Happy Holidays

Feliz año nuevo

Teacher, Your Work Matters

It's hard to imagine that this exciting time of the year is so quickly upon us! And with it the flurry of activities and excitement of the fast-approaching and well-deserved holiday break. There are so many things that we can celebrate this time of year...from family and friendships, to the giving of extraordinary and heartfelt gifts, to a time of rest and peace and refreshment. As you reflect on 2015, remember there are students in your class who will look back on this year and be thankful for your influence. They may be the one causing you the most trouble. Keep in mind that growth takes time and the seeds you are planting in young hearts and minds will grow and bring forth fruit, even if you might not see it yet!!! Just know you are MAKING A DIFFERENCE!!!! There are students who care, are grateful, who are learning and growing!!! Even if they never tell you!!!! With that, I want to wish you the most merriest of holiday celebrations...whether it's Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa...may your time with your family be extra special and filled with love and peace.

Happy Holiday Cheer,

Ms. T. Watkins

A Special Letter From Santa… Ten Reasons Why Teachers Must Be Magic!

Dear Teachers,

I have been meaning to write this letter for a long time! It is a letter that I feel is long overdue and with the elves getting all ready for my long ride, I finally found the time! I have been watching teachers for many years and I am amazed at the work they do. I have come to a conclusion that the teaching profession, like my own, must be filled with bits of magic! Please let me provide ten statements of evidence for my belief.

1. I travel the world one night of the year visiting all the boys and girls of the world. The teaching profession works with every boy and girl all year long. This equates to each teacher fulfilling educational needs for 30 – 200 children each and every school day. Seems like magic to me!

2. I deliver presents to all the boys and girls. From my Toy Repair Shop statistics I find many of these gifts are broken or no longer garner a child’s interest within months! Yet teachers find inner gifts in every child. Teachers nurture these inner gifts until they develop into true presents that will last a lifetime. These kinds of gifts sure seem like magic to me!

3. I keep my naughty and nice list for every child. Some people believe this job is pretty amazing! Yet when I look at the teaching profession, teachers provide a constant evaluation of all their students! Their list covers all the aspects of developing and learning which they report to children’s parents and to the children themselves! This evaluation is based on a wide variety of observations, data, and student performance. Teachers will then use this list to help improve each and every student! Wow, keeping track of every student’s ability and prescribing ways to be successful must really be magic!

4. I leave presents to students who are on the nice list and who believe in me. Teachers work with all children because they believe in every student. Teachers continue to do so, even when students stop believing in the educational system’s ability to help them achieve. That type of persistence has got to be magic!

5. I have operated my workshop using the same technology for hundreds of years and it has worked for me. Then again, I work with children when they are asleep, delivering presents in my own way. Teachers work with children when they are awake and they have spent time learning how to engage children using googles, blogs, phlogs, glogs, prezis, and all these other words I really don’t know! Being able to teach, transform, and accommodate for this new digital generation must really be magic!

6. I have made it a practice to leave coal behind for children who do not make my good list! It seems every year the same children always get the coal. Teachers refuse to leave coal, in fact, they are working hard at leaving no child behind. To work towards a goal of leaving no child behind is a true act of magic!

7. I read the news and I am always so thankful to read all the nice articles about my work. It really does provide me with motivation to keep up my vocation. I read news articles about the education profession and it seems that most articles are not supportive. Yet, teachers keep working hard at providing success for their students! These teachers must be operating on a little bit of magic!

8. I have thousands of elves, of course the reindeer, and the community of the entire North Pole to assist me. Teachers work every day, many times by themselves, as they provide new opportunities for their students! Carrying that load alone must be much heavier than my bag of toys. It must really be magic!

9. I receive many a thank you and millions of pictures of happy faces as children open their presents each year. Teachers don’t always get the thank yous, or may never see the present get eventually opened. When they do, appreciation may come from decades later! A thank you that appears after many years must be the result of pure magic!

10. I discovered a light in Rudolph brightens up a dark, foggy, or snowy night so that I can deliver joy to all the children across the world. Teachers provide the light that brightens our world in both the darkest night and brightest day! It is the light of learning and knowledge! The ability to keep that light burning bright must take a quite a bit of magic!

You see, I have found that magic does not come easily! It is made possible only by those who work hard and keep believing, and seek what they know is possible! As you can see, there must be a great deal of magic in the education profession! Please continue to keep this magic alive and know that you are all on my good list! After all, I had to learn all that I do from somewhere! So from across the years I know I have many teachers to thank! Last, to all teachers across the world… I really do believe in you!

Thanks for all the magic,


English as a Second Language Specialist

The mission of the ESL Program is to provide a bridge to general education standards expected of all students in Richmond Public Schools. The department offers special resources and services to meet the needs of limited English proficient students (LEP). Language instruction is organized to assist students in communicating effectively in English both in and out of school and to use English to achieve academically in all content areas.

The overarching goal of the ESL program is to provide intensive language instruction so that LEP students can become fully proficient in English and meet the same challenging state academic content and student achievement standards as all other children are expected to meet.

Passion For Teaching

Word Walls

There are many purposes and designs of word walls depending on the grade level, teacher’s purpose, or student's interest. The word wall within a classroom is built over time and changes throughout the year according to student’s needs. As the year progresses, words that have been mastered by the students can be removed from the wall and new words added. Here are six tips you can use:

Tip 1. Make Connections

When a new word is added to the word wall, students should be encouraged to share what they notice about the features of the word including how the word looks, sounds, what it means, and how it is connected to other words. Students can explore the new word using magnetic letters, white boards, letter cards, or other manipulatives.

Tip 2. Use New Words Frequently!

Continue to reference the word wall and prompt students to use the displayed words while reading and writing. Refer to the word wall throughout the instructional day. Consider attaching library pockets and inserting multiple copies of the word cards for students to remove, use, and then return. Another option is to create individual copies of the word wall for students.

Tip 3. Consider Visibility

Word walls should be visible in a designated section of the classroom. The words should be written on word cards and organized on the word wall in a simple, uncluttered, and cohesive manner.

Tip 4. Multiple Exposures

Students have to see a word more than once to place it firmly in long term memory—"this does not mean mere repetition or drill of the word," but seeing the word in different and multiple contexts (Stahl, 2005). Encourage "deep processing" of word meanings by helping children:

Find synonyms or antonyms for the new word (ex. Which of these words means the opposite of fabulous—excellent, terrible, wonderful?)

Make up novel sentences using the new word (ex. Maria thought her car was fabulous because it drove so smoothly.)

Classify the word with other words (ex. Which word goes with fabulous—o.k. or super?)

Relate the definition of the word to their own experiences (Is it fabulous when you go to see an exciting movie?)

Tip 5. Play Word Wall Games


The teacher may divide the class into two teams or have the class work together as one team to try and beat their best score. The teacher calls out a point value (100, 200, 300, 400 or 500) then shows the students a word. Points are awarded when students write, draw, or act out a correct definition.


Divide the class into partner teams of X’s and O’s. Each team draws a Tic-Tac-Toe chart. Partner groups take turns choosing a space and reading the word in that space. If the child is able to read the word in the space they select, he may draw an X or O in that space. Older students may play this game by giving word meanings along with reading word wall words.

Around the World

Divide the class into small groups sitting together in circles. One student in each group stands behind another student and reads a word or definition of a word. The student who is able to name the word the fastest will continue to move around the circle. The game ends when each team makes it back to their own starting points.

Other Fun Ideas:

  • Picture It (Visualization) and Draw the Image
  • Create a Web of Connections to Similar Words
  • List Predictions about Word Meaning
  • Ask Questions
  • Write a Song or Poem about New Words
  • Act out a Skit
  • Create a Three-Dimensional Representation

Tip 6. Reinforce Content Objectives Using Word Walls

Front load content vocabulary in science and math through differentiated Word Wall activities. This tool is a great resource for English Language Learners!!



This website is dedicated to supporting teachers of second language learners. The article, published in 2007, focuses on how teachers can select words to teach English Language Learners. Once appropriate words are selected, building a Word Wall tailored for your students needs will be easy.


This site shares an idea for student created Word Wall books. The example shown can be turned into a student journal, part of a word notebook, or duplicated on half-sheets of paper.


Practical Word Wall ideas for Kindergarten- 3rd grade teachers.


Bear, D.R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S.R & Johnston, F. (2007). Words Their Way, Third Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. New York: The Guilford Press.

Cunningham, P.M. & Allington, R.L. (1999). Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write. Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc.

Graves, M.F. (2006). The Vocabulary Book: Learning & Instruction. New York: Teachers College Press (with IRA and NCTE).