Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tony Danza's book "I'd like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had"

Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that makes me want to jump up and down, reach for the stars, sing and dance, laugh and cry, and share with the world. This is a book dedicated to teachers but should be read by everyone. 

So often I've told people they just don't understand what it's like to be a teacher. The joy, the sorrow, the frustration, the hope, the thrill. I usually end the conversation that centers around "teachers have their summers off" with the statement, "You have to walk in my shoes to understand".  If only they would. They might understand.

I was at a book signing event last week to hear author, Tony Danza's presentation about his new book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had". Some might remember Danza on the television shows "Who's the Boss" and "Taxi". I really expected him to appear on stage playing one of those roles, but the minute he stepped out from behind the curtain, my assumptions were dashed.

The Danza event was so huge, it had to be moved from our wonderful local book store, "R.J Julia's, who sponsored this event, to a middle school auditorium. 

When we arrived, the school parking lot was packed. There were lines of people waiting to get inside and as we joined the long line, I felt like I was waiting in line to see a rock concert. 

We all had a common mission that night.. To hear Danza talk about his one year teaching experience at Northeast High School in Philadelphia after being an actor for so many years. We all remember our first year and how difficult it was. Did he have the same feelings? Was he treated differently at the school because he was a "star"? Was he given preferential treatment?

When he walked out on stage, he started by telling us he had many, many regrets in life, but the biggest regret was that he never became a teacher. Teachers cheered and applauded. I felt tears well up and it was all I could do, to keep them from streaming down my face.

Danza's presentation was endearing, humorous and it was very obvious that things he was saying touched the hearts of everyone in the audience. He spoke of the educational crisis in the U.S, the kids of yesterday and today, those kids who seemed unapproachable, and other issues that today's teachers face. 

Danza mentioned how teachers' roles have changed. We're teachers in a complex world and we face complex day to day situations. How many times have I been asked for parenting suggestions at student conferences? Parents are facing tremendous challenges at home. They ask us for advice about how to motivate their kids, what to do to get their kids to do homework and more. I've even been asked how I'd discipline their kids. I know my parents never asked those kinds of questions when they met with my teachers. They were there to ask about my grades and progress in school.  

As Danza's presentation continued, there were people smiling and nodding as they connected with his experiences of being a first year tenth grade English teacher. His descriptions of the staff were very easy to relate to. I only wish he had talked for another couple of hours.

His book "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had" was taped by A&E and was called "TEACH".  I wish I had seen even one episode of it but my usual evening schedule, when the show was aired, was to correct papers, write up new lesson plans and then fall into bed thinking of my next day... of teaching. 

When I handed him the book to autograph, I told him I grew up with Ron Palillo who played Horshak in "Welcome Back, Kotter".  Ron passed away suddenly, a few months ago, and Tony told me he knew Ron and they had done some theater work together. I felt his sincerity and was going to tell him he should be back in the classroom, but I had taken enough of his time, so I moved on. 

After chatting with some high school teachers, we walked into the parking lot and you know what? I HAD been to a rock concert. Tony Danza ROCKS!

If you read his book,  you'll laugh, cry and constantly shout out "YES! YES! THAT happened to me". 

But most importantly, you'll feel extremely proud to be a teacher! 

I wish Tony had stayed in the classroom because he's a natural born teacher. His ability to sense what kids will respond to and how to connect with them without being their "friend" is usually only what seasoned teachers know and understand. 

His heartfelt attempts to reach the unapproachable kids was deja vu for me. One of my former students is on death row and I have to keep reminding myself that I tried. I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to reach him. If only that boy had been mine, I kept thinking, things might be different for him  today. 

Tony Danza walked in our shoes and understands what it's like to be a teacher.

See an excerpt

Listen to Tony talk about his experience and feelings about education. 

Tony: For me, teaching was the road not taken. If you look at my acting work, so many of the roles involve being a teacher. Tony in “Who’s the Boss?” becomes a teacher. I studied history education in college. I wanted to be a teacher. Teaching always appealed to me. Arthur Miller once said, “The best thing you can hope for is that you end up with the right regrets.” I didn’t want to regret not trying this.  ~from Amazon

Click on the cover and listen to Danza talk about his book.

photo of Tony Danza, I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had

Monday, August 22, 2016


Teachers Pay Teachers is having a BONUS back to school site wide sale!

It's only ONE day and my entire store is ON SALE!

It starts August 22, 2016 EST

Use promo code OneDay when you check out and you'll receive another discount!

Browse through my store where you'll find many free and priced resources.

Click on the cover to visit my store. 
These are just a few of the many products in my store. 

All of my resources are ready to print to save you time!

Number the Stars 71 page literature guide This is my VERY popular literature guide for Number the Stars.  It includes an article about World War II with questions and answers, as well as maps of Denmark and Europe to give students a historical perspective before they read the story.

Book or Story Response Task Cards - Use with any book or story. 122 activities on 22 cards.

Figurative Language Chart and Student Worksheets - Students use my handy figurative language chart that has terms and examples. They keep them in their writing folders to use, as they work on writing assignments in class.

NonFiction Bingo - Students LOVE playing my Nonfiction Bingo game and teachers love how well their students learn nonfiction terms and definitions!

Bloom Ball Reports - My Bloom Ball reports resource is based on Bloom's Taxonomy. Students create a fiction and biographical report based on the latest verbiage of the Taxonomy. A unique hands on approach that students and teachers LOVE!

Trifold Book Report - Use my trifold book report ready to print templates, with any book or story. This book report includes templates for reading strategies and letters to parents about the reports as well as student rubrics. 

Fantasy Essential Elements - Students LOVE fantasy stories. My 69 page fantasy essential elements literature guide contains everything you need when you read a fantasy story in class with your students.

If you follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, you will be notified about new resources I post as well as updates of any resources you've purchased. Updates are free of charge! :)

Have a fantastic new school year!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

101 Book Activities Kids Love!

When I was in elementary school, my teachers always gave us the same kinds of book reports to do. They were VERY boring and that's when I decided that when I became a teacher I'd NEVER give those kinds of book reports. 

Typical assignment:  Write a report about the book. Remember to include the main characters and setting as you write the plot. 

WHAT?? UH?? 
I wanted to write a short skit about the book, or a poem, or write lyrics for a song. I did NOT want to write a boring old report without pictures or something creative. 

So, when I was in fifth grade, the first book report was....yes you guessed it! The same boring assignment to explain what the story was about and where it took place. 

What did I do? I drew an original cover for the book. I spent hours cutting pictures from magazines that would tie in with the plot. I laid it all out, and pasted everything on colorful construction paper. To me the bright colors livened up the plot, and was visually appealing.  On the last page, I wrote my opinion of the book and recommended that everyone should read it. 

As my teacher walked around, collecting the book reports, I handed it to her with a huge smile on my face. She took it from me, flipped through it quickly and said


I remember it like it was yesterday. I cringed, slumped down in my seat and mumbled something and thought to myself, I did follow the directions, I just presented it differently. 

Did my teacher understand that there are kids who like to express themselves using art or music? No.
Did my teacher understand that creating a report with hand drawn pictures and presenting it in a colorful way is a lot of work and demonstrates that I'm artistic? No. 
Would she see that I followed her directions? Probably not. 

When I first started teaching, I decided to give my students book report choices. Over the many years I've been teaching I've been collecting ideas and creating new ones. It was a year or so ago I decided to compile them and offer them for free on TeachersPayTeachers. 

Why? Because I want teachers to have this list at their fingertips, so they can offer their students many different ways to report about books. Give them a list of two or three to choose from and you'll feel their excitement as they talk about which ones they really, really, really want to do!

photo of 101 Book Activities Kids Love, FREE, PDF, Ruth S. book reports, Ruth S. TeachersPayTeachers

Have fun!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Back to School "What are YOUR Favorites"?

I can remember one of my elementary teachers asking us what our favorite ice cream was the first week of fifth grade. Hands went up! Most yelled Chocolate! Many said Vanilla! Two who said strawberry were almost run out of the classroom.  "Ewwwww, how can you like strawberry ice cream?" one classmate whispered.

When I was growing up we didn't have fancy dancy ice cream. No Ben and Jerry's. Only chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, oh! and chocolate mint and chocolate fudge.

When I walk into ice cream stores today, the choices are mind boggling and I really WANT to try a new flavor, but always end up with a chocolate ice cream cone, dipped in chocolate piled to the ceiling on a sugary wafer cone. YUM!!

This is why I created my "What's Your Favorite" activity. I guess I really created it to see if kids still love plain ol' chocolate or vanilla ice cream. But honestly, I really like to get to know what other things my students really like.

Another sheet asks them to list adjectives to describe some of their favorite things. It's a great way to introduce adjectives the first week of school.

Click on my free Favorites pages but before you do, tell me... what's YOUR favorite ice cream??

Have fun!


photo of Back to School What are Your Favorites? Teacher Park

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Vocabulary Detective Cards 3

This is the third set of my FREE Vocabulary Detective Cards that I created when teachers told me how excited they were about my first two sets. Using these cards is a great way to motivate students to learn new vocabulary words and to identify nouns, verbs and adjectives when they read books in class. 

Here's how I do it.. 

Make a Detective Jar. A Mason jar with a wide opening is the best to use.  Print a label for it on a large piece of white paper that says "Detective Jar". Wrap it around the jar and tape or glue the ends.

Make copies of the cards for your students. Explain that you'll be running a weekly contest and that you'll pull three cards from the jar at the end of the week. Winners will receive a prize if they've entered the correct answers on them.  Be sure to have prizes for the winners. I order them online in bulk from the Oriental Trading Company. 

Tell your students they shouldn't cut the cards until they've entered the information on them. When they're finished, they can cut the cards,  fold them in half, then put them in the jar. 

Hope you and your students enjoy these contests! Thanks for stopping by!

Have fun!


photo of Vocabulary Detective Cards 3 Free PDF


Sunday, July 31, 2016


Use this sequencing worksheet as an informal assessment to see if your students know how to find find clue words in a sentence to help them determine the sequence of events.

 This resource is FREE! 

Click on the page to get this freebie!
Sorry it looks a little blurry because it isn't! 

photo of equencing, Free, PDF, reading strategies, Ruth S.

If you'd like to see more of my sequence student worksheets, click on the cover. 

photo of Sequence Packet, PDF,  sequence, reading strategies, Ruth S.

Behavior and Classroom Management Forms for Teachers

I bet most teachers will agree that behavior and classroom management is 
topic these days. 

Stop and think about it...

How many different ways have you tried to stop students from disrupting others, or even disrupting themselves? You have Tom who's drumming on his desk, Susie who's gazing out the window and humming her favorite Lady Gaga song, Ben who's fiddling around with his book bag, zipping and unzipping every single pocket.  Joe who's texting his friend who sits right next to him.  And the list goes on and on and on...

How many times have you arranged and rearranged seating charts to separate the talkers or those who don't get along?  You've moved your desks or table arrangements so much that the only next move would be to hang the desks from the ceiling!

How often do you think about classroom management and find it a very frustrating topic? 

I can bet that thinking about classroom management is constantly on a teacher's mind. You dream of a perfect class atmosphere with all students on their best behavior. They're sitting up straight, with their hands folded on their desks, looking at you, smiling and ready to learn.

Then reality smacks you. Your dream deflates and you are back to square one. Behavior management is a teacher's enigma!

Driving to school, you think about contacting the social worker about a student who's very disruptive. On your lunch break, you talk with teachers who have tried different ways of discipling students. The thoughts are always the same. Contacting parents, meetings with the school support staff. The list goes on and on and on. 

Managing classroom behavior actually isn't a new topic. it's been around since the days of the one room school house. One room school houses? Did teachers have discipline problems WAY BACK THEN? 

My great aunt was a teacher in Pennsylvania, in a little one room school house. She taught kids ages 5 - 14. Sounds like a nightmare, right? Think about it. How did she provide individualized lesson plans for that wide range of ages? How did she manage the paper work, the lesson planning? HOW DID SHE MANAGE THE BEHAVIOR OF ALL HER STUDENTS?

Well the stories passed down generation to generation went something like this.

In those days, the school was built by neighbors, townspeople and people with certain skills.

People donated materials, worked without pay and had a great sense of pride when the school was finished. There was no building committee, no governing body to dictate how high the walls should be, no one to say how long the school day should be. That was determined by the local people.  Some times kids were pulled out of school to help their parents plant crops and harvest them. It was necessary for family survival...

What did kids do to disrupt the class back in the one room school house days? Hardly anything. Teachers were respected and if parents found out their children were being disrespectful or were disrupting and interrupting the teachers, there were consequences, set down by the parents. God forbid my great aunt had to tell a farmer that his kid was being bad in class! Any kid who misbehaved paid the consequences at home.

 So what happens these days?

Teachers plan their lessons hoping they'll get through them with no interruptions. They pray that students will pay attention and learn what's being taught. They cover their bulletin boards with good citizenship posters, classroom rules and consequences and good feeling quotes as reminders, and hope it will reinforce good behavior. 

I'm not saying that displaying posters and good feeling quotes is wrong. Not at all. They are good reminders for students. In the good old days, there were shortages of paper, no computers, no printers and the teachers used what they had. They told the kids what was expected of them and laid down the rules at the beginning of the school year knowing parents backed them up. 

Is that reality? Certainly not. Our students aren't perfect. They're individuals who come from different backgrounds, different family environments and have different life experiences.  Some reach out for attention at home and school in negative ways because that's the only way they know. I f you throw a tantrum at home, you get attention. If you act out and misbehave, you get attention. So why not misbehave in school? Yes, it's negative attention, but it DOES get attention. 

How many times have I walked passed a teacher's room and heard a student being reprimanded in front of others? How many times have I heard a teacher, beyond frustration, yelling and reprimanding an entire class when it was only one or two who caused the disruption? Too many times. 

