly socks to school and have a dance at the end of the day.
*Teach the children the “Twist,” “Charleston,” “Jitterbug,” “Swim,” “Pony,” or other dances from your past.

Teacher of the Day – Assign one child each day the last month of school to be “Teacher of the Day.” That child gets to sit in your desk and be in charge of circle time. They can choose a book to read to the class, a song to sing, game to play, and so forth.