ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: August 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Classroom Set Up Resources: Back to School Giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed.  Congratulations comment #7, chosen by, julia shoemake

Our newest feature writer, Ana from Ingles360, has been sharing with us for a month now.  In response we have heard from several of you who have been looking for ways to incorporate a second language into your teaching.  On her personal site Ana has put together many downloadable kits to enhance your teaching.  This week she is offering a giveaway here on ABC & 123!
Are you  ready for this giveaway?

you will receive my Back to School Kit with 50 reproducibles ready to print, cut and use!

my Back to School thematic pack with lots of printables for literacy and math skills

and a set of printables for the first days of school with bookmarks, pencil toppers and cards

How to participate: To be entered to win this fun back to school collection please leave a comment below.  

Additional Entries: Consider following Ana's personal blog and letting us know in a separate comment.  If you choose to tell others about this giveaway via twitter, facebook, or your blog please let us know that as well for additional entries!

Entry in this giveaway will be open until Wednesday, September 7th at 10 PM EST.  A winner will be chosen randomly after comments close and will be notified accordingly.  Good Luck!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Playful Learning: Creating a Writing Center (giveaway included)

Update: This giveaway is now closed. It was fun to see all of the excitement about Mariah's book and e course.  The winners below have been contacted regarding their gifts.  Thanks for your participation!

 Katie (book winner) comment  #49
 Cindy (e course) comment #45

Today we are thrilled to introduce you to Mariah Bruel, the author of Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Wonder and Joy.  We are honored to be part of her blog tour.  She is a creative teacher and talented writer.  Find out more about Playful Learning by checking out her site.

Creating A Writing Center

It never ceases to amaze me how a well stocked, organized writing center, inspires spontaneous writing among young children. The goal is to create a space that invites a variety of impromptu writing experiences for your child. By having an area dedicated to providing writing tools, papers, and a place to work children can independently write lists, letters, stories, or books—building writing skills through authentic and engaging writing experiences.

Creating a writing area in your home or classroom does not need to be complicated or overwhelming. By simply leaving out a few interesting writing supplies  you can inspire the young writers in your life. Here is a helpful list of some fun materials you can add to your child's writing area...
  •       A variety of writing papers printed on colorful, playful paper (download the Nurturing Young Authors printables here
  •       Alphabet Chart
  •       Blank note cards and envelopes
  •       Sticky notes
  •       Blank books 
  •       Assortment of fun pens and pencils 
  •       Fine point permanent markers
  •       Fine point black markers
  •       Colored pencils
  •       Alphabet stickers
  •       Alphabet stamps
  •       Interesting hole and paper punches
  •       Tape
  •       Glue sticks
  •       Scissors
  •       Erasers
  •       Pencil Sharpener

One of my favorite ways to create interesting writing areas for children is to think "out of the box" when it comes to the storage, organization and display of the materials. I love it when I can re-purpose items I already have on hand. Below are some images of storage solutions that can be created by using everyday household items.

Magazine racks and file holders make great displays for a variety of writing papers.

If you have limited space, I recommend filling a utensil caddy with pens, pencils, and other interesting writing materials. Most caddies are big enough to hold blank cards and books as well. Simply place the caddy on your coffee table and watch the writing begin! Caddies are also great for moving from room to room or even outside when the inspiration strikes.

A wire fruit basket along with some buckets cab be used to house scissors, hole punches, tape, pens, pencils and glitter glue. Napkin holders also make great holders for blank cards, envelopes or list paper.

Hooks and buckets are an easy and inexpensive way to make use of open wall space above a table or desk.

Here are some more "out of the box" sources of inspiration...


After spending time reading and re-reading my copy of Playful Learning I am especially excited to be joining Mariah this fall for her Playful Learning Spaces E-Course.  While taking the course I will be sharing brief tidbits here on ABC & 123 during our bi-weekly Show and Tell feature.  However, I would love for as many of you to join me as possible.    

Mariah, and her publisher Shambhla Publications, are offering 2 great resources as giveaways to you!  
~1FREE admission to the 6-week e-course (value $125)
~1 copy of the book 

Areyou  as excited as I am about either of these opportunities?  Please leave a comment here to be entered into the random drawing.  If you would specify whether you are interested in the book, the e-course, or both that would be helpful.  Comments will close on this giveaway on Tuesday, September 6th and the winner will be notified immediately.

If you are interested in reading more, here are other stops on the Playful Learning blog tour!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hit the Playground (with a fantastic playground pack giveaway)

This giveaway is now closed.  Congratulations to the winner of the playground prize pacakge, comment #32 (chosen by 

Blogger blessedintexas said...

What was your favorite playground game? Four Square - although I can't exactly remember the rules now.
What do your children most enjoy doing on the playground? climbing!
How is the playground at your school? my son says it's boring.

If I were to ask my soon to be second grader what he is most looking forward to this year, he would most certainly answer, "Recess!" Your children too? There is no question that the playground is an important place and there is lots of learning going on while the kids are outside.

When I was in elementary school some of my favorite recess games were: What Time Is It, Mr. Fox, Red Rover, Red Light/Green Light, and anything that involved a jump rope.

Skipping Rope: Here is a great list of traditional jump roping rhymes and tricks to learn.

Peaceful Playgrounds lists 5 key components for a safe and happy school playground.

The Bulldog Readers' Blog reminded me of some of my favorite playground songs.

School Outfitters Blog lists their ideas for the Top 15 Playground Games.

This fall Sprite is offering parents and teachers the chance to win a $25,000 grant to refresh your local school's outdoor active space!

They are investing $2 million to construct, refurbish and creatively refresh more than 150 neighborhood parks, athletic fields, school playgrounds and basketball courts. Ultimately, their goal is to give young people a chance to be physically active, inspire their imagination and create clean, safe and creative places to play for years to come.

To submit your school, head to the My Coke Rewards for Schools Program and enter the point codes found on all Sprite and Sprite Zero products.


Sprite is offering one reader of ABC & 123 a playground prize pack valued at $100!

Sprite Spark Parks Pen
Sprite Spark Parks Backpack
Sprite Coupon
Medibuddy First Aid Kit
Hand Sanitizer Wipes
Green Jumprope
Sizzlin' Cool Sling Racket or Baseball Glove set
Crayola 3-D Chalk Set
Everything Kids Travel Activity Book
Tootle Turtle Bubble Set
$25Amex gift card

To be entered to win, please leave a comment below.
What was your favorite playground game?  
What do your children most enjoy doing on the playground? 
How is the playground at your school?

One winner will be chosen at random from all the comments after the close of this giveaway - Saturday, August 27 at 10 PM EST.

Disclosure: The prize was provided by Sprite, but Sprite is not a sponsor, administrator, or involved in any other way with this giveaway. All opinions expressed in the post are my own and not those of Sprite or The Coca-Cola Company. Entrants must be 18 or older and located in the US or Canada only.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Author Spotlight: Ron Clark

Not Every Child Deserves a Cookie
By Ron Clark,

Author of The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers

Last year one of our new fifth graders was really struggling. He entered RCA below grade level in every subject and he was failing several courses. When I met with his mom she defended her son by saying, "Well, he made all A's at his other school."  When I told her that was shocking, she explained that he had done so well because he had a really great teacher. Urgh!

There is a misconception in our country that teachers whose students make good grades are providing them with a good education. Parents, administrators, and the general communiry shouldn't assume good grades equal high academic mastery. In fact, in many cases those teachers could be giving good grades to avoid conflict with the parents and administration. It's easier to fly under the radar and give high grades than to give a student what he or she truly deserves and face the scrutiny of the administration and the wrath of an angry parent.

I have attended numerous awards ceremonies where practically every child in the class received an honor roll certificate. Parents always cheer, take pictures, and look so proud. I just sit there and think, Ignorance is bliss. Are these kids really being challenged, or are they only achieving mediocre standards set forth by a mediocre teacher in an educational system that is struggling to challenge even our average students? Yet, all of the parents look so proud and content.

The worst part about it, however, is that I am afraid most parents would rather their child get a good education where they received straight A's and praise than an outstanding education where they struggled and received C's.

At the beginning of every year, I give my fifth graders an assignment. They have to read a book and present a project on one of its characters -- specifically, they have to figure out a way to cleverly show such details as what the individual kept in his heart (what he loved the most), saw with his eyes (his view of the world), "stood for" with his feet, and held to strongly in his backbone (his convictions). I encourage the students to "bring it" and to use creativity and innovation to bring the body of the character to life.

Most of the students will bring a trifold where they have drawn a body and labeled the locations. Some will use glitter, and some will be quite colorful. I am sure in most classrooms the projects would receive high grades, mostly A's and B's. I, however, hand out grades of 14, 20, 42, and other failing marks. The parents and students are always upset, and many want an explanation.

