Developmentally Appropriate

Teach, Aspire, and Empower

Teach, Aspire, and Empower

I was raised on a dairy farm where my dad was employed as the hired hand. My family didn't have a lot of extra money, and I certainly didn't have but one or two store-bought toys. There was one thing, however,  I had a lot of and that was opportunities for discovery, play and access to plenty of books through the community Bookmobile.

Uppercase Handwriting Worksheets: Sticks and Curves

Uppercase Handwriting Worksheets: Sticks and Curves

If you are looking for a quality product for early learners, you will love this Uppercase Letter Formation product! There are two versions included in the purchase, the one page version where everything is included on a single page,  and a 2 page version that may be easier for little hands to manipulate. The letter is on a full page and the sticks and curves are on an additional half page.

Teacher Please Love My Child

My grandson T. had a kindergarten experience that made me sad indeed.

Instead of waking up each morning with joy for learning, he cried and complained he didn't want to go. He would return home from school with his shirt completely chewed up from nervousness and anxiety. He hated everything about school and treated every question about it with gloom and avoidance.

When we teach in ways that are developmentally inappropriate, we take the excitement out of a child's adventure, the adventure all children deserve. We remove the joy that learning should be. Hopefully this year will be much better for him, and for all children everywhere! 

Teacher. Please love him!

Classrooms Should Reflect A Child's Natural Active Learning Style.

Today I ask a few kids what they wanted in their next school year. The answers all echoed the same theme. "I want to do fun things!" "I want my teacher to be fun." "I want my teacher to be nice to me." "I want to do a play." "I want my teacher to read funny books." "I want to have lots of friends." "I want to make fun things." "I want to play lots of games." "I want to go on fieldtrips." "I want lots of recess."

Interestingly enough, not one answer was "I want to do worksheets." "I want to sit quite at my desk." Rather, all of the answers reflected the active learning styles that children crave, because children instinctually know how they learn best; through active, hands-on discovery learning opportunities. We need to listen to them!

Enjoy this free poster. Just grab the picture and drag the jpg to your desktop and print. If you want a larger size, simply slip that jpg onto a thumbdrive and take it to a photo center. I have found that Sam's Club has really great prices. I can print a poster for only $3.00. This is going on my classroom door.


They Will Shine in Their Own Time.


I have always been an academically challenging kindergarten teacher, but I have gone to great lengths to ensure that academic skills are taught through play. I nurture my students at their academic level, the level for which they are developmentally prepared. Consequently it saddens me to hear teachers discussing where a child should be instead of celebrating where a child is.

This picture is my 1st grade class in 1964. I can remember that 1st grade was the year that we learned alphabet letters could work together to make words, a handful of sight words, and why Dick, Jane and Sally looked up and looked down. And guess what!  As far as I know, everyone in this class turned out all right. In fact, most went on to achieve great things!  And, believe it or not,  I doubt anyone left Mrs. Little’s First Grade classroom reading any higher than a level D (the new kindergarten standard). Rather, everyone thrived celebrating their own pace of learning enjoying recesses and story time.

But today things are different. Children are being pushed beyond their developmental limits and frustration is the result. This frustration turns into self-defeating attitudes, behavioral issues, a dislike for school, and trips to the principal. And -- I don’t blame them! Because having unrealistic expectations is frustrating indeed.

When I was in college, my roommates took me skiing. I had never skied before, yet I was taken to the top of the liftup the highest slope, and there they went! My roommates took off! “WHAT DO I DO!” I screamed.  “Oh it is easy.” They replied. “Just put your toes together and go down the hill.” Well that was the last I saw them. I proceeded down the tallest slope in agony! I cried, I fell, I tried, I fell, I (swore), I fell, I even tried just walking sideways down the slope. When I made it to the bottom, battered, broken, and sore, I crawled to the lodge and curled up by the couch and could not quit crying.

Do you think that I ever tried skiing again? No way! I was beaten down by this experience, and my trust in those roommates was completely gone. I was expected to do what I simply could not! I did not have the proper preparation to complete the task.

So, before we worry that a child is not working at the level we feel that they should be (at least according to our pushed down curriculum), please remember that these children are in our care and they are trying to meet our expectations. But, maybe they are not quite ready. Perhaps they need more practice in vowel sounds before they should be expected to spell words. Perhaps they should have more practice in number sense before expected to add two digit numbers, perhaps they should be given every opportunity to shine at their own time.

Each time I am frustrated with realistic expectations put upon me and my students, I listen to this beautiful song by Rachel Coleman from Signing Time

Strengthening The Development of Oral Langauge Acquistion

For my students, third trimester has just begun. The time when benchmark and near-benchmark students begin to soar, and the time when students that are struggling with academic skills lag further and further behind.

Why? Because of the great discrepancy in their foundational oral language skill acquisition and development. For example, how can a student match an alphabet letter to an object if they do not know what the names of all the objects are? How can a student write a CVC word when the picture is of something unknown to them? How can a student use pictures clues to decode a guided reader when the vocabulary is unknown to name the picture?

What Can We Do To Lessen The Gap?

So what can we do for these students? In the early years of learning, a strong foundation in oral vocabulary is imperative to a students’ future academic success. Consequently, the development of oral language skills should be strategically taught!

Following are a few oral language activities that you can try with your struggling students.

  • Do oral language bags (simply collect a bag of objects, name them, and discuss them).
  • Sing nursery rhymes and other songs over and over again.
  • Actively read rhyming books where the reader and listener engage with the rhyme.
  • Do repetitive chants and poems.
  • Use puppets or props to retell simple stories.
  • Talk with children.  “Tell me when...”  “What do you do...” “How do you...”  “What do you like...” etc.
  • Make up stories with beginning, middle, end cards.
  • Play opposite games.
  • Ask questions and allow students to respond. Some children need wait time to gather their response.
  •  Give students opportunities to expand on their responses. For example, if the response is apple, “What color is the apple?” “Have you eaten an apple?” “What did it taste like?”
  • Read, read, read! And then talk about what you read!

This oral language packet hopefully can be a starting point to developed oral language for your child or students.

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The Effect of Play

My students were waning as we were wrapping up the must-dos of the day. Everyone looked ready to be done and go home. So, with 30 minutes left in the day I announced "Free Choice!" and the countenance of each child immediately changed! There was an immediate switch from cognitive exhaustion to cognitive rigor. From yawning to exuberance in a millisecond, that is the power of play!

Play is freedom! It is the freedom to choose, the freedom to express, create, explore, and discover at ones own pace with joyful autonomy. Play is to children what the weekend is to adults. A chance to learn by doing with a relaxed state of mind. And when it comes to play, whether an adult or child, not only does the body benefit from the relaxation and freedom from stress, the brain also benefits from it’s effects. According to a researcher from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta Canada:

The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain... and without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed.
— Dr. Sergion Pellis

Dr Pellis goes on to explain that the development of the prefrontal cortex is crucial to the regulation of emotions, planning, problem solving, and complex thinking. This is not the only research that corroborates the positive effects of play, there is a wealth of findings that show that children learn best in this way, and that is why play-based learning is the core of my classroom teaching.  It is through its powerful effect that I choose to deliver the bulk of my academic content.

Want to see how free choice time looks in my classroom? Check out this video:

If you are looking for some great play-based thematic fun, you might want to check out these cross-curricular thematic units.

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Strategically Teaching Alphabet Letters Through Alphabet Immersion

Immersing your students in the alphabet is a great way to work on letter or sound recognition. Engage your students with alphabet songs, chants, and books. Play alphabet games and review letters with flashcards every day. Trace and write letters of the alphabet every week.  Form letters with commercial or homemade handwriting sticks and use other manipulatives for hands-on practice with letters. Address the alphabet in a variety of ways to keep students interested and involved.

If you’re looking for a high-interest manipulative for hands-on alphabet practice, check out Alpha-Bots (available at Lakeshore)

These alphabet transformers are popular with girls and boys of all ages.  Try using them in the following ways:
  1. Have students choose a letter to name or write, and then transform. 
  2. Place them around the room for an Alphabet Hunt - when the student finds a letter, he/she writes the letter, then transforms it into a robot. The next student can transform it back into a letter, and then write that letter. 
  3. Let one student quietly transform the Alpha-Bots while waiting to be the next student that you assess.
Continue the list with ideas of your own.  Alpha-Bots are versatile and can be used independently or with a volunteer helper. 

Learning the alphabet helps develop a foundation for reading. The key to success is surrounding your students with the alphabet using a variety of approaches. For more ideas and supporting materials, check out the following products:

Inappropriate Worksheets Are Making Me Crazy!

Now, it is no secret that my forum is one of developmentally appropriate practices, so it should come as no surprise that the worksheets I “must do” with my kiddos make me crazy. Why?

Young children learn best through real experiences, through concrete activities with manipulative materials. The abstractness and one-brained method of worksheets prohibit me from differentiating instructions for students in my class, who range from a working level of 18 months to that of a 6 year-old. Watching the thirteen “below benchmark” students in my classroom simply scribble on the sheet is frustrating at best. But the curriculum has a fix for that....another worksheet.

Worksheets are the easy way out. A concept should be taught with multi-levels of experimentation, direction, and differentiation. This takes time. Lots and lots of time. A worksheet simply takes a walk to the copy machine or a simple "rip" from a workbook.

To the other side of the coin, worksheets do not promote nor encourage higher level thinking skills, discovery, experimentation or out of the box thinking. As worksheets generally have one-way of doing, the most the high kids can do is color the worksheet to expand their learning.

Worksheets teach a program, not a child. Seriously? Do “Big Box Curriculum Companies” really think all 21 of my students are at the same place in the learning continuum? Well, if they do, I wish they could have experienced D’s tears today as they poured upon his worksheet.

Worksheets typically have only one right answer. If the concept is taught in a play-based environment, the students are able to take risks and to experiment, and learn from experiencing. 

Now, I will admit that an occasional worksheet is beneficial. There are many pages that ask student’s to manipulate, cut, organize, practice handwriting, or make comparisons. Worksheets such as these, purposeful worksheets, if you will, can be used in moderation. 

So as I go back tomorrow and pass out that next math worksheet, I will try not to look D. in the eyes, and quietly promise myself that I will teach him using appropriate methods “how to do the concept” at Learning Center time.

Animal Zoo: Early Reading Games

If you love teaching letters and sounds using lovable animal characters, you will enjoy this product: Animal Zoo: Early Reading Games.

Contents Include:

Animal Alphabet Flashcards
Alphabet Zoo Match-up: Matching Animal to Beginning Letter
Alphabet Zoo Beginning Sounds
Zookeepers: Letter Recognition
Write the Room: Alphabet Zoo
Alphabet Zoo Bingo

Back to School Excitement

This weekend I was able to spend some time with my favorite tots. The 6 year old is so excited for a new beginning in 1st grade. He has great hope for a teacher that will love him, nurture him and care for him. He showed me his new backpack at least 10 times.

The kids who enter our classrooms are precious souls, and it is our job to love them. Here is my yearly motto. It serves me well.

Kindergarten Homework: No Prep and Developmentally Appropriate!

Are you looking for a Developmentally Appropriate Option to Kindergarten Homework?

Extend the learning at home by sending home monthly homework packets that are strategically linked to the Common Core Standards. Your students and parents alike will love the easy to use formats, engaging activities, and ease of homework management.

This packet includes contains all 16 Packets in our 
Kindergarten Series. And ALL 16 packets have two versions, English and Spanish Translation.

January Homework Contents

Table of Contents:
The Snowman A guided reading book
Snowy Lotto An alphabet game
Winter Delivery A sight word activity
Color Match Snowmen A color word activity
A Winter Wonderland A blending game
Snowflake Swirl A Counting activity
Snowman Clock A math activity
January Calendar A number handwriting activity

February Homework Contents
Table of Contents:
Little Valentines A guided reading book
Heart Bingo & Flash Hearts Sight word activities
Don’t Break My Heart A word segmenting game
My Valentines Using valentines to extend learning
Dragon Dance Alphabet Sound Fluency
Number Games Math Activities
February Calendar A number handwriting activity

March Homework Contents
Table of Contents:
Out in Space A guided reading book
Mr. Spaceman Conventions of Print
Letter Blast Off Alphabet Letter Sound Naming Automaticity
Race Through Space Alphabet Letter Naming Automaticity
Skip Counting Counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s
Alien Planet Segment Words into Individual Phonemes
Decode it-Defeat it Reading CVC Words
Alien Snap Counting From any Given Number

April Homework Contents
Table of Contents:
The Pond A guided reading book
Slithering Snakes Alphabet sound fluency
Frogger A decoding game
Turtle Lotto A sight word game
Family of Ducks Word families
April Calendar A number handwriting activity
Frog Eggs Composing numbers
Easter Egg Delivers Plus and minus

May Homework Contents
Table of Contents
The Jungle A decodable, sightword reader
Roar! A decoding game
Safari Sights A sight word game
The Jungle A writing activity
Around the Zoo A comprehension activity
At the Zoo An addition game
Gorillas in Cages A subtraction game

June Homework Contents
Table of Contents
Capture the Butterfly A word family game
Mosquito Slap A sightword game
Flower Garden A sentence game
I Can be a Scientist A sightword reader
Lilypad Leap A number line game
Ladybug Addition An addition activity
Dragonfly Subtraction A subtraction activity
Across the Curriculum A collection of fun learning activities

July Homework Contents
Table of Contents
The Beach A sightword reader
Sand Castles A sightword game
Summer Celebrations A sentence game
Diving for Letters Alphabet recognition game
Shell Addition An addition game
Beach Ball Subtraction A subtraction activity
The Number Swim Writing Numbers

August Homework Contents
Table of Contents
Rhyme Book A book of rhymes
My ABC’s An ABC activity
Ride to the Park A color recognition game
The Shape of Things A shape recognition game
Number Flashcards A number recognition activity
Name Writing A handwriting activity
All about ME A classroom community building activity

