Thursday, October 2, 2014


Although Halloween is weeks away, over the next few days I'll share some “boootiful” and “spooktacular” ideas to scare up some smiles and fun in your classroom!! I realize that some people think Halloween is bad and evil, but to me it’s just an excuse to dress up and have fun. It also gives children the opportunity face their fears and discern real from pretend. An interesting thing is when asked, “What was your favorite holiday growing up?” most adults will say that (after Christmas) Halloween was the most fun.

3 Little Witches
(Tune: “Ten Little Indians”)
One little, two little, three little witches.
Flying over haystacks, flying over ditches.
Slid down the moon and tore their britches!
Hi, ho, Halloween’s here!
Choose three children to be witches and act out the song. Make brooms by rolling up several sheets of newspaper. Tape. Cut down 8” from one end and fluff.
Sitrring Our Brew
Stirring and stirring and stirring our brew… (Pretend to stir.)
Wooooooo! Woooooo! (Cup hands by mouth.)
Stirring and stirring and stirring our brew… (Stir.)
Wooooooo! Wooooo! (Cup hands by mouth.)
Tip-toe. Tip-toe. BOO! (Pretend to tip-toe.)
Witch’s Stew – How about a little witch’s stew for snack. You will need 5 lunch sacks, 1 large bowl, Cheerios, pretzel sticks, fish crackers, raisins, M & M’s, ice cream cones. Write “frog eyes” on one sack and fill with Cheerios. Write “salted bones” on the second sack and fill with pretzel sticks. Write “dead fish” on the third sack and fill with fish crackers. Write “toad eyes” on the fourth sack and fill with raisins. Write “lizard gizzards” on the fifth sack and fill with M&M’s. Place the large bowl on the floor and make up a story about collecting all the items for your witch’s stew. One at a time let children come up and dump the contents in the bowl. Stir with a spoon as you sing the above song. Serve in ice cream cones. (Hint! You can substitute peanuts, miniature marshmallows, or other snack foods for any of the ingredients.)
Handprint Art – Trace around children’s hands and feet on white paper. Glue to black construction paper and let children add details.
Ghost Busters – Cut ghost shapes out of white paper. Write letters, numerals, words, or whatever skill you want to reinforce on the ghosts. Staple ghosts to a bulletin board and let the children identify the information as they swat the ghosts with a fly swatter.
*You can make a similar game from a file folder. Glue a hand to a craft stick and use to swat the ghosts.

Scary Things – Halloween is a good time to talk about things that are real and things that are pretend. It’s also helpful to talk about things that scare us. I always talk about things that scare me, and that usually encourages the children to open up and talk about things that scare them. Everybody’s afraid of something, and that’s O.K. Make a class book called “Scary Things” where each child draws their fears and dictates or writes a story about them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I asked K.J. what he liked best about school so far and he was excited to tell me about the video project he was doing with a classmate. Apparently, they were divided into partners and they are each doing a 45 second video based on a content area. K.J. got science, which is his favorite subject, but he was a little frustrated with his partner because his partner had never used the technology before. There also seemed to be a little conflict about which background music to use, yada, yada. WOW! Just think for a second what a useful skill that will be in the future…helping a co-worker…figuring out how to give and take…collaborating for the good of the group…I could go on and on. 

However, I’ll just stay check out my website today because I’ve got some terrific ideas for group work and partner projects. It gives me such JOY to come up with these ideas to share with you. Teaching is like a revolving door because 25 years ago we were “into” cooperative learning…and here we are again! Why? Because in real life and in the work force of the future, knowing how to work in groups is critical. As you read through the different activities on my website, think about implementing one a week to add a little variety to a task that you would ordinarily ask children to do independently.

I’ve also got a free song download called “Mother Goony Bird.” Yep, it’s another silly song, but the sweet thing is it’s just as much fun to sing today as was years ago. You’ll also find a Spanish version by Boca Beth. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014


At Summer Camp a teacher shared how she posted 100 knock-knock jokes around the school for the 100th Day of School. What a clever idea!

Knock-knock jokes would be great to post in the hall where children have to wait. (Might be a good project for 3rd or 4th graders.) The more you tell jokes, the better the children will become at understanding the play on words. It’s funny, but even the kids who don’t really “get” them will pretend they do and laugh.

The world keeps on changing, but children still enjoy simple knock-knocks and riddles just like you did as a child! There are lots of free apps and websites where you can find knock-knock jokes and riddles. (Some of them are really corny, but the absurdity will stretch your brain.) You can save jokes on index cards, keep a riddle book on your desk, or use a knock-knock app to entertain children when you have a few extra minutes during the school day.
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Who who?
Are you an owl?

Knock knock!  
Who’s there?
Canoe, who?
Canoe come over and play?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Beets who?
Beets me!

Knock Knock!
Who’s there?
Olive who?
Olive you!

Knock Knock!
Who’s there?
Cargo who?
Cargo beep beep!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Boo who?
I didn’t mean to make you cry.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Lettuce who?
Lettuce in, it’s cold out here.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Justin who?
Just in time for dinner!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Little old lady
Little old lady who?
I didn’t know you could yodel!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad you visited my blog today?

Monday, September 29, 2014


One of K.J.’s favorite things about his teacher last year was that Mr. D had a joke each day for his students. It gave the children something to anticipate and put a smile on their faces. Telling jokes and riddles is good for oral language, but jokes also develop vocabulary and creative thinking. 

How could you use riddles?

Write a riddle on the board each morning. Read over the riddle at morning meeting. Ask the children to smile if they “get” it. Encourage students to “think out loud” and explain the joke.
*You could also let the children discuss the joke with a partner.

Have a “joke” show and tell. Ask each student to have their parents help them learn a joke at home. Use a play microphone to let them stand up and perform their joke for their classmates.

Make riddle books for the students by folding paper in half and stapling. After reading the riddle each day, have them draw or write the answer in their books. Discuss their answers.

How about a class book? Write a riddle at the top of an 8½” x 11” sheet of paper . Tape a rectangular piece of construction paper 5” x 6” under the riddle as shown. Let children draw or write the answer to the riddle under the flap. Put the pages together to make a class book.
                                                                Here are a few school jokes that I found at

Who is your best friend at school?
Your princi-pal.

Why was 6 afraid of 7?
Because 7 8 9!

What is the only class you can plant a flower in?
A kindergarten!

What flies around the school at night?
The alpha-bat!

Why don’t you see giraffes in elementary school?
Because they are all in high school!

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I was a lucky little girl. I grew up in the 50’s when recess was a fundamental part of the school day. It was considered as important as lunch and reading…seriously! Over the years recess has become a “dirty” word in many school districts, but the good news is that the pendulum might be swinging back.

In “Give Students Time to Play” Debbie Rhea explains:

Kids are built to move. Having more time for unstructured outdoor play is like handing them a reset button. It not only helps to break up their day, but it also allows them to blow off steam, while giving them an opportunity to move and redirect their energy to something more meaningful once they return to the classroom.

When a human sits for longer than about 20 minutes, the physiology of the brain and body changes. Gravity begins to pool blood into the hamstrings, robbing the brain of needed oxygen and glucose, or brain fuel. The brain essentially just falls asleep when we sit for too long. Moving and being active stimulates the neurons that fire in the brain. When you are sitting, those neurons don't fire.

In another article I found that Anthony Pellegrini, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, emphasizes that the new science of recess says that recess isn’t a waste of time at all:

Having recess is much, much, much better than not having recess…That’s unequivocal, I feel. That’s a no-brainer.

Pellegrini says, “because attacking recess has got this sort of intuitive feel: If you give kids more time doing something, they’ll do better in school. When in fact the opposite is probably the case.” Repeated studies have shown that when recess is delayed, children pay less and less attention. They are more focused on days when they have recess. A major study in Pediatrics found that children with more than 15 minutes of recess a day were far better behaved in class than children who had shorter recess breaks or none at all. 

One more fascinating article I found was “Get Tech out of Schools.”   Researcher Patricia Greenfield argues that:

Precisely because young people spend so much time with digital media outside of school, schools must offer them a very different kind of education in order to even the cognitive scales. In Greenfield’s view, this means reading copious amounts of old-fashioned literature—just what young people are not doing (according to research) on their own time…. schools could also strive to provide more of the face-to-face contact, the in-person social interaction, that has been largely displaced by young people’s use of Facebook, Twitter, and texting in their off-hours.

Now, if you’re still reading my blog at this point, I must admit that you can find anything on the internet that supports your point of view. I’m obviously a believer in play, recess, and hands-on learning, and you must be as well if you follow my blog. You might want to share these articles with your parents and administrators. It’s good food for thought!

