Hello Kindergarten: Great Resource

Kindergarten transition is important.
Kindergarten transition is important.

Another one of our grandkids is going to Kindergarten in September. Miss Em will soon join her “soon to be” 1st grade sister at school and on the “always exciting” school bus ride.

As teachers, my daughter and I are pretty sure that Miss Em is ready to go; but with 5-year-olds, readiness sometimes depends on the day! For those parents looking for a good resource the Hello Kindergarten toolkit is a great online toolkit. The toolkit contains a variety of resources to help families through kindergarten transition. The resource was developed by a partnership between the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood and the Connecticut State Department of Education.  Although it was developed for Connecticut families, this is an excellent resource for all families looking to support their “soon to be” Kindergartener. 

The toolkit includes multiple topics on transition such as: 

  • What your child should know and be able to do before her/she goes off to school,
  • How to give your child a healthy start, and
  • How the registration process works.

Even if you think your child is ready for Kindergarten; it certainly is worth a look.  Enjoy this special time with your child!

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A Summer of Art

Museums open up a world of imagination and exploration.
Museums open up a world of imagination and exploration.

With summer around the corner and kids out of school, I’ve started to think of summer plans with my grandkids.  As a GG I try to do things with my grandkids that I didn’t do with my own children.  Although my kids and I did many things when they were young, there were so many other things that I just didn’t get to. One area that I neglected was sharing with them the beauty of art. Although my kids had weekly art classes in school, it certainly wasn’t enough to truly educate kids about art.  Kids (and adults) should have at least a basic knowledge of famous works and artists.  

By now I hope my adult children can identify famous artists and masterpieces because now they have our own “little gang of 8” to teach. So, for all the GG’s and parents out that want to help your child recognize some great masterpieces, here’s a few to get you started.   We’ll start with 3 in this post but be on the lookout for additional posts on this topic.  For each masterpiece you will find a photo, the author, an overview and a link for additional kid resources.  You don’t have to “know” art. Just sit for a few minutes with your child, share the information listed and together talk about what you see. Enjoy!

3 Easy Ways to Share Art with Kids

  • Get children to love art by showing them pictures that they might find interesting and asking them questions about what they see.   
  • Read to them kid-friendly biographies and give them a chance to create art using similar techniques.
  • Give them a chance to create their own art using similar techniques as renowned artists.
Mona Lisa painted somewhere between

The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world.  It was created by a famous Italian artist, Leonardo da Vinci.  It was painted sometimes between 1503 and 1519. The painting is worth $782 million.  It is in the Louvre Museum of Paris in France. People always wonder what she is smiling about.

Starry Night (1889)

Starry Night was painted by the Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh.  It is one of his most famous works. The sky looks like rolling waves with stars all around.  It was painted in 1889. It is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  

Oriental Poppies (1928)

Oriental Poppies was painted by the American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe.  It was painted in 1928 and it was her most famous work.  Her oil paintings were of very large flowers with many details on very large canvases. The painting is in the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

Next Month’s Artists

  • The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
  • Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell
  • American Gothic by Grant Wood
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the

Thank you, Hero

Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember all the men and women who died fighting for our country. These men and women dedicated their lives so we can be a free nation. As an Americans I salute your courage, your honor, and most of all,  your sacrifice. 

Summer Reading at New York Libraries (even if you’re not a New Yorker)!

Great Resource for Summer Reading

The New York State Education Department’s Summer Reading at New York Libraries program is once again partnering with myON in 2019 to bring digital books to young readers via unlimited access to the myON by Renaissance digital library! The goal is to keep children reading and learning through the summer by providing them with access to an abundance of reading material, to help prevent summer slide and the loss of reading skills. 

Students and their families can easily access the myON digital library from May 1 through September 30 with one simple statewide login. A mobile app is also available allowing up to 20 books to be downloaded and read while traveling or away from home. The myON library has a collection of over 6,000 fiction and nonfiction ebooks geared toward children from birth to 12th grade, with recorded audio, text highlighting, and an embedded dictionary all included.

Libraries are a great resource for learning all year round, but especially in the summer. Your local library has a wide variety of book selections (ebooks, audio and hardcover) for adults and kids. “A Universe of Stories” is the 2019 slogan and the theme is space and science, so check out activities being planned by your local library.

Summer Reading resources for students.
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids? 

US Flag: Proud to be an American

Flag of the United States of America

In the next 3 months (May – July), there are 3 holidays that we will celebrate to honor our country.  In each of these holidays, the American Flag will be proudly displayed. Memorial Day May 28th, Flag Day- June 14th and July 4th are national holidays in the U.S. that celebrate the people and events that have made our country great. What better time of year than to explain some of the history behind our America’s flag.  The facts below are also great for my Trivia Team friends!

Holidays That Celebrate America

  • Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember all the men and women who died fighting for our country.  These men and women dedicated their lives so we can be a free nation. Memorial Day is celebrated the last Monday of May each year.
  • Flag Day is celebrated on June 14th each year. The flag was adopted in 1777 but it wasn’t until 1949 that congress established a day to celebrate the flag.
  • The 4th of July in the United States is also known as Independence Day.  It is a federal holiday to celebrate July 4th, 1776, the day that the U.S. declared independence from Britain. On this day the Declaration of Independence was also adopted.  Some people celebrate the 4th of July by going to parades, picnics, parties or watching fireworks.  

Flag History

  • A flag is a symbol that is used to represent a group of people.  Flags are made of cloth.
  • The American Flag symbolizes a passed history. It gives Americans a feeling of pride and unity bringing together its many states as one.
  • Betsy Ross is the woman who is believed to have made our nation’s first flag.  It has not been confirmed but she was a friend of George Washington and she was a seamstress, so historians think it was probably her.
  • The first United States flag became official in 1777.
  • The flag has various nicknames including “Old Glory”, “Stars and Stripes” and “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Flag Design

  • The colors of the US flag are symbolic: bravery (red), purity (white) and loyalty (blue). 
  • There are 7 red stripes and 6 white stripes.
  • Originally there were 13 stars and stripes that represented the 13 colonies that declared independence from Great Britain. The first 13 colonies, (alphabetically): Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia
  • Currently the flag has 50 stars; 1 for each state.  President Eisenhower ordered the current flag in 1960: after Hawaii became the last state added in 1959.

Tumblebooks: Free Stories for Kids

TumbleBooks of the Day is a project that provides free daily content for families, schools and public libraries to promote literacy and love of reading.

TumbleBooks of the Day is a project that provides free daily content for families, schools and public libraries to promote literacy and love of reading. Each day there is a Book of the Day, Math Book of the Day, Game of the Day and Spanish Book of the Day.  There is also a Fun Fact of the Day that is customized for each state.

TumbleBooks is a FREE online collection of children’s books that are read TO your child.  TumbleBooks is available at local libraries and from home with your library card.  (SHHH…. A search of TumbleBooks of the Day will also give you the same resource each day).

Many of the picture books are animated, have sounds and music making them very engaging to younger listeners and readers.  The longer chapter books are narrated to your child, similar to an audiobook.  However, you child can follow along the text with the narration.

Yes, it does count as screen time, but isn’t nice that it counts as some early literacy and educational purpose!

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Math Enrichment Problems: May 2019

Math Enrichment Problems (May) for Grades 2/3
Math Enrichment Problems (May) for Grades 2/3

Welcome to the 6th month of threeringsconnections.orgMonthly Math Enrichment Problems post, Each month I post some Math Enrichment problems for grades 2-3.  I hope you will find them useful with your students in class or your kids at home.

Don’t forget to use 1 of your 6 problem solving strategies

  • Draw a picture
  • Guess and Check
  • Use a table or list
  • Find a pattern
  • Logical reasoning
  • Draw a picture Working backwards (try a simpler version first)

Problem Solving – Here we go! 

  1. It was Jerry’s birthday. He bought 26 cupcakes. He gave one cupcake to each member of his class, one to his teacher, one to his principal, and one each to the two secretaries in the office. He also had a cupcake.  All the cupcakes are gone.  Including Jerry, how many students are in the class?
  2. When Donna calls Noreen on the phone the call usually lasts 12 minutes.  Last night they talked on the phone for 1 minute more than twice the time they usually spend on the phone.  Last night’s phone call lasted ___ minutes.
  3. There are 5 numbered lockers outside Brooklyn’s classroom. She opened all 5 lockers.  Then Meghan closed lockers 2 and 4. Emily changed locker 3. (That means if it was open, she closed it or if it was closed, she opened it.) Teagan changed locker 4 and Abby changed locker 5.  Which numbered lockers are still open?
  4. Some 2nd and 3rd graders entered a total of 32 poems in the Poetry Contest. Five 3rd grade students entered 4 poems each.  The 6 remaining 2nd grade students entered the rest of the poems. If each of the 2nd grade students entered the same amount of poems, how many poems did each 2nd grader enter.
  5. Lowyn added up all the single-digit odd numbers and all the single digit even numbers.  What was the sum?
  6. A pet store has only cats and dogs.  There are a total of 64 legs for all the cats and dogs. If there are 9 dogs, how many cats are there?


  1. 22 students in the class
  2. 25 minutes:  2 X 12 minutes = 24 minutes and 1 additional minute
  3. Brooklyn opened locker 1 and it stayed open.  Meghan and Emily closed 2,3,4.  Teagan reopened 4 and Abby closed 5.  The only ones that are opened are 1 and 4.
  4. 3rd graders entered 20 poems (five students each entered 4 for 20 total). The 32 total poems minus 3rd grade poems (20) =12 left to be divided by the remaining 6 students.  So, each student entered 2 poems (6 students X 2 poems =12 poems)  32 = 20 +12
  5. 1+3+5+7+9 = 25 and 2+4+6+8 =20   so 25+20= 45
  6. IF we have 9 dogs with 4 legs that means 36 legs (9 X 4).  64 legs – 36 legs = 28 legs belong to cats.  Since cats have 4 legs (4 X 7 = 28). There are 4 cats.

Don’t forget to check in NEXT MONTH for more Enrichment Problems 

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Check for Understanding: Increasing Teacher Effectiveness

Many teachers use a limited amount of student assessments. Often this is due to a lack of the awareness of the importance of frequency and variety in lesson design. However, the climate of high stakes testing and teacher evaluations has created an interest in Checking for Understanding in Professional Learning Circles (PLCs).

Many teachers use a limited amount of student assessments.  Often this is due to a lack of the awareness of the importance of frequency and variety in lesson design. However, the climate of high stakes testing and teacher evaluations has created an interest in Checking for Understanding in Professional Learning Circles (PLCs).

Checking for Understanding and Teacher Observations

A few years ago, NYS mandated a new teacher/administrator evaluation system.  The new system includes some controversial high stakes consequences.  Although teacher observation in our school were very good, we discovered that we used limited techniques to Check for Understanding. Therefore, we created a Professional Leaning Circle (PLC) to learn some new techniques.

Checking for Understanding: PLC

Once we identified the need for varied assessments in lesson design, we created the following 4-step implementation plan.

  1. Identified 8 (avg. 2 per month) commonly used assessment techniques to use in the first semester. Starting in the second semester, we added one additional technique per month to try.
  2. Offered teacher-led Professional Development opportunities on each technique led by teacher-presenters. Each workshop included a technique overview, examples and alternate versions.  
  3. Created and used a 3 column (technique, definition, Teacher Notes), teacher-friendly tracking system.  The Teacher Notes column was added so teachers could personalize specific ideas (e.g. subjects, examples, student groups).
  4. Added “cheers and jeers” to each meeting to share results.    

Checking for Understanding: Must Haves

  • Learning standards are broken down into small objectives and learning is assessed prior to moving on.
  • Try to involve all students in answering questions.
  • Use both individual and whole group techniques.   
  • Assessment directly relates to learning.   
  • Aim to increase participation through questioning.
  • Opportunities are natural and meaningful that practice new information and connect to prior knowledge.
  • Checkpoints are established throughout the lesson.
  • Specific language is included in the questioning to identify exact information not known.
  • Help students think about what they are learning to make them aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Check for understanding at least three times a lesson: after Introduction to New Material (INM), Guided Practice (GP), and at the conclusion of the lesson.
  • Vary assessment to keep everyone engaged.

5 Things We Learned about Checking for Understanding

  1. Teachers felt that they were more effective.  
  2. Lesson plans became more detailed.
  3. Teachers became more thoughtful in lesson design to include more assessments throughout the lesson.
  4. Teachers thought more about “the learning” rather than “the teaching”.
  5. Teachers enjoyed sharing ideas and learning from each other.

Overall, our Checking for Understanding PLC was successful.  For some teachers it refreshed their memory of assessment techniques; for others it provided new resources. It was a good reminder all of us that as educators we are responsible for learning, not teaching.

Tip #1: Teachers found that listing the strategies and identifying them by numbers in their plans helped them track how often they used each technique. The system also helped them try new techniques and/or perfect old ones.

Tip #2: My favorite resource about on-going, formative assessment is
Checking for Understanding by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. The book contains dozens of ways to thoughtfully and systematically monitor student learning.

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Happy Mothers Day

I’m blessed three times over. To my 2 daughters-in-laws you are wonderful wives to my sons, wonderful moms to my grandchildren and special people to me.  To my daughter you are a wonderful mom to your 3 little girls.  Always remember….

Our grandchildren are such wonderful gifts in our lives. Each of you gives so much to make them happy, healthy children. We appreciate everything you do for them.  The three of you are appreciated and loved.

Happy Mothers Day!

Social Emotional Learning is NOT OPTIONAL

Social Emotional Learning Skills help students be “ready to learn”. They help kids understand and manage their emotions. They are necessary to establish positive relationships, to feel and show empathy and helps kids learn to make responsible decisions.

In classrooms worldwide, educators have known FOR YEARS about the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for student success. We have spent countless hours helping kids and families deal with issues that were not directly related to academics. School attendance, apathy, poor decision-making skills and behavioral issues impact academic success.

It seems to me that research studies that supported SEL skills have been almost ignored in recent education.  Instead, the path to academic success has been paved with standards and testing.  I am happy to see that policymakers have finally re-routed the focus of education success to include social and emotional learning. However, the recent detours have been expensive in both money and lost student learning.

SEL: Better Late Than Never?

I consider myself an optimistic educator. I believe in the power and the importance of education. Although I believe that SEL are necessary in the classroom, I am skeptical that teachers will be able find the time to include the curriculum and most importantly do it well.  Teachers already have a “full plate of mandates”. Policymakers are reacting (although delayed) with guidance and resources, but they are expecting teachers to fix a major issue in a 7-hour day.  Social and emotional learning is a 24-hour job and must start when a child is young. It should not be a “subject” to be taught in school.  These skills should begin in the home and be reinforced in school and by childcare providers throughout a child’s life. 

What Are Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Skills?

Social Emotional Learning Skills help students be “ready to learn”.  They help kids understand and manage their emotions. They are necessary to establish positive relationships, to feel and show empathy and helps kids learn to make responsible decisions.

7 Social Emotional Learning Skills: Quick and Easy

  1. Self-Awareness: A realistic understanding of strengths and limitations and consistent desire for self-improvement.
  2. Self-Management: Controlling behaviors to complete a task or succeed in a new situation.
  3. Social Awareness: Interacting with others that shows respect for themselves and others.  
  4. Relationship Skills: Being able to maintain positive connections with others. 
  5. Goal-Directed Behavior:  Persistence in completing tasks.  
  6. Personal Responsibility: Responsible for actions and contributing to group efforts.
  7. Decision Making: Learning to make good choices and accept responsibility for decisions.
  8. Optimistic Thinking: Positive thinking about oneself and life situations.

Better Late Than Never, I Guess

Although I’m cautious about its effectiveness, I am happy to see an abundance of SEL information being distributed to support the initiative.  New York State Education Department has created a very good guidance and resource document to support classroom teachers. I invite classroom teachers, anywhere, to look at the resources and see MY New York State tax dollars at work!

Children will be more “ready to learn” if we all work together to help them manage their social and emotional needs. Please share this information with anyone that has children in their lives so SEL can start today. 

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids? 

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Online Resources for Preschoolers

Online resources can support a preschooler’s literacy journey.

Online resources can support a preschooler's literacy journey.
Online resources can support a preschooler’s literacy journey.

There are many resources online to support a preschooler’s literacy journey, but which ones are good? Over the last few months, I’ve been on a search to find great resources that parents can use that are easy to use and can engage kids. Over the last few months, I’ve tried each of the sites with one of my grandchildren 1 year to 5 years old.  So here is my “GG approved” literacy websites.  But more importantly it comes with a “grandchild approved” rating. Have fun!

Top 10 Online Resources (alphabetical)

  • Between the Lions– This website associated with the PBS show features games, activities, and resources for emerging readers.
  • Children’s Storybooks Online– This collection of online stories is perfect for beginning readers through young adults.
  • Starfall– Starfall guides students from learning the alphabet to early reading and beyond. The four sections include videos, guided stories, and a selection of stories featuring comics, plays, folk tales, and more!
  • Reading is Fundamental – This children’s literacy organization has activity ideas for parents, articles for educators and stories and games for kids. Be sure to check out the reading activity calendars!
  • Storyline Online – Screen Actors Guild members read children’s books aloud, accompanied by the book illustrations.
  • StoryPlace: The Children’s Digital Library – Thank you to the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County for creating a great interactive website for kids.  On this site your child can listen to interactive children’s stories and play on-line activities and more.
  • Starfall– Starfall guides students from learning the alphabet to early reading and beyond. The four sections include videos, guided stories, and a selection of stories featuring comics, plays, folk tales, and more!
  • PBS Kids – Kids can explore their favorite PBS shows such as Curious George, Caillou, and Arthur while playing educational games.
  • National Geographic Kids – Play games, watch videos, learn about animals, and places, and get fun facts on the National Geographic Kids website.
  • San Diego Zoo Kids – ALL FREE.  Great resource for “one stop activities”. Includes games, craft ideas, science experiments and videos about animals.
  • StoryPlace: The Children’s Digital Library – At this children’s website by the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, kids can listen to interactive children’s stories, play with on-line activities, print out take-home activities, reading list and more.

Online Resources Recently Discovered: Worth a Look!

  • H.I.P. Pocket Change – The United States Mint has a website just for kids! Here kids can learn about money through games and activities.
  • Toy Theater – At the Toy Theater you can compose music, make art, play Tic Tac Toe, and explore the interactive playset.
  • Literacy Center Education Network – The Play & Learn center has lots of online activities for learning to read.  Site includes activities in English, French, Spanish and German.
  • Chateau Meddybumps – Site has a FEE but there are many FREE activities.  Check out the Parent Guide on how to support your child in language, reading and social skills.

“GG suggested… grandchild approved.” 

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Historical Dates and Learning: May & June 2019

May & June Historical Dates in lessons gives relevance to learning.

Including Historical Dates in lessons gives relevance to learning.

For kids in school, knowing historical dates helps them relate to history and builds their general knowledge. Knowing these dates can help teachers engage students in conversations and students may even be impressed  by their teachers historical knowledge!


National Bike Month

May 1         Mother Goose Day

May 4         Kentucky Derby Day

May 5         Cinco de Mayo

May 5         First Day of Ramadan

May 6         National Nurses Day

May 7         National Teacher’s Day

May 8         School Nurses Day

May 12       Mother’s Day

May 26       Sally Ride’s Birthday (1951) First USA Woman in Space

May 27 Memorial Day (Day to honor service men and women who gave their lives for freedom and country)


National Safety Month

June 1 Oscar the Grouch’s Birthday

June 3 First U.S. Space Walk (1965)

June 4 First Hot Air Balloon Flight (1783)

June 7                Donut Day

June 15th Fathers’s Day

June 18 International Picnic Day

June 21 First Day of Summer

June 25 Eric Carle Birthday

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Power of Play and Young Kids

Play looks simple, but it is incredibly complex. Years of research has shown that play affects a child’s development in deep and meaningful ways.

Play looks simple, but it is incredibly complex.
Play looks simple, but it is incredibly complex

As I sit on the floor and play with my granddaughters, I’m amazed at how quickly they are growing and learning.  What was too hard for them last week, they now accomplish without hesitation. Where does the time go?   

As a principal of a K-2 building, you didn’t go far without hearing about the importance of play in child development. Often, we discovered that children who struggled transitioning into kindergarten lacked early learning experiences.  Parents and caregivers simply weren’t aware of the power of play to help children learn.  

Play looks simple, but it is incredibly complex.  Years of research has shown that play affects a child’s development in deep and meaningful ways.  Although it’s important for school readiness skills it has many other benefits that are just as important.

5 Reasons Why Play Matters

  • Builds Independence– Kids learn a great deal when they can explore.  Figuring out how something works without adult supervision allows kids to try something new. Often kids will repeat the same activity over and over to solve their problem or practice a new skill.
  • Develops Gross Motor Skills – Enjoying different activities helps develop physical coordination and confidence.  This allows them to develop self- awareness.
  • Builds Social Skills – Generally toddlers are centered on their own needs.  However, giving kids opportunities to play with others is important to build their social skills.  Don’t worry if you see them playing next to another child (parallel play).  They will start to be more social as they get older and have more experiences playing WITH other kids.
  • Stimulates the Senses – Your child’s ability to learn about the world depends on their senses.  So, when planning play opportunities try to include as many senses as you can.  THINK see, hear, touch, taste and smell. 
  • Language Skills – Play gives your child opportunities to tell you about their play.  Help them by narrating their play and repeating words many times. As they play, point to the items and name them. Occasionally ask your child questions about their play.

As parents and grandparents, we should do our best to encourage play. It’s time for us to sit back and watch the amazing power of play.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

ThreeRingsConnections’ Newsletter: April 2019

Monthly newsletter archives front Threeringsconnections.org gives parents, teachers and administrators resources to support kids.

Education is the means of developing our greatest abilities.
Education is the means of developing our greatest abilities.

Four months down in 2019, how are you doing on those New Years Resolutions? If you are still working on catching up on professional development, take a look at this month’s newsletter. All 11 April posts are below, as well as ALL the posts since I started the blog in September 2018. My New Year’s Resolution to get the Threeringsconnections’ newsletter out on a timely, consistent schedule is accomplished: 4 down and 8 more to go! Have a great month!

April’s 2019 Archives

April’s Most Popular Posts:

My Favorite April Posts:

  • Power of Play and Young Kids
  • STEM and STEAM for Preschool Students