Ways to Practice Spelling Words

We’ve been getting creative at our house working on spelling words each week and developing new ways to practice. Here are a few of our favorites: 

Type out the spelling words on the computer using fun fonts and different sizing.

Write out spelling words on sticky notes and hide them around the room. Have your child find the sticky notes, read the word, then spell the word. 

Use the sticky note method above, but this time create different sentences with the spelling words. The sillier the better! 

Play freeze dance, and when it’s time to freeze, choose a word to spell out loud. We love The Kiboomers Party Freeze Dance song, you can find it on most music streaming services. 

Write the spelling words on personal whiteboards (or a big whiteboard if you have one accessible!) Changing the medium that the words are being written can be helpful. 

Another change of medium is writing the spelling words on a mirror or window with a dry-erase marker. After the words are written, spell out loud a word for your child and have them erase the word you spelled out loud. 

Sit down together with the spelling word list and find repeating patterns within the words. Give words in different categories and organize them. Pulling apart and analyzing the words can help with spelling them later on. 

Another helpful post:

A Worked For Perfect Score- The Spelling Test #TeacherMom

My daughter brought home her first list of spelling words a few weeks ago. There was a quick note from the teacher- “Please practice these spelling words with your children so they can be prepared for the test at the end of the week.” 

The remainder of the week looked like us working together to practice the spelling words, she is the type of student and child who needed to take the reins on her own homework and decide how much work and effort she was going to put in. And in true fashion, she put in all of the effort and work possible. 

She set up a time to type out the words on a computer to practice and asked us to quiz her once she felt like she had them down better. She practiced spelling them out loud and on paper and took the time to notice patterns within the different words. She worked really hard and put in a lot of effort to learn this new skill, and I was proud of her for this! She even worked extra hard on her bonus words, one of them being the word school, which is a tricky word to spell! 

The day of the spelling test she was a ball of nerves, completely anxious about what was ahead of her. We practiced a few affirmations. 

“I am more than my spelling test.”

“I am a smart kid.”

“I worked hard on my spelling words.” 

“I will do my best and that is good enough.” 

I knew all of the emotions she was feeling as memories of my high school AP literature test, my college statistics final, and many, many more instances came flooding back. The feeling that you just spent a lot of time and effort studying and not doing well on the test would be absolutely devastating and heartbreaking. 

The spelling test came and went, she came home from school and said that she felt really good about it but was still nervous to see her final score the next Monday. Again, I felt the same feelings with her, knowing that it’s out of her hands but the score is yet to come with the fear of the unknown. 

On Monday she came home from school with a spelling test in her backpack… And of course, she received 100%! She even spelled both bonus words correctly. 

That feeling of working hard and having it pay off was felt equally between us. 

There was also a big sense of pride I had in her knowing that this perfect score wasn’t something she easily obtained by natural smarts. It was something she set a plan and a goal for and worked hard to get there. To me, an easy perfect score is one thing, but putting in the time and effort for a good score is next level. 

Mary’s experience and advice with spelling tests:

Teachers Aren’t Superheroes

While scrolling social media I came across a static photo of school-aged kids holding up a letter board that said, “Teachers aren’t superheroes.” 

Obviously, this is classic clickbait. I didn’t end up reading the caption, but it got me thinking… If I were writing the caption, it would sound something like this, 

Teachers aren’t superheroes. It’s true, they aren’t. They are living, breathing human beings with thoughts, feelings, to-do lists, and worries just like everyone else. 

We as a society are constantly talking about the superhuman abilities of teachers. And truly, they are incredible and giving human beings. But teachers are people that deserve to be respected and treated like.. Human beings. Not like superheroes. 

We shouldn’t expect them to swoop in and save the day every time a small problem arises. We shouldn’t think that they’ll have all of the answers to every single issue. Those are unrealistic expectations for anyone. 

Teachers are going home at the end of their contracted time and grading papers, putting together art projects, planning field trips, and more for our kids. They are working above and beyond what they are expected to do, and it takes a toll on them. 

So instead of treating them like superheroes, let’s treat them with respect. 

Let’s ask how we can support and help. Let’s ask what supplies we can bring in or how we can give time if it’s within our means. 

Let’s encourage and thank our teachers as much as possible. 

Let’s stop calling teachers superheroes. 

School Test Scores Won’t Tell You the Important Things

We moved to a new area about a year ago. We relocated to a rural farming community of about 2,700 people. For the sake of this blog post, let’s call the town Smallville. In this community, there is one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school, and that encompasses the entire school district. 

During our period of searching for homes, I also spent time researching schools in each town and area that we were considering moving to. Of all the cities we possibly could have chosen, Smallville was last on my list because the school rankings for the district were… well… not great. In fact, they were some of the lowest. 

But lo and behold, we ended up in Smallville. With my oldest starting kindergarten just three months after moving there, I was in constant worry about what we should do for school. Should we keep her at Smallville Elementary or drive her to one of the surrounding town’s schools each day? Every passing day throughout the summer it was constantly on my mind. 

We ultimately decided to keep her at Smallville Elementary at least for her first year of school, see how the year would go, and then move her to a new school for first grade if needed. 

After her first full year of school, I was absolutely humbled. Sure, the school rankings on the Idaho State Department of Education website weren’t favorable for Smallville by any means. But do you know what the website doesn’t tell you? 

It doesn’t tell you about the principal that is outside each and every morning and afternoon, no matter the weather, helping the teachers manage school drop-off and pick-up lines. 

It doesn’t tell you about the kindergarten teachers and how every single one of them loves their students something fierce and will do anything to help the students succeed. 

It doesn’t tell you about the first-grade teachers organizing a fundraiser all on their own to help raise money for a field trip. 

The website doesn’t ever mention the school janitor that helps your daughter clean up her spilled lunch box off the floor of the cafeteria and then comforts her when she is in tears from embarrassment. 

There aren’t stats for what a community bonding experience it is to attend a high school basketball game and have everyone come together for the evening, catch up, and rally together to cheer our athletes on to victory. 

Never once did the website mentions how the superintendent, principal, and teacher would bend over backward when you make the difficult decision to pull your child from school temporarily and give distance learning a try

It doesn’t tell you about the text your child’s teacher will send you in the middle of the school day, “I noticed your child was struggling with a specific math skill, I sent home some classroom manipulatives she can work with this week to help her.” – Classroom manipulatives that the teacher surely purchased herself. 

It doesn’t tell you the important parts of the school. 

The website can show statistics of test scores all day long, but what it can never show you is what an incredible community you gain in any one specific school, or in our case, one specific school district. 

Going to school is based on academics, but that’s not our only goal at the end of their 12+ years in those hallways and classrooms. The goal is to raise good humans that know how to problem solve, interact with others, be a friend, have empathy, and more. 

I’m grateful for our little Smallville school district and I’m even more grateful that we didn’t try to send our child away from such a community-driven school, regardless of what the test scores said. 

Lessons Learned During Distance Learning

Last winter my daughter did a short stint of “distance learning” during her year as a kindergartener. You can read more about our experience here

Now that we’re a few months out from this experience, here are some interesting things I’ve learned. 

Just because one on one attention is really great for most students doesn’t mean it’s best for all students. 

This threw me off because when you have a struggling student, what’s the first line of defense usually? One-on-one learning. Pulling them aside and working with the student individually to help them understand the concept. So in my mind, I figured, my daughter will receive 1:1 attention and learning while I’m home with her, she is going to excel! It’ll give her a boost academically! And I was so wrong. Her test scores plummeted. Her reading regressed. And as soon as she was back in school? Her test scores shot up. Her reading improved greatly. Her math skills took a huge leap in what she was able to do. It wasn’t for lack of teaching, she basically had a private tutor every day for several hours at home! 

Now I know there are so many other factors to consider, this would never stand up as a true experiment for so many reasons. However, with mom and teacher intuition included, I know deep down that being back in a big classroom with the energy of her classmates and teachers around her, she truly learned better. I’m sure pulling her aside to work one on one with certain concepts would work for her in some situations! But overall, her brain wasn’t built to sit at the kitchen table with one teacher. Her brain also wasn’t built to work independently out of a workbook. Her brain is built to move and see and interact while she learns.

It gave me a new perspective on those kids in similar situations that ended up doing school from home during the year or two (ish) of covid. I knew it was hard for them, but this gave me a deeper understanding and my heart went out to them. 

Public schools do not get enough credit.

Okay, I already knew this. No one needed to tell me. But the way our principal and my daughter’s teacher stepped up and into action when I was a parent reaching out for support was absolutely incredible. Within an hour or two of sending the email to both the principal and the teacher letting them know our situation and asking for the best way to move forward, they already had a game plan made up and prepared for us. Each week they would both check in to see how we were doing and would ask if we needed any more support or help during our time at home. Public schools can get a bad rap for not caring or supporting, and I’m sure in some cases that is true. But I am extremely grateful we’ve lucked out and ended up with amazing teachers and administration. 

The bottom line is this: all children learn in their own way and teachers are amazing. It’s something we all know, but sometimes having a good reminder is really nice. 

“I’m So Proud of Myself”

I try really hard not to tell my kids I’m proud of them. 

I know that sentence was really harsh, but I have your attention now, right? 

I try not to tell my kids I’m proud of them, but instead rephrase it by saying, “Are you proud of yourself?” or, “You should be very proud of yourself!” 

I am proud of them, I really am! But their own pride in themselves will carry them much further than my being proud of them ever will. 

It’s not something I do 100% of the time, I still find myself exclaiming, “I am so proud of you!” often. But I throw in enough “You should be proud of yourself” to balance it. 

At school this week, my kindergartener was awarded as a “red cape runner” for having the most improved testing scores for the class that month. She, along with others from the school, was given a red cape and they all ran through the hallways with We Are the Champions blasting over the speakers. It was a way to celebrate their hard work and dedication, and it was amazing as a parent to have the chance to watch these children, just beaming with pride, run through the hallways. 

Afterward, when I had the chance to talk to my daughter, I told her that she did amazing and we were so happy we could come to watch her. She responded with, 

“Mom, I am SO proud of myself right now!” 

My eyes instantly filled with tears. It was the first time she had told me she was proud of herself without any prompting from me. And for that, I was extremely proud of her. 

Her own self-pride will carry her further in school than any praise I can give her. It will also drive an intrinsic motivation in her school work, to see that if and when she puts in the time and dedication, she can and will achieve great things, and she can do it to be proud of herself, not just to make me proud. 

One proud little Red Cape Runner

Featured Image by Kayla Wright

Teacher Appreciation Week: Gift Ideas That Teachers Really Want

It’s that time of the year again, teacher appreciation week! You know, the one where they receive a new mug and countless candies that they will never finish? 

We all know that it’s well-meaning and so, so kind of parents and community members to think of teachers! But here is a little guidance (and a free printable!) that might help with gift-giving ideas this teacher appreciation week. 

Courtney Jones (@support_a_teach) on Twitter asked teachers what they really want for teacher appreciation week, it’s interesting to hear what they have to say. The most common answers I saw were handwritten notes from students or parents, gift cards, and classroom supplies. 

Another great way to figure out what teachers want is… to ask! Ask them directly what they want. It can be a little daunting as both the one asking and the one answering, but there are clever ways you can get around this. 

  • If your student is old enough, have them quiz their teacher on favorite drinks, stores, needed classroom supplies, etc.! It’ll be fun detective work for them and it’s a great bonding experience for them. 
  • If your student can write, have them write a little quiz for their teacher to take and send back. If they can’t write yet, write or type it out yourself and send it to school with your student. 
  • Email or text the teacher! This gives them time to think it over and respond. 

When all else fails or resources are thin, taking some time out of your day to write a little note or have your child draw a picture will be more than enough. 

Here is a week of gift ideas with printables you can send with your student to school each day: 

Monday: Target Gift Card: “Thank you for keeping me on TARGET this school year”

Tuesday: Fresh Flowers “Thank you for helping me BLOOM”

Wednesday: Dry Erase Markers “You really help us hit the MARK”

Thursday: Hand Soap “HANDS DOWN the best teacher around”

Friday: Clorox Wipes “You really help us SHINE”

You can send one for each day of the week or just one gift for the whole week. Any and all effort put in will be noticed and appreciated by teachers. 

Printables below are available for FREE download: