Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Respect and Character (Dorry Lopez)

Dear Dorry,
I have watched you teach several mini-lessons and no matter what the topic. strategy or activity, your students are engaged. what is the secret that you can share with all of us to make us better teachers? KK
KK and Family

When I was growing up, school was my safe haven, a place I wanted to be. In my classroom, I set up an environment that builds character, where values are taught and modeled as much as academics. All people and things are respected and cared for. Everyone is accepted and valued. the standards are high, and we are always trying to be better.

You asked how I keep my students engaged no matter what I teach. My students respect me. I have earned their trust and love by trusting and loving them. I treat them with respect. they want to hear what i have to say, because I want to hear wheat they have to say. their eyes are on me because that is respectful. When someone speaks, I ask the listeners, "Where are your eyes?" I teach them to engage, focus, and learn from what the speaker has to say.

I great my students upon entering with a smile and a greeting, and they do the same for me. At the end of the period, they exit my room in this same manner, with a smile and a closing remark. In my room, there are lots of humor and joy. Only positive "I can" attitudes are allowed. this keeps everyone upbeat with a willingness to learn. It is a happy place where it is real and genuine. Lives are shared. I share my life with them, and they share their lives with me. I get to know the whole child. We are like family. I listen. I focus. I am engaged in what they have to say. this is why they listen, focus, and become engaged in what I have to say.

It all very simple. It is modeling and teaching respect.

If I were ever told that I could not teach values and character building, I would have to turn in my keys, because that is the prerequisite for teaching academics. Minds are turned on with respect, but minds are shut off when there is no mutual respect.

I hope that you enjoyed reading my answer.
With love, Dorry

P.S.-Sorry this is so long but KK hit a passionate spot with her question.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Book Fairy (KK Cherney)

Dear KK,
Can you please explain to us how you are able to manage everything the Media Center entails, such as teaching, keeping track of books, studio, and helping with tech problems?
Kristin Sharp

The Media Center in CCE is so much like a backstage behind a successful Broadway play - the Disney underground. So to answer your question of how I am able to manage everything in the Media Center is quite difficult. Two factors seem to come to mind that covers everything!

Point 1 -
Loving my job and the people I serve makes all things possible.

Point 2 -
Surrounding myself with the most positive energetic team of talented people that the world has to offer. they could work anywhere but they "choose" to work here for a common goal. thank God!!!

Take those 2 factors and a lot of other stuff and it becomes a perfect situation allowing me to flit around as Tinkerbell sharing the "Magic" of technology, real-life applications, literature, literacy experiences, and yes - even "fixin'" stuff.

I am living a dream... KK

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Technology (Kristen Sharpe)

Dear Kristin Sharp,
A little birdie told me that you have been teaching our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students about some "high tech" computer capabillities during Media. could you share with the rest of us about it?
Love, Julie

I have been teaching the kids how to create digital stories using many of the exciting programs found on the Macbooks, such as Photobooth, I-Photo, I-Movie, and Safari. The kids are so excited when they enter the media center and see the computers set up that they can hardly contain themselves! They just can't wait to get started! I am amzed by how engaged the fchildren become in their work when they are on the Macbooks. They inspire me with their amazing creativity and ability to use a computer. In addition, using technology has eliminated almost all behavior problems because the kids want to be there.

To introduce the kids to the Macbooks, I teach them how to create a slideshow using pHotoboth and I-Photo. they have a blast taking pictures of themselves and distorting the photos. the objective is for them to create a slideshow with at least five pictures, music, and trasitions.

The second time I see a group of students, I teach them how to create an I-Movie. Currently the kids are conducting an author study and recording their research on the I-Movie program. the computers have a built in camera and microphone, so all they do is sit in front of the screen to record. Then the kids choose the clips they want and edit them. to complete their movie, they add a title page, music and transitions.

The kids have been working so hard during media! I am proud of their creations and determination to complete a project.

I am really enjoying working at chets Creek Elementary. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to be here. I have learned so much from the Chets Creek team. It is truly a dream job!
Mrs. Sharp

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tips From the Outside... (Cheryl Dillard)

Question to Cheryl: You have taught very successfully in another high performing school. As you have come to Chets Creek, what things do you notice that we do really well? Is there an idea that you think we should borrow from your previous experience? dayle

There are so many things that Chets Creek does really well, that I thought I would make a list.

1. Constant celebrating

  • The teachers are always being celebrated, from a note in the weekly memo to the the Tinkerbell book/necklace to a lunch provided by PTA. Teachers are noticed for all the hard work they do.

  • The first day back to school for both teachers and the students is amazing. My daughter has never been so excited for a first day of school and to find out our school theme (I kept it a secret from her).

  • The team building that takes place over the summer to welcome new teachers is amazing. It is like Chets Creek 101 and really helps prepare you for the school year. It is a week full of info followed by a social gathering with your mentor

2. Good use of time

  • The weekly memo fills us in on the upcoming events so that we don't have to hear it all in a faculty meeting.

  • Meetings are held in the morning which keeps them short and sweet. WOW days are well planned, organized, entertaining.

3. Amazing coaches (and I'm not just saying that because you passed the book to me!)

  • The coaches are an excellent resource. They are always available and help to lighten the work load instead of add to it.

4. Resource and planning time with your team

  • Wow! - enough said!

