Monday, September 26, 2016

Tips to Avoid 6 Common Usage Errors

We all make mistakes, and I am certainly not the Internet Police, but after seeing these bloopers online on social media, I thought these 6 common usage mistakes would make a good topic for a post. Here are just a few of some common errors I recently saw on Facebook and Twitter and a little information on how to avoid them.
“Who remember's this?”

Do not use an apostrophe to make a noun plural.

Correction: Who remembers this?
 "The dog has a microchip in case she would loose her collar."

Loose means not tight.  Lose means to misplace.

Correction: The dog has a microchip in case she would lose her collar.
" I laid down for 5 minutes and woke up 2 hours later."

Laid means to put or to place something.

Correction: I lay down for 5 minutes and woke up 2 hours later.
 “I think that Mom's who watch soap operas are way two dramatic.”

There are two errors in this sentence.

1.  Do not use an apostrophe to make a noun plural.

2.  The word two means the number 2. The word too means to an excessive        degree.

Corrections: I think that moms who watch soap operas are way too dramatic.
 “I was just laying around feeling sick all week.”

The past progressive form of the verb “lie” is was lying. “Laying” means to put or to place.

Correction: I was just lying around feeling sick all week.
“George is a very healthful person.”

Healthy and healthful are adjectives that can be used as synonyms for each other unless one is talking about a person. 

Spinach can be a healthy or a healthful vegetable, but when talking about a person, always use “healthy.”

Correction: George is a very healthy person.

For more practice with apostrophes and verbs, visit my store for some helpful exercises. Some of them are FREE.

This blog post is an updated version of an earlier blog post I wrote.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

5 Lifetime Skills Children Need

By the time I was sixteen, I was expected to cook dinner for the family each night, help my sister with the dishes, and bathe my little brother and put him to bed. Both of our parents worked, so we were taught to cook and clean at at early age. I did not think twice about it. We helped out. That was what we did 

To say that the focus on cooking, cleaning, and general household chores has changed, is an understatement. Life today is so fast paced and so involved with the latest technology to do things efficiently and with less effort, there is precious little time to devote to learning some of the basic life skills that all young people need in order to become well-rounded adults.

These days, there is a real lack of practical training in schools and even in some homes. With so much focus on and resources for "pure" academics, and downloading the latest app, sometimes basic life skills fall behind. Here are 5 areas outside of academic focus that build the foundation for a happy, confident child:
  • Cleaning; Organization
  • Cooking
  • Money Management
  • Physical Health; Safety Preparedness
  • Social Skills (aka Manners!)
I've rounded up some great tools in these area to help foster these important life skills.

Cleaning & Organizing

Zone CleaningZone Cleaning for Kids

Zone Cleaning for Kids is really not just for kids. It has a reusable chart, how-tos, and a framework of understanding how to go about cleaning a whole house without getting overwhelmed. Kids from X to 100 feel empowered when they focus on one area at a time, check items off their lists, and see real results. It's been said that a clean home makes for a clear mind - a crucial building block for a happy, successful life. Price:  $19.99 (Down from $24.95) 

How to Cook

cookingYour Kids: Cooking

 Microwaves and McDonald's may be convenient but they are not the healthiest or most cost-effective options for meal time. Give your kids the tools to be confident and independent in the kitchen. When a child learns how to cook, they are developing math and fine-motor skills, learning about applied chemistry. Plus, it gives them the tools to carry on family and community traditions. Your Kids: Cooking is a multimedia kit that teaches kids ages 8 and up the gamut of basic cooking skills using step-by-step video demonstrations and kid -friendly written recipes. Kids do all the cooking themselves - parents just sit back and relax. Now that's a treat! Price: $27.95 (down from $39.95) 

Money Management

money management board gameKey to the Front Door

Whether your child is earning allowance, saving birthday money, or planning to make a million dollars after starting their own company, money management is an important topic for children to learn at an early age. You may be modeling strong practices, but how can you actively teach strong money - related habits? Key to the Front Door is a board game that helps you do just that. In the game, players race to be the first to "master" their money. Use real-world scenarios to develop financial literacy. In the context of a game, you can avoid lectures while starting larger conversations. Once you've played the game, you can apply what is learned in real life: Say your child wants to have a toy now, but they have a longer-term goal of building a tree-house. You can recall the game to usher them toward stronger financial choices on their own. Price: $29.95

Physical Health & Safety Preparedness

Permachart Reference Guides nutrition and first aid reference guides

Learning and establishing good eating and nutritional habits ideally starts at a young age, and the same applies to emergency preparedness. Provide your child with an understanding of the building blocks of nutrition, such as the carbohydrates, lipids / fats, and proteins. Each are described in this guide, along with essential vitamins and minerals, and the principles of digestion. The comprehensive guide also walks readers through treating common injuries and how to respond when someone is choking, making it an essential series for older siblings, babysitters, and family members who care for children! Price: $22.99 (down from $26.85)

Social Skills (aka Manners!)

