Category Archives: Everything Educational Thursday

Commemoration of September 11th

It is hard to believe that it has been 7 years since the fall of the twin towers. It is even more mind boggling to realize that my 5th grade students (10-11 years old) only remember “Ground Zero” and ceremonies commemorating the day. They have no memory of the towers and do not notice the gape in the skyline. For them, September 11th must feel like Pearl Harbor, the Death of Kennedy or even the Lincoln assassination feels to me. It is a tragic story but one that feels very distant and separate from their own experience. Therefore, I struggle with the best way to approach this anniversary appropriately. I don’t want to scare my students but I also don’t want to just talk about “tolerance” and “heroes.”

When I arrived at the local Barnes and Noble, I found that it appeared as if they were also struggling with how to approach the date so their solution was to just ignore it. In fact, it looked as if B&N might be knee-deep in denial. There was no “September 11th” display to be found. Although I could pick up a few dozen books on pumpkins, Thanksgiving and even Yom Kippur. When I checked with the customer service rep, I was told that she didn’t have any of my book requests in stock and didn’t have any other suggestions.

After speaking with some fellow teachers, searching on Amazon and googling lesson plans, I was able to come up with a few helpful resources.

I found September Roses by Jeanette Winter. It is a very simple story about “two sisters from South Africa who are stranded in New York in the aftermath of September 11.” I believe this will allow me to provide some background to my students and also place the day in an emotional context.

On National Geographic’s website, I found an interactive presentation, We Survived September 11th, which was created by the students of P.S. 234. I do not believe I will have the opportunity to show it tomorrow but it was extremely moving to watch. It made me wonder where these students are now and how they will be commemorating the day

When two jet airplanes flew into New York's World Trade Center, these fourth-graders were just four blocks away.

We Survived September 11th

I also found What Would You Do For Peace which was created by Faith Reingold in collaboration with “NYC Youth.” Since it is written from the perspective of students, I am hoping that it will resonate with my class.

I am still a little nervous about the best way to approach 9/11. Despite my discomfort, I want to make sure that my students understand the significance of tomorrow and that they are given an opportunity to reflect on it.

Remembering 9/11,

Mary Kate

ETA: My class had more to talk about then I realized. A few of them had lived in NYC at the time and a few others have memories of the buildings burning. Others shared stories that their parents told them or stories they heard from t.v. or the radio. After having a discussion where people shared their memories, I then read September Roses. It was simple but powerful. Tomorrow, we are going to draw pictures and make paper roses to commemorate the day.



Filed under Elementary School, Everything Educational Thursday, Preschool

The Science of “Why?”

Like all toddlers, Becca is instinctually a scientist that is fascinated by the world around her. She is always trying to figure out how things work or determine where things belong. I often find that her investigations of an every day object will engross her for hours at a time while her fancy, battery operated toys collect dust in the corner.

  • A cell phone rings and she begins to run around the house frantically searching for it *sort of like her mom*. When she manages to locate it, she will then run up to the owner (my husband, my MIL or myself) and proudly hand it to him or her. It is amazing how often she manages to match the correct cell phone with the correct person.
  • As I am filling up her sippy cup, I knock it over and it manages to soak the counter and quickly drip onto the floor. As I am grabbing for a paper towel to soak up the spill, Becca is eagerly hunched over it poking at it, mesmerized by how the liquid moves at her touch.
  • Becca discovers a ziploc bag filled with pencils. She spends the next 1/2 hour or so taking the pencils in and out of the bag. Sometimes struggling to line the pencil up properly and get it situated on correctly with the other pencils but completely engrossed in her task.

On a regular basis, Becca (and many other toddlers) are informally practicing the scientific process and perfecting the ability to make scientific inquiries. It isn’t necessary to buy any genius tapes or purchase any special products. Instead, I just need to engage with her and support her as she explores her world. Without any flashcards or outside intervention, Becca is naturally developing the inquiry skills recommend by the Center for Science, Mathematics and Engineering.

