"Guess How Much I Love You" Lessons

     It was a delight to present a lesson in our church’s Summer Enrichment program. We serve an ESL population of students from pre-K through high school during the year and we offer a two-week “get ready for school” Summer Enrichment just before school starts.

     I chose the book “Guess How Much I Love You”. 

     If you haven’t read this book, please do – it’s so sweet! It’s a short book with a big idea and it offers opportunities for so many learning activities for all ages. Here’s what we did:

     I opened the lesson, asking “What do we measure and how do we measure?”
     We shared that we measure length with rulers, yardsticks, and tape measures. Weight is measured with scales and mass with balances, capacity and volume with cups and spoons, time with clocks, and temperature with thermometers. I displayed examples of each type of tool.

     We wondered aloud whether we can measure love and moved on to the title, author, and illustrator of the book.

     After reading about Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare, I explained our activities to the tutors and students. I’ve included the plan here.
     All students used a tape measure to measure a friend’s arm span. 

     Tutors helped a lot with this. Then we cut a piece of string that length. We threaded a large, colorful button onto the end of the string to sort of anchor it down, then labeled the string with the student’s name. Some wrote their name on the label and wrapped it around the string. Others used the label to actually tape the string onto the display. You can do whichever you like.
     The display was so cute! We measured Mr. Tom, a very tall tutor, then someone wondered about Michael Phelps and his 6'7" arm span. With the Olympics still ongoing, it was a great current events connection!
     You can see Mr. Tom’s and Michael Phelps’ strings over to the left of the display. We had to hang them waaaaaay up high!
     We continued talking about love by listing ways we can show love – or how we like to be shown love – on a chart.
     We had a great time with our lesson. Have you ever worked with this book? What 's a favorite book activity of yours?

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Celebrate Military Life!

Air Force!   Army!   Coast Guard!   Marines!   National Guard!   Navy!

     Here's your chance to give students, parents, and teachers a place to shout out their pride in our military! 

     Use my "Celebrate Military Life" no-prep writing prompts and journal starters to support your military students and families. These 60 prompts are opportunities to write about their experiences, share their feelings, teach about their special challenges, and show their patriotism!

     There are plenty of prompts for students from civilian families, too. They can write a thank-you note to a service person, tell why our military is important, or plan ways to show our respect and support. There’s something for everyone!

     All six major branches of the United States military are represented here. The first section contains prompts about military life in general. There is also a separate section for each of The Air Force, The Army, The Coast Guard, The Marines, The National Guard, and The Navy.

     Some of my favorite ways to use these prompts are:
     Copy a class set of one or more prompts so all students may write about the same idea.
     Print one of each prompt and let students choose. 
     Consider letting students respond to five or more prompts and bind them together for a special gift or keepsake journal.
     Don’t forget the adults in your world. Parents and teachers who are connected to the military often enjoy sharing their thoughts and feelings through writing.
     Consider hosting a classroom event where students and/or adults come together and share their writings.
     The prompts in this Super Pack are truly no-prep. Simply copy and go!

     I’ve been a teacher in a military community for many years. I’ve learned some important lessons about the special challenges our military families face and ways that we can support them.

     These are only some of the issues which our military students and families must often address:
Changing schools
Leaving extended family and friends
Disruption of daily routines
Gaps in academic learning
Disruption of the family unit during deployment
Readjustment to the family unit after deployment
Anxiety before and during deployment
Loss of a parent during war

     Reflect carefully as you choose writing prompts to share with your students. You might want to consult your administrator, your school guidance counselor, another teacher, or even a military parent to gain some insight as to how a child might perceive a particular prompt. If you live in a military community, I hope that you have a military liaison that meets with students to help support them. These professionals are great support, also.

     I'd love to know how you use these writing prompts. What do you like to do to support your military families?
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A Prayer For Children

     The beginning of a new school year is loaded with potential for teachers as well as students: hope that we will be our best person and our best teacher, goals for what we want to do and what we don't want to do, dreams of connecting with each and every student in a meaningful and memorable way.

     Realistically, we know that our hopes, dreams, and goals won't always be met, no matter how hard we try. Experience tells us that students sometimes bring in more challenges than we can successfully solve despite the love, care, attention, and hard work we bring to the table.

     While we love all of our students, the ones with those special, heart-wrenching needs can occupy a spot in our hearts for as long as do those who are super-successful.

     I love to share this touching poem at the beginning of each school year. Enjoy the re-read and please share. It touches me (let that read: reduces me to tears) every time I read it. It reminds me that our best efforts are soonest realized through faith and prayer. Download a free copy here. Read it and pass it along if you'd like. 

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4 Things Teachers Should Do Before The First Day of School

     Even before the back-to-school email from administration comes, teachers are often thinking, planning, buying, making, training, reading, meeting, cutting, pasting, collating, and creating for the new year. It's part of the job, part of the lifestyle. There are so many things to do, however, that even the most seasoned veteran can feel overwhelmed as they prepare for the new beginning.

     After a career of new school years, I have picked out four essential items that should head every teacher's to-do list. They are not the most important things you'll do all year, perhaps, but they can make or break a good beginning, set the tone for a successful school year, and calm the butterflies that may have taken flight in your stomach. I can say this for sure: I wish someone had told me these things when I started teaching.

1.  Plan for the first day. Really? That's news? I can't tell you how many years I spent frantically trying to make my classroom Pinterest-worthy (before Pinterest was invented), attend all the meetings, label all the file folders, pull all the data...then realize at 5:00 p.m. the day before the kids arrived that I had not planned for the first day! 

     Serious heart-in-throat time. Before you put up a bulletin board, make desk tags, or attend a meeting, start sketching out everything that you will wish you had done or said on that all-important first day.  Even when you're feeling the pressure, put on the blinders for a bit and focus on first-day plans.

2.  Plan for the first week. Again, it may seem like something that teachers just naturally have done but we don't always. Planning for the first week presumes that you've been given a schedule of bells, specials, lunch, and recess. Once you have that, it's vital that you look at your remaining minutes and divide them over everything you have to cover.

3.  Walk through your day as a student. Once you've planned your first day and week, physically move through all that you will ask your students to do, from walking into the classroom to lining up to restroom breaks to the last minute of the day. I guarantee this will highlight what works and what needs to be tweaked. You'll be glad you did!

4.  Remember that less is more. I would never have believed it, but teachers can overdo it sometimes. One of my classes once told me that my classroom decor was overwhelming to them at the first of the year. As much as I appreciated the heads-up, I was totally taken aback. What?  Kids don't always like over-the-top decorations? 

     Truly, when I stepped back and looked at it through kid eyes, it really did look like my room had thrown up on itself. Take this as permission to go minimalist, leave some bulletin boards bare - perhaps waiting for student work, and actually leave some stuff at Target for others. You can always add as you go and a little waiting can open your eyes to particular class needs and wants that you couldn't have anticipated.

     Please share your best back-to-school ideas. Best wishes to everyone who is approaching a new school year!
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