5. Bulletin boards

  • I can actually walk through the halls at Chets Creek and learn from them. The bulletin boards aren't cookie cutter and they give you a look at what is taking place in the classroom. thinking outside of the box is encouraged!

6. Book of the Month

  • I have thoroughly enjoyed introduction to the book of the month. It is obvious that they are well thought out and chosen for a reason. The ideas that are presented with them are a wonderful resource.

I have thought all week about what you could borrow from my previous experience and I had a hard time coming up with anything. The one thing that helped me as a teacher at my last school was the dining room management plan. I know that is the one place that many students have a hard time following the rules. Each teacher had the same sheet (called the Golden Paw) and on it was a list of the expectations and a place for the student names. Each day the whole class could earn a 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 according to the five expectations that were listed. Classes that earned a 5 each day for a week would get a golden paw sticker on a chart that was displayed in the cafeteria. If received all 5's and only one 4, you receive a silver paw. classes that received a Gold or Silver Paw for the week were announced on the morning news on Monday and Had a chance to earn a stuffed tiger in their room for a week. It was helpful to me because I could look at the sheets and see which students had problems at lunch and how my class did overall. If they did not clean up after themselves then that would be marked on the paper. I know this seems like a lot, it actually ran very smoothly and helped me to reinforce good behavior and correct inappropriate behavior in the dinning room.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Balance (dayle timmons)

Question: dayle,
I know your dedication to young learners and the teaching profession is steadfast and I admire that about you. We've talked about this before, but would you share with me and others (that may need to hear your words of wisdom), how you have managed to keep these two areas blanced throughout your career as an educator? I struggle with this daily and often carry guilt in one area or the other? Please reassure me that I am not crazy!!!
All my admiration,

You’re not crazy, Elizabeth. There is nothing more difficult than trying to be all things to all people. Balance, for me, like for most moms that work, came over time. I learned that you CAN have it all, you just can't have it all at the same time! These are some of the things that worked for me along the way. I share them in hopes that they might be helpful to someone else…

1. I have always considered my life at school as my own personal mission field. I believe that God put me on this Earth to be a teacher, to minister to those around me including my peers, the children and their families. I really do believe that I am doing God’s work every day and that colleagues, children and parents that come into my life come by Divine appointment (usually because of lessons I need to learn instead of lessons that I need to teach!), so I have never resented the time that school takes. I feel a deep moral obligation to do this part of my life right. My life goal has always been to make a difference and most of time, I believe that teaching allows me to do that. My advice: Think about why you teach, what it really means to you - and find the joy in it.

2. I am very organized so I usually have a good idea of what needs to be done. I am a very good manager of time. I usually have a list (that used to be in my head but lately I have to write it down!) of “things to do.” Some of the things are for school and some are for home. When the kids were little, I tried to include them in my “to do” list – even if it was something for school, but mostly I always kept the “to do” list accessible. When the kids were out or occupied, I would work on the “to do” list, knowing that I couldn’t get too absorbed (which is the key) because I needed to be available to them as soon as they were “back.” Children, especially, have to know that they come first. My advice: Always have an on-going plan for getting things done. Never put off until tomorrow what could be done today.

3. I have always known when things were just “too much.” Most of you know that after Courtney was born I stayed home for a year, went back to work for a year and just couldn’t juggle it all. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything well. I have always felt God’s hand in the personal part of my life. He gave me a family for a reason and He has very high expectations! Being a teacher, a wife and the mother of two was just too much for me at that time in my life. Even though some people have called me driven, and I personally thought that staying home was the end to any kind of “career” aspirations I might have had (how could I have known all that would happen to me AFTER I came back to work!) I was able to make the decision to stay home very easily. I stayed home until Courtney went to Kindergarten. Although we hadn’t prepared for me not to work, and things were extremely tight, I have NEVER regretted that decision, because it gave me peace.
My advice: Don’t get overwhelmed with your life. It will rob your happiness. Know when enough is enough and always know what the greater priority is in your life.

4. I am a morning person. I get up early so when the kids were little my husband and I worked out a compromise. I got up before the kids got out of bed and left for school. I did all my planning before school at school (it’s so quiet and you get so-o-o much done!) and was ready to leave when school was out so I could be home for the kids. Jimmy coached so he was not available in the afternoon and early evening. He did all of the breakfast, dressing, getting to school and I did all of the being there after school, dinner prep, homework, afternoon activities. It gave each of us individual time with the kids and also gave each of us guilt-free time to do what we needed to do for work. My advice: Work with your support system so that you have time to do what you need to do (I love Karen Morris’ suggestion in an earlier post of one night a week at school, which is the same idea).

5. Decide what’s really important to you and get rid of the stuff that you’re doing just because somebody else thinks you should. For instance, Secret Santa was one of those activities that I had to let go. I LOVE Secret Santa but one year I realized that I spent as much time stressing over Secret Santa gifts as I did buying presents for my own children. Secret Santa was just too much for me. Now I go and enjoy the breakfast and don’t feel one bit guilty about not participating because I know it was the right decision for me. I could give you dozens of examples. My advice: Be intentional about what you choose to do. Align your time and passion with your belief system. Free yourself from guilt.

I wish I could say that I have it all figured out and that I never get stressed any more. That’s not true, but I do know to listen to my heart. When I feel overwhelmed, I know that something is out of balance, and that’s my internal signal to really think about what’s going on in my life and to straighten things out before things get too far out of balance. Often it means trusting my relationships, being honest with myself, and asking for help.

