Visual Thinking Strategies

Visual Thinking Strategies engages students in discussion.
Visual Thinking Strategies engages students in discussion.

A popular book study in our K-12 Professional Development offerings was Visual Thinking Strategies by Philip Yenawine. Teachers at all grade levels found this strategy helped expand student discussions. Special Education teachers found Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) very helpful to explore new content. 

In VTS discussions, teachers support student growth by facilitating discussions of carefully selected works of visual art/photographs or media literacy. Teachers are asked to use three open-ended questions to engage student discussion.

  • What’s going on in this picture?

  • What do you see that makes you say that?

  • What more can we find?

Teachers use facilitation techniques to expand student responses. By pointing at the areas being discussed and paraphrasing student comments, teachers helped link and frame student answers. For those teachers being observed using an evidence-based tool, the following evidence can be seen when using Visual Thinking Strategies.

Questioning/Discussion Technique

  • Students are engaged in exploring new content through effective questioning.
  • Engages all students in discussion.
  • Allowing “Think Time” before responding.
  • Topics can be expanded through follow up, rephrasing and applying student responses.

Engages Students in Learning

  • Examples are used to illustrate new learning.
  • New learning connects student knowledge, interests and culture.
  • Problem solving is highlighted as a technique in student learning.
  • Examples are differentiated to meet student needs.

VTS As An Assessment Tool

  • Teachers and peers comment on student responses.
  • Uses Non-verbal cues (nods, quizzical looks etc.) to encourage students.
  • Effective feedback is specific and descriptive.
  • Teacher comments help clarify student responses.
  • Feedback is immediate to support student learning.

Visual Thinking Strategies helps students to truly understand and transfer learning.  It helps them explain, interpret and apply new learning.   

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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Pets in the Classroom Grant Program

Application for Pets in the Classroom grant are now available for teachers
Application for Pets in the Classroom grant are now available for teachers

Pets in the Classroom is an educational grant program that provides financial support to teachers to purchase and maintain small animals in the classroom. The program was established by the Pet Care Trust to provide children with an opportunity to interact with pets—an experience that can help to shape their lives for years to come. Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-2020 school year. 

You may only submit ONE application per school year! However, if you have received a STORE or REBATE GRANT in ANY previous school year, you are now ONLY eligible for the sustaining grant. You can only receive ONE STORE or REBATE per lifetime, NOT one per year

Apply Here:

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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  • New: Target Field Trip Grants
  • Field Trip Grants: Hudson Valley

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 to access grant guidelines information and application. Click here to access the Grants Portal.

Questions: Contact –

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.

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:

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.


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).


  • 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

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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  • IEP Questions and Answers

IEP Questions and Answers

Understanding the IEP in the Special Education Process
Understanding the IEP in the Special Education Process

When parents learn that their child has been found eligible for special education services, it’s only natural that they have many questions. The world of special education can be overwhelming for parents.  The IEP process, new vocabulary, timelines, rules and meetings are ALL unfamiliar and can make a parent feel useless in the process.  However, parents are a very important part of the process because YOU know your child the best.

Two areas to learn about in the special education process is vocabulary and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  In this post we will review the IEP and in the next post we’ll review special education vocabulary.   

  • What happens if my child is NOT eligible for services? If the group decides that your child is not eligible for special education services, you should receive this in writing along with an explanation of why your child has been found “not eligible”. You will also be given information on steps to take if you are not in agreement with the decision.
  • What do I do if my child is not eligible for special education services but still needs additional support? K-12 schools are required to provide additional supports to regular education students through a process called Response to Intervention.  See your child’s teacher and/or principal about services that may be offered to support your child’s success.
  • What is the next step if my child is eligible for special education? The next step is to write what is known as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  After a child is found eligible, a meeting must be held within 30 days to develop the IEP.
  • What is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)? An IEP is a written statement of the education program designed to meet a child’s needs.  It has two purposes: To state the services that the school district will provide for your child and to set reasonable goals for your child,
  • How do I prepare for the IEP meeting? Start by making a list of your child’s strength and weaknesses.  If your child is already receiving services, reach out and ask the specialists for their input.  Find out what services they think are necessary.  Keep a notebook jot down notes of things you would like to say at the meeting.  This notebook can be used for the notes you take at all your meetings.  
  • What happens during an IEP meeting? You will be part of a group of professionals that will discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses prepared to work with a group of people to develop the IEP.  Your child’s evaluation results will be discussed (if this is an evaluation year).  Strengths and weaknesses will be noted, and team members will make suggestions for program placement, goals and services needed. Don’t be shy about speaking up, even though there may be a lot of other people at the meeting. Share what you know about your child and what you wish others to know. (Good time to use your notebook). After everyone has shared their thoughts and concerns, the team will decide on the type of special education series your child needs.  This will include the type of setting, goals and randy related services that your child will need.
  • Will my child be re-evaluated? Yes. Under the IDEA, your child must be re-evaluated at least every three years. The purpose of this re-evaluation is to find out if your child continues to be a “child with a disability,” as defined within the law, along with your child’s educational needs. Although the law requires that children with disabilities be re-evaluated at least every three years, your child may be re-evaluated more often if you or your child’s teacher(s) request it.
  • Will I receive a copy of my child’s evaluation report and a determination about your child’s eligibility? Yes, you will get a copy of your child’s evaluation report prior to the CSE meeting.  You will also get a copy of the IEP after your CSE meeting either the day of the meeting or by mail.

Remember, as your child’s parent, YOU are an equal member of the process.  More importantly YOU have the final say in your child’s IEP.  Catch your breath, take notes and ask questions. You’ve got this! Next post is Special Education Vocabulary.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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.
Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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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

Resources for Substitute Teachers

Maybe it’s not what you were born to do but being a substitute teacher is important for kids.
Maybe it’s not what you were born to do but being a substitute teacher is important for kids.

School district nationwide are being challenged to fill classroom vacancies with qualified substitute teachers.  Qualified substitutes are needed in classrooms when teachers are absent for health reasons but also for in-district meetings or professional development.  The substitute teacher shortage has gotten increasingly worse over the last few years. Most substitute positions offer low pay, no health benefits, no training or mentoring and do not offer consistent work. However, the recent positive economy has also impacted the number of available substitute teachers, since they are finding other higher paying jobs. 

However, the need to ensure students are learning and staying on track is important.  Studies have shown that students do not perform as well when the regular teacher is absent.  So, for the substitute teachers that have a passion for teaching and enjoy being a substitute teacher, Thank you for your service.  I hope you find the resources listed below helpful to make your substituting a little easier. 

4 Resources to Support Substitute Teachers

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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  • Are You A Real Teacher?

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.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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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?


  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!

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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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?

RTI/MTSS: 3 Great Teaching Resources

A multi-tier system of supports (MTSS)  includes the three levels of RTI. MTSS also covers social and emotional supports.
A multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) includes the three levels of RTI. MTSS also covers social and emotional supports.

RTI/MTSS (Response to Intervention and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support are an important part of intentional teaching.  This multi-level system integrates assessment and intervention to maximize student achievement. The four essential components of an MTSS/RTI framework are screening, progress monitoring, multi-level or multi-tier prevention system, and data-based decision making.  Each of these categories use multiple data sources to identify students at risk to provide focused instruction.

3 Great RTI/MTSS Resources

  • RTI Action Network: Great guidance resources to guide educators and families in the large-scale implementation of RTI.  Their goal is to help educators have access to quality instruction and early identification resources.  
  • Intervention Central – One of the oldest and most extensive resources in the world of RTI.  Many tools and resources are easily accessible for both academic and behavior interventions in the classroom.
  • Center on Response to Intervention: Provides free resources to teachers, schools and districts to help struggling learners and implement Response to Intervention to attain learning standards.

Many schools maintain a yearly goal to continue to explore resources to help understand, implement, or refine their MTSS/RTI programs.  I hope you find the resources above helpful.

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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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

Top Reading Resources for Kids!

The best way for kids to become good readers is to read, read, read!  This post includes a variety of resources that will keep them engaged and provides hours of fun. The resources are both free and kid-friendly.  They include reading resources for all levels from beginners to advanced readers.

Great resources to get kids to read!
Great resources to get kids to read!

Site includes a variety of resources for many areas.  Perfect for preschool, K-2 , special ed and English Language Development. A paid membership is needed for access to all resources but there are many FREE.

Quick fun activities and games to help them learn to read and write.

FREE educational games and online books for kids preschool through grade 8.  The interactive games develop skills in math, reading, and literacy.

Clifford, The Big Red Dog: Interactive Storybooks!

Funology is the best place that kids can do alone or with their parents.

The Exploratorium isn’t just a museum. It has lots of online interactive activities. website for kids! Hundreds of free kids games, puzzles, activities, coloring pages, clip art & more for children, families, parents, teachers.  

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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Comprehension Questions Help Early Readers

Asking questions helps strengthen a child’s reading comprehension.

Parents often wonder how to help their child with reading.  The comprehension question often comes up when they see their child reading the words but are not sure if they understand what they are reading. So, how can you help them when you are not a reading teacher. 

The important part is asking questions to start your child thinking about their reading. It’s totally fine to repeat the same or similar questions after each story. It helps your child learn to think about their reading; before they read, while they read and after they read.

Quick Comprehension Questions

  • Does anything in the story remind you of something that has happened to you?
  • What questions pops into your head about what you read?
  • There are some great pictures in the book. Can you tell me about one of them?
  • Can you summarize what you read?  What happened overall in the story?
  • What were the names of some of the characters?  Did you have a favorite character?  Why?
  • What do you think the title of the story (chapter) means?
  • Can you think of another title of the story?  Why would that be a good choice?
  • Do you think other kids would like this story?  Why?

Remember to balance your questions with fun.  After all, don’t we all just want to read without interruption sometimes? Think of it this way.  Every question is one more and better than none.  And every question or discussion is helpful.  Enjoy!

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

Jokes for Kids Develops a Sense of Humor

Jokes can help kids develop a sense of humor.
Jokes can help kids develop a sense of humor.

Yesterday, while sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, I heard a joke on the radio cracked me up.

Question: “What did the baby corn say to mamma corn?”

Answer: “Where is pop corn?”  OK, so it’s a little funny or (corny) but there was lots of traffic!

It reminded me that when I was a K-2 principal I sometimes added a joke to the afternoon announcements. Yes, they were silly but for kids 5-7, just developing a sense of humor, I was a great comedian!  For teachers, I was sometimes a welcome laugh (ok maybe a giggle) at the end of the day. 

Time to Pull Out the Old Joke Book?

My delay in traffic reminded me that it might be time to share my wealth of “kid jokes” with a couple of my grandkids.  In fact, I may have already missed the window on my oldest grandson.  My guess, at the ripe old age of 8, I might see some eye-rolling.  If not from him, certainly from his dad, my oldest son.  But such is the life of a GG! 

Academic Benefits of Getting Kids to Love Jokes

If you are looking for something other than “just for the fun of it”, developing a kid’s sense of humor also has academic benefits.  Parents and teachers can help develop their child’s sense of humor by explaining why something is funny.  This helps them be able to recognize if again.  Afterall, a child is not born with a sense of humor.  It develops over time.  Don’t we all know adults without a sense of humor?  Let’s start our kids young!

  • Great motivator to get kids to read.
  • Helps build larger vocabularies.  Often jokes revolve around understanding different meanings of words.  They provide a great opportunity for discussion.
  • Jokes are short with simplistic vocabulary and sentence structure.
  • Higher order thinking skills developed –Additional connections are needed for the joke to make sense or be funny.

You Funny GG!

That comment came from my 3-year-old grandchild when I was being silly.  When kids are toddlers, it’s the funny faces and silliness that cracks them up.  But, when they get to be school age, we GG’s must work a little harder for a laugh!

Ready for Jokes? Let the Laughs Begin

Teaching kids to appreciate jokes is a great opportunity to laugh together as a family.  Come on, give some of the jokes below a try.  Take some time to be silly with your child and share a laugh (or eye roll).  Enjoy!

  • Q. Why did the cow cross the road?
  • A. To get to the udder side.
  • Q. What do you call a cold dog sitting on a bunny?
  • A. A chili dog on a bun.
  • Q. What do you call a thieving alligator?
  • A. A crookodile.
  • Q. What do you call a cow that eats your grass?
  • A. A lawn moo-er.
  • Q. What do you call a baby bear with no teeth?
  • A. A gummy bear.
  • Q. What do you call a pig who knows karate?
  • A. Porkchop
  • Q. What do you call a cow in a tornado?
  • A. A milkshake
  • Q. What do you call a sleeping bull?
  • A. A bulldozer
  • Q. How can you tell the ocean is friendly?
  • A. It waves!
  • Q. When is the moon the heaviest?
  • A. When it’s full.
  • Q. What kind of shorts do clouds wear?
  • A. Thunderwear!
  • Q. What kind of tree can you grow in your hand?
  • A. A palm tree
  • Q. What is a tree’s least favorite month?
  • A. Sep-timber
  • Q. What did the little tree say to the big tree?
  • A. Leaf me alone
  • Q. What did the tree wear to the pool party?
  • A. Swimming trunks
Isn’t education All about reaching the kids?