Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

It's All About Me!

Teacher’s Pets #21 Out and About at the Supermarket

Out and About at the Supermarket

Written by Kitty Shea
Illustrated by Becky Shipe
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1-4048-0295-9W
Ages: 4-9

This is a selection of non-fiction titles from Picture Window Books. Featured is OUT AND ABOUT AT THE SUPERMARKET by Kitty Shea, illustrated by Becky Shipe.

Kiddles love to learn facts. They love to spout them off in the least expected places. It makes them sound so smart and . . . oh so worldly. You’ve heard of name-droppers, well you can just think of them as fact-droppers. This sample of Picture Window Books will have KIDDLES dropping facts all over the place.
In Snack Time Around the World they may drop a fact about lumpia or merienda. In Think, Think, Think Learning About Your Brain, you may overhear them talking about something wrinkled and gray. Don’t worry. They’re not talking about you — even if you are wrinkled and gray. They’re describing their brain, complete with cerebellum, cerebrum, and brain stem.
And anyone knows that in Do Ducks Live in the Desert? – that — they DON’T! But, if you listen carefully, you might be able to find out where musk oxen, or periwinkles, or markhors live. What’s a markhor, anyway? Well, you may think that none of this really matters, but don’t let a KIDDLE hear you say that, especially after they have read Matter See It, Touch It, Taste It, Smell It. They’ll probably tell you that the universe is made up of billions of atoms and molecules. And . . . you know what, they’ll be right. So anytime you hear a fact–dropper, listen up! You are sure to learn something.

This review can also be seen on: SmartWriters

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

Written by Kitty Shea
Illustrated by Becky Shipe
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1-4048-0295-9W
Ages: 4-9

“This book is good because you can learn about the market,” said Meg.

“Cereal is in the supermarket,” said Hannah.

“Milk, yogurt, and cheese are in the dairy department,” said Philippe.

“I like milk,” said Charlie. “It’s my favorite thing.”

“A supermarket has a butcher,” said Miguel. “A butcher grinds meat.”

“My favorite food is chicken,” said Becky.

“The supermarket keeps cold cuts in one spot,” said Keisha.

“And the fruit and vegetables in another spot,” said Pritka.

“Did you know the lettuce takes a shower?” asked Keisha.

Kurtis started to laugh. “I got wet the first time I saw a lettuce head getting a shower,” he said.

Keisha giggled, too. “I mean, what kind of lettuce would want to take a shower?”

“Keisha,” said Hannah, “the lettuce takes a shower so the customers will buy it. Then they won’t have to wash it at home.”

“Well, supermarkets have almost everything,” said Lucy.

“Yeah, don’t forget the sweet food aisle,” said Meg.

“You mean the junk food aisle,” said Pritka.

“SUGARY junk!” added Miguel with a laugh.

“I wonder what would happen if there were no supermarkets,” asked Anya.

“Well, the Pilgrims and the Native Americans did not have supermarkets,” said Kurtis.

“When they lived they had to grow their own foods,” said Juan. “such as carrots, potatoes, and lettuce.”

“I feel sorry for them,” said Sarit, “because they had to plant their own food and it took a long time.”

Katie-Erin shook her head. “I can’t believe they lived without supermarkets,” she said.

Marta agreed. “Yeah, if there was no such thing as a supermarket, the people would starve.”

“The supermarket is a great place to get all your produce, meats, sweets and grains that you use for your breakfast, lunch and dinners every day,” said Juan. “They have food for any occasion.”

“I’d recommend this book to someone who doesn’t like to go to the supermarket,” said Zach, “because after they read this book, they might go.”

Written by Michele Zurakowski
Illustrated by Jeff Yesh
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1-4048-0283-5W
Ages: 5-10

“The book tells about different foods from around the world,” said Hannah.

“It tells you some of the places where you can have the best snacks,” said Charlie.

