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Teacher’s Pets #24 Paul Needs Specs

Paul Needs Specs

Paul Needs Specs


written by Bernard Cohen
illustrated by Geoff Kelly
Kane/Miller Book Publisher
ISBN: 192913261
Ages 5-9

Paul asked, “Has the world gone fuzzy, . . .?” What a scary feeling to have your world blur in front of your eyes, especially when you are a child no bigger than Paul. The world hadn’t gone fuzzy or blurry or misty or foggy . . . well not really. But, Paul’s eyesight did. Author, Bernard Cohen takes us on a trip to the eye doctor. What a strange place that is! Paul tries many different lenses. Some make him see fat and some make him see tall and I wonder if some do nothing at all. Then Goeff Kelly adds his zany, very psychedelic illustrations, which will make readers howl. This book should definitely allay the fears of any child who needs to get glasses. PAUL NEEDS SPECS is a real eye-opener.

This review was originally published on SmartWriters and on

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“Paul needed specs because everything was fuzzy and blurry,” said Greg.

“Specs are some kind of glasses,” said Katie-Erin.

“Paul was bumping into things,” said Zach.

“I felt bad for him,” said Lucy, “because he was upset.”

“Paul felt kind of weird because everything was foggy,” said Anya.

“Well, if I needed glasses or spectacles,” said Philippe, “I would freak out.”

“Yeah! It would be pretty crazy, if I had to get glasses,” agreed Kurtis.

“They don’t make you look bad,” said Sarit.

“They just make you look unique!” said Marta with a grin.

“Right, because sometimes people don’t want to blend in with the crowd,” said Juan.

“Hmm, I think glasses always make you look smart,” said Philippe.

“This book reminds me of when I got glasses,” said Sarit, “but I don’t really wear them much.”

“Sometimes people tease people with glasses.” said Zach. “Sometimes they call them four eyes . . . uhhhh, no offense, Juan.”

“None taken,” said Juan.

“Well, I think teasing is a mean thing to do,” said Becky.

“I don’t understand why people have to tease people with glasses. There’s nothing wrong with them,” said Katie-Erin.

“It just makes them different . . . and different is all right,” said Marta. “Different is better than being the same.”

“Yeah!” said Pritka. “If we were all the same you couldn’t tell who was who.”

“And, kids wear glasses for their own good,” said Anya. “Who cares what other people think?”

“There’s a poem,” said Lucy. “It goes, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’”

“I sort of agree,” said Kurtis, “It should be normal for people to wear glasses.”

“I just don’t get it. They’re just glasses. What’s bad about that?” asked Marta.

“Yeah!” said Sarit. “What’s bad about glasses? Sometimes they make you look smart.”

“Like teenagers!” said Pritka with a giggle. “Teenagers get glasses to make them look smart.”

“I just think it’s crazy calling people names just because they wear glasses,” said Greg. “If they take them off they can’t see.”

“Well, in all my life of having glasses . . .,” said Juan, “since kindergarten . . . nobody has made fun of me.”


To SEE or NOT to SEE Health/Science

Most of us take our vision for granted. It’s there and we don’t much think about it. It’s not until we lose a sense do we become more aware of it. To raise sensitivity in children and make them more aware of their sense of sight, try the following activity.

#1 Split the class into teams with three members each.

#2 Give each team a paper bag filled with several familiar objects, such as a crayon, pencil, eraser, sock, mitten, penny, barrette, rubber band, paperclip, glue stick, etc.

#3 Two team members place blindfolds over their eyes.

#4 The first blindfolded team member chooses an item from the bag and, without looking, describes the item to the second blindfolded partner.

#5 The second blindfolded partner, also without looking, uses the clues his partner gives him to try to identify the object.

#6 The third team member is not blindfolded. His job is to record his teammates’ answers on paper, but he may NOT offer any help to his team.

#7 The team with the most accurate guesses is the winner.

JUST ADD “ed” Language Arts

Paul bumped, tripped, dropped, and spilled. Hey, that was a lot of past tense verbs

Have the children make a list of past tense action verbs and record them on the chalkboard or on chart paper. Next, using the list, have the children locate the verbs that fall into each of the patterns below. You may want to take it slow and practice each rule for several days before progressing to the next rule.

#1 Some verbs are made into past tense simply by adding “ed.” For example knock/knocked and work/worked.

#2 Other verbs need special operations. Notice the verbs that fall into the CVC pattern. (Consonant – Vowel – Consonant) They need to follow this rule, “Double the final consonant and add “ed” . . . like this, hop/hopped, slam/slammed.

#3 Then there are the verbs that end in “e”. They have a special rule to follow, too. “Drop the final “e” and add “ed.”

#4 Don’t forget verbs that end in “y”. That rule looks like this. “Change the “y” to “i” and add “ed”. Some verbs that follow that rule are cry/cried, try/tried.

Now have fun using all the rules to categorize the verbs that the children listed on their chart. Hey did you notice I used a past tense verb in that last sentence?

(Although I examined these websites and found them to be very helpful, please use them at your own discretion.)

CHILDREN TODAY: Four Eyes Can Be Fabulous:
When your child starts wearing glasses:


Baby Duck and the Bad Eyeglasses by Amy Hest
Glasses (Who Needs ‘Em?) by Lane Smith
Glasses for D. W. by Marc Brown

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Teacher's Pets: Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On School #36 Kids Speak Out on First Grade

KIDS COMMENT in 2004-2005

(Reposted from Donna’s Website)

(Names are changed to protect the infamous.)

Kids Raised Hands th

Well, another school year has ended. (2004-2005) This year I had a total of 27 children. That’s a BIG class by any standards, but especially since our sister school across town, no more than a mile away, had ONLY 13 children per class. The way I look at it . . . I had double the fun…or maybe it was double the trouble. I’ll let you decide. Here’s what some of my KIDDLES said about their 1st grade experience.

When I started 1st Grade I was not good at math, but I got better. First grade is the best.

I have been in 1st Grade for a year. Can you believe that???

1st Grade was all fun! We had to do a lot of work to get things done.

For GROUP DAILY NEWS we wrote about animals, healthy snacks, snow, people, flowers, butterflies, rainbows, horses, our prize bucket, and hospitals.

When I first met Mrs. Figurski, I was shy, but then I got used to her. Mrs. Figurski has fun activities. People learn things in first grade.

First grade is a lot of fun. I am going to miss first grade.

When I started school, I was very nervous.

On the first day of first grade, I was shy and scared. When I sat down I met Ivan and Gale. They became my first friends in 1st grade. Now I love first grade. It is the best!

When I first started school, I cried because I wanted my dad. Then I met new friends and my teacher, Mrs. Figurski, did lots of stuff, like, Word Wall Quiz and Group Daily News.

KIDS COMMENT in 2007-2008

Mrs. Figurski’s class is the best class in the whole wide world. My favorite game is Race for a Flat.Variety of Kids th

My teacher is a nice teacher. You can have fun in 1st grade.

First grade can be difficult. My teacher is fun. My teacher makes projects. My teacher likes me. She is the best teacher. My teacher can do anything.

I like first grade because we write a lot. I like projects. I like when Mrs. Figurski reads Meish Goldish.

First grade is fun. I play games. I made a book, too. Mrs. Figurski is a nice teacher. Mrs. Figurski made first grade fun.

It was fun in first grade, but it’s time for an end. Mrs. Figurski made a lot of fun things like Alpha Dice and Alpha Patterns. Mrs. Figurski likes frogs. Mrs. Figurski is the best teacher in the whole wide world.

I love first grade. First grade is not like kindergarten. Our favorite teacher is Mrs. Figurski.

I like my teacher. My teacher is cool. My teacher teaches. My teacher likes kids.

In first grade you learn how to read.

You need a backpack in first grade.

First grade is fun. You do projects. You play games. You do stuff and you don’t know that you are learning. If you are in Mrs. Figurski’s class, you are in the right class. When you are done with first grade, you go to second grade.

Love First Graders th

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing. )

September 3, 2013 Posted by | On School | , , , | 1 Comment

Living in 3rd Grade #4 Division Stories by Figurski Kiddles

Division Stories


Figurski KIDDLES

(Reposted from Figurski Wiki January 6, 2011)

(Children’s name have been omitted to protect the infamous.)

Division is like sharing. When someone has something and shares it equally with others, that is dividing. Sometimes division can have a remainder because you can not divide the numbers equally and some numbers are left over. That is called a remainder. We are having so much fun with division, so Mrs. Figurski made Division Story Booklets for us. We get to create our very own division stories. We thought it would be so much fun to make up the problems from our own heads because we have such creative heads. Then we decided to post our division stories on our Wiki, so we could have fun solving all of our division stories. We are using crayon names for our problems.

Division Stories – stories written with color names

January 6, 2011

Gold has 40 cookies. She has 7 pans. How many cookies will Gold be able to put on each pan?

32 football players are going to a game. They are going on buses. Each bus can hold 7 football players. How many buses will they need?

Purple has 14 books. She put 3 books on each shelf. How many shelves will Purple need for her books?

Golden has 15 Nutcrackers. He has 5 nuts. How many nuts can Golden put in each Nutcracker’s mouth, if he wants them to have an equal share?

Pink has 48 carrots. She has 6 bags. How many carrots can Pink put in 6 bags?

Red has 15 cookies. He also has 4 jars. He wants to put 3 cookies in each jar. What will be Red’s remainder?

Mrs. Pink had 45 Nancy Drew books. She has 5 book shelves in her dining room. How many Nancy Drew books can Mrs. Pink put on each shelf?

