What can Skippyjon Jones teach teachers about imagination?

Imagine yourself as the person you want to be.“Imagination is the true magic carpet.” Norman Vincent Peale

Hola, Amigos! You will never believe what just happened to me!  As I was jumping on my bed I crossed in front of the mirror, and I saw Super Teacher!  I could not let this happy happening go to waste so I scampered (Super Teachers do that right?) over to my closet and was transformed to the wonderful world of my classroom.  It was dark… and scary, but I had no fear with my trusty light saber at my side. (It’s my adventure, I’ll have a light saber if I want to. Por Favor?)

I heard small shuffling noises from the reading corner. From the glow given off by said trusty light saber I was able to find the light switch and turn it on.   To my delight and surprise I saw my old amigos (students) Mary Always Goodgirl (the smallest of the small ones), David Everright, Alivia Alorganized, and Helpy McHelperson (the biggest of the small ones).  They ran to me saying, “Super Teacher, we are so glad you are here.” (in a perfectly complete sentence, I might add) They told me about the terrible Parachutito that came into the classroom (while they were dutifully working on their math and staying seated at their desks) and stole all of our counting frijoles. “Not our counting beans!,” I said. “Por que?”

They did not know. But they were sure they saw him heading to the gymnasium.  “Vamonos!” I said, and we sang a song as we hustled to the gym.

Oh, we are all in a stupor, (clap, clap)

Parachutito made a big blooper, (clap, clap)

With light saber in hand,

Our beans we’ll demand,

Good thing our teacher is Super! (clap, clap)

(Hey, I said it before, and I’ll say it again.  It’s MY adventure!)

We entered the gym and saw the mucho largo Parachutito.  Super Teacher (that’s me, remember) swung the light saber and blinded Parachutito for just long enough for the small amigos to each grab an edge and shake.  Soon all the frijoles were free from his evil clutches and Parachutito was lying limp and exhausted on the ground.

“Ole!” we all shouted, gathered the beans, and triumphantly marched back to our classroom.  As we entered the room I saw a strange light and fell to the floor of my closet nearly hitting my cabeza, dude.  Come to think of it, maybe I did hit my cabeza, dude!

Don’t worry, I’ve come to my senses.  And I discovered a wonderful bit of information.  Fake it until you make it really works. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/extreme-fear/201303/how-real-life-change-happens

Skippyjon Jones imagines himself as a brave sword-fighting chihauhau – and he really turns into one. (Really-he does!)  Imagine yourself as the person you want to be a.k.a. Super Teacher.  When faced with a problem, don’t ask yourself what you would do, ask yourself what Super Teacher would do.  Then do it.      WWSD – I can see the bracelets now, dude.

Let your imagination go wild!


Some Skippyjon Jones Books:


Some other good books for you:

10 Lessons from Storybook Characters

What can Alexander (the one who had the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day) teach teachers about keeping your moods in check?

When you find yourself starting the day in a bad mood there are some things you can do.Have you even woken up with metaphorical gum in your hair?  Sometimes you just know the moment that alarm rings that it is going to be a bad day.  What is it? Not enough sleep? Hormones? Real gum in your hair?  Whatever the cause, it happens, and as a teacher you cannot let your funk get in the way of kids learning.

When you find yourself starting the day in a bad mood there are some things you can do.  First off, if this happens to you often – see a doctor.  There may be a medical condition at play here.  Secondly, if you know your foul mood is from a lack of sleep – vow to get more sleep.  Sleep deprivation can really mess up a normally sunny disposition.

Let’s say those two scenarios have nothing to do with your dismal state of mind. Don’t worry, here are some tried and true mood lifters for you to try:

1. Force yourself to smile
– seriously.  Even if you tripped on a skateboard and dropped your sweater in the sink.  Studies have shown that smiling produces a feeling of happiness within your body.  Check out the work of Paul Ekman if you don’t believe me. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/26/science/one-smile-only-one-can-lift-a-mood.html

2. Listen to music – The benefits of listening to music abound.  There’s a reason the dentist plays music in the patient rooms.  It can distract you and keep you calm.  There’s also a reason the high school band plays music before the big game. It can rev you up and get you ready for action.  So, pick the mood your shooting for and crank up the tunes.  Sing along for even better results. Don’t worry it you can’t carry a tune in a Cindy tote. If Alexander can count without a 16 (who needs 16?), then you can sing any way you want. I’ll take mine in P!nk. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20031022/music-improves-mood

3.  Do something kind for someone – Just because you didn’t find a toy in your cereal box this morning doesn’t mean that you can’t give to others.  Even an act as small as thanking someone, washing someone’s coffee mug, or opening a door for someone has been proven to elevate your mood.  If you really need a pick-me-up you can always do my recess duty for me, really, I’ll let you! http://drjohnhealthalert.blogspot.com/2012/01/acts-of-kindness-mood.html

4. Exercise – Your body will release endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine and you’ll feel better.  You don’t have to have brand new shoes with colorful stripes  those plain boring white ones will do just fine. Hop into those workout clothes and start moving that beautiful body. http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongfitness/a/exercise_mood.htm

5. Get a good laugh – It’s hard to laugh with soap in your eye, but the stung goes away eventually. And laughter is known to help your body release serotonin which makes you feel more content.  My son installed the app iFunny on my ipad mini and when I need a good laugh, it’s the first place I go for a quick fix.  If you are in the mood for a longer laugh, check out Kid Snippets on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDFD0284A5DA24371   “Math Class” is my all time favorite. There is no way I’m in a bad mood after watching that – I can so relate!

6. Play with your cat (or dog, if you must) – Even if you become someone’s third best friend you’ll always find unconditional love in your furry friends.  Playing with your pets releases all those feel-good hormones in your brain and lowers the stress hormone cortisol.  Pets get you moving too. Just try to forgive and forget those little hairballs “presents” that they leave for you once in a while. Oh yes, they are worth the trouble aren’t they? http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/pets-depression

So please don’t feel that you need to move to Australia in order to escape your bad mood.  Just try some of these activities first, please.  We need our wonderful teachers here!

Some Alexander Books for you:


10 Lessons from Storybook Characters

What can Junie B. Jones teach teachers about self discipline balanced with impulsivity/distractibility?

What can Junie B. Jones teach teachers about self discipline balanced with impulsivity/distractibility?

Junie B.’s new lunch box is right under her desk.  She knows she’s not supposed to keep sneaking looks at it, but her teacher’s not watching – just one more time…… Busted!

At the school’s Secret Santa Shop Junie B. has money to buy Christmas presents and ends up spending most of it on………………herself!

As teachers, we have all had to become self disciplined in some aspects of our lives, like studying for college exams, giving up a trip to the beach because we have to work, and not eating more than our share of the doughnuts in the staff lounge.  If you are anything like me you can identify some areas you’d still like to improve upon.  Mine include completing next week’s lesson plans mid week so I don’t have to stay late on Friday (which I do, more often than not) and eliminating time wasting activities from my prep time (never, never, never enough time).

Self discipline can be a great thing………….. especially for this cat:

Teaching Lesson:  Practice self discipline, but don’t sacrifice spontaneity, flexibility, friendliness, openness, and creativity.But ……once in a while ……you do need to sneak a peek at your new lunch bag and even spend a little money on (gasp!) yourself!

That’s right, self discipline is great but ONLY for the right reasons.  Spontaneity, flexibility, friendliness openness, and creativity also have a big place in the life of a successful teacher.

When you’re teaching a lesson, don’t power through it even if you know the class is lost.  A super self-disciplined teacher would finish that lesson and cross it off the lesson plans. Not cool. A teacher who gets “distracted” learns to recognize the signs from the class that say STOP – FIND THE PROBLEM – SWITCH GEARS.  You can teach the lesson, but if the students aren’t learning it, what good is it?  Junie B.’s teacher Mr. Scary realized this when he allowed her the time to show her prized lunch box to the class.

Many times I have found myself in the position of completing the hard work, not because I “should” but because I know there is a benefit to my self discipline. Like if I spend a little time each day organizing my files (ugh!) then I will be able to find what I need faster.  What is most important is having the ability to chose when to persevere and when to be impulsive.  We need both tools in our teacher toolbox.

Even June B came around when she forced herself to give May (of all people) the Christmas gift she bought for herself.  Way to go, girl!

For further information read this:

Some Junie B. Jones books:



This is blog is part of the 10 Teaching Lessons from Favorite Storybook Characters from Kat and Squirrel

Love Languages – Everybody Has One

The teacher-student relationship is of utmost importance when it comes to learning.Five Love Languages At School

Gary Chapman, PhD and Ross Campbell, MD have written some awesome books about the 5 Love Languages.  If you’ve never read them – do it.  And visit their website, www.5lovelanguages.com to find out your primary love language.  Their advice is eye-opening and sooooo helpful when trying to show your appreciation to others.

In their books they state that everyone has a primary way that they like to give and receive love and appreciation.

The five love languages they describe are:

Words of Affirmation – this language is all about using kind and encouraging words – frequently.

Acts of Service – people in this group see a helping hand as a sign of affection.

Receiving Gifts – for these people gifts are proof that you think about them and that you care.

Love Language Posters

Love Language Posters

Quality Time – this language requires giving others your full and undivided attention. Be present.

Physical Touch – closeness and touch help this group to feel a connection to you.

Figuring out the primary love languages of the people you care about will help you build strong relationships. And the teacher-student relationship is of utmost importance when it comes to learning.

Kat and Squirrel - Get the Artwork Now

 Check out the book:
The 5 Love Languages of Children


What Your Classroom Theme Says About You

If your elementary school is anything like mine, every teacher has a yearly theme.  Over the years I’ve had smiley faces, frogs, bears, flowers, rainbows, cats and dogs, and wild animals.  I try not to change too often because I enjoy my sanity (what’s left of it anyway).  So I thought we could have a little fun with classroom themes.

Classroom Themes - what do they say about you? The first draft of my little personality test was delivered to Squirrel and she took out a red pen and slashed at all of the “too harsh” statements.  (Really, is “sometimes you smell like seaweed” really that harsh?)  So anyhoo, she prettied them up a bit and shazam – here you go  – read on to see what your classroom theme says about you…..

(All personalities are based on fictional teachers. No descriptions are of actual teachers or classroom.  If you take any of this seriously we will find you and feed you to the sharks! – Seriously – she won’t let me write that either?!)

Wild West: You are as intensely trustworthy, passionate and hardworking as any cowpoke.  People know they can count on you to dig in and get the messy work done. But your mind may want to wander to greener pastures a bit too much. Be sure to stick with a project all the way to completion before you get along little doggies.

Bubblegum: You are alert and happy.  When you come to a party the mood naturally becomes effervescent.  But sometimes you have a hard time seeing that others might not be as pinkalicious. Remember to stop and notice what others are going through.

Construction Work: You are great at getting others to work.  Delegation is your favorite word. But you need to remember school is not all about putting your nose to the grind stone. Remember to have some fun before getting down to business.

Carnival/Circus: You love luxury and the exotic. You enjoy learning about strange and new things. Foster that sense of curiosity, but keep in mind others might not be quite as adventurous as you. Some of that cautiousness might be good to consider. Remember to take a moment to think before you jump off that high wire and use a safety net for goodness sakes.

Stars:  You are a born leader. You’re super smart and like to know everything that’s going on around you.  Be sure you don’t have too many stars in your eyes when it comes to projects though. When others voice concerns, be ready and able to focus.

—Shameless Promotion: Check out Kat and Squirrel’s Classroom Star Theme here.

Popcorn: You are super creative and people seek you out for advice. But like popcorn flying out of the pan, remember to take some time each day to ground yourself, or you might be out of the popcorn pan and end up straight in the fire!

Owls: You covet wisdom gathering in any form whether it be listening, reading or contemplating. But keep in mind that wisdom gathered does no good unless it is shared. Instead of just using your eyes, be sure to spend time hooting out some of your knowledge as opportunities come your way.

Rock & Roll: You are independent and free. You teach to the beat of your own drum.  Keep a-rockin, but remember to be mindful of your neighbors. (Not everyone likes AC/DC.)

