Monthly Archives: June 2012

Creative Ideas for Peaceful School Mornings

Happy School Kidsby Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

This article originally appeared in Little Black Dress|Little Red Wagon Magazine. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win $20 to The School Box. Woohoo!

It’s 8 a.m. and my household has already witnessed three meltdowns, two resulting in tears, and one of them mine. Seriously, it should not be this difficult to get the kids ready for school and out the door.

When I was pregnant, I envisioned school-day mornings with homemade breakfasts, freshly poured (maybe even squeezed) OJ, neatly parted hair and happy smiles. While this may have been pie-in-the-sky, I am a put-together enough person to at least achieve toaster waffles and canned juice without weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, this year, dangit, I am vowing to pull off more peaceful school mornings. And I’ve called in three pros to advise and counsel: Cheryl Bahneman, Francie Towey, and Beverly Boney. As the champions for working moms everywhere, these three run the Primrose Schools at Brookstone and Oregon Park (Cheryl), Primrose Schools at Macland Pointe and Sprayberry (Francie), and Primrose at Bentwater (Beverly).

I love, love, LOVE the fresh, creative tips they shared for making mornings more peaceful on the home front.

Make a Morning Map

Create a checklist or picture map to help kids stay on track with the morning routine: make bed, go potty, brush teeth, get bookbag, etc. Laminate the list and provide a dry-erase marker so that children can check off the steps as they go. “Setting concrete expectations about the sequence of tasks is important for little ones,” affirms Francie.

“Allowing your child to chime in when creating the list will ensure their ownership over this idea, too,” Cheryl adds. Let them help type and add clip art to make their Morning Map. Feeling crafty? Take a pic of your child doing each action, and use those for a customized checklist.

Create a Family Command Center Binder

Fill a three-ring binder with page protectors and dividers. Label the dividers: Family Basics, Contacts, Pending, and then label one divider with each child’s name.

In the page protectors under Family Basics, slide in emergency info and babysitter instructions. The Contacts section is for important numbers and business cards: school, doctor, vet, painter, plumber. Pending page protectors hold Netflix mailers, receipts for online purchases, upcoming birthday invitations. In each child’s section, keep their extracurricular schedules, school information and the like. “Creating organizational systems that work is key for peaceful routines,” affirms Beverly.

Have Homemade Breakfast in a Hurry!

Okay, so making a huge hot breakfast every morning isn’t always (ever?) realistic. Instead, opt for grab-and-go homemade: Make batches of homemade pancakes and waffles once a month. Freeze them on cookie sheets and then rebag into freezer baggies to reheat in the toaster. Voila—homemade in a hurry!

Take the Pressure Off

Finally, set a positive tone for your child’s school day by letting them know you’re behind them, regardless of performance. “Children thrive more when they don’t feel pressure from their mom or dad to perform,” shares Francie. “The most important attribute a parent can teach their child is to try. If a child learns that, they will do amazing things—without stress.”

Sources:

Primrose School at Brookstone, www.primrosebrookstone.com

Primrose School at Macland Pointe, www.primrosemaclandpointe.com

Primrose School at Oregon Park, www.primroseoregonpark.com

Primrose School of Sprayberry, www.primrosesprayberry.com

Primrose School at Bentwater, www.primrosebentwater.com

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Filed under Academic Success, Organization, Parenting

comment winner!

We have a comment winner! If you’re new here, we randomly draw one of our commenters from the past month, and the lucky duck wins a $20 gift card to The School Box (which can be used online or in stores). This month’s winner was…

Jennifer Nuss

She commented on New comment on your post “Fostering Text-to-Life Connections through Common Summertime Activities – Part I.”

Comment:

Just going to the library is a way to make a huge impact on a students literacy life. Anytime you expose kids to books and talks about them, it makes connections that are so important in their little brains! :)

You can see all comments on this post here.

Enjoy, Jennifer!! Go get some goodies for your classroom!

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Filed under Free Stuff!, Summer Learning

Fostering Text-to-Life Connections through Common Summertime Activities – Part II

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are drawn monthly. 

Making connections between a text and a reader’s life is an important part of reading comprehension. The more young readers are encouraged to relate books to their own experiences, the better they’ll be able to access prior knowledge, make predictions, infer cause and effect relationships, and synthesize meaning. And, the more readers practice making connections, the more natural this critical reading skill will become.

So, why not use summer to practice making authentic text-to-life connections? It’s easy. Just pick a book and read it before, during, or after an activity with a similar theme. Before you begin reading and also during reading, ask prompting questions like:

  • “Have you ever done this?”
  • “What was your favorite part about _____(fill in experience)___?”
  • “How do you feel when you’re ___(with Grandma, at the beach, camping, etc.)___?”
  • “How do you think the character is feeling now? How would you feel in this situation?”
  • “What did we do next when we were ____(experience)__? What do you think the character is going to do next?”
  • “How was this like our trip? How was this book different?”

To get you started, we shared a list of books that connect to visiting grandparents and going to the beach in Part I of this series. Now, here’s a list of books that connect to camping, flying on an airplane, and making something creative out of an empty box!

Summertime Activity:

Camping!

The books that connect to the activity:

S if for S'mores

S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet, by Helen Foster James

From what to pack, to where to go, to what to do when you get there, S is for Smores: A Camping Alphabet takes readers on an A-Z trail exploring this outdoor pastime.

Canoe Days, by Gary Paulsen

This gorgeous picture book is by the award-winning outdoor youth novelist of Hatchet. Here’s the publisher’s review: Opening this book is like sitting down in a canoe, taking up a paddle, and gliding out into the summer beauty of a hidden lake. In this picture book that is as refreshing and inviting as a perfect canoe day, a fawn peeks out from the trees as ducklings fan out behind their mother. Ruth Wright Paulsen’s sunlit paintings and Gary Paulsen’s poetic text capture all the peace and pleasure of a day when water and sky are one.

Summertime Activity:

Going on a picnic!

The books that connect to the activity:

The Picnic, by Ruth Brown

This delightful book narrates a picnic from the perspective of the animals that live both on top of–and under–the ground.

The Bears’ Picnic by Stan and Jan Baranstein

Oh, silly Father Bear! That’s not how you pick a picnic spot! In this bear-errific misadventure, Father Bear leads the family on a quest for the perfect picnic spot…but ends up trying out quite a few subpar spots (train tracks, dumping ground, mosquito swamp) first.

Summertime Activity:

Turning an empty box into a house, or castle, or race car, or ship, or….

The books that connect to the activity:

Christina Katerina and the Box, by Patricia Lee GauchChristina Katerina and the Box

If you can get your hands on a copy, DO IT! This imaginative book was my favorite growing up (and judging from the many reviews on Amazon.com, I wasn’t alone), and now it’s a favorite for my own young readers. Christina likes nothing more than the promise of an empty box. So, when a new fridge arrives at her house one summer day, Christina quickly claims the box. She pulls it into her front yard where it becomes a castle, club house, race car, and ballroom floor. It will inspire countless hours of imaginative play with your own empty boxes!

Other Summertime Activity Books:

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Filed under Academic Success, Critical Thinking, Home Schooling, Parenting, Reading, Summer Learning

Fostering Text-to-Life Connections through Common Summertime Activities – Part I

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are drawn monthly. 

Making connections between a text and a reader’s life is an important part of reading comprehension. The more a young reader is encouraged to relate a book to their own experiences, the better they’ll be able to access prior knowledge, make predictions, infer cause and effect relationships, and synthesize meaning. And, the more readers practice making connections, the more natural this critical reading skill will become.

So, why not use summer to practice making authentic text-to-life connections? It’s easy. Just pick a book and read it before, during, or after an activity with a similar theme. Before you begin reading and during reading, ask prompting questions like:

  • “Have you ever done this?”
  • “What was your favorite part about _____(fill in experience)___?”
  • “How do you feel when you’re ___(with Grandma, at the beach, camping, etc.)___?”
  • “How do you think the character is feeling now? How would you feel in this situation?”
  • “What did we do next when we were ____(experience)__? What do you think the character is going to do next?”

To get you started, here’s a list of books that foster connections with typical family summertime activities, like picnics and beach trips.

Summertime Activity:

Visiting grandparents! 

The books that connect to the activity:

Just Grandma and Me (Little Critter series), by Mercer Mayer.

Little Critter and his grandma spend an adventurous day at the beach together! Grandma, Grandpa and Me is another good Little Critter connection opportunity; in this book, Little Critter spends a day on his grandparents’ farm.

The Baranstein Bears and the Week at Grandma’s by Jan and Stan Baranstein. 

Brother and Sister worry about spending a week at Gran and Gramp’s house. By the end of the visit they’ve learned a lot from their lively grandparents–and the older bears have discovered how wonderful it is to be grandparents.

Grandpa Green, by Lane Smith

Grandpa Green was a farmboy and a kid with chickenpox and a soldier and, most of all, an artist. In this captivating new picture book, readers follow Grandpa Green’s great-grandson into a garden he created, a fantastic world where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten. 2012 Caldecott Honor winner.

Summertime Activity:

Going to the beach!

The books that connect to the activity:

Harry by the Sea, by Gene Zion.

Harry, our favorite dirty dog, takes a trip to the beach with his family. But, in true Harry fashion, he has a run-in with a large clump of seaweed that renders him unrecognizable by his family. Funny antics abound!

Curious George Goes to the Beach, by H. A. Rey

One hot summer day, George and the man with the yellow hat go to the beach. What fun George has at the beach! What fun he has feeding the seagulls! It’s fun, that is, until George must find a clever way to save the day.

Dolphins at Daybreak (Magic Treehouse Series), by Mary Pope Osborne. 

