“Jennie, Look!”

We were on the playground today, and children saw this beauty across the way.  “It’s a rainbow!” It isn’t an arc, and it hasn’t rained, so it cannot be a rainbow.  Mother Nature was smiling with colors and saying hello.


Posted in Early Education, Mother Nature, Nature, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 34 Comments

Add a sprinkle of glitter to make your day sparkle

Norah writes about far more than glitter. This is wonderful!!

Norah Colvin

Children love to create artworks using pencils, crayons, paints and anything they can stick to a surface using glue. With access to a variety of materials, they can be absorbed for hours creating their masterpieces.

While they might select from the materials offered, I found the one thing that few children could resist was glitter—and the more of it, the better.

There is nothing like glitter to add a bit of sparkle to the day. The only trouble is, glitter is so light and so small, that it goes everywhere—on the artwork, on the table, on the chair and on the floor. It sticks to the hands and is smeared on the face and takes forever to remove from the hair. But everyone loves it nonetheless, and it adds a little brightness to the day.

Smiles are like glitter in that they also spread easily and brighten the day. However…

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Why does 62 degrees feel delightful on my open porch, yet freezing cold inside?  Me thinks it’s the porch, not the temperature, that feels so good.  A piece of heaven, I guess. ❤️


Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Mother Nature, Nature | Tagged , , | 46 Comments

Steve the Crossing Guard

Steve is a fellow blogger and a school crossing guard in western New York state.  I have to tell you what he does with children.  Obviously the best teachers are not always teachers in the classroom.

Last January he wrote a blog post, “How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck…?”  It has not left me.  It sticks to me.  I can’t let it go.  Steve decided to ask interesting questions to the students at his crossing, like “Who is Pavarotti?” and “Who was Francis Scott Key and what did he write on this day (Sept 14) in 1815?” and “What direction are we facing while wanting to cross?  Forward doesn’t count.” and “Why did Frosty the Snowman tell the kids not to cry?”

Steve did this to strengthen the daily dialogue with students, and stimulate their thinking skills.  That became a big deal; children expected his question of the day, and the roots of friendship began.  Then, conversations started to take place.  In Steve’s words:

  • ‘Space exploration’: first country, name and payload (most knew Russia, some knew Sputnik, and others guessed dog, monkey, ‘don’t know’ …correct answer was dog on Sputnik.
  • ‘What is the preamble?’: first we defined preamble then many knew of the preamble to the US Constitution.  I suggested that the words “We the People” was pretty powerful.
  • ‘February and Calendar’: Which one do we use, Roman or Gregorian?  Some knew the Gregorian and I explained that the switch was the result of the Roman night aligning properly with various solstices.  Also in the Roman calendar, February was the last month and it’s meaning meant celebration, and the Roman leader declared it would be a month long celebration of the previous months.

One  girl, a freshman, asked if Gregorian was named after Pope Gregory.  Hmm…  Steve looked up the answer.  That triggered a change.  Now there was real dialogue.  And, the kids wanted this.  Steve had another idea; he asked the school kids to think of their favorite quote and write it down so he could make a list to give them.

Wow.  Steve has gone from asking questions to having conversations.  Now, he is throwing the ball in the student’s court.  He knows they’re ready.

Steve said there was not much of an interest at first, then there was a breakthrough.

“A high school girl used to walk by without a word, even when I would say ‘good afternoon’.  Recently she seemed to take an interest in my routine of asking questions or sharing facts.  She even said hello.

In passing me this afternoon on the way to her bus, she stopped, reached into her bag and handed me a laminated sheet (must have been done at school today) with 9 quotes from Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk.  Apparently he’s well known.

The quotes are interesting but, more importantly, this girl has changed remarkably since she started crossing with me.  I was a bit stunned when she gave me the paper, but I told her how happy it made me.”

And so it continued throughout the rest of the school year.  Quotes from students started trickling in.  And good to his word, Steve made a list and gave it to the students.  Here is the collection of quotes from Steve the Crossing Guard’s students:

Favorite Quotes From Brighton Middle & High School Students*, 2017/2018 (*contributed by a few students and a crossing guard)

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet”
(Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk/peace advocate)

“Because you are alive, everything is possible”
​(Thich Nhat Hanh)

“Just because you’re happy doesn’t mean the day is perfect, it means you’ve looked beyond its imperfections”
​ (Bob Marley, Jamaican singer/songwriter)

“The most important things in life aren’t things”
​(Author unknown)

“If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger”
​(Buzz Aldrin, American astronaut)

“Then tell the wind and fire where to stop, don’t tell me’ Madame DeForge!”
​(from Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’)

“Happy is still legal in all 50 states”
​(Jello ad)

“Nobody thinks it will work, do they? You’ve just described every great success story”
​ (Say Anything)

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its entire life believing it is stupid”
​ (Albert Einstein, German born scientist…genius)

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it”
​ (Thich Nhat Hanh)

“That’s one of the great things about music, you sing a song to 85,000 different people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons”
​ (David Grohl, American musician/songwriter)

“To thine own self be true, and it shall follow, as the night the day, that thou canst then be false to any man”
​ (Polonius, from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’)

Thank you, Steve.  You have done far more for children than many of their classroom teachers.  You are the real teacher.  And, it gets even better- a thank you note:

Steve can be followed at srbottch.com


Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, young children | Tagged , , , , | 123 Comments

A Note Of Thanks

Dear Allie,

Yes, we have had two wonderful years together. You have a gigantic heart. You are Gloria’s BFF.  You adore chapter reading. I love you.


Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Teaching young children | Tagged , , | 31 Comments

What Happens at Chapter Reading, Part II


Our final chapter reading book this year at school is Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The last chapter that we read, ‘Indians in the House’, sparked intense questions and conversations about Indians and people who are different.  Diversity 101, through the eyes of children.

The next chapter, ‘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.

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 ‘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 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.

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 chapter reading, children's books, Death and dying, Early Education, Family, history, reading aloud, reading aloud, storytelling, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

What Happens at Chapter Reading

My copy of Little House on the Prairie is so well-loved that two entire sections of the book have fallen out.  No matter; the words are all there.  I wouldn’t trade that book for anything.  When I finish reading each day, I stand up and go to each child on their nap mat and show them any illustrations.  As careful as I am, those two sections often fall out onto the lap of a child.  The children seem to understand that they represent the many years of children before them who heard the same words and reveled in the story.  I think they feel included in that special group.

Chapter reading is more than the words we read.  In our last chapter, Laura continues to ask about wanting to see a papoose.  Ma talks about Indians.  Her words clearly indicate that she does not like Indians.  This is what happened:

Allie:  “Jennie, what’s an Indian?”

Lincoln:  “It’s somebody from another country.”

Me:  “Yes.  That’s true.  Jaina’s family is from another country, from India.  Jaina, please come here.” 

Jaina stood up and came over to me.  I smiled at her and pulled her close.

Me:  “Jaina has beautiful black hair and dark skin, just like people from India.  Ella does, too.  And, just like the Indians in the story.  But the Indians Ma talks about are Native American Indians, not Indians from India. Did you know that Native Americans were the first people in America? That is something!”

Long pause.  Children were processing all of this.  Jaina and Ella had families from India, but they were not the same Indians in the story.

Me:  “Sometimes people are scared of somebody that looks different.  Maybe that’s why Ma doesn’t like Indians.

Lucca:  “Like Gloria!  Just because she looks like a witch, it’s not okay to call her that.  That’s mean.”

Me:  “Yes, Lucca.  You’re absolutely right.  Gloria likes to wear black, has wrinkly skin and gray hair.  She wears a pointy hat, too.  But we all know she’s not a witch.  Lucca, that is so nice.  Come, so I can give you a hug.”

Lucca, wrapped in a big hug:  “She’s shy, too.”

Low and behold, today’s chapter was “Indians in the House” and it helped to cement yesterday’s conversation.  Two Indians came into Laura’s house, and she was scared.  They were different, with darker skin and feathers in their hair.  Yet, their eyes sparkled at Laura.  The illustration, like Gloria, helped children to see the differences.  Don’t judge a book (or person) by its cover.

And so it went.  I knew this spontaneous conversation was far more important than any planned lesson in diversity or acceptance.  You see, the real learning begins with the child.  We just have to be aware and seize those moments.  This happens all the time during chapter reading.  It is wonderful!


Posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, history, Kindness, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments