Monthly Archives: June 2010

Morning Routines: Consistency, Love & Structure.

Morning Routines: Consistency, Love & Structure.

Q: Mornings are awful in my house! I have such a great kid, but she’s a monster in the morning(!) … clearly not a morning person. What does the morning routine look like in your classroom? What can I do at home to make the day start off on a more positive note?

A: Well, mornings at school are clearly easier to manage than mornings at home … in a house there are too many variables.
However, whether at home or at school the recipe for a successful start to the day consists of the same three main ingredients, & they are as follows:
One must offer:

Consistency, Love & Structure. 

(A) Our Morning Routine in the Classroom (- teacher created)

  1. Hang up your coat and backpack.
  2. Put your lunch away.
  3. Put your homework in the appropriate bin(s)
  4. Make sure to give me any notes from home.
  5. Check the job board & complete your assigned task (e.g. sharpening pencils, floors, chairs, tables, cubbies, calendar, etc.)
  6. Next Step:   a) Before 8:50AM: Put a ruler, pencil, eraser & highlighter on your desk & go out to play.  b) After 8:50AM: Put a ruler, pencil, eraser & highlighter on your desk & read the Smartboard for your instructions. Begin!
  7. Ask yourself: “How am I going to start my day today?” The answer to this question is determined in part by the instructions as posted on the Smartboard and in part by your attitude/approach to the day. It’s a choice!

(B) Your Morning Routine at Home (- parent & child created)

  1. Make it a team effort! There is strength in numbers and in ownership! Sit down with your child to establish a morning routine – one that you can both live with. Don’t forget to talk about the obvious benefits of having a routine that works for the family as a whole.
  2. Make a list of all the things that he/she must do every morning. Do this with your child. Later, list them in the order in which they are to be undertaken/accomplished.
  3. Be creative! Make the list interesting, creative, pretty & cool. Then post it in a highly visible area of the house (e.g. your child’s room, the kitchen … whatever makes sense for you and your child).
  4. You & your child must ask yourselves: “How am I going to begin the day today?” The answer is up to you … You can do it! You rock!

Final Notes:

  1. Do as much as possible the night before (e.g. have your child lay out his clothes; pack a lunch; pack her backpack and leave it by the door).
  2. Estimate the amount of time that you both feel each task ought to take and then time your child. Were you both being realistic or not? Is your child dawdling? Is she rushing? (When possible: Buy your child an “old fashioned” wrist watch for this step. Telling time, estimating time, & calculating elapsed time are great math skills to build as well!)
  3. Stick to the routine … but also view it as organic, as growing and ever changing along with your child. Note that it is to be altered only when absolutely necessary.


Parenting Tips: The Shy Child At Home, In Public & At School

>Parenting Tips: The Shy Child

Q: My child is incredibly shy and it breaks my heart. What can I do to encourage him to come out of his shell?

A: First, feel good abut the fact that you have recognized this in your son, and moreover that you are taking the steps necessary to make his life even better than it already is. He’s a lucky fellow to have such a proactive, loving mum. Secondly, know that there is no immediate “cure”. Rather, it’s a process … and like so many things: slow and steady often wins the race. The process will be a mix of planning, commitment, love, structure and flexibility.

So here are some suggestions … things that you can do/consider at home, in public and at school.

All the best,

(A) At Home:

  1. Show empathy & understanding. Talk. Cuddle. Connect. Love.
  2. Build confidence in your child:
  3. Read books about shyness (ask a librarian, teacher for advice)
  4. Set daily/weekly/monthly/yearly goals with your child.  Model the desired behaviours as well.
  5. Teach active listening skills:
  6. Teach manners/etiquette:
  7. Talk about/teach social skills:
  8. Teach social cues, reading body language and faces:
  9. Teach conversation skills:
  10. Encourage your child to answer all phone class and take messages.
  11. Encourage your child to answer the door under your supervision.
  12. Arrange play dates for your child. Encourage play/social time on his home turf, where he feels most confident and in control.
  13. Take advantage of the situation: schedule your own play dates! Your child will become accustomed to having people in the house.
  14. Take things one step at a time … don’t overwhelm your child. Don’t try to do it all at once. Slow & steady wins the race.

(B) In Public:

  1. Before heading out always give your child the heads up. Prepare him for what’s to come.
  2. Be confident and friendly in public. Model the desired behaviours.
  3. Model asking questions and complimenting others in public.
  4. When shopping have your child ask for assistance, pay at the cash, etc.
  5. What does your child love? Art? Skiing? Swimming? Soccer? Enrol him in classes.

(C) At School: Ask you child’s teacher to:

  1. Assign a  special role or job(s) for your child. Keep him occupied.
  2. Call on your child often, and in safe situations.
  3. Practice social skills, play games, encourage and monitor group work etc.
  4. Keep an eye out for any bullying. Shy children can be targets.
  5. Keep in contact and work together to encourage your child to come out of his shell. Remember you are a team!!!

>Kids: Summer Ideas to Educate & Enjoy — just try to slip them in when no one is noticing ;-)

>Kids: Summer Ideas to Educate & Enjoy — just try to slip them in when no one is noticing 😉

Ok … so summer’s here & kids just want to have fun, fun, fun … & parents do too! Now here’s the twist: You have school age kids and you are worried about that academic “brain drain” that everyone talks about.
If having your child tutored over the summer isn’t for you then here are some pretty straight forward ideas/activities to keep them engaged in the learning process.
So go ahead, try a few…. see which ones (if any) work for you and your family … & of course have fun!
Summer’s here! Let’s play!


  1. Books! Books! Books! Children should be surrounded by books, magazines, newspapers, anything readable, interesting, entertaining!
  2. Cook! Kids can be the chef! (following directions & measuring — there’s lots of math here too!)
  3. Read aloud to your child. This can be a great time to snuggle up, laugh, cry, share.
  4. Books on tape. These are great! Kids can either read along or just listen for fun! Kids can enjoy he rhythm of language and the pattern/formula of stories, without having to worry about decoding and fluency.
  5. Compare books to films. Read one, watch one & discuss.
  6. When traveling: Have your child read maps, road signs, pamphlets and menus.
  7. *Super Model it. Let them see you having fun with books … & that it’s useful too!  😉


  1. Play numbers games (e.g. card games, monopoly, etc.),.
  2. Cooking (following directions, measuring, timing) e.g.
  3. Before grocery shopping ask your child to read the flyers noting specials and deals … compare prices and record amount/totals.
  4. Grocery/Shopping: Compare prices between brands. Estimate the total cost of the trip. Make change.
  5. Travel: So in answer to the age old question: “Are we there yet?” have your child estimate the time and distance.
  6. Telling time. Give your child an “old fashioned” analog wrist watch. Practice telling time as well as elapsed time (e.g. How much longer until dinner?)
  7. “Make at Home Math Games”:
  8. Great site for family summer learning in math & science!
  9. Great site: “Helping Your Child Learn Math”
  10. Teach math ideas:
  11. *Super Model it. Let them see you having fun with math … & that it’s useful too!  😉


  1. Going on a trip? Keep a travel journal.
  2. Keep a family journal or scrapbook … get everyone involved! Include pictures … trying scrapbook!
  3. Keep a diary.
  4. Write notes (e.g. love notes, reminders, etc.) to one another and post or hide them around the house.
  5. Write letters & post cards to family and friends.
  6. Find a pen pal! A pen pal can be someone who lives around the block or someone half way around the world.
  7. For a list of spelling & writing (fine motor) activities see:
  8. *Super Model it. Let them see you having fun with writing … & that it’s useful too!  😉


  1. Gardening
  2. Star gazing
  3. Fun at home experiments:
  4. “Kitchen Safe Sceince”:
  5. What is your child learning about next year at school? Talk to someone and find out: a teacher, a friend with an older child, consult the internet. Then follow up and explore the topics at hand: visit the museum, the art gallery, rent movies, read books aloud, surf the net, explore!

>Summer Activities for Spelling & Fine Motor Skills Development

>Kid Summer Fun: Spelling & Fine Motor Skills Development

School’s out and you are ready for a fun filled summer. Yippee!
… but ugh: you are still concerned about your child’s spelling and/or fine motor skills (e.g. printing, cursive, cutting, etc.).
Well, have no fear, some suggested summer time, at home, “not-so-painful” activities are here … and they are all freeeeeeeeee! (some web sites included 😉
So enjoy … & have a great summer!
P.S. These ideas are great for tutors too … I am using most of them these days.


  1. Colourful Words (use a different colour for each letter; trace over the word four times using a different colour each time)
  2. Sign Your Words (see sign language chart for assistance:
  3. Fancy Letters (use fancy/creative/artistic/wild letter formation)
  4. Spelling Back Rub (using your finger spell/trace the words on your partner’s back. Can he/she guess the word?)
  5. Spelling Concentration (have students prepare cards ñ reinforces spelling ñor use this site
  6. Spelling Bingo (an oldie but a goodie; see site:
  7. Cut-and-Paste Spelling (cut out letters form newspapers and magazines)
  8. Word search (have students create them for one another); see site:
  9. Pyramid words (write the first letter of the word, under that write the first and the second letter, under that write the first, second and thirds, etc. to form steps or a pyramid)
  10. Write the words & omit all vowels (replace vowels with a line or a star*)
  11. Write the words & omit all consonants (replace vowels with a line or a star*)


  1. Engage in your favourite arts and crafts activities
  2. Scrap booking (e.g. site:
  3. Draw, draw, draw! Freestyle
  4. Learn to draw, paper folding, craft projects, etc . @
  5. Play with dough and modeling clay
  6. Create collages (cutting & pasting)
  7. Gardening (site:
  8. Finger painting
  9. Sewing
  10. Necklace/bracelet making (threading beads, Fruit Loops or macaroni onto string)
  11. Mosaics (use buttons, pasta, dried beans, etc.)
  12. Play calculator games (site:
  13. Play computer games
  14. Playing with keys & locks
  15. Lego
  16. Puzzles, mazes & word searches (sites: e.g.,
  17. Cooking (pour, measure, stir, kneed, roll, cut, etc.)(
  18. Eat with chopsticks! FUN!

>Why Reading Fluency Matters (… for parents)

>Why Reading Fluency Matters (… for parents)

I recently read a posting by a parent regarding her child’s report card.

Now, report cards are difficult to write at the best of times. There is limited space to say what I mean and I must mean what I say. I must address strengths and needs; the whole child. No easy feat.
I start and finish report cards early, and I hand them in late. I can never seem to let them go … they always seem to final, so static … and my students are so dynamic, so fantastic!

Anyway, this mum’s understanding of her child’s report card was thoughtful, balanced and positive.

There was one comment however, that stood out for me:

“The only negative comment was that her reading fluency is still a little slow. Frankly, I care more about comprehension than how many words she can read per minute.”

Through no fault of her own this mum is not aware that fluency is more than “words read per minute”.
Fluency is about reading smoothly, easily and expressively. Fluency enables individuals to read with greater understanding. A fluent reader has automatic decoding skills and a solid bank of known sight words as well as good comprehension skills.

Reading Fluency:
Reading is like singing: there is expression and rhythm. After all, we read for meaning and we read aloud to entertain as well as to inform.

Anyway … as teachers the onus is on us to ensure that parents (as well as students) have a clear understanding of our goals, objectives and outcomes.
Let’s keeping working together!