September Homework Contents
Table of Contents
The Game Sightword reader
Football Flashcards A capital letter review
Kick off ABC Game An alphabet game
Name Cheer A letter recognition activity
Football Rhymes A rhyming game
The Team A number game
Huddle Up A number activity

October Homework Contents
Table of Contents
Haunted House A syllable game
Boo to You An alphabet game
Spider Race An alphabet activity
Monster Cookies Beginning sound activity
Dark Woods Math A number game
No Tricks, Just Treats A sort and graph activity

November Homework Contents
Table of Contents
My Bear A sightword reader
Time to Hibernate An alphabet game
Star Gazing A letter sound game
A Walk in the Woods An ending sounds game
Letter Trace A handwriting activity
Bear Math Various math activities
Number Bears A flashcard activity

December Homework Contents
Table of Contents
Christmas Time A sightword reader
Christmas Tree ABC An alphabet game
To the North Pole A rhyming game
Christmas Sounds A phonemic isolation game
Sound Train Alphabet Sound Fluency
Christmas Memory A number game
Letter Cookies A handwriting activity

Fall Intervention Homework Contents (Spanish Version also included)
Table of Contents
I like Books A guided reader
Alphabet Flashcards An alphabet activity
Capital Shake An alphabet game
My Letters A letter fluency activity
Beginning Sound Isolation Beginning sound game
A-Z Handwriting Handwriting
Number Practice A math activity

Winter Intervention Homework Contents (Spanish Version also included)
Table of Contents
Planes An alphabet sound game
Letter/Sound Fluency Practice sheets
Matching Middles A phonemic awareness activity
Find the Picture A blending and segmenting game
Handwriting Handwriting Practice
Sight Word Study A sight word activity
Color the Shape A math activity
Bingo 0-20 number recognition.

Spring Intervention Homework Contents 
Table of Contents
The Early Bird An Alphabet Fluency Game
The Hungry Lamb Sound Fluency
Rain Go Away A decoding game
Flower Garden A sightword activity
Bunny Hop A segmenting game
Word Riddles Phonemic awareness
Number Hunt Number recognition
Baby Lambs Addition

August Homework Packet: Developmentally Appropriate For Early Learners

Because most kids are excited for the thoughts of new homework, welcome your new and eager learners with a "Developmentally Appropriate" Homework packet right away. This NO-PREP packet can be passed out at registration, orientation, back to school night, or even on the first day of school. The simple games and activities are fun, engaging and linked to standards. The packet is fun and easy for parents and child to complete together with nothing to return but a signed check off sheet.

These packets make homework a breeze! I copy the entire years worth of packets at the beginning of the year and place each in a ziplock baggie. I store these in a large plastic bin in my garage (keeping all months together). Then, when the new month nears, I simply go to the bin, grab the next month's worth of packets and take them to school. Some years I have simply sent these packets home in the baggies. For the last several years, I have used plastic homework folders. So, I simply take the returned folder, take out the last month's completed homework sheet, record it, put in the new month's homework, and then reuse the baggies.

As a bonus, all of the kindergarten-level packets come with a version with Spanish instructions. 

We offer all three levels for each of the 12 Months of a year. Additionally, we offer 3 Kindergarten RTI/Intervention packets for Fall/Winter and Spring with both English and Spanish instruction.


Developmentally Appropriate - Child Centered Homework Packets: July

Tired of Worksheets? Are you looking for some great homework that is Developmentally Appropriate and Child Centered? You will love this NO-PREP option. These July packets will allow students to revisit important skills that should be mastered in order to be successful in the upcoming grade in school. This product is great from summer homework sent by teachers, parents looking to enrich learning in the summer, or homeschool parents that maintain a year round schedule.

Click on the links below to find these products at a low-price of $4.00 each on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Kindergarten: Let's Remember It's Purpose

Friedrich Wilhelm recognized that 5 year olds had unique needs and capabilities as he formed the first kindergarten. May Kindergarten Teachers across the nation hold strong to his concepts that kindergarten, through play and activity will serve as a social experience for children as they transition from home to school.  His goal: that children should be nourished in "children's gardens." 

Each child in our care deserves this nurturing devotion at his/her own developmental pace. My goal:

Every Child
Every Day
Every Way
Experiencing Success.

What Should Young Children Be Learning?

Dr. Lilian Katz has certainly shaped me as an educator. I think I have read and studied everything she has written, and  I could listen to her words of wisdom all day long.  Following are but two bits of wisdom she imparts...

“If you do not build a foundation properly, it can be dangerous and very expensive to repair.”

“We must resist the temptation to start our students on the 3rd floor.” 

This video is lengthy, but well worth the time for all educators and parents of young children! Dr. Katz uses the analogy of structural engineering and foundational education.