Partners In Learning Blog Team

Partners In Learning Blog Team
Blog Team

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The power of peers

Recently I was witness to the power of peers. So often we hear about peer pressure and the bad effects it can have. We hear about bullying in school, people being bullied or picked on because they are different. Well there are times that our peers can influence us or support us in doing something we didn't think we could. Whether it is children cheering on a playmate, or applauding when a classmate receives an award or even when we get that smile or a simple you can do it. As a parent of a child with a learning disability often times it was the cheering on of a classmate or teacher that helped my son over that hurdle. It was someone other than a family member that made all the difference. See, sometimes I think that he expected us to cheer him on, but when it was a classmate, or teacher or friend that did, well that made all the difference! Children helping children. Children leading by example and telling one who can't, "just do it like this" or "Here, I will show you". Often times I have seen children step up and help a classmate who needs that little bit extra. When children with special needs are included it is a learning experience for everybody. They learn that everybody is unique in some way. They learn that the things that make us different are the things that make us all special.They learn empathy and compassion. They learn to accept each other and when we can do that at a young age the difference that can make as adults just might make the world a better place.

Monday, June 22, 2015

10 Questions You Shouldn't Ask

A rhetorical question is usually defined as any question that is asked for a purpose other than to obtain information that the question asks. These questions are usually meant to belittle or embarrass someone in a sarcastic way. The first time I realized asking rhetorical questions did nothing but hinder a difficult situation was about one year ago. I had all but 1 of my 18 kids lined up, sun-screened up, and ready to roll. I then looked at him and asked him in my nicest teacher voice, "Are you going to sit there under the table? Or are you going to join us outside on the playground?" DING! DING! I had instantly gave him the option to stay inside and sit under the table. By asking the question I set myself up for failure. I obviously already knew he would prefer to stay inside (c'mon Mrs. Sam he's sitting under the table!) he gave me an honest answer, it was not the one that I wanted but I did give him the option to answer honestly. So, with that being said I think it's safe to say that most children do not understand sarcasm and rhetorical questions. Because of this, I have been trying to train myself to stray from these types of questions. I would argue that these questions have been ingrained into our brains, and I still actively catch myself asking rhetorical questions but the difference is that I try my best not to. Here are 10 rhetorical questions I try to avoid asking (a child or anyone) and my version of their alternatives. 

Rhetorical Question #1
Why would that be okay?/Why did you do that? 

This doesn't work because obviously in their mind whatever they were doing was acceptable in their mind. Why did they do it? You know the answer, because they thought it was a good idea! C'mon!

Alternative to Say What You Mean
I don't like that you (insert behavior here). How could you have handled this situation better?
I don't like that you (insert behavior here). What could you have done instead of XYZ?

Rhetorical Question #2
Is this funny to you?/Why are you laughing?

This doesn't work because...wait for it... they are laughing... which indicates that hello Captain Obvious, there is something funny about whatever just happened.

Alternative to Say What You Mean
I understand that XYZ just happened and that you think it is funny, but now is not the time to laugh about it.
I do not think that XYZ is funny.
This is not appropriate right now because ABC.

Rhetorical Question #3
Is this how we act in our classroom/at our house/in public?

This does not work because they are (wherever you are) and yes, they are in fact acting like that.

Alternative to Say What You Mean
I do not like your behavior and it will not be tolerated (wherever you are) it is unacceptable because ABC.

Rhetorical Question #4
Are you still {doing what I asked you 500 times to stop doing} after we just talked about it?

This doesn't work, because like every other sassy thing I've said they are in fact doing what you have asked them not to do even if it is the 1st or 501st time you have asked them.

Alternative to Say What You Mean
You and I both know that we have had a conversation about (insert behavior here), it is important for you to stop doing (the behavior) because ABC. Here are some other things you can do instead of (the behavior). {Then tell them at least 2 or 3 things you'd like for them to be doing right now}.

Rhetorical Question #5
How many times have I said {XYZ}?

This doesn't work because unless you are actually keeping record of how many times you have said XYZ the question is irrelevant. 

Alternative to Say What You Mean
REPEAT THE DIRECTIONS IN A DIFFERENT FORM. If you told them word of mouth previously (and it obviously did not work) try another learning/teaching style such as writing it down or making your expectation into a song or hand motion. It's not them, it's you.

Rhetorical Question #6
What's wrong with you?

I'm not talking about "Aw, what is wrong? Are you okay?" Those are genuine questions you are inquiring an answer about. I'm talking about a child/person who looks upset, mad, or has an attitude and you ask "What's wrong with you?" You know what I'm talking about. This doesn't work because the child/person is already on edge and your tone and body language sounds/feels like you are attacking them.

