Sunset at the Cape

Together with friends at the Cape.

Every year for the past 25 years.

Life is good.  Feeling blessed.


Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, joy, Nature, wonder | Tagged , , | 53 Comments

When Teachers Tell Their Stories – Part 3

In Part 2, I talked about language and words, and how the more words a child hears, the better s/he will do in school – in all subject areas.  I told my first-ever story, “The Peanut Man Story”, and how true teacher stories, ‘Jennie Stories’ have become beloved by children.

Part 3
Children like to be scared.  To be exact, they like the anticipation of being scared.  I think that might be why “The Bat Story” is a favorite.

The Bat Story

“It happened like this.”  When I was a little girl, I loved riding my bike. It was red. Every morning after breakfast I’d pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a brown paper bag and hop on my bike for a ride. I’d go to Ritter Park, stop in the Rose Garden, and then head up the long, windy road to Whitaker Hill. That was hard!  Then I’d ride back to the Rose Garden.  When the sky turned pink, and I knew it was time to go home.

One day, after riding my bike, I came home and rode my bike into the driveway.  I remembered what my mother told me,

“Jennie, be sure to put your bike into the garage and put the garage door down.  All the way down.”

Now, there were no garage door openers back then.  Nope.  There was a handle at the bottom of the door.  So, I had to reach way up and pull the door down. But, I had to be careful to hold the handle all the way down, otherwise the door would bounce back up, just a little.  I put my bike in the garage, pulled the garage door down, and did not hold the handle all the way down.

I went inside and my mother asked,

“Jennie, did you put your bike in the garage?”

I shook my head yes.

“Did you put the garage door down?”

I shook my head yes.

“All the way down?”

I shook my head yes.

“Good.  Wash up and get ready for dinner.”

We had dinner.  The whole family always had dinner together.  After dinner I played Go Fish, and then Monopoly.  My brother always wins.  My mother finally said,

“Time for bed.”

I walked to the stairway to head up to my room.  But just as I was ready to go up, I thought I saw something…black…go wooosh.  And then it was gone.  It happened so fast.  I must have been mistaken.

I went upstairs.  That was the second floor.  Then I went upstairs again.  That was the third floor.  My bedroom was on the third floor.  I washed my hands and face, brushed my teeth, and put on my nightgown.  I climbed into bed, pulled up the covers, and turned out the light.  I was tired.  I fell asleep.

This is when I get ‘scared’ as I tell the story. Sometimes I grab the hand of a child.  I breathe hard. You could hear a pin drop.

And then it was 10:00.  And then it was 11:00.  And then, and then…it was midnight. Suddenly I heard the two sounds that I was afraid of, the two sounds I hated more than anything in the world.  One sound went flap, flap, flap, flap.  The other sound went shhhooosh, shhhooosh.

It was a bat!!!

I pulled the covers over my head and yelled, “DAD!”  Two seconds later I heard thump, thump, thump- my dad running up the stairs.  He banged my door open, and jumped in my room holding a tennis racquet.  He went everywhere and swung the racquet.  He bopped the bat.  And…

I lean in, smiling at children like I’m telling a secret.

He was wearing his underwear!

Every child bursts out laughing.  I do, too.  The scary story has turned into a funny story. Throughout, I thump my feet when running up stairs, wave my hands to do bat flapping and soaring, and reach up high to pull down that garage door.

After the story, I always ask, “How did the bat get into the house?”  Of course we talk about the garage door and putting the red bike away.  Often this leads to even more questions and great discussions.

This story and “The Raccoon Story” – stay tuned for Part 4 – are children’s all-time favorites.


Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Nature, storytelling, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Mason and the Rainbow Song

Yesterday I filled-in at my school’s summer camp.  When I arrived at noon, children were at lunch.  After all the hugs and hollers, they begged for a ‘Jennie Story’, especially Mason. Interestingly, Mason has never been in my class. He was a kindergartner this past year. Like many children, he has heard my Jennie Stories through the school grapevine.

Later in the day, I was in the bathroom with Mason as he changed out of his wet bathing suit.  Bear in mind that the mind of a child is far more brilliant and fascinating than we realize.  The recall of a moment or a story or a song can be spontaneous.  And that’s exactly what happened in the bathroom with Mason.

The conversation went something like this:

“Jennie, I wish we could sing the rainbow song at camp.”

“What is the rainbow song?  Can you sing some of it for me?”


Then Mason sang a few words, “Red and yellow and…”

“Mason, I know that song!  I love that song.  You sang it at your kindergarten graduation.  I remember.  Can you sing it again for me?”


