Hour of Code

An Hour of Code is a movement to introduce students to the basics of computer science.
A movement to introduce students to the basics of computer science.

I’ve heard about it. I’ve supported the teachers in my school to try it. Now… it’s time for me to sit down for an “Hour of Code”. OK friends, maybe longer than an hour!

The Hour of Code movement is a grassroots movement that has already introduced over 100 million students worldwide to the basics of computer science. The program was started to give every student an opportunity to try computer science for one hour. In an hour anybody can learn the basics of “code” by participating in computer science activities.  Computer science helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity.  All skills that are important to pursue a 21st century career path. Our elementary school first participated in an Hour of Code in 2015 during Computer Science Education Week (held in early December each year).

Today, Hour of Code activities are available year-round (tutorials and activities). The one-hour tutorials are available in over 45 languages.  The tutorials are self-guided, and all materials are free of charge. Planning guides are easy to read and available for every age and experience-level, from kindergarten and up. Schools can enroll their class and enjoy the fun. The tutorials work on all devices and browsers and there are also unplugged activities for groups that can’t accommodate the tutorials!  Code.org is the ultimate resource if you are learning about an Hour of Code or you are already working on it with your kids.

Hour of Code: One Hour Later….

Well, it was longer than an hour but……I worked on an activity to code my characters to dance! See Dance Party. No experience necessary, easy to do and fun! Can’t wait to have my grandkids try it!

Thinking about giving it a try?  Computer Science Education Week 2019 will be held December 9-15. Be part of the largest learning event in history. Certainly, worth a look. However, it you can’t wait until December, try some of the links. Have fun!

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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3 Writing Strategies to Use Evidence

Ways to help student use evidence to answer open-ended questions.
Ways to Help Students Read and Write

Answering open-ended response questions is an important task in third and fourth grades.  Looking for evidence is the key and organizing your thoughts. As the length of reading passages increases, many students struggle locate information. Teaching kids a “list of steps” and pairing it with an acronym helps students respond to a written article. Kids like acronyms because they are easy to remember. Three strategies to try in your classroom are: R.A.D., R.A.C.E and C.E.R.   

R.A.D. (Restate, Answer, Details)

  • RESTATE the questionto start the beginning of the answer.  
  • ANSWER the questionby going to your notes and looking for the answer. Read and circle any information that you have in your notes that will help you answer what is asked. 
  • DETAILS should be included from the text as evidence.

R.A.C.E (Restate, Answer, Cite, Explain)

  • RESTATE the question.in your topic sentence.
  • ANSWER the question that is being by including it in your topic sentence.
  • CITE evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • EXPLAIN how the evidence from the text supports your answer. 

C. E. R. (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning)

  • CLAIM – A statement that responds to the question being asked using words from the question.
  • EVIDENCE – Provide (facts) from the text as evidence to support your answer (claim). (No opinions, just the facts)
  • REASONING – Explain how these facts support your claim.  You may need to include background knowledge along with the facts to explain your reasoning.  

Using one of these strategies will help students answer open-ended questions.  It will also be helpful when students face high stakes testing. Having an acronym to hang on to will help reduce test anxiety.  

Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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ReadWorks a FREE Reading Resource (K-12)

ReadWorks provides K-12 teachers with nonfiction and literary resources.
ReadWorks provides K-12 teachers with nonfiction and literary resources

I LOVE this site. ReadWorks is Amazon shopping for EVERY type of teacher!  Everything that you need to support your student’s comprehension.  It’s all in one place and FREE

ReadWorks is a nonprofit that provides K-12 teachers with nonfiction and literary articles that support reading comprehension and vocabulary learning. Resources are easy-to-use, research-based, and FREE (I guess I said that enough). Articles are leveled for reading instruction and can be printed, used digitally or projected on a Smartboard.

ReadWorks Includes:

  • Reading Passages
    • Over 5000 K-12 passages
    • Search by grade or by Lexile
    • Written by experts, curated by educators
    • On curriculum topics
  • Questions Sets
    • Text-based questions
    • Multiple choice and written answer questions
    • Explicit and inferential questions that build a deeper understanding of the important elements of a text
  • Vocabulary
    • Carefully selected, high-impact words
    • Multiple definitions and authentic sentence examples
    • Practice with word families and metacognition
  • Article-A-Day
    •  A 10-minute daily routine that dramatically increases background knowledge, vocabulary, and reading stamina
  • Paired Texts
    • Two texts related by topic or theme
    • Question sets to draw connections and comparisons
  • Step Reads
    • Less complex versions of original passages.
    • Designed to provide access for struggling students.
    • Preserve the integrity of the original text, including vocabulary, knowledge, and length.
  • Lessons and Units
    • Based on trade books.
    • Support instruction of longer texts.
    • Include complete lesson plans with guided practice and independent practice.
  • Student Tools
    • Audio versions of all reading content
    • Ability to highlight, annotate and adjust text size.

