Brain Breaks

Brain breaks are a resource we use in the classroom to increase student engagement and productivity. Brain breaks are also a great way for students to get their wiggles out, so they can better focus on the academic content they are learning.

GoNoodle is one of our very favorite brain break resources. It is a collection of videos that get scholars up and moving. Some are just plain silly and fun. While others reinforce through song and dance academic content we are learning.

Sometimes we do a quick mini workout of exercises that can be done in place including toe touches, jumping jacks, lunges, etc. Singing silly songs or a quick read aloud for fun are also a good break for our brains during rigorous learning opportunities.

Brain breaks can also be utilized at home during homework or while studying for an exam. A 5 to 10 minute break to play outside, build with legos, or eat a snack will allow scholars an opportunity to get out pent up energy and refocus on the academic content they are working on mastering.



Kaydi Shaw-2nd Grade


First Grade Advice

So here it is!  The time you never thought would come…your “baby” is starting first grade!  How can that be?  Weren’t they just in diapers for goodness sake?  The truth is, time marches on, and it marches quickly in regards to our children.  At school, the same truth applies.  We watch our students begin their investigative journey in Kindergarten, and before we know it, they are proudly walking across the stage with a diploma in their hand.  Also true is that each grade is unique and plays an important role in your child’s education.  It is important to know what to expect and how you can help your child succeed each year in the new grade they embrace.


I know how hard it is to know what to do each year because I’ve been in your shoes!   It’s been many years since my own children were in first grade, but my advice to you would be the same as it was twenty-five years ago.  My advice is rooted in thirty-six years of being a classroom teacher and learning what is really valuable in this process we call education.  If I was a realtor, my advice to you would be, “location, location, location”!  If I was a coach, my advice would be, “practice, practice, practice”!  But I am an educator so my advice to you is “read, read, read”! 


I know this sounds so very simple, but it is absolutely the single most important factor in your child’s entire education!  Becoming a strong reader will give your child an advantage in every subject and with every step they take on their journey, both in education and in life.  In my opinion, first grade is the most crucial year for your children to become strong readers.  This involves having a consistent routine in place.  Reading with your child on a regular basis is the best foundation you can give them.  Most importantly, have your child read to you.  Find out what kind of things your child likes to read about and choose books according to your child’s interests.   Make sure the book can be read easily and with few errors. The goal is to build your child’s confidence in reading!   If they are struggling with a book, your child may feel defeated and become a reluctant reader.  You can always increase the difficulty of the books as your child becomes a stronger reader.  It is a good idea to vary the way you approach your reading time together.  Make sure you also read books to your child.  These books can be a little more advanced which will help build your child’s vocabulary.  These books should also be of high interest to your child.  Nothing will spark a love for reading more than listening to a wonderful book read with passion and enthusiasm. 


Another helpful tip is to vary the genre of the books you choose.  Fiction stories are always a young child’s favorite and a great way to get them excited about reading, but don’t forget about nonfiction!  Nonfiction books can also be very interesting, and they can answer many questions young minds are inquisitive about.  Nonfiction reading will increase each year, and reading it will be very beneficial to your child.


A final suggestion would be to throw some poetry into your mix.  Poetry can be inspiring, whimsical, and fun!  There are many poetry books that are written for children that are just plain silly.  Kids love these books!  It is a great idea to include all kinds of books.  Your child may develop new interests as you introduce new genres. 


The bottom line is reading should be fun!  If you make it fun and instill a love of books in your child, everything else should fall into place.

I hope your first grade experience is amazing!  Enjoy this new year with your child and remember…read, read, read!

Why we like UME?

Why do we like UME so much?

When Jason and I started our family, we always thought we would send our kids to a private school.  As Jonathon’ kindergarten year approached, we soon figured out private school was more costly than we had anticipated.  Jason and I started looking for other options.  Good friends of ours started talking us to about a new charter school that they were sending their kids to.  We inquired more and that’s how we found UME.

I was very skeptical since UME was a brand new school.  But, God worked it out to where Jonathon was selected to begin kindergarten on the very first day of UME opening the doors as a brand new charter school.  Our daughter, Maddie, joined the UME family the following year.

Why do we like UME so much?  As a parent, the small class sizes are very appealing.  This allows our kids more individual attention from teachers.  The shortened school day is also a huge plus.  UME sees the value in having parents come along side the school and to teach their kids in the best possible way.  I feel this gives our kids the very best chance of success.  I also like to have the extra time in the afternoon for family time.  UME has provided a safe environment for our kids to learn.  I feel that the campus itself lends to the protection of our kids based on its location.  But not only that, the teachers and staff make the campus safe as well.  The classrooms are a safe place to learn, even if mistakes are made, the teachers turn those mistakes into a positive learning experience.

Both of our children have their own special needs.  Jonathon has ADHD and Maddie has dyslexia.  The special education department at UME is as superior as the rest of the school.  Both of my children need special attention in different ways.  The UME staff has always made sure that our kids’ learning challenges are being met and more often than not, the teachers go beyond what is required of them to meet the needs of our kids.

I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for our UME family!!


How to get into the right college in 5 easy steps!

In almost every aspect of our lives we have a myriad of choices and challenges.  There must be more than 20 varieties of SUVs these days when there used to be just a couple!  The decision you make to buy any of those SUVs comes with a price and consequences that go way beyond, buyer’s remorse or “oh well…” and a sigh.  Cars, homes, medical care…college….wait, yes, college can cause insomnia for months if we let it.

Can you or your scholar ever know completely whether he or she has cozied up to the absolute best pathway or solution for post secondary education?  Absolutely not!  So some say, pare it all down to affordability.  The name of the institution on the undergrad degree doesn’t really…truly…honestly matter that much. Come on you’ve heard that right, especially from those who didn’t attend their school of choice.  We as adults justify the fact that you just don’t quite know what is best and scarier yet…ignorance costs soooo much!

Well I’ve got a solution!  Chunk it, yes, chunk it!  I don’t mean throw the baby out with the bathwater chunk it.  I mean make it a process, take the steps.  Here are some that I’ve learned over the years which are influenced by my experience going on a slew of college tours to a variety of institutions on the East Coast, the South, and here in Texas.  Obviously Texas is in a category all its own!  It’s also influenced by reading, my own college experience, taking family members through the process, and working last year with our seniors.  So here it is…

  • Know thyself – Start Planning in the first semester of the 11th grade.

Explain to your scholar the importance of knowing what they enjoy and that there is a way to create a pathway that speaks to their unique skills, talents, and interests.  College isn’t the same compulsory experience of high school.  Help him or her recognize or understand the value of his or her motivations, strengths, and achievements.  Don’t spend a lot of time at first guiding their thinking.  Let them brainstorm.  This can be done as early as the 10th grade.

Planning also means applying time management and coping skills with everyday life so that the focus is performing at the highest level possible. Your student must keep in front of him or her that their junior year courses are basically what will determine in a very major way acceptance into most institutions and also in many ways…money for school.

Most of all, research and visit as many schools as time and opportunity and resources allow so that the narrowing process can be as intentional as possible.  It’s best to have at least 4 choices.  Think about have Reach schools (those difficult to get into but that are interesting), Good Matches (those that are a solid choice with a decent chance of getting into), and Safeties (those that are very likely to get into).

  • Math, Reading, and Writing Oh My!  – Take the SAT / ACT.

Simply put standardized testing for entry into college is still a thing.  It’s a really big thing indeed!  Score ranges have changed, expectations may have changed, the controversy about the importance of testing is louder, and choice of tests have changed.  However the fact still remains that scholars should take one or the other at least twice.  I suggest once in the Spring of the junior year and once at the beginning of the summer or the first administration in their senior year at the very very latest.  Be reminded though that taking the SAT / ACT in the Fall of the senior year is not completely recommended because by the time scores are received, essential time has passed for applying to choice schools.  Many young people are applying in the summer before their senior year now.

As far as scores and which tests to take…review the requirements of schools of interest

  • The Early Bird, Worms and College…Random…or Not – Apply early.

Schools accept applications many times in the summer before the senior year.  Also know the difference between the benefits of Early Decision (binding…scholars commit to that school with an early acceptance) and Early Action (non-binding…scholars benefit from knowing but do not have to commit right away).  Sometimes it’s all about money.  Early decision could possibly lock in funding while Early action may still not make a big difference.  Look up your schools of interest and find out what each choice guarantees.

  • Money, Money, Muuhnaay! – Complete the FAFSA in October and also apply for aid and scholarships.

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is available each year on October 1st.  The application provides an opportunity for schools to certify or identify those who qualify for financial aid.  While completing the app has nothing to do with merit based aid or scholarships some schools require it before awarding a financial aid package, period.  Do some research on schools of interest to find out if completing the FAFSA is suggested or required.

Also, the federal government requires all schools to reveal the cost of attendance on their websites.  This is important because you can find out how much school will cost including tuition, room and board, and other incidentals.  Usually a cost calculator is embedded on the website to help create a more individual understanding about what is needed to comfortably afford attendance.

  • A – C – C – E – P – T!  Find out what it Means to Me! – Choose the best package and pathway.

Acceptance letters will start to come in during the Fall semester based on how early your scholar starts to apply.  Create a chart or a document that lists the pros and cons for each school.  Help your scholar create a discriminating eye with regard to choosing the absolutely best pathway at the time.  Most careers will need a master’s degree to become upwardly mobile.

Build in room for growth for your scholar so that you are planning not only just the first year, but for all of the years of attendance.  Know that college students change majors, have moments when they sometimes want to take time off, or have disappointing relationships.  They also can just learn to see the world differently and want to make decisions based on observation and new experiences.  Knowing that challenges are coming helps you and your scholar

Planning, finances, testing, and knowledge are all vital points in creating an effective pathway to college.  However, nothing trumps support.  Make decisions based on the system of support you know your scholar will or will not have.  In what ways are you teaching resilience?  How are they prepared for a world different from the insular world of UME and or life as a child in general.  Getting into the right college can seem daunting but without support and a way to make sure they can get home or to those who are concerned about them, an acceptance letter is not worth the paper it is printed on indeed.


PRESS RELEASE Contact: Julie Nicholson – 817-366-0427


Highly Ranked Texas Charter School, UME Prep, Expands Leadership by Hiring New Superintendent DALLAS, TX – September 26, 2017 – UME Prep, a leading charter school in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, announced today the hiring of a new superintendent.

John Wood comes to UME from Duncanville ISD, where he served as an administrator.
During his career as an educator he has served as a high school principal, as program
coordinator for Region XIII, and as founding board member of Village Tech Charter

“My goal as Superintendent is to continue to improve the level of academic excellence,
as we maintain and reinforce the strong character traits and core values that will set our
graduates apart once they leave UME Prep,” said Superintendent Wood. “I believe that a
combination of my business leadership experience, as well as my private school,
traditional public school, and charter school leadership experience, will all come into play as we continue to grow the level of excellence at UME Prep, and prepare for orderly and systematic growth in numbers and facilities.”

Wood’s term as Superintendent began at the commencement of the 2017-2018 school

The former superintendent, Mike Spurlock, will move to the role of CEO to guide the
school through the coming years of growth and facility expansion, while maintaining an
outstanding record for financial accountability. “We hired Mr. Wood for his extensive
experience in strategic planning and eye for vision,” said Spurlock.

UME Prep is a leading charter school in the Metroplex, with campuses in Duncanville
and Dallas. They are ranked 98 percent for financial transparency and have received a ran Distinction in English, Language Arts, Reading and Social Studies, outperforming all 4 Academic Indexes.

UME Prep has taken the successful educational approach, University Method of  Education, that has thrived in private schools throughout the country and made it tuition
free for families.

UME has a waiting list of over 600 students and is ranked in the top 25% of charter
schools in the state of Texas.

UME Preparatory Academy exists to produce college-and-work ready graduates who
have a strong work ethic, firm grounding in core academic content, and major academic
and vocational skills, and to offer parents, as their child’s first and best teachers, time and training so that they will have enhanced opportunities to strengthen their families as they exercise greater influence over the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth of their children.

If you need more information or would like to request an interview, please contact Julie
Nicholson at 817-366-0427.


Kindergarten, Here We Come!

Kindergarten, Here We Come!

By Susannah Kelly and Susan Walton

Is my kindergartner ready for school? This is a common question kindergarten teachers are asked, but one that does not have a straightforward answer. Kindergarten readiness is built on physical, academic, and social/emotional skills. While academic skills are needed, there are other kindergarten readiness skills that are equally, if not more, important for kindergarten success. Parents can do a lot at home to prepare their kindergartners and make the transition to school a smooth one. Here are some skills that can help prepare your little one for a great kindergarten year.

Personal Needs:

  • Use bathroom on own and wash hands
  • Put on/take off coat
  • Tie own shoes
  • Blow nose on own
  • Cover mouth when he/she coughs
  • Snap, button, zip, and buckle
  • Keep up with own belongings

Social Skills:

  • Listen quietly to an adult
  • Follow 2-step directions
  • Cooperate and share with others
  • Sit for short periods of time (15 minutes or so)
  • Can resolve conflict in an agreeable way

School Tools:

  • Hold and use a pencil correctly.
  • Hold scissors correctly and cut paper
  • Color with crayons/markers
  • Know how to use glue and glue sticks

School Skills:

  • Hold a book upright and turn the pages
  • Know first and last name
  • Can write first name
  • Tell and retell familiar stories
  • Know colors, shapes and sizes
  • Can say the ABC’s and count 1-10


Argandona, Armando, Kim Hughes , Jayne C. Isaacs , Lisa Mosier , and Sandra Waite-Stupiansky . “Ready for Kindergarten?” Scholastic Inc., 2017. Web. 16 June 2017.

Iannelli, Vincent. “Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?” Verywell. N.p., 30 June 2016. Web. 16 June 2017.

West, Tara. “You’re On Your Way to K!” Tara West © 2017.