Our Wish Tree

What is a Wish Tree?

Wikipedia says: A wish tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings.  Such trees are identified as possessing a special spiritual value.

I knew about Wish Trees.  I read “Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate.  Everyone needs to read this book!  Seriously.  I stumbled across a real Wish Tree with friends on Cape Cod.  The wishes were tied on with shells.  It was quite moving.

 I knew we needed a wish tree at school.  

Our school-wide theme this year is Roots and Wings.  Teachers help children to grow the roots of goodness, kindness, resiliency, and independence.  Growing roots means they can then grow wings.  Children learn through hands-on experiences, so a Wish Tree at school is perfect.

Each class had their children make a wish, which was written on fabric strips the same color as the classroom.  Children tied their wishes to a tree.  We used a ladder for higher branches.  The result is a glorious explosion of color, with wishes blowing in the wind.

This is our beautiful Wish Tree on the playground at school.

Music is important for children.  To make wishes come to life, we listened to “When You Wish Upon a Star” – such a beautiful song.  Then, we changed the words slightly to “When you wish upon a tree, makes no difference who you’ll be.”  As we hung our wishes on the tree, we sang the song with children.

Children’s wishes were heartfelt, funny, joyous, tearful…you name it.  Out of the mouth of babes.

“I wish I could always be with my teachers.”
“I wish Christmas would give me presents again.”
“I wish Ivy would always be kind to me.  I love her.”

“I wish my dog could talk.”
“I wish I could always be in school.”
“I wish the sickness was gone.”

“I wish I could live very far away.”
“I wish for a motorcycle that zooms.”
“I wish Grandma could stay with me forever.”

May all your wishes come true.


Posted in books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Inspiration, Love, Nature, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Happy birthday, Irving

My preschoolers are singing this song as we get ready for a Memorial Day Remembrance later this month. Thank you, Irving Berlin.

bluebird of bitterness

In honor of the birthday of Irving Berlin, here is one of his greatest hits, sung by Kings Return.

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Inspiring Kids of All Ages—One Book at a Time—May is #GetCaughtReading Month!

Bette’s post on inspiring kids of all ages – one book at a time is a perfect companion to my Jim Trelease and reading aloud post yesterday. There are so many reasons to share a book with a child. Thank you Bette!

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

“The love of reading is a lynchpin for successful learning—for success in life. Kids learn to read best when adults take time to share their passion for books with them.” ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author.

May is #GetCaughtReading Month!

One of the best ways to inspire kids to love to read is by reading aloud to them and talking with them about the books you share. We can all make a difference in the lives of the children around us when we #GetCaughtReading with the kids!

Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children of all ages

  • Expands vocabulary as they hear new words in context
  • Provides contextual examples for grammar and sentence structure that everyday conversation does not offer
  • Strengthens reading comprehension
  • Increases a child’s attention span
  • Teaches life skills associated with story themes and characters
  • Fosters family/generational/community communication.

Research has shown that children who come to school with a large vocabulary…

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Reading Aloud & Reading – There’s a Big Difference.

My greatest passion is reading aloud to children.  I thought it was time to talk about the difference between reading and reading aloud, as I often post about good children’s books.  While reading is the goal, the dream- reading aloud is the pathway to that dream.  Jim Trelease, author of the million-copy bestseller “The Read-Aloud Handbook” says it best:

“People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does.  It expands their interest in books, vocabulary and comprehension, grammar, and attention span.  Simply put, it’s a free “oral vaccine” for literacy.  
~Jim Trelease~

I love a good story, especially one that involves reading aloud and the stunning difference it makes with children.  Here is a favorite story of mine from his best selling book, which is proof of what happens with reading aloud:

“During his ten years as principal of Boston’s Solomon Lewenberg Middle School, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. and his faculty proved it.  The pride of Boston’s junior high schools during the 1950s and early 1960s, Lewenberg subsequently suffered the ravages of urban decay, and by 1984, with the lowest academic record and Boston teachers calling it the “looney bin” instead of Lewenberg, the school was earmarked for closing.  But first, Boston officials would give it one last chance.

The reins were handed over to O’Neill, an upbeat, first-year principal and former high school English teacher whose experience there had taught him to “sell” the pleasures and importance of reading.

The first thing he did was abolish the school’s intercom system.  (“As a teacher I’d always sworn someday I’d rip the thing off the wall.  Now I could do it legally.”)  He then set about establishing structure, routine, and discipline.  “That’s the easy part.  What happens after is the important part–reading.  It’s the key element in the curriculum.  IBM can teach our graduates to work the machine, but we have to teach them how to read the manual.”  In O’Neill’s first year, sustained silent reading (see chapter 5) was instituted for nearly four hundred pupils and faculty for the last ten minutes of the day, during which everyone in the school read for pleasure.  Each teacher (and administrator) was assigned a room–much to the consternation of some who felt those last ten minutes could be better used to clean up the shop or gym.  “Prove to me on paper,” O’Neill challenged them, “that you are busier than I am, and I’ll give you back the ten minutes to clean.”  He had no takers.

