Wednesday, July 17, 2019


If I were in charge of the world, this is something that I would put in each child's hands. It's so simple and inexpensive, but it could give a lasting memory to a child.  This idea could be adapted for any age group or skill level.

On a personal note!  I have a friend with Alzheimer's who has a difficult time carrying on a conversation.  Another friend took her out to lunch, and I asked, "What did you talk about?"  She replied, "Oh, we don't talk.  I put on the 50's radio station and we sing!"  And that's why we must sing with children and teach them poems.  Those songs and rhymes will stay tucked in their brain, and they might give them a smile and a few minutes of happy memories one day!

What?  pocket folders with 3 prongs, copies of poems and songs, markers, art media

Why?  love of reading, oral language, phonological awareness, social skills, reading skills

When?  large group, small group, independent, home/school

How?  Purchase a pocket folder for each child.  This will be a good project for them to decorate the first week of school.  Think of 4 or 5 simple songs, nursery rhymes, or poems that you would like to introduce the first month of school.  (I would not put illustrations on these because the children will be able to make a personal connection with their own drawings.)  Run off copies of these and insert them in the pocket folder.  Each week introduce one of the songs using the strategies below.  As the year progresses add new songs or rhymes that would engage the children or relate to a theme or season.

Hint!  Some good songs might include: “Twinkle Little Star,” “BINGO,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “The Farmer in the Dell,” “London Bridge,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Jack and Jill,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “The Alphabet Song,” or “Rain, Rain, Go Away.”

Monday - Introduce the poem as a shared reading experience. Reread the poem several times using one of these strategies:

     Shadow Reading– Teacher reads a line and then students repeat.

     Magic Word– Choose a “magic word” (high frequency word) in the text. Every time you   come to that word, the children get to clap, jump, snap, etc.

     Say What?Read the wrong way and have children correct you by shouting out, “Say what?”

     Missing Word – Omit a word and have the children fill it in.

     Read with me IF you…like chocolate ice cream
     like broccoli have a dog
     can ride a bike are wearing red

     Stand and Read – Children stand and take a small step to the right for each word. At end of the line jump “down” to the next line. Everyone moves back to the left and quickly moves to the right with every word until the end of the next line. Repeat until the end of the poem.

     Take a Turn- Divide children into groups and each section reads a different line. For example: Let boys and girls alternate reading lines.
Let children use pointers to find letters or words they can recognize, point out words that rhyme, punctuation, etc.  Have children illustrate the poem or song as an independent activity.

Wednesday - Use the poem for skill work during small group. Highlight parts of speech, sight words, etc.

Thursday - Children bring notebooks to large group and reread this week’s rhyme and review previous poems.

Friday - Children read poems independently or with a buddy.

Weekend Homework - On Friday, let children take home their poetry notebooks. Ask children to read the poem to someone in their family over the weekend. Encourage parents to sign their name and write their comments and compliments on each poem.

Carolyn has created the COOLEST alphabet poems that are just right for your poetry songbook.  What a great way to start your year!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Here’s another self-check game that can be used at the beginning of the year for learning friends’ names and later on for phonics and math.

What? spatula or pancake turner, corrugated cardboard, fun foam, markers, students’ pictures

Why? names, letters, sounds, math facts, contractions, antonyms, etc.

When? Small group, center

How? Cut 3 ½” circles out of cardboard or fun foam. Write uppercase letters on one side and lowercase letters on the other. Place the circles on the floor or a table. Children name the letter on one side, and then flip it over to self-check.

*Write words on one side and glue matching pictures on the back.

*Write children’s names on one side and glue their picture on back.


*Put pictures on one side and initial consonants or vowels on back.

*Write questions on the front and the answer on the reverse side.

*Write antonyms on opposite sides.

*Write two words on the front and the contraction on the back.

*Write the word in Spanish on one side and the English translation on the back.

Monday, July 15, 2019


This game can be adapted to a variety of skills. It’s an activity your students will WANT to do over and over.

What? colored construction paper or card stock, spring clothespins, markers, scissors, string

Why? sight words, letters, numerals, shapes, etc.

When? Small group, learning center, partner

How? Cut clothes out of construction paper and write skills on them. Tie a string (clothesline) between two chairs. Spread the clothes on the floor as you say, “My house is so messy. Who can help me clean it up?” Children take turns choosing an item, identifying the information, and then hanging it on the clothesline.

*Put days of the week on the clothes for the children to hang up in order.

*Write numbers (1-10 whatever you are working on) for the children to put in order.

*Write words in Spanish on some clothes and words in English on others. Children hang up the ones that go together.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


If you’ve never made these, then today is the day!!! They are a hands-on way children can connect to abstract sounds and numbers and can be used in a multiple of ways.

Letter Pops

What? jumbo craft sticks, magnetic letters, E6000 glue (or similar craft glue)

Why? letter recognition, phonics, print knowledge

When? Large group, small group, independent

How? Glue the magnetic letters to the jumbo craft sticks.

*Children can use these to match letters on classroom print. They can also find objects in the room beginning with that sound.

*Let children hold up letter pops as you sing alphabet songs.

*Children can get together with friends and make words with their letter pops.

*Place the letter pops in a can in the classroom library. Children choose a letter and then match it up with that letter in a book.

*Play “Letter Pokey” which is similar to the “Hokey Pokey.”

*Match upper and lowercase letters.


Shape and Number Sticks

What? jumbo craft sticks, magnetic numbers and shapes, E6000 or similar glue.

Why? number and shape recognition, counting songs and finger plays

When? Large group or small group

How? Glue magnetic numbers and shapes to jumbo craft to use with the activities below.

*Pass out numeral sticks to children. Can they walk around the room and match up their numeral with classroom print?

*Can children get in order from 0-9?

*Ask children to walk around the room and find a number less than theirs. Can they find a number that’s greater? Can they find a number that’s the same?

*Let children hold up appropriate sticks as you sing or say rhymes.

*Call out a number. Students have to find a friend whose stick added to theirs makes the sum. Record the different combinations.

*Pass out shape sticks for children to match in the classroom. Are the shapes flat or solid?

You'll find dozens of fun strategies to help kids PLAY and LEARN letters in our new packet.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Jumbo craft sticks fit my criteria of cheap, simple, and easy. They are inexpensive, virtually indestructible, and can be transformed into a game or management tool in five minutes. In a plastic/screen world, sticks provide a natural element and something children can hold in their hands.

Comprehension Sticks

What? jumbo craft sticks, markers, sock

Why? story elements, comprehension

When? Large group or small group

How? Write “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “Why?” on sticks and insert them in a sock. Throw the sock over your shoulder before reading a book to prompt the children to be active listeners. After reading the story, let children choose a stick and tell that part.

*You could also write “author, illustrator, title, beginning, middle, end” or “characters, setting, problem, resolution.”

Punctuation Sticks

Why? recognizing punctuation marks, reading with expression

When? Large group, partner reading

How? Draw a period, exclamation point, and question mark on the end of jumbo craft sticks. Children take turns choosing a stick and placing it at the end of a sentence as friends read with appropriate expression.

*Write simple sentences.  Place sticks at the end for the children to read.

*Can children read these with appropriate expressions? 

*Let children use the sticks as they read with a buddy.

Blending Sticks

Why? blending sounds, sound segmentation

When? Small group

How? Color 1/3 of the stick green, 1/3 yellow, and 1/3 red as shown. Call out sounds for children to touch. Have them blend the sounds as they sweep their finger from left to right and say the word.
     /c/ (touch green) /a/ (touch yellow) /t/ (touch red) = cat

     Where do you hear the /i/ in dig? (touch yellow)

     Where do you hear the /t/ in talk? (touch green)

Pick Me! 

Why? choosing random helpers

When? Large group

How? Color one end of a jumbo craft stick green and the other end red. Let each child write their name in the middle of the stick. Place the sticks in a cup with the green end on top. When there is a special job to be done, the teacher chooses a stick. After that child has had a turn, her stick goes back in the cup with the red end on top. When all the sticks are red on top and everyone has had a turn, flip them over and start again. 


Friday, July 12, 2019


This keyboard can be used to familiarize students with electronic devices that they will be using at school.

Note! Keyboards vary, so you use the one commonly found in your classroom for your template.

What? shower curtain liner, permanent marker, fly swatter

Why? letter recognition, names, sight words, sounds

When? Large group, small group, learning center, partner practice

How? There are two ways you can make this.

1. Cut the shower curtain liner in half and tape it horizontally to a wall. Place the attached pattern on a document camera and project on the shower curtain. Trace around the keys and letters with a permanent marker as shown.

2. Make a template for the keys. Starting in the middle of the shower curtain make 11 squares horizontally for the first row. Continue drawing off the rest of the keyboard. Write the letters and command keys as indicated.  (I made mine on our kitchen island and it was easy to draw that way.)

Hint! Use one color to outline the keys and a different color to write the letters.

Cut the shape of a mitten out of the fly swatter.

*Place the giant keyboard on the floor or on a bulletin board and let the children use it to practice identifying letters.

*Call out a sound and have children tap the letter that makes that sound.

*Have children type out names, sight words, or spelling words.

*For a partner activity, have one child hold a word and check while their partner types it.

Personal Device

Pocket folders are on sale now, so with a little bit glue and a keyboard pattern can make a “personal device” for each student that they will be able to use all year long.

What? pocket folder, keyboard pattern, glue, index cards, marker

Why? names, sight words, letter recognition, vocabulary words

When? large group, small group, learning center, independent practice

How? Glue the keyboard pattern to the right inside pocket of the folder as shown. Let children decorate the outside with markers. Write names, sight words, letters, and other information you want the children to practice on index cards. Place in the left pocket. Children choose a card and put it on the top of their “screen.” After they type the information they save it in the pocket on the right.

*Ask children to write the letter or word after they’ve typed it.

Here's a link to the keyboard that I used:

Have you checked out the new project that Carolyn Kisloski and I created?

Thursday, July 11, 2019


These cards can be used in a variety of ways to practice information with silly voices. 

What? copies of fluency cards, heavy paper, scissors, small box (such as an individual cereal box)

Why? nursery rhymes, sight words, group reading, math facts, counting

When? large group or small group

How? Run off copies of the fluency cards on heavy paper. Cut apart and place in the box. Choose several children to pick a “voice.” Use that “voice” to say rhymes, count, read over the word wall, and so forth.

Here are a few examples of different ways you can repeat information.

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?

Extend arms and sing words dramatically.

Let children come up with their own creative voices.

You can 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.