Partners in Learning

January 3, 2012

Disciplining Students

When do you call the police at schools?  Whose job is it to discipline students?  Is the zero tolerance policy working?  What do you think?

On Sunday, January 1, 2012, the New Haven Register had an opinion piece stating titled Schools Rely Too Much On Police To Discipline Students.

Here are some of the things students at Connecticut schools have been arrested for in the last year: having cigarettes, refusing to take off a hat, talking back to a teacher and wearing pants too low.

Calling in the police to handle minor discipline problems such as these is an indication of school policies of “zero tolerance” run amok or school administrators who have abandoned their duties and handed them to police.

Concerned about the number of arrests, the state Department of Education has begun collecting data on the occurrences. Also, the state Court Support Services Division has been screening police summonses and sending back those that are inappropriate for prosecution, such as refusing to take off a hat, according to William Carbone, the division’s director.”

What do you think?

When I read the list of offenses they do seem minor.  What happened?  How did they escalate?  I wonder why a child or young adult thinks it ok to talk back to a teacher? Where was this behavior  learned, accepted, or ignored by others?  I wonder if the teacher could have handled it differently?  Did the teacher know how to contain or deescalate the situation?  What was the trigger?  I  wonder.   I wonder how heated the exchange became.  Why did it get this far?  (Remember what happens with road rage?)

From my many conversations with Dr. Bernie Siegel on my show Classroom Connections, these children need re-parenting, love and acceptance.  Bernie Siegel is the CD or Chosen Dad from many people.  Perhaps school systems can create a safe-place for a child to go to be accepted, no matter what they do.  A child needs to know they have valve, are loved and accepted from an early age- no matter what.  What do you think?


As former Responsive Classroom trainer,  I’ve learned that positive discipline starts with a simple “good morning.”  Everyone needs to be noticed.  We pay attention to our kids, or they will find a way to get that  attention.  What do you do after you say hello?  Have a conversation, ask a few questions, show an interest.  Say you are happy to see them.  See what happens.  The children will respond.  They are noticed. They have connected to an adult.  This is not the answer, but it is a beginning.  We need to help our parents, parent.


December 30, 2011

It’s Time to Make Snowflakes

When I was teaching elementary school, there was time for arts and crafts in the classroom.  Reserved for  Friday afternoons, laughter, creatively and magic floated around the room.  A favorite activity was making snowflakes out of white construction paper.

Give your child the same fun.  No construction paper.  No problem.  Use copy paper from the printer.

The basics:  You probably already know the procedure.  Fold the paper into at least fourths.   Use scissors and cut around the shape.  Open and tape to the window.

Upgrade:  Use glitter and glue to decorate.  Make sure you place old newspaper on the work surface to control the mess.

Science Literacy:  Create ice crystals.  Mix salt and water.   Experiment with different solutions to find the most effective formulaWrite down each solution in a science journal.  (See below).  To get you started on the right path, use tablespoons of salt and eighth cups of water.

Using a brush,  paint the solution on the snowflakes.  Let the water evaporate and record the results.


Amount of  Water Amount of  Salt Result


Classroom Connections Skills

  • Observation
  • Comparing
  • Measuring
  • Predicting
  • Data Collection
  • Recording Data


( Note:  All underlined words are important science, math and reading literacy skills your child will be practicing.  Words in italics are great vocabulary words.  Try to include them  in the conversations you have with your children.)

December 29, 2011

Have You Thought About Making Ice Cream?

The toys are unwrapped, the excitement of Christmas is past, the kids are bored.  What do you do?  Use this time to extend a child’s science literacy with a fun treat.  Make ice cream.

Steps to Success:

( Note:  All underlined words are important science, math and reading literacy skills your child will be practicing.  Words in italics are great vocabulary words.  Try to include them  in the conversations you have with your children.)

  1. With your child, search the internet for homemade ice cream recipes. Read recipes. Ask questions as you browseCompare ingredients. Predict which recipe would be good for your family to make and why.
  2. After your selection is made, gather appropriate measuring tools for the task. Collect ingredients.
  3. Use zip lock bags for the ingredients as your mixing bowl.  Insert that bag inside a larger plastic bag  that you have added ice, snow or salt.  Predict what will happen.  Record the predictions. Have the kids start kneading the bag. This might be too cold for little hands, so consider getting out the mittens or rubber gloves.  Observe and record the changes in the liquids at 3 minute intervals.
  4. 4. Discuss the role of salt.  (Lowers  the freezing point of water, which makes it possible to freeze the ice cream.  Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, ice cream at 27 degrees Fahrenheit. (Hands On Science by Lynne Kepler) When the ice cream changes from a liquid to a solid, it’s time for the ultimate test:  the taste test.


December 28, 2011

Reading a Thermometer – The Next Activity

A reminder:  don’t forget to go to the section on my website called TV appearances.  My latest appearance on Channel 8 talks about this and other weather related activities you can do with the kids.  The activities connect to science literacy helping children observe and record data.

Moving on, winter is a great time to  talk about ice.

Do you remember  the fun of breaking the ice shield that forms over puddles.  Watching and listening to  it crack like glass , with just enough foot pressure to break the surface, but not so much that your foot lands in the wet puddle.  What fun!

Bundle up and get outside.  Look for puddles with ice shields with your kids.  Discuss how cold it has to be to freeze.  What would make the ice melt?  Consider picking up pieces of the ice, placing it in a baggies or a plastic container, bringing it into the house and just watching it melt.    Children can observe what is happening, record their impressions, keep track of the time in increments of 10 minutes,   and notice the different shape the water has taken.

Little ones can measure the water and infer that water takes the shape of its container.  Play with water and ice.  It’s fun.  It’s free.  It’s fascinating.


December 27, 2011

Become A Weather Watching Family

It’s a great time of year to watch the weather. It’s always changing, surprising, and has immediate impact on our lives.  Weather could have  another important role:  it is a great family activity to reinforce classroom connections.

Basic Supplies:

  • Thermometer with both Celsius and Fahrenheit scales
  • A recording sheet – available by request by emailing
  • A cutting board  ( a platform to collect snow)
  • A ruler ( to measure snow fall and rain fall)
  • A  plastic container (to measure rain fall)

There is a  lot of learning for little ones when they discover how to  read a thermometer.  Understanding what the lines mean, realizing there is a pattern to comprehend, learning the notion of “below 0,” and   knowing which scale is most common to use are all important concepts for children.  How can you help?

Record the daily temperature on the recording sheet that you can request from me by email (  Record the  temperature, type of day, (sunny, rainy, cloudy, or overcast), rain fall or snow fall.

The internet is wonderful for additional experiments the children can do.  I choose this simple experiment from the website from “Weather Wiz Kids”   created by a meteorologist because it is a great starter activity for little ones. I copied the experiment below.

Don’t forget to create flash cards for new vocabulary:   meteorologist, forecasting, predications, and precipitations are good to add to your child’s vocabulary.  Younger children would benefit from learning to read the words:  rain, snow sleet, thunder, wind, floods and hurricanes.


Weather is fascinating.  Don’t be left out in the cold.

December 26, 2011

Toys Toys Toys

Jim Shelton, a writer for the New Haven Register, had a great article in the paper on December 25, 2011.  He started with a question on Facebook, asking his contacts to name the greatest toy ever.  This was my reply.

‘“The best toy ever made has to be the ball,” Doyle writes on Facebook. “Available in all colors and sizes, loved by kids and dogs, used in professional sports and by kids catching it in midair diving into a pool, a simple ball has dominated the imaginations of children, adults and animals everywhere.”

His article went on to discuss that a ball is an honored toy in the National Toy of Fame.  Who knew that there was a Toy Hall of Fame?  I am considering visiting the place if I ever go to that area of New York.

Read his article, Toy favorites – Tonka truck, Barbie, Slinky and more stand the test of time, to learn what others think are worthy candidates for inclusion.

Jim Shelton’s article makes me wonder what today’s children will pick as their  favorite toy when they are adults.  Did you give a toy this Christmas that has staying power?  Will it be loved by both your  kids and grandkids?  Does  it engage the imagination?

According to Jim, “ The Hall of Fame bases its choices on four criteria, according to Hogan. Does the toy encourage discovery and learning? Has it reached icon status? Is it more than just a passing fad? Is it innovative in some way?”

Do the toys you choose for your child meet that criteria?

December 19, 2011

One Thousand Tracings

The format is a picture book.  The content is for older readers.  This discrepancy I feel is the reason  it has not won a prize.  This is an amazing book that demonstrates the best in people during a time following World War II.  Beautifully written, part diary, part journal, and part prose, the reader is immediately drawn to the story expertly illustrated.


One Thousand Tracings is a book not to be missed.  Based on a true story that the author-illustrator discovered hidden in her grandparents attic, it is one that a major motion picture should take up.


Read One Thousand Tracings as a family.  Enjoy.  Discuss.  It is a perfect story for the holidays.




December 16, 2011

How To Teach A Slug to Read

Susan Pearson has a winner in her new book “ How To Teach A Slug to Read”

Besides being kid-friendly, engaging, colorful with delightful art work, it also demonstrates or shows   parents specific strategies to help their child learn to read.

On the inside flap six rules are listed.  You might be familiar with them, they are not new.  But open to the first page and the artwork  of David Slonim makes the message come alive and memorable

The book leaves the reader with the message of what is possible in life for a child because, “All because you learned to read.”

Pick up this book.  You will be glad you did.

December 15, 2011

Use What You Have

Everyone’s talking:  Going Green.  Reuse. Conserve natural resources.   Consider this concept using an education connection.

One of the most valuable resources in everyone’s community is a gift we owe to  Benjamin Franklin who stated the first public library in in Franklin, MA.

Taken from the Town’s website, it states:

“The Franklin Public Library is considered America’s first public library. In 1778, when the town was incorporated, the designated name Exeter was changed to Franklin in honor of Dr. Benjamin Franklin. In return Franklin was asked to donate a bell for the town’s church steeple. Acknowledging that “sense” was preferable to “sound”, Dr. Franklin responded with an offer of books for the use of the town’s residents. When the volumes arrived, a great controversy arose over who should be allowed to use them. On November 20th, 1790, those attending Franklin’s town meeting voted to lend the books to all Franklin inhabitants free of charge. This vote established the Franklin collection as the first public library in the United States. The original Franklin collection is still housed in a book case in the library’s Reading Gallery.”

A few days ago I requested from Branford’s Interlibrary loan a children’s book, How to Teach a Slug To Read. At a recent meeting with Tina, from the Branford Education Foundation, she had shown me a copy.  Loved it.  Loved the title.  Loved  the concept. Loved the illustrations.   I wanted  to read it.

The library emailed me that it had come in.  I will pick it up today and share the book with you in another blog.

Thank you Ben Franklin and Blackstone Library.  Thank you.

December 14, 2011

Bernie Siegel

Bernie has been an ongoing guest for the past three years on my public access show Classroom Connections. Bernie  is a national treasure. Considered one of the top spiritual healers in the world, Bernie has gems of wisdom to share with the viewers.

At  our last taping, Bernie brought in a book that he authored that he didn’t  previously mention.  “Words and Swords” is a book of original poems with space for the reader to create his own poetry.  A series of four books, the first one on Marriage and Family is available. Go to his website or www.wisdomof to  read an excerpt from the text.

Using Bernie as a guide, write your own story.  Make your own book.  You will discover things about yourself you never knew.

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