Within a year, critics became supporters and the school was relishing the quiet time that ended the day.  The books that had been started during SSR were often still being read by students filing out to buses–in stark contrast to former dismissal scenes that bordered on chaos.

The next challenge was to ensure that each sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade student not only saw an adult reading each day but also heard one.  Faculty members were assigned a classroom and the school day began with ten minutes of reading aloud, to complement the silent ending at the end of the day.  Soon reading aloud began to inspire awareness, and new titles sprouted during SSR.  In effect, the faculty was doing what the great art schools have always done: providing life models from which to draw.

In the first year, Lewenberg’s scores were up; in the second year, not only did the scores climb but so, too, did student enrollment in response to the school’s new reputation.

Three years later, in 1988, Lewenberg’s 570 students had the highest reading scores in the city of Boston, there was a fifteen page waiting list of children who wanted to attend, and O’Neill was portrayed in Time as a viable alternative to physical force in its cover story on Joe Clark, the bullhorn- and bat-toting principal from Paterson, New Jersey.

Today, Tom O’Neill is retired, but the ripple effect of his work has reached shores that not even his great optimism would have anticipated.  In the early 1990s, a junior high school civics teacher in Japan, Hiroshi Hayashi, read the Japanese edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook.  Intrigued by the concept of SSR and Tom O’Neill’s example, he immediately decided to apply it to his own school.  (Contrary to what most Americans believe, not all Japanese public school students are single-minded overachievers, and many are rebellious or reluctant readers–if they are readers at all.)  Although SSR was a foreign concept to Japanese secondary education, Hayashi saw quick results in his junior high school with just ten minutes at the start of the morning.  Unwilling to keep his enthusiasm to himself, he spent the next two years sending forty thousand handwritten postcards to administrators in Japanese public schools, urging them to visit his school and adopt the concept.  His personal crusade has won accolades from even faculty skeptics:  By 2006, more than 3,500 Japanese schools were using SSR to begin their day.”

Used by permission of the author, Jim Trelease, 2013, The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin)

These are the stories that make me continue to read aloud to children.  It is THE single most important thing I do in my classroom.  Children love it, read on their own throughout the day, and excel in school.  Not only am I growing readers, I’m opening the door to the world for them.  And, they jump in with both feet.

I am featured in this book.


Posted in books, Early Education, Inspiration, Jim Trelease, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, School, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 97 Comments

These Robots Got the Moves!

Thank you Mitch Teemley for featuring my post. It was a pleasure to be a guest on your blog. This was one of my favorite moments, too!

Mitch Teemley

Guest Blog by A Teacher’s Reflections

New England-based preschool teacher Jennie Fitzkee is nothing if not inspired. Maybe that’s why she’s featured in the bestselling Read-Aloud Handbook. And why quilts designed by her class hang at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia and at the Boston VA Hospital. Here’s one of my favorite Jennie Moments.

Back in January, I stumbled across a video of dancing robots, from Boston Dynamics. Not only did the children in my classroom fall in love with robots and their music, they have since then begged to watch this video every day. Yes, every day! On that day in January, I showed the children the video, and said, “Do you want to make robots? You can do this!” I was not calm, I was beyond excited, because I knew this was ‘one of those moments’ where teachers are presented with a great opportunity to inspire children…

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My Sweet Children

This could be me…

My wonderful students said ‘thank you’
for Teacher Appreciation Week.

Coffee, cookies, flowers,
and a card that made me cry.
I am touched, and so very lucky.


Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Kindness, Love, preschool | Tagged , , , , | 100 Comments

📚Teacher Appreciation Week🍎

What an honor to be featured on Kim’s blog for Teacher Appreciation Week! Thank you.

By Hook Or By Book


I’ve done a few posts over the years to honor teachers, especially this time of year. As I have such wonderful memories of my own school-age experiences, as well as of the wonderful mentoring I received while getting my undergraduate degree in early childhood education, I didn’t think I could possibly have more admiration for these overworked, underpaid, tireless advocates for children. And then 2020 hit like some horrible never-ending nightmare. Like so many frontline workers, teachers stepped up and rose to the challenge to navigate complicated new ways of teaching. One such teacher is one of our fellow bloggers, Jennie Fitzkee.


Jennie has been teaching for over thirty years, and she’s the epitome of what I think of when I hear the word teacher. If you’re not familiar with her blog, A Teacher’s Reflections, https://jenniefitzkee.com I highly recommend you pop over and visit. Her posts never fail to put…

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Reading Aloud + Family History = The Best Learning

We often take it for granted that we have fresh water to drink.  Children certainly do. In our chapter reading book, “Little House on the Prairie”, Pa and Mr. Scott dig a well.  Learning where fresh water comes from was one thing, adding real stories and pictures about my family brought the story to life.

     “…he set a candle in a bucket and lighted it and lowered it to the bottom.  Once Laura peeped over the edge and she saw the candle brightly burning, far down in the dark hole in the ground.
Then Pa would say, “Seems to be all right,” and he would pull up the bucket and blow out the candle.”

‘Fresh Water to Drink’, was riveting.  White knuckle and heart pounding.  The life and death adventure of digging a well, and the deadly gas deep in the ground, became a lesson in history.  I had family history that was much the same.