“Yeah, like . . . United States, Mexico, Senegal, England, Israel, Oman, Philippines, Vietnam, and Australia,” said Hannah ticking off each country on her fingers.

“There’s one drink in Oman,” said Philippe laughing, “which sends bubbles up your nose.”

“Limonada!” said Marta, “like lime or lemonade.”

“In England they drink smash,” said Philippe, “and in the Philippines, they eat lumpia.”

“It’s weird that in Australia an eating time is called, “TEA TIME”, but they don’t drink tea,” said Hannah.

“Popcorn is America’s favorite snack,” said Pritka.

“I don’t like popcorn,” said Lucy, “I LOVE it.”

“Yummy!” said Katie-Erin.

“I make popcorn in the microwave,” said Sarit.

“It’s a very crunchy snack,” said Juan.

“Snacks are fun,” said Keisha.

“And every snack is unique,” said Marta. “And they are different all around the world.”

Written by Pamela Hill Nettleton
Illustrated by Becky Shipe
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1-4048-0252-5W
Ages: 5-9

“This book teaches you about your body,” said Keisha. “It has my favorite body part . . . called the brain.”

“Your brain works like a computer,” said Marta. “It makes you smart.”

“Your brain works even when you sleep,” said Pritka. “It helps you dream. And did you know your left side of your brain controls your right side and the right side controls the left side?”

“Well, I learned that I have a brain,” said Keisha, “and it makes me think.”

Written by Darlene Stille
Illustrated by Sheree Boyd
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1-4048-0246-0W
Ages; 5-9

“This book is cool because it has fun facts,” said Hannah. “When I looked at the cover I said to myself, What is matter? Then when I read it, I knew what matter was – something that you can see, touch, taste, and smell.”

“We are matter,” said Pritka. “That means we take up space. Even air is matter.”

“I left this book with a lot of knowledge,” said Hannah. “When I first looked at the cover of the book, I thought, ‘This does not look very interesting, but it is never good to judge a book by its cover.’”

Written by Nick Fauchald
Illustrated by Bill Dickson
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1-4048-0259-2W
Ages: 5-9

“This book is good for me,” said Philippe, “because I want to play baseball.”

“You need a glove, tennis shoes, a bat, and ball,” said Meg.

“ . . . and a helmet,” said Philippe.

Meg nodded. “You need to watch the ball when it comes, too,” she said.

“It taught me everything about baseball,” said Greg.

Written by Michael Dahl
Illustrated by Anne Haberstroh
Picture Window Books
ISBN: 1-4048-0290-8W
Ages: 4-9

“This book is packed with facts about where animals live,” said Juan.

“I liked it because it was funny,” said Lucy. “It certainly made me think of the desert.”

“It teaches you about animals in a fun way,” said Zach. “If you’re an animal lover, you should read this book.”

“The illustrations were so perky, I thought my eyes would pop out,” said Juan.

“And,” said Zach, “this book proves — DUCKS DON’T LIVE IN THE DESERT.”


(to be used with Out and About at the Supermarket)

Discuss the FOOD GROUPS with the children.
Write the group headings on chart paper. (MEAT/PROTEIN, FRUITS, etc) Encourage the children to suggest a variety of foods and write each food under the appropriate heading. List as many foods as they can possibly think of. When the lists are completed, hang them around the room for easy reference.




Ice cream


Next have the children make a FOOD GROUP book for each food category. Use one sheet of 9” x 12” colored construction paper, folded in half widthwise as the cover, and one sheet of manila paper folded in half widthwise as the inner pages. Label each cover with one of the food groups. (MEAT/PROTEIN, FRUITS, etc)

Then give the children a supply of supermarket fliers. Have them cut out a variety of food pictures and glue them into the correct book. Next, they need to label their pictures. Encourage them to use the charts that are hanging around the room to check for correct spelling. When the books are completed, they can be housed in a student classroom library for all to enjoy.

By placing the supermarket fliers in a center area this can be an on-going project, which the children can work on independently.

(to be used with Out and About at the Supermarket)

In the supermarket everything has its place. There is the cereal aisle and the canned goods aisle. There’s the dairy section and the produce section, and the meat and fish department. There is the deli and the bakery. AND late at night, the stock clerk makes sure that everything is in its place.

Turn your classroom into a superWORDmarket. It’s easy. Have the children place their desks in rows. Label each row with one of the following words. NOUN, VERB, ADJECTIVE
Make a variety of flash cards using nouns, verbs, and adjectives. (Ex.: moon, dance, beautiful) Be sure to make enough cards so that every child has one.
Next the children (word stock clerks) locate the aisle in which their word belongs and hold their cards in the air. Select a child to be the store manager. The store manager must check each aisle to be sure that everything is in its place.

This game can be used as a center activity for children to work on independently. Place the cards in an envelope and provide three baskets labeled NOUN, VERB, and ADJECTIVE. The children sort the flashcards into the correct baskets. You may want to color-code the backs of the cards so that the children can check their own work.

You can adapt this game to be used with long and short vowels, rhyming words, or a variety of other language arts skills. Be Creative!

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



SOMETHING GOOD by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko
SUPERMARKET by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg
THE BRAIN Our Nervous System by Seymour Simon
WHAT IS THE WORLD MADE OF? All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Teacher's Pets: Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living in 3rd Grade #7 Vocabulary is in the Air

Vocabulary is in the Air


Figurski KIDDLES

(Reposted from Figurski Wiki March 22, 2011)

Our language is made up of many wordsth. Some convey the most simple message.

The dog ran down the street.

Certainly that sentence gives the reader a specific picture, but not a colorful one. It leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader who is expected to fill in the missing parts. The sentence borders on boring.Dog th

By playing with words, children are experimenting with ways to make their language more vivid. They use words to create movies in their heads. This will surely result in more fascinating writing that will  jump off the page. In order to accomplish that task, children need to choose more picturesque words.

Look at this sentence.

                 The brown dogrunninghe9dog galloped down the crooked street. 

It’s more vivid and easily allows a clearer image to be conjured.

I asked my class to play with words. I gave them a set of stimulus words (in bold) and asked to think of more visual words.

Look at their work below.

ran — dashed, raced, rushed, sprinted, zoomed, galloped, bolted
picked — plucked, snatched, yanked, grabbed
jumped — leapt, hopped, skipped
flew — glided
yelled — screamed, scolded, yelped, screeched, hollered, shouted, snapped, barked

For HomeFun, they will work on the following words.


Please leave a Comment by simply clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to Like my post.

You can also Vote for my post by clicking on a star.

If you enjoy my blog, please pass it on to all your friends and they to theirs.

If you hate my blog, go ahead and send it to your enemies. I won’t mind.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Living in 3rd Grade | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Please leave a Comment by simply clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to Like my post.

You can also Vote for my post by clicking on a star.

If you enjoy my blog, please pass it on to all your friends and they to theirs.

If you hate my blog, go ahead and send it to your enemies. I won’t mind.

(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 #48 Rumor Has It or Truth Be Told

Rumor has it … that I was possibly going back to teaching – this time as an Assistant Teacher.

Truth be told. That was a true rumor.

I wasn’t intentionally looking for a teaching position or, for that matter, any type of position. I was busy enough at home staying afloat, just trying to keep up with all of the things I needed to do while I was teaching but never got to (like everyone else). But, a teaching position possibility fell into my lap … or into my computer email box, to be exact. It was an opportunity that could not be ignored.

Very close friends of mine, who live in my neighborhood, sent me a request to apply for a position at their sons’ school in Montclair. It is a small private school, which I had visited on several occasions (Grandparent’s Day, School Street Fair). I love the school and what it stands for.  After each visit, I told my husband, David, that I would love to teach there. Of course, I never thought there was even the remotest of possibilities. I had no intention of retiring from Dumont (at least not until our infamous governor, name withheld for obvious reasons, inflicted himself on the teaching profession).

