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!

Set the Expectation and Consequence

We made sidewalk chalk in my class today!  Our reading book occasionally has an ‘art link’ or ‘science link’.  It’s fun for us to do and teaches them practical uses for reading directions and instructional text.

The chalk recipe required us to grind up eggshells in a mortar and pestle.  When I asked who wanted to help grind the shells, every hand in the room shot into the air!  I decided to let everyone help.  I knew that if I told then to grind it a little bit and pass it to their neighbors, havoc would follow—some kids would take way too long.  The other kids would be yelling at them to hurry and pass it.  Kids would be unintentionally unkind as they pushed to get their turn and feelings would get hurt.  The class would get crazy loud (I’m okay with productive loud in my class, just not crazy loud).  Knowing how poorly the situation could turn out I set some quick expectations and a clear consequence.  

“Okay class!  Looks like everyone wants to help.   In order for everyone to get a chance, everyone can smash 10 times.  If it needs more you can all have a second turn.  If you choose to smash more than 10 times you won’t get to help with any of the next steps. Got it? Okay!”

They knew that they got to smash the eggshells 10 times and they knew that if they exceeded that number they couldn’t help anymore.  And you know what? It went great!  The kids counted to ten out loud for each other and nobody went over 10!  I didn’t have anyone yelling at a neighbor to hurry up and pass it.  I didn’t have anyone complaining that so-and-so got longer that everyone.

Setting the expectation and consequence took about 20 seconds and it made the next 5 minutes go smoothly.

As you become more consistent with setting expectations and following through with consequences you will find that your kids will listen the first time you ask something.  They will also know just what is expected and trust what you say is going to happen. and they will trust you more.  In my book that’s a win win!

Every 24 Hours…

shoveling the walk.. copy


Full time parenting can often feel so daunting. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my children and parenting but at times I felt like what ever I did would be undone almost before I could turn around.

One idea I heard, liked and have adopted is to do one thing each day that will not get undone in 24 hours. Dirty dishes, a mopped floor, a clean (cute) washed face –these can all get dirty almost immediately after they’ve been cleaned.

On the other hand, things like reading, trying a new recipe, learning a new skill or craft, teaching your child to tie his shoe, or telling your child a story about when you were young are lasting. Doing things that add to our ability or knowledge can make us feel like we’ve accomplished something that will stay with us for years to come.

So whenever you’re feeling buried by routine or mundane household or parenting tasks, improve yourself and your kids by doing something lasting.

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.

You have our permission!

Happy New Years! We know that lots of you are setting goals and making resolutions for next year.  If ‘have a cleaner house” or “stay on top of cleaning” is on your list then this post if for you!  Even if those aren’t on your list we feel like you might find something here helpful.  When a space (or home) is organized and clean it has a positive affect on a family (or those who live there).  Yes, happier families in 2014!

My mom and I were talking about how we set rules for ourselves—rules about what we can and can’t do around the house and in our daily lives.  Most of them don’t have much reasoning behind them and we probably didn’t even reach the decisions consciously, yet we feel bound to these ‘rules’.  We are here to share some insights we have had about what we allow ourselves to do after receiving ‘permission’ from someone else.   So let’s get rid of a few silly rules we have subconsciously set for ourselves and make our lives around the house a little bit easier!


  You now have our permission to:

Throw a cup of water on the floor and spot mop with a towel.  My mom’s friend (who always seems to have a nice clean house) says that sometimes when her floor is dirty (but she doesn’t have the time/energy/motivation to do a whole official mopping) she will pour a cup of water on the floor, toss down a bath towel, and have a mini dance party on the towel.  Now you can take the time you just saved and read a story to your child.

Run the dishwasher half full.  It feels like it can be a waste of water not to utilize every last inch of space.  We find ourselves waiting to run the dishwasher because there was room for 3 or 4 more dishes.  But then we would forget, have a sink full of dishes and end up in a dish funk.  In an effort to save water or energy we get behind. OR we end up adding the 3 more dishes, starting the dishwasher, and washing a sink full of dishes by hand.  Now did that really save water or time in the end…? No.  So you now have our permission to run your dishwasher before it’s all the way full.

Never leave a room empty handed.   I read this somewhere and thought it was such a good idea!  As I’ve implemented this, it really helps.  It makes cleaning up an integrated task instead of a big chore that takes a chunk of time.   Always carry something with you as you go to another room.  If you walk down the hallway and see something in the wrong place, it takes almost the same amount of time to think, “I’ll get that and put it away later” as it does to pick it up and put it away as you pass it’s home.

Happy cleaning and happy New Years! We hope these tips (and our permission) make your life a little easier!

Inside Voices and Inside Feet


 With your kids out of school for Christmas break is the activity and noise level way up at your house?  When things get loud, remember it’s useless for mom to yell, “Everyone be quiet”.  Instead remind your kids to use their “inside voice” when they are in the house. If they get chasing each other around the house you can tell them to use their “inside feet”.  If they want to use their outside feet, they need to go outside (this is when I’m so glad I don’t live where is snows a lot!).

Recently I was outside with my grandsons. We had just come out of the Dinosaur Museum (AKA the Museum of Natural History) in down town Mesa. The 3 ½ year old made a loud noise imitating a dinosaur then looked at me to see how I was going to react to the out burst. I said, “Wow, that was loud, it’s a good thing we’re outside so you can use your outside voice”.  For a second he just stared at me, apparently thinking about what I’d said and then a smile slowly crossed his face. Then he let out an even louder roar. I smiled at him and said that sometimes it was nice to be outside where we could use our loud outside voice. His 6-year-old brother saw what was going on and quickly joined the contest to see who could make the loudest noise. My husband was waiting in the car, a little distance away and said he could hear us while he was in the car, with the windows up – yes, they were loud!

Let kids know it’s okay to be loud, or fast, or rowdy, just make sure they know the appropriate time and place to use their loud voice/feet and when they need to tone it down. Using this method helps keep moms from constantly yelling at their kids to settle down in the house.

Kill 2 birds with 1 stone

It’s more like “clean 2 things with 1 soap,” but either way here is another simple tip:


Use dish soap to clean the bathtub. When I was little, bath time was one of my favorite times! We had play dishes and play food that we’d play with in the tub. I’d make imaginary soups and fill the tiny pitcher with water, which magically turned into punch or hot chocolate. It was even more fun if I got to have bubbles! When a bottle of dish soap was almost empty my mom would let us take it into the bathtub. We’d make bubbles, have a fun toy and bottle, and clean the bathtub all at once! If you use grease fighting soap it will get rid of the ring in your tub!

Children clean: check!  Bathtub clean: check!  Fast, easy, and fun; it’s the perfect combination.

Speak more kindly

Hello readers!  I hope you are doing well!  We would love to know what’s on your mind.  Drop us a line and let us know the areas where you have been doing really well.  Let us know if you have any struggles or questions you’d like another view on.  We would love to hear from you.  Today I want to share a few thought on the way we speak to our students and/or children.  Here a few things to think about and try.

How to speak more kindly to your child


~ Think before you speak.  We all think unkind things but we don’t have to say EVERY thing we think.  Colleagues have told me that I always seem to know just what to say.  I believe a part of that is my natural disposition, but the greater factor is that I really think about what I am going to say.  There are times when my mind is thinking “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME CHILD!  IN WHAT UNIVERSE WOULD THAT BE ACCEPTABLE!  YOU ARE ACTING LIKE AN IDIOT”.  But instead of letting these words out, I think for a second and say something like “That’s not a very kind choice! What do you think would be a better way for us to handle this?” It is natural to think unkind things when you are frustrated.  Just remember that just because you think something, that does not mean you need to say it.

~ “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Mother and writer Peggy O’Mara shared those words and she is spot on!  Think about how you want your students and children to talk to themselves.  Use the kinds of words and the tone of voice you’d like them to hear and use.

~ Explain things to them, including how you are feeling.  Let them know when you are frustrated.  Instead of yelling, losing your temper, or lashing out when you are unhappy, tell them.  Let them know when you need a tiny break and have then silently count to 20 for you.  It is healthy for kids to see that grown ups get frustrated and upset.  As a bonus, when they see you taking a break it goes into their mental queue and they are more likely to do the same when they have similar feelings.

Simple Start: Phoneme Segmentation

Simple Start:
{A series providing simple activities that set a strong educational foundation}


Phoneme segmentation

That’s quite a mouthful!  And yet it is SO MUCH simpler than it sounds.  A phoneme is a sound.  Segmentation just means taking something apart.  So phoneme segmentation is quite simply taking apart the sounds in a word.

Here’s are a few examples: cat becomes c….a…..t… or /k/ /a/ /t/.  In teaching and phonics instruction each sound goes in between slashes.
Stop  /s/ /t/ /o/ /p/
Chip /ch/ /i/ /p/
Hello /h/ /e/ /l/ /o/

Pulling a word into the sounds is a simple start because it is done orally.  No paper, book, or materials needed!  It can be done in the car while driving, while shopping, during bath time, right before bedtime, while at the dinner table.  Just say a word and break it into its sounds!

Why is this helpful and important?

  1. It sets the foundation for writing as well as reading.  When a child is writing they have to be able to hear all the sounds in a word to be able to spell it.  If they can’t hear all the sounds then they will leave something out when writing the word.
  2. When people start reading they begin by sounding words out, which is the opposite of this activity.  They make each sound separately then put them all together to make a whole word.  If they can take the sounds  in a word apart, then the natural next step is putting them back together.

Give it a shot! Pull some words apart as you go about your daily routines.  Remember that you’ll have to do all the work in the beginning to show them how it’s done.  They as they hear it they’ll begin to jump in.  Start with words that had 2 or 3 sounds and work up from there.   This is a very simple activity that lays the foundation to great readers and writers.

How to respond to a child calling from another room


As a mother do you ever feel like people are calling you from several directions at once? Do you feel that you can’t seem to get to everyone?

Here’s one simple tip that may help. When one of your children (or maybe even a husband??) calls for you, rather than saying “What”, simply answer, “I’m in the kitchen” or “I’m in my bedroom” or where ever you at the time. Chances are high that if you state your location, they will come to you.  If you answer by saying “What” they usually reply  “Come here”.  Try it, see how it works and let me know.