Let’s scramble up some eggs … not our kids!

I saw familiar truck in traffic recently, and a had a good giggle. Every time I see a UPS truck it reminds me of  a precious four year old boy in one of my Pre-K classes.

Each time we would go outside to play he LOVED watching (and hoping) the driver of that truck would pull up near our school. He may very well become a driver himself, or become CEO of that company someday!
He’d yell, “Miss Barb, look the P-U-S truck is here!”   You realize he’d say each letter because he wasn’t reading words yet. Busted us up each time!!

It sure demonstrates the importance of teaching about the correct sequence of letters in words, right?

The little guy got the thrill of his life when I ordered something that was delivered to our school, a few months later, and he actually met the UPS driver!!

It is an important lesson because as children learn to read they will learn the correct order of letters in words when they see them often. However, when they are expected to write words, and sentences, the spelling sometimes comes out a tad all scrambled up.

I can see it clearly (Okay, I remember it clearly) after going to the zoo with second graders years ago.

I was a big hippopotamus.  No dear you should have written it this way:

I saw a big hippopotamus.

Obviously, there is a BIG difference in what those sentences mean.

Do you see the problem won? I mean ….

Do you see the problem now?

One day driving home from work, a laughed again as I saw another UPS truck. And, then I saw a license plate that got the creative juices of ‘my former teacher self’ all excited. The license plate looked like this one, with numerals on either side of a letter.

However, the same three digits in each numeral are in a different order. So I said to my self, “Hey Self, why don’t you write a post to encourage parents, and teachers, with an easy way for kids to learn and use numbers, and maybe letters?”

Wordpress License plate

Generally, before children are able to write numbers, and letters, they begin by correctly identifying, and matching them. As an educator it is second nature for me to develop meaningful lessons from everyday life. If the digits are in a different order that car might belong to someone else!

As I saw that license plate, I thought, “What a fun way to have children identify digits (individual numbers) and numerals, and then recreate what they see.”

I started by asking the children to identify the digits to the left (of the letter K) and then the digits on the right. (And, of course, encouraging them to identify from left to right is  a good way to remind them that we read from left to right as well.) It also helps them to say those numerals aloud so they can hear the difference.

Once they have read them correctly, then I would ask if they look exactly the same.

“Does 356 look like 536?”

Then, I would give them cards, and ask if they could rearrange the digits so they would look like the numeral circled in red. (See photo below)

Wordpress license plate with numerals circled

You could give an example like this, and ask if these are arranged correctly to match what is inside the red circle. Which one matches?

Wordpress 653 card          Wordpress 365

I decided to use cards from the Set game because they are nice and large but you can use whatever you have available.

Find a variety of ways to practice this with lots of repetition. In November, we would do this with a fire truck because fire fighters are so exciting for kids. Holy Smokes!

(Get it? I couldn’t resist, sorry.)

Kids love the fire fighter unit! Let them correctly arrange the digits, and the words, on the trucks.

Wordpress Firetruck

While you teach about community workers or transportation, it’s good to include road signs. And, all kids seem to recognize the famous S-T-O-P sign.

STOP sign
Encourage them to place the letters in the correct sequence
STOP no no no POTS sign
Oops, read that word to them so they understand the problem. Give them another chance now.








As children learn the letters in their name, it is important that they learn the sequence of those letters too. I mean Tom is not Mot, and Brian shouldn’t be spelled Brain.

And on a personal note, although, I prefer to go by Barb I do occasionally sign my full name on certain documents. But, I promise you I do not spell it like some Barbra’s. I know many folks use that spelling but I’m a much happier camper without BRA in my name, thank you very much. Talk about embarrassing! Well, for me it is.

Whether you help children with the correct order of digits, numerals, or letters, it is all worth it because we wouldn’t want anything like this to happen to our kids, right? Hopefully, no one turns in a book report with such a mistake.

Silly spelling error

With children so into electronic screens these days, encouraging them to read and write has become my passion. Maybe this is true because I struggled in school, and I believe it is important to encourage this generation of students to become thinkers and excellent communicators.

Click here for more information on Barb’s Author Visits and Book Making classes


Springing into action with books … and maybe more?

While working in a supportive role in an elementary school, I had these two conversations with very young children in recent weeks:

1). After an unusual looking fox ran in front of my car one evening, I shared the story with my Kindergarten children the next morning. I asked them if they’ve ever heard of a brown and gray fox. Several of them told me, with the greatest confidence five year old children possess, “No! Mrs C. foxes are red.”

“I know that’s what I thought too,” I replied (tongue in cheek), “but this was definitely not a red fox.”

After they shared “their wisdom” on foxes, I asked, “What can we use to find out more about foxes?”

These were their suggestions:

“Videotape them.”

“Ask a scientist.”

“Look on the computer.” (“Okay, I get that,” I muttered to myself.)

Sadly, only one child said, “Look in a book.”

2). Another day while escorting them down a hallway, I reminded them, “Follow who is in front of you and eyeballs forward please.”

A few of them questioned, thinking I was surely off my rocker, “Eyeballs?”

When I explained, “Yes, didn’t you know our eyes are like little balls?”

The next question piqued my interest, “What are eyeballs made of?”

So guess what my little (semi-retired) teacher self did next?

I went to my local public library and I borrowed a couple of NON-FICTION books.

Foxes and eyeballs nonfiction books

We have been learning so much about foxes and we are about to learn about eyeballs. (I promise I will be very selective, though, about sharing pages of ‘other parts of the human body.’)

The reason I love working with young children is because they become so curious and ask great questions. The best question came from one little girl who is about to become a big sister. “How does the mommy fox know if her baby will be a boy or a girl?” Of course, her mom had a sonogram done months ago to reveal the answer they aren’t going to wait to learn in the delivery room. I can assure you I chuckled, for quite a while, at the thought of a fox having a sonogram.

I am so passionate about encouraging children to read for many different reasons and for their families to participate in all that their public libraries offer. I guess my adult son is correct in saying, “Mom, you’re old school.” And, I proudly admit that’s true. I grew up going to the public library, researching through encyclopedias, and books found in the card catalog, to complete book reports in school and even larger papers in college. I am learning all I can about this new techno world, and trying embrace all it has to offer. (Well, okay most of it.) And, I’m on a mission to redirect children back to books. Books ARE fun!!

So here’s where I get bold and courageous and ask you to consider “springing into action” yourself. My husband and I have been sharing one laptop for about six years, and he needs it more for his line of work, so I need one myself now to make my dream business come true. (Oh, and, if you yourself are trying to grow a business, check out this new book.) I just started reading it this week: Business Boutique.

Anyway, in an effort to raise capital to buy a laptop and a projector, I just added this new post on my Facebook page.

And, I know my blog is new to the WordPress community but if you are at all inclined to support me, or share this post, I would be eternally grateful.

If you are not on Facebook, here is the post and my photos:

18055894_1014455765352741_6021563018920153684_o GG on snowflake sweatshirt
This is GG, my water loving cat. I’ve written two children’s picture books about her.

Here is your Fun Feline photo: Did you know kitties have whiskers ABOVE their eyes? How did I learn about that? I read it in a nonfiction BOOK. Yippee for facts one can read and learn about, right? Promoting literacy, motivating children to read, and inspiring them to write their own picture books has become my passion. Would you please consider donating to this campaign of mine, if you are able? I am hoping 17966218_1014457115352606_7998322466836385601_o GG with eye whiskers 2to take my business to the next level and impact MANY children!! https://www.gofundme.com/BarbsBooksAV4Kids


Thanks for reading. You’ve heard folks say, “You can take the teacher out of the school but you can’t take the school out of the teacher,” right? That’s me!!

Get them outside for the WRITE reasons

Here is a great way to encourage children to get off the screens for a while, and write a book!!  Many of us are concerned that kids aren’t getting enough physical exercise, but this post hopes to encourage cognitive exercise:

GG with phone

We had a snow and ice storm in the Northeast this past week, and I thought it was the purr-fect opportunity to encourage elementary school children to write a class book. Yippee! We actually had a day off, even though the veteran teachers told me, “This school never closes!”

IMG_2355 The Snowy Day

First I read the book,  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I asked each of them to tell us what they did on their day off. Everyone had a chance to share and think about how to verbalize their thoughts. I gave them each a piece of white paper and explained that I wanted them to draw a picture of what they did that day. Some of them drew pictures of themselves sledding, others drew dads snowball fighting with them and their siblings, and, of course, they drew their little snow angels. One little girl even drew the tracks she made in the snow with their feet. Cute, right?

Younger ones can explain what’s happening in their picture so an adult can write it out for them. And, of course, older ones can do the writing themselves on the back of their picture. I gave them an added incentive, and told them I would put a “special stamp” on their picture if they worked really hard! And, that was just what they needed. They did a great job. Now I have pages for our new class book. I am applauding!!

Homeschooling families can do this as well, perhaps with siblings or within co-ops. When I homeschooled my only son, we made books in a binder so we could keep a record of all of his writing. “Mama” added some fun pages too, just to role model and keep it entertaining for him.

I have also used photographs of spring trees and flowers to encourage children to write books. Last year, I had third graders thinking about the early signs of spring and what flowers bloom. We learned about the flowering trees and those gorgeous first flowers. I had encouraged them to write non-fiction books, as they learned about pear trees, redbud trees, daffodils, forsythias, snapdragons, and violas. They learned a lot of new vocabulary and how to write about factual information, and how to make it interesting for readers.

With children so into electronic screens these days, encouraging them to read and write has become my passion. Maybe this is true because I struggled in school, and I believe it is important to encourage this generation of students to become thinkers and excellent communicators.

Click here for more information on Barb’s Author Visits and Book Making classes

Let’s turn on the January Juice!

As I went back to the kindergarten class after the holidays, as a substitute, I decided to allow the children to write thank you letters to Santa Claus. (Of course, if they didn’t celebrate Christmas they could have written thank you letters to relatives, or anyone they wanted to thank.) I was excited to do this activity because I know they love to share about the gifts they received so why not make it an educational activity as well, right? In this particular school, it’s pretty well understood that children aren’t allowed to bring in their own toys for show and tell anyway. For obvious reasons, I think that’s a very good idea.

The children were excited to share that they received the usual things like games, (UNO is very popular in this group), dolls, stuffed animals, colored pencil sets, winter hats and even a remote control car. Then, I heard that others received a wrestling stadium, Hatchimals, a Doc Mcstuffings Doctor Bag set, miscellaneous Pokemon things, Super Hero thangs, and of course Star wars everything. Oh, and let’s not forget about everything, and anything, created by Legos. (I have to admit I like Legos myself! One day I will buy myself a Lego train set!)

Since I enjoy talking with these little people anyway, I started asking questions like, “What is a Hatchimal?” and “Who is Doc Mac .. did you say Stuffings?” “What do you actually do with a wrestling stadium?”

Well, they could talk about such things for H-O-U-R-S!! And, you know they have so much information to share on these topics!

So how it is that these same people return to school in January and don’t remember the days of the week, or the current month, or where we keep supplies, or what our schedule is each day, not to mention anything academic they were working on in December?

Are these the same children that can talk about all the latest and greatest superheros, or Pokemon characters,  TV shows for children, not to mention their favorite dinosaurs? Some children have an amazing amount of dinosaur knowledge, or Star Wars movies, and characters at five years of age…. whoa!!

Isn’t it amazing how much children CAN learn when they are motivated?

 This is our opportunity as teachers, even home educators, to instill in children that they can learn so much more than they think they can. If they can tell me all kind of details about all these different dinosaurs, and superheroes, they sure can learn what they’re supposed to learn in school!

This is what I call “January Juice.” Juice them up, motivate them, and encourage them!

Years ago, there was a movie I watched that inspired me to become a teacher and encourage children to learn, and succeed in school. What I remember most about The Marva Collins Story was this teacher’s passion that children CAN learn!! She had to fight to keep her school open, and to convince people that children, even those with learning difficulties WILL learn despite the many limitations and obstacles that were in their way. This was a true story about this teacher who started her own school, and method of teaching. I highly recommend it!

Let’s get those kiddos learning, and reading again! Also, check this post out about how to help your child in: 

Finding the Right Book



Sharing the Gift of Generosity and Understanding: Part 2 (Updated)

Hi everyone! I wanted to give you an update from my last post. In it, I described a plan to encourage Kindergarten children, and older children, to be more “other directed” this month, rather than focused on what they will get as gifts this holiday season.

Since reading Crazy Hair Day, the children understand that they can make someone feel good after a ‘difficult situation’ arises. So I drew my own version of ‘Stanley’ and created a cover for the book we will be working on for the next few weeks.


We also read A Chair for My Mother and they were SILENT as I read about the fire which created much devastation to the home of the family in the story.

I gave them the challenge to watch each other and see who is being kind, generous, helpful or understanding during the day. As I left them, I gave them the idea that they could write thank you letters to people who are being extra kind to others. I explained that those thank you letters would become the pages in our book.

Right afterwards, as they were playing in our gym during indoor recess, a little boy was crying because someone yanked a football out of his hand. The poor guy doesn’t exactly have the same throwing and catching skills as the taller more experienced guys do, so he often feels left out as they run faster and can catch the ball more quickly. After I had the appropriate conversations with those involved, another child (who was listening) threw the ball right to him so he could practice catching it.

And, yes, I capitalized on that moment!! I very loudly praised her in front of everyone, and encouraged the boy to thank her. I also asked him if would be willing to write a thank you letter to her for our book. He worked VERY hard on that letter this morning, and I couldn’t be prouder of the two of them!! Thus, we have our book started, with page number one complete as a great example!! I have also created blank pages for the book with the starter sentences; “Thank you (another child’s name). It was so kind of you to ________________________________________________________.”

And, it just so happens that one of our teachers was very sick this week, and we started creating a very large “Get Well card” for her. This morning, I saw a little boy bring in a picture he made for her at home yesterday, and he presented it to her today upon her return. I am hopeful that someone will write a letter thanking people for encouraging our sick teacher.

We will continue removing links from our paper chain as the days go by this month, but not to get excited about the holidays, but to celebrate our becoming much more kind to each other. After all, aren’t we to spread peace and goodwill?

Since I have written this post, I found two need book titles I thought I’d share that I feel encourages kids to think of others:

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson  (A very creative way of dealing with someone a child might not like.)

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson  (January is a great month for this book since MLK Jr day is fast upon us, and very young children can benefit form learning about the lessons we have learned from our history, and, of course this amazing man, Martin Luther King, Jr.)

We have about 7 pages in our book. Although this was a good challenge for them I am hopeful I can refer to it, or create a sequel, as I continue to encourage children to think of others.



Sharing the Gift of Generosity and Understanding

Over the years and as the holidays approach, I have typically created a paper chain for elementary children to patiently count down the days, as we cut off one link a day, sharing in the joy of the season. However, this year, a new idea popped up in my semi-retired teacher brain. I can’t wait to try this and see how it impacts my students! Maybe you’d like to try this as well, in some way for a classroom setting, or within a family.

As I am in a supportive role in two schools this year, I have not requested books from my local library in time because, honestly, I only need a few this year. Most of the fun holiday books I usually reserve have already  been put on hold by other teachers, and although I was a tad disappointed, I realized they probably need them more than I do.

Then I thought, “Maybe I could do something different, especially for my kindergarten class?” Many of them are excited to share ‘Santa will bring me a new bike, or a pretty doll or the newest Nintendo game system,’ or whatever their little hearts desire. And yet, I know several families that have lost loved ones this year, and in one case, I know of a boy who was seriously injured and is in recovery.

Since my heart has been saddened by these events, why not use this time to read aloud books that will encourage children to become more other directed? Perhaps we could have some conversations about being more  generous, empathetic, understanding, and just kind to others.

And then, simply because I forgot a the book I wanted to read to my kindergarten class last week, a child suggested we read Barney Saltzberg’s Crazy Hair Day.

What a perfect book to start with! You see Stanley was so excited that it was Crazy Hair Day until he arrived in school to find out that it was really School Picture Day. The way his classmates thought of him, and encouraged his heart is so endearing and has already started some good conversations about helping others.

To date I plan on reading these sweet stories:

A Chair for My Mother

The Invisible Boy

The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Christmas Center Tree

If you need some more ideas, your local librarian can help you find similar books, and that is my intention as well. Also, a friend posted this on Facebook this week, and I thought that it was pretty timely:

Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

As I close for today, I wonder if you are interested in entering my Kitty Caption Contest?
What a great time to win a children’s picture book for young child, right? Written in rhyming text by a semi-retired teacher my books are great for children learning early reading skills, and they will be enchanted by the adorable photographs of the water loving cat. Give the gift of reading!!

You have one more week left to enter to win one of my books for free at Barb’s Books !

Also, I’m thrilled to share that there is an update to this post now. Click on Part Two

Educating kids can happen on nature walks, naturally

As we are officially in fall, or autumn, what a great time of year to get kids outside into the fresh air to experience the change in seasons, and new sights. As you gather with children in about 12 days for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, here are some fun ways to make an outside walk educational. From fallen leaves in gorgeous new colors to acorns on the ground there is much to see when seasons change.

By now children may have enjoyed visiting a favorite pumpkin patch, cooler temperatures, and maybe even experienced a little jack frost nipping at their noses. On a recent visit to a farm with some children, I was able to photograph this pumpkin to show them how it actually grows on a plant. Then, we saw the seeds several pumpkins left behind as those pumpkins rotted away. Children love to explore seeds, and acorns up close if you have a magnifying glass.

(*) See below for more on gardening with kids.

On a recent walk, I noticed some branches that could be used to help young children identify or create letters, and maybe they could be used to create words. (Keep reading!)

Funny looking sticks might be used to form letters, with a few tools. Just snip away what you don’t need to reveal a capital letter E, and you can probably see how the bottom parallel stick could be removed to form the capital, or uppercase, letter F.

I was even able to find enough sticks with letters to create one of my favorite words:


Also, a while ago I went for a walk with a Pre-K child in a neighborhood, and we looked at the various shapes in the houses. In this house I created online, look at all the triangles, circles, squares, rectangles, and even trapezoids you could help a child find as you walk around.


Interested in sharing with kids how our food grows on plants?

Don’t miss our second trip to Miss Janet’s garden.

If you have enjoyed this post, click here to receive Barb’s monthly Educational Newsletters for more teacher tips.

LIKE Barb’s Books on Facebook too, to get in on Barb’s next contest.

It’s a great time to win a free children’s book, right?

On the subject of books, here are some of my favorites for this time of year:
Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

Happy autumn!! Go ahead, rake up those leaves and jump in with your kids!!

Back to School …. for everyone?

Assuming you have a family …..ahhhh ….. the kids are back in school! Perhaps, like me though, you are saddened by the end of the care free days of summer, or you have a child entering Kindergarten this year, and you have mixed feelings about your growing child reaching this milestone, and certainly not being “your baby” any longer.

And, maybe you still have younger siblings at home. Your older children have new school supplies, new teachers, new schedules, and yes, new educational goals. Your child’s teacher will review them, or refer to them, in a few weeks when you go to the “Meet Your Teacher” night.

BUT, what about those younger ones?

Have you ever thought of developing goals for your preschool children?
Here are just a few general thoughts I have on the subject, since I taught Pre-K, and I’d love your thoughts:

IMG_20160420_162029_639 GG office Library best

  • Help them develop a serious love of reading Check out:  Once upon a time
  • Math concepts, and problem solving opportunities, are meaningful. Consider: It just makes good sense
  • There is so much to experiment with and explore (See the photo below from my Facebook page. Cute idea, right?)
  • Gross and fine motor skills
  • We live in community with others (develop emotional and social skills)
  • Technology, in moderation, can be a useful tool

From FB Bear in the clouds

Summer (and Summer Olympic Games) are not over yet!

As I have had a chance to watch the Summer Olympics Games, I have been amazed at the various athletes. Go USA! My favorites to watch this past week have been the swimming, diving and gymnastics .. whoa! They have inspired me, and challenged me since I am ready to get more active, get in shape, and lose, at least, 10 pounds myself. Oh, how I wish!

I’ve also been a tad convicted. I mean how much time does a gymnast, devote to her training?  And what do they ‘give up’ so they can train, and work out that long each day? I thought I heard one announcer saying that the girls haven’t gone to the prom, or movies, or other things most high school girls like to do. I read that these girls work out 30 hours a week, and spend most of their day at the gym. Can you imagine?

I would be embarrassed to share how much time I (don’t) spend on exercise vs. how much time I (do) spend on the internet. Yes, I’ll keep that little secret to myself.

And that brings me to children. Remember, down deep in my heart, I’m still an educator,  even though I consider myself semi-retired now.

I called a school within the last 9 months, about my Author Visits, and spoke to the principal. As I described my presentation, she was very encouraging AND she got very excited as I shared how I can motivate her students.

Really? Why? Don’t have long range goals? Do they lack confidence? Are they well supported? I am just wondering here. She was referring to the older students in her school, maybe fourth and fifth graders, and it broke my heart.

Maybe that’s why I am so passionate about giving children a good solid foundation in the early years. Not everyone competes in the Olympics but children really can do so much! See 14 Inspirational Kids

And, for those of you with young children, check out Build the LEGO Summer Olympic Games! from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.

Congratulations to all the winners, in all the different countries, may we all find meaningful goals we can work hard to achieve, and inspire the next generation to do so.

Here’s are two more summer ideas:

This one comes from “Summer activities for Kids”: Ice Cube Excavation

And if you want to win a free book for a child, you still have just over two weeks to enter Barb’s SUMMER CONTEST


Silliness in Summer

When children open Playdough, a million different things can be created. Very young children love to manipulate it, mold it, roll it and squish it between their fingers to experience what they can do with it. As a retired Pre-K teacher, I also know how well this helps strengthen those small muscles in fingers and hands. Eventually as those muscles are developed, children are increasingly more able to cut with scissors and hold pencils properly to draw pictures, and write letters.

Did you know, though, that there are many different concoctions children can explore and play with? (Now there is a fun vocabulary word for your kids: concoctions) My son, and I, had such fun mixing and exploring all kinds of things together when he was little. One concoction we created was Oobleck after reading Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr Seuss.

That is an interesting substance for kids to experience!

Check your local library, or Amazon for books on the subject.

Our favorite was mixing flour, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract to make a variety of yummy cookies. Yes, some concoctions are edible. We made sugar cookies, and lots of chocolate chip cookies from scratch. Talk about good times!

Also, back when I was much younger, I simply loved Silly Putty

I remember using Silly Putty to lift comics in the newspaper. I had never seen anything like that before! It was so cool because you could also stretch it real far, make it into ball that bounced, and it would never dry out. You just needed to pop it back in the little plastic egg container, and you could play with it again tomorrow.

Silly putty for wordpress

Older children may be interested in discovering the ingredients to make silly putty. I recently met a teacher who did just that with her class.

There are many recipes available online, just be careful to read the ingredients to be sure they are safe for children to use. Here is one Silly Putty recipe.

Oh, and since it is still summer come check out Barb’s summer contest on her Facebook page, Barb’s Books. Some lucky child will win one of my children’s picture books about my silly, water loving cat, GG.

IMG_0148 (2) Barbs Books and GG
Barb’s Books, illustrated with photos of her water loving cat, GG, are written in rhyming text.

As you encourage artistic expression, see also Creating a Learning Space.

What a cute way to make a child feel that his endeavors are very important.