Getting to the Core

A Must-Read

     Every child is different. Some will cry and cling to you like a barnacle on the bottom of a boat. Others will try valiantly to hold it together and manage a trembling lip. Still others like my daughter, will simply wave at the door, give you a Colgate smile and skip away into oblivion.  She didn’t even want me to walk in with her! I was the one crying! I think Kelli was ready for kindergarten because I had hauled her to the “everything’s” of both her older brothers: Open House, Class Parties, 1st days! She WANTED to go and couldn’t wait! She KNEW what to expect. She was EXCITED. Herein lies several big keys to get rid of separation anxiety before it can rear its ugly head.


Get Rid Of The Fear Of The Unknown:

  • classroom_2I’m not sure who said it, but I tend to agree that the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear. If you’re a woman and reading this, remember when you were pregnant? Do you  remember that one of your biggest fears was delivery? You didn’t know what to expect, because you hadn’t experienced it before. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” is such a popular book. We need to know, because it helps get rid of your fears. It’s your duty as a parent to get rid of the heebie- jeebies for your child. How do you do that? 
  • If there is an Open House you NEED to go. Schedule your vacation at a different time. There is nothing more important than going to the Open House. Speaking as a teacher, I spend a zillion hours getting everything ready for your child and making things extra special for them. They really miss out if you don’t attend. The biggest thing they will be missing is a chance to get rid of any fears they have. They especially need to meet the teacher and see their room. This may not be a “big deal” to you, but trust me; it’s a really big deal to a little kid. Making it a priority in your life also shows them that what is happening in their world is very important to you. This builds their self-esteem and helps them realize that school is important. 
  • Let them know even before Open House what goes on at school. I did this by taking my children to events that were held at school. You can also share positive experiences that you had as a child. “I just loved kindergarten. We had a class pet. I enjoyed painting at the easel and playing with Play-Dough and going on fieldtrips. I wonder if you’ll get to do those things too. We should ask your teacher when we see them.”


  • There are some wonderful First Day Of School/Separation Anxiety books on the market. Go to the library, and read several. I love: I Like School, The Good-Bye Book,  The Kissing Hand, First Day Jitters, Llama Llama Misses Mama,  The Night Before Kindergarten.

Make friends:

  • Children are no different than adults. Put yourself in their place. Do you like going to events where you don’t know anyone, where you have to fill out and slap on a “Hello my name is tag?” friendsDo a little research on your child’s behalf. See if the neighbor’s children, or kids up the street, or the children in his Sunday school class, are going to be in his class and then call up the parent and make a Play Date. If there is some sort of summer recreational activity going on in your area, it’s a great place to meet other children before school starts. Making a new friend before hand, so they can share the first day experience with, gives them something to look forward to. “Oh look Stevie! There’s Jason.” Is a great distraction tool.
  • After they’ve been in school awhile, ask who their new friends are and make after school or Saturday Play Dates with them.
  • Practice makes perfect so why not practice separating? Arrange Play Dates with friends..  Ask a grand parent to take your child for a few hours. Hire a sitter for an hour so that you can run errands instead of taking your child with you everywhere you go.
  •  Don’t tell your child “I’ll be right back.” To them that’s minutes. They don’t have a real concept of time. “I’ll be back when the hands on the clock look like this picture.” Then draw it for them and make sure you are not late. Or if they have a children’s play clock set the hands to that time.

Ask the right questions 

  • Don’t plant seeds of doubt by asking them leading questions like: “Are you worried about school?” “Are you worried about leaving mommy” You just opened a can of worms. Your child might not have had a care in the world and now you gave them something to think about, mull over and start to worry about. 
  • Instead, water a garden of excitement! “Wow! I bet you’re excited to start school and make new friends.” 
  • It’s good to ask them if they have any questions. You’d be surprised that some of their top questions involve practical things that they have fears about like: What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I forget to get off the bus? What if nobody likes me?  You can then address these and dispel their fears.

 Generate Excitement:

  • kindergartenHow else do you get them excited? There’s nothing like a trip to the mall and an adventure in shopping to add excitement. Bring them along when you go looking for school supplies, a backpack and school clothes. Give them a say in choices. 
  • Let them help pack their backpack the night before school. Let them choose a special snack for their lunch box, and allow them to help you make their lunch. Show them the options of what they can wear to school. I limited this to 2 choices with NO mind changing in the morning. Then lay everything out for the next day.

Be Organized: 

  • Having everything ready will make for a great morning and ease tension and anxiety. Allow for extra time so things run smoothly. If you’re calm, your child will be calm. Don’t forget the camera.

 Click on the link to read the rest of the article.

     It's back-to-school and the biggest problem I face with my 4-year-olds is the fact that I always have at least one child who suffers from separation anxiety. Instead of this being a wonderul happy day for them, tears flow and you'd think we're at the doctor's office anticipating the dreaded shot!

     Here are some tried and true tips that are sure-fire methods in keeping the awful Anxiety Monster away!

Prepare Your Parents:

  •  Have you ever heard the saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” That is extremely applicable for separation anxiety and your parents. Yes, parents and not your students. I’m a firm believer in training parents as much as children. A child doesn’t come with an instruction manual and some parents are just better at easing into the job than others, just as some teachers get the hang of things right out of the gate.
  • If you give them a bulleted check list in your “Welcome to school” summer letter, chances are you might have a few less criers, or that the ones who do go into meltdown mode will at least have the equipment needed to settle down after mommy or daddy leave. Click on the link for a check list.  
  • You can also read my article “Separation Anxiety and What Every Parent Should Know To Prepare For the First Day Of School”  and give them the link to read it. 


Dispel The Fear Of The Unknown

  • Most schools have an Open House so that your students have a chance to meet you and see their room BEFORE the start of school. If your Open House is after school starts, see if you can get permission to have a “Meet You Teacher” night before the start of school. Have this the day before school starts. This will get rid of their biggest fear: “the fear of the unknown.”  
  • Give students something to look forward to in your summer letter. I tell mine that we will be studying dinosaurs. That is a hot topic for my little ones. I also let them know that after we finish a fun activity they will get to choose a little dinosaur to take home.  
  • At Open House I make sure that they get to see all the cool toys and our beautiful playground. These are also wonderful things that get them excited to want to come back and do. 
  • family I make sure to mention that they will make lots of new friends and encourage parents to introduce children while at Open House.  I often initiate introductions. “Hi Carter. Have you met Jason? He’s in our class too, and likes soccer just like you. “Then I walk away and hope parents do the rest… 
  • So that there is a comforting “school-home” connection, I include a coloring “about me” dinosaur in my students’ “Welcome Packet” that parents pick up at Open House.  Because they’ve had  some quality time with family filling this out when they share it with the class, it’s not only a great “ice breaker”, but a reminder that their family loves them and did this activity at home with them because school is important.  If someone didn’t come to Open House, or forgot to bring their dino, I let them know they can share their dinosaur on the next day of school.
  • You can also have that “school-home” connection by asking families to bring a family photo with them to Open Houseon a collage them on a wall. Then when you have meltdown moments you can take a child and show them the “We LOVE you!” wall. Have colorful paper hearts available for parents to write the words “We love you _______.” on, and then attach those next to the photo so they can see their name on the wall as well.

Prepare Yourself:bawling_kid

  • Hopefully parents will have read your note and be prepared. YOU be prepared that they have not, and that you will be dealing with two people in meltdown mode. The parent and the child. Be caring; this is a mom who is a bit tearful about leaving her child for the first time. She worries that she’ll be crying all day. She’s also embarrassed that things are out of control.  Use reassuring words that everything will be fine. That all of this is normal, that every child reacts differently, and that we will all have a great day. Keep your smile on your face, your voice calm and convincing. 
  • Now is the time to try and distract the child. I have a pin wheel and a bottle of bubbles. I ask the child which one they would like to blow on. The bubbles or the pin wheel. You do not ask a crying child yes or no questions. The answer will always be no.  It’s hard to blow and cry. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t so always have plan B.   
  • Just in case my parents didn’t send a token to school with their child, I have a basket of “lovies” that a child can choose from to “cling” to ‘til the “drama trauma” is over. There’s nothing like a soft plush animal to sooth feelings. I let them know before hand that the lovies have to go back in the basket when the timer rings because it is their nap time. This way I don’t have to have them go into meltdown mode all over again, trying to get them unclung from something else in order to have them be able to participate in activities and do some work. They can also have the option to keep the lovie on their lap or table top if they promise to do some work, if this option will get them to quiet down. I ask the crying child which one they’d like to hold.  
  • If they still are crying I simply take them by the hand and say. “I need a special helper today, and I pick you!”  Then I lead them away. I always make sure that mom has already said good-bye and given them a kiss and hug etc. then I take the rest of my children into the room so mom is out of sight and I can get things rolling.  
  • This works if I only have one or two children crying.  Amazingly, children do quiet down within 5 minutes of parents leaving.

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     Hi Readers! Happy SEPTEMBER!

    Just an FYI. I check all my links to make sure that they are "hot" and correct. Sometimes Internet Explorer will give me a window "Can't find that site." Just click my link again and you will zoom to my link. It has never failed me, the 2nd time is the charm. Honestly, nothing like being cranky! If you continue to have a problem, please e-mail me and I will check it out. I want to keep things current.

   What's New?

Red Plates:

     I'm so excited and hope you'll be too with some of the new ideas. RED PLATES are something that  I've been reading about, that seem to be extremely successful for some elementary teachers.  They celebrate a student's accomplishments. 

     Waechtersbach  is the company that makes them. They state: " It was a time honored tradition among early American families that when someone deserved special praise or attention they were served dinner on the red plate. Today this custom, so dear to early American families, returns to remind us that a simple reward can mean so much. The Red Plate is the perfect way to acknowledge a family member's special triumphs...celebrate a birthday...praise a job well done...reward a goal achieved...or simply say "You Are Special Today." When the Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration honoring that special person, event or deed. It is a visible reminder of love and esteem. A way of showing someone dear to you that they are appreciated and remembered."red_plate, red plates for students, red plates for praise

     I think that something that makes a person feel extra special and is a simple as eating off a plate is terrific. The fact that a teacher can incorporate it in the classroom to build self-esteem and celebrate a child's accomplishments is wonderful, for there has been some controversy about various reward systems for children. I've had a "trip to the treasure box" for the last 10 years and it's worked extremely well for my Y5's.

     However, the RED PLATE  program seems to build self-esteem and celebrate a child's achievements in a unique manner that a trinket does not.  I plan to start out with plastic red plates. When it's a student's birthday they get to eat their snack off a red plate. When they have improved on something that they have been working especially hard on, they get to eat their snack on a red plate. If they show wonderful effort, are especially kind, improve behavior etc. they will find a red plate at their desk. I plan to share the red plate idea with parents and perhaps they'll get on board and buy an extra special "real one" for home and start their own tradition. When everyone has passed a particular standard on the report card, we'll all celebrate and have a red plate day! It will be a trip to the Dollar Store for red paper plates that night.

     A teacher who has been doing this for several years,  has an adorable poem, a  bit of history, and an explanation on her site. Click on the link above and scroll all the way to the bottom and you'll see a picture of a red plate.  I love her "Easy button" idea too.  The "You Are Special." red plate has many websites. This one is devoted totally to the sale of only red plates and really caught my eye! Click on the link to go there.  I also found a blog site dedicated to red plate stories  so they've obviously had an impact on people. If you've implemented this celebration in your classroom we'd enjoy hearing how you use it and how effective it's been, so please comment!


Gingerbread Geography:

  • My Y5's were very limited when it came to geography. When I asked them where they'd like to go if they could go anywhere in the world, many of them said to Grand Rapids to Chucky Cheese. This is a city in Michigan that's about 30 minutes from their school! A few who had gone to Disney World said Florida.
  • I thought, Holy cow I've got to expand their horizons, so I came up with "Run! Run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me. I'm the Gingerbread Man and I'm in___________________ (State or Country) and I'm ____________'s friend!" 
  • The Gingerbread Man would send a postcard from where he'd be visiting. The cards came from my students' family and friends.
  • I had hoped we'd get a 100 postcards by our 100th day of school in February. We had over 150 before Christmas! It was a huge success.
  • The children LOVED it and the parents thought it was a great idea too.
  • Almost everyday we'd get at least one postcard in our mailbox. I'd read them during storytime.
  • During our bathroom break we'd put a "high-five" hand print sticker on whatever state or country the postcard was from.
  • We managed to get postcards from 11 countries and 47 states including Alaska and Hawaii.
  • Again, enthusiasm for this petered out around December, so we let parents know that the contest would end in January.
  • Click on the link for a copy of the LETTER we sent home to parents explaining the program. Click on PICTURES to see our hallway set up.
  • We hung a world map, a US map and a map of Michigan on the wall.
  • I also hung die-cuts of a train, plane, bus, car, and boat so we could discuss modes of travel.gingerbread, gingerbread geography, postcard mailing
  • We collaged the wall with the postcards, and suspended laminated gingerbread men from the ceiling with a few sprinkled on the wall.
  • My co-teacher Tammy and I received lots of comments from passers by on how "cool" this display was.
  • We graphed her classes cards versus mine.
  • We graphed each child's cards.
  • The most cards received was 26. Between our two classes we received 172 postcards when we finally quit. :-)
  • We not only learned geography, we had lots of math extensions with counting and graphing, as well as reading the cards and discussing postage.
  • If you'd like you can have your students color the state/country the postcard comes from and keep it in their student folder. I don't think that would be too much of a hassel. Click here for a United States Map and Country coloring pages.
  • Is geography an important part of your curriculum? How do you incorporate it?

More Helpful Stuff!

Quiet Please!      

     Here's a link of what some other teachers are doing. I's 4 B's as well as her "Walking through the hallways on marshmallow toes." I plan on passing out marshmallows to my Y5's and doing her technique to get children to walk quietly in the hallway. What a great illustration for them to have tip-toe whisper-soft feet.

Clean Up Your Desk!school_desk

     Do your 1st graders have messy desks? When I taught 1st grade Neat Freak Nellie would pop in unexpectedly while my kids were out at recess. She'd leave a neat treat and surprise inspection note. Ya just never knew when Nellie might show up. It was a nice motivation for my students to keep their desks clean. I'd periodically give them some time to "clean house."  Nellie sometimes brought her friend Lu Lu to check out the lockers! Click here for her NOTE.


Feet aching? Back hurt? So were mine until my daughter hauled me to the mall and I bought a decent pair of sandals (Ecco's) and a great pair of shoes (Dansko). Unbelievable! Do you have a favorite shoe? Or a tip that helps keep you comfortable all day? Please share with us!

Please follow the directions.

     Do you have to repeat directions all the time because your students don't listen or can't remember what to do when they get to their seat work? My solution? Picture Icons on the white board to go above the paper. Click on the link for a set of your own.

What day is it?

    Are you tired of your students asking you when the party,  fieldtrip, picture day, or when they get to wear their costume is? My solution: A monthly paperchain! Click on the link to get the details.


What shape is this?

     Are you teaching SHAPES? Use your students' bodies. Have them lay on the floor in the various shapes. Stand on the table and take their photograph. Print them off at Sam's Club in  8x10 size, type in sentence captions, laminate, and then bind the pages and you have a class book to read that your students will love!  I had my Y5's pose for this one so that their faces didn't show so that I could put it on the website. Make sure you involve all of your students so that everyone is featured in the book.

What season are we in?

     Are you teaching the SEASONS to your students? Click on the link for another adorable class book that you can make, about your students' favorite seasons. After your school has their pictures taken scan them into your computer then make copies. Students can cut them out if they are older. I trim mine into ovals for my Y5's because it's September and they haven't mastered the art of not chopping up their faces yet. You could give them a go at one so they get some practice in. Have them glue their faces to the bodies, circle their favorite season, then write their name in the blank space at the bottom of the page. Laminate and bind them together for your first class book. I made this page from a cute site with all sorts of paper cut outs. Click here to check it out. The site's called "Making Friends."  She has lots of darling designs. Perhaps you can think of more ways to incorporate them in your class. As a math extension, graph your student's favorite seasons.Jeremiah

Here's the chant I taught my Y5's to help them learn the seasons:


4 seasons and

I Love Them All!

I have my students learn the sign language for the bolded words. Learn how in my article "Sign Language in the Classroom." It's a great fine motor skill!


  • Let's sing!

  • Do you teach your students the song "Wheels On The Bus"? Why not make a huge bus complete with black paper plate spinning wheels attached with 2 brads? Glue your photo in the driver's window and your student's picture's in the other windows. Add a milk cap for a head light, and your school's name on the side and you're all set. They will enjoy singing this favorite tune as they see themselves riding on the bus. Have your students take turns holding the bus and spinning the wheels.   bus_wheels 
  • That's it for now. Come back often. I'm always adding stuff! Until then... don't forget to have

  • FUN! 

Hi! Again.

  •  I was surfing the net working on a new article and I found some cute free back-to-school post cards. Click on the link to check them out. They are at the bottom of the page. Look for the school bus!
     Show and Tell
  • If you're wondering how to handle "show & tell" this year I do the SECRET SACK. Everyone anxiously awaits their turn and it only takes 5-8 minutes. It's a wonderful way to end the day. Click on the link for my directions.


  • When you're 5-year's old that's something to celebrate.
  • When you're little you can't wait to be the next age: "I'm almost 5!" How exciting is that? It's so great to be young you even celebrate the getting to the next level. "I'm 6 and 1/2" Later you pick up speed. "I'm almost 7!"
  •  So in young fives we celebrate life with exuberance and especially birthdays.

  • Here's what I do:
  • I cut out a paper balloon and tie a curling ribbon on the end and put that on the child's locker. Happy_Birthday
  • I buy happy birthday paper plates at the Dollar Store and write their name on one and put that on the locker too. I think it's fun decorating  lockers. I think it must come from when I was a pom pom girl and we used to decorate the football team's lockers before a big game. The 1st thing the birthday boy or girl sees is their locker and right away they feel special and all smiles and that makes me feel good too.
  • I also have one of those mini Happy Birthday "Yard Banners" and whenever it's someone's birthday I hang it outside our door on the dowel. Just get two peel and stick hooks, put them twelve inches apart, stick them to the wall, and lay a dowel on top of them. Have a "Welcome to school" banner hanging on it for the rest of the time, and then change it when it's someone's birthday. I like to change it monthly for the seasons as well. It's a cute hallway decoration.
  •  I announce to the rest of the children that it is Kelli's birthday and she will be the Special Helper of the day, so she is the Line Leader etc. This is a coveted position and I make sure everyone gets a turrn.

Birthday Crowns:

I used to buy birthday crowns 'til they went up to almost $10. Now I use birthday bulletin board border and put a star, or cake, or whatever suits my fancy, die cut in the middle with the child's name on it. TIP: When you're putting crowns on children, make sure the staples are on the OUTSIDE so that you do not scratch their foreheads or get their hair caught in them.

  • The Dollar Store currently has visors 3 in a pack for $1. They would be a nice substitute for a birthday crown. I 'm thinking of simply writing the child's name on the visor, and giving them a little baggie filled with foam peel and stick stickers for them to decorate it with. Just for the day, I'd put an "It's my birthday sticker on it.
  • Oriental Trading also sells visors. It's one of my favorite places to buy little kids trinkets. And Hobby Lobby usually has them on sale in August 60% off because they stocked them for their Vacation Bible School crafts.
  • You can also make visors out of paper plates. They are fun to make to wear on fieldtrips. visors
  • Cut the plates in half, punch a hole in either end, let the children decortate them, then tie them on with a piece of yarn.
  • Birthday ones could be extra special with their name written in glitter glue.

Birthday Gift and Card:

Because this is my 11th year of teaching Y5's and buying books is my nemesis, I have a nice selection of Scholastic Bonus Books that I give to my students as a birthday gift.

  • I also go to the Scholastic 50% off teacher book sale that they run several times a year. Check out their site periodically and make it a point to go. I know they always run one in December. Just sign up for their newsletter and you should be on the list. This is how I really added to my personal library.
  • I run off labels that say Happy Birthday from Mrs. Henderson that I stick on the front of the book so that parents know that it's from me, + I write a  short note in the inside cover with the date.
  • I also have a basket of birthday books that I let the birthday child pick from for one of our stories we'll read during Story Time.
  • I buy birthday cards at the Dollar Store and sit one night during the summer to sign, stuff stickers and seal all of those.
  • I buy birthday treat bags at the Dollar Store and fill them with a McDonald toy, pencil, and lollipop.
  • On the first day of school I have everyone sign the MASTER birthday card and then I run it off, so that I have a card that all of their friends signed that I tuck in the book along with my card and a line tracing birthday cake. Click on the links for copies. 
  • I also include a birthday certificate.
  • I know this might sound like "over kill" to many of you, but I've been called "over the top" and an  "over achiever" all my life. My own kids tell me that my 50% is often everyone elses 100%. They should know. They often helped me stuff-stuff! So do what you want. I figure the little effort I put in is worth it when I see my students like up like a Christmas tree for something as simple as these things.

Keeping it organized:

  • I keep all the birthday stuff in my 2-drawer- birthday filing cabinet. The treat bags I keep in a cute childish birthday bag. 
  • In the past I've done other things. When I taught first grade I decorated a sturdy box with balloon birthday wrapping paper. I wrapped the cover separately. I kept all kinds of treasures inside. When it was your birthday, besides the book, you got to choose a treasure from the birthday box as well. If you wanted you could make candy treat bags and simply keep them in there and have them reach in and take one, then store the box else where. Just adds to the fun.
  • Everyone's name and birth date is on my  birthday poster. See pix below.

The calendar:

  • On our calendar I put a happy birthday cupcake in the number pocket to remind me that we are celebrating a birthday that day.
  • This year I'm going to copy an idea that I just love that I found online. This teacher has a little decorated bag for each month. In the bag she has a tongue depressor with the child's name on it. At the beginning of the month, she takes the bag down and takes the sticks out and puts them in the appropriate numbered pocket on the calendar.  Isn't that a terrific idea? I can't have my Y5's put their sticks in the pocket because we don't meet every day, so I'll be putting their stick in the day that we'll be celebrating their birthday, but I LOVE this idea.
  • Click here to go to her nice site to see this cute idea. Scroll down 'til you come to birthday bags.  
  • I went looking for bags today and I ended up at Hobby Lobby. They have white and brown small bags that are 7 1/2 by 4  1/2 . They are 3 for a $1. But no tiny ones with handles.
  • You could still display them across the board, but they would take up quite a bit of  room. Which got me thinking that you could simply display the current month. Then I thought, what would be even less work, would be to have one birthday bag hanging on a thumb tack on your calendar board. Have that be "This Month's Birthday Candles."
  • Put the Popsicle sticks in the bag for just the current month.
  • I'm going to call them "candles."
  • Write each student's name on one with their birth date on it.
  • b I've made a PDF for you in case you want to make your own bag click here.
  • I drew a little flame at the top so it would look like a candle. When I got the yellow done, I couldn't really see it, so I outlined it with orange, and then I thought this sort of looks like a finger nail and I'm not sure I like it,  so you decide what you want to do.
  • I plan on leaving the candles in the little bag, hanging on the calendar, and then with great ceremony, take them out and have the children identify whose names are on the "candles".
  • Then, we'll put them in the calendar pockets on the days that we'll be celebrating.
  • Once that day arrives, I'll give the child their candle to use as a bookmark, with a reminder never to play with matches or candles.
  • Or if you still really like displaying all the little bags, Hobby Lobby does sell a pack of 25 miniature brown bags that don't have any handles for $2.99. Go online and see if they have a 40% off one item coupon for the week in their ad. Just click the link. 
  • Coloring pages:

  • For some cute birthday coloring pix  click on the link.
  • You can also use any coloring pages to make your own cards for children to sign.
  • TIP: I buy coloring books and turn them into  number and ABC dot-to-dots by simply cutting 1/ 2 of the picture off and replacing it with numbered dots or the alphabet. If I need a few more lines or details, I put the coloring page under my master and trace them on.

  • Making them feel special:

  • My students come into the classroom and we sit on our Circle of Friends carpet and our Birthday Child gets to sit in the Birthday Chair. Its an antique piano chair that I painted and stenciled.
  • I put on their crown. And paste a birthday sticker to their shirt.
  • My favortie place to buy stickers is Really Good Stuff. Click on the link to check out their site. Their quality is awesome and their prices are great. Here's a pix of the adorable dinosaur birthday stickers. stickers

  • Then, Birthday Bear gives them a "sandwich hug". (The bear is between me and the child.) They think that's neat.
  • I plug the birthday present light in, and birthday bear sits by it through out the day.
  • I give the child their birthday treats, they sit in the birthday chair and we sign happy birthday to them. Happy (You make your hand scoop towards you twice) Birth (Hold your left arm out straight and slide your right hand under it, like it's going down a slide), Day (Put your left arm across your chest, rest your right elbow on your finger tips with your index finger of your right hand pointing upward, have your right arm fall down on top of your left. The sun is going down, signalling the end of the day.)
  • I like to teach my students sign language and they LOVE learning it. I will have a separate article on this later.
  • We also say happy birthday to them in Spanish. Feliz cumpleaños! I teach a little Spanish to my students because we have quite a few Hispanic students. I usually have at least one child who doesn't speak English each year. One year I had 6 that didn't speak any English and I am NOT fluent. It was pretty crazy . 
  • One of my friends gave me this goofy box. When you open it, it sings Happy Birthday. She also gave me a cake magnet. When you press it, it also sings. I ask the child would he like the box or cake to sing with us. They choose and we have a musical accompaniment.
  • When we  sing Happy Birthday, followed by "are ya 1, are ya 2? and the child stops us at 5. I spin them around in the chair 2 times, and we all clap
  • I'm sure you can find some musical thing at Spencer's Gifts or a Hallmark store. . Birthday_Bear_2
  • I have a "magic candle" that lights up and they blow it out. Everyone makes a wish for them. It gives me a chance to remind my students to NEVER play with matches, candles, lighters, fire etc. and I make them PROMISE me. I figure they can't hear it too often. 
  • In December the Dollar Store has these battery operated candle lights. When the child blows on the candle just unscrew the bottom a bit and the light will go out. Sometimes just to be silly I let them keep blowing.
  • They take their things to their locker and about that time the annoucements come on.
  • I made the lit up birthday present light  out of one of those glass blocks. It's a quick and easy craft project that takes about 15 minutes. They are already pre-drilled. Just shove a short 100 white light set inside the hole, hot glue a length of pretty ribbon around the side, and finish off with a big pom pom bow. Instant birthday present light.
  • Click here to see my cute birthday calendar cakes for only .99¢ There are 27 pages. 12 full-color adorable cakes + 12 matching black and white ones to give to the birthday child to color and a card for their classmates to sign. You cut out construction paper candles, write your student's names on them and put them on top of the monthly cakes. Makes a cute border to put up around your room, or simply put one up on your calenddar.
  •                                                                                                                                                Birthday Bear

  • Picture Taking
  • If you've taken a first day picture of your students, you can make double prints. I have a little sign that says: "Whose Birthday Is It Today?" I also have an oval mat that I post on the wall. I slide the extra picture under that, and feature the birthday child's pix in it.
  • In the past, I've also taken a picture of the child on their birthday to include in the Keepsake Calendar book.
  • birthday_board
  • My Special Birthday Wall:
  • This is a picture of my Birtday Bulletin Board. The September birthday cake is up. It doesn't have any candles on it yet.
  • The oval mat is under and to the right of it, with the little poster signage under it that says: Whose birthday is it today?  I also have a magnet on our white board that says: Celebrate! Under the magnet I write the child's name who we are celebrating that day.
  • I write the children's names and birthday dates on the appropriate montly shape.
  • Birhtday bear and his present light sits on the table.  I keep my birthday bag of treats under the table when they're not in use. 
  • So that I don't forget it's a child's birthday, before I go home, I put the birthday chair in the middle of the Circle Of Friends Carpet, and lay the birthday "goodies" on the chair, then go decorate their locker.

  • Snack Time:
  • When I'm doing my Snack Calendar for the month I make sure that any children who are celebrating birthdays, are also the children bringing snack on that day. Some parents like to make snack day extra special then. I don't allow cake or cupcakes, as I don't feel that's a nutricious snack for the children. I find that when parents bring in gooey cupcakes a Y5 will generally lick off the frosting and not eat the cupcake at all. They often get the frosting up their nose, and if they do take a bit or two, I have crumbs everywhere.
  • Some parents bring in special cups and plates, and even make treat bags for the children. I let parents know that's perfectly fine, and welcome them to come share the day with us if they want to. I have a note about all of this in my Student Handbook if you want to check it out.   Just click on the link. Some teachers are now doing a "You are special!"-red plate program in their class, which would include a child eating off a red plate on their birthday. Check out my Main Blog for September to read this article.

  • Balloons:
  • Parents always have questions so it's good to have a policy about birthdays.
  • We have a latex free school zone so there are no balloons allowed. So if that's true in your school put it in your handbook. One year I had a mom bring in balloons for all of the children.
  • I do put them in their treat bags, just because they are inexpensive, but I tell my students not to open the bag 'til they get home. balloons

  • Seat of honor:
  • When the child comes back from putting their treats in the locker they get to sit anywhere they want.
  • A new thing I'm going to do is a seat cover. Somewhere floating through cyberspace or a magazine I had seen a birthday cake made out of felt. I thought: "Oh I can do that!" and filed it away in the back of my brain of never accomplished tasts, because I ran out of summer.
  • I think this would be an added way to make children feel extra special.
  • Then I was surfing the net for more b. day ideas for you and came upon this link of other teacher's ideas from A to Z Teacher Stuff, and one teacher mentioned that when she was a child her teacher put something on her chair and she still remembers it from 16 years ago! Well if it's that memorable I'm getting right on it,. Hmmmm. 
  • It has to be EASY, CHEAP, FUN, FAST and DURABLE
  • Here's what I came up with:
  • Buy two large sheets of flat foam Lots of color choices at Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart and Michaels's Crafts, but I chose WHITE  because I wanted to decorate it with multi-colors and then with a white background they'd all show up.
  • I have little chairs so I CUT exactly 2  1/4 inches off the side and it fit great.
  • Just to make sure, test it on your own chairs BEFORE you cut.
  • If you have 1st graders, and they sit at a desk, you won't want to cut anything off. 
  • STAPLE both sides and the top. Leave the bottom open so that you can slip it over the chair. 
  • Press hard on the stapler, but you don't need to use the heavy duty kind that staples 20+ sheets, a regular one works just fine as long as your foam sheets aren't "extra thick".
  • Try and stay on a straight line. I covered the staples with puffy paint later.
  • Now it's time to DECORATE.Happy_B._Day_Cover
  • I used stencils because I own a zillion and my fat foam stamps are at school and I wanted to "play" this minute. My husband secretly thinks I have ADHD. He came home, and I'm sprawled all over the kitchen, paint bottles, and supplies everywhere.  "What are we making today Diane?"  I'm gratefully married to a saint who doesn't mind walking through my creative messes. You could also free hand paint a birthday cake on it if you're artistic.
  • TIP: This was so fun I made a STAR STUDENT one too. Click on the link to see the pix. You could make one for your Author Chair too.

SUMMER Birthdays:

  • When I was in elementary school I always felt left out of the "birthday loop." I don't know what was the matter with teachers back then, but I NEVER got to celebrate a single birthday because I ws born in the summer in July.
  • I vowed that when I became a teacher, those little ones would also celebrate.
  • Winnie the Pooh celebrates "very un-birthdays" and I liked that concept. Some teachers celebrate 1/2 birthdays during the "middle" of the year. Whatever you do - CELEBRATE! Young children are all about fairness.
  • Any of my little peanuts born in June, July and August get a special day in June when we celebrate their "pretend summer b. day."  If I have a lot, then I start at the end of May. Since Michigan starts the day after Labor Day, I celebrate any September birthdays that happened prior to the start of school in September, so I don't get confused.

More helpful information on birthdays:

  • I'm sharing this site where a mom asks other moms for ideas of how she could celebrate her son's 5-year-old birthday party at school.  Be prepared for this question, and hopefully your parents will ask. I was very happy that almost all of the mommies advised her to ask his teacher first. That's why it's so important to be specific in your handbook, and to let parents know that you have your own special celebration for their child, and just what it entails so that they WILL feel special through out the day.
  • Click here for some cute party games. I like Monkey See Monkey Do. 
  • Click here for some bulletin board ideas for birthdays. Don't forget to click on her sidebar for more birthday day bulletin boards for September birthdays, birthday displays, and birthday bulletin boards for teachers!.
  • Here's another awesome website:  Click on the word birthday for some terrifice birthday songs, poems, ideas, and birthday book selections.
  • One of my favorite magazines is Family Fun. They have lots of kid tips, recipes, craft, deocorating, and party ideas. Check out their website at Family Fun.
  • And if you're a parent and just looking for an interesting site that has some fun birthday party ideas  for your own little on the link.
  • Click here for two favorite birthday treat recipes from a teacher/parent.
  • Click here for a list of 17 party games. From there you can click on that game for directions.
  • Click here for 5 Birthday Mazes.
  • Click her e to make your own Birthday Storybook. 

"Birthday Buddy Book Bags" to get your students reading and writing!

  • When I taught 1st grade I had all sorts of "Reading Buddy Bags" for my students to take home. They couldn't wait for their turn to check out a bag. The Birthday Bag was one of them. Inside were two of my birthday books, a birthday notebook, an envelope of birthday stickers, and an envelope of birthday bookmarks with a laminated letter home to parents explaining the book bag. Beanie Babies were really popular 11 years ago so there was always one in the bag for them to "read to".  I had a regular small bear tucked in the zipper of the backpack for the Birthday Bag.. He also had an autograph book because I wanted the children to work on writing their first and last names.
  • Parents helped their children write a brief description of what they did on their birthday, then helped them read one or both of the birthday books. They got to choose a sticker and bookmark when they were done, and returned the bag the next day.
  • I had laminated library pockets with names on index cards, so I knew who had what bags.
  • Click here if you'd like to print a copy of the letter so you can make your own Birthday Bag as well as the cover of the writing journal.
  • I made a new one for you, because I simply put a piece of laminate over some birthday stationery. bear_bag
  • In my note I also told them to sign the autograph book and included this note:  "Child psychologists say that it's important to tell children about pleasant things in their past that they don't remember. My own children never tired listening about the funny things they did as a baby or toddler. It became a tradition on their birthday to haul out theri photo albums and reminisce about the day they were born and past birthdays." 
  • Pictured below is the folder that I kept the notes, journal, and authograph book in. I had 2 backpacks in case I had 2 birthdays on the same day or twins.
  •  I let them choose the books they'd like to take home from the birthday basket.

Birtday Songs:

  • Need a new birthday song? Click on the link to go to Jean Warren's
  • Pre-School Express site's new birthday songs.
  • Well that's it for my tips on celebrating birthdays in my classroom.
  • If you have some you'd like to share,  I'd love to hear from you!
  • bear_folder



Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Teachers have opposing veiws on nametags. With all the things we have to write a young child's name on, why spend another 1/2 hour making name tags and writing on them too? Here's why I do it.Names

  • One of our report card standards is: "TLW recognize their name in print." I figure if the child sees it enough this will help. What better way than to have it plastered on their body as a constant reminder.
  • Other students will also see their name and begin to be able to read them as well.
  • It's also a "little cheat-sheet" for when they have to find it elsewhere. One has only to glance at their tag to then locate a mailbox, locker, paper, tubbie etc.
  •  I tell them not to look at their tag and try and find these things without the help of their tag, and then to check their tag to make sure they are at the correct place.
  • For the first two weeks of school tags are for my sanity. I have stickers on them  for walkers (feet), pick ups (cars) and bus riders (busses) I know at a glance who goes where and so does the child. "OK! All the children who have a bus sticker please line up over here in the bus line. Thank you." "Now I need all my children who have a car sticker; please stand over here." etc.
  • I have my "going home list" on a clipboard. When the office sends down a note of a child's change of venue, I immediately stick it to the clipboard so that I can pull a car, foot or bus out of one line and put them into another.
  • These name tags are also for their protection. Often times little ones get lost in our big building as they are dropped off out front.
  • All staff members know to watch out for Mrs. Henderson's big purple tags because they are Y5's. 
  • My September tags not only have the child's name on them, but they have the address of where the bus will be dropping them off, their bus number and their teacher's name.
  • The Y5's and the Kindergarten teachers all have this kind of info. Each one of us has a different color, so we can tell at a glance who belongs to whom, and who should be in what class.
  • This is very much appreciated by office staff, cafeteria people, and especially the bus drivers who have caught a few "oops!" before they have driven
  • I laminate these tags and slip them into a plastic sleeve that has a metal clip on them. That way if the child gets water down the sleeve, the tag inside will still be protected.
  • In the past I have simply laminated the construction paper and put double reinforcement holes on the front and back and used safety pins. These worked fairly well, but they were pretty dog-eared after 2 weeks.
  • I send a note home to parents to please wear the tags daily and to take them off as soon as the child gets home and attach it to their backpack. That way, if they forget to put it back on in the morning, at least I will have access to it.
  • Anyone wearing their name tag the next day of school gets a sticker on the back.
  • I do this because my students LOVE stickers and it gives them a little incentive to help them remind their parents to remember to put their name tag on. This is a great way to teach responsibility.
  • I always laminate 10 extra  blank ones to use when children do forget. 
  • I feel wearing name tags also builds a child's self-esteem and makes them feel special. All kinds of staff members greet these children throughout the day:  "Hi Kelli!" They are little people. They have no idea that these adults are reading a name tag. They think everyone knows them! That makes them feel wonderful!
  • My children don't stay with me all day. They have exploratory with other teachers. Those teachers have over 200 children. They don't have seating charts to depend on. Name tags are important for discipline, behavior modification, and building rapport with students they only have once a week.
  • Young children tend to speak in whisper-soft voices when asked their name by cafeteria staff. This makes for a long line of impatient hungry children. Seeing a name tag and hearing a name helps the line move right along.
  • kid_2After the two weeks,  I switch to a foam name tag.
  • Hobby Lobby and Michaels Craft Stores are two of my favorite places for crafts. The Dollar Tree store has also started to carry some craft supplies and ours has packs of small foam.
  • Cut an index-size piece of foam in 1/2
  • Snip the sides off so that it looks like a tag.
  • Punch a hole in the middle of one end.
  • Make sure that you are as far in as the hole punch allows. Children pull on name tags and this will keep it from ripping from the safety pin.
  • Put double reinforcent holes on both sides. 
  • Buy a bag of self-stick die-cut shapes.
  • I buy stars and tell my students that they are all shining stars that have star power, and that as their teacher I'm going to help them shine their brightest. 
  • Peel and stick the star on the right end of the tag.
  • Write names in permanent black marker.
  • Attach  a safety pin.
  • Attaching name tags is also a great fine motor skill. 
  • My students put these tags on in the morning and wear them to special, then to lunch and then they take them off.
  • I also give them a little star certificate.  I have them write their name on it then cut it out.  Click on the star to make some for your students.
  •  Simply run them off on yellow construction paper.  I did not make up the little verse,  I found it online a few years ago. Little Giraffes also does this poem.
  • I make it a point to learn my students' names by the end of the 1st day of school
  • On library day I have them put their name tags on again so the librarian feels more comfortable reading to my little ones.
  • Things get crazy in my world, so I tell the children to help remind me to take name tags off. The first one who does that gets a Smartie Coin, sticker, M&M, or Skittle; their choice. Or I may give the little basket I keep the tags in, to the Helper of The Day.
  • It's amazing how children remember things when you ask them, and it helps teach responsibility,and  build self- esteem as they enjoy the praise later.
  • I make an extra set of tags and keep them in a baggie in my substitute folder.
  • My foam tags last all year.
  • I put my students' names on borders for their birthday crowns. They LOVE them, and seem to keep these on all day. They are easily seen, and don't get wet.
  • I'm toying with the idea of making laminated crowns for name tags some year. I'm not sure if tossing them in a basket every day would damage them tho'.
  • Any thoughts? What does everyone else do? apples






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