In order to develop this process, the Center recommends that students do the following:


So the next time that Becca rips my make-up bag apart and smears lipstick all over her hands, my purse and her car seat, I will remind myself it is just part of the scientific process. I will then ask her to explain what her original hypothesis was (lipstick shows up better on mama’s white purse then on my grey car seat) and ask her to explain what her investigation revealed (mama’s face does get redder than her lipstick).

At the rate we’re going, Becca should be receiving the Nobel Prize before she reaches kindergarten. The question is: should she apply for early admission to MIT now or would it be better for her to wait and compare her scholarship monies before making a decision? I’ve heard that Rutgers has some amazing science programs.

What is your scientist up to?

Mary Kate

P.S. For other things educational, click here. If you are participating in Everything Educational Thursday, leave a comment with your link (or e-mail me at marykatenj at and I will post it. If you are interested in participating, leave a comment or e-mail me.

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Filed under Everything Educational Thursday, Toddler

Let’s Read~ A Review

In part of my effort to increase the likelihood of Becca speaking (reading and writing) Spanish and English, I requested all of the books from my local library on that topic. I’ve decided to review Leamos! (Let’s Read!) for Everything Educational Thursday. Let

Let’s Read! 101 Ideas to Help Your Child Learn to Read and Write (Leamos! 101 ideas para ayudar a sus hijos a apredenr a leer y escribir) by Mary and Richard Behm (2000) was one of those books that I had requested and one of the first books that I read because it was really easy to flip through.

As promised, there were 101 activities in the book and they were all numbered and placed in chronologically order. Technically, this book is not specifically about raising a child to speak Spanish and English. Rather it is a book that is written in Spanish and English. So just like the title (Leamos!; Let’s Read!), each reading idea is written in English and Spanish.

In general, I found the activities to be fairly basic reading ideas and didn’t read anything revolutionary. Instead, it reminded me of some of the things that I know that I should be doing with Becca but I don’t always do. I also found a couple of cute ideas that I might incorporate into our lives:

#35. Your Own Museum

I liked this idea for when Becca gets a little older. Basically, instead of Becca just gathering a bunch of treasured odds and ends in her room (or scattered around the house), I should set-up a little museum for her. She would write a description for her item on an index card and then proudly display it in her museum. I could definitely see myself dedicating a shelf or two to this in her room. It would definitely help to showcase what she has become attached to as well as to weed out the junk from the “museum quality” items.

#63. Answering Questions

This one would be good for a long car trip. In this activity, you explain to your child where you are going and talk to him/her about what to expect. As part of your discussion, you ask your child to come up with a few questions they would like answered on the trip (“Will we see any cows? “, “How many times will we stop?” or “What does the ocean look like?”). While on the trip, your child will be on the lookout for the answers and place it on the index card. I also could see myself asking my child to make some predictions about the trip and might ask them to participate in planning the trip beforehand. In this way, they can check their predictions or see if we have stayed on the planned route. I definitely could see these taking some of the angst of a long car trip.

#84 Understanding Commercials I thought this was an important suggestion because children are bombarded with commercials. In this activity, Mr. and Mrs. Behm suggest that you talk to your children about the commercials they see. You can ask them to identify the product being advertised. You can also ask them to differentiate between the facts and opinions included in the commercial (this is an essential skill) and you can ask them to rate the effectiveness of the commercials (thumbs up, thumbs down or thumbs sideways). By doing this, you are not only helping your child to understand the concept of the commercial but you are laying the groundwork for him/her to be an educated consumer.

There are a few other cute ideas but those were the three that really stood out. I will definitely use them when Becca gets a little older. This book, although basic, was a good refresher for me and would be helpful for a parent who does not have a background in education.


Leamos!; Let’s Read by Mary and Richard Behm (2000) provides simple activities to increase your children’s reading comprehension. It is probably best for parents who have children between the ages of 3 1/2 to 7 years old. Since it is such a quick and simple read, I would recommend checking it out from the library (plus it is difficult to find through Amazon).

Happy Reading!

Mary Kate

P.S. For other things educational, click here. If you are participating in Everything Educational Thursday, leave a comment with your link (or e-mail me at marykatenj at and I will post it. If you are interested in participating, leave a comment or e-mail me.


Filed under Bilingual Child, Everything Educational Thursday, Product Review

Walking Away

As part of my new gig at New Jersey Moms Blog, I was asked to read Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues and write a thought-provoking response based on one of two prompts. The prompt I chose was the following one:

Good Enough. In her book, Lisa recounts a time she was a “bad” mother, first leaving her sick daughter to fend for herself, then dropping her daughter at the tutor, only to forget to pick her up an hour later. Think of a time you slipped up as a mother-lost your temper, said no for no reason, sent your child to school with a fever. Our writing invitation: Write about your most outrageous or inexcusable bad mothering moment.

Since I do the Mom Walk of Shame on a regular basis, this prompt seemed like the natural one to choose. I figured that if I gave myself enough time, I would naturally stumble into a new example of being a “bad” mother and sure enough I did this afternoon.

As you may be aware, I am currently working as a consultant which means sometimes I am giving presentations outside my home (like tomorrow) and sometimes I am working from home (like today). Most of the time when I work from home, I am preparing for a presentation or writing curriculum. Usually, this is a pretty solitary activity but occasionally it requires me to have lengthy conversations about an upcoming presentation or a curriculum project I am working on. Today was one of those days.
The problem is that me-on-the-phone=Becca-screeching-for-attention and today was no exception. As soon as I was engaged in the phone conversation (with a new client), she made a beeline for the slightly ajar bathroom door and I could hear her giggling with glee as she swung it wide open. I, meanwhile, was trying to continue my conversation as I quickly ran over to sweep Becca off her feet and get her out of the bathroom.

I grabbed Becca by the waist as I was simultaneously trying to string together a thought provoking response to my client’s questions and was seeing visions of Becca tipping head first into the toilet. As soon as Becca felt my arm circle her waist, she lunged forward, began frantically grabbing at the tiles trying to pull herself into the bathroom and started screeching at the top of her lungs.

Instead of politely requesting that I call my client back in 10 minutes (once I had wrestled my toddler to the ground), I walked away from Becca. I just placed her on the floor and walked away.

When Becca felt me release her it just sent her into a higher decibel. As my mother-in-law (who watches Becca when I am working) ran to soothe my daughter, I closed the living room door to muffle the sound, apologized to my client for the interruption and continued my conversation. Becca continued screaming until my mother-in-law soothed her to sleep and laid her down for a nap. I finished up my conference call and hung up with a satisfied sigh and then had a minute to reflect on the incident.

I walked away from my daughter as she was screaming my name. I put someone else’s needs and wants before hers. I allowed my mother-in-law to soothe her instead of taking the opportunity to do so. I walked away! What was I thinking?

I had gotten so caught up in my own life that I forgot that Becca is only 21 mos and rarely understands any subtle hints I might send her way. She can’t distinguish between me gabbing on the phone with my sister to me having a professional conversation with a colleague. How is she supposed to know that?

Fortunately, she is still a little young to remember me walking away from her but it still makes me sad. I need to figure out a way to balance work and play. I could have delayed the conference call for another twenty minutes and used that time to interact with Becca and soothe her to sleep. One of the perks of working at home is that I am supposed to have more time with Becca, quality time.

Feeling like a heel,

Mary Kate

P.S. For other things educational, click here. If you are participating in Everything Educational Thursday, leave a comment with your link (or e-mail me at marykatenj at and I will post it.

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Filed under Everything Educational Thursday, New Jersey Moms Blog

Another Great Multilingual Resource

I am always looking for support in raising Becca to read/write/speak in Spanish and English and The Multilingual Children’s Association site provides all sorts of support to me. I find that it offers a lot of simple and practical suggestions on how to raise a multilingual child as well as providing opportunities to connect with other multilingual families.

I found their recent article, Raising Your Child in a Language Not Your Own?, answered a lot of the concerns I have about speaking to Becca in Spanish. Although I am now capable of communicating in Spanish (How did Becca sleep? What did she eat?), I know that I am often mixing up the syntax, messing up the pronunciation and butchering the verb conjugation. I also have an extremely limited ability to communicate the concept of past or future when I speak (which can be extremely frustrating). I was finding myself limiting how much I spoke to Becca in Spanish because I was afraid of confusing her and I also wanted to stick with the one parent/one language concept (I speak to her in English and Omar speaks to her in Spanish).

The problem with the one parent/one language approach is that Omar’s mom (Becca’s caregiver) only speaks Spanish which means I need to communicate to her in my broken Spanish. This also means that Becca is observing our Spanish/Spanglish/Pantomine exchange and is possibly thinking this is the correct way to speak (or maybe she’s just wildly entertained?).

Despite all of my language limitations, the Multilingual Children’s Association recommends that I speak to Becca in Spanish as well as English. Their thought process is that if I speak and practice the language, my grasp of it will improve (so I will begin to make less mistakes) and more importantly, Becca will have exposure to Spanish from other sources besides just me (Thank God!). I particularly liked this quote:

“So be brave, and don’t fall into the trap of perfectionism.”

That is definitely a sentiment that can be applied to so many aspects of parenting!

ยกHasta Luego!

Mary Kate

P.S. For other things educational, click here. If you are participating in Everything Educational Thursday, leave a comment with your link (or e-mail me at marykatenj at and I will post it. If you are interested in participating, leave a comment or e-mail me.


Filed under Bilingual Child, Everything Educational Thursday

Word World Rocks!

Word World Logo

A few months ago, I stumbled across Word World and was really impressed with the clever way they incorporate words into the program.

The theme of the show is, “Where words come alive.” And it is really true. I was going to try to explain what that means but instead I will just show you:

Word World Characters

Isn’t that cool how the bear, dog, frog and duck are all drawn using the letters of their name? I think it is!

Basically, each episode revolves around some sort of problem with a word (i.e. Pig didn’t have enough pies for his friends until he added an “s” to the word “Pie”). Throughout the episode, you can see people, objects and buildings that have their letter incorporated into them. The characters will be seen building a variety of words and having the letters morph into the object (b-o-o-k becomes a book). Near the end of each episode the characters solve their problem by “Building a Word”.

As I watch the episodes with Becca, I find that I have am as fascinated by P-I-E turning into PIE (and looking like a cherry pie) as Becca is (if not more so). I am continually amazed at how clever the illustrators are.

Admittedly, at 21 months, Becca has quite a while before she will be building her own words. However, I love the exposure to words that she is receiving from this show. It is helping her to make a clear connection between the sound “robot”, the letters R-O-B-O-T and the word, “robot” which can be a difficult concept to grasp.

I think that Word World would be perfect for children from 3-5 years old. I also think that 6-8 year olds may still get a kick out of it and I believe that parents will enjoy the fun graphics and music (although the “It’s Time to Build a Word” song can get a little annoying.)

Now that I have shared an educational television program with you, I would love to hear about your favorite program.

Mary Kate


Filed under Everything Educational Thursday


In the spirit of Everything Educational Thursday, I wanted to post about the website, Starfall. It has online abc games, videos that Becca loves to watch. It uses a phonics approach to reading, simple pictures and lots of repetition. Becca will echo the songs being song and will yell, “mas! mas!” when it ends. When I opened the site up for her tonight, she started yelling, “monkey” as soon as she saw it (When you click on the “m”, the song is all about monkeys which she loves!).

This site was recommended to me by other moms and Becca has really enjoyed it). According to the site, it is targeted to a 1st grade population but at 21 mos, Becca definitely responds to the various chants and songs.

What pre-reading or reading websites would you recommend?

Mary Kate

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Filed under Everything Educational Thursday