Blue had 20 balloons. He had 5 piles. How many balloons can Blue put in 5 piles? b

Mr. Red had 20 blue crayons. He wanted to divide them equally into 4 cans. How many crayons would go in each can?

Lavender is putting cupcakes on a tray. She has 25 cupcakes. How many cupcakes can Lavender put on each tray?

Aqua is reading a chapter book. The chapter book is 50 pages long. Each chapter has 5 pages. How many chapters are in the book?

Mr. Black’s 23 sons are going on a car trip. They have 4 cars that hold 2 people each. They have to buy more cars. How many more cars do they need to buy for their trip?

Miss Turquoise has 21 pet sharks. She has 9 bath tubs. Miss Turquoise wants put 4 sharks in each bathtub. How many bath tubs will she need to use?

Mrs. Pink has 20 blue crayons. She wants to divide them into 3 cans. How many blue crayons will not have a can?

Mrs. Green has 35 fish. She has 3 tanks and wants to put 4 fish in each tank. How many more tanks will she have to buy?

Mr. Gold was going to New York. He’s going to take 10 friends with him. Each car can hold 4 friends. How many cars will Mr. Gold and his friends need?

Mr. Silver has 38 puppies. He was going on a car trip. He has 5 cages to put the puppies in. Mr. Silver wants 5 puppies in each cage. How many more cages will he need?

Division Stories – stories written with color names

January 7, 2011

Aquamarine has 23 Expo markers. She has 2 friends. How many markers will Aquamarine and her friends get if she shares with them? Show the remainder.

Prince Opal has 17 horses in his tower. He wants to divide them into 3 groups. How many horse will not be in a group?

Amber has 50 rare coins. She puts 7 rare coins in each box. How many boxes will Amber need? How many coins will not get a box?

Ms. Ruby has 49 turkeys. She has 7 white shelves in her kitchen. She wants to put the turkeys on her shelves. How many turkeys can Ms. Ruby put on her white shelves?

King Agate has 12 princesses. King Agate has 3 castles near the hill. How many princesses can he put in each castle?

Emerald and her friends are going on a picnic. There are 39 children. Six kids will go in each van. How many vans will they need?

Sapphire, my BFF, has 54 emeralds. She has 6 red, white, and blue boxes. How many Emeralds can Sapphire put in each box so it is even?

Mr. Zircon has 33 boxes. He has 11 books. How many books can he put in the boxes?

Beryl has 24 green hats. He wants to put his hats in 4 boxes. How many hats can he put in each box?

Mr. Bloodstone had $50.00. He gave it all to 7 boys equally. How many dollars did each boy receive?

Pearl is selling cookies. There are 42 boxes. There are 7 different flavors. How many boxes are there for each flavor?

Queen Topaz had 21 princes. She wanted to put them in 3 equal groups to fight the dragons. How many princes will be in each group?

Ms. Peridot has 20 whiteboards. She wants to put them on 2 shelves. How many shelves will she need?

January 11, 2011

Division is the reverse of multiplication. In the following problems, the KIDDLES wrote a division story. Then they created a multiplication story using the same information. They were encouraged to make exciting stories by adding colorful adjectives, which they are studying in Language Arts.

Grumpy, old, stubborn Mr. Cricket has 15 pet hawks that are bigger than him. He puts the hawks into 5, old rusty cages. How many hawks will be in each cage?

Grumpy, old, stubborn Mr. Cricket has 5, rusty old cages. He puts his 3 pets hawks into each rusty, old cage. How many pet hawks does he have in all?

Mr. Mosquito had 144 sharp stingers. 12 of his stingers were short. How many stingers were long?

Mr. Mosquito got hit by a flagpole 12 times. If he got hit by a flagpole 12 times on 12 days. How many times will he get hit by a flagpole?

Mr. King Grasshopper had 196 folders. He has 14 colorful desks. How many folders can Mr. Grasshopper put in each desk?

Mr. King Grasshopper had 14 desks. He put 14 folders in each desk. How many folders does he have in all?

Mrs. Firefly was dancing at the Firefly Dance Show. There were 15 dancers altogether in the show. The dancers lined up in 3 rows. How many dancers were in each row?

At the Firefly Dance Show, there were dancers dancing in three rows. With 5 dancers in each row, how many dancers were dancing in the Firefly Dance Show altogether?

Ms. Moth is building a floor. There are 70 tiles on her floor with 10 tiles in each row. How many rows did Ms. Moth put on the floor?

Ms. Moth is building a floor. Each row has 10 tiles. Each column has 7 tiles. How many tiles are on the floor?

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Living in 3rd Grade | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TidBits About Donna #50 It’s a Good Day!

It’s a Good Day!

“What makes a good day for you?” was a question I recently encountered as I read Growing Flowers, my daughter, Kiersten’s, blog. That unnerving question took me aback as I sat at my computer in my home office with the sun streaming in from the windows that surround me on this bright and cold Sunday morning. I stopped. I sat there.  I looked out the window and then looked around my office and wondered … what exactly is a good day for me.

Five minutes later I was still wondering. Is that sad – or is that sad??? I guess I can’t chunk a whole day together to deem it a “good day.” But maybe parts of it, isolated moments or hours would be easier.

So often it is easy to focus on the bad parts or the more difficult situations in life. I know when I was teaching I often spoke of the more challenging parts of my day – my angst over a child, who day in and day out, repeatedly refused to do his work as my concern grew on how to reach him; my worries over the six-year-old student who never did her ten-minutes-a-night HomeFun because of lack of parental supervision or cooperation.  (What were these parents thinking?) My utter frustration when a child with severe emotional needs demands all of my time and attention to the exclusion of the rest of the twenty-three children in the class – that makes for a really bad day – or year. It also makes for a lot of stress. Talking those situations through over dinner with my husband, David, released many of my frustrations, at least for that day, and it reset me to tackle the job of teaching the next morning.

On the home front, fighting with insurance companies over medical bills they should automatically pay, the toilet overflowing, or the water heater and humidifier leaking – needing repair or replacing – not good! Paying the bills and spending hours filing the paperwork does not make for a good day either. But that’s life, I guess.

So, no, I can’t recount “good days,” except for maybe carefree vacations in Puerto Peñasco when all time stops and the sun shines everlasting. But I can measure happy times as fleeting moments or hours  “good moments – good hours.” And every day has some of those.

I can cite lots of those “good moments – good hours” starting with the crystal blue sky hanging outside my windows as I type this post. Its deep, cobalt blueness makes me wonder how colorful our world is and it makes me smile. Then several hours later, as I finish the edit of this post, I glance out the window to see a full moon perched in the hazy, purple sky, peeking through the branches of the bare-naked trees outside my office window. Both … “good moments.”

The hot chocolate, cinnamon oatmeal chock full of roasted almonds and sunflower seeds with banana and grapes mixed in and topped with fat-free whipped cream – both chocolate and white – yummy – a “good moment.”

Lounging in my reclining, lawn chaise on a hot summer day, under the shade of Japanese maple trees, reading a fun book or treading water with a friend and neighbor in our complex pool as we exercise, talk, laugh, share recipes and make plans for shopping excursions – “good hours.”

Afternoon or late evening walk/talks with my friends to share our thoughts and slices of our lives – very “good hours.”

Closing the lid of my file box with a thwap after finishing the filing of the bill paperwork – definitely a “good moment.”

When a child says with all sincerity, “You are the ‘bestest’ teacher I ever had in my whole, entire life – in the whole, entire universe.” (I taught first grade and am only one in his not-so-long experience with teachers, but you’ve got to love it anyway.) – a very “good moment.”

Beating my sister, cousins, and friends in “Words With Friends. – a “good moment.”

Chatting and laughing on my cell phone with my best friend from Louisville, KY during a long, brisk walk – a “good hour.”

Stepping off of the stage to applause at the end of an eight-minute monologue – a very “good moment.”

Hanging out with my granddaughters in China Town NYC or the Peninsula on Lake Erie or at their home in New Mexico – “good hours.”

Completing Chapter 61 of my memoir about David and his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – a very “good moment” indeed! (I am almost done with the second edit of the book. YEAH!)

When I complete the whole book, sell it, and see it on the shelves of Barnes and Noble and on the bookshelves of every library in the United States – well, that would make a wonderful, amazing, unbelievable, very “good day.”

Having coffee and lots of chatter with friends and cousins. – “good hours.”

Waking up with my husband each morning, having him wrap his arms around me, and having him tell me he loves me “most-most” and I reply, “Well, of course you do … and we both laugh – a very happy “good moment.”

This is how is goes.

Donna to David:       I love you!

David to Donna:                I love you more!

Donna to David:        I love you more-more!

David to Donna:                           I love you most!

Donna to David:         I love you more-most!

David to Donna:                            I love you most-most!

Donna to David:        Of course, you do!

Meeting David when I was sweet-sixteen, marrying him when I was all-knowing twenty, and sharing our lives together adds up to – a very “good LIFE.”

My days are made up of many “good moments” and  “good hours” and maybe stringing all those moments and hours together is what makes up a “Good Day” a “Good Life.”

These are only a few random incidents that make a very good moment, good hour, or good life for me. I hope you will take some time now and think what makes you happy – what makes a “good moment, good hour, good day, or good life” for you.

I’d love to hear about yours, so please post your thoughts in the comment section of my blog. Just look below in the tag section. You will see the link for COMMENTS.

And celebrate your good moments.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photo compliments of ME.)

February 6, 2012 Posted by | TidBits About Donna | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living in Third Grade #2 HomeFun NOT HomeWork

HomeFun NOT HomeWork

Third grade is the transition year from early childhood primary education to intermediate education. Children are expected to assume more responsibility for their leaning. As they mature and are more comfortable in their roles as students, they can easily accomplish their HomeFun tasks without much parental supervision.