The teaching and learning style of this particular school in Montclair is very progressive. They promote independent thinking, and the children lead the way. Their philosophy of teaching and learning completely coincides with mine. My classroom was very similar to what I saw at the Montclair school, so I was excited when this opportunity presented itself to me.

It was a Tuesday in November right before Thanksgiving that I received an email from my friends strongly suggesting that I apply for one of the two positions available. After much discussion with David and some super serious, but quick, thinking, I began the process of dusting off my résumé and updating it to include my last thirty years of experience as a teacher and writer. Seeing it all on paper impressed even me. I have been a busy girl.

On Wednesday morning, after one final read-through, I pressed the send button on my computer; and off flew my résumé and cover letter to the headmistress.

At 7:42 p.m. on Thursday, Thanksgiving evening, I was excited to receive an invitation on my iPad from the headmistress to meet with her any day and time the following week. I decided on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

In the interim, I tore through my closets to find something appropriate to wear. I settled on a black pseudo-suit and dark floral print blouse. A new black bag big enough to hold a large folder containing a copy of my résumé and a few evaluations from my former principal and vice-principal and a new pair of black shoes completed my “interview” outfit.

Wednesday arrived. The day was sunny, which I took as a good omen. My hour-long interview went very well. The headmistress was warm and encouraging, and we had a lovely chat discussing education philosophies (one of my favorite topics). She invited me to visit two classrooms: 1st grade and PreK-Kindergarten.

I loved the 1st grade and began memorizing the kids’ names (all fourteen of them – a typical class size at the school). They had read Charlotte’s Web and studied the farm and spiders.  The children’s work decorated the room. I thought that was a good sign. I had written and directed the play Charlotte’s Web with one of my classes many years ago. The story is a favorite of mine.

Then I spent time in the PreK-Kindergarten. Now remember, I spent most of my teaching career in 1st grade. I am very comfortable there. I love first grade, but PreK-Kindergarten is a totally different animal! Now I understand what some of you upper-grade teachers felt when you had to stand in for us lower-grade teachers when we needed emergency coverage. It always amused me to see how pale you looked when I left the classroom and your pure smile of relief when I returned. Some of you couldn’t leave my classroom fast enough! But, you always made it out alive. It made me chuckle to know that my little six-year-olds could intimidate you so. Let me say now that after visiting PreK-Kindergarten, I understand your feelings better.

I left my interview feeling confident that I had presented myself well. I definitely left the interview making very clear that, although I was very interested in the first grade position, I would take either because I really wanted the experience of being a part of that school community, which I so admired.

Now it was time to wait. I tried to push the interview to the back of my mind, but for the next few days it was the primary topic of conversation between David and me. It just kept coming up. Talk about a one-track mind! I talked about it to anybody who would listen – my kids (Kiersten and Jared), my cousin Kathy, some teacher friends, my walking partner, my neighbor … anybody! I was excited.

Truthfully, I was so pleased and surprised that I even got the interview. After all, I am at the age where most people are ending their careers. I’m no Spring Chicken! (Maybe summer or early fall.) But, I have the drive, the intensity, the energy, and the pure desire to be in a classroom with young children; and this school in Montclair was beckoning to me.

The beauty of this job was that I would be the Assistant Teacher. I would have all the fun of being with the kids and teaching them, but I would not be responsible for report cards or parent conferences and all the paper work that goes along with that. I would not be responsible to write the lesson plans and coordinate them with the Core Curriculum Standards of New Jersey – an arduous and time-consuming task. (That’s another post.)

There were other perks, too. The school is only four and a half miles from my home, taking less than fifteen minutes to get there. Compare that to my each way fifty-minute-plus commute of twenty miles on three highways to my career school. The Montclair school opened later too, which allowed me much more sleep time – an extra hour each morning. WOW! I’ll take it!

