Friday, November 22, 2019



Children love to collect things. Aren't they always bringing you rocks or leaves or flowers or nuts? A nature center would be a perfect place to display their treasures and give them the opportunity to observe and investigate natural items. 

Getting Started
Take a plastic tub and fill it with objects from a natural area in your community.  It's as simple as that!  Invite the children to bring in other interesting items that they find in nature to add to your center. 


leaves, rocks, shells, pine cones, sticks, nuts, or other natural items (rotate for different seasons)
magnifying glass
clipboard, pencils, paper
field guide book (leaves, rocks, shells, etc.)

*free exploration
*seriating by size
*observing with a magnifying glass
*sketching with a clip board
*identifying with a field guide book
*non-fiction writing


Thursday, November 21, 2019


Here's a song that introduces the long and short sounds for the vowels. Making manual signs for the letters or holding up letters will help add the visual connection as you sing.

The Vowel Song (Tune: “Are You Sleeping?” Is Everybody Happy CD)
A makes two sounds. (Echo each line.)
/A/ and /a/.
/A/ for apron, /a/ for apple.
/A/ and /a/.
/E/ and /e/ - eagle and elephant…
/I/ and /i/ - ice cream and inchworm…
/O/ and /o/ - open and octopus…
/U/ and /u/ - ukulele and uncle…


The long vowel sounds are easier for children to remember because "they just say their name." Here's a song that will help put those short vowel sounds in the brain. Of course, the letter U will be their favorite!

The Vowel Family (Tune: "BINGO" - Just for Fun CD)
Aunt Aggie had an allergy
and she would always sneeze-o (Pretend to sneeze.)
/a/a/a/a/a/ /a/a/a/a/a/ /a/a/a/a/a/
And she would always sneeze-o.

Grandpa Eddie stayed in shape
and he would exercise-o (Pretend to lift weights.)
/e/e/e/e/e/ /e/e/e/e/e/ /e/e/e/e/e/
He liked to exercise-o.

Baby Izzi had chicken pox
and she would always itch-o. (Scratch body.)
/i/i/i/i/i/ /i/i/i/i/i/ /i/i/i/i/i/
And she would always itch-o.

Cousin Otto’s throat was sore
And this is what he’d say-o. (Put hand on throat.)
/o/o/o/o/o/ /o/o/o/o/o/ /o/o/o/o/o/
And this is what he’d say-o.

Uncle Unk wore underwear
and it did stink-o. (Hold nose.)
/u/u/u/u/u/ /u/u/u/u/u/ /u/u/u/u/u/
And it did stink-o.

Let the children use the attached sheet to make vowel puppets. Tape the letters to craft sticks or glue to an envelope that's been cut in half.

Five Little Vowels (Adapted from "Monkeys and the Alligator")
Five little vowels swinging from a tree (Hold up 5 fingers.)
Teasing Mr. Alligator, “Can’t catch me! (Point finger.)
You can’t catch me!”
Along came Mr. Alligator quiet as can be (Open and close arms.)
And snatched that A right out of the tree.
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ (Make sign language A with hand.)


*Draw a tree on a magnetic board and remove magnetic letters as you say the chant.


While I was on my Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands Alex May (my webmaster) was busy creating some new videos.  One will help your children learn to spell number words and the other one has some silly November jokes.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


The ability to blend simple three letter words is a big step in learning to read.  Here are some hands-on activities where children can identify initial, medial vowel, and final sounds.

Body Touch  

Blend words touching parts of the body. Touch the head as you say the beginning sound in the word. Touch the stomach as you say the middle sound. Touch the feet as you say the final sound. Quickly move from head to feet and blend the sounds. Next, challenge children to isolate where they hear the sound.
For example: Where do you hear the /p/ in cap? (Children touch toes.)

Park the Car
Make a parking lot with three spaces. As you say a word children park the car according to where they hear the sound (beginning, middle, end) of the word.


Letter Tin 
Place magnetic letters inside a cookie tin. On the inside cover make three lines with a permanent marker. Have the children take out the letters and place them around the lid. Call out a sound and have the children select that letter and place it on the first line in the lid. Call out a second sound. Call out a third sound. Blend the sounds and read the word.
Hint! Adapt the number of letters to the ability of the students.
*Store small magnetic letters in a breath mint tin.
*Let children use magnetic letters on a cookie sheet.

Unifix Cubes 
Place dot stickers on unifix cubes. Write letters on the dots.  Children can use these for constructing words.

Donut Words
Cut donut shapes out of construction paper. Write consonants on either side of the donut as shown. Write vowels on small circles. Children place the donut “holes” between the consonants and blend the sounds.

Phonics Fingers 
You will need 3 pairs of white cloth garden gloves for this project. Cut the fingers off the gloves. Write a letter on each finger with markers. (Write consonants in blue and vowels in red.) Children insert glove fingers on their own fingers to make CVC words. Have them substitute letters to make new words.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


The idea of manipulating letters and sounds to make words is a key to beginning reading.

Name Puzzles

Write children’s names on a sentence strip. Cut between the letters. Place the puzzle pieces in an envelope. Write each child’s name and glue their photo to the front of the envelope. Children can practice putting the puzzles together and reading friends’ names.

*Make name puzzles with Unifx cubes.

Cut Up Sentences
Write a simple sentence on a sentence strip. (For example, “We like to read books.”) Place the sentence in a pocket chart and invite the children to read it with you as you move your finger from left to right under the words. Say, “I’m going to cut this sentence up,” as you cut between the words. Place the letters in a paper bag and pretend to shake them up. Let children come up and select a word and place it in the pocket chart. Guide them as they unscramble the words and make the sentence. Call their attention to the capital letter “W.” There’s always a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence. Point out the period and remark, “You’ll always find a period or punctuation at the end of a sentence.”


*Let each child complete the sentence “I like _____.” Have them cut between their words and place them in a bag. Can they put their own sentence back together?

Happy Birthday 
Whenever a child has a birthday, you’ll be able to celebrate and learn at the same time with this idea. Write each line of “Happy Birthday” on a sentence strip. Cut between the words. Arrange each line on a pocket chart. The birthday child gets to scramble the words and then friends sing along the silly lyrics. Arrange the words in the correct order and sing again.

Glue the figure of a “spaceman” to a jumbo craft stick. (I found my little guy at google images.) Use spaceman to find spaces on classroom print. Sing the Batman tune as you go, “Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da Spaceman!” Encourage children to use spaceman when writing.

Monday, November 18, 2019


What will Dr. Jean think of next?  Plastic cups for classroom management!!!  Here are a few new "tricks" for you to try!

Help Me!
Give each child a red and green cup to keep in their desk. When they are doing independent work have them place the cups on their desk with the green on top. Green means they are good to GO! If they need help they put the red cup on top to indicate, “Please STOP and help me.”

Group Check
You’ll need a red, green, and yellow cup for this activity. Stack the red (bottom), yellow (middle), and green (top) cups in that order and place them in the middle of a table where students sit. If the group gets loud, remove the green cup and the yellow will be a warning to calm down. If the noise continues remove the yellow cup and they must stop all talking.

Note! I didn’t think of this. There are several variations of it on the internet.

Dippers and Fillers
This is a popular management system that many schools use. When children are unkind or say something hurtful they are “dippers.” When they are kind they are “fillers.” Punch holes in the sides of a cup and tie on a string or pipe cleaner so children can hang them on their chairs or a bulletin board. The teacher or friends can put a token in their cup to thank them for being a “filler.”

Plastic cups can be used for organizing art materials, pencils, and other supplies.

*How about a cup for “Lost and Found Crayons” or “Lost and Found Pencils”?

Snack Cups
In addition to using cups for liquids, they’re handy for serving popcorn and other snacks to children.

*Decorate with stickers and use for party treats.

Lucky Sticks
Let each child decorate a craft stick with her name. Place the sticks in a cup labeled “lucky sticks.” When you have a special job to be done pull a stick from the cup. That’s the “lucky” winner. Put their stick in your desk after they’ve had a turn and when all the sticks are in your desk put them back in the cup and start all over.


Review Questions
Write a question on the front of the cup and write the answer inside for a self-check activity.

Divide students into groups of 4. Give each group a cup and challenge them to come up with as many uses for the cup as they can in 5 minutes.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Helping children set realistic goals will nurture the executive function and boost their self-confidence.

Paper Airplanes
Ask children to write and illustrate goals on a piece of paper. Next, demonstrate how to fold the paper into an airplane. Let students fly their airplanes across the room or on the playground as they visualize themselves achieving their goals.

Pride Portfolio

Invite each child to decorate a file folder and store in a special box or tub in the classroom. When they do something they are proud of they can date it and store it in their folder.

*Hint! If you did this with an illustration and writing sample at the beginning of each month they could “revisit” past work and see how they are improving.

Cheers and Goals
At the beginning of each month have students fold a sheet of paper in half. On the left side write “Cheers” and encourage them to write or draw pictures of accomplishments that they are proud of. On the right side right “Goals” and have them write/draw two or three goals that they have for the coming month. Date, save, and review at the end of each month. Encourage students to reevaluate goals and set new ones.

Hint! You could also share these with parents at conference time.

Car Wash
End the day in a positive way with the car wash. Students form two lines facing each other to make the “car wash.” Students hold up palms and circle them around. One child at a time walks through the car wash as friends gently touch them and say something positive.

Pat on the Back

Students raise their right hand, stretch it across their body, and pat their left shoulder as they say, “Good job! Good job!”


*Cut hands out of construction paper. Write positive comments for students and tape them on their backs.

Eye Can
Cover a small can with construction paper. Cut pictures of eyes out of magazines and glue them on the can. Explain the importance of saying, “I can!” and “I’ll try!” Pass out the “eye can” to encourage students.

*Remind them that we say I CAN because we are AmeriCANS - not American'ts!                                                          

Gift Cards
Instead of giving out tangible rewards, create gift cards with special “treats”, such as those listed below. Write the activities on 2” x 3” rectangles and tape to used gift cards and hotel room key cards. Place in a gift bag and “invite” a child to choose a gift card for a job well done.

Eat lunch with your teacher or a special friend.
Be excused from a homework assignment.
Choose an indoor game to play.
Select the book for story time.
Sit by a favorite person all day.
15 minutes of free time.
Help the teacher do a special job.
Sit at the teacher’s desk.
Take off your shoes.
Listen to an IPod or headset while you work.
Take a class game or book home for the night.


Saturday, November 16, 2019


No matter what you do, in each class you will have race horses and turtles. The race horses finish their work before you can turn around and the turtles never finish. Here are a few tips that will encourage children to organize and prioritize their time.

Planning Journals
Each student will need a spiral notebook for a planning journal. Give them 5-10 minutes each morning to draw illustrations or write plans for the day.

Morning Meeting Routine
Sing a good morning song, give students a handshake, review the class rules, fill in the calendar, etc. Following the same routine each day will prepare students to “get ready” to learn.

Morning Mantra
Use this mantra to start your day.

     Teacher: What is my job today?
     Children: Your job is to teach us and to love us.
     Teacher: What is your job today?
     Children: Our job is to learn and to love each other.

Check Mate
Before starting a lesson, post a checklist of what students will need. As you read down the list, students respond, “Check!” if they are all set.

     Pencils? – Check!
     Paper? – Check!
     Crayons? – Check!
     Eyes Watching? – Check!
     Ears Listening? – Check!
     Hands and Feet Quiet? – Check!

“To Do” Lists and Contracts
Make daily checklists to help students stay on task. Long assignments can be overwhelming, but completing one step at a time is more manageable.

Fist List
When the teacher gives directions the students put up a finger for each step they are to follow.

Give students contracts with different activities/centers/tasks listed. As they complete the tasks they can color in each section. Contracts could be done on a weekly basis or for a unit of study.

*You could also use a check off list, a tic-tac-toe frame, or a Bingo card.

Catch Up Folder
Students keep a “catch up folder” in their desk with work that needs to be completed.


Use a timer to encourage students to finish work and “beat” the timer.

Five Minute Person
Create a classroom job called “the five minute person.” When there are five minutes left on the playground, five minutes left in the lunch room, five minutes left in reading, etc. that person holds up five fingers and walks around the room saying, “Five more minutes. Five more minutes.”