Mason puffed up his chest with pride.  Yet, he had a somewhat worried look.  I could tell he was missing kindergarten and this song, and he wanted to be able to sing it to me.

“Mason, can I sing along with you?”

He smiled and nodded at the same time.

Together we sang “I Can Sing a Rainbow.”  It was joyous.  Mason was terrible. I was worse. We barely remembered the words.  But, that didn’t matter at all. Mason needed to sing and remember, and I was lucky to tag along and be there for him.

After singing, we smiled and headed out to the playground.  Mason stopped.

“I love you, Jennie.”

“I love you, too, Mason.”

And that was that.  Five minutes in the bathroom can be the best teaching, and an even better giving.


Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, joy, self esteem, Singing, summer camp, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 61 Comments

When Teachers Tell Their Stories – Part 2


In Part 1, I talked about storytelling, true stories, “It happened like this” stories.  I had always read aloud to children, but telling them my stories was different.  It turned out that I had discovered another pathway to language and literacy, with a bonus of children bonding with their teacher.  Children then began to tell their own stories as well.  This was big!

Part 2
Storytelling is important to young children because oral language is the key to reading readiness.  It’s also a key to academic success.  Think about it; in early elementary school the primary source of instruction is oral.  At school, I tell stories every day at lunchtime.  They are true stories from my childhood and adulthood.  Everyone knows “Jennie stories”.  Decades after children leave my class, they still remember those stories.  Over the summer, I thought I would share some of those with you, and perhaps encourage you to tell your own stories.  Yes, it matters.  This is the first story I told to children:

The Peanut Man Story

It happened like this.”  When I was in first and second and third grade, there was a man who lived in my town, Dr. Tyler.  He was really old.  He was short, heavy, and he had white hair and a white beard.  Who do you think he looked like?  Yes, Santa Claus.  I thought he was the real Santa Claus.

But, Dr. Tyler was not Santa Claus.  He was a peanut farmer.  His peanut farm was quite big, and over the summer he grew plenty of peanuts.  I’ve never seen peanuts growing.  Have you?  In the fall, he picked them all.  He had hundreds and thousands of peanuts, all in shells.  Then one day he would come to school.  No one knew when he was coming.  The principal didn’t know.  The teacher didn’t know.  He would just show up.  We could hear footsteps in the hallway and the classroom door would burst open.

This is where I stand up, pretend I have a big sack over my back, open it up, and then begin to make grand movements of scooping up and throwing giant handfuls of peanuts.

There he stood, saying nothing, carrying a big sack of peanuts over his back.  Now he really looked like Santa Claus!  He dropped the heavy sack onto the floor and the teacher yelled, “It’s the Peanut Man.  Duck”.  Everybody dove under their desks.  Then he took his big hand, scooped a huge handful of peanuts, and threw them across the classroom, hard.  We covered our ears and closed our eyes.  He did this again and again, throwing peanuts everywhere.  It sounded like pelting rain.  The peanuts were hitting the desks, the chalkboard, the lights…everything in the classroom.  Suddenly the sound stopped.  Everything was empty.  We heard footsteps, and the door slamming shut.

The teacher said, “Boys and girls, the Peanut Man is gone.  You can come out now”.  Wow!  The whole room was covered with peanuts everywhere.  The floor was so full that you stepped on peanuts wherever you walked.  They were in the lights on the ceiling, too.  We spent the rest of the afternoon picking up all the peanuts, putting them on our desks in a big mound, cracking the shells, and eating them.”

Storytelling bonds teachers, parents and grandparents to their children, passes down interesting and funny stories, and creates memories.  It’s important!  My next few posts will be the favorites of children in my classroom, such as “The Bat Story” and “The Raccoon Story”.  Summertime fun for me to tell you my stories, and for you to read them.

Stay tuned for Part 3.


Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, preschool, storytelling, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 51 Comments

Happy Birthday, America

Happy Birthday, America.
This flag was flown over the Navy Memorial
in Washington DC.
Proud to be an American,
one nation, one people,
with freedoms I will never take for granted.


Posted in America, American flag, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, patriotism | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

The Star-Spangled Banner

This is a repost,
one of my favorite songs and books, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Happy Birthday, America.

Bringing our National Anthem to Life

Few books have the power to move young students and make a difference; this one does. Whenever I sing our National Anthem with children, I pull out my well-loved and very worn book, The Star-Spangled Banner by Peter Spier.  Every page is a full color illustration of the words to the song.

img_1944This book makes my heart race!  Every single time I read or sing the book,  children are drawn in.  There is wonder, and there are more questions, and inevitably a crowd of children begin pushing in to see and hear, and to learn.

