Types of Play and How they Help Children Develop

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A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about the
extinction of play in terms of what everyone considers play and how play has changed over the years. As early childhood professionals we know and understand that play is a child’s vehicle to learning and exploring. We must get others to better understand how the role of play contributes to a child’s development.  

Child-initiated play is becoming less valued and even extinct.  It is being replaced by social media, technology, over enrollment in activities and even teacher directed learning. There are different types of play that we should be advocating for as early childhood professionals.

  1. Functional Play:  As a teacher I used to show my children how to play. They were unsure how to play in the housekeeping center and pretend that objects were things, and that anyone could be a dog, a cat, or even a doctor. I modeled for them how to use objects like an Irion, or a coffee pot. Sometimes I think we forget that children need to be shown how to do things and what things are and or how to pretend and use their imagination, because they don’t have to anymore, they are engaged in other things that entertain them. 
  2. Constructive Play: This can be included in many aspects of the classroom, but a good example would be the block center.  When a child is using their imagination to build something new they are constructing something and trying to make sense of the world. I would make sure to take pictures of anything a child made, a building, a roadway, a book and even playdough creations. 
  3. Symbolic Play: This is when a child uses one object for something else.  For example they may push a block for a car, use an umbrella for a walking cane and or a chair for a wheel chair. 
  4. Games with Rules: Teachers usually make these up like how to put together a puzzle, or how to play a game.  But children after using imagination can make up game and even their own rules.  This will come later, but as you watch they may come up with a game similar to one you have taught but change it to fit whatever it is they are doing.

There are many types of play we observe.  Children can play alone (solitary), with another child, in a group, there can be structure or pleasure play, unoccupied play, and even onlooker play. As stated by Bredekamp (2017), “play contributes to language development, self-regulation, attention, creatively, problem solving, and social and emotional skills (p. 133). No matter the type of play a child is engaging in, they are learning to use their imagination, creativity, modeling, creation skills, social and language skills, time management and sticking with a job,  and math and problem solving and other things we can’t or might not see.

As early childhood professionals we must ensure that our students have time to play and that we schedule this time.  We need to explain to families and administrators why play is vital in a  child’s learning and development. Document and highlight when play is covering skills that are required of your teaching by the national, state and local educational bodies.

Why do children like to play?:

  1. Play is enjoyable
  2. They get to choose what they are doing
  3. The teacher is not in charge
  4. Play makes them feel good about themselves
  5. Children like to be challenged
  6. Children like to think and do

As you set your classroom up this new year, set it up so children are successful and play is visible. Children are learning more through play then we can teach them.   You can actually document a child’s play and development with Kaymbu and instantly document digitally! Having structured teacher-directed time is an important part of your day, but play must also be documented on your daily schedule. Think back to your philosophy and how you know and understand that children grow and develop.

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:


9 Simple Tools to Prevent Teacher Burnout!

The first year of teaching is a huge adjustment.  I remember 12 Hour Days with excessive amounts of work to complete. I had a hard time keeping my head above water.  By the second year, I was making changes to help manage my schedule-– I knew what I needed to do, I could spot problem behaviors, issues, etc.  Teacher Burnout comes around fast unless you start loving what you do. Follow these tips to keep you and the rest of your teaching team from feeling drained!

 1) Be Organized
Prepare, collect, construct and set-up the classroom at the end of each day so that it is ready for children the next morning.  This way when you arrive at school you have time relax, and welcome children and families to the new day. (Checklist, planners, notes).

image via Daily Mail

2) Collaborate with Others/ Mentors
Often times there are veteran teachers in your buildings or a team of teachers that will share and collaborate on ideas that work well.  Befriend these people and share and “steal”. When you share ideas everyone wins, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

image via NEAMB

3) Observe and Self Reflect
Take time to observe other classrooms and teaching styles.  Look at classroom set up, daily schedules and routines, transitions, procedures, curriculum, bulletin boards, notes home etc.  Teachers want to share.  Then invite teachers into your classroom. Show off the wonderful ideas you have too.  Take notes and pictures and challenge yourself to implement or change one thing you saw that you liked.