Saturday, September 27, 2014


I get by with a little help from my friends - for real! While I'm speaking at the International Early Educator's Conference in (don't hate me!) Hawaii this week I've invited two special friends to be guest bloggers. I'm sure Lesley's blogs tickled your interest and you'll all be "baking" plastic cups this weekend. Well, here's another treat from my friend Sam Williams. Sam is a kindergarten teacher extraordinaire in Hillsborough County, Florida. The majority of his children do not speak English when they enter his classroom, but with his enthusiasm, positive energy, and motivation they are "reading" in a few weeks. It's nothing short of a miracle, but I'll let him tell you about it....
Hello Friends of Dr. Jean. I am so thrilled and honored that Jean asked me to do a post for her on poetry and nursery rhymes and how important they are to our young ones. 

Tim Rasinski says, “Fluency is the centerpiece of reading. It is the bridge that connects the words to comprehension. Without fluency you can’t have comprehension.” So maybe fluency isn’t one of the first things we worry about in kindergarten – but I believe it will have a very strong impact on all areas of reading.

Here’s what I do in my class:

First, I introduce one new poem a day. Right now we are using Alphafriends poems for the first 26 days of school. There is a poem based on a letter of the alphabet for every day. They are only a couple of lines long and are set to music. I make a copy for every student. On Monday we read the poem and sing the poem. We add them to our poetry journal and then my students will use a red crayon to circle the focus letter of this poem. Example: reading Sammy Seal they circle the letter “S” throughout the poem.

On Monday, I also introduce a new nursery rhyme. I use Dr. Jean’s Rhyming Readers Nursery Rhymes; it comes with 10 nursery rhyme books, song charts, and the audio files of each song (you can get it right here on Dr. Jean’s site). So for the first 10 weeks of school we will use these nursery rhymes. On the first day we sing the song and read along on the song chart. Each student gets a copy of the nursery rhyme for their poetry journal.

Tuesday, we introduce a new poem. When the students put the new poem in their poetry journals we also go back to previous poems and with a different crayon color we circle all the rhyming words. We may also choose another color and underline the sight words we know. I choose a couple students to select a poem in our journal that we can practice together, so we read and/or sing a couple of our previous poems. We always read and sing our new nursery rhyme every day.

We repeat the same steps on Wednesday and Thursday. We also use our poetry journals every day during independent reading. This gives students the opportunity to be successful readers during independent reading because they know how to read these poems. On Friday, each student gets a copy of the nursery rhyme book that we have been practicing (included in the nursery rhyme set above). They get to color the book and of course, we practice reading this. They will take these books home and their homework for the weekend is to read the books to anyone and everyone they can find. I make it a little competition to see who can read the book to the most people. I also let them read to their pets – because I tell them I read to my dogs all the time.

Here’s what I know about using poetry every day in my class: My students are experts at directionality, one-to-one correspondence, return sweep, they are learning punctuation, sequencing a story, and they are great at retelling, the first big step in reading comprehension. My students are also demonstrating prosody – reading with expression, understanding rhythm and rhyme in reading. This is all happening in the first 20 days of school. Of course, I am excited that my kids are demonstrating such great reading skills and strategies, but even more important than that – we are singing and having fun. My kids look forward to new poems every day! Don’t you just love seeing a child smile about something they are learning in school?

Friday, September 26, 2014


Here are some more fun phonics ideas from Lesley!

Frisbee Phonics
This is excellent as an outside game. Write a letter on one side of the disc. Put a picture that begins with that letter on the other side. Draw letters on the ground. Tell your students to look at the picture, say the word, and toss the disc to the letter that the word begins with. The letters you wrote on the other side can be hints or self-checking.

Playing with Patterns
These discs are easy to manipulate and fun to touch. Put multiple colors in your math center. Your students will have a ball creating and revising patterns. 

Word Building and Word Families
If you have letter stickers these are great activities to use them with. If not, a permanent marker works beautifully! But, after your initial preparation, remove the permanent marker and only provide a dry-erase marker to your students.
· Write or stick individual letters on each disc. Students can build a word like “mop” and then slide the discs around to create new words like “map” or “cap” or “cop.”
· Write or stick a rime on a disc. Students can use a dry-erase marker to write the onset and create the word family.
· Write or stick an initial letter on a disc. Students can use a dry-erase marker to write all the words they can think of that begin with that letter.