Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hello, hello??

Yesterday, I had some fun in Home Depot.  While Mr. Gumby and the Gumby boys were finding a new toilet for our bathroom, I was happily amusing myself in the plumbing section.  I rooted through several bins and boxes of PVC pipe parts and found what I needed to make a couple of "phones" for my classroom.  I'm not much of a crafter (or craftsman, for that matter), so I needed to go the easiest route possible.  I didn't want to saw PVC into sections (that's way too much work) so I opted for the "put-together-already-cut-pieces" plan.  With a little twisting, turning and connecting ...voila!  I had a "phone"! 

Of course, I had to try out my new "phone" right there at Home Depot.  Younger Son came walking down the aisle as I was talking to myself on my new "phone".  He grinned, rolled his eyes and then jogged off to tell his older brother that Mom was talking to herself again.  (My family never quite knows what to expect from me.)  In a few moments, Mr. Gumby and both Gumby boys came around the end of the aisle pretending to talk to themselves on make believe phones.  I'm telling you I live with a bunch of jokers!  I proceeded to explain to the three goofballs that I had a very good educational reason for talking to myself with  1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. 

These devices are called whisper phones, phonics phones or toobaloos. They can be homemade (like mine) with PVC pipe or purchased from teacher stores.  The ones I've seen at teacher stores and websites are called Toobaloos.   Toobaloos come in fancy colors and shiny metallic finishes.  According to the Meyer-Johnson website, they are "an interactive learning tool ideal for students to improve reading fluency and comprehension, phonics, articulation and voice. The Toobaloo is a simple, break-resistant device that magnifies voices so students hear themselves loud and clear as they softly practice their reading rate, phrasing and speech."  The phones are used by special education teachers and speech and language pathologists. 

The devices are also wonderful tools to use with English Language Learners!  I made myself two phones and am going to try them out with a couple of my students in the new year.  If they're successful, I plan to make myself a few more.  I don't need fancy colors and my homemade PVC pipe phones are dishwasher safe as well.

I found several articles on whisper phones. I'm including the articles here in case you would like to read them, too.

Open Websites from the University of Texas Department of Education

The CANDL Foundation 
(The CANDL Foundation folks will send you 6 free phonics phones, if you send a request signed by your school's principal.)

Honeybee Listening

Whisper Phone  (The Solo from this company has a harness that fits over a child's head to hold the phone in place.)

Make Your Own Whisper Phones
(The author of this blog says it costs her 50 cents per phone when she makes her own.)


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Word Callers, Part 2

A while back I wrote a post about the book Word Callers by Kelly Cartwright.  If you haven't read it, I recommend the book.  It's not a difficult read and it makes a lot of sense.  We've had some success with it. 

I found these notes from a presentation at the National Reading Recovery Conference.  If you're interested in Word Callers, take a look at the notes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What's My Last Name?

One day last week, one of my morning Kindergarteners rushed into my room, beckoned to me and said, "My teacher said, 'Come!" 

Since it was the beginning of the day and I had a few minutes left of my planning period, I rose and followed Sam down the hall to the Kindergarten room.  I had no idea WHY I was being summoned, but I figured it was important.  Sam literally danced and twirled down the hall. 

Just before we reached his classroom, he stopped dancing, looked at me and yelled excitedly, "What's my last name??"

I looked back at him and said, "You know your last name.  It's 'Bryzzert'. Your name is Sam Bryzzert."

We opened the door and entered the classroom.  Mrs. Kindergarten was seated at the front of the room at the easel while the rest of the class sat on the rug in front of her. 

She smiled at me and said, "Hi, Mrs. Gumby!  We need your help.  Sam's not sure what his last name is."

I replied, "Bryzzert."

Mrs. Kindergarten grinned and said,"That's what I thought. Remind me how to pronounce it, please."

I looked at the easel and realized what she was doing.  They were talking about initials.  She had written three childrens' first and last names on the easel and then had underlined the first initial and last initial of each child.  Molly O'Brien's initials were M O;  Tom Jones was T J;  and then there was Sam. 

Mrs. Kindergarten laughed and said, "Thanks, Mrs. Gumby.  Sam insisted his last name was 'I-AM.'  He said that's what his Mom always called him at home.  We knew you would know the answer."

Yes,  Sam was convinced that his whole name was Sam I-Am !!!   It took the combined efforts of Mrs. Kindergarten and myself to change his mind.
I truly never know what problem I'll be called upon to answer.  Every day is a new adventure at Cheerful School! 

"That Sam I-Am, that Sam I-Am...." Giggle!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh, It's Holiday Time Again

Today was a big day for our first graders.  My students have been reminding me for the last few days about today's assembly. ("Are you coming to our program, Mrs. Gumby???") They performed their Holiday Music Extravaganza for our entertainment this afternoon.  There's nothing like a gym packed full of kids waiting for the little first grade cherubs to come onto the stage and sing and dance. Talk about energy!

I have to give the music teacher major points for managing to come up with a program full of upbeat fun non-sectarian/non-religious songs.  There was one selection done to the rhythmic beat of "We Will, We Will Rock You" but with holiday words.  There was a lot of foot stomping and handclapping.  "STOMP, STOMP, clap. STOMP, STOMP, clap." It was hilarious watching the first grade students having so much fun with it that they jumped ahead of the music teacher who was valiantly trying (without success) to keep them in rhythm! 

I especially enjoyed watching my English Language Learners perform.  You could tell the children knew the words and gestures.  There were a lot of BIG smiles on their faces as they sang.  However, my favorite part was watching one of Mrs. Pokey's tutor level students.  Little Elf Boy was rocking, singing and dancing around in the front row.  (He's pretty small for his grade level, so he was on the end of the front row.)  The Kindergarten teacher and I cracked up watching him boogie to the music.

Rock on, little dude.  Rock on!! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Missing Mrs. Pokey

My good friend and colleague, Mrs. Pokey, is away from school for a bit.  She is currently on medical leave after having total knee replacement surgery last week.  We miss her terribly at school, but are happy she is getting better every day.  And, hopefully, with her new bionic knee, she won't need to use a cane (or stick as the students keep calling it) to get around anymore. We look forward to the New Year when Mrs. Pokey assures us that she will be back to make us laugh and learn. 

Go, Mrs. Pokey!   We love you!

From Mrs. Gumby and the English Language Learners at Cheerful School 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SchoolTube and Sight Words

Yesterday, we had a district technology expert spend the day with us.  She camped out in our computer lab and we had the opportunity to work with her during our planning periods on our school web pages.  The district provides a basic template we have to use for our web pages, but it's not terribly attractive, in my opinion.  Since I had started my web page early in the the school year, I worked with her on how to improve the appearance of my page.  My planning time is pretty scattered, so I started the day in the lab, spent about 20 minutes, popped back in again during lunch and then at then end of the day. 

While I had the technology expert there, I picked her brain about my sight word powerpoints and how I could get them to work for every child.  We discussed several ideas including putting together a YouTube channel.  I thought about it for a while and decided I didn't necessarily want my little ones on YouTube unattended.  There are some very good educational videos on there, but there is also a LOT of items NOT appropriate for children.  I shared my concerns with the expert. She listened and agreed. While I taught my classes, she did some investigating and when I returned at the end of the day, she showed me SchoolTube.   I had seen TeacherTube before, but wasn't familiar with SchoolTube.  She found some ESL sight words presentations posted there and shared them with me. 

The district expert and I want to work together (with any other district ESL teachers who might be interested) and create our own district SchoolTube channel where we can post our own videos and presentations.  Woooo-hooo!  It should be fun! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slow Down!

Over the long weekend, I found a new ESL teacher blog I'm enjoying reading.  It's called Raki's Rad Resources.  The author, Heidi Raki, is a primary school teacher from the United States who has moved to Morocco with her family.  She blogs about her experiences adapting to a new country and culture as well as her new position as a teacher in a private school.  I'm especially enjoying her Tuesday TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Tip. 

Here is TESOL Tip #2 from Heidi Raki:

ELL Teaching Tip #2: Speak Slowly
If you’ve ever tried to speak or understand another language, the first thing you notice is how fast every seems to speak. Actually, most native speakers of any language speak at about the same rate, anywhere between 150 and 200 words per minute, (give or take some, depending on dialect and whose doing the counting). However, when you are learning a language, and you don’t know all the words, your brain processes what you are hearing at a slower pace... 

She gives some great video examples and goes on to remind teachers to slow down AND allow for processing or "wait" time before calling on students.  Go and read her TESOL Tip #2...right now!!! 

Thanks, Heidi, for a great tip!  I believe I will share it with my regular classroom colleagues this week. 