As Pa and his neighbor, Mr. Scott, were digging a well, Pa was careful to lower a candle each day into the deep hole to make sure the air was safe.  Bad gas lives deep under the earth.  Mr. Scott thought the candle was all ‘foolishness’, and began digging without sending the candle down into the well.  The rest of the chapter was an edge-of-your-seat nail biter.

I love this chapter.  So did the children.  I realized I could connect what happened down in that well to something real; a portrait of my grandfather as a little boy wearing miner’s gear, including a candle on his helmet.  My grandfather and his father had mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  I grew up with their stories and photographs, including this portrait.

I brought it to school the next day to show the children.  “This is my grandfather”, I said.  “He went deep under the earth, just like Pa and Mr. Scott.  What is that on his head?”  Children couldn’t sit.  They jumped up, pressed against me and each other, all wanting a closer look.

“That’s fire!” someone said.
“No, it’s a candle.”
“A candle is fire.”
“What did he do?”

Ah, those wonderful, spontaneous questions that spark the best learning.  This was ‘a moment’, fifteen children eager to hear more and learn.

I told them about mining, going underground, and about the candle.  I then showed them again the Garth Williams illustrations in the chapter ‘Fresh Water to Drink’, with Ma and Pa turning the handle of the windlass to get Mr. Scott out of the well, and Pa digging the hole that is as deep as he is tall.

We talked about how hard that would be.  We imagined what it would be like inside the hole:  Dark or light?  Hot or cold?  Then someone asked, “How old is your grandfather?”

I was connecting generations and connecting learning.

I’m in mid-life, where I have a strong, real link with the past and also the present.  My one arm can reach and touch my parents from before 1920 and my grandparents from the 1880’s and 1890’s   They were just here ‘some years ago’.  My other arm can reach and touch my children and grandchildren, and all the preschoolers I teach.

I find this mind boggling; I’m equally part of the past, a long line of family history, and part of the present, teaching children and learning.  I want to connect all the lines.  I want people to know that I was there with Nan who was born in The 1880’s, and with Lulu who was born ten years later.  I want people to know that I understand life from that point forward.

This is my grandmother’s log house built in the 1700’s.  I have memories of staying there as a child, especially hearing the sound of a train.  The family stories are plentiful.

It is much like the house Pa built!  Another opportunity for family history to make books and reading aloud come alive.

More importantly, I want my preschoolers to have a firsthand piece of history.  It is a ‘real’ way to enhance learning.  That happened with my Grandfather’s portrait, and with chapter reading “Little House on the Prairie.”


Posted in books, chapter reading, Early Education, Family, history, Learning About the World, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , | 118 Comments

Just a Reminder…

Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite authors. Her quotation is spot on. Thank you, D, for posting this.

Raising Readers...

This is normally thought of in the context of school, but I think its important at home as well, especially when #raisingreaders!

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“Amanda in Holland” is Terrific!

I’m the book guru at school.  That’s what they call me.  Finding a good children’s book is one of my greatest pleasures, next to reading aloud to children.  Teachers and parents lean on me for good books.  The storyline of “Amanda in Holland, Missing in Action” was intriguing to me – adventure, history, WWII, Anne Frank… and more.  A few months ago I ordered the book.  I was so excited!

Darlene Foster is the author, and she did not disappoint.  I was enveloped in Holland with Amanda.  I could not put the book down.

Here’s what Amazon says:

Amanda is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah. They travel the canals of Amsterdam, visit Anne Frank House, check out windmills, tour a wooden shoe factory, and take many pictures of the amazing flowers of Keukenhof Gardens. She is keen to find out what happened to her great uncle who never returned from WWII and was declared missing in action. What she doesn’t expect to find and fall in love with is Joey, an abandoned puppy. While trying to find a home for him, she meets Jan, a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener, a strange woman on a bicycle, and an overprotective goose named Gerald.

This paints a picture of the storyline, but it fails to capture the emotion and excitement and history that happens along the way.  When Amanda arrives in Holland to spend a vacation with her best friend Leah, she finds Joey the puppy abandoned in a box by a garbage can.  This begins a series of events that include stolen prized tulips and selling animals from puppy farms.  Amanda meets many characters along the way, including Jan and his grandmother and great grandmother.  Her suspicions are often cause for more adventure, and therefore more depth into the book’s characters.  Ingrid, Tom, Astrid, Helga, and even Gerald the goose give Amanda clues to uncovering the stolen tulip bulbs and puppy farms.  They come to life in the book, making Amanda’s adventures dangerous.

Here’s the best part: woven in between Amanda’s terrific adventures are important stories in history, most notably the Anne Frank House, and the Canadian Army rescuing the people of Holland from the Nazis at the end of WWII.  Amanda is from Canada.  One of her relatives was missing in action, and she uncovers information.

Without giving away the story, I can tell you that I was on the edge of my seat throughout the book.  Nancy Drew, move over!


Posted in Book Review, children's books, history, Learning About the World, military, reading | Tagged , , , , , , | 78 Comments