I had reservations too, and I dissected each of them thoroughly. I was getting used to this thing called retirement and the fact that my time was my own – sort of. I felt like I was on an extended summer vacation. Sleeping late was the best. When seven- or eight-o’clock rolled around, I was ready to roll out of bed. Never would I have to slam the snooze button at 5:45 a.m. again. So even though I would get an extra hour of sleep with this later starting time, did I really want to have to tackle the snooze button at 6:45 a.m.? Hmm. It was something to think about.

I would have to give up my book club group and the breakfasts at Panera’s with my retired teacher friends. Going to the grocery store or clothes shopping is much less challenging during the hours before 3:00 p.m. – less traffic on the streets – less people in the stores. I could go to the library any time I wanted. I could take my walks in the afternoon, instead of under the stars. But I think the thing I would miss most, if I took a full-time position, was the ease of making the doctor appointments for David and me. Not having to juggle my schedule and beg the doctor’s receptionist for the last appointment of the day and then worry that I would not make it in time because of an unscheduled traffic jam was a definite plus to staying home. BUT, after weighing all the pros and cons, I was ready to give it all up. So I sat by my computer and checked my email every five minutes waiting to hear the results of my interview.

Finally I received the answer I wanted. The headmistress invited me to spend an afternoon in the school to meet with the teacher and observe her class. I still didn’t know yet if I was being considered for the first grade class or the PreK-Kindergarten class. I arrived at the school in pouring rain (Was that an omen? A bad omen?) and was introduced to the PreK-Kindergarten teacher. We talked and walked to her classroom. Then she spent the next twenty minutes interviewing me. The top question for both the headmistress and the teacher was WHY. Why would I want an Assistant Teacher job when I had been the head teacher for nearly thirty years? How could I work as second-in-command under a teacher with far less experience?

Easy! I’ve had a great and satisfying career. When I closed my classroom door in mid-June of 2011, I thought that would be it. But for all of the reasons I stated above – not having to be responsible for report cards, conferences, and lesson plans, but being able to teach and influence the lives of children was like having my cake and eating it too. (OH … watch those calories!) I felt the job was perfect for me. She ended the interview by saying that this job would be like a marriage. I said, “I do!” (I didn’t really, but I thought it.)

I spent the remainder of the afternoon becoming involved with the children. I oversaw the painting center and discussed the solar system with three girls as they adeptly blobbed the sun, moon, stars, and planets onto their black paper. We talked about Pluto being demoted from planethood. Two boys were seriously examining some decayed leaves in the science center, and several more children motored their way through space in an old, worn cardboard box, which they insisted was their spaceship.

There was so much energy in that classroom – almost too much. Four- and five-year-olds definitely lack the maturity of the six-year-olds I was used to. The teacher hugged me goodbye, told me I was amazing, and off I went into the rainstorm – to wait again. (I wish it hadn’t been raining that day.)

When I arrived home I was exhausted. The questions began to tumble through my head again. If the PreK-Kindergarten job was offered and I took it, would I be happy? Would I do the job justice? Was I making the right decision? Another weekend of hours and hours of contemplation! I finally did the only thing I could do. I emailed my mentor teacher, Nancy McDonough (Stillman School – Tenafly, NJ). Nancy is not only the teacher with whom I did my student teaching with so long ago, she is a great friend whose opinion I value.

Last year Nancy was in a similar situation – sort of. She spent her career as a second-grade teacher. A year after she closed her classroom door, she found a new position teaching three-year-olds in Moscow, Russia. She called me from Moscow, and we spoke for nearly an hour. I listened as she explained the minds of these tots. I heard her exuberance for her job, her respect for the four- and five-year-old mind. She encouraged me … and though I had really wanted the first grade, I was so pumped after our chat that I eagerly looked forward to the PreK-Kindergarten position. I knew I could do it. I knew I had a lot to offer these young children. I really wanted this job. And so the waiting began … again.