I ask them to trust me, and I explain that if I gave those projects A's and B's, then the students wouldn't see a reason to improve their efforts on their next assignment. Some staff members have even said, "Ron, but you know what that child is dealing with in her home, and you know she did that project all by herself." I quickly tell them that society isn't going to make excuses for their home situations, and we can't either. If we make excuses and allowances, it will send the child the message that it's okay to make excuses for his or her performance based on circumstances, too. We just can't do it. We must hold every child accountable for high standards and do all we can to push the child to that level.

I recall giving one fifth-grade student a failing grade on her first project. She cried and cried. She had never made less than an A on her report card, and her mother was devastated, too. I explained that the low grade would be a valuable life lesson, and I gave the young girl, and the rest of the class, tips and strategies for receiving a higher score in the future. I showed them an example of a project that would have scored 70, a project in the 80s, and a project that would have earned an A.

I was pleased to see that her next project came to life with New York City skyscrapers that were sculpted from clay, miniature billboards that contained academic content, and streetlights that actually worked. The project was much, much better, and it received a 70.

As a final project, the students were instructed to create a time line that would contain a minimum of fifty significant dates in the history of a specific area of the world. The same young lady brought in her final assignment wrapped in trash bags. Removing it, I saw a huge, four-foot pyramid, a replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The student had made it out of cardboard and apparently had used sandpaper to make it feel like a real pyramid. It was beautiful, but it didn't contain a time line, so I told her the grade would not be passing.
She grinned at me, walked over to the pyramid, touched the top point, and suddenly three sides slowly fell open, revealing the inside. She had carved her outline on the inside, using detailed pictures, graphs, and descriptions of 150 major events. She even had hand-carved Egyptian artifacts and placed them throughout the inside of the pyramid, just as you would find in the tomb of a great pharaoh. She had handmade mummies that she had learned how to make on the Internet. She looked at me and said, "Mr. Clark, I have worked on this for weeks. I wanted it to be good enough. I wanted it to be an A." It was miraculous and spectacular. I looked at her, full of pride, and said with a smile, "Darling, it's an A."

If her initial project hadn't been an F, she never would have walked in with that pyramid. That child is about to graduate RCA, and she is ready to compete with any high school student across the country. She knows what high expectations are, she understands the value of a strong work ethic, and she knows how to achieve excellence. If we continue to dumb down education and to give students A's and B's because they "tried," we are doing them a disservice and failing to prepare them to be successful in the real world. That young lady couldn't walk into an elite high school and compete with a glitter-filled trifold. However, she can walk into any high school with that pyramid and her overall knowledge of how to achieve that type of excellence and stand high above her peers.

I often bake cookies for my students. I tell them it is my great-greatgrandma's recipe and that she handed it to me in secret on her deathbed. (Okay, a stretch.) As I pass out the cookies, the kids who are working hard receive one with delight; the students who aren't working as hard do not. Parents will call and say, "Mr. Clark, I heard you gave every child in the class a cookie except my child. Why are you picking on my child?"

Why does every child have to get the cookie? The parents claim that I will hurt the child's self-esteem. Has it really gotten to the point that we are so concerned with our children's self-esteem that we aren't realistic with them about their performance and abilities? If we give "cookies" when they aren't deserved, then we are telling our young people that they don't need to work hard to receive rewards. We are sending a message that the cookie will always come. That is why we have so many young people in their twenties who have no idea what it means to work hard. And that is why they are still looking to their parents to provide support (and to give them the cookie).

I tell my students who don't receive a cookie that I will be baking cookies the following week. I tell them that I will watch them until that time and that if they are trying hard they'll earn their cookie. It is shocking to see how much effort kids, regardless of their age, will display to get a cookie. And when it is earned, it means something. The students will glow with pride, and they will explain how they are going to eat half the cookie then and save the other half for later. Also, it tastes better than any cookie they have ever eaten, and it sends the message that with hard work comes rewards. If parents and teachers are just rewarding our kids without cause, we aren't teaching the value of personal effort.
We all need to teach our young people that not everyone deserves a pat on the back just because we are attempting to make everyone feel good. Giving praise that isn't earned only sets up our students for more failure in the long run.

If you are a teacher who wants to increase expectations but is afraid of the backlash from giving failing grades on assignments that will cause your parents and administration to freak out, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself When you give an assignment, show your students beforehand what you expect. Show a detailed description of what would earn a failing grade, a passing grade, and an outstanding grade. Share that with your administration as well to make sure it meets their approval, and then make your parents understand the expectations. Letting everyone know what is expected beforehand will leave no opportuniry for complaints after the grades have been given.