It was my goal to make HomeFun a palatable job. As a child, I was not fond of homework. I felt it was a drudge that stole my time – all except for my reading homework, of course. I loved reading. But math … that was another story. I remember my father drilling the multiplication tables with me – pounding them into my head would be more accurate. He tried … and so did I, but it was frustrating when those numbers just would not stick. I wish my dad had played the flash card game or a memory/concentration game with me. I probably would have learned the times tables and division facts so much easier and faster – and we both would have had a whole lot of fun.

My memories of homework are not pleasant ones. That’s why I wanted HomeFun memories to be better for my third grade kiddles. Of course, they had to learn their math facts. That’s part of third grade life, but why not make it fun? Instead of just flashing cards at your child, turn it into a game. Let your child score a point for each fact that he or she gets right. If he or she misses a fact, then the point is yours. (Ham that up a lot. They love it.) The fact is kids like to play. That is what they do best. So make their learning fun and they will have fun learning.

HomeFun each night was a combination of several disciplines below. Sometimes the children needed to review concepts taught in class that day … especially in Social Studies and Science. Sometimes they needed to practice a skill such as cursive handwriting or to study their spelling list. Occasionally they had to finish work that they did not complete in class. No matter what the assignment, I always tried to put a positive spin on it … and as their parents, so should you.

The following are examples of some of the tasks I assigned for the children to practice

Read at least 10 minutes every night. That’s what I told my 3rd graders on the first week of school. They laughed! Of course, I knew they would read lots more than that, but I wanted to establish a basis for routine that would soon become habit. I sent home a calendar for parents to sign each night.

Practice multiplication or division flash cards at least 10 minutes each night. This is so important to develop a good, solid base in mathematics.
Use the Wiki page, Division Stories by Figurski KIDDLES, for math practice.

Reread the material that was discussed in class.
Write 3 Trivia Comp Questions from the material. Be sure to include the answer and the page number where the answer was found.

Use your best cursive handwriting to practice the assigned letters/words. Be sure to use 2 or 3 different colored-crayons to trace the letters carefully and neatly.
Other assignments in other subjects may be give when review or reinforcement is necessary.

Always remember to copy your HomeFun from the whiteboard. Write it exactly as it is on the board. This way, when you go home, you will not become confused about what you need to do.

This entry was borrowed and adapted from my WIKI page. You can see the original Wiki with more information by clicking the Wiki link above.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

December 18, 2011 Posted by | Living in 3rd Grade | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On School #34 Parent as Teacher

My daughter, Kiersten, posted a great article on Facebook. It pushed my “teacher” buttons – all the right ones.

The article, How About Better Parents? published in the New York Times and written by Op-Ed Columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, raises the question about where education really needs to start. Of course, ideally, schools should be filled with only the best, the most qualified teachers. For the most part they are. I know some of you will argue and point fingers at the teachers who have failed – the teachers you’ve read about in the papers and on the web, heard about on television and radio who have engaged in a variety of unsavory acts. There are those teachers, too, who put in their time and collect their dime. I won’t deny your allegations. No doubt these less than admirable persons exist in the teaching profession, as they unfortunately do in nearly all professions. Thankfully the number is small.

Most teachers are dedicated professionals who care deeply about the children they teach. Perhaps folks should focus on the strengths of teachers, raise the esteem of the profession instead of disparaging it. Look at Jaime Escalante, a teacher who taught in East Los Angeles, California. The 1988 film, “Stand and Deliver,” portrays how Mr, Escalante changed the lives of his students. He not only taught math, he challenged his students, he raised their bar for academic excellence. He showed his students that he passionately cared about teaching, about them, and their learning success. They showed him they could meet his expectations and achieve higher. Funny thing – children will rise to your high expectations. Believe in them and they will believe in you.

Then there’s Torey Hayden, a child psychologist and special education teacher from Montana. You only need to read her books to understand her passion for teaching and her love for the special children she taught. I fell in love with her students. too, and I marveled at Torey Hayden’s inate ability to reach them. She truly makes a difference. I have read and loved all of Ms. Hayden’s books, but I think my favorite is One Child.

Mary MacCracken, another inspirational teacher and author, is dedicated to working with special needs children. She has written many books based on her teaching. Lovey: A Very Special Child and A Circle of Children are excellent depictions of a teacher and her very special children. The moment I finished A Circle of Children, I paged through the phone book. Mary MacCracken lived only a few miles from me. I dialed her number. I needed to tell her how inspired I was after reading her book. I was passionate. Her line was busy … and I lost my nerve. I never did redial, but I never lost the passion that her words left with me.

After devouring all of both Torey Hayden and Mary MacCracken’s books, I was tempted to change my teaching direction. I wanted to walk in their shoes, but I knew I could never fill them. So I did what I was most qualified to do. I taught in general education classrooms, specifically first and third grades.

So, yes, we all want good teachers – excellent role models in the classroom. Our children deserve that! But to address the question Mr. Friedman posed about where education really needs to start. It’s not the classroom.

Children usually do not have their first formal classroom experience until they are five- or six-years-old. Much too late for “education” to begin. Education begins at home as soon as a child demonstrates understanding. When a child learns to say “mama” or “dada,” we clap and smile and hug that child. That’s education! We cuddle with our child and point to pictures and they parrot as we read the words, “I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I do not like them, Sam, I am.” We marvel when they memorize those same words and read them back to us – the little geniuses. That’s education! When a child understands “NO” as he or she reaches for an electrical outlet. That’s education! When we guide our little ones to put away their clothes, make their beds, brush their teeth, set the table, or any number of household or personal chores – Education. All education! We are all educators. We are all teachers. BUT …  parents are the first teachers.

I have touted this philosophy my entire teaching career. It is not mind-boggling. It is simply common sense. So it saddens me when parents tells me they have no time to read with their child. I am disheartened when parents tell me that teaching is not their job. I especially hate when parents lay out the excuse for why their child is not doing well in math, in reading, or any subject by stating, “I was never good in ___ either.” (fill in the blank) All the more reason, I say to make sure that Johnny  or Mary gets extra help either with the teacher after school or at home. We all need reinforcement when learning a new subject. “Practice makes perfect,” – so they say. We all need to practice what we have learned. As adults,  as teachers,  or as parents, it is our duty to guide and nourish the new generation. For children are our planet’s greatest natural resource. Parents who fall into any of the above categories are setting up their child for failure. They are sending a loud and clear message that school is not important … or more seriously, that their child is not important enough to warrant their help and attention to school needs.

It is common sense, at least it is to me, that children who read at home, who have educational input from their parents, children whose parents hold education in high esteem and pass that ethic onto their children will far outshine those who do not. It’s simple!

In all my classes, both first grade or third grade, I required children to read each night – at least ten to twenty minutes. I know some children only fulfilled the requirement, but I also know that many children read on and on and on. Their parents told me so … and, yes, more than one, claimed the flashlight under the covers. I remember I used to do that, too, as a child. I still love to read in bed. I like to read anywhere.

Parents are their child’s first teachers. They are their child’s most important teachers.

As a teacher, I take great joy and pride in opening a child’s mind, perhaps by something I said or something I did, or taught, but it is the parent who is the child’s lifelong teacher.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

November 30, 2011 Posted by | On School | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On School #30 My Little Engine

“I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!” said my little engine, Nicole. And I knew she could. And she did!

Nicole was a perky six-year-old. With dark brown hair, big eyes, and a ready smile, She was a pleasure to have in my first grade class. She was very cooperative, had lots of friends, and seemed to enjoy school. Nicole was bright and did very well academically … but, sadly she didn’t think so.

She worried if she missed a spelling word on a quiz or got a math problem wrong. She was nervous when called on, even when she knew she knew the answer. Her anxiety was not apparent in the classroom. She hid it well. But when she went home, she fretted over her work and school. She felt as if she were not good enough. Of course her mom was worried. Her dad, too. And so was I, once they alerted me.

I was surprised that this seemingly very capable child was suffering from lack of self-esteem, from feelings of inadequacy. One afternoon I sat down with Nicole and her mother for a serious heart-to-heart talk. It took a lot of convincing to turn Nicole’s thinking around. I told her the story of The Little Engine That Could. You know the one. The little engine had to pull a trainload of toys over the mountain in time for Christmas morning, but it was a daunting, nearly impossible task for such a small engine.

But Little Engine did not want to disappoint all of the little boys and girls who were expecting a new toy for Christmas. The little engine pulled. She puffed. She tugged and hauled and repeated the refrain over and over, “I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!” unto she finally crested the hill and chugged the rest of the way down the mountain and into town.

I saw the glimmer in Nicole’s eyes as I neared the end of the story. She got it! “Do you know what you are?” I asked. With a slight nod and a smile, she answered, “the engine.”

Nicole remains my engine after all these years. When she graduated 8th grade, I sent her a congratulatory card. It had a picture of an engine cresting a hill. It read, “I knew you could.”

Before Nicole graduated high school, she nominated me for Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Some years later Nicole’s mother gave the recommendation letter that Nicole wrote to me. I treasure it. Perhaps in a later post I will share it with you.

(Clip Art compliments of

(PS Actually, I was nominated a total of three times for Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Unfortunately I never learned which of my students nominated me for the additional two books.)

October 11, 2011 Posted by | On School | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On School #29 One Happy Teacher

Welcome to the Wonderful World of First Grade!

Welcome to the Wonderful World

This is me!
This is me.
I love my class.
Can’t you see?


Yep! That’s one happy teacher. THAT’S ME!

Sometimes I really look like that. Oh, don’t worry. It’s a good thing. I practically stand on my head for my kids. But then . . . they just about stand on their heads for me, too.

I think kids are just about the smartest people around. Don’t let their size trick you. Sometimes they try to hide what they really know, but if you dust away the cobwebs, it’s all there . . . just waiting to be discovered.


There are so many of them. There are David and Sara and Nick and Samantha and Thomas and Nichole and Kieth and Courtney. Well, the list could go on and on. I have taught more than 500 children since I began teaching a long, long time ago. I’ve taught kids with common names like Greg and John and some with not so common names like, Olivia and Demi. But, I’ve never taught a Mathilda or a Henry or a Stella or a Wendell or an Elvira or a Hubert . . . or even a Donna . . . but maybe I will . . . someday.

Well, since I retired in June of 2011, I guess I’ll never meet Mathilda, Henry, Stella, Wendell, Elvira, Hubert . . . or even Donna. Not in my very own classroom, but who knows, maybe if I substitute or tutor, I will.


(Clip Art compliments of

October 9, 2011 Posted by | On School | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Peek Into Our 3rd Grade Lives

Disclaimer: As always, any identifying names, except for mine, have been changed to protect the infamous.

A Peek Into Our 3rd Grade Lives

We do a LOT of learning in our classroom. Sometimes we study spelling. Sometimes we practice handwriting. We are learning to write in cursive. It’s fun with all its fancy curlicues and twists and spirals. Other times we study social studies or science. We go back in time to learn about the lives of Native Americans. Then we travel far into space to explore the other planets in our Solar System. We spend hours and hours on math and reading and language arts. Language arts includes all phases of speaking and communicating. It includes reading and writing, too.

In this lesson in English we made a web in our writing logs. That means that we brainstormed everything we knew about the topic Mrs. Figurski assigned to us. A web looks much like a spider web. In the center of the web is the topic. On the lines radiating from the center are our ideas about the topic. We use these ideas to create our paragraphs. In this lesson, too, we tried to use a variety of adjectives (words that describe a noun) and adverbs (words that describe a verb.) As you read through our paragraphs, try to find as many adjectives and adverbs as you can.


School Life
We do a lot of learning in our classroom…like reading. It is a lot of fun. We can learn new things in social studies, spelling, math, science, English, and handwriting. We love doing the Wiki. It has a lot of fun ideas! When it is 11:30, we go to lunch. After lunch, we have recess. Then after recess, we have to work again. When it’s 3:00, we go home and the teachers go home, too. by Monkey

School Life
I go to Hilly School. My teacher is Mrs. Figurski. Mrs. Figurski makes us do fun work, like math, spelling, and English. She also gives us fun reading comps. We also do reading groups work. Mrs. Figurski opened a Wiki. A Wiki is something where Mrs. Figurski puts our work in the computer for everyone to see. I like my school. by Lion

School Life
I like it in Mrs. Figurski’s class. We also have Ms. Firkins. We do math, English, science, and social studies. Sometimes we work on the Wiki. We also do writing workshop. Mrs. Figurski does reading groups and we write questions for trivia comp. We have a very, funny class. I am very happy to be in Mrs. Figurski’s class. by Stingray

School Life in My Classroom
Whenever I come into my great, wild classroom, it feels so exciting! You can see little kiddles running around being bonkerville (in a fun way). You can also see the Marsling teacher, Mrs. Figurski. She’s the one who’s going to prepare us for the BTITS and sometimes the funky Miss Firkins will, too. Sometimes Mrs. Figurski or Miss Firkins gives us a daily spiral review or a reading comp in the morning. Sometimes we do other things. Handwriting and math are two subjects that I love. When the class is done with that, we do Super Team and Smart Team. Those teams verse each other and whoever gets the most points in their work gets a sticker. I’m on the Smart Team. We put our stickers on our charts. We have a lot of fun in our class. by Shark

School Life
Hi, I am Chipmunk. In the morning, we do daily spiral reviews in math and reading logs, too. In math, English, and spelling, we use our white boards. Our teacher tells us funny stories. Mrs. Figurski does Smart Team and Super Team. It is a fun game. At then end of the day, we write our HomeFun in our planners. This year will be the best. by Chipmunk

School Life in My Classroom
My life in my classroom is really fun. My teacher is from Mars, too. Her name is Mrs. Figurski. Mrs. Figurski is a funny and charming teacher. I have another teacher. She is a student teacher and her name is Ms. Firkins. She’s always sweet and nice. Mrs. Figurski gives us HomeFun, NOT homework. She does not like homework, so she gives us fun HomeFun. I’m glad we have HomeFun because it’s fun. I’m glad, too, because I have two nice, sweet, and charming teachers. by Penguin

School Life in Our Classroom
Our class is fun because work is like a game. It is fun to participate and it’s important to participate. You can read a Wiki with someone. When you get to work, it is a fun thing to do. Teachers give you work so you can have fun. When you have free time, you can study, read a book, or write in your journal. Always check your planner and check off stuff that you have to do. by Coyote

School Life in the Classroom
My name is Violet and I am in the third grade. I go to Hilly School. My classroom teacher is Mrs. Figurski. My student teacher is Ms. Firkins. We do lots of things here. Let’s start with math. Math is pretty easy. We are learning geometry. We write on our white boards like writing. Writing takes a while to do. This paragraph is in my writing journal. You can read your work like reading. Reading is fun. We do reading comps. They are sometimes hard! We also read things together like science! Science is interesting. We are learning about the planets. I enjoy every subject except for handwriting. It takes a long time. But anyway, school is cool! by Violet

School Life
I like school. I love math, spelling, reading comp, and trivia comp. I feel okay when I do English. My teacher, Mrs. Figurski, makes sticker charts for my class that keep track of how many 90% and above we get for our grades. When we are in group, we have our white boards to tell Mrs. Figurski what we think the answers are. School is a lot of fun. by Silver

School Life
School life in our classroom is fun because Ms. Firkins is a student teacher and she helps us with our work. At school, I feel great because I work hard. In school, I’m honest with my teacher. Mrs. Figurski is a very nice teacher and I work so hard. School Rocks! by Gold

My School Life
In my school, we have a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Figurski. She teaches us a lot of subjects like math, English, and spelling. While we work, she puts classical music on. In school, she also teaches us how to write in script. When we’ve finished a chapter in any of the subjects, we take a quiz to see how much we know. Our grades go on our report cards. I feel happy at school. School is a very awesome place. by Cheetah

School Life-Classroom-and Teachers
When I get to school, I wait in line with my classmates. At 8:30, we go right by the door. Our teacher, Mrs. Figurski, comes out and we go inside. We unpack and we get to work. In our classroom, we have everything neat. Mrs. Figurski has a helper…Ms. Firkins. She is the best! At the end when it’s time to pack up, Mrs. Figurski gives us HomeFun, not homework! by Rabbit

School Life
School is cool. In my school, we do math, which is so fun and science…that one’s cool, too. My favorite is spelling. It’s awesome. We do other subjects, too. My teacher is fun. So is my student teacher. Boy, 3rd grade is fun! It isn’t easy, but if you try your best, you will get A+s! by Dolphin

(Clip Art compliments of

September 25, 2011 Posted by | Living in 3rd Grade | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Musings by Donna #33 School Started Without Me

School started without me. I slept right through the 5:45 alarm, which I didn’t set. The kids with their shiny, smiley faces, their brand new outfits, their knapsacks laden with fancy pencils, erasers, sharpeners, crayons, clipboards, white boards,  journals, and any number of other supplies their teachers requested, waited on-line outside the school entrance, but I was not with them. I was not with them as they stood in the drizzle laughing and chattering to mask their nervousness of beginning a new school year. I was not the one to throw open the doors when the 8:30 bell rang and welcome each child back. I was not with them as they hugged their moms or dads goodbye, then marched through the door with a final wave. I was not with them as they explored their new classroom, as they found their desks, or as they hung their jackets on their coat room hooks.  No, I was not there, not in their classroom, but I was with them … in my head and in my heart.

I saw them fingering their new textbooks – blues and yellows and purples. I saw the awe in their eyes as they picked them up and felt the heaviness of those books. I saw them peek inside … eager to know what was in store for them in their new third grade. I saw their eyes grow bigger as they carefully opened their handwriting workbooks. It was cursive – no more baby printing. Third graders love cursive writing, at least in the beginning of the year. It’s so new – it’s magical. No, I was not there, not in their classroom, but I was with them … in my head and in my heart.

I heard them whispering as they gathered on the floor ready for their first math lesson. I heard them wiggling as they stole peeks at the clock as the minutes drew nearer to lunch time. I heard the 11:30 lunch bell. I heard their laughter and their chatter as they straddled the benches in the  lunchroom chomping on sandwiches, trading cookies, spilling milk or juice. I heard their voices calling to each other on the play yard as they played tag or shared their fears about this new third grade – so much work. No, I was not there, not in their classroom, but I was with them … in my head and in my heart.

At the end of the day, I felt happy and satisfied and wistful and tired, too. The day had gone well. Sadness crept in as my new charges prepared to leave at 3:00, but with giggles they promised to return in the morning. I smiled as I heard, “She’s so funny. She’s the best teacher I ever had. (Knowing they said those same words for their 2nd, 1st, and Kindergarten teachers, too.) No, I was not really with them on that first-day-of-school when they began third grade this year. I was not really in their classroom, but I was with them … in my head and in my heart.

(Clip Art compliments of

(Clip Art compliments of Discovery Education.)

(Clip Art compliments of A Kids Heart.)

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Musings by Donna, On School | , , , , | 10 Comments

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