Friday, April 17, 2015


When your give children a song and rhyme, 
                               You give them a gift that will last for all time! 
It’s true! We keep songs and poems that we learn when we are young in our hearts and minds all of our lives. Some of the first words we heard were lullabies and lap rhymes that our parents said to us as infants. April is National Poetry Month, so over the next few days I’ll explore ways you can integrate poetry with standards.

Here are eight great reasons for using poetry in your classroom:
1.  Poetry develops oral language.
2.  Poetry develops auditory memory.
3.  Poetry helps children make print connections.
4.  Poetry develops phonological awareness (rhyme, rhythm, alliteration).
5.  Poetry enhances fluency.
6.  Poetry develops vocabulary.
7.  Poetry sparks children’s interest in reading.
8.  Poetry helps children fall in love with language.

Although we teach in an educational system that is skill-based, it is O.K. to include something in your curriculum just because it brings you JOY!

Say them, read them, sing them, chant them, clap them, snap them, but above all, ENJOY them!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


It’s April 16th and it’s National High Five Day! Start the day by greeting each other with a high five. 
Teach children how to give themselves a “high five” for a job well done. Hold up both palms facing each other in front of your chest. Pretend to wave with one hand. “Hi 5!” Get it?

Pat on the Back
Trace around each child’s hand on construction paper and let them cut it out. Write a positive comment about each child on the hand and tape it to their back at the end of the day. Parents will be proud when they see their child’s “pat on the back.”

Pickle Tickle Partner Game

Up high. (Give a high five up in the air.)
Down low. (High five down by knees.)
Cut the pickle. (One child touches fingertips horizontally as the other child pretends to slice in between.)
Give a tickle. (Gently tickle each other.)

High Five to Martha Tavarez
Oh, how I loved the teachers in El Paso that I met last week at their Great Beginnings Conference! Martha Tavarez, a kindergarten teacher at Barron Elementary, told me about a book that she made with her class called “How to Cheer Up a Friend.” She sent the book to Scholastic and she’s a finalist for the prize given for the best book created by children for children. Good luck!!!

Here’s a link so you can find out more about “Kids Are Authors.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Comprehension is the reason for reading…Good readers are both purposeful and active. (National Institute for Literacy.)

Good readers are always looking for information and trying to make connections. Talking, writing, dramatizations, and art are just a few of the ways children can demonstrate what they have read (or heard as young learners).

Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Sing this song to the tune of “Ten Little Indians” before reading a story so children will be looking for the information: 
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Ask questions when you read.

I’ve Got the Whole Story in My Hands 

Hold up your hand as you sing to the tune of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands:”
     I’ve got the whole story in my hand,
     I’ve got the whole story in my hand,
     I've got the whole story in my hand,
     And I can read.
     I’ve got the who, what, when, where, why…
     And I can read!
*Write story elements on the fingers of a cloth glove and use them to recall details.  In addition to "who, what, where, when, why" you could write "somebody" "wanted" "but" "so" "then."  You could also write "title" "author" "beginning" "middle" "end."

Story Sticks
You will need large craft sticks and a sock for this project.
Write a different story element (characters, setting, problem, resolution, etc.) on each stick with a marker. Place the sticks in the sock and throw the sock over your shoulder before you begin to read. It will be a reminder to your class to focus on those things. After reading the story, let different students choose a stick and tell that part of the story.
*Write story elements on index cards and put them in a sack.

Mama Mia
Make a pizza out of cardboard and felt. Write story elements under slices. Children pick a slice and tell about it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Before there was an alphabet people recorded events with drawings and symbols. Thousands of years later we have embraced pictographs – aka emoji. Emoji originated in Japan and literally means “picture” + “character.” Each character has a specific name and meaning. Many of the symbols are specific to Japanese culture and many are not appropriate for children.

There was an interesting article in the New York Times 4/6/2015 by Tess Felder titled “The Way We Write Today!?!” Although the author states that many people think we are losing the art of writing and spelling because of “digital laziness,” she suggests that people are just sending messages in ever-changing ways. Emojis are an example of a way to express our emotions. Think of it as a new vocabulary to explore in your classroom.

Children are always interested in the adult world and many of them may already be familiar with emoji from playing with their parents’ phones and other devices. Show children some of the emoji symbols and encourage them to tell you what they already know about them. Why do people use the symbols? Download some of the most popular symbols and let children brainstorm what they mean.

Here are two sites that I found helpful for decoding the meanings of the symbols.

If you want a specific symbol try typing “emoji with heart eyes” or whatever you are looking for in your search engine.

