As Adults, We Should Be Advocates for All Children

There are many children who have adults as advocates in their lives. My grandson's mother is his advocate. When his kindergarten teacher told her at Parent Teacher Conference that her son's fine motor skills were too poor to do the work she was requiring she took steps. She met with the principal, she made the school's occupational therapist evaluate her son, she got him a 504 plan to ensure the school gave him 30 minutes of fine motor development every week. Then she signed him up for piano lessons. For many children, when they need help, the adults in their lives spring into action.

But not all children have advocates. Let me tell you about some of them:

Jacob and his little brother were raised by a single parent father who worked two jobs. Jacob became the caretaker for his little brother at the age of 3. Because they had limited modeling for speech, he and his brother made up their own language. When Jacob came to kindergarten, his Dad said. "I don't know what is wrong with him, he just speaks gibberish."

Emma spent the first four years of her life in a playpen with no adult interaction. She came to kindergarten only knowing three words: hungry, go, and no. At age 5, I was told by the speech teacher that her limited vocabulary would only slightly expand because the windows of language acquisition close completely by age 8.

Michael came to kindergarten with no regard for authority at all. He had been raised in an environment of doing whatever he wanted to because he was a boy. Because his mother was dominated by her husband, she had no control over him.

Elizabeth was in foster care. She had bright red hair and drew pictures of a smiling red haired woman on her papers, but she called her brunette foster parent "Mom". After three months, this foster mother asked for Elizabeth to be put in a different home because she was already overwhelmed with taking care of her own six children. She was shuffled off to a new family and a new school.

The causes that take away children's advocates are varied and personal, but the results of this gap in their lives are always devastating. As adults with the capability to do so, we need to stand in. When my daughter was in second grade there was a teacher in her school that bullied the children. When they didn't behave she would rap their heads with pencils or pull their hair. As my daughter's advocate, I made sure that this woman was not my child's classroom teacher, but she was still in the classroom occasionally during rotations. One day during these rotations, she pulled my daughter's hair. After hearing what had happened, I marched into the principals office and immediately demanded action be taken. His answer was that my daughter would never have to go into this teacher's room during rotations again. My child's rights had been addressed. For some, that would be enough. Not for me. And I told him so.

"There are children in that classroom whose parents are not in this office, and who will never come to this office," I told him, "but who still need an adult to stand up for them. I am not just here speaking for my daughter. I am speaking for all of them."

The teacher was reprimanded. The bullying stopped.

There are children who have advocates. Whose parents pay for private schools or drive their children to therapy or special brain development programs. Who start charter schools or put their children on special diets or show their babies vocabulary flashcards. Thank goodness for these parents. But sometimes, when these amazing people use their power to make their own children's lives better, those children without a support group are left behind. When there are problems around us, when others are suffering, it's not simply okay to walk away from it, taking our time, our resources, and our love with us. Our children need to see that as human beings, we take care of each other. We lift each other up. We climb the mountain together.

All children need someone.

They need you.

Creating Portfolio Memory Keepsakes

A portfolio is a sampling of information relating to a child’s developmental progress in a school (or home) setting. Portfolios contain work samples that are representative of where a child is at a particular time. It clearly shows development as it continues throughout the school year. A portfolio is an effective assessment tool that authentically documents a child’s progress and serves as a great reporting tool as well.

I have used portfolios for about 23 years now. They have not only proven to be effective assessment tools, but I have found them to be very popular with parents and students alike. Furthermore, they continue to be loved throughout the years. (I have had students graduating from college bring them back for me to sign)!

Memory books are also a great tool to keep “favorite” school memories alive. We have merged the memory book idea and included it as part of the portfolio system. This keeps the documentation of student growth fun and interesting to the student along the way.

This product has been built for your flexibility. 

There are seven choices of portfolio covers and binder end tags provided for all grades -- Preschool, Pre-K, K and 1st. There are color and black and white options included. 

The product is divided into sections: Beginning of the year essentials, month by month work samples, pages to use throughout the year to document memories, and an end of the year section. 
We extend this basic portfolio template by including math and science work samples.
Using these two products in tandem, adding photo pages such as the ones below (I add about 2 a month), you will have a treasure for your students to take home at the end of the school year.

Teaching Young Children To Write

Early in my career I was a writing rebel. I was told by many of my peers, "Young children cannot and should not write!" I pressed on and taught writing to my students covertly anyway. It was simply frowned upon to start any formal writing until second semester. And then you were only to teach modeled or structured writing.

Now, educators concur that reading and writing go hand in hand and are an “…interactive process.  There is a dynamic relationship between reading and writing and each one influences the development of the other…” (McMahon & Warrick, 2007, p. 159).

Back in 71 Million years ago they was Dinosaurs
Young children can write and this writing should occur daily in the early childhood classroom. In fact, most students will write before they read! “Over the school year, students’ writing develops…with increasing levels of sophistication of vocabulary, syntax, and stylistic features” (Bailey & Heritage, 2008, p. 159).  As writing develops, teachers will clearly see knowledge of phonics rules as well as a demonstration of graphophonemic knowledge applied to writing, and by observing the writings, great insights can be gained. 

Moab Day! Moab is hot and very weird 

Students need to experience genuine purpose and different types of writing in a risk free environment. Students must be empowered with confidence that they are capable of writing and possess the knowledge that their efforts are accepted and authentic. This happens when students are given the skills necessary to build independence. Students will flourish in a classroom where the physical, pedagogical and emotional environment supports literacy.  Research supports littering the environment with print and providing students opportunities to read and write their surroundings.

Young children can write! Consequently, writing in many forms should occur daily in the early childhood classroom! 


Bailey, A. L., Heritage, M. (2008). Formative assessment for literacy. Corwin Press: CA.
McMahon, C. and Warrick P. (2007). Wee can write. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory: ORE.

Scaffolding emergent writing in the zone of proximal development. Mid-Continent Regional Educational Lab (MCREL. Retrieved August 19, 2008 from

If you are looking for a great product to teach reading, please check out our best selling: "Writing in the Early Childhood Classroom." It is newly updated. It not only contains tips, strategies, hints, and secrets for writing success, but step-by-step lessons and 172 pages of writing prompt choices. Each prompt has three choices to meet your needs.

Clip Art: Free Offer!

If you looking for some gorgeous, clear images for design or print, you should check out The best part? They offer 2 weeks of access for free! What a great opportunity to see if the sight meets your needs without making a commitment. And, my favorite part, no credit card is necessary and the free trial will cancel automatically. Simply email Peter Rua at He will set you up.

Empowering our Students

This summer children of middle and higher income parents are signing up! They are signing up for art classes, music classes, cooking classes, STEM classes, gardening classes, drama classes, T-Ball, soccer, tennis, swimming and more. On top of that they will participate in family vacations, trips to museums, libraries, and zoos. These trips will reinforce, expand, and enrich the learning of these lucky kids.
But such is not the summertime experience of our low-income students. It was not my experience either. My parents could not afford to give me these kinds of life experiences, but there was a gift they gave me that made up the difference. They empowered me. They gave me the strength of character to know that I was worthwhile and capable. The inner strength to laugh at the high school counselor who told me that I shouldn't go to college because I wouldn't succeed and determination to go out and prove him wrong. The kind of internal light that Mindy Kaling showed at Sundance when asked what drives her to continue, even when she knows their are roadblocks ahead.

(image from Beauty Redefined)

As a classroom teacher, I know that my students will come with disparity of experiences. The best tool that I can arm all of the children with is empowerment! Many years ago I attended a seminar that changed my thinking towards student academic success, and made me reflect upon my own personal experiences. I was taught that students from even the most merger of circumstances can thrive. I remember a video of a student of two alcoholic parents and devastating living circumstances that continued to flourish as a student in her classroom. How was this so? The student was empowered! The following video also demonstrates how students can thrive, even in the most difficult of circumstances, if they feel the inner light of empowerment:

So, how do we empower our own students? Here is my top 10 list:

  1. Teach children to think for themselves: to make positive and informed choices.
  2. Teach children how to solve problems.
  3. Teach children to feel good about themselves.
  4. Encourage laughter and foster a sense of humor.
  5. Allow children many opportunities to feel the benefits of intrinsic rewards, while limiting (or my choice, eliminating) extrinsic rewards.
  6. Teach children how to ask questions.
  7. Teach children to be curious, discover, and to create.
  8. Teach children how to make informed choices.
  9. Set rules, boundaries, and have high expectations.
  10. Teach students resiliency: to be decisive and have stick-to-it-ness.
Students who become empowered, resilient beings, are able to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Our job as teachers is to lead them to that end. To fill our lesson plans with opportunities of character development and empowering opportunities.