Turn That Frown Upside Down

This Please Q, Thank Q video clip, part of a campaign in Singapore to get people to be more gracious about riding the subway, made me wonder: What if we all carried a Feelings Stick that we could use to get people to be more civil toward one another? It'd be sort of a non-verbal "check yourself" to someone who's not using good manners. Could that actually work like it does in this 30-second Love Your Ride PSA?


Perfectly Stress-Free

What will you do to stress-proof as we launch into the holidays? Last year I was asked to guest post on that topic for New Moon Girls; click here to read some of the tips I offered. Last month, I wrote this blog - Got StReSs??for this amazing collaborative I'm part of at PreKandKSharing:

Simple Stress-Proofing Strategies

‘Tis the season, the most wonderful time of the year, right?  But what can you do when the stress of the season starts to steal your sparkle? Here are six tried-and-true tips to help you get a hold of stress before it grabs a hold of you and your youngsters:

1.     Go From Wii to WE.  Sometimes adults get busy, allowing their little ones too much time on their video game devices. Leave it to the video world to provide a lot of real-life stress. Recently I’ve worked with a few students who are having trouble distinguishing between their virtual universe and reality. Talk about a stressor!  If you’re going to give your children some screen time, make sure to limit it to short increments of time, ideally 30 minutes or less in the morning and 30 minutes or less in the evening. Then join your child and turn their Wii time into WE time. What board games can you play together: Twister?  Yatzhee?  Sorry?  Operation? Use family game time to reconnect and ward off stress and agitation
2.   Teach Them To Relax.  It’s never too early to teach yoga, deep relaxation, or meditation. Turns out meditation is now linked to increased happiness!  I use a book called Starbright: Meditations For Children by Maureen Garth to help my students relax with guided imagery and visualization. Take your children to a safe, calm place in their minds; then teach them how to do that for themselves for a brain break whenever they need it!
3.   Engage In Exercise.  Twenty minutes of daily exercise is not only good for the body but also for the brain! Physical activity releases endorphins that “act like Miracle Gro for the brain,” according to John Medina, author of Brain Rules.  Fire those dendrites by going on a swift walk, jumping on the trampoline, or kicking a ball around the back yard; it’ll be a win-win because you’ll not only score some meaningful movement but also some fresh air.
4.   Help Them Listen To Their Bodies.  Stress and other negative emotions show up in our bodies, so why not teach your kids to identify their hot spots. How does anger feel on your face, for example. What does stress feel like in your stomach? Where does worry settle? Ask your kids; they’ll tell you. Better yet, have them draw it out. Trace a gingerbread man cookie cutter and ask them to put an X where they can actually feel stress, worry, or anger.
5.   Give Back.  To help keep holiday gift-getting from exploding out of control, we encourage our children to choose a charity to whom we can make a donation in their name in lieu of a few gifts that they might get.  Last year, we sent money to the summer church camp that they love, a gift that was every bit as meaningful to them as a present wrapped up under the tree would have been.  We also encourage giving of our time and talent by sharing the gift of music and song with local nursing home residents. Additionally, we take out the traditional recipes and make holiday candy and cookies to leave them for our mail carrier and take to other community helpers to show our gratitude.
6.   Eat, Drink and Be Healthy.  Don’t let too much holiday cheer disrupt healthy eating habits. Remember the food pyramid? Daily guidelines have changed slightly, and it’s actually more of a plate now, but one thing remains the same:  Your children should eat a nice mix of fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy. Our rule of thumb is to put three to five colors on our plates at every meal. Try it and savor the flavor.  And don’t forget to offer your kiddos plenty of water.

That’s it, six simple strategies. Easy cheesy, agreed? Oh, and don’t stress about doing all of these things at once. Just focus on the one that’ll help most when you feel the holiday-stress grinch sneaking in to rob you of the gift of sanity this season. 


Thought, Word & Deed

Caring is thinking with our hearts; what are the ways that your students show they care? Today’s post features three holiday books that I love because they spotlight caring in thought, word, and deed. 
     Little Rabbit provides an excellent example of a character whose thoughts put good things into motion in Kate Klise's treasure Shall I Knit You A Hat? In this tale about gift giving and gratitude, Mother Rabbit sees a blizzard coming and knits a cool cap to keep Little Rabbit's ears warm.  Little Rabbit, in turn, asks for caps for all of his friends. He helps his mom by distracting his friends so that she can get measurements for her crafty creations. The mother-son duo works tirelessly to get the hats done and give them to the friends. When the cold winds start to blow, the animals see the beauty of and appreciate the warmth that they received from the Rabbits. When Little Rabbit realizes that he was too busy giving to his friends that he forgot a gift for his mother, her heartwarming response reassures him that “being with you is the best gift of all.” This treasures comes complete with a pattern for creating a hat so why ‘knot’ get out your needles and some yarn and get clicking.
     Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo serves as a beautiful illustration of what caring looks like with words. Young Frances notices a monkey grinder on the street and wonders where they live. When Frances wants to invite him over, the mom reminds her that we don't talk to strangers. Unable to contain her compassion for the plight of this man and his monkey, whom Frances figures out live on the street, this little angel invites him to her Christmas pageant at the church, where at least he can warm up for a spell. An invitation. Powerful words. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will warn you that I expect this holiday gift to be a springboard for an amazing discussion about how to care for someone (like a homeless man and his monkey) without putting one's own safety at risk. Find out from your students if they can relate to Frances, to her mom, or to the man on the street. Have they ever been in a similar situation? If so, what happened? If not, could they imagine what it's be like or what they'd do if they were Frances, the mom, or the homeless man? Study homelessness in your community, in a neighboring city, or in your state. Then do a little math. Calculate how much it would cost to feed a homeless person for a meal? For a week? For a month? Star of Hope in Houston actually has those figures if you want to give students a lead on some data. Students can brainstorm ways to help the homeless besides inviting them to warm up at your church pageant. Research where the nearby soup kitchen is and see at what age they allow people to start serving. Finally, ask your students to finish the story. What happens to the man and his monkey after they attend the reception at the pageant? Will their encounter with Frances make a difference in a week? A month? A year? What happens to Frances? And to her mom? Encourage your little authors to let their imaginations run wild; I think you'll be inspired by the compassion that runs through their words. (Check back Saturday, December 3rd, for my Great Joy Giveaway!)
Rabbit's Gift by George Shannon re-tells an old Chinese fable about the power of a good deed. Urged on by the fact that winter's coming, Rabbit sets out to find food when two turnips turn up. What luck! As he plans to enjoy his "cozy meal," thoughts of his friend donkey postpone his dinner and spur him into action. Guess what happens when Rabbit pays it forward with his extra turnip? This tale of generosity and compassion has many extension possibilities, one of which is a dance to the Bunny Hop. In this dance, you kick out your right leg two times, then kick out your left leg twice, hop forward once, hop back once, then hop three times forward. So turn on the music and teach your students this little ditty about the circular effect of planned acts of kindness:

Help someone in need and it'll come back indeed. Show you care and plant kindness seeds!

After your moments with movement, ask students what the saying "What goes around comes around" means. Is it used to talk about good stuff or bad stuff? Or both? Have them share their thoughts aloud, then encourage them to illustrate a time when they found this adage to be true in their lives. Finally, take one last picture walk through the book to notice the Chinese Characters on the left-hand side and the little yellow bird on certain pages. Have students figure out what those symbolize and discuss the significance of that artistic touch.
     What are your top holiday picks?  Hop on over to Learning With Mrs. Parker and Teaching Blog Addict to link up and share them with us!


When God Paints

I got a glimpse of heaven on earth last night as I drove with my daughter back to school after two glorious days of Thanksgiving family time. Interestingly enough, it was as we were passing by LaGrange, Texas, where her absolute favorite place to spend summertime - Camp Lonestar - is! Anyway, she and I were having SUCH fun together in the car, talking and laughing and - get this - singing, when all of the sudden this snuck up on us:

I grabbed my camera because I wanted to remember it forever. Just a little farther down the road, it became this breathtaking beauty:

I just love it when God paints! It made me think about our lives as a masterpiece. We start out an empty canvas every morning (Isn't THAT a blessing!) and we get to choose what our portraits will look like that day. And the next. And the next. Some days our pictures are like this night sky, majestic with an amazing array of hues, and other days they aren't as brilliantly colored, more muted and melancholy (I had one of those days just last week!) instead. But the gift in all of that is that if our artistry is not to our liking today, we essentially get another shot at it tomorrow. Thankfully, there's always tomorrow. So, what colors will you be using on your canvas today? 


Back On Track

Happy World Goodness Day! I've always said that my walks would go a WHOLE lot faster if I jogged, so this morning when my husband suggested we walk to the track and then run a few laps, I took him up on it. What can it hurt, right? Well, ok, yeah, it hurt. A little. I trotted the equivalent of a Kids' K before I went back to walking. John kept on running, prompting me to pick up the pace behind him so I didn't get lapped! And now that I'm home, it felt amazing to stick with it; we ended up putting in almost 4 miles!
     Wanna get the kids' behavior back on track? Try these Be A Star With Manners stickers from Really Good Stuff. I got a pack for our character building recently and I gave them to one of our first-grade teachers - here's what she did:
     It was the end of the day, and she called a class meeting. She said that she was going to give an award, which totally got their attention. She gave the child's name and asked, "What do you think she did to earn the We Are Polite award today?" And guess what? They all knew exactly what she'd done, all day long, and they expressed it beautifully. What an affirmation for her that was. And guess what else? They all tried to get the award the next day, creating a win-win-win for the teacher, the students, and the classroom climate. When good goes, it always comes back, so stick with it!


A Texas Tradition

If you're not from Texas, you may not know about the 118-year history of the University of Texas playing Texas A & M University in football on Thanksgiving Day. I'm told it started in 1894 when Grover Cleveland was president, before six of the states were even a part of the United States, before the rotary dial revolutionized the telephone, before air conditioning came along. It's a long-standing rivalry between our two big state schools which over the years has become a very big deal. Last night, they played their final game in this turkey-day tradition.

That by itself isn't much to write home about, but the halftime show certainly is. Partly because our daughter Kaitlyn was in it (she's in the burnt orange Longhorn uniform with the white stetson hat - can you see her? - she says she's the left-end person on the top of the T - YAY!), and partly because the Showband of the Southwest cut their Queen show short to play Thanks for the Memories and etch this picture into the hearts and minds of the 86,000-plus football fans at Kyle Field on the Aggies home turf. 

 Thanking the opposition, a fitting tribute and a classy way to end a time-honored Thanksgiving Day tradition, don't ya think?



Thankful For The Touch

As I reflect this Thanksgiving and count my blessings, I am brought back to the positive influences in my life:  my teachers, my mentors, my family and friends, my higher power. This poem has always struck a chord with me because when life gets out of tune, hits a sour note, or plays in a minor key for too long, it's the Touch of the Master's Hand that puts people in my path to help me through the valley and back onto the mountain tops. So today, I hope that you can feel my gratitude through these inspirational words.  


Spread Some Sunshine

Here comes the sun (do, do, do, do), here comes the sun and I say . . . it's all right!

I'm not big on awards and honors, but I totally LOVE gerber daisies and sunshine, so bring it on! Lori over at Cachey Mama's Classroom and Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics both sent this ray of sunshine my way, so I'm thankful to them today. Go and visit Cachey Mama's site for some really cute early childhood ideas and Tara's place for some serious intermediate fun. The award comes with a few guidelines, so here's how you play:

Thank the person who gave you the award when you post about it - check!
Answer the following questions - check! 
Q & A: 
Favorite color? Orange. Favorite animal? Raccoon - oh so pretty and feisty! Favorite number? Six. Favorite drink? Caramel Macchiato. Facebook or Twitter? Why isn't Blogger a choice? Your passion(s)? Teaching and Learning. 
Giving or getting presents? Giving gives me SO much more pleasure than getting. 
Favorite day? Christmas! Favorite flowers? Gerber Daisies.

 Now, pass the award along to 10-12 bloggers that I'm thankful for because they spread sunshine - oooo, that's tough because I admire SO, so many of you and have several hundred of you on my blog roll, but here goes, my go-to-feel-the-warmth 
SUNSHINE blogs. Check!


Surrender To The Sadness

Sometimes you just HAVE to surrender and today is one of those days for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am abundantly blessed and have much to be thankful for, leaving me naturally joyful. But today the tears just came, kind of unexpectedly actually. It’s growing pains, I suppose, since this Thursday is the first Thanksgiving Day that we won’t spend with our daughter. She’ll be playing with the band, happy to be part of a time-honored tradition in the Aggies v. Longhorns football game. We knew this day was coming, and believe me, we prepared ourselves as best we could by saying it over and over again, that this is the last time we’ll be together as a family, like this. I’m not sure we believed it. Or maybe we just didn’t know how painful it could be to go through our daily grind without her. Is there any way to be better prepared for that?

