Monday, September 26, 2016


Engagement is a term that is appearing frequently in educational discussions because so many teachers seem to be struggling with getting children to focus and pay attention. Children are increasingly disengaging from the real world because they are living in a passive state on the screen.

First thing to do is TURN EVERYTHING OFF! If there is a screen on the children will look at it and not at you.
Here are some other tips to engage your students.

1. Look children in their eyes and smile. I don’t care where I go when I sing “I like you there’s no doubt about it” I have the children in the palm of my hand.
     I Like You (Tune: “Shortnin’ Bread”)
     I like you, there’s no doubt about it. (Point to self and then a friend.)
     I like you, there’s no doubt about it.
     I like you, there’s no doubt about it.
     You are my good friend. (Point to friend and then self.)

2. Give your students 100% of your attention. Be in the moment!!! Send the message that YOU are the most important thing in the world right now. I’m giving you my best and I need to you to do the same.

4. Be enthusiastic! Teachers can add the magic to anything with their facial expression, voice, and body language.

5. Be dramatic and break into a song or do something silly. The brain loves novelty!

6. Physical proximity! Get close to your students. Create an intimate space by having the children sit on the floor in a circle. A gentle touch can send a positive message to the brain.

7. Use their name frequently. You might have a child day dreaming and simply saying their name will bring them back to reality.

8. Do a movement activity to focus those busy hands. Lead children in a cheer or a clapping pattern. Use call backs and attention grabbers.
     Tootsie Roll
     Tootsie roll, (Roll hands around each other.)
     Lollipop. (Pretend to lick a lollipop.)
     We’ve been talking, (Open and shut fingers.)
     Now let’s stop! (Make sign language sign for “stop.”)
     Give Me a Clap (Tune: “Addams Family”)
     Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)
     Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)
     Give me a clap, give me a clap,
     Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)
     Give me a snap. (Snap twice.)
     Give me a snap. (Snap twice.)
     Now fold your hands and put them down
     Into your lap. (Model putting your hands in your lap.)

     Call Backs
     Teacher says: Hands on top (Place hands on head.)
     Children respond: Everybody stop (Children freeze.)
     Teacher says: Macaroni and cheese.
     Children respond: Freeze please (Children freeze.)
     And so forth….

     Hamburger Cheer
     Show me your hamburger meat. (Hold out palms.)
     Make a hamburger. (Pretend to pat meat between hands.)
     Put it on the skillet. (One palm out facing down.)
     Ssssssss! (Make sizzling sound and wiggle hand.)
     Is it done?
     Not yet. (Turn over palm and shake head “no.”)
     Ssssssss! (Make sizzling sound and wiggle hand.)
     Is it done?
     Not yet. (Turn over palm and shake head “no.”)
     Ssssssss! (Make sizzling sound and wiggle hand.)
     Is it done?
     Well done! (Thumb up!)
9. Use positive redirection to get them to do what you want them to do. Instead of saying, “Sit down and be quiet,” trying singing this tune:

     Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Lap  (Tune: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes")
     Head, shoulders, knees, and lap, (Point to appropriate body part.)
     Knees and lap.
     Head, shoulders, knees, and lap, (Point to appropriate body part.)
     Knees and lap.
     Legs are criss-cross applesauce (Cross legs and fold hands.)
     And our hands are in our lap, lap, lap.

10. Lower your voice and pretend to be calm as you cross your hands and smile.

I’m doing two free concerts at Charleston schools this afternoon and you better believe I’ll be putting my money where my mouth is and using these strategies! If I get home in time I’ll go live on Facebook and demonstrate some of these. Stay tuned about 5 EST!

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Did you know that today is National Comic Book Day? What a treat when I was a kid to get a new comic book! No, we didn’t have videos or computers, but friends would come over and we’d read comic books together. I know! I know! Sounds corny now, but it was a favorite indoor pastime when the weather was bad. Let me tell you, if the weather was good our mothers would say, “GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!”

I also remember sitting on my grandpa’s lap as he’d read the Sunday comics to me. I think the cartoons were much more “child friendly” in the 50’s than they are now. However, it might be interesting to save some of the comics from the newspaper this weekend and share them with your class. Explain how cartoonists use “bubbles” to let you know what the characters are saying.
Invite children to draw a picture of you and make a bubble with something you frequently say coming out of your mouth. You might be surprised!!!!

You could also let the children draw pictures of themselves or their friends and then use bubbles to make them talk.

Comics can also be used to reinforce standards. Start off by giving children copies of a cartoon frame with 2 sections. Tell them to think of a story that has a beginning and an end and draw it.

Next, let them think of a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Finally, challenge them to create a story with 4 sections.

*Have children recall the sequence of a story with comic frames.

*Use comic frames to illustrate the life cycle of a butterfly, the water cycle, plant growth, and so forth.

