Wednesday, September 2, 2015


The morning message is a powerful way to demonstrate the importance of reading and writing. When a class mascot (stuffed animal or puppet) has a message waiting for the children it will give them something to anticipate each day.

Here's a song to the tune of “My Darlin Clementine” to focus children’s attention for the 
morning meeting:
         We are readers.
         We are writers.
         And we like to learn it’s true.
         We will read the morning message
         So we’ll know just what to do.

Hocus – Pocus – Focus
Did you know that if you tell your brain that something is important it’s more likely to remember it? If you have your children put on their focus goggles before you call their attention to something on the morning message it just might work. Say, “Hocus, pocus, goggles, focus!” as you demonstrate making circles with your thumbs and index fingers and placing them around your eyes.

To the Point
You probably already have some pointers, but it’s easy to make seasonal ones by placing finger puppets on the end of a cardboard pants roller.

Cut out the center of a butterfly net and add some fancy ribbon and you’ll be able to frame letters, words, and other key details.

Correct the Teacher
As the year goes along you can make spelling and punctuation errors so the children can “correct” you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


READING MEETING is a strategy for large group instruction. (I’ve adapted this from Lindsey Gates’ “reading calendar” that I posted on June 21, 2015.) This format can be integrated into any grade level, curriculum, or standards. The key is that you will be providing “intentional teaching” and “purposeful practice for automaticity” – two of my favorite buzz words! The lessons should be fast-paced, active, and repeated every day through the week to increase mastery. You will also notice that the skills are cumulative and build on the previous day.

I’m sure most of you already do components of the reading meeting, but many teachers in my workshops this summer wanted more details. Today I’ll give you an overview of what a READING MEETING might include. Future blogs over the next few days will give you ideas for turning this daily routine into a more exciting and engaging time with songs, props, and active learning.

Key Elements of the Reading Meeting

A. Morning Message – Each day write a message to the class with information about the day’s activities. Many teachers like to use a class mascot/stuffed animal/puppet to write the message. The message will motivate your students to read and give them something to look forward to during the day. The morning message will also give you the opportunity to model writing and introduce punctuation, capitalization, and other conventions of writing.

B. Rhyme or Poem – Choose a nursery rhyme, poem, or chant each week and write it on a poster. Practice reading over the rhyme each day to improve fluency.

C. Phonological Awareness – Practice blending and segmenting with the “Sound Sack.”  Choose a rime based on the poem and keep a list of words you can make with the 

D. Phonics Lesson – Sing an alphabet song and then choose a letter or other phonics skill to focus on every day for the week.

E. Sight Words – Select several sight words to play games with each day.

Hint! Have the children stand and incorporate as much movement as possible in the reading meeting to keep them engaged.

Marvelous Monday
A.  Read the morning message.
B.  Introduce the rhyme for the week.

C.  Use the sound sack to blend and segment sounds.
D.  Phonics – Focus on a letter, blend, or other phonics skill. 
E.  Fluency – Introduce several sight words.

Terrific Tuesday
Same as Monday, but tie in a word family from a sight word or the rhyme of the week.

Wonderful Wednesday
Same routine, but add a sparkle word (aka vocabulary word) for Wonderful Wednesday.

Thrilling Thursday
Same routine, but focus on punctuation, capitalization, nouns, verbs, and other language standards using the morning message.

Fabulous Friday
Same routine reviewing previous nursery rhymes or poems the children have learned.

Some of my new Fabulous Friends I met last Friday in Ferndale, MI!

P.S.  Today is the last day you can get my monthly music mix for the special "back to school" price.  Go to if you want to learn more.

Monday, August 31, 2015


If you are a college football fan like we are, this is an exciting time of year. Football gives us a distraction from the world's woes and it gives us something to cheer for and look forward to each weekend. Football can also be a “kick off” for teaching some skills in your classroom. 

College Goals – It’s never too early to plant seeds of attending college in your students. Give them a dream and a goal! One school I visited displayed pennants of the schools where the teachers graduated from in the front hall.
*Have the children brainstorm all the colleges and universities in your area. Talk about why it is important to go to college.
*Encourage your students to think about where they would like to go to college. Give them paper shaped like pennants to decorate with their college dream. 

Math – Let children do surveys of favorite college teams.
Graph favorite teams.
Predict who will win the game. Who was right? Who was wrong?
Predict what the score will be. Who was closest?
*Let children choose a favorite player and write their number on a jersey. How many math facts can they think of to equal that number?

Social Studies – Use a map of the United States and locate where games will be played.

Internet Search – Look up team mascots and colors. Listen to college fight songs. Do exercises to fight songs.

Art – Cut pictures of players out of the newspaper or sports magazines. Challenge children to write creative stories about favorite players. They could also write letters to favorite players.

