Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Wastebasket Full of Papers

Every year, it seems that the kids think school's over right after April vacation. A few years ago, during a break between classes, I noticed that my wastebasket was filled to the rim and overflowing in a paper waterfall.  It was late morning and my basket is never full that time of day. I figured it was a student who decided to throw everything away and start summer vacation early.

I decided to investigate to see what else was in my overly full basket. YES! I became a garbage picker, but trust me if I had lifted one piece of the crumpled paper and saw anything organic, my garbage picking days would be over.

All the bits and pieces on the top were nameless, so I continued digging, determined to find out who the culprit was. Near the bottom was a beautiful sketch with a name in the lower right hand corner. Ah ha! I would definitely be a good guest star on CSI! I didn't know who the name belonged to, but I was determined to find out.

All kinds of school notices, some from September, were buried and the more I dove into the mess the more I found. A notice about parent conferences dated in October, a notice about an orchestra field trip to Woolsey Hall, two late homework slips that were supposed to be signed by parents, but weren't, a late slip from the library dated in October. I sensed Mr. Artist's parents weren't getting the notices and he had slipped through our loving teacher fingers.

I found graded papers! How dare a student throw away a graded paper. We teachers spend hours grading papers and expect that they end up on kitchen refrigerators or at least on the kitchen table for a day or two.

I began to feel a little lightheaded as I stood up, clutching wads of papers, some stuffed under my arms. I walked into the hall and saw one of my coworkers holding a gym bag. She was also in a frenzy and yelled, "Do you believe (so and so) left her gym bag in MY room? We've been telling them ALL year that they have to take everything with them when they leave for the day".  I must have really looked like a mess because she looked me up and down and then peered at me with an incredulous look on her face. "Your face is beet red. You okay?"

"Not exactly, but I'm determined to find out who stuffed his entire school year in my wastebasket. I stormed down the hall, papers falling from my grasp as I yelled, "Who has (so and so) as a student?" I was waving the artistic sketch that had the potential of being a Rembrandt in a hundred years or so, and almost hit Mrs. W. in the face with it as she walked into the hall.

"He's mine."

At last, I thought. And I began to rant and rave about someone stuffing my wastebasket, with forms from the office, field trip forms, late library notices, then took a deep breath and looked her.

"I'd like to see him so that I can return his valuable pieces of memorabilia that he did this year."

I was psyched and couldn't wait to ask him WHY he stuffed them in MY wastebasket. I had it all planned out. I'd tell him how important it is to take things home and to keep his parents aware of what we do in school.

Mrs. W. looked at me and sighed. "He's gone."

"Gone?" "Well send him to me tomorrow morning, okay? I just need to see him for  a few minutes."

She sighed again. "He's gone for good." She slipped into one of the student desks and looked up at me.

"His grandmother called school about an hour ago and told the Main Office that he had to be in the front of the building in 30 minutes. She said that his father had just been released from prison and they have to go into hiding because she has custody and the father wants custody. He's such a good student, I can't imagine what he's feeling."

The papers fell from my arms like gentle rain and formed puddles around my ankles.  I couldn't even think of how to respond to her. I picked up the papers, told her I was sorry I was like a raving maniac and headed to my room.

The sketch hangs in my family room as a reminder of how fragile our students are.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Unique Fundraiser to Help Rebuild Schools in Virginia

Chad, a teacher in rural Virginia, is having a different type of fundraiser to help contribute to the rebuilding of two schools that were destroyed in his small county in December, 2011. The high school where he taught was one of the schools that was destroyed. He's now teaching in a portable classroom in the middle of a parking lot.

His unusual "giveaway" is this. He's going to generously donate a dollar to the fund, for every five people who follow his TeachersPayTeachers store.  He's doing this project until June 1st if you wish to do so, follow him on TpT soon!

We felt that earthquake and we're hundreds of miles north of Virginia. I can't imagine what it was like to be at the epicenter.

Here are Chad's links!

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to Spell Plural Nouns

Over the years, I've noticed that kids can't spell. Plain and simple. It started a couple of decades ago, when there was a lack of phonics instruction in primary grades because of education reform. We were told that kids would figure out how to read by just reading a book. I disagreed then, and I still disagree.

The people who thought up this brilliant plan didn't understand that kids have to know the sounds of letters, blends, etc. in order to decode words. Short, long vowel sounds. What sound does "CH" make?
What happens if you put an "E" on the end of HOT? We, who had phonics instruction and were taught spelling rules, know that an "E"added to the end of a CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) word, gives the vowel "O" a long sound. If kids don't know the CVC rules, how are they going to master spelling at a young age?  What about two vowels together? We learned "When two vowels, going walking, the first does the talking".  Isn't this true of the word BOAT?  What vowel do you hear? Right! "O". Any child that isn't taught the "rule" might have no idea of how to pronounce it.  

One year, when I was teaching fifth grade, a boy pronounced "boat" as "BO- AT".  It really didn't shock me because I knew that he had little or no phonics instruction up to fifth grade. That's a perfect example of why we need to stress spelling and pronunciations of words. 

Another year, I was giving a "Back to School" presentation and told the parents that even though we weren't "allowed" to teach phonics, I teach it. I got a HUGE round of applause! One parent told me that she had been frustrated because it wasn't being taught, and she was teaching her daughter, phonics and spelling rules at home, the best she could. 

That's a long story about why I created this "How to Spell Plural Nouns chart and activity!  Why is it free? I'm hoping that MANY teachers download it and use it with their students, then hopefully, future generations will know how to spell!

photo of How to Spell Plural Nouns PDF work page by Teacher Park

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Massachusett's Song (You Athol)

As the earth warms and the delicious aroma and sparkling sunlight of spring pushes winter away, I long to be outside on this New England spring day. It's the kind of day I like to look for the chipmunk's new home or lift up the granite rocks to try and find a black and yellow spotted salamander. I found one last spring and hadn't seen one since childhood. The biggest salamander in the area, these critters are elusive and shy.

Like a rain soaked dog, I shake away the winter blues and run to the back stream to see if the mallards are nesting. I  lean over and scoop up some rich black soil and inhale the luscious earthy aroma, wondering if the Native American Pequots reveled in this springtime blast of sun.  How did they know exactly when to plant their Indian corn? Where did they store the kernels during the winter?

Our egg farmer, whose small pristine farm, is a family jewel, told me he plants his peas in March and it always has to be on St. Patrick's Day. Why St. Patrick's Day I ask him? He shrugs. "Dunno, it's the way it's always been."  I'm thinking next year,  I'll plant my peas on St. Patrick's Day too and think about Saint Paddy ridding the Emerald Isle of snakes.

Bob, the farmer, turns and tells me that the honeybees have made a comeback. It's been a strange couple of years with no friendly honeybees in our gardens. Scientists claim that pesticides have damaged their "radar" so they weren't able to find their way back to the hives, thus they died and left the flowers wondering where their friendly pollinators were. Bob's beekeeper friend, has several hives on the outer edge of his farm and thanks to him we'll have luscious honey this year.

Suddenly, a rowdy catbird lands to my right, in the huge burning bush. He flicks his long dark gray tail and sings his warbled song that startle the dogs who begin woofing at him. I whistle back at him and he moves closer to me, so close I could reach out and touch him.

Two summers ago, I was walking toward the stream and above my head I heard a crow frantically cawing. It's the crow warning signal that something's not right. I look up at him and notice that he's circling and glaring at something behind me.

I turn and stop dead in my tracks. A coyote is racing at top speed in my direction, but doesn't see me because he has his eye on the huge crow. I fall on the ground and cover my head with my arms, praying that I don't become Wile E. Coyote's morning snack. They say that life passes before your eyes when situations like this arise, but all I kept thinking about were the mallards and their ducklings on the bank of the stream. Would THEY become his morning snack?

With a woosh, the coyote flies over me, so close that I feel his underbelly fur on my arms. What seemed like an hour, was only a few minutes before I could even sit up, I was shaking so hard. I looked out at the stream as the critter bounded to the bank and leaped across the water. The crow continued to dive bomb him, screeching and cawing, as I stood up and brushed myself off.  I'll never forget it and still listen for the crow when I venture to the stream.

Being a native of Connecticut, and living along the coast, I'm a steadfast New Englander. I'm very familiar with our northern neighbor, Massachusetts, having spent vacations on the Cape, Martha's Vineyard and reveling in jaunts around the historical city of Boston all of my life.

Walks on the beach of the Northern shore of the Cape,...the weathered clapboard cape cod style homes, chunks of  buttery lobster...breath taking, spine tingling whale watching boat rides... the smell of the salt air...  the terns dive bombing as they screech "get away from our nests!"....  walking the "Freedom Trail" in Boston and listening to stories of Paul Revere.... Standing where the Boston Massacre happened that fateful day during the Revolutionary War and so much more reminds me that New England is where I want to be... forever.

Fond memories of those summer vacations in Massachusetts came flooding back as I listened to this very clever, whimsical,  tune called "Massachusetts Song (You Athol)  that Dana Edelman and his son, Jaiden, sing.  Yes, you read it correctly "You Athol".  Athol IS a town in Massachusetts. Sung with a slip of the tongue,  Athol becomes, you guessed it.  A**hole.  HA! A very witty play on words!

 If you listen carefully you'll hear 50 Massachusetts towns as Dana and Jaiden sing this father/son duet.

Do you recognize the names of these towns? I was very surprised when I heard "Cheshire" because that's my hometown in Connecticut. I never knew there was one in Massachusetts!

Taunton, Cheshire, Athol, Holyoke, Sandwich, Milton, Braintree, Brewster, Lynn, Gardner, Worcester, Falmouth, Marblehead, (Marbles in Your Head) Russell, Springfield, Buzzard(Buzzard's Bay) Martha's Vineyard..

What?? You thought I'd list all 50 towns?? HA! No! You have to listen carefully and add to the list!
Guaranteed you'll listen to this song more than 50 times!

Many thanks to Dana and Jaiden for this VERY cool New England tune
that will make you want to tap your toes and slap a knee!!
Click on Jaiden's shoulder to hear it!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

NonFiction Text Four Important Facts

It's not unusual for students to have difficulty identifying the most important facts when they read nonfiction text.

Large group work 

I distribute a one page article or some other nonfiction text  to the large group and have them read it aloud. After each paragraph is read, I stop them and ask if there are any important facts within that particular paragraph. We discuss the answers that volunteers offer and I write them on the board.

Small group work

After they've practiced in the large group, I have them get into small groups and ask each group to work on one particular article or nonfiction text in order to find four most important facts. 

During the time they work in small groups, I ask them to discuss and brainstorm the text. I also tell them they can all use the same facts on their sheets, as long as they all agree about which ones are the most important. (A great tactile strategy is to use highlighters to highlight the most important facts).

Once we're finished the small group work, we get back into the large group.  I have one volunteer from each group summarize the article or text they read and then have others in the group read the facts they chose. As each fact is read,  I have the "audience" do a "thumbs up" if they think the fact is VERY important. 

The more practice the better!

Download this free worksheet by clicking on the cover!

Thanks for stopping by!

photo of nonfiction four main facts free PDF work page by Teacher Park
                                                 Nonfiction Four Important Facts Worksheet

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Vocabulary Detective 5

Another Vocabulary Detective Contest! Run weekly contests using these simile, metaphor and personification cards. Kids put their cards in the Detective Jar and can't wait for the drawings!

Instructions are included.

Click on the cover for more information!

photo of vocabulary detective task cards 5 Teacher Park Ruth S Teacher Park Ruth S vocabulary contest


NonFiction Bingo

Kids will learn nonfiction elements as they have fun playing Bingo! Run a weekly Bingo contest! Winners put their Bingo coupons in the Bingo Jar and win prizes! Laminate and use year to year!

Included in the packet are:
Call out card
4 pages of creative design markers
6 different bingo cards
Bingo winner coupons
Bingo labels for the Bingo Jar

Click on the cover for more!

photo of nonfiction, bingo, games, Language Arts, Ruth S.

nonfiction, games, Language Arts, Ruth S.


Friday, May 4, 2012


Teachers pay Teachers is having a HUGE SALE!!! 
For Teacher Appreciation Week 
It's a

(My entire store is on sale today (Friday and Saturday) 
but there will be a higher percentage off on Sunday!
I have MANY free products. 
Hope to see you at my store!

On those days teachers will have their own sales on top of
what Teachers Pay Teachers is having!

Be sure to use the code number
when you check out!

My entire store is on sale! You'll receive an extra percentage off when you check out if you enter the code.