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June 17, 2011

Pirate Day 2011 and More Favorite Quotes for Teachers!

pirate daypirate day

Well, I have to say that summer vacation is SWEET! I finally got a chance to rest a little bit, after the rush of the last week of school. Also, I hate to admit it, but I AM getting older (ugh!), which of course beats the alternative. The great thing about having a birthday that usually comes at the beginning of summer vacation is that my husband and I usually treat ourselves to a couple of nights away as a birthday treat, and so today we went to San Diego! The other birthday treat that I am getting this year is an iPad, and I am really looking forward to figuring out how to use this new little device both in and out of the classroom! If anyone knows of any tricks or tips on using the iPad in the primary classroom, I would love it if you could pass them along to me. Just email them to I’ll check them out. Thanks!

Also, on Thursday night on my HeidiSongs Facebook page, I posted a set of comments that I had found on a chatboard under the heading of “Questions You Would Love to Ask Parents, But Can’t.”   The comments that began to fill up the board ranged from absolutely hilarious to some that you may think really “crossed the line.”   I highly recommend checking it out whenever you have the time and are in the mood for both a good laugh and some thought provoking reading material as well.  I would suspect that the comments that people have posted in June are much more “frank” than those that would be posted after our summer break.  I think that many of the comments are reflective of the frustration that so many teachers feel at being held accountable for the progress of students whom are only in are control for a fraction of the day and of their lives.  Where is the parental accountability, and even governmental accountability in all of this?

1. Pirate Day Was a BLAST! (And How to Make Those Treasure Chests)
We finally had our Pirate Day on our last day of school last week on June 10th, and I am posting some pictures from that day here. We had a wonderful time! We made the Pirate Hat that I posted the directions for a couple of weeks ago, played Buccaneer Bang for the first time, and dug for buried treasure, and played CVC Bingo for plastic gold coins! The children had a wonderful time, as you can see from the pictures.   If you would like to see a little video of the kids digging for their buried treasure, check out my HeidiSongs Facebook page.  It was hilarious!  They were supposed to be checking the map, but instead were ignoring the map and then digging in a spot where the sand had clearly been undisturbed for quite some time. 
Then we had a pizza party, and came in and they were able to redeem their gold coins for prizes, which were old Happy Meal toys, etc., and some used donated books that I couldn’t use. They also had the option of just keeping their gold coins, and they liked that, too.
Just in case you were wondering how we made the treasure chests, these are the directions:

Treasure Chests:
A. Cut off a clean and dry half gallon milk or juice type of carton four inches from the bottom and cover it with brown construction paper on the outside. We cut our construction paper 4” x 18” and glued it on with regular white glue. We also added some shiny silver sticker paper to two of the four sides that we did not intend to cover with popsicle sticks, but that is totally optional. I wouldn’t know where to tell you to get the sticker paper, anyway, since it was donated to us several years ago.
B. Ahead of time, have each child paint 20 popsicle sticks using bingo bottles filled with Liquid Water Color paint. (I purchased mine at Discount School Supply.) The children only need to paint one side of the sticks.
C. Have the children glue their sticks onto two sides of the box in any order they wish.
D. Glue some plastic jewels to the box if you like. Some of my children covered their boxes, and others chose to add none. It was interesting to see their choices! I let them choose this during their playtime. I had the jewels on hand from another project and they were again purchased from Discount School Supply.

If I could do this project again, I would definitely start collecting the milk cartons earlier. I had a big problem getting them from parents with just a week and half notice, because it seems that most people don’t buy milk or juice in the half gallon carton containers when their children are small. We wound up cutting off the tops of the cartons and folding in the lids and spouts so that we could use the tops of the cartons for more treasure chests. And we managed to accomplish all of this only with the help of a volunteer that took all of the remaining “tops” home with her for the evening to convert them into “bottoms” the night before we needed them. All of this could have been avoided if we had just started collecting the cartons much earlier. Actually, I should have known better, because the exact same thing happened last year, but my student teacher fixed it, so it wasn’t such a big deal! Oh well, maybe after two years I’ll learn from my own mistakes!

2. Work Has Begun on the Sounds Fun Workbooks!

Besides having a little bit of relax time, I also began creating the worksheets and the necessary illustrations that will go along with the Sounds Fun CD.  Unfortunately, due to the size, I think that it will wind up having to be split into two volumes, otherwise there will be too many pages to fit into the standard size workbook we usually print with about 140 pages. So our plan, for the time being, is to put the easiest digraphs, “chunks,” and phonics spelling patterns in the first volume, and then save the ones commonly taught last in most phonics programs for the second volume. But I would really like some feedback on what you all feel is the most logical order for each piece. So far, below you will find the order that I was considering putting them in, based on my knowledge of the phonics intervention programs that we use at my school, and the advice of a friend of mine that also teaches there.

The thing that puzzles me about this order is that I generally find the long vowels, especially the “Bossy E” and “Vowel Walk” words are very difficult for Kindergartners, but R controlled vowels are relatively easy for them to master. So I would have put those words before the long vowels, I think. My students also have very little trouble mastering the “oo” sound when taught with the Sounds Fun monkey card! They read those words like pros! The words with “oy” at the end and “ou” in the middle are usually pretty easy for them, too. Likewise, the words with “Ay” at the and “Ee” in the middle are also very easy. So now I REALLY don’t know what to do! If you have any opinions or advice on this, I would really appreciate it because if I were a teacher buying supplies, I would certainly rather buy just volume one if that’s all I needed, rather than both volumes, and I am trying to be sensitive to the needs of everyone. (This may be impossible, because I know from experience that you can’t please them all!) But anyway… please feel free to email me at, or leave a comment on the blog. Thanks so much for your help!

Sounds Fun Workbook Volume One
1. Sh
2. Th
3. Ch
4. Unk
5. Ink
6. Ing
7. Ay
8. Ai
9. Ee
10. Ea
11. Oa
12. Bossy E
13. Vowel Walk (When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, etc.)
14. Oo (Book)
15. Oo (Boot)

Sounds Fun Workbook Volume Two
16. Ar
17. Or
18. Er
19. Ir
20. Ur
21. Oy
22. Oi
23. Ow
24. Ou
25. Magic Y (A “y” at the end of a word with two syllables or more makes a long E sound, as in “very.”)
26. Aw
27. Au
28. Ew
29. Igh

3. Quotes for Teachers, Set Two

I posted the first set of these inspirational “Quotes for Teachers” that I have been collecting a couple of weeks ago in a blog, with the promise of more to come.  Before my presentations, I have been playing a slide show of pictures of my students with these quotes along side of them, and a few of the participants have been suggesting that I include the quotes in my blog so that they could have copies of them.  So as requested, here they are!  Enjoy. 

“Never do for a child what the child can do for himself.” Maria Montessori

“Failure is an essential part of the combination required to open the lock on success.”
~Gary Ryan Blair

“The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.”
~James Yorke

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” ~Henry Ford

“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”

Teach the way you feel works best for your kids. Make time for the things you KNOW work!
Sheri Sutterley

Teaching is mostly listening. Learning is mostly talking.
Debra Meier

“Tell your principal that if it is totally quiet in your room and the children are not moving, then it’s likely that they are probably not learning much… or they’re ill.” Heidi Butkus

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
– Franklin P. Jones

“A great attitude is not the result of success; success is the result of a great attitude.”
-Earl Nightingale

“If you must raise your voice, do it to cheer your students on.”
~Author Unknown

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.
~ Thomas Alva Edison