Guest Readers – Invite a local high school football team and cheerleading squad to visit your school to read books. There’s nothing more motivating to a young child than to see someone in a uniform model how “cool” it is to read!

Team Mascots - This game can be adapted to any school mascot, action hero, or seasonal character. Since I graduated from the University of Georgia, UGA was my first choice. This is a quick, simple game that can be played with any age level or any skill that needs to be reinforced. It’s the perfect game if you’ve got a few minutes before lunch or a few minutes at the end of the day. 

WHY? shapes, colors, letters, words, numerals, math facts, etc. 
WHAT? flash cards, picture of a favorite school mascot
HOW? Have children sit in a circle and encourage them to identify the information on the flash cards as you place them on the floor. Tell the children to turn around and hide their eyes. Take “UGA” and slip it under one of the flash cards. The children turn back around and raise their hand if they think they know where UGA is hiding. One at a time, have children call out a word, letter, shape, etc., and then look under that card. The game continues until a child finds UGA. That child may then be “it” and hide the mascot.

*Use a pocket chart to play this game. Arrange the flash cards in the pocket chart and then hide the mascot under one of the cards as the children hide their eyes. 

More? Make a concentration game using various college mascots.
Make a matching game where children match mascots to college names.
What characteristics do you need to dress up and be a school mascot?
Have children write which mascot they would like to be and why.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Sometimes children like big books and sometimes they like little books. This book is so much easier to make when you tell the story about going on a picnic.

Make a picnic book by telling this story:

Let’s go on a picnic. First we need a picnic basket.
(Fold the paper in half.)

Next, we need hotdogs.
(Fold the paper in fourths.)

We also need hamburgers.
(Fold the paper into eighths.)

We’ll need a picnic bench to sit at.
(Open so it’s folded in half. Bring  one bottom flap to the fold. Turn
over and bring the other bottom flap to the fold.)

A picnic is more fun if we share it with a friend. (Tear down middle crease
until you reach the fold.)

Now all we need is a book to write a story about our adventures on our picnic.
(Hands on top of bench, bend down, and fold around to make a book.)

Use for: letter books, word families
            reading the room, writing the room
            fact families
            shape or color books
            unit or theme
            spelling words (picture/sentence)
            friends’ names and phone numbers
            opposites, story elements
            original stories

Hint! Let children decorate an individual cereal box to store their picnic books.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


This is a little challenging the first time you make it, but after a few times you’ll be ready to step into writing.

Layer two sheets of paper about 1” apart as shown. Fold backwards to create a step book with 4 layers.

Use for: four seasons
            sets and numerals
            4 sentences or facts about a topic of study
            two words and contraction under flap
            layers in a rain forest or ocean
            steps in cooking or doing an art project
            letters and words that begin with that sound

Hint! Use more sheets of paper to create books with 6, 8, or 10 pages. (These could be 
used for the 5 senses, days in the week, planets in the solar system, continents, etc.)

Friday, August 28, 2015


Giving children a “brochure” to write in is much inviting than a blank sheet of paper.

Directions: Fold a sheet of paper into thirds to create a brochure.
                Or try this easy version: roll paper into a circle and “smush” flat.

Use for: story elements (title, favorite character, beginning, middle, end)
            consonants or vowels (capital, lower case, pictures; long a, short a, aw sound)
            all about me

            field trip, vacation, place they’d like to visit
            unit or theme (K-W-L)
            sorting (pictures, letters, words, syllables)
            fact families
            biography (facts, accomplishments)
            letters with lines, curves, lines and curves
            inflicted endings
            drawing a body



Thursday, August 27, 2015


It really is JUST BECAUSE DAY, and a day to remember to shut your door and read a book, sing a song, or play a game “just because.” I think sometimes we beat a book to death by asking about the author, illustrator, beginning, middle, end, characters, setting, problem, resolution, illustrations, vocabulary…etcetera, etcetera. Sometimes you just need to read a book and LET IT BE! Give children a blank book to write whatever they want JUST BECAUSE!
Read, Write, Quiet Boxes are a nice way to blend skills with creativity and reading and writing for pleasure.

Materials: empty food boxes, construction paper, paint, art media
               blank books, pencils

Directions: Each child will need to bring in an empty food box from home. Cut the top off the box and make slanted sides. Children can paint their boxes or decorate them with construction paper. Store blank books, pencils, and simple books that they can read in the boxes. Children can use their boxes as a quiet activity after lunch or if they finish their work early.

Little Books

Lay four to six pieces of paper on top of each other. Staple the four corners. Cut into fourths, and you’ll have four little books.

Use for: days of the week (seven sheets of paper)
            Seasons (four sheets of paper)
            Senses (five sheets of paper)
            planets, continents, etc.

*Staple four times on the short side and then cut horizontally to make “skinny books.” Use for writing names, sentences, ABC’s, numbers, making patterns, and so forth.

Kalina is in her jammies on my lap helping me make books.