Looking Back and Looking Forward

I just love Pinterest! I wish Pinterest was already around when I was teaching pre-schoolers and Kindergarten kids more than a decade ago.  Pinterest started in 2009 and I was already well into my tenth year in the education industry by then.

I don’t teach anymore and I now use Pinterest to search for parenting articles, DIY projects for birthday parties, and even a few home decorating ideas. One of the best discoveries I found there was the New Year Interview activity for kids. It’s meant to be done with your kids every December or January as way of reflecting on what has been and getting ready for what is yet to come.

I actually started this interview with my son last 2013. He was five years old then and had no interest whatsoever in staying put for a long time for an interview. Having him look back at the year and tell me about his favourite memories was relatively easy. The trickier part was asking him to look forward and plan for the new year. For instance, when I asked him what he wanted to get better at, he said, “Anything.” When I asked him what new thing he wanted to learn, he again said, “Anything.”

Right there, I learned that planning ahead – hey, even just looking ahead – wasn’t something that came naturally to kids. It’s a learned skill.

This made the New Year Interview even more appealing. I initially wanted it to be the jumping point for a digital scrapbook project that would preserve memories of special events and current favourites. But now it has taken on a more important dimension. The New Year Interview is now one of a few activities that will hopefully teach my son how to look back at the past and at the same time, look to the future.

You may download the New Year Interview for Kids here. I hope you find this Printables by Jan freebie a worthwhile activity for your kids once the festivities and fireworks have died down.

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Why is it important for kids to learn these skills? I came across the following quote from one unknown source:

“We learn not from doing, but by thinking about what we do.”

And it’s true. It’s a lot like that other popular belief – the one that tells us it’s alright to make mistakes as long as we learn from those mistakes. And we only learn when we reflect on which ones went right and which ones went wrong. Once we realise these, planning takes over as we decide to make changes and do things a little bit better. Reflection is important to learning, because it helps us build self-awareness, strengthens personal growth, and for the end result, improves our plan of action for the next time.

What I just said won’t of course make sense for kids. But when we teach something to our children we don’t usually spell it out for them, do we? What we do instead is engage them in regular activities that develop the skill and attitude. Doing the New Year Interview is just one way. There are some myriad other ways you can help your kids develop reflection and planning skills – when you make a summer plan of chores and activities, when you agree on and eventually review a reading log, etc.

So what are you waiting for? Download and print out the New Year Interview for Kids and have some reflection and planning time with your kids this New Year.



Personalized Notepads for Teachers

Notepads for Teachers

I had been a teacher for more than a decade before I decided to work from home. I’ve experienced firsthand how challenging classroom teaching can be. What makes a teacher effective? Selflessness and dedication, brains definitely, a healthy dose of humor to keep one’s sanity, and a love for children. It takes these and so much more for someone to be – and more important – stay a teacher. This is why I have all the respect in the world for teachers.

For this Christmas, I made personalized notepads for my son’s teachers as a way of saying thanks for all their hard work. If you’re interested in having personalized notepads made for your child’s teachers, tutor, dance instructress, coach or mentor, please feel free to send me a message at my Printables by Jan Facebook account.




Expressing Gratitude This Holiday Season

Aside from October, December is my son’s favorite month of the year. I think you know why. Their birth months and December are the most exciting times for children. They may be the most expensive times for parents but if you’re like me, they’re also the only times when children are allowed to ask for bigger items. December can even be much costlier. If you have young children, you’ll know that they still expect a gift from Santa. That’s one from the jolly old man in the red suit and one from the parents. I’m giving my son three more years before I break the news about Santa.

Experience tells us that children don’t just get two gifts. If you come from a large extended family or if your children have a bunch of close friends in school, chances are your children will also get presents from grandparents, uncles or aunts, and friends. That’s a whole lot of gifts!

But then the days after the holidays – once all these gifts have been opened and played with, all the treats eaten – can feel like a big letdown. I compare it to a sugar rush – which experts say is actually a myth but you know what I mean. You get the ultimate high one minute but crash the next hour or so.  That’s how holidays can feel especially when they’re over and it’s back to the daily grind of school or work.

But is it possible to flip that script? Can we encourage our children to stop thinking “what have we got to look forward to now?”, start concentrating on everything they’ve just enjoyed and be grateful?

There’s a YouTube channel called the SoulPancake and they create entertaining, joyful, and inspiring videos related to the human experience. One of these is The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude. The video talks about how happiness can be achieved with the simple act of expressing one’s gratitude.

I tried to give this a try the minute I saw this video last 2013 to my Dad no less, who at that time was recuperating from a heart attack and was a bit depressed. I told him about the video and thought I’d thank him since he was the most influential person in my life. I won’t go into the specifics but I told him everything I’ve always wanted to. His response was to put on his shades – typical of a Baby Boomer Gen father but I knew he was touched. Two weeks after that, my Dad died.

This taught me that expressing gratitude is extremely important. We feel thankful to a lot of people but how often do we let them know about how we feel? Not as much as we want to probably. And this leads me to the main goal of this article. Expressing gratitude is both a skill and an attitude that I want to instill in my son. And when better to start than this coming holiday season?

Saying thank you when someone gives you a present is one of the simplest and most basic ways to help develop a spirit of thankfulness in children. And now that my son’s in first grade, it’s time for him to express gratitude in a written form. Yes, I am still a believer in the power of a good old-fashioned thank you note!

I can imagine that staring at a blank notecard can be fairly intimidating though, especially for the reluctant writer. So I’ve come up with a few printables that will help younger children say thank you without the battle of writing a long thank you note.

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These fill-in-the-blank thank you notes give kids a starting point. They simply add the recipient’s name(s), what they’re saying thank you for, why they like the gift, and their own name. Hopefully this makes saying thank you a fun task!

I’m a proud Ilonggo and so I’ve included a design with the Hiligaynon phrase for thank you. There’s also another design that has “Salamat!” which friends and relatives who speak Filipino and Hiligaynon can use. Unfortunately, the templates still have the usual fill-in-the-blanks English sentences. But if you’re really bent on letting your child learn the home language, you can use the blank ones.

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I hope you have fun with these Printables by Jan freebie!

Download the Holiday Thank You Notes here.


Free Christmas Gift Tags for 2015

Christmas Day is fast approaching and so is my kid’s Christmas party in school. I make it a point to let him give his gifts to his teachers and favorite classmates a week before the school party. This way, his gifts don’t get lost among the countless other presents his teachers and classmates receive.

I’ve created a set of gift tags which I want him to write on. People say I have excellent handwriting skills and unfortunately, my kid didn’t inherit that. So I made kid-friendly gift tags – read big and with lines – to help him out. This way, he gets to have that much-needed writing practice . More important though is that he also gets into the spirit of giving this holiday season. With this extremely simple act of writing on the gift tags, he learns that Christmas isn’t just a time for receiving gifts from family and friends. Christmas is also a time for sharing.

I hope you enjoy this Printables by Jan freebie. You may download the Christmas Gift Tags here.

Free Grade 1 Nouns Worksheets

Here’s a treat to English teachers out there and parents who want to reinforce the lessons on Nouns at home. I created this set during the first few months of the school year when my son was learning about nouns. You probably won’t be able to use it until the new school year comes along. So just feel free to come back and download these free sheets anytime you need to. If you have co-teachers who are interested, please send them the link to my blog. I could really use the traffic to my blog site and letting individuals download the files for themselves will really help. So instead of giving them copies and printouts, please ask them to check out http://www.printablesbyjan.com 🙂

Download your Gr 1 Nouns Worksheets here.