I'll never forget the day when I entered my first period, 11th grade history class, a couple of minutes late. The teacher lashed out at me verbally and berated my tardiness in front of the entire class. Being a very quiet girl, at that time in my life, I was mortified. I had a disagreement with my mother before I left for school, so with that heaviness on my shoulders, I had to listen to an angry teacher make things even worse. 

I ran out of the class in tears and went to my guidance counselor's office, where I sought solace. The saddest part of my experience is that I've never forgotten it. I can still see the teacher's face, hear his angry words and feel the embarrassment of being reprimanded in front of my peers.

At that point, I had already decided to pursue a teaching career, so that one incident changed the way I viewed class behavior and class management. NEVER would I embarrass a student in front of his or her peers. NEVER.

Okay, so you're probably wondering what I do, when a student disrupts others or interrupts a lesson. 

Read my skit below to see what happens in my class when there's a disruption.

I introduced a lesson and began explaining how to begin the preparation.  I looked up and saw Joe bothering friends who sit at his table. He poked Bob's arm and spun around in his chair and began bothering Mary. 

I nonchalantly and very calmly walked to the table, stopping to commend Mary for the effort she was demonstrating.  I turned around and without saying a word, motioned to Joe to follow me. He looked puzzled,  got up and followed me out the door, into the hall. I close the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that all eyes are on us. A hush falls over the room.

Once we're out in the hall, the conversation goes something like this.

Me:  Hi Joe. How are you doing today?
Joe: Uh, good. (He looks puzzled and looks down at his feet. I KNOW he was expecting me to raise my voice)
Me: You're good? I noticed you were doing something you shouldn't have been doing. 
Joe: I was?

Me: Yes you were. Can you describe what you were doing?
Joe: Uh. (Looks down at his feet) I was talking.
Me: Right. You were talking among other things. What happens when kids talk when I'm giving directions about a lesson?
Joe: (He pauses and looks up at me) They don't hear what you said?
Me: That's right. What will happen if they don't hear the directions? 
Joe: They won't know what to do?

Me: Right again. Let me ask you something. 
Joe: Okay. 
Me: Do you like being in my class? (He looks up at me with a puzzled look)
Joe: Yeah. 
Me: Would you like to stay in my class?
Joe: Oh yeah I would.
Me:  Well, if you continue disrupting others I might have to call your parents and discuss it with them. Or I might ask that you be moved to another class.

Joe: What???? Oh pleeeease don't call my parents. Please!  I don't want to be moved to another class. (I had one student get on his knees and actually plead with me not to call his parents. He's a very theatrical kid.)
Me: Well, if you don't want me to call your parents, I guess I'll have to call Mr. _______(principal's name) A look comes over his face and once again he makes his plea for me not to contact the principal.

Me: How do you think YOU can fix this problem?
Joe: By not talking and interrupting?
Me: Sounds good to me. Listen, we're not going to mention this conversation to anyone, ok? You walk back in the room, sit down get ready to listen. I'll walk in and explain the directions, and continue with the lesson. Deal?
Joe:  (Huge smile) Deal.
Me:  This is the last time I'll have to talk with you in the hall, right? And you won't say anything about it when we go back in class, right?
Joe:  Right. 
Me: That's good because if it happens again, I will call your parents and speak with the principal or dean about it. Is that understood?
Joe: Yes. 

I extend my hand and we shake on it. 

As we walk back in the room, every single student is looking at me and looking at Joe. 

Were they expecting me to say something to them? Of course. They were expecting me to storm in the room and reprimand the entire class.

Were they wondering what happened in the hall? Of course. 

Did I say anything? Absolutely not. 

Did Joe tell them what I said to him in the hall? Maybe... 

Does this work with every student? For me, it works 90% of the time. Naturally, there are always exceptions.

What's the best part of my method of classroom management?

 Word gets around.           Kids talk.           They Tweet.  

They know I won't yell at them in front of their peers, therefore they respect me. 

Respect and fairness are keys to successful behavior management. 

Again, it won't work with every student, but trust me, it's worth a try.  

Think about it. Your blood pressure won't soar,  you won't feel your face flush. You won't have to scream, yell .. You'll feel that YOU have control....

That said... 

You might want to check out my "Behavior and Classroom Management Forms for Teachers" resource that contains MANY forms for managing those who need guidance and assistance. Some forms are for school use only, some are for students and some help keep track of parent communication. 

I've also included award types of cards that can be handed to those who make good strides as well as larger types of cards that can be used as bulletin board toppers. 

Check out the preview of the packet, to learn more. 

photo of Behavior and Classroom Management Forms for Teachers, PDF, behavior management, Ruth S.,