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4) Try Something New
Here is the challenge, try something new like a center, a new curriculum, song or transition.  Research, attend workshops, observe and follow other professional Pinterest boards and social media.  Make a goal for yourself to try something new and exciting/engaging each week. This can spark a new excitement!

Learn More about  Planning and Implementing Effective Centers!

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5) Get To Know your Families
Family Engagement is a vital to your success in teaching.  When you build strong family communication and reciprocal relationships that are trusting, compassionate and caring, you and your students win!

These relationships can make your job so much easier and less stressful.  When families respect and trust you because you have taken time to get to know them, you will be happier and more successful.

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6) Love your Administration and the People you work with
I have always said that finding a job and interviewing is like a marriage.  When you find the right fit, with the right people, you are the happiest.  You either love going to teach or you dread getting out of bed.

Make sure you believe in what your school philosophy, atmosphere and teachers do and say. When you love the people you work with and respect what they do and what they stand for you are happier.

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7) Find Your Style
What works for others does not necessarily work for you.  A very strict and rigid teacher down the hall may look like she has it all together but your organized chaos is what works well in your room for your children.  Outside of the classroom, do you like to work on a Saturday morning?  Do you want to take work home at night? Figure out works in your life and your schedule and do what is best for you and your classroom community.

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8) Don’t Do Everything at Once
No matter if it is your first year or 10th year, you can’t do everything at once, or change your entire classroom at one time.  This is gradual and should be.  The children in your community already have expectations they follow, schedules they know and they are used to the way it is.  Change slowly, don’t stress yourself out.  You will eventually get there.

image via Busy Mommy Media

9) Build A Community
Building a community of learners, where each person has a responsibility to make sure the community runs smoothly allows all learners to contribute and feel valued. When children feel like they matter and are needed, they will try harder, they will want to please and not let others down. They learn to take responsibility for their actions and make positive choices.

If I could think of one thing I would change from all the years I taught, it would be to get to know my students better.  I thought I did this, and I individually talked and discussed with each student every single day, but I don’t think you can ever do it enough.

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As you decide what helps you prevent Teacher Burnout,  take a moment to decide what it was that inspired you to teach.  Start there.  Then go to the list and decide what will work best to find that spark again. I challenge you to do something different!  How can you make your classroom better?  How will you engage families and show them they are a valued part of your classroom community?  1,2,3 GO!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:








School is about to start: Now What?

image via preschoology

Your classroom is being decorated and you feel pretty confident about what you are doing and what you have planned. Self-reflection is the best way to ensure you are growing as a professional– this, in addition to keeping abreast of current topics and new ideas in your field. Your classroom should be ever changing but like I used to say “my classroom runs like a well-oiled machine” but it can break every now and then.  And that is OK!

Here are some things to start or continue doing to be the best possible teacher you can:

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1) Start or continue your classroom website/blog:  This allows you to stay in contact with families and allows families to better understand what is going on in your classroom.  Your website also gives you the opportunity to add and change pages that show your curriculum, pictures of centers, share recipe ideas etc.  Here is an example: www.busyclassroom.weebly.com  This will be something you will want your families to visit frequently.

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2) Have your first Parent Party: Parent Parties should be conducted as soon as possible after the first week of school.  This is different than the “Back To School” night. Here is an article that provides more information about   Parent Parties.  As the new year begins challenge yourself to step outside the box and try these to build relationships with families.

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3) Continue to Develop your classroom: everyday you are learning about the new students in your classroom. This set of students is different from any you have ever had.  Differentiate and ensure that your centers, your classroom set up, your transitions, routines and even the schedule reflect on the new students you have.

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4) Teach Procedures over and Over:  You want your classroom to run like a well oiled machine.  From the very first day of school teaching your students what to and how to be a member of the classroom community is vital.  You may have to go over and over what you expect but eventually it will become second nature.  If a procedure is not completed correctly for example: walking down the hall with voices off, looking straight ahead, hands behind back, turn around and start over. The more you do and the more it is practiced correctly the more routine it becomes.

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5) Schedules
: Try different things.  Sometimes something may work the first couple of weeks and then it doesn’t work after that.  Maybe you are teaching Kindergarten and students are exhausted after lunch but you had big plans for the afternoon.  Flexibility is key and it is OK to change what you are doing and when you are doing it.

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6) Continually learn about each student:  Make your students the number one priority while you are there.  Ask them questions, find out about interests and then incorporate those interests into your curriculum and your thematic planning including center areas.

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7) Get your students excited about learning!  Be the teacher that welcomes his/her students each day and is excited to be there.  Love learning, show students and model what it means to be a learner and a part of the classroom community.

You are in control of how your classroom runs. You are in charge of waking up each day being positive and excited to teach your students.  Show your students that you care about them, their families and cultivating the best classroom community possible.

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:


What Can Teachers Do To Get Ready for School?

image via KidSpot

Every summer I tried to prioritize what I was going to do to get ready for the next school year. I wanted my classroom to be engaging, fun, inviting and a place that I wanted to be each day. This will give you ideas on things you can do this summer to refresh for the fall and prepare for a fantastic first week of school!

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 1) Pick a theme: Each year I liked to have a new classroom theme. Some that I have used before are: Jungle, Smiley Faces, Oklahoma, Beach etc. I wanted my classroom to be fun and engaging for my students and families, and I liked having something fresh to look at each year! Teachers spend a lot of time in their classrooms and so, it should be homey and warm. This theme was always separate from what my thematic units were each week and added to the classroom décor and atmosphere. This way my classroom not only felt exciting, it also looked awesome! (don’t forget that first impressions are what people remember)!

image via LACounty

2) Review your curriculum: Is there anything new that you want to try? I changed, added or redeveloped my curriculum often.  Some curriculum that I have tried are Frog Street Press, Literacy First, Letter People, and I developed Classroom Mascots which I developed a small curriculum on my own. Find something you believe in and that works for you and your students.

image via Kentucky Department of Education

3) Professional Development:  This was one of my favorite things to do in the summer because it always refreshed me, my thinking and my teaching practices.  It also gave me up to date ideas and curriculum that work.  Some that I have really enjoyed are: Dr. Jean, NAEYC, Great Expectations, Bal-A-Vis-X Training,  and Parents as Teachers. Often times we have to use the curriculum our school requires, but you can always add things to make it better.

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4) Pinterest :  I think it’s important for teachers to get ideas from colleagues and peers.  This includes finding websites that showcase other’s work.  This also gives you the opportunity to showcase your classroom and what you love and believe in. I enjoy searching the internet for different way to set up a classroom, centers and even field trip ideas.  You can also find great articles like Tips and Tricks for Back to School while doing a search on how to have a great school year!

image via The Learning Express

5) Re-organize your classroom set up (Environment).  Reorganization can mean many things.  Going through old and used materials, cleaning up your environment, painting, new bulletin boards, and even a new chair for you to sit in will make you excited about starting the year.  Do something or find something that makes you happy.  This can be as simple as decorating the door to your classroom.

image via The Preschool Experiment

6) Go to garage sales/Goodwill: These are great places to find new furniture, book shelves, books and pretty much anything you want for your classroom for cheap.

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7) Research new and innovative ways to reach families:  It is important that we stay abreast on current topics and ideas happening in education. Social media is one great way to reach families and another way to keep families involved is by using Kaymbu.  There are several options of alerts and text messaging for families, virtual pages, bulletin boards, and  Parent Parties.

image via Early Childhood Education Zone

8) Be a Great Teacher: Great teachers inspire to change a child’s life.  They build relationships with families and they take the time to get to know each student individually. The 8 ideas in this post go a long way in getting you ready and even excited about the new school year!

This list is very basic and minimal.  There are so many things you can do to get ready and refreshed for next year. Good luck and have fun, make it the best year yet!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:


12 Fun Summer Activities to Promote Learning!

image via care.com

Summer learning has a huge impact on accelerating your child’s success for the fall. When the last bell rings for children to be out of school, it is a time for sleeping, spending time with family and friends, playing in the water, taking vacation AND LEARNING. Children love to learn. Keeping that spark of interest in mind, make sure to work with your child this summer so that skills and topics are not forgotten.

  1. Talk to your child! In the car, at the mall, while eating, in the grocery store, on vacation—ask questions, learn new words, form new knowledge that builds on existing knowledge.
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2) Take Pictures—Pictures are worth a thousand words. If you go on vacation or even to the park, take pictures. Come home talk about the picture, make up a story, print the pictures and do drawings with them and make books.

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3) Go outside—Work on gross motor skills. Go for a walk, blow bubbles, jump rope, skip, hop, run up a hill, get a box and slide down a hill, climb, go on a nature hunt, talk, cheer, sing. Here are 50 Outdoor Activities for Kids.

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4) Go to Camps (baseball, cheer, basketball, golf, swimming dance, Science, Math, Bible School etc). Any camp that gets your child out and about, conversing with others and trying something new is always the best thing. Summer gives children the time to try new things when the school year is hustle bustle and no time for things.

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5) Go on picnics and swim! Make sure to always have adult supervision around. Counting the flowers, water balloons and canoeing are all added bonuses!

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6) Go to a drive in movie if there is one close. Children may have never heard of an outdoor movie! Take them to do things they don’t know about or have never heard of! This again teaches new skills and vocabulary.

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7) Take time to work on fine motor skills (if age appropriate). Use scissors, glue paper, tear and color.

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8) Cook with children. Teach them about different foods, and how to stir, sift, roll and pound. They will be proud to eat something they have helped with. Many things can be made in baggies.

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9) Opt outside! Take a vacation, go to a cave, a National Park, to a ballgame, a concert, set up a lemonade stand, or simply have a campout in your backyard.

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10) Visit a retirement home/nursing home. There’s nothing better than having the young ones learn from the wise ones! Plus, kids have a special way of brightening up the lives of those around them. It’s a win-win situation!

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11) Plant a garden. Let the children pick what they want to plant and then help clean and cook with the garden food.

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12) Plan a weekly trip to the library where children have their very own library card and check out books and learn to return them on time. This teaches them responsibility, how to organize times and dates, and even communication skills.

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When people think of teaching children they think of sitting down and doing worksheets. But, children are constantly learning new things and learning occurs when we simply talk to children and share stories.  There are times however,  where we do need to sit down and focus on particular skills. At home you can even assess children through authentic assessment by them showing you and telling you what they know through activities you have done. Make sure to research free things to do in your community-– here are some amazing resources to begin with!
120 Free Things to do with Kids this Summer, 101 Things to Do This Summer

Mr. Free Stuff. (2016). 120 Free Things to DO with Kids This Summer. Retrieved from http://www.mrfreestuff.com/120-free-things-to-do-with-kids-this-summer/
Oklahoma Ag In The Classroom. (2016). Food. Retrieved from http://oklahoma4h.okstate.edu/aitc/lessons/extras/recipes/food.html
Parenting.com. (2016). 101 Things to DO This Summer. Retrieved from
Six Sisters Stuff. (2016). 50 Outdoor Activities To Do with Kids. Retrieved from http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/05/50-outdoor-summer-activities-for-kids.html

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:


20 Fun Ideas to Partner with Families

image via care.com

There are so many different ways that teachers can partner with parents.  A strong reciprocal relationship is so important to a child’s success in the classroom.  I decided when I first started teaching parents were going to be my aly.  I was going to make sure that I included them in decisions, ideas and things I did in my classroom.  Parents have been and will continue to be the most important people in each student’s life.  No matter what happens at home we must treat families with respect, dignity and let them know that we are on the same page.  We both want what is best for the child and their education and developmental well-being.  When a family trusts you and what you do in your classroom, they will support you in the decisions you make.

Back to School Night: Welcome families, get to know them, allow them to get to know the classroom with their child. (Family Picnic night, carnival night, explore the classroom night, scavenger hunt night)

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  1. Parent Parties

  2. Provide Families with Important Information:

Daily schedule

Welcome Packet

Skills to Work on at Home

Welcome Postcard

  1. Get to know you:  This is a parent questionnaire example to let families know you care about them and you want to get to know them. (Interest Inventory)

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  2. Muffins with Mom: You can do this as many times a year as you want.

  3. Donuts with Dad: You can do this as many times a year as you want.

  4. Monday Moms: Monday Moms volunteer to help with activities or projects you have going on in the classroom.

  5. Friday Fathers: Friday Fathers volunteer to help with activities or projects you have going on in the classroom.

  6. Tea Parties with Grandparents: You can do this as many times a year as you want.

  7. Grandparent Day: Grandparents can volunteer to help in the classroom with whatever you may need.

  8. Important Person Day: Allow each child to choose one person that is really important to them whether it be an aunt, uncle, mother, father, sister, brother etc.  This person comes to the classroom and brings his or her favorite children’s book and reads it to the class.  You can then allow them to be a part of the day if they would like to.

  9. You tube for Families: A professional You Tube Channel allows you to read to children, help families understand concepts and explains things happening in your classroom.

  10. Social Media Contact: This is something you can help your families with during a parent party and or on your You Tube channel. We have to start thinking outside the box as we work with families. Other social media ideas are located under resources at the end of this article.

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  11. Family Thanks: Have a “Family Thank you Day”.  Have snacks, finger foods, and a small gift that says thank you for volunteering and helping your child at home. Everyone likes to be noticed and told thank you and or congratulations.

  12. Special Projects:  Fun Projects to work on at home that show families what the child is learning at school.

  13. Family Project Bags (Curriculum Themed):  These bags can have curriculum materials and ideas that you have been teaching at school. Things to include: 1. Clear directions 2. Projects children can be successful on 3. All materials needed 4. Books families can read together 5. Healthy recipes for families to try together 6. Fun Family Friendly games or ideas (example: take a walk, play Jenga, while you are shopping make sure to look for something that starts with the letter L) Oline books are listed under resources at the end of this article.

  14. Phone calls (positive calls are vital), newsletters, special notes home.

    image via The Sharpened Pencil
  15. Throughout the year:  Projects that families will cherish

    – Handprint Calendar
    – Monthly Names: Have children write their name on the first day of school and every month until the last day of school.

    – Child’s portfolio: This is something that you keep all year long.  Take pictures of each student, writing, coloring and art samples.  Anything that you can keep and show progress and growth for the year families love.

    – Pillowcase:  The last week of school have each child bring a pillowcase.  On the pillowcase you will write.  “Now I lay me down to sleep, I count these hands instead of sheep, and think of all of the friends I’ve made in Mrs.______ Pre-K (or whatever grade you teach).  Each child dips their hand in paint and puts in on the pillowcase and write their names and date.

  16. Family Leaders: Have families be leaders in your school.  Show them they are important.  Allow them to share ideas that will and can help the school environment.  What are ideas they have for the classroom, how can you partner together to make specific things happen. (Food drive, coat drive, school carnival, PTA etc)

  17.  Think it out board: This board is located right outside the door of your classroom.  It lists things you are working on that day or week.  It give specific questions families can ask a student instead of just asking “what did you learn today”.

    image via childcare network
  18. Attend and Be Present: Many times families will invite you different things: plays, games, parties, etc.  I tried to attend as many as I could. Many times there are several children on one team or in a play/music program.  I also made sure I was always present not only during the day but any time a family member wanted my attention.  You must make sure that they know you care and that you want to hear from them.

No matter which one of these ideas you choose to try, I challenge you to try at least one if not move of these ideas.  I have personally used each and every one of these ideas and they work.  To this day, I still keep in contact with families that I had the opportunity to meet and work with.  I treated each child as they were my own, and I let the families know that.  I wanted each family to trust me, respect me and join in with me in starting their child’s educational endeavor off right. Have fun getting to know the families in your classroom, and remember it is never to late to start building those relationships!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:


5 Ways to Create Effective School Newsletters in Less Time!


image via The Conversation

Newsletters are undoubtedly the most widely used form of School-Home Communication! Parents are kept well informed about their child’s learning moments, upcoming events and monthly highlights etc. However, creating Parent Updates means having to spend countless after-work hours summarizing and manually formatting content. Here are 5 tips that can help you create effective Newsletters with much less effort and time!

image via Sample Templates

1) Newsletter Templates

Eliminate time wasted on petty formatting issues and focus your efforts on adding rich content instead! It is easy to get caught up in sorting out columns, spaces between paragraphs and other aggravating issues to do with manual layouts. Newsletter templates give you designated spaces to arrange your information so you can stop worrying about messy layouts!

