When I am more prepared.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

My students know what they are expected to do.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

My students are NOT as crazy, and my classroom management works SO much better.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

My students are given different ways to learn the same concepts and ideas.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

I am more patient with my students.

When I am more prepared as a teacher…

I am a happier teacher, and therefore I have happier students.

Just a little post to remind myself, and all of us, to be prepared for each and every lesson. Teaching is my passion, and that often means putting in more hours than the eight to five allotted time slot. But if it means I do my job better… I am going to do it!

What do you do to help yourself be prepared? I remember Jee Young mentioning once that she tries to start her lesson planning for the next week by the Tuesday before. We know in elementary especially that our lesson plans need to be flexible, and can usually change as we are teaching them… so it’s hard to plan multiple weeks at a time, once lesson may take two lessons. Two lessons might be finished in one. What I am trying to say is that I need to make it a goal to try to start lesson planning by tomorrow or Wednesday for next week! I can do it.

Goals are good. Students have goals. Teachers need goals as well. What are some of your goals this year?


Does this photo have anything to do with this post? No. But I LOVE all the owl things I found at the Teacher Center store over the summer. I felt very clever when I designed my door this year. “Whoooooo’s in Kindergarten with Ms. Welton?” All the name tags for EVERYTHING are owls. Those owls are so wise.



a Wall of Art

Hello friends and fans of two apples a day. It is Jee Young’s long-lost blogging partner-in-crime, Melody! Working and living abroad can sometimes involve crazy visa and paperwork challenges. Here I am standing on the other side, and I can tell you, if you want to teach internationally— the paperwork and, at times, crazy stress, that goes with it— is totally worth it.

Jee Young’s last post explained one of her beginning of the year projects she did with her fifth graders. I chose to do the same thing I did last year— self-portrait drawings (and at the end of the year they will draw themselves again, it is amazing to see how much they grow in Kindergarten)— only I displayed it much more prominently in the room.

My grade teaching partner had this idea of an art wall in the classroom. I created frames and a few times throughout the year we will rotate the students art to hang on the wall. I went a little crazy decorating each frame differently, if the students were older I would have them make their own frame.

If you have space in your classroom, I highly recommend hanging up some frames (bought or handmade) and displaying some of your students work. They love to see their work on the walls of the classroom, and not just in the art room. You could rotate different students so that you don’t have to have 26 frames on the wall (though that is what I did, hehe).

I can’t wait to see what their self-portraits look like at the end of the year!

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More posts soon!


Why do we read?

The day after I asked my students why we write, I asked the next logical question. Why do we read? You can tell who gave similar responses to the first question, Why do we write?

Again, these are their word for word responses:

  • Because we can then write words
  • To get smart
  • To be a strong reader
  • So we can learn more words
  • And we could learn more how to write stuff when we are writing our stories
  • Because God might tell us to be an author/reader
  • To be good at writing
  • When someone is sad we can read them a funny book
  • We read to understand the story by using the pictures (“Yes, that is very important!” youngest boy chimes in)
  • Because when we get to second grade we can read cursive in books
  • We need to understand words
  • We need to learn all by ourselves
  • So we can read to Ms. Welton

I love listening to my students. Their responses always surprise and impress me. Why do YOU read?

This diagram was floating around Facebook last week. I thought it was interesting. I want my students to grow up to be successful!



Why do we write?

A simple question I asked my kindergarten students yesterday.

These were their responses (in order, and almost word for word):

  • We write to practice writing books, because God might tell us to be an author
  • We write to learn
  • We write so we don’t look at what other people write
  • So we can write what we are thinking
  • We write to learn our letters
  • If a person is sad, we can cheer them up by writing a funny story
  • So they can learn more and so that when we write we don’t try peaking (at what others write)
  • If we grow up  and we don’t know how to write we won’t know what to do (at this my youngest boy said, “Yes, that makes sense, I think!” It was so cute)
  • If we don’t know how to write the word we think with our head and write
  • Sometimes, if we want to write a letter to God and we don’t know how to write we can’t do that

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The kinders have spoken. What do you think? Why do we write?


Websites that I L-O-V-E

Due to the limited resources at my school, my fellow colleagues and I have had to get creative at times. One of the teachers found this great read aloud website (the actual website doesn’t look pretty or amazing, but the links to the read aloud books are fantastic!):

Stories for the Classroom

Our favorite book so far: The Fire Station

I also love this handwriting website because we don’t have these worksheets in our curriculum. This website is great because I can generate my own handwriting sheets in whatever style I want and I can choose what I want the students to be working on.

Handwriting the way YOU WANT IT!

Do you know that if you sign up for Teachers pay Teachers (TpT) newsletters they send you a weekly e-mail with 10 free downloads across all grade-levels, and they are always freebies that relate to the month/timing in curriculum as well? Thank you for that TpT!

Jee Young has shared this website before, but it is one that I L-O-V-E, because it has GREAT bulletin board ideas. Can’t wait to have a bulletin board again.

Bulletin Board Ideas

I always, always, always, love free things. These are two of my favorites because they compile freebies from a multitude of awesome teachers:

Classroom Freebies


A website I just found and will now be exploring during my lunch break:

Open Culture: The best free cultural and educational media on the web (according to them)

Well, just wanted to shoot a few websites your way!

What are your favorite sites for resources?


Guest Blog Post: Blogging in the Classroom

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This week’s guest post comes from Mr. Mat Wachtor, who has had the pleasure of working with both myself and Jee Young. He is currently the lead Middle and High School English teacher at an international school in Seoul. Mat is passionate and dedicated to the teaching profession and seems to be leading a seminar every other day (according to my facebook newsfeed)! He was kind enough to give us a post on how he integrates student blogs into his teaching.

“This semester we are getting rid of paper journals, and moving online.”  This is how I started my high school English language arts classes on the first day of the Spring 2012 semester.  When I came to my current international school, I instituted a journal writing program into all of the high school classes (easy to do since I was the only high school ELA teacher at the time).  My rationale was to get students writing and engaging with various topics: creative, personal, school, and classroom topics.  However, after having piles and piles of student notebooks each Friday I quickly desired change.  Thus, the idea to get students’ blogging was born.

Personally, I have gone through quite a few of the blogging phases: Xanga, Myspace, Facebook Notes, Blogspot, and now Tumblr.  One day as I was searching the education hashtag on Tumblr, I came across an article about how the benefits of student blogging.  I began imagining what it would look like if I implemented a student blogging into my course.  It would simplify collecting journals, and would also allow for greater student responsibility on their part to do their homework.

I chose Tumblr because of its features: following blogs, news feeds, comments, and customization.  Students would be able to see my post in their blog feed when they logged in, and then write their own responses for me to see.  I customized my Tumblr page to have various sections for keeping up with homework, Youtube resources, and school announcements.  I tried to make it as much of an all in one stop for a student as possible.

wachtor's blog

Students were also able to customize their blogs as well, and follow each other.  This allowed for students to comment positively (yes, I monitored the comments) on each others journal posts.  This also helped with EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students as it gave them samples for how to respond to the questions.

studnet custom blog 1student custom blog 2

Each Monday I would start off class by explaining the journal topic for the week, which I actually posted on Sunday mornings for those who were eager to do their homework.  Students would then have until Friday 5pm to post their responses.  Responses were assessed based on the length and how accurately they responded to the question.  In order for students to know that I graded their journal assignment I “liked” their post, and would occasionally post feedback by commenting.  This system also helped keep my records in order!


Since the nature of blogs are social, I encouraged various extra credit assignments that required photos or videos.  My goal was not only to educate students on how to use the internet as a form of communication, but also to have them understand how to positively use social networks.  One of these extra credit assignments was to post pictures from your spring break.  Before leaving for break I announced that I would be traveling to Chicago to visit family, and the could follow different parts of my trip on my blog.  Thus, they would receive extra credit for posting a picture with a quick thirty word explanation.

spring break wachtor

spring break student

Blogging as a class can be very exciting and fun!  Remember to set rules for the students to follow so that the community is safe and free to express themselves.  Happy blogging^^

Reading Buddies: Not just for Reading!

Jee Young and I have offered many blog posts about reading buddies during our first year of blogging. It just made sense seeing how our two classes used to hang out once a week when we worked at the same school, we loved reading buddies!

Tips for Successful Reading Buddies

Students teaching Students

Reading Buddy Activity for Poetry

End of the Year Book Buddy Activity

This year I am coordinating the reading buddy activities for the whole elementary school, since our school is small we all have reading buddies at the same time— and with each other! As I am trying to find reading activities that fit ages ranging from kindergarten to fourth grade I am realizing more and more that reading buddies are so much more than just reading together. My younger students look forward to it every week, a chance to hang out (in a class like setting) with the older students, who wouldn’t want that?

This year we have been able to not only read together, but they’ve been able to do art projects together, they have played games together, they  co-authored a math story book, they have colored, they have laughed, they have learned how to communicate with people outside their age group.

banagrams math

I readily admit though, that watching these students read to each other and with each other, and ask each other questions— that is my absolute favorite part of reading buddies!

I just typed in “reading buddies” into pinterest to check out how many boards there are, I am about to have a field day! I love that new things are always popping up there.

What are some great activities you do with reading buddies?


Guest Blog Post: Art with Children during Fallas – Oh My!

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I am thrilled to introduce you to this week’s guest blogger: Sarah! She hails from my home state, Michigan, and is currently teaching at an international school in Valencia, Spain. After reading this post, I want to apply to teach in Spain immediately and enjoy Las Fallas. Is there an opening at your school Sarah?!

Living in Valencia, Spain in early springtime is exciting.  The weather starts to change, restaurant terraces are open, orange trees start to blossom and there is a lingering scent of Las Fallas in the air.  Hard to believe a holiday has a scent but this one does!  Not most people outside of Spain or Europe know about this holiday but let me tell you, it’s a big deal.  As an annual celebration, only in the Valencian province, beginning March 12th until March 19th, Las Fallas honors the carpenter Saint Joseph.  For people who live and work in the city, it’s a holiday that you either love or hate.  But for a schoolteacher who works in Valencia, it’s a holiday you have to recognize.

This is my second year working at a private school here in Valencia and as part of the curriculum; we study Las Fallas.  We study it in Spanish, Music, and Art.  Think about the last one: Art.  That’s right.  As part of the celebration in the school, every class must make a small “falla” based on the year’s theme.  Now, being a first-second grade teacher, this is a complicated task (It would be for any year group!), but I’m lucky enough to have the little ones of the school so my falla planning has to be well thought-out and organized.

For the year’s theme, we choose languages and countries.  At my school the children study five different languages – FIVE!  So we teachers thought it would be a good idea to have the children learn more about the countries, rather than just the languages.  Every year group was assigned a different country and told to construct a monument, landmark, or something large-scaled, that could represent the country.

My year group was lucky enough to have the United States (helped me in terms of planning!) but we also have teachers from Australia, England, China, Spain and France at the school.  As I said, every year group took a country and designed a falla to contribute.  You can use whatever materials you want, cardboard, paper-mache, wood, paper, ect., the only requisite is that it needs to be big.

With my kids and the United States, I decided to do a California theme.  I have three classes at this school and with the three classes I decided to have them build something together to contribute and make a big California falla.  One class took San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, I assigned another class the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, and finally I gave one class the beaches of Southern California (think San Diego).  It’s taken us nearly 5 weeks to make these large-scale models but it’s been really fun and enlightening!


     Art can be amazing with little ones.  I use to dread art classes with them because I thought they weren’t capable of doing such great things, but I’m wrong.  They’re so eager to help you set things up, prepare things, try new ideas, they don’t really mind if the project doesn’t turn out exactly how you wanted it to be.  Although it might be overwhelming to work with twenty seven-year olds at one time to make a huge installation, it’s definitely worth it if you are well-organized and have all the right materials.  After Fallas, I’m thinking about doing some big art installations to make to decorate the classroom.  They just love collaborating making things together, which is a theme I never stop talking about in class.  It’s something they can all be proud of when the product is finished and can look at it and say, “I made part of that!”  I’ll tell you, it’s quite impressive to see what these little ones can do together when they’re excited about something!

Digital Research: The Double Edged Sword?

I recently got an e-mail from Allison over at OnlineEducation.Net, who came across this post about the ISTE conference in San Diego, Jee Young wrote last spring.

Allison explained that she helped create a graphic that, “examines how todays students are conducting research in the digital era, as well as the impact technology is having on the quality of their research.”

I thought the graphic was interesting and wanted to share it, so here it is!

digital research image

What do you think about these statistics? To me, most of them make sense, especially concerning how distracting technology can be. It is an amazing tool we have, the internet, but when not used correctly— can be a student’s biggest downfall. There are a lot of arguments to be made for both cases.

I like the three tips at the end for how to research better, as I myself fall victim to multitasking. I am learning more and more how NOT to do that.

Speaking of technology, a school I heard about during my graduate studies that I found really interesting is Waldorf School in California, a school that doesn’t allow computers in the classrooms… I have to admit, after reading this article, I was intrigued. I am not saying that I completely agree with the article, if I had an iPad, you better believe I would be using learning apps in my Kindergarten classroom. Still… I like to look at both sides of the coin.


Social Studies in the International Classroom

Hello! Does anyone else find it hard to teach an American curriculum in an international classroom, especially when it comes to Social Studies? My students are still really young, and they have almost no grid for America. Everything in our curriculum constantly points to the names of the states, the white house, the statue of liberty, and the liberty bell, and so on and so forth. Obviously, there are things that are relate-able and easily transferable… like communities, and citizens, and laws, etc.

BUT I find myself searching for more and more extra activities to do during Social Studies to help “fill in the blanks” and have it make sense to them. Right now we are discussing the past and the present, how things have changed, what does a long, long time ago mean, lalala. This morning I found CrissCross Applesauce in First Grade and a couple of years ago Holly made this awesome freebie. I am totally doing it today! I will update this post later with some of their pictures (if they are cute, haha).


As an international teacher, what do you do when you teach social studies?!



My favorite response was when my kindergarten girl said, “When I was a baby I could drink my mommy’s milk!”

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