EQQ's Race to the Top Emotional Intelligence, also known at EQ, is something that many parents teach their children unknowingly, sometimes with a little help from our prim pal Emily Post.  Some argue that it's equally, if not more important than IQ.  I argue it's all important! Go a step beyond telling children to "mind their manners" with a game that helps them not only develop social-emotional intelligence, but and understanding of how important it is to a fulfilled life. Q's Race to the Top does just that. Structured similarly to Candyland, with card drawing and game piece progressions. Cards questions like "What does it mean to be brave?" or "Name something that's boring. How can you make it fun?" You may be surprised by the discussions prompted by this game as well as the wisdom and clarity coming from young minds. Price: $29.99

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Homeschool Resources for Under $20

A new school year is always expensive. A new year of homeschool is especially expensive because not only do your students need school supplies, but they also need a new curriculum. One way to cut costs is to look for lessons and projects that are written by teachers and sold at reasonable prices online. When it is time to plan a new homeschool year, I always start clicking around on the Web and find the lessons I will need to use with my grandson. I always find lessons on Educents that will benefit me. I avoid high-priced stores (like grocery stores) and go to dollar stores or discount stores for school supplies like paper, pencils, pens, and other necessary items. homeschool resources for a budget Here's a list of the best affordable homeschool resources - all available for $20 or less on Educents. Helpful Resources Homeschool Planner - This planner includes dated journal pages, practical forms, motivational quotes, and teaching aides to make your homeschool planning effortless and enjoyable. Do-a-Dot Mega Bundle - 17 different activities that cover fine motor skills, numbers, letters, sight words, word families, shapes, colors, patterns, and early addition. All of these items are designed for us with do-a-dot markers, but they also come with a variety of suggestions for alternative uses. Photography Lessons for Kids - Add some fun to your homeschool! Whether your kids have a point and shoot or a DSLR camera, the fundamental rules of photography can still be taught. Math Resources Tegu Geometric Blocks - Here's a hands-on way to learn geometric shapes. These blocks come in many shapes and colors. Educents Tegu Blocks Buy Now Times Tales DVD - Kids can learn their times tables in a snap! Most homeschoolers say this DVD only takes about an hour to teach kids the upper times tables. There's also a downloadable version available. Life of Fred Math Stories - After reading the Fred books, kids will never say "math is boring" ever again. These fictional stories weave in math concepts with real world examples. Start with the Apples book for early math, and follow Fred all the way to calculus lessons! Tegu Geometric Blocks - Here's a hands-on way to learn geometric shapes. These blocks come in many shapes and colors. Science Activities Slimy Squishy Polymer Bucket - Learn, create, and play with your student. These polymers can help teach measurements, chemical reactions, and following directions.slimy_squishy_polymer_gloopy_hands_mommywifelife Buy Now One Minute Science Mysteries - Each story, just one minute long, challenges students' knowledge in earth, space, life, physical, chemical, and general science. Language Arts Games & Lessons uKloo Early Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game -Disguised as a treasure hunt, this literacy game gets kids physically active as they strengthen reading comprehension skills while solving clues to find a surprise. ukloo treasure set Buy Now Let's Get Reading Bundle - Play detective with this printable packet investigating CVC words, phonics, word families and more! Kids can even print & wear spy gear! Cursive Writing Worksheets - Make handwriting practice more fun with these superhero-themed printable worksheets.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Climate of the Classroom

The Climate of the Classroom: Creating an atmosphere conducive to learning requires hard work, but pays big dividends.

My favorite time of year is late spring after everything has budded and burst into bloom, as the winter winds march into April breezes. This is the season when I feel revitalized and productive.

Early in my teaching career, I realized that young people like springtime too. They must deal with the winter of their lives through conflicts at home and in the desperate struggle for equilib­rium amidst their peers.

