D-Day and Young Childen

I am in awe of the soldiers and sailors who are back in Normandy today, 75 years later.  I always bring patriotism into my class, and a certain page in a picture book that I read all the time helps me bring D-Day into the lives of preschoolers.

This is the cemetery in Normandy.  D-Day.  It is a page from Peter Spier’s book, The Star-Spangled Banner.  I have been reading this well-loved book to children for decades.  The words read, “Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand.”

Whenever I got to this page in the book I would talk about Arlington Cemetery in Washington, DC.  Then I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan” and I immediately recognized the scene in Normandy to be exactly this illustration.  I nearly jumped out of my skin.  After that I had a whole new understanding and respect for this page, this cemetery.

Here is what happens when I read this page:

I stop.  I don’t say a word.  Children need to look and take in the images.

“Jennie, is this a sad page?”

“Yes.  It’s a sad page.”

“What are those white things?”

“They are crosses to mark the graves of the soldiers who died.”

Long silence.

“This is a cemetery.  It’s in Normandy.  Many brave young men died here.  They were fighting for our freedom.”

More silence.  I knew they were absorbing my words and the illustration.  Their heads were spinning.

“Do you see the American flag?  It is flying halfway down the flag pole.  That’s called a flag flying at half mast.  In a cemetery or a national place, flags are halfway down when it is sad.  And Normandy is a sad place.”

We talked about the crosses, and the ones with stars.  We pulled out our big map book and found Normandy.  We imagined the trip there by boat.

I told children about the boats that landed, how they had a “tailgate” that dropped down so the soldiers could go ashore.

Most importantly, we talked about doing what is right, even if it is hard and you’re scared.  Peter Spier understood this.  His book of the song is a classic!

Never forget.


Posted in America, Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , | 52 Comments

Dr. Seuss

Thank you Dr. Seuss for saying the most important words.  I thought I knew you well, and today you inspired me yet again with your wisdom.

And now I find that the tables are turned.  I must write words of wisdom, Dr. Seuss words, to children.  It has become a popular custom for parents to have their child’s teachers – all teachers from preschool through high school – write a message in the book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.  The book is then given to the child as a high school graduation gift.

I have the privilege of being the first teacher to open that new book and pen words to a child.  Those words won’t be read for fourteen years.  I always think I need to carefully plan what I say, but… I just say it.  I write from the heart.  I told Vivian she would do great things, because she is already doing that now.  I told Jackson to follow his heart, because when he does the world opens up.

Writing those words is a tremendous thing.  I hope reading them in fourteen years will be a tremendous thing for the child.

Thank you, Dr. Seuss.



Posted in books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Love, picture books, preschool, Quotes, Teaching young children, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Quotations on Education

Excellent quotations on education from Charles French.

charles french words reading and writing

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

                                                                     Nelson Mandela



“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”

                                                                     Thomas Paine


“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

                                                                     Victor Hugo

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The Pillowcase Event

Did you know that the last words the brain hears before you fall asleep are what ‘sticks’, what the brain remembers?  For children this is most important. Growing up is hard work, and any good words are more than needed.  They’re necessary.

Pillowcases.  Bedtime.  Here’s the backstory:

I will never forget hearing Jeanine Fitzgerald speak about the pillowcase.  She is a Behavior Consultant and Specialist.  She works with children – the tough ones, at-risk children.  She also has her own school and is a presenter to teachers.  I was lucky to hear her tell the story of a child who was going to be taken away from her mother.  Jeanine was called in as a last resort.  She told the mother to write ten positive things on a pillowcase to say to her daughter, and read one of them aloud each night before her daughter falls asleep.

How simple.  Long story short, the mother did this faithfully every night.  She had to.  Her daughter blossomed and graduated tops in her class.  The mother had more children, and did the same thing with pillowcases for each one. Years later, she contacted Jeanine Fitzgerald to tell her this remarkable story.

If reading aloud those important words written on a pillowcase every night made a significant difference to a child at risk, think what it could do for every child.  Really!

I had a pillowcase event at school for families.

Children wore their PJ’s.  I passionately told parents how important it is for the brain to hear positive words before falling asleep. Parents and children were to decide – together – what words / phrases / terms of endearment would be most important and meaningful. Parents wrote the words.  Children decorated.

I strolled among the families and watched the bonding as they worked together to figure out their words.  You know how parents desperately want to slow down and have those moments with their child.  Well, that was happening in front of my eyes.  I was the fly on the wall.


The Pillowcase Event.  Best thing I have ever done for children and their families.


Posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Love, preschool, self esteem, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 64 Comments

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – “The Stop Game”, From Dinosaurs to Poetry by Jennie Fitzkee

Sally Cronin shares with readers some of her favorite blog posts. I am delighted that my story of The Stop Game and reading to children is included.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post:https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Pre-school teacher of over 30 years, Jennie Fitzkee,has been a welcome guest here many times but this time, Jennie has let me loose in her archives… this will be fun. She is always coming up with creative ways to engage the children.. and here is just one.

“The Stop Game”, From Dinosaurs to Poetry

I invented a game for reading-aloud children’s books that are, well…long or potentially boring in the eyes of the child. Poetry! Fact books! In my heart, I know these books are hugely important. I just needed to find a way to engage children and help…

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A ‘Renaissance Man’ Teacher and a Crossing Guard

Steve the Crossing Guard is an extraordinary teacher.  A ‘Renaissance Man’ teacher.  He is electric.  He thinks outside of the box.  And he truly understands children.  That’s what Jennie says.

Wikipedia says:
When the term “Renaissance man” is used, it does not mean that the man really lived in the Renaissance. It can be used for anyone who is very clever at many different things, no matter when that person lived. Albert Schweitzer was a 20th century “Renaissance man” who was a theologian, musician, philosopher and doctor.[3] Benjamin Franklin was a “Renaissance man” who lived in the 18th century (1700s) and was an author and printer, politician, scientist, inventor and soldier.[4]

That is Steve.  His latest blog post sums up what he did this school year at his ‘curbside classroom.’  Hang on for a great ride, and get ready to be challenged.  Don’t miss the end.  You will be glued:

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #3, ‘Jefferson, Edison and Crapper

“Who invented the swim fins?” (You’ll be surprised)

“Who invented the swivel chair?”

“Who invented the first automatic flush toilet?” (7 1/2 gpf…Yikes!)

“..,the baseball mitt, the sewing machine, electric kettle and phonograph?”

Do you see a trend? These were but a few questions tossed my way during our recent ‘stump the crossing guard’ activity at our ‘curbside classroom’. The topic was ‘inventions’. Challenge me with an invention, and I’ll tell you the inventor. Really? I could do that?

“…the zipper, pink flamingo and thimble?”

The truth is, I don’t know inventors, Jefferson and Edison were my default answers, and Crapper was a ‘throw in’ for some subtle humor. But I do know how to stimulate curiosity in the preteens and teens at my school crossing post.

Ask questions, awe them with facts, dare to challenge them, mix in some fun and you’ve got a winning formula for a positive start to the school day, even before they get to their building.

The early morning light showed smiles and enthusiasm on the faces of kids genuinely interested in the ‘game’, as they peppered me with inventions, some common and others, not so common. Those who didn’t have a challenge listened with interest. Now, that’s a positive.

“Who invented Velcro? (Great question, but do you know the story behind it)

“Who invented the thunder lamp?” (Would have loved one back in the 60s)

“Who invented the umbrella?” (Useful this Spring)

The questions went on, requiring me to do some follow-up research to verify answers (below). And, to that point, the only rule was that they had to know the inventor’s name.

“Who invented the Diesel engine (there actually was a guy named Diesel), the chocolate chip cookie (my wife baked some this weekend…they’re gone), and, the traffic light (no, he wasn’t a crossing guard)?

“Bifocals?” (the same fellow who did the swim fins)

Adults crossing with the kids joined the fun. “Who invented the ‘reaper-binder’, the ‘manhole cover’ and what did BF Goodrich invent?”

The end of the school year will be here anon. It’s been a good one at our crossing post with lots of smiles, good conversation and latent learning. While the formal education occurs inside the brick buildings, the day begins earlier, on the sidewalk, with an informal ‘game of Life’ at our ‘curbside classroom’.

Who invented the ‘flying shuttle, printing press, the light bulb’?

I’ve provided a list of the inventions we discussed. As a sidebar, it was not unusual for a discussion to break out over an invention, or the inventor.

I enjoyed the ‘challenge’, as the kids seemed to do, as well, so much so that I believe they expect more. Your ideas and participation are welcomed.


To all the creators who made our lives simpler with something new every day, and to the students, who help make our mornings a fun time by both listening and participating.


Like many inventions, some were credited to the wrong person, especially in cases where someone didn’t actually invent, but improved a product This list is the best information I found using Wikipedia and other sources. If there’s a correction, please note it in the comments.

Swivel Chair: Thomas Jefferson, who purportedly signed the Declaration of Independence from said chair.

Light bulb: Joseph Swan, Sir Hiram Maxim AND Thomas Edison. (1835)

Printing press: Johannes Gutenberg)2438)

Flying shuttle (a weaving tool): John Kay (1733)

Manhole cover: Thomas Crapper (still collectibles in England).

Reaper-binder: (a farm implement, as an enhancement to the reaper) Charles Baxter Withington (1872)

Bi-focales: Ben Franklin (he used them frequently but whether or not he in invented them is subject to debate)

Traffic light: JP Knight, am English train engineer (1868)

Chocolate chip cookie: Ruth Graves Wakefield (1938)

Diesel engine: Rudolph Diesel (1893)

Umbrella: more than 4000 ago, but waterproofed by the Chinese in 11th Century BC.

Thunder lamp: Richard Clarkson (2013, do you have one)

Velcro: George deMestral (1941)

Thimble: John Lofting (subject to debate) (1693)

Pink flamingo: Don Featherstone, Designer) (1957)

Zipper: Whitcomb Jutson (1890s)

Phonograph: Thomas Edison (1877)

Electric kettle: Arthur Leslie Lang (1891)

Sewing machine: Thomas Saint (1790)

Baseball mitt: Bill Doak, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher (1920), but subject to a great deal of controversy.

Flush toilet: (1596). Several names attributed. Thomas Crapper did not invent it but he significantly improved it with subsequent inventions.

Bendy straw: Joseph Friedman (1937)

Swim fins: Ben Franklin (1717)

Wheel: early man

Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, teaching, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 86 Comments

Small Town America

Driving the back roads of New Hampshire today.

Every town had pristine flags flying.

The flags seemed proud,

whether they were on a utility pole, or a home,

or planted in the ground.

Small towns and their many flags give a big reverence.

Thank you to all who have served, and to the members of our military who protect our freedom and our country every day.  Those flags speak loud and clear.



Posted in America, American flag, Giving thanks, military, patriotism | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments