Thursday, December 29, 2011

The End of Another Year

Here we are facing the end of another year.  It's a time of reflection.  A time of new beginnings.  For me, this was the year that I went back to the classroom after almost 15 years as a resource teacher/Literacy Coach.  And I count myself privileged to be back in Kindergarten after 17 years!  Seventeen!  And boy have things changed in that time.

I've been blogging most of my classroom experiences over here at The Learning Garden.
    I have to say that being back in the classroom has birthed ideas for at least two or three new books for teachers in my head.  So I really want to make it my new year's resolution (or at least a really strong attempt) to blog in both places!  Teaching and learning is ever-changing.  It's filled with challenges like always, but they are different today.  The classroom is a busy place filled with activity and occasional chaos.  The curriculum is jam packed with things to be taught and learned.  And time is at a premium to get it all done.

As I head into the new year with my Kindergarten students and my colleagues I really want to explore how we accomplish it all and still stay sane!

Here's to a new year filled with reading, writing and thinking!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Week 3 is approaching...

I have loved my first two weeks back in full time Kindergarten!  I have to say that one of the biggest blessings (above the sweet kids) are their parents!  I love it that I have parents who WANT to be involved in their child's education.  Actually, no child should have to "go it alone".  It's just that the years I've spent in Title I made me know that so many do!  Honestly, it's refreshing to be surrounded by supportive parents.

I always wondered about those teachers who didn't like incorporating the parents into the classroom ebb and flow.  I love it!  I feel like we're all on a team and it only makes the team stronger.

I'm looking forward to using my volunteers this year for some new things...blogging and creating presentations.  Should be great fun!

In the meantime, I blogged over at my classroom blog about our busy week.  Hop on over there and read some of the fun things we've been doing in our amazing "Learning Garden" this week!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Week Re-cap

Our first week back in K was amazing!  I have some of the sweetest kids on the planet.  They are eager to learn and happy to be in school.  Each day they get a bit more comfortable with each other and with our classroom.  Oh sure, I have those who still aren't quite sure what a cubbie is and those who really don't care to be a part of a circle time.  But they are learning and starting to participate, which I LOVE! 

Academically speaking:  we learned letters Aa through Hh, started a book of our friends' names, we painted twice, played with shapes and objects to sort and classify in math, and read a lot of GREAT books! 

Socially speaking:  I know that one child knows all about raccoon poop, another collected special crystals from his seawall, and still another loves going to eat out at fine restaurants with the family!  And we celebrated two birthdays already complete with cake and singing. 

On the "keeping it real" front: I've already tied at least 2,000 shoe laces, put wet towels on several bumped knees, hugged away a few sets of tears, peeled a couple off their parent in the morning, cleaned up pee, blood and barf, and opened several gogurts, fruit roll-ups and other lunchbox treats. 

And all I can think is "Early Childhood friends, you wear me out...but I've missed your general zest for life and learning!"  Because of this, I know that for me this return to my teaching roots (in primary) is going to be a powerful learning experience.  I'm excited to see where the road leads this school year and I couldn't be happier to share it with these sweet youngsters! 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Before and After Classroom

OK, the classroom is (mostly) done!  I still have odds and ends to do and things to tighten up...but Meet Your Teacher was yesterday and it was pretty ready.  My "before picture" looked like this:

Now, that same shot looks like this:

Here's a quick tour around the room. Starting with our "welcome area".  This will be where kids sign in every day.  

Here's the Behavior Chart and Rules that I've been seeing all over the Internet.  I love it and tweaked it with my own graphics to match our "Learning Garden" Theme. 
Unfortunately, I can't remember the links for the GREAT teachers that shared these two tidbits.  I found both while blog surfing this summer.  And I tweaked them a bit with my own clipart. If you know the link, please add it and I'll add it to this post.  Otherwise, I'll dig through my stuff and find them to give credit where credit is due.  
And, in my opinion, the MOST important part of any classroom is the well-stocked Classroom Library.  Here it is for now.  I need to fix up the basket labels and I REALLY want to put that Learning Garden Tree in the I'm hoping to find some artists in my group of parents who can help us get that done.  
 More updates later.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Classroom Update

Monday is a "Furlough Day" in our district--so no classroom prep will happen that day.  It dawned on me while talking with some teacher friends this weekend just HOW MUCH free labor we give in the summer.  Many of my friends are in classrooms that were being repainted this summer.  They have been unable to get in their rooms due to delays in the painting schedule.  Some were just moving into those rooms (a la my carpet cleaning feeling).  And they are frustrated.  Many wanted to really spend time just putting the room together for the kids.

Now, I wonder...will their rooms look just as beautiful and inviting come "Meet Your Teacher" next week?  My guess is the answer is "yes".  Because that's the kind of teachers these are.  To quote Larry the Cable Guy, They "Get 'er done!" No matter what.  They'll spend longer hours next week making up for lost time.

So, yeah, back to the furlough day.  It's a day we're not getting paid.  It's a day the campus is closed.  Yet, teachers will more than work those hours in the next week alone.  Free.  I don't mind volunteering any more than the next person.  Maybe, though, it's time for those at the state level to really see the amount of time teachers give.  Could it make a difference?  I don't know.  At least having someone in power acknowledge it might be a start.  Furlough or not.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I FINALLY got to move the REST of my stuff into my room today!  We got new windows...and they ARE gorgeous...but it's impeded moving.  And those carpets finally got cleaned yesterday.  Now they are gorgeous as well.

Anyway, this morning, my trusty crew...three of my kids (DSs 2 & 3 and LG), my FIL and my dear friend Sandy helped load up cars (FIVE of them to be exact) with all my other stuff and headed over to my new school.  Now, you know it's rainy season here in (ahem) "sunny" Florida, and this morning we had a DELUGE right upon arrival at the school parking lot.  My crew waited a bit hoping it'd stop.  And it sort of did.  There was simply this huge LAKE where we had to walk to the stairs.  Anyway, with shoes a'sloshing they trudged EVERYTHING up TWO flights of stairs and into the room.  I am a BLESSED woman!

Here's a picture of what it looked like after all five carloads were added to the two van loads DS 3 and I already dumped in there:

Sandy helped me start positioning furniture and we schlepped several pieces to a couple sides of the room to try them out.  As I told her, I think this is something we female teachers get.  Not so sure about our male counterparts.  Anyway...on we went figuring out where that sweet little classroom library was going to go.  And the corner that won is shown over here at the right.

Next I started unpacking those boxes that seem to be multiplying as we watch!  My daughter stayed and helped me sort and organize and clean from the window installation dust.  She was a REAL trooper and kept saying, "Mommy, you have a fun job!"  I'm glad she thinks so.  (I couldn't bear to tell her that it was free labor all around today!)

Anyway, we worked just about eleven hours total and here's a small snippet of what we accomplished:

 The classroom library is starting to come together.  I am excited to put in a "Reading Pond" to go with the garden theme.  I found the CUTEST stuffed turtle and frog to go inside it!  (I'll take a better picture of that when I go back in.)
 Sorting out school supplies is a must.  Why is it the school supply aisles just call my name like a bad addiction?  I love buying them and having them ready to go.
 Over half the boxes are unpacked and broken down!
  And...CHECK out my salvage yard find!  I got the four letters there.  (They are from old business signs)...added the cute little book characters and am now happy as a clam with THAT little display!

I love it when things start to shape up.  Of course, I'm gonna need a miracle to find places for everything that has yet to be unpacked.  BUT I will prevail...even if it means PURGING.

Happy 2011-12 Everyone!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oh Carpets...

I am reading a ton of educator blogs and hearing how people are going in to dabble in their rooms.  Since I moved this year, I really need to do more than dabble.  I need to get it all in there!  Still, it's been a little exercise in patience since we are waiting on the carpets to get cleaned.  I don't want to put all my stuff on top of the carpet and get in the way of that process, you know?


I'm anxious to get in there and get started!  We moved about half my stuff in last week and put it all in the little tiny bathroom and on the tiled floor (which has been cleaned and waxed).  There's just no room for anything else!  I guess I could go in and get some bulletin boards done.  Still, even that requires me digging in to my stuff!


I keep blog surfing.  Keep "pinning away" on Pinterest.  And I keep looking for the next great thing to make my little "Learning Garden" a fun place to learn and grow!

Here's hoping this week brings me different news and I can start to get in there and whittle away at the pile of stuff!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Another Give Away

A Teeny Tiny Teacher

Head on over to Kristin's blog at Teeny Tiny Teacher to check out her give away of a $20 gift card to Teacher Heaven, I mean Barnes and Noble!  

Just another great teacher blog sharing great ideas from the classroom.   

Friday, July 29, 2011

Come Meet Some Bloggers!

Hop on over to the FB Linky Party....It's a great way to connect and meet bloggers.  If you haven't connected with us on FB, head on over to the box in the right sidebar and join us!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Give Away

Head on over to Sunny Days in Second Grade for an awesome give away opportunity to celebrate 600 followers.  It's easy to enter and there are some great products you could win!  If you register over there, be sure to tell her you were sent by Susan @ Literacy Coaching so that we can BOTH win!
Visit Sunny Days


I went to my first "team meeting" this week with my new team!  How sweet it was of them to have a get together to just visit and get to know each other prior to the frenzy of the school year.  They gave me a great pacing calendar they have created and answered a bunch of my questions.

It's been a while since I've been the "new person" on I have to say I've been reflecting on this transition and what we can do when OTHER people are in that position.  If you have a new person coming to your team this year, why not hold a meeting just before the actual back to school days?  It could be as simple as inviting them for coffee at Starbucks or lunch out somewhere.  Trust me, this simple action goes a long way toward easing some of the "first day jitters"!

And in other "team news"...I have another team who will NOT be with me physically on my school campus next year.  But I have friends who are in my network that have been sharing their best and brightest ideas with me.  It feels GREAT to know that I am only a phone call or an email away from a whole bunch of support during my transition!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Anna at Crazy for First Grade teaming up with Donna from Kinderglynn and Jodi from Clutter-free Classroom to throw a HUGE jungle themed giveaway!!!  

Head on over to her blog to get the directions and get signed up!  

Love this quote:

“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”   (Not sure the source...but this is well worth consideration)  

Kohl's Cares Clifford PlushDid you see that Clifford is on sale at Kohl's?  LOVE the Kohl's Cares for Kids campaign.  They have some great literacy materials for kids.  I have acquired some great characters and books at a very low cost through this program.  

We are off to find a "Brown Bear" for a great activity that I found over at Krazy for Kindergarten .  I think I'm going to use this as our "Back to School" activity for week 1.  It's a great way to incorporate so much learning and assessment in a fun way.  

My new addiction is "Pinterest".   I am loving this tool for storing great ideas and projects that I find on the Internet!  If you have a Pinterest account, let's link up!  

Happy Monday!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In with the new...

As I said in my last post, I am switching schools.  This is something I haven't done in 12 years.  In fact, this is the longest I've worked anywhere.  So it's a little strange.  BUT EXCITING!  In the past two Sundays, I have run into two of my new teammates.  I have to say this has been interesting (and has gone a long way towards settling my nerves).  The person I met (or reaquainted with) today had actually sent a team email this morning, so it was quite timely!  It made me consider just what I've done to reach out to new teachers who have stepped into our school in the last 12 years.

If you have new people joining your staff--either seasoned or brand new--why not find ways to reach out and extend a connection to them?  It may be that they are sitting home a little nervous about stepping foot into that new classroom this fall.  Simply knowing that someone else cares that they are coming can make such a big difference.  It can be a simple email or handwritten note (if you have access to their address).  Or you may even make a phone call to invite them to lunch before the hectic activity of preplanning week begins.

What do you do to ease the transition for a new teacher to your school?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Wheels are TURNING!

This Fall I will be returning full time to the classroom!  Not just any classroom, but the Kindergarten classroom.  I could go into the reasons for it here, but I won't.  Still, I couldn't be more excited to be making this move!  The thing is, my head is SPINNING!

I've set up a classroom website.

I've been visiting blogs like CRAZY and am blown away at all the FABULOUS blogs that I see out there.  In fact, it is a reminder that it's time to step up the game here on Literacy Coaching!

I've been finding treasures galore in stores, thrift shops, goodwill and online.  So, needless to say, we may be BROKE by the time school starts again.  (Just kidding!)

Anyway, I've just discovered "Pinterest" where you can organize all the things you find on the Internet that are of interest to you.  So I'm starting to store some things there.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a little of my handiwork thus far.  I decided to have a theme for the classroom, so here it is:

And, along with that theme, I created my very own classroom website (thanks to the coaching of one of my colleagues).  The site is "Mrs. Nations' Learning Garden"  and can be found over at
If you're looking for an easy and FREE way to create a website for yourself...head on over there now.  It's a great user-friendly site!

While planning for the garden theme, I discovered this little gem in one of our local children's bookstores:  

So I started collecting flowers for it and am now praying for an arts-inclined parent to be connected to one of the kids in my new class!

My Mother-in-Law has been a Godsend as she has started printing out some of the resources we've discovered on the Internet for K.

Here are a few center activities that are already done and ready for this Kindergarten class:

 Attach the mouse with ribbon so he can run up the clock.

 Use oven mitts to clap and sort picture cards.

Manipulate the word cards and the flies to say this fun poem!

Hopefully when I get into the room, I can do some before and after photos.  And people think teachers take "off" in the summer!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Did You Know?

Highly effective teachers make incremental change throughout their career?  Usually this is includes collaborating with other peer professionals and administration with the intention to see student achievement gains.  Here are the hallmarks of this "Deliberate Practice":
* Continually self-assess and seek feedback on performance, particularly about  proficiency on the research based practices linked to student achievement

* Focus on "thin slices" - work on mastery of a small quantity of skills  each year rather than doing too much at one time..steady growth over time
* Identify areas of weakness and/or interest
* Select focus area for improvement..a research based practice that is of interest (I want to be able to do that) or where improvement is needed (I need to be able to do that)
* Determine current level of performance in focus area
* Set goal and time frame for improving performance
* Seek mentors in area where they are working
 These habits form a life-long learning process that results in continuous improvement,  quality collegial relationships, and higher student achievement.  Effective school leaders support teachers' efforts to engage in deliberate practice.

Excerpted from Florida School Leaders Website: 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A GREAT Recycling Idea...

Saw this on Facebook today and thought it was worth sharing:

" I have the best new idea for recycling. Have an old, broken umbrella? Remove it carefully from the wire brackets until you just have a circular piece of material. Cut off the closure string. Now you have a FREE small parachute to use with children. Depending on the size of the umbrella, 4-6 children can use it for parachute play with or without balls! Clever?"  

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Great Chuckle

If you've ever had to help kids get boots, hats, mittens, and such on during the school day, then you'll love this little laugh.  I am not sure who to credit with it, as I received it in an email from my 90 year old Grandmother:

The Cowboy Boots 
(Anyone who has ever dressed a child will love this one!) 

Did you hear about the Texas teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots? 

He asked for help and she could see why.. 

Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn't want to go on. By the time they got the second boot on, she had worked up a sweat. 

She almost cried when the little boy said, 'Teacher, they're on the wrong feet.' She looked, and sure enough, they were. It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the right feet. 

He then announced, 'These aren't my boots.' 

She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, 'Why didn't you say so?' like she wanted to. Once again, she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet. No sooner had they gotten the boots off when he said, 'They're my brother's boots. My mom made me wear 'em.' 

Now she didn't know if she should laugh or cry. But, she mustered up what grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again. 

Helping him into his coat, she asked, 'Now, where are your mittens?' 

He said, 'I stuffed 'em in the toes of my boots.' 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Did You KNOW???

"According to a recent international survey of 2,200 mothers, 81% of children under the age of two currently have some form of online presence — ranging from photos uploaded and shared by their parents, to a full-fledged profile on a social networking site. A full 92% of children in the U.S. have an online presence by the time they are two, compared to 73% in western Europe."  


"AVG CEO J.R. Smith said he found it “shocking” that most 30-year-olds have an “online footprint stretching back 10 to 15 years at most, while the vast majority of children today will have online presence by the time they are two years old — a presence that will continue to build throughout their whole lives.”"

Here's a link to the info on CNN.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Music + Arts + Literacy = ENGAGEMENT

We just returned from presenting at the Florida Alliance for Arts Education's West Coast Symposium.  It was a great day filled with many ideas for integrating arts into core subject areas.  Our presentation is called "Music + Arts + Literacy = ENGAGEMENT" and describes how we use all forms of visual and performing arts along with books to help students with their comprehension strategies. This approach to our reading intervention came began from our work with Tanny McGregor, author of  one of our favorite books: Comprehension Connections.

Using Tanny's book as a springboard has led us to discover some fabulous picture books based on music and, in turn, artwork that supports our teaching.  Here is a partial bibliography of books, art prints/paintings, music, and poems to teach each of the seven key areas of comprehension:

Piggie Pie (T-T connections) Margie Palatini
The Ghost Eye Tree (T-S connections)
SONGS: “Whistle a Happy Tune” (The King and I)
                “Monster Mash”
                “Popular” (Wicked)
                “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (Toy Story)
 ART:  The Scream (Edvard Munch)
Poems:  Monster Motel  Doug Flourian
Poems:  A Little Bit Scary by Gill Davies and Illus. by Gill Guile  (Ghost Train)

Day is Done  by Peter Yarrow
An internet synopsis of the Broadway musical “Annie”
Song lyrics from Tomorrow
Zoom books by Istvan Banyai
“Tomorrow” (from Annie)
“Day is Done”  (Peter, Paul, and Mary)
“Cat’s in the Cradle” (Harry Chapin)
Artwork of Horace Pippin-
Examples- Christmas Morning, Breakfast; After Supper; West Chester; Fishing  Through Ice; The Wash; Domino Players

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
            *Use with Norman Rockwell’s print, The Problem We All Live With
Frederick by Leo Lionni
Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (Pete Seeger)
“Blowin’ in the Wind”
“Part of Your World” (Disney’s The Little Mermaid)
“Why Not”  (Hilary Duff)
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? etching by Laura Chassy
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? by Ladija Ivanek   (SILA) This work is abstract  expressionism.
The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell (use with the story of Ruby Bridges)
The work of Jan Vermeer is very appropriate for questioning.
It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles (Jack Prelutsky)
            Examples- What Oinks?
                              Why Do I Have to Clean My Room?

The Coat of Many Colors  by Dolly Parton
Lyrics to  “Simple Gifts”
The Coat of Many Colors  by Dolly Parton
Simple Gifts by Jewel
Simple Pair by Norma Wilson
Simple Gifts oil painting by Kimberly Applegate

Grandma’s Feather Bed adapted by Christopher Canyon
Take Me Home Country Roads adapted by Christopher Canyon
“Grandma’s Feather Bed” by John Denver
“Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver
“Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver
American Gothic by Grant Wood  
The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky- “Michael Built a Bicycle”

The Littlest Matroyska by Corinne Demas Bliss
For Baby for Bobbie 
Sunrise, Sunset” (from Fiddler on the Roof)
Sunrise and sunset paintings. One source:, impressionistic paitings by Daniel Haney

Don’t Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
(*Any wordless book is a great tool to develop metacognitive skills.)
“(Feeling Groovy)
By Alabama

Over the Rainbow (cd performed by Judy Collins)
Colorful World (cd performed by CeCe Winans)
What a Wonderful World
Goodnight, My Angel- A Lullaby (with cd of Billy Joel)
New York State of Mind (with cd of Billy Joel)
Let’s Sing Together- The Peter Yarrow Songbook
Love Me Tender (with cd of Elvis Presley)
Say a Little Prayer for You
This Land is Your Land
Puff the Magic Dragon
Take Me Out to the Ballgame