Alternative to Say What You Mean
I can tell that you are upset/angry/etc. by the way your (describe one way you can tell their emotions from their body language) looks. What's going on? 

Rhetorical Question #7
What. Are. You. Doing? 

Again, like in #6 this is not a genuine "What are you doing?" as if you are curious. This is the mama bear/papa bear WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING?! This doesn't work because you can clearly see what they are doing and you don't like it. Don't set them up to lie.

Alternative to Say What You Mean
Excuse me, I can see that you are (doing whatever it is that you don't like) and I do not like it because (tell them why) can you please stop doing that.
I don't like that you are doing that. Please stop because (explain).

Rhetorical Question #8
Do you know why you are in trouble?

This doesn't work because you have one of two things (in my experience) either A they seriously have no earthly idea that whatever they just did was wrong, or B they have done more than one thing wrong and they aren't sure which one you caught them doing and they don't want to be in double trouble.

Alternative to Say What You Mean
You are going to (insert punishment/consequence here) for x amount of minutes because you (insert behavior) and that is not acceptable because (give reasons why it's not okay).

Rhetorical Question #9
Are you listening?

This doesn't work because I know from personal experience that I am a great listener when I doodle or do a multitude of other things. So yes, they may not be looking, or they might be playing with their shoe/shirt/insert other hand stimulant here but there is a slight possibility they are actually listening.

Alternative to Say What You Mean 
{If it is a one-on-one conversation}
I would like it if you looked at me when I am speaking to you.
Please do not play with that while we are talking.

{If is is a group setting}
I like the way (insert someone who is practicing the behavior you like/expect) is using his/her listening ears.
ABC eyes on me.

Rhetorical Question #10
Do you want to {do something you really like to do}?

This one is obvious why it doesn't work - who would chose to do something they don't want to do over something they would like to do? No one. Not even adults.

Alternative to Say What You Mean
I understand that you want to (do what you like) if you can do XYZ for me, I will let you have x amount of minutes to (do what you like to do).

Overall, I know that a lot of the 'why they don't work' comments I made are sarcastic, but it's the only way that I remember to think like a child. In a child's mind these are their reactions when we ask useless rhetorical questions. There are a multitude of other alternatives but these are just some of the ones that I like to use.

The day when we finally start to understand that children are hard-wired just like adults we can start to have more effective conversations that are respectful to both the adult and the child. After all, remember what your parents always used to say 'to get respect you have to give it' - and this motto goes both ways!

Until next Monday,
Sam Brown

Playing Outside

There are many reasons why children need to play outside. While children are expressing themselves freely and playing with others, they are improving their health.  Social skills are being developed while child are playing and sharing with others. Children are also expanding their attention span while playing games like tag or just racing around the bike track. Children love to play outside and explore with nature, this is a huge stress reducer for them, when all five senses are involved children are developing intellectually and physically. Playing outside promotes creativity and problem solving as well. Another benefit from playing outside is vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones. So let's go play outside!!!

Teachers love to play outside too!!!

Eyesight is being improved by using fine motor skills and focusing on little leafs on the ground 

Increasing physical activity

Building up social skills

Taking time to just smell the beautiful flowers using his senses 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Time Fun

Many parents are looking for low-cost or free activities to keep kids busy this summer. Playing in the sprinkler, climbing trees and catching lightning bugs don’t cost a thing, and they certainly make for happy childhood memories. I know I remember my childhood summer days playing outside, riding bikes, going from house to house to check in with our moms, each day eating lunch at a different friends house, staying out until just after dark. Because that's when you catch lightening bugs!! 
Below are just a few activities for each age group to help keep your summer fun.



Everything is new to babies, so they don’t need expensive vacations or structured camps to make important discoveries about the world.

Paper Shred

Babies are thrilled to start developing control over their surroundings and their limbs. Tearing paper appeals to little ones, because it allows them to use their new-found skills to change the way an object looks. It also makes a really cool sound. So gather newspapers, junk mail, magazines or recycled paper and let ‘em rip!

Beach Baby

Even if you can’t make it to the park, you can set up a beach party in your own backyard or on your kitchen floor. Lay a piece of newspaper or a tablecloth on the floor and fill a dishpan or other shallow container with sand or corn meal. Give your baby a cup, spoon, shovel or sifter and let him/her dig. This helps develop his/her fine motor skills and imagination as a bonus.


Once toddlers have mastered walking and running, there’s no slowing them down. Join in the action this summer by planning activities that will keep them on the move and make them tired enough to settle down for an afternoon nap!

Dance Party

Music appreciation classes for toddlers have become extremely popular. While they are fun and educational, they can also be expensive. Save big by cranking up the Ipod or CD player at home and wiggling away the afternoon with your child. Give him/her some simple instruments like, a shaker made from beans in an empty plastic jar, so he/she can get the beat. Toddlers like repetition, so don’t be afraid to play the same songs day after day.

Bubble Wrap Stomp

Don’t throw away the packing materials from your last mail order shipment! Spread out leftover bubble wrap on a hard surface like a wooden floor or driveway and let the dancing begin. Several kids stomping together can sound like firecrackers exploding, so it makes a great 4th of July celebration. You can even buy bubble wrap at local businesses, and it's not very expensive at all!! 


Treasure your preschooler’s enthusiasm. The day will come when he/she is too cool to get excited about trips to the playground or grocery store adventures, so make the most of low-key summer fun while you can!

Pudding Paint

Most children like to play with their food, and this is the season to let them. Tape paper to the sidewalk or a picnic table. Prepare instant pudding and add food coloring in your childs' favorite shades. Take off their shirts or put on old smocks and let them finger paint with a delicious treat. They can even lick their hands clean before you hose them off!

Take Off!

When it comes to vacations, many preschoolers get as excited about the transportation as they do about the destination. If your budget doesn’t allow for a plane trip this summer, you can still take kids to your local airport and watch the jets take off.

School-Age Kids

Older children are ready to start planning their own summer adventures, but may need a few ideas to get them started.

Flashlight Tag

There’s something magic about being allowed to play outside at dusk on a lazy summer evening. Make it even more memorable with a game of flashlight tag. Played at dark, this classic game combines tag with hide-and-seek. The person who is “it” counts to ten, or higher, while others hide. The person who is “it” must find the other players and call their name while shining a light on them to tag them. Just remember to not shine flashlight directly into the eyes. 

Backyard Camping

There’s no need to send youngsters to sleep away camps to get a taste of the great outdoors. Set up a tent in your own backyard, roll out the sleeping bags and melt marshmallows in the microwave for S’mores. If storm clouds or frightened children threaten the success of your campout, you can run inside to your own beds.

Two girls in a tent.

Scavenger Hunt

Set up your own amazing race by sending your child or a group of children hunting for simple treasures in your house, yard or neighborhood. Because it takes a little effort to come up with the clues, enlist an older sibling or neighbor to help out.

Small Business

There has never been a better time to teach your children the value of a dollar, so let children put the “small” back in small business. The old-fashioned lemonade stand or family yard sale remain good choices. But let your children’s interests and abilities guide them toward a fund-raiser that makes sense: a dog wash, a car wash, bake sale or lawn mowing service.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Teaching responsibility, how and when do you start?

As a parent of four children, most of whom are grown, I always wondered how to teach them responsibility and when do I start? well we can start when they are toddlers. Toddlers you say? Well, what can they possibly have to be responsible for? And, aren't we expecting too much from them at that age? Well, we know as educators that children's minds are like sponges from birth to five. They pick up on literacy in the womb from mom and dad reading to them. They learn to self sooth when they are upset.So let us see just how we can start this process of responsibility. As toddlers, especially in a child care setting, we can start them being responsible for their room- help the teacher put the toys away. Even if they don't know where it goes, just learning to pick it up and bring it to the teacher allows the child to help and to feel responsible for putting things away. As a parent we can do the same thing.Have them help you clean things up, bring things to you to put away. They are beginning to get a sense of responsibility (even if they don't realize what that is). With repetition and thanks and praise from mom and dad and caregivers, it will become a routine.They will begin to bring things to you without you even having to ask. As they get a little older, by putting the pictures on bins and shelves, the children will be able to start doing this themselves with some direction from you.With consistent routines and praise the level of responsibility grows. As children become a little older, they can begin to have actual job responsibility in the classroom. Something they can do for a whole week or two will give them something to be proud of. They will eventually remind you who has what job and they will tell them how to do it too. They will definitely not want someone else to do their job. It will become something they feel responsible for. As they become school-agers, the level of responsibility grows. Now we establish new routines, backpacks and lunchboxes, homework and agendas, papers to be signed. Start a routine early and stick to it. This is why schedules work so well. Children need that structure and when we work responsibilities into that it becomes a great learning opportunity for them. Teach them to be responsible early and the bigger lessons will be easier to teach. When we feel the urge to step in and do it ourselves, fight it, let them do it. Even if it turns out wrong, there is always a learning opportunity to be had. The things we teach them to be responsible for now will resonate with them in adulthood.