Here’s a link to download blank cartoon frames:

Cartoons That Move
Would you like to learn how to make cartoons that move? It’s easy peasy, but you’ll surely impress your students when you teach them how to do this.

Hint! I would only do this with primary grade children.

Materials: white copy paper, stapler, black pen or pencil

1. Fold the paper into fourths and cut on the creased lines. 

2. Take two sheets and staple them at the top.
3. Lift the top layer and draw a simple shape on the bottom. Keep your drawing on the bottom half of the page. 

4. Now, place the top sheet over the bottom and trace over the lines. Vary one or two features, such as arms, ears, mouth, etc.
5. Take a pencil and roll the top sheet up around the pencil.
6. Quickly move the pencil up and down to bring life to your cartoon. Waalaa!
*Connect this activity to literature, science themes, or social studies.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Here are a few more neurobics exercises that will energize children's brains.

Jumping Brains
Materials: None
Directions: Ask children to stand and challenge them to jump in their space as long as they can. When they get tired they can sit back in their seats.

Hint! Have children look at the second hand on the clock to see how long they can jump. Record the seconds. Each day practice “jumping” and have them record how their time improves.

Adaptations: Say traditional jump rope rhymes as the children pretend to hold a rope. Here’s a video where you can jump with Dr. Jean.


Brains Go Marching
Materials: marching music
Directions: Children can get an amazing amount of exercise simply by standing and marching in place. Here are some different ways you can march. Can your students add to the list?
Power march by swinging arms up and down as you lift your knees high.
March slow and then march fast.
March in a circle and then turn around and march in a circle in the opposite direction.
March like a toy soldier with stiff arms and legs.
March high and then march down low.
March on tippy toes.
Swish arms back and forth like windshield wipers as you march.

Adaptations: March with Dr. Jean on this video:

Brain Freeze
Materials: dance music
Directions: Have students fine their own space. Explain that when the music starts they can start dancing. As soon as the music stops they must freeze.

Adaptations: Play a game where if they move when they should be frozen they have to sit down and they are out of the game. Who can be the last one standing?

Hanky Panky
Materials: white handkerchief, scarf, or tissue
Directions: Tell the students when you throw the handkerchief up in the air they can start doing a silly dance and make funny noises. When the hanky hits the ground they must freeze. Do this several times to get rid of wiggles.

Here’s a link for a webinar I’ll be doing on brain breaks on October 20th:

Friday, September 23, 2016


I’ll be in Orlando at the Florida AEYC Conference this weekend. Here are a few brain breaks I’ll be doing with the teachers. (You know these activities are good for children AND adults!)

Brain breaks are short movement activities that help children focus and give them a positive outlet for energy and wiggles. Here are two simple activities you can use between lessons, during transitions, or whenever your students are restless.

Hint! Before doing these activities ask children to show you their “body space” by extending their arms slightly and twisting around. Remind them to stay in their body space as you do these activities.

Shake Down
Materials: None
Hold up your right hand and shake five times as you count.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Hold up your left hand and shake five times as you count.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Hold up your right foot and shake five times as you count.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Hold up your left foot and shake five times as you count.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Count to four with each arm and leg…then three…two…one.
End by saying, “Oh yeah!” as you extend your arms and make the letter “Y.”
Adaptations: If children are wound-up do this with a whisper voice.

*Count to five in different languages.

*Do the vowel shake down where you say, “A, E, I, O, U,” and the “E, I, O, U,” and then “I, O, U,” and so forth.

Balancing Brains
Materials: None
Directions: Have children stand. How long can they balance on their right foot? How long can they balance on their left foot?

Can they balance on their toes?

Can they balance on their right foot and extend their left leg in the air?

Can they balance on their left foot and extend their right leg in the air.

Can they balance on one foot with their eyes closed?
Adaptations: Have children choose a leg and balance. When they lose their balance they have to sit down. Who can be the last one standing?

Thursday, September 22, 2016


A teacher from Indiana sent me a text asking for this chant because they are celebrating Indiana’s bicentennial. No matter what state you live it, it’s important for the children to know the name of their state and have a sense of pride. It’s also good for oral language because children repeat each line.
Hint! Have children sign the first letter in their state to prompt them for the song.

State name.  (Children repeat each line.)
State name.
State name.
Is the best, is the best, is the best state.

Boys and girls come to school.
They learn to read and write.
Making books and writing words -
They really are so bright.

Boys and girls learn to count.
They also know their shapes.
They learn to add and subtract.
Their teachers think they’re great.

Boys and girls make new friends.
They learn to follow rules.
They laugh and cheer and sing a lot.
It’s cool to be in school.

Hint! The more dramatic you are on the chorus, the more fun it will be. Sing like an opera star, loud, and then end in a whisper.

Note! This song was originally the “Alligator Chant.” I adapted it for different age levels (such as “kindergarten” or “first grade”), but it also works for the state.

Here is another simple tune to help children identify their city, state, country, and continent.

My World (Tune: “The Wheels on the Bus”)
In this song, you’ll have to fill in the name of your school, city, state, country, continent, and planet.
The name of my school is ___, ___, ___.
The name of my school is ___.
That’s the name of my school.

The name of my city is...

The name of my state is...

The name of my country is United States…

The name of my continent is North America…

The name of my planet is Earth…

State Song (Jodie Slusher)
Tune: “Farmer in the Dell”
Virginia is our state.
Virginia is our state.
Richmond is our capitol.
Virginia is our state.

*Insert your state and capitol.

My State Book

Make a state book based on your state flower, animal, famous people, state bird, capitol, flag, insect, famous places, etc. Children can become EXPERTS about their state.

For example: New Hampshire, New Hampshire, what do you see?
I see the Capitol in Concord looking at me.
Capitol in Concord, what do you see?
I see the purple lilac looking at me…
*The teacher who shared this idea said her kids loved reading this book and the parents were so impressed that their children knew more than they did about the state!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


If you saw my "Facebook Live" on Monday this is what I demonstrated.  It's a great hands-on project that you can use in a multitude of ways in your classroom. 

Directions:  Tear (or cut) four strips from the top of the bag to the flap. Open. Squeeze the middle of the bag and twist. There’s your tree and here are some possibilities…
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree – Let children write letters or use letter stickers to make an alphabet tree.

Orchard – What are some different things that grow on trees? Children can draw or cut fruits and nuts out of construction paper and make their favorite tree.

Word Family Tree – Children choose a rime and then write all the words they can think of that end with that sound.

Family Tree – Children write the names of people in their family on the tree.

Spooky Tree – Twist the ends of each strip to look like old limbs. You can add bats or owls if you like.
Seasonal Tree – Children tear pieces of orange, red, and yellow paper and glue to the strips to make an autumn tree.
For winter dip a sponge in white paint and use like snow to make a winter tree.

In the spring tear pink or white tissue paper into small pieces and wad up. Glue to the limbs to make a spring tree.

Paint the strips green to make a summer tree. Add birds or butterflies.

Fall Centerpiece – Here’s an idea for you if for a party this fall. Use a large brown grocery bag to make a tree. Add autumn leaves to the base of the tree or hang Halloween ornaments on the tree.  I make this every year and people think I'm Martha Stewart!!!! 


Tuesday, September 20, 2016


September 21st is actually World Gratitude Day, but I wanted to give you a heads up for tomorrow so you might include a little something special in your lesson plans.  World Gratitude Day was started in Hawaii in 1965 at an international gathering and the founders explain why:

The awareness of the benefits of having time in one’s life for gratitude, appreciation, and positive reflection have become increasingly apparent. The hope of the founders of Gratitude Day is that by taking time, one day a year, to reflect on the many amazing things we have in our lives, it would positively impact our well-being and make us happier, more contented people.

Yes, there are problems in the world (many, many problems) and difficulties with our jobs as educators (many, many troubles), but, just for today, look for the good and be grateful. Start the day by telling your students something you are grateful for and then ask them to each state something they are grateful for. As a writing activity, let them make a “grateful web” or a book called “Things to Be Happy About.” They could also make a collage in art by cutting out pictures from magazines or the newspaper of things they are grateful for.
“With Apologies to None” is something I found years ago. I have no idea of the original source, but I share my version with you today.


When I am introduced as a teacher, I generally hear a very flat, “Oh.” I have never been certain whether that is an expression of sympathy, pity, or disinterest. Always I wish I had time to explain to them like this. Yes! I’m a teacher and I love my job!

Where else would a handsome and very young man put his arms around me and ask, “Do you know I love you?”

Where else could my limited wardrobe be complimented or have someone say, “You sing pretty.”

Where else could I eat a soiled cookie from a grimy little hand and not become ill?

Where else could I have the privilege of wiggling loose teeth and receive the promise that I may pull them when they are loose enough?

Where else could I guide a chubby little hand that some day may write a book or important document?

Where else could I get to play outside, laugh, sing, read and get paid for it?

Where else could I forget my own aches and pains because of so many scratched knees, bumped heads, and broken hearts that need care?

Where else could I forget about taxes and our country’s political problems because Josh isn’t adjusting as he should and Margo needs help with her math?

Where else could my mind stay so young as with a group whose attention span is so short that I must always keep a bag of tricks up my sleeve?

Where else could I feel so good at the end of each day because I made a child smile, taught a child to read, helped a child believe in herself, gave a child a dream, and made this world a better place.

Yes, I’m a teacher and I LOVE my job!