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Struggling with homework? Read this!
9/27/2022

Hey there,

Homework sucks: It takes a lot of patience to sit next to a child after a long day and encourage them to independently complete something you could do in 30 seconds. I'm going to give you a few simple tips to keep your child on task and model study skills they will need for college and beyond.

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  • Make a physical checklist โœ…: This suggestion came from a follower on instagram! Start with all the assignments and books on the left, and as you complete them stack them up on the right. Every time something is done let you child say "check โœ…." There is something so satisfying about a checklist!

If you know a family that's got the homework blues, encourage them to sign up for this newsletter. Send them this link. They can sign up and view previous newsletters

See you next week!

Natalie

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Why ban books when you could ban homework?
9/20/2022

Hey there,

Now that you're settled into the school year, I'm sure the honeymoon phase has ended and homework battles are beginning. When I taught, I personally hated assigning homework, but I can't say all teachers feel the same. In fact, homework is a huge controversy in schools and each one I taught at had a different policy. The "go to" rule of thumb has become about 10 minute per grade level plus 15-20 minutes of reading. Sure that works in the lower grades, but by the time you reach 5th grade that's over an hour of homework each night!

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So how do you manage it? Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing tips on how to make homework a productive time. This week will focus on you- next week will focus on your child.

Banned Books Week: Speaking of reading- it's Banned Books Week! I'll be posting a few satirical videos about children's books that were banned over the years. First up, is why the most innocent Dr. Seuss book was banned. Click below!

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If you know a family that's got the homework blues, encourage them to sign up for this newsletter. Send them this link. They can sign up and view previous newsletters

See you next week!

Natalie

โ€‹Subscribe to my youtubeโ€‹

โ€‹Follow me on Instagramโ€‹

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What we should do about low test scores
9/6/2022

Hey there,

The scores are in and... You may have seen in recent headlines that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released test scores from the end of last school year with dramatic results. Test scores for kids (specifically 9 year olds) dropped to their lowest levels in decades. The world of ed news is freaking out and I'm concerned.

What's going on? Iโ€™m not concerned about the drop in scores- with effort and consistency, that can be made up. Iโ€™m more concerned about the approach taken to fix low scores. In my career, Iโ€™ve sat in countless data meetings, data dinners, data dives, and data pep rallies focused on "lifting" data. The effort to lift the data often starts with cutting the fat -- or rather, the fun -- from schools.

My concern here is we are going to quantify a unique moment in time. The push to improve test scores will take the fun out of classrooms. Thereโ€™s already too much teaching to the test and drilling in US schools. What Iโ€™m seeing from the reaction to the test results is to expect even more of the same.

That means thereโ€™s no time for the arts, the fun electives, no time for field day, or the school play, no time for extra sports or all the things that make kids feel alive and part of a community at school.

We can't let these low test scores make schools unhappy places. So many kids are already under the pressure that their worth is a number- schools need to be well-balanced places where you are more than your grades.

After all, getting straight A's doesn't mean you're automatically a good person and leading a happy life.

So what can you do? If you have a child in school or work with them, make sure they are learning balance. The children who were in school during the pandemic have had it hard enough. Of course they need a well rounded education, but they also need to be kids. As the adults in the room, it's on us to make sure these headlines don't result in stress on our next generation.

Share this newsletter with a friend! ...and let me know what you think about the test scores.

Yours in education,

Natalie

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The piglets are here! ๐Ÿฝ
8/31/2022

Hey there: Just dropping in to let you know the piglet video is up! These piglets are the reason why I ended up at A Zoo 2 You in the first place. They stole my heart ๐Ÿ’– Share with a friend and watch below!

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Share this newsletter with a friend! ...And keep an eye out for more videos from the farm- Poppy the Kinkajou will be getting her own feature next.

Yours in education,

Natalie

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Click here for baby animals! ๐Ÿท ๐Ÿฆ™ ๐Ÿฎ
8/30/2022

I've been having some fun: In July I went to A Zoo 2 You in Monroe, NC to meet their animals. They run a mobile petting zoo business so they have lots of miniature farm animals and babies that love being near people. I spent hours filming with their animals. You can go there too- they do farm tours!

Something to watch: I need to humbly tell my husband he was right in this newsletter. He told me to wear jeans and I insisted on a dress for the video. As the video goes you can see it slowly get covered in mud ๐Ÿ˜‚ At least it all washed out! Here it is below:

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Share this newsletter with a friend! ...And keep an eye out for more videos from the farm- a second one focusing on piglets will be posting very soon.

Yours in education,

Natalie

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Published & Piglets ๐Ÿท yes, you read that right
8/16/2022

What's up? I published an article! Since I was in grad school it's been a goal to publish an article on education. I must admit, I did not think it would be about leaving my job, but I'll still check this goal off anyway. Check it out here:

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For those of you that know me from my former school, I want you to know I loved working there. I try to make it clear, but there were much larger forces at play that made my job difficult. If anything, the community and PTA at my school kept me in teaching longer. I'll be thinking of you all over the next few weeks as school starts!

What else am I up to? A few weeks ago I visited a farm and soon I will have several family friendly videos out about meeting all the baby animals. Spoiler: there were 4 day old piglets- they were so sweet! I plan to visit some more attractions soon to create virtual field trip videos. Here's a sneak peek!

โ€‹https://youtube.com/shorts/PUBzElj4pIg?feature=shareโ€‹

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Can you answer a question?: I'm planning for future newsletters and I'd love your feedback. Can you fill out this short survey?โ€‹

Share this newsletter with a friend! Thanks for reading- it means a lot ๐Ÿ’•

Yours in education,

Natalie

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Ain't no hollaback girl ๐ŸŒ
8/9/2022

My apologies for the song: I've asked around and everyone suggested this song for the newsletter. Fun fact- Rachel Zoe trademarked the word bananas...so let's hope the newsletter doesn't get canceled ๐Ÿ™„

But I digress: Over the past 5 weeks, this series this newsletter explored ways to support your child with phonics. Here are links to each one:

โ€‹#1 Let's talk phonicsโ€‹

โ€‹#2 What are letter boxes?โ€‹

โ€‹#3 a, e, i, o, u and sometimes...โ€‹

โ€‹#4 ...but why is it spelled like that?โ€‹

Make phonics fun: Phonics is hard work to teach, but as your child's skills grow, it can actually be really fun. There's a whole world of word games out there ranging from rhyming games to scrabble that can get your child thinking. Here are some of my favorites (some links are affiliate links to things I love that I will earn a small commission from. There's no extra cost to you):

โญ๏ธŽ a portable spelling game easy for road trips that will have you feeling like you ain't no hollaback girl

โญ๏ธŽ a simple game for early spellers- you can upgrade to the harder version when they're ready

โญ๏ธŽ a classic game for older spellers that will get the whole family thinking

A quick survey: I'm planning for future newsletters and I'd love your feedback. Can you fill out this short survey?โ€‹

Share this newsletter with a friend! Thanks for reading- it means a lot ๐Ÿ’•

Yours in education,

Natalie

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...but why is it spelled like that?
8/2/2022

We've made it past sounding out: Teaching a child to spell starts off simple (cat, dog, etc.), but quickly gets challenging (like the word "orange" ...wtf?!). English is a language that not only has a lot of rules, but has borrowed countless words from other languages. Take words like: tofu, restaurant, lasagna, and khaki...these will leave even the finest tutor just spelling it out.

But why is is spelled like that? A lot of these words will leave learners shocked, wondering why it is spelled that way. As usual there's not a great answer...and we all know kids aren't satisfied with a vague answer ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ. You've got two options:

๐Ÿ˜Ž The easy way: Tell them "it's from another language." Every language has its own special spelling patterns. When English speakers borrowed this word, we kept the way it was spelled. This is particularly helpful to explain why names are spelled certain ways.

The easy way, pt. 2: I also have an explanation for words like "know" or "are" that do match a spelling pattern, but one that is a little odd. In these cases, I explain that English is a very old language. People used to spell and pronounce things differently. Even though most of our words make sense to spell now, there are still some that we have just kept the same from the olden days.

๐Ÿฅธ The hard way: The easy way is good and all, but what if it's on a spelling test?? Check if you can find any words spelled similarly. Like you could compare the word restaurant to sauna. That way they will have more associations with its spelling.

Have a laugh with your kiddo about the strange spelling and then get to work memorizing it. Write it, search for it, and fill in the missing letters in it (r_sta_rant). Once you think they've got it, show the word spelled three ways to see if they can pick out the correct spelling.