Pro tip: There are numerous newsletter printables and digital templates at your disposal-– pick and choose the ones that work best for your weekly/monthly updates!

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2) Photo Archive

A picture is worth a thousand words. Visual updates are more well received by Parents who are looking for quick affirmation about their child’s positive schooling experience! Instead of huge chunks of text, utilize your classroom documentation and insert images with brief and concise captions. Parents are more inclined to engage with visually rich newsletters and your effort put into creating regular updates are not wasted!

Pro tip: Having an organized Classroom Documentation archive is useful for quickly pulling relevant images and using them for newsletters.

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3) What are Parents expecting?

The length of a newsletter does not reflect its effectiveness; the value of the updates included does. Spend more time elaborating on topics that parents are more concerned about and summarize the rest of your updates in bullet points! Additionally, keep track of the information you have already sent out to parents in your daily updates to reduce time spent on repeating them in your Newsletters!

Pro tip: Organize your newsletter by creating sections devoted to a couple of in-depth major updates and a final section named “Additional Updates” to summarize extra information.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 10.20.30 AM (1)4) Consistency is Key

Newsletters are meant to update not overwhelm! Parents have busy schedules and they only have a couple of minutes to read through Newsletters. Keep your layouts clean, your color scheme consistent and your content relevant. If you have been including certain types in your Newsletters, make sure to continue doing so as Parents will grow use to expecting them!

Pro tip: Constantly take note of the tidbits of information you want to include so that when the time comes for creating the newsletter, you know exactly what goes where!

blog image kaymbu5) Go Digital!

Your families are becoming increasingly tech-savvy so why not cater to their digital preferences? It saves you paper and time spent on printing and handing out Newsletters. What’s more, digital updates in email inboxes are more accessible and enables Parents to read them the on-the-go. If parents increasingly engage with and understand your digital content, it saves you the effort of responding to an overwhelming number of questions!

Pro tip: Check out and try School-Home Communication software like Kaymbu that help you create customized Newsletters and easily message families in minutes! Keeping track of email open rates is extremely helpful for gauging how well your updates are being received.

There you have it-– 5 best practices that can help you create School Newsletters that save you time while effectively informing parents. Try implementing these suggestions into your School Communication initiatives to see results. Try the Kaymbu app to easily document classroom moments and create beautiful newsletters!




9 Ways to Ensure Parent Satisfaction at your School!

image via Expect More Arizona

It all boils down to Regular Parent Communication. A School’s number one priority should be to foster reciprocal relationships with each of their families.  Students benefit from a solid School-Home relationship, and Parents learn to value the time that you and your team invest in their children.  When you take a moment to involve the family in decisions, they trust that you really do want what is best for their child.

1) Personally welcome each family and child

This is simple: make a phone call. Send a welcome announcement in the mail, send a welcome letter the first week of school, and post a welcome on your website and any social media that you have.  If you reach out in multiple ways, they will eventually see that you care enough to say “welcome to my school, I am so excited to work with you and your child this year.”  (Other ideas: post a welcome banner, wreath on your door, take a picture with the child your first week of school and send home a note, etc).

image via Kids Allowed

2) Organize a Back to School Night

Back to school nights allow families to get to know the school environment, the classroom, the teacher, and other families. These events help families get the feel of what their child will be doing each day. Most importantly, they realize how happy and safe their child is in your hands. You can have activities for Families to have fun with, snacks to eat, and family pictures up on display.

image via Essential Baby

3) Organize Monthly Parent Parties

Parent Parties help Schools build relationships with families as the year progresses. Teachers can show families how to teach different skills at home, you can invite guest speakers to talk about child development, and allow time for families to talk to them and one another.

image via PBS

4) Plan School-wide adventures
Take families on an adventure of fun and learning. You can do this with families only or invite children and families on interesting trips and just show you care.  You are taking time out of your day to get to know your students and families better – and they will notice.

image via Casy Preschool

5) Open the Door

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Allow families in your School environment. Model respect and how you want the relationship to grow through not only your speech but also actions. Remember, when Parents are asked about your school, it’s what you did, not what you said that influences their opinion!



6) Interview Families

This can be done through a paper “Get to Know Me” or a face to face conversation.  This can be about anything – work, hobbies, what their children like and are involved in, ways they can help their child, etc. Families appreciate Open Dialogue Schools, so you will have less frazzled and better informed parents.

image via New York Times

7) Classroom Helpers

Give families a project or a purpose.  They can help a group of children, read to children, work one on one with a child, copy papers, cut out projects, decorate bulletin boards, etc. An inclusive environment helps Parents feel like they are not missing out on their Child’s Learning Moments!

image via Kids Love Preschool

8) Go Digital/Social Media

Build School or classroom websites: Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube Channel, Periscope, blogs, etc.  This is a recent article about Involving Families Through Social Media.  If you follow my classroom website it will link you directly to all other forms of digital presence I use to engage families in my classroom.

image via Seattle Times

9) EdTech Tools

Parent-Teacher Communication need not be time consuming and overwhelming! Consider using School Communication tools like Kaymbu that are designed to eliminate the rigor & countless hours spent on Parent Updates. From Simple Photo & Video Sharing to Parent Messaging & Newsletter Creation, Schools can send Visual, Customized Updates directly to Parent Emails-– all with little effort.

blog image kaymbu
Regular Parent-Teacher Communication is essential for long-term partnerships between School and Families. Often times, Parents want to know more about their child’s day but don’t necessarily know how to reach out. We must give the families a purpose for coming to the classroom, for calling us, for wanting to help or ask questions.  Keep your environment welcoming, encouraging and most importantly, a place where the school and family are a team. Strengthen relationships with your families, leave no doubt in their minds that your school is the best choice for their child, and Increased Parent Satisfaction will naturally follow!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:



How to Plan Effective, Engaging and Appropriate Centers

When I was in college I heard all about centers and how fun they were.  I observed in classrooms where centers where place throughout the environment. Until I got my own classroom, I never really understood the effect that centers had a on a classroom setting.  I didn’t truly get how centers help children learn skills that I virtually couldn’t teach them.  This article will explain how to effectively plan and implement engaging and developmentally appropriate centers in the early childhood classroom.

1) Planning is the key to building a successful center area. Make a list of centers that you want to include in your classroom. Decide how large of an area you will need and where in the classroom the center area will be placed.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Is the center developmentally appropriate for the age level of child I am working with?
  2. Why do I want this center in my classroom?
  3. How will children learn in this area?
  4. What will children learn in this area?
  5. Will I want to change this center out throughout the year?
  6. Where will I find the funds to buy materials for each center?
  7. Why am I putting this center here?  Should it be located somewhere else? (sometimes this is trial and error, loud centers vs quiet centers, messy centers located near a sink etc)
  8. What will your rules and expectations be? (structured/unstructured/free-choice/clean up)
    2) Organization
    : you will need to being collecting/buying materials that each center will have in it.  Remember you may change centers out so you will need to have storage for materials that are not being used.  (Storage examples: boxes, plastic tubs, shelves, closets, baskets).  Ensure that you always have an abundance of materials in each center so children do not run out.  You want children to be able to run the center on their own without needing your assistance.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are the materials developmentally appropriate for the age of child I am working with?
  2. Will children understand how to use the materials in the center area? Remember children will be working alone, usually, or in small group.
  3. Are the materials in the center stored to where children can reach them?
  4. Is it easy for children to clean up the materials in the area?
  5. How many children will be in this center area at one time?  Make sure you have it labeled appropriately with the number, number word, or cut outs of children/stars/hearts (whatever you want to symbolize the number) to show how many students can be in the center at once.  
  6. Will I have enough materials for this amount of students at one time?
  7. Can students move from one center to another? Or do they have to stay and play in the same center?
  8. What will be the procedure for transitioning to a new center if they want to leave the center they are currently in?  (will they need to clean up what they are playing with?  Clean up their area?)

    Feel overwhelmed? Take a step back and Understand Why Centers are Important in the Early Childhood Classroom!

    3) Introduction: this happens after your centers are all set up and ready for children to engage in them.  Introduce 2 centers at a time in the beginning.  Continue to add 2 or so, when you see children are understanding what and how to learn and interact at each center.

In your introduction:

  1. Tell the title of the center, and how many children are allowed in the center at once. (show them the symbol or number that represents the number of students allowed to play)
  2. Go through the rules and expectations (free-choice/structured/non-structured/clean up etc)
  3. Show them how to interact with the materials, show them what the center is about. Keep in mind what you are wanting the students to learn or get out of the center you are introducing.
  4. Teach the procedure of transition:  Play your Clean up song-this should be the same song every day,  and played when you want them to begin cleaning up their center.  

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: it may feel strange allowing children to play in a center and then practice cleaning up. But, if you do this in the beginning your center time will run more smoothly.  Then after the first week or so, you will be practicing with several centers until you have them all introduced and incorporated into your daily center time.

Next, after you have introduced the center and how to clean up teach the transition to the next activity, such as sit on the carpet criss cross apple sauce until all of our friends have joined us for reading time.

Some of the important things to think about are:

  • Free-Choice/Structured/Un-structured/Teacher Choice
  • What curriculum does each center cover?
  • What skills are they working on?
  • How will you defend your center areas to an administrator or parent that says you are only having children play all day?

Some centers that allow you to teach numerous concepts and allow children to learn through play, role-modeling and trial and error are:

  1. Blocks
  2. Housekeeping
  3. Writing
  4. Art
  5. Math
  6. Literacy
  7. Fine Motor
  8. Gross Motor
  9. Sand and Water Table/beans, packing materials, dirt, worms
  10. Miscellaneous
  11. Library

While children are at centers teachers have several choices. They can monitor the centers, scaffold, question, watch, listen and assess.  Or, you can have small groups of children or one-on-one meetings, where you are working on specific skills and curriculum while assessing and documenting. You can even ask a parent volunteer or if you have a teacher’s aide to come in and have an art center happening where each child is making something special to hang up in the classroom. They can even work on art ideas that go with the curriculum you are teaching.

If you are just throwing around the idea of setting up centers it is a lot of time and work, but it is totally worth your time and your child’s learning if you incorporate them correctly. Make sure you are planning, you are organized and you have an idea of the goal you are reaching for. Good luck!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:



Centers: Why are they Important in the Early Childhood Classroom?

12408907_6042882838509_404846143_nWhen I started teaching I knew centers were an important part of an early childhood classroom.  I knew we learned about them in college and I had seen them set up in different environments that I had observed in. I didn’t fully understand centers and why they were important until the second week of school my very first year.

To be honest, the centers in my classroom my first year, that first week were a wreck.  I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to implement them, what they should consist of or why I was having students “play” in them.  I learned a lot and I believe I had very engaging, differentiated and effective centers in my classroom.

Centers are an important part of a classroom environment because:

  1. They allow students time to engage in developmentally appropriate practice activities that are well thought-out and planned by the teacher.

  2. They are either structured or non-structured activities that allow students to learn through their preferred learning modality (differentiated by the teacher for each student).

  3. Students have the opportunity to practice skills that are being taught in the classroom.  They get to observe, listen, questions, self-reflect and discover.

  4. All skills are developed: (fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, oral language, sensory-motor, social and higher order thinking, social and emotional intelligence etc).

  5. Students get to role-play different situations.

  6. Trial and error is appropriate in center situations.

  7. Teachers can change the activities and materials when appropriate and necessary depending on the organization and planning.

  8. Centers can be themed and follow thematic units that teachers plan according to what student’s interest are.

  9. Children are self-motivated and are excited about taking on a new challenge that they have chosen for themselves.

  10. Children get to create, build and construct.  They are able to build on previous knowledge and gain confidence in themselves.

  11. Children gain self-esteem and independence.

  12. Centers help teachers re-teach and implement skills mandated by the state and school district.

Most importantly, play is the vehicle in which all children learn.  They get to pretend and try new things and ideas.  Children can make mistakes in an area where they feel comfortable to try again. Each center should include developmentally appropriate materials and ideas that build from what you have previously taught.  Go through this list and see what your centers may be lacking or other things that you are doing differently. Reflect on how to make your centers the best they can be!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places: