Friday, December 5, 2014

Jada's Dilemma

I hate going to school. I hate my life. If I have to face my classmates, I will die of shame and humiliation. A few weeks ago we started swimming in gym class. We are required to take showers after we get out of the pool. When I got out of the shower, I went to get dressed, but some of the girls had stolen my clothes and threw them in the toilet. Then they took turns relieving themselves in the toilet that contained my clothes. I fished my soiled clothes out of the toilet, frantically scrubbed them in the sink, and used the automatic hand dryer to dry them the best I could. Once the clothes were semi-dry, I put them on, snuck out of the building, and walked home. I missed the rest of my classes because I couldn’t bring myself to face my classmates.
Later that evening, I was checking Facebook and Instagram and saw pictures and video of the entire event-from the girls throwing the clothes into the toilet and relieving themselves to me taking the clothes out of the toilet and desperately trying to wash and dry them. Several people had written horrible comments about me. That is when I knew that I couldn’t go to school anymore.
After that, I started making up excuses to stay home. I would tell Mama that I was sick, but she didn’t always believe me. She used to beg me to go, and then she tried to bribe me. When that didn’t work, she grounded me, but I didn’t care. I just couldn’t go.
Last week, Mama said that enough was enough, and she practically forced me into the car. I held back my tears as long as I could, but once we pulled up in front of the school, I really started crying.
          “Jada,” Mama said, “what in the world is going on? Why are you so upset?”
I just kept crying. I heard Mama sigh loudly. I knew that she was tired and needed to get to work herself, but I just couldn’t get out of the car.
          “I can’t do it, Mama,” I said as the tears flowed down my face. “Can’t we just go home?”
After a few seconds, Mama sighed again and said, “Fine. Let’s go.”
We drove away from the school, and I felt myself start to relax just a bit. When we got home, I got out of the car, went to my room, and buried my face in my pillow. How in the world was I going to survive this humiliation? It was bad enough that my dad had recently left and Mama was never home, but now I had to deal with this drama. I hate my life. 


Were you intrigued by this short, high-interest, fictional story? Your middle school students will be too! Grab it, along with the same story written from the point of view of a 2nd person narrator, 3rd person limited narrator, and 3rd person omniscient narrator, as well as student activities for only $3. This is the perfect standards-based lesson to teach your middle school students point of view. 

Estimated Teaching time: 1 hour
(Click the picture to go to the product.) 

Jada's Dilemma-One short story written from different points of view

Enjoy my standards-based lessons and materials  to help maximize student success and minimize your valuable planning time. My lessons meet both the NEW Indiana Academic Standards and the Common Core Standards. 

All NEW products are 75% off for the first 48 hours that they are posted. Flash Freebies are also posted for 48 hours as a thank you for your interest in my products. Become a follower today so that you are notified via e-mail once new products are posted. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Free Preview-Independent Fluency System for MS Students

The second installment of my fluency system for middle school students is now available and is 75% off through 11/29/14. Read all about the system in my post from 11/16/14.

Click here to download your free preview.  Be sure to VIEW the slideshow in order to see the technology that runs the system.

Click the picture below to purchase this product.

Purchase the second installment of my fluency system today!
Installment #1 is available here. Feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teaching Restaurant Etiquette: Real Life Experience

This year, I had an opportunity to participate in University Days for the first time in my teaching career. The purpose of University Days is to give students an opportunity to sign up for and participate in various activities that interest them. Each teacher in the community offers different courses and conducts the class. I was excited to offer a course in restaurant etiquette.

My room, converted into a fancy restaurant
My students got a kick out of the Minnie Mouse and Dora the Explorer (not pictured) place settings.
I told them that this is what happens when you have a two-year old daughter at home and have left over paper goods from  birthday parties!

My first order of business was to transform my classroom into a "fancy" restaurant. Students lined up in the hallway and I played the role of the hostess. Once students were seated, we then watched several video clips and discussed the rules of etiquette in a restaurant. Students  also learned about sales tax and the reasoning behind leaving a tip. Next, students took time to view a menu, decide what they were going to order, and figure out the sales taxes and a 20% tip. Some of them said, "Well, I only have $1 left, so that's all I'm going to leave for a tip."  You know that wasn't going to fly! We discussed the importance of leaving a good tip and even watched an inspirational video clip from The Ellen DeGeneres show.

 After the lesson, it was  time for role-play! A few students pretended to be servers while their classmates were the restaurant patrons. They had to practice proper etiquette as they placed their order, waited to be served, pretended to eat their meal, paid their bill, and left a tip.

Older students enjoy and learn from role-play

Then it was time for real life application. The students, my chaperons, and I boarded the bus and headed to House of Pizza. Each student placed his or her own order, paid his or her own bill, and left a tip. Some of the students decided that the waiter did such a good job that they wanted to leave more than a 20% tip. They made comments like, "I want to be a good tipper," and "He did such a good job! He had to take care of ALL of us!" They even applauded for him before we left.
Real life application-students practice restaurant etiquette at House of Pizza
The server and hostess complimented my students' decorum multiple times. I was incredibly proud of them.  Middle school students in a Title 1 district sometimes get a bad rap when it comes to social situations, but my lovelies did a great job of dispelling all the negative stereotypes. This goes to show that ALL students can learn---they just have to be taught!

Are you interested in conducting a restaurant etiquette lesson with your students? You can grab my FREE lesson here. ENJOY!

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sometimes I Want to GIVE UP!

Yesterday morning, I wanted to crawl back into bed, hide under the covers, and hope that everything that I needed to do would magically take care of itself.  The cold weather and dark clouds matched my discouraged mood, and I could hardly get myself going. I was frustrated about all of the test prep that must occur in order to help my middle school students experience success when there are so many wonderful and, dare I say, more important things I want to teach.  I was angry about the new testing format that contains questions that are so subjective that not even a room full of highly-qualified teachers can agree on the answers. I was saddened as I thought about how challenging the new passages are, especially for my students who are reading far below grade level. My heart shattered as I considered the look of defeat on the faces of my students as they tried to muddle through the passages and questions and just couldn't get it. I felt like a failure as a teacher when I remembered the low test scores from the last round of Acuity testing. The overflow of emotions suffocated me and I wanted to cry. I wanted to give up. I wanted to quit.
But then I begin to think of the things that I could control. I could control my attitude. I could use my knowledge of best-practices and help my students move closer to being able to pass the test. Inch by inch we would crawl, but we would get there together. I could stop complaining about the new test, pool my resources, and teach my students to the best of my ability.

I prayed and asked the Lord to give me strength to help me through the day as I dragged my weary bones into the shower. By time I drove to work, I was still down in the dumps, but then, as my students begin to stream into the room, something wonderful begin to happen. Over the next two hours, my mood lifted as I saw their eagerness to learn. I was touched by their DESIRE to keep chugging along, even if the work was hard, and I knew that I shouldn't/wouldn't/couldn't give up.

If we all work together, I am confident that we can encourage one another and come up with ways of helping our students experience success. As a first step, I'd like to share a lesson with you that I completed with my study skills class.  Feel free to use this with your students as a way of helping them become familiar with the new Istep+  Language Arts test that they will have to complete in March. (Click on the picture to download the lesson.)

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
~1 Thessalonians 5: 19

I will keep this verse in mind and give thanks for the educational situation that we face today. Be encouraged, my friends, and don't give up! Our students need us!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Naomi's Birthday = Great Deals for Teachers!

My sweet Naomi turns two in a few days. I know I sound like a bad cliche', but the time really has flown by.  It is amazing  to see just how much she's learned in just two years. I take great pride and joy in seeing her master new concepts. This comes from giving her plenty of opportunities to learn.

Naomi's learning reiterates  the importance of providing our children and students with quality educational resources, regardless of their age. I create products for middle school students and want to make sure that they are accessible to ALL TEACHERS, regardless of financial situations. Therefore, I am making all products in my TpT store 75% off for the first 48 hours that they are posted. My followers will also be notified of flash freebies. This will ensure that teachers get the quality resources they want without stretching their wallet. Follow me today! (Click the picture to go to my store.)

Follow Me Today in TpT!

Here's a flash freebie for all of my teacher friends. This product will be FREE for the next TWO WEEKS in honor of my sweet baby girl's 2nd birthday. Click the picture below to view the product.  ENJOY!!!

Point of View -FREE from November 8, 2014-November 22, 2014. Grab it today!

*Clip art frame by Cara's Clips 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Understanding Point of View

It seems that each year, my students struggle with the concept of point of view.  Last school year, I knew I needed to think outside of the box to help them SEE the differences between the view points. Therefore, I recruited the help of my colleges for a little improv. First, they acted out a scene from the point of view of a 1st person narrator. Then, they redid the scene from the point of view of a third person limited narrator and finally, from the point of view of a third person omniscient narrator.

Oscar worthy performances, yes?

Oh, how my students got a laugh out of the acting! But FINALLY they were able to see the difference between the points of view.

This year, my students will study the script of each scene to solidify their knowledge of point of view. They will respond to multiple choice questions similar to those found on standardized assessments, highlight words that indicate the point of view, circle information that reveals the thoughts of different characters, and fill in a chart that compares the information.  At the end of the period, I'll be able to quickly assess their understanding of point of view with my pre-made exit slips.
UPDATE: Since I teach 7th grade this year, students will also complete bell-ringers and exit slips over objective and subjective points of view.

I've packaged all of this together so that it can be used as a ready-made resource in your middle-school reading/language arts classroom. Grab the lesson here: Bellringers (or Minilessons) and Exit Slips for Point of View.

Check out my other Point of View resources to maximize student learning!

·         Point of View Pretests-Forms A and B-FREE!
·         Point of View Posttests-Forms A and B-FREE!
·         Point of View Flow Chart-FREE!
·        Multiple Points of View-Newest product! One story rewritten from multiple points of view; student activities included
      Point of View Analysis Pack-One of my top sellers!-In this story, the writer is all mixed up between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person points of view. Students have to figure out what the story is supposed to be saying and then rewrite it from various points of view. 
·         Point of View Posters/Anchor Charts in English and Spanish-One of my top sellers!
          Happy teaching!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Effect of Eliminating Social Studies and Science Classes

"Who knows about the Titanic disaster?" I eagerly asked my 7th graders. I had selected this story because I was sure that they would have quite a bit of background knowledge about this tragedy from 1912. I was wrong. A few students raised their hands, and the extent of their knowledge was that there was a ship that sank.

Sadly, I find this to be the case quite often as I select passages for my students to read. They are lacking in background knowledge, which makes it more challenging for them to make inferences and understand what they are reading. They are unable to make connections to information that they don't know. I certainly don't blame the students. I don't blame the teachers. I don't blame the administrators. I blame this system that wants to test kids to death, grade schools on the test results, and threaten the jobs of the hard working teachers and administrators if the scores aren't up to par. Up until now, the school grades have been based on student performance in language arts and math. Therefore, time in social studies and science has been drastically reduced so that students can focus on these "critical" subject areas. But now, teachers are faced with a dilemma:

So in the long run, has anyone really benefited from the reduced time in social studies and science? I contend that they have not.

As I was reading about the new Common Core PAARC assessments, I noticed that the authors reiterated that the passages would not only test students' knowledge of the reading and writing standards, it would also test their understanding of social studies and science related material. However, THIS IS STILL UNDER THE LANGUAGE ARTS TESTING UMBRELLA! Oh joy. So all of those days/months/years of reduced social studies and science curriculum will now effect student performance on the new assessment.

So what are we going to do to combat this issue? As Kristina Smekens has stated, "We have to stuff their background knowledge bag with information." So that is just what I do with my units. I will no longer expect students to have the background knowledge needed to understand the text. I will plan to take a day or two to teach the historical or scientific context behind a story so that they are able to grasp the text.

Before we read about the Titanic, I took students on a video field trip with National Geographic.

Video Field Trip: A free resource in my TpT store. 

This provided them with the background knowledge they needed to understand our story. They moved through my unit on the Titanic beautifully, and by the end, they were able to analyze the individual factors that contributed to the sinking of the ship AND use details from the video field trip and the story to make a judgement about who to blame for the disaster.

A student analyzes the text in order to understand the chronological text structure of our story
A student analyzes the factors that contributed to the sinking of the Titanic

Now, more than ever, we HAVE to provide students with lots of opportunities to add social studies and science related information to their background knowledge bag. This is the only way to bridge some of the gaps that are an effect of eliminating these subject areas.

        My entire unit on the Titanic; available now in my TpT store!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Remembering 9/11

In all of my years of teaching, I've always left it up to the social studies teacher to cover important events from history. This year, however, with time in social studies being cut due to increased time in other subject areas, I decided to spend some time weaving these important lessons into my curriculum.

My first opportunity came the week of September 8th when one of my favorite teacher-authors posted this lesson in her blog. When it showed up in my Bloglovin' news feed, I knew that I wanted to use it with my students.

On September 11th, I took my students to the library and showed them parts of a video about 9/11 that was provided by Ms. Ignelzi, our school librarian.
Students engrossed in the viewing of video coverage on 9-11

On September 12th, we went to the computer lab, and students had the period to peruse this 9/11 interactive timeline and fill in the timeline of events.
Students reading, listening to audio recording, watching videos on the interactive timeline from 9/11

On September 15th, Shannon Stanley, the language arts teacher on my team, had the students use their timelines to fill in a graphic organizer and write a summary of the events.

I was moved by the maturity and empathy that my students displayed during the lesson. Strange as it seems, most of my current 7th graders were not born on September 11, 2001. They had heard about airplanes flying into the twin towers, but the tragedy took on a whole new meaning when they saw a video and engaged in the interactive timeline.  On this day, they learned the true meaning of a hero. After this lesson, I am sure that they will always Remember September 11th.

Thank you to Erin Cobb for putting together this lesson and posting it as a free resource in her Teachers pay Teachers Store. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Change Can Be Good

Panicked incredulity set like a heavy bolder in my chest as I was told, with less than a week to go before the start of the school year, that I would be switching classrooms. After 10 years in the same classroom, I had no idea how I was going to get everything packed up and moved into a new room before our August 13th start date. I received permission to start packing up my old room, but was told that I couldn't yet begin work in my new room. I was overwhelmed and less than thrilled. I already have a hard enough time handling change, but I was afraid that this would put me over the top. I took a few deep breaths, prayed through my anxiety, and begin packing up 10 years worth of materials. 

Ten years of materials, packed and ready to be moved

Discouragement bubbled up more than once, especially when I realized that the room I'd be moving to was smaller than my room. I had purchased a love seat and recliner for my seating area before I found out about the move, so I really didn't know where I would put everything.
                                               My first views of my new room

 I scoured Pinterest for ideas and formulated a plan. Once I had permission to start moving,  I recruited some former students, and we made the transition to the new room. I still have several boxes that haven't been unpacked, but I am satisfied with the results, and, most importantly, my 7th graders love the room.

My Classroom
Students sometimes work in groups, and I have desks for the first time ever, so this is the configuration that I went with. 

I absolutely love the windows and all of the natural light. Eventually, I'll hang my reading posters and charts on the windows as we cover our standards. 

My back board has a place for announcements, student work, and word work. See the cover that the student computers are on? There are TONS of boxes of books and listening centers housed underneath the workstations. I had nowhere to go with them in the room and settled on this as a storage solution. (Idea from Mrs. M. Nowak.) The boxes contain books for which I had multiple copies, so I put a few copies out for the students and left the rest in the boxes. I replenish the supply as these books are checked out of my library.

Front Board-I used my letters to label different parts of the board.

View behind my desk-The printer/copier/scanner was my gift to myself so that I don't have to go home and remember to print/scan stuff. It has saved me so much time! The candy, gum, and snacks are rewards for my student. The blue bookcase (from Ms. J. McDonald) houses my teaching materials. The organizational unit on top of the bookcase was an idea from Erin Cobb. The labels were a free download on her blog.  
Nonfiction books and resources for my students


I love that this room has these draws to house some of my nonfiction books. I used my self-created labels so that students know the genres of books in the draws. 

My fiction books are housed in these colorful baskets from Dollar Tree. Once again, I used my labels so that students know the genres of the books in the baskets.  
More books-Is there any such thing as too many books?
These labels are inside of my books. This way, students know the genre and level of book they are reading. They also know where to put the books once they've finished reading them. (The ones in my TpT store do NOT say Mrs. J. Miller!) You can download your free sample of the leveled labels here and the free sample of the genre labels here.  

Students have binders, spiral notebooks, and composition notebooks that they keep in my room. The counters are a perfect place to keep them. I am very strict about their materials staying nice and neat. There is a student in each class period who makes sure that everything stays organized. Another perk of my new room is the cabinets under the counters. I have more book than would fit into the baskets on the shelves, so the overflow is in baskets in the cabinets. They are also labeled by genre.

My comfy reading area: the carpet was donated by a businessman in Merrillville, IN. The love seat and recliner (in the far left corner) were purchased at a local Goodwill. Too bad I had just missed the 50% off Saturday, but the price was still unbeatable. I purchased the bean bags (only 1 in view) from Big Lots the previous year. The book spindle was donated several years ago by the parent of a student. The wire shelving unit came from Walmart. It had been at my house, but I didn't need it there, so I brought it to school last year. It's been nice to have the extra storage. The brown cushions on the floor under the window were from a couch that I used to have at home. The small brown side table used to be my husband's, but we didn't need it at home. This reading area is a favorite of my students.

Now that I've been in the room for a few weeks, I must admit that the change has been good. I have loved the opportunity to reorganize my classroom library and get rid of some things that were taking up space. It's true that I wish I would have had more time to get things done before the year started, but everything has worked out just fine. 

So maybe the next time I am faced with change, I won't feel anxiety and apprehension... 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Free Back to School Gift for YOU!

Welcome to the start of a new school year! We are filled with the joys of setting up our classrooms, the high expectations we have for student success, and the anticipation of meeting our kiddos. It is going to be a great year!

It seems that every time I set up my classroom displays, I inevitably run out of a letter, number, or symbol that I need. I then have to either change the display, have mismatching letters (gasp!), or go to the store and buy an entire new set, all for one little item! I hate when that happens! Well now, that problem is solved. I created my own letters, numbers, and symbols so that I can print off exactly what I need when I need it, and I'd like to share it with all of you as you prepare for the year. Perhaps this will make your task of setting up your room just a little easier. Enjoy!

Click the picture to access this item.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Unmotivated Students

"Loser! You're never going to get it, so why don't you just give up? You suck! You are so weak!"

These phrases popped around in my mind like popcorn seeds in a hot, greasy pan. After a very rough year, I had started slowly and eagerly, but each time I tried to exercise, I ended up in a pathetic pile of self-pity. I put forth my best effort again and again, but I never experienced success. So I became discouraged. I gave up.  I became unmotivated. When I was around others who spoke of their physical feats in the gym, I inwardly shrugged my shoulders and thought, "Well, la de da for them, but I'll never be able to do it anyway, so why even try?"

And then it hit me. This is the same thought process that our poor readers go through. They didn't start out being unmotivated, but after years of going to school and never experiencing success, they became discouraged. They gave up. They became unmotivated. When we have class discussions or take tests and the "good readers" always know the answers and get good grades, it's like rubbing their faces in their inability to comprehend what they read.

So then it becomes a question of what we can do to motivate our students. Yes, we get tired of the excuses and irritated with the lack of effort, but we must keep in mind that, at one point, years ago, our students were eager learners who put forth their best effort but didn't experience success. So what's the solution?

It is important to provide our unmotivated students with three things:

  1. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement- These precious young people must know that others believe in them. They need to repeatedly receive verbal praise and acknowledgement of what they CAN do in order to quiet the negative, self-deprecating thoughts floating around  in their heads. This encouragement needs to come from adults and peers alike. Students think that teachers are supposed to believe in them, but it becomes very powerful when their own classmates believe in them and encourage them as well.  
  2. Examples of people who were struggling students but turned it around and experienced great levels of success- In order to believe that they can be successful, students must know that people who were previously in their shoes were successful. These examples can come from books, real-life encounters with older students, guest speakers, etc. Our students will start to think that if others could do it, then maybe, just maybe, they can too. 
  3. Opportunities to be successful- This most likely means NOT starting these students with reading material at their current grade level, and that's ok. I understand when some say that providing a 7th grader with reading material at his or her current reading level isn't getting him or her ready for the state test at the end of the year. However, I contend that it is. The unmotivated are getting nothing out of simply sitting in the classroom taking up good space. If they are provided with opportunities to experience success, their academic self-esteem will grow, and eventually, they will start to believing that they can learn.
This process may be slow and frustrating. It might take a week. It might take a month. It might take the entire school year, but over time, our unmotivated students will experience success and become inspired to learn.  Will they pass the state test that same year? There is no guarantee that they will. However, the students will eventually believe in their ability to learn, which will lead to the motivation to be successful. Success will build upon success, and the students WILL experience academic improvement and growth.

As far as my exercise is concerned, I joined a social network in which I received daily encouragement. I also heard stories of others who had been out of shape but were able to get back to healthy. Most importantly, I was able to start a simple exercise program at my current fitness level that allowed me to experience some success. It wasn't anywhere near what a former collegiate athlete should be able to do, but it was a start. It was slow. It was simple. But it worked! Over time, I started believing that I could be successful and I became motivated once again.  May the same hold true for our precious students.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Are iPads (and Other Electronic Devices) Bad?

I guiltily glanced over at my daughter as I read this fantastic blog post by Renee Robinson. In her letter to her boys, she explains why she says "No" to electronics. Her purpose in writing was not to point the finger at parents who allow their children to use electronics, and she wasn't pointing out the evils of electronic devices. She was simply sharing her reasons for making the choice she made. However, as I read, I jumped into comparison mode. I thought, "Goodness, she is such a good mom while I'm sitting here on the computer letting Naomi play on the iPad." 

Naomi spending time on the iPad
 Once I took a deep breath and really focused on Renee's words, I realized that she made some very valid points, specifically, wanting to " give [her sons] the gift of true human them discover the joys and wonders of the world...being comfortable with who they are...wanting their unique gifts from God to bloom...[and] being confident in themselves...". She treasures this short time that she has with them and doesn't want this time to be wasted with them plugged into electronic devices.

 When Naomi started talking, one of her first 30 words was iPad. (I thought it was adorable that she could express what she wanted at such an early age!) When she gets up in the morning or after a nap, she wants the iPad. Whenever she sees Mommy on the computer, she wants to sit next to me and use the iPad. The bottom line is that Naomi LOVES the iPad. Naomi uses the iPad while I work on lessons for school, clean the house, browse the internet, and work on my photography. (Most recently, it was editing the pictures I took for my sister's wedding.) All good things, yes? I have been thankful to carve out a few hours a day to do some things that I want to do while Naomi quietly occupies her time. This has been key in my summer survival at home!

It's so easy to fall into Mommy Comparison mode which is what happened when I was reading Renee's post, but I didn't want to do that. So after putting my reading aside and doing some thinking, I realized that I am NOT a bad mom who is messing up my child, but there is nothing wrong with being challenged by what I read and making changes in response to those challenges. (I don't want to make changes because it's what other moms are doing. I really just want to be the best mom that I can be and do what is in the best interest of my sweet Naomi.)

I thought about what Naomi does on the iPad. She easily goes to YouTube and enjoys watching Busy BeaverSesame StreetKids TV, and other age-appropriate videos. These videos provide good, educational lessons that are a great tool for learning. She watches videos that I recorded of her doing things, which the therapist at the hospital told me was a good thing for her to do. She enjoys browsing through pictures, naming the people in them, and discussing what they are doing. Naomi also has her own page of apps which she navigates with ease. I have enjoyed seeing the learning that has taken place as a result of her time on the iPad.

Naomi's page of apps

I thought about my beautiful mother who, as a stay-at-home mom, raised 12 children in a day in age before electronic devices were so prevalent. 

My beautiful mother-I bet you didn't guess that she's in her 60's. Doesn't she look great?!
In an effort to keep her sanity, she would send us outside for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. She also took us to the library on a regular basis and made sure that we had plenty of books to read. We were required to have a certain amount of quiet time every day, and she taught us how to do crafts like cross-stitching and sewing. Brilliant!

I also thought about my sister-in-law over at Mountain Mama Teaching who uses media sticks with her boys so that they are limited in the amount of time they spend on their electronic devices. She still takes time to provide hands-on experiences for their young, developing minds and takes full responsibility for their learning. Limiting their use of media allows it to be a part of their lives, but not the all-consuming focus that it could easily become.

I thought about my sister Kim who was a kindergarten and first grade teacher but stopped teaching to be a stay-at-home mom and raise her three girls. She works on a tight budget and creates a TON of neat things for her children. She works hard to give them fun, educational experiences EVERY DAY, despite having recently returned to school to earn her Master's Degree.
My sister's three girls

I thought about my middle school students who need to know how to use electronic devices, but also need critical thinking and good communication skills. As electronic devices have become more prevalent, I have noticed that there seems to be something lacking in this area. (I am no scientist, have done no research, and don't know if one is the cause of the other, but there is definitely a positive correlation between the two.)

Based on these things, I decided that, for my daughter and me, the use of the  iPad (and other electronic devices) isn't bad, but it needs to be done in moderation and as a TOOL for learning. It is not to be the end-all, be-all, and it is not to take the place of spending time together. So this week, I greatly reduced Naomi's media time. Each day we went on some kind of outing. Naomi had some independent play time before our story time and quiet time, and then we completed activities TOGETHER in the afternoon and evening. (Thank you, Pinterest!) I must say that the following truths have become evident:

1. When we are engaged in our activities, Naomi doesn't ask for the iPad.
2. There are several apps for some of the activities we do, but by completing the activities together, with hands-on materials, the learning is taken even further.
3. Naomi and I have created priceless memories together, and we both have a LOT of fun!
4. Once I return to work in the fall, I will have only a few hours with Naomi each day, so I really want to do a better job of working with her to shape her mind and development.
5. Renee Robinson was right. I have seen Naomi develop human connections, and it's been my pleasure to observe her as she discovers the joys and wonders of the world. This time is short and precious, and I want to spend more of it together.

I kept a photo journal of our activities over the past week. Here are some of the highlights of our time together. Enjoy!

Climbing at the park-Look at the development
of those gross motor skills!
Driving at the park-Always fun
to pretend

Learning to balance while walking across the bridge-
Gross motor development
Naomi wanted to wear her red shoes to the park this day

Making a new friend at the Play Place in the Mall
Human interactions don't take place on the iPad
Playing in the Sandbox at Grandma and Grandpa's house
Regular visits to Grandma and Grandpa's house are a must.

Mommy and Naomi taking a pizza break
at Bellabos
Making pizza in the pretend pizzeria at Bellabos


Water play at home
I wasn't expecting this to happen!
Independent play with Puppy
Independent play with Puppy

Playing Baby Doctor
An adapted version of Memory-Naomi just matches
the cards with them already face up

Writing with sidewalk chalk
Making blue play dough
 (Naomi picked the color!)
Counting game with the play dough and skittles

Pretending the play dough is a cookie

Lining up for the shot

A scratch, but we'll get it next time!

Visiting a lady whose significant other
recently passed away
Naomi knows her name and asks to
go to her house almost every day that we
are outside.

Bursting bubbles

Thank you, Renee, for writing such a thoughtful letter to your boys. It really challenged me to change the way that I do some things with my daughter. The memories we have created are priceless, and so yes, like you, this has become more for me than for her!