And while I waited, I shopped. The dress attire in this school is casual. Many teachers wear jeans and look very smart in them. Although I hadn’t been offered the job, and although I know they say,”It’s not over, until its over, I felt pretty good about it. So I bought several new pairs of jeans and cute tops to go with them. I bought comfortable shoes too in both black and brown. And then I waited some more. Many days passed and I had a hard time suppressing my anxiety. My email box was being worn out. Finally the email came. The email read, “It was a competitive pool of talented educators.” …

I was not selected for the position.

To say I was devastated would be too strong. To say that I was unaffected would be an untruth – a downright lie. To say I was greatly disappointed would be spot on. I really, really wanted to work in this school. Although it was not my first choice, I would have even taken the PreK-Kindergarten job (the teacher was really sweet) to have the opportunity to be a part of this very progressive school community; but I guess it was not to be. I hope that a younger teacher will cherish the position and give it her or his all – like I would have done.

So for more rumors …

Rumor has it that I am finishing up reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and I will be ready for the next book club meeting.
Rumor has it that I will be at Carol F’s house next month.
Rumor has it that I will be attending all of the Panera breakfasts.
Rumor has it that I will be lunching with my fellow retired teachers – class of 2011.

And … if truth be told, those are true rumors.               And life is good!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

December 30, 2011 Posted by | TidBits About Donna | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 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

Teacher’s Pets #5 My Brother Dan’s Delicious


by Steven L. Layne, illustrated by Chuck Galey
Pelican Publishing Company
Ages 6 and Up

“Monster Fear!” We’ve all had it. Come on. Admit it. Remember shadows drifting across your bedroom walls, curtains flapping in the night, or spooky noises bumping behind your closet door? “Quick!” you yell. “Shut it!” Then you jump into bed and dive under the covers. Remember the last time a monster visited you?

Take a memory trip back to when you were eight years old. Remember those especially dark nights when you stayed home alone? You convinced your mom or dad that you were old enough. You even convinced them that you didn’t need a baby sitter. But once the sun went down and the stars came out, remember how hard it was to convince yourself? I know, I do. A little “monster fear” goes a long way for a youngster. Children will definitely empathize with eight year old Joey in My Brother Dan’s Delicious written by Steven L. Layne and illustrated by Chuck Galey. As children turn each page, they will cheer Joey on as he tries to control and outwit his MONSTER . . . or his imagination. What do you think?

Children will love how illustrator, Chuck Galey reveals the “monster’s” presence on every page. They’ll delight in yelling, “Look out! There it is!” Then watch as Mr.Galey paints subtle hints of danger. They are everywhere. No wonder Joey is afraid. Look in the mirror. What do you see? And hey, what’s that under the rug? Are the pictures on the wall trying to give warning? There seem to be eyes everywhere . . . the window on the front door, the bannister, even on Joey’s backpack. Can you find more? So, before you turn off the light tonight, be sure to look under your bed.


FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“I noticed that the boy was really scared staying home alone,” said Hannah.

“Well, he thought there was a monster and he was scared of monsters,” said Greg.

“I thought there was a monster, too,” said Hannah. “And Joey saw a green thing that looked like a monster. I would be really scared.” She shivered and her eyes opened wide.

“Me too!” agreed Kiley. “I’m scared of monsters. Who wouldn’t be?” Then she laughed . .. a nervous laugh.

“The monster in the story was an octopus,” said Philippe, “but it wasn’t real.”

“But that octopus was on almost every page,” said Miguel. “It looked pretty real to me and I bet it looked real to Joey, too.”

“And the boy was scared of it,” said Greg again. “He kept saying, ‘Well, just you stay put!’”

“Well, Joey didn’t want to be eaten.” said Ethan. “Would you?”

Everyone laughed.