I have a special place in my heart for young mothers. You have the whole world open to you if you can use the energy and wisdom of your age and yet still see life through the eyes of your child. You are preparing our next generation of children to take their place in our world, not only in your homes, but in your classrooms. This time in your life is your legacy…

With great expectations, dayle

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Julie At Your Service (Julie Middleton)

Question: Dear Julie,
We all know that "Customer Service" is extremely important in our business, how and why do you maintain excellent customer service daily?

Dear Moena,
I have to say that it is not always easy to smile and be kind to every person that walks in the door, but I really do try to to that. I am a people pleaser and that makes me always wanting everyone to be happy, even those people who are furious about something and want to see someone right away. Sometimes all I have to do is listen and that makes them feel better. There are those that are never happy no matter what you do but you never know when you might actually make a difference in someone else's life--so I keep trying. I am always reminding my children that you should never underestimate the power of your actions. One small gesture can change a person's life. I really believe that we are put in each others lives to impact one another in some way.
Love, Julie Middleton

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Co-teaching (Elizabeth Conte)

Question: Elizabeth,
I know what an extraordinary educator you are and I learned so much from watching you. Now that you are working with your fantastic co-teacher, Randi, What are the perks and obstacles that you have found since recently becoming a co-teacher? any suggestions for the first year teacher who will most likely be co-teaching in the near future?

Oh Danielle, you make me smile!

Co-teaching is very different from single teaching. Here are the perks and obstacles we have found so far this year:


  • Finding a teacher who shares my philosophy and passion for students was key to making our co-teaching situation work. A big bonus was finding someone who values family-life as much as I do and understands when I need to be mommy or wife instead of teacher!
  • We keep each other motivated and challenge each other to continually strive to improve as teachers.

  • Learning how to parallel teach and finding that it truly impacts students' learning in a very positive way. it takes a lot more planning and preparation, but it's so worth it!

  • You don't have to write sub plans when your co-teacher is going to be out... wow, that's a relief.

  • You know that old saying, "Two heads are better than one," Well, it's true. I learn so much from Randi every day!

  • Reaching all your students, especially those low babies, is more realistic in a so-teaching situation. We both are teaching mini-lessons for each workshop and pulling small groups or conferencing one on one during work periods. We don't job share...we are both teaching all day long.


  • Getting used to saying "we" instead of "I" when I communicate with parents. I was so used to saying "I" or just signing my name to took me a while, but I think I've got it now.

  • Time, time, time... co-teaching is not a time-saving strategy. You have to plan together, reflect together, conference with parents together, etc... the list goes on and one. Be prepared to spend time on the phone with you co-teacher.

  • I have an easy-going personality and can be quite flexible when it comes to my classroom...this really helped when transitioning to co-teaching. As long as you keep flexible and are ok with re-developing your classroom together, this won't be an obstacle

Suggestions for Danielle:

  • Really put some thought into who you might co-teach with. Look for someone who shares your teaching style, discipline style and philosophical beliefs about teaching and children.
  • Think about your reason for co-teaching---it really can be a great benefit for students, but only if you have the right mindset going into it.

  • Should you decide to co-teach, be prepared to learn SO MUCH and establish a great relationship with your "partner." It really can be a WONDERFUL thing!

  • Always know, my door is always open and my phone is never turned off, should you need a listening ear or some hopeful advice.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Elementary Versus Middle School (Moena Perry)

Question: Dear Moena,
After working in middle school what do you like better about elementary? What do you miss?

I absolutely love being in this environment. I love the work and dedication I see in all of the teachers here. I'm really intrigued with the content knowledge in literacy, investigative math application and inquiry based learning. What I admire is the collegiality among peers and the love of life-long learning. However, what makes my heart sing are the KIDS. I am a kid kind of gal; believe it or not, I still love "Hello Kitty!" I am just exhilarated and on a continuous cloud when I see the students engaging in learning. When I sit in classrooms and watch the magic of learning unfolding; I go home EXTREMELY HAPPY that I made the choice to come to CHETS.

Middle School can be a challenging place, but I do miss the athletic events and the social development of the students in middle school. When I watched students make the decisions to embrace their own learning without the coercion of parents and family members, I loved it. So, many people don't understand the crossroads that middle school students face and they are just labeled, but, I got it, and I miss seeing the turn around.

I do realize that I've missed out on a lot with little people, and if I had to make a choice I would choose ELEMENTARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love, Moena

Todd Parr's "Feel Good Book" (Meredy Mackiewcz)

Hi Meredy,

I heard you did a great lesson on The Feel Good Book by one of your favorite authors Todd Parr! :) How did you get to know Todd Parr? Do you have any "Feel Good" tips I could use for my safety net kids? Thanks, friend.

Hi, Friend,

I love Todd Parr! I discovered him @ Barnes & Noble--his books are so colorful and they jump out at you! The kids loved The Feel Good Book and so I have purchased the others (The Family Book, It's Ok to be Different, etc...). We do an author study of Todd Parr at the end of K each year and students make their own books modeled after Todd's. They love it and really do a great job.