Mrs. Gumby practicing "wait time"!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gobble, gobble, gobble

Last week we had a "visitor" in our ESL classroom.  We had a 30 pound mounted (stuffed) wild tom turkey borrowed from a local taxidermist.  My room is rather small (think...glorified closet), so Tom took up quite a bit of room on my round table.   My students were surprised and awestruck by the turkey.  They carefully circled the table and examined the bird closely.  I was surprised myself at how intricate the turkey's feathers were.  Some of the feathers were small and others larger.  Some were soft and others very stiff.  Still others were white and mottled with tan while others were all shades of brown and iridescent.  And, surprisingly, the beard feathers feel like stiff hairs...not like feathers at all!

I found a very nice simple non-fiction book about turkeys at the school library and read the book with my students.  We learned about wattles, spurs, snoods, hens, toms, poults and caruncles!  I also found some great YouTube videos showing how wild tom turkeys make their gobbling noise and how tom turkeys   show off to female hens by puffing up their feathers.  By the time we were finished, my students were turkey experts.  I heard other students asking them questions about the turkey and my ELL's were proudly answering.

Too often all students see are cartoony clip art depictions of turkeys.  It was worth every moment of putting up with Tom and his glassy "stare" for a few days in order to provide a memorable experience for my students!  Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Recently, Mrs. Pokey spearheaded a wonderful service learning project funded by the King Arthur Flour Company.  It is called the Life Skills Bread Baking Program.  Last year our school participated and this year Mrs. Pokey did it with her other school.  

According to the King Arthur website,  "the FREE Life Skills Bread Baking Program has reached more than 155,000 students nationwide since it began in 1992, providing kids with a fun, real-world application for skills they’re already learning in school – math, science, reading, planning, problem solving, and more. And they get to use their new skill to help people in their community."

The King Arthur folks send out a person to demonstrate how to make bread and then provide all the ingredients (including flour, yeast, a dough scraper and a handy little cookbook) for the students to take home to make bread for themselves and for others. 

The whole goal of the project is to teach children (grades 4-7) how to help others in a very concrete way.  Each participant takes home the ingredients and directions.  They make two loaves of bread at home and bring one back to school the next day.  The bread is donated to a local charity such as a food pantry.


On Friday, Mrs. Pokey and the fourth and fifth grade leadership students took over 240 loaves of bread to our local food pantry.  The bread will be frozen and then distributed to families for Thanksgiving.  Of course, as the outstanding educator she is, Mrs. Pokey involved the leadership students in delivering the bread to the pantry, weighing it, helping to freeze it and in reporting back to the other students.  She also had the leadership students make a powerpoint they will use when talking to the other fourth and fifth graders. 

Brava, Mrs. Pokey!  Brava!


Saturday, October 29, 2011


Where is Mary Poppins when you need her?  Sometimes I think it would be great if we teachers could have access to a child advocate like her.  You know, someone we could send in to a child's home and help straighten out the parents. 

My students are elementary age.  They need help organizing their homework, knowing when to go to bed and when to get up.  They need someone to provide them (consistantly) with healthy food, clean clothing and medical and dental care.   But most of all, they need someone to make sure they get to school ON TIME!  EVERY DAY!!

I sat in on a parent meeting a few days ago for a student of mine.  In the first four years of his school career (three of which were not at our school), he has missed 59 days and was tardy 151 times.  Say what???  Holy Cow!! 

He's a great kid and I really enjoy his great sense of humor and kindness to others. But it's no wonder he's so far behind and struggling in school.  I have a difficult time sitting across the table from his parents.  I just want to reach over and say, "What on earth are you thinking???  How can a child succeed when he's either not at school or is tardy so often???  Hello!!  Wake up and start being parents!" 

Sigh...I need Mary Poppins.  Please. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Word Callers

At school we are doing a professional book study on Word Callers by Kelly Cartwright.  For next week's class, I have to assess three students.  One is supposed to be a higher level reader, another an average reader and the third a lower level reader.  I probably won't do all English Language Learners, though.  I have several classroom teachers who have offered to let me assess their students. 

We tried the initial assessment on each other at this week's class.  It's interesting to see how different people categorized the cards. There are at least seven different sets of cards that come with the book.  The initial assessment consists of watching students categorize a set of cards into four groups.  The students are timed on how quickly they catagorize the cards.  Also, the students tell the assessor why they chose the groups and how the cards are related.  

It should be interesting!  Stay tuned as I learn more about students who are "word callers" when they read. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hitting It Out of the Park

A friend of mine teaches seventh grade science.  (God bless takes a very special person to enjoy teaching middle schoolers!  I am NOT one of them.)  I love reading her blog, Mrs. Bluebird's Classroom.  She makes me laugh.  She makes me cry.  But most of all, I am in awe of her incredible creativity. 

I knew Mrs. Bluebird in another "life" before she made her mid-life career change and became a teacher.  It's been fun for me to watch her blossom in teaching and find her true calling in life.  She is a wonderful teacher and makes a difference in her students' lives every day. 

As an English as a Second Language teacher, I work with many teachers and see first hand how some teachers go above and beyond to help their students learn.  Mrs. Bluebird is a prime example of a great teacher who really cares. 

One of my favorite posts of hers, Hitting It Out of the Park, is about a wonderful hands-on science activity on tectonic plates and fault lines.  It's a superb example of a lesson that works for all students, but especially for English Language Learners.  Go read about it right now!

Hat's off to you, Mrs. B, for hitting it out of the park!!! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I enjoy listening to children and their malapropisms.

Just the other day, Miss Tiara shared a funny story about one of our shared students.  She had become quite angry with Humming Boy.  Instead of working on a writing assignment, he had been goofing off.  She rarely gets angry, but Humming Boy had annoyed her greatly.  At the end of the class, he finally realized she was angry with him and blurted out, "But next time, Miss Tiara, I promise to write in my very best KERCHIEF!"

Yes, he meant cursive. 

Miss Tiara  managed to make it out of the classroom before she laughed. 

Humming Boy will be happy to know that our state department of education is considering eliminating cursive handwriting instruction.  I'm not sure how I feel about it, frankly.  I know it's important to be able to communicate thoughts effectively in written form, but for English Language Learners cursive handwriting is more difficult to decipher than printing.  Hmmmmmm.  I'm still on the fence.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Love Powerpoint!

I love powerpoint!  It’s an exceptionally useful tool for teachers.  I use it for all sorts of presentations (including the Phonics Dance alphabet and the Phonics Dance Hunks and Chunks I wrote about in an earlier post), but as an English as a Second Language teacher I find it great for creating take-home study helps for my students. 

Recently, one of my second grade students was struggling to learn sight words.  Her teacher, Ms. Writer, requires all of the students in her class to work on increasing the number of sight words they can read.  As a good educator should do, Ms. Writer assessed her students at the beginning of the school year and set an individual goal for each second grader.  My student, Happy Girl, was working hard, but was progressing slowly. 

Ms. Writer expects the students to study their sight words at home for homework.  That’s fine for most students, but it’s more problematic for parents who do not speak or read English.  Happy Girl’s parents are wonderful and caring folks who will do anything they can to help their children succeed in school.  However, they can’t help Happy Girl with most homework.  Happy Girl could “study” her sight words at home, but if she wasn’t practicing them correctly, it wouldn’t do her any good.   

I thought about it for a while and talked it over with Ms. Writer.  She agreed with me and we came up with some ways to help Happy Girl.  We found a kind fifth grade girl willing to come to the second grade classroom for ten minutes each day to review sight words with Happy Girl.  Ms. Writer also has some parent helpers who review with Happy Girl a few days a week.

Finally, I came home and created a powerpoint with audio for Happy Girl.  I found a powerpoint of the Fry first 100 words online and then added my own voice reading each word.  Through a district interpreter, I made an appointment to make a home visit to Happy Girl’s house.  I knew she had a computer at home, so I was hoping to figure out a way to get the sight word powerpoint to work on her computer.  The interpreter and I went to Happy Girl’s home, met with her parents and I finally got the powerpoint to work on the computer.  Father and Mother were thrilled to be able to help Happy Girl!

Two days ago, I asked Happy Girl to read through the sight word list with me.  She zoomed through the list with lots of confidence.  The number of sight words she knows increased dramatically in just a few weeks.  She and I looked at each other when she finished and then I gave her a jubilant “high five”!!  I asked her, “Have you been practicing your sight words at home with Mom and Dad?”.  She flashed me a huge grin and said, “Yes!”

It’s times like this when I know why I love teaching English Language Learners.  Every day is a new challenge, but the rewards are great.  Now, I’m off to work on adding audio to the next powerpoint for the Fry second hundred words.   Happy Girl is almost ready for a new set of words!  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Nest Fills Back Up

The nest was empty for only a short while before it filled back up again.  Younger Son is away at college, but Older Son is b-a-c-k!  He graduated from Mega Gigantic State University and promptly obtained a job in his field of study.  However, it is a contract position and not a permanent one.  He’s working at a well respected company and the experience will increase his knowledge and look good on a future resume.  However, it doesn’t pay as well as he had hoped. 

So, Father and I asked him if he wanted to move back home for a few months.   He reluctantly agreed after he worked through his finances and discovered that the free room and board offered at the Gumby house would enable him to save a lot of money in order to pay off some student loans. 
When his campus apartment lease ran out, he moved home.  After five years of college, the kid has a huge collection of “stuff”.  He’s moved some into the basement, some into the larger bedroom upstairs and there is still a bunch of junk in my living room!  It looks like a scene from the TV show about hoarders.  Ugh.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Hooray, hooray!  Mr. Pokey has been offered a permanent full time job with benefits!   I am SO happy for Mrs. Pokey and her family.  I know this will be a big burden of worry off of both Mr. and Mrs. Pokey. 

So, let the dancing and celebration begin!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Football Weekend

Mr. Gumby and I traveled this weekend to see Younger Son march at his first college football game.  Call me an excited parent!!  Woooo-hooo!  I love to see my kid in a marching band! 

We arrived at Middle Sized Private College's stadium in time to find our seats and to see the pre-game festivities.  Mr. Gumby and I played "Find the Son in the Band" and spotted him several times throughout the pre-game and later in the halftime show.  We are very proud parents, to say the least.

At the end of the game, we waited while the band, cheerleaders and football team sang the school's alma mater together and then we headed out of the stadium to meet Younger Son.  I found him and gave him a hug.  I think he was glad to see us and asked if we had brought along more shampoo and bodywash for him.  (He lost the other bottles of bodywash and shampoo in the showers in the dorm.)  I said, "Yes, we did."  Then, Father Gumby spoke up and said, "Well, do you want us to take you out for dinner?"  Younger Son looked at us and said, "Ummmm.  I have plans tonight." 


So, Mr. Gumby walked to the car and got the bodywash and shampoo, while I waited for Younger Son to put away his band instrument and take off his uniform.  We gave him his bag of supplies, hugged him again and then headed back to the car to go home.

In the car, Mr. Gumby and I looked at each other and then started to laugh.  We decided that although we were a little disappointed Younger Son didn't want to go to dinner with us, we are happy he is enjoying college life and making new friends. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are You Listening?

In our ESL classes, we work on reading, writing, speaking and listening.  I know I plan a lot of instruction for my students covering the first three areas, but I need to increase the opportunities I provide for students to become better listeners.  I found an excellent article from Larry Ferlazzo at Education Week Teacher.  The article, "Response: Several Ways To Help Students Become Better Listeners" has some ideas I want to present to my students' classroom teachers AND some other ideas I am going to implement in my classroom.

We are fortunate to have many good teachers in our school, but I need to remember to gently remind some about providing verbal and written instructions for our English Language Learners.  In Ferlazzo's article he mentions,

Verbal/Written Instructions & Modeling
A major mistake many of us make is not providing verbal instructions before an activity. Extensive research emphasizes the importance of providing verbal and written instructions to English Language Learners, and this classroom practice works well for all learners. This will not only reduce the number of repetitive student questions, but it is also far easier for a teacher to point to the board in response to that inevitable repeated question, "What are we supposed to do?"

Teacher modeling is also an important instructional strategy that is often shortchanged in the classroom. After you give instructions, teachers actually demonstrating them can go a long way towards students understanding of what they are supposed to do. In addition, researchers have found that modeling has a major impact on increasing student self-confidence that they can replicate the task. Robert Marzano also recommends teacher modeling as a way to "deepen" student comprehension.

One of his readers, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, suggested an idea for listening practice.  She said,

If you're looking for a cool listening lesson, however, visual note-taking is a great activity to build up those listening muscles. Read them a passage, excerpt, etc...then time them as they sketch every detail they recall. When time is up, slowly remind them of the itemized list of details they may or may not have heard. If they sketched it, they get points. The goal is to get the most points, and the teacher decides what details the students should have absorbed with only one reading.

I think I might try this and see if it makes a difference with my students! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writing with English Language Learners

This school year, Mrs. Pokey and I are going to concentrate on writing skills with our students.  In our state, all ELL's are required to take state tests in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.  Our students typically do fairly well on the tests, but they all struggle with the writing test.  Writing is the "make or break" score on whether or not the students are deemed "proficient" and graduate from the ESL program. 

I found these articles on writing on the Colorin Colorado website.  I think Mrs. Pokey and I will have to try some of the strategies.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pretty Nails

We've been in school for a week and a half now.  One of my favorite students, Pretty Nails Girl, is back this school year.  She and her family travel to their home country each summer to see their extended family and return by the time school starts.  Pretty Nails Girl is a real sweetie, but sonetimes she fixates on something and just won't let it go.  Last year, she started noticing the finger nails and toenails of several teachers.  If one of us had polish on our nails, Pretty Nails Girl would examine the color closely and ask us what the name of the color was.  Then, she would ask us to write down the name of the nail polish on a post-it note.  She really liked going online and looking up the colors. 

One day, she asked Mrs. Cheerleader what nail polish color she liked.  Mrs. Cheerleader was in a bit of a hurry that day and quickly replied, "Anything O.P.I."

Now if you've ever looked at the OPI nail colors, you'll know they have some pretty hilarious names.  I like "Coney Island Cotton Candy", for example, and Mrs. Reading recently went for "Tutti Frutti Tonga".  If you check out the OPI website and click on the "Try On This Color" tab at the top, you'll see lots of very creative names for polish colors.

Pretty Nails Girl dutifully noted Mrs. Cheerleader's answer, went home and spent a long time looking  for "Anything O.P.I." on the OPI nails website.   (Unfortunately, there IS no color called "Anything O.P.I.")   When Pretty Nails Girl came back to school the next day, she told Mrs. Cheerleader that she couldn't find the color.   Mrs. Cheerleader felt a little sheepish when she realized what had happened.  She had to explain further that she meant she liked any color of nail polish that OPI makes.  Ooops!!

Now that I know Pretty Nails Girl is back from her vacation, I need to schedule a manicure and a pedicure.  It will make her day if I come in with polished nails.  Of course, I will have to pay attention to the name of the color of the polish!  And, I might as well write down the name on a post-it note before she comes to my room for ESL class.  That way, I'll be ready to go before she walks in the door!! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Phonics Dance

Last year, Mrs. Sunshine and I used the Phonics Dance to help our students learn the alphabet and its sounds.  After our students mastered the alphabet portion, we started in on the "Hunks and Chunks".  The children really enjoyed learning and reciting the hunks and chunks.  It took a while for them to learn all of the "Hunks and Chunks", but it was worthwhile.  It really seemed to help our ESL students with their learning how to read.  Mrs. Sunshine made a powerpoint of each hunk/chunk and we used it with the large Smartboard in our shared classroom several times daily.  By the end of the year, Mrs. Sunshine, Mrs. Foil and I were all top-notch "Hunk and Chunkers".  Who needs aerobics when you do the "Hunk and Chunk" portion of the Phonics Dance four to five times per day???  It's a great TPR (Total Physical Response) activity, too. 

Here's a fun YouTube video of a second grade class doing the "Hunks and Chunks".  It's not our students, of course, but you'll get a good idea of how it works. 

The Phonics Dance and its accompanying Hunks and Chunks were designed by Virginia Dowd.  Her website is The Phonics Dance.  Take a look at it and give The Phonics Dance a try.  Mrs. Sunshine and I were thrilled with how much it helped our students last year. 

Below are some examples of some of the powerpoint slides Mrs. Sunshine used.  You can buy the precolored cards from Virginia Dowd's website or you can copy the black and white ones from the book and have a willing helper color them for you.  Mrs. Sunshine's daughter colored a set of Hunks and Chunks and a set of the Phonics Dance alphabet for each of us.  She is such a sweetie!  Thanks, D. Sunshine, for the help.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Whirlwind and a Crash

Yesterday was the first day of school for our students.  I helped students find their classrooms when the school doors opened in the morning, went around and checked on some of my ESL students and worked on scheduling with Mrs. Pokey.   The whole day was a whirlwind from start to finish.  I felt as if I should have been wearing roller skates instead of shoes.  The school is not that large, but I zoomed around all day.  Whew! 

I left work about 5 o'clock and was ready to see Mr. Gumby.  I thought we could have some grilled pork chops, a nice salad and some fresh green beans from our garden for supper.  I started on my trip home and drove about a mile before C-R-A-S-H!!!  An elderly man rear-ended my car as I was waiting for a pickup truck to turn right at a stoplight!  I was driving Younger Son's car.  (Hey, it's better on gas than my usual Mom Mobile minivan!)   As it would happen, I was right in front of the car dealership where we bought his vehicle a few years ago. 

After the police came and issued the man a citation for crashing the front end of his car into the back end of my car, Mr. Gumby (my Knight in Shining Armor who came to pick me up and listen to my tearful tale of woe) slowly drove the wounded car into the dealership's body shop.  We left the poor thing there. 

I don't have the guts/courage/heart to call Younger Son at college and let him know his car is damaged.  I think we'll wait until it's fixed and THEN tell him.  Yes, I am a chicken. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

No Vacancy

Wow!  Every time I check my school email it seems Mrs. Pokey and I are getting more and more students!  We'll have to sit down the first thing on Wednesday morning and try to figure out what we're going to do. Scheduling ourselves is going to be interesting, to say the least.

The past two years I have been half time at this school and half time at another school.  This year, they moved a lot of teachers around and I ended up here full time. ( Although I miss Mrs. Sunshine and Mrs. Foil at the other school, I'm thrilled to be at one school all day long. Traveling every day in the middle of the day was a drag.) 

While I'm glad our school has enough ESL students to warrant a full time teacher (Me!),  I'm becoming a little concerned about the avalanche of additional students.  I suggested to Principal that we post a "No Vacancy" sign out in the front of the school.  He just laughed and said, "Aren't you glad you're full time here now?"   Hmmm. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Empty Nest

The nest is empty. 

Yes, Mr. Gumby and I spent the day moving Younger Son to college.  I know he'll be fine, but it's hard to let him go.   Our Older Son did just fine at Mega Gigantic State University, but we knew it wouldn't be the right fit for Younger Son.  He's now at Middle Sized Private College. 

He went back a week early because he's going to participate in the marching band.  After paying the fees for band, we waited for him while he filled out paperwork, tried on uniforms and chose his school owned instrument.  Then an upperclass band mentor helped us move him into his dorm room.  I have to was VERY well organized. 

I helped Younger Son make his bed, put away his clothes and organize his desk area while Dad took care of making sure his computer connected to the network and to the printer we brought.  Younger Son is on his own for figuring how to connect the PS3 and the television.  We ate lunch (provided by the band) with him and then headed out when it was time.  I waited to cry until Mr. Gumby and I were alone in the van on our way out of the parking lot.

When we got home, the house seemed so empty and quiet without Younger Son.  However, as I walked into the house, I found a text message waiting for me on my cell phone.  It was from my friend, Mrs. Pokey.  She said, "Remember, you gave him the wings.  Now it is time for him to fly." 

Thanks, Mrs. Pokey, for your wise words.  I needed them today.


Friday, August 12, 2011


Today, Mrs. Pokey and I met with the Principal.  We went through our student lists and made sure we hadn't missed any students.  Sometimes kids "fall through the cracks" and don't get identified in a timely fashion. 

Mrs. Pokey is going to have to move rooms for this school year, so we checked out the alternative space today.  It's not perfect, but we can make it work.  Looks like the custodian, the principal and Mrs. Pokey's kids and husband will be assisting her with the moving since Mrs. Pokey has a hurt knee right now.  God bless Mr. Pokey and the Pokey kids for helping!!! 

I may need to get Mrs. Pokey a jeep so she can zoom around the school.   Wonder if Principal would go for that??  Hmmmmm. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Toddlers and Tiaras

Today I read a post on Diane Laney Fitzpatrick's blog, "Just Humor Me."  I laughed so hard that my dog looked at me as if he was unsure if I was all right or not.

Diane comments about the show "Toddlers and Tiaras".  I've watched the show a few times and just been aghast at the parents of these children!  Dear God, what are they thinking??  It's an awful train wreck!   She says it so much better than I ever could, so please visit her blog and read it for yourself.  Be sure to watch the YouTube clip at the bottom.  It's a clip from the Jimmy Kimmel show where Tom Hanks parodies the whole "Toddler and Tiaras" phenomenon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rhyme a Week - Building Phonological Awareness

Last school year my good friend and colleague, Mrs. Sunshine, and I tried Rhyme a Week with our Kindergarten ESL students.  We did some research about rhyming and phonological awareness with English Language Learners and decided to try Rhyme a Week.  Mrs. Sunshine and I substituted a few of the rhymes/poems and didn't do every activity, but used almost all of the rhyming/word family words. 

Our students LOVED learning and acting out the nursery rhymes.  Watching them reminded us of how much background knowledge we as middle class Americans take for granted.  Both Mrs. Sunshine and I had recited these nursery rhymes with our own children when they were young, but the rhymes were all new to our students. Some of their favorites were "Jack and Jill", "Jack Be Nimble", and "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater." (However, they did NOT want us to act out "This Little Piggy Went to Market" with their toes!  Mrs. Sunshine and I took off our shoes and socks to demonstrate how to do the toe wiggling.  We demonstrated with each other's toes and with a willing fifth grade girl helper.  But, when it came time for kindergarten volunteers, not a single one of the eleven students would participate!  Not. A. Single. One!  Go figure!   Mrs. Sunshine and I had a good laugh about it later.) 

We were pleased with the results from implementing Rhyme a Week and plan to start again in November.  If you aren't familiar with it, take a look. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tomato Explosion

It's a tomato explosion at the Gumby house!  Our itty bitty raised garden has about the dimensions of a queen sized bed, but we have tomatoes everywhere.   We planted five tomato seedlings earlier in the spring:  one cherry tomato, two Better Boys and two Celebrity plants.  All have survived and are thriving.  It's certainly not from any particular type of tender loving care, though.  We're pretty much  "plant 'em and ignore 'em"  gardeners.  We'll water occasionally when it's really dry and pull a few weeds now and then, but that's about all.

Mr. Gumby grew up on a farm, so I think puttering around in a little garden must appeal to his farm boy roots. He comes home from his high tech geeky job, takes a walk out in the yard with the dog and checks out the garden.   I knew I was in trouble when he started coming in and saying, "Wow!  There sure are a lot of green tomatoes out there."  I figured the squirrels would eat them or we'd get some sort of tomato rot, like other years.  Nope.  Not this year.  Mr. Gumby has started coming in with handfuls of tomatoes and now Younger Son has started to accompany his dad on the evening inspection.  A couple of evenings ago, Mr. G and YS came in with so many tomatoes they had to start piling them in their shirt tails!

I gave some away to teacher friends on Thursday at an inservice, ate sliced tomatoes and fried zucchini for dinner, made several batches of fresh tomato sauce (one of Younger Son's favorite recipes) and still have a kitchen counter full.  I know I can take some to the local food pantry tomorrow, too.   However, as Mr. G, Older Son and Younger Son were headed out of the house early this morning for an Indy Car race, they yelled up the stairs,  "Hey, Mom!  You'd better go out and pick more tomatoes today!  There are a bunch more ready!!" 

Sigh!  Does anybody have any good tomato recipes to share??  Help!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

State Fair

Yes, Mr. Gumby, Younger Son and I went to the State Fair.  Whee!  It was hot, hot, HOT (did I mention it was hot?)!  But you can't beat it for people watching.  What a bunch of odd people!  The old man in the glittery gold mesh see-through shirt was a "winner", for sure.  Ugh! 

We tried lots of disgustingly unhealthful but yummy fair food such as funnel cakes, pig "wings" and lemon shake-ups.  Mr. Gumby had to try this year's feature...the Donut Burger.  Yes, a hamburger patty with bacon, cheese, onion, tomato and pickles between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  I tried a bite, just to say I had, and it was surprisingly good.  There was a nice contrast between the sweetness of the doughnuts and the saltiness of the burger and bacon.  Do you what the funniest thing was about the whole thing??  Mr. Gumby's personal trainer is the one who told him how good the burgers were!!!  Yeah, Mr. Extremely Buff ate one earlier this week at the Fair and told Mr. Gumby how good they tasted!!  So, of course, Mr. Gumby needed to try one, too, since Mr. Extremely Buff suggested it. 

Yes, I am rolling my eyes at how ludicrous this all sounds!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hello and introduction

Hello, I'm Mrs. Gumby.  I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) at an elementary school.  My students are from more than ten different countries and all vary in their English language abilities.  The title of my blog, "Semper Gumby", is the informal motto I live by every day.   I never know from day to day what will drop into my lap, so I have to remain "Always Flexible"...just like Gumby!

I'm assisted by a wonderful paraprofessional, Mrs. Pokey.  I work daily with the lower level students (Emergents and Beginners) while Mrs. Pokey works two to three times per week with the upper level students (Intermediate and Advanced).  Together we make a dynamic team (or dynamite team, take your pick!).   So, pull up a chair and stay tuned for the further adventures of Mrs. Gumby.