It’s sink or swim for Jack and Annie when the Magic Tree House whisks them off to the middle of the ocean. Luckily, they find a mini-submarine on a coral reef. Unluckily, they are about to meet a giant octopus and one very hungry shark. Will the dolphins save the day? Or are Jack and Annie doomed to be dinner?

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Virtual Summer Field Trips {without leaving home!}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box gift card; winners drawn monthly. 

“Van Gogh’s ear got cut off!” This was how my 5-year-old son greeted me after art & museum week at summer camp. “Yeah, it was probably cuz some kids were playing with scissors,” he wisely concluded.

Of course I found this humorous, but then, as he rattled off van Gogh’s bio and described with enthusiasm how he had painted his own Starry Night at camp, I shifted from bemused to downright impressed.

So, what had inspired my rough-and-tumble boy to suddenly declare, “I think I want to be an artist one day, a really good one like van Gogh”? Turns out it was a bevy of virtual museum field trips they’d taken during camp.

His enthusiasm in turn inspired the educator-mom in me. So, I popped open my laptop and collected a list of truly stellar world-class museum sites. No need to book a plane ticket; we can visit the Smithsonian, MET, and Louve without ever leaving our living room.

Here’s a rundown of the best:

The Smithsonian {for kids}: www.si.edu/kids

Meet Smithsonian scientists, watch the LIVE animal cams at the National Zoo, and–best part!–take a virtual interactive tour of the Dinosaur Exhibit. Awesome!

The Louvre: www.louvre.fr

Did you know that The Louvre was originally a fortress built by the French king Philippe Auguste? It was intended to protect Paris from attack via the Seine. Today, visitors can walk around the original perimeter moat and view the piers that supported the drawbridge…and you can take a virtual tour here! Or take a virtual tour of Egyptian Antiquities (mummies!).

The U.S. Mint: www.usmint.gov

Learn the history of our currency with a kid-friendly, interactive timeline where you’ll pick up some intriguing facts. (Like that our currency system was inspired by an idea from John Hancock. Who knew?)

Then, play some money games! Kids can also travel to different parts of the world to learn about their currencies, too, in this fun toon.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: www.metmuseum.org

Almost their entire collection can be viewed online! Simply search for a piece of art, and voila! An image and information about the piece appears.

But the best part of this website is the interactive family and children’s media section. Took some digging to find it, but here are the best spots:

Cezanne’s Astonishing Apples: Learn about Cezanne and view his masterpieces.

Aaron’s Awesome Adventure: An animated read-aloud of the story of a boy who visits the Met.

And check out their TweenCasts, special podcasts produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art specifically for adolescent audiences. Fabulous!

So go tour some cultural wonders of the world. Who knows what you might discover–aside from scissor safety, that is. 

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Filed under Art, Parenting, Summer Learning, Teacher Inspiration, Virtual tour

Favorite {FUN} Ways to Keep Learning!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn each month.  

Don’t let summer turn into a brain bummer! There are a slew of super fun activities out there that keep mental skills sharp. Here are some favorite games, workbooks, and activities that parents can easily pull off all summer–without a lot of hassle. And, best part: kids LOVE them! In fact, the games would even make great birthday presents….

Games {for the whole family to play together}

Pathwords

The “Tetris meets Words Search” puzzle brings the fun of our popular PathWords game to younger players. Players exercise verbal and spatial reasoning as they place the Tetris-stylepuzzle pieces onto the challenge grid so the letters under each piece spell a word. Single player game. Ages 6+, Grades 1-4, $19.99.

Yikerz!

Place your magnets down on the board and try to avoid attracting the other pieces already played. The object is to get rid of all your pieces. If they collapse together, those pieces are yours to add to your stack. Includes travel pouch for portable fun! Ages 14+, $16.99.

Workbooks {good interactive ones!}

Summer Bridge

Help children maintain skills while away from school with this award-winning series and original summer learning program! Daily activities in reading, writing, math and language arts with bonus activities in science and geography. Also included are full-color flash cards, incentive contract calendars, a certificate of completion, and more! Grades PreK-8th, 160 pages, $14.99.

Summer Fit

This innovative workbook series integrates online resources with workbook-based learning to help students retain basic skills in reading, writing, math, and language arts while–get this!–keeping them physically active on a daily basis! The daily fitness routines in this series were developed with input from coaches and trainers throughout the country. Grades PreK-8th, $12.95.

Learning on the Go {for swim meets, vacations, car trips and more}

The perfectly portable, totally independent, completely interactive preschool learning system! Cards can be used alone as traditional flash cards, or when used with any Hot Dots or Hot Dots Jr. Pen (sold separately), fun lights and encouraging sounds guide children through the cute, colorful lessons. Each card set features 72 activities on double-sided cards and teaches children all they need for academic success. $14.99
 
Travel Blurt!
This handy, portable version of best-selling Blurt includes 75 new Blurt definition cards and 450 new Blurt clues. Take turns passing the cards, reading the definitions, and blurting out the answers. Ages 10+. 3-4 players, $12.99.

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Filed under Academic Success, Activities, Art, Parenting, Summer Learning