Saturday, July 21, 2018


Wake up the brain and engage children with one of these movement activities.

Shake Down
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.

Hanky Panky
Tell the students when you throw the handkerchief (or tissue) 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.

To do the WAVE, ask children to look at you. Explain that when you point to them, they can stand up, wave their arms in the air, and then sit down. (This is often done at sports events.)

Hint! Do the wave several times. Do it forwards and then reverse and do it backwards.

Directions: To BUZZ, have children stoop down together. Very slowly and quietly begin making a buzzing sound. Increase the “buzz” as you rise in the air and extend your arms. Slowly return to the squatting position as you lower the buzz to a whisper. “Buzz” up and down several times.

Here's a video where I demonstrate several brain breaks:

Friday, July 20, 2018


If you have enjoyed my tips and tricks for engaging children 
on my blog you can also watch my FB video.

A “voice box” can be used to capitalize on children’s natural interest in dramatizing. They can all be actors and actresses as they practice reading, counting, sight words, math facts, and other skills with these creative voices. Write the different styles below on index cards and place in a small box labeled “Voice Box.” Invite different children to choose a card and then practice skills in that “voice.”

Three Bears
Speak papa bear style (with a deep voice), mama bear style (with a prissy voice), and baby bear style (with a wee voice).

Put your index finger between your lips and vibrate as you talk.

With a Cold
Children hold their nose and read like their nose is stuffed.

Lip Sinc
Mouth the words.

Read text with different emotions, such as happy, sad, angry, sleepy, etc. Which one fits the text best?
Talk out of the side of your mouth. Grrr, matie!


Pretend to type with your fingers as you move eyes from left to right. Ding, and then “return the carriage” when you get to the end of the line.

Talk like a news reporter “on the street.”

Rock and Roll
Pretend to hold guitar and dance and sing.
Extend arms and sing words dramatically.

Let children come up with their own creative voices.

You can also download the fluency cards here:

Here’s a video where you can watch me demonstrate the different styles and strategies. The more dramatic you are, the more your students will get involved.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Grab children’s attention and wake up their brains by changing their “state of mind”! You can use these strategies for choral reading, counting, reading word wall words, reading independently, doing flash cards, saying poems, etc.

Sit Like a Boss
Children cross arms, lean back, and put feet up on their desk.

Cowboy and Cowgirl
Children turn chair around and straddle it as if riding a horse.

Turn chairs around and face the back of the room.

Lounge Chair
Turn chairs upside down and use a backpack like a pillow to lean back on.
Change Seats
Children exchange seats with a classmate.

Tummy Time
Lay on the floor and read, write, and work.

Silly Me!
Teacher puts on a hat, silly nose, glasses, etc.
Turn on twinkle lights or a special lamp.

Aroma Therapy
Put a little peppermint oil or other fragrance on a cotton ball to wake up the brain!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018




Children might know a puppet isn’t real when you put it on your hand, but they’ll want to pretend and play along.

Cut the top and bottom off a food box, insert the puppet on your hand, and then let the puppet pop out the box and sing a song, talk about an event, or say a rhyme.

Ralph the Rag
Knot the top of a dishtowel to look like ears. Introduce it to the class as “Ralph the Rag.” Challenge them to do what Ralph does. Bend the towel and wait for the children to do it. Wiggle the head…shake all over…stand up…turn around…Everyone will want to do what Ralph does!

Henry Hush
Use a finger puppet or draw a little face with a Sharpie on your index finger. Hold it up as you sing this song to the tune of “London Bridge.”
Henry Hush says please be quiet,
Please be quiet, please be quiet.
Henry Hush says please be quiet.
Shh! Shh! Shh! (Place index finger on lips and lower your voice.)

Juke Box
There will be transition times in every school day, and if you don’t direct children’s attention in a positive way they will become restless and troublesome. With this juke box you will always have a song or rhyme handy to entertain them. Decorate a gift bag or small box with the words “Juke Box.” To make CDs cut 4” circles out of fun foam or heavy cardboard. Write words to songs, finger plays, rhymes, and chants on the CDs and place them in the “juke box.” Give a child a pretend quarter and tell them to put it in the juke box and pull out a song or rhyme.
Hint! Invite that child to lead the class in the song or poem.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Wakey!  Wakey!
It's going to be a great day!
I can't wait to see you this afternoon 
when I do Facebook Live at Five!
I'll be demonstrating the "Rules of 
Engagement" so tune in then.

Distracting fidgety hands and bodies may enable children to focus and calm down.

Brain Toys
Fill a shoebox or basket with stress balls or knotted socks. Suggest children get a "brain toy” when they can’t keep their hands to themselves.

Stress Button
Glue the hook side of Velcro to a poker chip to make a “stress button.”

Wrap a 20” piece of string around a jumbo craft sticks. Children keep these in their desk and get them out when their hands need to fiddle.

Sitter Spot
Cut 8” circles out of fun foam or felt and write the children’s names on them. Arrange for circle time to encourage social interactions and disperse problems.
*Children can also use these for their “special spot” for doing quiet activities.

Flashlight Spotlight
Take a flashlight and shine it on a child who is modeling the behavior you are looking for. “Spotlight on (child’s name). He’s got his math book and he’s ready to learn.”  

Happy Chappy
You will need some lip balm with a fragrance. Gently rub children’s right hand with a “happy chappy” when they are following directions.
Lucky Sticks!
Cover a can or plastic cup with paper and write “Lucky Sticks” on it. Take jumbo craft sticks and color one end green (1/2”) and the other end red (1/2”). Next, let each child write her name in the middle of the craft stick. Place the sticks with the red end down in the can. Explain that when you have an errand or task, you will pick a stick from the can. That child will get to be your special helper. After they’ve been picked, put their stick in the can with the red end on top. When all the sticks have been picked, turn them over and start again.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Children don’t think abstractly. They live in a concrete world and that’s why simple props work like magic to capture their attention.

Music Box
Play a music box to indicate to the children it’s time to get quiet.

*One teacher said she wound up the music box at the end of the day and challenged the children to get quiet quickly so there would still be music at the end of the day.

Whistles and Chimes
Use a whistle, chimes, or other sound effect to get children’s attention.


Blow bubbles and see if the children can be sitting quietly before all the bubbles pop.

Blink the lights, play a xylophone, or make some other unique noise or motion.

Quiet Lotion
Make a label for a bottle of disinfectant that says “Quiet Lotion” or "Calm Down Lotion." As you pass it around the class ask children to take a little and rub it in their hands. Explain that it’s a reminder to pay attention and to be a good listeners.

Quiet Creatures (Jennifer Olayo)
You’ll need a large pompom, small pompom, googly eyes, and a foam heart or flower to make a quiet creature. Glue the small pompom to the large one for a nose. Add eyes and stick the heart on the bottom for feet. Children take out their quiet creatures during quiet activities. If they talk they lose their creature. When they finish they can whisper quietly to their creature.


Brain Sprinkles
Put a few spoonfuls of rice in a Pringle’s can and glue on the lid. Cover the can with sparkly paper. When it’s something important for the children to learn explain that you will put brain sprinkles on them. (Shake the can over their heads!)



Make a magic wand by dipping the end of a chopstick in glue and then rolling it in glitter. 
Dry. Wave the wand in the air as you say: 

Abracadabra! When you feel the magic you will be quiet and listen to me!

*If a child is not listening, wave it over their head as you say, “You must not feel the magic. Child’s name, do you feel it now?” Look at the child as you say this and you might even surprise yourself how well it works!

Sunday, July 15, 2018


All you have to do is hide something in a bag or box and you’ll ignite children’s curiosity and interest. Place a book, natural object, shape, or anything you want to talk about in a gift bag and sing this song:

Surprise Sack 
(Tune: “I’m a Little Teapot”)
What’s in the surprise sack who can tell?
Maybe it’s a book or maybe it’s a shell?
What’s in the surprise sack who can see?
It’s something special for you and me!
Give them a few clues and invite children to guess what is in the bag. Slowly pull it out and you’ll have their undivided attention.

Hint! If you go to a conference or take a trip put a small souvenir in a gift bag (book, shell, pencil, toy, etc.) and cover with tissue paper. Children pass the bag around and use a complete sentence to guess what is in the bag. When all have had a turn remove the object and give it to the children like a “present.”

Mystery? Mystery?
Write a sight word, vocabulary word, letter, number, shape, or picture of something you are going to discuss on the board. Cover it with a piece of paper and tape it at the top. As children enter the classroom they take a “peek.” At morning meeting encourage children to discuss what they know or ask questions that they have about the “mystery item.”

Twenty Questions
To increase children’s interest in a new topic play 20 Questions. Give them 20 opportunities to ask questions and try and narrow down what the topic might be. (Tally questions on the board.) This will create interest and it will also help children learn to ask good questions.