ReadWorks encourages teachers to share their resources with other colleagues. Pass it on!

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ThreeRingsConnections’ Newsletter: September 2019

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

Nine 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 13 September  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: 9 down and 3 more to go! Have a great month!

September 2019 Archives

September’s Most Popular Posts

My Favorite September Posts

See some posts coming next month
See some posts coming next month
  • The Grand Canyon for Kids
  • Hour of Code
  • 3 Writing Strategies to Use Evidence

School Age Readers and Writers Activities

Reading and writing activities at home to help young readers.
Reading and writing activities at home to help young readers.

School Age Readers and Writers – (5 to 9-year-olds)

  • Give your child encouragement when he or she is doing homework or a writing assignment. Remind your child that writing involves several steps like panning, composing an initial draft, revising, and final editing. No one does it perfectly the first time.
  • Read different types of books to expose your child to different types of writing. Kids love a variety of fiction and non-fiction formats including plays, chapter books, series books, books with sequels, short stories, diaries and logs, and graphic texts.
  • Create a writing toolbox — Find a special box and fill it with drawing and writing materials. Think of everyday opportunities for your child to write —the family shopping list, thank -you notes, birthday cards, or sign on the bedroom door.
  • Ask your child to read out loud what he or she has written.
  • Create a book together — Make a handmade book together by folding pieces of paper ion half and stapling them together. Your child can write his or her own story, with different sentences on each page. Ask your child to illustrate the book with his/her own drawings.
  • Show your child how to summarize a story in a few sentences, for example, or how to make predictions about what might happen next. Both strategies help a child comprehend and remember. After reading a story together, think out loud so your child can see how you summarize and predict.
  • Pick books that are at the right reading level —Help your child choose reading materials that are not too difficult. The goal is to give your child lots of successful reading experiences
  • Partner Reading – Take turns reading aloud to each other. Whether it’s a page or a sentence, it’s another way of getting a couple minutes of reading fun.
  • Have your child read aloud to you every day. 
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Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

Activities for Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)
Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

Preschool Readers (2 to 5 yrs.)

Learning to read is not easy and takes time.  Many parents wonder on the best ways to help their kids learn to read.  With 8 grandkids under 9, we have various levels of reading going on in our family. Ranging in age from 7 months to “newly 9” we have readers of all sizes and abilities.  

I created the following list to make it a little easier for my adult children to have a few “reading ideas” to help their kiddos. Reading is very comprehensive and therefore, there is a wide range of activities at each level.  The important thing to remember is reading builds on foundational skills.  Therefore, each level is important for reading success.  Don’t worry if your more advanced reader wants to do a lower level.  Even advanced readers can continue to learn and grow from some of the Preschool Reader activities. Last week we started with our series with Very Early Readers (Birth – 2 years).  This week we continue with Preschool Readers (2 – 5yrs). 

Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

  • Discuss what’s happening, point out things on the page, ask your child questions
  • When looking at a book together, point out how we read from left to right and how words are separated by spaces.
  • Talk about print everywhere. Talk about written words you see in the world around you and respond with interest to your child’s questions about words.
  • Ask your child to find a new word every time you go on an outing.
  • Watch My Lips – Encourage your child to watch your lips and mouth while you make certain sounds. Have your child think about how his/her own lips and tongue move. You can say something like, “Can you feel how your mouth moves the same way at the beginning of the words sun, snake, and sour? Watch my mouth while I say them.” Exaggerate the letter s when saying the words.
  • Play sound games— Give your child practice blending individual sounds into words. For example, ask “Do you know what the word is? m-o-p?” Say the sound each letter makes rather than the name of the letter. Hold each sound longer than you normally would. This will help your child recognize the different letter sounds.
  • Trace and say letters while saying the letter’s sound at the same time. Use a pan filled with rice, sugar or beans to involve touch, sight and speech.  
  • Play word games — Use a dry erase board to play word games with your child. First, write out a word like mat. Then change the initial sound. Have your child sound out the word when it becomes fat and then when it becomes sat. Next change the final sound, so the word changes from sat to sag to sap. Then change the middle sound, so the word changes from sap to sip.
  • Punctuate your reading.?! -. Discuss how punctuation on a page represents ways of speaking. You can say, for example, “When we talk, we usually pause a little bit at the end of a sentence. The way we show this pause in writing is to use a period.”
  • Dig deeper into the story — Ask your child about the story you’ve just read together. Try questions that require your child to draw conclusions. Say something like, “Why do you think Clifford did that?” A child’s involvement in retelling a story or answering questions goes a long way toward developing his or her comprehension skills.
  • Tell family tales — Children love to hear stories about their family. Tell your child what it was like when you or your parents were growing up or talk about a funny thing that happened when you were young.
  • Storytelling on the go — Take turns adding to a story the two of you make up while riding in the car. Either one of you could start. Start with a beginning middle and end and work up to a longer story. A fun activity that stretches the imagination!

Every minute counts in becoming a good reader. Why not set a goal to try to do at least one activity a day? Be prepared to have days when it doesn’t get done. It’s only a goal. Most of all, enjoy the special time with your child.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Skiing: Free or Really Cheap in Northeast

Check out Free Snow passports to get kids skiing in the Northeast.

New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania

Time to Schedule Some FREE SKIING!

When you think of winter in the Northeast you can’t help but think of SNOW.  Whether it’s school delays, shoveling, or road conditions:; native New Yorkers (like me) can’t help but think of the negatives involved with the beautiful, fluffy, white stuff.  So, how about thinking about the bright side of snowy days? 

How does free (or almost free) skiing for kids?  Let’s face it, skiing can be expensive and ski resorts want to get families on the slopes. So, if you have a 3rd through 5th grader you are in luck.  Check out the links below and see if you can jump on this great bargain.  A pretty good deal if your child is an avid skier or just wants to give it a try. Be sure to check out the websites, there are some requirements associated with the offers. They are certainly worth a look!

New York

The Kids Learn to Ski or Ride Passport is the perfect program for those who do not ski or are true beginners. With the Learn to Ski or Ride program, a child receives a lift ticket, lesson and equipment rental free* at all participating ski areas. There are over 20 ski areas throughout New York State participating in the Learn to Ski or Ride program. Once you receive your Passport in the mail, you can start hitting the slopes! Reservations at ski areas may be required. *$27 processing fee applies. Must show proof child is in 3rd or 4th grade.

Pennsylvania

Any child in the 4th or 5th grade can ski or ride for FREE at all participating ski areas in the state of Pennsylvania (when accompanied by a paying adult.) Just fill out the application on the back of this flyer, mail us a copy of your 4th or 5th grade report card for grade verification, a 2″ x 11/2″ color photo, plus $35-$40 non-refundable processing fee per child. We’ll mail you your 4th & 5th Grade Snowpass containing one FREE LEARN TO SKI/BOARD PACKAGE (beginner lift, lesson & rental package) to any one area of their choice and 3 FREE LIFT TICKETS for each of the participating Pennsylvania Ski Areas listed on our website. 4th and 5th grade Snow Pass

New Hampshire

Ski New Hampshire alpine and cross-country ski area member contributes one free lift ticket or trail pass for your fourth or fifth grader to enjoy New Hampshire’s scenic ski trails this winter. That’s 32 days (or nights) that your child can get outside and explore this season for just $30 upon grade verification. This program is open to 4th and 5th graders from near and far–not just New Hampshire residents! The 4th & 5th Grade Snowsports Passport will be delivered to your email inbox once you’ve provided proof of eligibility. Look at website for exclusion dates.

Very Early Readers (Birth – 2)

Very Early Readers
Birth to 2 yrs.

Very Early Readers (Birth – 2 yrs)

Learning to read is not easy and takes time.  Many parents wonder on the best ways to help their kids learn to read.  With 8 grandkids under 9, we have various levels of reading going on in our family. Ranging in age from 7 months to “newly 9” we have very early readers to advanced readers.   

I created the following list to make it a little easier for my adult children to have a few “reading ideas” to help their kiddos. Reading is very comprehensive and therefore, there is a wide range of activities at each level.  The important thing to remember is reading builds on foundational skills.  Therefore, each level is important for reading success.  Don’t worry if your more advanced reader wants to do a lower level.  Even advanced readers can continue to learn and grow from some of the Very Early Reader list activities. This week we start with our very early readers.

Very Early Readers (Birth to 2 yrs.)

  • Read together every day. Uninterrupted 2 minutes of time is time well spent.
  • Keep a book or magazine with you all the time to read with your child.  Every minute counts. 
  • Re-read a favorite – Kids love to hear books again.  Repeated reading helps kids read more quickly and accurately.  It helps promote their reading confidence. Research shows that repeated reading builds language skills.
  • Read with fun in your voice. Why not use different voices for different characters. A little acting can go a long way!  
  • Let your child choose —Give your child the chance to pick his/her own books. Letting children choose their own books nurtures independence and their own interests.
  • Read it and Experience it — Help your child make the connection between what he/she reads in books and what happens in life. If you’re reading a book about animals, for example, relate it to last month’s trip to the zoo. 
  • Make books and reading into something special by taking your kids to the library, helping them get their own library card, reading with them, and buying them books as gifts.
  • Have a favorite place for books in your home, or even better, put books everywhere!
  • Talk about what you see and do together.
  • Talking about everyday activities helps your child’s background knowledge, which is crucial to listening and reading comprehension
  • You can play games that involve naming or pointing to objects.
  • Say silly tongue twisters—Sing sings and read rhyming books. These help kids become sensitive to the sounds in words.
  • When you read aloud, read with expression.

Coming Next Week:  Preschool Readers (2 to 5 years)

Coming in 2 Weeks: School Age Readers and Writers (5 to 9 years)

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Transitions Are Important For Kids

Transitions Are Important For Kids
Transitions Are Important For Kids

I’ve reached an age that I realize I definitly need transition time to make a change.  Perhaps I have always needed transitions but I only NOW realize that I need them. Maybe, it’s because I see some upcoming life changes. Whatever the reason, transitions seem to make my life easier lately.  As a parent and teacher I know the importance of transitions to make life run smoothly. More than once I experienced my lack of planning causing disruptions.  Those tantrums and unhappy faces could very well have been avoided with some good transition strategies.

Strategies to promoted self-regulation are necessary for a calm home and classroom.  So, recently I dug into my toolkit of strategies to ward off grandchild disappointment and keep everyone smiling.  

Transitions Made Easy

  • Give Extra Time– Allow extra time to move to the next activity. Less rushing helps keep you remember the importance of transition.
  • Set the Clock – Give time warnings of how much longer until we have to leave. I’ve found that using the timer on my phone is a great visual for kids. Seeing the countdown helps them have ownership to plan their final activities. Also, allowing kids to start the timer ensures that they are indeed listening to you. Be sure to include a few extra minutes of buffer time.
  • Be An Accurate Timekeeper – Telling them 2 minutes more but giving them 10 minutes more, because they were quiet,  teaches kids that 2 minutes is REALLY long.  That is until the next time when you REALLY mean 2 minutes.  IF you are ok with an extended time, try giving them a “few minutes more”.  Only give them a specific time when YOU are ready.  This simple tip will help them learn to self regulate their activities. 
  • Look Ahead – Think of possible transition bumps to minimize  unplanned “great ideas”. IF you think they are going to ask for more time to play or a particular toy, prepare an answer before they ask. 
  • Share Next Steps – Share the next steps in your schedule and try to make it sound fun. 
  • Say It With Pictures – Especially for younger kids, show them a picture of the next steps. Draw your simple pictures on post its.  Kids will love to play with them and they can be reused in the future.
  • Give Choices – IF you have multiple things to do and the order can be varied, give them a choice of what they want to do first.  Best to keep their choices simple, maybe 2 or 3 choices.
  • Kids LIKE Schedules – They may say they don’t, but they do!  Let them know in advance any planned activities to help them become more aware.
  • Distract, Distract, Distract – Plan a list of things to do to distract BEFORE your child has an issue (e.g. a favorite toy, box of crayons). Sing, count, tell stories, whatever will keep their mind busy. You may also allow them to hold a special item.  As a K-2 principal, I often allowed new kindergarten students to hold my “very special book” or “wear my Principal necklace”.  Prior to the book or necklace idea, I had once used my keys to distract a nervous 5 year old. Two hours later, the kindergarten teacher was finally able to distract the child long enough to  unclench his fingers from around my keys.  It worked, but certainly, not my best idea.  A little planning would have been helpful!

Not 100% guaranteed ideas but certainly worth a try. 

Good Luck!

Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Field Trip Grants: Hudson Valley

Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley

Field Trip Grans available for schools in the Hudson Valley
Field Trip Grans available for schools in the Hudson Valley

Any educator in a public school or school district in Dutchess County and Ulster County, New York – kindergarten to grade 12 are eligible to apply for field trip grants.

MAXIMUM GRANT AMOUNT: The maximum grant award is $2,000 per field trip. There is not a limit of requests that can be made per school. However, schools will be generally be limited to no more than two field trip grants each, as the competitive application process warrants. Funding priority will be given to high needs schools/ districts. 

APPLICATION PROCESS: Online grant application.  Go to www.communityfoundationshv.org to access grant guidelines information and application. Click here to access the Grants Portal.

Questions: Contact – grants@communityfoundationshv.org

Field Trip Grants Eligibility

  • Field trips must be for trips outside of the school and must be tied to educational curricula.
  • Teachers should seek funding from their school or district first. If that source is depleted or not available for a field trip, the teacher/school may request money from this fund.
  • Field trips should occur during the regular academic year and generally during school hours.
  • Summer programs, clubs and after-school programs are not eligible.
  • Funds may cover transportation and/or admissions. It can also be used to help defray the costs of students who do not have the ability to pay for their portion in cases where students/families are expected to pay all or a portion of the cost.
  • The proposed field trip should be reasonable and appropriate.
  • Field trips that serve an entire grade level will be considered.

Field Trip Deadlines

  • Early Bird Deadline: August 15th For trips or dates or needing a decision prior to October 15th (notifications to go out mid-September)
  • Fall/Winter Deadline: September 15th This is for trips with anticipated dates between October 15th – January 30th  (notifications to go out in early October)
  • Winter/Spring Deadline: December 31st  This is for trips with anticipated dates between February 1st – June 30th  (notifications to go out in late January)
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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  • New: Target Field Trip Grants

New: Target Field Trip Grants

Applications for Target Field Trip Grants start August 1st.
Applications for Target Field Trip Grants start August 1st.

Target Field Trip Grants are now available to K-12 schools nationwide. Each grant is valued at $700. Applications accepted between noon Aug. 1st and 11:59 p.m. Oct. 1st.

Who is eligible for a grant: Education professionals who are at least 18 years old and employed by an accredited K-12 public, private or charter school in the United States that maintains a 501(c)(3) or 509(a)(1) tax-exempt status are eligible to apply.  Educators, teachers, principals, paraprofessionals or classified staff of these institutions must be willing to plan and execute a field trip that will provide a demonstrable learning experience for students.  https://www.cybergrants.com/target/fieldtrip

Target Field Trip Grants Selection:

  • Applicant’s description of the field trip and its objectives
  • Benefits to the students, including overall student learning experience, relevance to curriculum and number of students who may benefit from the grant
  • Trip to be taken between January 1, 2020 and the end of the 2019-20 academic year (May/June 2020)

Application deadline: Applications must be submitted online via this website to Scholarship America between August 1, 2019 and October 1, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. Apply at: https://www.cybergrants.com/target/fieldtrip

Recipient notification/claiming grants: All applicants will be notified by e-mail by December 15, 2019. Grant checks are made payable to recipient’s school.

GOOD LUCK!

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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  • Field Trip Grants: Hudson Valley

Masterpieces for Kids: August 2019

St. Peter’s Basilica
Rome, Italy

This is the 4th part of a yearlong series of great artworks to share with your kids.  Each month I share information about 3 great masterpieces to share with your children.  My goal of these posts is to create a parent-friendly resource to share great masterpieces with your child. I’ve decided on this monthly series because I totally missed sharing the beauty of art with my own children. Better late than never, I guess.

Each post contains a photo of the artwork, the artist’s name, an interesting fact about the artwork and a link to explore more information.  So far, I have shared the following:  Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci), The Starry Night (Vincent Van Gogh), Oriental Poppies (Georgia O’Keeffe), The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell, American Gothic by Grant Wood, Water Lilies by Claude Monet, Irises by Vincent van Gogh and The Skiff by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

My grandchildren’s love of playdough inpired by choice of sculptors this month.  You never know, maybe one day they’ll become great sculptors. 

The Statue of Liberty (1886)

In 1886, The Statue of Liberty was given to the United States by France to celebrate the friendship of the two countries that began during the American Revolution.  The copper statue depicts the Roman goddess Libertas holding a torch above her head with her right hand and in her left hand she is carrying a table on which is inscribed the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  The Statue of Liberty has become an American symbol of freedom and democracy. It has been put on both coins and stamps.   

It was designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel Tower). The Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous sculpture in the world. It is in New York Harbor on Ellis Island.

Mount Rushmore is a monument that was carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was started in 1927 and was completed in 1941.  Mount Rushmore stands 500 feet tall!  The faces of four presidents are carved into the mountain: Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Lincoln. 

The statue Pieta depicts the Virgin Mary holding the body of her dead son Jesus Christ.  It is considered one of the great masterpieces of sculpture.  The artist, Michelangelo was only 24 years old when he sculpted the piece Pieta. The piece is sculpted from a piece of marble.  Pieta is the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed.  His signature can be seen across Mary’s chest.  Today, the Pieta is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Right now, my favorite sculptors are under the age of 8 making “playdough masterpieces”. 

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IEP Vocabulary Basics

Special Education  vocabulary will help understand the process.
Special Education vocabulary will help understand the process.

The world of special education can by scary for parents navigating the process for the first time.  The following list contains special education terms, definitions and acronyms that are commonly used by schools during the IEP process .

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): Special education and related series are provided free of charge so that every child has the appropriate education for his or her unique needs.  It’s entitled under IDEA.
  • Due Process: Refers to the process where parents may disagree with the program recommendations.  Notice must be given in writing within 30 days.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The law (2004) guarantees that all students with disabilities received a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  It makes it illegal for school district to refuse to educate a student based on his or her disability.
  • Parent Consent: Term used by IDEA that describes that a parent has been fully informed (in native language) of changes to their child’s IEP. This informed consent must be obtained before a district assesses, makes a major revision to a child’s program, continues or stops services for a child’s disability.  You will be asked to confirm that you understand and agree to the change in writing.
  • Early Intervention (EI): Services for developmentally delayed children from birth to their third birthdays. The programs are designed to help prevent problems as the child matures. It’s mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Students must be educated in a classroom setting that is close to the general education setting as possible (IDEA mandated).

The IEP Process

  • Assessment or Evaluation: Term used to describe the testing and diagnostic processes that identifies strengths, weaknesses and progress.  An assessment plan is written to describe the results along with the determination and types of special education services recommended for student success.  IDEA gives only 60 days to complete the evaluation from the time a parent gives permission.
  • Annual Review: A yearly meeting is held of all IEP team members to review progress towards goals and update services if needed.
  • Individualized Education Team:  A committee of parents, teachers, administrators and school personnel that provide services to the students.  The team will review assessment results and determine goals, objectives and program placement.

The IEP Document

  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP): The written document that states the child’s goals, objectives and services of special education services.
  • Developmental and Social History: A developmental and social history is a common element of an assessment plan. The history is created by input from parents, teachers, pediatricians and service providers.  
  • Observational Records: Information about a child’s academic performance provided by anyone who works with a child. The records are part of the assessment plan.
  • Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP): A written plan of the early intervention services a child (age 0-3 receives). The plan is developed based on family-based needs and reviewed periodically.
  • Triennial Review:  An IEP meeting that takes place every three years. Testing is updated and a discussion on the continuation of special education services.  The meeting is often combined with the annual review.
  • Observational Records: Information about a child’s academic performance provided by anyone who works with a child. The records are part of the assessment plan.
  • Assessments or Evaluations:  Tests designed to provide an overview of a child’s academic performance, basic cognitive functioning, and current strengths and weaknesses. May also contain hearing and vision test results.
  • Present Levels: Part of the IEP that defines a student’s strengths and weaknesses, current levels of academic achievement and current levels of academic functional performance.
  • Student Baseline: A starting point of student’s ability level that is used throughout the year to measure a student’s skills. 
  • Performance-Based Tests: An evaluation test that is used to determine eligibility for special education services.  Common evaluations can include Woodcock Johnson or the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT).

Services

  • Occupational Therapists: A professional that provides consultation and support to staff to improve a student’s educational performance in the areas of fine motor, gross motor and sensory integration development.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist (specialist): A professional who assesses possible delayed speech and language skills and provides direct services.
  • Physical Therapist: A professional who provides consultation and support staff on a student’s education performance related to gross motor development.  May provide direct services. 
  • School Psychologist: Provides consultation and support to families and staff.  Often involved in the student assessments.  May also be the chairperson of the IEP committee.

Great Special Ed Links

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  • IEP Questions and Answers

Every Kid in a Park Program

Free admission to State Parks for every 4th grade student throughout the nation.
Free admission to State Parks for every 4th grade student throughout the nation

Every 4th grader in our nation is eligible for the “Every Kid in a Park” program.  This program that allows fourth graders, along with their family and friends, FREE ADMISSION to our nation’s parks during their 4th grade school year (Sept. 1 to Aug. 31). Visitors can learn about their heritage and connect with nature.  No matter where you live in the United States, there’s a site within two hours of your home.

Parents or educators can download a paper pass for each of their 4th graders for the yearlong pass.  The pass is free but must be brought with each fourth grader on their trip.  At some sites, the ranger will exchange the paper pass for a plastic pass.  The plastic pass is waterproof and makes a great souvenir.

School Field Trips

Fourth grade teachers can also download a paper pass for each of their students for a school field trip.  A field trip with your class offers a unique learning opportunity.  Many of the Kid in the Park locations even offer special programs for fourth graders.  The “Every Kid in a Park” website also provides resources for field trips to discover wildlife, resources and history.

“Every Kid in a Park” Links

  • Every Kid in a Park Program brochure – Here’s the link (PDF file, 4.8 MB) to download and print a PDF version
  • Every Kid in a Park resources – a set of resources (ZIP file, 15.4 MB)
  • Activity Guide 1: Exploring Federal Lands and Waters (PDF). This lesson teaches students why our country protects lands and waters.
  • Activity Guide  2: Environmental Stewardship (PDF). This lesson shows students how to take care of lands and waters.
  • Activity Guide 3: Our Nation’s Native Peoples (PDF). This lesson teaches students about the people who lived on this land before it was called the United States.
  • Activity Guide 4: Citizen Science (PDF). This lesson helps kids learn about the difference between weather and climate.
Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Gifted Learner Resources

There are MANY resources available to support gifted learners.
There are MANY resources available to support gifted learners.

One thing I quickly realized when I started teaching gifted learners was that I had to design lessons that were interesting and suitable for fast learners. I also needed great sites to find appropriate activities. 

Teachers and parents often look for resources available to meet the gifted learners in their lives. Personally, I’ve searched for information as a teacher of Talented and Gifted (TAG) students, a principal and now, as a GG. Whatever the reason, there are MANY resources available to give you information and activities for your gifted learner.  The websites below will help you meet the needs of your special learners at home and school.

Top 7 Resources for Gifted Learners

  • Hoagies’ Gifted Education:  I’ve used this site and have shared the link with many parents.  Contains an extensive list of resources for teachers, parents and students.  It also is a great resource if you are looking for a gifted and talented community for support.  One stop shopping.
  • National Association of Gifted Children: Take a close look at the Information and Publications tab for resources for administrators, parents and educators.  Be sure to use the Search Link to find your topic.
  • Smithsonian Education – One of my favorite sites to explore because it expands a general topic to meet the needs of gifted students. 
  • Mensa for Kids – The Mensa Foundation recognizes and encourages education, gifted youth and lifelong learning. Be sure to check out the Mensa for Kids’ Excellence in reading that encourages the joy of reading.  Lesson plans are available along with fun and challenging games for kids.
  • Davidson Institute for Talent Development:  Provides a FREE online community for elementary and secondary educators committed to meeting the unique needs of highly gifted students. In the section called Educator’s Guild and you’ll find lesson plans, techniques and other related topics. 
  • Bright Hub EducationSite is geared towards gifted teachers, but it’s a great resource for regular classroom teachers with gifted students. Provides tips and lesson plans for gifted students from Preschool through Grade 12.
  • Know It AllFun, Fun, Fun:  Great website to keep kids learning and having fun. Site has many lesson plans, student activities and supplemental materials.  Be sure to check out Resources.  A new link (September 2019) will be added with activities for South Carolina (SC) standards. Not to worry, if you’re not from SC. State standards are very similar. words and numbering are different).
Education is about meeting the needs of all students.
Education is about meeting the needs of all students.
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ThreeRingsConnections’ Newsletter: July 2019

Teaching is the one profession that crates all other professions.  Unknown.  This quote honors all teachers!
This quote honors all teachers.

Seven 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 12 July 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: 7 down and 5 more to go! Have a great month!

July’s 2019 Archives

July’s Most Popular Posts

My Favorite July Posts

 See some posts coming next month
See some posts coming next month
  • Gifted Learner Resources
  • Understanding IEPs Starts with Vocabulary
  • 10 Answers To Understand Your Child’s IEP

Masterpieces for Kids: July 2019

Musee d’Orsay in Paris

This is the 3rd part of a yearlong series of great artworks to share with your kids.  Each month I share information about 3 great masterpieces to share with your children.  My goal of these posts is to create a parent-friendly resource to share great masterpieces with your child. I’ve decided on this monthly series because I totally missed sharing the beauty of art with my own children. Better late than never, I guess.

Each post contains a photo of the artwork, the artist’s name, an interesting fact about the artwork and a link to explore more information.  Last month’s post (May 2019) I shared 3 masterpieces: Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci), The Starry Night (Vincent Van Gogh) and Oriental Poppies (Georgia O’Keeffe).  This month, we’ll look at: The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell and American Gothic by Grant Wood.

This month we are going to look at some French masterpieces: Water Lilies by Claude Monet, Irises by Vincent van Gogh and The Skiff by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Masterpieces from the French

Water Lilies (1906) by Claude Monet

Remember: 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!

Claude Monet was a French painter born in 1840.  He used oil paints and loved to paint outside scenes. He was the founder of the impressionist movement. An impressionist paints impression of what they see, even though it’s not complete. Monet was famous for painting in series which was to paint the scenes at different times of the day and in different weather.

Water Lilies was one of the last paintings that Monet did towards the end of his life.  It was a series of huge paintings of a pond at different times of the day and in different weather conditions.  When he put all the panels together the painting was over 6ft. tall and almost 300 feet long. Monet is one of the greatest French artists of all time.  He died in 1926.

Irises (1890) by Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands in 1853. He painted many oil paintings and watercolors and is one of the greatest artists of all time He is a post-impressionist because his style was like the impressionists’ style, but he started painting in that style AFTER the impressionist style began. In addition to outside street scenes he also started to paint portraits of people.

In 1889, van Gogh was very unhappy.  He went into a hospital because he needed help taking care of himself.  At one time he cut off his ear and sent it to his girlfriend to show her how much he loved her.  He then painted a picture of himself (self-portrait) by looking in the mirror.  The painting included a bandage where his ear had been, but it was on the wrong side because of the reversed image in the mirror. 

 The “Irises” is one of the most expensive pieces of artwork ever sold.  The painting is of the flowers Renoir saw outside his hospital room. It was his last painting before he died in 1890. The painting is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California.  

The Skiff (1879) by Pierre-August Renoir

The painting above is called The Skiff The exact setting of the painting is not known but it is probably the River Seine since Renoir painted many boating scenes on the Seine.

Renoir was a French impressionist painter. He was born in 1841. Along with Monet, he founded the Impressionist Movement.  He too painted with oil and liked to paint figures, landscapes and scenery.  He used lots of bright colors and the subjects of his paintings were happy. He died in 1919.  The Skiff hangs in the national Gallery in London, England.

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Solving Stories with Holes

"Stories with Holes" develops helps develop critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking skills can be enhanced by solving “Stories with Holes”.

When I taught TAG (Talented and Gifted) students many years ago, I often used “stories with holes” as time fillers.  Sometimes we played 20 questions to figure out the answer.  Other times, I told them the story at the end of the class so they could think about it overnight.  Often, they would come in the next day with lots of questions and possible solutions. 

Stories with holes” are word-based logic puzzles that tell a story.  However, some key parts of the information are not given. As a result, the story does not make sense.  It is effective questioning with yes or no answers that the unknown information is discovered.  

Stories like these inspire imagination, develop listening skills and enhance problem solving ability. Children have fun as they think in new creative ways to find the answer. Time to give it a try! 

Many watched the steak of brilliant orange and red as it totally disappeared leaving nothing at all behind.  What was it?

Answer: The sun at the end of the day as it set in the sky.

This month’s “Stories with Holes” (July 2019)

  1. Declan went on a safari to Africa.  He shot a tiger, a leopard and a giraffe.  Although he was only allowed to bring 2 suitcases back with him to New York City, all of the animals looked great on the wall in his house.  How did he do it?
  2. Connall’s stealing made his parents proud.  They didn’t think of him as a thief.  Why not?
  3. The pool had no water in it, but Meghan, Emily and Abby stayed in it all summer long.  Why?
  4. There once was a guy that just got on a plan and after greeting his friend, six rows back, he got arrested.  Why?
  5. A woman brought her car up beside a hotel and knew immediately that she was about to become bankrupt. How did she know?

Answers:

  1. He shot the animals with his camera.  He hung the animal’s pictures on this wall at home. 
  2. He was a baseball player and he stole 2nd base.
  3. It was a carpool.
  4. They guy said Hi-Jack to his friend named, Jack.
  5. She was playing the games Monopoly. After landing on the space with the hotel, she knew she would not have enough money to pay the rent due.

These riddle-like challenges are fun activities for children and adults alike!  Enjoy!

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Gifted Learner Strategies: Good for All

All kids, including gifted students, have the right to learn something new every day.
All kids, including gifted students, have the right to learn something new every day.

My first teaching job in public school was teaching “Talented and Gifted” students.  I had differentiated instruction to meet the needs of my highly abled students before, but it was not easy. So, once I was assigned to the “Talented and Gifted” students, I thought it would be different. 

To my surprise, I leaned that although I had a few gifted students; most of the students would be considered only highly abled.  Some were certainly gifted in specific areas (math, reading). However, their strengths were different. The result was I was still designing lessons to include variations in both content and techniques.  However, all good teachers know that differentiation is necessary to meet student needs.  It’s difficult, but necessary.

3 Gifted Learner/Highly Abled Strategies

  • Differentiated Lessons – Lesson design focus should combine two types of thinking: critical thinking and creative thinking. Critical thinking involves using evidence to support a conclusion.  Creative thinking involves students learning to generate and apply new ideas.  Both skills are important to thinking and learning.
  • “Guide on the Side” Instruction – It was humbling to teach gifted students.  No longer could I be the “sage on the stage”.  Some of my kids were just smarter than me!  The truth was that I needed to do detailed planning to be able to answer and/or explain student questions.  My role quiet often, was more of a “guide on the side”. I had to learn to ask them the right questions.
  • Opportunities for Group Work – According to NAGC, research shows that enabling gifted students to work together in groups boosts their academic achievement . It also benefits other students in the classroom. When gifted students work together, they bounce ideas off one another to expand a peer’s idea. Activities that share personal interests can be eye opening for highly abled students. They may not know about the topic and become more active learners.

The above strategies can be used in all classrooms during the school year.  All students benefit from being challenged at times. However, this is difficult in the general education classroom. Teachers already have a “full plate” in meeting the various student needs. However, for gifted/highly abled students, using differentiated instruction techniques are a necessity.   All students have the right to learn something new every day. This includes both highly abled and gifted students. 

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Isn't education ALL about reaching the kids?
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

Behaviors and Future Academic Success

Behaviors for Ready for School and Ready for Life
Behaviors for Ready for School and Ready for Life

Did you know that the kindergartners that start school this September will be the high school graduating Class of 2032?  Yes, that’s right!  I bet many of you are already thinking about how old you will be that year. However, in 2032, will our schools have prepared them for their careers?  Truthfully, we do not even know what those jobs will be.  So, for now, let’s concentrate on the behaviors that will help them get to the Kindergarten Graduating Class of 2020.

Behaviors Discovered in Research:

report by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicates that kids entering kindergarten display a wide range of skills, knowledge, and school-readiness behaviors — some of which give them a big advantage. Through its Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS), which tracked students from kindergarten through third grade, the NCES aimed to determine whether some of these behaviors are related to academic performance. They are:

  • Pays attention well
  • Learns independently
  • Persist in completing tasks
  • Organizes belongings
  • Adapt easily to change
  • Shows eagerness to learn new things
  • Follow classroom rules

It is true that we don’t know the career path that our little ones will take, However, the above skills will not only help your child in their future career but in everyday life.  Enjoy the journey!

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DayByDayNY: Kindergarten Readiness Calendar