A TelHi Student coloring in FRITZY BANG BANG MAKES A STAR, by Elizabeth B Martin

A TelHi Student coloring in FRITZY BANG BANG MAKES A STAR, by Elizabeth B Martin

These photos are from my first TelHi event with my Color and Write Stories. I was delighted that so many of the children opted to participate and then asked me to come back and do some more. The children went from K to 5th, so we needed projects of different ability. The older children got stories with speech bubbles. This boy is working on my FRITZY BANG BANG CREATES A STAR story.

TelHi students at Art With Elizabeth

TelHi students at Art With Elizabeth

All these stories are available for FREE on my site Just click and print.


Fun at the North Beach Library with my Color and Write Stories!

Fun at the North Beach Library with my Color and Write Stories!

More and more fun at the North Beach Public Library – I love it that a good time is being had by all! This dad gets the prize for doing the best colored rendition of my character Bully Buster. Bully Buster is a robot dragon superhero. He swoops down and stops bullying whenever he sees it. Please go check him out on my Bully Buster page.

Bully Buster, as colored by one of our dads

Bully Buster, as colored by one of our dads

I am proud to announce the library is going to promote me to a different room with more space as I have had to turn people away! I gave one little girl an extra page to take home which she promptly lost. She was so distraught that her mom had to feed the meter and return with her for a replacement. Of course there was no problem about that! Today is another one of my library Thursdays and I can't wait to make new friends.

Want Deeper Discussions in the Classroom? Use Images

Elizabeth B. Martin, Author & Illustrator
Elizabeth B. Martin, Author & Illustrator

Introduction to VTS

Have you heard of visual thinking strategies? If you’re a teacher, you must be nodding right now.

For those new to visual thinking strategies, referred to as VTS, this teaching methodology builds on students’ knowledge and develops thinking skills that in turn use detail to enhance understanding.

Abigail House, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, created this teaching method. The purpose of it is to develop creativity and thinking skills in students.

According to the official website for VTS, this methodology

… provides a way to jumpstart a process of learning to think deeply applicable in most subjects from poetry to math, science and social studies. Art is the essential first discussion topic because it enables students to use existing visual and cognitive skills to develop confidence and experience, learning to use what they already know to figure out what they don’t; they are then prepared to explore other complex subject matter alone and with peers.

Success with VTS in Northern California

A Northern California school, located in Petaluma, implemented this strategy “to increase student engagement and encourage flexible thinking …” Principal Jeff Williamson says that due to the program, conversations in the classroom are deeper.

In the Petaluma case, the principal involved the parents in the teachers’ professional development training and teachers share ideas with each other on how to initiate higher levels of discussion with their students.

VTS in the Classroom

English Language Learner Kristina Robertson, writing for a website for educators, described in these steps for implementing VTS.

  1. Select a visual that relates to the topic of a story that students will read.
  2. Place the image on the overhead projector.
  3. Ask students to silently study the picture for a minute while asking themselves,
  4. “What’s going on in the picture.”
  5. Ask your students what they see in the visual.
  6. Once a student provides a qualitative response, ask for a deeper reply, such as, “What makes you say that?” The students will then likely justify their responses by pointing to evidence in the image, such as the presence of a dog, a child’s rattle, or other items.
  7. Ask the class if they agree with the student’s perspective.
  8. The discussion continues until students share all they can about the picture.
  9. The teacher summarizes the students’ comments.
  10. Next, the teacher can ask the students to write about what they saw and inferred from the image or to read a chapter or part of a textbook that’s somehow related to the image used in the exercise.

Free Images for Teachers

Where can you find pictures for free? There are a variety of sources.

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free and download a Free coloring book here.

Back to School Tips and Treats for Your Kids and Students

School has begun but do you still have some back-to-school errands on your list?

What you’ll find here is a directory of websites offering deals and tips for your family as you scoot your kids back to school in the coming days and weeks.

  • Amazon dedicates an entire page to school supplies you can buy for less than $5. How great is that? They have everything from hi-liters to erasers to clipboards.
  • The Back to School Twitter account, with 377,000 followers, provides do-it-yourself tips for students returning to school. You’ll find tips there every day.
  • Do you have a list of your back-to-school needs? Here’s a nifty spreadsheet from Super Moms you can download and fill out to make sure you get your kids everything they need.
  • Super Moms wrote another great post for parents. This one is 7 Tips & Tricks to Simplify Your Back-to-School Routine. I especially like No. 2: keep healthy snack bins in the fridge for easy access.
  • The National Education Association lists several back-to-school habits that are bad for your kids. Find the list in this Huffington Post article. One major concern is the weight of the backpacks kids carry these days. The Huffington Post wrote,

    A 2010 study using standing MRI with a small number of subjects revealed changes in the lumbar spine curve and disc height with increasing backpack weights. A larger survey of 3,500 students revealed that 64 percent admitted to having back pain at some time with backpacks, and 17 percent reported seeing a doctor for low back pain. Yet this is a problem for which, reportedly, very little has been done to effect change in actually removing the weight, rather than merely redistributing it.

    Make sure your child’s pack, according to Kids Health, is within 10% to 15% of your child’s weight. Before you purchase a rolling pack, check with your child’s school because they can cause tripping in crowded hallways.

  • Here is a fun story about how students can receive a free haircut courtesy of a barber, Courtney Holmes, of Iowa. Do you think you can get this tradition started in your community?
  • If you have children about to enter high school, you’ll want to see Newsweek’s ranking of America’s top high schools.
  • Has your elementary school-aged child been anxious about starting school? Here’s an article on this topic.
  • Edutopia suggests that if you want to get to know your child’s teacher, you might want to ask some or all of these 19 questions.
  • The U.S. government wants your kids to be and feel safe during an emergency. That’s they created a fun-looking, two-page form you can download, fill out, a tape to the refrigerator door and include in your kids’ lunchbox or backpack. It includes space for numbers for parents, neighbors and family members, and spaces for you to designate exits. 
  • The Tchers’ Voice Blog offers these tips for building relationships with students. I like tip No. 6: Designate a star student of the day. 
  • Edutopia offers tips on how to strengthen partnerships between students and parents. I like tip No. 2: get to know the values of the family. That’s so important.
  • Here’s a fun post from BuzzFeed: 16 Lies All Teachers Tell Themselves At The Start Of A New School Year. Enjoy reading it.
  • Finally, who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly? Here’s a recipe your children will be sure to love from Everyday Savvy: Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars.


Back to School Tips and Treats for Your Kids and Students by Elizabeth B. Smith, Author & Illustrator

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free.