If you are going to give rewards, such as cookies, let the parents know the classroom behaviors that will earn the reward and the behaviors that will not. When students are struggling, let the parents know specifically the areas that need to be addressed. If the child still does not meet the criteria, you have been clear about your expectations and therefore negative conflicts can be avoided.

The above is an excerpt from the book The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers by Ron Clark. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2011 Ron L. Clark, Inc 

Ron Clark, 
author of The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers, is a New York Times bestselling author of The Essential 55, has been named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and was Oprah Winfrey's pick as her "Phenomenal Man." He founded The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, which more than 10,000 educators from around the world have visited to learn about the extraordinary ways that teachers and parents of RCA have helped children achieve great success.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bilingual Wednesdays- Count your sheep-Part 2

This is the last part of Count your sheep Bilingual post. 

To review  the numbers with my  niece, I made some sheep from felt in black and white. I added a piece of Velcro at the back and  let her count the sheep using my felt apron.

We sang this song in English and Spanish

10 little sheep
tune: 10 little indians

One, two, three little sheep
four, five, six little sheep
seven, eight, nine little sheep
ten little sheep!

Una, dos, tres ovejitas
cuatro, cinco, seis ovejitas
siete, ocho, nueve ovejitas,
diez ovejitas hay!

This time I wanted her to identify numerals and quantities so I made these posters to count sheep while reading in Spanish.

After that, we played using the Spanish Builder -Cuenta tus ovejas /Count your sheep filefolder game. It was a bit difficult for her at the beginning because she had to identify numerals and number words but she did a good job!

To assembly the game you need a filefolder, glue and contact paper or laminator. 
You will find mats, cards, labels and pockets for storage. 
Invite children to match numerals and number words while counting.

You can read Count your sheep part 1 here 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Show and Tell #65

Where has our vacation gone?  The next time we host Show and Tell it will be September!  My kids will be busy back in their classrooms, as I bet many of yours will be as well.  It is fun to look back at this feature though and see all the great learning that has been going on during the summer months!

To help you as you prepare for school, we wanted to share our Show & Tell from Brad's Deals:.

With school's start just around the corner, teachers and students alike are working to get ready with adequate tools and supplies. It is not a well known fact, but it's not uncommon for teachers to spend more than $450 of their own money for the schools supplies necessary for their classrooms each year. Check out this articel from CNN all about it: Class is in Session! Obviously this is more than just the cost of extra No. 2 pencils, and it is no small amount. In efforts to help minimize that spending by America's educators, BradsDeals has compiled a list of stores offering teacher discounts that they shared with us, and we are now proud to share with you. BradsDeals has included savings from many popular office supply stores, clothing stores, book stores, and more. Take a minute and check out the article with all 83 discounts on their site here: Teacher Discounts by BradsDeals. Now go save yourself some money while you get prepared for the new year!

Now, here are some great teaching tips from last week's collection of links!

Creating My Way to Success shared a tutorial for putting together a pocket chart to teach times tables.

Teach Beside Me is also working on math with these interactive math sticks.

The Preschool Experiment gives us suggestions for teaching children about the letters that make more than one sound.

It's your turn!
abc button

Please remember these rules:

~Post an Ah-Ha moment, an experiment, learning game, field trip, whatever you're currently working on, your child's fridge worthy artwork, handmade gifts, or anything holiday related.

~Direct link to your post, not your home page.

~Include a link back to us or our link button in your post.

~If you come back and your link is missing, double check to make sure you've followed the directions!

~Most importantly, please try to visit and comment on at least three links. Spread the comment love and make someone's day!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Create Your Own Red Carpet Event

Dinosaur Train fans get ready for a fantastic new ride into the big city!   PBS KIDS’ popular show DINOSAUR TRAIN is launching its second season in August, and to kick it off, PBS KIDS is airing a one-hour DINOSAUR TRAIN movie special called Dinosaur Big City on Monday, August 22nd!

My excited children and a group of their friends enjoyed a sneak peek of the new Dinosaur Big City adventure at a movie preview event today.  What a treat!

The parent paparazzi was in full force as our own stars walked the red carpet.  Some guests were dressed as fancy as it gets and others were decked out in their favorite dinosaur gear.

Our guests were greeted to a fine swag bag that included clapping noise makers for the exciting parts of the show and play sized character figurines for acting out their favorite scenes.

The theme of Dinosaur Big City is based on research from scientific advisors who help DINOSAUR TRAIN bring history to life and make science fun and accessible for kids. Laramidia – the “Dinosaur Big City” – describes an island continent that existed during the Late Cretaceous period and stretches from 
modern-day Alaska to Mexico.

During the feature the kids watched as Buddy and his Pteranodon family journeyed on the Dinosaur Train with the theropod friends to the big Theropod Club Convention in Laramidia, the “Dinosaur Big City.” Along the way they met Mayor Kosmoceratops and helped King Cryolophosaurus overcome stage fright.

Our movie critics enjoyed this new adventure with many of their favorite dinosaur characters.  They also enjoyed popcorn and lemonade (smiles!).  After the movie the kids brainstormed awards they would give the show based on their favorite parts of each episode.  They wrote their award titles on paper certificates (an effort to sneak in a little writing activity - wink!).

To read more about the content of Dinosaur Big City, the creators of the movie, or the airing schedule check out the article here.  Also, be sure to check out your local PBS listings to figure out what time the movie will be showing in your area on Monday, August 22nd!

A BIG thanks, from our little crew, to PBS KIDS (and their marketing co.) for providing us with all the gear, goodies, and giveaways for a special red carpet morning.  The idea to host this sneak peek preview event was theirs, and such a fun idea for an out of the ordinary celebration. One we hope to recreate again sometime.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Classroom Management Strategies

During the summer months it is typical for teachers to re-evaluate their classroom set up, curriculum, and even management strategies. I am always looking for tried and try suggestions from other professionals to make the classroom run more smoothly!  Here are a few ideas from fellow readers, parents, and teachers.

Teacher Blog Spot has put together a thought provoking list of 33 classroom procedures to consider before the school year begins.
Caroline from Learning Parade offers a free download for a document she uses to manage noise levels within the classroom.  It is a traffic light system, sometimes known as a "chatter tracker."

Learning Parade also shares Good Listening Mini Posters. They are a fantastic visual aid to display, reminding children what good listening looks like.

Tammy at Makin Magick has several posts about setting up, and teaching students, the rules and procedures her classroom.  You will want to scroll down and check out all of her clever suggestions.

Nurturing the Tender Years has created some effective character development lessons for her children.

First Grade A La Carte gives us her lesson in Classroom Management 101.

First Grade School Box suggests a unique way of getting student attention.  What do you think?

First Grader At Last has designed a catalog of Best BeeHaviors.

While you are thinking about setting up your classroom for a new year, you may be interested in searching out some online teacher discounts to help you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Teaching with Ticia: capitalizing on your child's interests

I don't know about you, but my kids burn hot and cold on things, especially movies.  I've discovered there are some great ways you can bring the movies and books your kids love into your school time.
 My first suggestion are these sticker books.  You buy the book and sticker pack and can buy booster packs afterwards.  Each booster pack has about 10 stickers, and they are all numbered.  These are great for number recognition, greater than/less than, and number ordering.
My next suggestion is to either buy a pack of stickers or do a quick Google image search for pictures of their current obsession.  These can now be cut out and glued on (fine motor skills), and then write or dictate a story about them.  I've saved images into Word documents for all of my kids' interests and will print them out from time to time for them to create stories.

From there you can move on to simple addition and subtraction using pictures of the characters for concrete math.  For instance Diego found 3 baby tapirs but the mommy tapir says she is still missing 1 more baby.  How many baby tapirs are there in all?

Depending on what the interest is you can incorporate science or history.  One of my sons really loves "Go Diego Go," so we've studied many different animals thanks to the show.  My daughter loves Bolt, and we took some time to study dogs with that.

Finding what interests your child and running with it is a great way to involve them in their learning.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back to School Countdown Activities

The Nature of Grace put together a cute countdown to school can.

Cozi lists many things in their back to school to do countdown for families.

Divine Caroline gives 7 Ways for 7 Days to get ready to head back to school.

Resourceful Mommy made her own Back to School Countdown Calendar.

Family Ever After put together an ABC list of before school must dos.

Delicate Construction rounded up some cute Back to School check lists and printables.

Confessions of a Stay at Home Mommy shares a free printable back to school countdown poster.

Happy Home Fairy offers a printable countdown calendar with colorful stars.

Brassy Apples uses a traditional paper chain to countdown the days until school starts again.

Did you see this back to school project from Family Fun?  I think it would make the count down a little more fun!