This is what I wrote to families on one such occasion. “It happened like this…”

“I want to tell you about early morning in the Big Room today.  It was one of the most exciting, intense, and passionate twenty minutes with children that a teacher can have.  Emergent Curriculum at it’s best.  As we say in the Aqua Room when a story is true, “It happened like this”:

Troy wanted to have a ‘show’, so he and Jill and Sam went to the top of the loft.  No, they did not want to sing Troy’s favorite song, “Proud To Be An American”.  They wanted to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  Of course it was wonderful, and we all clapped.  Then I said, “Do you want to know what the song looks like and what really happened?”  I ran back to the Aqua Room (yes, I ran down the hallway and back…) and returned with Peter Spier’s book, The Star-Spangled Banner.  Before I opened the book I said, “The guy who wrote this song was on a British ship, and it was night time.  The only way he knew if we were winning was if he saw the American flag.”

By that time I had Troy, Jill, Sam, Jacob, Callie, Lily, Cooper, Lizzie, and Finn all around the book, captivated.  First I asked them what a star spangled banner was.  They knew!  Then we started to read the book.  The first page alone took forever, because we had to explain and talk about the funny hats and clothes, and the ship.  Children had been to Boston to see the Constitution.  Jill knew that ‘Old Ironsides’ meant that cannons and rockets didn’t penetrate the sides.  Once we looked at the first picture, we had to talk about how long ago this happened.  It was 1814.  Oh my, we just figured out that next year would be the two-hundredth anniversary of the song!  We planned an impromptu ceremony.

We were still on page one, and now a crowd of children came over to be there.  We started to read, but children wanted to ‘sing’ the book.  That was fun!  We found the flag on every page, through the battle.  Then, there were other things we found, like ramparts, and new vocabulary words, like ‘perilous’.  When the verse ended, the book went on.  Children were stunned to know that there were more words.  Those verses led us to learn why a flag is sometimes halfway down on the mast, and to the Statue of Liberty, the Statue of Iwo Jima, the astronauts on the moon, and different Navy ships at sea.

Honestly, the turn of each page drew more questions, and the discussions to find the answers were both intense and inspirational for the children.  Nobody interrupted, because everything was important.  It was a perfect experience.”

Do you know what a towering steep is?  The children figured it out:

img_1946When I get to this page, I stop.  I tell children this is a sad page, yet a proud page.  We talk about flying the flag at half mast, and about soldiers who have died for their country.  Children understand:


Children can learn history, even at a young age.  This book proves that.  Thank you to Peter Spier who was born and educated in Amsterdam, and didn’t move to America until 1952 when he was an adult.  His book is a magic wand.


Posted in America, American flag, Book Review, children's books, Early Education, history, Inspiration, patriotism, picture books, reading aloud, reading aloud, Singing, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

America – The True Meaning in a Children’s Book

The perfect book.  Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus captures the heart of America.  The stunning illustrations by Kadir Nelson make the simple text explode with meaning.  It is history:

White Rows.  White Rows

When I turned to this page, I choked up.  Two words, and two important stories.  How can one not talk about the white rows of covered wagons traveling west?  It is a part of American history.  And, how can one not talk about the white rows on the American flag?  Purity and innocence.  It’s an open door to learn about the flag.  It is the heart of America:

All American.  All American

Baseball, a veteran granddad with his grandson; this is “All American.”  In the words of the illustrator, “It beautifully draws parallels between the American landscape, the diversity of its people, and the symbolism stitched into the fabric.”

Yes, it does!  I like to think that the fabric encompasses far more than the flag; our foundation, our values, our community.  And, our big, wide, wonderful landscape:

Old Glory.  Old Glory.

I hadn’t thought about the Grand Canyon as “Old Glory.”  Nor had I thought about fireworks as “Old Glory.”  As soon as I saw this page, I understood.  Those words are the nickname for the American flag, yet they are so much more.  You see, while the flag is a symbol of our country, so are many other things.  We are a nation of many people.  The author thought of the deep blue sky dotted with white stars that the early immigrants saw coming to America.  That was the inspiration for the book.  We are one nation:

Sew together won nation.  So together one nation.

Powerful words.  Let’s remember what is most important; being one, being together.  That is the greatest strength.

Funny thing~ I teach this to my preschoolers every single day.  We are one, we are a family.  We are all different, yet we come to the table together.  When I read this book to my class of children, we stop at least a hundred times to talk.  There is so much to learn.


Posted in America, American flag, Book Review, children's books, Diversity, Early Education, history, Inspiration, patriotism, picture books, reading aloud, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments