Giving is better than receiving!

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How do you teach about giving?  During this time of year, there are numerous opportunities to teach this lesson, but what about the rest of the year?  It should not be a lesson that is just implemented during the holidays.  In our family we have tried to make this lesson one that we incorporate in our daily life.  We are in a unique situation where we are on a type of “sabbatical” right now and traveling across the the east coast.  As we travel, we try to give little tokens of appreciation and thanks along the way.  In Elizabeth City, NC we visited a local police department to give them some sweet treats and in Norfolk, Virginia we visited the Fire Department with some special tokens of our appreciation.

Most recently, thanks to Oriental Trading, we were able to make little school packs for kids who are in need.   My girls are 3 and 4 years old and get very excited when we start a “giving project.”  It is so fun to see their enthusiasm and involvement in the process.

We decided to create a rainbow-themed packs and made rainbow tags to go on the top of the pencil cases.  Each tag has a special message.  In each pencil case, we included a notepad, pencil sharpener, colorful pencil, an eraser, and stress ball.  The girls divided up each pencil case and the items that went inside of them.

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We attached a different color ribbon to the zipper with our handmade tag and we were done!

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We also decided to make a kit of crayons and coloring/activity pads to drop of for kids sitting in a waiting room in the emergency room at a hospital.  Depending on the time of day and circumstances, we hope this makes the waiting process easier for little kids.  This was a simple project by just attaching a set of crayons to the activity pad.

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With the holiday season now upon us, there are MANY different opportunities to give back and get creative with your ideas!  This is one of the next projects on our list…..Operation Christmas Child.

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This review is based strictly on my opinion. I was provideds the sample free of charge by the company toprovide my honest review. No other type of compensation was received. All ideas and opinions are my own

Increasing Parent Engagement in School: Part 2

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The first step to increase parent engagement is create a program to get parents into the school. Part two of this series will focus on ways to get parents to come to your parenting program by creating a common theme/motto, reaching out to companies for donations that will be used as giveaways, and picking a curriculum to guide your program.

To create an actual program that carries a common theme or name is important since this will be the guiding force throughout the year.  The name for the program I will be implementing is Parent University.   This signifies a program that is ongoing and professional in nature.  The motto for the program is Learn, Grow, and Support.

After the name and motto were determined reaching out to businesses for donations is necessary (especially when you do not have much money).  These donations are used for giveaways throughout each session.  I was overwhelmed with the support received.  I asked for products that fit in for each of the session topics.  In addition to receiving items for giveaways, advertising is an important first step.  We began advertising the program early and then sent home registration flyers to every student. Reminder phone calls and letters were also sent home to make sure parents would attend.

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Prizes, giveaways, and food are the motivators that were used to begin this program and get parents in the door.  After the parents signed up for the program and attended the first session, engagement became my focus.  I did not want to stand in front of parents and lecture…..no one would learn from this and a network of support would not be developed.  Instead I wanted parents to talk and share, so they could see that other parents have the same struggles that they do at home.  In order to achieve this goal, I used a couple decks of playing cards.  Every time a parent spoke and participated, they would receive a playing card.  At the end of the session, I drew from a fresh deck of cards and if someone had the cards that I drew they would win one of the giveaways.  This was the ticket to having some lively and proactive discussions.  Parents felt at ease and comfortable to share their experiences.

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Finally, having a base curriculum to use helps guide the discussions and learning topics.  I used Parents on Board Series  by by Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D.; Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D.; and Jane M. Healy, Ph.D.  Classes are divided into three topics: Preparing your Child to Succeed, Encouraging Positive Behavior, and Reinforcing Your Child’s Academic Skills.  This curriculum hits on the major topics that I wanted to focus on, and at times, I will add in more information based on parent interest.  For example, parents may be more interested in homework policies and the importance of homework, so this could be discussed more by adding up to date research.  Additionally parents were given all materials needed to learn. Thanks to Bloom Planners, each parent was given a daily planner.  Notebooks, pens, highlighters, and sticky notes were also provided.  As well, as the parent book that goes along with the Parents on Board curriculum.  For an extra added touch, each parent was also given an apple to remind them they are also teachers.

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So in review, the first steps to creating a successful parenting program are:

  1. Get parents in the door by offering food, prizes, and giveaways
  2. Create a supportive and engaging atmosphere
  3. Keep things professional with a curriculum

In our first session, we had some wonderful donations from Blue Sky Planners, Blooms Planners, and Chart and Soul.  Since the topics revolved around organization and routine, all these products are perfect to help parents stay organized and create a routine that works for their family.  A big thank you goes out to these companies!

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NEATLINGS Chore Chart

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As part of planning and preparing for a parent program, I reached out to different companies for donations that I could giveaway to parents.  The intent of these giveaways is to increase participation and give parents something useful to use at home with their children.  I was excited to receive a donation of a NEATLINGS chore chart system.   I LOVE their motto of “cultivate contributing, confident, can-do kid”.  I started using it with my own children this past week.

neatavery1From a psychologist perspective, it has all the components of a great token economy and from a parent perspective it is easy to set up and includes lots of options to fit our home and daily schedule.  The system comes with a nice one page overview of different ways to set up the chore chart at home and different chart configurations.  It also has EVERYTHING you need to implement the chart immediately.  This was such an added bonus because I did not even have to get scissors to cut anything apart.  It even included a pen and blank chore cards to customize for your own child.

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I put it together a couple different ways before settling on a daily chart divided into different times of the days (morning, afternoon, and evening).  However, the chart could be created for an entire week or divided by chore priority.  I was able to set up the chart for both my girls, but it can also be set up for three children.

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The chore cards come in a nice variety of colors, so each child can have their own color cards and it is easy to distinguish between them which eliminates potential fighting over cards!!

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Once the girls completed a chore card, they received one ticket to start keeping in their ticket pouch, but parents can adapt the number of tickets for their own schedule.  I also really liked that BONUS chores were included which also come in different colors.  These are extra chores that the child can complete and earn even more tickets.  There are also blank cards that can be used to write in your own chores that are not included in the set.

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The “reward” part of the system can be used by having children redeem tickets for either an item in the “family store” or number of screen minutes.  Children can choose which reward they would like to work towards.  The family store can be set up between child and parent and include very simple items and more “expensive” items.  NEATLINGS includes a sample of items you could use in your family store.  We will be using a rotating reward chart so it always keeps the girls engaged!

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So far this has been a great addition to our family routine and I was impressed with every possible component that NEATLINGS thought of to make this a comprehensive system.  NEATLINGS can even customize their charts for you to make something slightly different to fit your family needs such as different color combinations or additional pocket chart panels if you have more than 3 children.

One lucky parent will get a NEATLINGS chore chart system at the upcoming parent program thanks to a generous donation by the company!  If you are interested in any of NEATLINGS products check them out at www.neatlings.com and get 10% of your purchase with the coupon code of DEAL4YOU.  This code is valid from now until November 30th.

 

 

 

On the go art kits

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With a 3 and a 4 year old it is smart to always be prepared during outings that may be boring or long car trips to have some type of activity for them to complete.  It saves your sanity when they are busy (and creative) and it keeps everyone happy.  With the help of supplies from Oriental Trading, I decided to make “On the Go Art Kits”.

I included lots of items in the kits so different fun and creative ideas can be made from them.  Since we have moved and are permanently living on our boat, I also made the kits ocean themed.  My hope is that any time we are with other children, we can use the kits for all the kids to be entertained.  All the items are kept conveniently in a pencil pouch so they do not take up alot of room.

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What included?

Stickers-Lots of stickers!  I included all different types of sea life stickers with different textures.

Stamps-The kids have really enjoyed the stamps, but you have to watch out because they can sometimes get a little “stamp happy”.  I found my three year old with stamps all over her arm!

Paper-I loved this paper because it has all different sizes and colors.  It also included premade folded cards, which we plan to use for a different project.

Scissors-I included beginner scissors, so I did not have to worry as much about the kids cutting themselves or other items.

Glue-This has allowed them to get super creative with glue different pieces of paper together.  My favorite picture that they have made has been a collage which took lots of glue!

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Of course there are many more items that could be added, such as crayons, markers, pencils……the list could go on and on. The results of the the artwork completed has been pretty interesting and entertaining.  I made about 12 kits, so I always have one ready to go!

This review is based strictly on my opinion. I was provideds the sample free of charge by the company toprovide my honest review. No other type of compensation was received. All ideas and opinions are my own

Test Day Treats!

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It is that time at our school….State Testing week.  In the past as a School Psychologist I never really participated in this week, but that has changed this year as a Special Education Coordinator.   In order to provide a little dose of encouragement, I found these great FREE sayings from Math Mojo on Teachers Pay Teachers that can be attached to different treats.  I wish I had found these a little earlier because I would have made more of them, but for this time, I only had time to make two of them.

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Teachers tend to get overly stressed around this time of year, so we had donuts of teachers in the morning and a little note of encouragement.

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We actually have testing coming up for another two weeks for different grades so I hope to be able to make some more little notes of encouragement for teachers and students!!

Linking behavior between home and school

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Often times, the missing link in changing a child’s negative behavior is the home school connection.  When children exhibit challenging behaviors, the consistency between home and school are vital in making any long term changes.  This connection can be reached through constant communication and unique systems that make both the teacher and parents life easier.

Recently we have begun a “Hole Punch” behavior modification technique with a student in order to reinforce positive behaviors.  The child has two behaviors that he must exhibit in order to get a hole punch on a card: Follow teacher request the first time the request is made and Keep hands and feet in assigned area.  When the child completes either task, he receives a hole punch.

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Once the child receives 10 hole punches, he receives 2 minutes of time in his “super hero” basket.  This basket contains all different kinds of superhero stamps, stickers, color books, and toys.  This system is used in the school setting and the child has successfully responded and the number of behavioral incidents has decreased.

However, I believe the true success of this system is the follow through that happens at home.  The parent uses an app called IRewards Chart.  The parent types the same behaviors in their IRewards Chart.  Depending on how many hole punches the student receives at school, the student can press the button on the phone to enter that many stars on the app.  The parent also has added some additional chores and behaviors that are expected at home.

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The app allows the parents to set up a reward chart, so the child can save their stars for certain items/rewards and then cash them in when they have enough stars.  So, basically it is a token economy on a mobile device which is such an awesome idea!

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Using this app is a perfect carry over from school and the connection is very clear to the student.  It is also an easy implementation for parents since the app has created the system for you already and it is FREE!

This is just one example of the two “worlds” of home and school coming together to improve student behavior.  This can also be accomplished by using Individual Behavior Charts for older students.  Students receive points throughout the day on a behavior chart and then are rewarded for meeting their goal.  The parent signs the chart and reinforces the positive behaviors at home.

Whatever the system that is chosen, the key is consistency and communication between the home and school.  When the child knows that both the parent and the teacher are working together, this creates a more likely chance of lasting and permanent changes in behaviors.


Autism Awareness Month

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April is Autism Awareness Month!  For this month our school has decided to make pins for the teachers and staff to wear.  These pins were incredible simple and fun to make.

Materials needed:

Hot glue gun

Puzzle Ribbon (I found this at Walmart for about $2 a spool)

Puzzle pieces (You can get a puzzle at the Dollar Store)

Pin hook (It cost about $3.50 for 40 pin backs)

Paint

Glitter

Decoupage

Step One: Paint all the puzzle pieces one color.  I used blue since blue is the color that represents Autism Awareness.

Step Two: After the pieces dry, paint with a layer of decoupage and sprinkle glitter on top.

Step Three: Cut the ribbon and loop to form a ribbon.  Hot glue the ribbon together.

Step Four: Glue the glittered puzzle piece on top of the ribbon and glue the hook on the back of the ribbon.

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I searched pinterest and found this great card that I printed and pinned the puzzle piece pin on for a final product!

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Pencil Grips Review

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When The Pencil Grip company originally approached me to write a review on their Pencil Grips, I was going to try them with some students at school.  However, my 4 year old daughter has recently surprised me with her fine motor development, so I decided to try them out with her instead!!  She recently turned 4 and her writing skills have started to take off.   It seems like within a week she went from writing “A” to attempting a sentence.

We tried out all three pencil grips (The Crossover Grip, The Pinch Grip, and Pencil Grip) to help her with grip and formation of the letters.  Based on our use of the grips, I was impressed with the DURABILITY, TEXTURE, and INCREASED LEGIBILITY.

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At first she was a little awkward with the grip and she needed help with finger placement.  Please ignore the messy hands….we just finished with a painting project!!

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As you can see from the picture above, her finger wanted to cross over.  After she understood the finger positioning, she took off writing.

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I have noticed that there is more control with her grasp, thus an increase in legibility.  We now writing daily and she typically will choose the Crossover Grip.  This is the grip shown above which has wings on the grip which prevent the fingers from crossing over.  I have also used these grips when writing and like the texture of the grip.

On a side note, my younger daughter got a hold of the grips and started to chew on them.  I was rather impressed with there durability…..not one tooth mark!!

If you would like a set of Pencil Grips for FREE, just enter the raffle below!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This review is based strictly on my opinion. I was provided the sample free of charge by the company to provide my honest review. No other type of compensation was received. All ideas and opinions are my own.

4 Ways to Increase Parent Involvement

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I’m excited to have an article on the Teach for America Blog, Teacher Pop.  Here is a sneak peek at the article.

Depending on where you teach, parent involvement can be a tricky issue to tackle. I’ve worked at schools with tremendous parent involvement—even to the point of over-involvement—and others where parents rarely stepped in the building. In order to create a continuous environment of learning and success for children, it’s important for parents and teachers to partner and collaborate. So, how can you build parent involvement in your school?

Click on the image below to keep reading.

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