Toddler Tuesday: Colors

Getting into a routine with my 3 week old and VERY active toddler has been tricky! I have struggled with guilt over who to go to first when they both need me, making time for Janie despite how much Cohen needs me, and not going stir crazy during these winter months.

I’ve had to get creative to say the least. And as I thought about all of these different ways to engage my toddler while also tending a newborn, I thought of ways I could take 20 to 30 minutes a day with Janie to learn with her.

We recently finished our basement which has been SUCH a blessing. Janie wakes up in the morning and immediately asks to go play in the basement. I usually get a light workout in while Cohen sits in the swing and Janie plays. And then I have decided while Cohen takes his first nap in the swing Janie and I will have “Mommy School”. I chose to start “Mommy School” for many reasons.

First, I wanted to make time for her to feel special and loved. She is the best big sister, but it is obvious that she feels a little out of place sometimes. She is SO patient whenever I have to nurse or change Cohen, but I can tell she misses the one on one time she used to have constantly. By adding 20-30 minutes of “Mommy School” a day I can confidently offer her time with just me.

Second, I want to get in the habit of actively learning something together each day. It does NOT mean I have a lesson or activity planned each day. It just means we have time without any electronics (myself included) to play together. Sometimes I have something educational planned, but mostly it will be fine and gross motor skills as well as imaginary play.

Third, I want to be actively apart of her physical, emotional, social, and academic development. Being active with her not only allows us to bond together, but also allows me to see where she may need more practice with a skill and helps me really get to know my child better.

I started today with a color activity idea I got from Busy Toddler–she is amazing, I highly recommend following her or checking out her website. I found these foam stickers on clearance at target and grabbed a pack of colored paper as well.

Janie 5

Then I used painters tape to tape a red and blue paper to the wall (I know orange is there as well, that was added towards the end of our activity per Janie’s request).

Then I explained we were going to practice “blue” and “red” today and match our colored shapes to the paper on the wall. Janie was SO excited, and stayed engaged for a full 20 minutes (which is a lot for her).


As fun as this activity was I had a mom epiphany as I watched Janie learn and grow today. I wanted to share with you how I learned and grew through this activity as a mother.

I went into this activity with the notion that practicing both colors by sorting was going to be a breeze for her. I knew she struggled with identifying some of her colors, but I figured once we got going she would catch right on.

Well she didn’t. She kept calling the red “blue” and was having a hard time matching the stickers at the beginning. I used a lot of sentences where I identified the color casually, instead of correcting her. As she pulled out a sticker shape I would say, “You found the blue square!” and she naturally repeated, “Blue square.” In child development terms this is called indirect correction. It is meant to be used as a way to correct your child without putting them down or saying, “No, that’s blue.”

Janie 4

The more I did this the more she started to attempt to the same on her own. Even when she pulled out a red circle and said, “blue”, I smiled and said, “You found the blue circle. Way to go!”

I also modeled how to stick it to the paper when she placed the sticker on the wrong color. I would say, “Hmmmm…this is a blue circle”, and I would put it up against the red paper and say, “No this doesn’t match because it’s red and the circle is blue.” And she would smile and say, “No match!” Then I would hold it up against the blue paper and say, “The blue circle matches the blue paper!” And I would clap and she would clap and move on to the next sticker feeling happy and in no way put down by my correction.

When we began this activity I remember feeling a bit disheartened because she struggled more than I realized. And I will willingly and guilty admit that as I watched her struggle I was comparing her to other children her age that do know their colors. I had a mini panic moment wondering if she was behind her peers because she didn’t know her colors.

Then I remembered all of my childhood development and teacher training.  And I remember that my beautiful and smart daughter was barely 2 years old. I knew developmentally there was no check list saying she must know her colors by now. I also knew that every child grows and learns at a different rate. Janie is a really good talker and continues to grow leaps and bounds in that area every day. She has strong receptive and expressive language skills for her age.

As I watched her I thought about all of the amazing things she can do, how well she talks, how physically active she is, how loving she is to her baby brother.

So what is my message to you wonderful mommas? It is two-fold.

  1. Do not fall into the trap of comparisons. DO NOT push your child to learn something because you are trying to meet the skill level of another child. Be content with the person your child is, they are exactly how they should be at this moment. Love them for that, encourage them, and proudly tell your mom friends exactly what they can do, instead of focusing on what they are not ready to do yet.
  2. When teaching your child a new skill or concept watch them very closely for frustration. If they are not grasping a concept then they most likely ARE NOT READY FOR IT. For example, I should have only focused on one color and done different activities each day to practice that color. Then the following week a new color. Once she is confident with identifying colors THEN I could have practiced sorting and matching.

While this is a toddler specific post, the above points are applicable to any child at any age. Especially for children learning more difficult skills like learning how to read! Take it one step at a time. Break it down into the smallest of tasks, and follow your child. They will go at the pace that works for them. If you try something and they aren’t ready, THAT IS OKAY! Break it down even simpler and try again. Or take a break! It’s okay to realize something is too difficult right now and come back a while later. Embrace the way they learn (just like I’m learning to embrace the way she dresses herself for bedtime ;).

JAnie 6

I am all about praise. Children respond so well to praise. Using indirect correction as a technique makes it easy for praise to join your activity. Janie started clapping for herself every time she made a match, even if it was the wrong match. I watched her in awe thinking, what if we did that as adults? What if we praised ourselves even when we made a mistake? What if we were just a little kinder to ourselves each day? Think of all we could accomplish by remembering its okay to make mistakes and then try again.

Janie 3

Finally, don’t forget to make it fun! Enjoy your time with your littles, for they grow so fast.

Stay tuned for more Toddler Tuesday activities! I try to do “Mommy School” every day, but will post our activities on Tuesdays.

p.s. She woke up from nap and begged to do it again and even some of the indirect correction worked! She started to name the colors more accurately. Patience and consistency are key.


Subscription Box Products

Reading Noodle started out as a subscription box company! And it still is very much apart of my company! If you are interested in having someone do the work on your behalf and getting a neat package each month with materials and instructions all laid out then please visit the link below and choose which subscription box is best for you!

Whether you go the PDF route or the subscription box route you will be taken care of! It’s the same materials just packaged differently.

Take me to Reading Noodle Subscription Boxes

The 7th Component of Teaching Reading: Activities

Part 7 is Choosing an Activity to Enhance Instruction

Choosing an activity that specifically correlates to the sound/spelling pattern and/or sight words learned that week is critical to driving the instruction home. PLUS it is a fun and engaging way to celebrate all of that learning! All of my activities are things I would and have used in my classroom and teaching career. They are all created by a teacher (me!) to give your child the best review of the sound/spelling pattern worked on that week!

It’s simple! Just choose an activity that corresponds directly to the sound/spelling pattern learned that week. You can check out my Products page (just hover over the “Products” tab and select the drop down menu that works best for you! Or if you are doing the subscription then you will have an activity or two to pull from that specific bag.

You don’t have to do this exact layout of 7 steps in the order I have them in, but in my experience this is the most fluid way to help support your reader!

However, you could just use the activities, or you can mix and match as needed! Do what’s best for your family and your readers needs!

Good luck teaching your little readers! Always feel free to comment below or email me with questions!


  1. Phonemic Awareness (2 minutes): pick a phonemic awareness activity to practice listening to the sounds in words.
  2. Sight Words (3-5 minutes): Introduce the sight words and do a quick flash card review. You can also do a quick sight word activity with those words, or just save sight word activities for fun games at the end, or for a separate mini lesson.
  3. Sound/spelling card (1 minute): Introduce the visual sound/spelling card, specifically going over the sound and the picture used to help their minds associate that sound with a picture. Then talk about the spelling(s) of that sound.
  4. Phonics (5 minutes): Write 5 words or so on a whiteboard. Underline the spelling   in each word. Then choose between sound by sound, sound chunk, or whole word blending. Practice the words, and even a sentence or two if you have time.
  5. Dictation (5 minutes): Choose a few words that were tricky in phonics, or that were not used in phonics that have the specific spelling pattern being worked on. Say the word to your child, have them stretch the sounds on their hand, then have them write the sounds down on their whiteboard or piece of paper. Make sure they underline the sound/spelling pattern. Have them read all the words back to you at the end, and of course check them for spelling.
  6. Fluency (5 minutes): Choose a fluency activity (timed reads, fluency strips, or fluency passage) and have your child practice that 1-2 times
  7. Activity (5 minutes): Choose an activity that will help them engage in something fun while also practicing that sound/spelling pattern one last time

Here is an older video of me explaining how to use it as I have outlined! Sorry for the white noise, I didn’t realize my baby monitor was on so loud!

Reading Noodle Basic Lesson Plan

Best of luck to you wonderful teachers and parents (also teachers!) Please always let me know if you have any questions or want more specific material from me!


The 6th Component of Teaching Reading: Fluency

Component 6 is Fluency! Fluency is being able to read with speed, accuracy, and expression. Those come in time, but there is no better way to get there than to practice practice practice!

I have multiple ways I like to practice fluency with readers. Let’s dive into a few of those ways:

  1. Fluency strips: These come in the early elementary subscription and are a set of 15-20 sentences that correspond to the sound/spelling pattern being focused on and specific sight words learned up to that point. These strips can be practiced daily until they are able to read them without making mistakes. You can also challenge them by timing the set as they read. Always give 1 minute minimum to start. But you may find your reader needs more time and that’s completely fine! You want them to feel confident not panicked as they read. If they are reading too fast with lots of mistakes then timing them isn’t a good idea until they can read the text with accuracy.
  2. Timed reads: You can see an example of a Pre-K timed read below. Timed reads are one word (or one letter in this case) practice. You set a timer for 1 minute and have them read each word or letter in the horizontal line and continue until the timer runs out. Then have them mark under the last word they read and reset the timer and repeat.
  3. Fluency readers: The fluency readers are a fluency activity where the text is specifically designed to practice the sound/spelling learned that week AND the sight words learned that week. It’s a great way to really practice all the skills taught that week and to see if the reader is understanding the concepts taught, or if they need more practice.
    • You can do many different things with this fluency activity!
    • You can have your child go through and find all of the sight words and underline them with a dry erase marker.
    • You can have your child go and underline all of the words that contain the sound/spelling pattern and read them aloud first, THEN go back and read the fluency reader.
    • You can have them read it for 1 minute, underline where they stopped and then have them read it again for 1 minute starting from the top and see if they can read a little further than the last time. Repeat this for 3 rounds! Praise them whether they pass it or whether they don’t! If they don’t get farther each time but you notice they correct mistakes as they read praise them for correcting because that is the mark of a great reader!

Read both the strips and the passage every day if possible for best results strengthening reading skills!

Example of Fluency Passage:



The 5th Component of Teaching Reading: Dictation

Dictation is when you say a word out loud (a word containing the sound of the week) and your child hears the word and writes it down on their student board.  This is a great opportunity for your child to reference the sound/spelling card! You can purchase all of my sound/spelling cards including ones NOT included in the subscription boxes HERE.

Dictation is a great way to practice listening to the sound, stretching the sounds in the word, and practice spelling.

Here are the steps for dictation:

  1. Give your child the student board and a marker
  2. Make sure the sound/spelling card is visible for their reference
  3. Choose 4-5 words that contain the sound/spelling pattern you are working on that week
  4. Say one of the words and have your child stretch the sounds on their hand (make sure they are saying the sounds OUT LOUD so you can identify any errors).
  5. Have your child write the word down after stretching the sounds and remind them to underline the sound that you are working on that week.
  6. Correct any errors in their spelling by doing the following:
    • As your child writes the word, write the word on your board and keep it hidden from them
    • When they finish writing show them your board and have them check and see if their spelling matches yours, let them give themselves a check or a smiley face if it does! If it doesn’t use it as an opportunity to figure out where they made their mistake and have them fix it on their board.
  7. Continue on with the rest of the words
  8. If you have time dictate a sentence in the same manner
  9. When you are finished have your child touch each word and read it as they erase, any extra reading practice won’t hurt!


The 4th Component of Teaching Reading: Phonics

Phonics is probably a component you are most familiar with!

Phonics is being able to break words apart into sound chunks as you read and then to put those sounds together to be able to read and say the word.


I loved teaching phonics! I loved being able to break a word apart and watch the kids read a word by the sounds and then recode the word! There are MANY ways to teach phonics to children.

Here are my favorite three:

The following three phonic teaching strategies brought me the most success to the most amount of students!

  1. Sound by sound blending: I like to scaffold how I teach phonics. At the beginning of the year I teach sound by sound, meaning I write a word on the board and point to each sound and receive a choral response for each sound. That way I listen as my class says every sound and I am able to hear for any errors.
  2. Sound/spelling pattern only: Once they become confident with sound by sound blending, I teach by just pointing to the sound/spelling pattern in the word. So if the word was “hatch” and we were focusing on the /ch/ sound, I would point only to the “tch” sound and then have them tell me that specific sound, then I would underline the word and have them think the word in their head (giving them a 3 second wait time) and then I would say, “Word!” and the class would shout out the word they read. Once they master that I move forward just a tiny bit. I teach by just pointing to the sound/spelling pattern in the word. So if the word was “hatch” and we were focusing on the “ch” sound I would point only to the “tch” sound and then have them tell me that specific sound, then I would underline the word and have them think the word in their head (giving them a 3 second wait time) and then I would say, “Word!” and the class would shout out the word they read.
  3. Whole Word Blending: Eventually you can get to whole word blending where you just point to the whole word (with the underlined sound/spelling pattern) and then have your child read the whole word in their head (again with 3 second wait time), and then have them say the whole word.

Check out this video of me explaining how to teach the different ways explained above.

Reading Noodle Phonics Instruction

Any of these options are great. I recommend starting with the first (sound by sound) and if your child is sailing ahead of you then move on to the next option until you feel you are at a comfortable instructional level with your child.

I always underline the sound/spelling pattern in the words when doing phonics so their eyes are drawn towards the sound/spelling pattern in the word. So if you are working on the /ch/ sound spelled ch and -tch I would make my board look like the following:

match       hatch     much     catch    fetch   chick     chat     chill     chunk   scotch     chin

The snake eggs hatched.

The chick likes to play catch with the pig.

As you can see, all the words are written out with all the /ch/ sounds underlined so the eye is drawn towards the sound that should be focused on.

I would recommend doing 4-5 words on the teacher board, and then a sentence that uses some of the weeks sight words and the sound of the week. No need to do more than that! Remember this is supposed to be a supplement to their learning. I don’t want Reading Noodle to be a burden or overwhelming!

What questions do you have about teaching phonics?

R Controls: “Bossy R’s”

I thought I might start blogging about specific activities in my products and different ways you can use them with your reader. Every reader is different after all, and some respond better to certain activities than others. I find it is always nice to have many options!

This week, on social media, I have focused on R Controls (ar, or, er) and their many spellings. R controls are really tricky for young readers. However, once they train their noodles (brains) to recognize the specific sound/spelling patterns it becomes automatic. There are several strategies readers can do to help with this training. The more opportunities they have to practice the sound/spelling patterns in a variety of ways the better their brains will remember it! That is why I like to include a variety of activities, some repetitive, others new so the brain doesn’t become complacent in learning (just my opinion based off of teaching experience).

Below are some activities you will find in Month 3 Week 3 that cover R controls. I call them Bossy’ R’s because the vowel and the r stuck to the vowel become bossy and say a new sound. Sometimes telling a story about the sound/spelling pattern and why it is that way helps readers remember the sound/spelling rule.

Read, Roll, and Color: 

This is such a fun and easy activity with lots of easy ways to add repetition into the activity. You can follow the activity as the instructions say at the top of the sheet. However, I always like to add more into my activities! Here are some ideas:

  1. Highlight the sound, read the word: Give your reader a highlighter and tell them to read each word and highlight the bossy R sound (check the list at the bottom of the page for all of the bossy R sounds).
  2. Highlight the sound, say the sound, read the word: For even more repetition, give them the highlighter and tell them to highlight the Bossy R sound and say the sound out loud, but not to read the whole word. Then when they have highlighted all the sounds, go back and read each word with the highlighted sound easily recognized.
  3. Timed Reads: Do one of the above highlighting activities and then tell your child they have one minute to read as many of the words as quickly and as ACCURATELY as the can. Be sure to set the expectation that reading words wrong wont count. You can even take a pencil and put a little dot on the words they read incorrect so your child knows to work on sounding those words out. IMPORTANT: Whenever you do a timed reading activity it is crucial to repeat it at least 2 more times, so a total of 3 times timed reading). The time limit should only be 1 minute long and your child should mark where they stopped when the timer went off. Then repeat 2 more times, each time seeing if they can beat their score. I had students that wouldn’t go faster but they would read with less mistakes each time. They deserve praise for both accomplishments! Remember: Reading with speed but making a lot of mistakes does not make a strong reader!
  4. Roll, Read, and Color: Or just stick with the directions as pictured below!

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Bossy R Clip:

This is a simple and effective way to test your child’s knowledge of just the bossy R sounds. It is a good way to know if they can hear the difference between the sounds by saying what the picture is and trying to identify the sound they heard in the word. It is phonemic awareness in a sense with a mixture of phonics. Here are some other ways to enhance this activity:

  1. Dictation Practice: After your child has completed the activity as designed, have your child stretch the sounds in the whole word on their fingers. Here is an example: Your child will pick the “ladder” card and stretch the sounds for ladder on their fingers, each finger representing one sound.  They would stretch /l/ /a/ /d/ /er/, clip the /er/ sound and then you would have them write the whole word down on their dictation board.
  2. Underline the sound: After they have written a word they have stretched reinforce the sound/spelling pattern by having them underline or highlight the bossy r sound in their writing.
  3. Phonemic Awareness: This activity just requires their fingers. Tell the child one of the words from the card like “shirt” and have them stretch it on their fingers saying each sound out loud. Then ask them where they heard the “bossy r” sound and have them point to which finger they stretched that sound on. So if they stretched /sh/ (index finger), /ir/ (middle finger), /t/ (ring finger) and you asked where is the “er” sound? They would point to their middle finger.

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Bossy R /er/ Sort: 

This activity is important for visual memorization of the three different letter pairs that make the same sound “er”. Ir, ur, and er all make the same exact sound and can therefore be really tricky for kids when it comes to spelling–tricky english language! So I have developed a simple picture matching game to help readers differentiate between the 3 spelling patterns for the same sound. Here are a few extension ideas:

  1. Spelling Practice: Have your child practice this activity several times, then turn the cards over and do a practice spelling test with 5-10 of the cards. It is a good quick assessment for you if your child is memorizing the different spelling patterns, or still guessing.
  2. Write it Out: When in doubt, write! Let your child practice writing sentences or a quick story with some of the cards, always ensuring that they are underlining the “er” sound in each word they use.
  3. Underline and Read: While this is not a laminated activity, a pencil or a highlighter wouldn’t harm the cards! Have your child underline the “er” spelling pattern on the cards so those spelling patterns pop out to them each time they read it.



R-Control Spelling Patterns:

AR: spelled ar and are

OR: spelled or and ore

ER: spelled er, ir, ur


There you have it! Lots of extensions to use with Month 3 Week 3 on Bossy R’s. Enjoy! As always, please feel free to reach out with any comments or questions!

Discovering Usborne

Recently an Instagram friend recently approached me about how Usborne books would compliment and enhance Reading Noodle. She offered to send me a couple of books to see how they would fit with my product. She specifically sent me phonics based books because my program is purely phonics based. I have had time to read these darling children’s books and am actually really impressed!

I LOVE THESE BOOKS! I received two books, and both books would be incredible assets to any home or school library. My friend also sent me a catalog of books that I have flipped through. I had no idea how many books Usborne had created, and it looks like they just keep making more! The catalog was divided into several categories and those categories were broken up by age group. I saw so many books I am dying to snatch up for my daughter (14 months) who loves flap books, and hard back books.

However, what really caught my eye was an entire section dedicated to phonics! There is a “First Learning” phonics section as well as a “Beginning Reader” section, followed by a “Phonics” section. Each section has TONS of books geared towards that particular reading group.

As a former first grade teacher, I am EXTREMELY picky about books that claim they are phonics based. This is because these kind of books often claim a book only works on Bossy R’s, or Digraphs, or the Magic Es’, but when I flip through the book it doesn’t remain true to the sound/spelling pattern. Instead it adds in harder sound/spelling patterns that students haven’t mastered yet. If it is a true phonics book (in my opinion) then it focuses on the phonics pattern primarily and adds in other sound spelling patterns that would fall in a typical scope and sequence. However, from the books my friend sent me, and the books in the catalog, I have no doubt all of these phonics books would be an incredible companion to each reading noodle box.

How do you know which one will be a companion to which box? Simple! Once you get a hold of a catalog or distributer just focus on the title of the book to identify the sound spelling pattern.

This is the catalog she sent as well, I about cried with joy when I saw the amazing Phonics section!

For example, there is a book titled “Ape’s Great Escape” the sound I hear most is Long A, and it’s even in the title as a_e in Ape and a_e in Escape. The word “great” would be taught as a sight word since it doesn’t follow a sound/spelling pattern. My guess would be this book primarily focuses on the a_e spelling pattern.

Here is another example: “Hen’s Pens” has the short e sound, so this book would be focusing on words with short e. Obviously not all of the words would have short e, but a vast majority would! The other words would either be words with sound/spelling patterns previously taught, and sight words. The more sound/spelling patterns learned and memorized the more you can add into a story!

When you child receives a Reading Noodle box each packet builds upon the last. For example, Box 1 Week 1 starts with short a, so all the words will either be sight words, or words with short a. Box 1 Week 2 moves to short i. Since your child has already learned short a this box includes words with short i and short a and, of course, sight words. It continues that way until you reach Box 7 where all of the sound spelling patterns are used since all have been taught.

While Usborne books may not follow my exact scope and sequence of sound/spelling patterns, their phonics books are done in a way that you could read the title and identify which Reading Noodle week the book would go with. While Reading Noodle includes “readers” specifically tied to the sound/spelling pattern with each week. However, having an actual picture book to heighten your child’s understanding of what was learned that week is an amazing asset to my program!

Here is one book I received: Cow Takes A Bow and other tales


This is probably my favorite book I received! When you open to the first couple of pages it gives a quick description of Phonics and what it means for your young reader. It also goes into detail about Phonemic Awareness (listening for the sounds in words) and how you can help your child as they read. I love that it gives explicit instruction to parents on what to look for and how to best help your reader!

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This book has several stories all phonics based with in. Take a look at some of the stories:



Each story focuses on a specific sound/spelling pattern! The Snail story focuses specifically on the “ai” spelling pattern that says long A. While the Crow story is focused on the “ow” sound that says long O. It’s such an easy way to wrap up a Reading Noodle week with a story from this book.

Things I love to do with young readers when they are reading a story is pre-teach any difficult words, especially sight words. I remind them of the sound worked on in that story as well. I even write down a few practice words that will be read in the story with that sound/spelling pattern and practice reading those words. Then we read!

You can do “my turn, your turn” for struggling readers. This is where you touch the word as you read one sentence and have your reader touch and read after you. Or you can just let your reader practice reading. If they make a mistake while reading try not to correct them until they finish the sentence. Once they finish the sentence go back and just say, “will you read this word to me again?” or something along those lines. Usually they can self-correct, and if they do have them read that sentence again so that word stays corrected in their brain. If they are still making a mistake on that word, stop and have them sound it out (unless its a sight word).

The other book I received is a mixture of several sound/spelling patterns. This would be a great book for a child that is finishing up Reading Noodle and now you want to see their reading in action! Take a look:

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This book is a compilation of stories all related to a farm. Its a thick book with a pretty blue ribbon that can be used to mark your place. It does not focus primarily on one sound/spelling pattern per story, but rather mixes a lot of sound/spelling patterns together. It also comes with an audio CD in the book! This is a great book to add to your family library, and to practice all of the skills learned in Reading Noodle!

My overall take away: These books are incredible. The company has really put so much work and love into helping children learn to read and learn to love reading! I fully endorse using these books as companion readers to Reading Noodle.

How to get a hold of these amazing books:

My friend’s name is Eileen, you can follow her on Instagram @blissful.learning

You can email her about Usborne books at

Most importantly, you can also shop right now HERE

I hope this has been a helpful peek into the wonderful world of Usborne! You can bet I’ll be adding these books and many more to my own personal children’s library! Happy reading!

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Teaching Memoirs of 2016:

“Why does everyone always stare at me when you tell me something?” Spiderman said.

His words shocked me to the core. I stammered and scrambled for an answer but the truth was, I didn’t have one. I looked at him and finally said, “Probably because we are doing quiet work right now and everyone is concentrating.” But I knew the truth. It was because I had just yelled across the room at mini Spiderman to be quiet and take his shirt out of his mouth, again. Except this time he called me out on it, and he had every right to. I just called him out in front of his peers. I chose to shout, instead of gently and privately correcting him.

We continued to stare at each other. “You know what Spiderman, I’m sorry. Next time I will come and tell you quietly, how does that sound?”

He mulled it over and nodded. And sure enough, two minutes later as he continued to yap at his peers, I walked over to him and quietly whispered in his ear that this was a quiet reminder to be quiet and get back to work. The mood changed, the other children did not have to pause their work to worry about who was in trouble this time. It was not humiliating. Yes, I had to put more effort in and actually walk across the room (a whooping ten steps) and take a small moment to correct a child and show that child that his teacher can be humble. My students regularly say, “It’s okay Mrs. Carlston! Teacher’s make mistakes too!” Children are forgiving, I just have to remember to forgive myself for my not so perfect teaching moments.

It would have been so easy to shut Spiderman’s question down. But I saw the pure look in his eyes, the embarrassment, the ‘I’m fed up’ look. I knew had made the mistake, not him.

Teaching is about humbling moments. I learn just as much as my students do. I grow constantly like they do. Spiderman was not only speaking for himself, he was speaking on behalf of other students that I have called out publicly. It is sloppiness on my part, and it affects my sweet little “firsties” more than I care to realize. Until today.

Spiderman may not have realized this when he spoke out today, but I did. His question was a call to repentance for me. Spiderman is not the only student I struggle to teach social skills in a loving way. It may not seem like it makes a difference, but just try it. Try walking over and privately correcting, and very publicly praising. Try it with your hardest students, try it with your talkers, try it with your first offenders. They will trust you more, they will feel more loved, and they will also treat each other better because of your example.

I titled this blog “The Teacher Voice” because I want all teachers to know YOU have a voice. I want teachers around the world to know YOU are not alone in this journey through education. I hope that this blog can be a safe haven for teachers new and well versed. I hope to start a continuous dialogue of stories, teaching inspirations, lesson ideas, etc. Please always feel free to chime in with ideas and comments. Don’t be afraid to speak out and speak up! Our littles need it. Because as much as we need a voice for ourselves, they need our voices just as much.

As the fictional character, Ben Parker, said “With great power comes great responsibility”.

PS. I refer to my kids in code, hence Spiderman.

Our New Friend

Teaching memoirs of 2016:

I have always known children have an ability to love unconditionally. This week was no exception. I found out on Friday I would be receiving a new student in my class with special needs. With all of my training and background in special education it would seem I would be filled with joy and confidence. Instead, I was filled with fear and doubt. Will I be able to serve her? How will my students react? How will my class environment change? Will I be able to meet the needs of ALL of my students? Am I capable of doing this?

I know, I was not impressed with those questions either. I have always had very passionate reasons for inclusion in the classroom. This week I questioned those reasons. I questioned my own ability. After three years in a regular education classroom it became difficult to put myself in a different frame of mind.

The whole weekend I imagined worst case scenarios. I worried about this new student and the fact that she is a possible runner. Possible behavior problems were overdramatized in my mind.

Mixed with these fears were bouts of excitement. My students were going to have an opportunity to grow and stretch themselves. They were going to have a chance to speak kinder, and exercise patience. They were going to be incredible examples. I was excited to see the possibility of expanding my own teaching practices, and my own abilities in the classroom.

Day 1 came with several bumps as we all adjusted to our new friend. I went home discouraged and those questions appeared in my head again. I walked into the special education teachers room with my head low and tears in my eyes. I was so quick to doubt myself.

Day 2 something clicked in me. I watched as our new friend began to find her place in our classroom, how the rest of my students began to relax and interact with her more. I watched our new friends face light up when her peers gently reminded her where to stand in line, or where to sit. Suddenly, my heart softened. I realized that a beautiful gift had entered my classroom. I suddenly understood what a blessing this little girl would be for the school, my students, and most importantly: me.

Day 3 I couldn’t wait to have our new friend come to class. I already can’t imagine my room without her! All of my students have told me “Our new friend is so cute!”, “Can I help our new friend?”, “We are so lucky to have our new friend in our class!”. These little moments have just melted my heart.

I know not every day will be perfect, there will be hard moments, but our new friend will feel loved. She will know she is accepted, she will know she is cared for, she will know she is important. And the best part is, I won’t be the only one to show her that. I have already set the expectation for her to be treated with kindness and love, and my students have responded to that call.