You could use these symbols for classroom management. “When I hold up the monkey with his hands over his mouth that means to stop talking and listen to me.”

*Run off several beating hearts and pass them to children who are being kind friends.

*Make a flashcard game with words, math facts, letters, etc. Add a few “upset emojis” (children pretend to cry) and “heart eyes” (children hug themselves).

*Make worksheets or games where children match symbols with the written word.

*Let children create their own symbols or write stories or sentences with the symbols.

Funny thing, it just dawned on me that emoji are very similar to rebus pictograms that we used years ago when teaching children to read. Life is a revolving door for sure!!!

I’m off today for Murfreesboro, TN, and then Dover for the Delaware AEYC Conference, but I’ve got blogs ready for you each day. I hope your week is not only half full, but overflowing!!! 

Isn’t this the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? My friend Janice Vincci sent it to me and it’s a reminder to all of us that the glass is always more than half full!

Monday, April 13, 2015


Several weeks ago I shared an idea that Lorraine Clark gave me called “My Messy House.” I made the game for Kalina when she visited and she LOVED it! She wanted to play it over and over again, and I knew it would be a “winner” with other kids and other skills. 

Thanks to my friend Carolyn Kisloski, I’ve now mastered the “art” of attaching a pdf to my blog. Well, kiss my brain! Now it will be easier for you to take these activities and implement them in your classroom. 

Materials: cardstock or heavy paper, spring clothes pins, string

Directions: Cut clothes out of paper using the attached pattern. Write skills on the clothes and place them on the floor. Tie a string between two chairs to make your clothesline. Children choose a piece of clothing, identify the information, and then hang it up on the clothesline.

This game can be used with the whole class, a small group, or in a learning center. Here are a few skills you could reinforce:

Letters – Write letters on clothes and children can hang them up as they say the letter and make the sound.
*Write uppercase letters and lowercase letters on clothes and children can match them and hang them up.
*Hang letters in alphabetical order.

Numbers – Write numerals on clothes for children to hang up in order.Z
*Write math facts on some clothes and numerals on others for children to match and hang up.

Words – Children can hang up words they can read. Can they make a sentence with their word?
*Hang up words in order to make a sentence.
*Write antonyms or synonyms on words for children to match.

You’ll have a CLEAN HOUSE for sure with these games!
P.S.  If you've still got plastic eggs you don't know what to do with, here's an idea Ms. Setzer sent me.  She sends home an empty egg with each student along with a note asking them to find something to put in the egg and write three clues about it.  They share their clues at school the next day as classmates try to guess what it is.  
Hint!  Parents could write clues for younger children and older students could write their own clues.  Great reading, writing, speaking, and listening activity!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Who’s ready for some summer fun? WOW! You can visit Orlando, Charleston, Indianapolis, Detroit, or Austin and learn at the same time. That’s what I call a win/win!!! 

June 17    Reading, Writing, Math, and More
               Orlando, Florida 

June 18 & 19 College of Charleston Early Childhood Summit
                Crossing the Bridge to Active Learning
                Charleston, SC 

June 22 & 23 Dr. Jean’s PreK-1 Summer Camp
               Indianapolis, IN

July 13 & 14 Dr. Jean’s PreK-1 Summer Camp
               Livonia, MI (Detroit Area)

August 6 & 7 Dr. Jean’s PreK-1 Summer Camp
               Austin, TX

Pack your bags and I'll see you this summer!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Okeedookee!  This is the last day I'm going to talk about graphic organizers, but I hope you've gleaned a few ways to use them to put "pictures" in your students' brains and to use them instead of a worksheet.  

What child doesn't like to have you trace around their hand?  But did you realize that children's hands could also be used as learning tools?
Hand of Thought 
Children trace around their hand. They put the main idea of the story on the hand with supporting details on the fingers.

Children write the title of the story on the hand with “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “Why?” on the fingers.

Children write a number on the palm and things that equal that amount on the fingers.

Children write their name in the middle and 5 tasks they need to complete that day.

“Five”ness and “Ten”ness
Trace around children’s hands on cardstock and cut out. Glue the palm to another sheet of paper so the fingers can bend up and down as shown.
*Let younger children use five fingers to count or do finger plays.

*Older children can use two hands for addition and subtraction.
*Do you know how to multiply by nine using fingers?  The fingers on the right will represent tens and the ones on the right will represent ones.
1 x 9 = 9  (Put down left pinky and 9 ones will remain.)
2 x 9 = 18  (Put down second finger on left and you'll have one ten and eight ones.)
3 x 9 = 27  (Put down third finger and you'll have two tens and seven ones.)