Then Hannah said, “Joey was pretty smart. He was trying to distract the monster so he could be safe.” She pondered a moment. “But in order to distract the monster, Joey put his brother, Dan, in danger.”

“Right!” said Emma. “He kept saying, ‘My brother Dan’s delicious.’ But, Joey didn’t really want the monster to eat his brother.”

Jaina shook her head. “It was like Joey was using a secret message,” she said. “And . . . it was kind of like the movie, Home Alone because the boy was alone there, too, and he tried to save himself.”

“Yeah!” agreed Emma. “Joey was just trying to trick the monster.” Then she smiled and said, “I loved when Joey said, ‘My Hero!’ That was a happy ending.”

Then just before the group ended for the afternoon, Tina said, “Do you think the illustrator was trying to trick us, too? Joey looked like him. Maybe this story happened to him when he was little.”

“Hmmm . . .”


I was planning to teach a lesson on contractions, using the segment of the title Dan’s Delicious as a jump point. But as usual, the class diverted me. They do that often and I always follow their lead. Contractions will wait. For now, we will travel down the trail of synonyms. This is how it happened.

I wrote the words, Dan’s Delicious on the board and asked the children what they noticed. I was hoping they’d notice the apostrophe in the word DAN’S and ask me about that. They didn’t.

Chrissy said, “He’s good to eat.” So I went with that. I asked the children for additional definitions for DELICIOUS. Some of the words they called out were, “Yummy,” “Tasty,” and “Mm-good.”Then, I chose several words from the book and listed them in chart form on the chalkboard. The children suggested synonyms to match the words. (See chart below.) This is a great way to increase children’s vocabularies.

WORDS . . . . . . . . . SYNONYMS

FEAR . . . . . . . . . . Scared . . . . . . . . . Afraid . . . . . . . . .Terrified

WEIRD . . . . . . . . . Kind of crazy . . . . Strange . . . . . . . .Mysterious

GLANCE . . . . . . . . Look . . . . . . . . . . .See . . . . . . . . . . Sight

Next, I read the story to them again. This time the children picked words from the story and I listed them on the board. The following is a selection of possible words. As you can see they range in difficulty.

SITUATION . . . . .MOMENT . . . . .DISTRACT . . . . .ALONE . . . . .SUCCULENT
MEAL . . . . . . . . SECRET . . . . . .GOODIES . . . . . PLATTER . . . APPETIZER

The children chose these words because some of the words were unfamiliar to them. They wanted to know their meanings. Then, I placed two to four children in each group. Together, they chose a word from the list and brainstormed as many synonyms as they could think of.

PLATTER . . . dish, plate,

ALONE . . . . . by yourself, no one’s there, on your own, with no one

MEAL . . . . . . food, supper, dinner, breakfast, snack

GOODIES . . . sweets, candy, treats, sugary junk SOMETHING GOOD/Robert Munsch

After fifteen to twenty minutes, the children met together as a whole group. Each group selected one member to read the synonyms for one of their words.

For extra practice the groups looked up their words in the dictionary. This is another fun way to increase vocabulary, as well as work on dictionary skills.

If you like My Brother Dan’s Delicious or books about monsters, you may also like the following books:

Monster Brother by Mary Jane Auch

Shelia Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes

The Very Worst Monster by Pat Hutchins

Disclaimer: Names of child reviewers have been changed to maintain their privacy.

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Teacher's Pets: Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On School #33 You Can’t Put a Price on Teaching

Nicholas Stratigopoulos, a fellow blogger and a new teacher to the profession, posted an article, Appreciation for Educators, on his site educationisphysical. I’d heard various versions of this concept many times throughout my career. Here is my version, which is pertinent to my area of the country.

A Teacher’s REAL Worth

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like, if I chosen to be a babysitter … instead of a teacher. Babysitting is a much, more lucrative job.