It’s also the first Thanksgiving break in 15 years or so that we won’t be going on our traditional trek to the Hill Country.  Sure, we could go, for tradition’s sake, but it wouldn’t be the same without her, so we’ve decided to just stay home. And even though I like that option, there’s an element of loss at having to let go, of yet another change. So many sad emotions running amuck right now.

So I woke up feeling lost. And guess what?  As if I’m somehow being told it’s okay to surrender, it’s raining outside for the first time in weeks. Seems even the heavens are crying. It’s been almost a whole semester - REALLY? - am I STILL struggling to let go? It’s such a conflict because I’m so proud of her and thrilled beyond belief at how well she's doing on her own.  Still, her launch into independence has left a huge hole in my heart. I miss her voice, her smile, her energy, her point of view, her messy room, her laundry.  Well, ok, maybe not her mess or her laundry, but you know what?  I’d be happy to do loads and loads and loads of it - I'd even FOLD it! - to help me find my way out of the trough where I find myself today. To help me let go. And heal.  And find my way through this new normal.

The silver lining is that it’s just for now.  Ooooo, I like the sound of that, Just. For. Now.  Because she’ll be home on Friday and we’ll feast on our three-day weekend as a family again. What a gift that'll be. I’ll get to hear her voice as we catch up on her life and – yep – I'll even do her laundry. And I'm told that when she comes home for an entire month at winter break, that I'll actually be ready for her to go back. I know that time is a great healer, but is that really possible? Until then, I guess I’ll just surrender to the sadness. Just for now. Where is that white flag and those darn tissues? 



Each year, we thank our troops with notes and goodies in a service-learning project we call Santas for Our Soldiers. Click here to see video clips of the last two years; there's nothing like hearing all about it through the voice of our little patriots and the military families themselves. It's heartwarming to see our students write their letters and draw pictures for their heroes in guidance and equally rewarding to watch and listen as they delivered their donations to our Donation Station.  
Listen in as this cute kindie explains what he brought and why. He bought so much stuff for the soldiers he couldn't carry it all:

Our volunteer Elves will be feverishly completing customs forms over break so that our Leadership Academy can get the boxes packed and ready to ship when we get back. Last year we were able to send 129 care packages to our troops overseas as a small token of our appreciation for their service on our behalf. The Friendswood Rotary Club generously donated money for the first twenty boxes last year; this year they're paying for the first forty boxes we fill. It truly takes a village to pull off a project of this magnitude. To bring it full circle, we'll visit with a few of our soldiers via SKYPE and watch on the big screen as they open our boxes. Such an amazing opportunity to put citizenship and caring into action. 

December update:  We sent 89 boxes this year and found out that four of them have already reached the father of one of our students in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. Here's a follow-up look at our packing process



'Tis the season, and for me, that means it's time to get out my size 8 needles and colorful yarn to start making those cute little preemie caps again. I'd forgotten just how addicting knitting can be. If I had to guess, I'd say that this craft triggers some of the same chemicals in the brain that other addictions (like gambling, for example) might. The beauty of knitting, however, is that it's not as expensive as the other addictions; it's a cheap natural high. 
     When my husband brought home yarn in the Green Bay Packers' team colors last Christmas, I was cranking them out like crazy, making several dozen of these hats in time for our Super Bowl victory. I donated them to the Save the Children Caps for Good campaign and they were taken to babies in Africa, Asia, and South America. My goal this year is one cap per day between now and the Super Bowl. That'll be seventy-plus caps. It'll undoubtedly cut down on my other naturally-addicting activity (blogging!) a bit, but it's a click for a very worthy cause.  Wish me luck; go PACK go!  


Author's Purpose Guest Post

We rarely get to hire anyone since the turnover in our school district is low, but we did have a last-minute resignation this past summer and got to welcome this enthusiastic teacher to our second-grade team. She was SO excited about this lesson that I simply had to ask her to share it with you. Thank you, Laura, for your passion about the whole child and for helping keep our little leaders on track!

Turning a bad day into a never-give-up good day! When you don't give up, you cannot fail. By Laura Worrell, 2nd grade teacher, Westwood Elementary

In literary text, authors do not always tell readers what characters are feeling or thinking. Instead, readers must make inferences and draw conclusions to help them better understand the characters. Students have to look beyond the text and use the illustrations as cues to the character’s inner thoughts. Students must learn to stop and think about what they are reading, ask questions, and examine any pictures there are for clues. Making inferences and thinking about the meaning behind the text and illustrations will allow for a better understanding and visualization. All of this should allow for the reader to grasp the author’s purpose and deeper meaning of the book.

After completing this lesson students will be able to:
*make better personal connections while reading a fiction text
*empathize, better understand, and draw conclusion about characters in a fiction text
*understand the author’s purpose or message in the text
*record his or her understanding/knowledge by creating pictures
*make inferences from the text
Procedure: To being lesson, show pictures of stressed out, frustrated people. Then ask students to write down on sticky notes a "good think questions" about the pictures they see. Allow thinking time. Students will ready their sticky notes out loud as they post it to a board that reads: What are you thinking?

Briefly discuss their ideas.

Next show students the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day By Judith Voirst

Allow for time for the class to discuss the cover of the book. Ask the students to describe the illustrations on the cover (the boy is in the bed, he looks upset, there are toys are everywhere). Now ask what do you think he is thinking? How do you know? Why do you think that? What do you think caused it?

Before reading the book askHave you ever had a really bad day? What happened that day? How did it feel? Discuss connections self to text.

Read the book aloud and stop for discussion, asking students to briefly comment if they have a connectionie have you ever awakened with gum in your hair, not gotten a toy out of the cereal box, not be able to get the exact shoes you wanted, etc

Before reading the last page, ask the students to stop and listen very carefully. Ask them if they can figure out who or what is so important about the last two pages.

(Answer: Alexander’s mom is there for him and says that you can even have a bad day in Australia). Help them draw the conclusion that people around you are vital in helping you get through those bad days and that you cannot run from your problems.  Next, show this video clip:

Ask the students, why do you think your teacher would pick this video clip?  What is the author trying to tell us? Is there a connection to the book? How does it all connect? How does this apply to our everyday life? Is there someone special that was there for you on that bad day? 

Teacher will pass out a slip of paper and everyone must write down an answer. Put the answers in a bucket and pull out slips for discussion. Or just hold an open forum discussion. A morning meeting huddle would be a perfect venue to discuss the end of this lesson as it so applies to our everyday lives.

Independent Practice:
Students will draw a self-portrait of a happy/good day putting things that make them happy around the outside  examples of things that could make them feel happy: hearts, family, hugs, rainbows, music, or sports. Then they will create another self-portrait of a sad/bad day with things that make them sadexamples of things that make them sad:  hurting, being sick, bad words, bad choices, fighting, thunder storms. 

Ours turned out so cute; here are two examples of my students' work. (The self-portrait pattern sheets were printed two-sided to illustrate that every one has good and bad days, two sides of the same coin.)

Now students will start brainstorming and begin prewriting their “Bad Day” stories. This story is to describe one bad day in the student’s life but should also include “who” was there for them during the bad day.
Describe what happens when you have a bad day. 
What would you choose: a bad day that gets better or an ordinary good day? Why?
When did you have a day like Alexander? 
How do you express if you are having a bad day? Is it easy or hard to tell mom or dad? 
What would you change about the story we just read? 
How would you solve Alexander’s problem? 
Does this book connect to anything in your life?
What can you infer about how Alexander is feeling? 
Can you really turn a bad day around? 
What happens if you decide to quit? 
What happens if you decide to preserve?

Reading TEKS/Objectives
TEKS/Obj: 2.9- Comprehension of Literary Text/Fiction. Students understand, make inferences, and draw conclusions about the structure and elements of fiction and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. 
TEKS/Obj: 2.9B- describe main characters in works of fiction, including their traits, motivations, and feelings.
TEKS/Obj: 2.13A  identify the topic and explain the author’s purpose in writing the text. 
Writing TEKS/Objective:
TEKS/Obj: 2.17 Writing Process- Student use elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text. 
TEKS/Obj: 2.17A- plan a first draft by generating ideas for writing (e.g. drawing, sharing ideas, listing key ideas).


The BE-attitudes

As we cruise into Thanksgiving Break, I'm pondering the question: To be or not to be?  The really cool thing about that Shakespearean inquiry is that the answer is totally up to us. It’s all about CHOICE!  There are so many things in life that we don't have much say about, but every day we get to choose how we want to BE regardless of the cards we’re dealt.

Here are some of the BE-attitudes I've been reflecting upon, things that we get to control, every day. These are gifts that keep on giving:

1.      Be love.  Be inspired by DecembeRadio's hauntingly-beautiful ballad. Caring is thinking with your heart and Kindness is a learned behavior. Be all three.  
2.   Be a problem solver.  Explore all of our options when there's a problem. Leave no stone unturned when you're looking for a solution.
3.   Be at peace.  I like the sound of that, don’t you? Do something every day to move - even if ever 
 so slightly - from chaos to calm. Yoga anyone?
4.   Be a good listener.  Practice good listening skills. Lean in, Make eye contact, and respond appropriately when someone’s sharing their story or asking a question.
5.   Be present. Be there for people, in the moment, right now.  You can NOT get this moment back. Ever.
6.   Be responsible.  Subscribe to this simply powerful touchstone: Be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
7.   Be a hard worker. Work ethic trumps talent; give your BEST effort in everything you do.
8.   Be sensitive. Put yourself in another's shoes, share their story, and experience empathy and compassion.
9.    Be respectful. Treat people today how you want them to treat you tomorrow.  It's G.O.L.D.E.N.
10.  Be a trustworthy friend. Do what you say you’re going to do so that people can count on you.
11.     Be emotionally and physically healthy. Eat the right things, drink plenty of water, exercise routinely, relax often, and pay close attention to your feelings so they don't overwhelm and get the best of you.
12.  Be someone’s hero. Ask yourself:  Whom can I serve today?  What makes my actions worthy of honor?
13.  Be grateful. Count your blessings and give thanks for each of them.  Why not join this guy in The Gratitude Dance!
14.  Be forgiving. Allow for mistakes and be willing to forgive. There's no greater gift than a little grace.
15.  Be a positive influence.  Uplift people with your words, a smile, and enthusiasm. Make your attitude contagious!

So there you have it, my 15 BE-attitudes, gifts that you get to keep as you give them away. What does your 
BE-attitude list look like? 


The Turkey Tango

Are your little pilgrims looking for a tasty treat they can gobble about? How about doing the Turkey Tango with us! Click {here} for a fun rendition of this dance. 

Oh, and we also gave away our recess balls, so click here to see pictures of that special presentation. 

Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving.


Douglas Wood's Thanksgiving Treasure

What if the only things you had left when you woke up tomorrow was the stuff you expressed gratitude for today? Such a thought-provoking question, one which I like to follow up with: How do you show that you're thankful? Douglas Wood's book entitled The Secret of Saying Thanks inspires and motivates its readers by letting them in on a little secret about a big thing: Gratitude.

Use this treasure to talk with your little citizens about things they might take for granted, like nature (the sun, the trees, the stars, the breeze) and nurture (family and friends). Have students make a list of things they're grateful for; better yet, start a JOY journal with them and encourage them to write something that they're thankful for every day. Nothing can turn a bad day around like a little jolt of joy.  His final thought if one of my favorites:  We don't give thanks because we're happy.  We are happy because we give thanks.

What are some of the traditions that your family enjoys that bond you together and help you appreciate one another more? Click here for a list of activities that can help families focus on giving thanks.

Oh, and I'm thankful to Tamara over at Teaching with TLC for hosting a Linky Party so we can all share the Thanksgiving book that we most treasure.  Why not head her way and feast on the other bloggers' picks!


Guess The Grad

Generation Texas Week is coming up as soon as we return from Thanksgiving break, so I've been working on an interactive college-and-career-readiness activity for our future graduates. I asked our faculty and staff for their college information so I could make and post these signs that'll supply the necessary information for our Guess The Grad game. Here's the one I made for my office door. Since our goal is to prepare our students so that we can safely send them off to college or out into the work force, I used these adorable stamp templates from Really Good Stuff!

Then I created this bulletin board. It's got guiding questions like: How many of our teachers attended Texas A & M? What is the mascot for Western Illinois U? The Fighting Okra is the mascot for which University? How many of our teachers went to college in Ohio? Illinois? Where would I find McNeese State University? How many teachers are Baylor Bears? Which teachers got their degrees in Journalism? Which teachers earned their degree in Music? How many teachers have a degree from UT-Austin? Which school's mascot is Bucky Badger? Who is the teacher who got her degree in Maritime Studies? We will encourage teachers to take their classes on a field trip around the school to find the answers to these questions and then come up with some other inquiries on their own.

I cut out the mascot (or logo) from each teacher's college/university and glued it onto a push pin so I could display it on this map. It's got a cool 3-D look.

You can see that the majority of our staff stayed in state for school.

This first-grade class graphed the in-state schools to get some data.

I hope that this college-awareness activity will be as much fun for our future college kids to figure out as it was for me to create. Additionally, we've asked teachers to talk with their students about where they went to college and how they selected their degree plan. Here students tallied where the colleges that we've earned degrees from are located!

We also suggested having students research schools, possibly visiting with college siblings via SKYPE, watching a college marching band perform, making pennants, decorating their classroom doors, or interviewing their parents or neighbors. On Friday of that week, we'll all wear our college colors.


The ABCs of Parenting

I wrote this list a few years back as I prepared to give a parenting workshop at a neighboring school. Click here to download a handout that you can share with your parents. You might even find a suggestion that you can use with your class family. After reading my ABCs, what might you add, delete, or change?

A. Affirm and appreciate your children.
B. Be firm, fair, and consistent.
C. Choose logical and natural consequences - positive or negative.
D. Decide together on your family's values and mission statement.
E. Encourage your children to follow their dreams.
F. Forgive mistakes.
G. Give your children a secure environment.
H. Handle conflict with love - CAREfront your children.
I. Initiate "I" messages: I feel ______ when you ______. I need _______.
J. Join (and enJOY) one another around the dinner table.
K. Keep your promises.
L. Love unconditionally.
M. Model good character.
N. Negotiate when you can to empower your children.
O. Open your mind to consider all of your options.
P. Pick your battles!
Q. Quit yelling and lecturing.
R. Read with your children every day.
S. Say you're sorry when you mess up.
T. Treat your children with respect.
U. Understand that kids are a work in progress.
V. Voice your opinion, then listen to theirs.
W. Wait for your children to respond before repeating what you said.
X. Xplore eXtra-curriculars, but be careful not to over-eXtend your youngsters.
Y. Yearn to learn something new with your children, every day.
Z. Zero in on the needs of each child individually and the group collectively.


World Kindness Day

The World Kindness Movement has declared today to be World Kindness Day.  Their unofficial slogan for the day is Healing the World.  Doesn't that sound great? 

My friend Audrey took this picture in Singapore; they've been advertising the event for some time.  The Singapore suggestion?  Make Someone's Day. A Pinterest-inspired idea?  RACKing.  Don't know what that is?  Check out Mrs. Carroll's plan in this post at The First Grade Parade.
Me?  I'm making a Dutch Apple Pie for my family because charity begins at home.

What will you do to make someone's day in the name of World Kindness?


Epic Entertainment

Let’s be honest: I did NOT want to sell and deliver all those holiday poinsettias. I totally didn’t want to supervise those summer car washes. And I really didn’t care to eat all of that leftover World’s Finest Chocolate candy that we couldn’t find anyone to buy. But I’m here to say that it was ALL worth it and then some! Ultimately, we'll do whatever it takes to be with the best of the best. That's exactly what happened on Tuesday when we competed in the State Marching Band Competition, the Superbowl of High School Marching in Texas; what an epic event!
“So what did you get at State?” you might be wondering. And here’s what I’d answer: I got a personal business day away from school to follow the band to the Alamo Dome. I got to visit my friend Mary en route. I got to sit on the porch of her little house on the prairie and drink my morning coffee before heading to San Antonio. I got to spend the day with my husband. I got to watch my son's band and experience the elegance and pageantry of their beautiful performance. I got choked up several times. I got to enjoy 23 other bands and their stellar shows, each one uniquely special its own right. I got a tasty dinner on the Riverwalk between prelims and finals. I got to see my college girl, who came in from Austin to support her brother and their friends. I got to see the best 10 bands leave everything they had on the field a second time that evening. I got a new appreciation for the diligence and work ethic of these talented teens. And I got home in the wee hours of the morning.

And what place did we get? Fourth in the state of Texas. Out of 250 marching bands our size. Fourth. So, so proud of them! Can't wait to do it all again in two years when Joshua gets to FHS. Here’s my amateur footage of the show if you want to experience the emotional sights and sounds of Friendswood High School’s 2011 show: 751 Chant of the Ages. Anyone want to buy a magazine subscription? Anyone? Anyone? 

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