Fish: You are a natural entertainer.  When you tell stories people are compelled to listen. But don’t forget to turn that fish-eye inward every once in awhile to check-in on your emotions. Sharing your inner feelings will make them laugh even harder when you do the fish lips.

Cupcakes: Who can resist you? You have a lot of friends because of your sweet and delicate personality. But try not to spread the frosting too thick all the time, some people don’t have a very big sweet tooth.

Farm: You are a helpful, generous, and popular person. You are not afraid to dig in and get dirty. You strive to create things that are worthwhile. But remember to keep things fresh by adding some play to your workday.

Sports: You are a person of action.  Not one to sit around, you pump everyone up and spur them into motion. But remember not to get caught up reliving last night’s big game in the teacher’s lounge for too long, or you’ll end up having to work late to get the job done.

Under the Sea/Ocean:  They say still waters run deep and your insight and creativity is (almost) limitless.  But those deep blue thoughts may have you seeing only the ocean and not the plankton. Remember to look at the details as well as the big picture.

Dinosaurs: You are strong, loyal and protective. You love history and tradition.  But keep in mind the dinosaurs went extinct! Be open to change and new ideas or you too might go the way of the tar pit.

Hollywood: A natural performer – you love to talk, act, sing, and dance.  But any good show has supporting as well as leading roles. Remember to hand out awards to your supporters. Also be willing to take a supporting role at times so that other have a turn to shine.

Pirates: Arrgh, matey. You are a lover of adventure and tend to be open-minded and curious. But let a landlubber cross you and you tend to hold a grudge. Remember to let go of small grievances. Don’t make everyone walk the plank.

Stars and Stripes/Red, White, and Blue:  Loyal and true, you have a strong moral code.  People know that in an emergency you will take charge.  But passion and loyalty can sometimes cloud your vision. Be sure to take a look at different cultures and see what gems of brilliance can be drawn out from the opinions of others.

Beach: You are a fun-loving and free spirit. You bring joy and harmony to every situation. But a surfer dude can get a bad rap, man. Make sure others see that you can be serious and hardworking when you need to.

Out of this World/Space/Rockets: You are very intelligent and lean towards the fantastical. The world is full of out-of-this-world possibilities. Sometimes you can be too far out there for some and need to remember to come down to Earth from time to time.

Garden/Flowers/Bugs: You are at one with nature and enjoy the cycle of life as well as learning.  You do not sweat the small stuff. Be sure to enjoy your garden as well as tend to it. When pulling those nasty weeds, don’t forget to stop and smell the jasmine! From time to time, breath in deep and look up instead of down. Take some time to dream.

Camping: You love peace and tranquility. As much as nature, you enjoy reading, traveling and puzzles.  But all that time in the woods, can make you forget to speak (and share). Quiet time is great, but don’t forget to let the words flow out of you too.

Panda: You are playful, outgoing, social and courageous. People often come to you for advice and a quick pick-me-up.  But remember, pandas are both black and white. You might normally be up, but there is another side to you. Make sure you get your belly rubbed too. Find some people who can be your pick-me-up panda in return.

Mustache: You are playful, yet love order and routine. Your classroom is neat as a pin.  (It is rumored you are the custodian’s BFF.) But keep in mind a few stray (or grey) hairs never hurt anyone. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy and see what wonderful magic can happen.

Rubber Ducky:  You are extremely flexible, yet great at keeping your ducks in a row.  People like you because you have such a sunny disposition.  But you watch that squeak! Too much quacking can make other’s row their boats in another direction. Learn to bob and weave in conversation.

Rainbow: You are highly intelligent, colorful, and inventive.  You may even have your own special language. But remember not everyone can burst with color or imagine the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow like you can. Sometimes you may need to pick a palette instead of using all the colors at once to get your point across.

Dogs: You are happy and generous and you love to do for others. You can easily see both sides to any argument and are often called upon to mediate. But the phrase isn’t “let sleeping dogs lie” for nothing. Remember to build in that down time into your schedule.

Pet Shop: You love companionship and are a superb listener. You tend to be a guardian to others. But remember your pet training – you need both discipline and love. (After all, nobody wants the snake “hugging” the rabbits.)

Zoo: You’ve never known an adventure that seemed too extreme.  You are always up for anything.  But too much activity can make the animals cranky! Be sure to plan those low-key times as well as time to swing from the vines.

Bears: You are a strong survivor! With a quiet authority, routine and order come naturally. But keep in mind cubs need to play too. Be sure to let out your silly side as often as you can. Yo, Boo Boo, you want a pic-a-nic basket?

Ice Cream:  Variety is the spice of life and you have the colorful personality to go with all the flavors. You can blend seamlessly into almost any situation or group. But sometimes instead of blending you need to remember to be your unique delicious self. Taste all the flavors, but don’t forget to choose to be you!

Nautical/Sailboats: There is nothing like the wind behind your sails as you set off for the open sea. You crave smooth sailing and a calm ship-shape classroom. With nautical precision you keep everything organized and moving along. But too much order can lead to mutiny! Don’t forget to keep the crew happy by dancing a few jigs from time to time. Every once in a while put your captain’s hat away and join the crew!

Safari: A little on the wild side you tend to be playful and adventurous.  Yet you have an artistic side and see beauty in almost everything. Instead of always having your eye on the horizon though you need to remember to bring your eyes back down to the ground in front of you (and the present moment).

Zebra: You are strong, beautiful, and agile. You know your unique strengths, but thrive in a large group setting. Be sure to keep your composure though and not always follow the pack. It’s okay to make yourself stand out a little more by being yourself.

Dots: You are very neat and organized.  People know they can count on you because your work is always excellent and on time. But being right to the point can get you in trouble sometimes. Make sure you soften your  statements with people who can’t handle your directness.

Monkeys: You are fun loving and naturally curious. You love learning and teaching and learning about teaching.  But even if life can be a barrel full of monkeys, remember to show your practical side or no one will take you seriously.

Frogs: You are fun, energetic and charming.  People feel great spending time with you. Your charisma can be magnetic, but be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want someone kissing you by the copy machine just to see if you turn into their prince/princess.

Bees:  You are active, brave, and energetic. You’re endowed with many talents and intelligences that you love using to help others.  You live to serve the queen. Just be sure to know who your queen is, or people will take advantage of you.

Race Cars: You are fast, strong, and triumphant.  You have a real zest for life and work very well on a team.  But sometimes your competitiveness can cause problems.  Remember to keep your wrench in the toolbox when things get heated.

Superheroes: You are steadfast, successful, and always willing to help. You don’t need a jacket – you’ve got a cape. But your superhero ways are masking a soft side. A soft side that others would love revealed. Let yourself be unmasked and real as often as you can.

Trains: You get the job done no matter how big the obstacles are.  You’re strong and persistent.  People love to work with you because you always do your share.  Be careful not to hook too many cars to your engine.  Be aware of your limit so others don’t take advantage of you.

Keep Kids Moving

Keep kids moving - Seeing things from multiple perspectives increases learning.Kids feel great with their bodies in motion, and I do too.  Almost every lesson can be adapted to add movement.  It could be as simple as showing a character’s mood through facial expression.  Or it could be as complex as simulating the inner workings of an animal cell using human bodies.  Seeing things from multiple perspectives increases learning.

I recently discovered the game “Scoot” which can be adapted to any subject or grade level.  To play the students start at one area (desk perhaps) answering a posted question, then when directed they “scoot” to the next location (another desk maybe) to answer a different question.  They keep track of their answers on a student recording sheet. You can find many printable “Scoot” games online (and better directions) by doing a simple search.

In this Ted talk by gamer Jane McGonigal, she explains her remarkable recovery from depression and illness by building 4 types of resilience – one of which includes the FUN of moving.

Crack open those games – what a great way to keep moving, build resiliency and have FUN!

Kat and Squirrel - See things from multiple perspectives poster

Post Series "Making Learning Fun"

Keep Kids Communicating

Sharing your thoughts with others helps everyone to learn.We all know that people love to talk, and we know that sharing thoughts with others helps students learn.  It’s our job as teachers to manage classroom chit chat so it is most beneficial to our students.  We also need to be sensitive to those children who aren’t ready to share in front of the whole group, but would be just fine communicating with a trusted friend.

We can corral this verbal veracity by using strategies such as:

I had the most awesome “hello” moment this spring.  My class had attended the fifth-grade science fair where they went from exhibit to exhibit and the fifth graders explained their experiments.  A week later we were making our Force and Motion lapbooks and working on the magnet page.   I pulled down my “magnet box” from my classroom cupboard to see if any of the old collected junk from the teacher’s lounge give-aways might be useful.  The kids were somehow magnetically drawn to the box and with this kind of spontaneous craving of knowledge – I could not deny them the contents of the box.  I stood back and watched with amazement as they naturally grouped up and conducted little experiments much like the fifth graders had shown them.  Then they started to explain their procedures to one another!  I felt so unnecessary, but so proud.  Allowing them to discuss important topics with older kids, then getting out of their way when they imitated and taught each other gave them a tremendous understanding of the curriculum.  And we were all learning while having FUN!


Post Series "Making Learning Fun"

Cherish Diversity

Our differences make the whole world more interesting and beautiful.If you are more of the lip-synching, can’t keep a beat type person (like me), then you know how wonderful it is to have a student who is musically talented. Oh, how I love to have them lead the ABCs or Happy Birthday. Everyone has unique talents, and we can strengthen any skills through practice and perseverance. Kids need to understand their strengths and appreciate the hard work people put in to enjoy high levels of talent. Some of these strengths and intelligences are cultivated in school and some are not. Check out this beautiful infographic of Howard Gardner’s 9 types of intelligence by artist Diana Ziv.


Teaching tolerance and acceptance of others is a must for every educator. Start by modeling your appreciation of other’s abilities, explain your own skills as a series of steps (as opposed to natural talent), and allow others to explain themselves rather than assume their background and motives.

Sometimes behavior you think is “naughty” may be totally acceptable from another perspective. Think of a woman in labor speeding to the hospital. (Yes, I know she should not be driving, but you get the point.) One of my favorite examples comes from a first grader who stood near me refusing to talk. I could not understand why she was being so seemingly oppositional until she wrote me a note that stated, “I haf to thro up.” Then the light bulb of acceptance turned on!

Post Series "Making Learning Fun"

Model Imagining and Questioning

Imagination and a pile of scraps make for a sturdy learning pedestal.Share your spontaneous inventiveness and let the kids share theirs.  Express curiosity and discuss the FUN of learning new things even at your (oh so very old) age.  A “Wonder Wall”, described in the book A Place to Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough (http://www.amazon.com/Place-Wonder-Reading-Writing-Nonfiction/dp/1571104321), where people can post ideas they wonder about is a perfect start to get knowledge seeking started.

A great Earth Day (every day) activity is turning trash into treasure.  Arvind Gupta demonstrates some amazing inventions made from things he found lying around.   He proves that it doesn’t take a lot of money to create a huge educational impact.

Now I know why I save every little thing saying, “I think I could really use this for something.”  I can’t imagine what this man would do with my stash – but then again, maybe I should start imagining.  I would need a little help from my kiddos of course.

P.S. If you are as fascinated by any and all foldables as I am, here is a link to the a site about “flexagons” (that paper circular thingy he was playing with).


Post Series "Making Learning Fun"

Let Them Work

Help your kids catch the "I can" bug - www.KatandSquirrel.comYou don’t need to be in control of every decision in the classroom.  Allow the kids to come up with creative solutions to classroom problems and jobs that need to get done.  People love to contribute and even have FUN while doing it.  I am always amazed when my students beg to stay in from recess to clean the room.  (If only this would happen at my home!)

Giving kids challenging work that matters and letting them know you trust that they can accomplish the task helps them feel that they are capable.  If they fail, (and they will) make sure to discuss what they did well and how they think they might change things if they were to try again.  When kids feel capable and in charge of their own learning, they gain inner contentment, excitement and joy.  Which, in my world, translates to FUN.



Post Series "Making Learning Fun"