Classroom Jobs

It’s good and healthy for people of all ages to work! Many of you readers work full time (in or out of the home). Today I want to talk about helping kids learn to work. I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but I do work with lots of children every day and I am helping them learn to work.

In my classroom we have class jobs. Obviously my job is to teach, but I want to help my students learn to be responsible and learn to help.

Most kids naturally love to help. I will often say, “Who wants to help me…” and before I can finish my sentence lots of tiny hands shoot into the air. Kids want to help and feel useful and jobs can fulfill that need. (It also makes my life easier, so that’s a benefit too!)

I have seen many different job charts in people’s homes and classrooms. There are lots of places you can buy classroom job charts, but I just like to make my own. In my classroom I have found a system that works best for me. I make a big pocket chart. Each pocket has a job written on it. Then I write my student’s names on popsicle sticks. I slide a stick into each pocket and I am done! I choose to rotate my jobs weekly, so when class is done on Friday I just shift each stick over one slot.

My students can hardly wait to see their new jobs on Monday. They rush into the room and huddle around the chart. They look to see what job they have, what job their friends have and who has their favorite job!

Not only does giving my students jobs help them have a chance to work, but it also helps me have less to do at the end of each class and day. I no longer have to go find stray pencils around the classroom or straighten the books on the bookshelf. I don’t have to pick up trash or erase the whiteboard. My kids love doing their assigned job and helping remind their friends to do theirs as well. They enjoy it and I have less to do. It’s a win-win situation!

Grades for a new student

Judy sent us a question a few days ago.  She asked, “Can you give a child a grade if they have only been your class for two weeks?”

That’s a great question!  When a new child comes into your class it can take a while to really get to know them. It certainly takes time to understand their learning style, personality and abilities.  Two weeks isn’t long enough to learn all of that, but it is enough time to start assessing what they know.

When I was teaching in the United States my school district required us to produce a report card if the student had been there more that 13 days.  So if the student had been in my class 2 calendar weeks, but only 10 school days I didn’t have to complete a report card.  With that being said, here are a few of my thoughts:

I would always give my standard reading and phonics assessments right away (within the first 2-3 days of receiving a new student.)  I would test their phonics (with a basic phonics screener), sight word knowledge, and fluency.  That would give me a good basic reading score.  Will it be as thorough and detailed as the grade given to a student who has been in your class all year?  Certainly not!  Is it a good, accurate starting point? Yes!

Math.  I would go back and give the end of the quarter assessment from the last quarter to get a basic idea of what they could do.  So if they came in the middle of the second quarter I would give them the quarter one assessment.  I would also give a timed math facts test to see how fluent they were with their math facts.  Once again it’s not ideal and it’s not going to give a perfect representation of their knowledge, but it’s a good start.

Writing.  If you are working on a writing piece in class those two weeks have them complete the assignment and give a score based on the one assignment.  If not, dictate a few sentences and have them write them down.  Then give them a simple assignment that they can complete and grade that.  It could be as simple as having them write about their family.  (Then you get a writing sample and get to know them a little bit.  Win-win!)

Social studies and science.  As far as these topics were concerned I would give a grade based on the assignments completed during those first two weeks.  If we didn’t complete anything in those 14 days I wouldn’t give them a grade for those subjects.

I think the bottom line is yes, you can give a grade to a student who has been in your class two weeks.  Just remember that it isn’t as in depth and as thorough as your grades for the rest of your students.  With those extra assessments it will feel a little hectic for you and the new student.  Just remember to encourage the student to do their best and you do the same!  I hope that’s helpful!

Any other teachers out there that have any input?  What have you done when you get a brand new student and have to generate a grade for the student?

Let them know you


When I started student teaching I was nervous, uncertain, overwhelmed and so excited! I had a really fantastic mentor teacher and I knew that everything would be okay and I would learn a lot. At the same time there was a lot of new stuff to learn and get comfortable with. I remember feeling so young and thinking that if I didn’t seem ‘old’ enough or ‘professional’ enough that the kids would try to walk all over me. I knew that classroom control was the most important thing. I knew (and know it even more so now) that without solid discipline it would be hard to teach content and academics.

I watched my mentor, I worked with small groups, I started taking over the class one subject at a time. All the while I was trying incredibly hard to be professional and a good authority figure. In an effort to achieve that I became a boring person with no personality. What I mean by that is my students didn’t know me at all. I wasn’t giving them a chance.

As time passed I learned to find a better balance. I learned that kids respond really well to knowing their teacher as a human with likes, dislikes, fears and passions. I started telling little stories about my life that tied into our lessons. I let them see into my life and learn about my family, hobbies, etc.. My worry had been that if I let them see me as a person I would not be seen at being in charge. What happened was exactly the opposite! They began to relate to me. They started to see that we had things in common! They realized that if I was willing to share then they could trust me and share as well. As all of those wonderful things began to unfold I realized I was also having more fun!

Now here we are 6 years later and I feel like a completely different teacher from the scared, personality-less student teacher. My students now know me REALLY well. They know about my favorite foods, the time I felt the most scared, they know the names off all my family members and which ones make the best cookies. They cling to the little details I share. They love to feel connected to me and know that I am a person too! Let your kids know you. Your students and children are dying to know the little details that make you who you are.

Back to the {discipline} basics

As you probably know, I am here in Thailand teaching. IMG_0771 IMG_0811 I started teaching 3 weeks ago and let me tell you something; the first week was really rough!  The last couple weeks have been really great though.  Do you want to know what made all the difference?  DISCIPLINE. In the past, classroom management and discipline were strengths of mine.  Then I came here and promptly forgot to implement the things I should have.  Maybe I thought they’d already be trained to behave well (they’re not—kids always test the limits with someone new), maybe I thought Thai kids were different (they’re not), or maybe I was mainly focused on the new curriculum and style of teaching.  Whatever it was, I didn’t go in with a strong enough framework and the kids were not behaving well.  Lucky for me, I’m a problem solver and come up with a plan when things aren’t working.  The other fortunate part is that I already knew what I should have been doing; I just had to do it!  So now I’m here to share some discipline basics with you teachers and parents. Discipline-basics

  1. Be clear with what you expect.  It’s easy to fall in to the mindset that since kids have been in school for years already they know what to do.  That may be true, but they need to be reminded (a lot).  Have classroom rules and review them ridiculously often.  I feel really strongly that ‘be respectful’ should be a rule for every kid.  It covers a LOT in one rule (less rules are easier to remember and review) and is a good trait to have throughout their whole life.
  1. Have consequences.  It’s great to tell them what you expect, but if there aren’t consequences afterwards then none of that matters.  If they do what you’ve asked be sure to recognize that.  Anything from a quick “Sam, you look fabulous, thanks for following directions so quickly!” to a behavior chart  on the wall can be effective.  Make sure you have consequences for both positive and negative behavior.  I have seen a lot of teachers who have consequences for negative behavior but not for the good.  Kids respond really well to positive attention—so well that it can prevent a lot of the negative behaviors.

This is what I had the hardest time with here in Thailand.  I set the expectations but didn’t have consequences in place. I just expected them to do what I asked.  When they didn’t I said their name and reminded them what they should have been doing. Then if they did it again I did the same thing.  They quickly realized that I didn’t have a plan for what to do if they didn’t listen to me.  Now that we have a reward system in place they know that if they do great they get to earn a couple stars and if they aren’t they lose the stars one at a time.  They are excited about the things they can save up to buy and they are invested in it!

  1. Follow through.  If you say you are going to do something you need to do it!  If you tell them they need to stop touching the person next to them or they need to move seats you NEED TO HAVE THEM MOVE SEATS when they do it again.  If you don’t they will know that you aren’t telling the truth when you tell them something.  They will try to get away with more and more and you will feel frustrated quickly.  The really great thing about this is that if you DO have good follow through the kids will                            a) Realize you are serious and follow directions more quickly                                        b) Trust you because they know that you will be true to your word                                c) Start to monitor themselves
  1. Be consistent.  I fell like this is so simple and so crucial at the same time!  This goes hand in hand with the point above.  Make sure that the rules are the same for every student and you are being fair.  Be consistent by responding the same for each student and the same from day to day.

Guess what.  Kids are the same all over the world!  My classes still have students who have a hard time focusing, a couple who aren’t real invested in their education, a class clown, someone who thinks they’re smarter than everyone else, a few that are so excited to be there and are always ready, one that can’t sit in a chair for a chunk of time, a couple who can’t seem to control their mouths.  And just like everywhere else in the world they are all capable, crave boundaries and consistency, and want to have fun and be loved. Now that I have implemented the discipline basics things are going fantastically!  I feel like this has been an experience to help me rediscover things I already knew.

Teachers, is there anything I forgot that you have found to be helpful? Also, if you want to read about my adventures over in Thailand feel free to head over and take a look!

Summer’s coming … Are You Ready?


What’s your idea of a good summer with the kids home from school?

Do you like everyone to get up early with kids heading off to swim team practice, going to summer school or getting work done first so they can play.

Or is your ideal summer day everyone sleeping in late and having lazy laid back days?

I think kids function better when there is structure. That does NOT mean you have to do it like me, your neighbor, your sister’s family or anyone else. But I do suggest everyone under the same roof have the same idea of what summer vacation from school will be like. It will make life better if kids know what mom would like to have happen and mom knows what the kids want to do.

So moms, ask your selves, “What do I expect the summer break to be like”?

After all, how can your kids know what you want them to do if you aren’t sure what you want?

When I was a young mom an experienced mom suggested that on Mother’s Day I should tell my family what I would like them to do to make my day enjoyable. She said if you have a lot of expectations in your mind and don’t tell anyone you’re setting yourself up for disappointed when no one does the things you want. She said, “Your family can’t read your mind”. Wow, that was insightful to me. I think it’s similar to summer vacation. We may be thinking it’s finally a time we can get some much needed projects done around the house while the kids might be thinking it’s time to watch TV and be on the computer all day. Since we can’t read each others minds we need to do some planning to keep our days from being filled with complaining, nagging, and ultimatums.

When my children were young they thought they didn’t want to have any responsibilities during the summer break from school. But I quickly learned they felt better about themselves and did not fight as much if they did some productive things each day.

Here are some things we did in our family during the summer:

For lots of summers we had a wooden chart with daily activities listed:

30 minutes of music
30 minutes exercise or a sport
15 minutes math
30 minutes reading
2 hours max. Computer/TV/video games

The board had columns for “to do” and “done” and the kids moved the pegs from one column to the other each day. A paper chart with stickers would work just as well.

I also wanted to make music a part of our summer. We didn’t take weekly music lessons in the summer. Instead we had a “piano jar”. I took some of the money I would usually spend on the lessons and bought items to fill the jar. I assigned each item a price in points. Anyone could earn 1 point for 1 minute practicing an instrument, or other musical activities such as musical flashcards. My daughter had a neighborhood friend who played the piano beautifully and she would sometimes come over just to play some songs, eat a candy bar then go home. I loved it; I got to hear beautiful piano music and I believe it helped motivate my kids to practice more so they could play so well.


Our piano jar was an old pickle jar.

Below is a copy of one of our piano points chart.

IMG_1059 - Version 3

Some other ideas that were successful in our home were:

Allowing my kids to earn more TV or computer time by reading – one minute of TV for every minute of reading. Double points could be earned if they read to someone younger.

We went to the library each week

We did field trip Fridays. We’d go to a museum, to a splash area at a park, a community event we had seen advertised, etc.

We watch old movies or musicals on Wednesday afternoons; The unsinkable Molly Brown, My Fair Lady, and old versions of shows like Absent Minded Professor, Love Bug, Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, etc.

There are certainly no shortages of sites on the Internet to give you ideas. Here are a few suggestions:

101 things to do

Kids Summer To Do List

25 Cool Places For Kids

100 Things to do With Kids This Summer

When school gets out make a Family Summer Calendar (ours was pages from a big desk calendar, decorated and hung on the store room door) and fill it up with big and small activities for your kids to look forward to. Even something as simple as making popsicles in the morning, and eating them in the afternoon could be written in for a day’s activity to look forward to.

Enjoy having your kids home this summer. Plan, discuss, involve the whole family, and write down your plan. This summer make pleasant memories rather than just trying to survive.

“Oh Where Oh Where Has Our Teacher Gone…”


Lindsey in Thailand

Lindsey here!  I’m over in hot, humid, tropical Thailand! .  Why am I here? How does it affect you? Well…. I got a job here!  I am going to be spending the next year teaching English to little Thai kids.  That means that you get to hear about teaching from the standpoint of teaching in a different country.

In the last week I’ve seen a centipede, lots of fresh fruit, dozens of crocodile statues (the town I’m in is nicknamed ‘Land of the Crocodiles), fabulous old architecture, a million scooters, and some of the very cutest kid.

The thing about kids and teaching is that many of the facets are universal.  As I share some teaching tidbits this next year you will see that Thai kids have a lot in common with American kids, German students, third graders in Russia, etc.  I am excited for this opportunity that will push me professionally and socially.  I’m also excited to share my insights with you.

So visit us each week to learn more about teaching in Thailand and parenting in the United States. Together we’ll discover how kids all over the world have so much in common.

Make Learning Fun


Children come into the world as a clean slate, knowing nothing.   It’s amazing to watch them as they discover the way the world works.  Things that we adults often overlook amaze and intrigue children.

As children grow and learn about the world they start going to school.  School can be a fun, enchanting time for them.  It can also be tedious, laborious, and boring.  If you can make learning fun for kids it makes a HUGE difference!

While I was attending ASU and interning in a first grade classroom I was assigned the task of teaching a small group phonics lesson.  I talked to the classroom teacher and she gave me a group of students and a skill they needed to learn and practice.  I prepared a lesson that had a silly story (kids LOVE silly stories), some matching activities and a board game that used the phonics skill.  I took the small group of kids out of the classroom and we worked on a picnic table.  After about 45 minutes we returned to class.  One little boy in the group went up to his teacher and said, “We had so much fun!  And we didn’t even learn anything!”  That is the best kind of learning—when kids just think they are playing.

I had a similar experience last week.  I was substituting in a first grade classroom.  The teacher left great lesson plans and we did some really great fun learning.  We read a story about a boy who had a robot.  We then made robot puppets (construction paper, popsicle sticks, and googly eyes) and they wrote a story about their robots.  They were so excited the whole time!

Like always, we like to try to make our posts applicable to school and home.  So…

How can you make learning fun?

1)   Be excited about it yourself and get silly sometimes.                                                     2)   Learn in a variety of ways: pictures, reading, hands on activities, experiments, etc.     3)   Let them be creative and use their imaginations (let them create a piece of art to use in their writing, finger paint, play dress up, retell stories with puppets, etc.)                           4)   Make it applicable to life (like fractions and baking/cooking)

Have fun!  And help your bitty ones at school and home have fun too.





“Homework time!”  Are those dreaded words at your house?  I know that when I was growing up that was my least favorite time of the day.  If your kids echo this sentiment then we have some ideas for you!

  • Have a set homework time.  If there is no homework that night then they read during that time.  It’s funny how kids can “magically remember” they have homework when they realize that they are going to be reading anyways and not having free time.  Have your homework time the same time each night: like right when they get home from school, right after dinner, or the hour before bedtime.
  • Be close by in case they need help.  When kids have a reason to get up (hunting you down to ask a question for example) they are more likely to get sidetracked and off task.
  • Have a set homework space.
  • Have tool and materials close by and easily accessible.  The types of tools needed vary greatly depending on the age of the student.  Materials could include an alphabet chart, number line, blocks or counters, a dictionary/thesaurus, pencils, pens, highlighters, paper, a computer, sticky notes, etc.  This is also a great place to keep all their textbooks.  Again, this gives them no excuse to get up, possibly wonder around and lose momentum.
  • Help them realize that you understand that homework isn’t fun, but it’s expected to get done.  Whenever I would tell my did that I didn’t want to do something his reply would consistently be, “You don’t have to want to do it, you just have to do it.”
  • Make it a party!  I know, I know… the words ‘homework’ and ‘party’ seem like polar opposites, but hear me out.  Use the word ‘party’, throw out a couple snacks (I almost typed snakes!  That would make things interesting for sure—HA!), make it a group effort instead of an isolated event, have a good attitude, and BAM, homework time just got a little bit better.  As silly as it may sound, I have many fond memories of doing homework with my brothers.  You know what they say: a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

Hopefully some of these ideas can help homework feel a little less painful.  Keep in mind that these are just ideas we have—use as few or as many as you feel will help.  Anything you guys would like to share that has worked for you?  We always love your ideas!  Happy homeworking!

Cultivating a positive classroom environment

I was talking to a reader last night.  She was wondering how to know when we posted something new.  Our goal is to post each week.  We will be shooting for the middle of the week (Wednesday/Thursday-ish) You can also follow us on Facebook (Askaparentorteacher) or Bloglovin’.  We’ll let you know about other social media venue options as we join them.

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Creating a Positive Classroom Environment


Now that that’s taken care of, on to some teacher writing!  I was chatting with a couple parents yesterday at a soccer game.  As we talked, the topics of teachers, classroom environments, and kids enjoying school came up.  We talked about how their children feel about school, how comfortable they feel in their classroom, their favorite teachers so far, etc.  That got me thinking about what makes a kid happy at school (and in turn, a teacher happy at school [seeing as that’s the end I have been on most recently]).  I believe that the single most important part to this “happiness at school” puzzle is the classroom environment.

Teachers, lets talk about cultivating a positive classroom environment!   **As my mom read this she commented that all these things apply to parenting and family life as well!  So parents, read on**

I cannot tell you how many times I heard professors and teachers say, “Classroom management is the most important thing!  You can’t teach if you are constantly having to deal with behavior issues.”  At the time I brushed it off a bit, thinking that it was important, but they were exaggerating a little bit.  I’ve come to learn that they were spot on! Imagine that! Here are some things I have learned in this area:

  • Developing a sense of community is so important!  When kids feel like they belong and are a part of a team, wonderful things happen: they want to do a good job for themselves and their teammates, they are quick to help and encourage others, they are more kind, they feel valuable and needed, and they are happy.  In my class we frequently talk about being good teammates.  I call my class “Team 24” (because that’s our room number).  Anytime I talk to them I address them as “team” or “team 24” They hear it so frequently that is almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  At the beginning of the year we do a lot of community building activities.  We also revisit these types of activities when I feel we need a little strengthening.
  • Students need to know that you care about them.  Learn about what they enjoy and bring it up occasionally.  If you know they love Legos ask them what they have built lately.  If they have a dog ask how the dog is doing.  If they are passionate about fashion comment on their wardrobe.  If you don’t know about a kid’s life, ask!  If they know you care they will be quicker to care about you and listen to you.
  • Be positive!  When kids walk into my classroom they each get a high five (or thumbs up, or peace sign, or knuckle bump, or the like) and a “Good morning!”  They return the gesture and wish me a good morning as well.  Right off the bat they know that I am glad that they are there.  I recently attended a meeting where they spoke about being positive with kids.  It was said that the positive/negative ratio should be 8:1.  That means for every negative thing you say, you should say 8 encouraging/positive things.  In a marriage class it was said that the same is true in marriages with your spouse, except the ratio they gave was 5:1.  Human nature!  People like positive experiences!
  • Be consistent.  Kids feel safe and happy when they know what to expect.  Establish expectations and consequences and then stick to it!  (This could be a post all in itself.)  Kids don’t like negative consequences, but as they come to see that you are consistent and they have the power to choose they will adjust their behavior.  Last year when kids didn’t do their homework they had to stay in for morning recess and do it then.  It was rough at the beginning of the year, but by the middle of the year the kids knew what was expected and took responsibility.  If fact I would have kids walk into class and say things like “I need to stay in from recess today because I chose not to do my homework” or “I need to do my homework at recess“.  My kids also know that we work hard before we play.  A few days before the end of the year party a student raised his hand and said “Why don’t we work really hard in the morning, then have our party in the afternoon.”  I had been so consistent in teaching that, that it was natural to them.
  • Have fun and let them get to know you.  When I was student teaching I felt like I had to be so professional that I never talked about myself.  My sweet mentor teacher encouraged me to let the kids see who I was and talk about myself.  I learned that my students love to know about my husband, my pets, my fear and such.  Have fun and laugh with them.  When you have fun together it strengthens that classroom community.

As you create a safe, fun, consistent, comfortable place for students, great things will happen.  It is really hard work in the beginning, but pays off in the end!

Back to school on a budget

We love when people contact us and have questions!  We were recently asked “Any advice or ideas for how to prep for school on a small budget?” Yes! Yes we do!  So without further delay:


  • Don’t go shopping until you get a list of supplies from the teacher.  Each class and each teacher require different supplies and tools.  Lots of supplies are actually provided by the school.  You should receive a list of items for your child to bring for themselves as well as donations needed for the whole class Remember, the whole class donations can be given later during the year. For example, wait until cold weather and buy tissues on sale to donate when runny nose season starts.  Don’t rush out and buy everything you think your child will need because you may end up spending more than necessary.
  • Back to school sales.  Staples, Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, Target, and many other stores have incredible back to school sales.  I have seen crayons, pencils, notebooks, and glue sticks for pennies!  Look at adds and listen for the best sales.
  • Reuse items from the previous year.  Lots of schools supplies are durable and can be used for a few years if not more.  Kids don’t need new pencil boxes and backpacks every single year.  Most backpacks are washable. If the backpack has no holes, toss it in the washer on the gentle cycle and be surprised at how much better it looks clean again. To convince your child to re-use an old back pack, add a small, inexpensive, clip on lip balm or hand sanitizer, etc to the zipper pull.  Take a look around your house and see what you can use again.
  • Go to thrift stores.  A thrift store is the perfect place to find great deals.  Yes, it takes more time and diligence, but you can save a great deal on clothes, shoes, backpacks, and more.  If you are willing to do some searching and invest some time you can save quite a bit.  Keep you eyes open for Goodwill’s  50% off everything Saturdays.
  • Ask your school about any programs and assistance they have available.Back to school  Many schools have help and programs you may not know about.  As a teacher, I was given a brand new backpack every year to pass along to a student in need.  My school also had a program that got brand new shoes for a number of students.  If money is extra tight make sure you explore the help that is out there and take advantage of the opportunities at your school or in your community.
  • Splurge on one item.  Discuss with your child what they think they need or want the most this year.  It may be a new pair of jeans, a backpack, sparkly pencils, or a Spiderman binder!  Let them be part of the decision making process then go get one really nice item that will get them ready for the school year.

Good luck!