I knew then, as I know now, that I could help my students most by creating a climate in my classroom, which would enable them to blossom and bloom to their full potential. Of course, I have occasionally had little control over the physical climate—sometimes having to teach in rooms with no air-conditioning or heat—and often no windows to let in the sunshine; but then, that is not the climate of which I speak.

No, I mean the emotional climate—the feeling of peace, of order, of discipline, of caring and love that I freely offer to every child I teach. It is the climate that says, “Welcome, come on in; I’m so happy you're here.”

For I truly believe that learning can best occur in an atmosphere in which there are
bound­aries of behavior. One in which there are no teacher’s pets or class clowns: a place where no one yells or uses unkind words. The most important traits a teacher can cultivate are those of kind­ness, patience, and the ability to discipline fairly. I spend as much time as necessary preparing for each day in the classroom, so that my focus can be on the students. I am firm, yet fair. I am consistent in my expectations, and I will not accept anything less than polite, respectful behavior.

Students in my classes speak up freely, offering their opinions, questions, and comments,
confi­dent in the fact that they will never be ridiculed by me or by a classmate. They quickly learn that I will give them all the positive attention they need, which eliminates their need for misbehaving.

Creating such an environment in the classroom requires careful planning and hard work.
From the first day of school, students must be aware of the expectations I have for their conduct. Once they know that I require them to behave in a mature, polite, respectful manner, we can begin to work together in harmony. I do not find it necessary to send students to the office to be disciplined. If a student’s behavior needs correction, I talk to them in private, and I am in close contact with the parents of the students I teach.

I believe that the process by which students learn is much more important than the actual content data they acquire. If an information base were all that was required to be successful in life, the library and the Internet could satisfy that requirement, and students wouldn’t need teach­ers at all.

My goal is to teach students to work together in harmony in cooperative groups. I organize the lessons into projects where students function as part of a team and have an interest in each other’s progress.

This process mirrors the world of work in which they will spend the better part of their adult lives. It is obvious to me that students who work together become more accepting of others and feel better about themselves in the process. It helps to break down prejudices, and students often form friendships with peers who otherwise would have remained strangers. The key is learning to cooperate and share ideas and materials.

I require students to read literature that will enrich their lives. We read novels, plays, and poetry with themes that depict man’s inhumanity to man, racial prejudice, and bias against women, the elderly, and the infirm. I require them to challenge the stereotypes of our society and to discuss these important issues and write critical essays about them.

Such lessons require careful planning on my part, as I must design projects that involve critical thinking skills. I must delineate specific roles, carefully organize the make-up of the groups, and constantly monitor to see that each individual is pulling his or her own weight.

More often than not, after the groups have completed their assigned projects, I give the students individual assignments to assess their progress. I love to see students lost in thought as they process the ideas generated in the work group. They look up from their papers, pens poised in hand and gaze out into space. I see their ideas dancing in their eyes, and then they begin to write again, hurriedly trying to get their ideas on paper before they escape.

At such times, and later, as I listen to a group presentation while students proudly present what they have learned and listen to the applause of their classmates, I bask in the warm, inviting climate in my classroom and sit back and let my students shine.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Five Tips to Make Going Back to School a Breeze

Teachers know the beginning of every school year is a huge challenge and a whole lot of work. Secondary teachers are sometimes reassigned to different grade levels which can mean an entirely new set of literature materials. Going from teaching American literature to teaching British literature requires a completely new mind-set, and the lessons and materials will not transfer. Another challenge could be teaching one class of freshmen ESL students, two classes of senior AP English, and three classes of sophomore English. You don’t think this happens? Well it does. I know. I taught English and creative writing for 35 years.

Tip 1: Using Technology Can Really Simplify Your Life

Recently, some really exciting advances in technology have made teaching more interesting and more convenient. Now, because of Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, DropBox, and other innovative web sites, students can view their assignments online, do their work online, and turn in their work online. Many times, paper is not required. Going paperless is a truly revolutionary improvement for teachers. Often they are given an allotment of paper to last the entire year and must spend their own money when they run out. And even if they do have an adequate supply of paper, they must use a copy machine before they can distribute the lesson pages to their students.

Teachers no longer have to stand in line at a copy machine to use the pages in my book. I recently converted my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense book into a Google Drive Interactive Notebook. It is now available in my store and teachers can purchase one step at a time or a bundle that has all eight steps.

If your school has Chromebooks, iPads, or other devices students can use to use to access the Internet, be sure to search for Digital Products on and other educational websites.

Tip 2: Use Software That Individualizes Instruction

I recently learned about a company whose philosophy is to be as helpful to teachers as possible. They offer 24/7 technical assistance. I find that especially important because their product is innovative and unique.

EdTech Software’s Shelfit Reader is an ebook reader that allows students an amazing level of interaction. It is possible to embed videos, audio files, and worksheets within the ebooks, and to create quizzes with answers. The quiz scores may be exported to a grade book. Teachers can provide personalized and individualized lessons and adapt to different learning styles.

The company carries all major publishers and many smaller ones, so the selection of ebooks is vast and eclectic.  Now, teachers can select ebooks for their students to use and then customize those books to suit their own teaching styles.

The software can be assessed from any device as long as there is an Internet connection. The books may be downloaded at school for reading at home if students do not have Wi-Fi in their homes.

Click here to take a look  at this new innovative reader and see what it could do for you and your students. *EdTech Software provided me with compensation in exchange for this sponsored blog post. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

3) Use Rubrics to Grade Writing Assignments

ELA teachers often struggle with exactly how to assign a fair grade to compositions that their students write. The grading process should always include a way to give students frequent chances to succeed and feel good about themselves. One way to do that is to be sure that students know exactly what you expect from them when you give them an assignment.

A teacher simply cannot expect students to do everything perfectly, nor does s/he have the time or the inclination to grade every aspect of every paper every time. I always let students know exactly what I was looking for by showing them the rubric I would use to grade their papers, and we would go over it together before they began their first draft. A rubric is the best method of expressing your expectations and of providing meaningful feedback.

Look for writing lessons sold on that include a rubric. If you want to make a rubric of your own, visit This website is free and helpful.

Several of my writing assignments contain rubrics. Here's one:

4)  Use a Grading Scale Chart to Save Time

When you create your lessons, be sure that there are sufficient items on each worksheet or test to allow students to succeed. If there are only five questions or five sentences on a worksheet, students can get only one of them wrong without jeopardizing their GPA.

For example, if students are asked to locate the verb in a sentence, and there are only ten sentences, it would be easy to get a low score since each answer would be worth ten points. Be sure to use a grading scale chart to speed up the process, so you won’t have to do the math. You will find my Grading Scale Chart in my store for only $3.00, or you can access this one online for free:

5) Be Prepared

The first few days of school are crazy busy. In secondary schools, much of the time is spent dealing with students being added or dropped from your class as students’ schedules are adjusted and class loads are balanced.

The paperwork piles up, and yet you meet another class of new students every hour or so. What to do?

The answer is to be prepared with meaningful activities to engage your students while you take care of the tedious, yet necessary details. Be sure that your students are busy and actively involved from the moment they enter your classroom until the bell rings. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to start the new year off successfully.

I have a product that includes a series of activities that introduces your students to each other and to you and provides a sample of their writing and their oral presentation skills. You can use these activities to make the first few days of your school year informative and productive. Getting to Know You Activities for the First Few Days of School is available in my TpT store. You will find several Back to School first day activities on Pinterest and on

 Thanks for reading and I hope the beginning of your 2016-17 school year is a breeze.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Announcing a Google Drive Interactive Notebook Edition of Simple Steps to Sentence

I have an exciting announcement for teachers who use my grammar curriculum.

So much has changed since my book Simple Steps to Sentence Sense was published in 1996, but the method I use to teach grammar still works. It’s easy and fun. Students and teachers still love it!

I started teaching grammar to my students using my own method many years before my book was published, and I thought other language arts teachers would appreciate knowing how easy it is to teach grammar by following 8 simple steps. I was right. Teachers and students responded with overwhelmingly positive reviews, so I decided to create a digital download and make it available on several teacher/store web sites. 

Now, twenty years later, I have updated Simple Steps to Sentence Sense to a Google Drive digital format. That’s right!  Simple Steps to Sentence Sense is now an interactive notebook, and you and your students can access the pages of my book in Google Drive. Students can read the lessons, and complete the assignments and tests while in Google Drive. No paper is needed. No more standing in line at the copy machine to run off copies of the pages of my book. Students can submit their work to you electronically however you wish. 

You can purchase the lessons one step at a time or purchase the entire book (all 8 steps) in a Bundle and Save 20 percent. And, of course, the original version of Simple Steps to Sentence Sense in pdf format will still be available. Now you have a choice. Often teachers like to use both formats for different reasons and at different times.

You will find the individual steps and the bundle in my store. Take a look at the previews and see what you think. I hope you will be as excited about this new format as I am.

Thanks for reading,