If the school board agreed to pay me a babysitter’s salary, I promise I would throw in reading, math, science, social studies, art, music, physical education, and handwriting … for FREE. I’d even do morning, lunch, and recess duty; and I’d be sure to hang out in the school yard for an extra ten minutes after school each day to be sure that all of my students are safely delivered to the loving arms of their guardians. I’d offer extra help after school too and come in early in the morning to tutor students who are struggling. I’d pat kids on the back and wipe their sniveling noses when they scrape a knee or elbow, and I’d put on a Flintstone or a caterpillar or super hero bandaid … or maybe just a heart-one, to make them feel better. I’d crawl on the floor or plow through the half-eaten apples in the lunch-time trash cans to help them look for their lost teeth before sending them to the nurse for their fancy certificate. I’d be a referee when Johnny takes Timmy’s new toy truck at recess and won’t give it back. I’d lend my shoulder to cry on when Susie tells Mary she has a new best friend. I’d correct papers and design lessons way after the dismissal bell rings and into the wee hours of the morning at home just to be ready for the next day’s fun and games. I’d sit through hours of faculty meetings each week and come back at night for Back-To-School-Night and Literacy Night and Games Night and Science Fairs and Art Shows and PTA parties and … parent/teacher conferences to tell the parents how wonderful their children are – because they Really are. If they would pay me a babysitter salary, I would do all of that … for FREE. I promise!

Babysitter fees in my NYC area are between $10.00 and $15.00 an hour per child. I could have probably worked just a few years, retired by age thirty-five, and been a multi-millionaire.

Too bad babysitting was not my life’s chosen profession. I just love teaching too much.

The way I figure it for my New York City area:

$10.00 Babysitter Fee:

25 children/class (Salary can be adjusted. Just give or take five children either way.)
6.5 hours/day
184 school calendar days

25 children x $10.00/hour/child = $250.00/hour for 25 children
$250.00/hour for 25 children x 6.5 hours per day = $1,625.00/day
$1,625.00/day x 184 school calendar days = $299,000.00/year

I’ll sign! Where’s the dotted line?

I’m worth it!

$15.00 Babysitter Fee:

25 children/class (Salary can be adjusted. Just give or take five children either way.)
6.5 hours/day
184 school calendar days

25 children x $15.00/hour/child = $375.00/hour for 25 children
$375.00/hour for 25 children x 6.5 hours per day = $2,437.50/day
$2,437.50/day x 184 school calendar days = $448,500.00/year

I’ll sign! Where’s the dotted line?

I’m worth it!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

October 29, 2011 Posted by | On School | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Teacher’s Pets: Teacher – Writer



I read tons of books to my class. We loved to discuss them. As soon as I finished reading a book and the clapping had ceased, I’d ask. “Well, what did you notice?” Marc Brown hid his children’s names, Tolen, Tucker, and Elisa in the illustrations of his “ARTHUR” books. Tomie DePaola usually placed a little pink heart or a small white dove on every page of his books, example STREGA NONA. In THE NAPPING HOUSE by Audrey & Don Wood, it’s always fun to watch the circular movement of the mouse as each character naps, then awakes. But without an observing eye, these nuances would be left unnoticed. It was my job as a teacher for nearly thirty years to spark my student’s interest to look between the lines and … between the pictures.


I wrote every day with my students and they got to write too. It was such fun to watch them grow as writers. Many began only able to write a few letters, perhaps their names or the words mom or dad, or maybe a brother or sister’s name. But within a few months, they could string several sentences together to make short paragraphs. They were becoming expert writers.


Well … that was the best!

(Clip Art compliments of

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Teacher's Pets: Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

FindingStrengthToStandAgain's Blog

Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Life after Traumatic Brain Injury

101 Books

Reading my way through Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses)

Miss Clara's Corner

Be the change you wish to see in the world -Gandhi

Views from a Window Seat

Jeannine Atkins on Writing and Stuff

making our way

Making our way in the mountains

In An Instant Your Life Can Change Forever

Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts Blog