Before you go, I need your help: After next week I'll be moving on from phonics. I'd love to get some feedback on what you're interested in hearing about. I could do another series like this or keep topics changing week by week. Respond to this email with what you do or do not want to read. Thanks! ๐ŸŽ

Share this newsletter with a friend! Just send them this link: https://newsletter.primaryfocus.tv/โ€‹

I'll be back next week with the final edition of my series on phonics!

Yours in education,

Natalie

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a, e, i, o, u and sometimes...
7/26/2022

Oh yes, vowels: The way we pronounce vowels can change the meaning of a word (bow ๐ŸŽ€ vs bow ๐Ÿ™‡โ€โ™‚๏ธ) and create accents and dialects. As a fluent speaker of Mid Atlantic English, California English, and Southern English my husband can always tell who I'm on the phone with based on a few changes in vowel pronunciation.

Vowels take time: While these five little letters a, e, i, o, u (cue a 2nd grader screaming "and sometimes y!") may seem straight forward, they often take the longest time to teach and learn. Consider this: children should know their letters confidently by the end of kindergarten, but they will continue to learn new vowel sounds and spelling patterns through second grade.

In my experience, children that speak multiple languages struggle the most with vowels since their sounds vary so much. Even if they speak fairly fluently, spelling with the correct vowels will take time.

Ok but why?: Consonant sounds are created using your whole mouth, teeth, lips, and tongue. To make the "f" sound you need to touch your teeth to your lips. To make the "l" sound you need to touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. To make vowel sounds, you just open your mouth and let the sound come out (I bet you're making those sounds right now).

Sure it's simple, but if you aren't making the sound correctly, heard it wrong, or have an accent it can be hard to correct. It really takes practice, memorization, and a grasp of the language to master vowel sounds.

How can we practice? (some links are affiliate links to things I love that I will earn a small commission from. There's no extra cost to you)

โญ๏ธŽ This puzzle will get your child thinking critically about vowel sounds

โญ๏ธŽ I had a spelling flip book like this in my classroom. Kids love it and will be delighted with the real and nonsense words they can create.

โญ๏ธŽ Practice filling in the missing vowel in words. You can try this in my packet on spelling CVC words!

โญ๏ธŽ And finally my favorite song about the long and short vowel sounds- it's so mellow

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Did you learn something new? I'd love it if you would forward this to a friend!

I'll be back next week with part 4 of my five part series on phonics!

Yours in education,

Natalie

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Let's talk phonics...
7/12/2022

This is email 1 of 5 in my series on phonics: Over the next 5 weeks I'll share a series on phonics in this newsletter. It will have tips for those working with kids and plenty of fun facts for those following along to support (hi mom!)

Let's talk phonics: Phonics simply means the method used to teach reading and writing. It's for languages with an alphabet- like English and it's not for the faint of heart.

We're all just making it up as we go...seriously look up Deseret Image: Rain Noeโ€‹

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Why?: Well, reading and writing is complicated! It's freaking hard to explain it and there is so much to learn.

Educators are still arguing about the best approach and youโ€™ll probably observe many abrupt changes over the years (especially with testing). Don't get caught up in that though! If you commit as a family to prioritize school you can take on anything...even phonics ๐Ÿ˜œ

How can I help?: Phonics is taught most heavily in Preschool to 2nd grade, then it tapers off. It's essential that a child has help outside of school to succeed. The good news is, reinforcing it doesn't have to be hard:

โญ๏ธŽ Read together. Every Day. Period.

โญ๏ธŽ When you teach the alphabet focus more on the letter's sound than its name. Say: W says /w/ like in walrus instead of Walrus starts with letter W. Watch more alphabet tips here!

โญ๏ธŽ Build writing into your routine- the more comfortable your kiddo is with writing, the easier it will become. Family journals are a really fun way to keep up with it. Here's a video on how to do it.

Share this newsletter with a friend and ask if they've signed up for my email list.

I'll be back next week with tips on how to spell using letter boxes!

Yours in education,

Natalie

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A new beginning
6/28/2022

I resigned: Until recently, I thought I would teach for my entire career. I felt sad and defeated as I packed up my classroom, but I knew "it's about damn time."

Why? There's a lot of reasons, but a big one is- at some point I stopped getting to teach. More and more responsibilities were getting piled on me and my colleagues. Endless testing, data input, surveys, meetings, and trainings filled up my to do list. I didn't have time to plan or prepare for lessons. Instead everything was about completing a bottom line for someone, somewhere in an office that needed to have a meeting about it. Teachers have limited time without students during the day- I had 15 minutes before and after school daily, and less than 3 hours a week of planning time. To avoid working endlessly outside of work hours I had to cut corners on the very reason why I was at work: teaching.

I'm passionate about what I do, and at some point I realized the joy had been taken out of my job. I'm not so far in that I can quietly countdown the years til retirement- carrying on meant committing to this joyless busy work for 10-20 more years. I realized to survive I would have to stop caring... and how does that even work when you're in the business of caring?

So what's next?: Well... this- I'm going to be expanding Primary Focus into my full time business. Here's some things to look forward to:

โญ๏ธŽ More videos! If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them (respond to this email!). My 3 main focuses are videos for parents/teachers to watch, videos to watch with kids, and videos with some "Perso-Natalie" that are about me ๐Ÿ˜‰

โญ๏ธŽ Selling teaching resources on my blog & TeachersPayTeachersโ€‹

โญ๏ธŽ Expanding my blog and publishing on education websites

I'm planning a lot, but I'm also giving myself time to rest and reflect. It's heartbreaking to leave something I love so much, but I hope I can leave education better than I found it. You can hear my thoughts on it with my newest video here:

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Share this video with a friend and ask if they've signed up for my email list. It's the easiest way to support me.

I'll be back in your inbox soon with more updates on videos, teaching tips, materials for your kids, and education news.

Yours in education,

Natalie

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No more negotiating!
6/21/2022

No Means No: I think TLC had it right when they wrote No Scrubs- there is nothing more annoying than someone who just can't take a hint! ๐Ÿ˜ค Unfortunately for parents and educators, we are the ones who have to teach kids when to stop trying and accept no for an answer.

The problem is, that puts us in the position of saying no and enforcing the boundary. When I first started teaching that was very hard for me. It made me feel like I was being mean to kids. I was also completely inconsistent. I'd say yes to one kid and no to another. Crying and whining made me feel bad, so I'd change my mind. My classroom became unruly, and the kids had the upper hand as they quickly learned how to manipulate me. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

I got some golden advice from my teacher coach that changed everything:

โญ๏ธŽ say what you mean and mean what you say! following through is everything

โญ๏ธŽ no matter how much kids push back, classrooms/homes with consistent rules and procedures are comfortable places to be...the other option is chaos ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

โญ๏ธŽ anticipate problems so you can stay calm in the moment- consider meaningful consequences ahead of time so you can handle issues swiftly

...what are meaningful consequences?

watch my newest video to find out!

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Share this video with a friend that could use a little help with their teacher stare- it works wonders on kids!

I'll be back in your inbox soon with more updates on videos, teaching tips, materials for your kids, and education news.

Yours in education,

Natalie

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Hey- it's Miss Natalie!
6/14/2022

Summer Slide: During those hot summer days, all your child's progress this year can be drifting away...that's what Sandy and Danny were singing about in Grease right?

Summer slide sucks and it happens to all kids. Imagine the school year is a ladder. They spend all year building up knowledge and skills climbing up it. Once school is out, many children will "slide" back down the ladder. The average child will lose 2-3 months of learning and some lose even more.

A child's brain goes through a process called pruning. Just like you would prune a bush, their brain snips off information not being used. That's right- when it comes to the child's brain it's use it or lose it!

The good news is, you can take easy steps to help your child retain their knowledge. Commit to reading, reviewing, and critical thinking this summer.

I challenge you to:

๐ŸŒด read every day (look for your library's summer reading program and Barnes & Noble has one too)

๐ŸŒด Review a little daily- 5-10 minutes with flashcards is all you need

๐ŸŒด Pick out educational camps and visit museums, historical sites, and parks. These interactive experiences will have education built in!

My favorite products to help you commit to learning every day:

๐ŸŒด Brain Quest Summer Workbooksโ€‹

๐ŸŒด Summer Bridge Workbooksโ€‹

๐ŸŒด Nat Geo Kids Triviaโ€‹

You can also use some of my videos to review:

Here's my playlist of videos to teach math at home. It includes 4 subitizing games!

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of long road trips and wait time this summer:

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And finally my favorite- how to keep a summer journal the whole family can write in:

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Thanks for subscribing to my email list. This was my very first one ๐Ÿ˜„

I'll be back in your inbox soon with more updates on videos, teaching tips, materials for your kids, and education news.

Yours in education,

Natalie

โ€‹Subscribe to my youtubeโ€‹

โ€‹Follow me on Instagramโ€‹

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