I took his simplistic drawings and words (w/ deep meanings!) and incorporated it into the 1st grade Health Lesson to make it more kid-friendly (and easier to teach!) Todd Parr is all about accepting differences and celebrating diversity and learning from each other. I already know that you, Julie, do a great job of making the students feel comfortable and secure in your group, even though they are very diverse learners. Thanks for asking! The Tinkerbell necklace looked so pretty on you, too! :)

I can't wait to see it on Moena...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Extended Day Training (Danielle Clark)

Question: Dear Danielle,
You spent a couple of years at Chets as an extended day teacher before you "officially" joined us! I've already thought that would be a great training ground for future teachers. How did that experience help to prepare you for the "real world" of teaching?
Cindy Tsengas

P.S. - I've been impressed with you during the past couple of years!

Thank you Cindy:) Extended Day was a great place to tart my future teaching career. it was the perfect place to practice my upcoming lessons for my pre-internship classes and a great way to learn classroom management! I would stay after wide-eyed at the great Chets Creek teachers and their amazing classrooms everyday trying to soak in as much as possible. Extended Day also taught me that children need structure, if I did not structure my afternoon and have some daily routines the three hours of Extended Day would feel like six. the one area that Extended Day did not prepare me for was parents. In Extended Day you get to enjoy your students and their smiling faces and then when their name is called over the walkie you send them on their way. when i finally go the fantastic opportunity to do Elizabeth Conte's maternity leave I learned how valuable parents were to my classroom as well as the challenges they brought. After my experience Elizabeth's room I felt confident about beginning my career as a professional educator. overall, I know that being an Extended Day Instructor has profoundly impacted my professional career as an educator, and I loved every minute of it :)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Back to the Classroom (Julie Johnson)

Question: Julie Johnson--
How is getting back into teaching after being away from it for seven years? How have things changed for the better? How is teaching second grade compared to kindergarten?

Dear Maria,
THANKS for asking! First I want to say I absolutely love being in the classroom again after being away for 7 years. The love for the children and the love of teaching have always been there. It's nice to fulfill that love again. I have learned so much from the whole Kindergarten team. They are such a great group of team players that have made my transition very smooth!

Things have defiantly changed for the better since I last taught. The technology and resources at Chets are incredible. It is nice to have different means of teaching every child's different learning style.

The primary grades are critical times in a child's intellectual, social, and emotional development. Kindergarten is not that much different from second grade because I am focusing on these developments.

:) Julie J.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Vocabulary (Maria Mallon)

Question: Dear Maria,
Rumor has it that you are the Vocabulary specialist! Could you please share some of your strategies that you use? Are they adaptable to the upper grades?
Can't wait to learn from you,

Dear Christy,
I don't know about being a vocabulary specialist but I do love to teach children now words new words and how to use them. Our team was fortunate enough this summer to work with dayle and start our own Unit of Study featuring vocabulary from our Star Books(to download the entire unit go to the Vocabulary widget on the left side of the blog, These are selected books that we read several times a month to our pre-emergent readers. These books include: The Three Little Pigs, Caps for Sale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and several other classic tales. Within these books, we found a wealth of vocabulary words both written and implied from the story. The words are not necessarily the longest or hardest to pronounce, but words that the children may use in their every day language and/or writing. For instance, this week we just finished "A Pocket for Corduroy" and some of the words were: patiently, dilemma, damp, and hesitate. We learned how the words were used in the story, gave the children some examples and non examples of using the words in certain scenarios and showed them a picture of what the word means. The follow up comes when I use the words as many times during the day as possible. For instance, during the recent fire drill I told my class while they were waiting to go back in, "I like how patiently you are waiting." This gave them a situation to remember and hold on to the word. I also chart the situations they tell me when they use the word at home. A child told me this week that he had a dilemma about what Halloween costume to wear, red Spiderman or black Spiderman. I also send home a list of the new words for the week in my newsletter.

To try it out, go through the book of the month and find four words that you think your students would benefit from knowing and find two inferred words from the story. Write the six words on index cards. Find the definitions of the words and give some examples of how to use the words. Work on two words a day. I copy the cover of the book and put the index cards under the cover for quick reference. Use the words in the classroom and you'll see how quickly your students will use them and how impressed other people will be when they hear your students speak and see these words in their writing!! Don't hesitate. :)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Top 10 Things I Appreciate about CCE (Cindy Tsengas)

Question to Cindy Tsengas...
(this is taking a big RISK by the way Cindy...)

1. You saw education "on the outside" for a few short weeks this year, Cindy. Some of us have never been classroom teachers any place other than Chets. How are things different as a teacher "out there"? What do we have to be grateful for that other teachers might lack? In other words, what do we take for granted?

2. How does being a co-teacher in a classroom compare to being a safety net/ resource teacher?

3. How did you work your magic with the safety net children you taught? They all did fabulous! Please, tell me your secrets!

I'm all ears!
Love, Karen

I can't tell you how much it means to me to be wearing Tink for this week. I know it sounds weird, but i keep on touching it like it's some sort of talisman!

Like you Karen, Stahlman was an inspiration to me when I first was introduced to Chets. She had such a vision that was shared by so many dedicated people! That vision and foundation has grown exponentially with our beloved Susan. the only way that I can answer how I saw education "on the OUTSIDE," is to tell you my top 10 things that I appreciate about Chets Creek...

1. The over 24,000 items that we have in our Media Center (though at inventory, it's a bit overwhelming!)

2. The incredible way that everyone shares information not only within our school, but all over the country.

3. The way you can find 40 cars in the parking lot, on any given day, during the summer, because teachers are inside preparing for the new school year!

4. The way everyone goes to extremes to embrace whatever our new theme is (We are so over the top!!)

5. The wonderful communication that we enjoy.

6. The way that we treat each other as a family, so when the going gets tough, we are all there to support each other (Betsy, we so love you.)

7. The incredible way that each of you wants every child to be a success, no matter what their abilities.

8. The support that we receive from our business partners.

9. The traditions that we have here: Literacy Festival and parade, Kindergarten Pow Wow, cookies with Auntie Claus, 1st Grade Sleepover... Please, stop me!

10. The thing that I appreciate the most about Chets is the welcome that I received upon my return from the "OUTSIDE." I am so very blessed to be a part of this family. I hope that you all understand what a truly unique place this is.

Now for the second question... for me, being a co=teacher, after being a resource/ safety net teacher, is really stepping out of the box. I have so much to learn about... tests and report cards, dealing with parents, grading papers, dealing with parents, teaching mini-lessons, dealing with parents (I can's believe how many conference it's possible to squeeze in). but, I've been given the wonderful opportunity to learn all of this under the capable wings of Jenny Nash and Joe Montisano. They have both been so open and welcoming. We are all still tweaking our system, trying to figure out how to best meet the needs of our children.

As for your last question, I have always loved working with the children who need a little extra attention. sometimes they just need to know that there is another person who is on their side. sometimes they just need a little self confidence. I get so excited to see these kids soar! having been many of the children Media specialist, they already know me so we already have rapport and trust. I am like a second mother to them, and I will hound them relentlessly to follow through on their responsibilities. somehow or another, they all know that I really care about them and I believe they can accomplish anything.

Our children are all such gifts from God! Many of them have been given burdens to carry that would break an adult's spirit. If I can help them be happy and function to the bet of their ability, I feel that I've done my job at the end of the day. I am forever grateful to the leadership and mentors that I have had here.
Cindy Tsengas

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sharing The Stage (Christy Constande)

Question: Dear Mrs. Constande,
I was in your classroom last week and got to see a great lesson that you and your co-teacher taught together. :) I just started co-teaching this year and was wondering how we could smoothly transition into "sharing the stage" like you and Ms. Anderson do so wonderfully!
Thanks for the advice!
Vicky Sharpe

Dear Vicky,
Sherrie and I believe whole-heartedly in co-teaching. Co-teaching allows each of us to have our areas of expertise, but to also learn new practices to make our own teaching stronger.

When we first began it was trail by error. Through training and in service we have learned how to teach collaboratively. I think 4 things are important for the model to work between the two teachers: trust, knowledge, and flexibility, and planning.

Sherrie and I have total trust in each other. I trust her with her content areas and she trusts me with mine.

We learn about the different content areas through planning and practicing it day in and day out. We actually sit down and determine who is going to say the connection, teaching point etc...

In all areas, we discuss who is working with a small group, conferencing or facilitating.

We also must be flexible. Time is precious, but sometimes she will need more time or vice versa and I just have to know I'll get more time later.

"Sharing the Stage" is important for the students. They need to see you both engaged in all content areas, and it's powerful for you as the teacher to see the "whole" child's strengths and weaknesses in all content areas.
Hope this helps,

Christy Constande

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Relationships (Karen Morris)

Okay, Karen, now it's your turn. Many people probably don't realize that you are such an awesome caregiver. You often cook meals for those in need, you're very thoughtful with birthday cards, you never forget to thank someone that's helped you out (usually including a Starbuck's card for their troubles). My question is, why do you do so much for others? Especially when your time is so full, keeping track of your kids, running back and forth to the ball park, organizing play group activities, taking Sarah to Spanish classes, etc. etc. etc.

As much as I do love to write to people, I've pondered this question all week and actually procrastinated journaling this response. I guess it is the questions of "why" that threw me.

I can easily answer the how do you... ( write notes, remember to thank, etc...) I work late every Wednesday night (unless something big is going on - like tomorrow night...Halloween). I go home and make dinner and by 6:35 am back at school.

I stay until 10:30 when the custodians lock the doors. Although I really only have about 3-1/2 solid hours - I get all kind of things done because there are no interruptions! I work on lesson plans, write Target team referrals, catch up on my diagnostic and assessment notebook anecdotal notes, etc. And... I always spend the last 1/2 hour "loving on people" (as Stahlman used to say). I try to write "noticing notes" (to Chets grown-ups - teachers, staff, parents, etc.) or positive post cards... I really like my Wednesday nights and suggest this to anyone - especially if you have other obligations (like small children at home). My husband also gets a night to work late (and I catch up on laundry and whatever at home) and other than that we generally don't bring a lot of work home! I know this doesn't exactly answer the question that Lori asked...

So I guess I'll have to jump right in, "Why do you do so much for others?" I have been fortunate to work for good bosses in my employment history. Before teaching, I was a social worker and an Administrator and can tell you how each of my supervisors led by the example of running a tight ship and meeting goals, but complimenting worthy team members along the way. Shortly before delivering Sarah (and changing careers) one of the most rewarding professional moments came. As the Director of the Full Service School program in Jax, I was put in a position to apply for staff bonuses because our program exceeded its goals. I was able (right before Christmas) to sit with my 6 Full Service School Coordinators and 6 secretaries (and my secretary) individually and give them a $1500 check (each). It was completely unexpected and a big surprise. What a great day that was! (Social Service organizations don't get monetary recognition very often).

And then I became a teacher. A Chets Creek teacher. And I met Stahlman...

Stahlman (Dr. Terri Stahlman for those who don't know her well) built Chets on relationships, risk and rewards and walked the talk. She gave me a note on my first day of school (in Feb. 2000) with a pen that was both inspirational and motivational. She pushed me like I had never been pushed before - I remember one particular year after FCAT scores came out sitting in the conference room defending, analyzing, and reanalyzing my scores to her (not because she asked but because I felt I owed her an explanation). You would hit the bottom - feeling completely overwhelmed (and perhaps peeved because you didn't get a TS on the newsletter, but an "edit" instead...) and she would build you up with a note. It would highlight how she noticed your bulletin board, or it would thank you for helping at Arts Extravaganza, or it would say "Hang in There with Suzy Jones..." It would say I NOTICE you (and sometimes she would attach a $100,000 bar and tell you that you were worth more...) or if you really needed it - you would get a Starbucks card.

Stahlman's notes said - I appreciate you. And you would climb, climb, climb the next hill and move the next mountain.

Why do I try to build others up? Because someone built me up (or I wouldn't be here.) People told me I could do it. People told me I was on the right track - or that I'm doing a good job.

I like to cook for others or gift others because it makes me feel good to help people )I guess that's a selfish reason). I'm also lucky that I can - my husband is very supportive of me.

I believe in relationship.
Karen Morris

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Organization (Lori Metzger)

To: Lori Metzger (Mentor Extrordinaire)
I always say that I used to be very organized, until I became a teacher!! You are known around the kingdom for being extrememly organized and having a spic-n-span classroom at all times. Please share some pearls of wisdom, maybe some simple things you think every teacher could do to get even a little bit more organized. Maybe you could also address dealing with the infamous beast of paperwork!

You are awesome and amazing! Beth

Organization is my specialty! I'll share my paperwork secrets here in this magical blog.

First, create a filing system that works for you. In my file cabinet I set my folders that correspond to each reading and writing skill or strategy that I teach. For example, I have folders titled main idea and sequence in the reading section of the drawer and I have folders titled setting and character development in the writing section of the drawer. Everything that I come across for that skill goes into the folder, but only one copy. That way the folders aren't bulging full of extra papers that I don't need.

I also have a set of weekly files labeled Monday through Friday. I try to organize the papers that I'll need for the week in these folders. If I have a test run off that I'm giving on Friday, I keep it in the folder and pull it out after school on Thursday.

My secret to being organized is my third set of files. Before the school year begins, I take a copy of the school board's yearly calendar and Chets Creek master calendar: I use four different color packets of construction paper, one color for each quarter. I fold the paper in half and use one page for each week of the school year. So this week's packet has the following dates on it: Oct. 22, Oct. 23, Oct. 24, Oct. 25 and Oct. 26. Next to the date I write anything important, such as early release, WOW days, picture days, tests that I know I'm giving, etc. Inside the construction paper I slip anything in that I can get ready ahead of time, homework and test papers, blank progress reports, field trip permission slips, etc. It does take some time to plan ahead but I don't find myself scrambling at the last minute for papers I need. I keep my construction paper files in milk crate in my office. Stop by if you'd like to see how it works.

One last tip is something I read years ago. I learned to touch a paper only once (if at all possible). For example, when I received the ballot for the Teacher of the Year, I stopped and grabbed a pen and filled it out right away. Then I turned it in.

I hope these organizational tips work!

Lori Metzger

Thinkmarks (Vicky Sharpe)

Question: Dear Vicky,
I know that you like to use your own modified versions of Kylene Beers' 'Think Mark' in your Readers' Workshop. Can you share some of your favorite or more effective thinkmarks? and do you think that the think mark could work for First Grade Readers?
Can't wait to hear what you "think."
Patty VanAlstyne

I like to use Thinkmarks for a lot of different strategies. It is a great way to see who is, and who is not, understanding the things you are teaching. I usually use them during active engagement and/or independent reading. Some different reasons that I use them for are:

*Questioning (Beginning, Middle, End)

*Inferencing (I see, I know, I infer)

*Main Idea/Summarizing (Somebody, Wanted, But, So)

*Retelling/Story Elements (Character, Setting, Events, Problem, Solution)

I am sure that there are many more ways you could use them even in the first grade!
Let me know if you "think" of any more! :)
My thinkmarks--

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Africa Experience (Beth Young)

QUESTION: Ms. Young -
You just returned from an incredible trip to Africa where you were able to learn a lot about a culture of people, different from your own. How have, or will you use this experience in your classroom, to make your students more "in tune" with the world around them? from "Toon Town" J.S

Answer: Beth Young
My Africa trip was so amazing and I should never put into word everything I learned and experienced. I feel like my whole personal and spiritual lives have been jostled around in a very good way. I'm still learning and reflecting daily on what this trip means for me personally, that I honestly, haven't considered much how this experience will impact my teaching. In general though, I know that this trip has and still is changing me into what I believe to be, is a more mature individual and hopefully a "better" person. As we know that which affects us so deeply in our personal lives will eventually flow into our teaching. So we'll have to wait and see what "changes," if any, occur in my day-to-day teaching role.

I will say it was a lot of fun to share with the kids my Africa experience. I even did share with them about the poorness of the people. I explained what the homes - aka huts - were like (showed pictures too) and how they have no electricity, got water from the crocodile river, and had to make their own toys. Of course, they seemed surprised, but I think for even adults, until you see the situations people, other than Americans, live in; you don't fully understand. But, I did have a parent say her child is actually helping out more at home and taking better care of stuff, because of our talk!

Co-Teaching Benefits (Patty VanAlstyne)

Question: Dear Patty,
Since co-teaching seems to be in the near future for us all and it is your first time in a co-teaching situation, I was wondering if you could ease my worries and concerns about co-teaching by shedding some positive light on your experience so far. What do you see as the pros of being a co-teacher?
Chevaugn Sasso

Let me start by saying that I love co-teaching! There are many positives, but I feel that the most important benefit of co-teaching is that it allows for much more individual contact with all students. It enables us to work one-on-one with our struggling kids as well as implement guided reading and strategy groups twice as often as we would on our own.

I also love the benefit of being able to plan together--it's great to be able to bounce ideas off of one another and to get feedback from someone on a regular basis.

If you have an open mind about co-teaching, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised once you give it a try--I say Go For It!
Patty VanAlstyne

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Artist Trading Cards (Jen Snead)

QUESTION: Dear Jen Snead,
I love the idea of your art trading cards! How can we incorporate that idea into our classrooms? (example - at dismissal time, etc.) And what's the easiest way to create a card? Melissa

Thank you for thinking of me to send and share Tinkerbell! What fun!

Artist Trading Cards are tons of fun and they seem to be exciting for all the students that have been involved in their making. The best way to make the card is to cut down white posterboard into 2-1/2-by 3-/1/2 inches. I believe one posterboard makes about 40 cards. Then have students use crayons, markers, watercolor paints (or any kind of paints), construction paper and glue or just about any two-dimensional art medium you can think of, to decorate or create a picture of their choice.The neat thing is, because of their size, they don't require a large amount of time.

Have the students write their first and last name on the back of the card, along with the date it was completed. They may also write a brief "artist statement" if desired. It could be a sentence telling about the artwork or what inspired them.

The really fun part is the TRADING!! After students have built up a small number of cards; let them begin trading with each other, or even with another class. Pretty soon they will have their very own private art collection.

ATC's can be incorporated in a variety of ways. Because they can be used in almost every academic subject, they can be used as a fun review of a concept learned during the day. Examples are:

MATH - create a repeating pattern to decorate a card.

SCIENCE - draw an animal that you learned about and include the habitat in which it lives.

ELA - Listen to a story and illustrate what you hear. Add as many details as you need to tell the story (or scene) in your picture.

SOCIAL STUDIES - design your personal symbol that tells about you and your family.

These are only a few ideas. Really, the sky is the limit with ATC's!

Jen Snead

SmartBoard (Chevaugn Sasso)

Question: Dear Chevaugn,
I know that you use the "Smart Board" with your Kindergarten students. I would love to know what types of activities you use it for. How do you incorporate it into your different workshops? Please enlighten me (us) so that I will have the confidence to use it in my room as well.
Always wondering,

5. In your Skills Block, you can bring up any Literacy based website or software activity that your kids can interact with and navigate through.
4. In Readers' Workshop, you can project different forms of text on the board and have your students come up and highlight any sight words or any particular reading skills or strategies you are working on, on the board.
3. In Writers' Workshop, you can project student work on the board to edit or actually have students come up and write on the board, which you can then save to your computer and print out.
2. In Math Workshop, you can navigate through math sites, complete math problems, and play fun games with your students.
1. EVERYTHING! The possibilities are endless. Just think of anything that you already do on your whiteboard, any writing on it or projecting on it. You can do all of those things and more and look SMARTER doing it by simply using the SMARTBOARD.

If anyone ever wants to use it or see it in action with your students, just let me know.

Che Che Sasso

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Technology in Math/Science (Melissa Ross)

QUESTION: Dear Melissa Ross:
The word around school is that you use a lot of technology in your teaching. Please share your wisdom. What form of technology do you use (i.e., Elmo) and how do you incorporate that into Math/Science instruction? Debbi Harbour

I use a lot of different kinds of technology daily. I use my document camera, projector, and the Internet for everything! Once you have played with it a little, it's not that hard to use, I promise! I use the camera for a lot including:

Read alouds so the kids can follow along. There are a lot of great ones online too.

Mini-lessons to demonstrate how to use a manipulative (example - showing kids how to make 15 cents using coins) or how to put something together for a Science experiment. Check out this
great site for online manipulatives for any grade level.

Take pictures of the way to set up cards for a card game they play for Math ahead of time so I can have it posted during the work period.

If they are all on the carpet for the min-lesson and I need to show them something somewhere in the room, they can't see from the carpet, I turn the head of the camera so that it is filming whatever I need to show them. I then have one of the kids go and point to that item. When they are "on camera," they think they are on WCEE - They love it!

I leave anything I have written for my mini-lesson up during the work period.

Background information for science lessons. Here are some great sites on
worms, space, science clips, or National Geographic for Kids.

Calendar Math Reinforcement. Guess My Number and Math Playground.

During closing I use it to have students share a piece of work (strategy they have worked on, etc.) It saves a lot of time because they don't have to rewrite it. Their handwriting also gets neater during the work period because they want to put their work up. I then take a picture of the work with the camera to post on my blog or to e-mail parents.

I also use it for fun to play math games - Place 23 cubes under the camera - freeze the image, remove cubes, unfeeze it. How many cubes were removed?

I use other technology such as podcasting, blogging, interactive websites, CPS system, computerized chalkboard, smartboard, etc., but I probably shouldn't take up the entire book. Come see me if you are interested in more!

Melissa Ross

The Tootsie Roll (Cheryl Dillard)

Question: Dear Cheryl,

I heard an interesting song during science resource last week. I asked your students what you did to get their attention. I was expecting a response familiar to me. It was not! One student began singing this song; everyone stopped and began to sing. They did hand gestures too. I would love to know the details of this management tool. Do you think I can use it for all my resource classes? All I know is it started with two words... Tootsie roll...

See you in the lab,

Debbie Stevens

I will start by reminding you that I teach 26 Kindergarten students that LOVE to talk. In order to have smooth transitions and on-task behavior I need to be creative (and sometimes just plain silly!) This is a song that I picked up at a workshop--I can't take credit for it. I use the song after we have had turn and talk time or when I need to get the students' attention and eyes on me. It actually words quite well. If you would like to see and hear the "Tootsie Roll" song, just pop the CD into your computer and enjoy! :)

Cheryl Dillard

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blog Videos (Debbie Harbour)

QUESTION: Dear Debbie Harbour,
I have heard good news about your blog! I heard that you posted video of your students reciting (or acting out?) nursery rhymes. I would love to add video to my class blog. Tell me how you did this!! Eager to learn, Jenny

Once you do a video on your blog, you are hooked!! I love the little video clips and only wish I could have shared in my child's day that this provides our families. Here's how to begin:

*The video I shoot comes from my little Canon digital camera. If it is from a regular camera (video), I am not sure with the actual download of the clip into your computer. KK does have some resources that may help you to get your video into .WMV, .AVI, .MOV, of .FLA (I don't know what these mean.

1. Download your video to your computer.
2. Go to and sign up (it's free)
3. Go to UPLOAD.
4. Here you will fill out the title, description, tags, and channel. Press continue.
5. Browse your computer for the video and press upload. This takes quite some time.
6. Now your video has been added to TeacherTube. Copy the text (html) that is Embed your video.
7. Go to your blog - post. Paste in the copied text directly into your post section.
8. You are done! YEAH! If you want you can also view all your saved videos on TeacherTube under My Files.

If anyone ever needs help - just ask. Happy Postings! Debbie Harbour

Treasure Tower (Deb Stevens)

Question: Deb Stevens,
Explain to me your tower of treasures. I have seen it in your room and it looks very interesting. Could we use it the P.E. Hall of Dreams?
Coach Bailey

The Treasure Tower is my positive reward dispenser. It is fun and exciting! It engages all students who visit the science lab. I discovered last year that I needed a powerful and positive reward for all students that enter my room. The Treasure Tower is very cool and magical. I chose what treasures go in each compartment. There is something for every grade level. They are child-friendly. I only have treasures that I would allow in my house as a parent. I give out tokens for good behavior and going above and beyond. Sometimes I give out 1 token, sometimes 6. I've been known to give one out when walking through the cafeteria! Each token costs me twenty five cents. When I run out of treasures I order refills on line and someone comes out to refill it. Students come by before and after school to check out the treasures. I have also challenged each class. When every student reads a science book and logs it in their science resource journal, the whole class gets a token.

(The token is silver with a smiley face saying super student award.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blog Comments (Jenny Nash)

Question: Jenny,
We love the idea of blogging but we don't know where to start. How do you write a note to a new teacher? Deb and Michelle

WOW! First of all, THANK YOU so much for choosing me! I feel lucky to be the 1st to write in the book & the 1st to wear "Tink"!! It has been a lot of fun to wear & I have received a lot of compliments on it! (Not to mention causing Quite a commotion in my daughter's Pre-K class!!)

As far as adding a comment to my blog, it is really very simple. Underneath any post (article) you will see, in bold (and Italics, I think) where it says "0 comments." (Or 1 or 2 or however many!) Click on this! :) A pop-up "box" will appear. this is where you can enter your comment information.

Something to remember... I have set my blogs to require comments to be moderated. Your comment will NOT appear immediately. I will review it and "ok" it to be published as soon as possible. (This is to prevent inappropriate comments on our blog.)
Hope this helps!
Thanks!! Looking forward to reading new comments!!
:) Jenny

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cup Stacking (Estrella Bailey)

Question:Dear Estrella,
We have heard all about the cup game. The students love it. Tell us all about it. Can we use it in our classroom?
Dreaming to Know,
Debby Cothern
Thank you so much for noticing my P.E. lessons. I challenged myself at the end of last year, because I knew I needed to come up with a BIG Wow for bad weather days. I wanted all students to be excited about PE-even in bad weather days. I learned about cup stacking years ago at a PE Workshop. However, I was not aware that it had turned into a REAL sport. It is called SPORT STACKING. It even has its own National Championship Competitions on ESPN. The port promotes and helps to develop: hand eye coordination, ambidexterity, quickness, concentration, motor skills, patterning, sequencing, and focusing!

I would love to teach the faculty how to stack-maybe on an Early Release Day. However, if you would like to use it in your class-you can purchase the cups at Toys R Us for $14.00.

I love teaching PE at Chets Creek Everyday!

Estrella Bailey

Check out this Cup Stacking Video: